The Dago Diaries

One Italian American's Journey Along America's Great Divide

Day 30, End of the Line

Low clouds on the horizon as the storm passed on

I dedicate the post to Dale Gerber, who I know had been faithfully enjoying these posts and waiting for this final entry on the ODT

At 4:00 in the morning I awoke to the sound of rain pounding down on the thin layer of Dyneema fabric that makes up my shelter.  “Salty it’s raining”, I said.

“I’ll just pack up and we can hike she called back”

“I’d get in with Swept Away It’s only 4am and neither of us are even close to being ready to go” I replied.

With that I herd Salty grab her gear and jump into Swept Away’s tent.  I looked at the radar and it looked like the storm would pass in a little while.  We all dozed off for a while and then woke up, had some coffee and like every day since we started we packed up and started walking into the darkness waiting for the sun to rise and meet us as we made our miles.

Our final ridge line with trees and rocks to break up the scenery

The trail was pretty straight forward in the morning, we walked some OHV tacks and dirt roads and then we headed up what would be our last big climb of the trip.  We walked up the dirt road until it crested a small pass, from there we headed cross-country to a ridge that held some small trees and winding deer paths.  The air was cold but we all had smiles on our faces dreaming of the hike coming to its end and the showers and food we would enjoy this day.

We stopped on the ridge for a snack and rest, it was about 8am and I decided to finally drink the beer that She-da had left us at the water cache the day before.  It was early, but as they say, “you can’t drink all day if you don’t start early.”  Swept Away and I passed the cold beer back and forth savoring it’s hoppy goodness and enjoying that feeling of a slight beer buzz early in the day.

“I like a good beer buzz early in the morning”-Sheryl Crow

We threw on our packs and carried on down a dirt road towards the Badlands.  As we walked Salty and Swept Away asked me, “what’s the last 9 miles of trail like?”  A few years back when Tomato headed out to be one of the first people to hike the ODT I had dropped him off and we had hiked the first 9 miles of his hike with him, that was a few years back and as I reflected on that day I remembered chatting with She-ra and Speedstick more than the trail.  I thought back to that day and how I thought someday I’m hiking this route but first I need to refine my Desert skills and refresh my compass skills too.”sandy, oh and some cool rocks…that’s what I remember,” was all I could reply as I was lost in a memory.

We dropped down to the valley that makes up the Oregon Badlands.  The track was easy mostly following along some dirt roads and then came our last stretch of cross country.  Under the barbed wire we crawled and then a slosh through the sand.  It turned out this was Nature Conservancy land and you could tell how healthy the land was because there were no cows.  The soil was soft and not compacted, the sage and various plants were healthy and there was no cow pies to step in.

The unspoiled land of the Oregon Badlands. Thanks Nature Conservancy for protecting our land

We came to the end of the area and then crossed the highway to the trailhead parking lot.  I joked with the girls that I had now completed the ODT since I already hiked this section and would meet them at the end since I’d just hitch a ride down the road.  They didn’t believe me though, so we took a little break, to freshen up for our last 9 miles.  We knew that Ron, Big John, and Mosey (Swept’s mom) would be waiting for us at the end.  

We sat on rocks, brushed our teeth, enjoyed a snack and greeted the Sunday morning day hikers who were out for a hike looking all clean and shiny like they had stepped out of an REI add.  We wondered what these people must of thought as they passed these three ragged and smelly hikers with million mile stares that all hikers get on a thru-hike when the final miles are closing in.

Tiny making sure our breath is fresh to great our friends at the end of the trail
Nothing but smiles as the final miles present themselves

We set off for the final push the three of us walking in unison down the wide sandy trails.  It was sandy and slow going, each step was an effort and our standard pace was off.  Oh well they’ll have to wait for us was all we could think.  At one point we missed a turn and wound up at a fence line posted no trespassing, damn it!  We decided to have one more snack and plot our course back to the route.   In less than a mile we were back on track and slogging our way through the sand.

We each got lost In our own thoughts as we reflected on the hike, the sites we had seen, the challenges we took in-stride early on, and how much we had bonded and walked together.  I must say personally these two were some of the best hiking partners I have ever had and I would go anywhere with them to hike in the future.  

Still getting along after 750 miles is a rare treat on a hike

Finally we came to a water way, “hey I know this spot this is the irrigation canals that are right where you start.”  We started to get excited and then in a tree we saw a fleece vest hanging on a branch, we walked over to explore and there in the tree were some custom made signs for us congratulating us on the end of our hike.  We were looking around when running towards us was Mosey.

