Trees, Flames, and Miles
Alright, I suck. Wanted to get this one in before Washington but… well walking takes precedent over typing. And I’m getting lazier. Sorrryyy. So, yes, I am in Washington now and have less than 400 miles left. Which is totally mind-blowing. 400 miles is nothing. It is amazing to look back and remember my 15 mile days that took the whole day. Now we are doing 15 by lunch. My feet rarely get sore and an 1000 foot climb is a piece of cake. Walking 18 minute miles is the norm (on flats) and we can probably walk uphill faster than some people walk downhill. Our bodies are machines, well-oiled, maximum efficiency machines. Our legs practially work anaerobically and are JACKED. I have severe hiker goggles now. As in, if you have nice legs, which pretty much everyone does, and can hike stupid fast, and have really sexy UL gear that my pack could swallow whole, Ima get a crush on you, no matter how much food is caught in your really, really long beard. We have become incredibly good at walking many miles each day and our bodies show it, it’s sweet.
However good we are at walking though, we still cannot control nature. And Oregon burned. So we had to skip 87 miles of trail, with the other option being an insanely long roadwalk. Which very few of us had any desire to do so we skipped, meaning I will have to come back and do that section when I can. It is really frustrating to make it through the Sierra only to have the opposite of snow, aka fire, make you skip. But life goes on.
The rest of my stay in Ashland was great. An one-eyed man gave me a $2 bill at the food coop when he saw me buying $70 worth of bars. He told me to write a story, mention that a one-eyed man gave me a $2 bill, and welcomed me to the State of Jefferson. Well, Sir, I’m writing about it, and thank you very much.
I got morning drunk the day we hiked out cause I’m cheap and refused to leave the three remaining chocolate stouts I bought at the hostel. But still managed to sober up and get some miles in with S&M and….BABY CARROTS! Hadn’t seen him since Bishop and he showed up in Ashland. So stoked to have him hiking with us. Oh, and I hand-washed my clothes to save $2.50 on laundry and save water cause I have a total of six things to wash, and holy Lord did a lot of dirt come out. So much brown water. But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, just impressed. Oh, OH. AND I got the most deeeelicious dinner from some friend’s of Karen’s (my step mom). It was a Peruvian style taco and for desert they made a berry and peach compote with Strauss (looking at you, Dad) ice cream. I licked that bowl clean. They were so kind and listened to me babble on and on and on about my one true love, the trail. The day I stop getting served amazing food for being a dirtbag is gonna be so sad.
Ashland to Mazama Village
Ok, hiking. Oregon was the land of new mileage records. We bumped up from a 32.7 to a 33.3 to a 34.5 to a…40. Yup. 40 mile day. But that wasn’t till later. The first stretch out of Ashland was oak forest and dried fields of grass. Not ugly but nothing special and suuuuper misty in the mornings. It transformed into hairy trees. This electric green lichen grows on all the trees in Oregon making them look just, hairy. And on the forest floor under these trees I found… Linnea flowers!!! I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen them before, but they had all the characteristics. So I pressed one. Me in plant form! I, of course flipped out and showed everyone. They were not nearly as excited as I was.
It was pretty much more trees to Mazama Village with one stretch of lava rocks. It looked like a giant took a massive bag of rocks and dumped them in this forest. But walking through so many trees kinda makes you feel like a robot, cause there isn’t much to look at and you’re shooting for 30+ miles everyday. So you just walk, walk, walk. And think, and sing songs outloud… and repeat. On the way down to Crater Lake, I met Zach! The EIC of the Trek. Super awesome. Good luck on your SOBO, hope that forty went well. There was a trail closure by Crater Lake, so we had to take an alternate but decided against the road walk. We tried to get a hitch for an hour, longest attempt yet, and then started walking. Finally, someone who was in Oregon for the eclipse picked us up. Thank god. He had booked his hotel for the eclipse FOUR years ago. Four. That is nuts. But people went crazy for this thing.
In Mazama, we saw the Naked Suncups (Unger, Wasabi, Lady, Olaf, Karaoke, Neon, and Bamboo, and Peanut) who had organized an insane trail magic. One of Unger’s friends, Pops, drove up with enough food to feed forty hikers. And remember, we can eat A LOT. I ate for 2.5 hours straight. Water melon, double patty hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, corn, asparagus, more water melon, candy, chocolate cake and more water melon. I ate enough of that juicy fruit to build an Eifel Tower out of the rinds. It was insane but my belly was so happy. Pops was so impressed he gave me a Twix and Snickers bar. Though, to be honest, I didn’t eat the most, just the most consistently. We said bye to Pops and camped at the hiker/biker campground in Crater Lake.
Mazama Village to Shelter Cove
Our day around Crater Lake was beautiful. We were lucky enough to be able to walk the recently opened Rim Trail and got to see the lake for hours. It is unbelievably blue and huge as well as the deepest lake in the U.S. We walked along the west rim and saw the fires to our left. It was smokey but that lake is epic enough that my jaw still dropped when I first saw it and continued to drop as we went around it. Definitely a place I wanna come back too.
