Oregon in One Month Challenge
Oregon is known to be a pretty mellow trail terrain-wise, the climbs are simple, and the walk is easy. This leads to many thru-hikers attempting to one, simply just pick up their pace, two attempt to hike 492 miles in 14 days so 35 miles a day average aka the two-week challenge or three some people attempt the 24-hour challenge in which they will walk for 24 hours and see how many miles they can get done, often somewhere between 40-80 miles. I found myself managing doing none of those but instead have a 14.5 miles-a-day average which would mean 30 days to get through the state of Oregon. I will fail this challenge technically by 5 days because I missed 92 miles of Oregon due to fire trail closures. Side note I made up this challenge it is not something I set out to accomplish but here is how it went!
The true reason to go as slow as I can is because Runway and I want to finish the trail together. He got off trail for 5 days to partake in a raft trip with his friends. We plan to reconvene at Hood River, but I expected it to be earlier since his hiking style is deftly. The two other boys in our trail family Shreds and Beta are also in Ashland. Shreds made it on the trail a tad earlier than I did giving him a 7-mile head start, then Beta and I only hiked out one mile. We were considering doing a large day to catch up with Shreds or to stick to the low mileage plan I have. Luckily, we chose the latter because Shreds ended up getting Covid having to quarantine off trail for a few days. The decision before that information made me anxious because, on the one hand, I wanted the majority of the group together, while on the other I wanted to make Runways catch up as easily and quickly as I could. All of this bothered me though because I felt that leaving Ashland and being away from Runway meant I was going to be doing solo hiking and I got to role with my schedule, but my plan was always being dictated by the milage of my boys around me still, even if I wasn’t hiking with them directly. It’s the woes of having such a sweet trail family you want to stick with them but with so you sacrifice your purest form of independence.
Crater Lake National Park
I lost Beta before making it to Crater Lake where they allow PCT hikers free camping.
I planned to take a zero, shower laundry relax, and give Beta time to catch up as well as Shreds and Runway. I changed plans when Pulse, a hiker I met back in Yosemite (878 miles ago), showed up and asked if I wanted to go cliff-jumping with her. Of course, that’s a yes, so we make plans to meet at a hitching spot sometime in the following afternoon. That night I have a shitty night’s sleep, probably something to do with the 4 sodas I had at dinner (curse you free refills).
The next morning hiking was not on the list of things I wanted to do that day, but Pulse was already out of camp and I told her I would meet her, so that’s final, I’m going. Three miles into the hike there is a coffee shop, so I stop in to call my mother and be blue for a moment. Then I start hiking the Rim trail. That day the haze from forest fires was the worst it had been, and my tonsils had swelled for days due to the poor air quality, but they were at their max that day. The rim trail has a road that goes all along it with pull-offs for overlooks of the lake. A recipe: not well rested, bad air quality, an easy road to hitch on, and the simple desire to no longer be hiking led me to cry to people with cars trying to have a nice day visiting a national park to give me a ride 5 miles down the road.
I linked up with Pulse we had an awesome side quest to the cliff jumping spot then hiked another 12 miles that day. My morale was up.
Shelter Lake Cove
I got into a good solo groove after that day. Post-trail life and what is next for me haunts me some days, but overall, I start to love Oregon and love my slow days. I swam in every lake, gawked at every bird I’d never seen before, giggled at each chipmunk, and felt like a little woodland creator myself. I am no longer a backpacker I just live in these woods going nowhere.
One day I got a 16-mile day to get to Shelter Lake Cove, a small resort where I had a resupply package waiting. On my way in I learned that a short portion of trail is closed due to a fire a bit ahead of the Resort and the resort is the easiest off spot if wanted to skip the section. I decided that once I get wifi I will look into the closure and then make a decision to find a reroute or find a ride up to Bend skipping around 80 miles.
I’m not even there in the parking lot for a minute and a trail angel is dropping off three hikers who skipped the closure and he’s offering me a ride to Bend free of charge right then and there. Not much time to weigh my options I pick up my package and get in his car. Within 20 minutes of the car ride, I regret my choice. I know my boys behind me will find a reroute and thus be even further behind me, I don’t want to miss more miles, there is an easy trail alternative, and I now have to spend a night in Bend which I wasn’t planning to do even a few days from then.
Of course, I still managed to enjoy my time in Bend! It’s the biggest town on trail (fact check) and multiple different breweries give PCT hikers a drink for free. So Vortex, whom I met back in Kennedy Meadows South (1,287 miles ago), and I along with three SOBOs go on a free beer bar hop around town. The next morning, I got all my chores done then had a ride back to trail with a trail angel that Vortex arranged.
I decided to walk Southbound for a day to get to see the Obsidian area. With not being elated with my choices and feeling like other people’s decisions are more desirable than my own I was significantly bummed. Going to see the obsidian area made me feel better, I got to reclaim some missed miles and decrease the days between me and my boys. So a total of 66 miles missed from the fore clousur which is only 20 miles.