The Lost Children of the ODT are finally found!

We all gave each other a hug, stopped for a few photos and the walked the last 150 yards to our final terminus.  At a non descriptive spot next to an irrigation canal, 20 miles east of Bend lies the end of the ODT, such a fitting spot an indescribable trailhead for an under appreciated trail and region of the US.

Ron greated is with a firm hand shake and slap on the back for a job well done.  Big John was there too, he is pretty much family to me as I first met him 1996 at a hiking gathering and spent 2 summers in college with him as the care taker at the base of operations when I was a ridge runner.  He gave me a giant hug and lifted me off the ground.  It was so awesome to have people waiting at the end of the hike to celebrate the moment with us.

We crawled in Ron’s van, ate a carrot cake and chips and then headed to Bend for beers and food.  We stopped at a brewery and my friends Tree Hugger and Blister Free showed up to visit us.  I hiked on the AT with Blister Free way-back in 1996 so it’s always fun to catch up with him.  We enjoyed some beers, a pile of food and then headed down the road to my friend Christie’s house for much-needed showers, fresh food and a hot tub soak. After checking off all the required items of filthying up  Christie’s lovely shower and hot tub we loaded up into Big John’s Rv and headed back home, like dust devils on the desert we swirled up and away and scattered back to our lives off trail…

Our homage to all those early pioneers who blazed the Oregon Trail and walked the same desolate country as us, but with way heavier gear

Day 29, Almost done

Coffee and breakfast in bed before setting out on the trail

The pine forest we had slept in was so warm when we woke up it was easy to get out of my bag and get going for the day.  I had slept in our prototype tent per Ron’s request and I must say I was very impressed with the amount of space it had how easy it went up last night and down this morning.  I think they will be an easy sell this coming year and I look forward to helping design some additional shelters for 2020.

We walked through pine trees in the dark, it was wonderful and we all quickly heated up and had to shed layers.  As we climbed up to the plateau above us and started walking through Watkins Flat the temp plummeted, Salty and I had to drop our packs to layer back up, Swept Away still was in her long sleeve and pants so she was fine.  As the sun was getting the sky bright enough to see we came to our water cache put out by She-ra.  In a few short minutes, we found the cache the air was still freezing cold so we decided to have a long break and I made some hot water while we snacked and waited for the sun to crest the horizon.

“G*d Damn It Kenny”-Eric Cartman…Salty doing her best South Park impression trying to stay warm

Once we had finally drunk our warm brew, got the blood going back in our hands so they would move, and felt ready to push on we started back on the road.  Now that it was light we were shocked to see so many trucks coming down the back road, one after another truck came passing by us.  Finally, we were about to turn off the main road onto a small side road and we came upon a man unloading from his truck with 3 young boys.  I inquired why all the traffic and was informed it was the opening day of rifle season for mule deer.  Great our last full day on the trail and now we have to worry about not only making miles but also to make sure we are not mistaken for deer while pushing through the brush on a bushwhack.

Some of the flattest ground we had encountered yet

The roads were pretty flat and easy walking, we rolled along through the forest enjoying the warmer air of the day.  We knew we had one big climb today up to the Pine Mountain Observatory where we would get another water cache and if lucky drop off some of the empty bottle we had in the trash.

Swept Away doing her best to remind us it’s about the smiles, not the miles out here

We walked across a flat valley we emerged from the trees and off in the distance we could see pine mountain and way, far away  the Observatory on the summit.  The way up was a long dirt road, we started our climb and each of us fell into our own pace as we steadily climbed up higher and higher towards the summit.  About halfway up I stopped and marveled at the valley and forest below that we had just crossed, after catching my breath I kept pushing on ever higher and higher, the road wrapped around a series of switchbacks and after what seemed like an eternity I finally made to the observatory.  I stopped at the house next to the observatory and dropped my pack, and went around to the back porch to grab our water.  While we filled up our bottles we discovered a trash can and as fast as we could we crunched down our water jugs and threw them into the trash.

After nearly a month and 700+ miles we still get along and even pose for photos together when we can

Once again we headed down the road and onto our final leg of the ODT…the trail soon left the road and took us down a small OHV trail that was one of the steepest grades we had encountered since or early days in the Owyhee Canyon Lands.  We could see the ranches below and each step that jarred our knees brought us closer to the big valley below.  The sky was getting darker and darker with storm clouds, and the wind was picking up.

