I live in the…smoky woods…

DAY 32-36 Pinehead Saddle to Shelter Cove

August 16th-20th, 2017

PCT SOBO Miles 594.4-746 (had to skip from Ollalie Lake to Elk Lake due to fire closures, 91.6 miles)

DAY 32: August 16th, 2017; Ollalie Lake

12.6 miles  +1,320 ft / -1,325 ft

The little campsite at Pinehead Saddle was just lovely for sleeping. It was a peaceful night and I slept really well. In the morning, we knew we were most likely only hiking as far as Ollalie Lake, 12.6 miles, and from there it was a bit of a mystery. We knew we could hike an additional 6 miles of trail, to Breitenbush Lake, but the odds of getting a hitch out of there were basically nil. We had been hearing from Nobos that rides were being given to thru-hikers from Ollalie Lake out to the “world”. We heard the road out of Ollalie was quite long and remote and there was no water. Some hikers were opting to do the road walk, technically considered an “alternate” to the PCT, but it was something like 50 miles of dirt road and highway walking, and with no clear information of water sources or camping. Yes, it was not really sounding safe or appealing at all. 

Since it sounded like most hikers were opting for the hitch out from Ollalie, Tripsy and I basically planned on doing the same. That morning were not in any rush, and took our time in camp. Just as we were about to set off on the trail, a Nobo came walking by and we chatted with him for some time. His name was Tripod, and he carried, you guessed it, a tripod, along with quite a bit of heavy camera equipment. He was a gentleman of mature age, and he was hiking alone. He showed us some stellar images he had captured along his hike and gave us some useful intel about the closures and hitching around. He was able to confirm the hitch out from Ollalie being our best bet, and that a man named RJ, a trail angel and former thru-hiker, was going in and out from Ollalie in the afternoons and mornings, offering rides. Well, that came as a huge relief, knowing somebody was out there offering assistance, eliminating the need for getting a ramdom hitch out of there. So, Tripsy and I set off for Ollalie with a bit more confidence, enjoying a leisurely day in the woods. 

We arrived at Ollalie around 1pm and it was incredibly hot by then, but not too smoky yet, and we wondered what all the fuss was about with trail closures. At the trail junction to the Lake and Resort, there was some trail magic (yay!) and a few signs that gave more specific information about the fire closures and alternates for walking. We took pictures of the signs and investigated the trail magic cooler, which was basically empty. There were a couple oranges and some left over produce that made us wonder if it was left for somebody specifically because there was also a campsite right there, set up with a hammock and other gear. We decided to not take any food, we were just happy that the trail magic even exists, even if we didn’t get anything! We flipped through the register, signed it, and headed over to the Lake where we knew there was a little store with cold beverages and snacks to be had.

Ollalie Lake is stunningly beautiful, offering straight-on views of Mt. Jefferson as a backdrop to the Lake. When the water in the Lake is still and clear, the image of the mountain reflects on the water, making me think of a meditation practice I enjoy from time to time. As you sit in meditation, you imagine the reflection of the full moon on a still lake, free from ripples, absent of movement, just a totally pristine, sharp and focused image of the moon. You know, in this practice, that when the reflection of the moon is still and clear, so is your mind. No turbulence, no disruption, just a stillpoint that hopefully lasts for a little while. 

Ollalie Lake is also a reservoir for the drinking water in the area, and thus you cannot swim in it. Tripsy and I were so dang hot and sweaty, we really wanted to at least get our feet wet, and when we arrived, she darted down to a little pond nearby to rinse off her feet. I was more interested in getting a cold beverage and sitting in the shade, so I took off for the store. The store in Ollalie is really cool, I think so, at least. It may be a little pricey, but considering how remote of a location it is, I understand why. The people who work there are super hiker friendly and the contents of the store definitely cater to thru-hikers. For example, they sell things in individual pieces, like packs of hot cocoa, oatmeal, hot sauce and the like. This is really helpful in a location like this, because most likely you would not be doing a full re-supply here, but you may want to supplement your food and this is perfect for doing just that. It’s also perfect if you want to get a bag of salty chips, salsa and a couple of cold beers or an ice cream. Which is exactly what we ended up doing. 

