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The Oregonian border perspective

As Sobo hikers cross into California, we face a logistical challenge navigating around two large fire closures in northern California: the River Complex fire and the Dixie fire. After spending hours planning to hike and hitch between the closures, I discovered the perimeters had changed, making my plan obsolete and compelling me to adopt a different one.

And the Californian
Cool trail sign just before the Cali border

If you think of the remaining three large sections of trail in California as A (Northern, with the major closures), B (Middle/Sierra Mountains) and C (Southern/desert), my new plan is to do them in B -> A -> C order or alternatively B -> C -> A order. This will be logistically simpler now and later as opposed to weaving in an out via complicated hitchhiking. If the closures are lifted when I’m done with B, then I’ll go back and do A before C, else I’ll do C and then tack on A at the very end of the hike.

Shy Bambi near the middle of frame

Yesterday, after hitching in from Seiad Valley, CA on yet another hot, smoke filled day, I was leaning on the edge of a concrete retaining wall on a sidewalk in front of a stately old home in Yreka, updating Wendy on my new plans. When a guy comes out from the house and approaches me, I assume he’s thinking me a vagrant (its happened before, ha!) and will ask me to shuffle on my way. Instead he produces a bottle of Gatorade and says his wife saw me through their kitchen window and sent him on a mercy mission. That chance encounter with John led him to inviting me in to meet his wife Lani and some of their family (they have 5 kids too). As we sat in the kitchen, I had that feeling wash over me of meeting people from one’s own “tribe”, if that sentiment resonates. We hit it off on many levels and Lani- who is a professional photographer- took the portraits you see here. John is a projectionist for large events (concerts, conferences, etc.) and as we spoke about various shows, naturally I mentioned the Grateful Dead, since I’ve been known to frequent a show or two over many past decades, ha! At this point Lani tells John “you’ve got to tell him…” and John goes on to explain he is half brother (same mom) to Bob Weir. Those of you who know the place the band has held in my esteem since my teen years won’t have a hard time imagining my smile at this bit of serendipity. John and I are the same age and eerily connected across many interests and perspectives. And we’ll have a further chance to pick each others brain tomorrow ( 8/17) as John is graciously driving me almost 300 miles south east of Yreka to the trailhead where I’ll begin the “B” section mentioned above. One thing I’ll say for the PCT: invariably each time I’ve needed encouragement or a spark or distraction or relief or whatever, the trail has delivered. Good night all and pleasant dreams! Max

John and his great wife Lani left me speechless with their kindness
Lani’s impromptu portrait of an aging hiker

4 Replies to “Entering California”

  1. What a great encounter! The photographer did a beautiful job.

  2. Wonderful encounter Maxheap! Best wishes as you continue your journey!
    Doin’ Stuff

    1. Doin’ Stuff!!! So glad we crossed paths brother! I heard just after I made it through that the stretch due south of Santiam pass was closed due to another fire, something of a theme on the hike this season. Thanks again for your kindness! Cheers!

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