KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
No. 29- Sisters to Portland, 2015

loading map - please wait...

MacKenzie Pass, Hwy 242: 44.259840, -121.809772
Big Lake Youth Camp: 44.370742, -121.866188
Timberline Lodge: 45.331181, -121.711223
Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks: 45.662374, -121.901348
Olallie Lake, OR: 44.813797, -121.788962

 

July 15- 12 miles, camping at Big Lake Youth Camp

After a morning at the Sister’s Public Library and the local pizzaria, I hitched a ride out of town with two retired couples on their way to visit the lava field at McKenzie Pass. The forest service built an observation deck, called the Dee Wright Observatory, using the local lava rock, so it looks like an evil fortress of Mordor. From the observatory, I could see all the way from Middle Sister to Mount Jefferson.

My drivers atop the Dee Wright Observatory

My drivers atop the Dee Wright Observatory

The lava field around McKenzie Pass is the result of multiple lava flows from various sources during the last 3,000 years. The large lava rocks that make this place so formidable were created when surface flows cooled and hardened while hotter lava contined to flow underneath, cracking the harder surface lava, sort of like ice cracking on the surface of a river. The pass was once an old pioneer wagon road- I can’t even imagine how difficult it would have been getting across these rocks with a wagon and oxen, but it was supposedly easier than the route going over North Sister.

Looking north toward Mt. Washington

Looking north toward Mt. Washington

 

Looking south toward North & Middle Sisters

Looking south toward North & Middle Sisters

My Billi Bandana has finally fallen apart and since the rainy days have passed and the sun is shining, I needed to pick up a new visor. Sisters had a touristy little shop with $2 visors, but they were all ridiculous- the only thing to do was pick out the MOST ridiculous one I could find. It was a tie between a blue Hawaiian theme or gold glitter. I also packed out a bag of four very greasy donuts- I had to pack my trekking poles in my bag because I couldn’t hold them and my precious donuts at the same time.

New aloha visor and packed out donuts

New aloha visor and packed out donuts

The twelve mile hike across the lava field and through burned, sandy forest was exhausting. I made it to the Seventh Day Adventist Big Lake Youth Camp just in time to see all the campers filing down for campfire singing. I made myself scarce and hung out in the hiker hut until 11pm sorting my resupply box and and cringing at the prospect of carrying five days worth of food. To save weight, I ended up dumping my guide book pages for Sections F and G and meticulously weighed bars and meals to see which ones I should leave behind in the hiker box. Since hikers aren’t technically allowed to camp on the property, I’m camping down by the lake with another hiker, Jelly Dog, who I met near Elk Lake. We both seem to be night owls, a rarity among hikers.

Sorting my resupply box at Big Lake Youth Camp

Sorting my resupply box at Big Lake Youth Camp

 

July 16- 16 miles, camping near Koko Lake

Blue Moon, Scarecrow, and Chuck Wagon showed up this morning hoping to grab breakfast at the camp’s cafeteria, but they missed it, so they’re going to wait until lunch. The camp doesn’t charge hikers anything for holding packages or showers or even meals. They only ask for a donation, which I feel is pretty amazing.

Blue Moon at Big Lake Youth Camp

Blue Moon at Big Lake Youth Camp

 

image

I dilly-dallied in the hiker hut until 1:00 before heading out with my pack heavy with food. It was a hot and exposed hike for the majority of the day. All these forests were burned last year, leaving rolling hills stickered with pointy, dead trees and looking like porcupine backs. The soil is also sandy and it seemed that it took twice as much effort to climb as usual. It was almost like walking on a treadmill- take one step, slide halfway back, take another step, slide halfway back.

image

Three-Fingered Jack

The highlight of the day was passing by Three-Fingered Jack. It’s characterized by incredibly even layers of red and yellow rock, which indicate regular and steady flows that came from the volcano that once stood here. Both Mt. Washington and Three-Fingered Jack are the hard, rocky cores of ancient volcanos that remained after glaciers and weather eroded their soft outer layers.

Camping near Koko Lake

Camping near Koko Lake

I’ve met up with four men section hiking Oregon together and am camping with them tonight. They’ve brought along a guitar and I’ve busted out the uke for a little jam session, althouth they’re much better than I am. The wind is super chilly tonight and doesn’t seem to be calming down. I’ve already rotated my tent to help keep the wind out, but I think it’s going to be a cold night!

Lone Hawk, Cap, Stitch, and Scotland (L -> R)

Section hikers Lone Hawk, Cap, Stitch, and Scotland (L -> R)

 

July 17- 23 miles, camping near Scout Lake

I seem to have finally hiked myself out of the burn zone. Mount Jefferson loomed before me all day long and it’s round, snowy beauty is stunning. Even years after the explorers Lewis and Clark named this mountain after their president, local white pioneers called it Squawtit, for reasons that I’ll let you work out on your own. Recent legislation has since recognized how offensive this name was to local tribes and pushed to officially name the mountian “Jefferson.” I don’t see why they couldn’t have “officially” named it whatever name the local tribe had for it in the first place.

Mt. Jefferson and Cathedral Rocks

Mt. Jefferson and Cathedral Rocks

One of my trekking poles has broken. Argh! My gear is starting to fall apart. Luckily for me, one of the men I camped with last night and have leap-frogged with today had spare duct tape wrapped around his trekking pole. My pole has lost the bolt that stabilizes it and it was as loosey-goosey as a pogo stick. Together, two of the men jerry-rigged my pole with the duct tape and since they’re retired firemen, we joked that they were performing emergency medical attention. Hopefully, my other pole holds out because I need at least one trekking pole to be adjustable and hold up my tent.

A couple firemen fixing my trekking pole

A couple firemen fixing my trekking pole

Russell Creek is noted in multiple guidebooks as being tricky and potenialy dangerous to cross. It streams down Mount Jefferson directly from a glacier, so it’s flow is much higher later in the day after hours of sunshine. I reached this creek around 7pm- not ideal. One look at the creek and I thought, “No problem! It’s a low snow year and the water is low.” I looked at all the rocks and determined how I’d hop across. Pack on, boots on, I hopped from one rock to the next until I realized the next hop was more of a leap.

