Tag Archives: backpacking Pacific Northwest

PCT Oregon – Day 27 to Lava Camp Lake Campground

Day 27
Today’s Miles: 18.05
Total Miles: 290.25
Reese Lake to Lava Camp Lake Campground

If yesterday’s hike from Elk Lake to Reese Lake was epic, today’s hike was definitely memorable. It took me 5 full days to backpack from Odell Lake (Willamette Pass) up to Lava Camp Lake Campground (McKenzie Pass) – 79.25 miles. Of course, that leg was divided with my zero days in Bend, but it did include some big hiking days.

After enduring a typical night of restless sleep, I was ready to get up early and start my day. No one else in camp was stirring, so I tried to pack up my things as quickly and quietly as possible.

My tent was still wet from the evening’s rain. This was the first time I encountered that dilemma on the trail, and I took a moment to acknowledge how lucky I was, and felt grateful.

Fortunately, I had tied my food bag up not far off the PCT, so I easily grabbed it as I headed north.

The Husband (Mountain)

About .25 miles up the trail, I spotted the perfect location for my morning routine. A hill with a 360-degree view, and no campers in site. I couldn’t believe my luck. I made oatmeal and black tea, and enjoyed my breakfast with mountains in all directions. Unfortunately, the only mountain not shrouded in cloud cover was The Husband (photo above).

My morning hill – all to myself

The sun popped over one of the mountains, warming up the day.

As I left my morning spot, I noticed these lines in the soil everywhere. I assume it’s the art of a critter. Does anyone know? (Use the comment section below.)

I was disappointed my views were obscured since the area is known for the panoramas, but it was simply a foreshadowing of my day. However, the wildflowers did not disappoint!

When I arrived on the doorstep of Middle Sister, I could only see the bottom 1/3 of the mountain. I decided this was all the more reason to return with Carl. It was still a gorgeous scene, and I took a moment to relax on a large rock, and just enjoy the quiet morning.

Not long after, the fog rolled in and the wet day began.

The air was moist, and although there was no rain, I was definitely becoming damp. It wasn’t bad for the first few hours. The weather was so unusual and different, it made for an eerie day of hiking (which was kinda fun), and unique pictures.

I saw people today, despite the wet conditions, especially as I entered the Obsidian Limited Entry area. I understood why it was so popular, it was beautiful.

Thankfully, if you are a Pacific Crest Trail hiker, you don’t need a permit to pass through, as long as you stick to the PCT. However, you will need a permit if you want to camp in the limited entry area.

It wasn’t long before I spotted the obsidian. I have a feeling there are fewer pieces along the trail than in the not-so-distant past.

I took a break near a tree to enjoy Obsidian Falls, my very first waterfall on the PCT!

Shortly after, I had to get my raincoat out as the mist turned into a light rain. I resisted for awhile, but it became necessary, and I kept it on the remainder of the day.

The trail wandered through a spectacular area north of the falls. I felt like I was walking through a fairy wonderland. On a warm day, I would have lingered through the meadows along Obsidian Creek, and past the ponds. I was happy knowing I would return and spend more time.

It was hard to look away from the obsidian rock along the trail. Mix the wildflowers into the ground covering, and I had to remind myself to look up.

One last look behind me…

There were patches of snow sprinkled through this section, and I was certainly getting chilly. I considered putting my rain pants on several times, but never mustered the effort. I only saw two other people rocking full rain gear the whole day.

At this point on the trail, I would have seen my first glimpse of the western wall of 10,085-foot North Sister, and a preview of Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mount Jefferson. Thankfully, I didn’t know I was missing out on this spectacular panorama at the time. It wasn’t until I reread my trail book to prepare this post that I noticed those details.

There wasn’t an inkling of any mountains in my view. However, I am bit of a rock nerd, so I was happy to continue focusing my gaze downward.

Despite being cold and wet, my spirits were high. The area was so pretty, it was difficult not to smile as I hiked through the wildflower filled meadows and along the gurgling creeks.

After exiting the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, I read in my book that the trail would be fairly exposed the rest of the day. I took advantage of the last tree cover, and found a log for lunch. I made a tuna wrap, and fueled up. I saw three sets of people pass by in my 20 minute break; it was going to be a busy weekend.

Up next – the brutal section! I’m sure on a nice day, these lava flow crossings would be a really cool section of trail, otherworldly I dare say, with amazing sweeping views. But, I couldn’t see any views, and the wind picked up, making me increasingly wetter.

It was an immediate BIG climb of switchbacks, and I was very exposed. The wind beat against my face, and it took all my strength to trudge forward.

I thought of my grandmother telling us to simply put one foot in front of the other. If you keep it up, you will eventually make it to the end of the trail.

