Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 99, Crater Lake

Daily mileage: 9
Mile 1825-1834
My mom recently asked me about the significance of Crater Lake. Was it some big milestone on the trail? Because I have apparently mentioned it quite a bit. Well I guess technically no it isn't a big milestone but look at it this way, have you ever heard of Seied Valley, Etna, Shelter Cove or Cascade Locks? I certainly hadn't, but Crater Lake, that was one I actually knew. And when you stand at the Mexican border and look at this insanely long map of the PCT and see this name you recognize it starts to be kind of dramatic. Crater Lake meant Oregon, and not just the border but this unimaginably far off place 1830 miles away. So maybe not significant for everyone but pretty darn exciting for me.
I woke up a little late because with only 6.5 miles to go there wasn't exactly a huge rush to get to the store exactly when it opened. But once I started hiking it was hard not to fly down the trail. Got to a real road and made my way to Mazama Village. This park is really two parts. This part is low in a canyon with a store, restaurant and campground. Oh and zero views of the lake. 4.5 miles up out of the canyon is the Rim, where you finally get to see the lake, another store slash food place and the lodge, i.e. fancy hotel. I resupplied at Mazama took a shower and did laundry. Not thrilling but necessary. Although possible my diet for the next few days isn't fantastic, that store had a whole lot of junk. Oh well it's only 3 ish days until my next stop in Cascade Locks. Wrong Way and I went to breakfast where the waitress gossiped to us about all the hikers who had been there before. Very entertaining. Looks like someone is sick but we have no idea who and everyone we had been hiking with is 1-2 days ahead by now. Sorry no photos, let's face it Mazama wasn't really photo worthy. Building in a parking lot....I want to see the lake!
So back to the trail we climbed. Wrong Way wasn't feeling to great and I have a nasty heat rash in the shape of my backpack on my back right now so the climb felt longer than it probably was. It being hot and muggy didn't help so much. But then...

The plan had been to keep hiking but listening to your body is important too. Wrong Way got a room and invited me to stay. So a short hiking day to try to feel better in this amazing place.

Such lovely views, plus so many great people to chat with. Oh and a delicious dinner and the most comfortable pillow I've slept on in ages, not to shabby. And tomorrow we walk the rim!
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Day 98, The Devils Thumb

Daily mileage: 28
Mile 1797-1825

What a great day. I woke up so comfy in my tent. I could see the mosquitoes but they weren't getting me (okay at least they weren't getting me yet). I looked at the time and promptly shut my eyes again. What was the rush to get up? Didn't start hiking until 6:15 and it was great, and thankfully the mosquitoes weren't as bad as the evening before.

Just a little bit of flat before starting to climb, I even got a glimpse of a hat up on the ridge. So of course I sped up because I was curious who it was. I managed to catch up with the person, it was a section hiker from Medford. What a lovely way to start a morning. Chatting with Jane was perfect, it's always fun talking about the trail and I was distracted enough to not finish my water miles before the next source. We climbed our way up to the junction for Snow Lake and made a quick water detour. While we were relaxing and enjoying the view Wrong Way showed up. A little more talking and we were finally back on the trail. It took me a few minutes but suddenly I felt like I was flying as I headed up towards the Devils Thumb. I just kept thinking, wow this is the first time I've truly felt like myself in awhile. Apparently I thrive on sugar and caffeine, hmmm Wrong Way you could have started something bad giving me those Starbucks packets. Up over down and all around, great views and even some snow on the backside. All small patches but more snow than I've seen in awhile.

Looking out towards the town of Klamath Falls

My lame attempt at a panorama, doesn't everyone put trees in the middle?

The longest section of snow, totally doable

Snowmelt streams!

As I zipped along singing and dancing and enjoying icy cold streams I couldn't be happier. Lots of creeks and intersections that were yet again not all on my map, why again does that help me? Finally decided I was hungry enough for lunch and soon Wrong Way joined me. A good 2 plus hours later after talking to some backpackers we finally hit the trail.
I'll admit I had definitely slowed down, still in a good mood though. It wasn't long before we hit a burn area. Pretty large too, I guess it burned sometime between 2008-2009.

