Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 68: Cascade Locks

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

I ended up taking two zeros in Cascade Locks. Did I have a good reason? Sort of (I at least have something to blame it on rather than me just wanting to muck around in a great town). The PCT suffers every year from fire closures, this year being no exception. I was lucky enough to get through Northern California and Oregon ahead of the fires, but I’ll be encountering a fire closure coming into White Pass, so I wanted to print out the detour maps. Since the Cascade Locks library has hours reminiscent of the library in Ethan Frome and is closed on Sunday and Monday, I had to wait until today, Tuesday. Also I wanted to muck around.

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On the first day, I resupplied for the next leg and also made a package to send to Skykomish. The grocery at Cascade Locks had the best selection of Knorr sides that I’ve seen on the trail so far. Non-cheese pasta! Hurray! I also visited the Ale House, which has a room for hikers to hang out in with outlets for charging and a hiker box; there’s another hiker box on the deck, where hikers can leave items when the building is closed. They offer a ‘hiker trash burger’, which is a beef patty between two miniature pizzas with lettuce, pickles, etc. and a choice of sides. I managed to finish three quarters, but then had to give it up. A SOBO hiker whose name I can’t remember ate the rest after eating his own burger and an ice cream cone. I’d been wondering why he kept hovering around and saying things like ‘you don’t NEED to finish it’. Weighing myself on the scale, I found that I had gained four pounds! I’m not sure whether it’s muscle or fat or both. Sometimes I feel more pinchable around the waist but sometimes there’s nothing to pinch at all. Could it be that the pinch test isn’t scientifically accurate?!

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Hiker Trash Burger

I was surprised to meet Charlotte and Kevin again in the campground. They were having USPS problems and their package hadn’t arrived. I also met Professor, Sensei and VENOM, who specifically mentioned that her name is spelled entirely in capitals.

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On my second day in town, I walked around with Sensei and met one of the people building the world’s largest eagle statue. He showed us the molds and some finished pieces and told us that his colleagues at the foundry were about to pour copper if we wanted to watch. Hell yes! On our way there we encountered Finn, who I had met all the way back at Cement Bluff in Northern California. Finn was one of the thru-hikers who I was particularly cheering for, so it was great to see him again, though he was more interested in getting food than seeing metal getting poured, which is incomprehensible. Sensei and I arrived at the foundry just in time and were able to watch the operation, then one of the workers invited us to her workroom to learn about how colour is applied to the statues. I have so much love for these people for taking time out of their day to explain their work to random strangers.

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Heather Soderberg statue in Cascade Locks
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Another Heather Soderberg statue

Afterwards, Sensei and I visited the hot dog place again. My second hot dog was oddly similar to the first one. Why was there chili on a nacho-themed dog? I don’t know, but everything I ate in Cascade Locks will go in the blame column for any future heart attacks. Sensei also picked at my leftovers, even though it was basically just icky cheese and sauce. That’s hiker hunger for you.

Lastly, some touristy things. I went to the museum by the campground, which has a small entrance fee ($4) and was crammed with an unexpectedly large number of displays. I also went on a cruise along the river ($35, two hours). I can’t decide whether or not it was worth the price, but cruising down a river seemed like a nice thing to do in the sweltering weather. Unfortunately haze diminished the views, but I did see a sea lion for the first time.

The forecast for tomorrow is dire. Professor is considering waiting out the heat wave. I’m going to leave early in the morning and hopefully reach a higher elevation before the temperature rises too much.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 67: Arrival in Cascade Locks

Sunday, August 05, 2018 – 10.70 miles

I walked down, down, down into Cascade Locks today.

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The drop in elevation caused a sharp rise in temperature, and I started getting cranky because I was hot and sweaty and needed to pee but day hikers kept popping up everywhere.

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Eventually I reached the trailhead and trailhead washrooms and saw the Bridge of the Gods, which crosses the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. I’ve been feeling sentimental about crossing the bridge, like my hike is ending there. No girl, there’s like 500 miles more (my sentimentality is not requiring me to look up the exact distance).

I headed to the Port Marine RV park, which has a gorgeous camping area for PCT hikers. It overlooks the canal from which the town got its name; a canal and locks were built here to allow boats safe passage past dangerous river rapids that existed before the construction of Bonneville Dam downstream. Camping is only $5/night, which seems generous considering the location and the free showers that many other businesses along the PCT have charged for. A code is required to access the showers, which blast you with one solid stream of water with the force of a billion suns. They may not be the showers that hikers want, but they’re the showers we need.

After showering I immediately got sweaty again by walking in my rain clothes to the other RV park, which has laundry machines available for public use. I bought pop, which I never drink in normal life but will drink during long hikes. One of the most common refrains during conversations about hiker foods is ‘I never eat/drink this in normal life, but…’, featuring variations like ‘I haven’t eaten animal flesh in 15 years, but…’ and ‘I feel like I’m injecting diabetes straight into my veins, but…’.

