PCT Week 16: Southern Oregon, Lake Resorts and Swarming Mosquitoes
After some extra time in Ashland, Oregon waiting out the heat, were off! Southern Oregon awaits and it’s exciting being in a new state. It’s refreshing being somewhere new. While I loved California and re-exploring my backyard, it definitely felt long. We immediately have to climb out of the valley and it’s still hot. The weather is expected to cool down a bit the next few days. For now, we still have to deal with the remaining heat. Behind us, Shasta is still visible. The last few views of Northern California are slowly getting farther. The accomplishment of finishing California has finally hit me, it’s now time to explore Oregon!
While we had an immediate climb, the trail starts to flatten out a bit. Oregon is expected to be much flatter. There are very few steep climb and even then, it still won’t come close to what we had to deal with in California. The first few miles go by quick as I make my way towards Hyatt Lake. I reach the resort late in the evening and I have a decision to make, keep going or stop for real food. The first couple days in Southern Oregon are filled with small lake resorts, each offering camping and food. If you plan your miles correctly you could spend every night in one of these resorts, enjoying good food by a lake. I choose to skip Hyatt Resort, there will be plenty more options coming up.
I only go a few more miles to the other side of the lake where an established campground can be found right off trail. I haven’t seen anyone all day as we had all left Ashland at different times due to the heat. The air is warm, birds can be heard on the lake, it’s a calm night. Oregon has welcomed me with open arms. The trail will flatten out significantly the next few days, and I fall asleep excited for whats to come.
A very late start follows. I decide to hang out by the lake all morning, I’m in no rush. I could possibly make it to the next lake resort today if I push it, but I feel no pressure to do so, I want to enjoy every minute of Oregon. As expected the trail is flat, but also mainly made up of volcanic rock. Most of Oregon is one big volcano. The Cascades running through this region are primarily volcanic. The trail doesn’t go over these mountains, but instead around them, hence why we barely have any steep sections. It’s definitely unique out here.
Falkor, Krispy, and Pussycat all catch up to me. Our plan is to make it to Fish Lake Resort tonight. Even though I had a very late start, because of the terrain being as flat as it is, miles go by quickly. A 30 mile day is absolutely possible and we’re not far now from the lake. Nothing will slow us down now, except MAGIC! With less than 10 miles left, we cross a forest service road where some lovely trail angels offer us some food and drink. We of course stop and hang out for the evening. Fish Lake will be there in the morning. We go a little bit further into the night, and stop to make camp by a shelter, the first shelter I’ve stopped at on the trail. It’s been a long day and we enjoy a night inside the cabin.
Mosquitoes! So Many Mosquitoes!
With an early morning start, we quickly make our way to Fish Lake. The resort is only 2 miles off trail, and it’s absolutely worth it. While it’s only been two days since I was last in a town, a quick burger and fries do the trick. Some hikers had even stopped and gotten food at Hyatt Resort, making it their second day in a row with town food. Again if you plan your miles correctly you could be eating town food everyday. There will be another opportunity for a meal in just another day and a half. It’s definitely a luxurious trail life.
After a long afternoon break I am ready to keep going further. With so much food in my belly I know that I can go far tonight. I am able to get a quick hitch back to trail from the same trail angels from the previous night who I was grateful to meet again. I’m off with a smile on my face, it’s been a good day so far, nothing could bring me down.
We start off with a gradual climb, it doesn’t feel like a climb. The resort food helps me run up the trail. I take a small water break and notice a swarm of mosquitoes around me. A quick swipe of the hand and they go away. I go forward 10 feet and more mosquitoes start to swarm. Thinking nothing of it I keep going forward and more mosquitoes show up. At this point hundreds of mosquitoes have swarmed all around me. All I can do is hike as fast as I can. It’s never ending. Every mile more and more mosquitoes land on me, biting every exposed part of my body. Rushing now, I reach a water source, it’s the only water source for quite a while and I am forced to stop. It’s the most uncomfortable minutes of my life as I filter my water. Hundreds of mosquitoes around me non stop.
My plan was to go further, but with so many mosquitoes I throw in the towel for the night and quickly make camp. It’s impossible to setup my tent and by the time I get in, the mosquitoes had also joined me. Before I can make dinner and finally relax I must kill dozens that had gotten into my tent. My legs are covered in blood and bites. Outside my tent hundreds are waiting for me. My only hope is that they disperse by morning.
I awake to even more mosquitoes in my vestibule waiting for me to get out of my tent. It is nearly impossible for me to step out. I have to quickly get myself packed with constant biting and swarms all around me. I just throw everything into my back and run out of there. There are so many on this stretch of trail. The heatwave had started the snow melt and with that came more mosquitoes. As I pass south bounders, the obvious topic of conversation is how bad the mosquitoes are further north. It’s only going to get worse.
More Snow, More Mosquitoes
The mosquitoes calm down for a couple miles. I find a nice lunch spot by a lake and finally get to relax without the swarms. I meet more south bounders and we all enjoy the beautiful Oregon scenery. We are still feeling the effects of the heatwave. The sun beats down on us and finding shady break spot is the priority. The surrounding lakes are also pretty warm, and I’m in no rush leaving my nice quiet spot. From what I’ve been told, there will be more swarms of mosquitoes over the next climb.
After a nice long break in the shade, I hop back on trail. There hasn’t been much steep climbing in Oregon yet and this next climb still feels flat. I’m either so desensitized to climbs or Oregon truly is flat. At the top, a beautiful view of Southern Oregon. Mount McLoughlin stands tall over the rest of the rolling hills. Now that we’re getting deeper into Oregon, its true beauty starts to shine.
