On Sunday afternoon, Jacob, Jean, and Jerry drove me back to Cascade locks so I could get back on the trail.
Jacob walked across the Bridge of the Gods with me then I bade everyone farewell on the Washington side.
It was 4 pm and I had a few rocky miles of hiking before starting uphill. I hiked until nearly dark, going just over 11 miles and found a great campsite surrounded by trees to protect me from the wind.
I had entered Washington and only had 515 miles to go!
The following day, I finished the uphill climb and continued through the forest for most of the day, while occasionally getting a peek at the mountains in the distance.
After a mostly flatish afternoon, I started an 8 mile climb with over 2,000′ of elevation. The uphill took me until about 8 pm, when I reached a large campsite near a spring. It was a 35 mile day and I done.
I had been in touch with Jean about my schedule and she offered to come pick me up after work the next day. I spent the morning walking around town and watching the river, but there isn’t much to do in cascade locks except hike the trails so I was ready to go my mid morning.
I decided to try hitching to Portland. I thought it might take awhile to get a ride so I prepared myself to wait. The second car to drive by stopped and picked me up!
The guy I got a ride from dropped me off at a train station on the east side of town and I took that in to downtown. I had some hours to kill before Jean and Jerry would get off work, so I went to Voodoo Donuts then hung out at Powell’s bookstore.
I met Jean and Jerry in Beaverton and we went out to dinner at a great Indian restaurant.
I had heard from Horizon that he was also heading to Portland to hang out with his brother for a few days. He was not nearly as far on the trail as I was so had to hitch from near Crater Lake. He needed a place to stay that night and Jean and Jerry were kind enough to let him stay at their home. We met him nearby and headed to the house. It was great to catch up with Horizon and hear all of his stories from the trail. But we were both tired and soon went to sleep.
While Jean and Jerry were at work the next day, Horizon and I hung out then went into Portland for lunch. I ran some errands and came back for dinner.
Jacob arrived on Friday morning and the weekend was filled with hanging out, catching up, visiting Justin and Kyoko’s new house, and seeing our friends, James and Maggie. All of it was wonderful and relaxing. And well earned after conquering the Oregon challenge which is to hike the 450 miles of the PCT in 14 days.
The following day I started with a big uphill and Rocky trail. I still had nice views of Mt. Hood and I could see Mt. Adams in the distance.
About 15 miles from Cascade locks, I took the Eagle Creek alternate which bypasses 16.5 miles of PCT and deposits you just outside of town. I had heard the alternate was prettier than the trail and I am so glad I took it.
After a very steep descent on a connector trail, I got to the Eagle Creek trail. I passed gorgeous waterfalls and pools, spent an hour hanging out by a river, soaking my feet, and meandered slowly taking in the views.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, I got to Tunnel Falls, and walked behind a waterfall!
Then I walked along the top of a deep gorge and was reminded of the forces of nature.
I had planned on camping about five miles from Cascade locks, but then I discovered that camping wasn’t allowed in that part of the trail! I ended up hiking all the way into town that evening and got to the grocery store just before they closed.
I was at the lowest elevation of the entire trail: 180 feet above sea level and the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River stood before me.
When we broke camp on day 101, Rocky Point joked about hiking the 42 miles to Timberline lodge that day. I wasn’t in a hurry since I was so far ahead of schedule and didn’t think he was serious until he never stopped for a break and I didn’t see him all morning. At lunch time, Fox said he was going to try to catch Rocky so I hiked most of the day by myself.
It was mostly forested with gentle hills and I took my time enjoying the views of the lakes I passed.
I also got some views of Mt. Hood although there was a lot of fog and clouds.
Originally I was only going to hike about 35 miles, but I was running low on water and didn’t have enough for that night and the morning so I ended up going all the way to the next stream, making it a 40 mile day.
I didn’t see the guys at the campsite there so I guessed they went all the way to the lodge.
There were a lot of people at the campsite and I was awoken early by the sound of someone packing up. Since I was awake I also got going.
I only had two miles to Timberline lodge where I was going to hang out for the day but it was all up hill and through sand which was not fun. Luckily the views made up for it.
