Oregon, AKA Home
It’s been a few days since I finished the trail, but I’ve still got quite a bit of writing to do. Oregon seems almost like a dream already as I read through my journal entries. Everyone tells you, when you’re doing research for the trail, that his will be the easiest state. The trail is flat, and the act of crossing your first border is a huge motivator.
My experience through the state, however, was far from easy. I did the whole state in 12 days, which means I averaged about 38 miles a day. That’s consecutive days, my friends. No breaks, just walk, eat, sleep, repeat. It was a whirlwind, it was exhausting, it was a blast. I wouldn’t have done it any other way, as any more time in the mosquito-infested mess would have driven me crazy. I also did this section alone, which may have driven me crazy anyway.
The fact that I was doing so much hiking meant that I didn’t always have time to write anything down at the end of the day. So, as was the case with my last post, some days I’ll just throw some pictures down. Sorry, but also not sorry at all.
Day 90: Miles 1,692.0-1,720.0
I run through the forested trail at mach 3. Ashland is nearby; I can smell the hipsters. The views for the day are mostly blocked by clouds, which is fine by me since my only thought is town. I pass a runner who tells me there is trail magic ahead, which makes me go even faster. At the top is a large cache of sodas. Noting that I’m way ahead of schedule, I sit down and enjoy one of the cans of sweet nectar.
The runner comes back, and I find out he is the source of this beautiful stop. We chat for a while, and he tells me to look out for his buddy who was running the other way.
I pass plenty of day hikers who tell me my pack is too small to be going all that way. I laugh and tell them they should see some of the tiny packs I’ve seen. I pass the runner’s buddy eventually, and before 2 I’m doing the roadwalk to Callahan’s.
The plan was to try to get a ride to Ashland there, but as I’m walking I hear someone yell. “You trying to get to Ashland?” The voice is familiar somehow, and I turn around to see the runner I had just gone by. I laugh and say yes please!
We talk about ultramarathons and running during the drive into town. It makes me miss running and racing. He drops me off at the Safeway, and I thank him as he drives off.
I resupply, then sort through my stuff on the curb by the store. I feel trashy, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I run to the post office, pick up my new pair of sandals, and ship out food to the rest of Oregon.
Next, I grab a beer because I feel like I’ve earned it. I order an Uber and head back to trail. We pick up a hiker along the way, and soon I have a decision to make. Sit at Callahan’s and charge my stuff while drinking a free beer, or hike out. I think we all know what I chose.
This ended up being a good decision, since Cutie with a Bootie showed up not long after. After the free beer, I hike about two miles onward, and with fears of mountain lions I call it a night fairly early.
Day 91: Miles 1,720-1,763.3
Fears of a dying phone prevented me from writing today. I did take some pictures, though!
Day 92: Miles 1,763.3-1,805.8
No journal entry. Look at those photos, though!
Day 93: Miles 1,805.8-1,847.9 via Crater Lake Alternate
Today marks three months on trail. I remember this distantly as I plow through the morning miles. It’s a fun anniversary to celebrate and I smile a little broader as I hike.
Today is also Crater Lake day. The alternate is basically the actual PCT at this point, but the real PCT is closed anyway. Something about mountain lions and falling trees.
When I finish the road walk into Mazama Village (a place I have been to before) I go straight to the charger. My phone is now at 2% and my backup battery is dead. The main reason I even come in is to charge things.
I add to my resupply from the store, and grab a beer and soda for my three-month anniversary. The restaurant calls my name, so I go there while my stuff is charging and chat with another hiker and stuff my face. Three hours later and I’m back hiking.
When I get to Crater Lake it is exactly as I left it about a year ago. Beautiful.
Tourists gawk at the lake and also me, dirty and smelly and homeless. Some congratulate me on my journey, others just ask me to take their picture.
Eventually the trail leads away from the lake, and I’m back in forest. I hike the rest of the day with Danger Poles, not getting to camp until almost 10. I drink my beer and celebrate on my own, then do my nightly tick check and foot massage. I fall asleep quickly, the sounds of a nearby highway soothing me to sleep.
Day 94: Miles 1,847.9-1,889.2
I hike in Mount Thielsen’s shadow in the morning. The “lightning rod of the Cascades,” as they say. I forget the numbers, but the peak is struck by a surprising amount of lightning every year.
I’ve been here once before, a few years back. It was a failed backpacking trip and I laugh thinking about it. I started from Diamond Lake at the base of the mountain. It was only about five miles to where I wanted to camp, but on the way up storm clouds start brewing.
