Adventures, Backpacking, Fun, hiking, PCT

PCT Days

PCT Days this year opened on Saturday at 8:30 a.m., so Marnie and I decided to get there at opening time in order to get a good parking space on the road.  There were many, many more people there this year than prior years, mostly hikers, and Thunder Island (the camping area) was full to the brim with tents.  We walked around and visited the vendor booths and picked up the goodies they were offering – there were stickers, headbands, lip balm, and even a cork massage ball, which if you buy one can cost as much as $10, so that was a great gift!  There were a lot of things available that we didn’t even take. Marnie won a raffle prize from Backpacker Magazine.  They played, “Never Have I Ever”, and she still had nine fingers up out of ten at the end of the game.  The first ones out and the last ones standing got prizes.

This was early, a lot more people arrived later.
Goodies

There were a couple more food trucks this year than there have been in years past, but we went to the Eastwind Drive-In for our lunch again.  They have a walk-up side and a drive-up side, but instead of having the walk-up side open they only opened the drive-up side so we stood in line with the cars to get our lunch.  With cars driving in and others trying to get out of the parking lot, it was an interesting experience!  Eventually cars and people were lined up clear out into the bike lane.  When we were almost to the front of the line a couple of hikers named Galileo and Something Else came up and asked if we would get them milkshakes since we were already in line, and of course we said we would.  Something Else was wearing a California flag as a cape, and Galileo was wearing a white tablecloth with lace inserts as a poncho or toga.  It looked like he had had his friends sign his tablecloth.  Fun!

Waiting in line with the cars
Something Else and Galileo, and me

As we made our rounds we were able to find Marmalade who we met in 2019 (on YouTube at Marmalade Outdoors), and we found our friend SnuzzNuzz who we spent time with in SoCal.  SnuzzNuzz was very happy to see us, and it was nice to visit with both of them.  We talked with a hiker named Autograph and SnuzzNuzz while we were sitting at one of the picnic tables, and the couple next to us had brought a whole large watermelon and a big knife and cutting board from home and she started cutting up that watermelon right then and there!  The lady offered us each a slice of watermelon, which we gladly accepted.  She got out all sorts of other food to share as well.  We also found Legend, who we were not expecting to see!  He is a trail angel and was setting up the hostel in Campo when we were there, and we spent a lot of time with him helping with the hostel and getting rides to and fro.  He is hiking the trail with a German girl and they are only doing 5 to 10 miles a day, which Legend says is perfect for him. We stopped by the booth where Liz Thomas (who wrote the Long Trails book) was signing books and got a photo with her.  She posted our photo on Instagram and had me do a video testimonial for her book!  I wasn’t sure what to say but I hope it helped.  I found another hiker named Ninja from Japan, and heard from someone else that there is a German girl also named Ninja.  We were told that the Japanese Ninja looks more like a ninja then I do, ha.  We found Boomerang, another hiker we met in SoCal at the Gold Rush Hotel in Julian.  He and his friend Sailor had given us advice about our pack weight.   We also met Kyle and Flossy from the Kyle Hates Hiking YouTube channel, and they were very gracious and let us fangirl for a minute! We saw Turtle, who we had met down at Scissors Crossing near Julian, Jupiter from his JupiterHikes YouTube channel, and Manny from Manny on Trail, also from YouTube.

Marmalade
SnuzzNuzz
Legend
Snorkel
Boomerang
Flossy and Kyle

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time looking in the vendor booths because neither of us really need anything, although I tried on an alpaca zip-up sweater in the Arms of Andes booth and it was really nice.  The $250 price tag was a little high for my budget, though, but I am considering saving up for it.  It is something that would last forever.  There was a big stuffed alpaca at the booth and it was covered in real alpaca wool.  We enjoyed petting it because it was so soft, and I thought they should make portable alpacas to use as stress relievers!  It’s very calming to snuggle an alpaca!

Kangaroo snuggling the alpaca.

We participated in a couple of vendor raffles but didn’t win anything at those.  There were a ton of people at the Granite Gear giveaway as usual, and we could hardly hear the man as he called out the trail names they drew, he needed a megaphone!  They Hyperlite Mountain Gear booth was giving out some nice prizes too, so I was a bit disappointed not to have won anything there.  Marnie’s prizes from the Backpacker Magazine raffle were a hat and a little snap-together bowl.  She also got a free hat from the Sawyer booth.  I didn’t take a hat because I have so many already!

A crowd at the Granite Gear giveaway

We saw people in many interesting outfits, a couple of girls were wearing satin lingerie robes as sweaters (I suppose they are light!) and one was wearing both the matching nightgown and robe!  I think a few hikers had stopped by some thrift stores and picked out some things, ha.  There were men in kilts and even skirts, and then the usual interesting thru-hiker ensembles.   The people watching is always fun at PCT Days!

We both decided not to buy tickets to the big raffle at the end of the day, because the last couple of years we haven’t won anything and we didn’t know if we wanted to stay that late.  We did end up leaving around 4:30 or 5:00 so we got home at a decent hour (still past my bedtime though!).  The weather wasn’t too hot, which we appreciated, though we each did get a bit sunburned. All in all it was definitely a fun day!

People at the Backpacker Mag raffle
Liz’s Book — Long Trails – well worth the read to prepare for your thru-hike!
Backpacking, hiking, PCT, Travel

PCT Oregon Third Section — Hyatt Lake to Fish Lake

Don’t forget to read installments 1 and 2 of our Oregon PCT hike!

As we hiked toward Fish Lake, three horses and riders were coming along just as we had stepped over a small log across the trail.  There are horse camps at various places along the PCT, and the PCT is graded for horses and hikers.  Like any other area with usage by different categories of users, hikers and horsepeople are sometimes a bit at odds.  The riders greeted us as we stepped aside to let them go on, but as we started up again the middle horse started bucking and having a fit when he saw that he would have to step over the log.  The rider kept her seat admirably and managed to calm the horse down after a very long few seconds, as we watched from where we had stepped as far off trail as we could.  We kept quiet and didn’t move so we wouldn’t make the horse more upset.  They finally rode off and we were glad not to see them again!  This is my concern about horses on the trail – the trail is usually narrow and there are many obstacles, horses are very big and often unpredictable, and sometimes there is no place to escape from an equine stampede!  It’s always a relief when we pass horses without incident.

On the PCT in this section most of the PCT emblems are worn off the metal markers.  We have come to recognize a blank, white metal diamond on a tree as marking the path of the PCT.  On much of our hike we were entertained by graffiti that people had written on the diamonds, such as “Be a traveler, not a tourist,” “Just be kind,” “Born to be wild,” and other encouraging or just silly sayings.   Some of them are even like the old Burma Shave signs and make a verse as you go along!

Nomnom.

We soon came into Klum Landing Campground at Howard Prairie Lake, a large tent campground sort of in the middle of nowhere.  Comments on the FarOut app said the campground had clean restrooms and showers but was mostly deserted, and we thought, “Clean restrooms and picnic tables?  We’re in!”  We got to the camp before anyone else did and picked a site near the restroom.  The restroom was indeed clean and new, and well stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap!  (We didn’t check the showers but supposedly they were also quite nice.)  There were no car-campers at all, a few cars pulled into the parking lot here and there but none of them stayed.  We weren’t sure why the restroom was so well taken care of (I suppose just in case campers came in) but we appreciated it very much!  More hikers came after we got there.  A man in a pickup truck came around looking for a “tall blonde” while we were in our tents.  He said he had some new food for a girl hiker because she wasn’t going to be cooking food anymore while hiking.  It sounded a bit nonsensical and we thought it might have been just as well he didn’t find the girl.  He said her name was Pepper.