Of course after Crater Lake is…drum roll…more trees. Yay. Woo. Just the most exciting. But we did catch up to Unger and Wasabi and Karaoke and decided to do the Oregon Skyline Trail with them. It had more lakes to swim in and was actually the original trail before the PCT was built. We missed Diamond Peak but gotta see some sweet lakes. Camped at Nip and Tuck Lake the first night, which had 4 inch long leeches wiggling around in it. So you can bet I did not swim. The next morning we got to lake number two just as the last mist was blowing off the surface. It was so serene and peaceful so I just sat there for a while, watching it and reveling in its beauty.
We finally got a swim in at Crescent Lake and it had a sandy beach! I got to grab sand between my toes, it felt soooooo good, and the water was warm and refreshing. We swam again in Diamond View Lake, which wasn’t as great, but did have a rad view of Diamond Peak. The trail then descended along this river gorge that was super pretty. Crazy mossy trees, Whitefish creek flowing below us, and so much green. A branch covered in that green hair actually fell right in front of me while we were walking, one more step and it woulda conked me on the head. Very lucky.
Shelter Cove was cool and very hiker friendly. I got a burger and fries for $7.50 and a delicious mango milkshake. We chilled there, figured out what we were gonna do for the fire closure, and then mosied on two miles. We had a sweet campsite overlooking the lake and it made me realize I had lost appreciation for being out there. I’m not gonna lie, having a deadline for this trek definitely sucks and got me in the wrong mindset. I went army sargent mode, only thinking about miles and not about how amazing this whole adventure has been. Walking through miles of forest sure doesn’t help because there are no views to distract you. So you’re really just there to move forward and push miles. That’s how you push yourself in Oregon, how many days can you do 30+ miles and not hurt? But I wasn’t letting myself relax and enjoy it or take pride in the mileage we were accomplishing. I just wanted to make sure we hit our quota for the day so I was one step closer to finishing on time.
I made a pact with myself that night, and it was just to have more fun and do what I wanna do. If I wanna walk, then walk. If I wanna swim then swim. But I don’t want to leave this trail with any regrets or feeling like I could have done something but for some reason didn’t. I decided I wanted to do one 40 and potentially climb a peak if the opportunity arose (I had missed Thielson two days ago). In Washington, I would camp where I wanted to, for the most part. I am here to have fun, explore, and experience amazing things. Getting done by the 20th is important, but I don’t have to accomplish that as an army sargent. I know there will be times when I’m antsy and just want to hike but I don’t wanna deny myself anymore opportunities that I’ll only get while on this trail. Cause it’s probably only gonna happen once.
Shelter Cove to Timberline Lodge
Warmed up for our forty with a 34.5 to Desane lake to set up for the eclipse. The “epic” of Oregon is doing insanely long days so…that’s what we do. We had a couple swims and an awesome trail magic where we each got a pint of ice cream – Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Following this amazing dairyful experience, we walked through a crazy burn section. It had a totally eery feel, like some massive battle had been fought for years before. I could imagine JRR Tolkein talking to me: “A battle between wood and flame, earth and fire, a battle from long ago…” I kept picturing large eagles and a giant man bear fighting orcs and goblins. How to entertain youself whilst on trail.
The eclipse was AMAZING. So, so cool. We walked to this meadow that had a perfect view of it and sat there for an hour. We had about 98% totality, so we didn’t get total darkness but it still cold super cold and really dusky. Venus popped out as the sun got smaller and smaller. It looked like Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon drew it. Makes me wanna see it in totality if I ever get the chance. We all pretended that the world was ending. Having your warmth and light disappear at 10:15 in the morning is a trip! I’m gonna use an eclipse to decipline my kids one day, “Remember what happened last time you hit your sister? The sun disappeared. Let’s not make that happen again”.
We walked to Elk’s Lodge to get a hitch to Bend because of the 87 mile trail closure. Freaking fires. We could see the Three Sisters off in the distance, supposedly the prettiest part of Oregon, inaccessible to us. It sucks. It really sucks and feels wrong but none of us wanted to do a stupid long road walk instead. Sigh. Things to come back too. And now I have three more days to relax a little before the wedding.
We stayed at the best trail angel’s house in Bend. They fed us copious amounts of pizza and beer and did our laundry. She even dried my sleeping bag at 11pm when the sprinklers accidentally went off in her yard. They were wonderful. I wish I could stay longer with these people to get to know them better. But the trail calls.
Ron picked us up in Bend and drove us down the crazy gnarly Breittonbush road. It was like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, even in a Subaru Forestor. We were dipping and losing traction as we drove around boulders and through the potholes. We did exactly 12 miles to set up for our 40 into Timberline.
Forty miles. We walked forty miles. I can’t believe it. And my feet didn’t even hurt! We walked from 5:30am to 9:45pm. And I even swam in Timothy Lake and did a quick side trip to Little Crater Lake. And, and, I was having some bowel issues and had to stop every hour to bathroom. We played contact and cheers govnah to pass the time and the miles flew by. Forty nine horses passed us, some camp or something, Little Crater Lake was this deep blue hole of water, oh and someone walked in on me skinny dipping in Timothy Lake. Turns out it was Pigpen! Hadn’t seen her since Bishop. Oh what the trail delivers. When we hit camp, I cheered only to see the numerous sleeping bodies around me. I mean forty miles is so long! I appreciate my body so much. It endures so much and yet it still gets me to the next campsite everyday. We’re all freaking tanks.