Tripsy is a big fan of IPA, and while I’m more into wine than beer, on a hot day like this, there’s nothing like an ice cold beer. I never drink a soda, don’t care for them at all, and I drink plety of water all day, so that ice cold beer on a hot day, is simple bliss. So we were both totally stoked to find a great beer selection in their fridge!

We each picked out a couple IPA’s and took our snacks out to the picnic bench to enjoy. The sun was so intense and the umbrella that covered the picnec table was flopping around, so we took turns trying to duck under it for some shade, as we stuffed our faces with the chips and salsa. That bag of chips and salsa, and our beers, were dust in no time flat. 

Soon, the need for a nap washed over me and we decided to investigate the picnic area/campsites nearby. We’d heard that RJ would be back later that afternoon and would be heading out again the next morning at 7am, taking any hikers who needed rides at that time. There were just a couple other hikers there when we arrived, and that was all we knew. So, we just went and got a place to camp, set up our stuff and chilled. 

I chilled in the form of taking a hour and a half nap. I layed on top of my tent, with my puffy jacket draped over me, and drifted off to the sound of birds and the coming and going of the light through wavering trees in a gentle breeze. I passed out pretty good for a bit, and as I woke up, I lay there softly focusing my eyes on the forest canopy above me, thinking to myself, as I felt the connection with the Earth beneath me, this is where I live now, I live in the forest…. 

Later that afternoon, as the sun was beginning to get closer to the horizon, RJ showed up in a big truck with a few Nobos. Everyone was quite jovial and it was fun to meet a few more hikers. RJ confirmed that he would take Trispy and I out in the morning, and he said he could take us to Big Lake Youth Camp, another stop over/re-supply point right along the trail. From there we figured we could hike to McKenzie Pass, and then get a ride into Sisters, where my trail friend from last year, Coyote, had offered to host us for the night. I was really looking forward to seeing Coyote, and catching up with her. So, cool, we had a plan. 

Tripsy and I decided that making a fire was a good idea, and despite the trail closure, there was not a fire ban in place just yet. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, adding more smoke to the air, but we hadn’t seen much smoke by then and we had lots of time to sit and chill, so we wanted a cozy campfire. Can you blame us? 

Well then, after a beautiful sunset on the Lake, and chatting with a Nobo named Striker, we built up a nice little fire and cooked our dinners. I organized my pack and got rid of trash and unnecessary pieces of stuff that I didn’t need. I decided to take my tattered, ripped, faded little prayer flags from my pack and burn them in the fire. I’d been carrying them since last year and it just seemed like the right thing to do. They had served their purpose, and it was time to let go of old dreams and wishes and prayers that they had helped bring to fruition for me. I said a little thank you in my heart as I lay them down in the hot coals and flames, and watched them turn to ash in an instant. Time for the new dreams and wishes to rise up and breathe new life into me. 

One of my dreams or goals I had in mind, especially for Oregon this year, was to hike bigger miles, and cowboy camp more often. I seem to have an association with feeling really free via hiking super long, exhausting days, setting up anywhere on the ground, and waking up to the big open sky, ready to do it all over again! I love not knowing (and not caring) where you will end up at the end of any given day. I also love skipping the fuss of a tent, and being so comfortale with nothing protecting you, no barrier between you and the rest of the world, and still feeling completely safe. It’s the best!

A side note: I’m sad to have to skip any section of trail at all, and as of right now, it doesn’t even seem all that smoky. Tripsy and I were even speculating that the fire closures are just put in place because of the Eclipse in a few days. 

Everyone is making a really big deal about the Eclipse and there’s apparently a ton of people coming from all around to see it from this area. It sounds like the best place to view the Eclipse is exactly by Mt. Jefferson at like 99.9%…and now that area is closed….is this a coincidence? I don’t have any plans for the Eclipse right now, since I don’t even know from day to day where I might be. 