After examining the rocks more closely, I knew I’d have to just ford the creek. Being too lazy to hop my way back to the shore, I began the very bad idea of trying to pull my sandals out of my backpack and change into them while balancing on a rock in the middle of the rushing creek. BAD IDEA. My water bottle fell out of the side pocket of my backpack that I was still wearing and slammed bulls eye onto my big toe. It hurt so bad! A big purple welt rose up as I dunked my foot in the icy water.

image

Russell Creek rushing down the side of Mt. Jefferson

 

Russell Creek

Russell Creek

I managed to get both sandals on and crossed through the milky, ice cold creek. Since volcanic silt clouded the creek water, I had to just feel my way around the rocks with my poles, water up to my knees. The current was surprisingly strong. Once on the other side, I plopped down to examine my swollen toe and say “Screw it!” to the idea of a 25-mile day.

image

I hobbled into a popular camping area called Jefferson Park around 7:45 pm. It’s a beautiful Alpine park just below Mount Jefferson and is very accessible to overnight campers. To prevent crowds from destroying delicate ecosystems in the park, the forest service has established campsites connected by little trails. That, combined with the numerous weekend campers, makes the entire area feel more like a city park than a wilderness area.

image

Camping near Scout Lake

I think my toe is going to hurt a lot tomorrow- sounds like a good excuse to sleep in and take it easy.

 

July 18- 22.5 miles, camping at Trooper Spring

Jefferson Park

Jefferson Park

Sleep in, I did, indeed! I actually slept until 8:45 and didn’t set out until 10am. That’s practically sacrilegious on long distance hikes. It felt strange for the sun to be so high when I started walking- strange and HOT!

Looking north toward Mount Hood

Looking north toward Mount Hood

Olallie Lake is a small fishing and boating campground with a teeny, tiny store. Despite the size, it’s one of the best stops I’ve had along the trail. They had everything a hiker would want, particularly a lovely air of simplicity. I grabbed two blood orange Pelegrino sodas, two Kit Kat bars, and a bag of chips and sat on the little porch, staring out at the lake and Mount Jefferson in the distance. I sat there mindlessly enjoying the view and the quiet for an hour before I hiked back out to the trail.

Ollie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Ollie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Another hiker has pointed out wild huckleberries to me. I’ve been hesitant to eat things I find on the trail if I’m not 100% sure what they are, but the berry beast has been unleashed! Instead of looking at trees or the trail, my eyes are quickly scanning the trailside bushes for the best looking berries. “Oh, there’s a ripe one!” Stop hiking and grab it. “That one looks good.” Stop hiking and scramble through the bushes to pick it. “That one’s giant!” Stop and practically tumble into the bushes after the holy of holies berry.

Wild and VERY edible Huckleberries

Wild and VERY edible Huckleberries

Water is few and far between in this section, and that means hikers are crowding around water sources. When I arrived at Trooper Spring, two other hikers, Crosscut and Paparazzi, were already here. Jelly Dog showed up just as the sun was setting and squeezed into the tiny, remaining flat spot. Paparazzi and Crosscut are already asleep, but Jelly seems to be eating a late dinner of Fritos. (I would recognize the sound of a Fritos bag anywhere.)

Camping near Trooper Spring

Camping near Trooper Spring

 

July 19- 23.5 miles, camping at Timothy Lake

Power lines

Today was pretty uneventful, probably the most uneventful day of the entire trail. When I start taking pictures of power lines, you know it’s not a good sign.

Around 5:00 I finally reached the very large Timothy Lake. There was no question- I breaked for two hours, went swimming, read my book and made a burrito. After I packed up and started hiking with the intention of putting in another two miles, I thought to myself, “Hold on! Don’t you kinda wanna go swimming again??” And I answered myself, “Yup!” So, I stopped at the next decent campsite, setup my tent and jumped back into the lake. I air-dried while reading in my tent and drinking hot coco. It was such a great end to such a boring day!

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Jelly Dog rolled in, again, just as the sun was setting. He had just spent dinner with some equestrian PCTer’s. After finding a piece of their gear and then returning it, they treated him to bratwurst and numerous screw drivers, luxuries permitted by having pack animals. By the time he reached my campsite, he was toasted. He practically melted into the ground as he leaned against a tree, backpack still on- I thought he would fall asleep right there! He did manage to get his tent up, but fell asleep before he inflated his sleeping pad. I heard him around 11pm finally coming to and getting his bedding organized. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at him.

Camping at Timothy Lake

Camping at Timothy Lake

 

July 19- 20 miles, camping near Timberline Lodge

Today started the same as yesterday: no views except for trees, moss, and bear grass. Periodically, a sudden a view of the monstrous Mount Hood would cut through the trees and take my breath away. The trail climbed and climbed, which was no big deal because I was pumped full of carbs and caffeine (a powerful combination). When the trail turned sandy, though, then I was crawling. Again with the “one step forward, slide half a step back” routine. The promise of good food at the ski resort, Timberline Lodge, propelled me forward, one step at a time.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

 

Lupin

Lupin

 

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

I set up my tent near the trail before making my way down to the lodge. I had a bit of re-entry anxiety trying to get through the crowds of tourists and dealing with the stressed out lodge employees. Even on a Monday, the lodge and ski lifts were crawling with people.

I grabbed a super expensive dinner at one of the three restaurants here, then went for a second dinner at the pizza pub with Jelly and another hiker named Barefoot. Yup, you read that right: I Double Dinnered tonight. I’d better head out soon or it’ll be too dark to find my tent up the hill.

Second dinner with Jelly Dog and Barefoot

Second dinner with Jelly Dog and Barefoot

 

 

July 21- 12 miles, camping at Muddy Fork

Timberline Lodge is famous for the breakfast buffet at it’s Cascadia Dining Hall. For just $14.95, you can have all the decadence of cheddar scrambled eggs, applesauce pancakes with fruit compote, waffles with real maple syrup, smoked pork sausage and bacon, roasted potatoes with root vegetables, corned beef hash, house-made yogurt and pastries, and coffee that your tummy can handle. Joining me in the extravagance, were hikers Barefoot and Crosscut.