For supper I went to the hot dog restaurant, which has a world map and U.S. map into which visitors can insert a pin to show where they’re from. Other people from Sasky have been here! Two people from Saskatoon and a spattering of people from elsewhere in Saskatchewan.

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Canal and Bridge of the Gods

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 66: Grider Canyon of Outhouses

Saturday, August 04, 2018 – 13.30 miles

Forest walking in the morning with views of Mt. Hood and two other snowcapped volcanoes that I tentatively identified as Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.

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Mt. Hood
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Through a conversation with E., I had started thinking that the Eagle Creek alternate was open after the 2017 fire closure, but I arrived at the Indian Spring Campground to find the trailhead blocked off. The campground itself is an odd place. It’s listed as abandoned on the paper maps, but there’s still a trash can and I also found a dilapidated outhouse (one could call it the Grider Canyon of outhouses) from which the door and much of the siding had fallen.

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The Grider Canyon of outhouses

The trail to Indian Spring was blocked off as part of the fire closure, but I saw running water only a few metres past the closure sign, so I crossed and collected water and returned to a picnic table to cook potatoes.

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Later in the day, the trail passed into a burn area.

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I started to worry about finding somewhere to camp, but around 6:30 PM I reached an area that hadn’t been burned beneath the trail. Locating a flattish piece of ground, I pitched my tent. There are mosquitoes, but they’re different from the mosquitoes I’ve encountered so far, having a sense of self-preservation and therefore the tendency to fly away as soon as you make any movement. They’re almost impossible to kill, but I haven’t gotten any bites either.

I’m still writing this journal on my phone despite losing all those entries, since I figured out that I can lock notes so that deletion requires a password. Reclaiming power from my leg.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 65: Good Outcome, Bad Action

Friday, August 03, 2018 – 14 miles

It rained overnight, but no water infiltrated my tent through the tiny holes in the roof (there seems to be more every day). The morning was cold and misty and I lingered in my sleeping bag until realizing that I could escape the clouds by walking to a lower elevation. Stuffing everything into my backpack, I began the descent to the Sandy River. As per usual, I didn’t end up putting on my rain pants until my normal pants were already half-drenched from wet vegetation.

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Misty views

The Sandy River is flagged as a potentially dangerous ford, but when I arrived in the morning it was tame enough, and not sandy either.

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The Sandy River

A short distance upstream, a cairn marked a crossing place with rocks and boughs to step on. I was about to cross when a couple approached and asked me whether I knew which direction the Timberline Trail goes along the river. I unhelpfully told them where the PCT is and asked whether they had a map. The woman said yes and that she had been about to consult it, so I headed off, thinking that they would have no problems. When I looked back before leaving the riverbed though, they were scouting up and down the bank. Later I saw a map on a board and that section of the Timberline Trail wasn’t marked on it, so perhaps their map was the same. Hopefully they found out where they needed to go.

After leaving the river I took the Ramona Falls alternate, which involved a visit to Ramona Falls and a walk along Ramona Creek. It was nice enough, though I wonder whether Mt. Hood would have been visible from the official PCT if not for the low hanging clouds, in which case I would recommend the official PCT. I also passed a junction to a higher elevation route closed to stock because of rockfalls and landslides. Seemed dodgy, moreover pointless in the misty weather.

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Ramona Falls

Shortly after rejoining the official PCT, I reached the Muddy Creek crossing. The creek was raging beneath the most questionable bridge of all time; my understanding of the bridge was that you were supposed to stand on the lower log and hold onto the rope attached to the upper log, but the two damp logs were overlapping dangerously towards the end of the bridge. I decided to walk on the upper log instead and made it to the other side, but it was a frightening experience on the damp surface. eTrails mentions a bridge (presumably normal) 0.25 miles to the east. In retrospect, given my discomfort with the log bridge, I should have walked the extra 0.5 miles to check whether that was a viable alternative. I try not to judge the wisdom of an action based on its outcome.

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This picture does not do justice to its dodginess.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Lots of day hikers.

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I’m stealth camping about half a mile from the Lost Lake trail junction.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 64: Hereeee’s Johnny

Thursday, August 02, 2018 – 6.30 miles

The wind was strong all night. I love my Altaplex, but one downside of cuben fiber is that it’s louder than nylon, and I can’t wear earplugs because I can’t put things in my ears. More on this later (why?). I slept restlessly and didn’t wake up until after six, when I scrambled around breaking camp in a hurry in case someone arrived to scold me about camping so close to Timberline Lodge. I like to think that the lodge knows about these campsites and would put the word out into the universe if they’re a problem.

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The lodge was still quiet when I entered. I asked the woman at reception whether I could charge my phone in one of the electrical outlets. She said yes, but advised me to go upstairs, where I discovered a room filled with comfy furniture. I love you Timberline Lodge! A big group of lounging SOBO hikers told me their names, which I didn’t even attempt to remember. They were all going to the breakfast buffet, but I wanted to go to the lunch buffet and was disappointed to find out that it didn’t start until 11:30 AM. Nonetheless, in my antipathy towards breakfast food I decided to wait the 4.5 hours.