Other than getting scraped and dinged going over logs, we weren’t too much the worse for wear by the time we got to Fish Lake.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land we walked through after Hyatt Lake was 10.5 miles of downed trees.  We hit a number of log “nubbins” (what used to be a branch sticking out of a tree, now a short sharp thing sticking out in every inconvenient place on a log one has to go over) and one took a chunk out of my leg.  During another log crossing I hit one and it HURT, and I told Marnie I was going to say a bad word.  I managed not to, but only by the grace of God! 

My going-over-logs leg wounds, a week and a half after getting home.

A lady we met both at Callahan’s and Hyatt Lake told us that the trail is better maintained in the National Forest and once we reached the Rogue River National Forest sign there wouldn’t be so many blowdowns.  She was right, and it definitely made for must faster going.  Marnie fell on the trail and “left a dent in it”, getting a skinned knee and leg and a bruise on her hip.  I tripped on a step (I had gone up successfully many times before) going up into the cabin at Hyatt Lake and hit the deck and skinned my knee, wrenched a muscle in my back, and bumped some ribs.  Thankfully, we hiked the 8 miles of lava flows between Hyatt Lake and Fish Lake without losing our balance, although I think it meant that I missed some nice views of Mt. McLaughlin and Mt. Ashland because I was concentrating on my feet so much.  If you fall in the lava, at least part of you will land on a pointy rock.  In fact, without a miracle all of you would land on a pointy rock.   The trail maintainers have made a trail through it, but it is all either small rocks or medium rocks instead of dirt.  Thru-hikers just glide over it, but hiking through the miles of lava was exhausting for us because we felt like we needed to watch every step.  We were glad there were small shaded forest “reprieves” where we could rest a bit before tackling the next lava flow.  I did wear my bug head net through the lava, though, because the bugs insisted on flying in my face and buzzing my ears which drives me bonkers, and I didn’t want to lose my footing because I was gesturing wildly at some insect!  The lava flows were the most eventful part of the walk from Hyatt Lake to Fish Lake, so much of this is about our time at Fish Lake. 

The trail
Trail through the lava
Trail through the lava
Mt. McLoughlin

We arrived at the junction of the PCT and the Fish Lake trail and found a good sitting log to rest on there, glad to be done hiking through that lava!  One trail goes two miles to Fish Lake, and the other way goes six miles to Lake O’ the Woods Resort.  A thru-hiker couple came by who were also going to spend some time at Fish Lake, and we said we’d see them there later and continued our little rest time.  We had been rationing our water all day since there was no water source between our campsite and Fish Lake, so we finished it up knowing we only had two miles until we could get all the soda we wanted, ha.  Marnie and I both had to use the “ladies room”, and had to walk up the less traveled trail towards Lake O’ the Woods to find a spot.  I walked up aways and took a spot behind a shrub, but there weren’t a lot of private spots to choose from.  In the middle of things I heard a noise and looked up, and there was a bicycle coming down the trail!  I was, in the least, mortified!  I hunkered down as far as I could, but the colors of my sunshirt are so bright I was certainly visible, and I’m sure the cyclist was aware of what was “going” on.  Thankfully he just looked politely ahead and continued down the trail, and I put myself back together and hurried back to the junction.  I sincerely hoped the cyclist was staying at Lake O’ the Woods and wouldn’t be coming back to Fish Lake, and I was glad that I could change into my “town clothes” at the resort and therefore not be recognized just in case he did come back in our direction!

My sunshirt

The trail from the PCT to Fish Lake is a joy to walk on, two miles of wide, graveled path with only a couple of hills to go up.  Once again we zipped up the trail, in anticipation of a good lunch this time and in hopes of getting a cabin for the night.  We arrived on Thursday instead of Friday, and I had been praying the whole day that we could get a cabin with a bathroom to stay in Thursday night so we could get our showers in our own private bathroom instead of having to use the “communal” shower.  I never know what to do with my feet in those things.  Do I stand directly on the shower floor?  (Ick.)  Do I wear my Crocs in and then just stand on top of them so I can wash my feet, and then have to put my feet in my wet Crocs to walk back to the cabin?  (Also ick.)  We didn’t have to answer that question though, as God answered, “Yes,” to my prayers and someone had checked out early and left Cabin 5 available to us.  We had to wait a couple of hours for the cabin to be cleaned, so we had some BLTs and curly fries and milkshakes for lunch on the restaurant deck and talked to the couple we had seen at the junction.  They were busy planning their resupply and their next few stops. 

Yum-o!

When the cabin was ready we gleefully scampered up to it and took our showers!    You see, Fish Lake’s “rustic” cabins that we had reserved for Friday and Saturday nights don’t have bathrooms.  They do have a little kitchen area with cold running water and a fridge, so at least one can wash one’s face and brush one’s teeth, but we needed showers and the private bathroom was such a blessing!  God takes good care of us!  (We had cleverly brought the tiny bottles of shampoo and tiny bars of soap with us from the cabin at Hyatt Lake, just in case there were no amenities like that at Fish Lake, and it was a good thing we did.  There wasn’t even any soap for the shower!)

Cabin 5
Interior of Cabin 5
Interior of rustic cabin – table is behind door at right

We enjoyed our time at Fish Lake, even though there was a heat wave going and the resort doesn’t supply any fans in the cabins.  (This is made clear on their website.)  Both days it was 90 degrees out already at around 10:30 a.m.  Cabin 5 had a screen door so we could let the evening air in until bedtime and a covered porch where we could sit as the air cooled a bit, and we each kept a cold washcloth near us or on us to try to keep cool.  The rustic cabin did not even have a screen door, so we opened the windows (except the one over the bed, which had a big crack in it mended with packing tape) and attempted to sleep.  By the time we were both awake in the morning the cabin had finally cooled off enough to be comfortable.   Unfortunately we both had to go to the bathroom in the night, but we walked there together and the road was very well lit.  Neither of us likes to wander around by ourselves after dark.   

We spent most of our time relaxing on the deck sending and receiving messages from our InReach satellite devices (no cell signal at the lake except AT&T) and just watching the people who were coming to the lake, which was most populated on Saturday.  People brought their stand-up paddleboards, boats, kayaks, and unicorn floaties and had a great time beating the heat in the lake.  There were many dogs paddling around as well and I was glad to see they all had life jackets to keep them safe.  The view of the lake from the deck is partially blocked by trees, so we didn’t get photos of the lake-goers. The people working at Fish Lake, while not quite as delightful as the ones at Hyatt Lake, were perfectly nice (well, one girl was rude to Marnie, but I buttered her up by complimenting her polite little girl and she was okay after that) and the girl who worked the restaurant window was especially fun.  She joked around with everyone and remembered our names and how to spell them, so we didn’t have to tell her every time.  The days we were there we had milkshakes for lunch and then an early dinner, even though they were out of strawberries so couldn’t make a strawberry milkshake (the store was too far away to go get them, they said).  They were not stingy with the whipped cream and it was lovely to have a cold milkshake with lots of whipped cream on the over-90-degree days! 

There were chipmunks living at Fish Lake too, and at one point a little girl dropped her basket of curly fries on the ground.  We watched a chipmunk stuff his little cheekies with curly fries, it was the cutest thing!  They would come up onto the deck if there weren’t too many people and take food right out of your hand.  I fed one some of my salad and he appreciated the lettuce and tomatoes.  The next night I fed one a sweet potato fry and he enjoyed that as well.  If it was a mouse or a rat, everyone would be freaking out, but chipmunks are so cute it’s okay when they beg for food, ha.  They have better press, I guess!

