I once heard Yvon Chouinard say in a documentary that “adventure is when everything goes wrong. That’s when the adventure starts.” It’s not that everything went wrong per se, but more so unplanned and unexpected, and that was the start of our adventure.
A New Normal – And Not One I Wanted To Get Used To
When the pandemic hit, we saw an instant shift as we watched the world shut down around us. We were told to stay home and no one really knew for how long.
In those first months, I found myself becoming more and more dependent on Wi-Fi. The more I thought about it – I started to feel sick to my stomach.
Maybe I was missing the great outdoors or maybe the great outdoors was missing me.
After a few dozen movies, watching all 15 seasons of Criminal Minds, and countless hours of scrolling through social media with complete emptiness, I began to feel antsy and eager to get back outside. With all the nearby National Parks closed, I was limited to walking around my neighborhood or the surrounding walking paths. As much as I tried to get my nature fix, I mostly found myself seeking happiness through the internet.
Then, one random day in April my good friend Mike and his dad invited me on a backpacking trip set for the end of May.
As outdoor spaces were starting to reopen this was a no brainer. Mark was able to secure permits for us to venture up North to get into the wilderness.
We would head to Northern California, beginning the trip at Klamath National Forest and ending in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon. Originally, the trip was supposed to last eight days—traveling 120 miles—allowing ample time to unplug from the pandemic that plagued me with a crippling Wi-Fi addiction. Little did we know this was just the start of our journey. It was still early in the season and we were not geared up for the amount of snow we came across.
Plans Rarely Go Accordingly…and This Was No Exception
Hiking through snow was exhausting and made it difficult to navigate the trail; kicking steps onto the surface to make a solid foundation before you can walk safely along.
After hiking 14 miles, we decided to turn around and call it quits. We hit a spot on the trail that appeared completely impassable without crampons and other equipment. As disappointing as this turnaround was, it taught us a great lesson about traveling to new places in the backcountry.
When plans fall apart you, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can embrace the new adventure that awaits.
We ended up finding a spot to camp overlooking the small town of Etna for the night. We talked and laughed (we laughed a lot) about our day with one another. We didn’t want to let the defeat from having to turn around get us down, but a lot of time, vacation, and planning was lost.
Taking An Unexpected Turn
My friend Mike and I decided, right then, that we were going to take a road trip once we got back to the trailhead in Etna. We both had the rest of the week off and nowhere else to be. We spent the rest of the night brainstorming ideas. We recalled, from the day before, that a local we hitched a ride from mentioned a road that follows the Klamath river all the way to the ocean.
From mountains to sea, that sounded like an amazing plan! We finished our dinners and hit our sleeping bags for a night of rest after our lengthy day in the snow.
We woke up just as the sun was peaking up above the town, took a moment to breathe in the silence.
We ate breakfast, had our coffee, broke down camp, and packed up our bags to hike out on another long, but beautiful day through the forest. Around every corner, was an alluring view that was hard to ignore. There was a point on the trail where I was knee-deep in snow but struck with complete reverence of the sublime land I was walking through. Paradise at its finest. I couldn’t have been more elevated with peaceful and inspiring thoughts.
Once we returned to the trailhead, we hitchhiked with a couple of cowgirls back into Etna. We climbed into the bed of their truck and headed towards town with our hair blowing in the wind. It was a swift moment of freedom, tearing down that mountain road in the back of an old Ford pickup. We were dropped off by our truck and decided to grab dinner and a motel for the night, as it was already late afternoon. After a good meal at the local hotspot Dotty’s, and a refreshing shower, Mike and I dozed off like tired old hound dogs.
One of the Best Things About Traveling Is Making New Friends
The next morning we scarfed some food down and geared up for Sawyers Bar Road. We followed the Salmon River, which eventually turns into the mighty Klamath River, that dumps into the ocean. With no actual plan for what we were going to do once we reached the ocean, we decided to camp on the beach where the mouth of the river fed into the savage, but subtle sea.
While in the parking lot we were greeted by a guy named Dana. Without a moment of hesitation he introduced us to his friends who were also camping on the beach and we found ourselves sitting around a fire, howling at the moon, and talking well into the night with our new friends.
No cell service, no wifi – just a group of people congregating around the campfire and having quality conversations. Seeing the moon shine on the ocean in Northern California, late in May, was like a thousand beams of light glistening across rocky waves—seeming to transcend us to a distant place in time. A great way to end the night!
The next morning we decided to drive up into Oregon making a big loop back to Klamath National Forest and south to Shasta Lake, exploring all the beaches and rivers along the way. We set up camp and went for a swim in the blue-green waters of Shasta Lake, finding rocks and cliffs to jump off of so we could feel like we were flying.
That evening, we chopped up some wood and made a fire. We sat by the campfire and talked about life and all the adventures we have been on together over the past seventeen years. We talked about love and marriage with our significant others, and what it means to live a pure, honest life with no restrictions. We talked about our dreams until we grew too tired to keep our eyes open. We fell asleep happy and at peace, but slightly sad that our trip was coming to an end.
Blog and photos by Tyson Baker / Adventure Writer and Coffee Roaster