If I wasn’t soaked before, I was now. I felt like a mountaineer, braving the fierce weather conditions to summit. It was difficult, and the joy of the day quickly dissipated. My mantra became, “I just have to get there.”

I thought about how lucky I was to have 100% dry hiking days until today. This was the first rain I encountered through the entire state (and really, the only big hiking day of wet on my whole journey through Oregon).

I don’t think I would fare well on the Appalachian trail, it’s too soggy. The weather, much like the mosquitoes, can break you backpacking. It doesn’t make me particularly suited for any kind of thru-hiking lifestyle if I’m a fair-weather hiker. I guess we all have levels of comfort to work on, and toughen up.

To top it off, I unfortunately grabbed the wrong backpack rain cover (my small daypack one), so I knew my things were getting damp, if not soaked.

Just before I began descending switchbacks to get off the ridge, I came to the location my book describes:

“…an incredible 360-degree panorama opens up over Oregon’s entire Central Cascades region. This is quite possibly the biggest view in the entire state, another one of those humbling scenes…”

What I could have seen is shown in the photo above (taken from my book). The below two photos highlight what I saw.

Thankfully, I had no idea what I was missing out on while I was hiking. I didn’t realize this section held the most epic panorama the entire state offered, until I reread my book preparing this post. But, this is all the more reason to return to the area.

The trail became dirt when I skirted along the lava flow, and turned to cinders when it popped back across. Sometimes the trail was sand, making hiking very difficult. In general, my footing was challenged these several miles, and I thought about my ankle injury from the cinders near Fish Lake. I hiked with caution, while also trying to hike swiftly.

The final 7 miles of my day were challenging mentally as well. The only thing that kept me going was my excitement to see Carl, Hux and my parents at the campground. I was tired, wet, cold, and barely stopped for breaks, even to grab food out of my pack.

I did have one final saving grace for scenery, this beautiful meadow shown below.

However, the last 4 miles really dragged on as I hiked through burnt forest leaving me exposed. The drizzle turned into rain, and puddles formed on the trail.

I passed a lot of people heading south. It was Thursday, so I assumed groups were getting a jump on their weekend. The Lava Camp Lake Campground trailhead is a popular launching spot.

In those final 2 miles, I had to resist the urge to check my PCT app every 5 minutes to see how much farther.

Passing by the Matthieu lakes, I saw several tents set up, and wondered why leisurely weekenders would want to camp in the rain.

I started daydreaming about a dry hotel room. Car camping in the rain never sounds appealing, but especially at the end of this day. All day I kept thinking I would hike out of the storm, and it would be nice and sunny at my final destination, but that clearly never came to fruition.

I finally saw the sign indicating the cutoff for the campground at 4:17 p.m. – I only had .2 miles to go! I made good time the second half of my day with no stops, and minimal picture taking.

The parking lot for the trailhead was full. Thankfully, my mom and dad arrived early with Hux and snagged us a camping spot. Indeed, the very best camping spot on the lake! Carl already had the canopy up, but I suggested we find a hotel room. I was excited to see my welcome committee, but I was in no mood to camp in the rain, and I was pretty grumpy.

It didn’t take long for the sun to pop out.

Carl, knowing me really well, got a fire going to warm me up, brought me warm miso soup, vegetable sushi rolls, and I felt better in no time. My mom said it was supposed to be a great dry day tomorrow, and she was right.

We turned the truck on, and spread my sleeping bag out to dry. Everything in my pack was damp, with a few really wet things, but everything dried just fine. Talk about more luck! Even on the one day I get wet hiking, I’m able to dry it all. (I am fully aware of how spoiled I was on my journey.)

It stopped raining, and the sun came out. I was glad we decided to stay. No need to pay a bunch of money on a hotel room, when you can camp for free. (Lava Camp Lake Campground is a fee free spot.)

An additional surprise was seeing my sweet Jasmine dog. It had been weeks.

Hux was really happy finding firewood, and toting it to camp. He did great on his first sleepover with grandma and grandpa. My parents visited with us for an hour around the fire.

Now that I was getting closer to home (Portland), this was their end of helping me through my PCT journey. Carl would take over for the remaining resupply boxes, and really, my adventure was winding down.

I am forever grateful for all my parents did to support my endeavor. They really made my experience far more comfortable, fun, and easy.

Hux and I walked the trail around the lake. The campground looked so different from the last time I was here, 14 years ago. The fire that swept through changed the landscape significantly, but memories certainly turn fuzzy as well.

View of our campsite from the other side of the lake

In typical wonderful fashion, Carl made me a healthy delicious dinner of fish, fresh veggies from our garden, and rice. He amazed me again with his thoughtfulness, and my love for him continued to grow and grow on the trail.

