Waking 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.
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.
I 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.
My 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.
Eventually 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!
This 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?
I 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.
At 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.
Camp 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