I hung out in the lodge until they started their all you can eat breakfast buffet. I found Fox and Rocky waiting as well and we gorged ourselves together. After breakfast the guys took off and I hung out, trying to slow myself down so I didn’t get to Cascade locks too soon; Jacob was flying to Portland on Friday and I only had 50 miles to Cascade locks and it was Monday.
It was nice to relax during the day and enjoy the view.
Around 3 pm I got back on the trail.
After going over several ridges and crossing a raging river, I took a detour to Ramona Falls.
Ramona Falls was stunning and I also enjoyed walking next to a river for several miles.
I rejoined the PCT and made camp soon after.
In my resupply box at Big Lake, I got my rain jacket, gloves, and fleece top back and not a moment too soon! As we approached Mt. Jefferson, a cold front came through with biting cold wind and heavy fog. I put on my puffy, gloves, and rain jacket and wore them for most of the day.
I think there might have been some nice views, but they were obscured by the fog. We did have one river crossing that was slightly harder than stepping across. I scrambled over some rocks and hardly got my feet wet. Fox had his camera ready in case Rocky or I took an accidental swim but neither of us did.
We walked along some foggy, windy ridges for most of the day, then entered Jefferson park where we met many hikers. The picture below is not Mt. Jefferson, which was mostly blocked by fog. I saw most of it for a brief moment, but only caught it with my camera.
In the late afternoon we made a slight detour to Ollalie Lake Resort where we got a cold drink and snacks. It was the fourth day in a row where we had “real” food (I.e. not trail food) and we were getting spoiled. I celebrated my 100th day on the trail with pretzels and a kit kat.
The long break revived me and we busted out nine miles in two and a half hours before making camp near a creek.
Fox, Rocky, and I stayed at Big Lake for breakfast the next morning then headed out. The day was filled with forest then more forest. For variety, nature provided us with dead forest to hike through for a bit. The burned areas were due to different fires because in some parts there was nothing on the ground and it looked post apocalyptic, but in other areas there were young trees as high as my shoulder.
In the morning I passed mile 2000!! But there was no marker like at 1000. I guess I’m not the only one getting tired. But with only 650 miles to go, I started feeling like the end was in sight.
I was a few minutes behind Fox and Rocky when I came around a corner and smelled fire. And not just a campfire, a forest fire. I saw the guys stopped on the trail with another hiker, looking into the burned trees. When I approached, Rocky pointed out some flames in the woods: some of the trees were on fire!
Trees on fire
That’s not fog in the picture above, it is smoke. Rocky, the other hiker and I took our extra water and went to try to put the small fires out. Fox, meanwhile, posted about it on Facebook. We extinguished several patches of flames but couldn’t reach the ones high off the ground. Then we heard some creaking and crackling and realized that we were not in the safest place. We retreated to the trail where we saw in the sand a message stating that another hiker called 911. Fox tried to call the forest service but only left a message. However, we felt confident that some authority knew of the fire so we hiked on.
It got really foggy in the late afternoon and felt a lot later in the day than it actually was. We went through a fairly long section where there was no water and had to refill at a lake instead of a river, but that’s what you have to do sometimes. Because of our late start, we “only” hiked 28.4 miles that days and camped in a nice clearing just after Shale Lake.
Fox got his resupply box at Elk Lake, but Rocky Point and I were getting ours at Big Lake Youth Camp, just 36.3 miles away: another worthy goal for the day.
The scenery was also very pretty; instead of just hiking through the forest, we passed through several meadows and had some views of mountains.
The wildflowers were in full bloom and made the air smell amazingly fragrant. We crossed several creeks and went by some lakes.
In the afternoon, however, we entered the lava fields and our forward progress slowed significantly.
For nearly five miles we trudged along the pumice, watching the clouds roll in.
Then the storm let loose and within minutes it went from clouds building to a downpour! We were out on the exposed lava rocks (me without my rain jacket) and we got drenched. We tried to make a break for the woods nearby but you can’t walk too fast on lava rocks without risking a twisted ankle. When we got to the trees, they provided great cover but it was a bit too late. However, once again the storm passed quickly and the rain stopped soon enough.
