The One About Oregon
“But what I didn’t know that day, was that I would break two of my own records. The first one being hiking 60 miles in a day, and the second being digging 11 cat-holes”
Oregon felt like one big party. When I think back I barely remember us even hiking actually.
The Fellowship reunited in Ashland. After almost a month apart we met up again at a trail angels place and it felt so, so good to be back together. Snooze and Bear had been pushing it and arrived at night smelling of smoke and ash from the forest fires. They had been about a day behind, and Golden about two days ahead. We hugged hard and shared stories and beers all night long.
Our first zero
We took our first zero in over a month and I promised myself to never go this long again without a rest day. After finishing the Sierras a few weeks back, we had done the math and realised – if we wanted to make it till the end before our visas ran out, we had to hurry. By a lot. And as 3 months had already passed, the clock was ticking fast. We had about 2/3 of the trail left but less than half the time. Which meant we had to pick up our pace and take very few rest days all the way until Canada. We were all a bit stressed, and a few times I was even unsure if I would make it on time. My longest day so far by than had only been 25 miles. And the idea of doing that mileage for 10 weeks straight, felt like an impossible task.
The first days in Oregon
Leaving Ashland, hungover and sleep-deprived, hiking out in the smoke from the forest fires was hard. I sat on the side of the trail contemplating my life and shoving cold oats with Nutella into my mouth. After feeling sorry for myself for a while, I got up, popped my headphones in and did the only thing I could – I kept walking.
The next few days were filled with rain, smoke and friends. The trail was covered in hundreds of tiny, tiny frogs that I had to try my hardest not to step on. I was freezing at night and swore at myself for being so cheap and buying such a shitty sleeping bag. But the trail was beautiful. We hadn’t heard great things from people going south about the green state, but I was happily surprised. Huckleberries were growing everywhere and the forest felt alive. The rainy days were a nice change from the ever-blue sky in California. And even though the trees grew thick and the views were limited because of the smoke, my steps felt lighter and so did my heart.
We were hiking towards Crater Lake. The next milestone on trail. And my biggest one so far. My first reason why I wanted to hike the PCT was because of this blue lake. I saw a picture of it a long time ago and knew I needed to go there. In the back of my head I had been telling myself “If I just get there, that will be enough”. So I didn’t know what to feel when we hiked into Mazama Village. I was almost a bit nervous. We decided to camp there at night, wake up with the stars still bright above us and reach the rim for sunrise.
Reaching the edge just as the light from the new day was rising, I was breathless. It’s so weird to finally be standing in a place you’ve only seen in pictures, but dreamt about for so long. I thought I would cry, feel intense emotions, or maybe even feel content with the hike to end. But all I felt was just happiness. And maybe a sense of belonging.
Guardian was turning 30 years, so we all sang Happy Birthday and ate pizza and cookies to the fiery sunrise. We stole some morning coffee from a fancy hotel, hiked around the rim, petted dogs and talked to day hikers. After a nice hitchhike we got to the place where we could access the lake to swim. And even though I’m scared of heights and water and many other things in life, I jumped into this lake. My lake. And thanked it for being there, because if not, I wouldn’t be either.
We all jumped in many more times. Our stomachs filled with adrenaline and beers, we spent the day sun-basking next to this blue hole. We met many more hikers, shared food and made a joint decision to not do many more miles that day. Beer usually has that effect on hikers.
The low and the high
With the trail being so social again, I chose to camp alone the few nights leading up to Shelter Cove. The vast forest was covered in lichen and the days hot. Me and my group decided to take the horse trail coming into the resort and for the first time on trail I felt like I had lost all motivation.
I was sitting on a park bench next to people riding horses barefoot and I was so over it. Everything. Over hiking, over the sun blistering down on me, and overeating the same thing for dinner. I was over the smoke and my shitty sleeping bag and the entire hike. “Fuck this” I thought. Who cares if I just hitchhike to the next town and have a burger and some goddamn well-earned rest? After sitting down for a long time, playing with the idea of not doing the last miles, I got up. With the support from Golden I slowly made my way back to trail, dragging my feet behind me.
In the morning I awoke, proud of myself for not quitting. I came into Shelter cove, a pancake and coffee filled dream. I learnt that a fire in the north had closed the section right in front of us, and the plan to just pick up my package, stuff my face with food and hike out again – was cancelled. We grabbed pizzas and went down to the lake next to the resort to swim. Again, this felt like a vacation. A much needed one. We played in the water like children for hours and planned our next step. We decided to try to hitchhike into the town of Bend and get an Airbnb with a bunch of other hikers.
After getting threatened by a man with a gun in a gas station we finally reached the city. We went to a rave, where we blended in perfectly with the crowd despite our hiker clothes. I slept on my deflating sleeping pad in the garage of the house together with other hikers. It was hot, uncomfortable and I missed the woods. Guardian coloured my hair pink and we ate home cooked pasta with vegetables. Hiking out the next day was tough. (Maybe starting to see a correlation with being hungover and having no motivation to hike??). But we made it out in the rainy mountains of Oregon.
The day I walked 60 miles
Then the day of the challenge came. The 24-hour challenge. Two days after the rave, we decided to try walk for a day and a night until we reached the infamous Timberline lodge. And so we did. Feeling the kind of nauseous you can only feel by waking up at 1 in the morning we started pushing. But what I didn’t know that day was that I would break two of my own records. The first one being hiking 60 miles in a day, and the second being digging 11 cat-holes. Both equally impressive I would say. It was pouring rain the entire day, so not stopping actually wasn’t that hard. Getting hypothermia or to keep pushing seemed like an easy choice to make.
Towards the end it almost felt like I was hallucinating. I give all my gratitude to especially Snooze and Bear for keeping my sanity and pushing in the front. All I needed to do was to follow. But the last hours were like a lucid dream. My body felt detached from my head, and the foggy, dark forest around me looked like a video game. Finally, after 25 hours of hiking and almost 100 kilometres we reached Timberline. Surprised I looked down on my numb legs and my crazy, amazing friends. Never in my life did I think I was capable of something like this. I had read about people doing this, but never imagined actually being one of them.
The next day, we slept in a bed, dried out all of our soaking wet gear and went to the breakfast buffet at the lodge. There was a festival at night and even though our bodies hurt – we went. “Life is so weird” I remember thinking. One day you’re hiking more than two marathons in a row and the next you’re dancing with hundreds of strangers beneath a mountain.
Bridge of the Gods
The last remaining days in Oregon were good and bad and beautiful and ugly. Like life often is. My heart and my backpack took turns in feeling the heaviest. I listened to “El Condor Pasa” when I walked into Cascade Locks and first laid my eyes upon the Bridge of the Gods. I stood at the end of the second state, and at the start of the last one. The beginning of the end. I felt everything.
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