“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir


August 2014

Day 121: Trail Reunion

Miles: 21.12
Camping: Rockpile Lake PCT mile 2022.22

I woke up at my usual 6am but breakfast wasn’t to be served until 8:30. I lazily laid about reading my book and not rushing to break down camp. Someone was water skiing on the lake at 6:30, and even though I’m a morning person now that seemed too early to me. It seemed to wake up the other hikers in my camp and action was made to pack up our belongings. A bunch of us hung out in the hiker lounge, drinking our own coffee and going through the hiker box; waiting for the dining hall to open its doors. When they finally did we waited in line to serve up our own tray of food. There were scrambled eggs, fruit, veggie sausages, oatmeal, another hot cocoa bar and cinnamon rolls. These turned out to be straight from Heaven. I have never had a cinnamon roll that perfect before in my life, and the others agreed. We went back for more, stuffing our mouths with the gooey sweet pastry, making sounds of sheer delight. It was the single most satisfying thing I have ever eaten…and just after days of craving cinnamon buns on trail!

I could barely move after round 2 of cinnamon rolls but had to make moves to get down the trail. I am now on a bit of a deadline as I’m meeting a friend at Timothy Lake in a few days (80 miles). I am already behind schedule due to the unexpected trail magic dinner (which was obviously worth it), so I hoped to make that up in the coming days. My feet reminded me of the hot spots from yesterdays lava walk and 2 blisters reared their heads, one on each baby toe. I stopped to pop them and tape them up, but it was almost too late as far as pain was concerned. I hiked a little ways with my toes taped but the tape almost made it feel worse. I ended up stopping to change into my sandals, which eased the pain enough to make the walking easier.

The hike climbed up all day through a burn zone from 2011, hot and exposed to the sun. The climb was about 8 miles long, so I was trying to pace myself in the heat. Having a stomach full of cinnamon roll didn’t help my stride but I had no regrets in that department, only that I couldn’t have more of those particular cinnamon rolls. I got to a spot where things leveled out a bit and found Biscuit, Pirate Bait, Pisa and Stomper lounging in some shade. I stopped to chat with them and then Blisster walked up. I haven’t seen him since Ashland, so it was a mini reunion on the trail before Blisster, Biscuit and I joined forces and hiked onward. I had plans to eat a late lunch after the climb, and that was only a couple of miles more; it was nice to have some company for that part of the walk. We were climbing up and up until we were right under the spires of 3 Fingered Jack, a large mountain reminiscent of the Sierra. We stopped and had a quick lunch break, not the usual midday hour long relaxation fest. Since we all had later starts that day we had to push on to make our mileage goal before dark.

My feet were miraculously free of the normal pain today, but the blisters kept me from enjoying that. It makes it more frustrating to always have one or the other pain present, never having even a single day without having some foot malady calling my attention. I felt rather cranky as we came over the pass so I hung back from my friends to stew in solitude. No need to bring others down with my pity party. Around a bend I caught up with them as they were stopped picking blueberries. I joined them in the berry feasting, barely able to resist shoving handfulls of them in my mouth. They were so delicious; plump and juicy. We walked on and picked the plentiful bounty periodically along the way.

The day ended with another decent climb, this one shorter but more steep. We worked up the next mountain, following switchbacks back and forth, my mood unimproved. At the end of the climb were amazing views looking back at the mountains we had just been hiking around, now off in the distance as we hiked forward. The sun was beginning to set, and the sky wore streaks of pastel hues. We came upon Rockpile Lake, and found lots of available tent space. As we were setting up camp, Ninja rolled into camp! I haven’t seen Ninja on trail in over 1,000 miles, and now the 4 of us were in the same place for the first time since mile 266. That blows my mind a bit, as these are people I’ve known since the beginning, and here we are together at Rockpile Lake. We had dinner and chatted, catching up with old friends. My feet are making me pretty miserable, so I’m going to sleep and hope to feel an improvement in the morning. Goodnight.

Three Fingered Jack

Day 120: Lava Fields That Don’t Quit

Miles: 21.45
Camping: Big Lake Youth Camp 1 mile off PCT mile 2001.29

I spent a lot of the night waking up to the wind playing with my tent. The sound was like a slapping and the echo in the trees was persistent. It hadn’t let up by morning, so I spent a good deal of time chasing things around camp in order to pack up. I felt considerably better than yesterday though the lack of sleep was something I had to embrace. It would be a little over 21 miles to the youth camp, and my next resupply. Back to the same boring things I packed myself though I had a couple of things left over from cousin Elena that made it through the last stretch. Either way, this next stop would be a place to have a hot meal, a shower and laundry. This was the motivation I had to start my day and I looked forward to getting there. I figured it would take no more than 8 hours with breaks, but that was before I met the terrain.

