Day 107: Thirty-One Miles. (Yeah, You Read That Right)

Started: Crater Lake National Park (1820.9)

Ended: Stealth Camp (1852.0)

Total Miles: 31.1

Achievements: Thirty Miles (1), Crater Lake

I have had a deep desire to visit Crater Lake. It was the image on my desktop at work. I put together puzzles of it. I find it fascinating. Today I was going to see it with my own eyes.

I met up with Patches and we hiked up to it together. She was meeting others for breakfast, so I went the rest of the way alone.

I reached the top and was terribly disappointed. Smoke was obscuring the whole lake. One of the biggest moments on the PCT, and it was ruined.

I found that there was another hiker there. He name was Goldilocks. She was crying. This was one of her special moments on trail as well. She hiked up last night and stealth camped, because you are not allowed to sleep there.

She is a professional photographer, and she so wanted to photograph the lake. I gave her a pep talk as best I could. I decided to not even look at the lake anymore. I committed to myself that I’ll visit it again, and that time will be the first time I visited it.

Needless to say, I was no longer motivated to hike. The trail was up and down, and I was back to my old slow hiking pace of one mile and hour.

The trail provides.

Three hikers came up to me. Monster, Cheezit, and Hef were moving at a good clip. I naturally started talking with them. We got along splendidly. I started to haul. Before I knew it, some serious miles were getting done.

We ran into some trail magic. Monster and Cheezit are from Chicago, and needed to get off trail for a wedding. I may never see them again. Goldilocks came up and gave me a big hug for cheering her up. Hef and I bounded up the hill.

I ended up doing over 30 miles. Not to bad for a once old, fat and slow hiker.

It is pretty amazing how quickly a bad day can turn into a good one.

Day 106: The Clock Ticks

Started: Tentsite (1805.8)

Ended: Crater Lake National Park (1820.9)

Total Miles: 15.1 + 3.0 Bonus

Making up for yesterday’s laziness, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. I needed to hussle to the post office before it closed at 3 p.m. Little did I know that all hiker boxes went to the village store.

Getting up a five is what I need to do going forward. This past section was expected to take 5.2 days. I did it 4.5. That moved my finishing day closer one day. Right now I’m projecting finishing on 9/27. My goal is 9/24. That assumes two days off and no closures. Currently, there are two closures in Washington. It also assumes that I’ll spend the night at the town I am resupplying.

So, if I was able to get out of here today, I could start working on another day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. My resupply box wasn’t due until 2:30. I showered and did the laundry. Waiting in the queue, that wasn’t done until after 4 p.m.

I’ve always wanted to see Crater Lake, so I’ll take the PCT alternate trail and so it in the morning.

On the health front, my “broken toe” has returned to normal. To compensate, the zipper on my tent is now broken. I’m sleeping with my mosquito net as though I’m cowboy camping. I’m good with that for now.

Day 105: 1,800 Miles

Started: Twin Ponds Trail Junction (1781.5)

Ended: Tentsite (1805.8)

Total Miles: 24.3

Achievements: 1,800 Miles

This day proved to be a bit rougher than expected. It wasn’t my feet. They were fine after my marathon the day before. It was my general lack of motivation. On the top of the ridge, I met Patches and had a pleasant conversation. I tossed rocks down the canyon and watched them shatter below. If I could find an excuse to look around, I did.

Today was more like the Sierra Mountains. There were big uphills and pointy scree that hurt my feet.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to move, so I pounded the last six miles. I wanted to do another marathon to prove that I could do two in a row, but I ran out of time. I made it to a tentsite just after eight, which was barely enough time to get my tent up and cook.

I have 16 miles to go tomorrow to get my resupply box. Hopefully it is there or otherwise I’m spending the night.

Day 104: Marathon! (And A Part Breaks)

Started: Piped Spring Tentsite (1755.2)

Ended: Twin Ponds Trail Junction (1781.5)

Total Miles: 26.3

Achievement: Marathon (1)

If you’ve read the blogs of any other PCT’ers, hiking 26.3 miles is no big deal. Heck, I know some did more than a marathon out of Campo. If only I was twenty again.

Admittedly, I’ve been conservative in my miles. After hurting myself, I was determined to make sure that didn’t happen again. I’d wait until the weight came off. Now it has. I have legs trained for a 200+ pound hiker driving a 160 pound body. I finished my marathon with time to spare, so we’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Maybe I can do a 30 mile day?

