My Hip Injury

I thought I’d share news on my hip, since so many people have asked for an update. I hiked most of the Pacific Crest Trail with pain in my hip, which in retrospect was probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Doing any kind of extreme endurance sport requires a certain amount of stubbornness, and we learn to put up with a certain amount of pain, which is part of what you sign up for. I’ll never forget a phone call I got from my mother several hundred miles into my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. “You must feel amazing, and in the best shape of your life.” She said. “I hurt basically all over,” was my reply.

Many hikers are familiar with “hiker hobble,” the strange gait that hikers acquire when they stroll around town or campsites due to various foot and leg pain. It’s comical because after an hour of rest, you would think by the way most hikers start limping around that they couldn’t conceivably walk more than a mile or two the next day. Yet they’ll be easily doing 20-30 milers day in and day out.

So, basically it’s tough for hikers to tell an injury from every-day pain. And even harder to tell a serious injury form one that just needs a couple weeks of rest. In my case, I looked back in my journal and found that on day 1 I complained about pain in my right hip. Not a good sign. But I wasn’t in pain for the whole hike. It definitely progressed and got worse and worse with the miles, and particularly bad when I stopped for a day.

Finally after the hike was over, I decided the best course of action was to rest for several months and hope that my injury would disappear on its own. It really never did. Even after two or three months, I couldn’t walk more than a mile or two without pain, and I would have pain at night too. Finally, I decided it was time to see an orthopedic surgeon. The post-trail depression was setting in because of lack of exercise and I was going bonkers.

A few weeks later, after an inconclusive initial visit with the surgeon, I found myself in the hospital having an MRI. The results stated “probable subtle partial tear of the anterior superior labrum”. So basically there is probably a small tear in the cartilage around my hip socket. Unfortunately the prognosis isn’t clear. No one remedy seems to solve this problem, but you can start with physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. If that doesn’t work, they can inject your joint with an anti-inflammatory which sometimes does the trick. Last of all, if everything else has failed, you can try arthroscopic surgery, where they simply scrape away flapping bits of cartilage. Surgery usually doesn’t help much, and is quite invasive. The surgeon didn’t recommend it (and if a surgeon doesn’t recommend surgery, that must really mean it’s a crap-shot, since usually they’re ready to jump on just about anything with a scalpel in hand)

The good news is that slowly, on its own, it seems like my hip is trying to heal. I don’t have as much pain as I did a few months ago, and I hardly ever have pain at night. I started physical therapy a week ago, and I’ve been very diligent about doing it. I also have an anti-inflammatory creme that I apply to my hip several times a day. I have high hopes that I will slowly heal, but I do worry quite a bit about this injury. Am I going to be able to hike 20-30 mile days again? Is my age catching up with me? Will I forevermore be plagued with injuries? How would a “real” athlete deal with a problem like this?

The Southbound Scoop: What you need to know about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound: What you need to know.
 
Everyone’s been asking me to write something about going Southbound (SOBO) since there really isn’t much out there on the subject.  Keep in mind that everyone’s experiences are different, and every year is different as well.  In particular, snow conditions vary from year to year and you should do a lot of your own research on current conditions before heading out.  Usually, the beginning of SOBO season is roughly from mid June to mid July or even later depending on snow, and you’ll likely finish your hike anywhere from October to December depending on your speed and start date.
 
Just to start with, I’ll give you a quick summary of why I think hiking Southbound is awesome and why I think more people should do it with some pros and cons, then I’ll go into the more nitty-gritty of planning a SOBO hike.
 
So…. WHY SOBO??
 
