PCT Hike – Day 5

PCT Day 5When I looked at my maps at Bobby Lake, I noticed that my next section of hiking would be abundant with wetlands. Lots of lakes. There is something delightful about setting up a tent near a lakeshore. I enjoy it. It is serene and it also gives easy access to filling up water bladders. Today I decided that I would hike to Brahma Lake which was a short 16 miles away.

The day proved to be quite uneventful in general. The hiking was, of course, beautifully deep forested and full of lakes along the way. There were no major elevation changes, just a simple soft step forward. I did lose power in my phone (aka camera), and the solar panel was having difficulty with my power cord as my power cord was not being very cooperative. So, I didn’t get very many pictures along the way.

I passed Charlton Lake, which was listed as a water and camping spot on the maps, so I decided to take the very short trail to the lake to see what it was all about. Beautiful, of course, and very quiet. It was also a great place to rest my feet which were getting increasingly cranky. My left heel was beginning to swell and create a crankiness throughout the left side of my body. It felt good to kick off my boots and soak my feet in the lake. There was one camper at the lake, though it looked like he was camping for a long term experience. When I left, I crossed over a dirt access road to the lake, which gave a great explanation to how all the stuff arrived for the person who seemed to be living at the lake.

Not too far from Brahma lake, I heard my first gunshots. Blech! I have an abhorrence to guns. Truthfully, the only thing they are meant to do is kill things, and honestly, enough things in this world die on their own. I wish we could stop destroying every last part of the planet. Okay, I won’t preach my gun philosophy here, but you get the point. Apparently, it was hunting season. Joy.

As I approached Brahma lake, I came across two Southbound hikers – Bottoms Up & Dakota. These were their trail names. I didn’t have a trail name, and the chances of me getting one as a solo hiker doing a section were highly unlikely. They were friendly and informative, and the one woman Bottoms Up, shared the same viewpoint on hunting that I did as she crinkled her nose at the sound of the 2nd gunshot of the day.

I arrived at Brahma lake relatively early in the day. As I came up to the lake, I overlooked the major camp spot that had a fire pit and veered off to the right to a spot that was fit more for one person. It was early in the day and the sun was about another 1.5 hours away from passing over the western tree line. I found camp on the East side of the lake.  Up went my camp and down to the water I went and set up my solar panel with my phone – there was an immediate BUZZ from the connection and I knew that my phone was getting charged. Excellent, I’d have more pictures taking opportunities.

As this was another opportunity for me to get some sun on my body that didn’t just include my forearms and calves, I stripped down to my dry-fit skivvies and laid out on a big rock near the water. I heard a woman on the other side of the lake say to a guy, “<gasp> do you see what he’s doing?”, with his response being, “it’s okay, please just be quiet”.  Apparently, this was her first time in nature, and he was a pro. A pro in full camo, fishing. I’m not sure how that combination works, but perhaps the fish just think he’s a big tree. He did catch a fish while I was there, but he also let it go, telling the fish to calm down that it would be okay. I respected that guy.

One thing I did notice as I was laying out on the rock like I was in Key West, was that I had lost all my body fat. Seriously. It was all gone. I had V-lines on my stomach that I haven’t had since I was in my 20’s, and I’m a very fit person in general. Day 5 and I’m skinny. This is going to be interesting. I was eating as much as I could stomach on a regular basis, but the amount of calories going out were just shredding me of any fat.

That evening I made ratatouille. I was skeptical on how it would come out when I was putting the recipe together, but I have to say, I’m a rock star chef for the backcountry. It was delicious. Rich, flavorful, thick and meaty. I was quite impressed. That will definitely go on my list for future backcountry meal making.

It was an early to bed night again, I was actually in my tent well before dark writing in my journal and looking at my maps. I decided to deal with the big blister on my right foot which was now from the underside of my big toe all the way through my right ring toe. (Is “ring toe” an actual toe name? Okay it was the little piggy that didn’t have roast beef.) Out came my scissors and my bandana, and I was prepped and ready with my bandaging. The amount of liquid ooze that came out left me with a questioning mind. How does that build up? This time it wasn’t just clear, but it was a little brown and colorful. I didn’t gag. It wasn’t the most pleasurable experience to watch, but as it didn’t hurt at all, it made it much more bearable. Drained and drying. Great.

