Tag Archives: backpacking oregon

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…

Hiking the PCT – Day 20 to Brahma Lake

Day 20
Today’s Miles: 16.5
Total Miles: 237.3
Bobby Lake to Brahma Lake

Bobby Lake

Greeted by one the prettiest sunrises on the trail, my day started out well at 5 a.m. I was awake through the night in typical fashion, and I missed the comfy pillow I had the previous two nights, as well as my company, but last night was thankfully quiet and uneventful.

I had my second food bag scare on the trail. I went to retrieve it this morning and couldn’t find it anywhere. I searched for at least 15 minutes, retracing my steps from last night. Right when panic started to set in, I found it. What a huge sigh of relief; I have two big days ahead of me.

The mosquitoes were bad last night once the sun went down, and they weren’t much better this morning. The camp robber birds were very interested in my morning routine as well. I packed up and was on my way.

I saw my familiar print in the ground today. I assumed the storm would erase them all, but the rain must not have made it this far north. I don’t know why, but I found this print so comforting; someone was clearly leading the way. I also started noticing a shoe print twice my size – it was gigantic, and a little snowman print. I spent a lot of time looking at the ground so I wouldn’t trip over anything.

Thank goodness I had the mosquito net, I wore it all morning. I figured out that the skeeters die down in the afternoon, enough so, that it made me want to begin hiking around 10 or 11 a.m. because they can be that AWFUL in the morning.

Nothing dampened my spirits through the entire state like these tiny little critters. They made me embarrassingly grumpy, and this was one of those mornings.

Carl brought me my iPod to Odell Lake, and it saved the day. It’s old, so it has all my favorite music from 10 years ago, but I didn’t care. It was nice to have a distraction, and quiet the mosquito buzzing in my ears.

Late morning I was awarded my only view of the day. I veered off the trail to an outcrop of boulders with large Waldo Lake spread out below, and took my time snacking, and reading about the next section of trail in my book. Waldo lake is the second largest natural mountain lake in Oregon at 10 square miles.

I arrived at Charlton lake around 1 p.m. It’s close to a dirt road and parking area, and only a 2-mile hike from Waldo lake, so there were people. I saw paddle boards and rafts on the lake. It was strange because I felt so remote, but it was clearly an accessible area.

Charlton Lake

I found a little spot to myself down the lakeside trail to filter water and eat lunch. Despite a chilly breeze, I went for a swim. It just seemed like something I should do, and I was grateful for the decision when I traversed through the dry Charlton Butte fire section not long after.

The trail passed through the 1996 Charlton Butte Fire area for several miles. It was fun to hike through, a definite change of scenery, but it was also hot and dusty. The section had a handful of downed trees, but nothing I couldn’t get around fairly easily.

I got to see my first glimpse of the next wave of mountains. I didn’t know for sure what mountains they were, but I knew I was getting close to Bachelor and the Three Sisters.

With cell service on the other side of the burn, I checked in with multiple people. I was organizing my Elk Lake pick-up, among other things for the coming days. Logistics…

I planned to camp at Irish Lake tonight since it was a car camping campground, according to my book, and I thought I would have better luck avoiding another night all alone, and enjoy the facilities. However, when I arrived, there was virtually nothing there, and it had a weird vibe.

It was early enough I could continue on, and the book recommended Brahma lake camp 2.5 miles ahead, or Stormy lake 4.5 miles ahead, so I surged forward.

I was excited to enter the Three Sisters Wilderness. It reminded me of “home” and my childhood growing up in Bend. It’s also a very sought out wilderness for recreation, it offers some of the big wows.

As soon I got to the Brahma Lake camp, I was so happy with my decision. It was a beautiful quaint lake, and the main camping area was perfect. I decided to stay. Hiking to the next lake to shave another 2 miles off my day tomorrow was tempting, but I really liked this spot, and I place high value on camp locations.

The water was so warm, I decided to go for a swim. I wanted to go skinny dipping at least once on my PCT journey, and what better place; I had the entire lake to myself. The fact that I didn’t see anyone on the trail all day would mean a crowd would roll up while I was in my birthday suit, but Murphy’s Law didn’t reveal herself today. I had the area to myself the entire evening.