Breakfast with Crosscut

Breakfast with Crosscut

Just as I was leaving, I noticed my big toe was feeling uncomfortable and tight in my shoe. This isn’t the same toe that I smashed with my water bottle back at Russell Creek; that toe still hurts, but now the other one is acting up. I ignored it. The hike away from Timberline Lodge was just as sandy as it was going to it and my toe seemed to be getting worse with each mile.

Only 550 miles to go!

Only 550 miles to go!

 

image

Mt. Hood, towering cliffs and a waterfall

Eventually, when every step began to hurt, I stopped and pulled my boots and socks off to examine the swollen toe. It was clearly infected, but not through any open wound or bite. I think some bacteria must’ve gotten in between the nail and the side of my toe and now it’s swelling up like a red balloon. After cleaning it with water, I treated it with iodine, covered it with a bandaid to keep out the dirt, and then wrapped it with athletic tape to keep the bandaid on.

An unhappy toe

An unhappy toe

I took an alternate trail which past by the cascading, 120 foot tall Ramona Falls and through a moss-carpeted, alder forest. Here’s some interesting facts on Ramona Falls by William Sullivan from the Oregon.com website:

“History: When Sam Barlow was pioneering a wagon route around Mt. Hood as an Oregon Trail shortcut in 1845, his group ran out of time, left their wagons on the east side of the mountain, and hiked past present-day Timberline Lodge and Ramona Falls in order to reach the safety of the Willamette Valley before winter set in. The pioneers who named the Sandy River thought its milky color was caused by sand. In fact the stream carries glacial silt-rock powdered by the weight of Mount Hood’s glaciers.

Geology: Ramona Falls has such a lovely shape because it cascades over the remnants of a columnar basalt lava flow. When basalt lava cools slowly enough, it fractures into a hexagonal pattern perpendicular to the cooling surface. Later erosion has broken these basalt columns into a stair-stepped honeycomb.”

image

Ramona Falls

My toe was so sore I could only hike twelve miles and stopped just before a raging creek called Muddy Fork. I treated my toe with a couple salt compresses then treated it with alcohol. It’s nice to have the campsite to myself, but the solitude seemed to be playing tricks on my mind. I don’t usually get scared anymore when I’m alone, but I kept having the feeling someone was just behind me ready to club or grab me. While sitting on a log, sorting through my bag and cooking dinner, I kept looking over my shoulder. Even when I looked into the water in my pot, I seemed to see a figure standing over me, even though I knew it was only a reflection of the tree branches. The only thing I could do to shake the feeling was get out the ukulele and play a few songs until it became dark.

Camping near Muddy Fork

Camping near Muddy Fork

 

 

July 22- 23.5 miles, camping near Eagle Creek

With the trees shading me from the morning sun, I slept longer than I meant. My toes both still hurt, but I think the swelling has gone down on the infected one. I crossed paths with two sets of southbound hikers this morning. Most of them started at or near the Canadian border just about three weeks ago and they’re starting to trickle by and bringing with them lots of information on the trail through Washington.

"Bridge" across Muddy Fork

“Bridge” across Muddy Fork

All morning, I hiked through dense forests and clouds until finally around 1:00, the clouds began to clear and the trees opened up to reveal the majestic Mount Hood. It looked like an island in a sea of rolling and roaring green waves.

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

 

image

The next view, several hours later, was to the snowy peaks to the north. Another hiker left a piece of notebook paper under a trail marker showing which peaks are which far in the distance. Unfortunately, because of the clouds, I could really only see Mount Adams. Usually, from this spot, hikers can also see Mount Saint Helens, an active volcano, and Mount Rainer.

Looking north towards Mt. Adams

Looking north towards Mt. Adams

I’ve decided to take a scenic alternate to the PCT called the Eagle Creek Trail. This trail drops steeply to the jungle-like forests along the well-known Eagle Creek. Just around sunset, I was passing up multiple campsites near the creek, waiting for the perfect one. I wanted to camp alone again, since I’ve camped with other people so often in Oregon, and I wanted it to be a nice spot. The campsite I found couldn’t have been more perfect. It was secluded from the trail and other sites, no one else was camped there, and it had a trail leading to a deep, clear swimming hole. Even after 9:00 at night, I slipped into that clear pool, dunked my head and washed all the dust of Oregon from me. Tomorrow I will walk into Washington!

Eagle Creek jungle

Eagle Creek jungle

 

Camping near Eagle Creek

Camping near Eagle Creek

 

 

July 23- 10 miles, staying in Portland

Eagle Creek is famous in Oregon for it’s impressive and beautiful waterfalls. The trail was carved out of the cliff sides along the creek years ago by trail builders and occasionally offers a metal cable for hikers to hold onto while they walk past 100-200 foot drops. The trail took me past Twister Falls, a 200 foot, two-tier waterfall and also the 160 foot Tunnel Falls. Trail builders actually carved out a tunnel behind the waterfall for hikers to pass through.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

Another excerpt from William Sullivan on Eagle Creek from Oregon.com:

History: Built in the 1910s to accompany the opening of the Columbia River Highway, the Eagle Creek Trail was blasted out the cliffs with dynamite by Italian engineers. The area above the 800-foot-elevation mark was officially designated Wilderness in 1984.

Geology: The many layers of columnar basalt exposed in the cliffs of Eagle Creek are all part of the massive lava outpourings that inundated 50,000 square miles of Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Idaho to a depth of up to a mile 10 to 17 million years ago. These rock floods surged down the ancient Columbia River to the sea, pushing the river north to its present location.”

Trail along the cliff

Trail along the cliff

 

I reached Cascade Locks around noon and was instantly greeted with the expansive Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods spanning across it. Since I have friends in Portland, I plan to take two bus rides later today to get into the city. With about five hours to kill, I refueled at the Bridgeview Diner and then moseyed over to the RV park for laundry and a shower. I’ll hang out in Portland for several days because my honey-bunny, Art, is coming for a mid-hike visit. Can’t wait to see him!

Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods

Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods

 

Links

Installment No. 30- Cascade Locks to Trout Lake, July 2015

McKenzie Pass History- The Oregon Encyclopedia

Olallie Lake Resort

Timberline Lodge

Ramona Falls Trail

Eagle Creek Trail

 

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
No. 28- Shelter Cove to Sisters, 2015

loading map - please wait...

Shelter Cove Resort: 43.576598, -122.037077
Elk Lake Resort: 43.980261, -121.806241
Sisters, OR: 44.290949, -121.549212
MacKenzie Pass: 44.259840, -121.809772

 

July 11- 12.5 miles, camping at Bobby Lake

(L-R) Scarecrow, Blue Moon, Garage Man, Max, Chuck Wagon, Slow and Steady, and Seven

(L-R) Scarecrow, Blue Moon, Garage Man, Max, Chuck Wagon, Slow and Steady, and Seven

I left Shelter Cove around 10:30, but because I found 4G service on top of a ridge, I sat in the trail for about three hours finally uploading my video and blog post. By the time I was finished, my phone battery was down to 4%.

Another PCT hiker named Kurt caught up to me while I was wrapping up my post and we ended up hiking together for the rest of the day. I originally met Kurt (from Canada) at Mazama Village near Crater Lake. He’s section hiking the entire state of Oregon and since he’s still kind of fresh on the trail, his feet are killing him. He’s had some of the worst blisters I’ve ever seen!

Bobby Lake

Bobby Lake

(L-R) Me, Slow & Steady, Seven, and Kurt

(L-R) Me, Slow & Steady, Seven, and Kurt

We stopped at Bobby Lake at 5:30, only twelve and a half miles from Shelter Cove, because his feet were hurting and I really didn’t feel like pushing hard the first day out of town. Plus, Bobby Lake is really beautiful with some great campsites. Seven and Slow and Steady showed up later that evening and the four of us had a really great time that evening together, passing the ukulele around and talking.

I first met Slow and Steady and her boyfriend Seven when I was hitchhiking from Yreka to Etna. They’re hiking from Castella, Oregon to Skykomish, Washington during their break from nursing school. Together, they speak the most musical Spanish I’ve ever heard.

Camping at Bobby Lake

Camping at Bobby Lake

 

 

July 12- 23.5 miles, camping at “S” Lake

Rain, rain, rain. It rained most of the day, but since there was only a little thunder and no lightning, I found the rain really lovely. In a way, I think it made this section more interesting because there aren’t any views other than the dense evergreen forests and numerous lakes and ponds.
image

 

 

I hiked with Kurt again in the afternoon. I really enjoy his company. He has an unassuming clarity of thought and eloquence that’s just charming. We probably won’t see too much of each other because he hikes fewer miles than I do each day, but I hope we run into each other somewhere else on the trail!
image

Around 8pm, I was winding down a hill and heard loud laughing echoing upward. I assumed there must be several people camping and was surprised to find only a single girl. She was soaking wet in yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt, struggling to put up a tarp using athletic tape, and laughing hysterically. Honestly, she looked a little nuts like that and seemed to be totally unprepared for camping in the rain, but at least she was having a sense of humor about it. I gave her my spare twine and we secured her tarp well enough, but she’ll still probably have a cold, wet night.

Tarp troubles for hiker "Bookworm"

Tarp troubles for hiker “Bookworm”

I plodded on through the rain for another mile or so until I decided I just needed to stop at the very next lake, whatever it was. It turned out to be little “S” Lake with three section hikers and a southbound hiker all squeezed onto a little peninsula. They had a large fire going and were telling dirty jokes.

“Room for one more?” I shouted through the rain.

They were so jovial and welcoming around their campfire that I really couldn’t have picked a better spot. The rain continued late into the evening and I had to wipe down the tent several times to make sure my sleeping bag didn’t get wet while I slept. I boiled some water and poured it into my dromedary bag. It feels quite cozy with the hot water bottle inside my sleeping bag, a good book in my hand and all the noises of rain, hiker snoring and hiker farting outside. These have to be the gas-iest hikers I’ve ever camped with in my life!

Gasey hikers at "S" Lake

Gasey hikers at “S” Lake

 

July 13- 22 miles, camping near Mesa Creek

The morning was fresh and clean with only traces of last night’s storm clouds left in the sky. Everything I had was damp or wet through. I reluctantly put on my still soaked socks and boots, wrapped up my wet tent, and hiked into a very misty morning.

Mist on Mac Lake

Mist on Mac Lake

I had read in Yogi’s Guide that Elk Lake Resort was only a mile off trail and so, when I arrived at the turn off at 11:15 am, it was hard to say “No” to the idea of a hot lunch, bathrooms and electrical outlets. The resort was much like Shelter Cove, except that it’s Wi Fi was twenty times better and they had a restaurant with really great food. I ordered a salad, a pulled pork sandwich (I seem to be on a pork kick recently), a beer and a mint n’ chip milkshake. Four hours later I was finally rambling back up the trail, reminding myself that beer and hiking don’t really mix.

Elk Lake Resort

Elk Lake Resort

 

image

 

Broken Top Mountain

Broken Top Mountain

I wasn’t prepared for the stark change in scenery I was walking into and it completely caught me by surprise. I came out from the dense trees onto Wickiup Plain and ran smack into a view of Le Conte Crater, Rock Mesa, and South Sister peak all lined up perfectly.

Wickiup Plain with Le Conte Crater (covered in trees), Rock Mesa (in the middle), and South Sister (with clouds)

Wickiup Plain with Le Conte Crater (covered in trees), Rock Mesa (in the middle), and South Sister (with clouds)

Le Conte Crater is a cinder cone created 6,000 to 8,000 years ago by volcanic eruptions. The Wickiup Plain was created by older lava flows dating back 20,000 years. The massive and desolate Rock Mesa formed when a vent erupted only 2,000 years ago. The guide book notes that because the lava from the vent was so viscous, it cooled and solidified before completely spreading out over the plain, leaving the lava piled high above as a mesa and looking very much like a tidal wave frozen in time.