Hiking Southbound is great for many reasons:
1. You’re not going to be hiking in huge herd of hikers.  During my SOBO hike, I only met 7 other SOBO hikers (as opposed to 78 Northbounders (NOBOs) I met in one day).
2.  You’ll start your hike in some of the most beautiful scenery, not in the desert.  Let’s face it, more than half of us quit.  If you quit as a NOBO, you will have hiked in the desert, and not up in Northern Washington.  I’m not trying to dis the desert… the desert is awesome in its own ways but really, Northern Washington is more worth your time.
3. Speaking of the desert.  It is much more pleasant to walk through Southern California (“the desert”) in the late fall (late October/ early November) when the days are shorter and cooler.   Plus by then you’ll be hiking 25-30 miles a day, so you won’t spend as many days in the desert as NOBOs do.
4.  You’ll have much more of a “wilderness” experience going SOBO.  None of this fighting over tent space, falling in and out of cliques or worrying about hostels, hotels and trail angels being packed with hikers.  You’ll get a much more personal experience with towns and with Trail Angels.  You won’t need to worry about someone walking up on you while you’re peeing or whatever else you need to do while there’s no coverage.  For those of you East Coast hikers, let me warn you– much of the PCT is pretty “open”. There aren’t many trees or bushes, which is great for views and such, but for finding a spot to dig a hole and minding your business? Not so much.  I often times wondered how NOBOs found any privacy.
5.  You’ll get bugs in Washington, but not so much in Oregon where they’re supposedly worse.  You definitely won’t get bugs in the Sierras, so you’ll be able to enjoy your breaks at the gorgeous lakes up there.
6.  You’ll be following leave-no-trace ethics by not hiking the trail during the most high traffic times (which is normal NOBO season and summer holidays).  During your hike you’ll realize how much impact hikers have on the trail, especially by talking to locals in town about what it is like during NOBO season.
7.  You will always be walking up the northern face (colder and shaded), and down the southern face (hotter, and sunnier).  You’ll appreciate this on hot days.  Carrying an umbrella is helpful since you’ll be walking into the sun most of the time.
 
Hiking Southbound may not be for you if:
1. You’re not ready to hit the ground running.  Unlike going NOBO where you have the desert to “warm up” with, since there is no real time-frame for hiking in the desert, you’ll need to hit the ground running from day one.  Just as it is for Northbounders hiking from the beginning of the Sierras once the snow is manageable until the Canadian border, before the snow hits again in the fall (roughly 2000 miles), you’ll have the same time crunch.  You’ll be hiking in Northern Washington just as the snow is melting up there, and trying to make it through the Sierra before the snow hits again in the fall.  October 1st is a good date to aim to be at Forester Pass.  The only difference is you’ll get to “cool down” with the desert  with no real time restraints, rather than having the desert as a “warm-up.”
2.  You want to hike with groups of people and make lots of friends. If you’re more into the social aspect of the trail, SOBO may not be for you.  You’ll still meet people, but it won’t be the social scene that hiking NOBO probably is.  But maybe you’ll spend less time and money in town as a result.
 
SNOW:
Before you start the trail: check snowtel: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/ and pct website: http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps-and-guidebooks/ for current snow conditions.  I recommend not starting your hike until after the level of snow at Harts Pass has reached 0 inches.  I’d even wait a while after that.  Don’t think this’ll mean you won’t be hiking on snow.  No matter how late you start, you’ll be hiking on snow.  If you get going once the level at Harts Pass reaches 0 inches, the passes you’ll be going over for the next several hundred miles will be completely covered in snow, and unless you have some significant snow experience, or you’re simply not afraid of death or heights, you’ll probably have a few “what the fuck am I doing!?” moments.  So prepare for it.  Also, make sure the road to Harts Pass is open before you drive out there.  The people at Mazama at Goats Beard can help you figure that out.
 
Keep in mind that every year is different when it comes to snow, and a low snow year in the Sierra often times means a high year in the Cascades and visa verse.  It helps to talk to locals- preferably hikers.  Ranger stations have limited knowledge for some reason, and we’ve gotten some bad advice.  Talk to Andrea Dinsmore, the Trail Angel in Northern Washington.  She’s not a hiker, but she’ll know if it’s a high snow year or a low one.  From her experience hosting hikers, and being involved in search and rescue she’ll be able to give you some basic advise.
 
