Oregon

The trail led me through meadows and past a derelict cabin with a corrugated tin roof curling up and missing in several places. I entered and stood there staring at its tattered walls. The surrounding meadow was beautiful in the afternoon sun but a sadness pervaded the interior of the cabin. Names and initials going back to the sixties were carved into its wooden walls and posts. Pinned above a window was a photograph of a smiling man. He held a dog close to him, their faces touching. The photo seemed to have been taken within the cabin itself, at a time when it was in better condition. Written in marker on the photo was a message - I love you and miss you. I wondered if the message was for the man or the dog and then I felt an urge to know everything about this man and what had happened to him, if he had passed away and if so, how? Who had he left behind? What sort of life had he led? On a different wall hung a foreboding note written by a thru-hiker two years prior. It seemed to harbor an overall hopelessness regarding life, mentioning death and suicide. "This walk is my last dance," the note ended. "Over, through and beyond."

After leaving the cabin, around every corner and on every tree I expected to see a wooden sign declaring Welcome to Oregon. Thirty minutes later I stood at the border. I had spent eighty-seven days walking the length of an entire state. Washington lay 498 trail miles north of where I stood. Canada lay 464 miles beyond that. I stood there reading the trail register, not even bothering to remove my pack. Rocksteady left a brief and amusing message: Hexagon. Octagon. Oregon. Nearby, the epigraph page from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest had been torn out and taped into the register, a fitting welcome to Oregon from that famous Oregonian writer. On the yellowed fragment of paper, typeset in an italicized serif font, were the lyrics One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo's nest. Scrawled in pen above it was a message from a thru-hiker named Tarzan: Welcome to Oregon, hiker trash.

I had only met Tarzan once, just before Etna. He seemed just like any other thru-hiker, bearded and covered in grime. According to Washpot however, Tarzan, along with everyone in his family, has never had to work a day in his life. He had a trust fund and his family administered a foundation that donated millions of dollars to various charities each year. In this way, Tarzan shared something in common with Clinton C. Clarke, the "Father of the Trail," who worked tirelessly in the early 20th century advocating for the creation of what would become the Pacific Crest Trail. As noted in The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America's Wilderness Trail, "The 1910 census stated Clarke's occupation as 'own income.' In the 1920 census, at age 46, Clarke listed 'retired.' He was born and married with a silver spoon in his mouth."

I took my first steps along the trail in Oregon and I thought of Tarzan and tried to imagine what it must be like to never have to worry about money - what a different experience the PCT must be for him. The trail curved around Silver Fork Basin and a variation on the nursery rhyme entered my mind: One hiked north, one hiked south, one hiked with a silver spoon in his mouth.


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