At mile 1817 we headed down to Jack's Spring. Depending on your map it's anywhere from 0.5-0.8 miles off trail, and wow heading steeply down through the burn it fed like it takes ages. But it's the last water until Mazama Village and I'm not going there tonight so 12 plus miles water it is. At least it was delicious, and the climb back up actually wasn't too bad.

I was getting slower as the mosquitoes got worse and I had to put on layers. I wanted to camp so the morning would be a short one so at about mile 1822 I started looking. The swarming mosquitoes were just getting worse so when I saw Wrong Way had found a sweet campsite I breathed a sigh of relief. Another early night, in my tent and hiding by 7:30. Pretty great, and tomorrow Crater Lake!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 97, Did you say pancakes?

Daily mileage: 24.5
Mile 1773-1797.5

Well let's see, I could hike 28-30 miles today and tomorrow I would have to hike 26-28 miles to get to Mazama Village at Crater Lake. And knowing my speed I wouldn't get there until way late. Or I could make today and tomorrow way slower and just get to Crater Lake early Thursday. I need a few hours at the store to resupply anyway so I was liking my lazy days plan more and more. And then pancakes came into the picture and the decision was pretty much made. Okay let me explain, about 8 miles into today's hike the trail crosses highway 140 and 2 miles down the road is the Fish Lake Resort. A hiker friendly place with a restaurant and I was hoping milkshakes.

I woke up and quickly discovered that the seasonal stream nearby was dry. I knew this might have been true but I had been hoping otherwise. So 8 dry miles to start my day. The trail did its usual winding through forest and regularly popping you out into open spaces bit. Only instead of meadows it was fields if mostly volcanic rock which was a little different.

While pretty my morning was just sort of ho-hum. I was in a strange mood and kept fixating on this idea of milkshakes and pancakes because I wasn't really feeling the trail. But I decided to wait until I got to the highway to make my decision. I got there and stalled for a bit knowing Wrong Way couldn't be far behind. Like I guessed he wasn't one to turn down cooked food, so after a bit of wandering on the highway we found a good spot to hitch and a few minutes later were on our way. The resort was open and soon enough I was eating pancakes and a chocolate shake. Successful morning. Getting back to the trail, not as successful. Wasted a long time trying to hitch and ended up just walking up the highway in the baking sun. Oh well, breakfast was still worth it.
I said goodbye to Wrong Way and began my torturously slow climb up the mountain. Was the trail steep? Nope I just had zero willpower to speed up, so I didn't. With this crazy slow attitude I was rather surprised to run into Wrong Way later that afternoon. There had been sketchy guy on the trail earlier and he wanted to make sure I was okay. Which I totally appreciated. I guess I have a campsite partner until Crater Lake, still hiking alone but camping in the same vicinity as each other.

After the twin lakes junction where we got some lovely yellow colored water we headed out. Just a few short miles later is Christi's spring, it may not look like much in the photo but it was some of the tastiest water I've had recently.

A view of 4 mile lake as the mosquitoes started to come out.

A little after 7 we passed a second junction for red canyon and I felt a bit defeated because I thought we had only come 21 miles today, shorter than even I wanted. Turns out one of the intersections wasn't listed on my map (guthook this is starting to become a habit...). Either way the mosquitoes were getting hellacious and I figured 21 or 22 miles made no difference so amidst swarms of mosquitoes we made camp.
Once I'd actually settled down and sat eating dinner while hiding in my tent I figured out we had actually camped at 1697.5 not 1694.5. Which was good except now it's 31.5 miles to Crater Lake. Hmm back to the what time of day do I want to get there question... I should have kept hiking but those bugs really make you crazy! Well let's see what tomorrow brings.

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Day 96, C'mon water sources play nice

Daily mileage: 28
Mile 1745-1773

Woke up and hit the trail in no rush. A few miles in I hit my first water source. Supposedly a spring fed faucet. Only I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn the thing on. I tried going up to the spring but just got attacked by bushes. I must have been missing something but no water for me. That's okay there was supposed to be a river 1.5 miles farther. So right as I see the water I finish the last sip of what I was carrying. Only this river is from a spillway with some big white pipes, lots of foam and the water is super warm. Umm I am not drinking that, mud puddles sure, sewage treatment looking stuff I think not. So on I go. 1.8 miles later I wander off trail towards the Hyatt Lake campground where I find a working water fountain. Thing is when I get back to the trail less than 5 minutes away is a water faucet and fountain, on the silly trail. Oh well water and I are just having an interesting relationship right now.