Chipmunk eating a curly fry
Look at his lil’ hands!

We didn’t spend any time down at the lake ourselves, although while we were waiting for our laundry to finish we walked out to the beach near the R.V. park and took a look.  The beach on that side was rocky and the water looked muddy, and that didn’t look like much fun to me, but we had seen many people going into the water from there.  The sandy area was where the boat ramp went down, and since that was the nicest beach with the best access that was where most of the people sat and played.  While watching the people, we also enjoyed watching the R.V.s come through and trying to figure out how much they cost!  I was impressed by how they could get them down the narrow road and then maneuver them into the tight spaces in the R.V. park area.  Driving goals!

While we were at Fish Lake we met other hikers including Packin’ (from New Zealand), Uncle Nomad, Tough Cookie, and Lively.  We noticed Lively was very upset – there was a family tragedy and she needed to get home to the Seattle area.  She and T. C. had scheduled an Uber for the next day to take them to Medford so they could rent a car and head to Washington.  We talked with them for quite awhile that Saturday and hoped that they would get everything they needed.

On Sunday morning at 7:30 we were expecting to wait to go to breakfast when the restaurant opened at 9:00, and then wait for The Hubs to come get us.  I expected him about 10:30 or so.  We were all packed up and were about ready to go to the deck and hang out there, when we heard footsteps on the very creaky (seriously, in the night we thought we were going to wake up all the neighbors because of the creakiness) porch stairs and someone knocked on our door, and it was The Hubs!  He had started from our house at 3:00 a.m. since he is used to being up around that time.  We bundled our packs into the trunk of the old Avalon and started towards the front of the resort, where we found out that the Uber that was supposed to come pick up T.C. and Lively had overslept and wasn’t going to bother to come.  Uncle Nomad was going to go to Medford to rent a car as well.  The Hubs decided we could take them to the airport but we only had room for T.C. and Lively and their packs (barely), so Uncle Nomad said he would just go up to the highway and get a hitch.  He had started out hiking but came back already that morning, the smoke was getting bad from the fires in southern Oregon and NorCal and he didn’t want to hike in it.  I felt bad that he couldn’t go with us, and we hope he got to where he needed to be.  We managed to get near the rental car area of the Medford airport to drop the girls off.  Of course, we completely didn’t think about getting anyone’s number to be able to contact them again!  After Marnie bought us breakfast at McDonald’s, we drove home.

Lively and T.C.

When we were at the Brown Mountain Shelter getting water at the pump, both Sleepless and the British girl said that when they stopped having fun they wouldn’t keep going.  “It’s just a hike,” they said.  Marnie and I realized that we weren’t having fun on our hike.  While we admired the scenery and appreciated God’s beautiful creation, we enjoyed our time at the resorts much more than our time in the woods.  Being out in the woods with our packs just started feeling like a chore more than a fun trip.  A thru-hiker at one of the springs said, “Now I understand Oregon.  It’s so chill.”  The thru-hikers were cruising along up and down while we were struggling with the climbs, not thinking it was chill at all.  It was discouraging, although when we thought about it we knew we could be no match for their 1700-mile legs.  In spite of all that I think we would have continued on at least to Crater Lake, if we could have found a solution to the water situation.  There is a 20-mile water carry between Fish Lake and Crater Lake, which for us would have been difficult since we aren’t doing 20s.  Then there are fires just past that area as well and a lot of smoke so we might not have been able to get a good view of Crater Lake even if we made it there, and obviously fires and smoke make it unsafe to hike.  Most NOBO thru-hikers are flipping from Fish Lake or Ashland up to Santiam Pass (Bend) or Timberline to avoid the fires and smoke.  Then once you get to Bend/Santiam Pass, you have to get a ride around the Lionshead fire closure to Olallie Lake (if someone doesn’t mind taking you down the horrible road) or up to Frog Lake or Timothy Lake near Mt. Hood.  We have already done Shelter Cove/Willamette Pass to Lava Camp Lake and Timothy Lake to Cascade Locks and hadn’t planned to do those sections over.

Takeaways:

Wildlife takeaways:  We did not see any bears or mountain lions, just deer, birds, chipmunks, and the occasional squirrel.  While we would love to see a bear from a safe distance, we’re just as glad none came into our space!

A deer that passed by while we were taking a break.

Thru-hiker takeaways:  Thru-hikers are an amazing set of people.  They were encouraging and none of them criticized or judged us (at least outwardly) when we were slow or took a long time going over logs. 

Me taking a long time to go over a log.

Water takeaways:  While it isn’t fun to carry water, you should always have a little more than you think you need.  Not all water sources are reliable, even if your app says it is “flowing”.  Also, drink lots of electrolytes in your water.

Mmmm, pond water…

Food takeaways:  Eat plenty of food in town, as backpacking food isn’t all that tasty.  Although it might seem expensive, eat some freeze-dried backpacking meals before you go so you know whether they’re any good or not.  Then you won’t end up with an inedible meal and have to deal with the leftovers.  (You carry them in your trash.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before there’s a trash can to dump it in.)

Delicious town food.

General backpacking takeaways:  Backpacking is harder than doing things at home.  It’s hard to carry a backpack.  It’s hard to set up your tent sometimes.  It’s hard to walk uphill.  It’s hard to sleep.  There’s mostly nowhere to sit except rocks and the ground, and rocks are pointy and the ground is dirty.  Everything is dirty, especially your hands and fingernails.  (Hand sanitizer doesn’t actually clean your hands, it just slides the dirt around.) 

Sitting in the dirt on a break.

Central takeaway:  If it isn’t fun, don’t keep doing it.  It’s just a hike.

In the end, Marnie and I have decided that we don’t need to go backpacking again for awhile.  We will clean all our backpacking gear and put it away carefully and be content to be at home with clean fingernails, flush toilets, and chairs to sit on while we contemplate our next adventure.

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, hiking, PCT, Travel

PCT Oregon Second Section – Callahan’s to Hyatt Lake

Before I go into the next sections, there are a couple things I forgot to write about our first section.  The journey to the CA/OR border of the PCT was very interesting.  Marnie’s hubs Steve drove us in her VW Tiguan.  It takes some doing to get there.  The Google Navigation Lady takes you up a lot of roads, some paved, some gravel, and some just a trail up the side of a mountain full of ruts and potholes.  Then you come out onto a lovely graveled Forest Service road (why couldn’t we go on THAT road?), go up the road a little ways, and then go back because you missed the small pullout where the trail comes through.   Spoiler alert:  On the way back, Marnie’s hubs got a flat tire on the freeway and had to buy two new tires for her car!

We reached the pullout area and hopped out to walk (sans backpacks) the .3 of a mile to the CA/OR border.  There were standup post signs on each side of the F.S. road that indicated a trail, but we didn’t see the PCT emblem.  We got our photos, signed the hiker log, and were back up to the pullout in a jiffy to get our packs and start our hike on the opposite side.  As we got to the road, we each looked at the standup trail signs and noticed there WAS a PCT emblem on them.  We thought we were going nuts!  “There wasn’t an PCT sign there when we went down, was there?”  “No, I’m sure there wasn’t, how did we miss it?” etc.  Then Steve, who was waiting for us, told us that workers had actually just come and put the signs on the posts.  He tried to wrangle three signs for us from the worker and the worker was going to give them to Steve, but then the worker’s boss came along and wouldn’t give them away. 