As soon as I walked above treeline I was faced with the beginnings of lava walking. This is lava rock, not the hot gooey stuff, and is notoriously bad on shoes and feet. Just when I was starting to see improvement too. We used to hike on lava rock in Hawaii and it would shred the soles of our shoes in no time. It’s also pretty loose stuff as well, compared to walking on ball bearings by a hiker I passed today. I took it slow and cautiously, trying to be aware of every footstep. One bad foot placement could do a lot of damage. I’d have to stop every once in a while to look at the views, which were beautiful and surreal. I was walking around the 3 Sisters which towered above me with their big snow fields, and had views of 3-Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson in the distance. I would look at my feet for several paces then around me in awe for a few seconds. It was taking a long time, but I had no choice.

I made it to a small lake for second breakfast and was happy to get off of my feet for a bit. I pulled a Mountain House ice cream sandwich out of my food sack and decided it was time. I’ve never had one before, and I looked at it as an exotic treat. I made a second cup of coffee to go with it, and savored every morsel. If you’ve ever had freeze-dried ice cream you know what it was like. Funky and amazing about sums it up. I stared over the lake for a few moments, and found that our friends from dinner the other night were passing by. I got to talking with Cowboy for a bit and he told me there would be trail magic in a few miles. Then I moved ahead a bit and caught up with True. She’s a triple crowner (has hiked the AT, the CDT and the PCT), which is what I look at as the pinnacle of hiking. Doing all 3 long distance trails is no small thing, which I’m gaining more and more respect for as I attempt to complete this one. True has a hound dog named Villi, and he is a perfect hiking companion. We talked about dogs for a bit, discussing which breeds were good for long distance hiking, then we got to talking about my feet. She asked how my hike was going, and I told her how strong I felt all around but how my feet are constantly on the verge of total breakdown. I told her I sometimes contemplate not finishing but can’t bring myself to do it. She said that something is always going to hurt when thru-hiking, it all just depends on how much of it you can tolerate. I realize this is true for almost everyone out here in one way or another. Some people get back and shoulder pain, some get hip pain, foot pain, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, some get a combination of these, and maybe more. What I see is a whole lot of thriving and surviving people though. We are tenacious, determined, a little bit broken, and we somehow keep walking forward. It amazes me every day. True really put it in perspective when she said that, and it got me really digging into the psychology of pain. She moved ahead after that and I kept wobbling along the lava, thinking about how much I really need to embrace the pain if I want to finish. I began to feel just a bit more tough through these thoughts, as if I could accomplish more than I’d given myself credit for.

A few miles later the trail magic Cowboy had promised was at a road crossing. Allison was there, the gal who worked in my neighborhood Whole Foods, and she offered me a Kombucha. Her sister (I forget her name) handed me a bag of potato chips, and a third woman handed me a wet wipe and a Snickers. I was overwhelmed, and most interested in the Kombucha. The group was going into Bend and this was their support team, I just happened to have excellent timing. They all were piling out in big SUV’s, so I said goodbye and hiked on into the lava fields after savoring my Kombucha. Before pulling away, Strider offered me a ride into town and as tempted as I was, I had to hike on. It was the first time I had turned down a ride. The lava continued on for miles and my feet were beginning to ache. I could feel hot spots forming, and I couldn’t believe I was forming blisters at a time like this. After all I’ve endured, and keep enduring my feet are in a constant rotation of painful maladies. I’d give anything for one good day.

When the lava finally quit and I walked onto normal soil, I knew I’d have blisters form from the heat on my soles. I simply hoped they’d be easier to manage than my previous row with them. Part of the problem back then was a lack of water on trai, so I couldn’t keep my feet as clean. Now I can wash them almost daily in a stream, so that should work in my favor somehow. As the terrain became easier I was able to walk more quickly towards the camp. I wanted to get there before they served dinner, and it was starting to near that time. The landscape was a burn zone from 2011, and was very hot and exposed. The highlight of the day was passing by the 2000 mile marker on my way to the camp. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating 200 miles now there are only 660 left. Where did the time go?!