Storms gave us an amazing sky show to enjoy watching at the end of the day

We finally reached the valley floor, regrouped, dumped sand from our shoes and pressed on into the waning daylight.  The trail followed a series of OHV trails and was crisscrossed with numbers farm roads.  We crossed a paved road and climbed up into some cool hills and sagebrush.  The wind was really kicking up now and off in the distance we saw flashes of lightning and could hear the familiar sound of thunder.  As the night sky began we figured it was time to hunker down for the night.

Salty being without a shelter cowboy camped next to Swept Away and me, we set up our shelters and agreed if the weather turned for the worse Salty could crawl in with one of us to ride out the storm, luckily Swept Away has a two-person tent so there should be plenty of space if needed.  We cooked dinner, and right as we got ready to nod off the sky cleared and we caught one ore view of the Milky Way.  We all drifted off to sleep deep in the reflection of where we had come from and that tomorrow would be our final push to the end and close to another thru-hike exploring this great land of ours at human speed.

Post Script-I awake at 11 pm in terrible pain, each night for the past two weeks the foot pain I have been experiencing has gotten worse each night.  This night though took the prize for the worse yet, the miles across the sand seemed to inflame it worse than before and felt like a large knife was shoved into the side of my foot.  Every other hour I was awake squirming in pain trying not to make any noise and wake up my hiking partners.

Day 28, Today looked easy on paper

“Look a Crack in the Ground”

We woke up in the sage bushes by the road and made coffee and prepared for the days walking.  We all commented on how loud and close the coyotes were last night, then we all commented on how bright the moon was last night, then finally we all admitted we slept like crap last night and we were tired as hell, oh well 34 miles mostly on roads here we come.

We had looked over the maps the day before while sitting in Christmas Valley and the terrain looked flat and easy.  Most of the day would be spent on secondary or primitive roads and we should only have 7 miles of cross country.  We figured with that with what we knew and our early start we could make it 34 miles up the trail to where our water was cached by She-ra last week.

An atypical mule deer antler found laying among the ponderosa pines

We walked in the dark and decided to take the road up to Crack in the Ground picnic area to see the geologic wonder since walking along it in the dark on a cross-country route didn’t seem to be a wise choice.  We walked up the road in the cold air and as the miles dropped off the sky lightened up to reveal an overcast sky.  We arrived at the privy and trailhead for the Crack in the Ground picnic area, we dropped our packs at the info kiosk and as the sun was brightening the sky we walked over to take a look at this crack in the ground.  It was cool to see, a deep figure in the earth which had created a basalt slot canyon.  Swept Away told us that when the pioneers settled here they used to use this geological feature to store their ice through the summer since it was a deep cold area the sun couldn’t reach at the time.

After our geology stop, we loaded back up our packs and set out again on our supposedly easy day of hiking.  The sky which we thought was overeats turned out to be smoke from a forest fire somewhere in California most likely.  The air was heavy and the smoke gave the day an ominous feel as we hiked along.  The miles were passing quickly under our feet until we came to our first cross country section.  The roads needed and we quickly entered a large Ponderosa Pine forest, this was the fabled lost forest of this area, and even though it was overcast any chance to walk through a forest on a desert hike is a welcome change.

Trees on the horizon signaling we have found the fabled lost forest

The cross country hike it looked flat on our maps had another trick up its sleeve to make the going slow, soft sandy soil for miles and with all the trees we found ourselves having to continually check our bearing as we hiked on.  The hike had us going top and down hills through the forest and the soft sand slowed our pace. Eventually, we got careless as we moved along and soon discovered we were misplaced from the route.  We shot a bearing and headed on toward the line on the map and hoped we would get to where we needed to go.  After much time walking through the sand we finally passed a dry cattle tank and came to a faint dirt road that was the official ODT.  We stopped for a late afternoon break and marveled at our lack of progress and noticing the time was getting late conceded that our chances of making our water cache were slim.

