Land Of Lakes & Volcanoes
Crater Lake to Bend/Sisters, OR
The days are getting shorter. Our 5am wake ups are now in complete darkness. It makes it hard to rise, but we know if we want to get into camp before 8pm, we have to go. This particular morning was cold too. For the first hour we hiked in our puffy jackets. The first 9 miles were in perfectly flat terrain so we were cruising. The back half of our day was all uphill. First we climb to the base of Mt. Thielsen. From there we continued up to the highest point on the PCT in Oregon and Washington at 7,560 feet. So, it is all down hill from here, right? Ha, I wish. We were less than a mile out from our tent site for the night when we hit a mega swarm of mosquitos. Kilo literally started sprinting and I followed suite. I am almost out of deet and days away from a place that might sell it, so outrunning the mosquitos seemed like a viable option. We made it to camp which was relatively mosquito free so we were able to actually eat dinner outside and chat with other hikers before bed.
In the morning we had a 16 mile hike to the first water source which was a cache left by trail angels. We got to the cache around 2pm, refilled our water and rested in the shade. There we met Coach and Grizzly who informed us of a PCT alternate trail that led to a horse camp where hikers could camp for the night. The horse camp was 10 miles from the cache. It had picnic tables, pit toilets and shortened the hike to Shelter Cove by seven miles. We were sold on the alternate. We hiked the additional 10 miles to the horse camp stopping to cook our dinner along the way. That made for a marathon day. (Reminder to self, run an ultra marathon when I get home. This is the best shape I will ever be in). As we got closer to the camp we had to pass several lakes and streams which made for a full on assault by the mosquitos - Enemy Number 1. It was the worst yet. No amount of deet could save us. When we arrived at the horse camp, we met Jim and Jerri, the camp hosts. They gave us the run down on where to set up camp and then offered us a beer. Instant friends. We set up our tent and put on pants and puffy jackets for more of a barrier against the vampires. Jim started a fire and we all sat around talking and playing with Charlie, their dog. Jerri gave us some grapes and a nectarine that tasted like pure heaven. We eat so much packaged food while hiking, fresh fruits and vegetables always taste good when we have the opportunity to eat them. We thanked Jim and Jerri for their hospitality and went to bed.
We hit the trail at 8am the next morning. We had 10.5 miles to Shelter Cove. We cruised through the hike as it was relatively flat and full of mosquitos so stopping was not an option. When we got into Shelter Cove, Prometheus and NotAMiner were there. It was awesome to see them again, but unfortunately Prometheus had injured his foot. They will be hanging out here for about five more days to see if his foot will heal and they will be able to continue their hike. We grabbed burgers and a beer and hung out on the patio chatting with other hikers all day. We were able to take showers and do laundry, thank god. As funny as it sounds, there is so much dirt on the trail in Oregon; a dark, sand-like substance that adheres nicely to deet. At the end of each day our legs are covered, and when I take my socks off my feet are black. I also now have a hole in both shoes and in the bottom of my socks. In the evening while having dinner, Kilo and I met a mother and son who bring their RV to Shelter Cove for a month every August. They also have a small boat, and invited us on a sunset cruise on O’dell Lake. We said heck yeah! At the beginning of the day we had no clue we would be riding on a boat. It was a great break from hiking. After the cruise we hung out on the patio a bit more and then went to bed after hiker midnight (9pm). There is a designated tenting section for PCT hikers at Shelter Cove.
The next morning we slept in until 8:15. We packed up all of our stuff with the intention of heading out after breakfast. We went down to the restaurant/hiker hangout picnic tables to grab some coffee and bagels and two hours later we were still sitting there. We had been sucked into the vortex that is Shelter Cove. It was now the heat of the day, and there was an ice cream social scheduled for 2pm. So, we decided we would hit the trail at 3pm. We enjoyed the ice cream and finally ended up leaving at 3:30. We only did eight miles out to the Maiden Peak Shelter, a ski hut where we stayed for the night. We were excited to not have to set up our tent amidst the mosquitos. When we walked in the hut there were three hikers already sitting at the table eating their dinners. They were headed Southbound and gave us the scoop on what is ahead for us. Kilo and I soon said good night and went upstairs to the loft which we had to ourselves.
Mosquitos have been a reoccurring theme in my most recent blog posts. Well, here I go again...today was the single worst mosquito day yet. It was the worst because it was a continuous swarm throughout the whole day. It was likely a continuous swarm because we were constantly walking past lakes and ponds. I do not think we walked a full mile without passing a body of water even if sometimes they were overly large puddles. We got a brief respite at lunch on Charlton Lake and then again as we walked through a burnt portion of the forest, but for the remainder of the day the vampires were out for blood. From the moment we walked out of the hut in the morning we were attacked. My shoulders seem to have the most bites; a minimum of ten bites per shoulder blade. They know how to find that body part you forgot to spray deet on, and they bite through shirts. Somehow those guys managed to squeeze behind my backpack straps and bite the living hell out of me. On a bright note, today we saw the Sauntering Bennetts (from Instagram) on trail. They are a family of six; mom, dad, and four young children (and a dog), who are thru hiking the PCT this year. The children were so pleasant and happy while hiking. They are truly an inspiring family.