Wickiup Plain and, on the left, the side of Rock Mesa

Wickiup Plain and, on the left, the side of Rock Mesa

South Sister is one of three volcanic mountains for which this wilderness area is named. It’s the youngest of the three peaks and because it hasn’t been exposed to any more than the two most recent glaciation periods, it hasn’t suffered much from erosion. Thus it’s retained it’s lovely symetry and is also the tallest of the three Sisters at 10,300 feet. It’s still an active volcano and is closely monitored by researchers.
image

I’m camping tonight in a meadow just below South Sister. The clouds are rolling by the peak and I keep looking out of my tent to catch a glimpse of her red-headed summit. Since I had a couple hours of daylight remaining, I washed up with a little dromedary bag shower (which was very cold), played ukulele and read a book I picked up for free at Shelter Cove. The zipper on my tent is being finicky and I hope I can nurse it for another six weeks of use. If I’m lucky, the bugs won’t be too bad in Washington and then I won’t even need the zipper. [Fingers crossed!]

Camping near Mesa Creek

Camping near Mesa Creek

The view of South Sister from my tent

The view of South Sister from my tent

 

July 14- 20 miles, camping at the Sisters’ City Campground

Middle Sister

Middle Sister

Once I had climbed out of the meadows and trees, I entered what looked like an alien world. Black obsidian glass framed the trail for several miles and when the sunlight broke through the clouds the hills sparkled like glitter.

Black Obsidian

Black Obsidian

 

image

Obsidian Falls

Rather suddenly, the obsidian gave way to rough, dull lava rocks of reds, greys, and black. This was an enormous field of lava, covering 65 square miles from South Sister and Rock Mesa to Mount Washington. It was the largest lava flow of the Cascade Mountains since the Pliestocene era. When I reached the top of my climb and could see how far the field extended, it brought images to mind of entire continents forming by eruptions greater than this one.

Climbing Big Brother, trail on the right side

Climbing Big Brother, trail on the right side

 

North Sister (L) and Middle Sister (R) with Collier Glacier

North Sister (L) and Middle Sister (R) with Collier Glacier

 

Collier Cone

Collier Cone

 

 

I hadn’t planned on visiting the city of Sisters, but, again, it seemed like the timing was right and the amenities tempting. Also, I just started having some strange pins and needles along my back today and a couple of half days in a row probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. I think I might have a pinched nerve, but I’m not sure if it’s from my pack or from how I use my trekking poles.

(L->R) Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and Mt. Hood (way in the distance)

(L->R) Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and Mt. Hood (way in the distance)

I was picked up by a family of four on their way home from a biking and kayaking trip. They squeezed me and my pack in even though their truck was full to the brim. The two kids, college students, are planning to bike down Highway 1 in August. The parents picked me up because they pictured their own children standing on the side of the road and hoped that good people would stop for them. I like their reasoning!

North and Middle Sisters

North and Middle Sisters

They drove me fifteen miles into town and dropped me off at the city campground, where hikers and bikers can set up their tents and shower for $5 per night. I’m sharing the space with a Belgian family who are cycling from Portland to San Francisco with their two little kids. They’re shy, but very sweet and the kids are playing with my ukulele.

Camping at the city's Creekside Campground

Camping at the city’s Creekside Campground

 

Links

Installment No. 29- Sisters to Cascade Locks, July 2015

Elk Lake Resort and Marina

The Three Sisters Wikipedia Article

Sisters City Creekside Campground

 

 

 

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
No. 27- Crater Lake to Shelter Cove

loading map - please wait...

Mazama Village: 42.867529, -122.167295
Shelter Cove Resort: 43.581739, -122.040317
Oregon Skyline Trail: 43.525775, -122.069263

 

July 6- 15.5 miles, camping in the middle of nowhere

Since this may be the only time in my life when I get to see Crater Lake, I decided to play tourist a bit. I took a shuttle to the park visitor’s center to look at maps of the area and watch a little documentary that covered the geology and history of Crater Lake. I then road walked 3.5 miles up to the lake itself.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

It truly is a stunning view and I wished I could have stayed longer to take a boat ride or something. Instead of a touristy boat ride, I settled on walking along the rim to the lodge for a salad and chili. The entire area was crawling with summertime tourists and, despite the beauty of the place, I couldn’t wait to get back on the trail.

image
The native Klamath people have a legend that says the god of the underworld, who lived within Mount Mazama, fell in love with a tribal princess. When she refused to marry him, he took revenge on the tribe by erupting the mountain. Two medicine men threw themselves into the roaring volcano in the hopes of appeasing the angry god. Another god witnessed the bravery of the two men and battled the underworld god until the mountain collapsed, creating the massive crater. The Klamath people still hold Crater Lake as a powerful and sacred place.

Wizard Island

Wizard Island

Mount Mazama once stood as a 12,000 foot tall peak over the place that is now Crater Lake, making it the tallest mountian in Oregon at the time. Around 7,700 years ago, it erupted, decimating everything within a thirty-five mile radius. It is the most massive explosion of the Cascade Range in the past million years. It took 500 million years to build Mount Mazama and only two to three hours for it to collapse to a crater.

View towards Hellman Peak

View towards Hellman Peak

View towards Mount Thielson

View towards Mount Thielson

As years past, snow fell into the crater and melted, eventually filling the crater with some of the purest water on the planet. At 1,943 feet deep Crate Lake is the deepest lake in North America and the seventh deepest in the world.

I’m camping alone in what seems like the middle of nowhere. It’s utterly flat and covered in tall, skinny pines. It’s kind of spooky.

