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.”
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.
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.
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.
Day 15 Today’s Miles: 17.4 Total Miles: 183.4 Thielsen Creek to Tolo Camp (Six Horse Spring) 6.2 miles south of Windigo Pass
It was another chilly morning. I had to sleep in all my layers last night, but the elevation here is pretty high. In fact, today I pass the highest point on the PCT in OR/WA!
Awake at 5:30 a.m., I walked by the creek and did some morning mediations, stretched, and retrieved my bear bag. Sonya was awake in my final 10 minutes, and I told her we could try to find each other at Odell Lake. I was planning a zero day there, so they potentially had time to catch up to me.
I was on the trail by 7:15 a.m. After trucking along for 10 minutes, I decided to check in with my good friend, the half-mile PCT app, and discovered I was NOT on the trail! I then remembered we camped at a trail junction, and I foolishly just hopped on a trail and started hiking. Yikes! The trail I was on would have met back up with the PCT, but I was disappointed I wasted 20 minutes, and I wasn’t being more careful.
Heading back to camp, I found the PCT and was officially on my way. The early morning light shines through the trees like no other time of day, and this section had some wow moments.
I was awarded a few last fun views of Mt. Thielsen, and encountered my very first snow on the trail. Nothing dangerous of course, and I was able to mostly walk around, but for some reason it felt momentous to me at the time.
I traveled over several pumice flat areas before arriving at Tipsoo Pass, the highest point on the PCT in Oregon and Washington at 7560-feet. It was fairly anticlimactic – not even a hill to climb, but it was a fun location to acknowledge.
A buff was tied to the post and a bra…I guess that is what you do. I just took obligatory photos, and checked in with the real-world (taking advantage of the high point for cell reception). My dad let me know the GPS was working great, and he was having fun tracking my progress each day.
I had originally planned to camp at Maidu lake, but it was .8 miles off the trail, and not far enough along in my day, so I passed that junction and kept hiking toward Tolo camp and the trail to Six Horse Spring.
I passed my first SOBO (heading south) hiker later in the afternoon. He was resting off the trail smoking a cigarette, about to take a nap because he, “doesn’t hike in the heat of the day.” He was retired from Florida, had hiked the Appalachian trail already, and started the PCT in Cascade Locks, with plans to exit somewhere in Northern California.
The PCT website recommended folks only hike NOBO (northbound) this year due to the virus, so I only met 3 or 4 not following the recommendation. However, there were so few people on the trail in general, I don’t think it really mattered.
It was only 5:30 p.m., when I arrived at Tolo camp, but I was tired, and needed water. For some reason I thought there was a shelter, and I would see other hikers, neither of these things were true.
I set up my tent to snag the spot I wanted in case another hiker did come along, (no one did). I nearly started down the path to the spring with just my filter, but thought better of it at the last minute. I grabbed my mosquito net (an item I was thankful to get out of my resupply bag at Crater Lake), and thick rain jacket. Good thing, I was about to enter a mosquito city!
It was .5 miles of steep switchbacks down to the spring. I passed two ponds, that no one would want to drink from, but the Florida SOBO hiker told me to simply keep going and I would see a trickle of running water.
I geared up, the mosquitos were HORRIBLE; hundreds and hundreds swarming me. I filtered more water than I needed, but I knew there was NO WAY I would be coming back down here.
With full bottles, I made my way back to camp, which was fortunately far enough away from the spring I was never bothered by skeeters. The camp had great logs for sitting on, and I made a Pad Thai backpacker meal that I was pleasantly surprised by, bonus – it had carrots! My body was craving veggies.
I spent the evening trying to make a decision on which way I wanted to hike the next two days. The original plan was to veer off the PCT at Windigo Pass and take the Skyline Trail passing Crescent Lake, but I started considering just sticking to the PCT so I could pass Summit Lake and the Diamond Peak wilderness area.
