Day 18 Today’s Miles: ZERO Total Miles: 211 Family Day at Odell Lake and Crescent Lake
My very first real-deal Zero Day, and the 3rd section of Oregon now complete.
It was nice to catch up with Carl on life, and everything back home. He has had his hands full for sure! I appreciated him every single day during my journey. I honestly don’t know how I would fare if the roles were reversed.
He made us a breakfast feast of pancakes, hash browns and eggs, then Hux and I spent some time at the lake playing with his “magic” pumice rocks. We did float or sink experiments. If something sunk, he would exclaim, “Sinkaroo!” The pumice rocks were a big hit – he was amazed a rock could float.
Wanting a little adventure, we drove to the Odell Lake Lodge and Resort (where I first my parents yesterday), and ordered Deschutes brewery beers (the only thing they had on tap), and a marionberry cobbler. We sat on the beautiful patio facing the lake with no one else around. Hux mostly chased chipmunks, and it was the nicest feeling to just relax.
Odell lake had a wild algae bloom, and we definitely didn’t want to swim there.
We were advised the best option was Crescent Lake, so that is where we spent the afternoon. We all swam, played in the sand, and relaxed in the sun.
My little one really enjoyed swimming. I was looking forward to him taking swim lessons this year, but all the classes were cancelled because of the pandemic. None of the pools were even open. I worry he will be far behind, but I guess most kids will be behind in many things in the coming years…
We made a stop at the Shelter Cove Resort on our way back to the campground. I decided to take a shower. I almost didn’t thinking, “I’ll be in Bend in 3 days,” but I was beyond happy I changed my mind. It was the nicest shower I’ve ever taken in a campground. It seemed new, was very clean, and they even had soft fuzzy towels for us to use. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I would even consider not showering if one is available on the trail.
Always take the shower!
Leaving the shower facilities I saw Thomas (my fellow Oregon section hiker I met near Callahan’s Lodge, and saw again at Fish lake and Crater Lake). He took another zero day, so I caught up to him. However, this was the last time we saw each other.
Back at camp, we started hearing thunder, and watched the sky change dramatically. There was no way to know for sure if it would hit us, it never did yesterday, but we started to batten down the hatches just in case.
We wandered to the dock to watch the storm, and I wish we had gotten there sooner; it was fantastical. A couple from Colorado was also storm watching. Two big rainbows greeted us, and the sky looked eerie (pictures on my phone didn’t really capture it).
It wasn’t long before the rain started traveling over the lake toward us – then it was time to RUN to our tent. It poured down rain for 45 minutes while we played games waiting for it to pass.
We emerged at sunset, and walked down to the boat dock again. The lake was clear, all the algae was gone, and leeches were on the dock, which provided some interesting science talk.
It was a pretty epic storm. I was BEYOND happy (and super duper lucky) I got to experience it safe, dry, and with my family, and all my backpacking gear stayed safely dry as well. Things really did always work out for me on the trail…so far.
Day 17 Today’s Miles: 9ish Total Miles: 211 Crescent Lake Whitefish Horse Camp to Odell Lake
Today was meant to be a 9.9 mile day, with a plan to meet my parents at Shelter Cover Resort (Odell Lake) at 2:00 p.m.
It sprinkled lightly this morning while I was still in the tent; my very first rain on the trail, but it passed quickly. It did give me pause to appreciate my dry hiking days so far. Rain would really change the level of enjoyment. I’m not sure I’m cut out for the Appalachian trail solely based on the weeks of rain I would likely encounter.
I walked to the shore of Crescent Lake for my 6:00 a.m. yoga and meditation session. I basked in the the peace and quiet. The lake was calm, and it was the perfect serene morning.
As I packed up, the camp host offered me coffee, and told me to catch my trail at the END of the campground. I noticed the trailhead when I came in yesterday at the FRONT of the campground, but she said her way will save me time, and I couldn’t miss it.
