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Begins: Aug 5, 2013
Date: Tue, Aug 20th, 2013
Start: Hwy 138/ Little Crater Trailhead
End: Hwy 20 Santiam Pass
Daily Distance: 12
Trip Distance: 22.0
Entry Visits: 621
Journal Visits: 3,239
Guestbook Views: 65
Guestbook Entrys: 1
PCT section 2013 - trip report
Alright folks, we're in for a long one here, so hang on...
On Monday, August 5th, I left my house at 6:30am, to meet a Greyhound bus in Corvallis, then connect with the kind and helpful Chipmunk, who had agreed to give me a ride to the trailhead. Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes of driving, I realized I had forgotten my camera and trekking poles. I didn't want to go on my trip without either (my trail name is Viewfinder, after all), so after cussing loudly to myself, I turned around and headed back to my house. I was hopeful that I could still catch my bus, but I wasn't holding my breath. Thanks to a little internet research and the wonders of Google street view, I knew where I wanted to leave my car and found my way there quickly. With mere minutes until my bus was supposed to leave, I walked as quickly as I could to where the station was supposed to be, but I couldn't find it. I checked my GPS and walked around a few blocks before finally finding the tiny station. The bus hadn't arrived yet. Relieved and sweaty already, I had just enough time to use the bathroom before the bus arrived. The trip to Eugene was uneventful, and Chipmunk arrived to pick me up a few minutes after my arrival. She was kind enough to stop off at a cafe where I could get breakfast, since I had not had time to stop earlier due to my extra 45 minute detour. We talked happily of our respective PCT section-hiking adventures before I said my thanks as she dropped me off at the trailhead.
I hit the trail at 1pm in the bright sunshine. I only met one other hiker that day. He was a southbound thru-hiker who stopped to chat for a moment. By late afternoon, I realized I had miscalculated how much water I would need because I mis-read my guidebook/map and thought there was water at Thielsen Trail, when in fact it was not for another two miles at ThielsenCreek Trail. I had hoped to climb Mt. Thielsen, but by the time I arrived, I was out of water and developing a headache. So I pressed on until I reached Thielsen Creek. It was only about 5pm when I completed those first eight miles, but by that time, the headache had progressed and my stomach was upset as well, so I decided to just stop and set up camp there. I couldn't eat dinner right away, but after drinking some water and relaxing for awhile, my head and stomach both began to feel better and I ate and went to bed in my hammock.
On day two, I slept until about 8:20, which is kind of late for most hikers. Apparently, I can't easily get myself up early, even when I go to bed early and should be woken by the sun. I took my time breaking camp and filled my whole four liter water capacity to get through the 16 miles before the next near-trail water. The day's hike was pretty uneventful. Section D doesn't provide a lot of views, so it was mostly flat walking through forest of the dry, dusty kind found throughout much of Southern Oregon. I didn't see a single other person that day, but I did see a cool bird soaring high above me - some sort of raptor; I couldn't see it clearly enough to have much idea of what kind. I developed my first blister that second day, and got my first taste of the weather that was to come for the next several days. I heard a couple claps of thunder and felt a few raindrops, but nothing that required rain gear. I arrived at Tolo Camp at 6:20 and set up camp. I had enough time that I could have gone farther, but I like to camp near water when I can. I headed down the steep, switchbacking trail to Six Horse Spring and discovered that it was not much more than a muddy trickle. I managed to get enough water, but wished I had gone a little farther off trail earlier in the day to get some better water. That nigh, a thunderstorm passed right over me - the thunder was LOUD, but there wasn't much rain, and everything was dry by morning.
My third day on the trail, the weather was mostly cloudy and chillier, especially when the breeze picked up. At Windigo Pass, I took the guidebook's recommendation to follow the alternate route on the old Oregon Skyline Trail, and stopped for a late lunch at Nip and Tuck Lakes (yes, really). While collecting water from one of the lakes, I lost my balance on a narrow log and stepped into the deep muck at the shoreline. Fortunately, I was wearing my sandals, not my hiking shoes, but they got really gross, and I had mud splattered up to my knees. I was able to wash it off easily, but got chillled with my legs all wet. A short time later, it started to rain. I waited a little while to see if it would let up, but it got worse, so I had to pull out my poncho. Fortunately, it didn't last too long. As I continued on the alternate route, which is shorter than the official PCT and leads almost directly to Shelter Cove Resort, where I had mailed my first resupply box, I found the route and its description in the guidebook confusing. I guess some things have changed in the years since the official PCT guidebook was written. There were trail junctions the book didn't mention, and others it described that I didn't see. I had hoped to get to Whitefish Horse Camp, a couple miles further down the trail, but it was getting late, so I decided to stop at Crescent Lake campground for the night, where there was piped water and the promise of some kind of toilets. Without much description of how to get to the campground, I had to pull out my phone to use the GPS when even map and compass were leaving me unsure. I finally found the campground and was happy to have plenty of water and even a picnic table to cook and lay things out on. It always feels wierd to be around so many people, with their RVs and shiny cars, boats, huge tents and chairs, when I'm on a backpacking trip - dirty and arriving on foot with only my pack. I made dinner and went to the lakeshore to eat as the sun began to set behind Diamond Peak.
