From Cascade Locks to White Pass (Mile 2303)

A Kudu spotted crossing over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington.

A Kudu spotted crossing over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington

We set out from Cascade Locks the day after my parents left, headed straight up into what was supposed to be a stormy next few days. But though the clouds hung dark and stormy, there was no sign of rain that day. Right off the bat we started running into friends we hadn’t seen for weeks or more. Before stopping to camp that first night, we also met another large group of thru-hikers that we hadn’t met before. We were to run into most of our buddies – new and old – again and again throughout Washington, giving us the chance to make and strengthen lots of friendships. The people we met along the PCT still stand out as one of the most amazing aspects of the whole trip. Throughout Washington, we were to spend more time hiking and camping with other hikers than we had in either Oregon or California. We were expecting to see people less and less as we got nearer to the end of the trail, so getting the chance to spend so much time in the company of other hikers was an awesome surprise.

IMG_2072

Thick fog rolling in.

Thick fog rolling in

We rang in my 30th birthday the day after we left Cascade Locks. Since we were celebrating on trail, we knew we still wanted to get some good miles in but planned to stop and set up camp early so we could enjoy some of the goodies our families had sent for my birthday. Despite a run-in with a wasps’ nest on trail which left Edwin with 6 very painful stings (to which we quickly administered a few antihistamines and a couple shots of whiskey) and our buddy Chris with 3, the miles came easily. The rain began in earnest about a mile from our intended camp that night, so we booked the last mile, threw up our tent in a hurry, and spent the rest of the night drinking whiskey and tequila and munching on delicious snacks while rain poured down on our tent.

Removing stingers after a run-in with a wasps' nest.

Removing stingers after a run-in with a wasps’ nest

Birthday shots! We even packed out a lime.

Birthday shots! We even packed out a lime.

Oh Washington ... you and  your charming fungi.

Oh Washington … you and your charming fungi

IMG_2115

These damn mushrooms had me craving donuts throughout the entire state of Washington.

These damn mushrooms had me craving donuts throughout the entire state of Washington.

We woke the next morning to continuing downpours. We’d spent the night at an actual established campsite (which was rare for us) which meant we had access to a toilet (even more rare!) and we were tempted to just stay put for the day and sit out the bad weather, but we mustered up some motivation, packed up our wet gear, and headed out. The morning included a big climb that was supposed to culminate in amazing views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens, but instead afforded only a view of thick gray clouds and more drizzle. Freezing, wet, and miserable, we called it an early day and set up camp – the first time (but not the last) that the weather would actually stop us in our tracks. Washington weather would prove to be a worthy opponent, but fortunately after the first big storm in this state we were to enjoy a week and a half of absolutely amazing weather.

One of the many group camps we'd be part of in Washington.

One of the many group camps we’d be part of in Washington

Quite the stellar lunch view.

Quite the stellar lunch view

Mt. Adams peeking through the clouds at Killen Creek,

Mt. Adams peeking through the clouds at Killen Creek

IMG_2158

Nowhere was the beautiful weather more appreciated than the Goat Rocks Wilderness which we reached a few days later. We’d been looking forward to Goat Rocks for hundreds of miles because we’d heard so much about it, but we weren’t really prepared for the beauty. We emerged from the tree cover we’d been walking through since we reached Washington straight into steep drop-offs, stunning vistas, and some of the most challenging terrain we’d seen in ages. We’d been hearing that Goat Rocks rivaled the beauty of the Sierras, but had trouble believing that until we saw it for ourselves. My only complaint about Goat Rocks was that the section wasn’t long enough. We were out of it before the sun went down that same day but the next morning brought just a short jaunt into the next resupply “town” (read: gas station) of White Pass where we were looking forward to stuffing our faces and washing the musty, moldy smell of constant moisture out of our clothing.

Entering Hoat Rocks Wilderness.

Entering Goat Rocks Wilderness

IMG_2177

Distant view of Mt. Adams.

Distant view of Mt. Adams

Glacial fields in Goat Rocks.

Glacial fields in Goat Rocks

Taking it all in

Taking it all in

IMG_2203

Knife's Edge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Knife’s Edge in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

IMG_2213

Snow bridge

Snow bridge

In "town" - we had a tendency to take over available spaces while airing out/organizing our stuff. We also had a tendency to sniff out where the beer was kept.

In “town” – we had a tendency to take over available spaces while airing out/organizing our stuff. We also had a tendency to sniff out where the beer was kept.

Home Again, Home Again

pct

First of all, an apology. It’s been a long time since I updated. But we’re alive and well. And at home.

