Pushing Limits

Some people get to Oregon and have the goal to complete the two-week challenge, meaning they are hiking the entire state in just two weeks. My trail family and I decided to do the opposite. We took our time, relishing every lakeside resort and eating all of the French fries and milkshakes our hiker hearts desired.

That is, until we got to Bend.

We were tired of hiking through what felt like a mostly flat state and felt like we were basically already running our daily mileage every day to avoid getting eaten alive by Oregon’s relentless mosquitos. So we made a plan. We decided we would run/slack pack the entire 45-mile section of trail from Elk Lake to Big Lake Youth Camp in just one day. I had no idea if I could even complete such a goal, but with just 14 hours of daylight and nothing but the running vest on my back, I knew I would somehow have to make the mileage. There is something both terrifying and exhilarating about throwing your body into some sort of strenuous and impossible-seeming activity and hoping it shows up for you. My body had already surprised me countless times throughout these first 1,200+ miles; hiking long days through desert heat, in sickness, on no seep, day after day, mile after mile.

But still, as I lay in bed that night, I had my doubts.

My alarm woke me the next morning at 5:00 a.m. We all shuffled our tired bodies around the dimly lit kitchen that morning. After downing coffee and bagels, filling water bladders, and packing snacks, we were ready. We left my home in Bend and drove up the Cascade Lakes Highway as the sun rose over the mountains. Just before 7:30 a.m. we start our run. The trail wound up through the forest and we could see several volcanic peaks in the distance. I was pleasantly surprised by how light and free I felt without my backpack on. The miles flew by as we ran through the cool morning, past mountains, through meadows, and over rivers. What felt like a couple hours went by and we stopped to filter water at a waterfall. To everyone’s surprise, we had already covered 20 miles! Wow I thought, maybe this will be easier than I thought.

Ha ha oh boy was I wrong.

What started as a few small, manageable hot spots quickly turned into seven large, fluid-filled blisters. I wrapped my sad toes with the last of my Leuko tape and hoped for the best. Around 3:00, in the heat of the day, we climbed up Mackenzie pass and began to cross over the rocky, jagged lava fields. Each step over the uneven terrain was agonizing and l winced under the pain of popped blisters. Heat radiated off the exposed black lava rocks. I crossed a road and there, to my wonderful surprise was trail magic! I found my tired friends sitting in the shade. As we silently consumed the cold watermelon and sugary drinks there was a synonymous feeling of utter exhaustion. Our break was over quickly and soon we were off again. The trail began to climb up more lava fields and I could feel my energy quickly draining under the hot July sun. Heat radiated off the rocks and my vision began to blur. I knew I needed calories, but a looming sense of nausea prevented me from consuming anything but water. I pulled my tired body over blowdown after blowdown. Each effort to get over the fallen tree took more energy than the last. We got to the base of the final hill and I hunched over in nauseating pain. I felt depleted in every way. Five more miles seemed impossible at this point. The sun was low in the sky, and I knew we were losing time and daylight. I sat down on a log and chugged some electrolyte water until I began to feel slightly better. I turned my music up and tried to keep my mind focused on the song lyrics and not my aching legs, head, and feet as I half-limped up the hill. We began to descend and had just 2.5 miles left. I think I checked my phone map every few minutes as the miles creeped by at a painstaking pace. Each step felt more grueling then the last. What seemed like an eternity went by and then at last, just as the sun began to sink below the hills, we saw the lake. I gathered the last of my strength to run the final mile. At 8:45 p.m., 13 hours and 45 miles later, we had made it.

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Comments 2

  • Chris : Jul 19th

    Wow! Congrats on making it 45 miles, and in an impressive time too! What was your elevation gain/loss over those miles?

  • Jhony Yermo : Jul 19th

    Gee, I bet Anish would be impressed.


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