Our campsite for the night was on Desane Lake, a hotbed for mosquitos. If we could have walked on we would have, but it was 8pm and getting dark and we were tired. We had done 27 miles for the day. I think the mosquitos at Desane Lake are worse than Christie’s Spring, which was the prior worst campsite ever.
The next morning’s motivation to get moving was lunch at Elk Lake, 11 miles away. We (obviously) are very motivated by food. It was a good thing we had such motivation because the mosquitos were trying to hold us hostage in our tent. About one mile before Elk Lake we ran into trail magic. Two hikers themselves, had donuts, grapes, beer and weed. What more could you ask for? Kilo and I both took a donut and then proceeded to Elk Lake where we grabbed lunch. The donut was merely an appetizer. Given it was a Sunday, the resort was packed. It looked like a fun place to weekend. As Kilo and I wrapped up lunch, we were both quiet. While neither of us said it, you could see in our eyes we did not want to continue hiking. Stand up paddle boarding on the lake looked way more fun. But we had miles to make so back up the hill into Three Sisters Wilderness we went. Not even a mile into the afternoon hike, thunder started to roll and the sky darkened. We stopped to pull out our rain jackets and put our rain flys over our packs. Within ten minutes it was pouring, but we were still hiking up a mountain amidst lightening. I was happy to see other Southbound hikers come down the mountain in the rain. We were not the only crazy ones out here. We were soaked and my legs were covered in mud, but I kept telling myself this was practice for Washington State. Just as quick as the storm rolled in, it rolled back out and the sun and mosquitos came back in full force. We hiked into a meadow where we had views of the South and Middle Sisters (mountains/volcanoes). As we were crossing the meadow, dark clouds began to form again. Another storm was coming up behind us, so we sped walk to the next tent site. We were able to get our tent up and eat dinner before the skies opened again and it began pouring rain and hailing. We had intended to get more miles in today, but sometimes Mother Nature has other plans.
We woke up to a wet tent and damp everything else which means it all smells worse than usual. We had grand plans for 27 miles to make up for some of the miles we missed from the storm the night prior. Our friend Dana and her husband were picking us up at Santiam Pass the next day. We may have been a bit overzealous in our timing and mileage expectations. Around 3pm we finally had some cell phone service and I sent Dana a message to see if she could pick us up at 1pm instead of 11am to give us a little more time. The day found us in diverse terrain. First, we were walking through meadows behind the Three Sisters. And then through burnt forests (unfortunately a lot of Oregon is burnt). Finally, the day concluded in lava fields, not a favorite of the feet. We were losing daylight and still had to cook and eat dinner so we camped sooner than originally planned. Now we have a much bigger day than we wanted tomorrow with 17 miles by 1pm to get to Santiam Pass to meet Dana.
Before the alarm could wake us up at 3:30am, around 3:15am someone screamed “FUCK” into the night. They were probably walking on the lava rocks because that is usually what I feel like yelling when I am walking on lava rocks. We were hiking by 4:45am. The morning started with a one thousand foot climb up, you guessed it, lava rocks. I was actually happy we were doing this climb in the dark because it was already getting warm. By the time we got to the top, we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and views of Mt. Washington. However, I was concerned about making our 1pm meeting at Santiam Pass because at this point we were not even walking two miles per hour (lava rocks, a personal favorite right after the mosquitos). We continued to forge ahead and eventually walked out of the lava rocks into more crispy forests. Finally, we were cruising. Now we were going to be early to the Pass. We hit the 2,000 mile mark, which means (only) 653 miles to Canada! I am tired. We reached Santiam Pass and I used my remaining baby wipes to clean some of the dirt off my arms and legs knowing I had to get into somebody’s car. There was nothing I could do about the way I smelled. Dana and her husband pulled up with drinks and sandwiches (and another PCT hiker who had hitched from town). I met Dana a couple of years ago at a trail running weekend in Idyllwild and we had kept in touch via social media. She and her husband (and dog, two cats, and ten chickens) live in Bend. She had reached out when Kilo and I got into Oregon to see how she could help us. On this journey, I am trying to say “yes” to accepting help. That is often an uncomfortable thing for me to say because I often think I can do everything on my own. So, I said yes to spending a night with Dana and Glen in Bend. I am so glad I did. It was great to catch up, and we had a fun dinner at Ten Barrel (a Brewery).
In the morning, Kilo and I walked down the street for two breakfasts. First we went to the bagel shop for round one. On the way back to Dana’s we grabbed a donut from the donut shop. Dana took us to the local Safeway to resupply and then drove us into Sisters. Sisters is another small town, a bit closer to the trail. Kilo and I decided to take a zero in Sisters to rest our feet. It feels like someone punched me multiple times in the heels (lava rocks). We said goodbye to Dana (thank you again Dana and Glen), and checked into the Best Western. Not only did we get an early check-in, we were upgraded to a suite with a jacuzzi and a fireplace. I took a nap and then went for a swim in the bathtub. Despite having taken a shower at Dana’s, the water in the jacuzzi was dirty when I got out. I think my feet and my hair were the culprits. When we are finished with this hike, I will need a week of two-a-day showers before I am completely clean again. And all of my clothes and belongings are going straight into the garbage can because they will never be clean or smell normal again. We had a relaxing day in Sisters. Next up...Bridge of the Gods and a zero day in Portland with good friends.