We didn’t make it to Canada. We had a tough but absolutely amazing trek through Washington. We made it to Stehekin, just 80 miles short of the Canadian border, before learning of an unusually early-season storm system threatening to wreak havoc on the Northern Cascades. We’d hiked into Stehekin through another storm which took a huge toll on us and nearly took us off the trail, and this next one was forecast to be much larger with a much lower snow level. We holed up in a hotel room for a few days, trying to determine whether we could continue. It was an emotional couple of days. We went over and over all of our options. We considered whether we could wait out the storm. We price-checked the gear we’d need to go forward through the snow. Deep down, we knew we weren’t just lacking the proper gear. We lacked the snow skills to take on the conditions we knew we were likely to face if we headed onward, but we wanted so badly to make it work. The thought of leaving the trail so close to the end absolutely gutted us both, but after several days of (me) breaking down into tears every time we talked about this being the end, we accepted it. And in the end, I have no doubt that it was absolutely the right decision for us. The storm dumped three feet of snow everywhere we would have been hiking for the next section, obliterating visible signs of the trail and leaving anyone who attempted to hike through postholing up to their waist in fresh snow with each step, which is an exhausting experience.  There were several hikers that were caught out on the trail during the storm who required emergency assistance from search and rescue. Thankfully, all of them made it out unharmed. Several more hikers attempted to hike through the last section in the days following the storm only to turn back around after finding it too difficult to pass through.

Ultimately, leaving the final 80 mile section for another time in better weather was the right choice for us but it still hurts. We weren’t aware of the rough forecast until we’d arrived in Stehekin, so we had no idea when we woke that morning that it would be our last day on trail. We’re still reeling from a lack of closure and we’re both missing the trail so much that it’s a physical ache. I wouldn’t trade our final days on trail for anything, though. If the PCT is a lesson, then Washington is the hardest final exam I’ve ever taken. Every day in Washington brought with it new challenges but it’s also where we forged and solidified some of the most amazing friendships we made throughout the whole trip.  We’re hoping to go back next summer to finish up the last 80 miles into Canada, ideally with several of our hiking buddies as a reunion of sorts. In the meantime, we have about 200 miles to mop up in Southern California, so we’ll be working on getting those done as soon as we can get out there. Right now we’re keeping busy catching back up with family and friends and adjusting back into life off-trail.

We still have lots to share about our time in Washington, and I am working on blog posts for the last 4 sections we completed. Those will all be up over the next few days. We also have a ton of photos to share from the trip (as well as the road trip home), so I’ll be getting those up, too. Thanks so much for sticking with us and for being part of our PCT experience. It meant so much to us to have so many people cheering us on!

From Timberline Lodge to Cascade Locks (Mile 2155)

*Update 5 of 5*

We hadn’t made it far from Timberline Lodge before the rain started again in earnest, and it didn’t stop for another 24 hours. To this point, the rain had been at most a small annoyance and hadn’t had any effect on our overall outlook, but we were beginning to get a bit discouraged. We had 48 miles to make in about a day and a half, and we didn’t have time to be slowed down trekking across muddy, slippery ground and dangerous rain-swollen river crossings. The miles were not coming easily for our waterlogged feet. “Oregon: Land of the Damp” had become “Oregon: Land of Everything-is-Soaking-Wet” and it’s fair to say that we were getting kind of cranky. We knew we were walking through some beautiful sections, but we couldn’t see enough through the gloomy storm clouds to even get a glimpse of them. The end of the night found us crowded into a large campsite with four other hikers, all of us just trying to get warm and stay as dry as possible.

 

We woke up early (before sunrise) in a thick blanket of fog, packed up our wet stuff, and headed out to tackle the final 29 miles to Cascade Locks. We plodded along all morning, packs heavy with wet gear, ready to just be done for the day. And then a few rays of sunshine peeked through. And we cheered it on. Literally. Maybe that gives a bit of insight into how desperate and drained we were feeling. Anyway, the sun started to make a bolder showing. Like magic, our moods lifted with every ray of sunshine we caught. And then we encountered actual magic … trail magic, that is. Headed to the Eagle Creek trailhead for an official PCT alternate route we’d been told we just had to take, we met Shutterbug, a thru-hiker from last year who lives in the Portland area and had just arrived to camp for the long weekend armed with chips, salsa, sodas, and cookies. He invited us to dig in and as we sat there chatting with him, swapping stories and laughing, the sun came out in full force. Between the unexpected trail magic and the brilliant sunshine, our crappy moods made a quick exit.

 

The Eagle Creek Alternate was even more amazing than we’d been told. Owing to the complete inability of anything in Oregon to dry due to the rain and extensive tree cover, the trail looked more like a jungle than a forest – green and lush with crazy mushrooms sprouting up all over the place. The camera was under the pack cover for most of the day on account of the rain and moisture so we didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, but we loved everything about it. One of the main attractions on the trail was Tunnel Falls, which is a gigantic, powerful waterfall that you can walk behind through a short tunnel. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. We took a short lunch break near the falls, dangling our feet over the edge of the ridge, just soaking it all in. Then it was time to pack it in and haul the final miles into Cascade Locks.

