Today’s Miles: 7.7
Total Miles: 7.7
Like many outdoor enthusiasts, I’ve dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I never really envisioned myself doing the whole thing at once, rather tackling sections bit by bit. One larger goal however, was hiking all of Oregon in one continual stretch, and that is exactly what I accomplished the summer of 2020! My partner, Carl bought me an Oregon PCT hiking book for Christmas last year (perhaps a little 2020 foreshadowing), and I found myself thumbing through the pages in early June.
In mid June, Carl and I sat down for our very first lunch at a restaurant since the global pandemic, and he brought up my trail dream in a serious manner. He told me, “If you really want to do this, I fully support you, and think you should go.” I couldn’t believe my ears; this dream might actually become a reality! At the end of a lengthy discussion, it came to these basic tenants:
I should go while I’m physically able, and I have the time and freedom. Basically, life is uncertain, and you never know what the future might hold. This might be my only opportunity – so go for it!
I sat down and read the PCT book cover to cover, and discovered if I go the absolute slowest route outlined in the book, I could complete it in six weeks. That is a big commitment! It would be a long time away from my family, especially my four-year-old who seems so little still. Carl assured me he could hold down the fort. I knew he could, but it seemed like I was asking so much, and leaving for so long felt incredibly selfish. He also said he would try to meet me along the trail a few times so our son could see me during the six-week adventure, easing my worries that it was just too much time away.
I figured I could hike a little faster than the slowest route outlined in the book, so I planed for 5 weeks. I spent the next two weeks mapping out the entire trip, and organizing all the logistics. At times it felt so overwhelming, that I quit before I even started. Again, Carl encouraged me to keep at it, reminding me to have faith; everything would fall into place. I was set on most of my gear from the backpacking trip I took last year, but I made several trips to REI to round out what I needed. The shelves were bare this year; I was not the only one hitting the wilderness during the summer of pandemic living.
I didn’t really have time to send myself resupply packages, so I planned on family meeting me along the way to bring me food, company and comfort. The PCT website also discouraged resupply packages this year, and I wanted to follow all the guidelines. They also discouraged through hiking, so I figured sticking to one state was ok.
The week leading up to my departure was filled with Google Docs I shared with family and friends detailing my daily plan: where I would sleep each night, daily mileage counts, where my resupply bags would be delivered, and who I would be hiking with (if anyone).
Two days before my departure I spent an evening preparing all my resupply packages – that was a lot of food.
The night before my launch date, I packed and unpacked, and packed again. Hiking the PCT this year would be more challenging than most, with shower and laundry facilities at the campgrounds along the way closed due to Covid policies. Trying to plan accordingly, I created a resupply suitcase that my helpers could bring me so I could swap out clothes, and have options if my pack was missing important items.
I packed and planned until 3 a.m. – not a great a start to a big adventure. I don’t recommend packing the night before you do anything, but let’s be honest, this is how I usually roll. We actually brainstormed how to leave a day later, feeling so overwhelmed by all the last minute items, but with the next five weeks mapped out, it was challenging to start a day late.
At the end of the day, I got 3.5 hours of sleep before driving my family to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Southern Oregon the following morning. We met my amazing parents at the State Park (who would become key to my success on this endeavor). My children stayed with them five days while Carl and I hiked the first section.
My parents drove us two hours to the trailhead. You can access the PCT right off I-5, but in doing so, you skip 27 miles, and this wouldn’t allow me to achieve my goal of walking across the ENTIRE state. Thankfully, my parents were happy to travel four hours roundtrip up to Donomore Pass – including 28 miles of dirt road (14 each way).
I was exhausted and feeling a little out of it, but as soon as we arrived at the trailhead, the adrenaline went into overdrive and I was embarrassingly giddy. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! I saw my very first PCT sign and smiled so wide. We had to tag the California/Oregon border .3 miles south to officially do the ENTIRE state. Equipped with only my phone (that would mostly become my camera), Carl and I jogged to the border, wowed by the wildflowers right away.
After taking the obligatory border photo, we wound our way back to the trailhead and said goodbye to my mom and dad with many words of thanks. I realized I forgot my hat in the car, so my dad lent me his for this first leg. I was anxious to get going. We had 7.1 miles of hiking to get to Wrangle Campground, the destination I was hoping to call home on night one, and it was already nearly 3 p.m. We had early summer in our favor, with the sun setting around 9 p.m., but I had no idea how quickly we could hike; my pack felt heavy!
We got started and I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel great. My tummy was woozy, I had a headache, and a little bit of anxiousness crept in. What was I thinking? Can I really do this? I’m not even two miles in, and I already feel awful. But, I realized we only ate a bagel sandwich all day, I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep, and we were at a pretty high elevation (highest point today was 7110 ft.). I started snacking and felt better immediately, and Carl was quick to give me the trail name “Snacks.” I would definitely hike and snack a lot in the coming weeks.
One good thing about the elevation gain was the cooler temps. It was hot when we dropped the kids off in the valley, 100 degrees; it was a pleasant 70 something up here. The 7 mile hike went by quickly with views, wildflowers, and Mt. Shasta popping up far in the distance. We also saw several hummingbirds. I’m a bird person, so this excited me. I would see MANY hummingbirds all through Oregon.
We arrived at camp around 6 p.m. a half mile off the PCT. We were tired and ready to be done. We had the whole campground to ourselves except for one gentleman cowboy camping in the shelter. He was practicing for a 10-day trip in Yosemite next month. Practice…was I supposed to practice? He would also be getting up at 3 a.m. to see the comet (that would be all the talk of summer 2020). This was the first I had heard of it, and considered getting up, it seemed like a thing not to miss, but remembered the very little sleep I was already running on.
We had some amenities on night one: a picnic table, and a pit toilet! The “roughing it” would be a few days away.
After getting settled in, including the very fun part of swapping into camp shoes (my flipflops), we made dinner, getting rid of the heaviest stuff first: razor clam chowder, sweet potato rice, and miso soup – first meal on the trail – woohoo!
We quickly realized I didn’t pack silverware. Oh no! That is what 2 a.m. packing will get ya. Miraculously, this was the only thing we forgot, and it didn’t slow us down. I had a brand new bamboo toothbrush that worked just fine those first few days. Before prepping food, I opened my hand sanitizer leaning toward the ground and had the liquid squirt right into my eye (the elevation change). Yikes – epic fail on night one; it hurt so bad.
I settled into some journal writing. I was happy Carl was with me. It was nice to be eased into this big adventure, and there really is something to be said for sharing the moments with another person. We were in our sleeping bags by 9 p.m. – so beyond tired. Day one was in the books!
COVID Disclaimer: You won’t see pictures of me wearing a mask on this journey because I rarely saw other people. This was a big reason I undertook this adventure in 2020. Being outside is the safest thing we can do fighting this pandemic (apart from staying in our home). It’s where I have felt most at ease, and happy during these unprecedented times. I had a mask in my pocket at all times for easy access in case I encountered a crowded trail, or anytime I went inside a building of course. On Day one, we saw two people at the trailhead, and not another soul the rest of the hike. This would be the norm over the next five weeks.