Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 15 to Tolo Camp

Day 15
Today’s Miles: 17.4
Total Miles: 183.4
Thielsen Creek to Tolo Camp (Six Horse Spring) 6.2 miles south of Windigo Pass

It was another chilly morning. I had to sleep in all my layers last night, but the elevation here is pretty high. In fact, today I pass the highest point on the PCT in OR/WA!

Awake at 5:30 a.m., I walked by the creek and did some morning mediations, stretched, and retrieved my bear bag. Sonya was awake in my final 10 minutes, and I told her we could try to find each other at Odell Lake. I was planning a zero day there, so they potentially had time to catch up to me.

Farewell Thielsen Creek Camp

I was on the trail by 7:15 a.m. After trucking along for 10 minutes, I decided to check in with my good friend, the half-mile PCT app, and discovered I was NOT on the trail! I then remembered we camped at a trail junction, and I foolishly just hopped on a trail and started hiking. Yikes! The trail I was on would have met back up with the PCT, but I was disappointed I wasted 20 minutes, and I wasn’t being more careful.

Heading back to camp, I found the PCT and was officially on my way. The early morning light shines through the trees like no other time of day, and this section had some wow moments.

I was awarded a few last fun views of Mt. Thielsen, and encountered my very first snow on the trail. Nothing dangerous of course, and I was able to mostly walk around, but for some reason it felt momentous to me at the time.

First of several patches of snow on the trail today
Alligator Tree and the PCT

I traveled over several pumice flat areas before arriving at Tipsoo Pass, the highest point on the PCT in Oregon and Washington at 7560-feet. It was fairly anticlimactic – not even a hill to climb, but it was a fun location to acknowledge.

A buff was tied to the post and a bra…I guess that is what you do. I just took obligatory photos, and checked in with the real-world (taking advantage of the high point for cell reception). My dad let me know the GPS was working great, and he was having fun tracking my progress each day.

I had originally planned to camp at Maidu lake, but it was .8 miles off the trail, and not far enough along in my day, so I passed that junction and kept hiking toward Tolo camp and the trail to Six Horse Spring.

I hope this is aptly named Horseshoe lake.

I passed my first SOBO (heading south) hiker later in the afternoon. He was resting off the trail smoking a cigarette, about to take a nap because he, “doesn’t hike in the heat of the day.” He was retired from Florida, had hiked the Appalachian trail already, and started the PCT in Cascade Locks, with plans to exit somewhere in Northern California.

The PCT website recommended folks only hike NOBO (northbound) this year due to the virus, so I only met 3 or 4 not following the recommendation. However, there were so few people on the trail in general, I don’t think it really mattered.

It was only 5:30 p.m., when I arrived at Tolo camp, but I was tired, and needed water. For some reason I thought there was a shelter, and I would see other hikers, neither of these things were true.

I set up my tent to snag the spot I wanted in case another hiker did come along, (no one did). I nearly started down the path to the spring with just my filter, but thought better of it at the last minute. I grabbed my mosquito net (an item I was thankful to get out of my resupply bag at Crater Lake), and thick rain jacket. Good thing, I was about to enter a mosquito city!

It was .5 miles of steep switchbacks down to the spring. I passed two ponds, that no one would want to drink from, but the Florida SOBO hiker told me to simply keep going and I would see a trickle of running water.

A tiny trickle

I geared up, the mosquitos were HORRIBLE; hundreds and hundreds swarming me. I filtered more water than I needed, but I knew there was NO WAY I would be coming back down here.

With full bottles, I made my way back to camp, which was fortunately far enough away from the spring I was never bothered by skeeters. The camp had great logs for sitting on, and I made a Pad Thai backpacker meal that I was pleasantly surprised by, bonus – it had carrots! My body was craving veggies.

I spent the evening trying to make a decision on which way I wanted to hike the next two days. The original plan was to veer off the PCT at Windigo Pass and take the Skyline Trail passing Crescent Lake, but I started considering just sticking to the PCT so I could pass Summit Lake and the Diamond Peak wilderness area.

There is comfort to staying on the trail, and seeing the familiar PCT signs, not to mention my handy dandy PCT app that let’s me know if I’m off the trail (like this morning). But, the Skyline trail is a shortcut that shaves off nearly 11 miles, and according to my book, a descent amount of elevation. It would allow me to arrive at Odell lake in two days at a decent hour to meet my parents with my resupply bag, and Carl and my little one for family time.

I decided I would stick to the original plan and take the shortcut. Again, my goal was to walk across the state of Oregon, and although I would do this nearly entirely on the PCT, I “allowed” myself to veer off when it made sense. I figured this was a section I could come back and do another time if I wanted.

This was my second night all alone on the trail. I didn’t love it, but I was getting used to it, and much better at disregarding any fears that would pop into my imagination. I was adding layers of bravery with each passing day.
Did you miss the beginning of my adventure? Start with Day One

PCT Oregon – Day 14 to Thielsen Creek

Day 14
Today’s Miles: 17.3
Total Miles: 166
Grouse Hill Backpacker Camp (Crater Lake) to Thielsen Creek – passing Diamond Lake (far below) and Mt. Thielsen

Looking back on this day brings me a pang of sadness. The Mt. Thielsen Wilderness area was hit by one of the many 2020 wildfires at the end of the summer. I feel so blessed to have witnessed it before the fire swept through; something to never take for granted. The trail certainly changes from year to year, all the more reason to adventure when the opportunity arises.

I never set an alarm backpacking, but I got a late start today – hitting the trail around 8:30 a.m. I had another big mileage day ahead, and I should have gotten an earlier start, but I had a newfound confidence knowing I would be fine after completing my big 22-mile day to Crater Lake.

It was a cold morning, but I slept well in my new digs. The one-person tent is certainly smaller, but it feels cozier, and I love all the pockets. The new space grew on me pretty quickly.

As I broke down camp, the other backpackers walked by. They were nearly out of water, and told me they were considering just hiking down to Diamond Lake to get more. That seemed far out of the way, but I didn’t know for sure.

I was on the trail 20 minutes behind them. At the closest road junction I saw a sign that read, “Crater Lake Water Cache,” with an arrow pointing left. My book explained it was a location hikers could stash water ahead of time, but not to count on extra “free” water. Especially with Covid this year, it was smart to have zero expectations on those things.

I had plenty of water to make it through the day, and was happy to get drinking on it to lighten my load. Today, I decided my trail name should be, “Miss Oregon.” I think you technically are given a trail name by someone else, so it didn’t really count, but I felt like I needed one. I have lived nearly my whole life in Oregon, I’m doing the Oregon section of the PCT, I graduated from the University of Oregon, I was wearing an Oregon baseball cap every day…it just made sense.