 

So why the rush? Because we were lucky enough to receive another amazing family visit. :) My dad and stepmom flew to Portland and then made the 45-minute drive to Cascade Locks to spend four nights here with us. And it was wonderful. We took a cruise out on the Columbia River Gorge and enjoyed the beautiful scenery that this area has to offer. We spent time relaxing, eating too much, drinking more, and playing increasingly competitive games of Oh Hell, which is a cherished and heated card game my family has played for years and years. There were endless giggles, tons of hugs and kisses, and so many stories to tell. They did their best to fatten us back up and completely spoiled us the entire time they were here – my dad even rubbed my disgusting, trail-beaten feet. He is a brave man. It means the world to us that they were able to come up and visit, and we are marching forward into Washington (Cascade Locks was the end to the Oregon portion; as soon as we walk across the Bridge of the God, we’ll be in Washington) feeling renewed and so very loved. They brought along goodies and well wishes from so many people we’ve been missing. We are so fortunate to have had the support and love of all of our families through this whole trek. We are two VERY lucky hikers, and we are feeling the love. <3 On to Washington!

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

Oregon has amazing waterfalls.

Oregon has amazing waterfalls.

Tunnel Falls. And an Eddie.

Tunnel Falls. And an Eddie.

It honestly looked like a jungle.

It honestly looked like a jungle.

My love.

My love.

Yay! Missed these faces so much.

Yay! Missed these faces so much.

Wine tasting.

Wine tasting.

IMG_1944

Popping some true Champagne they brought to celebrate our engagement. :)

Popping some true Champagne they brought to celebrate our engagement. :)

There is always time for dancing.

There is always time for dancing.

IMG_1960

Sternwheeler Cruise!

Sternwheeler Cruise!

IMG_1972

This handsome man is going to be my husband. I am the luckiest.

This handsome man is going to be my husband. I am the luckiest.

Snuggles with Dad.

Snuggles with Dad.

Windblown, but having so much fun!

Windblown, but having so much fun!

 

Ahhhhh....

Ahhhhh….

Tell me you don't think this is adorable and I'll call you a liar.

Tell me you don’t think this is adorable and I’ll call you a liar.

 

From Big Lake Youth Camp to Timberline Lodge (Mile 2107)

 

*Update 4 of 5*

Sometime during the night we began being serenaded by the steady fall of rain on our tent. It didn’t abate by morning, so we took our time packing up and enjoying the shelter provided by the porch at Big Lake Youth Camp. Eventually it became clear that the weather wasn’t going to let up, so it was time to gear up and head out. Not long into the day, we ran into a thru-hiker from last year doing amazing trail magic at Santiam Pass. He cooked up a pulled pork burrito for Edwin and a bean one for me as well as stuffing us full of sodas, chips, and whiskey … you know, on account of the cold weather.  :) We lingered there longer than we meant to – it is really hard to tear yourself away from shelter (and food and good company) when the weather is awful. We had short bursts of clear skies at a few points during the day, but for the most part it stayed wet and freezing cold all day long. I wanted little more than just to pitch the tent and hope for better weather the next day but there were miles we had to make so forward we marched.

 

Though the next day had been forecast to be rainy and the clouds hung dark and gloomy above us all day, there was no rain. We had just enough sunshine to dry some gear out and had an awesome day of hiking around Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. Oregon continued to amaze us. Between the fresh berries lining the trails, ridiculously beautiful mountain vistas, and even the unpredictable but powerful weather, there is little not to love about this state. Highlights of this section included Ollalie Lake (not only because of the hot coffee at the store that had us RUNNING in there first thing in the morning, but that certainly helped), Little Crater Lake (a tiny lake just off the PCT with the most amazingly crystal clear cold blue water – if you ever get a chance to check out either Crater Lake or Little Crater Lake, you’re crazy not to take it), and amazing views of Mt. Hood (Oregon’s tallest mountain).

 

And then there was Timberline Lodge itself. More specifically, the breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge. The lodge is a beautiful old building that was declared a National Historic Landmark by FDR. The breakfast buffet is a ridiculously delicious assortment of everything a thru-hiker could possibly want to eat, and we ate it all. There was a group of about eight of us all there at the same time, and though we all smelled terribly after having been in the rain for days, the employees at the lodge could not have been more gracious and welcoming to us. They encouraged us to stay in the dining room for as long as we wanted, eating as much food as we could handle and staying out of the rain that was once again pouring outside. At $15 per person, the breakfast buffet was one of the best deals we’ve encountered along the trail, not to mention the most delicious. We’d heard that the lunch buffet was even more amazing and we were super tempted to stay and find out for ourselves, but we were in a rush to make it to our next stop by the next evening so out we went, looking longingly at the tables of food they were setting up as we walked out the door into the drizzle.