These poor little feet have taken a beaten on this hike

We wrapped up our break and took off up the road, as we walked along talking we came to some junctions that were confusing, we thought we had picked the correct one until a mile or so later when we realized we had not.  The sun was getting low and off in the distance we saw a water tower far away.  We dropped our packs and hoped there would be water there for us since our reserves were getting low I grabbed some water vessles and told the team I would walk up the road and see if there was water.  I trudged the 1/2 mile up the road and came upon 2 dry troughs, right as my heart sank, I turned and saw the their trough was full of water.  I filled the bottles, and marveled at our luck.  Then I walked back to meet the team and give them the good news.

We loaded up our new found water, strapped on our packs and started up a road that would connect back the actual route.  We had only gone a mile or so when we came upon a wonderful camp spot among the trees we about 8” of deep soft pine needles.  The sky was nearly dark and since we were all bushed we called it a day and set up camp.  We laid around cooking dinner, telling jokes and talking about the end of the hike.  We had some miles to make up but by stopping a bit early and having trees to block the moonlight we all know we would sleep better and make up our lost time the next day.

Testing out the prototype of the Deschutes DCF tent from Six Moon Designs, not because the weather dictated I needed it, but because I promised the crew at work I would test it out for at least one night.

Day 27 Christmas Valley, but no Santa

Christmas Valley, where bad girls and boys got meth not coal.

We decided to sleep in a little bit today, we knew we had to continue with the cross country across Diablo Rim and we all decided to do so in the darks a bad idea.  As the sun started to give the terrain some texture we all set off on our next leg of the trail.  Like most days recently we were under the gun for time and had a deadline to meet.  Today’s deadline was getting into town before the Post Office closed so we could get our final resupply of the trip.  Salty and I had boxes at the PO, but Swept Away was lucky, her cousins live in Christmas Valley and her mother had dropped her resupply off there so she wouldn’t have to worry about the PO closing.

We finally ended the cross country and hit a dirt road that we could see began climbing up a canyon.  The three of us were spread out I was in the lead, as I walked up the road all of a sudden I head something running, I looked to my right and spotted the source of the sound a group of wild horses running up the canyon off to my right.  I stopped and watched the majestic horses as they ran effortlessly through the sagebrush.  I took a few pictures and videos before continuing on.  I arrived at a road junction and dropped my pack.  This was the location of our next water cache.  Salty and Swept Away arrived and the 3 of us fanned our looking for the cache after a few minutes of scouting around we located the cache under some camp netting.

Wild Horses, not the greatest picture but I did see them

We each grabbed a gallon and then sat down for a snack while we filled our various water containers.  Once the break was over it was decided that Salty and I would push on as hard as we could and Swept Away would meet us in town, this way we could make the PO and Swept Away could take her time and not feel the pressure to push too hard all day.  With that, we all headed out, in about a mile we realized that our cross country hiking was about to be extended.  The trail had us going down into a canyon and then climbing up it steadily to reach a road that led into Christmas Valley.

Enjoying some food before crushing miles into town

We dropped down under a fence and made quick work getting down into the canyon, the next few miles were tough though.  We had to pick our way up the canyon on loose ground and through numerous types of sage and other grasses.  The Sun was hot today too and the temperature was climbing as much as we were with each step to the canyon rim.  Salty and I finally crested the ridge and decided to cut off a few miles bu beelining it for the road to town show on our map.

We finally reached the road and much to our surprise there was a series of junior trees along the road providing some shade.  We decided to stop for one last caloric intake before pushing the rest of the way to town.  We plopped down in the shade and beat consuming numerous amounts of calories.  With full bellies, we started to pack up, right as we were getting ready to go Swept Away showed up and she plopped down for her lunchtime snack.

We took off and told Swept Away we would text her for a meet up once we hit the Post Office.  The walk to town was hot, we were on a dusty road and could see Christmas Valley far off down below us.  We made a few miles and came to a trailhead where the dirt road ended and the 4.5 miles of pavement to town began. We stopped to quickly empty out our shoes of sand and little rocks then We headed out using our pace as fast as we could.  The paved road had a fair amount of traffic so we hugged the shoulder as much as we could.  About halfway to town we passed a large ranch growing alfalfa, they had large overhead sprinklers watering the crop, so Salty and I walked under them for a little way enjoying the cool water as it sprayed us down from above.

The road to town was hot and dusty

Finally, the road came to a T at the main drag of town.  We turned left and started walking to the Post Office which turned out to be nearly a mile down the road.  As we walked we spotted a bank sign with the time and temp showing, 93 degrees, that explains why we were so damn hot and thirsty.  We finally arrived at the PO around 4:15, as we walked up a lady stopped and got out of a car and said to me, you must Kates friend, maybe it was the heat, or the fact I call Swept Away by her trail name but it took me a minute to calculate that this lady was Swept Away’, cousin.  We chatted for a few minutes before we went in to get our boxes.