Hiker Log

Another thing I forgot to include in my last post was that as we were walking on a very overgrown trail, a large white horse suddenly appeared in front of us.  Thankfully there was a place nearby where we could step off the trail, because there certainly wasn’t room on the trail for us and Mr. Mega Horse!  We stood quietly and let the horse and rider go by.  Later that day we met the horse coming again, and stepped aside to let him pass.  His rider said, “If you talk to him, he’ll know you aren’t a mountain lion,” so guess what we all three said to the horse?  “Oh no, we’re not mountain lions,” we said, practically in unison, ha.  The horse passed and soon we came upon a large downed tree with limbs everywhere.  A sort of trail had been made by hikers up the side of the hill to go around the end of the tree, so we scrambled up and around.  We still wonder how the horse got around that tree…

Many of the photos are Marnie’s.  I didn’t stop to take quite as many photos because I was in the lead the whole time this trip.  I was chugging up the hills and trying to encourage the others to chug along too, ha.  Chug up to a shady spot.  Catch your breath.  Chug up to the next shady spot.  Catch your breath.  Whew.   Down the hill – ow, my knees.  Up the hill – ow, my calves.  Flat trail – wheee!  I think most of my best photos were of the hotel/resorts, ha.

We left Callahan’s and took the “blue blaze” road walk up the old highway to where the PCT comes out on the road, instead of going back through the railroad yard and up the steep trail we took coming down.  I don’t like road walks, and this one (besides being uphill) was on a well-traveled road.  It wasn’t too bad most of the way, but when a semi-truck was in our lane and a dump truck was coming in the other lane at the same time, it seemed pretty harrowing!

Once we got on trail again some people were coming up behind us and I saw Kung Fu, a hiker we had met down at the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area in SoCal and spent some time with at the Stagecoach RV Park.   We had seen him the day before at the picnic table/water faucet on trail but he was busy conversing with other hikers at that time.  When we saw him on trail, Marnie said, “Hey, Kung Fu!” and he looked a bit confused, but once we reminded him where we’d met he remembered and was happy to see us.  He is called Kung Fu because last year when he hiked the PCT he had a Kung Fu mustache.  Another hiker took our photo with him.   I imagine he is in Washington by now.  Our friend SnuzzNuzz who we also met in SoCal might be at PCT Days this month, and we are looking forward to seeing him if he is able to be there. 

Marnie, me, Kung Fu

Our campsite the first night out of Callahan’s was very nice, with views of Mt. Shasta and Pilot Rock.  We had many views of Mt. Shasta throughout the first and second sections of our hike.  Most of our campsites were forested with no views, although we did have a view of Hobart Bluff one night.  We also had many views of Mt. Ashland, as we moved further and further away from it.  Every time we turned around there it was again!  Marnie got a photo every time we looked over and saw the mountain, just to show that we were still seeing it.

Mt. Shasta
Pilot Rock
Mt. Ashland

Much of the trail this trip was very overgrown – we walked through (literally) manzanita, thimbleberries, Oregon grape, star thistles, grass as high as my face, wild rose, wild cucumber, many unidentified shrubs, and huckleberries.  There were one or two huckleberries that looked ripe out of all the bushes we passed through, but no thimbleberries yet.  Thimbleberries aren’t bad to walk through with their big soft leaves (they are also known as “Nature’s Toilet Paper”)  but the very pointy star thistles were not fun for our legs.  We saw what might be a rare lily (or maybe they had mostly all bloomed already) in the forest.   There were all manner of flying insects flitting about, bugs and butterflies, dive-bombing us and buzzing around our heads.  There were a few bitey bugs, but we didn’t see too many mosquitoes. 

Thimbleberries
Overgrown trail
Lily — we only saw a couple of these.

On one day we were walking through the Green Springs Wildlife Refuge.  There were the usual signs everywhere about keeping your pets leashed because it is, well, a refuge for wildlife.  As we walked through the refuge an older man with two large, happy doggos came toward us and the dogs galloped down the hill and started visiting with Linda and Marnie.  My first instinct after he assured us the dogs were friendly was to correct his error and tell him that he should keep the dogs leashed because we were in the wildlife refuge.  His response as he walked by?  “I’ve never seen any wildlife around here!”  I was shortly required to eat my words as a thru-hiker came up and said, “Cold drinks at the top of the hill!  That man with the dogs said he left a cooler in his van for us!” and when we reached the parking lot at the top of the hill we joined a bunch of other hikers and took advantage of the cold Gatorade the man had left in his cooler.  It sure hit the spot!  I mean, if he left trail magic he couldn’t have been all bad, right?  (Except he also let his pups potty on the trail and didn’t pick up after them, so…)  At the parking lot there we met Crash.  When we were in Julian, CA, in April we heard about a hiker and trail angel getting in a car accident one of the days we were there, and Crash was that hiker. 

After our break at the Green Springs trailhead parking lot, we went across the road and back up into the forest.  Eventually a man in a bright Hawaiian shirt came walking down the trail and stopped to talk for a bit.  He mentioned a person who was supposed to be a PCT hiker and asked if we knew who she was.  I know of her from the PCT 2022 Facebook group run by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA).  The Medford newspaper had done a big writeup about her, he said.  This was the second time we had been questioned about her, the lady with COVID at Grouse Gap Shelter had asked us almost the same question.  We never did come upon the person during our time on trail.  We told him we were going to Hyatt Lake and he said that the people there were delightful, and told us to tell them we had talked to Dan the Man.  He said that he was going back down the trail to collect flags that had been left during a trail maintenance job he had helped with the day before where they had picked up many pounds of trash.  Funny thing was, we hadn’t seen any flags…

During a break one day Marnie was organizing her waist pack, and Linda suggested Marnie’s trail name should be “Kangaroo”, because her waist pack holds an immense amount of things. Marnie accepted her trail name so Marnie is now Kangaroo and we all have trail names!

Kangaroo with her waist pack

On this stretch of the PCT there are many different kinds of water sources, one being a spring that has had a pipe put in so the water comes out in a place that is easier to reach.  We came to one of these piped springs and were eager to start filtering water.  Marnie and I each filled up our CNOC water bladder and Linda put her pump filter in the spring puddle and started pumping.  As we were sitting there, a family came along with a father, mother, and adult daughter.  It’s unusual to see a whole family on trail hiking together.  The father was running back and forth taking water to the ladies to filter, and then he plopped down on his mat and his wife threw him some snacks.  For a smallish man he sure was taking up a lot of space!   The mother and daughter were also very small in stature and we wondered how they were getting over some of the downed trees.  After this piped spring, the next water source was a terrible pond.  Its comments on FarOut read something like, “Aside from all the snake friends, this pond isn’t too bad,” and “If you are entertained by watching garter snakes eat tadpoles…” etc.  I said that I would die of thirst before I would go to this pond to get water!  We took a break at a campsite near the snakey pond and didn’t want to get any water there, but Marnie did go down and get some emergency water for Linda in case she needed it later as she was running low.  I think Marnie may have scooped up some tadpoles too!  There was a less-icky pond for a water source another day and we did get water at that pond.  The first time I scooped up water in my bladder there I got a large bug as well, so I poured him out and got some bug-free water.   It tasted okay after filtering.  There was another piped spring that was supposed to be “flowing” according to the comments on FarOut. We got there and talked to a British hiker named Sparkle for a little while, he was trying to eat his lunch but was being accosted by bees. Another hiker came along and went down to the spring before we did, and when we got down there she informed us that the pipe was just dripping, not flowing at all. After a long while she finally got half a bladder full of water and went over to filter it, while Marnie put her bladder under the pipe. One of the comments on FarOut said that if you pushed down on the pipe more water would come out, and that worked for a minute. After waiting for the water for so long, we decided that we should just dip our bladders in the puddle and be done with it. We did that and went back up to filter, and some other hikers came along. They pooled their resources (cups, Buff for extra filter, etc.) and all went down to try to scoop some water out of the puddle. When they came back up they said that the pipe wasn’t even dripping anymore. We had gotten there just in time. This was a spring that people were counting on for water, and we felt sorry for anyone that came after we did since the pipe had gone dry and it was a number of miles to the next water source.

