Tag Archives: PCT

Hiking the Oregon PCT Day 11 to Mazama Village (Crater Lake): 22-Mile Day

Day 11
Today’s Miles: 21.6
Total Miles: 134.2
Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin) to Mazama Village (Crater Lake Campground)

I knew it was imperative to get an early start today. The plan was to hike nearly 22 miles – something I’ve never done before in my life, and I wanted to give myself as much time as I could. Catch was on the trail by 6:30 a.m., (and I would later find out arrived to Mazama Village around 3:30 p.m.) – those thru-hikers are so speedy!

Sunrise

There was zero water on the trail today, except for the first couple of miles. I filtered and drank a bunch, then filled my bottles to the brim. I was on the trail by 6:50 a.m., my earliest start yet. I felt really strong, and excited about my big day. I knew I would be incredibly proud of myself for hiking a 20+ mile day, now I just had to do it. Thankfully, my ankle seemed to be all better. There was just a slight hint of tenderness, but barely noticeable.

I was swarmed with mosquitoes the first several miles, but I was in good spirits and didn’t let them get the better of me. Walking by all the other camps in the area along the creek, the spot I chose last night was the best by far. I was so happy with my decision.

Early in my day, I passed a massive tree trunk with three trees coming up out of it. I envisioned hugging my two children, and smiled.

I got passed by a few thru-hikers today. They typically had their heads down, and were hiking so fast, I don’t know how they saw anything. Rather than enjoying the journey, it seemed like they just had to get the miles in.

I wanted to soak in the experience. I looked at the ground a lot so I didn’t trip, but I also stopped frequently to take in my surroundings, look in every direction, and see the sights. I guess it’s just different approaches, but I preferred my way.

I went through the Lonesome Fire Complex – a 2008 fire. It was one of the coolest sections to hike. It looked like a Dr. Seuss book; I loved it.

According to my book, that fire section turned into forest with a pleasant shady walk the rest of the leg, but that was not the case. Another fire swept through in the last year or two, not accounted for in my book, and it made for a very hot, exposed, and dusty day of hiking.

I originally planned on taking a side trail to Stuart Falls in order to have a water source, and camp near a waterfall (sounded pretty epic), then I would only have 8.7 miles to hike up to Mazama Village the next day. However, that’s the day I decided to cut out to get to Mazama Village in one day instead of two.

I never noticed the side trail to the falls, I’m not sure it’s a thing anymore because of the fire, so my decision worked out, phew! I found this to be the case through all of Oregon – it always worked out...

I made it to mile 10 around 1:30 p.m. and felt great at this point, but the second half of the day was more challenging. My feet got really achy. I changed my socks three times trying to find the sweet spot. I didn’t have any blisters or sores, they just ached, and I became physically and mentally tired. I took a long break around mile 13 with cell service. I checked in with all my usual people. My GPS was showing me at Hyatt Lake still, so I fiddled with it and got it going again. Apparently it was turned off – oops!

In one section of the recovering forest, I saw a type of fungus on every tree. I wish I could remember my forest ecology lessons with more confidence, but I believe fungus is one of the first signs of a rejuvenating forest. I saw several woodpeckers in this section too.

I powered through the rest of the day, but those final miles were tough. I just wanted to be there. Seeing the Crater Lake National Park sign gave me a boost of energy.

I decided to take a shortcut my book described. It only shaved a mile off, but saved me 600 ft. of unnecessary elevation gain, and a mile is a mile. My goal of this journey was to walk across all of Oregon; how I did it mattered less to me, so leaving the PCT wasn’t a big deal in my mind. When I arrived to the Pumice Flat Trail junction, I signed the PCT trail registry, and took the aptly named trail.

This trail lifted my spirits even more; I was almost there! I found a few pumice rocks to give my 4-year old. Magic floating rocks would prove to be a fun science experiment in a few days. I also found an interesting skull – it was so pristine, like it was placed there by a person.

Cool find on Pumice Flat Trail

I was running low on food. I underestimated the amount of snacks I would need through the day, so it was good I eliminated a full day and night of hiking. I began to daydream about the restaurant at Mazama Village. Toward the end of Pumice Flat Trail I heard cars zooming down the highway, it was a welcome noise today!