And so the trail kept rolling on. Past a million dirt roads, lots of trees and what I think were two reservoirs. Yet again I decided to head off trail for water down to Klum Campground in case seasonal stuff wasn't flowing. I don't feel like risking 13 miles without water. Yup that felt farther off trail than I thought but it was nice to throw my trash away :) More time in the forest, crossing contaminated aqueducts and slowly (oh so slowly) climbing up out of the trees. Stopped at a beautiful spring and continued dragging.

Imagine my surprise when I heard a voice behind me as I nested the top of the climb. It was Wrong Way, turns out the day before when I passed highway 66 he and Joker had hitched back to Ashland for one more night and now here he was. So we hiked together down the mountain until dinner time at South Brown Mountain Shelter, a nice spot with a well and everything. Bo was there to and after dinner we all headed out for just a few more miles.

Camped by myself but near the others. Happy to be in bed.

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Day 95, Back to the trail

Daily mileage: about 19
Mile: 1726-1745 (ish)

It's pretty sweet waking up in a real bed next to a bathroom and running water, but the trail was calling. Ran around in circles for a bit. Last minute groceries and other errands. I tried to be speedy but failed. It wasn't until 9:30 that Caveman and I got a ride to the trail. The rest of the group had a ride set up for 11, 8 people is a lot to get to the trailhead at once. Back at the trail I said goodbye to Caveman as I have no intention of hurrying to Crater Lake and I was still busy fiddling with my new solar charger.
After 10 I finally started walking. Nothing like a bit of a road walk to jolt you back to trail life. No clouds or rain today, it was hot in the sun! The trail climbed up towards Pilot Rock winding through forest and open meadows with blooming flowers everywhere.

Lots of people out today, southbound section hikers, day hikers, other backpackers. So much small talk! Ten miles in I got to a spring fed water faucet where I sat enjoying the shade. Caveman was probably way ahead by then but it didn't take long for the rest of the group to catch up. Sat enjoying the water and shade and talking with the trail crew who had camped there. Finally started walking again.

Nothing too thrilling after my break, just walking. Although I don't know where the time goes sometimes. An hour or two will pass and I won't have gone nearly as far as I should. Although it doesn't help when my map says, oh by the way the trail was rerouted at this mile marker but I don't have the GPS so I didn't update the map yet. Umm thanks, I'm just hoping that it doesn't mess with my morning water.

Well I'm pretty darn tired so instead of rambling on its bedtime. Let's see what nonsense tomorrow brings.

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Day 94, Zero in Ashland

Daily mileage: 0

Zero day! No hiking, just a lovely day off in Ashland. Sleeping in, resupplying and sending boxes off to other parts of Oregon, Indian food, movies and ice cream. I could get used to zero days.

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Day 93, Ashland

Daily mileage:18
Mile 1709-1726

I'd say walking 18 miles by ten am is pretty awesome except I'm not sure it really counted like that...
So around 3 am I noticed a puddle forming under me. Hmm not good. I'd never fallen back asleep and just sitting there watching the rain was getting old. I had been a little concerned with how long it was going to take me to get into town and had been debating waking up a little early the day before. So why not make it exciting and hit the trail around 3:30?
So I did, oh and good job life proof case my phone is still alive after sitting in the rain for hours because I couldn't find it, maybe consider day glo not just dark purple.
So off I went into the darkness. It was slow going. You can pretty much tell where the trail was by feel but you get darn wet in the process. I've heard people call wet bushes washing machines and I heartily agree. My legs and feet were soaked. Across dirt roads and around mountains and up at least 1000 ft I climbed. Laughing and muttering the whole way. Near the top it finally started to get light. That's when the morning started to feel long. I just kept contouring and climbing but never descending. I knew there was a long descent into town and I just wanted it to start already.