As I was hiking, my left middle toe started pushing up. I squeezed my toes, but it didn’t make any difference. I hiked to my next scheduled break. I took off my shoe and discovered that I broke a toe. I didn’t injure it. It didn’t hurt. I moved it around and it felt weird, but there was no pain.

I suspect that if you take an old rusted jalopy from Mexico to Canada, a couple of parts are bound to fall off. I’m getting closer every day. I have a .7 ounce pocket knife and some heavy duty thread if I need it. For now, I’ve taped it to my index toe.

After all I’ve been through and overcome, a broken toe is minor.

With two bigger mile days, I’ve cut this six day section to a five day. The post office closes at 3 p.m., so I want to clip off a couple extra miles tomorrow as well.

It was a good day. Hopefully my feet agree with me tomorrow.

Day 103: Sore Feet Slows You Down

Started: Tentsite (1732.0)

Ended: Piped Spring Tentsite (1755.2)

Total Miles: 23.2

I wanted today’s goal to be 25 miles, but my feet were sore all day. I suspect that it is a combination of too many days off and shoes at the end of their life.

I have new shoes coming into Bend, but that is 200 miles from now. My current pair was sent to me at South Lake Tahoe, so they are due for a change.

There are more hikers here than back in Lake Shasta. I have to wait in a queue to get water. These people have all pasted me in the past. Now I can keep up.

My friend Napoleon is a day in front of me. I hope to be able to catch up with her.

While I was hoping to kick it into gear, this is just like Northern California so far. I’m hiking from water source to water source.

Day 101: Ashland Is Cool

Zero in Ashland

Today is a work day. Bubbles and Nap need to send boxes to all our stops in Washington. My family is handling the resupply for that state, so I have put together written instructions and have had two conference calls. Yes, my family does conference calls.

Before we left, we went to a local coffee shop. As we were sitting there, a woman asked if we were thru-hikers. We said “Yes” and she gave us $20!

Ashland is cool!

First, we took the bus to Medford and stopped at Trader Joe’s. They had an excellent selection of Clif bars and other items. I need to put together two, three-day boxes and send them forward.

Our second stop was the REI. There I bought six freeze dried dinners, DEET, and some camping soap for when I returned to the hostel. One of the staff there saw that I was wearing Darn Tough socks. She asked about their condition. I told her that I had two pair coming to Bend in about two weeks. She said to go pick out a pair and take off the pair I was wearing. I told her that she probably didn’t want me to do that in the store. She said, “Nope. Those socks have a lifetime warranty and we have a ziplock bag for returns.”

So, I texted home “No need to include socks in the Bend box.”

After lunch, we took the bus. Nap and Bubbles were going to Walmart next. I only need a couple of items, so I went back to Ashland.

After dropping my stuff off, I walked to the local grocery store. There I purchased wet wipes, M&M’s and more almonds. Unfortunately, they do not carry any drink powders at all! I wasn’t able to get any in Mount Shasta either. This is a bit of a problem. I have plenty of green tea for energy, but I will quickly run out of electrolytes before I get to Bend. We’ll see if my newly high efficiency body needs them anymore.

On the way back, another woman asked if I was a thru-hiker. I said “Yes”, and she gave me $20, too!

Ashland is cool!

Bubbles and Nap came back late, so we didn’t get to the post office. We will do that tomorrow.

We finished the night with some excellent Indian food. Ashland has had the strongest vortex so far, even with all the smoke. Still, I’m anxious to get back on trail. I can see the end, and I want to get there.

Delay in Posting

After a five day hike, I come to a place without internet or cell phone reception. I will have more days like this moving forward.

Unless I can camp some place that has reception, there will not be any updates until I get into Bend, which should be six days. The trail is rural again like the Sierra Mountains.

Day 102: In The Starting Gate

Started: Ashland (1718.7)

Ended: Tentsite (1732.0)

Total Miles: 13.3

Our goal was to get to the post office, send our boxes, and get to the trail. I was up early, so I decided to take one more walk in Ashland. I wanted a good cup of coffee (and to see if anyone else wanted to give this thru-hiker some money).

The coffee was good, but I think I ran out of luck as far as the free money.

I returned just before we needed to leave for the post office. Nap and Bubbles had enough bags for eight resupplies! I only had two. I offered to carry some of their stuff, but Nap refused. We were going to hitch. I thought he was crazy, but someone picked us up in less than a minute.

While we were addressing boxes, I discovered that one resupply point only accepted UPS or FedEx. We would need to find a store that did that. All this took time, and we needed to check out by 11.