There is comfort to staying on the trail, and seeing the familiar PCT signs, not to mention my handy dandy PCT app that let’s me know if I’m off the trail (like this morning). But, the Skyline trail is a shortcut that shaves off nearly 11 miles, and according to my book, a descent amount of elevation. It would allow me to arrive at Odell lake in two days at a decent hour to meet my parents with my resupply bag, and Carl and my little one for family time.
I decided I would stick to the original plan and take the shortcut. Again, my goal was to walk across the state of Oregon, and although I would do this nearly entirely on the PCT, I “allowed” myself to veer off when it made sense. I figured this was a section I could come back and do another time if I wanted.
This was my second night all alone on the trail. I didn’t love it, but I was getting used to it, and much better at disregarding any fears that would pop into my imagination. I was adding layers of bravery with each passing day. Did you miss the beginning of my adventure? Start with Day One
Day 10 Today’s Miles: 13.1 Total Miles: 112.6 Island Lake (Sky Lakes Wilderness) to Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin)
I was awake at sunrise and ready to get out of Island Lake camp. Although I didn’t sleep well, I never let fear completely take over. I was a little scared off and on, but nothing debilitating. Last night gave me the confidence that I can really do this!
Good news: my bear bag was hanging right where I left it. I wish I had a camera on it to see what really happened last night, but I’ll never know for sure. The mosquitoes were awful again, so I tried to hurry my packing process.
My ankle was feeling better. I was worried it would be worse today after all the weight on it yesterday, but thankfully it seemed to be healing. It was still sore, but I was on the mend – woohoo! I took the support tape off, wondering if that actually made it worse yesterday.
According to my book, there was zero water on the trail today until camp this evening, so I filled my bottles. There was no cell reception here, which always adds a small level of fear when you are alone, so I was anxious to check in with Carl; I knew he was probably worried.
I hiked the .6 miles back to the PCT and was on my way. The pain in my ankle shot up through my leg pretty quickly, so I took Ibuprofrin and stayed medicated through the day, though it was much better than yesterday.
Only 2.5 miles up, I passed the invisible milestone of 100 MILES on the Oregon section of the PCT (from the California border). My mileage is higher because I count ALL the miles I hike, including side trips to camping locations. I was hoping for a little trail graffiti to mark the location, but there wasn’t any. Still, a pretty uplifting milepost. I decided early, this would be a good day!
It turned out to be one of the most epic hiking days yet. The views were outstanding, and I really needed it to lift my spirits. At the first big rocky outcrop, I climbed onto a boulder with sweeping views. There were a ton of hummingbirds, and I finally figured out they were attracted to my red sleeping pad, hence all the dive bombing.
I checked for cell service, and was connected to the outside world. I let Carl know I was doing okay, as he was worried about me of course. I let my parents know I was safe as well. My mom worried about me now that I was hiking alone. I also heard news about my previous work world that caused some stress. The price you pay for “checking in” – I had to shake it off, and hike on.
With all these amazing views, came a lot of climbing. My endurance was tested today. It was tough, but thankfully once I got out on the open cliffs, the mosquitoes went away – yay!
This was also the first day the trail made me just a little nervous. It was narrow in parts, with a loose rocky surface, and a very steep cliffside. If I lost my footing, it would not end well! I paid close attention and was very careful. My heavy pack made me extra cautious – it would send me flying down pretty quickly. Plus, I only saw one other person hiking all day (until later in the evening).
I went through the 790 fire burn area (2014) that burned two miles of the PCT. This was the first burn area (of many) I encountered. It was actually quite beautiful, just in a different way. The flowers were amazing through this section. I certainly said a little prayer that the trail would stay safe and open – free from fires this year.
I read blogs of previous hikers in 2016 and 2017 when basically all of Oregon was on fire, and they were forced to bypass much of the state. Well, my prayer was answered for part of the summer, as 2020 would be a devastating fire season in the later months.
The last big climb (that really tested me) provided views of Mt. McLoughlin and even Mt. Shasta, now WAY behind me.