The lodge sets up a hiker table for the breakfast buffet (wisely confining the hiker smell to one area) but not for lunch – I also found out afterwards that hikers get a discount on the breakfast buffet.

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The lunch was good, but I went easy on the quantity just in case any remnants of my flu were lingering around. When I was leaving the building, I saw that rangers had begun giving presentations on the lower floor. By then I was determined to get hiking, so I had to skip them… but I got the obligatory photo with the The Shining axe. At the gift shop I picked up my resupply package. I also wanted to replace my headphones, which I had dropped or left behind somewhere (so sorry to everyone for that litter), but the shop only had the type that you have to jam into your ears, so I couldn’t buy any. A bad day for ears. The shop was selling no backpacker food either and I noticed that the hiker box was fairly barren, perhaps because people were expecting to be able to resupply at the shop. I needed snacks so I bought chocolate from the vending machines, which were very expensive. I love you anyway, Timberline Lodge!

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When I finally pried myself away from the lodge, the hiking was enjoyable. Forest and bare slopes and views of Mt. Hood and plenty of streams.

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I took a wrong turn at a junction, thinking that the sign was pointing in one direction when it was actually pointing in another, and ended on the Paradise Loop Trail. Since I was already a fair distance along the trail and it meets the PCT later, I considered just continuing, but the map showed a snowfield, and even though the maps haven’t been particularly accurate when it comes to details like glaciers or lava fields I had some trepidation about that and decided to return to the PCT.

Low hanging clouds were blowing towards the mountain at the end of the day. I had been aiming for a flattish area on the map, but found it already occupied. Trudging onwards, I found a slightly sloping but tolerable site. While I was pitching my tent, I met Charlotte and Kevin, the French couple who I had met all the way back in Castella! They had both gotten sick after Castella and thought that it was perhaps the water there, but I had no problems. There was nowhere flat for them to camp nearby, but it was nice to see them and hear that their hike was going well.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 63: The Feeling of a Distracted Parent

Wednesday, August 01, 2018 – 13.10 miles

The morning was forest walking, with a spattering of day hikers like pilot fish signalling the approach of Timberline Lodge. I needed to dig a cathole in the early afternoon, so I left the trail and started bushwhacking uphill. Eventually I decided to drop my backpack and collect it on the way back. I found a decent spot to dig, did my business and started back to the trail… and got disoriented and missed my pack.

I found the PCT and tried to retrace my steps, but couldn’t see my pack anywhere in the area I thought it was in. I knew where I had gone up the slope at least, so I widened my search perimeter and kept looking. I don’t know how long I searched, but it was getting to the point when I was thinking about how many hours I had left before dark (many). Finally, when I was about to return to the trail from the area I was searching, I looked uphill and spotted the pack in an unexpected spot. I hadn’t walked in the angle I had thought I took at all. I kissed the pack and promised that I would never leave it alone again. Definitely it was the feeling of a parent who has just found a child they lost in a shopping mall.

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The forest opened up with the peak of Mt. Hood straight ahead. It’s a dramatic mountain and a strange one – it looks like a heap of volcanic ash.

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Perhaps the source of the haze the last few days was the ash, since when I looked south, I could see it blowing like smoke into the sky.

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Mt. Jefferson in the haze

Mt. Hood’s glaciers feed rivers in deep ravines and every so often a rock is dislodged from one side and tumbles into the water in a cloud of ash. I sat at a viewpoint for awhile, earning myself a faceful of grit.

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A potential campsite nearby was more sheltered. I pitched my tent there, but the wind worsened and the stakes wouldn’t stay in the ground even with rocks on top – the ash was so loose that the wind pulled the stakes through the ground. I threw my gear into my pack in a hurry, since the time was after six, and continued up the trail.

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There were no campsites with hard ground and shelter until the established sites near Timberline Lodge, which are pretty shameless. eTrails says that by trail they’re 0.3 miles from the lodge, but hikers could re-enact Rear Window in these sites. A group of four got here just before me and took the good sites, but my stakes are staying in the ground in this one, and that’s good enough. Even though there’s toilet paper beneath a rock (sob). I climbed up to a little watchtower to watch the sunset and eat a cold supper. Too late and too windy to cook.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 62: PCT Hikers Are Spoiled AF

Tuesday, July 31, 2018 – 13.60 miles

The hike to the Joe Graham Horse Campground trail junction was entirely downhill and I arrived in mid-morning. The campground has potable water, dumpsters and an outhouse.

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I followed a series of trail magic signs, expecting another unattended cooler, and was surprised to find a row of camp chairs and a tent filled with sandwich ingredients, cookies, chips, candy and pop. It was like a makeshift restaurant. Europe, is that you?

The trail angel, Connie, had a donation box and religious brochures along with the food. I left a donation but didn’t take a brochure because I was thinking ‘I don’t want to carry it’. One could argue that since I wouldn’t read the brochure, taking one would deprive her of a brochure that someone else might read, but the endgame of that argument is that I’m going to hell. There were lots of brochures. A ton.