Against my strongest intuition and better judgement, I decided it could be fun to walk through the camp and see all the horses. Indeed, a very obvious trail was at the back of camp, and my book only mentioned one trail in the area, so even though it wasn’t marked, I assumed it had to be my trail, and began to hike. The thought did cross my mind, “How did the camp host know what trail I wanted? I never told her where I was going…”
The morning was filled with irritants. The mosquitoes were active, the trail was full of cob webs, and my mental state was pretty negative. I kept hiking parallel to the highway, and according to my map and directions in the book, I should have headed into the woods immediately (away from the highway).
I knew something wasn’t right, and started feeling nervous 40-minutes in, but I kept going, assuming I would veer into the forest soon, but I never did. I wasn’t in any danger; I could see the highway and watched cars pass by, but I didn’t know what to do. A couple of hours passed, and I was fearing I would be very late arriving at Odell Lake.
Should I turn around and hike back to the Horse camp to start the day over? Should I have my parents meet me at the Horse Camp, and live with the disappointment of not hiking all of Oregon? Should I keep going, and have someone pick me up along the highway?
An emotional meltdown was near. I was tired, really excited to see my family, and certain I was not hiking on the correct trail. Thankfully, I had cell reception, and called my dad in tears and a mild panic. He couldn’t have handled the situation better. He immediately said in the most calm voice, “Well, let’s take a look at the GPS and see where you are.”
YES – the GPS! I totally forgot I had it on me, and it saved the day!
My dad could see where I was, and informed me to keep going rather than turn around. I would soon discover I had already hiked 5 miles. He gave me directions to turn left on a forest service road immediately after crossing a railroad track. The road would take me to the east side of Odell lake, not the correct side (Shelter Cove is on the west side), but at least I would make it to the lake.
Thank goodness I had cell reception, thank goodness I had my GPS, and thank goodness my dad is calm when presented with a challenge. I wrote down the directions he told me, and one minute later, arrived at a large trail junction with a big map of the area, kiosk, and general hiking information. I could tell where I was, (not close to where I was supposed to be), and what went wrong. This information was comforting.
I was frustrated with the lack of signage until this trail junction, and irritated with the Camp Host; but mostly I was angry with myself. My intuition spoke loudly to not listen to her, and start at the trailhead I knew, yet somehow she convinced me. What was I thinking?
In hindsight, it was a day of valuable lessons delivered in a VERY safe way. If this is the biggest hiccup I encounter, the rest of the PCT would be smooth sailing.
Fortunately, I had cell reception the whole day. The forest service road my dad instructed me to take didn’t have any signage, so I took it with crossed fingers, and checked in with him. He could watch my progress on the GPS map, and confirmed I was heading in the right direction.
At one point, I discovered the below animal bones, and shortly after that, peed all over my pants in a very fumbled backcountry pee break. What was happening to me? This was quite the day! I think my mind and body were telling me I needed a real-deal zero day, which thankfully I’d be enjoying tomorrow.
On top of the not knowing where I was stress, I started to hear thunder and watched the clouds get dark. It seemed a huge storm was heading my way. After a few phone calls, crossing an airplane runway, a couple wrong turns, and discovering a disc golf course, I found my parents at the Odell Lake Lodge and Resort – YAY!
My dad jokingly asked if I wanted a ride to the other side of the lake (he knows I want to hike the whole state.) I said, “yes.” We were driving horizontal, to the other side of the lake, so I figured I wasn’t really losing mileage. I will return to this area, and hike the real section.
We drove to the Shelter Cove Resort, and I immediately spotted an amazing outside bathroom; the kind ordered for weddings. I was beyond excited. Running water, flushing toilet, and the best part: I could wash my hands with soap and water! I washed them a few times of course.
Next, we headed to the Hook and Talon restaurant. I was equally excited for something fun to eat, but my luck would have it – they were closed Mon-Tue-Wed, the days I would be here. So, we explored the impressive store (it was large for a campground), bought chips & salsa, and picnicked at an outside table. A few raindrops fell, but the storm seemed to skirt right past us, finally some good fortune.
I shared stories of my last leg with my parents as we waited for Carl to arrive. I mentioned the couple with the dog, Mike and Sonya, and a woman behind me spoke up that she had ran into them too. She asked if I was “Miss Oregon.” She saw my note at Windigo Pass, and decided to leave a note for them as well. She told me I didn’t miss out on much doing the shortcut because the mosquitoes were awful, and she smelled smoke for hours, causing her to worry a forest fire was nearby (a small one did pop up in the area, but it was put out quickly). So, maybe my route worked out after all.