It turned out to be a much more difficult day of walking than I had anticipated, and I was ready to relax a bit. The trail to the youth camp was only .8 miles long and I made it to check in with half an hour to spare before dinner. The people who run the camp are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. They showed me around and it really is a hiker paradise. They offer everything we need and more, including a hiker lounge with sofas. I wandered into the lounge and saw Caboose and Sacred Cow along with other hikers I don’t know very well. Everyone was busily doing resupplies, laundry and other chores, and I just watched letting my body rest from the arduous day. I didn’t want to do anything but sit there until dinner, which is what I did. Dinner was in a huge dining hall, and everyone lines up and helps themselves buffet style. They had “Yum Bowls,” tonight which were beyond “yum!” It was build your own bowl with beans, rice, tomato, avocado, fresh cilantro, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream and various other sauces. They also had a salad bar and hot cocoa station. The food was so fresh and healthy I didn’t want go stop eating. I had 2 yum bowls loaded with veggies, a salad from the salad bar and a hot cocoa with almond milk. I felt spoiled as I ate dinner and then went to take a hot shower and do some laundry. Biscuit and Switch showed up and we all set up camp by the lake. The plan is to eat breakfast here in the morning and hike out. Until then.

Day 119: Low Miles, Big Views

Miles: 21.3
Camping: PCT mile 1980.40

I woke up in our stealth camp foggily recalling the events of last night. My first thought was regret (which it always is after a night of heavier than usual drinking), and I began beating myself up for the choice to drink over my limit last night. It was my first hangover of the trip and I didn’t know how it would bode for the day. I was already 7 miles from where I’d intended to be so I got on the trail quickly. From past experience I know that exercise is the best way to fight a hangover. I just never thought I’d be dealing with it on the PCT; but alas, time cannot be turned back and I must pay the price. I began sweating immediately as I climbed back up the trail which immediately climbed up a mountain. It was 5 straight miles of uphill, and I paid my dues painfully. I felt the alcohol leave my system through my sweat and decided a nap by the next lake would be in order. As I approached the lake, blueberries began appearing all over the place. I ate them by the handfull and then plopped down amid some trees by the lake after 7 miles. I spread out my ground cloth and lay in the sun letting it’s rays heal my head as I slept ever so lightly. I heard people walk past, wondering if my friends were among them, but not ready to keep going.

When I finally felt ready to get moving 2 hours had passed me by! I must have slept more than I thought and I felt much better. I drank a bunch of water and ate some food, then began heading off into the day. I came to terms with the delay on the day and made the best of what was left of it. I came out into wide open meadows with amazing views and huge gusts of wind. I got tossed around the trail, and marveled at the giant mountains and fields of lava. Eventually someone was walking up behind me but it wasn’t any of my friends that I’d been with last night. It looked like it might be Goldmine, but it turned out to be Doc! I haven’t seen him since I got off trail at Drakesbad for my feet. We chatted a bit and then he soared past me, and I ambled on. We were soon coming into an area that is full of obsidian. There was a restriction on where we could venture, and we were to stay only on the trail for 2 miles. There were chunks of obsidian everywhere on the trail, sparkling in the sun. I picked up a small piece and rubbed the smooth, black, glassy material between my fingers. Giant fields of obsidian made up the rocks, making the landscape sparkle, and a waterfall cadcaded down an obsidian cliff. I stopped to collect water and Doc was there, concerned about dark clouds on the horizon. He was going to set up camp soon but I felt like I had to keep going.

I kept an eye on the sky which didn’t seem threatening to me, and kept walking. The wind was picking up and the sun was beginning to set, casting an amber glow through the trees all around me. The tree line seemed to be disappearing as I ventured closer to the lava fields, so I conceded to the day and set up camp before I lost cover. I would have to hike a little over 21 miles tomorrow to get to my next resupply at Big Lake Youth Camp but rest will be good for tomorrow’s progress. The wind is whipping everything around me and I’m ready to drift away into slumber. Tomorrow is another new day and Oregon is quickly passing…mile 2000 tomorrow!

Elk Lake by morning
South Sister
Obsidian falls

Day 118: Huckleberry Heaven and a Night on the "Town"

Miles: 20.57
Camping: Elk Lake 1.2 miles from PCT mile 1959.10

Waking up to the sun rising over a lake again made me feel delightfully spoiled. Once again enjoying cold oats and coffee with a beautifully painted view. I don’t know how I will ever adjust back to waking up to walls every day again. I don’t even remember what that’s like. This is a dream I never knew I had and it makes me feel content to be living it.

The others were stirring as I walked out of camp so I knew they’d catch me before long. One thing is certain, I’m still not the fastest of hikers. I don’t mind taking my time as I’m getting the most out of this experience before the time is gone. I no longer stress about making it to Canada before the snow falls, it’s the journey that counts for me. Thus, I began walking alone into the morning. I was soon amidst dense huckleberry bushes that were full of ripe berries. I began nibbling as I walked, soon finding myself hunched over a bush eating the sweet berries by the handful. I couldn’t seem to control myself and my fingers were becoming stained by the purple juices. It was a delightful addition to breakfast, and I hoped that there would be more berries by the lake I was destined for tonight so I could put them in my oats tomorrow.

