An interesting social life develops as we walk in this linear fashion among other free spirits. Whether headed north or south, word travels fast on the trail.
We have enjoyed the company of a handful of other Southbound (SoBo) hikers. We pass each other on the trail and catch up in towns for resupplies. After passing the entire herd of Northbounders, stranger after stranger, it's always nice to see a familiar face again.
We started to pass the first speedy northbounders in central Washington. Many times we simply exchange a hello, sometimes we talk about water, snow or fires ahead (or behind), and in rare cases we receive news of free margaritas and burritos at the next road (trail magic!). Other encounters leave us wondering...
Our first curious encounter occurred just north of White Pass. As Anna was racing down towards the road, trying to beat the mosquitos that were chasing her, she passed a clan of NoBos. They chatted briefly and one of them asked her name. "Bug", she replied. "Oh! Is Mud with you?" "Yeah, he's just a few minutes back". We had never met this person, but he already knew us. A few minutes later he passed Ross, says "Hey Mud", and walks on. Apparently, some SoBos ahead have been talking about us.
It must be that our trail names are so simple that no one forgets, as we certainly haven't done anything remarkable to be recognized as we are. Scott Williamson, however, is one of the most remarkable hikers on the trail. He was the first to do a successful "yoyo" - hiking from Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico in one season. He also held the record for the fastest unsupported thru-hike of the PCT until last year when it was broken by Heather Anderson. We heard that he was on the trail again this year, headed south like us. We were excited for the day that he would pass us and hoping we wouldn't miss him as we took time off in Bend.
Finally, after dinner one evening next to a swampy lake in central Oregon, a man walks into our camp site and says "Are you headed south? Are you Mud and Bug?". Scott! As we greet him, he tells us how happy he is to finally meet us. He's been hearing our names since the beginning and has finally caught us. HE is happy to meet US!? How crazy.
Scott is incredibly humble and laid back, as most trail celebrities are. He is out to break the record, having already hiked the trail 13 times, and averaging above 45 miles per day, yet still not attached to the idea of success... Simply marveling at the beauty he sees every day, as we all are. Despite his high mileage days, he takes time to talk to almost everyone he sees. We chatted for about 15 minutes, asked him what he ate. Three pounds of food every day. Refried beans, homemade bars, beef jerky and snickers bars. Maybe next year we can be his diet consultants. He'll be flying.
A week later we read in a trail register that Scott had left the trail, as it was mostly on fire for the next 300 miles. He will be back again next year. Even trail celebrities are no match for the whims of nature.
And so we sit here in Ashland, facing fires ahead. For many of these fires, there is no alternate route and the best option is to hitch around from the nearest road, which we have already had to do for one 50 mile stretch south of Crater Lake. Alternatively, we could rent bikes and ride the roads around the fire... stay tuned for a decision about our strategy!
Fires aside, we are thrilled to have made it through the first 900 miles. Ready for California. A new state! New sights, new towns, new adventures. Now we're really thru-hiking.
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