I turn the corner ready for the descent and the entire trail is covered in snow. It didn’t surprise me. I had seen so many of my friends go through this section the last few weeks and they had to deal with even more snow. It wasn’t deep, just slush at this point, but every step needed to be taken with more caution. The cold steps felt amazing on this hot summer day. With a smile on my face I went down into the valley, I hadn’t seen snow since the end of the Sierra, and it was a welcomed change.
Once I got to the bottom of the valley though, the swarms returned. We went from snow to mosquitoes in matter of minutes. Oregon is the state that keeps on giving. What an experience! You are minding your own business playing in the snow, and all of sudden thousands of bugs decide to eat you alive. At this point, I am so used to the mosquitoes and I know I’ll just have to deal with them.
It’s a full a descent now, I am running down the trail, avoiding as many swarms as I can. There is no stopping. On my way down the trail I start passing lots of weekend backpackers. I don’t really keep track of the days of the week, but as I pass one, two, three, four… so many backpackers, it must be a weekend. It is a nice change of pace. There haven’t been too many new faces this week. The trail now starts its final mini climb until Crater Lake. I turn the corner, and a new face appears.
Crater Lake National Park
In the midst of all the swarms, sitting in peace no mosquitoes around her, Bopit! She’s on her way to a triple crown. I take one final break here with her as she waits for Water Baby. He catches up to us, and all together we push on forward to our next national park. We enter a previously burned area that has slowly been growing back. It’s a beautiful site. Burn areas are rough to hike through, but seeing this new growth makes me optimistic knowing that all the burn areas we have hiked through will also grow back.
It’s about 10pm and I finally enter Crater Lake National Park. There’s no reason to keep going for the night as I would’t reach the village for another hour or so. I make it to camp, no mosquitoes for now. I know I’m in a burn area, so I find a nice clear spot away from any trees. It’s my first night this week where the mosquitoes haven’t attacked me. I can actually put up my tent for once without it taking a half hour. It’s time to finally rest after a very long day.
The sunrise peaks through my tent, a few mosquitoes wait for me outside. It’s Crater Lake day! As I pack my gear, here comes Water Baby and Bopit who had stopped earlier the night before. Now that we are in a National Park, the trail is extremely well maintained. It’s a nice walk in the park all the way to the main attraction. We reach the main road before Mazama Village. In front of the general store, about 20 hikers waiting patiently for the store to open. It’s breakfast time, and a nice relaxing day in the park awaits.
Once my resupply is complete, I decide to hang out at Crater Lake for most of the day. There’s no rush, and because I’ll be taking the Crater Lake Rim Trail alternate, I can leave anytime I’d like and still do plenty of miles before dark. It’s a slight shortcut that skips a relatively flat but all burned section of trail. It’s the one alternate I always would recommend over the actual PCT. It’s not my first time here, and seeing the giant volcanic crater is always a site to see.
After a full day relaxing, it’s finally time to walk the rim. I timed my day perfectly to make it across the lake for sunset. This is by far one of the best sections not on the trail. I make it to a nice quiet spot to watch the sun set across Wizard Island. It’s time to reflect, I’m nearly a third of the way done with Oregon and it’s not even been a full week. It’s going by way too quick. I reconnect with the PCT and make camp for the night, the mosquitoes return of course!
Shelter Cove, Reuniting with Old Friends
This stretch of Oregon has a lot of long water carries. Thankfully there are lots amazing trail angels who run water caches every 8 miles or so. I reach the first cache of the day, take my lunch, and just as I am about to leave, trail magic! I’ve been lucky enough to experience so much wonderful trail magic so far, and Oregon has continued to bless me. A quick snack from the trail angels and I’m off! Another climb awaits, well… an Oregon climb.
It’s a pretty obvious at this point that the Oregon section of the trail is pretty flat. How flat you might ask? Well I reach the highest point of the PCT in Oregon, 7560 ft. of elevation. To compare to California, the highest point on all of the PCT is Forester Pass which sits at 13,153 ft of elevation. Some say it’s not the most satisfying feeling reaching this point. Nothing compares to reaching the top of the Sierra passes, but I still feel accomplished making it here.
I reach my tentsite for the night, and as I turn the corner I see a couple tents already setup. I was hoping to have this amazing site all to myself tonight, but I then notice who’s there. It’s Boomie, Spanks, Mach 5, and Tuna! I hadn’t seen them since Bishop! They had slowed down to wait out some of the snow and I was able to catch up to them. Reuniting with old friends is definitely one of the best feelings on trail.
We all awake with the sunrise, and make our way down to the next water cache. It’s a reunion with lots of faces I hadn’t seen in quite a while. And to top it all off, more trail magic! It’s a full lunch buffet! So far I’ve nearly had trail magic every single day in Oregon. After a very long break, we keep moving. There’s another alternate path available to make it to Shelter Cove. I can either go up towards a very long stretch of snow covered trail, or make it down to Crescent Lake, where there are trail angels who run a campground. I choose the alternate. While a long stretch of snow doesn’t bother me, the idea of even more trail magic is hard to pass up. One of my goals on trail was to meet as many trail angels as I can, I love this community and those who help make it happen. I make it to the lake, and some amazing food awaits! I have not touched my food bag today, I spent more time enjoying trail magic then I did walking. Definitely cannot complain.
There’s only 10 miles to Shelter Cove, a beautiful lake resort, and the trail to it is completely flat. After a nice morning walk, I reach Odell Lake, let the vortexing begin. Lots of hikers are all hanging out grilling lunch and enjoying the lake. It’s an even bigger reunion, as I run into Magnet, who I also hadn’t seen since the Sierra. This first week in Oregon has been full of excitement. We’ve done a pretty decent chunk of Oregon, experienced tons of magic, and reunited with old friends. I’m excited to see what else this place has to offer.
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