Miles hiked: 22.1
Total trip miles: 137.2
As we hike away from Thielsen creek this morning, we look back at Mount Thielsen. Marc appears to have reached some kind of critical point of disconnect with work, and suddenly starts paying closer attention to his surroundings. He remembers that he has a camera in his phone and starts whipping it out at regular intervals, taking at least five shots of every pose I strike.
It’s another gorgeous day in Oregon. At one fortuitous pit stop we discover we have cell coverage, and I call Luc and read a text message sent from Brendan, who is trekking on his own in Guinea. It feels good to reconnect. There’s no urgent hurry today.
After 5 miles we hit 7560′ — and a sign marking the high point of the PCT for Oregon and Washington. Nothing near as high as last years 13,271′ but, still. Photo-worthy. We’re glad to be up here because of the way that temperature decreases with altitude. It has been very pleasant hiking!
Marc also passes a marker that tells us we still have a ways to go to Cascade Locks:
After 16 miles of hiking, we hit the next water source, Six Horse Spring, that’s off trail about half a mile, down a steep path. The first couple of ponds are nasty, but following the directions on the app, we keep going until a place where the water is flowing clear and clean. On the hike back up I’m thinking it was stupid to take my hiking poles, since I’m having to switch hands constantly to cope with the 12 pounds of water I’m carrying in our 4-liter bladder.
Back up at the trail I look longingly at a couple of flat spots where a tent could be pitched. But it’s only about 3 pm, and really, what would we do for the next five hours? Sit in a hot tent trying to avoid mosquitoes? We might as well keep going, even though there’s no more water until a couple of “gross stagnant ponds” 8.5 miles away, and then 8.7 miles after that, Summit Lake. I mutter Dry camping is like dry heaving under my breath and prepare to deal with it.
As we get closer to Windigo Pass I scour the surrounding terrain for likely campsites. There’s nothing. Earlier, before the spring, we passed a woman who asked us if we were doing the Oregon Skyline Alternate, which is apparently 8 miles shorter than the official PCT into our next resupply, Shelter Cove, and has better water options. It parts from the PCT at Windigo Pass. The trail is not marked on Guthook’s app. Marc says no we’re not, no shortcuts! but my secret plan is to camp at the pass and think about it.
Finally we get to the pass, which is a dirt road and a parking spot full of horse trailers. Not too attractive. I’m tired after yesterday’s 26-mile marathon in the heat, and I know the next section is all uphill and there are no camp sites marked on the app. If we keep going, we’ll probably end up hiking for miles and miles and I’ll collapse on the side of the trail, twitching, with Marc saying Just a couple more miles. In a slightly panicked way, I start crashing around in the underbrush, looking for a flat spot to pitch our tent.
We find a spot, pretty much hidden from the horse trailers, that unfortunately also turns out to be crawling with ants. No sooner do you set a thing down than it’s got about 50 big-ass ants checking it out. We probably ate a bunch of them in our dinner. At least they don’t bite.
Marc’s back is hurting from the heavy load he carried yesterday and today — lots of food and way too much water. We try to find a comfortable position on a relatively ant-free log to eat our dinner —we have to sit together because our technique is to dip our spoons into a single pot, taking turns. It’s amazing how the pot cozy keeps the food hot. I massage his back and Marc shows me the proper technique for getting the most amount of food on the spoon at a time, without it being too hot to put in your mouth all at once. Hint: don’t dredge the hot stuff up from the bottom. Kind of slip your spoon around the outside edge of the contents of the pot. This is why it’s nice to have company out here. Little moments of companionship.