PCT Oregon Day 28 – Zero Day on the McKenzie Pass

Day 28
Today’s Miles: 0 PCT Miles – 6 hiking miles
Total Miles: 290.25
Zero Day in and around Lava Camp Lake Campground

It was a beautiful typical central Oregon morning; sunny, frosty and cold. I woke up before the boys; got a fire started, made some tea, and wrote in my journal sitting in a comfy camp chair – amenities of car camping I don’t take for granted. The campground was quiet and peaceful.

Creating a zero day turned into a solid plan. My body was tired from yesterday, and the following day would be my toughest and longest day of hiking so far, plus it aligned perfectly with the weather.

I draped my wet tent over chairs and rocks to dry in the sun. I was so happy all my belongings wouldn’t be wet for tomorrow’s hike.

Carl and I made a feast for breakfast and drank mimosas. With no real agenda for the day, we simply enjoyed a relaxing morning watching the ground squirrels steal dog food out of Jasmine’s bowl, walking around the lake, and playing in the water. Carl and Hux did a little parkour, and found a nature teeter-totter.

We left camp for the afternoon to explore, stopping at the Dee Wright Observatory first, which is nearly across the street from the Lava Camp Lake Campground.

I was blown away by the sight of the mountains on the horizon. In yesterday’s fog, I couldn’t see any of them, but the clear skies revealed what I missed yesterday; and what I would soon approach, wrap around, and leave behind, as I continue hiking north.

A view of my future – tomorrow’s hike

The observatory also offered me a glimpse of the giant lava flow I would traverse tomorrow morning.

Out of the entire state, I was most nervous about this upcoming leg.

My book describes hikers doing the section at night because the hike can be so brutal with very little shade, very few camp spots, and no water for 16+ miles. I have zero experience night hiking, so I wasn’t going to attempt that alone.

Big Lake normally offers hikers a reprieve with a place to camp for the night about halfway through the section, but they closed this year due to Covid.

Additionally, this was the only day I wanted my trekking poles, and unfortunately Carl forgot them, (he had a million things to remember, so nothing I was upset about), but it made me extra nervous heading into the cinder covered trails.

Travelling down the McKenzie Scenic Highway, we stopped at the Linton Lake Trailhead. Of course, we had to get a little hike in! The trail was so beautiful with lush forest. Significantly more lush than the majority of the PCT because of the elevation. Linton Lake is only at 2,000 ft., for example.

Hux and Jasmine ran the entire 2 miles to the lake. This is not unusual behavior; the kid loves to hike (and run), especially in nature. My heart was so full and happy hiking with my loves. We took a side trail to the lake, and skirted around the shore to a point.

There were a lot of birds in the area. Carl and I wanted to swim, but felt a tad cautious with all the avian activity, not knowing what was in the water. I was on day 3 without a shower, so a refreshing dip sounded great.

After minutes of deliberation, we both jumped in. It was COLD – so I didn’t stay long.

On our return trip, I was worried Hux expended all his energy the first 2 miles, and would request a shoulder ride, but he ran the whole way back too.

We drove down the road stopping at Proxy Falls, a 1.5 mile hiking loop. It was getting late, but we figured we should do it while we were in the area, and Hux loves waterfalls (don’t we all).

It was probably closer to 2 miles after adding the scrambling around both waterfalls.

We had to decide if we wanted to drive back up the winding McKenzie Highway, or drive down to Hwy 126 to connect with Hwy 20, making a full loop of the day. We opted for the later thinking it would be longer, but faster.

I’m not sure we made the most efficient choice, but it was cool to pass the PCT trailhead on Hwy 20, knowing I would be hiking all the way to that location the next day.

We drove the whole loop. Notice the PCT dotted trail through the middle.

We were also successful in getting into cell range (there is none at Lava Camp Lake Campground for Verizon). I needed to coordinate with my friend, Michelle (and potential hiking buddy), who was supposed to be joining me for a week very soon.

She had some unexpected life happenings unfold while I was on the trail, so her plans were up in the air. I wasn’t sure if she was still meeting me, and if so, when and where. The shape my next two days would take varied significantly depending on what news I heard from her.

As soon as I got service, a message from Michelle appeared. She was able to meet me at our predetermined day and location – the plan was on! I was SO excited I would have a hiking buddy in two days. However, this meant I had a 24-mile hiking day to complete tomorrow – my biggest day yet – followed by a 17-mile day to meet her.

I have never done anything over 20 miles without a zero day following, so the 17-mile day made me nervous. Plus, tomorrow’s lava rock terrain would be difficult, slowing the hiking speed down significantly. This would be my biggest challenge yet, but I was excited to test myself.

We stopped at the grocery store to buy marshmallows for Hux before heading back to camp, arriving around 8 p.m. YIKES!

Carl made dinner while I started to organize myself for the next 4 days and 3 nights.

I was looking at a 9-day stretch, and carrying that much food (and full water bottles for tomorrow), was intimidating. I asked Carl if he could meet me and Michelle at Olallie Lake in 4 days. Of course he said yes, even though I’m sure he wanted to say no. It was a lot of work on his part to meet me with our little guy, but he is AMAZING.

Packing in the dark, and thinking about my resupply was stressful. I was worried I would forget something important. When I have zero days, my things end up all over making it easy for an item to be left behind.

I needed to get hiking tomorrow at daybreak to beat the heat, and ensure I had enough time in my day to hike 24 miles. At some point, Hux fell asleep in a chair next to the fire. He NEVER falls asleep like that; he must have been exhausted. He didn’t even roast a marshmallow.

I crawled into my sleeping bag around midnight thinking about tackling my big day ahead on very little sleep, but feeling full in the love department after a wonderful day.

One of my favorite photos…

2 responses to “PCT Oregon Day 28 – Zero Day on the McKenzie Pass

  1. Wow! Enjoying your posts! I’m going to try and do Crater lake to Shelter Cove this year. Your posts are giving me the courage !

  2. Awe, that makes my whole day, thanks for the comment! Yes, you can do it!

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