Once I got around Devils Peak, the view was breathtaking. I sat in a little alcove with nearly a 360 degree view – WOW in every direction. Previous hikers had placed fun “sitting” rocks to enjoy the scene, and I took full advantage. This day reminded me of why I’m doing this, and I felt so grateful, humbled, and blessed. I really love Oregon.
Then it was time to go DOWN…it was a very steep set of switchbacks that ended with the sweet sound of a bubbling creek, and my camp for the night just beyond it. (Camp 10 in my book – pg. 89)
Camping here would make tomorrow a little longer, but according to my book, it sounded like the very best spot in the area. It was on a cliff with a view of Devils Peak and a panorama to the west. I’m a sucker for a camp with a view, and will ALWAYS opt for that when given a choice. I also figured this was my best shot at mosquito reprieve since it was open as opposed to ducking back into the forest.
I was excited no one was there yet. It was still early to quit for thru-hiker standards, only 4:30 p.m. I claimed my spot and heard people coming down the trail pretty quickly. I met two thru-hikers hiking for the second year in a row. They met each other on the PCT last year, and decided to hike it again.
“The world is pretty much shit right now (i.e. pandemic), so why not hike the PCT again,” one hiker shared. They had both lost their jobs too.
Two minutes later, a group of four appeared. I heard accents, and they were all clearly thru-hikers as well. Two of the women were sisters from New Zealand, one man was from Hong Kong, and I can’t remember the 4th. Everyone was planning on getting to Mazama Village (Crater Lake campground) tomorrow. I told them it was my goal, but I was nervous. It would be the most mileage I’ve done so far. They encouraged me saying, “You can totally do it – you got this!” As a side note, this whole crew started at Fish Lake this morning – where I was two mornings ago. They were putting in 30 mile days.
One of the hikers, “Catch” (trail name) from Hong Kong, asked if he could share this camp spot with me. I tried to tamper my excitement so he didn’t think I was too weird, but I was SO happy I wouldn’t be alone again at night. I still had my large 2-person tent that definitely took up more space than I needed, but I snagged the only spot that would work for it.
Carl was working on getting me a single person tent that would be half the weight of the 2-person I was currently carrying. That would make a big difference!
The other hikers kept going to find camps up the trail. Feeling a little anxious, I boiled my drinking water, which was super embarrassing to do in front of a thru-hiker, though I doubt he took notice. I’m sure the creek water was fantastic, but I just couldn’t stomach it this night.
Catch hung in his tent and we never talked. I was kinda bummed; thru-hikers are so interesting, but I’m guessing they get tired of sharing their trail stories. At the end of the day, I was super tired, so I understood. All I really wanted to do was relax in my sleeping bag too.
An older couple came rolling in around 8 p.m. and asked to camp with us. We said, “Of course!” The good tent spots were limited, but they made something work. They were so great, super cute, so excited about everything, and appreciated all the surroundings and the time together. They were just out wandering the trails for a week with no real destination in mind, and swam in four lakes today – that made me smile.
We got a magnificent sunset. Mt. Thielsen loomed in the distance. I wrote in my journal and enjoyed the changing sky. As I fell asleep, a frog came to visit me under the flap of the tent – always a good omen! This was a really good day, especially following my incredibly challenging day before, and my ankle was MUCH better! I was pumped for my super duper big day tomorrow!
Track Musings: The last couple of days I’ve spotted the below tracks on the trail. The first time I thought, “What the hell kind of animal is that? Is a small child hiking in those barefoot shoes?” I was completely perplexed, but then I saw the tracks more with each passing day, and I concluded it must be a cute print on the bottom of a set of trekking poles. This little print in the trail for the next 150 miles brought me great comfort. I felt like I was following someone and sharing the trail with this person. He or she was only a day ahead of me, guiding me along. It felt like company in an odd way. When you are hiking alone for hours upon hours, you have a lot of time to create ideas of comfort for yourself. This little track became a big deal in my mind over the next few weeks.