I passed the couple a few miles in, and they indeed got water at the cache – yay! The problem they would have moving forward, was the amount of water their bottles could hold, which was very little. This style (filter inside your small water bottle) is great for hikes with plentiful water, but not realistic for long stretches of dry trail, especially if you have a pup joining you.

The first 9.1 miles went quickly. It was a flat trail, with not much to look at, but I made good time. On the edge of the Winema National Forest, I carefully crossed HWY 138.

I took a solid rest at Cascade Crest. A sign indicated that Diamond Lake was 9 miles away, while Thielsen Creek was 8.2 miles. When the couple arrived, I suggested they just keep heading to Thielsen Creek. I gave them a little of my water, and they agreed they would keep heading north on the PCT.

We all chatted for awhile. It turns out, *Mike and *Sonya are from Portland and ran in the same career circles as I did. We even knew some of the same people. It’s such a small world sometimes. I was excited they decided to continue on so I would have camp mates again tonight.

Leaving them to enjoy their lunch, I continued on. About .4 miles up the trail, I crossed (FR961) with a trailhead and a BIG water cache. This was the first one I saw on my PCT journey. I knew the couple would be relieved.

The second half of my day was fantastic, and I was reminded of why I’m doing this. On the border of the the Oregon Cascade Recreation area and Mt. Thielsen Wilderness, I had to ascend, but that’s how you get the big rewards.

After climbing for awhile, I earned views of Diamond Lake below (way below). I’ve spent a lot of time at Diamond Lake between family reunions and various camping trips, but I’ve never seen it from this perspective. My grandma Horton loved Diamond Lake, and we would always stop there on our way from Bend to Grants Pass when I would stay a week with my grandparents in the summer.

My grandmother died young from cancer. She loved climbing mountains, hiking and camping, and I know I get my outdoorsy spirit partially from her. My very first backpacking trip was with my grandparents and parents at around age 8.
I thought of her as my guardian angel watching over me as I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
I hope she is proud of me.

Taking a lunch break, complete with shoes and socks off, I sat on a rock overlooking the lake below. I thought about my grandmother, did some mindful meditations, and stretched for a bit. It’s nice to take breaks; that’s why I’ll probably never be a 30-mile-a-day hiker.

Not long after this section, the most wonderful surprise appeared, Mt. Thielsen – just out of nowhere – BANG – so big and right in front of me. It was a magnificent moment that left me grinning from ear to ear. Mountains are my favorite form of scenery, and I had magnificent views the rest of the way to camp.

I found a few more pumice rocks for my kiddo to experiment with when I saw him next. He REALLY loves rocks, and I figure pumice are the only kind of rocks I’m going to tote around for him backpacking. (Their weight is about equal to a marshmallow.)

At the Mt. Thielsen Trail junction, coming up from Diamond lake, the view was unbelievable. Panorama in every direction. I set my pack down and turned circles taking it all in, and took a few dozen photos.

There was a campsite at this location which would have been an amazing prize view all evening, but I wanted to get to water, so I only considered it for a moment.

I was impressed with the strength of these roots pulling up the huge rocks!

After descending for an hour, I heard the sweet gurgle of running water, and was finally greeted with idyllic Thielsen creek. This was the very first creek crossing I encountered, and it required a small rock hop.

My balance isn’t what it used to be, so this was an element of concern to me, but I handled this one just fine. The camping area was big, open, and was one of my favorite camping spots on the whole trail.

The water was crystal clear, and there were other campers already set up along the creek. The best part, the mosquitoes were nearly non-existent! I couldn’t believe it, but was incredibly thankful.

I found a spot under some trees, and set up my tent, ate dinner, and simply enjoyed the serene landscape. Mike and Sonya came strolling in with their dog as I was finishing dinner; they made it!

It was a really tough, long day for them, and they already decided they would be taking a zero day tomorrow to rest and recover. They camped near me, and we all chatted until hitting our tents early.

Day 14 Sunset

** The names of fellow backpackers have changed for privacy.
Want to start at the beginning of my adventure? Access Day One

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 13 to Grouse Hill Camp (Crater Lake)

Day 13
Today’s Miles: 9.5
Total Miles: 148.7
Crater Lake Lodge (Rim Trail) to Grouse Hill Backpacker Camp

My headlamp died again last night, so I ran to the bathroom to charge it at 5:30 a.m. I was a little off my charging game. I should have left some devices with my parents to charge in their room overnight…oops.

I had plenty of time to pack up my things, get organized, and set up my new 1-person tent. Woohoo!

Have I mentioned how awesome my support crew was?! Carl spent a long time researching, ordering, and making it all happen. My parents had to pick the tent up in Bend to bring it to me here. It sounded like a hassle for everyone, and I love them all so much for their effort. I am one lucky lady!

Our two-person tent weighs 4+ pounds and my one person is just over 2 pounds – when every ounce counts, that’s a HUGE difference. The new tent is an odd shape, and it took me some time to figure out the setup, so I was glad I practiced. The two-person tent felt like home each night, so I hoped the change wouldn’t be too strange.

My dad arrived right on time at 7:30 a.m. I was happy to have a ride back up to the rim to start our hike. We stopped at the Ranger Station to get a wilderness permit as I would be back-country camping inside the park tonight. I got the vibe nobody was getting a permit this year, but they seemed pleased with my effort. It didn’t cost anything, and according to my book, you are supposed to get one. I figured it was good hiking karma, if nothing else.

Today’s Adventure – Mazama Village to Grouse Hill Camp

I spent the morning coordinating with Carl. I was hoping he could meet me at Odell lake in 5 days. I had a 9.7 mile day built into my itinerary the next section, so I planned to cut an entire day of hiking. Now that I had a couple weeks under my belt, I couldn’t imagine hiking less than 14-18 miles a day; a 9.7 mile day seemed silly. This would provide me a zero day to enjoy family time at the lake if we could make it all come together.

My dad was anxious to get our hiking started, so we hit the rim trail at the main lodge by late morning. This was one of the most memorable days on the trail, because I hiked right around 7 miles with my dad. The views were stunning. In all my visits to Crater Lake, I’ve never hiked this whole trail.

My mom drove the car, and met us at the waysides with leftover pizza. I packed a little daypack in my resupply bag, so I got to do these 7 miles with my heavy pack in the car instead of ON me – that was one of the smartest planning moves I had. Hiking is so easy with a daypack!

I was totally spoiled during my time at Crater Lake, and felt like I was cheating just a little, but I loved it. The best part was my water situation. Leaving the Crater Lake lodge, the trail has zero water until Thielsen Creek – 26.3 waterless miles. I was able to cut it down to 17 miles since I would have full water bottles in the car waiting for me before meeting back up with the PCT.