The hiking remained fairly easy all morning, the air was quite cold. I didn’t stop much, as the chill went straight to my bones. It really feels as if winter is on its way but it is still August! The cool air is great for hiking though, so I savored the ease with which I walked. There were many lakes today and it seemed as if there were a hiker at every one, simply enjoying a break on the shore. There was a lake I had aimed to eat lunch by and it had a beautiful spot in the sun where I could sit as well. It was a big lake, with a bluff on which I sat enjoying my mid day meal (which Switch nominates to be called “noonsies.”) I decided that another leisurely lunch was in order as it did wonders for my day yesterday. I’m going to test the theory today by taking my time. I walked to the shore and washed my body and socks in the surprisingly warm water, wishing the clouds would give way to the sun so I could swim. I knew the swimming would be fine, but I abhorred the idea of getting out into the chilly air. Dust Bunnies hate being cold and wet more than just about anything.

As I was winding down my break, Biscuit, Birdbath and Karma all showed up. The guys went swimming while Biscuit and I drank coffee. We all ended up sitting for another 20 minutes talking and laughing before heading off to hike. While we sat the same group of older folks went marching by in a line. Biscuit revealed that she’d spoken with them, and one of them is the founder and CEO of Whole Foods. I was impressed, as I end up shopping there a lot back home. He is the man who gets almost as much of my paycheck as I do! We let them pass on and we began walking too. Biscuit was a bit fast today, so I let her go ahead and I listened to some podcasts. We leap frogged with each other a bit as she was having hip pain and would stop to stretch regularly. I just kept moving along at my usual steady pace, thinking about afternoonsies and the news as told by “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…”

We came upon an open bluff overlooking the surrounding mountains. There was the Sisters, Jefferson, 3 fingered Jack, and some I didn’t know. We sat in awe of our first big vistas in weeks. We’ve been in the woods for so long we don’t really see what else is around us. It was stunning. We began nibbling on our hiker snacks and were soon joined by Birdbath. We happened to be sitting at a trailhead that would lead 1.2 miles to a resort and restaurant. The idea was tossed around to hike down and eat but we all decided that we would use restraint. Still sitting there, the group of 6 appeared at the trailhead too. They stood around debating on sneaking off trail for dinner as well when one of them looked at us and said, “do you want some trail magic?” We all looked at him and each other “we’ll buy you dinner,” he said as they walked down the trail to the resort. The three of us smiled big at each other and agreed that we could not say no. It was written in the stars.

The trail down was easy, and we excitedly talked about hot food and cold beer. How lucky we felt in that moment and even more so as we approached the resort to the sound of live music. There was a live bluegrass band playing, and people were everywhere enjoying the scene. We were filthy which I’m more aware of when we get around general society, but that’s just how it is. It’s been 10 days since Ashland, since clean clothes and showers. I could feel my funk like a second skin, but wasn’t going to be shy about eating dinner among the cleaner folk in town. The resort had a main lodge with several outlying cabins for rent, all situated around beautiful Elk Lake. The band was outside of the main patio people dancing and sitting about, merrily eating and drinking. We walked into the lodge and found a large table where we all sat eagerly eyeing menus.

The night progressed as we ate and drank with our new friends. They are a lovely group of people and their generosity was so appreciated. We had great conversation, great food and great beer while listening to live music. It was a lovely evening and when a friend of the group arrived, I recognized her from home. She turned out to be the manager of my local Whole Foods, where I went almost every day before work for snacks and Kombucha. Small world! She took the group off to a hotel, and we stayed to enjoy the fun atmosphere. Switch showed up, and we all drank some more beers on the patio by the lake and under the stars. Before long it was after hiker midnight and I felt as if I’d over indulged on the libation. We found a place to stealth camp, and I drifted off into a drunken sleep…an unexpected turn of events.

Brahma Lake
Cheers to trail magic!

Day 117: It pays to Relax

Miles: 26.68
Camping: PCT mile 1939.71

Per usual, I woke up before anyone else in camp. The sun was coloring the sky in pastel hues on the horizon and I quietly set about my morning, watching the day grow over the lake below. I was hiking before the others even stirred, wondering how far I could make it today. I felt pretty good and something about new and different food gave me a boost. The terrain was easy passing by several lakes which I stopped to admire. Though I was hoping to make up some of the miles I had missed in waiting for my package yesterday, I somehow felt relaxed about time today. It was a great feeling.

