The Haze Craze
Beginning Elevation = 3,950 (off PCT) Ending Elevation = 4,600
Elevation Range = 3,950 – 5,550
Weather = hazy smoke/sunny, high 80’s
Our morning began with some showers and a classic HI Express breakfast. While enjoying my lightly toasted bagel with cream cheese, I peered through the window to the outside world. It appeared foggy…strange I thought. When Snickers joined me, he too observed this phenomenon, but had the insight to realize it was not fog, but smoke. Some of y’all might have experienced this before, but it was new for me. The whole town was covered in a thick smokey haze. Photos don’t show it all that great, but here’s one attempt.After doing some research (asking the front desk guy and Googling), we learned it was from the Canyonville wildfire. The front desk guy said that smoke is common and was surprised it hadn’t been like this yet this year. The fire seems to be about 80 miles to the northwest of Ashland whereas the trail goes east and then northeast from it, so we weren’t worried about this particular fire getting to the trail, alhough we did check the PCTA website to see if there were any closings…nope.
Around 8:00am, we checked out and walked over to the I-5 South on-ramp. From there, we waited in hopes of a ride towards the trail. Two nice looking fellas, right?It only took us about 20 minutes or so before a nice lady stopped and gave us a ride. She was very disgruntled about the smoke, but was very kind and we were very appreciative. She dropped us off back at Callahan’s Lodge. After chit chatting about the smoke with some other hikers who’d just hiked in, we began a road walk back to the trail. I think it was maybe a mile or so.
And then, we got back onto our beloved PCT, right at the very same spot where some friends had taken photos a few weeks ago! The Nydams had been traveling to Oregon and stopped to give me a glimpse of what the trail looked like up ahead. At the time, I think I was in the snow of the Sierra…
Snickers and I started on the trail like Seabiscuit and Secretariat out of the gates. We learned quick that this section had limited water. I think the first source was about 11 miles down the trail. Luckily, Snickers had suggested filling up with a good amount when at the hotel, so we were prepared for it.
The smokey haze stayed with us for most of the day with a few spots in the mid afternoon when it seemed to thin. It didn’t seem to effect us much though. My breathing was fine, which I was and still am worried about, having asthma and such. Never fear though folks, I got my inhalers along! I also didn’t smell it much throughout the day, just near the end when it seemed to get worse again. Granted, I have a horrible sense of smell. I did notice a slight sting in the eyes late in the day too, but not bad. We’re really hoping the folks fighting the fire are all safe and it’s able to be managed and put out quickly. For our our personal needs, we’re hoping it clears up quick too.I had anticipated just getting something like 10-15 miles in on day 1 back to the trail, but we ended up crushing something like 23. We had lunch at the water source, a piped spring, with Monica and “More Food” and section hiker Dan. We had a nice shady spot.
In the afternoon my left foot began hurting. Another strange pain that wasn’t from blisters, but just seemed sore. I think it might’ve been from the new shoes, getting used to them, and also from the heavier pack. I didn’t skimp on the food for this stretch.
Snickers and I hiked together most of the day, chatting and such, but the last two hours or so we pushed on each with headphones on.We reached our second water source, an outlet of Lake Hyatt Reservoir, and then found camp nearby. It was nearing 8:00pm around when we got to camp. We found Monica and More Food already set up and enjoying dinner. They certainly are faster hikers than us, but they had also taken a dirt road “short cut” which is how they got in front of us.It was a tough day, but very rewarding. Despite the smoke, we covered some big miles and my wildlife spotting consisted of Peregrine Falcons (at least I’m saying that’s what they were…we went by a nesting area of theirs according to a sign and soon later saw the big birds soaring up above), deer, grouse, turkeys, and a large owl that swooped out of a tree in front of me! Another great day in Oregon 😎