Did you miss the beginning of my journey? Access Day One
Day Eight Today’s Miles: 9.9 Total Miles: 83.9 Brown Mountain Shelter to Fish Lake
It was a little strange to wake up with so many people in camp. It was quiet, and I wasn’t sure when it was appropriate to get up and move around. I was awake at my usual 5:30 a.m., but stayed in the tent until I heard other people stirring. Once everyone was awake, camps were broke down quickly, and the other hikers hit the trail leaving Hadlie and I alone; these were professionals. It was nice to have the space to ourselves, and the picnic table to make breakfast, and get organized.
This was my last day hiking with a buddy for quite a while. I was nervous, but also excited for alone time. My mom and dad were meeting us at Fish Lake this afternoon to pick up Hadlie and assist with getting her back home.
Near the Brown Mountain shelter, a PCT mileage sign let us know we were 889 miles from the Canadian border and 1779 from the Mexican border. Wow, I can’t imagine hiking the whole thing, and I couldn’t help but think of the 11-year-old well on his way.
Hadlie was ready to be home, and happy this was her last day hiking with me. Fortunately, it was a pretty hiking day, with cool scenery that was vastly different from previous sections (a nice change), and beautiful views. But it was hot much of the day – not her favorite.
About half-way through the day, Hadlie said, “I really want backpacking to be my thing, but I don’t think it is. Haha…To be fair, she was wearing really old hiking boots that gave her a terrible blister. If your feet aren’t happy hiking, it’s really hard to enjoy the adventure. I didn’t want to jinx myself, so I never said it out loud, but I thought of it often the whole first week, “I can’t believe I don’t have any blisters yet!”
Today I passed my very first cascade volcano on the PCT; Brown Mountain. It’s one of Oregon’s smaller peaks. The trail in this region is built of small red cinders that were tricky to navigate at times, and was much slower moving than a soft dirt trail. This section was hard on the feet (poor Hadlie). According to my book, “These few miles proved to be one of the last and most costly portions of the 2650-mile PCT to build.”
We had great views of Mt. McLoughlin a big part of the day. It looked so much closer than just two days ago. I smiled each time it popped into view. I wouldn’t see this peak again until it was far behind me.
This section reminded me of central Oregon (where I grew up).
We took a lunch break on a large lava rock off the trail, and watched a couple thru-hikers pass us. The man was 30 seconds behind the woman, and they both were listening to the same audio book aloud. It made us chuckle.
We arrived at the Fish Lake turnoff around 3:30 p.m., and realized it was another 2 miles to the campground (off the PCT). I didn’t factor that correctly, and Hadlie felt absolutely defeated; so ready to be done. This was the first day I really got into using the Halfmile’s PCT app. It’s the app my book recommended, and I didn’t realize it wasn’t being updated anymore until after I was done hiking, but it worked great for my purposes.
Basically, the app operates without needing any data or cell coverage. I left my phone in airplane mode 98% of the time to save battery life, and the app still worked. It was great for knowing how many miles your destination was ahead. Hadlie was REALLY into receiving updates throughout the day. It kept her motivated.
Lucky for Hadlie, she has an amazing Grandpa that was happy to meet us on the side of the Falls Highway (OR 140) just .25 miles up the PCT, so she didn’t have to hike the 2 miles to camp. She was SO happy to see that car pull up, and took her hiking boots off immediately to slip on her comfy shoes.
Since it was Saturday, Fish Lake resort / campground was busy. Fortunately, the outdoors is easy to space yourself from other people, and we were safe. My parents drove all the way from Bend as a day trip to pick up Hadlie. I had an amazing support crew!
We all ate an early dinner at the resort restaurant. The menu was limited for us vegetarians, and nothing was great, but it was fun to eat outside with a view of the lake, and eat non-backpacking food. Hadlie and I both had fresh salad, and I got a plate of sautéed vegetables that read “veggie burger” on the menu. I think I missed veggies the most on the trail.
Staking out the outlets, I began charging my devices immediately at the restaurant. I had my phone, battery charger, solar charger, and my headlamp. This would become part of the resupply routine.