Sleep came fast, I think I was actually sleeping before it was dark. I did manage to get a message to my trail angel Tim through the Delorme InReach which was my SOS and communication device (I highly recommend it). He was going to send out another pair of socks for me, as thick and heavy as he could find, along with a scrubby pad for my filter. What a guy! My personal trail hero and savior. I am forever grateful.

“There is always good and bad. Focus on the good while you are going through the bad”

1924-1940, 16 miles

Happy Trails,

Denny

Camper

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PCT Hike – Day 4


PCT Day 4After frolicking with the Otters I was feeling giddy and alive, and of course it was time to trek the next unknown segment of the PCT. It was a chilly start to the day. I kept my knit hat and gloves on, but toughed it up and started the trek out only in my dry-fit T shirt. I figured I’d warm up rather quickly carrying a small portable house on my back. I was also anxious to get moving to get further away from the smoke zone which had turned my nasal mucous into a black and bloody mess (don’t be jealous).

Trail SignThe leisurely trail this morning led me through an abundance of lakes all the way up to Shelter Cove at Odell Lake. As I did not have a package there waiting for me, and it was relatively early in the morning, I decided to pass through a friendly PCT Hiker spot, crossing the road near the Sno Park at Williamette Ski Resort on Highway 58. This was one of my first big road crossings and it just seemed that everyone was driving an 18 wheeler going at least 120 miles/hour. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but after slowly trekking through the quiet of the wild for half a week, loud is loud.

Bears

I immediately came upon a Wilderness Message board at the trailhead. It was covered in BEAR posters. Welcome to Bear Country! The very animal I was most hoping to avoid. Not that I’m afraid of being eaten alive by one, or by being mauled by one to an inch of my life and being left undiscovered slowly dying in an unknown part of the woods by myself, but I’d just rather avoid the interaction completely. Uh, for the bears’ sake of course. Ehem.  Anyway, I barely got 20 steps onto the trail and right down underneath my foot was my first bear foot print. It was probably about 5-6″ long from heel to toe and the track was pointing in the direction I was going. Great, maybe we can have 2nd breakfasts together. Twenty more steps and on the path is another bear print, half the size, like a cute little baby bear and heading down the trail towards where I just came from. Okay, off came my pack, and on went my bear bell onto my trekking pole. I may have started singing at this point as well. As I was winding my way deeper into bear country, I came across two southbound day hikers (who were quite friendly), that were staying at Shelter Cove Resort. They said they hadn’t seen any bears but had seen plenty of tracks.

Pop-TartsToday’s lunch was Pop-Tarts (organic ones from Trader Joes). It was really my first “treat” since leaving camp a few days ago. I was hungry when I stopped for lunch in the middle of the woods and these pop-tarts tasted amazing! A very short time after lunch, I came across Lower Rosary Lake. I have seen beautiful lakes before, but this one was absolutely breathtaking. It was a lake that had a high pitched “rock” of a mountain behind it, with crystal clear water showing a beautiful caribbean blue. Again, if it had not been early in the morning, this would definitely have been one of my camp spots.

Rosary LakesThere are three Rosary Lakes, Lower, Middle and North. Each of them was quite beautiful. The trail passed around the lakes then started ascending up with a few long switchbacks. I passed into a very condensed part of forest where I couldn’t see further than the first grouping of trees to my left and right. In comparison to the tall trees that you can see under as you hike, this felt very tight and foreboding. There is nowhere to go if something should happen. In an attempt to not panic, I looked down the pathway towards what I could see and stepped quietly and lightly. The movement to my left gave me quite a start, then left me completely mouth gaping open in awe. A large brown owl took off from its perch and with an expansive wing set began to fly down the pathway away from me. I honestly do not think I’ve ever seen an owl that big before, and definitely not that close. If I had not been so stunned, I probably would have attempted to get out my camera and take a picture.Condensed Owl Spot