GoGo Gummie Bear (trail name – if I’m remembering correctly), was from Seattle, and had a permit to do the entire PCT, but Covid squashed California, so she was working on completing Oregon and Washington this year. She started at Callahan’s Lodge and hiked all the way to the CA/OR border to tag it, then turned around and hiked back. I was impressed. That’s not something I would ever see myself doing. She felt bad asking her friend to drive way up in the mountains near the border (thanks again, mom and dad).
I saw Zena (trail name), a woman from the Czech Republic, in the store. Catch (my friend from Japan), told me about her, and said she would catch up to me because she was rocking 30+ mile days.
Not long after, Carl arrived. I was SO happy to see him and my little guy. It had been 12 days since I saw my son, Hux; definitely the longest we have gone without seeing each other. I got him out of his car seat, and just held him in a gigantic hug, soaking it in.
We all drove over to the Princess Creek campground, where Carl was lucky to get a last minute reservation. I grabbed what I needed from my parents, including a food resupply bag. We said goodbye, and I thanked my dad for saving the day. I would see them at Elk Lake outside of Bend in 4 days.
Carl and I settled into our campsite. I was so happy to be with my family again. I missed my daughter, but she got herself a summer job, so I wouldn’t see her again until after my PCT journey was over.
I drove back to the store to buy firewood, and ran into Shannon (the woman I met at Callahan’s Lodge and saw again at Brown Mountain Shelter). It’s so fun to see a familiar face from the trail. She was all spruced up from a shower, I don’t know that I would have even recognized her, but she recognized me.
A group of backpackers were all hanging out, so I felt a tiny hint of missing out on that experience, but seeing my family meant much more to me. Shannon had just done her first 30-mile day! Everyone is faster than me, so I probably won’t see any of these people again, but…you never know.
Back at camp, I enjoyed great treats and snacks. Carl was incredibly thoughtful; he brought all my favorite foods. He went above and beyond, and I still smile thinking about how amazing he was through my adventure.
He made us a delicious dinner, and we shared a bottle of wine. He forgot the corkscrew, so we did the old-school push it into the bottletrick.
We roasted marshmallows, and around 9:30 p.m. I got our little one ready for bed. I told Carl, “I’ll be back out.” He just laughed saying, “No you won’t.” He was right of course. I crashed as soon as my head hit that comfy pillow.
Did you miss the beginning of my PCT journey? You can start here with: Day One
Be Smart on the Trail (not like my example above). Here is a great article about GPS devices, and how to use your phone on the trail from: Clever Hiker
Day 16 Today’s Miles: 18.6 Total Miles: 202 Tolo Camp (near Windigo Pass) to Crescent Lake Whitefish Horse Camp
It was a very quiet night with zero incidents. I didn’t have to worry about water, as I would be hiking near several lakes today. I planned on doing the shortcut via the Skyline Trail, ending at Crescent Lake, but I was a tad nervous to leave the PCT.
Before departing, I cleaned up the camping area. There was a significant amount of litter at this location. I didn’t grab everything, but I packed out what I could for good campsite karma, and simply doing the right thing.
The hike down to Windigo Pass was easy. I communicated with Carl through the day, planning our meetup for tomorrow at Odell Lake. I was excited a family meetup was on the horizon.
I’m probably unusual in my enjoyment in crossing roads and passing through trailhead junctions, but I thought Windigo Pass was kinda cool. The camping area seemed nice, and the trail angel stash was AMAZING. Tons of water, boxes with bug spray, hiking books, first aid, solar chargers and toilet paper.
A message board was available for leaving notes. I wished someone had left me a message, it would have made my whole day. I decided to leave a note of encouragement for Sonya, Mike and the pup. It seemed thoughtful, and they were the only people I knew behind me.
A woman arrived while I was resting/snacking. She had her serious face on, and seemed to be on a definite mission. She was from Ohio, hiking the PCT for the second time with a goal to do it in 100 days! At this point, she was a week ahead of schedule. WOW! She told me she’d hiked the Appalachian trail twice, but prefers the PCT because the trail is easier and far more scenic. She was loving the Covid factor that resulted in WAY fewer people on the trail this year. She didn’t stay long. She was trying to get to Odell lake tonight (my destination for tomorrow).