My swim was heavenly. I swam from shore to shore before getting out to make dinner and set up camp. The wind picked up, which made setting up the tent interesting, but I figured out some tricks pretty quickly.

The mosquitoes were thankfully absent, perhaps because of the wind. This was such a win I did not take for granted anymore.

I was looking forward to the wind lulling me to sleep, and hopefully keeping me asleep, but of course it died down as soon as I crawled into my sleeping bag.

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

PCT Oregon – Day 19 to Bobby Lake

Day 19
Today’s Miles: 9.8
Total Miles: 220.8
Odell Lake to Bobby Lake

Back to the PCT today! My original itinerary landed me at Bobby Lake tonight, so it worked out perfectly to have a low mileage day. This awarded me a relaxing morning with the boys, and one last delicious meal; breakfast burritos with all the fixings, and a giant plate of fresh fruit.

Some of the ladies I spoke with at Shelter Cove were aiming for Charlton Lake today, but that would be an 18 mile day, requiring me to be on the trail by 7 a.m. I didn’t want to do that, even though it would ensure me company for the evening. I mentally prepared myself for a lot of alone time in the coming days.

I was really excited about this next leg of Oregon.
According to my book:

“If you had to consolidate all of the best wilderness scenery in Oregon into one stretch of the PCT, the 93 miles between Willamette Pass and Santiam Pass would be it. The section has it all: old-growth forest, pristine lakes, alpine meadows, glacier-capped peaks, and stark volcanic plains. It ups the ante with plenty of panoramic views, good campsites, and mostly reliable and frequent access to water.”

Circled Section: Today’s Hike

My pack is lighter now with plenty of water sources along the trail. I only filled one of my containers, and that made a big difference.

After organizing my things, and packing from my resupply bag, I had Carl drop me off at the Willamette Pass Trailhead. In full transparency, this is the one section for the entire state that I knowingly “cheated.” I should have started back at the Shelter Cove Resort, but I got lazy and never found the trail, and I was trying to make it easy on Carl. We opted for the trailhead since it was only a minute from the campground.

So, I skipped out on two miles. I’m sure I missed a couple miles in my getting lost debacle two days ago as well, but I was more disappointed about these 2 miles. If it had crossed my mind, I could have hiked it yesterday, but it never did. I plan to hike it in 2021.

My heart was sad leaving the boys, and I cried a little saying goodbye. Seeing family on an adventure like this is bitter sweet. It’s so nice to see your loved ones, but it makes those next couple of days difficult. I missed them, and it would be a lonely section for sure.

I was, however, SO happy to be back on the Pacific Crest Trail again – woohoo! I didn’t plan on veering away from it anytime soon. I checked in with my PCT app smiling when it registered me ON the trail.

Thanks Trail Crew!

The forest was beautiful with hanging lichen, and I made it to the Rosary Lakes in no time. I met a family of backpackers heading back to Odell Lake with two young children. I made a mental note that this would be a great kiddo backpacking trip.

The mosquitoes weren’t bad, which was such a blessing. Perhaps they got squashed by the big storm yesterday. I really loved the mountain lakes, and took my time with snack breaks to enjoy them.

Middle Rosary Lake

After passing North Rosary Lake, a descent climb waited for me with the sweet reward of a spectacular view of all the lakes: Crescent, Odell, and Lower, Middle, and North Rosary Lakes. It was pretty great to see how they fit on the landscape with a view from above. I love a good view, and I wouldn’t get much more for a couple of days.

This was one of the first places I saw signs up high to account for snowfall during winter recreation months.

Maiden Peak Shelter, a short distance off the trail, was definitely one of the coolest shelters I’ve been to. I hung out for a bit to snack and read the visitation log. I recognized a few names; many stayed the night – a respite from the mosquitoes.

Bobby Lake is a short .3 miles off the PCT, but well worth it.

I arrived around 5:30, ready to settle down for the evening. The lake was beautiful, the campsite was a big open space, and the mosquitoes really weren’t too bad.

I made dinner and sent up my tent. Another night all alone, but I was at peace and calm, feeling brave. I was getting better and better at it.

Pacific Crest Trail Day 18 – Zero Day at Odell Lake

Day 18
Today’s Miles: ZERO
Total Miles: 211
Family Day at Odell Lake and Crescent Lake

My very first real-deal Zero Day, and the 3rd section of Oregon now complete.