By the time I made the decision to stop for lunch, I’d already hiked 14 miles. The terrain was just that easy today, almost like a moving sidewalk. I’d heard Oregon referred to as that in the past, but had not really experienced it myself. My feet have always made me aware of my miles. On this day though, the feet felt fine and the miles came easy. I sat working on a crossword and eating lunch when a group of 6 older folks marched by. It was a large group I have never seen before, and we all said polite hello’s. One man said that Biscuit was just behind, and I wondered how far as I sat there giving them a bit of a lead.

Biscuit walked up right when I had packed up from lunch. She sat and we ended up just chatting for 30 minutes. I suddenly felt a bit pushed for time as an hour and a half lunch is a bit extravagant, even when the day is smooth. I accepted the delay though, as she and I always have good conversation and I enjoyed it a great deal. We got up together and continued hiking and conversing as we went. It was no time before we reached water at the next lake, a beautiful place with access from a dirt road. People were car camping with elaborate setups, and we sat filtering water and eating trail snacks while they drank wine and sat in chairs. One woman came by and offered us unripened pears. A heavy addition to a newly resupplied pack. But, fruit!

We hiked out of there hoping to make it to Brahma Lake, a full 26.68 miles from where we had camped the night before. It felt possible, and we walked through an old burn area, making miles disappear as we moved. The whole time we chatted about the trail, about life, about nothing and everything at once. It started growing dark, but the lake was close and I felt amazingly good, if not tired. I had Mountain House macaroni and cheese and some veggies hydrating in my pack, and I began wishing for dinner as a treat after this long day. Finally arriving at the lake just after 8, I quickly set up my tent and began in on my dinner. We watched the day wane over the lake and were joined by several other hikers as we ate our dinners.

I am so satisfied with today. The nice long lunch might be the ticket for helping my feet through a long afternoon. The great conversation, relaxing about miles, making it this far…I feel so wonderful, so accomplished, so capable. This was a very good day. Now I hope for a very good sleep and another grand day tomorrow. Goodnight.

Sunrise over Odell Lake

Day 116: Shelter Cove and the Resupply of Dreams

Miles: 13.84
Camping: PCT mile 1913.03

I woke up to a very chilly morning and an orange glow coming through the trees. It wasn’t too cold on my little ridge, but as I hiked down into the woods below the air turned considerably colder. It reminded me of a late fall morning, and I even came upon spots of frost on the ground. I hiked fast to stay warm and kind of enjoyed the coolness as I hiked. It sure beats sweating first thing in the morning. I came upon Diamond View Lake around second breakfast, and found a log to prop myself up against. I looked out over the pristine lake towards Diamond Peak as I ate a macaroon. I found some delicious gluten free macaroon cookies at the Ashland Co-op that make a great second breakfast. There are 2 in all of my supply boxes, but for the surprise box I will receive today. Since I didn’t have the time or resources to get a box shipped via UPS, my wonderful cousin Elena rose to the task. I gave her a few ideas, but ultimately let her have fun with it. I looked forward to opening the box as if it were Christmas day but had to finish my 11 mile hike to Shelter Cove first.

The forest became even more decidedly Oregon than it has yet. The groundcover became more thick and lush, even displaying plants that are typical only to the Pacific Northwest. The closer I get the more at home I feel, and the more pride I feel to call Oregon home. One of my favorite Pacific Northwest plants is Vanilla Leaf, a simple plant with 3 distinct leaves and one simple flower stalk that blooms earlier in the season. I used to call it “Angel Plant,” before I knew its proper name, as the leaves resemble angels wings. If you put a leaf in your pocket, it emits a vanilla fragrance as it decays. I’ve been waiting for the first sighting of one since arriving in Oregon and was elated to come upon some today. I immediately stuffed some leaves in my pocket as I strode merrily towards my destination.

I followed a cool, clear, flowing river for the last mile or so, completely enamored with the feeling of this forest. It eventually led me to a small road and the entrance of Shelter Cove Resort. I followed the winding driveway towards the main store, seeing other hikers strewn about on the lawn and porch. I had been alone for 3 days so it felt great to see other hikers again. Caboose and Sacred Cow were there,and we quickly caught up with the last few days. We had been only 2 miles apart when the storm hit, and about that distance over the next few days as well. It’s funny how that can happen out here, and how frequently. They told me the coffee was good in the store (a passion we all share), so I wandered inside and there found Danger Spoon. I thought for sure he was long ahead of me but he too had been mere miles ahead. It was really nice to see him again, and we vowed to catch up momentarily. I ordered a breve and inquired about my box; that’s when I was informed that UPS didn’t arrive until after 5pm. Looked like I’d be “forced” to make a day of it here. I drank coffee with Danger Spoon and caught up with some old pals I haven’t seen since the desert. Duckets was there, as well as Microwave who I hadn’t seen since Tehachapi (over a thousand miles ago!). There were also lots of faces I didn’t recognize, but everyone was in good spirits and hanging about in the sun.