In a normal or high snow year, I would recommend the following gear: ice axe, crampons or microspikes (don’t go with yak-tracks or anything else that’s only really for walking on icy sidewalks), GPS, compass, map, and personal locator beacon.  If you want specific recommendations, let me know, but any and all of these could save your life on the snow.  Also, learn some snow skills before you get out there.  There is no use having an ice axe if you have no idea how to use it.  Google “self arrest” and watch some videos then go out and practice on a snowy slope.  You will need the skills before you have a good chance to practice them on trail.  The Northern Cascades are very rugged and actually quite different from the Sierra, and you’ll want to have practiced in a safe environment before you show up.  Here’s a good learning video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94QFImjdEAo.  Learn to walk in crampons or microspikes- in particular, learn to kick steps.  Learn to self belay.  There are great videos on all these techniques.  Learn about cornices, snow/ice bridges and post-holing.  As you gain experience on snow, you’ll slowly learn how different snow feels beneath you.  The snow will be harder in the morning and softer in the afternoon. You’re more likely to post-hole through soft snow, and you can injure yourself on rocks, sticks, etc that are under the snow.
 
In Northern Washington you’ll spend a significant amount of time traversing steep slopes and avalanche chutes covered in snow. You’ll be looking hundreds and sometimes almost a thousand feet down on one side and kicking steps into the mountain and you’ll be holding your ice axe in your uphill hand and your trekking pole in your downhill hand.  Estimate that hiking in snow will take you twice as long as normal hiking.  If you’re walking on 50-100% snow, you should plan for 10 to 15 mile days.  Best to plan for 10 miles a day when it comes to food.  The one thing in your favor here is the sunlight.  You’ll be starting your hike at the peak of the summer with the most amount of daylight, and you’ll need it!  Luckily your appetite won’t kick in for the first week or two, so you’ll get away with carrying a little less than you would otherwise, but nonetheless, you should over-pack on food, because that will be your limiting factor.  Many people going southbound in 2014 had to push hard to make it through the Glacier Peak Wilderness before they ran out of food.  We just underestimated the snow.  I never thought it could take me 15 or 16 hours to go 11 miles.  Kicking steps takes time, and navigating takes time too.  Once you get past the snow, you will be done with the hardest part of the trail.  Once you hit solid ground, it’ll feel like you’re floating along watching the beautiful scenery go by and you’ll be loving your thru-hike.
 
Starting the trail:
 
First of all you’ll need to get to the beginning of the trail, which is at the Canadian border.  There are practically speaking two ways of doing this, but legally speaking only one.  You can either hike north from Harts Pass or Route 20 (Rainy Pass) to the border to start your southbound hike, or enter from Manning Park in Canada.  It it illegal to enter into the United States from Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, and at least one hiker has wound up in jail for attempting this… not a great way to start your hike.  For that reason I recommend starting at Harts Pass.  To start your hike, go to Seattle, and find someone willing to drive you to Hart’s Pass, then hike north to the border.  If it’s a high snow year consider alternatives.  Hiking on the PCT isn’t the only way to hike from Canada to Mexico.  A great low elevation alternative is to hike along Ross Lake to reach the Canadian Border.  Then you can follow Panther Creek Trail and Thunder Creek Trail going over Park Creek Pass, which will have snow on it.  A map will be your friend here.  Get permits with the local ranger stations here because you’ll be in a National Park, and you’re required to have them.  Stash food at route 20 (we did so in a bear canister), then your next resupply will be in Stehekin.  It’s a short distance from route 20 to Stehekin (2-3 days at most), and if you used one, you can mail your bear canister home at Stehekin.
 
Bugs and rodents:
 