Then there was a pump at the South Brown Mountain Shelter, between Hyatt Lake and Fish Lake.  The water still had to be filtered, but it was cold and clear.  The pump was huge and most of us needed help working it.  When we arrived at the shelter there were people at the picnic table.  One was Sleepless, a girl we had met as we were leaving Hyatt Lake.  There were a couple of British girls who later purloined the campsite we wanted, forcing us to walk two extra miles to another campsite (which we were actually happy about later as it meant we didn’t have to walk so far in the lava the next day)!  One of the girls was a thru-hiker and had taken some time off to fly back to the U.K. for ten days, and then came back with her friend who was hiking the Oregon section with her.   Another girl came along who had a collapsible hula hoop attached to her pack! Marnie found her on Instagram, she says that another hiker was teaching her tricks with the hula hoop, ha.

Hiker at dripping piped spring
South Brown Mountain Shelter
Interior of Brown Mountain Shelter
The less icky pond
Linda using her pump filter at the flowing piped spring

The night before we got into Hyatt Lake, we camped at a site in the forest near a dirt road.  (It had a helpful stump “table” where we cooked our dinners!) After we were cuddled up in our tents I kept hearing crazy laughing and some screams, and knew it couldn’t be hikers because hikers would walk on by and the noises would keep happening.  Linda and I wondered if there was a maniac loose in the woods!  Marnie was set up closer to the dirt road and noticed some bicyclists, and it turns out they were the ones making the noise.  I had thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but I guess not! 

We finally got to the trailhead at the Hyatt Lake Campground, and noticed a sign that said, “Call us at the resort and we’ll come get you!” and we eagerly got out our phones and…had no signal.  Marnie and I both have the same phone carrier.  Linda has Verizon which is known to work better in the mountains, but her phone was dead because the cord she had for her portable battery wasn’t working.  The signs at the trailhead neglected to indicate which direction the resort was in, so I flagged down a pickup coming out of the campground to ask which way to go.  Once we got on the right track, we did the 1-1/2 mile road walk to the resort, hoping there wouldn’t be too much traffic on the curvy road with little shoulder.  I was in the lead booking it towards a nice brunch!  I had the idea that drivers might not be able to see us on one side of the road, so I kept changing from one side to the other with the curves in hopes we could be seen better and not be squashed.

No signal to call the people at Hyatt Lake
Road walk. My backpack kept listing to the right. I never figured out why.

The people at the Hyatt Lake Resort are indeed delightful, as Dan the Man had said.  We arrived a little after 10:30, and after we finished breakfast they let us hang out on the patio until our cabin was ready.  They even asked the maid to clean ours next since we were waiting.  Then, the maid came and sat with us and we had a nice conversation with her, and she said we were her favorite hikers.  She came and talked with us a few times during our stay while we were sitting on the patio.  She was about our age and German, I think.  She had seen a mountain lion not too far from where we were on her road and there was a sign that one had been seen in the campground, so we felt very thankful that we were staying in a solid, cougar-proof cabin!  The cabin was very nice and full of bear-themed décor, which made Marnie and me quite happy because bears are our favorite.  The cabins are like tiny homes, and ours had a big deck with plenty of furniture outside upon which to drape our clothes to dry (we had to do sink laundry since they don’t have laundry facilities available at Hyatt Lake).  Linda slept downstairs in the bedroom while Marnie and I slept in the loft which had a low ceiling.  You can’t stand up in it and have to do a sort of hunch-walk to get from the very steep stairs to the beds, but the beds were quite comfy and we slept well with the windows open and a fan on. 

Hyatt Lake Cabin 20
Sweet Pea and the interior of Hyatt Lake cabin 20

Linda had decided to go home that first night out of Callahan’s and had called her hubs to meet her at Hyatt Lake to pick her up.  She hadn’t been having a good time from the get-go and she couldn’t get her tent set up properly, and she has decided that she is done backpacking for good.  Marnie and I saw them off and then spent the rest of our zero day relaxing on the patio where there was wifi, and surreptitiously feeding the plump chipmunks who live there.  A man from the resort gave us a ride back to the trailhead, where we started off towards Fish Lake.  The delightful lady at Hyatt Lake had even let us use their phone to reserve a cabin at Fish Lake when we couldn’t make a successful call out with our cell phones!  We were able to reserve a “rustic cabin” for the next Friday and Saturday nights.

Hyatt Lake — it was very low and nobody was playing in it, but there were plenty of vacationers at the resort anyway.
Hyatt Lake patio

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, hiking, PCT

Home Again

As you’ve probably observed, we are home from our hike of the Oregon section of the PCT. We were only able to go between 85 and 90 miles (total) before a heat wave, anticipated long water carries, and fires stopped us from continuing. I will post about our second and third sections as soon as I get my notes (and Marnie’s notes!) together. For now I am spending time cleaning and organizing my gear, and will start up my transcription and Etsy work shortly.

Mt. Shasta, from our first campsite in the second section.
At the Oregon/California border of the PCT

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, hiking, PCT

PCT Oregon – First Section Update From the Trail

(Note: This post has been updated with more photos.)

We walked 3-1/2 days on trail and ended up at Callahan’s Lodge where we will spend two nights. Got our laundry done today and picked up our resupply boxes. There is a nice hiker facility here with laundry, shower, and hiker boxes, and they even provide laundry detergent! They allow hikers to camp on the lawn, but we have a room with our own bathroom, which is much easier. We had a good dinner last night and I ate my leftovers for second breakfast this morning with a tiny plastic spoon and knife from the continental breakfast, ha. The continental breakfast didn’t have much variety. 

There was a lot of elevation in this section and uphill isn’t really our thing. Linda and Marnie were having a hard time most of the section and needed a lot of pack-off-sit-down breaks. I just hike slowly with small steps up the hills and stop in the shade to catch my breath and let my legs recover for a minute! There are lots of wildflowers blooming now, neon red Indian paintbrush, red and yellow columbine, many purple flowers I couldn’t identify, and some yellow and pink daisy-type flowers I also couldn’t identify. We camped the first night on an old dirt road, and I was a bit uncomfortable when I saw tire tracks, but all was well during the night. Linda saw a deer in the morning quite close to our tents, and I was up early enough to get a photo of the sunrise.

Sunrise from camp, Day 1

A hiker named Turtle came by and we couldn’t figure out what he was doing, turns out he had found a “crazy” spider that had babies on its back and was trying to get a photo of it. None of us had the oomph to go over and look at his spider! 

On the way out the next day we completely missed the trail as we went up the road, and thankfully a trail runner came by and pointed us in the right direction. As we were hiking along a ridge Linda noticed that someone had left some cold beer in the cleft of a rock. Usually Marnie is chief noticer-of-things, so Linda was proud of herself for seeing it. We didn’t take advantage of the gift, though. We camped in a forested site the second night after having a rest in the shade. We saw lovely views of Mt. Shasta the whole way while we were hiking. 