The final 3 miles were up the highway to the campground. I underestimated how unpleasant this would be. It’s a busy road with no shoulder or bike path. Some cars pulled way over to make me feel safe, while others seemed to veer toward me. Not everyone likes backpackers.

The asphalt was hard on my feet. I questioned if the shortcut was worth it…lessons learned. About halfway up, a pullout provided a view of pinnacles. I stopped and enjoyed the scene and gave my feet a rest.

Every step moving forward was accompanied with my mental mantras of, “Almost there, just one foot in front of the other, almost there…almost there…almost there…you got this!” When I finally saw the sign for Mazama Village I was overjoyed – yay, I did it! Now I just had to figure out where to go.

It was immediate culture shock, there were a ton of people. I saw lines out of buildings, everyone wearing masks and keeping a 6 ft. distance. The real world came rushing back to me. It’s strange to be alone all day then dumped into hundreds of people, especially during the pandemic.

I spotted some of the backpackers from yesterday huddled behind bushes next to the general store sharing a huge pizza and drinking beer; they looked really funny. I wished I could keep up with them, but I was SO looking forward to my zero day tomorrow. My body hurt. I couldn’t imagine hiking 25+ miles every single day.

I asked them where the backpackers camping area was, and they loosely described an area in the campground. I wanted to set my pack down, change into comfy shoes, and clean up a bit before hitting the restaurant. I wandered around the campground, but it was huge, and totally pointless without knowing where I was going exactly. It was a pretty silly choice on my tired feet, and I was getting cranky. Tired and famished is a tough combo.

I stopped at the restroom and thoroughly appreciated the running water. I washed my hands and splashed my face, then headed to the Annie Creek restaurant.

There was a line out the door, and I nearly decided “forget it,” but I used my pack to keep my place in line while I sat in one of the famous Crater Lake rocking chairs – heaven. I told myself to be patient. I was worried I was filthy and smelly, and bothering everyone around me, but I don’t think I was that bad.

The line actually went fast, it was just COVID stuff – not that the restaurant was busy. Patrons ordered as soon as they entered the doors, but they didn’t have a menu outside for people to scan and decide what they wanted before getting to the cash register, this would have been WAY more efficient, but…

I wanted a pizza, but they only had one size, and it was huge. I ordered the Beyond Burger with a side salad and a grapefruit Hard seltzer, then headed to a table outside, where there was plenty of room. There were a handful of backpackers in the corner, some I met yesterday. They were heading up to the rim with a plan to catch the sunrise over Crater Lake in the morning.

Catch from Hong Kong was there too! He was staying in the Mazama Lodge Campground, and joined me while I ate my dinner. We had a great conversation. He has a wife of 6 years back home, so we shared sentiments on how amazing our partners are to support us in this adventure. Of course, he was going to be away from home far longer than me.

He explained that he got to San Diego the day before the U.S. shutdown, and spent 10 days in his hotel room trying to figure out what to do. He couldn’t go anywhere, nothing was open – talk about a bizarre experience. He finally decided to get going, and simply hike. He had to skip a section in California (about 100 miles) because of weather. He hoped to return to that section after tagging the Canadian border if he had time. I guess I’ll never know if he did.

Catch walked me to the backpacking camp. It was pretty deep into the campground, about as far away as it could be, and I was REALLY sore after sitting down for an hour. Good thing I had a day of rest tomorrow! I saw a few other tents and bicycles. I wouldn’t be alone tonight. I found a place for my tent, found the nearest bathroom, got my food in the convenient bear box provided, and was asleep fast.

Mazama Village Walk-in Campground – My Tent in the Background

Did you miss the beginning of my Oregon Pacific Crest Trail Journey? You can access it: HERE

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

PCT Oregon Day 7 – Klum Landing Campground to Brown Mtn. Shelter

Day Seven
Today’s Miles: 13.4
Total Miles: 74
Klum Landing Campground to Brown Mountain Shelter

Motivated to beat the heat, Hadlie was up by 6:30 a.m. ready to break down camp and hit the trail. I was awake an hour earlier, and had plenty of time for my morning yoga and meditation. I retrieved the bear bag hanging in a tree a few campsites over.

Yes, I hang my food bag every night backpacking. It gives me piece of mind that is well worth the extra few minutes in my day. I met several people along the PCT who didn’t bother, but I figure it helps to keep small, and large critters alike, from trying to enter my tent.

