Backpacking the PCT Oregon – Day 39 to Wahtum Lake

Day 39
Today’s Miles: 16.6
Total Miles: 443.3
Lolo Pass Trailhead Camp to Wahtum Lake


This morning, I woke up with reverence, thinking about how this would be my last full day on this 2020 PCT Oregon adventure! Tonight would be my last evening on the trail; the last time hanging my food bag, making dinner in my jetboil pot, and the last night sleeping in my tent. Only two more days of hiking!

It’s bittersweet like most things in life, but I’ve been daydreaming about hiking Southern California in the spring, and Washington for summer 2021, because now I’m officially addicted to the long-distance hiking life.


Although the PCT half-mile app indicated a spring 1.7 miles up the trail and my book describes it being one you can count on, I was a little worried about our water situation because of the warning back near Olallie lake I received. I asked the van campers if they had the Guthook app, and they did. It also showed the water source with plenty of flowing water.

With all that information, Carl and I decided we didn’t have to ration water. We ate oatmeal, had our tea and coffee, and packed up camp. I used the porta at the trailhead for some reason, but I should have just used the woods. It was in serious need of maintenance.


Since we arrived at camp in the dark last night, I missed the nice view of Mt. Hood from the road. The father/son duo passed us while we finished packing up camp, as well as the two ladies who took our picture yesterday. We headed out by 8:30 a.m. with nearly empty water bottles.

Carl and I crossed under giant powerlines, and in no time, we came to the nice running stream flowing down the hillside across the trail. I’m not sure what the guy near Olallie lake was talking about, but we were good to go for the day.

A woman filtering water at the stream was also hiking to Wahtum lake today. She was day hiking, while her husband was driving to the lake to meet her. I wonder if Carl and I will do similar things when we are older…


The trail offered a lot of beautiful views today. Mt. Hood looked farther and farther away. It’s hard to believe we were right at the base just yesterday. We also started seeing Washington state mountains. Again, my heart panged a little knowing I wouldn’t be traversing them in the coming days.

Hiking along the edge of the Bull Run Watershed, (where Portland Metro gets its drinking water) encompassed a big part of the day. I had never been up in this area before, so it was interesting to be near the “source.” We passed many “No Trespassing” signs.


Berries were the main theme of the day – various kinds lined the trail. I was still a little nervous about eating them, but they were so delicious. At one point, we passed the ladies (we would frog hop them all day), and we discussed berries.

They said they had been eating mouthfuls for the past two days, and they felt fine. This was the green light I was looking for. From this moment on, I ate handfuls of berries as I hiked, especially huckleberries (the mountain blueberry). It slowed us down a bit, but was so worth it.

A rocky hill beckoned to be climbed, so we dropped our packs and scrambled up the steep surface. The scene on the other side offered a view of the Bull Run Watershed.


Hiking right by Lost Lake was fun. We were high up on a ridge, so it was far below us, but we could still see floaties on the lake, and hear the joyful sounds of people. It looked busy (one of the reasons we still have not made it there).

The second half of the day provided gorgeous sweeping views and a very rocky trail. We were loving the scenery, but feeling tired and ready to be at the lake to enjoy some downtime for my final night.

I was planning on a nice break at Indian Springs camp to utilize the picnic table and see the springs, but there were people there, so we just kept hiking. I recognize how spoiled I was on my 2020 PCT journey – hiking amid the pandemic offered far fewer people to share the trail with than usual.

Washington mountains in the distance

We debated whether we should take the Eagle Creek alternate route trail, passing all the waterfalls, but I never confirmed if the trail was open after the 2017 Eagle Creek fire. We planned on Wahtum Lake being our destination, but kept an eye out for the Eagle Creek trail just in case. We never saw the first turnoff, but staying on the official PCT route felt right for me anyway, so it all worked out.



Washington Mountains Ahead

The final 3 miles to the lake felt like forever. We were tired from our long hike yesterday. A woman thru-hiker passed us at one point going twice our speed, she was cruising! A few final views of Mt. Hood at the end of our day helped us see how far we had come.


Spying the lake around 5:30 p.m. brought instant smiles. The first camp was the PCT group camp. I thought about staying there, and if I had been by myself I certainly would have, but Carl and I wanted a quiet final night.

I was worried the lake might be busy, but it wasn’t. Many of the camp spots were available, but of course, we wanted the “best” one, so we looked at them all. We snagged the very last site along the trail and dropped our packs. I ran up the trail to see if we were missing an even ‘better’ spot.

While I was gone scouting, a couple from the car campground (located up on the hill), came down to our spot to take a swim. They hung out for 90 minutes at our campsite, performing a full skinny dipping photo shoot. It was annoying – and funny – all at the same time.


We decided to take a dip on the other side of the birthday suit duo. It was getting cold, and we didn’t have a lot of sun left, but I figured I should swim in one final mountain lake before the end of my journey. We inspired two young ladies camping nearby to get in, but they didn’t last long.


The naked couple finally left our spot, and we could get settled. We made a chili-mac backpacker dinner Carl was really excited about. It was the hearty meal we needed for sure. The sun went down too quickly to dry our clothes out, so I would be hiking in a wet sports bra on my final day. The benefits of skinny dipping I suppose!

It was such a lovely evening – absolutely idyllic for my final night. I was so happy Carl finally got to camp someplace cool. In southern Oregon, we stayed in several car camping campgrounds, and a lodge, and last night was nothing special, but Wahtum lake is beautiful, peaceful, and serene.

The light played on the lake in a fun way, and there were NO SKEETERS – yay!

To top off the magical night, someone was playing a Native American flute – serenading us from across the lake. It couldn’t have been more perfect, and it felt like a spiritual closing ceremony to my big adventure.

I don’t think it could have been a better evening. A part of me was tried, and ready to be home, but I was equally sad my journey would end tomorrow.


Did you miss the beginning of my 2020 Oregon PCT journey? Begin with Day 1: Here

Published by heathercyrus

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest nearly my whole life and was raised to appreciate and enjoy the natural world. My passion for the environment and studying environmental justice, eco-tourism, green design, renewable energy, green cities, biodiversity, and biology led me to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies. My knack for event planning, community organizing and media communications led me to pursue a degree in Journalism & Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. My two degrees dovetail nicely, providing me the tools to play my part in protecting natural areas in a constantly changing world of communications. I believe strongly in environmental education, and communicating the beauty and necessity of local stewardship. Being a mother is a daily reminder of the importance to lead by example for our younger generations. I strive to do all I can in my daily activities to make healthy choices for my community and family. I am Currently Seeking Employment! If you have a lead on a position that sounds like a good fit, please keep me in mind and let me know! I am currently in Portland Oregon, but willing to relocate for the right position. I’m interested in the business sector as well as non-profit or freelance work. I am available to guest blog regularly, part-time or project based for your company or organization. In the end, I have a lot of passion, leadership and drive to make a difference, and I can’t wait to start! See my PORTFOLIO section on heathercyrus.com for a resume and samples of work.

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