Once inside the Post Office we quickly became the spectacle for the locals to gawk at.  We got our boxes and quickly went to a table to sort what we needed and send home what we didn’t.  Within minutes I had a full on yard sale going right there in the PO, as we sorted we got stared out, and a few locals even inquired what we were doing, often when we told them they looked at us like we had lobsters crawling out of our ears, and one guy even questioned if we could really walk to the coast forest.  For the record, the lost forest was only 30 miles away and we would be there tomorrow if all went well.

Salty decided to mail her tent home, the forecast looked good so she figured why bother with carrying it when all we do is cowboy camp anyway.  We quickly got our food sorted and packed a box back to Portland with our extra food and Slaty’s tent.  With that, we headed up the road to meet Swept Away.  Halfway to Swept Away we stopped into a covalence store as we were parched beyond belief, we quickly downed some cold beverages and enjoyed how the locals just pulled up in the parking lot and stared at us like we were some strange aliens who had just landed in a crop circle on one of the farms in the valley.

We trudged down to the road and came to the large gas station where Swept Away was waiting for us, as we walked up I saw a sign on the building with a chicken that said Coopers Express, I looked at Salty and said, “I’m about to make a lot of bad choices” a fried chicken, Mac and cheese, biscuits, and large soda later I was right, and as the sun was starting to set the three of us departed our hour dinner stop and hiked on down the road towards crack in the ground.

The road took us through the outskirts of town and past some large farms that were running equipment well into the night to harvest alfalfa.  After many miles the moon was coming up and since we were on a dirt road surrounded by sage bushes we found a place off the road and called it a night.

Day 26, A Hero’s Goodbye

Swept Away and Salty walking along Diablo Rim

Brice along the Colorado Trail at age 88

In life, you meet people who become personal hero’s and touch you in ways that make you not only change your life but change it for the better.  Brice Hammock was that man to me and many others…..

I woke up in bed next to Lucky who had a few times at night snuggled me, no biggie it happens, plus it’s lonely on the trail.  I made us all coffee and when the alarm woke the team we enjoyed a fresh pot of brew and sorted our food and packs before we left to hit the trail.  It was so nice to wear freshly washed clothes and be bathed, our morale was high and everyone was all smiles again.

We said our goodbyes to Lucky and he was off to dig thunder eggs and we were off for the next challenge Diablo Rim.

The first 5 miles out of town were on paved roads, I hate walking on pavement and it hurts my foot but we pushed the miles out pretty easily.  Then we got dirt roads, much better for sure and we made decent time up the canyon.

The dirt road was a pleasant respite from the pavement.

At the 15 mile mark, it was getting hot and we had to find the water cache that was there for us to get enough water to make the next leg of the hike.  We looked around for 15 minutes and no luck.  I texted She—ra and she sent me a screenshot of her GPS and a description after another 10 minutes I found the cache and we took our fill, ate lunch and carried on.

Tiny and Diablo Peak

Next came the final long stretch of cross country for this trip, Diablo Rim.  For the next 12 miles, we would be going across a rim covered in sagebrush and lava rocks steadily gaining elevation along the way.  It was tough as usual, the miles came slow and the heat of the day was wearing us down.  At 5 pm we could see Diablo Peak 4 miles away and decided we would push hard to make the far side of it for the night.  We pushed and we made it to a spot that was sort of campable right as the sun set behind the horizon and dusk fell.

I sat down on my pad and checked my phone to see if I had any messages…it was then that I learned my personal hero Brice had passed on the night before.  Brice and I first met in 2009 when I attended my very first ALDHA-West gathering.  I didn’t really know anyone there and it had been some time since my last long distance hike but I was introduced to Brice who was kind enough to spend the better part of the day with me during and between the presentations making me feel welcome and also making me laugh. 

That afternoon he ran the used gear sale and gave me a few bandanas to take home. That weekend I learned that Brice was the oldest person to ever get a triple crown of hiking.  He also told me he didn’t even start long-distance hiking until he retired from his forester career.  I was then he said to me, “when I was in my 60’s I could keep up with everyone hiking, in my 70’s I had to get up and start hiking before everyone so when they passed me later in the day I could camp with them, in my 80’s I said enough and just hiked and camped alone.”  What a great guy was all I could think.

