Saturday, March 14, 2009

to ashland and back

Over the last 3 days I went to Ashland and back.

Wednesday morning was interesting. I loaded up my pack, and decided to walk to the greyhound station downtown. It was my first time out with my pack, and I wasn't sure how it was going to effect my walk, so I gave myself some extra time. My bus left at 6:30 am, and the e-ticket instructed I get there no later than 1 hour before that. I left at 3:30, to give myself 2 hours to go 5 miles. I knew that would be more than enough time, but I thought it would be nice to have the extra time to spare.

I ended up walking 5 miles an hour, and the train station didn't open until 6, so I ended up with an hour and a half to kill in nw portland, on foot, at 4:30 in the morning.

I would have left and found something to do for a bit, but a little old man came a few minutes later, followed by a loud, and very drunk (and racist!) middle-aged guy in a black trench coat and cowboy hat, who repeated told us he was "100% legally psychotic". It would have been the perfect time to leave, but I didn't feel like I should leave the old guy there unprotected with "trench coat" or anyone else that might come by at that hour.

The old guy was on his way from Montana to Reno, and was absolutely horrified by his experience in our fare city. We told trench coat that we wanted to find a place to get some coffee, not because we actually wanted coffee, but because we wanted to go somewhere away from him. He didn't get the message, and said "I'm going to go find a place to get coffee, SOMEONE has to do it. Watch my bags!" He disappeared, which was nice, but we were left with his bags; and after he had been away for a bit too long, with the problem of what to do with them. In the mean time, a younger guy emerged from the darkness, and began to chat us up. He was shady, but not threatening, and after a short time, he was blunt about his intentions. "You guys need anything for the trip? I've got Klonopin's."

Who tries to sell drugs to a conservative little old grandpa from Montana at 4:30 in the morning?

I answered for the two of us, "no thanks", and he lost interest in us and moved on. The next visitor was a strung-out young girl. You could tell she had a serious, and probably long term habit... she was the kind of young girl that could wonder the streets of the seedier side of a city, without too much worry. I would imagine in her condition, she wouldn't appear as an attractive target for almost any misguided intention.

She tried to say something to us, but we couldn't make it out. She could see the confusion on our faces, and got frustrated and walked off. At this point, I was pretty disappointed by the impression Portland had made on my new elderly friend.

Finally, things started to happen inside the station, and we felt a little more comforted about our situation. The only question was what we should do with trench coat's bags in his absence, and although any fate would have been OK with me; what had become of him.

In a moment, our questions were answered. In the distance, we could see him, and then hear him, coming our way. In his hands were two large cups of coffee, and next to him was a homeless person (who we had seen earlier, picking up cigarette butts to try smoking), carrying two more. When they approached, the homeless man handed me one, and trench coat handed the old man the other. He then said "pay up boys!". Neither of us had asked for a coffee. The old man was unfamiliar with starbuck's prices, and tried to give trench coat a dollar. I did not have any cash on me, which put me in a particularly uncomfortable position. Fortunately, I had brought a bag of quarters in case I needed a bus anywhere along the line, so I paid him with those to avoid having to deal with him any further. I did not drink the coffee, I was disgusted by the whole thing.

I soon discovered the three of us were scheduled to share the same 7.5 hour bus ride to medford. I was horrified for a moment, but security quickly informed the guy that he would not be able to ride the bus this morning because they could detect alcohol on his breath. Finally, I had caught a break.

The ride down to Medford was long, but I had a row of seats to myself, and a good book, so the time passed rather quickly.

Once in Medford, I put on my pack and walked to my parents house in ashland, nearly 15 miles to the south. It was a decent walk, and the longest I had ever taken with my pack. I was surprised at how little it impacted my stride. I could have easily loaded it much heavier, and the thought was comforting given some of the trips I've planned for the future.

In Ashland, my father and I drove a lot, and did some short walks and hikes. The only one of real interest was a short hike to see lake of the woods. The lake was frozen over and we saw a lot of fresh bear tracks in the snow. Everything was closed up there for the season, including the road we hiked in on, but now that I've seen it, I'm even more interested in going back when everything's open.

The way back was a mirror of the way down, except it was at a more decent hour, the ride was a little shorter, and the company was WORSE. I walked to Medford along the same route I had come from there, I had extra time after checking in, so I walked all over town to see what there was to see. When I returned to the station, I boarded a very full bus, and didn't have the luxury of a row to myself for the ride home. My seat mates were interesting to say the least. I couldn't pin-point the worst part of the trip, but since this is my walking blog, I'll focus on that: After walking close to 20 miles with my pack on, being forced to sit still for 6 hours in a seat no bigger than those given in a plane, my knees seized up, and after not very long, were on fire. Combined with everything else, I imagined that this was what hell was like.

I was glad to arrive in Portland. I hopped off the bus, collected my things, and slowly started walking to loosen up my knees a bit. After a short time, they were as good as new, and I returned to the house at about the same pace I had left it.

I feel good about all the long walks back to back over the last few days, especially with the pack, since I was unsure how it would effect me. It was a good test run to see how I'd do on some of the longer walking/camping trips I have planned for the summer.

March 11th - 13th

45 miles
96.36 miles cumulative
3.8544 total gallons saved