The last few miles to Big Lake Youth Camp were through the woods, on a fresh bed of pine needles.
We got to the camp around 8:30 pm and immediately picked up our packages before the reception closed. We got the tour and heard there was leftover dinner in the dining hall so we headed there directly. The camp food is all vegetarian and we had delicious chili, cornbread, and salad. I hadn’t eaten anything for over ten miles and I was hungry! Food always tastes the best after hiking so far.
After eating, I took a shower, did laundry, and reorganized my food and pack. I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 11 pm. It was a long day!
There are a lot of mellow hills along the PCT in Oregon. None of them are very long or steep, which makes the hiking pleasant and pretty easy for the most part. It’s a lot of hiking through the woods, but today we went past several beautiful lakes.
Rocky and I hiked together for most of the day, but Fox took off early like a bat out of hell because he was excited to get to Elk Lake Resort for “real food” and beer. It was 23 miles from where we camped so I didn’t try to push it too hard; I knew that I’d be there by mid afternoon.
We entered the Three Sisters Wilderness and were hoping to see the mountains, but the skies were overcast with low clouds which obscured the view.
It helps to have a goal to hike towards each day and the prospect of restaurant food is one of the best. Sometimes the hours are long but today they pasted by pretty quickly.
When I was about two miles from Elk Lake, I encountered some guys out doing trail maintenance. One asked me a few questions then asked to see my permit. He was really nice about it and explained that it’s mostly to ensure that people are using the trails and that money is needed to maintain them. It was the first time anyone asked to see my permit. I had hiked 1950 miles.
Shortly after that it started to rain. It was a good shower for a few minutes and I was really glad when it let up quickly because I didn’t have my rain jacket. I had sent it home for a few hundred miles and would only get it back at my next resupply place in a few days. Luckily the storm passed and I was dry by the time I got to Elk Lake Resort.
It was a bit cool, but we sat outside and had an early dinner and ice cream, relaxing for nearly three hours. It was a great break and I felt re-energized afterward. We even hiked another ten miles that day for a total of 33.7 miles before dark. We camped near Mirror Lake, seen below.
Our path continued through forest and along ridges, but would occasionally come out to an open area like the ones below.
There’s still a bit of snow on the tops of the mountains but nothing where we were.
After several fairly long stretches without water, we finally came to miles of trail filled with lakes. We went swimming in the first one we saw.
The water was warm and clear and felt like silk over my body. I was able to get the dust and bug spray off me for a few minutes and it felt like heaven.
We dried quickly in the sun as we ate lunch but soon clouds started to roll in and we heard the crackling of thunder.
Even with the long swim break, we hiked nearly 33 miles that day. The sky rumbled all afternoon but only a few rain drops fell and we passed a dry night at a beautiful campsite next to Charlton lake.
Fox and Rocky Point have the goal of finishing the PCT by the end of July so they have been hiking 32+ miles per day to get through Oregon in under two weeks. They have been good company and consequently I have been going faster than I thought.
The day after Crater Lake, we mostly hiked through forests. Early in the morning we passed the highest point on the trail in Oregon and Washington.
There are still a lot of mosquitoes everywhere and we only get relief during the middle of the day but at least the temperatures have cooled off considerably. It has only been in the 80s most days and drops into the 50s at night so sleeping is a lot more pleasant.
The three of us hiked together through the woods and played some games to pass the time. One of us would name an actor and we would go around naming movies he/she had been in. The first person who couldn’t name a movie lost. I was horrible at this game and lost nearly every round, except for one.
The highlight of the day was getting a few views.
We camped near a pond, which, although mosquitoes were everywhere, allowed me to wash my feet and legs before going to bed and that is a luxury I have not experienced in a while.
From Mazama Village, the official PCT skirts around Crater Lake and continues north. However, why come all that way without actually looking into the crater? Instead, nearly all hikers take an alternate route that climbs up to the Rim Village then follows the crater Rim trail for about 7 miles before reuniting with the official trail again. Of course I took the alternate.