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After a sandwich, cookie and pop I was back on the PCT. The trail was more interesting today, skirting Timothy Lake and crossing a wide, shallow steam flowing into the lake.

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A ‘Little Crater Lake’ was located not far from the PCT but unfortunately I missed taking the side trail at the junction, thinking for some reason that there was another side trail later. The map notes the area as ‘Little Crater Lake geological area’, which sounds interesting.

A SOBO hiker asked me how bad the mosquitoes were up ahead. Don’t ask me, man. My standards are hopelessly skewed after the Diamond Peak Wilderness. I have noticed though that my tolerance for mosquitoes has returned to normal. During the Fish Lake to Elk Lake stretch, I would whip on my headnet in a frenzy if there were even a couple buzzing around my face (a vanguard) but now I can tolerate a few.

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I had been considering taking a long day today and hiking to Timberline Lodge in time for the lunch buffet tomorrow, but I’ve got a headache and decided against it. I bushwhacked above the trail to a slopey but campable spot with a view of Mt. Hood through the trees. It looked untouched with a thick coating of pine cones, but I found an old axe buried in a log nearby. I considered hiking down to the trail and trying to scare hikers with it, but that seemed too cruel (albeit apropos with Timberline Lodge nearby).

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 61: That’ll Show It

Monday, July 30, 2018 – 15.70 miles

A hot night was followed by a sweltering day. The sky was hazy but that’s all right, because there were no views whatsoever, only forest walking. The dirt had a strange orange tint in the morning sunlight.

I was cross with my phone and using paper maps (that’ll show it) when I noticed that Timberline Lodge is at the base of Mt. Hood. I’m excited for Timberline Lodge, which has an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (a PCT institution) and where the opening for The Shining was filmed, but… is the mountain covered with ugly ski runs…

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In mid-afternoon, two hikers who I had first met near Bend passed me. Apparently there’s trail magic at the Joe Graham Campground five miles ahead and they were trying to get there by nightfall. I wasn’t up for another five miles, so I just walked until I found a campsite on a deserted road. Lots of animal trails around.

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Is anyone interested in the fate of the fancy chocolate? ‘That’s the only thing that interests me in your entire journal,’ you say? The fancy chocolates melted together into one big mystery ball of different chocolate types and fillings, so that I never know what flavour I’ll hit when I gnaw on it like a rodent (the only way to consume it). While I don’t exactly feel antipathy towards the fancy chocolate, I feel very strongly that it isn’t proper trail food. It’s like someone bringing hot chocolate and whipped cream and chocolate shavings to sprinkle on top. It’s just too fancy.

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Just too fancy

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 60: Zen

Sunday, July 29, 2018 – 15.80 miles

During this hike, I’ve been thinking about little other than the trail – maybe on my other hikes my mind learned to be zen – but this morning my thoughts kept drifting to Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve never read the books, but I did read the hilarious Snark Squad commentary and I kept thinking the phrase ‘My mother was a crack whore, Anastasia. Now to go sleep.’ and laughing to myself. Maybe my thoughts went in that direction because I’ve been listening to East of Eden. My apologies to John Steinbeck…

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Forest walking today with lakes and views back to Mt. Jefferson.

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My throat started feeling sore the day I left Bend, and now that’s evolved into nausea, so I decided to skip the store at Olallie Lake Resort.

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I random camped in the forest somewhere and ate snacks for supper.

When I opened my Notes app to write a journal entry for today, I discovered that my previous journal entries had disappeared along with all of the other content under one of my email addresses. I was gutted since I was weeks behind on posting them, therefore all those entries are gone. Possibly I neglected to lock the phone before putting it into my pocket and dodgy things were happening with my leg, or maybe it’s a phone issue (naturally, I would prefer to blame the phone). I’ll reconstruct the entries from memory, but I regret not being able to report on the exact degree of mosquito evil every day.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 59: With the Appearance of Death

Saturday, July 28, 2018 – 12.30 miles

Today felt like a long day, but in a satisfying manner rather than an exhausting one. The mosquitoes had vanished overnight. I walked to Milk Creek, which is glacial melt from Mt. Jefferson (silty, thus the name) and flowing strong. I’m more comfortable fording than rock hopping, but the creek was too narrow to justify a ford, so I walked along the streambed to look for a place to cross.

During my search, a thru-hiker crossed and waved me over to her hopping spot. I joined her and she told me her name, but her voice was muffled by the roar of the creek and I didn’t hear it. I didn’t ask her to repeat herself since I assumed that I wouldn’t see her again, but I ended up chatting with her 4-5 times throughout the day, so now I wish I knew it. I think that it started with E.

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Following Milk Creek was a hot climb through a burn area to Russell Creek, where I met E. for a third time. Glacial creeks are best to cross in the early morning, before warming temperatures have begun or intensified melt. I don’t know whether Russell Creek looks any kinder in the morning, but at 1:30 PM it looked terrifying, a channel of whitewater flowing in a series of cascades down a slope. The water report mentioned a dead horse stuck just upstream of the PCT crossing, but it was gone when I arrived, so there’s that. No dead horse.

