We Haven’t Killed Each Other...Yet

Ashland, OR to Crater Lake National Park

“Are you two still getting along?” or a version of that, is the number one question Kilo and I get from everyone; our friends, family and people we have met along the trail.  The answer is yes.  Of course there are days when we annoy each other and/or one or both of us might be in a bad mood, but we are walking to Canada over a 6-7 month time frame, so I think that is normal.  We have definitely seen, and smelled, each other at some of our worst moments.  There are days when our feet hurt, our legs hurt, our shoulders hurt, we smell, we are dirty, we are covered in bug bites while getting bit by more bugs, we are hungry, we are thirsty, and we are walking up a mountain all day (in general, very uncomfortable).  It is only human to get a little irritable from time to time.  When possible, and it is not easy when you hike together all day and live in a tent, we do try to give each other some space.  If I have had a rough day, Kilo might give me some time alone in the tent to just lay there in silence.  Or sometimes I will leave Kilo to chat with other male hikers, so that he is not always just talking to me.  We have found a way to make this work...so far.  Just under 800 miles to go!

We woke up at Callahan’s, had a proper pancake breakfast, and then headed back to the trail around 10:15am.  The late start meant heat.  This was an odd section of the trail.  It never felt like we were going North.  We kept walking South East with views of Shasta.  The terrain was full of dead wood and shrubs including a lot of poison oak.  We did not see anyone all day until about one mile from camp when we passed five other hikers all heading to the same tent site because it also had the only water source for miles.  We fell asleep fast only to be awaken in the night by critters.  I was in a deep sleep when Kilo awoke me to say, “hey, something is getting into your bag.”  I jumped up, grabbed my headlamp & shined it on my backpack.  I did not see anything.  I checked my food bag and everything looked ok so I turned off the headlamp and went back to sleep.  But not for long.  I could hear little animals running around our tent.  I was worried they were going to chew a hole in the tent or in Kilo’s new backpack.  At one point in the night, I looked up and saw two tiny mice chasing each other over the roof of our tent.  In the early morning hours, I then heard a deer licking the ground outside the tent.  I jumped up again to make sure my shoes and trekking poles were all in the vestibule of the tent so the deer would not snatch them.  It was a restless night, but in the morning our tent and backpacks were still in tact and none of our food was missing.

Despite not sleeping the night before, the next morning we took off motivated by pizza for lunch.  We had a 12 mile hike to a road that led to the Hyatt Lake Resort.  We then did a one mile road walk to the cafe.  I am so glad we made this little detour for lunch.  Despite the pizza, the owner mentioned she was hurting for business this year.  With the heavy snow pack in the Sierras, there really has not been a large bubble of PCT hikers come through.  She said it has been hard to estimate inventory for food in the restaurant and supplies in the store.  Kilo and I were happy to support this small business, and to fill our bellies.  One of the workers even gave us a ride back to the trail head where she was headed to pick up another hiker.  That other hiker turned out to be Jazzy.  We have been hiking off and on with Jazzy since Burney Falls.  Post lunch we had another 8 mile hike to Klum Campground on Howard Prairie Lake.  It was slow hiking because we were so full from lunch.  But when we arrived to the campground, we found only a handful of other PCT hikers.  We had the place to ourselves.  Not only did the campground have picnic tables and flushable toilets, but there were also free hot showers.  We showered and dried off with bandanas, which meant we air dried and put our clothes on while still wet.  It felt awesome to go to bed clean even if I had to put my stinky hiking clothes back on in the morning. Today we met an amazing young lady, Blueberry, who will be entering her Senior year of college this fall.  Last summer, she hiked the first half of the trail and this summer she is completing it.  She is hiking at break neck speeds doing 30-40 miles per day.  She already has a flight booked back to Denver for August 24th so she has to make it to Canada and then down to Seattle for her flight that day.  The day after she arrives back in Denver she is running an ultra marathon (which she will be well trained for considering she is currently doing one every day), and then the following day her classes start.  Talk about an overachiever!  

We woke up clean, put on dirty clothes and headed uphill.  The day started out great.  It was smooth sailing for the first seven miles uphill followed by a long, flat stretch.  We stopped at the South Brown Mountain shelter for water and lunch.  There we sat at picnic tables with two older women horseback riders.  They kept offering me their snacks which I was happy to take (apples...fruit!).  We left the shelter in good spirits, but they quickly faded.  First, I was stung in the back of the head by a wasp which hurt like hell for two days and then itched for two more. Then the trail transitioned from smooth dirt to lava rocks.  These are a killer on your feet and they are only making the hole in my shoe larger letting in more dirt.  The lava rock made Kilo angry.  He kept asking, “why does the trail go through this when I can see not even 100 yards away a normal forest floor where they could have put the trail.” His level of anger towards the lava rocks was equal to his anger when someone had moved the 500 mile marker...angry!  The anger eventually turned to silence.  We were both in the pain cave and had to push through to get this over with as soon as possible.  I kept saying to myself, “when you are going through hell, keep going.  The only way out is through.”  All I wanted to do was to sit down and rest my pained feet, but that would only prolong the misery.  Also, when the lava rocks started, the mosquitos came out.  So taking a break was not an option unless we wanted to get eaten alive.  We finally hit the turn off to the Fish Lake Resort, our camping destination for the night.  There is a cafe there that closes at 7pm.  Initially our goal was to make it to the resort in time for dinner, but once we hit the lava rocks and were slowed down, we figured that would never happen.  We arrived at 7:15 and the cafe was closed, but the gentleman that worked there said he would put in a to-go order for us and we could eat outside on the patio.  This literally made our evening.  Both Kilo and I were tired and hungry.  After we ate, we pitched our tent in the dark and in silence as we were not in the best moods.  It was a long 25 mile day that we were happy to say Good Night to. 