The trail around the lake was surprisingly full of up and down – much more than one would think. It was a decent workout, and so beautiful. At each vehicle pullout we saw several people, but everyone wore masks. By this time, the Oregon Governor had mandated wearing masks outside if you could not maintain 6 ft. of distance. It was pretty easy to keep distance, but seeing everyone wear masks added another level of comfort and safety, but also so strange…

I enjoyed having a new person to converse with. I soaked it in as I would be alone the next four days. My dad shared tales of his mountain climbing days in Africa (where he was born). We laughed at the thought of carrying whole cans of food – talk about a heavy pack.

The final mile was filled with panoramic views to the left, and snow patches to the right. The trail was dotted with wildflowers providing plenty of photo ops.

When we arrived at the end of the Rim trail, I saw two backpackers making their way to the PCT. I was excited to hear they were heading to the Grouse Hill backpacking camp as well. Yay; I wouldn’t be alone tonight! Hiking with their dog, they were a little nervous about water. I offered them some, but they said they would be fine. I really should have insisted. This was day 1 of their very first backpacking trip, and their packs looked REALLY big and heavy.

Final Stretch of the Rim Trail

I was a little sad to say goodbye to my parents, and a part of me wanted to climb in the car and head home too. But, I had a goal I was now determined to complete, and a lot more of Oregon to see.

My pack was SO heavy when I threw it on, even with my lighter tent. Those first few minutes I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. Water weighs a lot, and I took an extra bottle just in case for this next dry section.

I had no idea where the PCT picked back up, but instead of walking around to investigate a little, I decided to climb straight up a giant sand dune hill with my giant pack on – it was completely unnecessary – not the wisest of choices. I found the trail eventually across the highway.

It’s strange to venture off on your own after a full day of company. Thankfully, it was an easy, flat, roughly 4.5 miles to camp. It was also dusty, dry and hot. I got used to the heavy pack pretty quickly, and luckily my ankle was all better.

I arrived around 4:30 p.m., pretty early in the day. Grouse Hill is a large area, and I got one of the camps all to myself. I imagine in normal years, this camping area is full on an average night.

The other two backpackers were setting up camp in the far section when I arrived, but since there was a significant amount of distance between the two areas, I had solitude. This is the perfect scenario: knowing people are nearby so I feel safe, yet far enough away I don’t have to worry about bothering anyone, and I get alone time.

After setting up my new tent, I ate dinner on large boulders next to camp while watching pikas scurry around. A deer walked through my camp as I filled the evening writing in my journal, and read the pages in my book for tomorrow’s leg; all the usual things. Off on my own tomorrow…

Dinner and Pika Viewing Rock
My new one-person tent!

Oregon PCT Day 12 – Mazama Village to Crater Lake Rim

Day 12
Today’s Miles: 5
Total Miles: 139.2
Mazama Village (Crater Lake Campground) to Crater Lake Rim

My first “kinda” zero day. The plan was to hike along the rim tomorrow with my dad, and then reconnect with the PCT to continue north. I decided to hike the small section from the campground up to the Crater Lake rim today in order to make tomorrow a little shorter.

I was still awake at my usual 5:30 a.m. but just lounged in my tent reading and writing in my journal. Ahhh…a relaxing morning.

When I ventured out I saw Thomas! I thought I recognized the tent near me. He was feeling so great out of Fish Lake, he kept hiking pass the Island Lake junction, and made it to Crater Lake in just two days. (Wow!)

Thomas apologized for not meeting up with me. I assured him it all worked out, and I was happy his knee was better so he could make up the miles. He took a zero day yesterday, and was heading up to the rim and out of the park today.

So excited for breakfast, I headed to the restaurant; I really missed eggs, but it was closed. According to the website (when I did my research a few weeks ago), it was open for breakfast. Disappointed, I checked out the general store and bought some snacks to get me by, including frosted doughnuts, which are a very special treat. I rarely eat stuff like that, but I decided I earned it. I also bought postcards and chapstick.

Back at camp I went through a “free box” stored inside the bear box. It was full of food we eat, so I grabbed a bunch of it, but I was equally excited to find a couple of beers with a note “Trail magic from Cribbage.” Yay- I decided I should have one.

Using the tiny sink in the bathroom I did some laundry by hand. I had to hold down the handle to keep the water running, so not ideal (it took me forever), but the laundry facilities were closed (thanks COVID), so I had to improvise. Using a tent rope between two trees, I made a little clothes line for drying.

Ready to get my mini hike in, I took everything out of my pack except a water bottle, snack, sunscreen and money. It was SO light and easy. I found the Annie Spring trailhead near “A” loop in the campground, and wound my way up. I was happy with my decision right away to hike this section today. It was straight UP, and challenging with a light pack, let alone with full supplies.

The official PCT never provides a view of Crater Lake, so most hikers deviate from the official trail and hike the Rim Trail for one of the biggest “WOW” factors the state has to offer, and then reconnect with the PCT. This was my plan for tomorrow.

I saw another one of those wow trees – one trunk with four trees coming out. This made me think of my family of four – I certainly missed everyone.

Arriving at the rim, and seeing the lake was a real moment of celebration; it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t believe I walked all the way here from California! It was a big moment. My mini goal was to make it to Crater Lake, and I did it!

I’ve been here several times, even twice just last summer, but it never looses it’s marvel, and this was all together a different feeling. I met some thru-hikers last year while visiting, and remember thinking, “I hope that’s me one day.”

I sat by the rim soaking it all in, and checked in with folks back home (cell service). I wanted to share the big occasion. A few people were skeptical I could do it, so I sent them an update with the undertone, “I’m DOING it!”

I met my parents outside the lodge. My mom always dreamed of staying in the Crater Lake lodge, so this was a good excuse. It was nice to see familiar people. I was so pleased they were there to support me and bring my resupplies. It made the journey significantly easier, and almost felt like “cheating.” My parents both retired last year, so it was perfect timing, and I think they enjoyed meeting me along the way as much as I did – a definite win-win.

Those famous Crater Lake rocking chairs

The lodge is so fun, but this year it was only open to overnight guests. My parents “snuck” me into their room to shower since the showers in the campground were closed (thanks COVID).

It was one of the BEST showers I’ve ever enjoyed. My shampoo was even in my resupply bag, what luxury! After I showered, I took a bath. I would have soaked into the night, but we had plans to get dinner. I had clean clothes in my bag; this day was absolute heaven.

We went back down to the Mazama Village and had dinner at Annies. I got my pizza! They brought us three wrong pizzas before finally getting it right. They apologized with four free gigantic desserts. It was way too much, but we did our best to eat the ice-cream since it doesn’t travel well in a to-go box.