Williamette NordicWalking along, I saw this small little side trail leading away from the main trail. I gave it a glance over, but did not see anything that gave it a remarkable viewpoint. It had no trail signs and I couldn’t tell where it went. Ten steps later I noticed something shiny over my right shoulder in the general direction of the trail and saw a log cabin with a solar panel on its roof. Now, I know that there are some folk who probably have property out in the wilderness areas, but this was all of 200 yards away from the trail. Curiosity got the best of me and I walked slowly up towards the cabin announcing my presence should anyone be home. It was beautiful, large timber cut cabin with plenty of windows, a chimney and a big covered outdoor space next to an enormous fire pit. The windows had no coverings on them, so I peeked inside and found a giant open-spaced room with chairs and a few games surrounding an enormous wood fire place. On the back of one of the chairs was painted “Williamette Valley Nordic Ski Patrol”. How very cool! Now I know why there were trail signs a good ten feet above my head. I couldn’t figure out why they’d put signs way up there, but if there is 6 feet of snow, they’d be about eye level for some.

Bobby Lake 1My destination of the day was Bobby Lake. It was a beautiful lake 1/4 mile from the PCT trail. As I arrived at Bobby Lake I noticed there weren’t any other campers around. There was a big fire pit that overlooked the water. Camp! I dropped my pack, set up my tent and my camp, filtered some water and gathered some wood for my first camp fire. I noticed that the asshole birds had arrived at the same time (I do think they followed me from Crater Lake). These are grey birds with black stripes who have no fear of humanity at al,l and are quite aggressive in attempting to take your dinner. Tonight’s dinner was 2nd burn chili. Burns on the way in, burns on the way out! I slow cooked it in my little pot on the coals of the fire. It was absolutely delicious.

Campfire ChiliAfter dinner, I went down to the lake to wash out my dishes and noticed that a yellow jacket and a big dragon fly were struggling near the water’s edge. The lover of life in me grabbed a stick and lifted the yellow jacket out and put him on a log, then I did the same with the dragonfly.  The yellow jacket was taking its time recovering, but the dragon fly got up almost immediately and flew up towards the tree. It happened so quickly, but one of those asshole birds swooped right out of the sky and gobbled up the dragonfly! That F*cker! Two seconds later another asshole bird came down and snatched up the yellow jacket. I was so unhappy.

Camping FireI found myself going to bed earlier and earlier, foregoing the evening skies for some deeply needed rest. So off to bed I went. Fortunately for me, I have a bladder the size of a miniature pea, and the call of duty came just in time. I was standing not far from my tent giving back some water to the world and directly across the lake was the full moon rising above the tree line. WOW. It was absolutely beautiful and bright. I walked down to the edge of the lake and soaked in the moonlight for a little while before returning to the comforts of my warm sleeping bag, where I sat up inside of my tent and watched the moon drift across the lake a little while longer.

In the morning, I arose in time to see the sun rise in the same place the moon rose the night before. It was a beautiful way to start the day. Coffee, Oatmeal, Poop and Pack! I was ready for a new day!

1908-1924, 16 miles

Happy Trails,

Denny

Camper 2

PCT Hike – Day 3

PCT Day 3

Rise and shine, it’s another beautiful day to step onto trail. Although I have yet to have a campfire because there are fire bans, I completely smell like smoke at this point. The smoke overnight was quite bad. I can’t even imagine what it is like closer to the fire. I must be miles and miles away from the source of the fire right now.

I spent my morning popping blisters. It wasn’t as “icky” as I thought it was going to be. I took my tiny sharp scissors and made a tiny sharp cut into the bottom of my foot where I felt absolutely nothing as the skin surrounding the blister had already detached itself from any nerve type feeling. Out leaked some oozy clear liquid and that was all. Nothing too exciting, and a lot less drama than what I was anticipating.

Today I knew I was heading to Summit Lake for a pit stop along the way. I needed to rinse out my clothing and wash down my body. It has been a few days since I’ve done any type of bathing and it was time. Breakfast was eaten (thank you oatmeal), and camp was packed, and off I went to a lake.