I surprised us both when I emerged from the tent after getting Hux to sleep. We drank red wine sitting by the fire, and caught up on life. I shared my trail stories, and he shared what was going on back home. The sky cleared, and we could actually see the stars popping out. Lucky #6 campsite was good to us, and I was happy to be home with my family.

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

Backpacking the PCT – Day 26 to Reese Lake

Day 26
Today’s Miles: 13.9
Total Miles: 272.2
Elk Lake to Reese Lake

This particular day was EPIC. It was the first day on the Pacific Crest trail that I cried from pure joy and awe, as I was filled with that magic feeling of appreciating everything around me, and overwhelmed with the emotion of gratitude. I also took A LOT of photos – so photo warning – this post is full of them.

If you have to chose between the bottom half of Oregon or the top half; hands down, the top half has more wows. I’m so happy I hiked the entire state, and I found beauty in every single day, but I really love mountains, and you are up close to several in the top half of Oregon.

As much as I enjoyed relaxing in Bend over a few zero days, and spending time with Hux, I was ready to get back to my hike. Hux was equally ready to have his two-day solo adventure with grandma and grandpa. My parents drove me back up to the trailhead across from the Elk Lake resort.

My little guy didn’t even bat an eye as he said, “Bye mom, have fun!” He was used to his new trail mom, and he was heading to Elk Lake to hang for the day. We would all see each other again tomorrow night at Lava Lake Campground.

After a last stop at the vault toilet near the trailhead, I was on my way, hitting the trail by 10 a.m.

I saw my familiar trail print friend right away. This made me smile, and provided comfort as I began my day.

The first seven miles were tough, and not particularly interesting. I steadily climbed the switchbacks of Koosah Mountain, the 381st highest mountain in Oregon.

With an ascent of 1200 ft, I was happy to take a break to enjoy the view of South Sister and Broken Top to the north, Mt. Bachelor to the east, and Elk & Lava lakes and Diamond Peak to the south. I sat on some large rocks breathing in the late morning air. It felt good to get the hard part of the day over with early.

I didn’t see another hiker this entire section, but I knew I was entering the heavily used trails of central Oregon. For the first time on the PCT, I was actually a little worried about finding a campsite later in the day.

Descending switchbacks took me to the first of many meadows, all filled with wildflowers. The trail skirted by a cute pond, then the shore of Mirror Lake.

I tried to have lunch at the lake, but the skeeters were abundant, and I was greeted with my first groups of people, so I didn’t linger long.

I purposefully planned this section for mid-week. I would avoid this area on a weekend, even when I wasn’t scared of crowds in a non-pandemic year.

Leaving Mirror Lake, I was thinking this leg was pretty, but not on the wowza scale I had heard it would be. However, when I turned the next corner, I was BLOWN away by the breathtaking view of South Sister, and the beautiful pumice meadow (Wickiup Plain) leading me all the way to the base.

It was incredible, and I was truly choked up with emotion. Central Oregon is where I grew up, yet I had never seen this particular view. I got SO lucky, I had the entire section to myself, I never saw another hiker as I traveled through the plain.

I took many pictures, took my time, and took a moment to be thankful for all the people who helped this dream of mine become a reality. I was thankful events unfolded in a way that allowed me this opportunity, and I was proud of myself for being brave, and sticking to it during those times I thought about quitting.

I couldn’t believe just a day or two ago I considered heading home instead of continuing. I would have missed out on this AMAZING scene. My trail book author agreed:

“If you suddenly have the urge to drop your pack to sit and marvel at this scene for a while, go for it. This is why you’re hiking the PCT.”
Eli Boschetto, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Oregon Guide Book

I thought of Carl, and wished he had been able to join me, but quickly decided we would come back together and explore the area. I’m not one to visit a location twice, there’s too much to see in one’s lifetime, but this would be a definite exception.

The rest of the day had the wow factor, and I wore a goofy grin nonstop. I was truly so so so happy.

Just pass South Sister, the trail travelled along Rock Mesa, a rhyodacite dome formation. This was my first spotting of smooth glassy obsidian rock on the trail, and my first spotting of my trail friend print going the OTHER (wrong) direction! What?

This could only mean one thing, more than one person was leaving this mark along the trail. I know this sounds funny, and in hindsight it is, but I was crushed with this realization.

Up until this point, I truly felt there was one person leading the way, guiding me along the PCT. Now, it just didn’t feel as special. But, I quickly shook off my disappointment because there was just TOO much awesome surrounding me to let it get me down.

I passed a couple heading south. They both had ear buds in, and frowns on their faces. I tried to make a joke that they would have to keep turning around to see the big view hiking that direction. The woman gave me a little smile, but neither of them said anything.

It was hard for me to fathom being grumpy on a day like today. The weather was sunny and beautiful with perfect temps. The views were unbelievable, and there weren’t any mosquitoes ruining the mood. I would never think to hike with earbuds through a section like this either. But, everyone’s journey is different, and we all have breaking points that cover a wide spectrum of things.

