Day 10 – 15 miles (167 miles total)

It did rain last night, which was quite fitting as I realized that with the change in the weather came the change of the seasons! Today is the first day of fall, and as I finished packing up my camp this morning, looked over to see snow on winter ridge above summer lake. Goodbye summer!

As the sky was heavy and dark, and was supposed to be so all day and tonight, I decided to only hike to the edge of the Diablo Rim instead of over it, which would make for a much too long of a day, and too much exposure for a forcast that included wind gusts up to 30mph.

Despite the threat of rain, I was dry most of the walk. The clouds and shadows that covered the land were beautiful, and I very much enjoyed the hike.

I had lunch at a dry waterhole on my climb up to the rim, but it was at the next water source that I found incredible views. First, there was still some muddy brown water at the Inter Mountain waterhole, and the dried out earth around it was flat and white…which glowed as the sun breifly hit it, with dark dark clouds in the distance creating incredible contrast. Wow.

I only hiked a little further and stopped early in the afternoon. Soon after I set up my tarp (a MUCH better pitch than yesterday) the rain started, and I burrowed in my sleeping bag content to read all afternoon.

I’m excited for a clear forcast tomorrow and a walk along the top of the desert.

Day 9 – 7 miles (152 total miles)

Even though I’m in a dark room, I still wake at 6:30 like clockwork. I make a pot of coffee and start going through my gear and making a list of what to do today: resupply, laundry, post office, library, watch more TV until check out time, and connect with Nikki and Adrian when they hike through town!

I get the resupply done first, and I’m feeling daring so I choose a can of ravioli to pack out. Not ultralight!

I fail to find anything interesting on TV, yet again reminding me why I don’t have a TV at home.

I get through some of my other chores and the 2 hikers roll in about lunch time, so we head to the Homestead to eat. I’m excited to hear about their trip! They’ve seen wild horses, what they think are big horned sheep, and almost no people, and it’s exactly what they were hoping for. It’s great to share stories of what lies ahead for us in different directions,  and I’m still amazed this is Adrian’s first thru-hike.

After lunch I do laundry and stop by the library. I pick up another book to read on the trail…a paperback of course, and finally walk out of town about 3pm. The first miles north of town are a long road walk, but it’s beautiful out, and don’t mind at all.

I’m tucked into some sagebrush for the night. Rain is in the forcast for the first time on the trip…or the summer. This might take the edge off fire season. It’s supposed to be rainy tomorrow too, so I might stop short of Diablo Rim which is quite exposed…save that for the next day when it should be clear skies again.

The ground is all sand and I have trouble setting up the tarp. The wind keeps blowing hard enough to yank my stakes out of the ground, so I tried to tie off to sagebrush. It’s a contorted affair, but I think I’ll stay dry tonight.

Day 8 – 8 miles  (145 miles total)

Whatever smoke there had been the night before had cleared out of the canyon, but I could still see something billowing out of the west. Clouds? Smoke? I figured I’d find out more in town.

I had 8 miles to walk into Paisley where I planned to spend the night. I had both biked and packrafted this section before along the Chewaucan River, and think it’s one of the loveliest canyons around. There are plenty of camp spots along the river, and the fall colors gave everything a shiny edge to it.

It was a quiet morning and was passed by a few campers and trailers. Closer to town I passed the site of the Withers fire which had scorched a section of the canyon.

Towns are really pretty close in this section…I would never have to carry more than 3 days of food, what a luxury!

I had been to Paisley a bunch of times this year, and was looking forward to the stay. It’s a small town, and everything a hiker would need is just a few blocks from eachother. I would be staying at the Sage Rooms hotel, but another option would be the Summer Lake Hotsprings just 6 miles north of town. There are beautiful cabins you can rent with radiant floor heating, or you can camp…and soak of course! I’ve done both before and wanted to try out the Sage Rooms and experience all the options.

I walked into town and headed to the Homestead Cafe where I polished off a chicken friend steak. Next I headed over to the Paisley Mercantile to pick up a package with the next section of maps I had dropped off when I was caching water. Ralph, the owner, is very helpful, and set up Nikki & Adrian with a place to park their car since they need to take a few days off from the trail to go to a wedding.

Apparently no one knew anything about a fire, and it was suggested it might have been a huge dust storm from Summer Lake. I was doubtful since I had smelled fire, but couldn’t find anything online about it either. Strange.

I walked across the street to the park where I sat in the sun and chatted with my good friend Allgood for a while. He had just finished his CDT thru-hike this year. I took him to the CDT kickoff this spring and passed on the CDTC ambassadorship to him after my hike last year. It was great to hear his stories, and also talk about the gathering coming up next week where I’ll be getting my triple crown!

