I get off the bus in Medford and immediately hear “Is that 3D?!” It’s Waterbug and Topo, who I haven’t seen since Kennedy Meadows South. Topo has a car and after some errands drives me to Ashland. Ashland is by far the biggest trail town I’ve stopped in yet and its Pacific Northwest vibe immediately makes me feel at home. The streets are filled with Shakespeare festivalgoers, crusty punks, hippies, and hikers.
I get out at the post office and run into Goldmine, $inyk, Mary Poppins (who long boarded around the fire!) and get a text from Half Double and Shiny. I reserve the last bed at the sweet, friendly, and very clean Ashland Hostel. There I see Lost and Found and meet Cracker Jax, Danger Spoon, and Giant. I go to a cafe and run into Slow Gin, who I last encountered 10 miles from the Kelso water cache doing a 40 and listening to Jazz.
Slow Gin and I learn that we can get free, raw juice from a raw food cafe. Oh the pleasures of town! We decide to see a film. Boyhood is playing. The film and our evolution and growth throughout the hike are well aligned. Both condense time and experience in an artful way.
Back at the hostel, I hang out with Cracker Jax, Lost and Found, and Danger Spoon. Lost and Found makes me an unbelievably delicious dinner of pan-seared squid, mushrooms and onion before we head out to a brewery with an outdoor deck and $3.50 pints. We find a tiny club in an alleyway that is playing dance music. We try it out for a few songs and then I remember that March Fourth marching band is playing. We make our way there. They want $25 a piece, but somehow Danger Spoon convinces the door person that $5 each would be better. The band is good, goofy fun and we all jump and dance to the brass and drums.
After the show, we come upon a tiny home built into the back of a pick up. The owner invites us inside. Compared to our tents, it’s palatial. With all this life happening outside the “home,” bigger interiors just seem to create larger divides between us and possibility.