The worst bugs you’ll encounter on the PCT are mosquitoes.  There are many types along the PCT, and you’ll slowly learn their behaviors as you move from one type of mosquitoes territory to another.  The clouds of mosquitoes will start with you in Northern Washington.  They basically hatch right out of the snow.  You’ll be concentrating on kicking a step and not falling several hundred feet to your death, and suddenly you’ll hear “bzzzzzzz….” in your ear.  If you have a bug phobia now’s probably the time to start practicing meditation.  At least the mosquitoes in Washington are relatively slow compared to the ones in Oregon.  You have a chance in outrunning them, particularly once you hit solid ground.  The ones in Oregon can land on you while you’re at a dead out sprint, I’m not kidding you.  And wind?  No problem.  They’ll find you in 50 mph gusts.  Then in Southern Oregon you’ll meet another bread that aren’t as fast as their Central Oregon relatives, but for what they lack in speed, they make up for in size.  You’ll be slightly afraid of squishing these pterodactyl-like mosquitoes for the mess that they will leave behind.  Luckily by the time you hit the Sierra, there will be not a mosquito in sight, and you can dilly-dally at lakes taking thousands of pictures.
Also a note on mice – we were told by locals that mice would be a big problem in the Cascades of Washington.  For the most part, they weren’t since we were on snow, but when we got to lower elevation, Dirt Stew was kept up by them running on the tent netting above his head.  There is dense vegetation here, so tent sites are quite established.  Some people have had mice chew through their tents and/or food bags.
 
Weather:
 
Although you’ll be starting with snow on the ground, it won’t be as cold as winter hiking.  In late June early July up in Washington it could get down to roughly freezing, but that’s about as low as it will get.  You may wind up camping on snow, and my recommendation is to cut a few small pieces of blue foam (the kind you find at Walmart), and put those pieces under your butt and shoulders to insulate you from the snow.  Use these in conjunction with your normal sleeping pad.  You can also use these pieces to wrap your crampons in during the day.  Most likely it will be fairly warm during the day, and as a result you’ll be watching the snow melt.  We had a week or more in the 90’s and got completely sun burnt by hiking on the snow in bright sunshine.  Beware of this!  Sunscreen SPF 50 was not even enough.  Sunglasses, sunscreen, and eventually covering every square inch in clothing became absolutely necessary.
 
Through Central Oregon and Northern California our 10 and 20 degree sleeping bags were too warm, and if we had decided to switch to lighter ones, this would have been the right time to do so.  If I had done this, I would maybe have sent my lighter sleeping bag to Crater Lake, and then sent it back in favor of the warmer one at Truckee or Sierra City.
 
If you’re a normal hiker, I think you’ll do fine with a 20 degree bag for the whole trail.  The coldest temperatures for our hike happened in the High Sierra in mid to late September.  It went below freezing almost every night, probably into the low 20’s (just a guess, I didn’t have a thermometer).  I’m always cold, so I choose a 10 degree bag, and I know some who sleep more on the warm side who got away with a 30 degree bag.  I would send any extra warm clothing to Tuolumne Meadows, and then send it home again at Kennedy Meadows South.  I was happy to have an extra down jacket for this section.
 
We wound up keeping our warmer clothing through the desert because we did not know what to expect, but it did not get below freezing for us in the desert.  We were slightly ahead of the southbound “herd” and for some behind us, it did get slightly cooler, and in some of the higher mountains of the desert it could easily snow in late October or early November.  We finished our hike in early November, and never saw snow in the desert.  You can expect some hot sections where the trail is low in elevation (e.g Cajon Pass, and hiking along the Aquaduct), but there is also plenty of high elevation hiking in the desert which doesn’t really feel like desert at all and will be a refreshing change.
 
Water:
 
All PCT hikers worry about water.  For Southbounders, water starts becoming an issue in Oregon and continues through parts of Northern California, and then again in Southern California.  Water sources during the summer of 2014 were particularly unpredictable because of the drought conditions.  Data seemed often times unreliable, and “seasonal” water was sometimes running while rivers and streams were not.  My suggestion is to try to carry enough water to make it two water sources away, although this isn’t always feasible, and many UL hikers resent carrying too much water.  But I have to say, it really sucks when you run out of water and then you reach a dry water source.  After the Sierra, the Water Report becomes your bible.   Print out the latest version in each town you get to.  The website is www.pctwater.com.  Once you get to the desert, you’ll find water relatively easy to deal with because of the Water Report, having already done 30 mile water-less stretches.  I seriously think water is more of an issue for NOBO’s because they’re starting their hike in the desert and fighting for resources.
 