However, my very dear friend Wildfire, from BC, is planning on coming down to OR for the Eclipse, and she and I are going to try to coordinate so we can hang out together and watch it from somewhere cool. I have to do a lot of research on the trail closures and the miles, resupply points and towns and figure out hitching and all that, but I am thinking maybe I can make it to Shelter Cove in time for the Eclipse and to meet up with her there. So, I am planting that seed now….we’ll see if it takes….

DAY 33: Sisters, OR 

August 17th, 2017

ZERO Miles

We jumped into RJ’s big truck and departed Ollalie Lake by 7:30am, just me and Tripsy and RJ. It was quite a long drive on a dusty, wine-dee at times, dirt road before finally hitting a paved road near the town of Detroit. Along the drive, RJ wasted no time in striking up some pretty deep and intense conversation, telling us quite a bit of his life story and asking us throught provoking questions about our own lives and what brought each of us out to the trail. Without getting into too much detail, I can at least say that it’s nice to be asked this question by someone who shares a love for the trail as well, compared to someone who has never backpacked a day in their life. To a fellow hiker, you can really dive deep into the reasons for your being out there so much more quickly and get into a really interesting converation. 

Side note #2: There is a set of experiences, which translates into knowledge and understanding that you already have in common. I’d say, to those reading this who are not hikers, the best way to describe the feeling of being on the trail is simple freedom. Freedom is a huge concept, it’s something every human has a natural born right to. It’s interesting that we have to take action to claim our freedom. In the case of doing a long thru-hike, it’s almost like you have to escape from civilization, in order to go claim your freedom. Freedom from any obligations except for those which you place on yourself. You can make life as simple (or as complicated) as you wish. I love the simplicity of thru-hiking, of life in the woods. I am at the point that I don’t think of it as an escape anymore, because right now, living on the trail, knowing I will be here for months to come, knowing I have all this time still layed out in front of me, it’s all I know. Living in the woods, is living in the sacred space, the space between no longer and not yet.

As we drove and chatted more, we noticed the air getting thicker and thicker with smoke. It was quite bad, actually, and by then Tripsy and I decided maybe there were indeed real reasons for them closing the Jefferson Wilderness. Like legit, real fires. By the time we reached Detroit, the smoke was the thickest, orangey-gray haze, and made everything look so grim and depressed. We stopped at the Mountain High Grocery Store in Detroit and grabbed a hot cup of coffee and they had home-made doughnuts there that were amazing! 

When we got to BLYC, Ghost was already there! He is so elusive, he really lives up to his name! We met several other hikers there, most of them Nobo, and I tried to pick up my re-supply box, but discovered it hadn’t arrived yet. I contacted Coyote and she was willing to come pick us up there and take us home to her place for the night in Sisters. So we agreed to do that, and we invited Ghost to join us, which he did. 

We never returned to BLYC so I want to just put in a quick plug for the place, for any future thru-hikers who would like more information. I stayed there last year on my Nobo hike and it was amazing. The camp hosts are super friendly and helpful. They accept hiker boxes, have a hiker hut where you can charge your stuff and hang out, they have one of the biggest hiker boxes ever, picnic benches, showers, laundry, camping and vegetarian meals in the dining hall. This is all donation based, so if you do go there, please be sure to donate accordingly. For any trail angel that offers lodging, showers, laundry and especially meals, I would recommend donating at leat $25 a day/night or more. There is great tenting out by the shore of the lake and I remember witnessing one of the most beautiful sunsets ever camping by the lake last year. Now, I can’t guarantee more great sunsets, but the rest is pretty much a sure bet. So go there and enjoy! 

We rummaged through the hiker box and Ghost was divying up extra stuff he had in his resupply box, we found a few extra sets of Eclipse glasses. Cool, check that!

Coyote arrived around noon and we greeted each other with happy, big hugs. I first met her last year on my Nobo hike, way back in the desert of SoCal. The first time I talked with her was at Paradise Valley Cafe, just between Warner Springs and Idyllwild. She was a former thru-hiker who was out section hiking for a few months with her little dog named Wylie. An awesome pair with matching green hair! I got to know her quite well over several sections of trail last year and we’ve kept in touch. She got a tiny house built this past Fall (complete with a PCT sign engraved in the wood) and has been living in Sisters, OR for a while. The three of us stinky hikers loaded up our gear and piled inside her green Honda Element, and we were off to Sisters. 