Michael Flatley: Lord of the Dance.

Michael Flatley: Lord of the Dance all decked out in his rain gear.

Trail magic at Santiam Pass! Did us a world of good.

Trail magic at Santiam Pass! Did us a world of good.

I wouldn't even have known there was a lake here if Edwin hadn't stopped. Walking through clouds like gorillas in the mist.

I wouldn’t even have known there was a lake here if Edwin hadn’t stopped. Walking through clouds like gorillas in the mist.

Stormy days make for some awesome skies.

Stormy days make for some awesome skies.

Fresh huckleberries for our breakfast cereal! Oregon is rad.

Fresh huckleberries for our breakfast cereal! Oregon is rad.

Pushups. Because sometimes hiking 30 miles a day just isn't enough.

Pushups. Because sometimes hiking 30 miles a day just isn’t enough.

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Hippie love.

Hippie love.

Ollalie Lake and the ridiculously awesome view of Mt. Jefferson. I was super sad to have to leave this place so quickly.

Ollalie Lake and the ridiculously awesome view of Mt. Jefferson. I was super sad to have to leave this place so quickly.

You down with PCT? Yeah, you know me.

You down with PCT? Yeah, you know me.

Little Crater Lake. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe it.

Little Crater Lake. Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it.

Mt. Hood!

Mt. Hood!

Pull-ups. Showoff.

Pull-ups. Showoff.

Vertical planks to keep things interesting.

Vertical planks to keep things interesting.

Whaaaat? 550 to go? That's it?

Whaaaat? 550 to go? That’s it?

Timberline Lodge from afar.

Timberline Lodge from afar.

 

From Shelter Cove Resort to Big Lake Youth Camp (Mile 2000.5)

*Update 3 of 5*

It was my fault, really. I’m not typically one to be superstitious, but I feel like I brought this upon us.

“It’s so hot and dry here,” I complained on the phone with my brother the night we left Shelter Cove, as well as four other times that day to anyone who would listen. “’Land of the Damp,’ it’s called?* That seems inaccurate,” I continued. “I’m beginning to think we’ve been mislead about Oregon.”

That night I woke with a start to water being splashed on my face. We’d gone to sleep without the rain fly on our tent, and there was a steady sprinkle of light raindrops falling through the mesh.

“Hey,” I elbowed Edwin as I was scrambling out of the tent. “It’s raining.”

He blearily sat up, unrolling the rain fly from the tent bag at our feet while I ran around the tent in my skivvies, snapping it on. He sleepily smiled and said, “The woman getting out to fix the tent at night? I could get used to this.” The rain stopped the instant I shoved the final stake into the ground. We made a joke about taking all the fun out of it for Mother Nature when we actually woke up before getting completely drenched, vowed to put the rain fly up every night through Oregon and Washington whether or not there were clouds in the sky when we made camp, and quickly fell back asleep.

The next day was cool, much cooler than it had been since we’d entered Oregon. It made for good hiking weather and we were putting up quick miles when we sat down near a lake to grab water and sign a trail register.

“Was that a raindrop?”

“Hmmm … I felt one, too. It’s probably nothing.”

Just then, two ladies on horseback who’d passed us earlier going the other direction returned.

“Ride over already?” we asked.

They said they’d decided to cut out early, that they’d done rain rides in the past and didn’t feel like repeating one today. We smiled politely and hiked on a few minutes later.

“Bah,” I thought. “It’s not going to rain. They say it never rains in the summer in Oregon.”

Shortly after, we passed a father out with his children – they were returning from several days of backpacking and booking it back to the parking lot near the lake we’d just passed – they’d heard from the ranger that thunderstorms were expected that afternoon and hoped to finish their trip before the rain started falling.

“They don’t even look like storm clouds,” I said quietly after we were out of earshot.

Drip. Drip drip. Drip drip drip.

GUSH.

Down came the rain. For hours. We got a short period of timid sunshine in the afternoon, but the sky starting dumping rain intensely again just before sundown, leaving us to hurriedly set up camp before everything was thoroughly soaked. We huddled in the tent, now sharing our already too-small space with our packs to keep them dry, listened to the torrential rains coming down, and giggled. “Don’t ever mock the weather in Oregon,” I said, laughing. “Apparently she doesn’t like it.”