I was dropped off at camp so my dad could find it easily tomorrow morning to pick me up. I had just enough light to get organized for tomorrow. I sorted out my food, and made a pile of stuff for my parents to take with them. Even though I didn’t have a big hiking day, I was tired. I’d be back at it tomorrow.

Day 12 Sunset

Hiking the Oregon PCT Day 11 to Mazama Village (Crater Lake): 22-Mile Day

Day 11
Today’s Miles: 21.6
Total Miles: 134.2
Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin) to Mazama Village (Crater Lake Campground)

I knew it was imperative to get an early start today. The plan was to hike nearly 22 miles – something I’ve never done before in my life, and I wanted to give myself as much time as I could. Catch was on the trail by 6:30 a.m., (and I would later find out arrived to Mazama Village around 3:30 p.m.) – those thru-hikers are so speedy!

Sunrise

There was zero water on the trail today, except for the first couple of miles. I filtered and drank a bunch, then filled my bottles to the brim. I was on the trail by 6:50 a.m., my earliest start yet. I felt really strong, and excited about my big day. I knew I would be incredibly proud of myself for hiking a 20+ mile day, now I just had to do it. Thankfully, my ankle seemed to be all better. There was just a slight hint of tenderness, but barely noticeable.

I was swarmed with mosquitoes the first several miles, but I was in good spirits and didn’t let them get the better of me. Walking by all the other camps in the area along the creek, the spot I chose last night was the best by far. I was so happy with my decision.

Early in my day, I passed a massive tree trunk with three trees coming up out of it. I envisioned hugging my two children, and smiled.

I got passed by a few thru-hikers today. They typically had their heads down, and were hiking so fast, I don’t know how they saw anything. Rather than enjoying the journey, it seemed like they just had to get the miles in.

I wanted to soak in the experience. I looked at the ground a lot so I didn’t trip, but I also stopped frequently to take in my surroundings, look in every direction, and see the sights. I guess it’s just different approaches, but I preferred my way.

I went through the Lonesome Fire Complex – a 2008 fire. It was one of the coolest sections to hike. It looked like a Dr. Seuss book; I loved it.

According to my book, that fire section turned into forest with a pleasant shady walk the rest of the leg, but that was not the case. Another fire swept through in the last year or two, not accounted for in my book, and it made for a very hot, exposed, and dusty day of hiking.

I originally planned on taking a side trail to Stuart Falls in order to have a water source, and camp near a waterfall (sounded pretty epic), then I would only have 8.7 miles to hike up to Mazama Village the next day. However, that’s the day I decided to cut out to get to Mazama Village in one day instead of two.

I never noticed the side trail to the falls, I’m not sure it’s a thing anymore because of the fire, so my decision worked out, phew! I found this to be the case through all of Oregon – it always worked out...

I made it to mile 10 around 1:30 p.m. and felt great at this point, but the second half of the day was more challenging. My feet got really achy. I changed my socks three times trying to find the sweet spot. I didn’t have any blisters or sores, they just ached, and I became physically and mentally tired. I took a long break around mile 13 with cell service. I checked in with all my usual people. My GPS was showing me at Hyatt Lake still, so I fiddled with it and got it going again. Apparently it was turned off – oops!

In one section of the recovering forest, I saw a type of fungus on every tree. I wish I could remember my forest ecology lessons with more confidence, but I believe fungus is one of the first signs of a rejuvenating forest. I saw several woodpeckers in this section too.

I powered through the rest of the day, but those final miles were tough. I just wanted to be there. Seeing the Crater Lake National Park sign gave me a boost of energy.

I decided to take a shortcut my book described. It only shaved a mile off, but saved me 600 ft. of unnecessary elevation gain, and a mile is a mile. My goal of this journey was to walk across all of Oregon; how I did it mattered less to me, so leaving the PCT wasn’t a big deal in my mind. When I arrived to the Pumice Flat Trail junction, I signed the PCT trail registry, and took the aptly named trail.

This trail lifted my spirits even more; I was almost there! I found a few pumice rocks to give my 4-year old. Magic floating rocks would prove to be a fun science experiment in a few days. I also found an interesting skull – it was so pristine, like it was placed there by a person.

Cool find on Pumice Flat Trail

I was running low on food. I underestimated the amount of snacks I would need through the day, so it was good I eliminated a full day and night of hiking. I began to daydream about the restaurant at Mazama Village. Toward the end of Pumice Flat Trail I heard cars zooming down the highway, it was a welcome noise today!

The final 3 miles were up the highway to the campground. I underestimated how unpleasant this would be. It’s a busy road with no shoulder or bike path. Some cars pulled way over to make me feel safe, while others seemed to veer toward me. Not everyone likes backpackers.

The asphalt was hard on my feet. I questioned if the shortcut was worth it…lessons learned. About halfway up, a pullout provided a view of pinnacles. I stopped and enjoyed the scene and gave my feet a rest.

Every step moving forward was accompanied with my mental mantras of, “Almost there, just one foot in front of the other, almost there…almost there…almost there…you got this!” When I finally saw the sign for Mazama Village I was overjoyed – yay, I did it! Now I just had to figure out where to go.

It was immediate culture shock, there were a ton of people. I saw lines out of buildings, everyone wearing masks and keeping a 6 ft. distance. The real world came rushing back to me. It’s strange to be alone all day then dumped into hundreds of people, especially during the pandemic.

I spotted some of the backpackers from yesterday huddled behind bushes next to the general store sharing a huge pizza and drinking beer; they looked really funny. I wished I could keep up with them, but I was SO looking forward to my zero day tomorrow. My body hurt. I couldn’t imagine hiking 25+ miles every single day.

I asked them where the backpackers camping area was, and they loosely described an area in the campground. I wanted to set my pack down, change into comfy shoes, and clean up a bit before hitting the restaurant. I wandered around the campground, but it was huge, and totally pointless without knowing where I was going exactly. It was a pretty silly choice on my tired feet, and I was getting cranky. Tired and famished is a tough combo.

I stopped at the restroom and thoroughly appreciated the running water. I washed my hands and splashed my face, then headed to the Annie Creek restaurant.

There was a line out the door, and I nearly decided “forget it,” but I used my pack to keep my place in line while I sat in one of the famous Crater Lake rocking chairs – heaven. I told myself to be patient. I was worried I was filthy and smelly, and bothering everyone around me, but I don’t think I was that bad.