Very shortly on the trail I heard a raucous in a tree of screeching scratching animal fights. From where I was it took me a moment to locate the source, but eventually I spotted a tree about 20 meters away and up about 5 meters from the ground was a whirling dervish of dark brown fur. My attempts at making small noises to catch their attention and break up their auto destruction was not working, so I bellowed out a big loud “HEY!” and immediately they stopped. What it also did was catch one of them off guard who then decided to fall the 5 meters to the ground. Great, I’ve just killed my first wildlife. I’ve become a hunter and I don’t even like hunting. Fortunately for me however, that furry little creature had some bounce, and no sooner did it hit the ground, but it took off running across my path with the 2nd one directly behind it. To this day I have no idea what they were. I initially thought they were  little brown foxes, then why would a fox be in a tree? So when I got home I googled “Brown Furry Creature in Cascade Mountain Range” and a Fisher came up to the top. Hmmmm… quite possibly. 

Summit Lake

Not too much further and I was on the trail that curved around a big lake. Summit Lake. I found the side trail which lead to the camp noted on the PCT maps. It took me right to the water’s edge which at this time in the morning was still and quiet and quite reflective. There was no one around, so I took my water filter and my body to the water, stripped down and began washing my clothes. After my clothes had a bath, I was next, and it seemed that the ducks that were joyfully playing in the morning sunshine were also having quite a bath as well. Then, don’t ya know, I heard the rev of an engine in the distance that grew louder by the moment. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from or whether or not it was a motorboat, a truck or one of NASA’s rockets taking off. This thing was big and loud. Then through the trees on the shoreline to my left (just past the ducks), I see the biggest of trucks you can imagine. So, obviously there is either a road there, or they are like the honey badger not giving a f*ck and plowing their way through along a walking trail.

Clothes

Of course, this big red-necked truck stops just near where I am, and of course two camouflaged folk come strolling towards the shore looking at the water. They don’t see me at first, but there I was on the water’s edge with my water filter in hand pumping out the water I would need for the day. Finally the girl in camo looked over and saw me, and immediately notified her other half, and as he looked over I waved hello. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Good Morning!  I’m not sure if you’re looking for ducks, but there were two very playful ducks here just moments ago, but someone just drove by in a really loud and big truck and scared all the ducks away.”

This, apparently, was a sure queue for the hunters to retreat back to their “over-sized compensating for something they must feel they are lacking” truck and they drove away. Ducks: 1, Hunters: 0

All of my dry-fit clothing dried rather quickly, so I was dressed and packed and back on the trail in a short amount of time. (Oh, by the way, the camp spot at Summit Lake was sensational – if I hadn’t arrived there at 8:45 in the morning, I would have camped there for sure).

Diamond PeakThe next part of my morning lead me into the Diamond Peak Wilderness. It was windy and cold here with snow on the sides of the expansive mountain range. I’m not sure what happened in this part of the trail, but at one point, all of the trees were knocked down, and it seems that they were all knocked down from the mountain heading East. Regardless, there was an abundance of smaller new growth trees and half-way through the wild of Diamond Peak there was a beautiful little stream.

Once on the other side of Diamond Peak, I began to traverse slowly downward and kept coming upon these amazing little lakelets with lots of wildlife in and around them. We really do have some amazing wilderness here.

At just about 5:00, I decided that it was time for a snack and to rest my feet. I dropped my pack and started chewing on some trail mix and dried fruit and as I was sitting there I looked down and saw what was an obvious “arrow” made by another human out of twigs on the ground. The arrow was pointing down a side trail that I would have missed if I had not stopped to take a break. That intuitive nudge that says “go investigate” was gnawing at my gut and though I felt a little uneasy about leaving the comforts of the PCT for unknown territory, I put on my pack and headed down the path. I am grateful I did.

Otter LakeI passed through a small clump of trees and emerged onto the edge of a lakelet that sat about 15 feet below. It was perfect, secluded, quiet, serene and exactly the spot I was hoping I could camp in. Off came my pack, up went my camp and I spent the rest of the evening (though really that was only a couple of hours which included setting camp and eating) sitting by the waterside just breathing.

Camp Coffee

As it goes when you’re on trail, you’re sleeping by the time it’s dark and up by the time it gets light, so I was off to dreamland relatively early. In the morning, I got up, made my camp coffee and oatmeal then sat again down by the water’s edge. There was commotion on the other side of the lakelet and at first I thought it was two ducks, but quickly found out that it was two otters. OTTERS!  They were so adorable.