The next day dawned clear and sunny and the rest of the section found us traveling around the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Sisters are three mountains in Oregon that are simply stunning. The landscape opened up at this point and offered amazing views of the mountains. That was the point where I fell absolutely in love with this state. The following day is the day I was nearly talked out of it again. Kidding! But we did spend an entire day gingerly stepping our way through large fields of lava rocks. They were cool to look at, but horrid to walk though. I heard another hiker refer to them as “foot-shredding hell rocks” and there’s no more perfect way to describe it.  We were ridiculously happy when the end of the day brought an end of the lava rocks along with mile marker 2000 – crazy milestone. We stopped in at Big Lake Youth Camp and though the camp wasn’t really in full operation since we were there on a weekend, we were able  get our resupply done, grab a flat spot on which to pitch our tent, and rest our very sore and tired feet. As we were laying down to sleep, thankful to be done with the lava, I remarked, “At least it wasn’t raining today! I can’t imagine doing that with wet feet.”

You can see what’s coming next, can’t you?

Middle Rosary Lake - lake water in Oregon is crazy clear.

Middle Rosary Lake – lake water in Oregon is crazy clear.

First glimpse of South Sister.

First glimpse of South Sister.

Mirror Lake. Aptly named.

Mirror Lake. Aptly named.

The magnificent South Sister.

The magnificent South Sister.

Cool stretch of trail.

Cool stretch of trail.

A blanket of fog down below.

A blanket of fog down below.

Obsidian Falls

Obsidian Falls

Sisters

Sisters

All three sisters visible in one shot.

All three sisters visible in one shot.

You can't see his face, but it doesn't look happy.

You can’t see his face, but it doesn’t look happy.

It looked like this. Not feeling blissful.

It looked like this. Not feeling blissful.

Lava fields as far as the eye can see.

Lava fields as far as the eye can see.

This lonely little tree thriving against all odds in a huge field of lava. Where there's a will ...

This lonely little tree thriving against all odds in a huge field of lava. Where there’s a will …

It was pretty miserable to walk on, but stunningly beautiful all the same.

It was pretty miserable to walk on, but stunningly beautiful all the same.

We hit 2000 and finished with the lava, so we celebrated with fish faces. Obviously.

We hit 2000 and finished with the lava, so we celebrated with fish faces. Obviously.

 

From Crater Lake to Shelter Cove Resort (Mile 1912)

*Update 2 of 5*

We snuck out of the Mazama Village Campground early and as quietly as we could. We’d been in Crater Lake National Park for more than 12 hours and were dying to finally see the lake, plus we figured an early escape would help us avoid any awkward encounters with our “neighbors.” It was a four-mile hike up to the rim and we were eagerly anticipating the view. We weren’t disappointed. The first view of Crater Lake was breathtaking. In the cool windless morning, the water was like absolute glass, so much so that it was actually hard to determine where the land ended and the lake began. I’ve said it before, but truly the pictures just don’t do justice to seeing a beauty like this in person.

 

The PCT walks the rim of Crater Lake for about 11 miles, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the sights. We made slow progress for the first few miles, stopping every time we got a new angle for a photo. Finally our hunger won out and we sat down to one of the most beautiful “second breakfasts” we’ve had on the trail. Suddenly the pizza order we’d put in before leaving the restaurant the night before didn’t seem so silly. :)

 

The remainder of the day after leaving Crater Lake was less exciting – the “green tunnel” had returned and we were still trekking through a 27-mile stretch between water sources. From all we knew of Oregon (which, to be honest, was mostly based on TV shows like Portlandia), we weren’t expecting to have to carry so much water – we figured there’d be ample water sources available along the trail. And as it turns out, we were kind of right – there are ample sources of water, but the PCT was leading us right around them. Apparently, when the Pacific Crest Trail was still in development, it was believed that the trail would be primarily used for equestrian purposes. For that reason, long stretches of the PCT deliberately avoid water sources, at least in part to keep horses from polluting water sources all along the trail and also probably because folks who are riding the trail on horseback can travel longer distances more quickly. Which is super interesting, but not at all helpful to those of us who don’t have horses and have to schlep our own water around, so we were starting to become a little frustrated with the water situation – we were having flashbacks to being back in the desert.

 

When we found out that the next day held an optional alternate route along the Oregon Skyline Trail (the original border-to-border trail in Oregon), all we needed to know to make the decision to take it was that the alternate route ran near a few awesome lakes and creeks along the way. This was starting to look a little more like the Oregon we’d been expecting. The OST alternate was a 20.5-mile stretch of trail that lead us straight into our next resupply at the beautiful Shelter Cove Resort where we managed to nab quick showers, a load of laundry, and a pizza (each) before heading back out.

Crater Lake. Breathtaking.

Crater Lake. Breathtaking.

 

Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

Cold pizza breakfast on the rim of Crater Lake. Winning.

Cold pizza breakfast on the rim of Crater Lake. Winning.

Cool shot of Wizard Island.

Cool shot of Wizard Island.

One more for the road.

One more for the road.

IMG_1755

Beauty.

Beauty.

Stunning.

Stunning.

 

 

I see you, moon.

I see you, moon.