It was cold and wet and I was getting frustrated with the roads and intersections not on my map (guthook come on!). Finally as I started to descend another person popped up behind me. I'll admit it, I was pretty creeped out. All in camo and I couldn't see his face. I turned a corner and there was a lovely trail magic cache. A little freezing outside for a cold soda but I peeked at the journal as the hiker passed. Turns out it was just Scarecrow all kitted out in his rain gear, much better than an anonymous creeper. I drank the cold soda anyway and feeling a little rejuvenated with only ten or so miles to go I headed down. Passed the Ashland resort and a very sweet mom and son, down through cross country ski land, walked a few circles on a road as I lost the trail and finally felt closer. Those last few miles took forever, slightly overgrown single track overlooking a road peppered with power lines. Joyful hiking. Less than 2 miles from the road a section hiker out on her morning dog walk offered me a ride into town if I was still in the parking lot after her walk. I love the hiking community.
I hit old highway 99 and right as I crossed the street to get to the shoulder a guy pulled over and offered me a ride. I hadn't even put my pack down yet :) and with the beauty of technology I found out that Samwise and Sweet As were at the post office so I got a ride straight into downtown instead of having to wander aimlessly for hours. And what a reunion! Right in front of the post office with boxes exploding everywhere were Samwise, Sweet As, Hawkeye, Kombucha, Joker, the Cousins and Caveman. How fantastic. Hit up the local co-op, wandered into gear shops and then on to our hotel. The cousins headed back to the trail, it was great to actually say goodbye this time. Caveman decided to stay the night since he isn't feeling well and he'll easily catch up in a day or two. Take out Thai food and Men in Black on TV so happy. A nice mellow evening after a very long morning. So far Ashland I'm a fan.

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Day 92, OREGON!

Daily mileage: 32
Mile 1677-1709

I woke up thrilled. By the end of today I would be in Oregon! I packed up giddy with excitement. Blair's Witch and Trailbait were rustling around but had not yet emerged from their tent, I wished them a good day and hit the trail. I'm sure I'll see them again at some point, with a town stop so close its inevitable.
I hit the first climb smiling, I'm in the mountains and loving life, this area is gorgeous. And so the morning passed, climbing all the way up and around to the ridge line and then rolling along. Rolling mountains as far as the eye can see, wildflowers, meadows, and trees. I love my life.

The first spot to get water was 0.8 miles off trail, no thank you. The second two were seasonal and I walked right past them, I think I saw a marshy area but it didn't even register. Besides I still had plenty of water. The fourth I sat and stared at, a ways down a steep embankment but I just couldn't bring myself to go that far off trail. I was starting to cut it close. I am so much more willing to carry extra water now rather than go off trail like I used to. Just a different mindset now, plus they seem to be marked a whole lot less. I like to avoid taking the wrong deer trail or fire road to nothing if I can help it. I finally caved and went 0.2 off trail to Mud Springs. A 15 mile morning on only the water I had started with, wow does walking in the cold make a difference. Oh and this morning was chilly, I actually hiked for hours in a hat and gloves, I thought this was a hot stretch? Oh wait I am so much happier at 55 degrees than 90! Although it would be nice if my shoes would dry, it's been 3 days now...
The miles were rolling by as I rolled down the trail. The excitement had dulled a bit. My very first big border crossing on this trail is exciting, but 21.7 miles does take awhile to hike. My hunger is back in full force so I spent the morning smiling and snacking enjoying the trail. There was just a trail race out here and while I wish they had cleaned up after themselves (I have a lot of Gu wrappers in my pack now) it was oddly fun seeing the flour arrows and pink ribbon marking the trail. This section of trail looks well used and I totally understand why. The views are just gorgeous. We're even back to being able to see Shasta.
More climbing and I was getting close, one last big meadow, an old cabin and just a bit farther...

Now look as special as possible for your self portrait...

I hung around for a bit and then started back to climbing, I am in love with Oregon right now. It is so gorgeous.

Finally picked a spot to stop. I had been so busy enjoying the cliff edge walking and the sunset that I had let it get pretty late. Tomorrow Ashland!

And it continues...
I woke up around 2 am for a bathroom break. As I sat looking at the stars I thought, hmm that felt like a raindrop. Must just be moisture in the air out here, because I'm looking at the stars... Within ten minutes it's raining. Oops, welcome to Oregon. I'm swaddled in my tent because there is no place to pitch it without actually getting up and hiking and looking out at the night under my umbrella. Well at least I'm going into town, so I'm not worried about my stuff getting to wet. But I learned my lesson. Even if they are just scattered clouds, if they look like rain put the silly tent up so you don't get wet at 2 am.

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