Danger Spoon, Caboose and Sacred Cow all hiked out while I waited for UPS and then Switch hiked in. She and I were sitting around chatting when Biscuit arrived too. I haven’t seen her since Tahoe, but that was merely in passing. We had really not seen each other since Lake Isabella, which was around mile 625. We’ve always gotten along really well, so it was especially great to see her. We all sat around chatting while we waited for boxes.When finally the brown truck pulled in, we all cheered and lined up to sign for our boxes. Mine was huge! I knew it was full of lots of goodies when I saw the size, and other hikers sensing extra food hovered nearby as I opened it up. There were so many good treats, things I never would think to ask for, or even buy…yet everything was so perfect. I was a bit overwhelmed with people eyeing me for giveaways, and trying to conceptualize what I would actually eat and be able to carry. There was more than enough food, so I was able to pick out the best of it to take with me on this next leg. The rest was given to other hikers or traded for ibuprofen, which I had forgotten to both buy and ask for. It fortunately worked out perfectly.

All packed and resupplied it was already 7pm. I was not interested in staying at the resort, so decided to at least get back on trail to find camping. I hiked about 3 miles and came upon a ridge overlooking the lake. I admired the view and nestled my tent between 2 trees. Biscuit, Switch and Birdbath joined me, and we all watched as darkness enveloped the whole scene. Now, we are all ready for bed and a new day of hiking tomorrow. Goodnight.

Diamond View
Lake Odell

Day 115: Feels Like Home

Miles: 23.61
Camping: Oregon Overlook trail mile 9.86 off PCT mile 1900 (roughly)

Last night I woke up from my sleep to a thumping sound. I shot up and listened intently, not sure what I would do if something were there. There was only silence in the night air so I lay back down slowly. As I rested my head on my stuff sack/pillow the noise began again, only this time I recognized it as my heartbeat. It was echoing through my ear the way I lay, and was somehow enough to wake me. It almost beats waking up to my stomach growling, again thinking something was outside my tent. It’s all good for a laugh in the morning. Otherwise, I’d say that I slept really well, and even woke up at the normal 5:45.

I walked to the lake to fetch water, the cold air clinging to my skin. A light fog was rising from the lake and surrounding trees, the clouds pink and fluffy like cotton candy. As I stooped to scoop up some water, something whooshed through the air over my head. It literally made a whoosh sound, and then lots of splashing as ducks flew in to land on the lake. They seemed to play a game on the surface of the water, running to and from the opposite shore. Curious creatures. I smiled at the morning and went back to camp to do my morning chores.

When my private lake retreat breakfast was over, I made my way back to the PCT. Today would be another easy day, made more so by the lingering fog. It clung to the trees, keeping the air cool and moist, occasionally spitting out a small, inconsequential drizzle. It was a perfect Pacific Northwest morning, and I moved easily along the trail. Today was some of the easiest walking yet and I nearly flew through the miles. At about 14 miles into my day, I met a trailhead for an alternate route. I had already decided to take the alternate as it travels more easily than the PCT, and it visits a number of lakes. It is called the “Oregon Overlook Trail.” On it’s route, it goes to a campground on Crescent Lake, which looked to be a great stop on my way to Shelter Cove.

I stopped at the trailhead to eat lunch and dry out my tent. The air was still cool, though the clouds were just seeming to burn off. This is a typical Pacific Northwest summer day. Foggy mornings that burn off into perfect, sunny afternoons. I was enjoying this transitional moment when a man walked up and sat nearby. He mumbled something about the empty water cache and then fumbled about, drying out his own camping gear on all assortment of logs around the trailhead. He didn’t look like a thru-hiker, but he was definitely out for more than one night. I really wasn’t in the mood to strike up a conversation, so I focused on wrapping tuna in a tortilla. I studied it between each bite as if it were a philosophical question, really worthy of intent study. I’m not sure why I was so much more interested in my lunch than this man, but I went with it. He didn’t seem to care as he ate a Lunchables on a distant log. A thru-hiker would never be able to subsist on Lunchables, and the packaging was sinfully bulky. I enjoyed conjuring up my own story about this man making it impossible to ever know him, lest he defy my made up version of himself.