It was something like a 45 min drive to Sisters, where first thing upon arrival we went for lunch. I think that’s pretty much always the first thing on the agenda whenver any hiker gets to town. I ate a huge green salad and sweet potato fries with Iced Tea. Amazing!!  After that, we cruised over to Coyote’s place, super cool set up on the ourskirts of downtown, quiet and serene. There was a lot of smoke from the fires though, and at this point, there was no more doubt as to the legitimacy of the fires. There were giant clouds billowing over hillsides, absolutely no chance of seeing the three Sisters Volcanoes. The Eugene County Fire Department had set up a huge area filled with tents by the hundreds, with firefighters from all over, to help fight the fires. This was pretty serious!

As it turns out, a hiker named Swept Away (who gave me a ride from Bellingham towards Hart’s Pass at the beginning of this adventure) has a Mom named Premilla, who is a Trail Angel and happens to live right across the street from Coyote. Swept Away was there too, so we were all invited over to her house. Well, that was an adventure. To start, Premilla is a hoot. She is super high energy, really funny, entertaining and extremely generous in sharing her home and resources. Tripsy and I planned on camping at Coyote’s place, and Ghost was invited to stay at Premilla’s. She was in the process of turning part of their horse ranch into an Air B & B for hikers and travellers. 

We were able to take showers, wash our clothes and use some really fun loaner clothes she had accumulated. Swept Away was getting ready to go out on a horseback ride and since I had experience riding, she offered to take me along. I jumped at the opportunity and said yes. The ride was great, and of course made me think of my Mom. We got a much closer look at the smoke clouds billowing down over the mountains and enjoyed the beauty of an unusually colorful sunset.

Dig the loaner clothes & cowboy boots!
A very smoky sunset in Sisters
Hangin’ in Premilla’s kitchen

That night, we sat around Premilla’s kitchen cooking quesadillas, rice & beans, making fresh cucumber salad, and drinking wine. Then we helped her set up a giant trampoline in her back yard, and it took all 6 of us to do it! I tried doing some back flips but my belly was just too full for that, ugh! After all that activity, we were pretty tired, so we headed back to Coyote’s place and slept outside in front of her tiny house. I cowboy camped and fell asleep looking at what stars I could see despite the smoke.

DAY 34: Elk Lake Trail Junction, PCT Sobo mile ~700

August 18th, 2017

~12 Miles (from where our hitch dropped us off to the “PCT” at Elk Lake)

I slept really well all tucked in there between a pasture fence and Coyote’s tiny house, and didn’t wake until 7:30am! I always want coffee first thing in the morning, and Coyote offered to let me and Tripsy take her little Honda Civic into town to get breakfast and some errands done, as she had some stuff to do at the house. Good thing I know how to drive a stick shift! We jumped into the Honda and off we went to the A. Sister’s Coffee Company and B. Sisters Bakery where we got A. Coffee and B. Chocolate Croissants. My favorites!

We stopped into the grocery store for a few items and met back with Coyote shortly thereafter. We swung by Premilla’s and thanked her and Swept Away for their hospitality, and picked up Ghost, and then we were off again. Coyote offered to drive us three to Bend, where we would then have to hitch down to Elk Lake. The ride to Bend was so clutch, because it is all the way over to the East, near Mount Bachelor, where the trail does not go, but is the only way to get around the section of trail that is closed. We had found out while at Big Lake, that the Highway near McKenzie Pass was closed as of that day, so our plan to hike from there through at least part of the Three Sister’s Wilderness was thwarted. Now, this may have been a blessing in disguise, because that meant skipping the crazy lava rock section that just about killed by feet last year. I was actually looking forward to hiking it again for some odd reason (it is beautiful) and so was actually diappointed that we could not. It probably did help my feet, however, to skip those crazy, uneven, sharp lava rocks that go on for miles and miles. 