I decided to head toward Spring Campground on Crescent lake, hoping for some sort of walk-in camp, knowing the campground was full. This is the moment I left the PCT. Heading 3/4 of a mile down the Windigo Pass dirt road (FR 60), I found the Oldenberg Lake trail (the old Oregon Skyline Trail).
The trailhead was barely noticeable, and it wasn’t marked. With faith, I started to hike, but the nerves set in immediately, not knowing if I was on the right trail.
Luckily, I passed a woman on horseback fairly quickly. She confirmed I was on the correct trail, and not long after that, I passed signs for Nip and Tuck lakes that were mentioned in my book, so I knew I was on the right track.
It was hot, dusty, and my least favorite Central Oregon landscape. When I arrived at Oldenberg lake, I took a lunch break and went for my very first PCT swim (while hiking). I swam at Fish Lake at the end of day 8, but this was my first mid-day swim. It felt amazing! It certainly cooled me off, which was good, because the hike onward to Crescent Lake was brutal.
The scenery was not impressive, it was hot, and I had the, “just wanna get there” attitude. I really wished I had music, or a podcast – something to pass the time. I never want that sort of distraction in the woods because I love to hear the sounds of nature, be aware of my surroundings, and enjoy the quiet, but for some reason, today I longed for distraction.
I sang out loud every song that popped into my head for at least 90 minutes. No one was around to be bothered, except for one family on bikes (the downside to leaving the PCT where bikes are not allowed). Finally, the trail poured onto the highway. My book directed me to head SOUTH for Spring Campground. This is where I tell you what NOT to do when hiking.
I had zero inkling which direction was south. I obviously wasn’t in any danger, I was on a major highway with plenty of traffic, but I should have had more maps with me, and I should have learned how to read a compass. I stopped a car and asked for directions. My intuition told me to go right, while the kind folks told me to go left, but not with 100% confidence.
I decided to follow their recommendation, and thankfully they were correct. The access road was only 5 minutes up, but the road down to the camp was LONG. My feet ached on the asphalt, and I was very ready to be done hiking for the day.
The camp host was at the entrance, and he informed me that the only place with walk-in sites was the horse camp. I nearly stayed on the trail and hiked there, so I was kicking myself for this unnecessary detour. The camp host offered to give me a ride, which was very kind, but I felt weird accepting with the pandemic, and I feared I smelled pretty awful by this point.
He told me the water level in the lake was so low this year, I could actually walk all the way to Horse camp along the shore of Crescent lake, rather than head back to the highway. This sounded more pleasant, so I found the sandy beach – and the crowds of people.
The lake was poppin’! Crescent Lake has a party vibe, and I half expected someone to offer me a beer, but that never happened…maybe I didn’t look like a “real” backpacker.
I found a section of empty beach, and went for another swim. The water was colder than little Oldenberg, but so refreshing. Making my way around the lake, I found the Horse Camp. The camp host didn’t give me the best directions, but I figured it out.
The message board at the front of the campground had a sign, “PCT’s – Site 3 – Welcome.” It was right next to the camp host, and next to other campers, but it was free, had a picnic table, vault toilet, and I could drop my pack for the day – woohoo!
I made ramen immediately, I was SO hungry. This was my first experience sleeping in a horse camp, and it was pretty fun. The dogs ran all over, the horses made a lot of noise, and they thankfully covered up any unpleasant smell I was emitting.
The camp host setup was the most impressive I’ve ever seen; complete with flowers, tomato plants, decorations, and a gazebo with a hot tub! Additionally, at night it was all lit up.
After settling in, I walked to the lake and watched the sunset. It was a calm, peaceful, warm night with a big wide open space, which I love. The moon looked beautiful on the horizon. I got cell service near the shore, and checked in with my loved ones. I was really excited to see my support crew the next day. Only one more day of non-PCT hiking to get through, and then I’ll be back on the trail.
Did you miss the beginning of my PCT journey? You can start here with: Day One