Day four arrived after a long, cold night. I barely slept until the sun came up and warmed me, so I slept later than I intended. I had hoped to get up around 7 or 8am, so I could get into Shelter Cove Resort early enough to pick up my resupply box and hopefully put in a few more miles. I faced more confusion with the alternate route that day, but managed to find my way thanks to GPS. I arrived at Shelter Cove at 5:45. Later then I intended, but I thought the store would still be open and I could at least get back to a campsite on the trail for the night, but it turns out the store closes at 5:30 on Thursdays, so I just missed it. I hung out on the porch for awhile, where I met some other hikers, including Hobbit, Emperor - a hiker from Germany - Frenchie, Hot Wing, Yabba Dabba Dude, and Suzanne and Patrick, who had come from Kentucky to do the Oregon section of the PCT. The three of us struck up a conversation and they asked about places to go when they got to Portland, where they planned to spend a couple days before their flight back to Kentucky. Patrick showed me to the hiker campsite, and I hung my hammock near theirs.
The next morning, I woke earlier and picked up my package soon after the store opened and got some change to use the coin-op shower. I said goodbye to Suzanne and Patrick as they headed out, and told them maybe I would see them somewhere down the trail, but if not, to get in touch when they got to Portland. After my three-minute shower, I washed out a few things in the freezing cold water of the sink, then got on my way. I was making good time and arrived at the Rosary Lakes around lunchtime. At Middle Rosary Lake, I saw two people swimming on the opposite side. I thought it might be Suzanne and Patrick, but wasn't sure until they yelled my name. I put down my pack before walking around the lake to where they had gotten in. After they were done with their swim, we all decided to hike together for awhile. Patrick was determined to make it to Charlton Lake that night, a 20-mile day from Shelter Cove. I wasn't sure I would make it that far with them, but I pushed through. We met a guy named Donkey at the lake and shared a fire with him. Unfortunately, I sat on a log that had a lot of sap, which I couldn't see because it was dark by the time I sat down, so my pants got pretty sticky.
We all sat up late at the fire, so we got a late start on day six. We passed tons of lakes, and the forest definitely showed that is was in a wetter area. It was still cloudy and we heard quite a bit of thunder, but only got caught in a couple of brief rain showers, but as the end of the day neared, we had to walk through a lot of wet brush that was hanging over the trail and all our pants and shoes were soaked. We decided to head to Horseshoe Lake for the night, 18 miles from where we started. By the end of that second long day in a row, I was exhausted and starving, and my feet ached and stung from the three blisters I had developed by that time. We didn't arrive at camp until 8pm, almost sunset. After setting up camp, we made another fire to dry out our wet clothes and shoes. I wasn't sure if I could stick with Suzanne and Patrick much longer, as they had been on the trail more than a week longer than I had, and my body hadn't yet adjusted as much as theirs.
On day seven, we woke excited to get to Elk Lake Resort that afternoon. The promise of cheeseburgers and ice cream motivated us to get a move on. We got out first view of some real mountains at the junction to Elk Lake - Mt. Bachelor and South Sister. After I stuffed myself with a delicious meal, I found my second resupply package and checked out the hiker box, where I found a brand new box of blister bandages, about which I was ridiculously excited. We were all disappointed to find out that the shower was closed because someone had pooped in it. Seriously? They did end up getting it cleaned before we left, but we heard from someone else that there was no hot water, and for the $ 5 they wanted to use it, we decided to pass. Patrick hoped to make it to Sisters Mirror Lake that night, to put us in a good position for an ascent of South Sister the next day, but after leaving Elk Lake, we took a wrong turn, trying to get back to the PCT and lost about an hour of hiking time. So instead, we found a spot about two miles short of that goal and set up our hammocks in a triangle and made a fire in the center for warmth. Suzanne and Patrick had often been cold in their hammocks, so anything that could help was welcome.