Coyote graciously drove us not only into Bend, but she also took us to Whole Foods and REI for supplies. Coyote, you are awesome!!! Ghost took off on his own, as he was on a mission to get new shoes. Then, it was time to say our goodbyes to Coyote, it was around noon at that point, so she dropped Tripsy and I off at a somewhat questionable intersection of Hwy 94 and a major road, which we thought looked like it would be a good place to hitch. But what do we know? 

So, we stood on that corner for a good 15 minutes with nothing but a lot of waves and odd looks. We thought surely having Whole Foods bags would increase our odds at getting picked up, making us look less like vagrants, but it didn’t seem to matter. Suddenly, a Cop car pulled up to us from around the corner. At first we thought we were getting in trouble for hitching. Hearts beating faster and hands a little shaky as the car approached us, he rolled down his window and said a friendly “hello”. Turns out he actually pulled over to tell us we had a better chance at getting a ride across the street! Ha! Thanks officer! 

We waited across the street for maybe another 30 minutes before finally getting a ride from a hippie guy named Paul, driving a big blue van, which it appeared he lived in, along with his black lab named “Seven”. He said he was living in his van indeed, right up near Mt. Bachelor, and he was on his way over towards Elk Lake anyway for the afternoon. Tripsy and I hopped in, squeezing our gear and groceries and bodies in where we could. I sprawled out on the bed/loft he had in the back, and finished up my latest blog while Tripsy carried on a conversation with Paul. 

It was maybe a 40 minute ride, and where Paul dropped us off at a trailhead, he told us it was just about a 3 mile walk to connect up with the PCT near Elk Lake, sweet! At the trailhead, we organized our groceries and supplies, and shared some of our extras with Paul. He then invited us to smoke some weed with him and go down to a close by swimming hole and hang out. Tripsy and I looked at each other trepidaciously, and without exchanging any words, we both politely declined Paul’s offer. Enticing as it was, that’s not really how we roll. We thanked him for the ride, and set off on the trail on a mission to get to Elk Lake and back to the PCT.

Honestly, we had no idea where we were, not really, but we used Google Maps to orient ourselves to the Lake. It looked like it was much further than our buddy indicated by trail, and there was a road we could have taken, but we took his word for it that the PCT was just a few miles away. Why we took his word? Don’t ask, maybe becuase we wanted to believe it. We later reasoned, taking his word was probably not one of our best decisions, not because he told an untruth, he really believed it to be true, but we figured he simply just didn’t have a clear idea of the trails there and was just confused. It didn’t matter though, we were at least on a trail, and making our way, if slowly, back to the PCT, near Elk Lake. And that was good enough. We had food, we had water, and we  had each other. And that’s the freedom of the trail…

A helpful (?) trail sign

We hiked and hiked and hiked, along a very dusty horse trail that Tripsy was completely disenchanted with, as she hates getting so dirty. The dust was deep, like to our ankles, and with every step we kicked it up furthermore. We hiked for a solid 3 hours before starting to wonder about getting water, as we were both running pretty low. At a nearby trail junction we saw signs for a horse camp, hoooray! We then crossed paths with a couple of equestrians who helped point us in the direction of the camp and the Lake, and it was a relief to know we were close. By then we’d probably covered 9 miles and had about another 3 to go to the Lake. We came to a water crossing with no way to cross except to ford it. I was happy to get my feet wet and cool off, and once we reached the other side, we took the opportunity to rest for a few minutes in the shade and eat a quick snack. 

Tripsy fording the creek

From the water crossing we walked on yet another dusty trail (so much for clean feet) to get to the horse camp. We asked another equestrian if she could point us in the direction of the paved road to Elk Lake, as we were done with the dusty, loose trails and figured the road walk would be much faster. Turns out we were within about 3 miles or less from the Lake, so we booked  it out to the paved road and headed downhill. We hoped we would be able to get a ride, but everyone who passed us in a car was going the opposite direction. The road walk wasn’t bad at all, we were just getting ancy to reach the Lake, as we’d originally figured on making it there by around 2pm, and getting in some actual PCT trail miles. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, now that it was closing in on 6pm. Oh well, such is the life of the trail, right? 

