Day 111: I Can See Clearly, The Smoke Is Gone

Started: Brahma Lake Tentsite (1933.3)

Ended: Sisters Mirror Lake (1958.7)

Total Miles: 25.4

Today has been a memorable day. First, I have a new hiking partner, Gust. We have been leap frogging for the past couple of days. Last night I wrote that we did a push together. Today, we hiked all day and at lunch we fist bumped and agreed to hike to Bend together. She is on the left.

We did a solid 3.0 m.p.h. pace all day. We reach a beautiful lake by six p.m. Tomorrow will be rough on the feet as we will be hiking ten miles of lava rock. I have someone to bitch about it with.

The smoke seems to have cleared up.

So, that is the good news. The bad news is that the trail that includes the Northern Terminus is closed due to a fire. This hike may be all for naught. I might not be able to reach the end.

My concern is that due to the remoteness of the Northern Terminus, it may not be easy to put out the fire.

If that is the case, my hike will end at Stevens Pass. Stehekin is the last resupply point, but that is only reachable by foot, ferry, or float plane. It is a bit much to ask my wife to pick me up there, so the previous stop makes more sense.

At this point, all I can do is stick to the original plan and hike assuming it will be open when I get there. It certainly makes resupply interesting.

Tonight we are sleeping at a comfortable tent site by a lake. It is beautiful.

Day 110: The Ultra Marathon Runners And The Thru-hiker

Started: Shelter Cove Resort (1906.6)

Ended: Brahma Lake Tentsite (1933.3)

Total Miles: 26.7

Achievements: Marathon (4)

Shelter Cove was really nice. I successfully escaped it’s vortex by 8:00 a.m. after a delicious breakfast. Despite the late start, I was making good time. This part of the hike reminds me of the Ice Age Trail. It is flat, green, and passes by beautiful small lakes and ponds.

I had a pretty good climb up the ridge that I powered through. At the top, I was surprised by tables and an emergency crew. They yelled “Hiker!”, and made a path for me. I went up to the table to ask what was going on. They told me that there was an ultra marathon here, but not to worry. The runners are instructed that backpackers still have the right of way.

I took out my earphones. I needed to pay attention.

As I walked, I would cheer the runners on. I was surprised at the response I received. Instead of me cheering on them, it was more like them cheering on me!

“Don’t cheer for me. You’re my hero!”

“I’m going to guess you’ve gone farther than me.”

“There isn’t one of us who wishes we could do what you are doing.”

Eventually I reached one of the check points. They would cheer the runners when they got there and would resupply them with water and snacks. When I got there, even though I was going the opposite direction, I received the same response. They cheered. I tipped my cap. The crew refilled my water. The doctor asked how my feet were and offered to tape any blisters. I thanked them as I walked by, nibbling on a popsicle.

I eventually ran into some trail magic. I enjoyed some watermelon and an orange soda. Gust asked me my plan. We agreed to hike another eight miles. We pounded that out. We had some interesting discussions as she will be starting law school in January, and has been working for some non-profit organizations since college. The sunset and mosquitoes ended the conversation early, but we’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Day 109: 1,900 Miles As The Rubber Meets The Road

Started: Windigo Pass (1878.2)

Ended: Shelter Cove Resort (1906.6)

Total Miles: 28.4 + 1.3 Bonus Miles

Achievements: 1,900 Miles, Marathon (3)

I was up a 4 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. The plan to meet my wife requires that this hike is done September 24th. I did the calculations myself and I’m slated to be done on the 27th. There is plenty of time, but I was at a crossroads. I was 28 miles from my next resupply at Shelter Cove. Could I pound out those miles and still have energy to do the chores?

There is only one way to find out.

The answer is yes. I did 10 by 10. I did 20 by 2. I made it to Shelter Cove by 6 p.m. That was enough time for dinner, a shower, and to charge my battery pack.

I moved at 3+ m.p.h. for most of the day. My breaks were short. I ate as I walked.

This means that I successfully cut a day off my hike. Tomorrow, after breakfast, I’ll be back on trail.

I’m exhausted, but it is good to know I can push if I need to.

Day 108: Now That Is Oregon

Started: Stealth Camp (1852.0)

Ended: Windigo Pass (1878.2)

Total Miles: 24.2

Achievements: It’s All Down Hill From Here, All Hail The King

It was a rough night last night. Without a working insect net, I configured my sleeping arrangement more like I was cowboy camping. What I didn’t expect was that mosquitoes would leave me alone, but ants would be a real problem. I was woken up by an ant crawling under my base layer or biting me. Good times!

The day mostly consisted of hiking from a water source two miles, then hiking through an 18 mile no water carry. I carried three liters.

Hef and I reached the highest point in Oregon and Washington. It is all downhill from here.

We hiked for another mile and found a nice place with cell phone reception.

Patches caught up with us, and she and I raced to Windigo Pass. I took an early lead.

About two o’clock, a thunderstorm blew in. I would train back home in the rain, but I wouldn’t train in a thunderstorm. Now that I’m thru-hiking, a thunderstorm and hail is not a reason to stand still. I’m on a ridge and exposed.

I followed a new hiker I met, Gust. Exhausted, we set up camp with a bunch of others at the water cache. Patches came to me to tell me that Hef left his socks that he had washed back where we had lunch. According to Patches, that was a five mile backtrack, so I didn’t expect to see him tonight.

Tomorrow I plan to muscle myself into Shelter Cove and shorten my hike by a day. It will be a very long day.

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.