Huck and I left camp around 6:30 am and got to the Rim Village cafe half an hour before it opened. We hung around waiting and in the meantime, Fox and Rocky Point arrived. The four of us got coffee and snacks then set off on the rim trail. It was spectacular!! My words can’t describe the scene well enough, but hopefully these pictures can.
We took our time along the rim, really enjoying the views and taking a lot of pictures. It was a very relaxing morning.
From the cafe it was nearly 20 miles to the next water source but it finally wasn’t so hot and sunny so I only carries 3 liters of water and that was enough.
In the afternoon we got down to business and put in some real miles. To pass the time, we played some tricks games, seeing who could name the most state capitals or answer random questions. It was nice to hike in a group again. Even though Crater Lake was the highlight of the day, we still saw some interesting sights.
At one point Huck, who was leading, started walking very fast and the rest of us couldn’t keep up. We lost him for a few hours but eventually caught up when we got to a campsite just after a creek.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of buzzing. The noise reminded me of the high voltage power lines the trail has sometimes gone under. It took me a few moments to realize what the sound actually was: hundreds of mosquitoes swarming around my tent! I did not want to get up and face the invasion but eventually my bladder convinced me otherwise.
Once I started hiking they weren’t so bad, but I was wearing Deet.
It was July 4th and nature started celebrating Independence day with a glorious sunrise.
Much of the hiking I did that morning was in heavy woods, but I occasionally got a view out and this is what I saw:
I was feeling a bit low after battling the mosquitoes and being alone for a few days but once I entered Crater Lake National Park, I started seeing more people which cheered me up a bit.
It was 30 miles from where I camped to Mazama Village in Crater Lake where I had my resupply package but the miles dragged by. I listened to an audio book to help pass the time but it still felt like forever.
Finally I reached the store and found Huck sitting in the shade near the door. I got my boxes (I ordered a new pair of shoes to be delivered there) and breathed a sigh of relief when I got both of them. Jacob had only mailed my food earlier that week and I was worried it might not arrive in time. But all went well and I treated myself to an ice cream sandwich and orange juice to celebrate.
After sorting out my supplies, I went in search of the showers in the campground and the hiker site to set up my tent. I was feeling much better after getting clean (a woman I met near the showers gave me a bar of soap so I had an actual wash) but I was hungry.
I headed to the restaurant nearby but it was only 45 minutes until they closed and they were not seating anyone else. Fortunately, Fox (who I met at Callahan’s a few days before) saw me and invited me to join him and Rocky Point who were just getting their meals. I ordered veggie lasagna and the three of us had a great time eating and chatting. The two guys had gone directly to the restaurant when they got in because both had run out of food before noon and had hiked 20 miles without eating anything. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. They took off right after eating so they could shower and set up camp, while I hung around for a bit to charge my phone.
There were no fireworks or big celebrations for me this holiday, but I was extremely happy to be camping near some other thru hikers again.
On July 3rd, I passed the 2/3 mark on the trail. I was exactly three months in and 66% done. Plus I was hiking over 30 miles per day so the miles were starting to fly by.
So far the trail in Oregon has been marked extremely well. At every road and intersection, there are signs for the PCT so getting lost is harder and you don’t need to refer to the maps as much, which is nice.
The scenery is a bit monotonous though: it has mostly been hiking through woods with few views. But sometimes you come to a section like this:
I also passed a nice looking shelter that was just off trail, but didn’t stay there because it was too early to camp.
At one point I got a great sight of a mountain in the distance.
Most of the day passed pretty slowly since I was by myself and didn’t see many people. I listened to an audio book for a few hours in the afternoon.
In the evening the mosquitoes started getting bad. I finally stopped to put on some bug spray and in the brief time it took to apply I got several bites. There wasn’t even water around to attract them.
Around the time I started looking for a campsite, the mosquitoes were at their worst so I decided to keep moving, hoping they would let up.
But they never did.
I cursed them up and down, nearly yelling in frustration. They drove me to distraction. Finally, after hiking nearly 40 miles, I set up my tent on a flat place as quickly as possible and dived in to avoid too many bites. I fell asleep to the sound of buzzing all around me.