At first the otters either didn’t know I was there, or didn’t want to investigate. But eventually their curiosity won out and they started chatting with each other and kept looking my way. They would get into the water from an island, swim a little closer looking at me, chatter then swim away. Eventually, knowing that I’m an animal lover and not a killer, they began a direct swimming path towards me. When they got about 10 feet away, I calmly said, “That’s far enough, we do not need to interact any closer than this”, which they apparently thought quite rude because one otter squawked at the other and they began to swim away.

1900 Mile Marker

Miles: 1890-1908,  18 mile day – 8am-5:45 pm

Happy Trails,

Denny

Shadow Denny

PCT Hike – Day 2

PCT Day 2Waking up early becomes the norm as the sounds of nature arise with the first glimpse of dawn. That, and the call for the morning movement is a high motivator to getting out of the comfy sleeping bag. Learning to dig a hole with efficiency for your daily dump becomes an art form while you’re out on trail. Without the convenience of a morning flush, you actually have to work to poop. It’s something you get used to, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more it feels comfortable.

I started my day with my camp coffee and oatmeal after packing up the sleeping supplies and tent. A few stretches to loosen the body up and I was ready to get my feet going. Stepping off on trail before 8:00 am felt adequate, and the more I got used to my morning routine, the easier it was to get going in the morning, and the earlier I’d want to begin. After all, that is prime time hiking time. The body is fresh and the air is cool and crisp.

Trail

Very early in the day I came across a Southbound PCT through hiker. A younger woman who was hiking in a sun dress. I had instant dress envy. Not that my clothing was bulky or heavy, but the freedom of movement she must have been experiencing from lightweight and flowing clothing got me thinking, Maybe I could hike in my Sarong! I have a friend who hikes in a utility kilt. I did not, in fact, hike in my sarong, but I did opt to go commando for the rest of the day. Freedom baby, yeah!

Again, I had no agenda as to “where” I was going today, except North on the PCT. I figured my camping spots would show up along the way and I’d just camp. I knew I would be stopping to get water at one of the springs listed on my map.

MillerI passed Miller Lake relatively early in the morning. It was shining brightly in the early morning sun through the trees a short distance away. I love lakes. I always have. I spent my teenage summer days on lakes in central Massachusetts. The water was always a favorite place of mine to be.

BurnMy water stop was also a PCT Cross Road and camp spot. The camp spots on the PCT are meticulously clean and clear of debris. They are an art piece and a monument to those who came before, and to those who will pass through. I did not camp here as it was early, but trekked down the 1 mile side trail to Six Horse Spring to get some water. The water was pooling down the side of a hill and at the end of the trail there was a small spring which was an obvious filtering hole for hikers.

I took out my filter and my bottle and began to pump. My filter was running slowly, so I grabbed my filter bag and was going to pull out my scrubby pad to clean the ceramic and it was not in the bag. Epic Failure. Without the scrubby pad, there really is no way to clean the filter properly. I attempted to use a bandana, but all that resulted was that my bandana got holes. FLM – where was that scrubby pad? Then it dawned on me – a friend of mine used my filter in the North Cascades a few weeks prior, and I didn’t check to make sure all of the parts were put back into the bag before I left. I was kicking myself for this, and I should have known better. So, the typical 5 minutes it takes to filter a liter of water was taking a minimum of a half hour. Joy. Mental Note: Kick Friend’s Butt and double check all equipment.

PCT CrestEventually full with water, I trekked back up to the trailhead and continued on North towards my ultimate destination of Mt Hood. I wound my way around Windigo butte and Windigo pass, coming up to my first dirt Road crossing at mile 1884. As I approached the road, there were two back country motorcyclists that were parked at the trailhead. They were extremely nice and had asked if I had everything I needed. Off they went and I checked my maps and continued on, passing a “water station” left by PCT Trail angels. There were large containers of fresh water at a trailhead noting that water in the next part of the trail would be scarce, so fill up here and let them know if the water is running low!  WOW – I can’t even believe the amount of generosity and kindness of strangers in this realm of existence. Trail Folk are great!

SmokeThis section also began a very long and steady trek UP towards Cowhorn Mountain. The winds had shifted and the smoke from the wildfires in the SW were now blowing directly toward me. By the time I got to the top of Cowhorn Crest, I was having difficulty breathing and my snot had turned black and bloody. Not good. On top of this, I was developing my first blisters AND my wonderful idea of going commando was obviously a BIG mistake. Chaffing anyone?