It was nice to catch up with Carl on life, and everything back home. He has had his hands full for sure! I appreciated him every single day during my journey. I honestly don’t know how I would fare if the roles were reversed.

Our Odell Lake Campsite

He made us a breakfast feast of pancakes, hash browns and eggs, then Hux and I spent some time at the lake playing with his “magic” pumice rocks. We did float or sink experiments. If something sunk, he would exclaim, “Sinkaroo!” The pumice rocks were a big hit – he was amazed a rock could float.

Wanting a little adventure, we drove to the Odell Lake Lodge and Resort (where I first my parents yesterday), and ordered Deschutes brewery beers (the only thing they had on tap), and a marionberry cobbler. We sat on the beautiful patio facing the lake with no one else around. Hux mostly chased chipmunks, and it was the nicest feeling to just relax.

Odell lake had a wild algae bloom, and we definitely didn’t want to swim there.

We were advised the best option was Crescent Lake, so that is where we spent the afternoon. We all swam, played in the sand, and relaxed in the sun.

My little one really enjoyed swimming. I was looking forward to him taking swim lessons this year, but all the classes were cancelled because of the pandemic. None of the pools were even open. I worry he will be far behind, but I guess most kids will be behind in many things in the coming years…

We made a stop at the Shelter Cove Resort on our way back to the campground. I decided to take a shower. I almost didn’t thinking, “I’ll be in Bend in 3 days,” but I was beyond happy I changed my mind. It was the nicest shower I’ve ever taken in a campground. It seemed new, was very clean, and they even had soft fuzzy towels for us to use. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I would even consider not showering if one is available on the trail.

Always take the shower!

Leaving the shower facilities I saw Thomas (my fellow Oregon section hiker I met near Callahan’s Lodge, and saw again at Fish lake and Crater Lake). He took another zero day, so I caught up to him. However, this was the last time we saw each other.

Chasing Sprinklers at Shelter Cove Resort

Back at camp, we started hearing thunder, and watched the sky change dramatically. There was no way to know for sure if it would hit us, it never did yesterday, but we started to batten down the hatches just in case.

We wandered to the dock to watch the storm, and I wish we had gotten there sooner; it was fantastical. A couple from Colorado was also storm watching. Two big rainbows greeted us, and the sky looked eerie (pictures on my phone didn’t really capture it).

Here Comes the Rain!

It wasn’t long before the rain started traveling over the lake toward us – then it was time to RUN to our tent. It poured down rain for 45 minutes while we played games waiting for it to pass.

We emerged at sunset, and walked down to the boat dock again. The lake was clear, all the algae was gone, and leeches were on the dock, which provided some interesting science talk.

It was a pretty epic storm. I was BEYOND happy (and super duper lucky) I got to experience it safe, dry, and with my family, and all my backpacking gear stayed safely dry as well. Things really did always work out for me on the trail…so far.

PCT Oregon – Day 17 to Odell Lake

Day 17
Today’s Miles: 9ish
Total Miles: 211
Crescent Lake Whitefish Horse Camp to Odell Lake

Today was meant to be a 9.9 mile day, with a plan to meet my parents at Shelter Cover Resort (Odell Lake) at 2:00 p.m.

It sprinkled lightly this morning while I was still in the tent; my very first rain on the trail, but it passed quickly. It did give me pause to appreciate my dry hiking days so far. Rain would really change the level of enjoyment. I’m not sure I’m cut out for the Appalachian trail solely based on the weeks of rain I would likely encounter.

I walked to the shore of Crescent Lake for my 6:00 a.m. yoga and meditation session. I basked in the the peace and quiet. The lake was calm, and it was the perfect serene morning.

Such cute little tracks

As I packed up, the camp host offered me coffee, and told me to catch my trail at the END of the campground. I noticed the trailhead when I came in yesterday at the FRONT of the campground, but she said her way will save me time, and I couldn’t miss it.

Against my strongest intuition and better judgement, I decided it could be fun to walk through the camp and see all the horses. Indeed, a very obvious trail was at the back of camp, and my book only mentioned one trail in the area, so even though it wasn’t marked, I assumed it had to be my trail, and began to hike. The thought did cross my mind, “How did the camp host know what trail I wanted? I never told her where I was going…”

The morning was filled with irritants. The mosquitoes were active, the trail was full of cob webs, and my mental state was pretty negative. I kept hiking parallel to the highway, and according to my map and directions in the book, I should have headed into the woods immediately (away from the highway).