I left Callahan’s around 6:30 am to get some miles in before it got too hot. For once there was no huge hill to climb to get out of town! I just had some small rolling hills to enjoy, which was nice.
I went past a peregrine falcon nesting area but didn’t see any of the birds.
There are some stunning meadows here though.
And lots of wildflowers.
At one point I saw a rabbit hopping towards me on the trail with its nose to the ground, sniffing. I stopped and watched to see how close it would get. When it was only three feet from me it suddenly sensed my presence and turned around and bolted back down the trail and into the woods. It wasn’t an extraordinary events, but it made me smile.
A few hours later I came across a young buck eating lunch. I cautiously approached very slowly and it didn’t notice me until I cracked a twig. Then it took off in the opposite direction and bounded away as fast as it could. It even made a noise! I’ve never heard deer make sound before and I don’t know how to describe it.
Going through the woods I listen to the songs of many bird species and I’ve heard a few different woodpeckers too. I see lots of squirrels and chipmunks as well.
I went past the most interesting lake outlet in the afternoon and enjoyed a few minutes in the shade listening to the creek flowing.
During the times I’m alone I have a lot of hours to think about things. I’ve thought a lot about the jobs I’ll look for next, new projects to take on, future adventures (both big and small), and past events (both good and bad). My world has become small since I don’t read the news often and am out of touch with world events but it has been nice to let go of those things and focus on what’s important in life.
On July 1 I spent my first full day in Oregon. I got an early start because I wanted to get to Callahan’s lodge by a reasonable time so I could rest a bit after my two big days.
Midmorning I caught up with Seven who had passed me while I was still sleeping. I was grateful for his company because I knew the time would fly by while we chatted. He was with a section hiker named Drake and I pulled the two of them along for awhile.
It was a gorgeous day, even if it was unseasonably warm, and there were a lot of day hikers and weekend backpackers out. It’s great to see people in the Northwest take advantage of every piece of nice weather.
We were only about 10 miles into Oregon when we found our first trail magic: a cooler filled with soda, apples, and granola bars! We sat in the shade for a few minutes and enjoyed a cool snack. What a pleasant surprise! I wish I could thank the people who supply these caches in person; they are amazing.
By 2:30 pm we were pulling into Callahan’s lodge on the outskirts of Ashland. They are a family run business and treat PCT hikers well. They have a special that includes a shower, laundry, one beer, dinner, breakfast, and camping on the lawn for $60. When I asked if there was a discount if I didn’t want breakfast, the manager offered the deal to Seven for $40 and to me for $35! We immediately agreed.
The previous four days were the hottest on the trail. I think it was above 100 degrees each day. I sweated buckets constantly, especially going up that huge hill. And the water sources we had were not big enough to even rinse my legs in at night so I was covered in dust, sweat, and grime. Even though I had showered just three days before, my feet and legs were black with dirt. I was so grateful for the shower and laundry. The best part of the shower was that they provided bathrobes! It was fabulous to wear the bathrobe while doing laundry because the only bottoms I have other than the shorts I wear every day are my long underwear and it was far too hot to put those on for even an hour. I was able to wash all of my clothes which was a nice treat.
I got a cider at the bar, which helped to relieve my parched mouth and also downed several glasses of ice water.
Dinner was all you can eat spaghetti and sauce with side salad and bread. We were joined by Indy, Breathless, Huck, Rocky Point, and Fox and we all had a great time putting away a lot of pasta. I ate one huge plate full, which was about what everyone else did. Indy ate two and a half plates!
The lodge also converted part of a conference room into a place for hikers to hang out in so after our early dinner I hung out there to catch up on this blog. Slowly everyone else retired to their tents outside, until it was just Seven and me left at 9 pm. I knew it would be hot and full of mosquitoes outside so I suggested that we ask the night manager if we could sleep there. Seven asked and he said he didn’t care, as long as we packed up by 8 am, so we got an extra bonus of sleeping in an air conditioned room (on our sleeping pads)!