Saturday, September 3, 2011

Crater Lake Rim - Mile 328!

The finish line, Day 17

The 30-mile leash - Day 16

While packing for this trip, I already knew I wouldn't be lounging with tiny umbrella cocktails on white beaches. I knew I would be sweating and, figuratively speaking, on a straight goal-setting trajectory come bone-chilling snow or high water.

I was feeling better on our departure from Ashland; a proper zero day on my belt, and fresh feet to charge the dusty, lackluster trail toward Crater Lake. I was prepared for 25-mile days back to back, but after an evening stroll out of town with 'Sags,' I found myself already past my mileage on night one. The 'set-up' as I will call it, brought a breakfast at Crater Lake Rim fully with reach, and unleashed the madness for more and more miles.

Day 15 was a nearly a full marathon at 25.5, camping in the duff next to slate-colored lava rock. From there Happy JO told me I was only 60 miles from the rim, with two huge waterless stretches separating us from the end. The animal was born--I used the waterless sections of the Oregon desert to enable us into our first and only 30-mile day of the trip.

We were up at 5:15am on Day 16. Happy JO rolled back the tarp as I taped my toes and heels like every other day so far. We downed our granola and powdered milk, and began the death march --two water stops that day and a guaranteed third only if I made it the full 30. I was already nervous, siked out by my own ridiculous goal-setting. How quickly the thru-hiker mentality returns.

At lunch I downed my last 5-hour energy, and a few espresso beans. Physically I was drained, my legs hanging from my torso like a rag doll, but mentally I had begun to focus on nothing else but the miles. It took me back to ultramarathon days: worn down, thirsty, and in pain, but never losing focus on the finish line. The hours whizzed past, Happy JO and I ceased any talk. We were aiming for the distance and zenned out like two silent monks, unable to even contemplate a meaningful conversation.

At last we arrived at Snow Lakes Trail junction--the sun was just beginning its descent below the mountains. A cool breeze blew over us as we jammed mashed potatoes into our faces. I slept like a rock that night, so tired, so content, so proud by the depth of my mental focus. We were set up to reach the base of Crater Lake by the end of the next day. I could almost smell the bacon...

Song for this section is Metallica's Bleeding Me. "Can't stop to save my soul. I take the leash that's leading me." I'm totally responsible for my physical destruction, but it feels so good to conquer the trail.

Heading for Crater Lake (30 miles away) with nothing stopping me now, but me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Hiker Essentials - Day 11 - Mile 220

All hikers are concerned with several things on their Zero day (zero mileage day): food, hydration and healthy feet.

Happy JO and I, although not technically thru-hiking this year, live by the premise that maximizing calories is the way to success. When hiking 20-25 miles per day, your body can burn 4000-6000 calories. You can never carry enough food to replenish the deficit on the trail, but you can try. Then again, if you carry too much, you risk hurting your feet from all the extra weight. The time to replenish your calories and rest your feet is in town.

We walked into Ashland's Callahan's Lodge with a few tablespoons of powdered milk and three melted chocolate-covered espresso beans. Almost perfect planning. We had just enough for our 65-mile trek from Seiad. One bag of Trader Joe's fried green beans turned out to be rancid, so we buried it during the climb out of Seiad Valley. Some colony of giant California ants are partying like crazy right now! But later on, I was lucky enough to find a rogue sourpatch kid on the trail, thanks to some fumbling thru-hiker in front of me. Yum!!

We had mailed a box from Portland to Ashland, containing all our food for our five-day journey to Crater Lake. Although I had also included gauze, lotion, and a razor, I did not anticipate the blisters I would need to baby over our 'zero' day. Thanks to Freya and Marty in Portland, I was sent a mondo bag of Epsom salts, Phineas and Ferb band-aids, and a lollipop. The Epsom salts went straight into the jacuzzi tub and I bathed in them twice so far. Ahhh. My feet should be perfectly prepared for the last leg of our trip.

We had an awesome dinner of pasta and salad (gotta keep the scurvy at bay) last night, and a filling breakfast of omelettes and sausages this morning. After a quick trip downtown to the library and the outdoor store, we scurried through Safeway and grabbed bread, cheese, salad fixins', beer (that's the hydration part) and two pints of Ben & Jerry's.

Happy JO has performed minor toe surgery and iced his knee while on a marathon channel-surf. My work emails are done, clothes laundered and I've just about gotten all the dirt out from under my nails.

Next section is 108 miles --the final stretch to connect my footprints across a 646-mile section from northern California to the OR/WA border.

Song for this section is "Can't Sleep" by Above & Beyond. Five-hour energy drinks are great for getting you up the tough climb, but definitely not advisable after 2pm.