 

From Ashland to Crater Lake (Mile 1835)

*Update 1 of 5*

Leaving Ashland proved to be more difficult than we’d hoped, not just because we were loving the town and the people, but because it turned out that the guy who’d offered us a ride back to the trailhead the day before did not actually have a working vehicle.  Strange, but strong evidence of how friendly Oregonians are, I guess. He wanted to help us out so badly that he was planning on trying to borrow a car from a friend. Once we figured out our intended ride had no more access to a vehicle than we did, we managed a quick hitchhike back to the trail and were on our way.

We had the camera on a timer. Clearly we need more practice at taking our own picture.

We had the camera on a timer. Clearly we need more practice at taking our own picture.

Some of the most common questions we get from people are about whether we ever get lost and how hard it is to navigate the PCT. We do occasionally take the wrong trail, but we’ve never gone down the wrong path for long. The PCT has a personality that you come to easily recognize after you’ve been walking along it for as long as we have. The trail is usually well groomed, fairly well graded, and heavily traveled. When you find yourself on a section without these characteristics and find yourself asking, “Can this be the PCT?,” the answer is often (though not always) no.  Another way to keep on track is simply to follow the “other” signs.  If you’re not out at the front of the pack, chances are that most of the trail intersections that aren’t clearly signed have been helpfully marked by thru-hikers that have gone before you.  Using stick arrows, rock cairns, or notes on trail markers, hikers have indicated the northbound PCT routes. I snapped the picture below of an intersection I nearly missed. I was in the lead position, head down and fully entranced in “trail-vision,” not paying enough attention to my surroundings, and hadn’t even noticed the other trail crossing the one we were on. I would have continued on straight ahead had I not noticed the giant stick arrow directing us off to the side (and, if that wasn’t enough, the giant “NO” admonishing me not to continue straight). I think it’s safe to assume that these markings were clearly left by someone who had made that mistake before us. So thanks, helpful stranger, for keeping us from the same fate!

Heh. Thanks for the tip, stranger!

Heh. Thanks for the tip, stranger!

We’d heard that the trail leveled out quite a lot in Oregon and that Southern Oregon was a bit of a “green tunnel” where we’d see nothing but trees for days at a time – it was quickly evident in this section that both of those things were true. It was beautiful, but we found ourselves missing the scenic views of California. Still, we were ecstatic to be headed towards Crater Lake, which was one of the places we’d been most looking forward to seeing. We were to spend several hours trekking through Crater Lake National Park before we could catch a glimpse of the lake itself. We reached Mazama Village at the outskirts of the park in early evening and planned to quickly grab our resupply package and a fast dinner at the restaurant before hitting the trail again that night to make our way toward the rim of the lake – we’d decided to forego the campground at the village partly due to the high cost ($30/site when we could easily grab a non-established campsite for no cost at all) and partly just to get back on the trail as quickly as possible. Dinner ran much later than we’d planned, possibly because we decided at the last minute to add a pizza to our order that we could pack out with us to take on the trail. We had the restaurant package the whole thing up in foil for us and had a good laugh at ourselves for thinking a pizza was necessary when we’d just resupplied with a ton of food for a small upcoming section.

By the time we made it out of the restaurant, it was pitch black and we were having a terrible time finding where the feeder trail picked up in the dark. We knew we could head back to where we came off the trail, but that was a mile-long trek along a busy highway with a tiny shoulder – not a walk we felt safe making in the dark. We were stumbling through the campground with our headlamps on, having no luck locating the trail we intended to take back to the PCT. Frustrated, we decided to just stealthily set up our tent in the campground, essentially poaching on someone else’s campsite. We were far enough to the side that they didn’t seem to mind (or maybe they didn’t notice), but we lay awake for quite a while, nervously giggling and fearing discovery by a park ranger. Every time the headlights of a passing car washed over our tent, we figured we’d been caught. We weren’t so much concerned about getting in trouble for illegally camping in the campground, but for not having our food stored in the bear boxes provided at each site as required of all campers in the campground. While the campers we were stealing space from may not have cared about us being their distant neighbors, I did figure they may take more notice of us noisily trying to squeeze our packs into their bear box. My primary concern was really that our pizza would be carried off by a bear while we slumbered – I have such a one-track mind out here.  Thankfully, when we woke from a fitful night of sleep at the crack of dawn, both us and our packs were undisturbed by rangers and bears. We packed up camp as quietly as we could so as not to disturb our unwitting hosts and set off to check out the lake.

South Brown Shelter. Cool little place. Didn't see any rats at this one, but then we didn't stay the night here.

South Brown Shelter. Cool little place. Didn’t see any rats at this one, but then we didn’t stay the night here.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

The skies out here. They get me, every time.

The skies out here. They get me, every time.

1800!!

1800!!

Ahhh ...

