Tag Archives: Grouse Hill

PCT Oregon – Day 14 to Thielsen Creek

Day 14
Today’s Miles: 17.3
Total Miles: 166
Grouse Hill Backpacker Camp (Crater Lake) to Thielsen Creek – passing Diamond Lake (far below) and Mt. Thielsen

Looking back on this day brings me a pang of sadness. The Mt. Thielsen Wilderness area was hit by one of the many 2020 wildfires at the end of the summer. I feel so blessed to have witnessed it before the fire swept through; something to never take for granted. The trail certainly changes from year to year, all the more reason to adventure when the opportunity arises.

I never set an alarm backpacking, but I got a late start today – hitting the trail around 8:30 a.m. I had another big mileage day ahead, and I should have gotten an earlier start, but I had a newfound confidence knowing I would be fine after completing my big 22-mile day to Crater Lake.

It was a cold morning, but I slept well in my new digs. The one-person tent is certainly smaller, but it feels cozier, and I love all the pockets. The new space grew on me pretty quickly.

As I broke down camp, the other backpackers walked by. They were nearly out of water, and told me they were considering just hiking down to Diamond Lake to get more. That seemed far out of the way, but I didn’t know for sure.

I was on the trail 20 minutes behind them. At the closest road junction I saw a sign that read, “Crater Lake Water Cache,” with an arrow pointing left. My book explained it was a location hikers could stash water ahead of time, but not to count on extra “free” water. Especially with Covid this year, it was smart to have zero expectations on those things.

I had plenty of water to make it through the day, and was happy to get drinking on it to lighten my load. Today, I decided my trail name should be, “Miss Oregon.” I think you technically are given a trail name by someone else, so it didn’t really count, but I felt like I needed one. I have lived nearly my whole life in Oregon, I’m doing the Oregon section of the PCT, I graduated from the University of Oregon, I was wearing an Oregon baseball cap every day…it just made sense.

I passed the couple a few miles in, and they indeed got water at the cache – yay! The problem they would have moving forward, was the amount of water their bottles could hold, which was very little. This style (filter inside your small water bottle) is great for hikes with plentiful water, but not realistic for long stretches of dry trail, especially if you have a pup joining you.

The first 9.1 miles went quickly. It was a flat trail, with not much to look at, but I made good time. On the edge of the Winema National Forest, I carefully crossed HWY 138.

I took a solid rest at Cascade Crest. A sign indicated that Diamond Lake was 9 miles away, while Thielsen Creek was 8.2 miles. When the couple arrived, I suggested they just keep heading to Thielsen Creek. I gave them a little of my water, and they agreed they would keep heading north on the PCT.

We all chatted for awhile. It turns out, *Mike and *Sonya are from Portland and ran in the same career circles as I did. We even knew some of the same people. It’s such a small world sometimes. I was excited they decided to continue on so I would have camp mates again tonight.

Leaving them to enjoy their lunch, I continued on. About .4 miles up the trail, I crossed (FR961) with a trailhead and a BIG water cache. This was the first one I saw on my PCT journey. I knew the couple would be relieved.

The second half of my day was fantastic, and I was reminded of why I’m doing this. On the border of the the Oregon Cascade Recreation area and Mt. Thielsen Wilderness, I had to ascend, but that’s how you get the big rewards.

After climbing for awhile, I earned views of Diamond Lake below (way below). I’ve spent a lot of time at Diamond Lake between family reunions and various camping trips, but I’ve never seen it from this perspective. My grandma Horton loved Diamond Lake, and we would always stop there on our way from Bend to Grants Pass when I would stay a week with my grandparents in the summer.

My grandmother died young from cancer. She loved climbing mountains, hiking and camping, and I know I get my outdoorsy spirit partially from her. My very first backpacking trip was with my grandparents and parents at around age 8.
I thought of her as my guardian angel watching over me as I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
I hope she is proud of me.

Taking a lunch break, complete with shoes and socks off, I sat on a rock overlooking the lake below. I thought about my grandmother, did some mindful meditations, and stretched for a bit. It’s nice to take breaks; that’s why I’ll probably never be a 30-mile-a-day hiker.

Not long after this section, the most wonderful surprise appeared, Mt. Thielsen – just out of nowhere – BANG – so big and right in front of me. It was a magnificent moment that left me grinning from ear to ear. Mountains are my favorite form of scenery, and I had magnificent views the rest of the way to camp.

I found a few more pumice rocks for my kiddo to experiment with when I saw him next. He REALLY loves rocks, and I figure pumice are the only kind of rocks I’m going to tote around for him backpacking. (Their weight is about equal to a marshmallow.)

At the Mt. Thielsen Trail junction, coming up from Diamond lake, the view was unbelievable. Panorama in every direction. I set my pack down and turned circles taking it all in, and took a few dozen photos.

There was a campsite at this location which would have been an amazing prize view all evening, but I wanted to get to water, so I only considered it for a moment.

I was impressed with the strength of these roots pulling up the huge rocks!

After descending for an hour, I heard the sweet gurgle of running water, and was finally greeted with idyllic Thielsen creek. This was the very first creek crossing I encountered, and it required a small rock hop.

My balance isn’t what it used to be, so this was an element of concern to me, but I handled this one just fine. The camping area was big, open, and was one of my favorite camping spots on the whole trail.

The water was crystal clear, and there were other campers already set up along the creek. The best part, the mosquitoes were nearly non-existent! I couldn’t believe it, but was incredibly thankful.

I found a spot under some trees, and set up my tent, ate dinner, and simply enjoyed the serene landscape. Mike and Sonya came strolling in with their dog as I was finishing dinner; they made it!

