Tag Archives: Oregon PCT

PCT Oregon – Day 27 to Lava Camp Lake Campground

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

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

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

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

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

The Husband (Mountain)

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

My morning hill – all to myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One last look behind me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of our campsite from the other side of the lake

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

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

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

Hiking the PCT Oregon – Day 16 to Crescent Lake

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.

Fuzzy shot – but the only one I got – notice the hot tub gazebo in the background.

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

PCT Oregon Day 10 to Seven Lakes Basin

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!

Farewell Island Lake Camp

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 love these wooden signs.

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.

First patch of snow sighted – just off the trail
Hi-Five PCT!

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.

Fun sitting rocks

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)

Yay for WATER!

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.

View From Camp

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.

View from inside my tent
Inside my tent view

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

Oregon PCT Backpacking Day 3 to Callahan’s Lodge

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

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

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

Trail Art?

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

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

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

Pilot Rock

Old stage coach road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

First sunrise on the Trail – 7/12/20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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