The line actually went fast, it was just COVID stuff – not that the restaurant was busy. Patrons ordered as soon as they entered the doors, but they didn’t have a menu outside for people to scan and decide what they wanted before getting to the cash register, this would have been WAY more efficient, but…

I wanted a pizza, but they only had one size, and it was huge. I ordered the Beyond Burger with a side salad and a grapefruit Hard seltzer, then headed to a table outside, where there was plenty of room. There were a handful of backpackers in the corner, some I met yesterday. They were heading up to the rim with a plan to catch the sunrise over Crater Lake in the morning.

Catch from Hong Kong was there too! He was staying in the Mazama Lodge Campground, and joined me while I ate my dinner. We had a great conversation. He has a wife of 6 years back home, so we shared sentiments on how amazing our partners are to support us in this adventure. Of course, he was going to be away from home far longer than me.

He explained that he got to San Diego the day before the U.S. shutdown, and spent 10 days in his hotel room trying to figure out what to do. He couldn’t go anywhere, nothing was open – talk about a bizarre experience. He finally decided to get going, and simply hike. He had to skip a section in California (about 100 miles) because of weather. He hoped to return to that section after tagging the Canadian border if he had time. I guess I’ll never know if he did.

Catch walked me to the backpacking camp. It was pretty deep into the campground, about as far away as it could be, and I was REALLY sore after sitting down for an hour. Good thing I had a day of rest tomorrow! I saw a few other tents and bicycles. I wouldn’t be alone tonight. I found a place for my tent, found the nearest bathroom, got my food in the convenient bear box provided, and was asleep fast.

Mazama Village Walk-in Campground – My Tent in the Background

Did you miss the beginning of my Oregon Pacific Crest Trail Journey? You can access it: HERE

PCT Oregon Day 10 to Seven Lakes Basin

Day 10
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!

Farewell Island Lake Camp

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 love these wooden signs.

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.

First patch of snow sighted – just off the trail
Hi-Five PCT!

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.

Fun sitting rocks

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)

Yay for WATER!

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.

View From Camp

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.

View from inside my tent
Inside my tent view

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!

Track Musings:
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

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon: Day 9 to Island Lake

Day Nine
Today’s Miles: 15.6
Total Miles: 99.5
Fish Lake to Island Lake (Sky Lakes Wilderness)

Despite feeling completely safe last night, I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned, waking up a dozen times. This became my new normal, and it wasn’t because I was uncomfortable. I had an amazing sleeping pad I LOVE, that’s cushy and comfy (but bulky – so it’s my one “luxury” item).

[SeaToSummit – Comfort Plus S.I. – Self Inflating]

I always fell asleep quickly on the trail, completely exhausted, but I honestly think it was just too quite. Being a mom, I woke up to every little sound.

Going into section TWO today of the Oregon PCT:
Fish Lake up to Cascade Crest (passing Crater Lake):

My headlamp died while I was journaling last night, so at 5 a.m. I went up to the bathroom to charge it. Maybe it wasn’t very charged out of the package (it was brand new), but thank goodness I was somewhere with charging power! Having light is vital out on the trail.

My ankle was SORE. I was definitely nervous about my day.

My very full backpack – day one of solo hiking!


My pack was significantly heavier, which didn’t help the ankle. I was carrying four day’s worth of food, all of the gear myself (no more hiking partners to help carry shared weight), and I needed enough water to get me through nearly the whole day.

Thomas had support tape for injuries, and he let me borrow some for my ankle. He left camp at 7 a.m., still planning to meet me at Island Lake for the night. I was 30 minutes behind him, but was moving VERY slowly.

I had to hike the 2 miles back to the PCT, not something I factored into my original itinerary, so this was going to be my longest hiking day so far, on top of being injured and carrying a ton of weight. Here we go PCT!

It was a really tough two miles, and I arrived back at the trail in tears. I willed myself the whole way, and my mental game was being challenged. My ankle hurt, and every step brought pain and worry. I started questioning what I should do. It seemed like a really stupid idea to push forward. What if it got worse and I needed rescued? The last thing I wanted to do was put strain on our resources during the pandemic. I was entering deep wilderness for the next few days, and I didn’t want to be stranded.

Weighing the options…

Since I was considering cutting a day out of my itinerary, my final hike up to Crater Lake would be nearly 22 miles – that’s a big day on healthy legs, let alone with an injury! Additionally, my parents had a room reserved at the Crater Lake lodge (a bucket list item for my mom), so I had an itinerary to keep…

I ate several Ibuprofrin and texted Carl my dilemma. He obviously couldn’t make the decision for me, but suggested I spend one more day at Fish Lake so I could simply rest, and hopefully my ankle would feel better tomorrow.

The thought of backtracking, even just 2 miles, sounded so defeating. I decided to keep going and have zero expectations for the next few days. If I had to do it in 4, then I had enough food, and the time to make it happen. I would just go slow. Unfortunately, this would be the last cell service I had until tomorrow mid-morning. Poor Carl; talk about setting him up for a night of worry.

It was a LONG trying day. The Ibuprofrin helped, but I was in pain with every single step. My spirits were really low. I felt like my body was failing me; I literally limped the whole way to Island Lake, but I made it!

I took many breaks, ate a lot of Ibuprofrin, and had nearly zero scenery moments to take my mind off things. It was the real-deal Green Tunnel: how hikers describe many sections of Oregon. I don’t want to use the word, “boring,” but, it was mile after mile of the same thing all day.

Although I was in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, the PCT bypasses all the lakes in the area so the trail can keep as near to the actual crest of the mountains as possible – otherwise it would be the Pacific Lakes Trail.

Fourmile lake in the distance

Adding insult to injury, I entered mosquito alley today. It was one of the worst mosquito experiences I’ve had up to this day (more would come in future days). I had tons of repellent on, (and not the hippie-dippie stuff I usually wear), this was full of DEET, but it didn’t seem to matter. Why did I leave the mosquito net in my resupply bag?

I now knew how lucky I was to have encountered zero mosquitoes until this day. Those little critters can BREAK you, and I felt pretty broken. However, the view of Mt. McLoughlin was nice, even if it was just for a moment, now way behind me.

I made it to Island Lake around 6:15 p.m. – not bad for limping the entire 15+ miles. It was .6 miles off the PCT, but highly recommend in the book, plus, this is where I would meet Thomas!

Alas, no one was there when I arrived. Thomas must have decided to keep going, or he missed the turn off. Island Lake camp was great, but I would enjoy it completely alone. The Pacific Crest Trail was going to TEST every ounce of me today.

Camp for day 9

I had my very own Christmas tree in camp. I was confused why people would go to this great length, and was it done back in December? Perhaps some folks snowshoed in? I’ll never know. If I was car-camping, I would have picked up all the trash, but I just couldn’t risk carrying extra weight with my injury, plus my pack was already really full.