When we got to the entrance for the Lake and potential camping areas we stopped for a few minutes to re-group and determine what to do from there. We  really didn’t need supplies, we’d agreed on camping nearby for the night, but didn’t want to camp in a campground. We both also wanted to at least check out the scene at Elk Lake and maybe grab a beer? Ok, for sure grab a beer! So, we headed down there for maybe 20 minutes, chatted with a few Nobos, picked up a couple beers that cost an arm and a leg, and headed back up the road to the trail junction, just outside from a dirt parking lot. There was a small bucket of “trail magic” near the parking lot, and a bucket for trash, too. Always good. 

Smoke clouds at sunset
Tape marking the trail closure Nobo

Upon reaching the trail junction, we’d caught the last glimpses of the sunset, and we could see there was pink tape criss-crossed over the trail between two trees (photo above is from the next morning), stopping anyone from going North from there. The trail connecting to the PCT South was just off to the left, heading uphill, and it was open, thakfully. That trail linked back up with the PCT in just a mile up the hill. We found a flat enough spot to stealth camp just next to the trail and decided to call it home for the night. I coyboy camped again, and Tripsy set up her tent without the rain fly, as it was a pretty nice night out. We made our dinners and once again, felt a sense of relief that we were finally (almost) back on the PCT, finally knew there was open trail ahead, and didn’t have to wrap our brains around fire closures, skips and random hitches. We ate our dinners, drank our beers and passed out having agreed on a big day tomorrow.

DAY 35: August 19th, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 736, camp elevation 6,558

~32 Miles +3,770 ft / -2,156 ft

Journal excerpt: We made it 32 miles today, not bad! It feels really good to be horizontal right now. We woke up in the dark this morning, I made coffee and ate the additional chocolate croissant I ‘d packed out from the bakery, they taste even better on the trail! We set off on the trail by 6:30am and hiked the first mile uphill to re-unite with the PCT. Oh I missed you PCT!

It was very smoky today and lots of side trails were blocked off with the pink tape, mostly to the West. This morning we got a nice view of the silhouette of Mt. Jefferson through some burned, decapitated trees. 

We are now officially in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Today was the day of lakes and ponds, for every mile we hiked, there was a body of water of some sort. No kidding. We passed by: Sunset Lake, Dumbell Lake, Island Lake, Vera Lake, Porky Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Mac Lake, South Lake, Desane Lake, Snowshoe Lake and Small Lake. Shall I continue? That was all within the first 15 miles. There were also bounds and bounds of huckleberries! Despite the smoke, the forest was beautiful and I felt a lazy sense of ease walking amongst the neat huckleberry shrub understory, towering moss covered conifers, and a padded, gently winding trail. It was what I call a friendly trail today, as friendly as it comes, but by mile 20 my feet were sore, not gonna lie. We hiked 20 miles by lunchtime though, and that felt good. Good time to take a break!

We took an hour lunch break at Brahma Lake, and I ate Nori seaweed I’d purchased at WF which tasted amazing, plus handfuls of Juanitas chips, cheese, a tangerine, chocolate and nut butter and guzzled a ton of water. My eyes and throat felt so dry from the smoke. 

My body felt energized after the break and food. We hiked on and I was happy to discover my foot pain had subsided, I felt calm, strong and relaxed. Our original goal was to make 35-36 miles, but after lunch we realized that was not totally realistic, so we adjusted our plan, decided to hike another 8 miles to reach Charlton Lake, and determine from there what to do depending on how we felt at that hour of the day. 

One of the many little lakes

As we hiked on in the afternoon, we entered a beautiful burn area for about three miles. The light was dipping lower on the horizon so it was that perfect time of day to enjoy the golden glowing light through the stark trees. I really do love burn areas, there is something about them, they feel timeless, like I’m walking trhough another dimension. I stopped to take a lot of photos in that section, appreciating the new green plant growth, the fireweed, and the blackness of the ash on the tree trunks and in the soil. The trees were tall, sleek and most were missing their tops, probably cracked off from the wind after being burned. They looked like headless tree skeletons. These trees went on and on as far as the eye could see, covering entire hillsides even, reminding me of a city skyline. How odd to make a reference to a city landscape all the way out here, and think it beautiful! 