I knew something wasn’t right, and started feeling nervous 40-minutes in, but I kept going, assuming I would veer into the forest soon, but I never did. I wasn’t in any danger; I could see the highway and watched cars pass by, but I didn’t know what to do. A couple of hours passed, and I was fearing I would be very late arriving at Odell Lake.

Should I turn around and hike back to the Horse camp to start the day over? Should I have my parents meet me at the Horse Camp, and live with the disappointment of not hiking all of Oregon? Should I keep going, and have someone pick me up along the highway?

An emotional meltdown was near. I was tired, really excited to see my family, and certain I was not hiking on the correct trail. Thankfully, I had cell reception, and called my dad in tears and a mild panic. He couldn’t have handled the situation better. He immediately said in the most calm voice, “Well, let’s take a look at the GPS and see where you are.”

YES – the GPS!
I totally forgot I had it on me, and it saved the day!

My dad could see where I was, and informed me to keep going rather than turn around. I would soon discover I had already hiked 5 miles. He gave me directions to turn left on a forest service road immediately after crossing a railroad track. The road would take me to the east side of Odell lake, not the correct side (Shelter Cove is on the west side), but at least I would make it to the lake.

Thank goodness I had cell reception, thank goodness I had my GPS, and thank goodness my dad is calm when presented with a challenge. I wrote down the directions he told me, and one minute later, arrived at a large trail junction with a big map of the area, kiosk, and general hiking information. I could tell where I was, (not close to where I was supposed to be), and what went wrong. This information was comforting.

The line in RED is the correct trail I was meant to take, the line in BLUE is what I actually hiked.

I was frustrated with the lack of signage until this trail junction, and irritated with the Camp Host; but mostly I was angry with myself. My intuition spoke loudly to not listen to her, and start at the trailhead I knew, yet somehow she convinced me. What was I thinking?

In hindsight, it was a day of valuable lessons delivered in a VERY safe way. If this is the biggest hiccup I encounter, the rest of the PCT would be smooth sailing.

Fortunately, I had cell reception the whole day. The forest service road my dad instructed me to take didn’t have any signage, so I took it with crossed fingers, and checked in with him. He could watch my progress on the GPS map, and confirmed I was heading in the right direction.

At one point, I discovered the below animal bones, and shortly after that, peed all over my pants in a very fumbled backcountry pee break. What was happening to me? This was quite the day! I think my mind and body were telling me I needed a real-deal zero day, which thankfully I’d be enjoying tomorrow.

On top of the not knowing where I was stress, I started to hear thunder and watched the clouds get dark. It seemed a huge storm was heading my way. After a few phone calls, crossing an airplane runway, a couple wrong turns, and discovering a disc golf course, I found my parents at the Odell Lake Lodge and Resort – YAY!

My dad jokingly asked if I wanted a ride to the other side of the lake (he knows I want to hike the whole state.) I said, “yes.” We were driving horizontal, to the other side of the lake, so I figured I wasn’t really losing mileage. I will return to this area, and hike the real section.

The risk of leaving the PCT became very real on this day.

We drove to the Shelter Cove Resort, and I immediately spotted an amazing outside bathroom; the kind ordered for weddings. I was beyond excited. Running water, flushing toilet, and the best part: I could wash my hands with soap and water! I washed them a few times of course.

Next, we headed to the Hook and Talon restaurant. I was equally excited for something fun to eat, but my luck would have it – they were closed Mon-Tue-Wed, the days I would be here. So, we explored the impressive store (it was large for a campground), bought chips & salsa, and picnicked at an outside table. A few raindrops fell, but the storm seemed to skirt right past us, finally some good fortune.

I shared stories of my last leg with my parents as we waited for Carl to arrive. I mentioned the couple with the dog, Mike and Sonya, and a woman behind me spoke up that she had ran into them too. She asked if I was “Miss Oregon.” She saw my note at Windigo Pass, and decided to leave a note for them as well. She told me I didn’t miss out on much doing the shortcut because the mosquitoes were awful, and she smelled smoke for hours, causing her to worry a forest fire was nearby (a small one did pop up in the area, but it was put out quickly). So, maybe my route worked out after all.