Packing up after lunch, the man also started doing the same. I preferred he wait until I had a head start, making the timing less awkward, but he went for it. I always feel a pang of embarrassment for people who don’t grasp social cues, but sometimes pity turns to annoyance. He began walking just as I was so I sat back down. I didn’t want to feel as if we were walking together, so I drank some water and studied the maps. Right when I thought it a good time to move, another man came bursting on the scene. I felt surrounded, not in a vulnerable way, but in that I really wanted to feel like I was walking alone. It’s amazing how difficult it is to be truly alone out here. I eventually get lonely, but there is almost always someone else I can join forces with in those times. I’m working on doing my own thing these days which means hiking less miles than most of my friends. I miss them, but am a lot happier moving at my own pace at the moment.

Anyhow, I exchanged pleasantries with this new man and then moved on down the trail. It wasn’t long before I caught up with the first man, and passed him as the trail turned left. That’s when I started feeling better, and I enjoyed my walk more. I came upon the first lake and stopped for a quick break. The shore was muddy, and the air was still quite chilly, so I didn’t fancy a swim. Instead, I walked out on a log, playing a balancing game where I might take a swim after all if I lost. Luckily I won, and went back to hiking in dry clothes. The man came up then, and I moved along, wondering how I was going to pull off a pee break. The vegetation was sparse, a young forest with virtually no cover. I walked along looking for a good spot to hide and finally dodged behind some young Hemlock. The man walked by, not appearing to notice me, and I took a long enough break to give him a lead, thus preemptively avoiding further interruption to my privacy.

The rest of the day shot by, and I got to the campground before 6. I walked around wondering if I would find other hikers, but didn’t try too hard. There were a few families on one end of the campground, and I thought about trying to conjure up some trail magic. In the end, I really didn’t feel like interacting with other humans today, so even the prospect of trail magic didn’t excite me. Sometimes it just feels good to have a full day of introspection. This was my second in a row and I feel a little spoiled.

The campground had a circle of empty lots away from everyone else so I sat at a table and ate dinner. I then decided to hike another mile to camp in the woods getting me closer to my destination for tomorrow, and away from the crowds. While I sat and ate several trucks had been rolling around the place looking for sites, and I didn’t really care to have a car camping neighbor, so camping off trail made more sense. That, and I didn’t want to be asked to pay. No point in paying when the woods are free. I filled up my water bottles and threw out my trash before hiking out of the campground. I went about a mile and found a good spot on the ridge before the trail sloped down again. It’s exposed enough for the sun to act as my alarm clock, and covered enough to prevent too much condensation. Tomorrow I should catch up with friends and receive my next resupply box. My cousin Elena made this box with a few hints from me, so I’m excited to see what’s on the menu for the next 90 miles! I’ve made all of my own resupply boxes so far, and it’s nice to change it up a bit, and add the element of surprise. These last couple of days alone sure have been nice, but it will also be nice to see some familiar faces. Until then…

Crescent Lake

Day 114: I do, Maidu

Miles: 22.65
Camping: Maidu Lake, 1 mile from PCT mile 1872.69

Somehow I slept in until 6:30 this morning. I couldn’t believe it, but was fine knowing I only had to hike 22 miles today. Today was not going to be the kind of day where I felt pressured to move any faster than I wanted. The storms didn’t last too long, but everything was wet from rain this morning. I packed up a wet camp and headed North after my morning routine. I wasn’t sure what had happened to everyone else last night, as the storm likely forced them to stop where they were as well. Were they together? Were they separated by thunderstorms? I wondered if I’d see them today. Maybe by the water. People come together around water out here.

Though I was down to 2 liters and had eaten 3 meals out of my pack, the weight still seemed cumbersome. I struggled a little but took lots of mini breaks to give my back a rest. It seems to be wearing on my feet too, as they are also extra sore today. It is the big bone just below my big toe that hurts the most, on both feet. This seems unusual to me, but I just keep walking, accepting the foot pain reality as my fate. Time allowed for extra rest today, so I took full advantage of that. It’s nice to know that I don’t really have to hurry anymore. This is way more enjoyable.

There haven’t been a lot of big views in Oregon since we are mostly in trees. Even when a view does open up the close proximity of the fires makes everything smoky. I had a great view of Mt.Theilson all morning as I walked its flanks, and later I was able to spot some big lakes off in the distance. I took afternnonsies at the OR/WA highpoint, feasting on M&Ms and nuts. It was 7,560 ft., which is sort of anticlimactic after the Sierra. Mt. Whitney was twice that high! I guess it will help to not have any more huge elevation gains though.