Cowhorn DistanceI very often look into what my thoughts are doing in regards to story as they play a vital role in the energetic well-being of your self. For instance, as I was becoming more and more tired, my thoughts would stray to more pleasurable day dreams like food and sex. I think it’s part defense mechanism. It keeps the mind focused on pleasurable experiences while the body is going through uncomfortable experiences. And hey, if you’re going to spend your time thinking, it may as well be about things that are enjoyable.

CowhornAt the crest, I was now on mile 20 of the day, and I knew I could not stay here to camp. I checked the maps and decided that if I could make it 6 more miles, I could camp in the low lands on a lake. Yes Please! So, on went my underwear (heaven), and down I began to trek (OUCH). The first of the blisters were really beginning to speak, and I was developing a slight cramp in my left calf.

I made it two more miles and found a camp spot that wasn’t as smokey. I decided to camp. It was also on a ledge with a forest behind me and lakes far below and away from me. The sky was pink from the sunset through the smoke and it was really quite breathtaking.

Sunset 2Camp was set, dinner was cooked. I spent a few minutes, as I did every night and morning, writing in my journal and looking over the maps of where I have been and where I was going to next. This tired boy went to bed as soon as it was dark enough to turn on the headlamp.

22 miles (1868-1890) – 10.5 hours

Happy Trails,

DennyDenny

PCT Hike – Day 1

PCT Day 1At precisely 11:44 am on September 6th, I stepped forward into the unknown (unknown by me anyway) onto an adventure of which the depths I was soon to discover. I had a general idea on where I was going according to my map. I was walking 1/2 mile from the drop-off spot to the PCT, then I was going North (the direction AWAY from the shining Sun). The first part of the trek was quite surreal. Here I was, all by myself with a big bag on my body which had all my necessities for survival, taking a walk that would lead me well through over 250 miles of outstanding wilderness terrain. No big deal, right?!

The beginning part of the trek was through a thinned out treeline area, and when I came up to the PCT Trail, I took a big deep breath in and smiled with a friendly greeting of hello. This trail would be my friend and home for the next couple of weeks at least. It was the path that would lead me to my trekking destination, becoming my grounding source and my comfortable companion.

photo 1About five miles in, I had an incredible Southern view that enabled me to see the entirety of what used to be Mazama. I had wondered how big this mountain could have been, so I took my two trekking poles and held them up at angles aligning them with the Eastern and Western edges of the Crater and realized that Mazama was a monster in the skyline. What a sight to behold after exploring all around Crater Lake the two days prior.

photo 1-1

The trail maps indicated a water source at Diamond Lake which would be a side trail to the PCT. As I was already fully stocked, I continued past the Diamond Lake trailhead heading towards Mt Thielsen. Mt Thielsen is a beautiful treeless, jagged, rocky, pointed mountain peaking out at 9182 feet. The map clearly showed that I would be going past the West side of the mountain. As I came closer to the mountain, the trail I was on was bearing more and more to the East and I began to wonder, Did I already miss a trail maker? The PCT, though marked well at trailheads, is not very identifiable while on trail. The PCT Crest was no where to be found where I was standing, and the nagging self doubt began to play a doleful tune inside of my head. Okay, I’m smart, so I take out my maps and attempt to find my location, and according to what I can make out, it looks as though I got onto a trail that would bring me over the peak of the mountain. What to do, what to do… I could go back to see where I missed the trail, or I can embrace the challenge and know that on my first day I will be climbing a mountain. I decided, that since I was fresh and ready, I would bear forward and do the climb. What’s a little adventure without a little adventure!

photo 4

Well, don’t you know, as I approached the mountain, the trail took a sharp turn West and drove me all the way around the West side of the mountain. When I got to the Western most part and found myself at the Thielsen Trailhead, I took out my map and had another look. Yup – I was on the PCT the whole time, and the line I had mistaken as another trail was actually the county dividing line that went over Sawtooth Ridge, painted red on the map just like the PCT. Rookie mistake, now I know what I’m looking for in terms of trails and the map. Whew!