Mesa Meadow was my intended stop for the night on my original itinerary before I knew I could hike farther than 10 miles a day. I planned to do this section in 2 nights and 3 days of hiking, but now I would only take one night.

I found a log to sit and rest my feet while I watched a few other campers in the distance set up tents.

After crossing several cute creeks, I settled on filtering water at one that fell over a small hill creating a mini waterfall with an easy spot to fill up my filter bag.

A woman joined me moments later. She was a thru-hiker, and complained of her feet hurting. She had already hiked 600+ miles in her shoes, and planned to buy new ones in Sisters the following day. She still wanted to hike 10 more miles for the day. I only had about 3.5, which was fortunate, because the sky grew dark as clouds rolled in, and I heard thunder in the distance.

Wanting to avoid my pack getting wet, I picked up the pace, and limited my picture taking to beat the storm to camp. It was hard to tell which direction it was heading, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

I hiked through a burn section not even mentioned in my book. A fire must have rolled through in the last year or two.

Not long after, I passed a man sitting under a tree, relaxing with his shoes and socks off; not appearing too concerned about the ensuing storm. We chatted briefly.

He was hiking all of Oregon too, but with his car. This meant, he was going up and down sections so he could move his car along the way, basically hiking the trail twice. I’m pretty sure there is NO WAY I would ever consider doing that.

I can’t overstate how lucky I felt with the breathtaking wildflower display I was gifted through all of Oregon. The summer of 2020 was off-the-charts stunning, and this section was a definite highlight.

It wasn’t long before I reached Reese Lake, my final destination for the night. There were two men camped, and another small group of folks, but plenty of room for us all. I asked if they minded I snag a small spot, not that I needed to ask, but it seemed polite.

I set up my tent as the first raindrops fell – perfect timing! I had a really cool view of South Sister from my tent with the lake below. Although I had never been here before, the lake had more of a pond vibe, and I had the feeling it would one day not be there.

I hung out inside my tent for awhile, but it wasn’t raining hard, so I filtered water and made a Pad Thai backpacker meal before the rain came with a little more force. I ate inside my tent, but the rain didn’t last long. The fog rolled in after the storm, making the mountain completely disappear.

I performed my nightly routine of brushing teeth, hanging my bear bag extra far away from camp, and snuggled in for journal writing and sleep. This was one of my favorite camping spots along the trail. I was so happy and grateful to be dry and warm, and to be camping with other people. I felt safe, at ease, and filled with joy for my PCT opportunity. And to top it off, no mosquitoes! It really was an EPIC day.

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

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 21 to Elk Lake

Day 21
Today’s Miles: 21
Total Miles: 258.3
Brahma Lake to Elk Lake

Beautiful Brahma Lake

Excited for another big mileage hiking day, I was up early. My body hurt after these 20+ mile days, but it was great to have them sprinkled in through my journey. They made me feel proud of myself, strong, capable, and a little bit more like a “real” long-distance backpacker.

Last night was the first time on the trail that I actually got up to pee in the middle of the night. For whatever reason, I wasn’t scared, and I was curious how the stars looked. I have seen very little star action so far because I’m asleep so early.

The big dipper was right above the lake, and the stars were bright and plentiful; well worth climbing out of the tent. I heard fish jumping all through the night, which was an unusual sound to sleep to, but I’ll take it over loud crashing through the woods.

The early morning sunlight was pretty on Brahma lake.

I made two packets of oatmeal for breakfast. I would be in a cozy bed/house later tonight, so there was no need to carry excess food (other than the usual emergency stash, of course). I ate breakfast in the tent to find refuge from the skeeters, they were awful on this particular morning.

My Morning Hike Heading up to Cliff Lake – Look at all Those Lakes!

I was on the trail at 6:50 a.m., and had another grumpy morning because of the mosquitoes – they are such a buzz kill!

Additionally, the trail was blocked by several down logs, so I worried it would be a really long day if I had to climb over trees continually; this maneuver slows you down significantly.

The amazing flowering bear grass was my saving grace. I also passed several cute ponds and lakes (there was a lot of water today), but it was hard to appreciate in the early hours since I knew the water was to blame for the abundance of mosquitoes.

It didn’t take long before I was on the shore of Stormy Lake, and I was happy I chose to stay at Brahma, it was a far superior camping spot – well worth the extra two miles today.

Stormy Lake

I rocked my mosquito head net all morning, along with my iPod in an attempt to drown out the constant buzz.

Around mid-morning I changed into shorts, and realized 5 minutes down the trail I left my pants hanging on a tree branch. I dropped my pack and ran back to get them – it felt AMAZING to take that pack off and run. Wow, I could go so fast! I dropped my mosquito net earlier in the day, and in similar fashion, ran back to get it.

