Miles hiked: 21.9
Total trip mileage: 226.1
Marc wakes up, as usual, to the beeping of his watch at 5:30, gets up, makes coffee and tea and starts the oatmeal, brings me tea in the tent. Maybe this is why I like thru-hiking so much: I get to sleep in and someone else is in charge of the food.
This morning we hike by lots more lakes, through lots more forest. We’ve decided to take a detour to Elk Lake, perhaps to call Jim, maybe to eat at the restaurant, maybe buy a few snacks. We’re getting to that “hungry” stage where the ginormous bag of cashews, almonds and pistachios in the resupply box starts to disappear way too quickly.
After 10 miles, we hike down through a hot burned area to the resort. Who should be sitting on the front steps but Mama Goose and Mickey Mouse! We say hello and head into the restaurant. We can take any table we’d like! There’s a covered deck out back! Yes, for $5 you can use the shower!
I decide to take a shower. I want to wash my hair so I don’t gross Jim and Judi out too badly when we see them in three days’ time. It feels amazing. My feet and lower legs regain their natural color.
When I’m done, I join Marc, who’s drinking beer and eating hummus and veggies on the deck, and contemplate the menu. Elk Lake is everything I thought Shelter Cove would be. There are people paddleboarding on the lake. Sailboats. Happy kids swimming in the water. A restaurant with lots of food and beer and friendly staff. I’m full of happiness, I’m clean, my belly is about to be filled. Why don’t you invite Mama Goose and Mickey Mouse to join us? I suggest. We can buy them a beer.
In two seconds they’ve joined us at our table, and we’re chatting away. Mickey Mouse eats the potato chips off my plate (at my invitation), Marc orders another hummus and veggies, Mama Goose, who got here yesterday How did she DO that? (answer: 30-mile days) is psyched because the beer she likes is now available. We talk beer, footwear, trails, mileage, gear — all those things that so occupy our brains these days. Mama Goose, who in real (aka off-trail) life is a PT, takes a look at my aching feet and recommends insoles. She gives me a little foot massage: do this when you stop for a break, and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m glad my feet are relatively clean!
Soon another hiker joins our table, trail name Alright (or All Right? not sure). Turns out he was the one stopped with the sick hiker getting rescued back before Bobby Lake, and he was the hiker that came and set up his tent next to ours that night. Talk turns to Donald Trump and US politics. In short, good times. Top: Alright, me, Mama Goose. Bottom: Mickey Mouse and Marc.
Marc and I decide that this will be dinner, so I give our extra rice and beans meal to Mickey Mouse, who’s very appreciative – now she has a stove, she tells me, someone gave it to her. She’s so skinny I want to give her more food!
Although I’m tempted to just stop and live here, pretty soon Marc and I hitch up the packs and bid them all goodbye. I’m sure we’ll see them later. It’s only about 3:00, so we still have at least four hours of daylight left to hike. They’ll all hike out today, too. We take the Horse Lake trail back up to the PCT, the third side of a more or less isoceles triangle.
We climb up to Koosah Mountain, take a break, and continue around the other side, where there’s a view of Mount Bachelor in the distance. While we’re taking pictures, I almost lose my sunglasses which were perched on the brim of my hat and fell down a slope when I took it off. I realized they were gone after a few steps and luckily they hadn’t fallen too far.
We pass by Sisters Mirror Lake, where a big group of rowdy boys are swimming and hollering, and come out onto a high plateau with the South Sister in the background. It’s stunning. We are loving this dry, open, mosquito-free ground, the wide, expansive view, after all those days walking through miles and miles of forest.
Pretty soon we hit the first creek, and some beautiful meadows. With the South Sister beaming down on us benevolently, we end our hike at Mesa Creek, in a huge tentsite that we have all to ourselves. The water is cool and clear, the sunset spectacular and with no need to cook dinner, we just eat a Kind bar and some dried mango and call it a day.