I saw my first two humans at the Mt Thielsen Trailhead. They were coming down from towards the summit on a day hike. They were both extremely fast paced in their mannerisms, communication and energy. They reminded me of folk who like to walk with intensity because people will notice that they have a purpose and therefore will feel important. They were busy bodied, and busy minded. Wow, what a judgmental prick I can be. It is amazing how willing the mind is in creating stories about events, places, and people with which we have absolutely no standing with. It is also amazing how accurate those intuitive interpretations can be. What I did not know, and soon came to realize, was that I would be meeting two very different types of hikers throughout the PCT Adventure. There would be busy day hikers who had a single purpose of quick fulfilling accomplishment, and there would be distance hikers who had a relaxed and inviting demeanor. The latter of the two would be the ones I would come to know on trail.

Just after leaving the busy bodies, I ran into a Southbound PCT hiker. An older retired gentleman from Vancouver, BC who was section hiking from the Three Sisters to Crater Lake. He had already done most of the PCT and was hiking through spots he wasn’t able to do previously do to diversions from wildfires. He was almost done with his trek and was very much looking forward to getting back to his new found discovery of investing in American Blue Chips, sailing on his boat and waiting for his wife to retire in January.

Thielsen CreekAround Mt Thielsen I continued and on the North side of the mountain was a beautiful campsite that was screaming my name for an overnight, but as it was still quite early in my day, I continued on past hoping that my evening destination would hold so much beauty. Very shortly after, I passed Thielsen Creek which delivered a stunning sun shining water flow where I took my first “pack-off-the-body” break. I hung out in the sun for a good 10 minutes and ate some trail mix and looked over my maps to make sure I had my bearings correct.

photo 3-1From here I began a long and steady ascent towards Howlock Mountain, past the OR/WA High Point on the PCT at 7560 ft. One of the most satisfying experiences I would continue to have is when I could pinpoint my location on my maps. It was a self-confidence boost to be able to self-monitor my location and bearings based on my foreign surroundings and a piece of paper with colors and lines on it.

photo 2-1

Just past the OR/WA High Point I started to make my way up and around Tipsoo Peak. I was dug into the trail with my thoughts like a tick into a body and didn’t notice the Southbound hiker named Scout (a very friendly and happy black lab) bounding down towards me. As he caught me off guard and all I saw was black, I jumped and squeaked like a little girl in a scary movie, being jostled out of my zone with the initial thought of “It’s a Bear!” Fortunately for me, it was no bear, but a loving pooch and his happy hiking owner.

The evening came in and my legs were tired and ready for a break, and just as you are ready to unwind a magnificent spot for camping arrives. Now, one of the crazy parts about camping along the PCT is that you are really just a few short human strides away from the trail when you’re pitching your tent. There is no campground, there are not “designated” camping spots, but there are camping spots along the way that have been created by the abundance of trekkers that have walked that path before you. For them, and for the PCT Association who maintain the trails, I am grateful.

photo 4-1My camp spot for the evening was on the edge of a ledge, with a wonderful view of some lakes and hilltops. I set up my REI Chrysalis, dug out my sleeping gear, set up my food cooking station and prepped dinner (Stuffed Peppers and Trail Bread). Yes Please!  Along with my daily food, I also had a sip from the flask of 14 yr old Scotch which was given to me by a client for the trek, and a one-hit-wonder.

11:45-6:45, 7 hours – 16 miles (mm 1852-1868)

Happy Trails,

Denny

 

Coming Soon: PCT Hike – Day 2

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PCT Hike – Crater Lake National Park

From September 6th until September 22nd, I went on an adventure – solo hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail from Crater Lake National Park to Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood. In the upcoming blog posts I will share with you this adventure from a daily perspective so you can get an idea of where I was and what I was doing (I mean, besides stepping North with a very heavy backpack).

The planning part of the adventure had been happening all summer long with increasingly difficult elevation and distance hikes, along with weighing down a backpack which would begin to build the strength and endurance I would need for the just over two week and 250+ mile trek I would be doing along the PCT. I prepped and packed my own dehydrated meals (which were quite tasty), though they take a little more fuel to cook and weigh a bit more than the pre-packaged meals you can purchase.

The PCTA.org website was extremely useful and full of information about hiking along the PCT.  Along with their many useful tidbits, they have a map section which you can download and print for the sections of the PCT you will be hiking along.

