Solo Hiking and New Friends in Oregon
I have now completed about 300 miles of Oregon and I have about 150 to go until I cross into Washington. This section has been a much different experience for me because I have been hiking it solo – without Flamingo and Tuna, whom I hiked almost all of California with.
Flamingo, Tuna, and I had different plans leaving Ashland so we went our separate ways. I hiked out of town with Flamingo and her girlfriend (they did a section together), then I went ahead alone after that.
Before I started the PCT I knew that I wanted to have the experience of hiking part of the trail on my own. Over the past week and a half I’ve discovered the pros and cons that come with hiking as part of a group and solo. The PCT is a busy place and you are almost always around other hikers, even if you are not hiking with a group.
I have gotten to know so many other hikers while hiking on my own. It feels like I’ve met nearly as many people in the last week and a half as I did in all of California. It’s way easier to join up with other trail families when you’re solo – whether it’s for a break, lunch stop, hiking, or camping for the night.
I’ve also learned that the more comfortable you are doing your own thing, the more relaxed you’ll be. Until I started hiking on my own, I didn’t realize how much attention I was paying to what everyone else in my group was doing. Whether it’s noticing when my friends are packing up camp, finishing lunch, or collecting water, paying attention to all these little things makes me feel slightly on edge. Now that I’ve realized this, I will continue the trail with a better perspective and be more relaxed.
While there are lots of good parts about hiking on your own, I don’t think I’d want to hike more than a month or so this way. It’s nice being around your trail family – you get to be stoked about the highs together and encourage each other when it’s tough. I’m thankful that I’ve had my solo hiking experience during this section, because the hiking has been relatively easy – it’s been fairly cool out, the terrain has been gentle, and there have been few mosquitoes – and the suffering has been minimal.
Over the past few days I’ve hiked with people I’ve known since the desert and others whom I’ve only met recently. I’ve spent nights camped with 15+ other thru-hikers, and others completely alone. I’ve hiked sections, including the Crater Lake Rim Trail and the lava fields by Highway 242/McKenzie Pass, alone, which was an eerie experience at times.
If I had to summarize Oregon in three words, it would be trees, lava, and cruise. We’ve been in the forest lots, walked along several lava fields, and the gentle terrain has made things downright cruise-y most of the time.
Barrel, Big Mac, and Dough Merchandise
I’ll finish this post with a couple of my most memorable moments from this past section. First, I spent a couple of days hiking with Barrel and Big Mac, two ladies from Switzerland. We hiked and camped together and had so many laughs about things that don’t translate well between English and Swiss German.
One night at dinner, we were talking about what we call different types of pasta and Barrel said that she would go into the store for pasta and ask for some “dough merchandise.” This made me laugh so hard I cried and we thought it was the funniest thing ever. I told them about Tim Hortons and TimBits, and Barrel thought the term doughnut holes was the funniest thing she’d heard.
They taught me a few words in German; however, the only thing I remember is how to say “good morning pigeon,” which they say makes zero sense but I think it’s hilarious and I say it when I see them in the morning.
One evening we walked down a long trail to a lake for water where there were hundreds of tiny frogs. They were hopping everywhere and it was a beautiful night to be down by the water.
Kool Aid and The Holy Spirit
A few days ago I hiked 31 miles (about 50 km), my longest day to date. I felt great in the morning and afternoon, but my right hip flexor started seizing up with about five miles to go. I took a break, stretched, ate, and started hiking the last three miles to the campsite where the group I’d been hiking with was planning to camp. My hip started hurting again almost right away, and I was bummed that I wouldn’t complete my first 30+ mile day and get to camp with my friends. Right when I was feeling pretty defeated, I came around the corner and saw Kool Aid, one of the ladies from the group.
Kool Aid bought a big stuffed hawk at the Crater Lake gift shop, which she named The Holy Spirit and is attached to her pack. We talked for an hour straight while I followed her, looking at The Holy Spirit. This was exactly the distraction I needed, and we got to camp and I completed my 31-mile day.
Next time you hear from me I will be finished with Oregon. There are some fire closures and alternates in Washington, which may affect my plans. The final stretch of the PCT is currently closed so hikers cannot finish the trail at the Canadian border. Who knows what will happen in the coming weeks, but I’m going to keep hiking!
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Another great read. Love the Holy Spirit. Barry and I are in Ontario at our cottage discussing whether or not to delay our Sept 5 flight home because of the smoke. Hope it doesn’t effect your hike. You rock!!!
I’ve enjoyed reading your posts! I hope your hip flexor issue settles down. When I was hiking in Tibet in July, at 15-17,000 ft. to the Kangshung Face of Mount Everest (22km from our campsite), I was having a really difficult time near the end (the words “hit the wall” come to mind). A friend did just what your friend did – she walked in front of me, chatted to distract me, and this gave me just what I needed to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
I sent a little package to you at the Kracker Barrel Store. I noted on the package that your ETA is Sept. 10. Perhaps you won’t be able to go there because of re-routing due to fires? Anyway, the most important thing is to journey safely. You’re on the home stretch!! Take good care. Lori
Not sure you will remember who I am. Live next door to Rozka’s and Laura mentioned you were hiking the PCT. This was a pleasant surprise for I had just read the book Wild. Have been following your trek and living vicariously through your experience. Thank you for sharing your adventures as it is so inspirational.