Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 107: Wildfires, trail closures, and heading out of Etna

Date: August 14, 2017
Miles: 10.7 miles (17.2km), from Sawyers Bar Road to Shelly Meadows at mile 1,607.9.
Health: Feeling well rested and like I want to hike again.

I slept late. It feels really good not having to rush anywhere in the morning. While Sam was taking down his shelter and putting all his stuff together, I did a pack shakedown. All kinds of small stuff start to accumulate, and old stuff I thought I’d have a use for has been untouched at the bottom of my pack, so it’s good to shake things up every now and then.

Going through all my gear I mostly end up throwing away small stuff no-one has any use for. All the other things I put in the hiker box in case anyone needs them. When you’re out on the trail this long, you get to understand how little you actually need to live by. Wish I would’ve had all this knowledge before starting the trail.

Airplane Mode and Sunshine.

As the morning progresses Sunshine sends a message that she’s in town. We make plans to go eat breakfast together. I pack the rest of my stuff and Sam and I start walking towards the town. On the way, we hit the Post Office as I’m hoping my packages would have already arrived. Sadly they haven’t.

We walk to the diner where we agreed to meet Sunshine and join her and her crew for breakfast. She has a new trail family and we hang around with them for a while. After the breakfast, it’s time for Sam to head out back on the trail and he gets a ride pretty soon.

After Sam has left I tag along with Sunshine as she picks up a package from the Post Office. Mine still hasn’t arrived. As it’s starting to get really hot, and as there’s not much else to do, we decide to hit the public pool for a swim. The water feels amazing and it’s great to catch up with Sunshine. It’s been a while since the last time I saw her.

Hitching a ride up to the trailhead.

After thoroughly soaking up our weary bones in the pool it’s time to visit the Post Office again. One of my packages had arrived – I got my new shoes! But the package with my new charger was still missing. I was happy to have the new shoes as without those I couldn’t get back on the trail. As the charger wasn’t mission critical, nor very expensive, it wasn’t worth staying in town to wait for it to arrive.

I decided to ship some of my gear from the mornings shakedown forward on the trail to Ashland, and some that I have no use, back to Mikko in San Diego. The Post Master has been following our discussion the entire time and as I mention the issue with my still missing package, he tells me he’s going to open it, repackage it, and ship it to me to Ashland. As I ask for the price to pay for the shipping and the new packaging, he says he doesn’t accept any money and that he’ll pay for my shipping once the package arrives. The kindness of strangers out here is amazing!

I thank the Post Master and after giving him my contact information, we head out. I’m super happy to have my new shoes and knowing I’ll get the charger once I’m in Ashland.

Walking down the Main Street we meet Airplane Mode. After chatting for a while on the street we head for a quick lunch in the cafe. It was nice seeing her again.

At the trailhead.

After lunch, we gather our stuff and hitch out to the trailhead. Before getting a ride we meet some firefighters and ask them about the conditions up in the mountains. They radio up and we hear it’s all good for the trail.

We get a ride up the mountain and it takes a while to climb all the way up to the top. It’s a lovely ride through a beautiful forest. We get dropped off and thank our ride again. We do the final check on our gear and then one by one start hiking up the mountain. I trail behind others as I want to use the cell reception to send a couple of messages out.

Climbing back up (see hikers for reference).

The trail climbs up and the views are gorgeous. About three miles in I get a message from Airplane Mode telling us the fire has moved within a mile from the trail and that the trail has been closed. Right at this moment, the trail crosses over a ridge to the other side of the mountains and I lose reception. I hike back a little and send Sunshine a message but as the trail stays on the other side of the range for quite some time, I don’t think she’s going to have a reception before the next town.

Messages from Airplane Mode and an unfortunate song choice.

Crossing the range I can see the fire up ahead. I can either turn around and walk the three miles back to the trailhead or try to catch the others. I decide to go forward and try to catch the others – either to tell them the news or if the trail is still passable, get through this section with them. I figure that if I don’t catch them, the trail should be closed from where the fire is as there are crews of firefighters around this fire.

All the messaging and going back and forth lost me so much time that Sunshine and her crew have gotten too far for me to catch. They’re all fast hikers and unless they stop for a break, I’d have to run for miles to catch them.

Comment box on the trail.

Fellow hiker on trail.

On one of the wider parts of the trail, I meet a section hiker about to go to sleep. I tell him the news about the fire and he tells me he saw it from the trail earlier but it was still some ways from where the trail goes. I wish him good luck and push forward.

The views on this part of the trail are simply amazing! I watch the helicopters fly back and forth from the fire and the rising smoke makes the sky glow in beautiful colors against the setting sun.

Smoke rising from the wildfire.

The trail follows along the mountain range and the fire is in the forest right below. I try to look for escape routes in case the fire would start to climb up the mountain but there’re not many places to go. On the left is a drop down to the forest with the fire, and on the right is a steep mountainside that would be pretty hard to climb. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

Watching the fire down below from the trail.

As the sun sets and it gets dark I can see small patches of fire down in the forest below. It looks like the firefighters have managed to get the fire under control for the night but the air is still full of smoke. I wear my wetted out bandana around my face to make it easier to breathe but it’s not helping much.

Just as it gets completely dark I reach a forest and after a short walk see headlamps ahead. It’s Sunshine and her crew. I tell them the news about the trail being closed and we figure we were the last ones that made it through this section. We eat a quick dinner and then go to sleep. We all cowboy camp next to a big tree on the soft forest floor. As I close my eyes I hope that the wind doesn’t pick up during the night and reignite the fire not far from us.