Thankfully, I successfully retrieved both items, but it would be that sort of day. I lost my swim shorts and prescription sunglasses later in the day, but didn’t realize it until it was too late. Unfortunately, I never saw those two items again.

I held off on any big breaks until I arrived at Cliff Lake around 1:30 p.m. This is where I originally planned to stay for the night before I cut a day of hiking out of my itinerary, but it would have been a great location. It made a perfect lunch spot.

Cliff Lake

It was .2 miles off the PCT, with an unsigned spur trail, so I wouldn’t have known it was there if it weren’t for my book. There was a cute backcountry shelter next to the warm scenic lake. I filtered water and ate lunch. I intentionally saved the flavored tuna packet for this big hiking day. It was so good, well worth the extra $2.00.

I had half a tortilla leftover, and got the great idea to add a chocolate almond butter packet to it (think Nutella), and it was delicious. I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to discover this special treat.

This was one of my favorite mid-day break locations on the trail. I went for a swim and took my time. The skeeters were gone, my spirits were high, and I was in a great mood the rest of the day.

Now with 9.9 miles to go, I pushed on toward Elk Lake. I started seeing more and more people. It was Friday, and I was entering a very popular outdoor recreation area. It was easy to keep distance, but I had my mask at the ready just in case.

Cliff Lake into Elk Lake – The Lakes Keep Coming

The trail passed many more lakes. I took a break at Dumbbell Lake, and found it especially pretty. I took my shoes off here for a bit and rested; I was getting tired. The reality of a 20+ mile day was catching up to my body.

I was daydreaming about a shower, and clean undies. I forgot to pack clean underwear at my last resupply, so I’ve had the same ones on since I showered at Odell Lake. Oops! At least fancy REI undies are meant to be worn for a few days.

Later in the day, the trail crossed several meadows. I was thankful for the moments of wider spaces. The tree tunnel begins to feel pretty closed-in after a few days.

Seeing the Elk Lake trail junction sign meant I only had 1.4 more miles (off the PCT down to the Elk Lake resort (lodge/restaurant/campground) to go! I even saw my familiar footprint friend heading that way, so I knew I was going in the right direction.

The side trail was open (burn area), so I had a view of the mountains; a definite foreshadowing of the next few magnificent days I would have on the trail.

My wonderful parents were waiting for me in the Elk Lake parking lot with a fresh salad, and french fries.

A part of me wanted to stay at the backpacker spot to see if I saw anyone I recognized, or just connect with other PCT folks (if anyone was even there), but a bed and shower sounded pretty enticing.

Bend is only 25 miles from Elk Lake, so it was a quick jaunt back to my old stomping grounds where I grew up.

I did take a wonderful shower, and for the first time on the trail, I saw how different I looked. I hardly recognized myself in the full-size mirror; I had lost a significant amount of weight. I couldn’t believe it. I guess hiking ALL day long with a heavy pack, and not eating that much is a good calorie burner.

I was beyond tired, and by body ached from today’s 21-mile trek. I got to snuggle into a real bed for the first time in 18 days. Heaven…

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

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.

Oregon PCT Backpacking Day 3 to Callahan’s Lodge

Day Three
Today’s Miles: 9
Total Miles: 29.3
Mt. Ashland Campground to Callahan’s Mountain Lodge

I slept MUCH better last night with the help of the wind lulling me to sleep. It took some time for me to figure out how to be comfortable without a pillow. Carl has decided a pillow will be his one luxury item on future backpacking trips. I was out of the tent by 5:15 a.m. and watched the sunrise. It was a beautiful morning, and the wind had died down.

Only faced with 9 miles for today, we enjoyed our morning, not needing to rush. However, we were low on water, so we rationed last night in order to make breakfast this morning. I was feeling a bit dehydrated, but water was hopefully waiting for us at what used to be the Mt. Ashland Inn, 3 miles ahead. We were on the trail by 8:30 a.m. and enjoyed another morning of wildflowers, some views of Mt. Shasta and a giant manmade birds nest.

Trail Art?

The Mt. Ashland Inn used to serve PCT hikers, but is now a private residence. Thankfully they have maintained a water spigot for hikers to use. I wasn’t sure it would be turned on this year amid the pandemic, but it was! With proper use of hand sanitizer, water bottles can still be filled. We enjoyed a little break snacking at the picnic table overlooking a beautiful garden full of vegetables and flowers.

I was sore and tired today, so a short hiking day was perfect. Shortly after leaving the Mt. Ashland Inn, I saw my first deer on the PCT.