Next up was the Pioneer Saloon where I had a beer and just happened to meet Terry, an ONDA member who will be on a stewardship trip with me in a few weeks! We talked trail, and also had the attention of some endurance motorcyclists riding dirt roads across the desert. John the owner of the Saloon, and Ralph at the Mercantile, have hung ODT posters up, and it was awesome to see the recognition of folks in town…oh, you’re hiking the trail!

I then headed over to my room, a cozy and spacious spot. After a shower I went back to the store and rented a few movies to watch on the DVD player in my room.

A pizza at the Saloon later, and I was ready to call it a night. What a great stay. Tomorrow, town chores.

Day 7 – 20.5 miles (137 miles total)

Another warm night, another night I wore my sleeping bag like a blanket. In 7 nights I have cowboy camped every night.

I was short on water again, having dry camped without picking up extra water at the last water source yesterday, but I made coffee and ate gronola with powdered milk anyway. I’ll have a few sips of water to get me to my next source…which if all goes well, is just 2 miles more down the trail. The first fall hiker last year didn’t find much water out here, but so many of the sources have been running for me that I’m starting to count on them.

Oh no…while writing this at the end of the day the air is suddenly filled with smoke…I looked up from my phone, and I’m totally surrounded by smoke. I am trying not to freak out….I don’t have reception where I am, so fired up my Delorum inreach to text kirk to see if he can tell me more. To freak out or not to freak out…

I ate lunch on Morgan Butte,  an active fire tower in the Fremont. The view was amazing and there was definitely no fire then. I didn’t talk to the lookout guy because it looked like he was busy, so just stopped to take photos. I definitely thought we were lucky to have no big fires out here this year. There have been a few little ones, just outside Paisley in fact…

I have been extremely careful with my cooking…no woodburning stove for me on this trip as they are banned due to extreme fire danger. In fact when I was caching water I wasn’t able to drive in as far as I would have liked because there were restrictions on driving on dirt roads where there are tall grasses…fire danger is no joke out here.

Before the smoke

I moved my camp to the gravel parking lot near the river….of all the places to be this is a pretty safe place. Let’s hope it’s far away and is put out quickly.

I can’t remember what happened today now. Doesn’t seem important. I’m 8 miles from Paisley, camping at Chewaucan Crossing. 

Day 6 – 18.6 miles  (116.5 miles total)

It was warm last night and didn’t even have my sleeping bag zipped the whole way. I didn’t have a lot of water left, so made a short cup of coffee and passed up my gronola for a bar.

I was back to walking the road, not quite sure of how many miles it would take to reach the trail again.

Fortunately the next creek was running, so I stopped to fill up. A few more water sources ahead were flowing too, and I could see cows pasturing in a meadow below. 

I finally found the trail again after about 10 miles. I was nice to be back on the Fremont NRT, and after talking with Alan started making notes of what trail work could be done next year. There weren’t too many obstacles, but the tread could use some drainages and brushing. Later in the afternoon whole sections of trail were being overcome with grasses, and I could see how satisfying it would be to come back with some loppers, a polaski and a rake. Pine needles were inches thick on the trail and with a little TLC we could have the route looking good.

I wound in and out of the forest and mid-afternoon was rewarded with an amazing view of Abert Rim where I had been just a few days ago. It was stunning. And I was joined by some curious pronghorn who watched me for quite a while.

I was feeling low on energy later in the afternoon and stopped near a meadow that just barely has a view to the east. In a few days I’ll be back in the desert with no trees, so better soak them up while I can!

Day 5 – 19.5 miles (98 miles total)

I slept great on Alan and Erin’s couch and even had their dog Junior join me in the middle of the night. Erin had to go to work, so I took Alan out to breakfast at the Green Mountain Bakery. Mmmmm, a huge plate of bacon and cheese omlette, hash browns and toast later, I knew my stomach would be full for most of the day. I headed over to Safeway to resupply for the next few days to Paisley, and soon was ready to start my road walk out of town.

Hikertrash resupply

Now I had been able to string together a great route to get me to town, but the Warner Valley is wide enough that there would be a big chunk of road walking no matter how I decided to go. The orginal route passes about 8.5 miles north of town, and I could have just walked the highway, but didn’t want to do that, so pieced together some roads to get me back on Forest Service land in 13 miles…it would be another 15 or so to meet back up with the ODT at waypoint 103. All in all I think the alternate route is about 56 miles as opposed to 21 miles plus a 8.5 mile hitch into town for resupply. I just want to give people options, and I think Lakeview is an awesome stop. There is a hotspring hotel, Safeway, restaurants, stores, museums, a great library…just big enough to have options but small enough to be able to walk around easily. AND it’s the biggest trail town after Bend on the route.