A trail angel named KC saw us an gave us her number for a ride when we were ready.

I found the closest store. It was a bit of a ways away if you were walking, but doable. Nap and I left, and Bubbles handled the post office. I rushed, but that store knew what to do and it went quickly.

I returned to the hostel at 10:45 and started packing my stuff. As a backpacker, that took a whole ten minutes. I was out and sitting in front charging my phone.

About 11:30, Nap calls. There is a problem. Bubbles’ credit card was rejected. They we’re running really late and decided that it would be easier to stay another day. They understood if I wanted to go.

I decided to go. Although we are now ahead of schedule because of moving up, I don’t want to waste that. I hate the decision, but the sooner I start hiking, the sooner I get to Canada.

I called KC, and she picked me up at noon and by 1 p.m. I was on trail.

There are two issues I need to deal with now. First, I’m back in the bubble. There are hikers here. There was 14 hikers waiting at one water source. However, my new found speed means that I am passing them instead of passing me.

Second, there is still smoke, but there is promise that the views will be better soon.

It is good to see and breathe again.

Day 100: Advance to Ashland

Started: Mount Shasta (1501.2)

Ended: Ashland (1718.7)

Achievements: A Stately Set

There is really only one way to Ashland, and that is by Greyhound. I had never taken a Greyhound. Nap and Bubbles are much more adventurous than I. I proposed renting a car, but the closest place is Ashland.

I was expecting the worst with at least one crazy person. I was entertained with two. One was a dopehead looking to bum some free weed. He would forget that he had already asked me. He’d ask, look at me, and mumble that I didn’t look like the type who would have any.

The second… He was stranded there. He was wearing a blue jumpsuit and big black rubber boots with no socks. I know that he didn’t have any socks, because for entertainment he would take off the boots and pick at his toenails as he told me that he wasn’t crazy, yet believed every conspiracy theory.

I know my readers. You are all very intelligent. You know that when someone starts a conversation with, “I’m not crazy” it is certainly a lie.

Did I mention that the bus was over two hours late?

When I got on the bus finally, this really attractive woman said, “I’m a hiker, sit next to me”. At this point, I don’t trust anyone not to be crazy, so I just walked by. By the time I was halfway on the bus and looked at my other options, I concluded that the woman was thin enough to be a hiker, so I turned around and sat next to her.

Her trail name is Tinkerbell, and we had a great conversation all the way up. Her biggest concern was that the guy in blue jumpsuit didn’t sit next to her.

When we got to Ashland, the four of us stopped at a local brewpub. Someone watched the four of us with our backpacks and bought a round of drinks and an appetizer for us. I like Ashland.

I’m staying at a hostel for two nights. Tomorrow I will put together two boxes for the next stops on the trail and mail them.

Day 99: Beating Ourselves Up

Zero in Mount Shasta

Today my hiking without a day of rest ended at 413 miles. That didn’t mean the hike wasn’t the number one thing on our minds. Beating ourselves up over the decision to skip to Ashland due to the smoke required continuous encouragement.

Before I even left, I wrote about the issues I would run into. There is one philosophical backpacking school that says that it is not a true thru-hike unless you walk from mile zero to mile 2,650.1 continuously. I find this orthodox kind of funny because the people from this school of thought are not orthodox in any other way in their lives.

I knew that there would be times where we were stuck. I figured it would be forest fires or something tangible. The trail would be closed. In this case, it is not closed, but it is still unsafe to the point that I cannot hike to mile 1,502.

  • State and Federal authorities have alerted us that the pollution from the fire is the highest they have ever recorded and we should wear smoke masks if we wish to continue.
  • It is expected that these conditions will remain until mid-October. We have a deadline, so we cannot wait that long.
  • Nap and Bubbles have struggled with headaches and burning lungs.
  • Other stronger hikers have chosen to skip.

There is more than enough evidence that we are doing the right thing, but deep down, I’m a bit orthodox about this. The right choice is skip, but I don’t like that choice. Doesn’t matter now because we have tickets.

I had resupplied prior to talking with Nap and Bubbles, so I have five days of food. That is what I need to get to Crater Lake, so nothing changes there.

We will take a combination of buses and a Greyhound to get to Ashland tomorrow. We’ll zero in Ashland, because we will need to prepare boxes for two places in Oregon.

We also went to the movies and saw Mission Impossible. Sitting in a theater is rest.

Time off is good for my feet, but I can only sleep in a bed if the windows are open and I’m in my quilt. A motel room is so stale when you are used to sleeping outside.