There was also a fun view of Pilot Rock. We saw it the first day, and it already looked so much closer just three days later. This would be the first of landmarks on the horizon I would see far in the distance and watch it draw closer as my feet moved along the trail. This felt so phenomenal, but it was especially magical with Pilot Rock. We would go right by it tomorrow, even though it looked so far away still.

Pilot Rock

Old stage coach road

We made it to Callahan’s Lodge in no time. Taking the side trail down to the lodge, we got turned around for a minute (thanks to some locals who sent us in the wrong direction), but we retraced our steps and found the way. I crossed my first paved road today, which was weird, and later hiked under I-5, which was even more strange. We got to the lodge around 1:30 p.m., and immediately remembered the pandemic, putting our masks on before entering.

It was early in the day and we could have kept hiking, but I was excited to stay at the lodge, and we made plans for the kids to meet us here to give grandma and grandpa a little break.

The lodge offers a backpackers special for hikers who simply arrive with packs on (much cheaper than booking a room in advance). We could tent on the lawn outside the lodge, or for a very reasonable price, we could get a big corner room to ourselves – we splurged on the room! The kids were staying the night, so having a big room to coral the 4-year old would prove extremely useful. I was a little nervous with the pandemic, but we only saw a few other people there the whole time, and it was easy to keep distance.

Carl and I headed to the patio for lunch while we waited for the room. We have only eaten outside at restaurants during the pandemic, and this patio did not disappoint.

We shared a delicious pitcher of Amber ale from an Ashland brewery, but didn’t have the best food experience. However, we were gifted with a free pitcher, so I won’t belabor the point that food arrived frozen, or was completely forgotten. The service was friendly, and we have to give restaurants a little leeway during all the COVID craziness. With my beer buzz, I was happy, if not entirely fed.

Our room was ready shortly after, and we showered. Showering is the BEST after a couple days of backpacking (or 11 days of backpacking…which I will get to later in the journey). The kids arrived shortly after this, and the little one was SO happy to see me. I worried about the next four weeks. How was I going to be away for so long? We walked the quarter mile nature trail around the property a couple of times, stopping to view the waterfalls and lizards along the way.

My parents came to have dinner with us at the lodge and helped me replace the batteries in my GPS, which were already dead.

That evening brought anxiousness for me. It felt overwhelming to go through my resupply bag, and repack for the next leg, as well as factor in what the kids needed for the next couple of days. I had to figure out where Carl and I would get water the next day, etc. etc.

On top of all this, my book made the next leg sound awful; hot, not that pretty, and basically a means to an end. I felt defeated, What am I getting myself into? I was so happy to see the kids and give my parents a night off, but it threw me a little. Plus the 4-year old napped on the way to the lodge, so he was up past midnight. We had big comfy beds with pillows, but still didn’t get the best sleep. Lessons learned…





Oregon PCT Day 2: Wrangle Camp to Mt. Ashland Campground

Day Two
Today’s Miles: 12.6
Total Miles: 20.3
Wrangle Campground to Mt. Ashland Campground

Night one was one of the weirdest nights I had on the entire trail, and I was really happy not to be alone. It was a rough night of sleeping, or rather not sleeping. We heard creatures constantly through the night. Things walking around the tent, and loud honking noises. Our neighbor friend said it was deer, but I’ve never heard deer honk like that.

At one point, something hit the tent with so much force I bolted straight up, wide awake. All the thoughts cross your mind…What animals are out there? Will they hurt us, and why do they keep walking around our tent? What if this man cowboy camping is not to be trusted, and is going to mess with us all night? I know if I had been alone, I would have been scared until morning. This allowed doubt to creep in, “Can I really do this once I AM alone?” By 5:45 a.m., it was light enough for me to start my day, and Carl quickly followed suit.

First sunrise on the Trail – 7/12/20

I did a meditation that would become my morning routine. Mostly mantras that involved, “I’m safe, I’m healthy, I’m strong, I’m smart, I’ve got this,” followed by some much needed stretching. We were both pretty sore today. I guess that’s why one would want to “practice.” We made mashed potato wraps with tortillas and Idahoans for breakfast.

“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul” – picnic table inside the Camp Wrangle Shelter

We hoped to be on the trail by 7:30 a.m. to beat the heat, as today would offer little shade, according to my book. We started hiking at 7:50 a.m., and had to take layers off by the time we hit the PCT, half a mile from camp. The day was beautiful, and I was SO beyond happy I didn’t skip this section of Oregon. The wildflowers were otherworldly. We saw a few day hikers today, and the locals told us we really lucked out with the flowers, it was the best display they had seen in years.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we saw a local day hiker. This was of some concern when I planned on hiking the whole state. Would people be upset we were in their area during the pandemic? However, everyone was so nice, and asked us where we were heading, assuming we were long-distance hikers. I said, “Mt. Ashland Campground” (tonight’s destination), but quickly realized people were interested in the final destination (Cascade Locks). I then told people, “I’m HOPING to do all of Oregon.” It would take a couple weeks for me to have the confidence to say, “I’m hiking ALL of Oregon!”

