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