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Russell Creek

At the time, I didn’t particularly wonder how the dead horse had gotten there, but later I heard two stories: 1. That a woman had been riding on horseback, had an accident and rescuers had needed to shoot her horse; 2. That a woman had been injured, a rescue horse had been brought in and the rescue horse had been shot. A good example of the reliability of trail info.

I scouted upstream for a place to rock hop, but there was no masonry bridge, so no thanks. In the meantime, E. tried a rock hop near the trail crossing, but couldn’t get across because of her backpack. I told her that I was going to ford and she decided to ford as well. A couple arrived while we were removing our socks, and they were understandably unenthusiastic about fording. E. went first and one of the others said ‘okay, easy’ when she got to the other side. What would hard have looked like? Creek corpse #2? I went next, nervously, but the ford was much easier than I had expected, and I reached the opposite bank without problems. The couple followed and we were all fine.

The PCT crossed into Mt. Jefferson Park, which provided gorgeous views of Jefferson as the trail climbed up to a viewpoint with Jefferson in one direction and Mt. Hood in the other. It was my first view of Mt. Hood and wow, it looked fabulously ominous.

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Mt. Hood in the distance
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Mt. Jefferson

I had wanted on the way up to collect water from a stream so I would have the option of camping at the vista, but while I was getting out my dirty water bottle, a dog jumped into the stream and curled up in the pool where the water was emerging from the ground. Fabulous. I found a melting snow patch to collect water from later on, but couldn’t find a decent camping spot at the viewpoint that wasn’t on vegetation or directly beside the trail crammed with day hikers.

Starting down the north side of Mt. Jefferson, I briefly lost the trail on snow, but eventually found my way back to the PCT and a flat campsite near a snow patch. A cute pika is foraging nearby.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 58: For The Sake of Protecting Humanity

Friday, July 27, 2018 – 14.20 miles

This morning I stopped at a pond to filter water and eat potatoes. It must have been a popular break spot, since ground squirrels immediately popped up to beg for food. You’re so cute with your shiny, garbage-fattened bodies and moist, emboldened, corrupted eyes, but I can’t…

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When I went to draw more water, I left my backpack unattended, thinking that only a Grand Canyon-level rodent would chew through the fabric in broad daylight. One of the ground squirrels was directly beside it when I returned – maybe a close call.

At a certain junction, and I apologize in advance for not remembering which junction it was, the PCT went left while a different trail went right. I knew the other trail would cross the PCT again a short distance later, but having no reason not to, I of course chose the PCT. A rational but unfortunate decision. The PCT soon disintegrated into a nightmare of zero maintenance, so the other trail must be the favourite child for this short section, and hikers are intended to take it to the second junction.

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The deadfall prefers the path to the surrounding terrain

Here’s a photo looking back at the second junction, with the PCT on the right and the lack of maintenance obvious.

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A stark contrast

So if you’re hiking in this area, you pass a junction and the path turns into a crazy mess, that’s where you are.

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Leaf with only the veins remaining
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Mt. Jefferson

Rockpile Lake was my favourite lake in a long while. The mile listings in eTrails were mixed up in this section, so I thought that I had passed Shale Lake when I hadn’t come to it yet. A sign marking the entrance to Pamelia Lake Limited Entry Area confirmed the error. The limited entry area had nice views to various lakes, and Shale Lake was pretty, but it also contained a rogue horde of mosquitoes. Were its boundaries defined by the mosquitoes? Is it limited entry for the sake of protecting people from the mosquito population?

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Shale Lake

I’m camping just beyond the boundary in one of several established spots. The mosquitoes are fewer, but still around in numbers that I haven’t seen since the Three Sisters area.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 57: In the Spirit of Being a Good Daughter

Thursday, July 26, 2018 – 7.70 miles

The ride back to the PCT at 7:00 AM didn’t happen today. I should have predicted that it wouldn’t, since one of the unofficial (as of yet) laws of motion is that you can never get anywhere if the action relies on someone else getting up at 6:00 AM, but I was surprised by how late the other hikers slept in. Are you really thru-hikers…?

Crispy and Pancakes were busy later in the morning, so we ended up not getting to the trail until early afternoon. Someone had left high-effort trail magic at Santiam Trailhead, homemade chocolate cake and watermelon cut into cubes.

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From the trailhead, the hike was a steady ~500 m/1600 ft climb through a burn area. I passed a hiker! She was an older woman with a large heavy-looking pack, but the 60+ crowd regularly leaves me in the dust, so it counts. Not that hiking is a race or anything, because then I would be losing horribly 24/7.

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The reward for getting through the burn area was fantastic views of Three-Fingered Jack and the surrounding area.

