Tag Archives: Fish Lake

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon: Day 9 to Island Lake

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

Despite feeling completely safe last night, I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned, waking up a dozen times. This became my new normal, and it wasn’t because I was uncomfortable. I had an amazing sleeping pad I LOVE, that’s cushy and comfy (but bulky – so it’s my one “luxury” item).
[SeaToSummit – Comfort Plus S.I. – Self Inflating]
I always fell asleep quickly on the trail, completely exhausted, but I honestly think it was just too quite. Being a mom, I woke up to every little sound.

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

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

My very full backpack – day one of solo hiking!

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

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

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

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

Weighing the options…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fourmile lake in the distance

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

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

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

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

Camp for day 9

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

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

Island Lake

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

The company of a dragonfly

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

Island Lake Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

Island Lake Camp Tree

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

PCT Oregon – Day 8 to Fish Lake

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

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

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

The PCT section Hadlie and I completed

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

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

Early morning hiking in the cool weather

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

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

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

Any idea what this is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tent spot for the night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Section Complete – Oregon Pacific Crest Trail

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

The Humming Birds Loved these Flowers!

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