Being on a lightning rod in a thunderstorm didn’t sound pleasant, so once I got to my campsite I decided to turn around. It was getting late, so I ran down the mountain as snow started to fall.
I got to my car, and slept in the backseat. Thankfully, this time around my time at Mount Thielsen is uneventful. Stopping at Thielsen creek in the morning, I camel up for the upcoming 20-mile dry stretch. The view here of the mountain here forces me to sit for longer than I had intended.
I push on, hiking at a fast pace to try and finish before dark. When I get to Windigo Pass, the end of the dry section, I see trail magic. I get sucked in talking to the trail angel and other hikers, and after a soda I realize I’ve been there for over an hour.
I’m the second to last hiker to leave, but dang it felt good to sit in a chair. After a thank you to the angel, I sign his book and get my photo taken. The last 12 miles fly by, since I’m running to keep ahead of the swarms of mosquitoes. My head net is on and I’m bathed in Deet, but I still end up covered in bites.
I camp at a lake tonight (Summit Lake) and hope the mosquitoes are better in the morning. The sunset was beautiful here, though, and I’m right by the water.
Day 95: Miles 1,889.2-1,934.3
No journal entry, but suffice it to say the mosquitoes were not any better. This was in the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
Day 96: Miles 1,934.3-1,979.2
Another day, another lack of an entry. Some highlights for the day include: hiking in hail and lightning, mosquitoes, the Obsidian special entry area, and memories from a previous hike.
Day 97: Miles 1,979.2-2,010.6
Shower day! I haven’t taken a shower since California, in Seiad Valley. I’m smelly and I want to be less so.
With only 16 miles to go before Big Lake youth camp, I go as fast as my aching feet will let me. Ninety miles in two days, wearing sandals, will do that to feet.
I miss my mom. We’ve hiked from here to Timberline in sections, and it feels like I’m walking through memories. Oh, we grabbed lunch under that tree. Oh, there’s that creepy pond we slept at. It’s surreal and wonderful.
I check my Garmin as I climb up a lava field. A new message awaits me: see you at Big Lake. This elicits a shout that wakes no one in this barren wasteland. My mom and dad are meeting me there!
I go faster than I should over the difficult terrain. What happenstance! I get to the cutoff trail and find the hiker tent. A brief message alerts them that I’m there, then I plug in my phone and battery, and wait.
They appear not ten minutes later, carrying sodas, a mocha, and pastries all for me. I don’t cry but there are tears in my soul. I don’t deserve this, and yet here it is.
We chat as I do my chores. I rip open my package I sent here. Too much food, of course. I lay out my damp gear and let it dry in the sun. Life is good.
After a few hours of talking, letting my phone recharge, and showing, I convince my mom to hike with me from there to the Santiam Pass, about five miles. We also convince my dad to go get us pizza and beer while we do this. They agree, and my dad also takes my pack so I can hike briefly without it.
My mom and I hike and talk about the hikes we’ve done. I’m so happy they showed up today and I am sure to let them know.
When we reach the parking lot my dad is waiting with pizza. We devour it, and before I’m ready it is time for both parties to move on. We hug and say goodbye. I’ll see them again at Cascade Locks in four days, but it’s hard saying bye.
I hike 9.5 miles to a pond, passing by Three Fingered Jack in the process. I’ve camped here before, with my mom. I laugh. The first place I ever camped on a backpacking trip and now here I am, 2,000 miles later and I’m back.
I think about how far I’ve come for the rest of the night, dreams of Timberline Lodge on my mind.
Day 98: Miles 2,010.6-2,049.2
I don’t get up to my alarms. After staying up till about 1 a.m. watching a movie on my phone, I feel exhausted. I was hyped on caffeinated soda, so I couldn’t sleep.
This means I don’t start hiking until 6, an hour after I wanted to be hiking. My surroundings are more familiar than I thought they would be from three years ago. Mount Jefferson is beautiful, and the views throughout the morning make the miles go fast.
I remember all our lunch spots and campsites from the first time I backpacked here with my mom. It’s kind of surreal to be back.
I jump in a lake 12 miles into the day. I’m already behind in miles, but when you see a lake and it’s hot you have to jump in. The water feels amazing.
Without stopping for lunch, I eat while I hike. I want to get to Olallie Lake before the store closes at 8. I make it there with 20 minutes to spare. I grab two sodas and a beer. I remember sitting here with my mom.
I head out after chatting with some campers. I have 3.5 miles to go and an hour until dark. I make it with just two minutes of night hiking. I search for a spot at Jude Lake (I’ve camped here before!) and finally find one. A crying baby screams next to me. I hope the night goes well.