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Looking back at the Three Sisters
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Three-Fingered Jack
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Mt. Jefferson in the distance

Canyon Creek was a tempting sight in the valley below the trail (icy water, ahhhhh) and with the beautiful scenery as well, I started feeling keen to camp there. I reached a side trail that led steeply downhill in that general direction, not on the map but clearly defined until the forest. After walking along it for a few minutes, I became suspicious that it was one of those ‘initially great, then bushwhacking nightmare’ trails when I noticed the absence of footprints. Either way, in the spirit of being a good daughter who doesn’t keep her mother up at night, I decided not to take the zero-traffic trail without telling anyone where I was going, and continued along the PCT instead.

I ended up camping in a clearing with a view of Mt. Jefferson. The white trees looked beautiful in the pink glow of the sunset.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 56: Fancy Chocolates

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ah Bend. I met a few other hikers who mentioned loving Bend. To me it was a hellish hellscape to get around in via walking or the limited public transportation system. In fact, the fifth circle of hell in my religion is one long, busy highway with a bus stop on the other side and no crosswalks. 

Anyway, I spent two days on chores. I went to a post office to pick up my bounce box and discovered that it had been sent to a different post office. At REI, I was about to buy a new Sawyer Squeeze when I noticed that every filter had the same puncture mark. I pointed it out to an employee, who said that he had never noticed it before and it might be related to the manufacturing process. I wonder whether my 2013 filter had the hole too… five years of not noticing a hole…

For resupply, I ended up visiting Safeway, Albertsons and Walmart along with the Grocery Outlet store, searching for dried veg (all I found were mushrooms), bulk food (none of them had bulk food), and non-cheese flavoured Knorr pasta sides (I’ll be eating a frightening amount of rice). My conclusion from this shopping experience is: Hey Amazon, looking good… The Grocery Outlet was selling fancy Guylian chocolates for cheap, so I bought two boxes and was going to put one in a resupply box. I forgot to, ergo I’ll be carrying 14 oz of fancy chocolate on this next leg.

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When the motel swimming pool isn’t what you expected

In the morning of the third day (yes, I’m just lumping them all together), I finished preparing my boxes. I had five resupply boxes + a bounce box to mail. I’m normally too cheap to pay for taxis, but there was no practical way to transport all the packages by bus, so I gave in and asked the motel owner to call a taxi for me. He said that Uber would be cheaper and suggested that I try that instead, so I did. The driver kindly helped me carry my boxes into the post office. I had my backpack as well since I was planning to walk directly to a bus stop to catch the bus to a hitching spot, and a man recognized me as a hiker and announced himself as former PCT hiker/trail angel ‘Crispy’. He had driven some other hikers to the post office and they were behind me in line. He said that he was driving them out to Santiam Pass tomorrow at 7:00 AM and offered me a ride as well. I was feeling antsy after two days in town and looking forwards to getting back on the trail, so I declined, but he gave me his phone number in case I changed my mind. I thanked him, mailed my packages and took the bus out to an intersection near a shopping centre at the edge of town.

I had been waiting for awhile with outstretched thumb when a man pulled over and asked me where I was going. I said Santiam Pass. He said ‘are you willing to give road head?’. I thought that he was joking, so I laughingly (polite hitchhiker laughter) said no, but then he drove away. Gross!! Also, how desperate!!! Crispy told me later that he had thought I might have issues hitchhiking because I ‘look too innocent’ (it’s the hat, people think that I have not yet learned that humans judge other humans for wearing dorky clothing) but I think that the thought processes of a guy who solicits random hitchhikers for sexual acts wouldn’t involve much more than ‘this specimen appears female, I’ll give it a try’. My visceral reaction was to get the hell out of there, so I walked away from the intersection and hung around on the sidewalk for a few minutes. Without an alternative to hitchhiking, I would have tried again, but I had the nice easy offer from Crispy so I decided to text him for the ride after all. He went above and beyond by driving out to pick me up at the shopping centre, plus he offered to let me stay at his and his partner’s house for the night. Her trail name is Pancakes (get it?). The two hikers from the post office were at the house when I arrived, along with another hiker who they knew. They seemed weary of the trail after however many miles and were preoccupied with their phones, but Crispy drove a few of us out to a lake, which was nice. Looking forwards to an uneventful ride back to the trail tomorrow.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 55: Why No Picture

Sunday, July 22, 2018 – 10.50 miles

I left camp at 6:45 AM, hoping to take advantage of the cool early hours. I’ve heard good things about Big Lake Youth Camp, which supposedly has a hiker building, delicious vegetarian meals and laundry by donation, but the timing doesn’t work for spending a night there. I’m going into Bend at Highway 20 (six miles after the Big Lake junction) to make resupply boxes for the rest of Oregon and Washington, and to finally replace my water filter at the REI! Woohoo! The Steripen has been functional but more annoying than filtering.

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The walking today was mostly easy without much scenic merit (why do I only have three pictures though…). The trail crossed an old wagon road, which was neat. Why don’t I have a picture of the wagon road, she called into the eternal abyss.

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I opted not to walk to Big Lake, but nonetheless reached Highway 20 without having to draw water from what eTrails describes as a ‘murky pond’. 