Mt. Shasta

The third day was a big climb for miles but when we stopped to get water just before the climb a hiker promised us there were sodas at the top of the hill, and there were! We each had a raspberry cream soda while we listened to a lady named Sunshine tell us her life story and all about why she has a bear phobia. She wasn’t a hiker but was just camped near the trail magic coolers. After that it was downhill to Grouse Gap shelter which is a stone shelter oddly in the middle of nowhere, but it had a pit toilet and a picnic table, which are hiker luxuries, of course! It also had an adorable chipmunk, who we didn’t feed, although his body shape indicated he had probably convinced someone to give him their snacks 🐿

Grouse Gap Shelter
Interior of Grouse Gap Shelter
Plump chipmunk
Pit toilet, yay!

A lady was there in her van isolating from COVID, I assume because there was a bathroom there. I don’t think she expected so many hikers to come through. We were there first but quite a few hikers came in later on.  There was sort of an odd variety of people there. Two older ladies were walking around when we got there and I don’t know what happened to them, and then after we sat down to cook our meals a very elderly couple came in and were walking around looking for wildflowers. There weren’t really any blooming at that time. A couple of other cars came and went after we were in our tents, at like 8:30 at night.

Next day it was supposed to be “all downhill”. You should never believe that when you hear it. It is never all downhill, but is usually uphill with a few downhills and flat spots. We had a very nice break at a big fancy house where they make a picnic table and faucet available to hikers.

Marnie, Linda (Sweet Pea) and Anchorman

A load of hikers showed up after we did but we stayed put at our picnic table until it wasn’t shady anymore. One kid was about to light up a bong and I thought I would have get out my mom voice and tell him to stop, but I guess something was wrong with it and he just put it away and left. God takes care of us so well 😊 On the way to Callahan’s I read the FarOut app wrong and thought we were where the trail to Callahan’s started, but another hiker came by and told us no, it was another 2.7 miles to the connecting trail. 😟 Linda said now they would have to kill me, ha. After making a wrong turn down a dirt road and having to go back to continuing on the trail, we found the very overgrown connecting trail. It was a long way down, through a railroad yard past a dumpster and a pile of paint cans to a very old road/trail. We made a wrong turn here as well and started taking the regular gravel road, but Marnie figured out we were going the wrong way. Once you get off the old road, you come to a road that you cross to go under the interstate. Then it’s 7/10 of a mile down the road to Callahan’s. We were so happy to get here and get showers and dinner! Neither Marnie nor Linda had eaten much of anything the whole time we were out and its no wonder they didn’t have much energy. 

We totally wanted to hug this little bear.
Linda in our room at Callahan’s after we arrived.
My dinner.

So far our zero day has been very relaxing. We will probably have a late lunch at 3:00 when the restaurant opens, and then dinner later on. I’m always super hungry whenever we get to civilization! 

Not much else happened while we were out. Next stop will be Hyatt Lake.

(Sorry if the blog’s a little rough, I have to get used to blogging on my phone.)

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT

I Got My Box!

When we left in March to go to Campo on our thru-hike attempt of the PCT, we sent a couple of resupply boxes out to be waiting at places when we got there. I picked up my box in Warner Springs, but the one we sent to Paradise Valley Cafe near Idyllwild was languishing there since we weren’t able to stop and pick it up on the way home in Linda and Steve’s RV. A lady had posted in one of the PCT Facebook groups for people who couldn’t pick up their boxes to message her, and so I did. She said she would look for my box but then I never heard back so I figured she either couldn’t find it or couldn’t send it back. But today it came! They put a “Return to Sender” label on it at the post office there, and back it rode to my doorstep.

My Box! And my foot too.

I wouldn’t have been so sad about the pending loss if it was just food, but my Hillsound Trail Crampons were in the box and they are expensive to replace.

Hillsound Trail Crampons

I had also ordered an ice axe from REI and had it sent directly to PVC in anticipation of perhaps needing it on Mt. San Jacinto. I don’t know if they’ll be able to get that forwarded to me, although I’ve told them I would be happy to pay for it to be sent home! I don’t know if I’ll ever need an ice axe going forward so I’m not anxiously waiting to use it or anything, but it would be nice to either have it or return it to REI.

But all in all, I’m very pleased to have my trail crampons back and a bunch more food to take on our Oregon hike. Yay!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, hiking, PCT

Hiking Plans

Marnie, Linda, and I had our hike meeting yesterday, and decided on a start date about a month from now. We have looked at the list of places to resupply (get food and supplies) and have tentatively decided that we will probably need to send resupply boxes to each stop before we get to Santiam Pass, from where we will probably go home for a zero day or two and resupply at home. We will just need to plan for things during the hike that depend on where we are when, such as how to get to PCT Days in Cascade Locks the third weekend of August. Now that we have a start date and a resupply schedule, we’ll be packing boxes and making sure we have all the gear we need. Onward!

(Also, how awesome is this mug Marnie got me for my birthday? It has photos of our SoCal PCT hike!)

Planning

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Change, Christian Life, Cool Stuff, Doing Things Differently, Fun, God, hiking, PCT

PCT, Here We Come!!

So here is my official announcement blog post — my bestie Marnie and I plan to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2022!! The trail traverses California, Oregon, and Washington, from Mexico to Canada, and is 2650 miles long. We plan to start at the southern terminus at the Mexico border and head north. It is a journey of five or six months, depending on how fast you hike.

PCT Southern Terminus – photo from thetrek.co
PCT Northern Terminus – photo from PCTA.org

We have gotten our thru-hike permits from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (albeit for days at the end of May which isn’t feasible when hiking through the California desert, we are looking for cancellations to get a better date and a date together) and we are working to get prepared for the trail.

EDIT: We were able to get permits for the end of March! Yay!

We would love it if you would pray for us for these specifics:

  • That God will be glorified in our hiking.
  • Provision (finances, bravery, physical and mental strength, etc.) for the trail.
  • Protection from injury/illness, ice, snow, water crossings, critters, anything else.
  • Fitness and ability to get good nutrition on trail (both of us sometimes find it hard to eat while backpacking).
  • Successful and smooth food and resupply boxes prep (there are places where there isn’t a good place to resupply for food, we will mail supply boxes to those places).
  • That we will get our “trail legs” soon so we can hike the miles we need to hike to finish on time (before the snows in Washington).
  • Energy to journal at the end of each day.
  • That neither of us will experience post-trail depression when we get home, but instead have energy and enthusiasm for the next stage of our lives.
  • Anything else applicable that you can think of!
Marnie (left) and me on a day hike.

Thank you!! Please feel free to ask any questions about our trip in the comments!

And if you want to know more about the PCT, The Trek’s website is a great place to start!

Backpacking, hiking, Travel

Backpacking Has Its Ups and Downs

PCT

My friend, Marnie, and I planned our first long backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail – a 2,600 mile long, two-foot wide path through the wilderness that spans the distance from Mexico to Canada.  We didn’t plan to tackle the whole thing this time (that’s for next year). 

Backpacking never fails to surprise us. Often for me it even gets embarrassing. On this particular outing, we decided to walk the fifty-three miles between Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, Oregon and the town of Cascade Locks. We left the day after we attended PCT Days, a festival with vendors, speakers, and prize giveaways celebrating all things PCT. We were expecting to use the detailed four-day, three-night itinerary outlined in the book, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon, written by the very optimistic and positive-thinking Mr. Eli Boschetto. He also offers a three-day, two-night itinerary for this section, which the word “optimistic” cannot come close to describing.