I purchased some laundry soap, and secured a pile of quarters so I could shower and do laundry this evening. I got the inside secret scoop: the showers in the RV loop run for 20 minutes if you put $2.00 in. I didn’t need a 20 minute shower, but I took one!
Hadlie was ready to be home. Back at the car, I quickly grabbed all of the items from her pack I would need, and my resupply food bag from my parents. I sorted through my resupply clothes bag and swapped out a shirt, grabbed my towel, and thought for a long time over my mosquito net, finally opting to grab it next time. (A decision I would completely regret soon.) I felt rushed, and hoped I didn’t forget anything. It would be so easy to overlook an item in the rushed exchange.
I said goodbye, and a big THANK YOU to all three of my teammates. I was so glad my daughter decided to do a leg with me. Sharing this experience with my loved ones make the memories so sweet.
I walked away from the car toward the backpacking camp (which didn’t cost a thing), with a very heavy pack, but in high spirits. I was feeling brave about my next leg – solo! It felt weird to be alone, and I was both excited and nervous. I was happy to be in a campground, and not alone out in the middle of nowhere for my first solo night.
Walking to camp, my left ankle was feeling a tad achy. I thought I twisted it ever so slightly on all the lava rock today, but I didn’t think too much about it at this point.
I wound my way around the lake, through the RV section, and found the backpacking nook. I was pleasantly surprised to see Thomas (from day 4 – also doing all of Oregon). It’s amazing how a familiar face is so comforting on the trail, even if the person is technically a stranger. I envisioned seeing several backpackers here, but we were the only two for the night. Thomas had a zero day today, the only reason I caught up to him.
We chatted about the following few hiking days. My original plan was to do the next section (getting to Mazama Village at Crater Lake) in 3 nights and 4 days of hiking, but a couple days ago, I decided to cut a day out and push really hard on that final day and earn a zero day at Crater Lake. Thomas was planning on something similar. We decided to meet at Island Lake tomorrow night. I was so nervous to camp by myself, this plan eased my worries significantly.
I set up my tent and went for a quick swim at the little outcrop near our camp. The lake was warm, and felt so good.
After gathering all my dirty clothes, I walked over to the little facilities building and started a load of laundry and hopped in the shower. It was a gross camping shower, but I didn’t care, it still felt amazing! I didn’t have any shampoo, so I washed my hair with hand soap; I think for the first time ever.
I didn’t realize I forgot my cleanish clothes I was planning to throw on after the shower back at camp until I was nearly done with the shower. OOPS! My towel was a tiny backpacking towel, definitely not big enough to cover everything. My least embarrassing option was to wait in the shower stall for my clothes to be done washing. I couldn’t believe it, but I knew it would be a funny story.
While I waited, I went through my phone and deleted photos, and watched a mouse scurry across the floor. When I heard the washing machine end, I ran as quickly as I could to grab clothes out of it to dress. This area was open to the outside with very little privacy. I was lucky no one else walked in while I was half naked hurrying to find an outfit.
After dressing in wet clothes, I realized I was .50 short for the dryer, but decided most everything should just be sun-dried, so I took it all back to camp to drape over rocks and logs to dry for the next couple of hours. Luckily, camp faced west, so I got sunshine for as long as possible.
I walked back and forth from camp to the bathroom facilities (with power) to rotate charging items, and my ankle was getting more and more sore as the night progressed. I was wearing my flip flops because nothing feels better than taking your hiking boots off, but…I had zero support on the ankle all afternoon and night, not a smart choice.
I spent the evening journaling, watching the sunset, and rotating my clothes. Everything dried just fine. I was now officially done with the first section of the Oregon PCT (outlined in the book I was using). If felt great to be at this milestone, but when looking at the whole state, I clearly had a long way to go.
I found out a woman with the trail name “Humming Bird” was here last night. There were a ton of hummingbirds in this spot. I almost got bombed in the face by a couple. I seriously had to duck!
Did you miss the beginning of my PCT journey? You can start here with: Day One
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.