The 2014 season of hiking had already earned me well over 175 miles trekked with more than 50k in elevation gain overall.  Though in comparison to the 16 day journey I had on the PCT, those miles now seem small.

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The adventure began with a 2.5 day exploration of Crater Lake National Park. I had never been. If you have never been, put it on your bucket list. I imagine that in the heat of summer it would probably be a busy place to explore. However, as we arrived just after Labor Day weekend, it was not very packed at all. We camped at Lost Creek Campground which is on the South side of the park. It was a quaint campground, with plenty of camping spots, a creek and a flushing toilet. The camp spots were loaded with firewood from all of the diseased trees they were taking down.

Getting to the campground was an adventure in itself as we arrived through the North gate of the park and decided to take the western route to the campground road which was on the Southern side of the park. Well, just one mile before the campground road there was a “Road Closed” sign, so we had to turn around and drive all the way around the entire crater to get to the campground road that was just beyond the closed part of the road. One might think that those who make smart people decisions would let people who don’t know any better know about these things long before they get to these places. Just sayin.

Tim packed a world of tasty delights for us to indulge in for the few days we were there which was great to have before getting on trail. Homemade salsa from the summer’s harvest of garden vegetables, fresh eggs, arnold palmers, s’mores and more!  I did manage to gain a whole 1.5 lbs (a huge accomplishment itself) prior to leaving for the trip while on the “Fat-Boy Program” I created for myself that included a lot of donuts, pasta, ice cream and beer.

Blue TreesCrater Lake is stunning. A huge volcanic shell that was filled up with rainwater. To say that the water in the lake looks “blue” would be an understatement. It IS the color blue. Water so clear and so deep that it reflects the bluest part of the sky. Every time I got a glimpse of the lake, more so when it was framed by the color green of a tree, I would be in awe at the depth of the blue I was seeing.

Wizard Island

We took the $40 boat ride to Wizard Island (how could we not), which is a volcano inside of a lake, inside of a volcano! We were allowed three whole hours on the island. We got to climb to the top of the volcano and down into the cinder cone. It took us about a half hour to summit.

After playing around inside of the volcano (we didn’t get to sacrifice Tim), we went down to the shoreline and found a little lagoon. Tim got his feet wet, but I totally jumped in. The water was SO cold that I had to exit immediately with a lot of gasping and bellowing. Tim said I was crawling out of the water like Gollum. It was my pre-hike cleansing of many layers, and little did I know, it would be the cleanest I would be in days!

D - Gollum

One of the most prophetic things I heard at Crater Lake was after we had climbed up to the top of Garfield Peak and were gazing over the amazingness of blue before us. A young man of about 18 was telling his friend that he heard the crater was formed when Mazama (the mountain) blew up and caved in on itself, then the rains came and filled up the crater, which was about 7,700 years ago. A fact which he found extremely interesting as he knows that “the Earth was only created about 6,000 years ago.”  (O.o)  Say what? I’m going to have to do some history of the Earth investigating now, or maybe just re-watch Mel Brook’s – A History of the World.

Friday night was spent around the campfire eating more wonderful foods like corn on the cob and garden burgers. I got out my journal and my maps of Section One and calculated a rough average of 16 miles/day needed in order to get to my first Cache stop at Elk Lake Resort in a week’s time before running out of food. That was my first section of three – Crater Lake to Elk Lake. I figured that with a full pack and unknown terrain, I would be averaging about 2 miles/hour which would put me into an 8 hour day for hiking. Sounded good to me!

TrailheadOn Saturday morning after a delicious breakfast, we packed up camp and Tim drove me to my trailhead which was just North of Crater Lake Park off of Highway 138. Leaving what I knew behind, along with my comforts and my security, I said my goodbyes to Tim (which he admitted that it felt strange to go camping with someone, then just leave them in the middle of the woods and drive away) and at 11:44, I trekked my first 1/2 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail mile marker 1852.

 

Trail Walk

I had no expectations of what lay ahead, and really no direction except I knew that I would be on the PCT heading North. I had my maps and compass, and I was a like child in the mode of discovery on an epic adventure of a lifetime.

Happy Trails!

Denny

Coming soon: PCT – Day 1