Calaveras High grad goes backpacking across state

It’s all too easy for people to get caught up in day-to-day busywork, forgetting to smell the roses and appreciate the beauty of this spinning rock we call home. Calaveras High class of 2009 graduate Cheyenne Dolin has long been determined to take every whiff of life’s roses that she can. She’s an avid hiker and traveler, having spent two semesters of her University of California, Santa Cruz, schooling abroad in Florence, Italy. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in modern literature this summer, Dolin decided it was the perfect time to set out on a backpacking trip through the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Coincidentally, Dolin cites a Calaveras High influence as part of her reason to hike the trail.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors, but I think what really got me interested in backpacking alone would have to have been in Mrs. Smith’s honors English class, studying transcendentalism,” she said. “I initially wanted to bike across America, but my bike was stolen six weeks before I was supposed to leave. Backpacking has always been something I’ve wanted to do, so I figured why not now? I’m very interested in nature and solitude; I find that most cultures value these things as a means to find knowledge, happiness, spirituality and many other answers to life’s questions.”

Dolin began her quest on Aug. 1 at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, on the Washington/Oregon border, and finished on Aug. 27 in Ashland, Ore., having traveled more than 400 miles on foot.

“I really wanted to make it to the California border, but there isn’t actually a place anyone can pick you up there, and there was a fire in that region,” Dolin said.

Dolin described the hike as “challenging, intense, painful, rewarding and lonely. It makes you appreciate everything so much more, strangers, fruit, showers, chocolate.”

She considered calling the entire trip quits early on, after a difficult first few days of backpacking uphill through the Mount Hood wilderness.

“I had blisters all over my feet. My right ankle was rubbed raw, and nearly my left. I had never had a blister before. My toes were bad, too,” she recalled. “But it was gorgeous!”

After calling home and talking to her mother, who convinced her to take a bus into the closest town and stay the night at a hotel to regroup, Dolin got back on the trail and saw some of the most scenic places Oregon has to offer, including Olallie Lake, Mount Jefferson (which Dolin said was her favorite), the Three Sisters Wilderness, Shelter Cover Resort, Mount Theilsen and Crater Lake.

“It was really pretty. There were lakes everywhere,” she said of the section just after Olallie Lake. “I began to climb an especially large mountain, and there was snow scattered here and there, and the higher I got the more snow I had to walk through. Then I got above the timberline and it was just snow and rocks everywhere, and the trail was really easy to lose. This was the only time I got a little lost. I knew where I had left off on the trail, but not where it went. So I spent like 40 minutes kind of walking the area trying to find the trail.”

Dolin then rediscovered the trail thanks to rock stacks people had made as trail guides, and eventually reached a beautiful vantage point.

“Finally I reached the summit, and Mount Jefferson was staring me in the face. It was right in front of me, towering ever so slightly above me. And my eyes followed a river that ran from the snowcapped mountain on which I stood, into a lush green valley with the prettiest lake, and there were wildflowers everywhere and pine trees were scattered about. It was such a breathtaking moment.”

Dolin also spoke highly of the Three Sisters Wilderness, “a place full of magic. You walk through obsidian fields, wildflower fields with streams that zig-zag throughout, past picturesque mountains and so much wildlife. I have never smelled something as divine as the lupine fields out there.”

Along with the obviously marvelous scenery a backpacking adventure such as Dolin’s can offer, she was also pleasantly surprised of the wonderful people she encountered on the trail.

“(They were) the most vibrant people I have ever met. They were all kind, willing to help, sincere, alive.”

A particular instance of her fellow hikers’ sincerity came while Dolin was waiting at Shelter Cove Resort waiting for a package and conversing with a group of northbound hikers.

“Many of them were around my age, though there were some 30-, 40- and 60- year-olds. We’re all sitting around this picnic table, like 20 of us, drinking beers and swapping stories. And this guy who had a cabin there invited us to his barbecue with his wife,” she said, retelling her shock of a stranger inviting such a large crowd. “So he cooked us a ton of fish he had caught over the weekend and it was such a great time. I met people from all over the place, there and on the trail. All over the U.S, and Canada, Holland, Germany, China. I lost track of all the places.”

Another interesting facet of the Pacific Crest Trail is the surnames used and given by other backpackers.

“Something kind of cool about the trail is nobody goes by their real name. Other people name you, and the reason for your name is always a great conversation starter,” Dolin said.

Dolin got the nickname of “Goose,” after asking fellow hikers about bright orange berries she saw, which one hiker proclaimed to be called salmonberries, but another said are known as gooseberries.

All in all, a hiking trip of such length doesn’t seem for the faint of heart, considering the long stretches potentially without food or water sources. But Dolin couldn’t emphasize enough how doable such a trip is, even stating her hike “wasn’t lengthy at all in consideration. Most people go from Mexico to Canada.”

“(I slept) almost always just somewhere along the trail in my tent. Sometimes I’d make it to ‘campsites,’ which were sometimes like real campsites with bathrooms and trash (cans). But not usually, usually they were just cleared spaces. I slept in a bed once the entire trip,” she said. “But just buy a pack, you can get one used, get a good bag, eat cheap, and it’s fine.”

Dolin has plans to complete the Pacific Crest Trail’s entirety, an excess of 2,000 miles, later on, but she isn’t sure when. She does plan to stay busy traveling, and intends to bike across America starting in spring, “going to Florida, through Texas and New Orleans, and back though Wyoming and a lot of other places. I really want to see all 50 states.”

She also has the Appalachian Trail and New Zealand at the top of her backpacking list. Dolin serves as a great reminder to go out and smell the roses every chance you get.

“I think anything is possible if you want to do it, truly,” she said.

Contact Joe Klarer at joe@calaverasenterprise.com or 498.2076.

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