Our climb up Mt. Hood to Timberline Lodge was gorgeous. We hiked above the clouds with this towering mountain before us. We trucked up the hill to make it right when the all you can eat breakfast buffet opened at 7:30am only to hit pumice sand trail. Uphill. So half a step back for every step forward. It was pretty awful but the views with the clouds and lighting made it better. We got to the lodge right at 7:30 and ate for two hours. I had four plates of food: a waffle with whipped cream, berries, butter, and maple syrup, much much meat, eggs, pastries, egg pastries, huckleberry smoothie, pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt… oh man it was delcious. And all of us dirty hikers took over the eating area. It was great.
We left the lodge around 1, and by then I was hungry again. Started hiking and I began to feel nauseous. The kind where I couldn’t tell what end the nausea was going to eject from. So I laid down, told the others I would meet them at camp and rested for a bit. Well, when I decided to slowlllly start moving north again I pooped my pants. Yup. Full on squish in my underwear. I felt the feeling come on but it was stupid steep on either side of the trail and I flat out could not hold it. It was down the leg bad. I used an entire pack of wet wipes and half a bottle of hand sanitizer to clean myself in a semi hidden spot that some weekenders decided to check out. I used every brain wave magic I could muster to will them in the opposite direction. I think they saw me naked from the waist down with a pile of poo rags in front of me and got the idea. Thank god.
I met the others at camp after taking the Ramona Falls alternate, a super mossy green forest that leads to a beautiful waterfall hidden in the trees, and told them my goopy story. They pretty much knew what happened when they saw me waltz up in pants and not my Patagonia baggies. Yay for being an adult.
Timberline Lodge to Cascade Locks
My bowels cooperated much better the next few days, but I also avoided using my water filter cause I think that was the culprit. We started dropping our miles to sub thirties, it is sooooo nice getting into camp before 8pm. It was more forest walking but it felt like the Wizard of Oz forest; there were scraggly trees with naked branches and I was sure flying monkeys were going to kidnap us at any second. To my disappoint, we all remained on the ground, no flying monkeys in site.
We had a short 10.7 miles into Cascade Locks and got our first glimpse of the Bridge of the Gods. Washington waited for us on the other side. But before Washington, we had to be seriously spoiled by the Kelley’s. Holy mother were we treated like royalty. First, we grabbed Fireball, a friend who had decided to quit but when S&M, Baby Carrots, and I all texted him individually telling him to come hike with us, decided to get up to Cascade Locks and continue hiking. So happy to gave him with us.
Then Ron came, picked us up, and drove us to Hood River where they had a house rental. I got to see Jimmy (Dani’s fiance, they met on the PCT), who immediately gave us beer then treated us to three large pizzas, beer, and unlimited breadsticks in town. We had less than one pizza left once we were finished. I got a new filter that makes filtering water much less painful and then we resupplied, Ron just shuttling us wherever we wanted to go. S&M and Baby Carrots requested that my poop laundry be done separately than their’s. Ha. When we got back to the house, Dani was there! The one and only, the inspiration, pretty much the reason I am on this trail. It was so so so great to see her and exchange stories about how different the trail was back in 2010, pre-Wild.
For dinner we had wonderful, wonderful spaghetti. Jimmy kept commenting on our portion sizes which to me at this point seem normal. But to everyone not currently hiking, they are huge. Plus we usually get seconds. The genorosity did not stop there. Dani and Jimmy took us to three bars and paid for all the drinks till I finally got my credit card in the bartender’s hand first at the last bar. I know the point is that someday I will pass on the kindness to more hikers, but when someone treats you that amazing it is so hard to believe you can pass it on. I know it will happen but it will be so hard to top what they did for us.
They served us breakfast tacos the next day with hashbrowns cooked in bacon grease. I ate four in addition to the tacos. We had three complete, totally delcious, made-me-full meals thanks to them. Ron, Uschi, Brian, Dani, you guys are amazing. I cannot say thank you enough and the others are still talking about how awesome you all are. You guys are wonderful.
We said our adieus and crossed the Bridge of the Gods. There is no sidewalk or shoulder, so the cars just sketchily go around you. But it is the most epic bridge walk. It’s metal and not solid so you can see the Columbia River flowing beneath you while crossing a state border. Washington, we are in Washington.
There are is a little more than three weeks left and I don’t know how to handle it. I have 87 miles left of Oregon to do but it probably won’t be open till next year. Washington is supposed to be gorgeous and we finally get to slow down, our average needed to finish by the 20th dropped to 22.4! I am excited to see beautiful vistas again and not walk through an excess of trees. Real life looms ahead…but I am going to avoid thinking about it till I cross one more border. Canada, here we come.
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