GoGo Gummie Bear (trail name – if I’m remembering correctly), was from Seattle, and had a permit to do the entire PCT, but Covid squashed California, so she was working on completing Oregon and Washington this year. She started at Callahan’s Lodge and hiked all the way to the CA/OR border to tag it, then turned around and hiked back. I was impressed. That’s not something I would ever see myself doing. She felt bad asking her friend to drive way up in the mountains near the border (thanks again, mom and dad).

I saw Zena (trail name), a woman from the Czech Republic, in the store. Catch (my friend from Japan), told me about her, and said she would catch up to me because she was rocking 30+ mile days.

Odell Lake and Shelter Cove Resort Area

Not long after, Carl arrived. I was SO happy to see him and my little guy. It had been 12 days since I saw my son, Hux; definitely the longest we have gone without seeing each other. I got him out of his car seat, and just held him in a gigantic hug, soaking it in.

We all drove over to the Princess Creek campground, where Carl was lucky to get a last minute reservation. I grabbed what I needed from my parents, including a food resupply bag. We said goodbye, and I thanked my dad for saving the day. I would see them at Elk Lake outside of Bend in 4 days.

Carl and I settled into our campsite. I was so happy to be with my family again. I missed my daughter, but she got herself a summer job, so I wouldn’t see her again until after my PCT journey was over.

I drove back to the store to buy firewood, and ran into Shannon (the woman I met at Callahan’s Lodge and saw again at Brown Mountain Shelter). It’s so fun to see a familiar face from the trail. She was all spruced up from a shower, I don’t know that I would have even recognized her, but she recognized me.

A group of backpackers were all hanging out, so I felt a tiny hint of missing out on that experience, but seeing my family meant much more to me. Shannon had just done her first 30-mile day! Everyone is faster than me, so I probably won’t see any of these people again, but…you never know.

Campground Flowers

Back at camp, I enjoyed great treats and snacks. Carl was incredibly thoughtful; he brought all my favorite foods. He went above and beyond, and I still smile thinking about how amazing he was through my adventure.

He made us a delicious dinner, and we shared a bottle of wine. He forgot the corkscrew, so we did the old-school push it into the bottle trick.

My Personal Chef for Two Nights

We roasted marshmallows, and around 9:30 p.m. I got our little one ready for bed. I told Carl, “I’ll be back out.” He just laughed saying, “No you won’t.” He was right of course. I crashed as soon as my head hit that comfy pillow.

Oregon Section 3 Now Complete

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

Be Smart on the Trail (not like my example above).
Here is a great article about GPS devices, and how to use your phone on the trail from: Clever Hiker

Hiking the PCT Oregon – Day 16 to Crescent Lake

Day 16
Today’s Miles: 18.6
Total Miles: 202
Tolo Camp (near Windigo Pass) to Crescent Lake Whitefish Horse Camp

It was a very quiet night with zero incidents. I didn’t have to worry about water, as I would be hiking near several lakes today. I planned on doing the shortcut via the Skyline Trail, ending at Crescent Lake, but I was a tad nervous to leave the PCT.

Before departing, I cleaned up the camping area. There was a significant amount of litter at this location. I didn’t grab everything, but I packed out what I could for good campsite karma, and simply doing the right thing.

The hike down to Windigo Pass was easy. I communicated with Carl through the day, planning our meetup for tomorrow at Odell Lake. I was excited a family meetup was on the horizon.

I’m probably unusual in my enjoyment in crossing roads and passing through trailhead junctions, but I thought Windigo Pass was kinda cool. The camping area seemed nice, and the trail angel stash was AMAZING. Tons of water, boxes with bug spray, hiking books, first aid, solar chargers and toilet paper.

A message board was available for leaving notes. I wished someone had left me a message, it would have made my whole day. I decided to leave a note of encouragement for Sonya, Mike and the pup. It seemed thoughtful, and they were the only people I knew behind me.