The south side of the highway isn’t a good hitchhiking location at all, having a steep shoulder and scant room to pull over. I retreated to the shade to make a sign. As soon as I returned to the road, an SUV pulled over! The driver announced ‘I’m a trail angel!’ and the stickers on her windshield gave confirmation. I wish I could remember her name, but as per usual I forgot it within ten seconds. She was returning to Bend after giving a ride to another hiker who had reportedly walked without water for two days after her water filter broke. Wha????? I’m hoping it was a situation like ‘evening of one day and morning of another day’. If it’s full days, I don’t know how that happens on a crowded hike like the PCT. You wouldn’t even have to ask for water, just wait at a water source for a few hours and ask to borrow someone’s filter. The thought of asking other people for help fills me with disgust and horror too but c’mon, it’s two days. No one wants you to go without water for two days.

I mentioned to the trail angel that I needed to replace my filter at REI and she offered to stop there on the way to my motel (so lovely) but I wanted to look for some other items as well, so I declined in the name of not wasting her time. I offered her money, which she initially refused since it was a hitch, but she and her husband spend a lot of time helping PCT hikers so I insisted. She dropped me off at my motel, which is near the Grocery Outlet store. I had imagined the Grocery Outlet as a huge store, but unfortunately the selection isn’t that great, so I’m going to have to visit another store(s) as well for this massive resupply run.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 54: Lava!

Saturday, July 21, 2018 – 15.20 miles

Another day of fantastic hiking. I walked on lava!

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Approaching Collier Cone, I noticed a side trail to a ‘Collier Glacier View’ on the map. It was steep but short, and I was treated to the most amazing view of a barren basin rimmed by North Sister, Middle Sister and Little Brother.

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In the other direction were views of Mt. Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood.

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I loaded up with 25 miles’ worth of water at Minnie Scott Spring, enough to get me to Santiam Pass, where I’ll hitchhike into Bend. There are lakes on the way, but I’m not carrying much food weight now, so carrying a few extra litres to avoid lake water is no problem.

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South Matthieu Lake

Following pretty South Matthieu Lake and a patch of forest was a difficult area of lava rock before Highway 242. The foot/ankle that I injured pre-hike feels normal 99% of the time, but hurts badly for a few minutes if it tilts too much, so I walked slowly. More lava rock followed the highway, the entire expanse being an incredible sight.

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Looking back at the Three Sisters

4.3 miles from the highway, I met a group of two older and two younger men. I had said hi and was passing by when one of them asked me for water. He explained that they had run out of water about five miles from Big Lake (Big Lake is 11-12 miles from the highway) and decided to return to their car. I gave them water of course, but I wasn’t pleased. Their excuse was that they had misjudged how much water ‘big grown men’ need, apparently having researched for their trip in a Girl Scout manual, but what matters is acknowledging that you’re low on water and making the decision to turn around at a prudent time. I’m weak against grovelling though, so inevitably softened and said some things about how it was ‘hard country’. It was hard country, to be fair, and not the type of terrain that you want to be crossing at night when temperatures have cooled.

Speaking of walking on lava rock at night. I started getting antsy with the sinking sun illuminating no potential campsites, but reached an established campsite on a dirt patch before dark. I don’t have a good reference point for this campsite, so the distance walked is a guess.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 53: Weird and Amazing

Friday, July 20, 2018 – 15.10 miles

Fantastic hiking today. The trail wound through flowery meadows past a bizarre rock mesa to bizarre South Sister, which looked like a blob of clay with scoops taken out of it.

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Mesa
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South Sister

Then came the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, and views of Middle Sister and a peak that I think was North Sister. I’m hoping to get more views of North Sister tomorrow.

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Middle Sister
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Obsidian Falls
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Obsidian
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The mosquitoes were annoying in the morning, but overall much improved from before Elk Lake. I saw a beautiful striped mosquito, aedes aegypti, that my mother later identified as dangerous. Now she’s worrying that I’ll get a disease (of course).

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Aedes aegypti

Progress was slow today since I was stopping every minute to look around, so I ended up searching for a campsite until late. I came to an established campsite that looked nice until I noticed a cathole only metres from the tent pad. It looked like a case of a ranger cleaning up after someone since the distribution of dirt beside the hole was indicative of a shovel. I then saw nutshells at the edge of the campsite, so it was doubly disqualified.

I ended up camping near the edge of a gorge, which I later realized was the edge of a vast lava flow. My little scenery junkie heart is overflowing with joy.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 52: Plastic Totes

Thursday, July 19, 2018 – 11.60 miles

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I reached Elk Lake Resort around noon today. I had sent a package there and was considering taking a nero by staying overnight, but the crowds of tourists and absence of other hikers changed my mind.