Sierra Resupply
 
On your South Bound hike, depending on your hiking speed, some places in the Sierras may close down before you reach them.  Definitely call in advance to find out the closing dates of Kennedy Meadows North, Tuolumne Meadows, Vermillion Valley Resort, Muir Ranch, and Kennedy Meadows South.  The closing dates vary from year to year, and also are affected by snow.  An early snow storm may cause them to close early.  It is not impossible to through-hike without these resupply stops.  You can hike out at Mammoth/ Reds Meadow, Whitney Portal (you need a permit), and Independence/Kearsarge Pass regardless of time of year.
 
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.  I’m going to convert this blog post into a page on this website, and the more information the better.  When we did research for our hike, information was very limited.  We had no idea where we’d find the mosquitoes, and so we sent bug netting to Oregon.  Thank goodness for Andrea Dinsmore and her collection of old gear.  We also surveyed the Southbounders we met along the way to try to determine what the desert would be like.  We had imagined that it would get very very cold at night, but in fact it never did.  I really hope that more people decide to go Southbound.  With increasing numbers of hikers on the trail, it only makes sense to spread ourselves out and minimize our impact on the trail.
Here is another resource for Southbounders made by 2016 hikers:  https://www.pctsouthbound.com/
Happy Trails!
Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Dunsmuir to Quincy, CA

Highlights:  From Ashland we skipped ahead about 220 miles so as to avoid the numerous fires around northern California.  We hitchhiked on Rt 5 from Ashland to Dunsmuir and continued our journey from there.  We have been a bit upset to have missed 220 miles of the trail, so we are making lose plans to try to go back to that section after making it through the Sierra.  From Dunsmuir we immediately felt like we were in California with much more wildlife than Oregon or Washington: deer, bears, etc.  We also saw familiar lizards and dry scrub from living in the Bay Area the last three years.  We passed through many many small bits of “civilization”.  There have been many opportunities to get a meal here and there.  We also screwed up our resupply strategy by jumping ahead by several hundred miles, and wound up with a logistical nightmare which we worked out with our angelic friends Don and Jenny who are mailing us our packages.  By skipping forward, we also made it past any remaining northbound thru-hikers, and we found ourselves pleasantly alone in the woods at last.