We filtered our very first water on the trail, .3 miles up from Long John Saddle, and paired it with a lunch break. It was a little stream, but someone built a tiny waterfall out of a leaf up the hillside that worked perfect for filtering. This trick would come in handy plenty more times.

Here is my secret about filtered water that I’m embarrassed to share, but in the spirit of full transparency: water out on the trail makes me nervous. I worry about the .01% chance that something will make me sick, and since I have a bit of an anxious tendency, my mind will immediately go to “soiled water” if I start to feel a tummy upset. So, to battle this completely irrational fear, I filtered my water and boiled it when I had any doubt on the purity. (Insert hands over my face in shame emoji.)

The second half of the day we walked through meadows with sweeping views of Mt. Shasta, and along open hillsides.

Towards the end of the day we were feeling it. My feet hurt, my shoulders hurt, my waist hurt…we were looking forward to camp. It took a little bit of finding, but we arrived at Mt. Ashland campground, a free car camping spot with vault toilets and picnic tables about .5 miles off the trail. We had another night of amenities!

The campground is beautiful with a view of Mt. Shasta and the whole valley in one direction, and Mt. Ashland in the other. However, it was incredibly windy, therefore very cold. There was firewood and kindling left in our site, so Carl got a small fire going for us to enjoy while we ate our ramen and bibimbap backpacker meal.

We walked around the campground and found some really interesting info on the kiosk board. Check this out about Mt. Ashland Lupin:

When it got dark, we could see city lights in the valley. Even though I’m hiking to get away from it all, there is something pretty about twinkling lights off in the distance. We hit the tent by 9 p.m. again, exhausted and hopeful the wind would provide some white noise (that I’m really used to having…perhaps addicted to). Sleeping without white noise would be a struggle for the entire trail…sleep in general would be my biggest challenge.

Did you miss Day One of my PCT journey? You can find it: Here

Oregon Pacific Crest Trail – Preparation and Day 1 to Wrangle Camp

Today’s Miles: 7.7
Total Miles: 7.7

Like many outdoor enthusiasts, I’ve dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I never really envisioned myself doing the whole thing at once, rather tackling sections bit by bit. One larger goal however, was hiking all of Oregon in one continual stretch, and that is exactly what I accomplished the summer of 2020! My partner, Carl bought me an Oregon PCT hiking book for Christmas last year (perhaps a little 2020 foreshadowing), and I found myself thumbing through the pages in early June.

In mid June, Carl and I sat down for our very first lunch at a restaurant since the global pandemic, and he brought up my trail dream in a serious manner. He told me, “If you really want to do this, I fully support you, and think you should go.” I couldn’t believe my ears; this dream might actually become a reality! At the end of a lengthy discussion, it came to these basic tenants:

I should go while I’m physically able, and I have the time and freedom. Basically, life is uncertain, and you never know what the future might hold. This might be my only opportunity – so go for it!

I sat down and read the PCT book cover to cover, and discovered if I go the absolute slowest route outlined in the book, I could complete it in six weeks. That is a big commitment! It would be a long time away from my family, especially my four-year-old who seems so little still. Carl assured me he could hold down the fort. I knew he could, but it seemed like I was asking so much, and leaving for so long felt incredibly selfish. He also said he would try to meet me along the trail a few times so our son could see me during the six-week adventure, easing my worries that it was just too much time away.

I figured I could hike a little faster than the slowest route outlined in the book, so I planed for 5 weeks. I spent the next two weeks mapping out the entire trip, and organizing all the logistics. At times it felt so overwhelming, that I quit before I even started. Again, Carl encouraged me to keep at it, reminding me to have faith; everything would fall into place. I was set on most of my gear from the backpacking trip I took last year, but I made several trips to REI to round out what I needed. The shelves were bare this year; I was not the only one hitting the wilderness during the summer of pandemic living.

I didn’t really have time to send myself resupply packages, so I planned on family meeting me along the way to bring me food, company and comfort. The PCT website also discouraged resupply packages this year, and I wanted to follow all the guidelines. They also discouraged through hiking, so I figured sticking to one state was ok.

The week leading up to my departure was filled with Google Docs I shared with family and friends detailing my daily plan: where I would sleep each night, daily mileage counts, where my resupply bags would be delivered, and who I would be hiking with (if anyone).

Two days before my departure I spent an evening preparing all my resupply packages – that was a lot of food.

Talk about some organization skills!