Camping in the middle of nowhere

Camping in the middle of nowhere

 

July 7- 15.5 miles, camping at Thielson Creek

Hiker humor

Hiker humor

I had a Twilight Zone moment this morning. After packing up and hiking for an hour or more, I realized I couldn’t find my bug net. It must’ve gotten pulled off my pack when I’d pushed through some bushes or maybe it fell out when I pulled out my water bottle. I was so disappointed because I knew the bugs were going to be really bad in the upcoming section. An hour later, I found a bug net that looked exactly like mine lying neatly in the middle of the trail. For about three minutes, I panicked and thought this was my bug net and that I must’ve somehow gotten turned around and hiked back in the opposite direction. I was relieved once I verified my location on the GPS and found I hadn’t backtracked. Still, I’m secretly hoping I don’t run into the unlucky hiker who lost their net so I don’t have to give this one back!

As I emerged out of the Pumice Desert, surrounded by a wall of skinny pines, thunder began to rumble above me. I had heard that afternoon storms were rolling in and my response had been, “Good! It’ll cool things down from that heat wave!”

Mount Thielson

Mount Thielson

Well, cool down it did- and then it thundered and hailed and brought lightning with it. I had just crested above the tree line below Mount Thielson, also known as the lightning rod of the Cascades, when the lightning flashes began. I tried to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder, but there was so much continous thunder that there was no telling how far away the lightning strikes actually were. With the thunder clouds directly above and the thunder claps roaring continuously like that, it all seemed close enough to me!

Thunderstorms approaching

Thunderstorms approaching

I hustled down into the trees and waited while the hail dumped all around. At times I thought it was letting up and I’d try and make a mad dash along the trail to the next pocket of trees. When a lightening bolt struck just about a mile in front of me, I let out a yelp and my dash turned into a full out run for the trees. I stayed put after that scare and waited until I was sure the lightning had past.

I made it down to Thielson Creek and filled up my bottles. Since it was cold and I was soaked, I decided to set up my tent and rest a for a couple hours while until the rain stopped. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep hiking up and over the next pass if there was any chance of more lightning. As I lounged and snacked, a southbound hiker approached me and said the pass was indeed nasty and that I should just wait until tomorrow. He gave me one of his extra dinners, too, because he was ahead of schedule.

Thielson Creek

Thielson Creek

Just as he left, two firemen came down from their hidden camp up the hillside. There were four of them all together and they had repelled in yesterday from a helicopter to handle a small fire started by a hiker. They invited me to their campfire and when four handsome firemen make such an overture, I can’t say no! I set up the rest of my gear for the night and took my dinner and ukulele up to join them.

Firemen below Mount Thielson

Firemen below Mount Thielson

We had a great time playing silly guess-who games and swapping riddles. [Here’s one for you: A man with no eyes saw plums on a tree. He left no plums, he took no plums. How could this be?] I learned from all the chatter on their radio that there were now small fires all around the forest from the lightning strikes. I’m just glad that I wasn’t one of those strikes! I headed back down to my tent around 9:15, full of extra food the firemen insisted on giving me. Ugh, too much food.

 

July 8- 23 miles, camping at Windigo Pass

It was COLD last night! I kept waking up feeling chilled and damp because it was also humid- such an awful combination. Generally, I haven’t been sleeping too well. My sleeping pad and bag are great, but I just wake up at every sound, especially when I camp alone. I don’t think I’m getting more than six hours of solid rest each night and it’s catching up to me.

They're not too happy about carrying those packs!

They’re not too happy about carrying those packs!

I ate breakfast and packed up quickly so I could get a picture of the firemen before they left. They were just getting ready to put their packs on and head out. Each of them was carrying about 80-90 pounds. They said sometimes their packs weigh as much as 130 pounds. I guess I shouldn’t complain when my backpack never weighs more than 35 pounds!
image

The storm from yesterday had mostly cleared out, leaving only soft, pillowy clouds high in the sky, illuminated to shades of lavender and pink by the morning sun. It was so beautiful and the temperatures stayed low all day.

The highest point on the OR/WA PCT

The highest point on the OR/WA PCT

I was so tired today. Most of the day past in a haze and I only perked up when a view or something interesting appeared. A couple of times, I sat directly in the trail, backpack still on, and closed my eyes. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually fall asleep and the drowsiness only got worse. By lunchtime, I turned on my iPod and listened to a few podcasts to keep me at least semi-alert.

Lichen-bearded trees

Lichen-bearded trees

It was only 4:30 when I arrived at Windigo Pass, but I was so exhausted that I decided to stop for the night anyways. I cooked some couscous with veggies and beef-flavored TVP- one of my favorite meals- and charged my iPod in the generous amount of sunlight. A ranger came by to post a sign indicating no campfires and we chatted about the little fires caused by yesterday’s lightning storm. He said they’ve all pretty much been put out and I don’t need to worry about them.

Camping at Windigo Pass

Camping at Windigo Pass

An older couple have driven up and are camping here tonight, too. The husband is section hiking Oregon and got off trail for a week to mend his feet. He’s jumping back on the trail tomorrow morning. It’s nice to have company again!

 

July 9- 23.5 miles, camping at Diamond View Lake

Today Oregon really started to show off some of it’s gems. At the higher elevation, I was able to see views stretching back to Crater Lake and Mount Thielson and forward to Diamond Peak and Three Sisters. Numerous lakes speckled the forests, each one having either clear blue water, green lily pads, or rocky little islands.

Coral fungus?

Coral fungus?

Lunchtime set-up for napping at Summit Lake

Lunchtime set-up for napping at Summit Lake

The clouds had been lingering in the sky all day, so I figured they would continue to simply linger and not cause me any problems as I climbed over Diamond Peak this afternoon. Wrong! Around 3:00 a light sprinkle began and as I approached the treeline on Diamond Peak the thunder began to roar.

