The 103 miles from Ashland to Crater Lake Mazama Village were some of the flattest, but also some of the longest. By day four (today), I was so brain numbingly bored of my own thoughts, music, and the surroundings that I had to force myself into a self induced comatose state. Part of this was due to the fact I was counting down miles from about 1:30pm until 6:30pm when I finally arrived at the village via the Annie Spring Trail (Yogi’s notes don’t lie when they say it’s steep!)
When I arrived at the store I was suddenly thrown back into civilisation with holiday makers, bikers, campers and children; and was completely overwhelmed standing there in my filthy clothes, pulling food out of the hiker box. A lot of people stared at me as they shuffled past, obviously not aware of what a hiker box or a thru hiker is. When I began laying my resupply out on the picnic table a woman came along and gave me a box of warm pulled pork and a bag of hotdog buns for dinner, as she’d seen me rummaging for food and figured I was hungry.
As I was staring into the distance worrying about where to sleep (as camping cost $20 and all sites were full), a woman named Bonnie came over to chat and told me I could camp on her site as she sleeps in her car. I must have had a ‘please help me’ expression plastered on my face because this was exactly what I needed! It meant I could spend the next day going through my food again, doing laundry, charging my devices and ticking off my to do list without being forced back into the woods prematurely.
I was going to write more about the last four days on trail, but it’s now the next day and honestly the only stand out event other than seeing the one comet during the meteor shower and meeting Rachel and Benny (two more south bounders), was having a conversation with a gentleman sitting on the ground wearing shorts while his scrotum was hanging out. It was definitely one of the more awkward situations I’ve experienced.
Today it wasn’t the trail testing me, but some force of nature was pushing me to my limits. Every time there is no reception, I desperately need to make a phone call. Today I decided to use the pay phone, and after it ate my money and the store owner told me to call the operator, the operator told me she couldn’t help me. I had bought a journal in Ashland and was about to throw it in the hiker box when I realised I needed some written therapy and headed to the Annie Creek restaurant to explode my emotions from the last 1830 miles onto paper. Sometimes it scary what comes out when you write down the truth about your feelings. I realised just how dark a place I was in and realised I needed something to pull me out.
I had been thinking of putting together a video of the California leg to one of my favourite trail tunes and thought the trip down memory lane and creative juices would assist in altering my mental state. It worked immediately. Editing on a phone is finicky and time consuming, but I was making great progress, and when Bill arrived and came to eat at my table, I continued on with my video, completely enthralled with what I was doing. I showed him my progress each time I finished a new section, and because he’d eaten so many plates from the salad buffet, he was in a food coma and not able to converse anyhow.
I spent the entire day at the restaurant until they kicked me out around 6:00pm. Just prior to this my video started playing up. I thought it was due to me running out of memory on the phone, but after deleting some photos, restarting the phone, and adjusting some of the clips, there was a rogue clip at the end I couldn’t get rid of and couldn’t edit past. After fiddling with it for another 30 minutes I decided to end the video where the glitch started, but when I exported the video half of it came out black. Hmmm… I was running out of time and really needed to hit the trail. I threw everything back in my pack and hiked until dark, then couldn’t help but fiddle with the video again, determine to fix the glitch and the reason for the black segments during the export. In the process the program managed to delete the majority of the project. There is absolutely no explanation as to how, it’s like the glitch expanded itself and gobbled up more than half of the project I spent the better half of the day creating to distract my mind from darker thoughts. So where is that meant to leave me now?
It’s my four month trail-iversary today. I used to see each month tick over as a cause for celebration. Now I just feel I’ve been out here for so long that I should be a lot closer to the end. Bill said a lot of people experience the blues at this stage of the trip. For me at this point, that’s an understatement. Reflecting on the start of the journey brought back so many memories of the incredible experiences I’ve had and shared. The desert section will forever be a standout, even with excruciating blisters, a heavy pack and long waterless stretches, I enjoyed Southern California more than I could have imagined. Everyday was a new adventure. Then we hit the Sierras, which were breathtaking, but certainly more challenging. Then came Northern California, which brought more beauty, but also mental struggles and pain. Now we have Oregon. Apparently once I see Crater Lake my mind set will change. All I can say is, I really hope so.