It was nice to have water in camp for cooking and refilling water bottles.

Island Lake

I found a little sunny spot right next to the lake to eat my mushroom risotto backpacker meal for dinner. I read about my hiking day tomorrow, filtered water, and meditated on being brave through the night. The last time I slept out in the middle of the woods alone I was pretty terrified (read all about it here) – and I couldn’t afford another night like that. If I wanted to hike the PCT, I had to be freakin’ brave!

The company of a dragonfly

As soon as the sun went down, the skeeters were out in full force, and I hid in the tent the rest of the night (after hanging my bear bag far away). I half expected another hiker to join me at some point, since this seemed like such a nice camping spot, but I came to realize that thru-hikers don’t veer off the trail very far, and there just weren’t that many people out backpacking this year.

Island Lake Sunset

As much as I love being alone, I found myself kind of lonely and feeling down. The trail is so much fun to share with other people. My ankle really messed up my mental game today, and I started questioning if I was physically capable of hiking the entire state. I decided if my ankle still hurt at Crater Lake and my spirits were this low, I would go home with my parents. This hadn’t been a fun day; and wasn’t that kind of the point to all of this?

As soon as I turned my headlamp off and snuggled in for sleep, I heard a very large crashing noise make its way through the forest, followed by loud banging. It sounded like an animal messing with my food bag – a LARGE animal. The banging lasted for only a minute, followed by more loud crashing – thankfully in the opposite direction of me.

My heart was racing, and of course I kept thinking, “What if the bear got my food bag? Everything is in there!” I even put my cooking stove in it for the first time, thinking it must smell like food now that I’ve used it for over a week. The experts recommend you hang food bags 15-20 ft. above the ground…I’m short, I never did that….oops!

Reflecting back on this day and night, I now know how good and healing it was for me. Real growth comes from the struggle, and this day delivered.

We take for granted our health, until something in our body falters. We take for granted the absence of mosquitoes, until you are swarmed and driven to ultimate frustration. We take for granted the sweeping views, until you are in a tunnel of green for hours and hours. We take for granted the good company we have, until we are all alone. I learned to appreciate all the GOOD on such a deeper level.

Island Lake Camp Tree

According to my book, this is the Judge Waldo Tree, a Shasta Red Fir. It marks the spot where Judge John B. Waldo and his party camped in 1888 on their expedition from Willamette Pass to Mount Shasta.

PCT Oregon – Day 8 to Fish Lake

Day Eight
Today’s Miles: 9.9
Total Miles: 83.9
Brown Mountain Shelter to Fish Lake

It was a little strange to wake up with so many people in camp. It was quiet, and I wasn’t sure when it was appropriate to get up and move around. I was awake at my usual 5:30 a.m., but stayed in the tent until I heard other people stirring. Once everyone was awake, camps were broke down quickly, and the other hikers hit the trail leaving Hadlie and I alone; these were professionals. It was nice to have the space to ourselves, and the picnic table to make breakfast, and get organized.

This was my last day hiking with a buddy for quite a while. I was nervous, but also excited for alone time. My mom and dad were meeting us at Fish Lake this afternoon to pick up Hadlie and assist with getting her back home.

The PCT section Hadlie and I completed

Near the Brown Mountain shelter, a PCT mileage sign let us know we were 889 miles from the Canadian border and 1779 from the Mexican border. Wow, I can’t imagine hiking the whole thing, and I couldn’t help but think of the 11-year-old well on his way.

Hadlie was ready to be home, and happy this was her last day hiking with me. Fortunately, it was a pretty hiking day, with cool scenery that was vastly different from previous sections (a nice change), and beautiful views. But it was hot much of the day – not her favorite.

Early morning hiking in the cool weather

About half-way through the day, Hadlie said, “I really want backpacking to be my thing, but I don’t think it is. Haha…To be fair, she was wearing really old hiking boots that gave her a terrible blister. If your feet aren’t happy hiking, it’s really hard to enjoy the adventure. I didn’t want to jinx myself, so I never said it out loud, but I thought of it often the whole first week, “I can’t believe I don’t have any blisters yet!”

Today I passed my very first cascade volcano on the PCT; Brown Mountain. It’s one of Oregon’s smaller peaks. The trail in this region is built of small red cinders that were tricky to navigate at times, and was much slower moving than a soft dirt trail. This section was hard on the feet (poor Hadlie). According to my book, “These few miles proved to be one of the last and most costly portions of the 2650-mile PCT to build.”

We had great views of Mt. McLoughlin a big part of the day. It looked so much closer than just two days ago. I smiled each time it popped into view. I wouldn’t see this peak again until it was far behind me.

Any idea what this is?

This section reminded me of central Oregon (where I grew up).

We took a lunch break on a large lava rock off the trail, and watched a couple thru-hikers pass us. The man was 30 seconds behind the woman, and they both were listening to the same audio book aloud. It made us chuckle.

We arrived at the Fish Lake turnoff around 3:30 p.m., and realized it was another 2 miles to the campground (off the PCT). I didn’t factor that correctly, and Hadlie felt absolutely defeated; so ready to be done. This was the first day I really got into using the Halfmile’s PCT app. It’s the app my book recommended, and I didn’t realize it wasn’t being updated anymore until after I was done hiking, but it worked great for my purposes.

Basically, the app operates without needing any data or cell coverage. I left my phone in airplane mode 98% of the time to save battery life, and the app still worked. It was great for knowing how many miles your destination was ahead. Hadlie was REALLY into receiving updates throughout the day. It kept her motivated.

Lucky for Hadlie, she has an amazing Grandpa that was happy to meet us on the side of the Falls Highway (OR 140) just .25 miles up the PCT, so she didn’t have to hike the 2 miles to camp. She was SO happy to see that car pull up, and took her hiking boots off immediately to slip on her comfy shoes.

Since it was Saturday, Fish Lake resort / campground was busy. Fortunately, the outdoors is easy to space yourself from other people, and we were safe. My parents drove all the way from Bend as a day trip to pick up Hadlie. I had an amazing support crew!

We all ate an early dinner at the resort restaurant. The menu was limited for us vegetarians, and nothing was great, but it was fun to eat outside with a view of the lake, and eat non-backpacking food. Hadlie and I both had fresh salad, and I got a plate of sautéed vegetables that read “veggie burger” on the menu. I think I missed veggies the most on the trail.

Staking out the outlets, I began charging my devices immediately at the restaurant. I had my phone, battery charger, solar charger, and my headlamp. This would become part of the resupply routine.

I purchased some laundry soap, and secured a pile of quarters so I could shower and do laundry this evening. I got the inside secret scoop: the showers in the RV loop run for 20 minutes if you put $2.00 in. I didn’t need a 20 minute shower, but I took one!