Ahhh …

 

Quick Update from Mile 1916

This isn’t a real post. This is just a quick note to apologize for not posting. We are doing well and moving along (currently just north of Crescent, OR at approximately mile 1916), but have had neither computer access nor strong wireless signal since leaving Ashland. Also, we are jamming along to make it to Cascade Locks by next Friday, so our days have been long and our resupply stops have been very short – just enough time to grab our package, shower, do laundry, and eat a quick (but large) meal. So please excuse the delay – I promise to be back to posting ASAP. In the meantime, here are a couple photos from the completely stunning Crater Lake – more to come with the updates. Thanks for being patient with us!

ResizedImage_1377139843055ResizedImage_1377139865826

From Etna to Ashland (Mile 1726.5)

There was a fire raging nearby while we were in Etna, so we knew we would be battling heavy smoke for a few days, but we decided to press on. Even though the trail was still open, there were a lot of hikers leaving Etna and skipping ahead to further up the trail to avoid the smoke. I’m so glad we decided not to join them. This ended up being one of the most fun little sections we’ve done in a while.

Stormy skies brewing

Stormy skies brewing

We got a hitch back to the trail late in the afternoon and intended to do about 15 miles before calling it a night but the weather had other plans. We knew there was a chance of thunderstorms but it was hard to tell storm clouds from the smoke and haze. At about 5:00 pm we started seeing lightening,  much closer than we felt comfortable with. We typically march on during inclement weather, never paying it too much mind, despite the fact that our trekking poles are essentially lightening rods in our hands. But this was much closer than any storm we’ve hiked through. The lightening was right on top of us and we were traversing an open rock face between bouts of limited tree cover. It’s honestly the closest I’ve come to feeling anything close to fear on this entire trip. So when a quick check of the map showed a suitable campsite half a mile away, we booked for it. Despite being several hours earlier than we’d intended to stop hiking, we pitched our tent there, just before the skies opened up and starting dumping rain. We also enjoyed a brief but violent show of hail from the warmth of our tent, making it the third occasion this trip we’ve been hailed on. So much for a dry year! ;)

It's a little like walking through an enchanted forest in a Disney movie.

It’s a little like walking through an enchanted forest in a Disney movie.

Stormy and smoky skies were the norm for the next couple days, accompanying us into the tiny trail town of Seiad Valley, California … or Jefferson,  if the people living there had their way. They’re part of the movement in northern California that is calling for a separationof  northern and southern California into two states. We decided not to mention where we were from. The little town was incredibly welcoming, though.  The RV park lets PCT hikers set up in their grass and use their facilities for a small fee, so there was a small encampment of tents the night we were there, all people we’d been running into or camping near for the last few days. We all piled into their little TV room to watch a movie from their extensive VHS collection. Predator was the big winner, and while it wouldn’t have been my first selection, it was a weirdly wonderful movie night.

Hiker trash encampment at the Seiad Valley RV Park

Hiker trash encampment at the Seiad Valley RV Park

We elected to skip the famous Seiad Valley Cafe Pancake Challenge the next morning. The challenge includes 5 one-pound pancakes and your meal is free if you can down them all within 2 hours. If I tried to eat even a pound of pancakes I’d probably never want to hike (or move) again, so we opted for hefty omelets instead. One of the hikers there had attempted the challenge the day before and made it through three pancakes before throwing in the towel. I don’t imagine many people get their meal on the house, but the cafe has been featured on Food Network (or maybe the Travel Channel?) as one of the premier places to “pig out” in America.

This greeted me when I opened the door to the resttroom at the Seiad Valley Cafe. A life-sized cut-out of the X-Files duo. It startled me so badly I nearly had a heart attack.  The staff at the cafe all watches through the window whenever they see anyone heading to the bathroom to see their reaction to it. Gotta love a business with a sense of humor. :)

This greeted me when I opened the door to the resttroom at the Seiad Valley Cafe. A life-sized cut-out of the X-Files duo. It startled me so badly I nearly had a heart attack. The staff at the cafe all watches through the window whenever they see anyone heading to the bathroom to see their reaction to it. Gotta love a business with a sense of humor. :)

Leaving Seiad Valley, we went straight up into one of the more notorious climbs along the PCT. You gain 5000 feet of elevation in about 7 miles and it’s among the steeper climbs we encounter along the way. In fact, we heard that some of the hikers skipping out from Etna due to the fire had decided to skip ahead all the way to Ashland just to avoid it (lame). It’s something we had been kind of dreading since we were first perusing the elevation profiles before our trip started, and I was weirdly looking forward to tackling it and putting it behind us. It turned out to be over-hyped and not nearly as horrible as we’d been led to believe. We made the climb at the same time as two other hikers we’d camped with at the RV park and ended up seeing both of them at the border crossing the next day so we got to celebrate the passing into Oregon together.

