The Oregon Trail

We are doing it again.

Last summer’s love fest with the Colorado Trail sparked a kind of obsession in me. Over the long dark wintry months I perused other people’s trail journals, drooled over ultralight gear, looked at maps and plotted our next adventure.

I decided we would hike through Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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PCT Day 1 – Ashland to Hobart Bluff

July 24
Miles hiked: 1716.7 – 1729.9 + 0.5 = 13.7
Total miles: 13.7

There aren’t very many trail journals with useful information on the Oregon section of the PCT. So I’m writing these posts partly with that in mind. The rest, of course, is my usual dithering to entertain friends and family. Continue reading

PCT Day 2 – Water woes

July 25
Miles hiked: 23.5
Total trip miles: 37.2

I mentioned water in the last post. Namely, that we were carrying lots of it. I think Marc was forever marked by that day last summer when we had to hike 26.2 miles (a marathon!) in order to get to a water source that we weren’t even sure existed. If it hadn’t been for the cooler of Pabst Blue Ribbon and juice left by a trail angel just after Tennessee pass, we might have expired.

He swore that this time nothing like that would happen. We would always have plenty of water on us. Never mind that Guthook’s PCT app has more user input on it , and that the PCT even has a frequently updated “water report” that you can download when you have a cell signal. No, we’d carry lots of water. Burn the grease!

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PCT Day 3 – Lava fields

July 26
Miles hiked: 26.6
Total trip miles: 63.8

We get an early start today to try and beat the heat. We hiked almost 24 miles yesterday! Woo hoo! The trail started out looking like this — in fact, a lot of the PCT in Oregon looks like this: nice, soft trail; tall, tall trees, dappled sun and shadow.

People complain of the “green tunnel” in Oregon—the miles upon miles of lodgepole pines or spruce. But I find that I love their cool depths. You can physically feel the dip in temperature that occurs when you pass from sun to shade. I love the way the trees whisper to you with their branches, advertising a cooling breeze a few seconds before it arrives. I love the tall silence of these forests. I have the distinct feeling that I am walking in the shelter of a single, great, benevolent being.

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PCT day 4 – blowdowns and slowdowns

July 27
Miles hiked: 24.8
Total trip miles: 88.6

We wake up early and eat our oatmeal looking out over the mist-enshrouded lake. The mosquitoes are not terrible. We’ve done some serious mileage in the last two days – 24 and 26 miles, plus, and Marc is feeling stoked. I’m just relieved I’m managing it without too much trouble. Last year at this time my upper back hurt so badly I thought I had dislocated some vertebrae. Maybe all that crossfit and core work was worth it…

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PCT Day 5 – Trail angels

July 28
Miles hiked: 17
Total trip miles: 105.6

While we were eating breakfast, the tru-thru hiker we’d met the day before, who had camped a couple miles back, passed us at high speed, mosquito net over his head, waving hello. Man, they start early to get those 30+ mile days in. He’d told us he would only pause at Crater lake and continue on around it, heading for a hitch to Diamond Lake.

All day long I’m thinking of beer, ice cream, a shower. It’s really, really hot. The trail stretches endlessly on, the blowdowns a continual challenge to our concentration and patience.

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PCT day 6 – hiking the rim

July 29 
Miles hiked: 26.4
Total trip miles: 115.1

We wake up, as usual, around 5:20. We want to get an early start, but the lodge’s free coffee service doesn’t start until 6:00, so while we wait, we eat the leftover cake from last night. Yum! As I catch the sun rising up over the rim of Crater Lake I meet a woman who is also setting out this morning, with her husband and 8-year old son. They’re “doing Oregon”, too, but at a much slower pace. I’m impressed. That kid is really lucky! Continue reading

PCT Day 7 – OR-WA high point

July 30
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.

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PCT Day 8 – mosquito alley

July 31
Miles hiked: 19.6
Total trip miles: 156.8

In the end we don’t take the Oregon Skyline Alternate. I’m just not comfortable hiking without a map, and Marc doesn’t like the idea of a shortcut. As we hike up the other side of Windigo Pass, we see a lovely flat tent site right next to the trail after about a mile. Oh, well. We had to have at least one crappy campsite on this trip, right? Continue reading

PCT Day 9 – Bobby the toad

August 1
Miles hiked: 22.3
Total trip miles: 179.1

In the morning, Marc wakes to the sound of a 747 flying overhead, only to realize it’s just the mozzies swarming around our tent. Bless him, he gets up and cooks our oatmeal and tea and coffee and brings it to the tent so we can eat unassaulted.

Again today we encounter only one other hiker on our way down to Shelter Cove, a day hiker. She says it’s probably the mosquitoes keeping people away. Ya think? We hike the 9.7 miles without stopping. Here’s what it was like (plus a morning shot of me in the tent): Continue reading