Hadlie was ready to be home. Back at the car, I quickly grabbed all of the items from her pack I would need, and my resupply food bag from my parents. I sorted through my resupply clothes bag and swapped out a shirt, grabbed my towel, and thought for a long time over my mosquito net, finally opting to grab it next time. (A decision I would completely regret soon.) I felt rushed, and hoped I didn’t forget anything. It would be so easy to overlook an item in the rushed exchange.

I said goodbye, and a big THANK YOU to all three of my teammates. I was so glad my daughter decided to do a leg with me. Sharing this experience with my loved ones make the memories so sweet.

I walked away from the car toward the backpacking camp (which didn’t cost a thing), with a very heavy pack, but in high spirits. I was feeling brave about my next leg – solo! It felt weird to be alone, and I was both excited and nervous. I was happy to be in a campground, and not alone out in the middle of nowhere for my first solo night.

Walking to camp, my left ankle was feeling a tad achy. I thought I twisted it ever so slightly on all the lava rock today, but I didn’t think too much about it at this point.

I wound my way around the lake, through the RV section, and found the backpacking nook. I was pleasantly surprised to see Thomas (from day 4 – also doing all of Oregon). It’s amazing how a familiar face is so comforting on the trail, even if the person is technically a stranger. I envisioned seeing several backpackers here, but we were the only two for the night. Thomas had a zero day today, the only reason I caught up to him.

We chatted about the following few hiking days. My original plan was to do the next section (getting to Mazama Village at Crater Lake) in 3 nights and 4 days of hiking, but a couple days ago, I decided to cut a day out and push really hard on that final day and earn a zero day at Crater Lake. Thomas was planning on something similar. We decided to meet at Island Lake tomorrow night. I was so nervous to camp by myself, this plan eased my worries significantly.

Tent spot for the night

I set up my tent and went for a quick swim at the little outcrop near our camp. The lake was warm, and felt so good.

After gathering all my dirty clothes, I walked over to the little facilities building and started a load of laundry and hopped in the shower. It was a gross camping shower, but I didn’t care, it still felt amazing! I didn’t have any shampoo, so I washed my hair with hand soap; I think for the first time ever.

I didn’t realize I forgot my cleanish clothes I was planning to throw on after the shower back at camp until I was nearly done with the shower. OOPS! My towel was a tiny backpacking towel, definitely not big enough to cover everything. My least embarrassing option was to wait in the shower stall for my clothes to be done washing. I couldn’t believe it, but I knew it would be a funny story.

While I waited, I went through my phone and deleted photos, and watched a mouse scurry across the floor. When I heard the washing machine end, I ran as quickly as I could to grab clothes out of it to dress. This area was open to the outside with very little privacy. I was lucky no one else walked in while I was half naked hurrying to find an outfit.

After dressing in wet clothes, I realized I was .50 short for the dryer, but decided most everything should just be sun-dried, so I took it all back to camp to drape over rocks and logs to dry for the next couple of hours. Luckily, camp faced west, so I got sunshine for as long as possible.

I walked back and forth from camp to the bathroom facilities (with power) to rotate charging items, and my ankle was getting more and more sore as the night progressed. I was wearing my flip flops because nothing feels better than taking your hiking boots off, but…I had zero support on the ankle all afternoon and night, not a smart choice.

I spent the evening journaling, watching the sunset, and rotating my clothes. Everything dried just fine. I was now officially done with the first section of the Oregon PCT (outlined in the book I was using). If felt great to be at this milestone, but when looking at the whole state, I clearly had a long way to go.

First Section Complete – Oregon Pacific Crest Trail

I found out a woman with the trail name “Humming Bird” was here last night. There were a ton of hummingbirds in this spot. I almost got bombed in the face by a couple. I seriously had to duck!

The Humming Birds Loved these Flowers!

Did you miss the beginning of my PCT journey? You can start here with: Day One

PCT Oregon Day 7 – Klum Landing Campground to Brown Mtn. Shelter

Day Seven
Today’s Miles: 13.4
Total Miles: 74
Klum Landing Campground to Brown Mountain Shelter

Motivated to beat the heat, Hadlie was up by 6:30 a.m. ready to break down camp and hit the trail. I was awake an hour earlier, and had plenty of time for my morning yoga and meditation. I retrieved the bear bag hanging in a tree a few campsites over.

Yes, I hang my food bag every night backpacking. It gives me piece of mind that is well worth the extra few minutes in my day. I met several people along the PCT who didn’t bother, but I figure it helps to keep small, and large critters alike, from trying to enter my tent.

Trail Graffiti on a PCT sign

After we ate mashed potato burritos (our favorite backpacking breakfast), and returned the now empty gallon water jug with a thank you note, we left Klum Landing Campground and hiked the roughly .5 miles back to the PCT.

Water was a welcome sight pretty quickly in the day, which made me smile. I have not seen much water along the trail so far; a striking difference from the Portland area hikes with an abundance of rivers, waterfalls and lakes.

It was a fairly easy day of hiking with very little ups and downs, and a lot of forest that provided lovely shade. Another not-so-scenic day with the exception of a pretty view of Mt. Shasta for a bit. The mountain was now far in the distance behind me.

We topped off water at Big Springs, around 8 miles from our day’s destination. I read the water pump at Brown Mountain Shelter was broken, and I didn’t want to take any chances. On the flip side, you never want to carry extra water for no reason. Water is super duper heavy! I almost always err on the side of carrying too much, however.

Big Springs Water
Wildflowers near Big Springs
Entering Rogue River National Forest

A couple miles from the shelter, we passed a man hiking with a child. They were barely off the trail having a snack, and asked us about the water situation at the shelter. Their accent led me to believe they were from Europe, but I couldn’t place the country for sure. They had the appearance of thru-hikers, but I just couldn’t believe anyone would be hiking the entire PCT with a kid. Walking away, I wished I had asked more questions, but they seemed reserved, and I didn’t want to be rude.

Hadlie was done hiking by mile 10, her feet were aching, so the shelter was a welcome sight when we arrived around 4:30 p.m. I felt like I could keep going, which was a fantastic feeling. I’m getting my legs!

The book described the shelter as being an undesirable spot to camp, so I was a little nervous to have this be our destination, but it turned out great. There was plenty of space, the shelter added a fun backdrop (though we didn’t go in except for a quick peek), there was a large picnic table, several benches, and the water pump worked just fine – woohoo!

Hadlie was a little annoyed I made her carry all that extra water for nothing, but I didn’t want a repeat of last night’s water shortage situation. There was no one at the shelter when we first got there, but this changed quickly.

