PCT Update – 1357 Wolverine Miles Completed: Southern to Central Oregon
Thus far, hiking Oregon has been like the nice, mostly-easy-going friend who is relatively pleasant to look at, but who can occasionally show up a bit edgy. Unless he/she decides to randomly get really really edgy.
The terrain has mostly been what hikers call, the green tunnel. Mile after mile of climbing and descending through generally pleasant pine forest with dotted ponds or lakes with an occasional view of surrounding hills and peaks. Intermittently we hike through a burn zone (just as is was case in the desert and in Nor Cal), where dead trees are the norm—standing or prone—and where there may or may not be a bit of new growth. One particular Oregon burn zone looked starkly bleak—Mad Max style. Others have many blow downs—downed trees across the trail we have to step or crawl over or under. Sometimes it feels like there are as many blow downs as there are standing trees.
On hot days, which have been most days, the burn zones feel REALLY hot. Sometimes downright oppressive, while the ‘green tunnel’ is humid. The heat and humidity are uncomfortable, though I’m pretty good at managing them. But when layers of dirt, sweat and bug spray in oppressive heat are added to attack mosquito swarms, the misery level goes up exponentially.
I have intimately experienced mosquitoes in various parts of the world (they love me), but Oregon mosquitoes are unique in that they are particularly aggressive. They swarm and attack. My hiking partner pointed out that the back of my legs look like a used dart board due to the plethora of bites.
If I spray on deet, they still hover relentlessly as if waiting for the deet to wear-off as I sweat. Thru hikers may be hyper aware of making sure they don’t run out of water (which I am) but it feels significantly more terrifying for me to consider running out of deet (which I almost did yesterday). The odd thing about Oregon mosquitoes is that it is impossible to predict where they will show up. One water logged spot will be empty of mossies and another will be rife with them. Go figure.
One of the oddest things about southern Oregon is that it seemed almost void of wildlife. No mammals, no birds, no reptiles, and besides mosquitoes, almost no bugs. Odd. One of the most beautiful things about this part of the state are the many lovely lakes (sometimes mosquito laden).
Hitting central Oregon a couple days ago things started changing up. We had a deer sighting. A chipmunk tried to get in my tent. Hadn’t seen one of those mischievous critters since Nor Cal. We saw a few birds, lots of wildflowers and our first views of the Three Sisters peaks and a Mt. Hood sighting (as well as lots of peaks I called the evil step sisters).
I am hiking with Broken Arrow, a retired engineer with vastly diverse interests, life experience and a sharp wit, which makes for excellent trail chat. The first time we met was in the desert a couple months ago, when he told me about the book he was writing. I saw him recently near Ashland sitting on the side of the trail, tuckered out.
I greeted him with, “Dude, you’re wearing the same shirt.” And a hiking friendship was born. Prior to hiking with Broken Arrow I was getting in some bigger miles (25-31 mi./ day). We are now making consistent solid miles and time (averaging 20-23 miles/day), all the while knowing that Washington will be much more challenging than what we are up to now.
Our next move is to get around a closed burn zone before hiking on through northern Oregon and the OR/WA border.
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