Enjoying the view from the top

Enjoying the view from the top

That’s right – after 3 months of hiking we have finally set foot in the beautiful state of Oregon! Our first resupply stop brought us into the cool, funky town of Ashland where we have been enjoying ridiculously good food, good coffee and beer, and a comfy hotel bed. People here has been overwhelmingly friendly and I could easily see spending more time here. But we are marching on! Can’t wait to see what the rest of Oregon holds.

Our breakup letter to California written in the trail register at the CA/OR border. Added bonus: this entry now has at least one hiker insistent on calling Edwin "Kisses Kudu" instead of just "Kudu." Best name ever.

Our breakup letter to California written in the trail register at the CA/OR border (as with all the images, just click to enlarge). Added bonus: this entry now has at least one hiker insistent on calling Edwin “Kisses Kudu” instead of just “Kudu.” Best name ever.

A moment seemingly forever in the making

A moment seemingly forever in the making

You can always spot a hiker hotel room. First rule: shoes stay outside.

You can always spot a hiker hotel room. First rule: shoes stay outside.

From Burney Falls to Etna (Mile 1606)

Having left all our “chores” for after our amazing visit with my family, we had quite a day ahead of us after they headed home. We’d arranged a ride back to the trailhead from the hotel clerk who said he’d take us whenever we were ready, so we leisurely went about sorting through our supplies, fixing my broken pack, and a few runs to the store. There were also leftovers from the weekend to dispose of … into our bellies. As we worked, we set about finishing off leftover Chinese food, fruit, snacks, and a couple beers.  Then our eyes fell upon a bottle of vodka which we’d planned to pack out with us … “Well, while we’re here …” By the time our chores were finally done, there was a serious dent in the bottle and we no longer felt any real drive to hike. Whoops! Finally back at the trailhead in the late afternoon, we managed a few miles before plopping down to camp near Lake Britton where we’d been boating a few days earlier. Not a terribly productive day,  mileage-wise, but a fun one nonetheless.

Lovely little camp spot near Lake Britton Day after such a looong day of hiking :)

Lovely little camp spot near Lake Britton Day after such a looong day of hiking :)

Serenity

Serenity

We actually stopped for a resupply between Burney Falls and Etna – in the tiny town of Castella just off the trail – but I combined these two sections into one because there isn’t a whole lot to report. The trail since Burney has been beautiful, but there are only so many ways to say, “We woke up, hiked, ate, hiked, and slept,” without being ridiculously repetitive.  The first day notwithstanding, this leg has flown by – we are mo!ti!vated! Seeing family was wonderful and we need more of it. Plus, we are ready to get the heck out of California. We’ve been walking for ages; it’s time to be able to say we’ve at least made it out of state. We’ve decided 25 is the new 20 and have been pulling 25 miles at a minimum each day. We pulled out another 30 the other day just because we had the time. I don’t know what’s happened to us. We both admitted to being sad that the trail didn’t ascend Mt. Shasta, merely passed near it. I never would have imagined being sad that I didn’t have yet another mountain to summit, but here we are. Physically, we’re feeling better than we have the whole trip, and we’re moving right along. We did the 100 miles from Castella to Etna in under 4 full days of hiking (daily totals 25, 30, 26, and 19 miles). We’ll be crossing the border into Oregon Sunday night if all goes according to plan. We’re coming for you, Canada!

Our buddies for breakfast at Ash Camp near McCloud River

Our buddies for breakfast at Ash Camp near McCloud River

Near the 5 freeway ... just a quick ride home. Should we hitch?

Near the 5 freeway … just a quick ride home. Should we hitch?

Sign at the campground in Castella. The numbers are a little off, but it is nice to see the mileage to Canada noticeably less than the miles to Mexico!

Sign at the campground in Castella. The numbers are a little off, but it is nice to see the mileage to Canada noticeably less than the miles to Mexico!

*There is a fire burning near our current location of Etna (in the Marble Mountain Wilderness of Klamath National Forest). We have been experiencing lots of smoke but we’re not in the fire’s path (fingers crossed that remains the case!). The PCT is still open for now. We’re marching on and hope to be out of it soon!*

**Sorry for the less-than-enthralling post … we’re kicking around some ideas for future blog posts, but if there is anything you want to see in particular, let us know in the comments or shoot me an email.**

I do not know who names these water sources. Lately we've passed Poison Creek, Deadman Creek, Butcherknife Creek ... No thank you, Burstarse Creek. I want nothing to do with your water or the consequences that come with drinking it.

I do not know who names these water sources. Lately we’ve passed Poison Creek, Deadman Creek, Butcherknife Creek … No thank you, Burstarse Creek. I want nothing to do with your water or the consequences that come from drinking it.

Fantastic view of Mt. Shasta

Fantastic view of Mt. Shasta

I will never get tired of these kinds of views.

I will never get tired of these kinds of views.