Trail Graffiti on a PCT sign

After we ate mashed potato burritos (our favorite backpacking breakfast), and returned the now empty gallon water jug with a thank you note, we left Klum Landing Campground and hiked the roughly .5 miles back to the PCT.

Water was a welcome sight pretty quickly in the day, which made me smile. I have not seen much water along the trail so far; a striking difference from the Portland area hikes with an abundance of rivers, waterfalls and lakes.

It was a fairly easy day of hiking with very little ups and downs, and a lot of forest that provided lovely shade. Another not-so-scenic day with the exception of a pretty view of Mt. Shasta for a bit. The mountain was now far in the distance behind me.

We topped off water at Big Springs, around 8 miles from our day’s destination. I read the water pump at Brown Mountain Shelter was broken, and I didn’t want to take any chances. On the flip side, you never want to carry extra water for no reason. Water is super duper heavy! I almost always err on the side of carrying too much, however.

Big Springs Water
Wildflowers near Big Springs
Entering Rogue River National Forest

A couple miles from the shelter, we passed a man hiking with a child. They were barely off the trail having a snack, and asked us about the water situation at the shelter. Their accent led me to believe they were from Europe, but I couldn’t place the country for sure. They had the appearance of thru-hikers, but I just couldn’t believe anyone would be hiking the entire PCT with a kid. Walking away, I wished I had asked more questions, but they seemed reserved, and I didn’t want to be rude.

Hadlie was done hiking by mile 10, her feet were aching, so the shelter was a welcome sight when we arrived around 4:30 p.m. I felt like I could keep going, which was a fantastic feeling. I’m getting my legs!

The book described the shelter as being an undesirable spot to camp, so I was a little nervous to have this be our destination, but it turned out great. There was plenty of space, the shelter added a fun backdrop (though we didn’t go in except for a quick peek), there was a large picnic table, several benches, and the water pump worked just fine – woohoo!

Hadlie was a little annoyed I made her carry all that extra water for nothing, but I didn’t want a repeat of last night’s water shortage situation. There was no one at the shelter when we first got there, but this changed quickly.

A man arrived just three minutes after us. He was a teacher from Boulder, CO, hiking all of Oregon, and Washington if he had time. It was way too early for him to quit for the day, so we wished each other well, and he was off to hike more miles.

Two minutes later, a man from Belgium arrived. His hiking buddy was behind him, and he planned to wait for him at the shelter so they could hike the remaining 10 miles for the day together. They were averaging 30-mile-days; obviously thru-hikers, and they had their legs!

The two men met on day one in Southern California, and had been hiking together ever since. How magical is that! To meet a complete stranger that you are compatible with, not only physically, but also temperament and personality. Talk about Trail Magic.

While Hadlie and I made a backpacker meal of Mac-n-Cheese, Port (PCT trail name), shared trail stories with us. He had several encounters with animals including bears, rattlesnakes, and one spooky Mountain Lion story. He shared his favorite scenery so far, and how he had to jump around California because of the late snow melt in the Sierras.

Port told us about another man from Belgium travelling with his 11-year old son. We told him we passed them earlier in the day! I was SO excited to hear the scoop on this duo.

Indeed, the two of them were hiking the entire PCT. Port told us he hiked a couple hundred miles with them in California, including the climb up Mt. Whitney – icepicks and all. He said it was pretty nerve-wracking climbing the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States with a child. Wow, I was really impressed. Hadlie decided if an 11-year old can hike 2,650 miles, she can do 31.5 without complaining too much.

His buddy, Woody (PCT Trail name), who was from San Diego, didn’t arrive at the shelter until 6:30 p.m., and they decided to call it a day. They just cowboy camped – no tent – simply on the ground in sleeping bags with their food bag between them. Port told me bears are more scared of us than we are of them, and the bears wouldn’t dare approach a human to get to a food bag. Hmmm….okay.

Hadlie and I got our tent set up, and settled in for the night. I hung my bear bag far away from all of us.

Camp For The Night

Around 7 p.m., Shannon (the woman I met at Callahan’s Lodge) strolled into camp. Yay – I was so excited to hear her familiar voice! Thirty minutes later, another man arrived. It felt like a party (socially distanced of course). I wasn’t too worried about COVID, hanging with these folks who had been living in the woods for months.

