Tag Archives: PCT Oregon

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

Oregon PCT Day 6 – Hyatt Lake to Klum Landing Campground

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.

Mama – daughter team tackle the PCT leaving Hyatt 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).

Hyatt Lake and Mt. McLoughlin

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.

Look at those giant cones! A definite highlight of today.

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.

PCT Oregon – Day 4: Passing Pilot Rock to Hobart Bluff

Day Four
Today’s Miles: 11.5
Total Miles: 40.8
Callahan’s Mountain Lodge to Camp 7 (near Hobart Bluff Trailhead)

Sleep did not go so well last night. I tossed and turned in my big comfortable bed with pillows. You just never know with sleep…My daughter had an 8 a.m. Zoom meeting for work, and I was up on my computer as well. I checked the PCT Facebook pages for any pertinent updates, and even posted a photo. I was really doing it! I met my very first thru hiker at breakfast. I envisioned seeing several PCT hikers at the lodge, but this would be the story of my journey; there just weren’t that many people hiking this year.

I was nervous about being alone in a few short days, and hoped I’d find a buddy to tag along with, (like all the PCT videos I watched on YouTube). I wasn’t scared to hike solo all day, but I was nervous about being alone at night. (If you missed my spooky story of solo camping Labor Day weekend 2019, you can enjoy it here.)

*Shannon was a spunky woman who was not shy in telling me all her terrifying close-encounter animal stories through California. This was NOT the kind of conversation my anxious mind needed. She was averaging 20-mile days, but taking the day off (zero-day), was heading into Ashland today. Shannon would easily catch up to me, and maybe we could try to stay together for a bit. I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be doing 20-mile days, but knowing she wouldn’t be far behind gave me some comfort.

At breakfast, Carl’s vegetable omelet arrived with no veggies, but the fruit plate was amazing, and my little guy enjoyed more lizard viewing.

At last it was time to say goodbye to Callahan’s and to the kids, and we hit the trail. Our 4-year-old was really sad to see mom and dad go, mostly because he wanted to hike with us (he loves to hike).

It was 11:15 a.m. and my heart was heavy to see my daughter and son drive off, but my soul was joyous to be on the trail again. It already felt like home. The book described this section as being “somewhat undesirable,” crossing several roads with a close proximity to civilization; but, I loved it! I learned to take the book with a grain of salt. Sure, this section might not compare to the views of Mt. Hood that would greet me at the top of the state, but each day on the trail had it’s own beauty I found easy to appreciate.

More lizards greet us along the way.

Today brought a huge array of landscapes, and a wide variety of vegetation. We saw Junipers, Firs, and Madrones, sweeping views of Mt. Shasta, and most notably, we went right by Pilot Rock.

Turbo bug spray repellant up for grabs – I will need it in a few days!

We had a couple locations of phenomenal views that beckoned snack breaks, and open hillsides with I-5 far below.

As suddenly as it appeared, Pilot Rock was behind us. This felt so magical, and I never tired of it through the whole state as I watched landmarks come and go.

Pilot Rock in our rearview mirror

One of the most interesting vegetation I saw in all of Oregon was during this section; a seed pod or fruit. It looked so edible, and there was definite evidence of critters enjoying it.

Can anyone identify this?

We met another hiker along the way, *Thomas. He was doing all of Oregon as well, but had a hurt knee, and was taking long breaks. We all filtered water at a piped spring (marked by a post in a grassy clearing). We planned on camping only 2 miles ahead near a pond, but we figured water from a piped spring is always preferable to a pond.

Half a mile up from the spring, Carl realized he didn’t have his sunglasses. We dropped our packs, and he ran back to find them. He returned with one of the best “close-encounter” stories of the trail…it just didn’t involve me.

He was running, trying to hurry when he thought, “I should slow down and walk. I won’t see my sunglasses if I’m running.” Nearly 30 seconds later, he saw a HUGE rattlesnake in the trail. He may have stepped right on it if he had still been running. In this area, the PCT was overgrown with thick grasses, so it was hard to see the trail. I made Carl walk in front of me through tall grass sections the rest of the day, and I was happy it was his story to tell, not mine.

We made it to what my book calls “Camp 7” for this PCT section, 1.7 miles south of Hobart Bluff Trailhead. This was Carl’s first real-deal backcountry camping experience. No amenities here, except a great water source. The pond was barely accessible, and the water looked very questionable, but Carl found a pipe with flowing water nearby, much better than the pond! Thomas camped here as well.

Carl and I snagged a wonderful spot with a great view next to a meadow full of wildflowers. This was one of my favorite nighttime locations on the whole trail, and one of my favorite evenings; probably because Carl was with me. Hiking with him was fun, and he made me feel safe. I was nervous I’d be facing the trail alone soon. Not only was I nervous about sleeping in the middle of nowhere all alone, I was nervous about carrying all my gear. With Carl, the weight was shared between the two of us, and my pack already felt so heavy.

We set up the tent and had dinner, now equipped with plasticware from the lodge. We no longer had to eat with my toothbrush! The most amazing sunset followed. We sat on a big rock for over an hour watching the sky turn colors as a doe grazed in the meadow nearby.

As soon as it was completely dark, we saw city lights below that added to the whole scene. The weather was perfect, it never got cold, and there were ZERO mosquitoes, even though we were right by the pond. It felt like a miracle. Despite the nervousness in the back of my mind, my heart was full, and my smile was wide.

*I’ve changed the names of fellow hikers I met along the way for privacy.
Did you miss the beginning of my PCT Oregon journey? Here is Day One.

Oregon Pacific Crest Trail – Preparation and Day 1 to Wrangle Camp

Today’s Miles: 7.7
Total Miles: 7.7

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 this summer! 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 while 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.

Talk about some organization skills!

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 six 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).

Cattle herd on our way to the trailhead – not something you see often.

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.

So exciting – The first few minutes of day 1 hiking the PCT!

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 humming birds. I’m a bird person, so this excited me. I would see MANY hummingbirds all through Oregon.

We arrived to our 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.

Wrangle Camp Campground

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 six weeks.