Today’s Miles: 13.1
Total Miles: 112.6
Island Lake (Sky Lakes Wilderness) to Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin)
I was awake at sunrise and ready to get out of Island Lake camp. Although I didn’t sleep well, I never let fear completely take over. I was a little scared off and on, but nothing debilitating. Last night gave me the confidence that I can really do this!
Good news: my bear bag was hanging right where I left it. I wish I had a camera on it to see what really happened last night, but I’ll never know for sure. The mosquitoes were awful again, so I tried to hurry my packing process.
My ankle was feeling better. I was worried it would be worse today after all the weight on it yesterday, but thankfully it seemed to be healing. It was still sore, but I was on the mend – woohoo! I took the support tape off, wondering if that actually made it worse yesterday.
According to my book, there was zero water on the trail today until camp this evening, so I filled my bottles. There was no cell reception here, which always adds a small level of fear when you are alone, so I was anxious to check in with Carl; I knew he was probably worried.
I hiked the .6 miles back to the PCT and was on my way. The pain in my ankle shot up through my leg pretty quickly, so I took Ibuprofrin and stayed medicated through the day, though it was much better than yesterday.
Only 2.5 miles up, I passed the invisible milestone of 100 MILES on the Oregon section of the PCT (from the California border). My mileage is higher because I count ALL the miles I hike, including side trips to camping locations. I was hoping for a little trail graffiti to mark the location, but there wasn’t any. Still, a pretty uplifting milepost. I decided early, this would be a good day!
It turned out to be one of the most epic hiking days yet. The views were outstanding, and I really needed it to lift my spirits. At the first big rocky outcrop, I climbed onto a boulder with sweeping views. There were a ton of hummingbirds, and I finally figured out they were attracted to my red sleeping pad, hence all the dive bombing.
I checked for cell service, and was connected to the outside world. I let Carl know I was doing okay, as he was worried about me of course. I let my parents know I was safe as well. My mom worried about me now that I was hiking alone. I also heard news about my previous work world that caused some stress. The price you pay for “checking in” – I had to shake it off, and hike on.
With all these amazing views, came a lot of climbing. My endurance was tested today. It was tough, but thankfully once I got out on the open cliffs, the mosquitoes went away – yay!
This was also the first day the trail made me just a little nervous. It was narrow in parts, with a loose rocky surface, and a very steep cliffside. If I lost my footing, it would not end well! I paid close attention, and was very careful. My heavy pack made me extra cautious – it would send me flying down pretty quickly. Plus, I only saw one other person hiking all day (until later in the evening).
I went through the 790 fire burn area (2014) that burned two miles of the PCT. This was the first burn area (of many) I encountered. It was actually quite beautiful, just in a different way. The flowers were amazing through this section. I certainly said a little prayer that the trail would stay safe and open – free from fires this year.
I read blogs of previous hikers in 2016 and 2017 when basically all of Oregon was on fire, and they were forced to bypass much of the state. Well, my prayer was answered for part of the summer, as 2020 would be a devastating fire season in the later months.
The last big climb (that really tested me) provided views of Mt. McLoughlin and even Mt. Shasta, now WAY behind me.
Once I got around Devils Peak, the view was breathtaking. I sat in a little alcove with nearly a 360 degree view – WOW in every direction. Previous hikers had placed fun “sitting” rocks to enjoy the scene, and I took full advantage. This day reminded me of why I’m doing this, and I felt so grateful, humbled, and blessed.
I really love Oregon.
Then it was time to go DOWN…it was a very steep set of switchbacks that ended with the sweet sound of a bubbling creek, and my camp for the night just beyond it. (Camp 10 in my book – pg. 89)
Camping here would make tomorrow a little longer, but according to my book, it sounded like the very best spot in the area. It was on a cliff with a view of Devils Peak and a panorama to the west. I’m a sucker for a camp with a view, and will ALWAYS opt for that when given a choice. I also figured this was my best shot at mosquito reprieve since it was open as opposed to ducking back into the forest.
I was excited no one was there yet. It was still early to quit for thru-hiker standards, only 4:30 p.m. I claimed my spot and heard people coming down the trail pretty quickly. I met two thru-hikers hiking for the second year in a row. They met each other on the PCT last year, and decided to hike it again.
“The world is pretty much shit right now (i.e. pandemic), so why not hike the PCT again,” one hiker shared. They had both lost their jobs too.
Two minutes later, a group of four appeared. I heard accents, and they were all clearly thru-hikers as well. Two of the women were sisters from New Zealand, one man was from Hong Kong, and I can’t remember the 4th. Everyone was planning on getting to Mazama Village (Crater Lake campground) tomorrow. I told them it was my goal, but I was nervous. It would be the most mileage I’ve done so far. They encouraged me saying,
“You can totally do it – you got this!” As a side note, this whole crew started at Fish Lake this morning – where I was two mornings ago. They were putting in 30 mile days.
One of the hikers, “Catch” (trail name) from Hong Kong, asked if he could share this camp spot with me. I tried to tamper my excitement so he didn’t think I was too weird, but I was SO happy I wouldn’t be alone again at night. I still had my large 2-person tent that definitely took up more space than I needed, but I snagged the only spot that would work for it.
Carl was working on getting me a single person tent that would be half the weight of the 2-person I was currently carrying. That would make a big difference!
The other hikers kept going to find camps up the trail. Feeling a little anxious, I boiled my drinking water, which was super embarrassing to do in front of a thru-hiker, though I doubt he took notice. I’m sure the creek water was fantastic, but I just couldn’t stomach it this night.
Catch hung in his tent and we never talked. I was kinda bummed; thru-hikers are so interesting, but I’m guessing they get tired of sharing their trail stories. At the end of the day, I was super tired, so I understood. All I really wanted to do was relax in my sleeping bag too.
An older couple came rolling in around 8 p.m. and asked to camp with us. We said, “Of course!” The good tent spots were limited, but they made something work. They were so great, super cute, so excited about everything, and appreciated all the surroundings and the time together. They were just out wandering the trails for a week with no real destination in mind, and swam in four lakes today – that made me smile.
We got a magnificent sunset. Mt. Thielsen loomed in the distance. I wrote in my journal and enjoyed the changing sky. As I fell asleep, a frog came to visit me under the flap of the tent – always a good omen! This was a really good day, especially following my incredibly challenging day before, and my ankle was MUCH better! I was pumped for my super duper big day tomorrow!
The last couple of days I’ve spotted the below tracks on the trail. The first time I thought, “What the hell kind of animal is that? Is a small child hiking in those barefoot shoes?” I was completely perplexed, but then I saw the tracks more with each passing day, and I concluded it must be a cute print on the bottom of a set of trekking poles. This little print in the trail for the next 150 miles brought me great comfort. I felt like I was following someone and sharing the trail with this person. He or she was only a day ahead of me, guiding me along. It felt like company in an odd way. When you are hiking alone for hours upon hours, you have a lot of time to create ideas of comfort for yourself. This little track became a big deal in my mind over the next few weeks.
Did you miss the beginning of my journey? Access Day One