Big Lake Youth Camp
This is a private campground that hosts summer camps, but they also host PCT hikers for free! There is a building on the property just for us to do laundry, shower, charge up, and even a stove and refrigerator to do whatever we can with that, all for free. It felt like paradise on a rainy day with wifi and tea 😋
Pulse caught up to me again, she did the reroute. She’s carrying around serious camera equipment planning to put together some sort of video, or documentary about her hike post-trail. Well, I was honored when she asked to interview me because she thought my perspective of being a woman going through the Sierras and dealing with an injury was something worth recording. It made me, for the first time, feel like I had something worth saying.
I took a zero and cleaned the PCT cabin like it was my own house, which felt comforting. A hiker named Hammer who I met in Bend said he has a resupply box at Big Lake Youth Camp I can have. So yippi I got a free resupply and now had 8 days’ worth of food to get to Hood River at the end of Oregon. The zero made me feel so refreshed and okay with where I was now to move forward as a happy hiker.
52 miles between BLYC to Olallie Lake and Resort. Olallie is cash only, with no electricity, no service, and no hot food shack that hosts cabins and boats to rent. I Loved it. With my plan to move as slowly as possible convincing myself to rent a kayak for half a day didn’t take long. From Ashland to here I was reading Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut now I picked up a new book from their free bookshelf Fear No Evil by James Patterson. So with 4 beers, a new book, and a boat to float around on I had an amazing summer day!
Around Timberline Lodge I got inundated with generosity from all sorts of people. I camped one night before the lodge with these three older gents all friends from their lives back in Japan, but one is French one is English and the other American we shared tea stories and dinner together it was a sweet evening. When I arrive at the lodge for breakfast, they are already there nearly done eating but offer me to come eat with them. Another meal filled with laughter and stories once their ride arrived, they offered to pay for my meal and they went on their way. I was happy enough just to sit with them again but having a meal paid for is quite a nice bonus. Not to mention the food itself was delectable! The only thing I regret is not getting a photo with them.
Before I left two northbounders offered me some extra food they had in their resupply box to me, so I got a nice handful of free clif bars.
Then as I left the lodge, some day hikers were excited to meet a PCT hiker and asked if they could take my photo next to a trail marker. Made me feel a little famous. Moments later on trail two-day hikers ask if I like molasses, wasn’t too sure how to respond so before I computed the question and thought of an answer, they were pulling out homemade molasses cookies. Hiker hunger aside these were easily the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. On a cold September night with a cup of hot cocoa and these softest cookies, I had to say wow out loud after my first bite.
That night at camp a section hiker said he couldn’t finish his meal and if I wanted the rest. I did debate before yes because it was something he already opened and ate which is a little gross to eat a stranger’s unfinished meal. Then on the other hand it’s free food! So I took it. The next morning, he comes over to me and says he packed out too much food and offers me an apple, carrot, dried milk, and one dehydrated dinner. I took it all too. Later that day I’m napping in the sun at some gravel parking lot where I chat with a guy named Johnny. He was sweet and also excited to chat with a PCT hiker. Before he departed, he offered me water and then gave me some spare nutrition bars he had from his day hike.
So I’m pretty sure I ate for free for two whole days on trail just from the amazing generosity of strangers. Trail magic is something I miss from the AT so having all these events close together gave me an even bigger boost of morale and enjoyment on trail.
The in between
My waking and hiking are languid. Between these places, this is my routine. Wake up around 7 (no alarm allowed) lay in my bag till I feel warm enough to grab my book and read a chapter or two till I desperately need to pee. Get out of the tent pee get my food and go back into the bag while I boil water for coffee. Eat breakfast and read more book. Finally, around 8 or 9 I’ll start packing up along with hosting a personal dance party, doing my pushups, and a stretching routine. Sometimes I take so long to pack up by the time I’m done I need to eat more food. So I sit down and eat for the second time. I hike normal speed but every single person that I can stop and have a chat with I engage. It reminds me of the AT when I can do this and makes me feel like I never meet a stranger on trail. I’ll journal mid-day, maybe nap in the sun, and hopefully find a place to swim. Depending on the section I could also spend up to an hour just picking berries in a half a gallon zip-lock bag to eat later.
15-mile days typically get me to camp around 5, so it feels like I work a 9-5 job in the smallest way possible. Nobody I meet thinks I’m a thru-hiker anymore because of my lackadaisical routine and how I’m not in a rush to make it to Canada before October. I try not to worry about the impending weather I will encounter further North, but it’s hard when so many people I meet one of the first things they say to me is “Oh so you’re going to pray for no snow” or “ah I guess you are hoping to make it there before winter, better pick up the pace”. I know everyone means well but I guess the company of my friends I’ve walked with since mile 300 is more important to me than getting to Canada before Oct 1st. For now, I take every side quest I can, such as Little Crater Lake a 34-degree spring pond, and Lava caves!
I’ve become accustomed to my slow pace, chill camp mornings, and my solo status. Having my boys catch up will now involve some time of me readjusting to that normal thru-hiker life.
Oregon has been hard, not terrain-wise, but mentally and I’m very proud of how comfortable I’ve grown to be with myself again. Being alone in the woods gives me an odd sense of strength. And more importantly, I got to practice being less dubious with my decisions, and just move along with where I am currently.
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