Over the years I would see Brice at events and reconnect, but when I became the President of ALDHA-West that I really got to know Brice.  He was one of our founding members and as a result, he was also one of my wise advisors when I first took over.  He filled me in on some of the past history, good and bad, but he always supported the changes I wanted to make.  In fact when I first proposed being and 501c3 he was my loudest supporter.  He was also a lot of fun.

Brice even in his 90’s still enjoyed having a few cold beers with the lads, swapping some stories and being around young hikers.  In fact, in his 90’s he told me he followed numerous hikers blogs and enjoyed reading them daily.  But the greatest experience I had was an afternoon and evening spent with Brice and my old gazette editor when we interviewed him and took him to dinner.

It was that day I learned of his past, as a child growing up in the depression and the hardship that entailed, how he worked for the USFS as a kid, he and his buddy were given a donkey and tools to do trail work in Mt Shasta.  How then told me he went to college on a running scholarship but still had a full-time job to help his family at home.  He then told me of his time flying daylight bombing runs over Europe during WW2.  His life as a forester and how as he cruised timber he would see PCT signs and said, “when I retire I’m hiking that” and he did.  Brice would do his first hike after retiring and in short order, he hiked the big three trails and earned a triple crown before the award even existed.

His greatest gift to me was telling me life was too short to waste and that we should all hike while we can…the next year I would leave my career as a lumber broker to go hike the Continental Divide Trail.  I think Brice had a hand in me making that decision and I have no regrets about going that route.

I know my life is better because I knew Brice and as I sat on the edge of Diablo Rim watching the sunset, I allowed myself to shed some tears and saying goodbye to a great man, I can not think of a more fitting place or trail than the ODT to connect to his spirit.  We’re all gonna miss you Brice but don’t worry we’ll keep your spirit alive at ALDHA-West and we’ll all take the lessons you taught us and continue to always try to get the most out the lives we have been given.

Brice’s final hike and thoughts on the experience

Brices final message to us all

Day 25, We’ll do anything for shower, even walk 35 miles in a day

Green moss growing on the trees of the Fremont National Forest

Long before daylight we all woke and performed our daily rituals of brewing up some hot water for coffee, consuming calories as best we could, and packing up.  There was a collective sense of immediacy for breaking camp and getting on with our hike, we knew if we stayed disciplined and the trail didn’t throw us any curve balls we could end our day on Paisley and get a much-needed shower and warm bed for the night.  We set off by headlamp down the road for a 1/2 mile and then turned into the woods.

Getting in my greens along the ODT

It was cold this morning and we all walked in our layers hoping that hiking would warm us up.  We stopped by a small stream to fill our water up for the day, our data indicated this would one of the few reliable sources for most of the day so we loaded up what we thought we would need.  As we waited for our water to filter we all ate snacks and carried on.  The trail was lovely this morning, a single track of soft ground through a forest.  The Fremont National Recreation Trail has been a wonderful break from the previous cross-country travel through the desert, we joked that we were really enjoying our vacation from the ODT.

Mountains and trail were a lovely change of pace along this stretch of trail

The trail climbed until we reached a series of ridges to follow along through the mountains, off in the distance we could see the Avery Peak fire tower.  Before reaching that though we judged the time we were making and all agreed to push it as hard as we could to make it to Paisley and get. Shower and hopefully laundry.  I had a cell signal so I called the hotel, the room was still available and after explaining our situation the owner agreed to leave us some extra soda and shampoo for showers and even said she would put out some dark colored towels and washcloths for us, I’m sure this was as much for our benefit as it was for her’s so we wouldn’t destroy the typical white linens of a hotel.

After passing Avery Peak Salty and I were a little ways ahead of Swept Away, as we walked my phone buzzed and I got a call from my good friend Lucky, who I had started the CDT with back in 2016.  Lucky told me he was headed to Eastern Oregon on his way to California for a rockhounding trip, and he said, “I want to come trail magic you!”  Well not wanting to be rude I informed Lucky of our plan and he then asked us for request…”Fresh fruit and Veggies please, oh and some laundry detergent”

We ended the call with Lucky, sent him the map of our route and Salty and I decided to leave Swept Away in the dark and give her a big surprise of Lucky arriving.  We stopped a little way down the trail and enjoyed a nice lunch, the three of chatted about the hiking so far and our desires for taking a shower and laundry…If you have ever hiked for 500 miles and not done laundry than you know the stank of our clothes and the hard sandpaper like texture they have taken on.  After eating we gave a quick time check, there on our packs and pushed on.  The trail wind downhill as we descended towards the Chewocan River.  We walked through stands of pines and aspen aglow in fall colors, there were even patches of Oak Trees and I easily could have been hiking in CO or NM.   We finally reached the river and crossed the bridge at 5 pm.  We all stopped for a quick fill of water and one last snack before we set off on our 8-mile paved road walk into town.