It was a really tough, long day for them, and they already decided they would be taking a zero day tomorrow to rest and recover. They camped near me, and we all chatted until hitting our tents early.

Day 14 Sunset

** The names of fellow backpackers have changed for privacy.
Want to start at the beginning of my adventure? Access Day One

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 13 to Grouse Hill Camp (Crater Lake)

Day 13
Today’s Miles: 9.5
Total Miles: 148.7
Crater Lake Lodge (Rim Trail) to Grouse Hill Backpacker Camp

My headlamp died again last night, so I ran to the bathroom to charge it at 5:30 a.m. I was a little off my charging game. I should have left some devices with my parents to charge in their room overnight…oops.

I had plenty of time to pack up my things, get organized, and set up my new 1-person tent. Woohoo!

Have I mentioned how awesome my support crew was?! Carl spent a long time researching, ordering, and making it all happen. My parents had to pick the tent up in Bend to bring it to me here. It sounded like a hassle for everyone, and I love them all so much for their effort. I am one lucky lady!

Our two-person tent weighs 4+ pounds and my one person is just over 2 pounds – when every ounce counts, that’s a HUGE difference. The new tent is an odd shape, and it took me some time to figure out the setup, so I was glad I practiced. The two-person tent felt like home each night, so I hoped the change wouldn’t be too strange.

My dad arrived right on time at 7:30 a.m. I was happy to have a ride back up to the rim to start our hike. We stopped at the Ranger Station to get a wilderness permit as I would be back-country camping inside the park tonight. I got the vibe nobody was getting a permit this year, but they seemed pleased with my effort. It didn’t cost anything, and according to my book, you are supposed to get one. I figured it was good hiking karma, if nothing else.

Today’s Adventure – Mazama Village to Grouse Hill Camp

I spent the morning coordinating with Carl. I was hoping he could meet me at Odell lake in 5 days. I had a 9.7 mile day built into my itinerary the next section, so I planned to cut an entire day of hiking. Now that I had a couple weeks under my belt, I couldn’t imagine hiking less than 14-18 miles a day; a 9.7 mile day seemed silly. This would provide me a zero day to enjoy family time at the lake if we could make it all come together.

My dad was anxious to get our hiking started, so we hit the rim trail at the main lodge by late morning. This was one of the most memorable days on the trail, because I hiked right around 7 miles with my dad. The views were stunning. In all my visits to Crater Lake, I’ve never hiked this whole trail.

My mom drove the car, and met us at the waysides with leftover pizza. I packed a little daypack in my resupply bag, so I got to do these 7 miles with my heavy pack in the car instead of ON me – that was one of the smartest planning moves I had. Hiking is so easy with a daypack!

I was totally spoiled during my time at Crater Lake, and felt like I was cheating just a little, but I loved it. The best part was my water situation. Leaving the Crater Lake lodge, the trail has zero water until Thielsen Creek – 26.3 waterless miles. I was able to cut it down to 17 miles since I would have full water bottles in the car waiting for me before meeting back up with the PCT.

The trail around the lake was surprisingly full of up and down – much more than one would think. It was a decent workout, and so beautiful. At each vehicle pullout we saw several people, but everyone wore masks. By this time, the Oregon Governor had mandated wearing masks outside if you could not maintain 6 ft. of distance. It was pretty easy to keep distance, but seeing everyone wear masks added another level of comfort and safety, but also so strange…

I enjoyed having a new person to converse with. I soaked it in as I would be alone the next four days. My dad shared tales of his mountain climbing days in Africa (where he was born). We laughed at the thought of carrying whole cans of food – talk about a heavy pack.

The final mile was filled with panoramic views to the left, and snow patches to the right. The trail was dotted with wildflowers providing plenty of photo ops.

When we arrived at the end of the Rim trail, I saw two backpackers making their way to the PCT. I was excited to hear they were heading to the Grouse Hill backpacking camp as well. Yay; I wouldn’t be alone tonight! Hiking with their dog, they were a little nervous about water. I offered them some, but they said they would be fine. I really should have insisted. This was day 1 of their very first backpacking trip, and their packs looked REALLY big and heavy.

Final Stretch of the Rim Trail

I was a little sad to say goodbye to my parents, and a part of me wanted to climb in the car and head home too. But, I had a goal I was now determined to complete, and a lot more of Oregon to see.

My pack was SO heavy when I threw it on, even with my lighter tent. Those first few minutes I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. Water weighs a lot, and I took an extra bottle just in case for this next dry section.

I had no idea where the PCT picked back up, but instead of walking around to investigate a little, I decided to climb straight up a giant sand dune hill with my giant pack on – it was completely unnecessary – not the wisest of choices. I found the trail eventually across the highway.

It’s strange to venture off on your own after a full day of company. Thankfully, it was an easy, flat, roughly 4.5 miles to camp. It was also dusty, dry and hot. I got used to the heavy pack pretty quickly, and luckily my ankle was all better.

I arrived around 4:30 p.m., pretty early in the day. Grouse Hill is a large area, and I got one of the camps all to myself. I imagine in normal years, this camping area is full on an average night.

The other two backpackers were setting up camp in the far section when I arrived, but since there was a significant amount of distance between the two areas, I had solitude. This is the perfect scenario: knowing people are nearby so I feel safe, yet far enough away I don’t have to worry about bothering anyone, and I get alone time.

After setting up my new tent, I ate dinner on large boulders next to camp while watching pikas scurry around. A deer walked through my camp as I filled the evening writing in my journal, and read the pages in my book for tomorrow’s leg; all the usual things. Off on my own tomorrow…

Dinner and Pika Viewing Rock
My new one-person tent!