A woman arrived while I was resting/snacking. She had her serious face on, and seemed to be on a definite mission. She was from Ohio, hiking the PCT for the second time with a goal to do it in 100 days! At this point, she was a week ahead of schedule. WOW! She told me she’d hiked the Appalachian trail twice, but prefers the PCT because the trail is easier and far more scenic. She was loving the Covid factor that resulted in WAY fewer people on the trail this year. She didn’t stay long. She was trying to get to Odell lake tonight (my destination for tomorrow).

I decided to head toward Spring Campground on Crescent lake, hoping for some sort of walk-in camp, knowing the campground was full. This is the moment I left the PCT. Heading 3/4 of a mile down the Windigo Pass dirt road (FR 60), I found the Oldenberg Lake trail (the old Oregon Skyline Trail).

The trailhead was barely noticeable, and it wasn’t marked. With faith, I started to hike, but the nerves set in immediately, not knowing if I was on the right trail.

Luckily, I passed a woman on horseback fairly quickly. She confirmed I was on the correct trail, and not long after that, I passed signs for Nip and Tuck lakes that were mentioned in my book, so I knew I was on the right track.

It was hot, dusty, and my least favorite Central Oregon landscape. When I arrived at Oldenberg lake, I took a lunch break and went for my very first PCT swim (while hiking). I swam at Fish Lake at the end of day 8, but this was my first mid-day swim. It felt amazing! It certainly cooled me off, which was good, because the hike onward to Crescent Lake was brutal.

The scenery was not impressive, it was hot, and I had the, “just wanna get there” attitude. I really wished I had music, or a podcast – something to pass the time. I never want that sort of distraction in the woods because I love to hear the sounds of nature, be aware of my surroundings, and enjoy the quiet, but for some reason, today I longed for distraction.

I sang out loud every song that popped into my head for at least 90 minutes. No one was around to be bothered, except for one family on bikes (the downside to leaving the PCT where bikes are not allowed). Finally, the trail poured onto the highway. My book directed me to head SOUTH for Spring Campground. This is where I tell you what NOT to do when hiking.

I had zero inkling which direction was south. I obviously wasn’t in any danger, I was on a major highway with plenty of traffic, but I should have had more maps with me, and I should have learned how to read a compass. I stopped a car and asked for directions. My intuition told me to go right, while the kind folks told me to go left, but not with 100% confidence.

I decided to follow their recommendation, and thankfully they were correct. The access road was only 5 minutes up, but the road down to the camp was LONG. My feet ached on the asphalt, and I was very ready to be done hiking for the day.

The camp host was at the entrance, and he informed me that the only place with walk-in sites was the horse camp. I nearly stayed on the trail and hiked there, so I was kicking myself for this unnecessary detour. The camp host offered to give me a ride, which was very kind, but I felt weird accepting with the pandemic, and I feared I smelled pretty awful by this point.

He told me the water level in the lake was so low this year, I could actually walk all the way to Horse camp along the shore of Crescent lake, rather than head back to the highway. This sounded more pleasant, so I found the sandy beach – and the crowds of people.

The lake was poppin’! Crescent Lake has a party vibe, and I half expected someone to offer me a beer, but that never happened…maybe I didn’t look like a “real” backpacker.

I found a section of empty beach, and went for another swim. The water was colder than little Oldenberg, but so refreshing. Making my way around the lake, I found the Horse Camp. The camp host didn’t give me the best directions, but I figured it out.

The message board at the front of the campground had a sign, “PCT’s – Site 3 – Welcome.” It was right next to the camp host, and next to other campers, but it was free, had a picnic table, vault toilet, and I could drop my pack for the day – woohoo!

I made ramen immediately, I was SO hungry. This was my first experience sleeping in a horse camp, and it was pretty fun. The dogs ran all over, the horses made a lot of noise, and they thankfully covered up any unpleasant smell I was emitting.

The camp host setup was the most impressive I’ve ever seen; complete with flowers, tomato plants, decorations, and a gazebo with a hot tub! Additionally, at night it was all lit up.

Fuzzy shot – but the only one I got – notice the hot tub gazebo in the background.

After settling in, I walked to the lake and watched the sunset. It was a calm, peaceful, warm night with a big wide open space, which I love. The moon looked beautiful on the horizon. I got cell service near the shore, and checked in with my loved ones. I was really excited to see my support crew the next day. Only one more day of non-PCT hiking to get through, and then I’ll be back on the trail.

Did you miss the beginning of my PCT journey? You can start here 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

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.