I wasn’t about to make an attempt going over the peak if lightning might stike, so I put on my parka, covered my pack, and sat under a tree waiting to see how the storm would unfold. Lightning did kick in and I contemplated whether I should set up the tent to wait out the storm for the next two or three hours. As I sat there in the mud, a strike hit less than half a mile from me, in fact, I’m pretty sure it was only a tenth of a mile away. I could see where it hit through the trees and the thunder clash had been simultaneous and terrifying. “Nope, I’m not playing this game today!” I grabbed my pack and trotted down the mountain through the rain and mud.

image

I knew there was another trail I might be able to take as an alternative to the PCT. I stopped under a tree, pulled my parka over me like a tent as I squatted down and looked at all my maps. By piecing together two different maps, I figured I could take the Crater Butte Trail at a lower elevation and connect to the Oregon Skyline Trail, which went parallel to the PCT on the valley floor. SOLD!

image

Looking up towards Diamond Peak

Looking up towards Diamond Peak

The Crater Butte and Skyline Trails turned out to have beautiful views of Diamond Peak once the clouds cleared out. The bugs are eating me alive, but I didn’t want to put too much Deet on on case I wanted to wash in the lake where I planned to camp.

Diamond View Lake

Diamond View Lake

image

Deet is pretty bad for delicate ecosystems and hikers wearing it can easily contaminate water sources when they wash up directly in the lake or creek. I’ve found a cozy little spot for my tent right next to Diamond View Lake. I took my much anticipated rinse in the lake and played my ukulele on the beach.

Camping at Diamond View Lake

Camping at Diamond View Lake

Tomorrow I’ll have an easy five-mile hike into Shelter Cove, a small lakeside resort holding my resupply box. A light rain has begun sprinkling in the setting sun, creating a sparkling, shimmering surface on Diamond View Lake.

 

July 9- 5 miles, camping at Shelter Cove

 

Shelter Cove Resort

Shelter Cove Resort

I hiked into Shelter Cove under a light rain all morning and arrived around 10am. There’s a general store that sells hot dogs and frozen pizzas, which became my breakfast and lunch. I also took a very expensive shower and did my laundry. I’ve been trying to upload videos I made of Crater Lake and the thunderstorm near Mount Thielson all day, but the Wi Fi is experiencing a traffic jam. I’ll try again later tonight once everyone else goes to bed. Ah, the stresses of blogging!

 

Odell Lake

Odell Lake

 

Links

No. 28- Shelter Cove to Sisters, July 2015

Mount Mazama USGS Article

Shelter Cove Resort and Marina

 

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
No. 26- Ashland to Crater Lake

loading map - please wait...

Callahan\'s: 42.100770, -122.602615
Mazama Village: 42.868441, -122.168478

 

Oh, Ashland: the land of Shakespeare, fine dining, out-of-time hippies, and deer who have learned to look both ways before crossing the street. I could sleep wrapped in your warm, dreamy air for days, but it would feel like a dream and I don’t think I could stay with you in bliss forever.

I did indeed stay an extra night in Ashland, thanks to UPS not having the correct address for my resupply package. I got a bed in the girls dorm at The Ashland Hostel, ate an eight-piece chicken picnic while sitting IN Lithia Creek (because it’s too damn hot), saw a movie at the cinema, and am now willing to admit my addiction to root beer floats (they’re so refreshing!).

Chicken picnic and Lithia Creek

Chicken picnic and Lithia Creek

Every summer I make it my goal to learn something new; two years ago it was hula hooping. As an adult that had never hooped as a child, it was a challenge for me just to keep the hoop up. Once I learned the flow, however, I was hooked! I found a wobbly, old hoop at the hostel in Ashland and took it to the park in the cool of the evening. Since I don’t think my parents have ever seen me hoop, I decided to make a video just for them.

 

June 30- 8.5 miles, camping near Bean Cabin

I took a public bus to Interstate 5 on the edge of town, then hitched a ride with a middle aged IT guy from South Oregon University. He dropped me off at the trail at 5pm, just as it started to cool off for the day.

image

Pilot Rock, a volcanic plug

Pilot Rock, a volcanic plug

The hike back into the wilderness this evening took me past the stunning Pilot Rock. Other than that, this section will probably be defined by comparatively easy trail winding through rolling hills, meadows of tall grasses and forests of lichen-covered pines.

image

Eating dinner tonight was a chore because I just wasn’t that hungry. While in town, I stuffed myself silly with food, but I still wanted to eat my dinner so I wouldn’t have to carry it tomorrow.

Camping near Bean Cabin

Camping near Bean Cabin

I’m camped near a very small spring and arrived here just as the sun was setting. It’s a warm night which means I can unzip my sleeping bag and use it like a quilt.

image

 

July 1- 22 miles, camping at Klum Campground

I had a really rough night last night. I woke up at 2:45 so hungry that I felt sick and dizzy and hot. I’ve experienced this before, so I knew I it was hunger and not a fever, but it was awful. I dug around in my food bag until I found something that I thought I could get down. I had to keep my trash bag handy in case I threw-up, but I successfully ate one fig bar. I just can’t believe that happened after I ate SO MUCH food yesterday!

While laying there trying to will myself back to sleep, an animal, probably a deer, starting walking around my tent site. “Just what I need!” I started singing “Home on the Range” really loudly to frighten it. It worked! Honestly though, it’s hard to be loud when you’re scared.

Around 5:30 am, a hiker named Moritz past by and hollered hello. When he asked if I knew where Blue Moon and Scarecrow were, a voice came from behind some trees, “Hello! We’re here!” We couldn’t believe we’d camped so close together and not known it. They said they slept through my singing last night, to my relief.

PCT hiker Moritz "Cleancut"

PCT hiker Moritz “Cleancut”

I hiked with Moritz for most of the day. His trail name is “Cleancut” because he’s smooth as a baby, while all the other hiker men sport wild and unmaintained beards. I actually first met him a couple of weeks ago in Drakesbad. He managed to catch up to me because he tends to hike 25 to 30, sometimes 40 miles per day. He’s another really interesting person to talk to while hiking. He left college, where he was studying engineering to work on a pearl farm in Australia, so he speaks with a German-Australian accent. He’s addicted to traveling and has been all around the world by the age of thirty-four.

image

After about 22 miles, I went off-trail to get water and dump trash at the nearby Klum Campground. Unfortunately, the county charges $20 per night for a tent site, which I wasn’t about to pay. There are free showers here, so, with no one around to notice that I wasn’t a paying camper, I slipped in and enjoyed a nice, hot shower. The campground was completely empty except for a single family camping with their RV. It was early, so I hung out by the lake to charge my batteries and made dinner, but by the time I finished, I felt too tired to hike even another half a mile.