I took a break at the Forest Service boundary, talked to Kirk on my phone, read a bit of a book Cam and Christine had given me, and finally got back on the road about 3:30. Since it is hunting season I expected to see people… especially since it was a Saturday, but the dirt roads were empty, and I had the forest all to myself.

I finally pulled over when my feet were starting to ache. I have the start of a blister on my left foot, the first of the trip! Pretty impressive for my feet.

Not sure how many miles back to the trail…I’m guessing 6-7. We’ll see!

Day 4 – 13.5 miles (78.5 total)

I’m not sure why the font is suddenly much larger on my posts…I’ve tried to dive into the settings and figure it out, and tried messing with the HTML code but I don’t know if I can fix it from my phone…oh well!

I woke early and made coffee and read in bed for a few hours, periodically getting up to stoke the fire. It’s so nice to have a wood stove, but I do remember how much time it takes too.

I was out and walking by 7am and enjoyed the quiet morning. Again, the Crane Mt Trail doesn’t go exactly where it is drawn on the maps, and even the roads weren’t in the right spots. I was able to navigate it without too much trouble and the route was well marked with National Recreation Trail markers.

When I got to Roggers meadow I took a side road that would take me to the edge of Lakeview and the newish Bullard Canyon Trail. This 4.5 mile trail takes off right from town behind the swimming pool and winds around a butte to Bullard Canyon. I saw several people on the trail this morning, it’s nice to see folks out hiking, and I think the ODT could be a great asset to residents who just want to walk out of town for a backpacking adventure.

I had been in touch with ONDA member Margot who lives in town, and we arranged to meet at a mexican restaurant for lunch. We had a great time chatting about hiking, world travels and conservation. Margot even picked up the tab! Thanks Margot!

Next I got in touch with Alan, my Fremont Forest Service contact about arranging some volunteer projects for ONDA volunteers on the ODT next year, and I think we made some good headway. Learning the Forest Service systems is a bit daunting, but Alan has been really helpful. He and his wife Erin are both thru-hikers and a fun couple. They offered to let me crash at their place, and we spent the evening eating cake (Erin’s birthday was yesterday), drinking wine and watching episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Good times!!

I was able to do laundry and it was nice to have a half day of hiking. Onward tomorrow! 

Day 3 – 23 Miles (65 miles total)

It was a cold night. I had washed my 20 degree sleeping bag before the hike because it wasn’t feeling that warm lately, and I knew I would need every down feather to be doing its job on this hike. I woke in the night, probably because of the impossibly bright full moon, but also because I was cold. I checked my water, it hadn’t froze, so that meant the bag was still a few degrees shy of its label. I put on my down jacket, and that helped tremendously.

When I woke next it was just after 6am. I sat up and made coffee before anything else. With coffee I could start the day. I was still cold when I started, but soon I was climbing and needed to shed some layers. The morning was brilliant and along the 7,000’ Crook Mountain, and I could see back to where I had started three days before, where I had been yesterday along Abert Rim, and ahead to where I would go. Where else can you get this perspective?  I love it!

There was blissful ridgewalking to be had today, and I relished every minute of it. By mid morning I had made it to the junction with the Crane Mt NRT and headed south on my alternate. Soon it became clear that where the route had been drawn on the map was not where the trail went. Yes there were trail markers, and yes, there was trail, but the map hadn’t gotten the info and thus my estimated milage to my destination would be off.

I was planning to stay with ONDA members Cam and Christine in their rental cabin tonight, and I wanted to get there in time to soak up the place! I started to get a bit nervy when the route snaked again, adding more distance, not knowing how many miles it would really take me to reach their place.

The walking was great though, and I appreciated being on trail. 


After lunch where I was fuming a bit, I decided to put on the 3 hour episode of the most recent Trail Show podcast to take my mind off the hike, and it worked. I love those goofballs, and in fact got a message from POD asking if I would be a part of their next show which would be taped at the gathering at the end of the month.

The gathering is an annual affair which gives triple crown awards, hosts presentations about epic adventures, and is simply a gathering of avid long distance hikers. I’ll be getting my triple crown award there this year, so am STOKED to go right after I finish this hike.

So I kept hiking, and without too many extra miles (only 3.5 it turned out) I was at my destination.

Cam met me and showed me around, and had even left a few beers in the fridge! Now he must know the way to a hiker’s heart!

