August 3, 2022
Campsite at mile 1741.1 to South Brown Mountain Shelter at mile 1763.4
Since I fell asleep so early last night, I have way less of an issue than I normally do waking up at 5. I lay in bed for a while writing, then pack up fairly quickly and get ready for the day. I say see ya later to Spicy and get moving.
I pass over a bridge next to a little dam. There’s steam coming off the water, curling into the air in the sunshine. Then I start up the short hill, debate going to Hyatt Lake Resort but decide against it since they aren’t open yet, and continue to the water spigot right on trail. Despite Oregon being rather green and lush in my mind, there are some long water carries. I complain about this to the hiker who has just rolled up, and we end up walking together for a few miles. Her name is Aquawoman because she has a habit of spilling water all over herself accidentally. She’s really cool. We vibe. But then I decide to pull over for a coffee break and she keeps moving. It’s cool how you meet people on the trail. You might walk with them for an hour and never see them again, or you might become best friends. Who knows. It’s magic.
Once I pull over, I see that I have service and get a WhatsApp notification that Tribute and Jumbo are a few miles ahead of me at the water source. I check Guthook and notice an off-trail camp where there are bathrooms, trash cans, and picnic tables. I decide to keep going to this camp instead of taking my break now, and I’m glad I do so. The bathroom is absolutely pristine, and I have a chill, luxurious coffee break alone with the swaying trees and a few deer meandering around the camp.
Back on trail, I go downhill and cross a weird little aqueduct full of bright blue fast-flowing water, then see a huge group of hikers a little while later at a spring. It’s been interesting seeing who’s back on trail here and who skipped ahead. At first, it seemed like we were some of the only people who got back on at Ashland, but now there’s a huge group of mostly people I’ve never met before.
I start heading up the next climb. It’s not very steep and there’s shade the whole way, but for some reason it feels impossible. I’m just so slow today. After a couple of miles, Spicy comes up behind me. “How many bars of service do you think I need to order something?” she asks, frustrated because she only has one and she needs to get a repair kit for her tent. We end up walking together for a mile or so before we pull over for lunch. It’s really nice to chat and eat with her. She’s also been working on a book, and we talk about the particular struggles of this. Then she tells me about her time in India, Bali, and Australia studying and then teaching yoga.
Spicy continues first, and since she’s pretty fast and focused, I soon lose her. I’m not sure if I’ll see her again, but I really enjoyed walking with her today! I finish up with lunch, pack up, and then continue up the hill.
I’m deep in the world of my audiobook when I approach the top of the climb, look ahead of me, and see two familiar figures standing stock-still like statues in the middle of the trail. Jumbo and Tribute! I stick my tongue out at them. Turns out, they just finished a long lunch and nap. Hmm, a nap sounds good. We walk together for the rest of the day and catch up on our respective past couple of days. Jumbo says he knew exactly what I was doing yesterday, down to where I would camp and when I would catch up with them. What can I say. He knows me.
I feel alight for a while, but by the time we hit the next road crossing, my feet are killing me and my energy is shattered. I sit down for a break and watch a couple of people trying to hitch to Lake of the Woods resort, which we were planning on going to tomorrow. I’m tempted to try to go tonight, but it’s only a few miles until the South Brown Mountain Shelter, where we’ll get water and cook dinner before finishing our day. I stand up, rally the last shards of motivation I have, and walk the two miles just behind the boys.
The shelter is a four-sided log cabin type affair with plastic flaps instead of a door—very different than the three-sided primitive AT shelters. There are tons of people here, sitting in the shade of the building, all around the fire ring, at the picnic table. We find a spot below a tree, get some water from the pump (which requires a large amount of effort to dispense water, but at least it’s not a quarter mile off-trail), and cook our dinner there at the shelter.
Our plan is to keep going to the next campsite, but as we eat, we see heaps of people come, get water, and talk about camping at that same next site. We start to wonder if maybe we should just stay here instead.
This consideration is cemented into certainty when, as we’re eating, the Belgians and Raymond roll in. We are immeasurably excited to see them again after so long! Rainbow is, predictably, the most enthusiastic about this reconnection, and she gives us hugs while excitedly chattering about what’s been going on since we last saw them. We sit and talk with them for ages, and then they eventually get up and move onto the next site while we set up our tents behind the shelter. Then Mash and Fits roll in, and we enjoy another round of catching up.
It’s so nice to be with folks we haven’t seen in ages, and it is amazing to be at camp so long before going to bed. After all of our conversations, the three of us keep sitting around drinking cup after cup of tea. There’s endless water and cool people and we are done with moving for the day. I go to sleep at a reasonable time, actually feeling refreshed and relaxed for the first time in a while on trail.