Inspired by Swami I am doing my best to keep the cows of the ODT safe

We joked and talked as the miles of pavement quickly passed by under our feet.  We met a nice lady walking along the road and she asked, “Are you hiking the ODT?”  It turned out she owns the Saloon in town, we said we were heading there to eat and she informed us it was closed today, man we just can’t catch a break when it comes to eating in town.  Oh well, we all have plenty of food so we carried on.

the fall colors through here were a wonderful treat

The sun slipped behind the mountains and the sky began to put on its evening light show of colors right as we reached the far end of town.  We walked along the road and right as the day turned to night a slick looking Audio pulled up to us, I leaned in my head and gave Lucky a big old hug, Swept Away caught up and looked at me like I was crazy.  “Swept Away and Salty, meet my good friend Lucky from the CDT”. Swept Away was floored when we told her we had kept this secret to surprise her, and she was all smiles when Lucky informed us he had a cornucopia of food for us.  We all headed to the hotel.

We entered a large room, large is an understatement.  The room had 2 queen beds, a table and kitchenette, a large bathroom and a couch to relax on.  We all dropped our gear and Lucky brought out the treats.  Subway sandwiches, chips aplenty, fresh tomatoes from his garden and large salad form his garden too.  He even had homage yogurt sauce with cucumbers and ciders and beers for all of us.  It was the best trail magic we could ask for especially since the town was totally shut down when we arrived.

I drew the first shower, and I was thrilled to do so.  I quickly stripped down and entered the hot shower.  I stood there for a minute just savoring the warm water as it rushed over my body.  Shampoo, conditioner, rinse and repeat.  Then with all the scrubbing power, I could muster, I worked up a rich lather with the washcloth and started to remove the layers of grime that had accumulated on me over the past 3 1/2 weeks.  20 minutes later I exited the shower feeling like a new person.  I slipped into my rain jacket and wind pants and walked into the room aglow with the feeling of a freshly cleaned body.

Even Tiny got into the shower action to help get me clean

I gathered up all of our laundry and Lucky and I left for the laundry facility down the road, leaving the girls to shower and relax in peace and quiet.

Lucky and I hung out in the laundry facility with its ancient washers and dryers and started the labors process of laundry.  I had to spend about 15 minutes pre-rising our socks to remove as much grit and dirt as I could before putting them in the washer.  This little trick helps get hiking socks clean and soft if one skips this step the socks come out as hard as a board because the dirt becomes cement during the washing.

As the laundry spun around Lucky and I caught up on life post-CDT.  Lucky is a vet who served as an Army Ranger in Iraq and also graduated from West Point.  In 2016 I had the pleasure of hiking with him through NM when we all started the CDT.  Luck was part of a program called the Warrior Expeditions which helps vets returning from war a way to walk off the war and regain a sense of peace and self.  Lucky was one of the greatest guys I met that year and we have stayed friends ever since then.  It was great drinking beers and catching up on life as we waited for the clothes to finish.

Once the laundry was done we headed back to the room.  It was way past hiker midnight, but we all hung out a little while longer and enjoyed one more drink and dessert before turning in for the night, girls in one bed, boys in another.  As we drifted off to sleep I smiled with the joy of having such great friends to hike with and have support from along the adventures that I take.

My good friend Lucky who drove hours out of his way to give us trail magic

Day 24 A Quick Pit Stop in Lakeview

Day 24 Lakeview

Sun rising over the Fremont National Forest

It would be hours before the sun rose, yet as the disciplined hikers we are, we donned headlamps and started on our way in the dark.  It was hard to find the trail in the dark, but after a few minutes of scouting around, we were on our way. We climbed steadily uphill and commented how lucky we were to stop last night when we did, as we didn’t see any flat spots.