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Elk Lake

I ate an expensive hamburger and root beer float, was finally able to buy new hand sanitizer and did so before discovering that I had sent hand sanitizer in my resupply package, repacked my food bag while a loud tourist made obnoxious comments in the background, and returned to the store to finally find another hiker there. I asked the owner whether she wanted the plastic tote that I had packed my resupply in. The other hiker asked why I had used a plastic tote, and I explained that Elk Lake Resort recommended doing so as a precaution against rodents. The owner chimed in with some general comments about how rodents ‘like chocolate and other things that hikers eat’. Wait, have any rodents actually damaged packages…? Is this a ploy to get free plastic totes? I must also add that while Crow says in her guide that she’s resupplied three times out of the store, it had only candy and small snacks. Definitely not a great location for resupply.

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Where can I buy one of these?

I hiked out in the afternoon, making camp a short distance past Sisters Mirror Lake. I seem to have entered a more popular area since there are established trails signed as ‘User trail, not maintained’. Nice albeit distant views of the Sisters, which are the third, fourth and fifth highest mountains in Oregon.

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Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 51: Forest and Lakes, Forest and Lakes

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 – 16.20 miles

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Mist in the morning

Mosquitoes quickly materialized as I ventured further into the Three Sisters Wilderness, which in this area contains a myriad of tiny lakes/ponds. The pair of men in Maiden Peak Shelter had warned me that the mosquitoes were terrible here, but also confirmed that Insane Mosquito Hell ends near Elk Lake as specified in Yogi’s book. (Yogi’s book says Highway 242 while the men were more ambiguous, but IT WILL END.)

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I got water just past Brahama Lake, where the trail crossed a well-flowing inlet stream. There was also a stream in a meadow later on, where I drew enough water to get to Elk Lake Resort. I shudder whenever eTrails mentions that a lake both has campsites and is ‘good for a dip’ or that it’s ‘warm’ (translation: good for a dip). Do people camp and swim at lakes and drink the water they’ve been swimming in? I don’t know. I may be unusually squeamish about water.

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I camped in the Dumbbell Lake area.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 50: The Mosquitoes Weren’t Driving Me Towards Suicide Today

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 – 16 miles

I got a late-ish start in the morning despite not having to pack up my tent. The curse of having people to socialize with! I hadn’t used much water by the time I reached the Bobby Lake junction, so I decided to continue to Charlton Lake before filling up. That decision turned out to be regrettable since Charlton Lake was a sizable lake with a road nearby and lots of camping and recreational users. Blech. Near the road was some trail magic: empty water jugs and a cooler filled with various dry foods.

The trail was mostly through forest today, but included a few scenic highlights: a nice vista of Waldo Lake on a windy, mosquito-free rock outcropping, and a view of the South and Middle Sisters through the Charlton Burn area.

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Waldo Lake
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Lots of deadfall
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I stealth camped near the boundary of the Three Sisters Wilderness area. The mosquitoes were light while I was setting up camp and cooking supper, which was a nice surprise. Definitely the absolute worst task in mosquito country is the business of a cathole, but eating through a thin slit in my mosquito suit isn’t fun either.

Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 49: Slinkster

Monday, July 16, 2018 – 7.70 miles

I ate my soggy baggie pizza this morning (on the trail, it sometimes helps to not think about what you’re eating while you’re eating it) and left Shelter Cove. Views of the lake as the trail climbed alongside.

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Neck-craningly high cross-country skiing signage hinted at how much snow the area receives in the winter.

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No running water sources are listed in the water report for ~40 miles, so I had accepted that on this leg I would have to drink lake water that people had been swimming in/washing clothes in/probably digging catholes nearby, but I was lucky and found a trickle of water running into the far end of beautifully blue North Rosary Lake.

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The mosquitoes remained light all the way to Maiden Peak Shelter, a hut used by backpackers in the summer and snowshoers/cross country skiiers in the winter. The absence of mosquitoes was too tempting to pass by, so I decided to spend the night in the hut.

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Maiden Peak Shelter

I always enjoy reading hut logbooks and this one was notably poetic, including such entries as:

‘A creature lurks outside / What’s your name, little slinkster / We shall call you Hank’

‘Middle of January / Icicle melts from the eaves / Do better, winter’

‘The dimpled scarf brushed softly against the cheek of the last dinosaur, Rhonda’.

Or something to that effect. They’re at least 30% accurate.

Four other people, two men and a couple, showed up to spend the night in the hut. The two men were out of water and went to search for a spigot even after I told them there wasn’t one. Their water filter had broken and then they had run out of iodine tablets, so they had resorted to boiling drinking water in the evening and waiting for it to cool overnight. I was surprised that they were staying at the hut rather than continuing to the Rosary lakes, but I offered them some water, as did the couple. One man accepted it, the other didn’t. I may have to take a side trip to Bobby Lake tomorrow.

While we were hanging our food, I mentioned to the couple that my Ursack had been taken at Mazama Campground. They had witnessed some egregious behaviour in regards to the bear storage bin: people had been treating the whole bin like a hiker box (one half is labelled as a hiker box, the other half is labelled as ‘not hiker box – food storage’) and one dude was even claiming that an unopened resupply package was up for grabs. Putting aside reading comprehension, can’t we at least expect people to demonstrate basic common sense? There must be some wilful ignorance going on.