Day 119: Pit Stop!

Today, we headed towards Ashland, Oregon, near our first zero in Oregon at Callahan’s Lodge. More on that in a few, but an unplanned surprise happened to me on the trail on the way there. We got up very early this morning (so as to have as much time as possible at our hotel) and started hiking while it was still twilight. Less than a mile in, I stumbled over a rock on the trail and managed to fall. Fortunately, I broke my fall with my face.

This is one of those falls that makes you look a whole lot worse than it actually is. I managed to cut my forehead and just under one of my eyes, and, since it was a dusty trail, right afterwards my entire face was just absolutely covered with dirt. I have a photo — which I won’t post here — of me looking genuinely like I’m dressed as a zombie for Halloween, with particularly real-looking fake blood on my head. Of course, that’s real blood and real dirt.

We stopped for a bit (of course), and managed to get me at least semi-cleaned-up before heading down the trail again. (We have a rather extensive first-aid kit that I carry along with us — always be prepared!) It didn’t exactly make me look like nothing had happened, but it was a definite improvement. Still, anybody we ran into that we knew definitely asked questions, always starting with an awkward pause. “Soooo…did something happen to your face?” “Yeah, I, uh…there was a group of schoolchildren, and a bear, and I knew I had to defend them…man, you think this is bad, you should see the bear!” (No, seriously, I told people the truth. After joking with them.)

This is actually the second time I’ve fallen on the trail. (Given my general level of coordination, that should be taken as doing extremely well. Thank god for trekking poles!) Ironically, the first time made me feel a whole lot worse, even though it was completely invisible to people. Just before getting to Tuolumne Meadows, I took a tumble and landed on top of my camera, on my side. The camera was OK (completely unharmed…Canon makes good kit!), but it hit my side hard enough that I bruised a rib. If you’ve never bruised a rib before, it really sucks: it really hurts, and there genuinely isn’t a thing anybody can do about it. (Even if you break a rib, doctors can’t really do anything — your ribcage holds it in the right position anyway, so there’s no cast; you just wait, and wait, and wait for it to heal.) For two or three days afterwards, we had to hike more slowly because walking too fast made me hurt. For a week or so, I had to step downhill gingerly because landing too hard hurt. For two weeks, I’d cringe and moan every time I sneezed. For over a month, getting in and out of the tent, and moving around inside, was frequently painful. Given that the injury wasn’t actually dangerous, long-term harmful, or even visible, it sure caused plenty of pain over a long term.

After cleaning me up, we headed down the trail towards Callahan’s. Callahan’s is very well-known on the PCT as a great, hiker-friendly place to stop and pick up a resupply or take a zero. Given that, it’s in kind of an amusing location: it’s directly off Interstate 5, with one of those hugely tall interstate-style signs that are used to advertise McDonald’s from ten miles away. It’s a large lodge/hotel with a beautiful lawn behind it, and a fairly lengthy history going back well over fifty years; the entire thing burned down in a forest fire in 2006, so they rebuilt it, and I’m assuming they had pretty darn good fire insurance, because the new place is nice. Every room has a giant jacuzzi tub in the corner (!) and a fireplace, and nearly all have beautiful views out back of the forest and the back lawn.

(Getting to Callahan’s can be a bit amusing. Not long before you get to the trail cutoff for Callahan’s, the PCT passes right next to a bit of private property that someone really doesn’t want you to trespass on. Not only are there standard “No Trespassing” signs up, but they’ve actually built twenty-foot-high totem poles that have angry faces and messages carved into them. Definitely the most awesome signs like that I’ve seen yet. Once you cut off from the PCT towards Callahan’s, you get some of what I like to call “the romance of the PCT”: hiking through a mostly-abandoned rail yard that looks like you might be able to either score some meth or get yourself killed; passing among enormous piles of gravel, dirt, and rail ties as you continue along; or walking along an interstate underpass, fresh tar in your nose (and making your eyes water) until you get there. It isn’t exactly wild, but it does get you there, and that’s really all that matters.)

For us, as you know, places like this are largely about amenities. Being able to drop our packs in our room, take showers, and order room service was wonderful. The restaurant upstairs is quite good, and I had a huge steak for dinner (along with, yes, a vast amount of additional food, too). Hikers come here just for the meals, too; there are hiker specials in the morning (unlimited pancakes) and in the evening (unlimited spaghetti). Apparently so many hikers have been through this year that their beer selection — they give through-hikers their first beer free — has been reduced from pretty good stuff to nothing but Coors Lite and PBR. But it’s still a great place to sit, eating enormous amounts of food, looking out over the mountains, and relaxing.

Tomorrow, we get to spend an entire day here (hurrah!) also doing nothing. Zeroes are never quite as relaxing as you’d like them to be, but they’re still pretty awesome, and I’m really looking forward to this one. After that: we take on Oregon!

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