Tag Archives: Seven Lakes Basin

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

PCT Oregon Day 10 to Seven Lakes Basin

Day 10
Today’s Miles: 13.1
Total Miles: 112.6
Island Lake (Sky Lakes Wilderness) to Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin)

I was awake at sunrise and ready to get out of Island Lake camp. Although I didn’t sleep well, I never let fear completely take over. I was a little scared off and on, but nothing debilitating. Last night gave me the confidence that I can really do this!

Farewell Island Lake Camp

Good news: my bear bag was hanging right where I left it. I wish I had a camera on it to see what really happened last night, but I’ll never know for sure. The mosquitoes were awful again, so I tried to hurry my packing process.

My ankle was feeling better. I was worried it would be worse today after all the weight on it yesterday, but thankfully it seemed to be healing. It was still sore, but I was on the mend – woohoo! I took the support tape off, wondering if that actually made it worse yesterday.

According to my book, there was zero water on the trail today until camp this evening, so I filled my bottles. There was no cell reception here, which always adds a small level of fear when you are alone, so I was anxious to check in with Carl; I knew he was probably worried.

I love these wooden signs.

I hiked the .6 miles back to the PCT and was on my way. The pain in my ankle shot up through my leg pretty quickly, so I took Ibuprofrin and stayed medicated through the day, though it was much better than yesterday.

Only 2.5 miles up, I passed the invisible milestone of 100 MILES on the Oregon section of the PCT (from the California border). My mileage is higher because I count ALL the miles I hike, including side trips to camping locations. I was hoping for a little trail graffiti to mark the location, but there wasn’t any. Still, a pretty uplifting milepost. I decided early, this would be a good day!

It turned out to be one of the most epic hiking days yet. The views were outstanding, and I really needed it to lift my spirits. At the first big rocky outcrop, I climbed onto a boulder with sweeping views. There were a ton of hummingbirds, and I finally figured out they were attracted to my red sleeping pad, hence all the dive bombing.

I checked for cell service, and was connected to the outside world. I let Carl know I was doing okay, as he was worried about me of course. I let my parents know I was safe as well. My mom worried about me now that I was hiking alone. I also heard news about my previous work world that caused some stress. The price you pay for “checking in” – I had to shake it off, and hike on.

With all these amazing views, came a lot of climbing. My endurance was tested today. It was tough, but thankfully once I got out on the open cliffs, the mosquitoes went away – yay!

This was also the first day the trail made me just a little nervous. It was narrow in parts, with a loose rocky surface, and a very steep cliffside. If I lost my footing, it would not end well! I paid close attention and was very careful. My heavy pack made me extra cautious – it would send me flying down pretty quickly. Plus, I only saw one other person hiking all day (until later in the evening).

I went through the 790 fire burn area (2014) that burned two miles of the PCT. This was the first burn area (of many) I encountered. It was actually quite beautiful, just in a different way. The flowers were amazing through this section. I certainly said a little prayer that the trail would stay safe and open – free from fires this year.

I read blogs of previous hikers in 2016 and 2017 when basically all of Oregon was on fire, and they were forced to bypass much of the state. Well, my prayer was answered for part of the summer, as 2020 would be a devastating fire season in the later months.

The last big climb (that really tested me) provided views of Mt. McLoughlin and even Mt. Shasta, now WAY behind me.

First patch of snow sighted – just off the trail

Once I got around Devils Peak, the view was breathtaking. I sat in a little alcove with nearly a 360 degree view – WOW in every direction. Previous hikers had placed fun “sitting” rocks to enjoy the scene, and I took full advantage. This day reminded me of why I’m doing this, and I felt so grateful, humbled, and blessed.
I really love Oregon.

Fun sitting rocks

Then it was time to go DOWN…it was a very steep set of switchbacks that ended with the sweet sound of a bubbling creek, and my camp for the night just beyond it. (Camp 10 in my book – pg. 89)

Yay for WATER!

Camping here would make tomorrow a little longer, but according to my book, it sounded like the very best spot in the area. It was on a cliff with a view of Devils Peak and a panorama to the west. I’m a sucker for a camp with a view, and will ALWAYS opt for that when given a choice. I also figured this was my best shot at mosquito reprieve since it was open as opposed to ducking back into the forest.

View From Camp

I was excited no one was there yet. It was still early to quit for thru-hiker standards, only 4:30 p.m. I claimed my spot and heard people coming down the trail pretty quickly. I met two thru-hikers hiking for the second year in a row. They met each other on the PCT last year, and decided to hike it again.

“The world is pretty much shit right now (i.e. pandemic), so why not hike the PCT again,” one hiker shared. They had both lost their jobs too.

Two minutes later, a group of four appeared. I heard accents, and they were all clearly thru-hikers as well. Two of the women were sisters from New Zealand, one man was from Hong Kong, and I can’t remember the 4th. Everyone was planning on getting to Mazama Village (Crater Lake campground) tomorrow. I told them it was my goal, but I was nervous. It would be the most mileage I’ve done so far. They encouraged me saying,
“You can totally do it – you got this!” As a side note, this whole crew started at Fish Lake this morning – where I was two mornings ago. They were putting in 30 mile days.

One of the hikers, “Catch” (trail name) from Hong Kong, asked if he could share this camp spot with me. I tried to tamper my excitement so he didn’t think I was too weird, but I was SO happy I wouldn’t be alone again at night. I still had my large 2-person tent that definitely took up more space than I needed, but I snagged the only spot that would work for it.

Carl was working on getting me a single person tent that would be half the weight of the 2-person I was currently carrying. That would make a big difference!

The other hikers kept going to find camps up the trail. Feeling a little anxious, I boiled my drinking water, which was super embarrassing to do in front of a thru-hiker, though I doubt he took notice. I’m sure the creek water was fantastic, but I just couldn’t stomach it this night.

Catch hung in his tent and we never talked. I was kinda bummed; thru-hikers are so interesting, but I’m guessing they get tired of sharing their trail stories. At the end of the day, I was super tired, so I understood. All I really wanted to do was relax in my sleeping bag too.

View from inside my tent
Inside my tent view

An older couple came rolling in around 8 p.m. and asked to camp with us. We said, “Of course!” The good tent spots were limited, but they made something work. They were so great, super cute, so excited about everything, and appreciated all the surroundings and the time together. They were just out wandering the trails for a week with no real destination in mind, and swam in four lakes today – that made me smile.

We got a magnificent sunset. Mt. Thielsen loomed in the distance. I wrote in my journal and enjoyed the changing sky. As I fell asleep, a frog came to visit me under the flap of the tent – always a good omen! This was a really good day, especially following my incredibly challenging day before, and my ankle was MUCH better! I was pumped for my super duper big day tomorrow!

Track Musings:
The last couple of days I’ve spotted the below tracks on the trail. The first time I thought, “What the hell kind of animal is that? Is a small child hiking in those barefoot shoes?” I was completely perplexed, but then I saw the tracks more with each passing day, and I concluded it must be a cute print on the bottom of a set of trekking poles. This little print in the trail for the next 150 miles brought me great comfort. I felt like I was following someone and sharing the trail with this person. He or she was only a day ahead of me, guiding me along. It felt like company in an odd way. When you are hiking alone for hours upon hours, you have a lot of time to create ideas of comfort for yourself. This little track became a big deal in my mind over the next few weeks.

Did you miss the beginning of my journey? Access Day One