The air was still quite smoky and I could smell it all day, it was getting into my hair, my pores, everything. Out in the open like this, it seemed to be even worse. After about an hour, we hiked back into a healthy forest and enjoyed breathing somewhat healthier air.  

We shortly reached Charlton Lake, where we filled up on water and took a quick break, neither of us was ready to be done for the day. We ran into a hiker we’d met before (in WA) named Hurl Goat (from Ontario, Canada), at the lake. We were surprised to see him here, and we stopped to chat with him. He was obviously set up to stay there for the night, as he had his laundry hanging out on a line, just like he was right at home there! He had also gone for a dunk in the water to wash off and reported it to be quite refreshing! He was super nice, a big genuine smile, and even invited us to join him in camp. But we’d been planning on way bigger miles that day and still had more miles left in us. Plus, I’d coordinated with my friend Wildfire while in town, and agreed that we would meet up at Shelter Cove the next day, so we actually were on a little bit of a time crunch. Otherwise we may have joined Hurl Goat in camp by the lovely lake doused in haze. Instead, we pushed on into the night.

We hiked on another 4 miles, uphill. Ugh, it was a push. We left Charlton Lake at nearly 7:00pm, and I popped a couple Vitamin I before we left, knowing I was going to need it. We made it to camp by 8:25pm and were pretty beat. It wasn’t a particularly difficult day in any way, just long and finishing with a climb is alwyas a little tougher, maybe even mentally more than physically. 

It was just about dark, headlamp dark, when we reached the campsite, and there was already another tent there with a person in it, sleeping apparently, because we did not hear any stirring. We thought it may have been Ghost. How did he get ahead of us? So, we did our best to set up really quietly, and tried not to flash our headlamps in his direction. It was a lovely site though, up on a little perch off the trail, nice and flat, pine needle floor, surrounded by trees, and best of all, it was super quiet. Since Ollalie Lake we’d been sleeping in earshot of sounds of civilization. 

There was a slight chill in the air, which felt great, and I decided to cowboy camp again. After enjoying my Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese with Juanita’s chips for dinner, I layed flat on my back and tried to star gaze through the haze. I couldn’t see much, but I just love that feeling of having nothing between me and that enormous star filled sky, even if I can’t see them. As I lay here, Tripsy started snoring already! She totally passed out, and Ghost is snoring too, now. So much for the quiet! Tomorrow we are going to start early again and make the 17 miles to Shelter Cove by 1:00pm, just in time to eat, and meet Wildfire, yay!

DAY 36: August 20th, 2017

PCT SOBO Mile 746, Shelter Cove (and back to Rosary Lakes to camp)

14 trail miles (plus 2 miles to Shelter Cove, plus 3.5 PCT Miles back to Rosary lake) 

In the morning, we woke to what seemed like clearer skies. I think the smoke just has a way of settling overnight, and then gets worse throughout the day. Turns out, it was Ghost who was camped next to us, or us next to him, I should say. We chatted with him before setting out on the trail, and found out his achilles is bothering him quite a lot, which he had not led on to the severity of before. He got new shoes in Bend, thinking this would be a big help. He got the same shoes, only a full size bigger, and it seems that it’s exacerbating the issue rather than helping. He let us know he was planning to get a hitch off the trail at Wilamette Pass, just near Shelter Cove, and take some time off to rest and heal up. It was such a bummer to hear this, as I know from firsthand experience (from my hike last year) how awful it is to hike in so much pain. Not only does it wear on you physically, but emotionally it tears you up, and pain is exhausting. I hope he gets better soon and is able to continue, I really liked hiking with you Ghost!

Tripsy and I set off after Ghost and aimed at reaching Shelter Cove for lunch. We had 14 miles to hike to Wilamette Pass and then another two miles on a trail that led to Shelter Cove. That morning, in the forest, we bumped into a group of Nobos who looked like they were having the best time together as a group. We chatted with them for like 30 minutes, hearing all their crazy trail names and enjoying watching their interactions with one another. Later, Trispy and I commented on how we were a little envious of the Nobos because they were so much more likely to develop trail families like that one. We wondered if that would happen with us?