After taking a look at how many miles I had to go and how much time I had left for my hike, I decided I could afford the time it would take to climb South Sister with them. Patrick said it was only five miles each way from the trail junction on Wickiup Plain, which we reached five miles from where we began the day, but it was actually about six, and felt like more. The elevation gain was around 4,000 feet (most of that in the last two miles or so). We climbed steeply straight up the side of the mountain, over loose rocks and sandy soil. It was hard to breathe in the ever thinner mountain air, and just when we thought we were reaching the top...there was more. It was a false summit and there was another 1,500 feet of climbing left. As we continued, we hiked into a cloud that was hovering around the top of the mountain, and the wind became stronger. The view on the way up and down was cool, but unfortunately, there was no view on top of the mountain, where we had hoped to look north at the rest of the Sisters. Once we reached the top, we sat behind a stone wind-break to rest and try to stay warm-ish. Patrick decided he wanted to take a few steps down to the snow in the crater and make a snow angel in his underwear. After those shenanigans, we headed back down, but it had taken about an hour longer to get up to the summit than we had expected, so we were in a hurry to get back to where we had left our packs for the day. It was nearly 9pm and almost completely dark by the time we returned and set up camp.
For days nine and ten, I knew I had to make at least 15 miles a day (preferably a little more) to reach my destination by early afternoon on my last day. We decided to head for Minnie Scott Spring, and spent the day alternating between forests and meadows, with ever-changing views of all three Sisters. There were a lot more hikers in this area, taking trips of various lengths along the PCT and other trails. We stopped for a swim at a beautiful, clear lake in the shadow of South Sister. By the end of the day, we had entered the alien-looking landscape of lava that covers large areas around Middle and North Sisters. We got a break from the rocky surface at the end of the day, and set up camp in a beautiful area next to Minnie Scott Spring, with a view of Mt. Washington to the north. The spring water was cold and clear, and the night calm and warm.
My last full day, we woke fairly early and got off to a good start, but were soon back on the lava. All the loose rocks slowed me down and hurt my feet. There were also few water sources, so my pack was weighed down with extra water. We did find some Trail Magic though - two coolers with cold sodas. Most of them were gone, but there were a few left and we gratefully drank up. When we reached McKenzie Pass, we made the slight detour up the hill to Dee Wright Observatory. It's a cool stone tower which, inside, has little windows you can look through to see each of the mountains and other features nearby, with signs underneath identifying them. Up top, there is another marker that points the way of each geographic feature in view. Back on the trail, it was more lava for a few miles before we pressed on to a spot near the elusive Coldwater Spring (which we didn't find...it's reportedly contaminated and seasonally dry anyway), for an 18 mile day.
That left only about 7 miles for my final day, number 11. We were only about two miles from the spur trail that goes to Big Lake Youth Camp, and Suzanne and Patrick had decided to make the stop so they could shower, get a hot meal and check the hiker box for some extra food to carry them through to their next stop and Olallie Lake. We said our goodbyes and I finished the last five miles on my own. Just after crossing highway 20, I found a water cache, and even though I was done with my hike, I had been out of water for a couple miles and was glad to find some there, expecting to sit around the trailhead parking lot for a couple hours or more, waiting to find a ride back to Corvallis. Just as I finished filling up my bottle, a couple pulled to the side of the road in their van and asked if I was hiking the PCT. I said I had just finished my section and was looking for a ride now. They said they were not going all the way to Corvallis, but could take me part of the way and drop me off at a spot where I could easily find a ride. I wasn't sure exactly where that would be, but I decided to take them up on their offer. Unfortunately, the ride did not go as far as I hoped and I found myself on the side of a two-lane highway with cars whizzing by, wishing I had just waited and looked for a ride at the trailhead where I could actually approach people before they got in their cars. I scrawled out a sign on the back of one of my data book pages and held it up to passing motorists, resigning myself to a long wait. Luckily for me, it wasn't too long. A woman who had passed me turned around and came back, offering a ride all the way to my car, even though she wasn't going quite that far. She was very nice, and even insisted on buying me lunch in Sweet Home (I tried to protest, but she wouldn't hear it). She dropped me off at my car, which thankfully hadn't been broken into, towed, or any other such misfortune, and I drove myself home, tired and grateful for my adventure and the magic of the trail.
PCT Sections 2011 And On...
"Not all who wander are lost."
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