16 July 2011
A full moon later. Updating our posts seems to be a harder thing to do than we imagined. So here we go in a small nutshell I’ll run you through our walk and adventures. We tried to avoid the snow and we so-called ‘flip-flopped’ many times around in all four wind directions, but always made it to walk north bound. In total we hiked around 960 miles. Since our last post we hiked 210 miles: the stretch from Old Station to Dunsmuir/Mt Shasta (129 miles) and from Seiad Valley (all northern California) to Green Springs Summit (81 miles), just north of Ashland in Oregon. Over the past five weeks, snow transitioned melting off from hitting snowline at 4800 feet to where the snow is at now around 6800 feet and at the north-northeast facing slopes only.
In Mt. Shasta, our friends Julian, Kristen and their children Miles and Finneas and their place have been our hub of comfort, a place to come back to and part from our crazy logistics. We feel extremely thankful with their wide warm arms embracing us all six times we passed through.
We’ve had many different hitch-hikes again and feeling very thankful for those who’ve stopped for us. One in particular stands out. As it turned out, we were at an intersection without much traffic heading out to Seiad Valley on a Saturday evening at 6pm. Eventually a car with people dressed for a wedding stopped and gave us a ride and an awesome Oregon microbrew beer. Twenty miles before our destination, they reached theirs in Klamath River at the ‘Barefoot Oasis Speakeasy’. There we were back on the side of the road hitchhiking again. After 20 minutes, without a single car driving by, they hollered to us to join the party and so we did. Jennifer, one of the owners, poured our glasses and introduced us to the infamous walking taco. In the dark that night, we pitched our tent next to the Klamath River. The next morning, we started hitching again from 6am but without any luck until 8am when one of the party folks, Neil drove by and made a 40 miles detour for us to bring us to Seiad Valley. We started our steep climb with over the course of 8 miles gaining 4500 feet in elevation out of the river valley into the Klamath mountains. After four miles awing the fact of sheer diversity and being acquainted with a whole different community of plant species, I heard stomping on the soil and tearing of the bark off of dead trees. A bear was there. I stopped and gestured Justin to be quiet. We both awaited a glimpse, but we just kept on hearing the bear and not seeing him or her. The sounds were approaching and so we stepped backwards to create a distance of maybe 70 feet (maybe 15-20 meters). My heartbeat was pounding with excitement. Then suddenly two big brown ears appeared out of the bush and a young bear poked his head out from under the shrubs exactly where we had just been standing. The bear was the size of a large dog. Sniffing around he could clearly smell us and beat a quick retreat into the thick brush where (s)he came from. It was my first time I saw a bear on land in the wild. One other time I had seen a bear from a canoe up in Canada. This felt different. Sharing a place and sharing the same soils with these creatures is something truly special. When looking into the eyes of a deer for example, or the intricacy that every flower has with its own character, uniqueness, and pattern, or the many eyes of the spider, and the infinitude of bees in their high activity on flowers, these interactions all feed that same emotion and quality of attention.
Justin keyed out hundreds of new plants. In total we have made 8000+ pictures so far. We are stunned that still every day we meet new species, at times even a new genus and occasionally one with a ‘rarity symbol’ in the Jepson plant key.
Family and friends have been asking how I feel. I feel enormously grateful to be able to do what we are doing. I enjoy our journey intensely and I feel strong and healthy. The occasional snowy north slopes are a real challenge for me having not grown up with much snow and certainly not any slopes in the Netherlands. Thus I practice while we are walking. And Justin is patient with me. One time, my technique (or lack thereof) and the microspikes that I use while crossing these steep snowfields didn’t cut it for me and I slid down a couple of feet. A rush of adrenaline and emotions flushed then through me. However, all is well, we are careful and we try to avoid the snow as much as possible for safety reasons and also to be able to botanize. Hence, the many logistical flip-flops the past weeks.
In the meantime, there have also been many days without hiking when I worked for the Sustainable Food Lab summit in Stevenson Washington and participated during their Learning Journey in and around Portland. It was a fantastic week with many fruitful meetings. Justin and I also went down to Berkeley to look for housing for when his PhD program starts when finishing the first half of our walk at the end of this summer.
Today, we said goodbye to our friends in Shasta, had breakfast with our trail friends Marmot and Roe in Dunsmuir and are now heading to Belden to hike the coming 5 days another 88 miles up to Old Station.
Back on the trail.