Half the Nobo group stick fighting!

I came up with an idea that morning, which was to hike with Tripsy and Wildfire back to the Rosary Lakes area, about three miles or so North of Willamette Pass, and camp there for the night, so we could enjoy the Eclipse from up there! So, when we passed by those lakes on our way South, we checked out good places to camp. It was eerily empty when we first passed through. I expected there to be a bunch of weekend hikers, but literally the place was deserted. Sweet, we will have the place to ourselves! 

We made a loose plan to do this and with a cell signal now, I was able to text Wildfire and confirm everything with her. She was down with the plan!

Side-note #3: During the past few days, I’d gotten to thinking about where I would meet my Northbound Self? It was something I’d talked with Carrot about when we were hiking together, and back then there was no way I could have calculated this equation. It’s like a brain warp, trying to figure out where you were on your Nobo hike last year, and when you might be at that exact same place on the exact same day this year going South. Since I couldn’t access my photos from last year, I couldn’t be sure, but I felt like I was getting close. I thought it might have been Shelter Cove, and when I got a cell signal, I decided to check my Instagram posts from last year. Guess what? Yup, Shelter Cove, August 20th, 2016 at around 2:00pm and now, Shelter Cove, August 20th, 2017 at around 2:00pm….freaky!! Even freakier was that I took the exact same photo at the sign, without even realizing it!

8.20.16 Nobo!

8.20.2017 Sobo!

When we made it to Shelter Cove, we wasted no time ordering salads, french fries and beers. We met up with Wildfire there and had a glorious trail reunion hug fest. Wildfire is always so happy and positive and she shares a true love for the trail. While we sat and ate, she shared with us her upcoming plans of hiking the GR20 in Corsica and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Dang, I am envious!!! 

Hurl Goat showed up at Shelter Cove as well and Wildfire and him chatted for a bit, since they are both Canadian an’ all, haha. We spent some time charging our phones and we met several really cool Nobos too. Shelter Cove has a great hiker tent set up, with hiker boxes, picnic benches, and there are showers nearby, and places to tent, and lodging too, if you want to stay the night or even take a zero. Cool place. Worth the side trip.

It got reeeeaaallllly smoky that afternoon

Soon, it was time to get up to our camp spot for the night and just relax, so we ordered an 18″ pizza, a giant wedge salad and bought a bottle of wine to take back to camp with us. The pizza was gargantuous, and we had to place it in several gallon size zip lock bags, smashed face to face like a calzone, and carry it in our packs. It was really a ton of pizza, heavy! We drove in Wildfire’s car to the trailhead at Wilamette Pass, so once back on the PCT, we only had about 3.5 miles to get to Rosary Lakes. All our food and wine was packed in our packs, but we had the wedge salad in a take out container. As we walked Northbound, we ran into a few Sobos Gretel and Barry. I’d met Gretel way back in Skykomish, she is from Australia, and it was so cool to bump into her again, I’d hoped to get to hike with her. Except they were a bit confused as to why we were heading North and what was in the food container. We explained our plan to them and recieved props for being cool, haha.

We made it back to the Rosary Lakes, maybe by 6pm, and as predicted, we literally had the whole place to ourselves. It was awesome! We set up our tents, as there were quite a few bugs, and then made our way down to the shores of the lake to eat pizza, drink wine, and watch the sun go down. 

We got all caught up on life and I was so happy that Tripsy and Wildfire were finally meeting and enjoying getting to know each other. By dusk, the bugs were getting pretty bad, so we each retreated to our tents and continued talking through the safety nets and zippers. Tripsy had forgotten about her wedge salad and while I was already so full from pizza, I agreed to help her eat it. I can never turn down salad! So, I actually got ino her tent, and sat there chompinng away, polishing it off like it was nothing. So, there we were, three women in the woods, with full bellies and smiles on our faces. We were looking forward to sleeping in the next morning, with no agenda except beingn very well situated for the Eclipse. I got super lucky on this one with something like 99.7% visibility from where we were. I consider myself blessed indeed, every single day.

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