We slept in the next morning.  Well, Kilo slept in.  I always wake up at 5am, and am just not capable of sleeping in.  This morning we took advantage of the amenities at Fish Lake and took showers (only to get sweaty and dirty again mere hours later, but it felt good at the time), and did a load of laundry.  We left Fish Lake at about 1pm after pounding Gatorade.  We had a relatively easy 11 mile hike to where we would camp for the night.  The tent site was right by Christi’s Spring.  We had heard about the Oregon mosquitos so we knew they were coming, but nothing can really prepare you for when you hit a swarm.  The mosquito swarms cause me to have a full on panic attack.  I cannot get more clothes, my bug net and deet on fast enough.  About a half mile before our campsite, the swarm hit.  The panic began.  We got to the tent site and set the tent up as fast as possible.  Unfortunately we then had to go down to the spring, the breeding ground, for water.  Back at our tent I jumped inside for the night.  I was done with these blood suckers.  Kilo stayed outside and cooked dinner.  I ate a cliff bar, a beef stick and a Snickers bar for dinner because I did not want to go outside to cook.  It was definitely not a shining moment in my personal nutrition; however I probably saved myself from about 50 bites.  Inside the tent, I put on long pants, a long sleeved shirt, socks and my puffy jacket despite it being about 80 degrees outside.  I had to go pee so I wanted to cover myself as much as possible.  I ran out of the tent, and was totally attacked while peeing.  Now I have chicken-pox like mosquito bites all over my bum bum.  Also, I was feeling a little feverish.  I just had the chills.  I am thinking it was probably The West Nile Virus (*sarcasm*, it was likely dehydration). Next to us in the tent site was one brave, brave young soul...a guy cowboy camping (camping with no tent) amidst all of these mosquitos.  Between the mosquito swarm, the cartoon-like massive black ants and the bees, cowboy camping would be my worst nightmare at this point.  Before going to sleep, we heard the reassuring sound of a large animal roaring multiple times in the forest.  A bear?  

The next morning we set the alarm for an early wake up.  This time we actually got up and got an early start.  We began the hike wearing our rain pants, puffy jackets, and Kilo was even wearing his gloves, to protect ourselves from the mosquitos.  We are finally starting to see groups of hikers again going both north and south bound.  One hiker confirmed we did hear a bear roaring last night.  He had camped much closer to the bear than he would have preferred.  There is a wildfire in Canyonville, OR which is causing poor air quality and basically it smells like hot dogs all day (which is making me hungry).  With just five miles left in our 20 mile day we had to camel up and fill all of our bottles with water because there would be no more water sources until Crater Lake.  It was like being back in the Mojave Desert.  We arrived at our campsite for the night and camped with three other hikers.  

5am alarm again.  Crater Lake day!  We had a 15 mile hike to Mazama Village at Crater Lake National Park.  The air quality due to the wildfire was bad this morning.  Much of the morning’s hike was through an area that had burned last year.  It felt as though we were walking through an ash tray.  There was ash on the ground and smoke in our lungs.  At Mazama Village we grabbed lunch and picked up our packages.  Our good friend Debbie shipped us our resupply box which was helpful because the resupply options at a National Park are limited and expensive.  Our friends Angela and Charlie shipped us these delicious (and HUGE) peanut butter cookies with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in them. We will be eating well in this next section!  The PCT hikers section of the Mazama Campground was closed due to tree removal.  I was able to purchase one of the last RV sites and told the workers at the front desk to let other PCT hikers know we have this spot that they can come crash in and we will all split the cost.  We only ended up with two other hikers in the site.  We did get to take showers.  But then I hid in the tent for the remainder of the night from the mosquitos.  One quick walk to the bathroom yielded a minimum of six to ten new bites. And word from up North is that the mosquito situation is not going away any time soon.  Super. 

The next morning we were able to sleep in.  I even slept until 6am which is late for me.  We took the 9am trolley up to the rim of Crater Lake.  We hiked the Rim Trail to the junction of the PCT.  It worked out nicely as a portion of the PCT was closed due to high mountain lion activity.  The morning at the lake was smokey from the wildfires, but as the day progressed the air cleared and Crater Lake started to show that deep blue color it is known for.  Kilo and I took one detour up the Watchman Trail to a fire tower that overlooks the lake and the whole park.  Once we got to the PCT junction we were able to get water from a cache left by trail angels (thank you as this is a particularly dry section).  Because we got a late start and we played tourists in the National Park today, we decided to camp right at the junction.  Tomorrow we will hit the highest point on the PCT in both Oregon and Washington!