Leaving camp with 12.5 miles to the Oregon border, I feel strong for the first time back on trail. The last two weeks have been as tough as they have been beautiful, a constant struggle to find the poetry in the pain, the humor in the poison oak all while trying not to wilt in the heat. On this cool morning, I am finally making painless miles with the seasoned ease of a thru hiker (though still dependent on a daily dose of vitamin I).
The trail heads toward the rising sun, passing over hills blooming with pink-white pussy paws. To the north, mountains that must be Oregon but which ones? To the south California, stretching back forever, and Shasta, just mocking us. The mountain must look down on the tangle of squiggle-trail that we faithfully follow, and think, silly humans always in a rush to nowhere.Like the halfway post, the border marker is underwhelming. A small wooden sign on a dead tree, and a trail register. But to reach the Oregon border itself feels monumental. “323 zeros late, but I am here now,” I write with glee. We pose for photos, and I read least year’s entries in search of friends. Power Thighs wins best comment of the bunch: “Took my last poo in Cali today and boy oh boy did it feel good.” Most of the rest of the hundreds of comments are countless variations on f*** California. And with 1689 miles of walking in the single state it is easy to see why.
I tell Cardinal about the Oregon challenge, hiking from border to border in two weeks or less. “Is there a California challenge?” she asks. “Finishing,” replies Speed with his characteristic dry humor, and we all laugh.
Without anywhere flat or shady enough to befit our victory lunch at the border, we resign ourselves to more uphill miles toward water and a campsite. When just up the hill what is to appear but a welcome to Oregon sign, hand-painted red on white.Trail angel Ed and his gentle dog Brio, with an iconic Fourth of July spread! Watermelon, hot dogs, soda, beer and chips. And because this is Oregon, two kinds of fully legal home grown green for those who partake. Our first real trail magic! We are the very first customers at the Pinnacle Bar and Grill, where Ed has installed a counter and hung a little sign. We sit in camp chairs, and bask in the accomplishment of Oregon and the guilty pleasure of hot dogs.On we walk, and everything that is the same seems new again. Look! A snow field to cross in Oregon! Wow, Oregon has bear grass too! Hey, this trail is Oregon! Oooh, there’s phone service in Oregon! And on it goes…Since we were all so eager to reach the border, the bulk of miles are done early today, and we wander into camp after posing with the 1700 sign. I am feeling pretty gosh darn accomplished. I might be 323 zeros late, but here I am, saying goodnight to the sun as it sets over Oregon hills and the cool wind promises easier days to come.July 4, 2016