This night gave me the misperception my evenings would be full of company. However, having people nearby would actually be very rare moving forward.

Shannon was trying to get to Crater Lake in just a few days to meet her husband, and was planning on spending a couple zero days there. I figured I could catch up to her again, and we loosely planned to find each other at the campground.

That evening, Hadlie listened to a podcast while I wrote in my journal. This was one of the most joyous and memorable evenings on the trail.

Flowers surrounding the shelter

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.

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 5 to Hyatt Lake

Day Five
Today’s Miles: 11.6
Total Miles: 52.4
Camp 7 (near Hobart Bluff Trailhead) to Hyatt Lake

I slept in until 6:30 a.m., and started my morning with yoga stretches and meditation. I focused on affirmations of safety, wellness, and “I’ve got this!” I wanted to face my fear. I was determined to be brave. Today was the final day of backpacking with Carl during this first leg. He wouldn’t join me again until the final few days at the top of the state.

A visual of what Carl and I did the first 5 days – Donomore Pass to Hyatt Lake

We topped off our water, and hit the trail by 8:30 a.m. I was excited to finally be hiking north instead of east. Big animal tracks greeted us first thing. Carl wanted to see a large mammal, apparently not satisfied with his rattlesnake experience yesterday. I didn’t have a strong desire to see any large mammals, and I made a mental note to add that to my morning affirmations.

Cougar?
Bear scratches?

We made it to the Hobart Bluff trailhead in no time. One of the best outhouses on the trail lives here. In fact, you can hike the first 50.6 miles of the Oregon PCT (Northbound) with facilities every night if you plan accordingly. This section is particularly nice for anyone new to backpacking, and wanting to be “eased” into the scene. There is nothing special about the camp at Hobart Bluff Trailhead, our spot last night was far better. I’ll take a beautiful location over an outhouse any day.

Three miles up the trail, the PCT passes through the Green Springs Wildlife Sanctuary for one mile.

We hiked grassy savannas with views into the valley, and open hillsides.

It was a hard day. I was sore, and my body ached more than the previous days. We took many breaks, several involved taking shoes and socks off to allow our feet to breathe.

Toward the end of our day, we heard the sound of water and got so excited! This meant we were almost to our destination for the night. On the shore of the outlet of Little Hyatt Reservoir we took a proper break, soaking our feet in the water, eating the last of our food – which included a treat of a freeze dried ice-cream bar (that wasn’t very good), and chatted about our five amazing days together.

The kids met us at Hyatt Lake campground where we found a spot to stay for the night. I was tempted by the cabins with hot tubs rented out at Camper’s Cove Resort, but we decided $12.00 for a spot at the campground was a good deal, and more in our budget. We had to reserve online because of the pandemic, and none of us had great phone service. After a frustrating 30 minutes, and an $8.00 fee to reserve online, we had our spot for the night.

At 5:50 p.m. we headed to the Camper’s Cove Resort for dinner to discover they close at 6 p.m. Oh no! I planned on us eating at a restaurant for this night in my resupply bag planning, so I panicked for a minute. It certainly felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere, and we were mega minimal camping tonight. Why would a restaurant serving dinner close at 6 p.m.?

Thankfully the woman inside, (ironically named Sunshine because she was not all that friendly) told us about another restaurant just 10 minutes down the road, open till 8 p.m. – woohoo!

Cocorico was FANTASTIC – highly recommended!

We were immediately so happy the other place closed, because we knew this would be superior in every way. The menu was ideal, the owner of the restaurant was beyond friendly, the outside seating was great, and they even had a play structure our little one could play on while we waited for our food. Slam dunk perfect, and the food was AMAZING. This was a highlight of my entire Oregon adventure. (Well, I REALLY like food.)

When we got back to camp I had a mini breakdown; I couldn’t find my phone anywhere. Carl even drove around to retrace our steps. All I could think was, “Now I can’t hike the PCT!” My daughter, Hadlie, was probably hoping with fingers crossed, “Now I don’t have to hike part of the PCT.” (The plan was for her to join me the next three days.) Crisis averted when I finally found it in the car.

I got the four-year-old to sleep around 10 p.m., and happily fell asleep myself after listening to my daughter freak out about all the bugs she could see (on the outside) of her tent. Oy, I’m backpacking with her tomorrow? 🙂

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 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

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.