I hiked 1 mile off trail this evening to camp at Maidu Lake. It’s supposedly the best water for a long time. There is a spring 6 miles ahead, but I hear it is hard to find a good flow on it. The detour doesn’t make a big difference either way. The lake is big and primitive, making it peaceful and relaxing. I seem to have the whole place to myself too, which suits me fine. There are a few ducks swimming around, and they make fine company. I haven’t seen anyone else all day aside from a nice man named Roger headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve just finished up dinner (split pea soup and dark chocolate for dessert) next to the lake and a baby skunk scuttled by a moment ago. I hope it doesn’t get curious about me in the night. Tomorrow I hike to Crescent Lake (only 22 miles again…this is the life!), where there is supposed to be great camping, and then Shelter Cove by lunch the next day. I’m still moving right along!

Mt. Thielson
Maidu Lake

Day 113: Crater Lake

Miles: 19.16
Camping: 1851.04

I was first up this morning, no surprise as everyone else stayed up well past hiker midnight. I made my breakfast and was out of camp before the others were up, so excited to finally see Crater Lake! It’s only 2.5 miles to the rim, but it is straight uphill. It is usually a good start to the day though, getting thay blood pumping early. It was a straight shot through the woods, if you can call switchbacks a straight shot. Somehow it is.

I came out of the woods and up to the store by the lake. It was only 7:20 and they didn’t open until 9:00. I found some oatmeal cookies in the hiker box and began eating them when Sloe Jin walked up. We decided to go look at the lake and take some pictures together. While we were doing this we realized that the lodge had a dining room, so we went in for breakfast. It was a fancy dining room but the prices were surprisingly reasonable. I had a frittata, and he had an omelet. We both had nearly a pot of coffee. It’s hard to resist a bottomless cup!

After breakfast we sat on the patio overlooking the lake and enjoyed a latte to top off our tour d’caffeine. We still had hiking to do but agreed it would be nice to enjoy where we were for a little while. There is no sense in rushing past this treasure. I wrote some postcards and got my blog up to date, sitting leisurely in a cushioned armchair overlooking the lake. It is such a luxury, an armchair, that it is hard to remove oneself from one. I sat for nearly 2 hours and then accepted the fact that I had to go. It would be a lovely walk on the rim of Crater Lake, one I’ve looked forward to for a long time. I said goodbye to Sloe Jin and walked onward to Canada.

The hike went up and over several bluffs each time descending into a parking area full of tourists. Everyone getting out of their car to take the picture to say they were there. Everyone getting back in the car to get lunch at a restaurant, or drive back to wherever they came from. They all had someplace to go after getting in and out of the car at Crater Lake. I was the only hiker around feeling so out of place in their bustling worlds. I hiked a couple of miles out and found a spot on a cliff to enjoy a break. I had found a cinnamon roll in the hiker box, and ate that while feeling like the only soul at Crater Lake for a brief time. Then before long, the trail cut north, away from the lake. I started heading towards Mt. Thielson, 27 miles away, and the location of the next water. I was already fumbling under the extra 11 pounds of water I was carrying, and it definitely slowed me down.

I took a few indulgent breaks in the afternoon. My back muscles were on fire, and I just can’t seem to remember how I did this daily back in the desert. 5 liters was normal back then, and I don’t remember this much shoulder pain. I guess I’ve gone soft. My goal was to walk 16 miles to a spot not far from the water. I’d have to walk until 8:30, but it would get me close to water by morning. There was a rumbling in the sky, but with trees all around I couldn’t see where the storm was heading. I only had 2 miles to go, but within 1/2 mile I could see that the storm was big, fast and headed straight for me. I scanned the forest floor for a good tent spot as thunder crashed and rolled practically right over my head (it was frighteningly loud!). There was a spot right off trail that had been cleared, so I quickly put up my shelter and jumped in. Just as I was in my tent and sitting with the rain fly open lightning lit up the forest. I zipped up my tent door and grounded myself on my foam pad, my heart racing in my chest. Lightning kept flashing, thunder kept roaring, and I sat leaning against my backpack counting the seconds to measure distance. It was quite a storm, and I had gotten myself in my tent just in the knick of time!

In my tent I studied the maps to see how this would effect my miles over the next few days. As it turns out, I’m due to arrive in Shelter Cove a day before my resupply box. This gives me an extra day to take my time, and I planned the next 2 days accordingly. I’ll only have to do two 22 milers and an 11 to get there, and it looks like there is some prime lake camping for both nights. Less miles means more time in camp to enjoy the lakes, and an easier time on my body. Works perfectly for me! No need to hurry for the next couple of days…and that feels great. As I put the maps away, satisfied with my new easy plan the thunder has grown more and more distant, and I’ve grown sleepy. Goodnight.

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