The trail was super cushy this morning, our continuation on the Fremont was a real treat, the trail is so well marked we barely had to check our way all morning.  We walked as fast as we could, every step we took got us that much closer to town.  As we strolled along making the best time so far this entire hike we each talked about our town dreams and desires.

I longed for food, massive amounts of Chinese food in particular since both Virgo and Dirt Monger had to told me the Chinese food was really good.  Salty just wanted some time to sit and chill for an hour in town, enjoy a meal and then be on our way, Swept all she wants is a shower….frankly we stink horribly.  Our last shower was on day 11 in McDermitt at mile 212, and we have yet to do real laundry this entire time, so as we close in on 540 miles of hiking you can imagine our smell could knock a buzzard for a shit house.

The trail wound wonderfully through a forest of pines and aspen trees, the fall colors were just amazing, with the Aspens going from golden yellow to auburn, each grove was more stunning than the last.  The Traill started to lose some elevation and the then followed a creek for a long way.  The air was super cold today and being in a gully by a creek had us smack dab in the middle of a cold air sink in the forest, so we pushed our pace faster to stay warm.  Eventually, the trail became an old dirt road and the three of us walked side by side chatting about life.

Even though we are pressed for time there is always time for a quick history lesson of the region, after all isn’t learning about where you are traveling all part of the experience?

Right as we were beginning to see the paved road off in the distance we came to a cattle guard on the road, and low and behold there stood 3 cows, a Mother, and 2 youngling calves.  I spoke calmly to the cows to try to settle them but as we got closer they panicked, the Mother and one Calf ran towards us barley missing Swept Away, the other Calf, ran straight up a hill and through a barbed wire fence breaking the wire.  It ran away so fast there was nothing we could really do for it, hopefully being so close to the ranch the cow will be found and is OK.

We trudged down the road and saw Ron waiting for us a mile away from where the dirt met the pavement.  It was early still os we asked Ron to meet us 4 miles up the road so we could get the pavement stretch over with before going to town.  An hour later and we were all in Ron’s van heading down the road to Lakeview OR for our resupply box and a town meal.

A quick sort of our resupply in the Van before heading back out. I think Swept Away’s smile says it best about how nice the new sponges are

Swept Away worked on her phone trying to find anywhere in town where we could shower, a truck stop, a laundry mat, hell even a fire hose behind the station but alas it was not to be.  We arrived in town and went to the post office waiting for us was an amazing box of food from Dylan “Pickle” Tonkin.  He had just finished up the PCT and had extra food so he sent us one hell of an epic resupply box to share. 

Everyone had told us to go eat at the Chinese restaurant in town so we parked out and front and headed to the door only to find it was closed for a few days, damn it!  Off to the only other choice in town besides subway, a dinner next door to the grocery store.  We walked into a somewhat crowded room, knowing that we smell we chose a table as far away from people we could, but a few minutes later we realized it was not far enough, because one table got top and moved away to the other end of the place.

We ordered food, chowed down and then walked to Safeway for a few items to top off our resupply.  This was the first real grocery store on the entire trip and all the choices were a little overwhelming, but we did our best to grab what was essential and get out.  In just about 2 1/2 hours since Ron picked us up, we were fed, resupplied and back at the trailhead on our way.

For the next few hours we walked along a nice maintained road, we were all slack packing so Swept Away decided to jog so she could nap while waiting for Salty and I, off she took down the road so Salty and I started looking at the next few towns stops to see if we could figure out a way to get a room and clean up in either Paisley or Christmas Valley.  It would be a stretch but once we met Swept Away up the road, we could go about 3 more miles making a big 32 mile day and then if we did 35 miles the next day we could end in Paisley, and get a hotel room to clean up.

This sign sums up the entire ODT…

I only had to mention the word shower and Swept Away was all in, “get up let’s go” she said, so with that, we walked well into the dark before crashing on a soft bed of pine needles for the night.  While we cooked dinner I called to make sure there was a room available for us, and indeed there was.  So we joined Ron in the van while we ate and said our goodbyes, as we wouldn’t see him again until we finished.

HELP! We stink

Facebook

Unable to display Facebook posts.
Show error

Error: Error validating application. Application has been deleted.
Type: OAuthException
Code: 190
Please refer to our Error Message Reference.
Subscribe to The Dago Diaries!

Subscribe to The Dago Diaries!

Subscribe to receive the latest updates from the trail in your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!