Day 121: What Season Is It? Smoke, Of Course!

I’m actually not even joking. Around here, smoke is pretty much a whole season unto itself. After seeing the immense amount of smoke that’s been hanging in the air for the past week, I talked to some of the hotel staff this morning — and apparently this is completely typical for this time of year. There are pictures in the local paper of students going to college classes with surgical masks on. It’s the kind of thing you expect to see in pictures from Beijing, but which you usually don’t associate with, say, Oregon. But I can see exactly how it happens, every single year, from all the wildfires. It affects everything: apparently one local has to clean his window air conditioner constantly because of all the particulates from the smoke that get in it.

Leaving Callahan’s Lodge this morning was a little tough; it’s hard to motivate yourself for a 100+-mile stretch of the PCT when you’re leaving behind an in-room jacuzzi tub, fireplace, and room service. On top of that, the next water on trail was twelve miles away, meaning our packs were even more incredibly heavy than normal due to all the water on top of all the food we were carrying. Perhaps it’s a good thing I had another hiker breakfast this morning — three more eggs, three more strips of bacon, and six more pancakes — to fortify me before heading out.

The trip out of town, too, was something I want to file under the heading “Romance of the PCT”: we were walking along the side of a paved state highway, with fresh, stinky asphalt on it, for a couple of miles until we picked up the trail again. Couple that with all the smoke and it’s not exactly the beautiful nature you imagine seeing out here. But we got on the trail soon enough, and things were much better.

In fact, our hike this afternoon was, I thought, downright pleasant. We still can’t see anything far away because of all the smoke, but the hills here are beautiful, alternating between golden, tall grass and some pretty lush greenery, both with tall pine trees splashed across them. The terrain is also, at least for today, considerably easier than the hiking into Callahan’s. Perhaps we’re getting a taste of that famous Oregon “flatness”…but I’m going to reserve judgment until we see a lot more of it.

This segment, from here until our next resupply point at Crater Lake, is among the longest of our entire trip. It’s 103 miles and hence a little under five days. The weight from all the food is oppressive, but, honestly, after getting to relax on our zero yesterday, I’m kind of looking forward to this long stretch out in the woods again.

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