Camping at Klum Campground

Camping at Klum Campground

I chatted with the self-proclaimed red-neck family about whether or not a ranger would be checking in, and they said I should just camp near them. If they ranger did show up, they’d just say I was with them. Yay! I’m hoping to catch up on my sleep tonight and I’m looking forward to having a real bathroom in the morning!

image

 

July 2- 23 miles, camping north of Hwy 140

image

People ask me what I think about while hiking miles and miles everyday. I’ve tried to pay attention to my thinking so I could give them an answer, but unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be very interesting. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Most of the time I’m thinking about hiking logistics (like pace and schedule), my body (including everything from determining if my aches are serious or not to when and what should I eat), and the trail (views, geology, history, plants). The rest of the time I’m either in music-mode, singing snippets of songs, or trance-mode, when my mind finally goes blank and I’m in a flow: look at the trail, look at the trees, look at the trail, look at the trees, look at the- SQUIRREL!

Burrito lunch

Burrito lunch

Very rarely do I actually think about deep things or come to any great realizations. I think some people might find this disappointing. I will say this, however, that having this much space in your day for thinking does allow you to more clarity and creativity when thoughts do come up, light or deep as they may be.

This morning I came across a deer in the trail. I stopped and watched her for a moment and she looked right at me, but didn’t run away. It took me awhile to realize why she hadn’t instantly jumped away- she had a very tiny fawn with her and it was in the middle of breakfast, nursing below her belly. I can’t possibly describe how special this moment was for me to watch. It seemed as if, just then, the forest was sharing something particularly intimate with me.

Mama and baby (look closely!)

Mama and baby (look closely!)

image

I’m camping tonight with a girl I met in Belden, Haley. She jumped several hundred miles up the trail, similar to me. There’s also an 18-year-old guy camping in this spot and, man, he won’t shut up. I’ve never heard anyone talk so much. He’s just SO excited; it’s like he’s a little puppy or something. I’m about to offer him a sleeping pill. TIME FOR BED!

 

July 3- 26 miles, camping below Devil’s Peak

Tonight is Double Dinner Friday. It’s also Monster Marshmallows Friday. Whenever I’m close to town, it means I can binge on any extra food I have- I LOVE IT!

Most of the day was spent walking along gentle trail through dense woods. There weren’t really any views of Mount McLaughlin even though the trail skirted right around it.

image

I had planned on hiking 23 miles today to a trail junction were I’d find a pond to resupply on water and camp for the night. Unfortunately, that area of the forest was utterly decimated by a recent fire and I couldn’t find the trail junction or the pond. With half a liter of water left and some very tired legs, I started the climb that would take me, in three miles, to the next water.

After what has felt like days of thick Oregonian forest with occasional views of gently sloping hills, I was finally presented with spectacular views in all directions. It felt like coming out of a fog into a stunning sunset. To one side, I could see Mount McLaughlin and Klamath Lake; to the other, spreading far to the north, were jagged, shark-toothed peaks, including Mount Thielson.

Grandpa's beard

Grandpa’s beard

image

image

I found the water I needed, along with Blue Moon and Scarecrow camping nearby. My muscles are aching so much that no amount of stretching seems to be helping. It’s moments like these that make me wish I had my travel-size foam roller. It’s 22.5 miles to Mazama Village; I don’t know yet if I’ll go all the way tomorrow. I’m pretty sore!

image

 

July 4- 23 miles, camping at Mazama Village Campground

Knowing that I’d be sore from yesterday meant I took it super easy this morning. I didn’t hike out of camp until 9:15! The entire day felt strange. The miles were flying by so fast that I wondered if the map was off on it’s distances.

Lost the trail in the blow downs

Lost the trail in the blow downs

There were so many people on the trail today. Some were section hikers, others were day hikers, and a few were northbound PCT hikers who were hiking really fast. I hiked with one of them, a lady, for about 30 minutes and eventually dropped back so I wouldn’t have to listen to her negativity any more. One thing she said that really bugged me was that she couldn’t wait to finish the trail because she was sick of it already. My thought was, if you’re not enjoying it anymore, why bother finishing?

image

It’s normal to have bad days or even bad weeks on the trail, and it’s normal to get so sick of body pains, bugs, the weather, maybe even the monotony of certain sections that you just can’t stand hiking anymore. I once complained to another hiker that I was tired of seeing the same things for days on end and she reminded me that the trail always seems to change, subtly or suddenly, just when you think you’re about to go nuts. After she said this, I made an effort to take more notice of those changes and appreciate them. It’s important to stop hiking sometimes to look around, look up, and even look behind you to notice new views, new colors, or new vegetation.

I like to think of the trail as though it’s an epic novel. If I get bored with one chapter and skim over it, I may miss an important detail that completes the story. When I finish hiking all 2,660 miles, I want to remember every dimension of this experience that I can, and I don’t want to take any aspect of this journey, good or bad, for granted.

image

I made it into Mazama Village by 6pm and it’s a zoo! There are so many tourists here for the 4th of July weekend. I quickly got myself a $5 hiker site, took a free, but very cold shower, and then parked myself in the restaurant with Blue Moon and Scarecrow until the manager kicked us out at 9:45.

There are a few other hikers here, including the cousins I met north of Belden (Katia and Olivia), a seasoned southbound hiker named Hardway, and someone I met last year on the PCT, Far Walker! She’s an older lady who has been struggling to section hike the entire PCT despite a bone spur in one of her feet. It’s so fun running into people I’ve met on the trail before because the chances of it just seem so slim. I guess the hiker world is smaller that it seems!

PCT hiker Hardway at Mazama Village

PCT hiker Hardway at Mazama Village

 

Links

Installment No. 27- Mazama Village to Shelter Cove, 2015

 

Crater Lake Wikipedia Article