Me at the Zigzag Canyon Overlook. The picture on my socks is a view from Cascade Locks toward the mountains.

I was most concerned about river crossings and really gave little thought to all the ups and downs the trail would make going into and out of canyons and all the time randomly whenever it wanted. We crossed the Zigzag River without incident, except that the little climb up the bank needed quite a bit of effort. Not everyone was so lucky. A man crossed toward us using his hiking poles and then watched as his girlfriend slipped on a rock. When she showed him her injured leg he said, “Oh, Sarah,” and still didn’t offer her a hand. We thought poor Sarah had herself a pain in the derrière to go with the gash on her knee!

Zigzag River

By this time it was getting pretty late, and instead of crossing two rivers in the afternoon while we were tired we decided to wait until the next day. We camped just above our next challenge, the Sandy River, hoping that the narrow, raging torrent would be calmer in the morning.  We looked for a place to hang our food away from bears (they don’t care about you, they just want your cookies) and finally found an appropriate branch.  After a rather humiliating four or five tries, we managed to throw the combination carabiner/tennis ball gadget invented by Marnie’s husband up and over, and wrangled our food bags to a suitable height.  It was certainly not up to the standard of the official PCT method of hanging a bear bag, but we hoped it would keep furry critters from snuffling at our tents. We made sure we weren’t camped under too many widowmakers (dead trees or branches that could fall and squash us), and slept soundly with the noise of a creek in the background.

Bear hang, sort of.
Ready to tackle the river crossings.

We woke up about 8:00 a.m., packed up, and headed down to the river. The Sandy River, while low, was still rushing wildly.  After crossing part of the very narrow log “bridge” over the swiftly-moving water my legs turned to Jell-O, so Marnie reached out her hand and yanked me across after I got about three-fourths of the way. My sister, the Pilates and Parkour guru, had given me advice about crossing logs before we left – “Just draw an imaginary line from where you are to where you want to go and follow the line,” she explained. This is much easier said than done. The Sandy River has a very large, dry, rocky bed, so it is hard to see where the trail starts up again on the other side.  After conquering the log bridge, we had to scour the far shore for cairns (artistic-looking piles of rocks) that marked the way back to the PCT. 

Me crossing the Sandy River.

Shortly after successfully traversing the Sandy River, we reached the Muddy Fork, which, of course, turned out to be completely different.  Just when we were certain that we had sort of gotten the hang of tree-walking, we were presented with an entirely different sort of obstacle.  High above the very fast-flowing Muddy Fork, two giant logs hung in the air.  Some unknown person (bless them!) had tied a scrawny rope along the upper log. To start navigating this hurdle, you have to scramble up on the logs, bruising your shins on the way.   Then to cross, you lean way over the upper log to keep from falling backward into the river, and hold onto the rope while you sidle along the lower log, not looking down. 

We inspected the crossing for a few minutes, wondering first how we were going to hoist ourselves up onto the huge lower log.  I hollered, “Adventure!” and managed to get onto the log after a couple of jumps, with Marnie and two thru-hikers as an audience. (Thru-hikers are people who are hiking the whole PCT in a season.) A photo of the crossing in the book is captioned, “Put your balance beam skills to work on the log crossing over the Muddy Fork River.”  We were not amused at this.  And yet, one of the thru-hikers, with a full backpack, hopped up and skipped across the top of the highest log in a way that naturally annoyed the heck out of us.

Marnie crossing the Muddy Fork.

After crossing the Muddy Fork River we got to where dozens of tiny waterfalls combine together to form the beautiful Ramona Falls. It was such a dazzling sight that we decided to spend a little time there on a conveniently-placed sitting log to soak up all the negative ions before moving on. I’m surprised at the popularity of Ramona Falls as a day-hike destination since the Muddy Fork crossing on the day-hike trail is supposed to be more difficult than the one we had survived.  That’s the very reason I hadn’t seen Ramona Falls before. 

Ramona Falls

The rest of this day was spent going up hills through various switchbacks, some of which are deemed “more moderate and easygoing” in the book, but which we deemed no such thing.  At the end of the switchbacks, the book has the audacity to say the trail “levels out”. We saw no evidence of this and continued huffing and puffing on up. We found a small bubbling stream where we gladly rested and refilled our water supply while talking to some southbound (SOBO) thru-hikers and some section hikers. The SOBOs told us hungrily, “We’re booking it to Timberline Lodge so we can have the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet tomorrow!” 

Our second night we camped at Lolo Pass, right at the trailhead parking lot. We were pleased to have the use of a lovely, clean picnic table to organize all our things and try the expensive dehydrated meal I bought at PCT Days. The meal was some sort of Asian slaw that you could supposedly use cold water to rehydrate. It didn’t rehydrate well at all and was crunchy instead of slaw-textured, so we ate other things and then zipped ourselves up into our tents.

At about 8:00 p.m. (also known as “hiker midnight”) we heard voices coming, the first of which said, “Ooh, a camp AND a picnic table? And that picnic table looks NEW!”

The second voice said, “I think I’m going to call it a night,” and then set up her tent and camped right next to us, also making use of the picnic table. She was up and gone before we even opened our tents the next morning. Thru-hikers are early risers.

A nice, new picnic table at Lolo Pass

Next we started off through the 11.4-mile Bull Run Watershed, the source of drinking water for Portland, Oregon. The trail is bordered with huckleberry bushes so we nibbled at the last of the ripe huckleberries as we hiked, and stopped to rest, fill up our water, and snack at Salvation Spring. Marnie had signal on her phone, so she let everyone know we would be finished a day later than planned since we hadn’t done the river crossings on the first day, and we’re, well…slow. Four or five thru-hikers stopped at Salvation Spring as well. One girl plopped down on the ground, laid out her tent ground sheet, and dumped out all her food to find something she felt like eating.  She probably thought I was odd because I kept looking at her food supply to get ideas.  They were all crunching on Doritos, which we decided was a snack goal for our next trip. 

So then where are you supposed to make your pit stops?

In the Bull Run Forest Reserve there are strict “No Trespassing” signs reminding hikers to stay on trail. When we finally got to a space where there was just…erm…no waiting anymore, we decided to trespass just one tree off trail. Based on the number of toilet paper “flowers” behind said tree, every other girl hiker had the same idea. I was surprised thru-hikers would make such a mess, every GOOD hiker knows what are called the Leave No Trace principles, one of which is to always pack out your T.P. instead of leaving it for others to see! It was at this point that I realized my “potty kit” had fallen out of my backpack somewhere as we walked. I actually gasped in horror out loud – all my toilet paper and my Opsak and my trowel were gone! Thankfully I had some tissues and an extra Ziploc bag. (Opsaks are odor-proof zipper bags.  Ziploc bags are NOT odor-proof.  Get an Opsak to pack out your T.P.)  The girl who dumped out all her food at Salvation Spring came by later, and when I asked her if she had noticed my potty kit on the trail she sort of sniffed, “Oh, I saw it, but since I didn’t know which way you went I didn’t want to carry the extra weight.”  My trowel was a $20.00 ultralight item called a “Deuce of Spades”. Part of their being expensive is that they come in many colors. Mine was pink, because, you know, pink. 