Day 99: Miles 2,049.2-2,088.5
I sleep through my alarms and don’t wake up until 6. Well, there goes my plans of finishing early today. I throw my stuff together and start walking.
My feet hurt a lot today. It takes about a mile before they really warm up. It’s a forest walk today, and it’s slightly boring. I put in my headphones and just walk.
I stop a few times to eat and rest my feet, but otherwise I hike through the day. I pass a few other hikers going southbound, but meet no new northbounders.
I get the occasional glimpse of Mount Hood in the distance, but other than that nothing too exciting happens today. Other than trail magic six miles from the end, where the same guy from Windigo Pass gave me a Dr. Pepper just as he was packing up to leave.
Day 100: Miles 2,088.5-2,118.9
One hundred days. Not really that many days, in the grand scheme. But when I think back to that first day in Campo at the border, it feels like a decade has passed.
I almost don’t recognize myself in the mirror, with my pronounced cheekbones and beard. I feel old, and young, and like I’ve aged enough to be going gray. One hundred days.
Anyway, on this day I walked a fast nine miles to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, and made it with time to spare to the breakfast buffet. The buffet is legendary, and I stuff myself with waffles, sausage, smoothies, and pastries.
After, I take a nap while I charge my things. I don’t mean to fall asleep, but my body makes the decision for me. The days of hard hiking are taking their toll, and when I wake up it’s a little past noon. I wanted to be gone by 11. Oops.
Deciding to ride this wave of laziness I order a beer, which I enjoy on the patio with a view of the mountain. Thankfully, I’ll still make it to Cascade Locks tomorrow, just a little later in the day than I had wanted.
I hike onward, my feet still more sore than usual. This makes me slow down to accommodate them, and I don’t make it to my campsite until 9:30. Which meant hiking in the dark, rainy forest. Yes, it started heavily misting this afternoon, but is now a dignified rain.
Tomorrow, I hit the end of Oregon.
Day 101: Miles 2,118.9-2,147.5
I wake up and crawl out of my damp sleeping quarters. It rained all night, and while it has stopped now the overgrown trail will leave me cold and wet.
When I get out I get a large whiff of horse manure. Apparently I had setup my tent smack dab in the middle of a poo field. I laugh, because I don’t know what else to do. And then I walk.
I pass some SOBOs and NOBOs as I move through the burn area. I feel better than I have in a few days, until I start the large descent into Cascade Locks. The trail is rocky and steep, and the cracks in my feet scream at me at every step. Eventually I’m forced to sit down five miles from town to rest them, and I cry.
This isn’t how I wanted to end my home state, but we don’t really get to choose how things go out here. Pulling myself together, I stand up and let my mind slide away from the pain. The walking must continue.
Thankfully, I get to Cascade Locks eventually. It’s weird being here, only two hours from my home town. I go to my hotel room, a whole king bed for myself. A whole room to myself.
I shower, lay out all my gear, and message my trail family. They are in Troutdale tonight, only 45 minutes of driving away. Tomorrow I will rejoin them, but tonight I celebrate my accomplishment on my own. Oregon in 12 days.
Day 102: Zero Day in Cascade Locks
I wake up to swollen toes and an aching body. My parents are supposed to be here in a few hours, but for now I lie in bed and just exist for awhile.
Eventually I jump in the shower, and wash off even more of Oregon. I’m exhausted. I feel it deeply in my bones. The water feels nice, and I spend more time in there than intended.
I make some coffee, start my laundry, and crawl back into bed until my parents arrive. We hang out until it’s time to check out and my clothes are dry. We decide to go up to Hood River for the afternoon, and hang out in a park we’ve been to many times before on family trips.
I do a resupply there, and grab a new pair of shoes. Yes, real shoes. My feet were destroyed in Oregon, cracked and bleeding and sore. So, Hokas now cushion my every step.
We grab Thai food, and head to the park, where we watch a different kind of brave people wind surf and kite board on the Columbia River. I didn’t think my sister would make it, but she alerts me via text that they would be there.
She meets us at the park, we hang out for a while then head to a brewery to enjoy some beer. There’s never enough time it feels like, and before long we are going our separate ways.
My parents drop me off at the hotel my tramily is staying at in Troutdale, and I’m reunited. They take Chef, Woody, and me to McDonald’s, then I have to say goodbye until I’m done with the trail.
It feels good to be with people again, and I can hear Washington calling my name. Before long, I’ll be done hiking. But I’m not ready to think about that yet.
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