Dodging fires and chasing bigfoot through central Oregon…. Doug and I arrived at Elk Lake Resort (mile 1953) on Thursday afternoon (8/16), just in time to meet a friend who had driven up from Eugene to shuttle Doug to a wedding in Seatle. Though the truck was small and legroom scarce I opportunistically jumped at the chance to spend the weekend visiting with friends in Seattle. A trip to the palacial REI for some new socks was also a factor in my decision to take a couple days off….
Friends have joked when told that I am taking a day “off” from the trail: “how can you take a day off? You’re taking the whole summer off….” Perhaps they have a point, but when you’re waking up early and hiking 30+ miles every day, an occassional day without walking feels downright decadent….
Seattle was excellent but I did not sleep nearly enough and ended up walking all over town. We returned to Bend (OR) on Sunday night, just minutes before last call at the Deschutes Brewery, and spent the following day running between the different branches of the post office trying to track down our resupply boxes. We will return to the trail at Elk Lake this afternoon (8/21) and hike back into the scenic and lake-filled Three Sisters Wilderness.
The big news is the forest fires burning throughout Oregon and Washington. The PCT has been closed due to fire both to the north and south of Elk Lake Resort. One of the largest fires is burning near the trail southwest of Ashland, an area which we passed through a couple weeks ago. The Olallie Lake fire has forced closure of the PCT through a portion of the Jefferson Wilderness and also the Olallie Lake Resort, where we had next planned to resupply. We’re not exactly sure how the fires will affect our plans – we intend to proceed with caution and will take an alternate route if necessary. The forecast calls for rain over the next fews days, which should help subdue the fires.
We got to the California-Oregon border on August 6, and felt an almost immediate sense of relief. Suddenly, the Canadian border seemed within reach — it’s only 950 miles away, or thereabouts — and this somehow seemed like a mere handful of days away, a few 30 mile days, give or take time for climbing a couple of mountains. No problem.
Manning Park became suddenly real, and, almost as suddenly, our pace slackened a bit and we breathed a little easier. Which is why we can spend all morning in Bend, updating journals and drinking coffee.
We hope to climb Mt Jefferson, the second highest peak in Oregon (10,497 ft), in a couple days and will cross over the Columbia River into Washington in about 8 days.
My apologies for not keeping the journal up to date…. The silence on my part is not indicative of any lack of progress. On the contrary, Doug and I have been putting in long days (typically hiking between 30-35 miles) and I just haven’t had as much down time as I expected. Also, I’m a sucker for a good swimming hole and when presented with the choice of either writing in my journal or splashing around in the river, I usually opt for the latter. From this point on it is my goal to post a weekly report to the site. I have come to despise the small keyboard on my email device, instead preferring to correspond the old fashioned way (pen & paper). So I have mailed a written “California Summary” to Whitney, who has graciously agreed to type it into the computer and post it on the site. Film has been mailed, processed, and scanned – new images should soon appear on the site.
August 27 – Timberline Lodge
Grilled Chicken and Baby Spoon Spinach Salad, White Chocolate Cheesecake, and a pint of Ice Axe India Pale Ale from the nearby Mt Hood Brewing Co. – Doug and I rolled into the historic Timberline Lodge (mile 2102) early this afternoon (8/27). The massive lodge, built by the Works Progress Administration in the 30s, sits on the southern shoulder of Mt. Hood, the highest peak in Oregon (11,235 ft), and serves a fine dinner.
Less than 50 miles remain to the Columbia River and Washington state. We’ll head out into the Mt Hood and Columbia Wilderness later this evening [our server just informed us that we can sneak into the sauna/whirlpool after hours – we may not be leaving tonight…] and should get to Cascade Locks early on Wednesday morning.
The previous section, through the Three Sisters and Jefferson Wilderness, was spectacular. The wildfires burning around Olallie Lake are recently contained. Until this past weekend the Forest Service had been shuttling thru-hikers around the burn – we were among the first to pass through after the trail was re-opened. The still-smoldering fire burned to within a half mile of the trail and the thick smell of smoke lingered throughout the area – eating lunch above Olallie Lake on Saturday afternoon we watched as a helicopter hovered above the charred forest and doused stubborn flames with water.
Storms fortuitously developed across Oregon begining last Tuesday evening, a boon to those fighting fire. It wasn’t until we left Three Sisters Wilderness on Thursday morning that we caught a glimpse of the three prominent peaks. The temperature dropped to the low 40s, winds gusted, and rain pelted us as we moved steadily through the surreal volcanic landscape.
Surprisingly, Oregon has been a tough hitch. We’ve spent hours standing on the side of the road trying to catch a ride into town to resupply. Could be the new camoflage “State of Jefferson” baseball cap that I am sporting – poplular with the locals but, combined with my height, seems to scare the tourists.
Doug and I have made a point of swimming in every lake or river within spittin’ distance the trail. This week we met our match – Little Crater Lake, as deep as it is wide (45′), is an artesian spring with clear water that remains a constant 34 degrees. We entertained notions of just jumping right in but retreated to our packs soon after the cold water rose above our ankles….
Onward to Washington!
August 30 – Cascade Locks
Spectacular sunset from Indian Springs Campground on Tuesday night – Mt Hood to the south, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, and Mt St Helens to the north.
Walked into Cascade Locks (mile 2150) on Wednesday morning. At 150 ft above sea level the small town along the Columbia River is the lowest point along the entire PCT.
Here I retired my second pair of running shoes after about 750 miles. The first pair lasted slighty longer – trashed in Burney after 850 miles. Doug and I had planned to hike out this morning but the new shoes, which were sent overnight express, did not arrive…. Hopefully they will come in tomorrow morning. Unfortunately I can’t just walk into the local shoe store and pick up a pair of size 15EE loafers – instead I have to rely on big&tall mail order.
Oregon has distinguised itself with its prodigious spiders, abundant alternate routes and improperly disposed toilet paper.
We’ve encountered a surprising number of large spider webs precariously suspended above and alongside the trail. The largest web we saw also happened to be the most camoflaged – Doug, 5’7″ and hiking in front, walked beneath the delicate web without taking notice. I walked to within about 2 inches of the web, my eyes level with the giant spider crouched in its center, before breaking hard… Can’t wait to see the photograph.
Oregon presents the hiker with a plethora of scenic alternate routes, many along the old Oregon Skyline Trail. Some of the best are Eagle Creek Trail, Ramona Falls, Lake of the Woods, and Sky Lakes.
Finally, the popularity of the PCT thru Oregon frequently brought us too close to the unfortunate by-products of nice wilderness trails. Within 20 ft of almost every campsite we encountered a depressing amount of garbage — candy bar wrappers, foil, and worst of all, TP. In most cases the trash was poorly concealed – stuffed conspicuously under a rock or behind a tree. The “out of sight, out of mind” maxim seems to have supplanted the more prudent “pack it in, pack it out” ethic.