A man arrived just three minutes after us. He was a teacher from Boulder, CO, hiking all of Oregon, and Washington if he had time. It was way too early for him to quit for the day, so we wished each other well, and he was off to hike more miles.

Two minutes later, a man from Belgium arrived. His hiking buddy was behind him, and he planned to wait for him at the shelter so they could hike the remaining 10 miles for the day together. They were averaging 30-mile-days; obviously thru-hikers, and they had their legs!

The two men met on day one in Southern California, and had been hiking together ever since. How magical is that! To meet a complete stranger that you are compatible with, not only physically, but also temperament and personality. Talk about Trail Magic.

While Hadlie and I made a backpacker meal of Mac-n-Cheese, Port (PCT trail name), shared trail stories with us. He had several encounters with animals including bears, rattlesnakes, and one spooky Mountain Lion story. He shared his favorite scenery so far, and how he had to jump around California because of the late snow melt in the Sierras.

Port told us about another man from Belgium travelling with his 11-year old son. We told him we passed them earlier in the day! I was SO excited to hear the scoop on this duo.

Indeed, the two of them were hiking the entire PCT. Port told us he hiked a couple hundred miles with them in California, including the climb up Mt. Whitney – icepicks and all. He said it was pretty nerve-wracking climbing the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States with a child. Wow, I was really impressed. Hadlie decided if an 11-year old can hike 2,650 miles, she can do 31.5 without complaining too much.

His buddy, Woody (PCT Trail name), who was from San Diego, didn’t arrive at the shelter until 6:30 p.m., and they decided to call it a day. They just cowboy camped – no tent – simply on the ground in sleeping bags with their food bag between them. Port told me bears are more scared of us than we are of them, and the bears wouldn’t dare approach a human to get to a food bag. Hmmm….okay.

Hadlie and I got our tent set up, and settled in for the night. I hung my bear bag far away from all of us.

Camp For The Night

Around 7 p.m., Shannon (the woman I met at Callahan’s Lodge) strolled into camp. Yay – I was so excited to hear her familiar voice! Thirty minutes later, another man arrived. It felt like a party (socially distanced of course). I wasn’t too worried about COVID, hanging with these folks who had been living in the woods for months.

This night gave me the misperception my evenings would be full of company. However, having people nearby would actually be very rare moving forward.

Shannon was trying to get to Crater Lake in just a few days to meet her husband, and was planning on spending a couple zero days there. I figured I could catch up to her again, and we loosely planned to find each other at the campground.

That evening, Hadlie listened to a podcast while I wrote in my journal. This was one of the most joyous and memorable evenings on the trail.

Flowers surrounding the shelter

Oregon PCT Day 6 – Hyatt Lake to Klum Landing Campground

Day Six
Today’s Miles: 8.2
Total Miles: 60.6
Hyatt Lake to Klum Landing Campground

The mileage was low today because my daughter joined me, and we wanted to start out slow. The two of us did a pretty epic backpacking trip together last September to celebrate her high school graduation. She didn’t really love that experience, and it took some convincing to have her join me for a few days on my PCT journey this year.

She finally caved wanting to be a part of my big adventure, and I promised her better weather and an easier trail. (It poured down rain on us for an entire day last September, and we had to climb over hundreds of downed trees that crossed the trail – it was a tough introduction to backpacking!) I was happy to have her for the next three days. We would travel 31.5 miles together ending at Fish Lake.

Mama – daughter team tackle the PCT leaving Hyatt Lake

Sleeping in a blackout tent last night on a comfy air mattress, I didn’t wake up until 7 a.m. Those blackout tents really work. Everyone else slept until 9 a.m., so I spent the first couple of hours doing my usual routine, and writing in my journal. The geese were so loud this morning, they blanketed the lake when I first woke up, which was really low this year (as was the case with many of the lakes I passed).

Hyatt Lake and Mt. McLoughlin

Once the whole crew was awake, we packed up. Hadlie and Carl swapped items out of the backpacking pack, while I resupplied our food for the next three days, and took a quick shower. (Yay, the campground showers were open!) But, I didn’t have a towel in my pack yet, so I used a fuzzy sweater to dry off, and I left my soap in the shower…oops.

We went back to our new favorite restaurant, Cocorico for brunch (they served until 11 a.m.), and we were just as satisfied with our meals today as last night. The Grapefruit Brule was a special treat.

Carl dropped Hadlie and I off at the trailhead. My four-year-old was sad saying, “This is a really long hike, mom!” But, he was happy to be going home with his papa.

Hadlie and I hit the trail by 12:30 p.m. I felt bad it wasn’t the prettiest hiking day, but Hadlie didn’t seem to mind that. The heat bothered her more, and it was definitely a hot, dry day. I enjoyed a slew of new conversation that comes with a new hiking partner. You have A LOT of hours to catch up with someone when you are backpacking.

Look at those giant cones! A definite highlight of today.

Our evening destination of Klum Landing Campground, on the shore of Howard Prairie Lake, was technically closed this year due to low water levels, but I figured we could easily just walk in.

The directions in my book took us to the day use area, and it was confusing to find the actual campground. With the help of a very nice couple driving a white pickup truck, we found it up on a hill.

It would be a bit of a trek to get our packs up there, but it was worth it. The pit toilets were open, we had a view of the lake and a picnic table. Walking through the campground, I was struck by how much work goes into prepping them to be open. There were downed branches, and debris from winter storms. I found a new appreciation for all the folks that prepare campgrounds before the summer crowds; a job I simply never considered before.

We were low on water, I made the mistake assuming we could filter water from the lake, but it looked awful. I wasn’t sure we wanted to use it even if we filtered AND boiled. Later I read in my book NOT to drink the water, so I’m glad we didn’t try.

We got our feet wet, because soaking tired feet always sounds so nice, but the water wasn’t all that refreshing, and we sank deep in the mud. The lake was REALLY low as you can see in the photos below. That’s the boat dock!

In all the wandering around we did when we first got there, I lost my water bottle (with precious water in it). I retraced my steps several times, and an hour later Hadlie and I finally found it, phew.

We set up our tent and made dinner. The nice couple we met earlier also stayed in the campground. Shyly, I asked if they had any extra water. They gave us an entire gallon saying, “If you need anything else, just let us know. We are so impressed you are out here backpacking.”

They were friendly, and this was my first experience with, Trail Magic, and The Trail Will Provide. Basically, have faith and everything will work out on the PCT. We would have been fine until we got to the first water source tomorrow, but the gallon of water meant we didn’t have to ration, or stress, and we could treat ourselves to some well-deserved tea.

Hadlie and I sat at the picnic table and journaled for a couple of hours drinking our tea before crawling into the tent. It was a solid first day with my new trail partner.