He had invited me to dinner and I enjoyed an incredible evening with Cam and Christine. We had so many thing to talk about, and not just that we both subscribe to Harpers Magazine, or that Christine and I both went to college in London, but on a whole range of topics. They gave me some great book recommendations, and I marveled at their beautiful straw bale home.  I look forward to coming back with Kirk and exploring the Warner Mountains more.

Cam made some chocolate chip cookies to take on the road, and now I’ve got the fire roaring in my cabin and it’s almost time to sleep in a real bed. Yes.

Day 2 – 20 miles (42 miles total)

After 10 hours in my sleeping bag I was over the aches and pains of the day before. The body’s resiliency is pretty amazing. I headed over to Colvin Lake to get water and decided to check out the petroglyphs noted on the map. I found the spot, yet another reminder of the passing of time.

Next up was Abert Rim! I picked my way across the uneven rocky terrain and it seemed I would never get there, I aimed for a cairn on the horizon and suddenly the world beneath was revealed. 

The valley floor lay 2,500 feet below and I could see for miles. I could see Paisley where I would be in a week, and Valley Falls, into the Fremont Forest and a bit of Abert Lake. It was gorgous. I sat down and had a break trying to take it all in.

I would walk along the rim for the rest of the morning and came across several hunting blinds…or shelters from the wind. Not sure exactly. There were lots of Pronghorn up there, and most seemed curious, not running till I was fairly close.

Finally I decide to cut down off the rim, but I choose my spot poorly and had some intense bushwacking through mahogany. Finally I reached a dirt road and found groves of aspen that had already turned golden yellow.

It was a beautiful day! I entered the Fremont Forest and found all of the water sources had water, and even found some not in the resources. I loved the smell of the pine trees, and even more aspen made the walk really pleasant.

When I got to Vee lake I started on the Fremont National Recreation Trail. Trail!!! 

The ODT follows this existing long trail for the next 70 miles, but is over 200 miles itself. I’ll have to come back and finish it one day! Tomorrow I’m going to leave the ODT for an alternate I’m creating that will take hikers directly in and out of the town of Lakeview, and will follow another trail, the Crane Mountain National Recreation Trail. It will be longer than the original ODT miles, but hey, we’re here to hike, right?

The trail was lovely and passed some cool canyons and through an old burn, the manzinetias smelled sweet in the warm fall air. It was wonderful. More water and even a big pile of bear scat!

Soon I entered the trees and saw a few big bucks in the distance. It’s hunting season, so half expected to see some hunters angry that I scared away their dinner. But no hunters so far.

I made camp near Swale Creek early enough to read a big chunk of my book. What a great day.

Day 1 – 22 Miles

When I woke up right before dawn I realized I was within sight of a house. Oops! They hadn’t had any lights on the night before, and the longer I looked I didn’t think anyone was home. Hogback road is not well traveled…and only 1 car passed as I was making coffee and packing up.

I was walking by 7am, and had a good hour on pavement before I took a little detour up a dirt road that looked to cut out about another mile of pavement. I don’t mind dirt roads, but pavement can be rough on the feet.

I started up Miners Draw, a pretty little canyon with periodic rock outcroppings. I found a water trough that still had water in it which was suprising given it was so late in the season. I didn’t fill up since I still had quite a bit. The day looked warm, but the air was COLD and whenever I stopped I needed to put some layers on. In fact when I stopped for lunch at the top of my 2,000’ climb I got out my sleeping bag. I was already exhausted and even though I tried to read some of my e-book, I just wanted to close my eyes.

I could see a dirt tank below still had some water, and found 2 tanks with water left, and a full water trough at Juniper spring with a trickle of clear water still flowing. What a year! Lots of these sources were dry last year, I guess the wet winter and spring really did make a big impact.

I was dragging a little bit…the start of a section hike is always a little rough. I listened to a few podcasts and motored along, really loving the scenery of the rolling Coyote Hills.

I had some cross country sections to hike near the end of the day so put on my gaiters to mitigate the shredding to my legs. It was slow going with lots of ankle twisting rocks hidden in the grasses. There had been a fire here at some point years ago and downed trees created an additional barrior.

When it came time to walk up Snyder Creek in the brush and downed trees I really didn’t see a clear path, but finally stumbled upon a cow trail going up the steep canyon. My feet were feeling the jagged rock walking by this time, and getting to the top was a relief even though the crossed country continued for a bit. There was a full lake of water at the top…this years’ hikers have it pretty good so far in this section!

I stumbled another mile and soon realized there was very little ground I could camp on due to all the rocks. I made my way over to a grove of junipers where some cows had made beds under the branches and claimed a tree all for myself.

A few pronghorn welcomed me to my spot and watched curiously as I set up camp.

I’m exhausted, and looking forward to my cozy sleeping bag!