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Day 96: The Game of Telephone

Posted by on August 12, 2015

August 4, 2015
Seiad Valley RV Park (1662.1) to Bear Dog Spring (1682.8)
20.7 PCT miles today
1723.1 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 7,160 ft, – 2,497 ft

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A funny thing happens out here on the PCT. Remember that game “telephone” that you used to play in elementary school? The one where you pass a message down the line by whispering in the next person’s ear and in the end you laugh at the changed wording by the time it gets to the last person. This is exactly what happens on the trail. Someone early on looks at an elevation profile, thinks that the climb they’re about to do has got to be the worst they’ve ever done, and passes on a message warning people of what lies ahead. By the time it gets to Pickles and I, approximately 500 hikers later, we are being told that it is the hardest climb of the whole trail, or that you climb 5,000 feet in just a few miles, or that the heat and snakes and lack of water might very well make it your last climb you ever attempt. I’m exaggerating, but it’s true that the warnings do get a bit out of hand.

This is how it was for the hike out of Seiad Valley. We were warned to not hike it in the middle of the day, to definitely not attempt it on a full stomach (especially if it is full of pancakes from the eating challenge at the Seiad Valley Cafe), and to plan carefully around water sources. Many hikers were even spreading word of a road walk alternate that would cut out a few miles and make the hike less challenging. From our perspective, if you want a shorter, less challenging hike, you might as well hike to Canada on I-5, but…hike your own hike. Anyway, after discussing it amongst ourselves, Pickles and I decided that we would eat breakfast in the diner when it opened at 7, forgoing the tempting pancake eating challenge, and then try to get the hardest 8 miles out of the way by noon.

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The diner in Seiad Valley is nearly perfect, in our opinion. Our only complaint is that the prices are double what they should be for a small diner in a town of 300 people in the middle of Northern California, but beggars can’t be choosers. The diner has every middle-America detail we could have hoped for, down to the brown bottomless coffee mugs to the bar where locals belly up for their daily breakfast and gossip. Pickles ordered a Western Omelet and I went with pancakes, bacon, and eggs and neither of us were disappointed. Our friend Flashback ordered a German Chocolate Malt (yes, for breakfast) and it was one of the best things I’d ever tasted in my entire life. We spent longer than expected at the diner, but the conversation was delightful and we chatted with a few locals before packing up and heading out.

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We were incredibly lucky to have a nice cool morning and even starting out at 9am at 1,300 feet elevation, a chilling breeze greeted us at the trailhead. The climb was, of course, not nearly as bad as people had made it out to sound. In fact, the hardest 8 miles were over before we even had time to feel fatigue. Yesterday’s afternoon of rest had done wonders for our feet, and we felt surprisingly energetic by the time we reached lunch, considering the climb we’d just hammered out. The hiking was still beautiful, even though there was quite a bit of smoke all around, and the day seemed to pass quickly since we were only doing about 20 miles.

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We got into camp this evening feeling a pleasant mix of accomplishment and anticipation. Tomorrow is our final day in California, and the plan is to eat lunch at the Oregon border. After over 1,700 miles of walking through this state, moving on will feel bittersweet. We cannot wait to see what Oregon has in store, and it feels amazing knowing that we’re getting so close to Canada, but there’s a part of us that will be sad to leave the part of trail that has revealed to us such a diverse and beautiful state. We will never see California the same again. Now it’s time to explore Oregon and Washington with the same intensity and passion.

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