The night before my launch date, I packed and unpacked, and packed again. Hiking the PCT this year would be more challenging than most, with shower and laundry facilities at the campgrounds along the way closed due to Covid policies. Trying to plan accordingly, I created a resupply suitcase that my helpers could bring me so I could swap out clothes, and have options if my pack was missing important items.

I packed and planned until 3 a.m. – not a great a start to a big adventure. I don’t recommend packing the night before you do anything, but let’s be honest, this is how I usually roll. We actually brainstormed how to leave a day later, feeling so overwhelmed by all the last minute items, but with the next five weeks mapped out, it was challenging to start a day late.

At the end of the day, I got 3.5 hours of sleep before driving my family to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Southern Oregon the following morning. We met my amazing parents at the State Park (who would become key to my success on this endeavor). My children stayed with them five days while Carl and I hiked the first section.

My parents drove us two hours to the trailhead. You can access the PCT right off I-5, but in doing so, you skip 27 miles, and this wouldn’t allow me to achieve my goal of walking across the ENTIRE state. Thankfully, my parents were happy to travel four hours roundtrip up to Donomore Pass – including 28 miles of dirt road (14 each way).

Cattle herd on our way to the trailhead – not something you see often.

I was exhausted and feeling a little out of it, but as soon as we arrived at the trailhead, the adrenaline went into overdrive and I was embarrassingly giddy. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! I saw my very first PCT sign and smiled so wide. We had to tag the California/Oregon border .3 miles south to officially do the ENTIRE state. Equipped with only my phone (that would mostly become my camera), Carl and I jogged to the border, wowed by the wildflowers right away.

After taking the obligatory border photo, we wound our way back to the trailhead and said goodbye to my mom and dad with many words of thanks. I realized I forgot my hat in the car, so my dad lent me his for this first leg. I was anxious to get going. We had 7.1 miles of hiking to get to Wrangle Campground, the destination I was hoping to call home on night one, and it was already nearly 3 p.m. We had early summer in our favor, with the sun setting around 9 p.m., but I had no idea how quickly we could hike; my pack felt heavy!

We got started and I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel great. My tummy was woozy, I had a headache, and a little bit of anxiousness crept in. What was I thinking? Can I really do this? I’m not even two miles in, and I already feel awful. But, I realized we only ate a bagel sandwich all day, I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep, and we were at a pretty high elevation (highest point today was 7110 ft.). I started snacking and felt better immediately, and Carl was quick to give me the trail name “Snacks.” I would definitely hike and snack a lot in the coming weeks.

So exciting – The first few minutes of day 1 hiking the PCT!

One good thing about the elevation gain was the cooler temps. It was hot when we dropped the kids off in the valley, 100 degrees; it was a pleasant 70 something up here. The 7 mile hike went by quickly with views, wildflowers, and Mt. Shasta popping up far in the distance. We also saw several hummingbirds. I’m a bird person, so this excited me. I would see MANY hummingbirds all through Oregon.

We arrived at camp around 6 p.m. a half mile off the PCT. We were tired and ready to be done. We had the whole campground to ourselves except for one gentleman cowboy camping in the shelter. He was practicing for a 10-day trip in Yosemite next month. Practice…was I supposed to practice? He would also be getting up at 3 a.m. to see the comet (that would be all the talk of summer 2020). This was the first I had heard of it, and considered getting up, it seemed like a thing not to miss, but remembered the very little sleep I was already running on.

We had some amenities on night one: a picnic table, and a pit toilet! The “roughing it” would be a few days away.

Wrangle Camp Campground

After getting settled in, including the very fun part of swapping into camp shoes (my flipflops), we made dinner, getting rid of the heaviest stuff first: razor clam chowder, sweet potato rice, and miso soup – first meal on the trail – woohoo!

We quickly realized I didn’t pack silverware. Oh no! That is what 2 a.m. packing will get ya. Miraculously, this was the only thing we forgot, and it didn’t slow us down. I had a brand new bamboo toothbrush that worked just fine those first few days. Before prepping food, I opened my hand sanitizer leaning toward the ground and had the liquid squirt right into my eye (the elevation change). Yikes – epic fail on night one; it hurt so bad.

I settled into some journal writing. I was happy Carl was with me. It was nice to be eased into this big adventure, and there really is something to be said for sharing the moments with another person. We were in our sleeping bags by 9 p.m. – so beyond tired. Day one was in the books!

COVID Disclaimer: You won’t see pictures of me wearing a mask on this journey because I rarely saw other people. This was a big reason I undertook this adventure in 2020. Being outside is the safest thing we can do fighting this pandemic (apart from staying in our home). It’s where I have felt most at ease, and happy during these unprecedented times. I had a mask in my pocket at all times for easy access in case I encountered a crowded trail, or anytime I went inside a building of course. On Day one, we saw two people at the trailhead, and not another soul the rest of the hike. This would be the norm over the next five weeks.