On this afternoon we were getting tired from continually going up, and were concerned about how far away the next camp listed in the book was going to be. We decided to check out what was described as an “old abandoned logging road”. It looked like campsites, so we camped there among quite a few bees. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten up in the night to pee while backpacking.  I don’t even like to walk through my house in the dark to go to the bathroom, so this was a big step. I honestly had no thought of cougars or bears in the night until a few days after getting home. Then I thought I’d better not think of cougars or bears in the night.

On day four on our way to Wahtum Lake a SOBO section hiker told us there was trail magic at the campground parking lot.  He said we should go up the steps. (“Trail magic” is when a person called a “trail angel” brings food and/or drinks to give to thru-hikers. All thru-hikers look forward to receiving trail magic during their hikes!) We were hoping we might qualify for a cold Gatorade or something even though we weren’t thru-hiking, so we saw the stairs and started up the 97 railroad tie and dirt treads with various rise heights called the “Express” trail. This was an option our book made no mention of, probably for good reason. Halfway up our legs were screaming, and after a good cry we realized there was an actual trail to the parking lot, but we finished off the steps anyway even though we could see that there was no sign of trail magic. We decided the guy had been playing a mean joke on us. There was, however, a good, clean picnic table and a toilet!  (And more bees). We took a long lunch break there and then went down to the peaceful lake to fill up on water. 

The “Express Trail” at Wahtum Lake
Wahtum Lake

We needed a lot of water because our next section was the Eagle Creek burn area, which according to our book was a “lush, green forest” but is now actually an exposed area of burned and dead trees.  Acres and acres of land were burned in 2017 because a 15-year-old boy was throwing fireworks into a canyon, and at the sight of the aftermath both Marnie and I were wishing we could have had a hand in deciding the kid’s punishment. But we were glad to see that many plants laughed at the wildfire and grew back up along the trail, including salmonberry, thimbleberry, and ferns. We had planned to camp at a site listed in our book that would have had a beautiful view of the sunset and the valley below, but it was completely burned and even had warning signs saying dead trees could fall on us. We kept going, wondering if we could make it to the next listed campsite. Once we got into the green forest again, though, an unlisted campsite materialized right next to the trail. It was a bit rocky (and full of bees) but just the right size for our two tents. 

Eagle Creek Burn Area

Day five was supposed to be all downhill after a certain point, according to our book. We went around a mountain on what we call an “edge” trail, with the ground straight up on one side and straight down on the other side and two feet of trail in the middle. The trail went through the forest and then over ankle-turner rocks and back through the forest and again over rocks as it wound around the hill. After going downhill for a little ways the trail went back up (To where? The town is downhill!) and up. I was woozy and my legs were wobbly so I asked Marnie to pray with me for strength so we could finish up. 

Rocky Trail

The next surprise: Guess where I ended up at 3:30 in the afternoon with just two-and-a-half miles left to get to town? If you guessed sitting in the middle of the trail swatting at bees and calling 911, you would be correct. After running on little sleep and not enough food (nothing tasted good and my mouth was dry) and pushing hard through half a day more than I should have without sleep or food, my legs continued to be wobbly and I was stumbling every fourth step. I looked at the next rocky part of the trail and figured my legs wouldn’t do it, so I reluctantly made what we call a “safety decision” and decided to sit down before I fell down (or worse yet, knocked Marnie down) and call for help. I argued to myself, “But I should keep going anyway!” many times. The oft-used hiker phrase, “Embrace the suck!” came to mind. But each time I heard back, “Call 911!”  Oh, safety or not, I was mortified.  So embarrassing!  I mean, what self-respecting hiker couldn’t make it two miles (downhill!) to town?

This new adventure included talking to a very kind 911 operator and an equally kind  sheriff’s deputy, who came with six or seven volunteer Search and Rescue gentlemen (including two doctors) who were enthusiastically concerned about me. They packed me up in a litter with one big nubby wheel on it, covered me with a blanket, and proceeded to roll me down the mountain with one of the guys walking on the downside of the trail.  I don’t know how they did it, but I was definitely “helping” by hugging the upside of the litter the whole way!  When we got to the Forest Service road where the rescue party had parked, a stern young deputy demanded my name and information, and was particularly interested to know the address where I got my mail.  I was not looking forward to receiving anything they wanted to send me, which I assumed would be some sort of reprimand for taking up their valuable time, or a bill. We were then bundled up into the back of another deputy’s SUV (my first time riding in the back of a police car – quite sparse accommodations) and given a ride to the fire station in Cascade Locks so the EMTs could look at me. Two young EMTs eagerly poked my finger, listened to my chest, and hooked electrodes up to me. All my vital signs were normal but they suggested I go in an ambulance to the hospital, to which I said, “No, thank you.” I signed a serious-looking document that said I refused transport in the ambulance and would see my doctor when I got home, and was thoroughly scolded by the supervising EMT for not eating enough.

“But nothing tasted good,” I said. 

“Everything should taste good when you’re hiking ten miles a day!” she admonished.

Me being rescued.
Marnie and me in the back of the police car.

After winning the argument (I wasn’t up to the challenge) she then asked me who the President was (cussing optional, she said) and where I was and my address, et cetera, and since I answered all the questions correctly they let me go.  The deputy dropped us off at the Best Western where we waited for just a few minutes before Marnie’s husband picked us up and took us to Dairy Queen. Even though we were filthy and hadn’t had a shower in five days, we went inside the restaurant to eat. I had a burger and a strawberry milkshake, as I was suddenly very hungry.  Marnie chuckled as we left. 

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“I must really have the hiker stink, when I went to refill my drink that man moved clear over there!”

Marnie on the trail.

After our dinner, we drove the hour and a half home and I took a shower and a two-day nap.   

Frustrating as it was to need to be rescued (I didn’t tell anyone except my closest family and friends for months afterwards) I was encouraged that on our first long backpacking trip we were able to walk 51.74 miles. And me with hardly any food or sleep! 

A few months later we went back to Cascade Locks and hiked up the PCT to the place where we had stopped so we could finish that part of the trail. We realized that the trail actually got easier from the place that we called for help and I probably could have made it (insert “Arrgh” emoticon here). Marnie had painted a rock that said, “The best view comes after the hardest climb,” and we left the rock there at my rescue spot in hopes of encouraging other struggling hikers. 

Central takeaways from the hike: God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we might hope. We prayed for strength to get to where we needed to go, and God used the strength of others to accomplish it. God doesn’t always care that you might feel embarrassed. He knows what you need. And God knows where all the campsites are even if your book doesn’t. 

Water takeaways: Drink lots of water. Bring electrolyte powders that taste good to put in your water. Water that is filtered out of a mountain lake or stream tastes much better than your water at home.

Food takeaways: Bring delicious food you will eat. Eat the food even if you don’t feel like it. Try all the food beforehand so you know if it’s delicious or not. Huckleberries are delicious. I would have felt better if I could have eaten more huckleberries. You may not be able to hang your food properly away from bears because there may be no branches low enough, live enough, or at all. Then just put your food in the foot of your tent and pray that the bears won’t notice it.

General backpacking takeaways: Backpacking is dirty. You will be dirty. Everything will be dirty. Your feet may never be clean again. Never underestimate the value of a nice picnic table or a good sitting log. 

Thru-hiker takeaways: Don’t assume they don’t want to talk.  If they will talk to you, talk to them. Ask them questions.  (For instance, ask how they look so much less dirty than you do when you’ve only been out for two days.)

Bear takeaways: Well, none, because we didn’t see a bear. Or a deer. Or any wildlife except birds and a couple of chipmunks.  And bees.

Cougar takeaways: Don’t think about cougars.

Our favorite trail…