Tag Archives: Thielsen Creek

Pacific Crest Trail Oregon – Day 15 to Tolo Camp

Day 15
Today’s Miles: 17.4
Total Miles: 183.4
Thielsen Creek to Tolo Camp (Six Horse Spring) 6.2 miles south of Windigo Pass

It was another chilly morning. I had to sleep in all my layers last night, but the elevation here is pretty high. In fact, today I pass the highest point on the PCT in OR/WA!

Awake at 5:30 a.m., I walked by the creek and did some morning mediations, stretched, and retrieved my bear bag. Sonya was awake in my final 10 minutes, and I told her we could try to find each other at Odell Lake. I was planning a zero day there, so they potentially had time to catch up to me.

Farewell Thielsen Creek Camp

I was on the trail by 7:15 a.m. After trucking along for 10 minutes, I decided to check in with my good friend, the half-mile PCT app, and discovered I was NOT on the trail! I then remembered we camped at a trail junction, and I foolishly just hopped on a trail and started hiking. Yikes! The trail I was on would have met back up with the PCT, but I was disappointed I wasted 20 minutes, and I wasn’t being more careful.

Heading back to camp, I found the PCT and was officially on my way. The early morning light shines through the trees like no other time of day, and this section had some wow moments.

I was awarded a few last fun views of Mt. Thielsen, and encountered my very first snow on the trail. Nothing dangerous of course, and I was able to mostly walk around, but for some reason it felt momentous to me at the time.

First of several patches of snow on the trail today
Alligator Tree and the PCT

I traveled over several pumice flat areas before arriving at Tipsoo Pass, the highest point on the PCT in Oregon and Washington at 7560-feet. It was fairly anticlimactic – not even a hill to climb, but it was a fun location to acknowledge.

A buff was tied to the post and a bra…I guess that is what you do. I just took obligatory photos, and checked in with the real-world (taking advantage of the high point for cell reception). My dad let me know the GPS was working great, and he was having fun tracking my progress each day.

I had originally planned to camp at Maidu lake, but it was .8 miles off the trail, and not far enough along in my day, so I passed that junction and kept hiking toward Tolo camp and the trail to Six Horse Spring.

I hope this is aptly named Horseshoe lake.

I passed my first SOBO (heading south) hiker later in the afternoon. He was resting off the trail smoking a cigarette, about to take a nap because he, “doesn’t hike in the heat of the day.” He was retired from Florida, had hiked the Appalachian trail already, and started the PCT in Cascade Locks, with plans to exit somewhere in Northern California.

The PCT website recommended folks only hike NOBO (northbound) this year due to the virus, so I only met 3 or 4 not following the recommendation. However, there were so few people on the trail in general, I don’t think it really mattered.

It was only 5:30 p.m., when I arrived at Tolo camp, but I was tired, and needed water. For some reason I thought there was a shelter, and I would see other hikers, neither of these things were true.

I set up my tent to snag the spot I wanted in case another hiker did come along, (no one did). I nearly started down the path to the spring with just my filter, but thought better of it at the last minute. I grabbed my mosquito net (an item I was thankful to get out of my resupply bag at Crater Lake), and thick rain jacket. Good thing, I was about to enter a mosquito city!

It was .5 miles of steep switchbacks down to the spring. I passed two ponds, that no one would want to drink from, but the Florida SOBO hiker told me to simply keep going and I would see a trickle of running water.

A tiny trickle

I geared up, the mosquitos were HORRIBLE; hundreds and hundreds swarming me. I filtered more water than I needed, but I knew there was NO WAY I would be coming back down here.

With full bottles, I made my way back to camp, which was fortunately far enough away from the spring I was never bothered by skeeters. The camp had great logs for sitting on, and I made a Pad Thai backpacker meal that I was pleasantly surprised by, bonus – it had carrots! My body was craving veggies.

I spent the evening trying to make a decision on which way I wanted to hike the next two days. The original plan was to veer off the PCT at Windigo Pass and take the Skyline Trail passing Crescent Lake, but I started considering just sticking to the PCT so I could pass Summit Lake and the Diamond Peak wilderness area.

There is comfort to staying on the trail, and seeing the familiar PCT signs, not to mention my handy dandy PCT app that let’s me know if I’m off the trail (like this morning). But, the Skyline trail is a shortcut that shaves off nearly 11 miles, and according to my book, a descent amount of elevation. It would allow me to arrive at Odell lake in two days at a decent hour to meet my parents with my resupply bag, and Carl and my little one for family time.

I decided I would stick to the original plan and take the shortcut. Again, my goal was to walk across the state of Oregon, and although I would do this nearly entirely on the PCT, I “allowed” myself to veer off when it made sense. I figured this was a section I could come back and do another time if I wanted.

This was my second night all alone on the trail. I didn’t love it, but I was getting used to it, and much better at disregarding any fears that would pop into my imagination. I was adding layers of bravery with each passing day.
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PCT Oregon – Day 14 to Thielsen Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 14 Sunset

** The names of fellow backpackers have changed for privacy.
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