Day 47: Ashland, 0 miles
August 17th:
We decided to take another “zero” but moving hotels to the Callihans, which offered a special hiker discount.  They also had a computer for me to blog on, so I could finally do the last blog post (finding computers is turning out to be a bit tricky).  During our second day off, Dirt Stew went to Super Cuts and got a hair cut.  We then finally had a relaxing evening.
Day 48: Dunsmuir (mile 1506.5) to mile 1494, 12.5 miles
August 18th:
We slept in, packed up and tried to hitchhike on the exit from the Callihans on Rt 5.  There was almost no traffic, and everyone seemed to be going back into Ashland rather than south on Rt 5.  Finally someone stopped and asked us where we were trying to go.  We told them Dunsmuir, but we weren’t having much luck.  He took us back into Ashland on the premise that it would be easier to hitchhike from a busier exit. This turned out to be true, and very soon a young man named Tim stopped and picked us up.  He was going as far as Yreka, probably half way to Dunsmuir.  We decided to take the ride.  Once in Yreka, after getting ice cream at the nearby McDonalds, we stood by the Rt 5 intersection trying to hitchhike.  Yreka is nowhere near the trail, and there is a sizable homeless/transient population there, which was not doing us any favors.  One young homeless guy walked up to us and tried to give us advice on hitchhiking.  “You should stand closer to the on-ramp” he said.  “People are going to fast there,” Dirt Stew answered “Nobody will be able to read our little sign.”  Our sign read “PCT hikers to trail: Dunsmuir, Rt 5 South”.  I was just hoping the guy would leave us alone, he was certainly not helping us out by talking to us.  Finally he wandered off after staying “I’m headed south too, but it’s way too hot to hitchhike now”.  Sweat was dripping down our backs, and we stood there for nearly 45 minutes before I said to Dirt Stew: “we really need to not look homeless.  Nobody wants to pick up homeless people”.  Across the street there was a Starbucks.  “I’m going to get a coffee.”  I said.  “homeless people don’t drink Starbucks.”  I went across the street and ordered the cheapest coffee, and filled it with cream to cool it off, and headed back outside.  I stood next to Dirt Stew and took a long deliberate sip of warm coffee.  The sweat accumulated on the small of my back.  Not 30 seconds later a Prius with 3 young ladies stopped and the girl in the driver’s seat leaded out and said “You guys trying to go south?”  “YES!” we answered.  We jumped in the car.  “Thanks for picking us up!” we said.  “No problem.  We knew you guys weren’t homeless because of the Starbucks cup.”  I gave Dirt Stew a very smug grin.  Half an hour later we were back on the trail, hiking again.
Day 49: Mile 1494 to 1469, 25 miles
August 19th:
In the middle of the night, we were both woken up by a thermocline which had somehow made its way up the ridge.  I woke up sweating.  The heat subsided after half an hour or an hour, but it made me nervous because the heat was accompanied by the faint smell of smoke.  I finally fell back asleep once it cooled off and the smoke smell dissipated.  In the morning, there was no sign of smoke or fire, so we continued on.  It was very warm, probably in the 90’s and it was hard to consume enough water to keep hydrated.  We made it to a campground that had a privy.  I went in and sat down, and immediately saw that one wall was basically covered in bats.  Dirt Stew told me he didn’t feel comfortable using the privy with so many bats making little squeaking noises.  I thought they were kinda cute.  There was lots of poison oak throughout the day, and I was very grateful that we were good at identifying it.  We also passed a section hiker, and asked him if he had any maps that he wasn’t using anymore, and he gave us a few, which was very helpful, since we were hiking with no maps because we had skipped ahead, and hadn’t gotten the maps for this section yet (they were in our resupply box for a town we skipped).  In the middle of the night, I was awoken by a very large black ant crawling on my face.  I squished it, and wondered how it got in the bug netting of the tent.  I found several others inside our tent, and they each died a similar death.
Day 50: Mile 1469 to 1439, 30 miles
August 20th:
Today was less hot, and we went though a lot of logging areas with many roads, and not much shade.  Manzanita bushes line the mountains making them look deceptively green.  The trail was very dusty, and we could see tracks of may animals, which seem to use the trail more than people.  Deer tracks, bear tracks, etc.  The bear tracks were everywhere, and eventually, we saw several bears which ran away from us.  We got to our first dry spring, but thankfully found water just half a mile later.  Again in the middle of the night an ant wakes me up by crawling on my face.  I don’t know what these ants are thinking, but they have a death wish.
Day 51: Mile 139 to mile 1417, 22 miles
August 21st:
The trail continues to be dusty, and we saw many more bear prints.  We also saw a cougar print.  I thought in the past I had seen cougar prints, but now that I definitely have seen a cougar print, I know the prints I saw in the past were not cougar prints.  Cougar prints are ENORMOUS and cannot be mistaken for any dog, smaller cat, etc.  If anything, they could be confused with a bear print if the bear was sort of walking more on its toes than on the heel of its paw.  But the size print is about the same.
Cougar Print

Cougar Print

 It continues to be very hot out, and we used our umbrellas for shade basically all day.  We made it to Burney Falls, and took coin operated showers, and washed some clothes in the sink.  We bought the only “real” food in the campground store, which were hot dogs, and had two each, even though they were outrageously expensive.  No cell phone service, but I found a pay phone, which was inconveniently located directly in the sun.  I called my mother, and she told us she would send us a box to Sierra City!  She tried to help us find the next town, “Cassel” where we had a box sent, and as the sweat dripped down my newly washed back, I realized this was probably another town that basically didn’t really exist.  We still had no maps or data, having screwed up our resupply boxes.  The falls at Burney Falls were pretty neat.  The water comes directly out of some rocks, because the water cannot go through the rock, but the creek above is dry.  We kept walking out of Burney Falls on very flat terrain, which was some sort of volcano plain with some burn areas.
Day 52: Mile 1417 to mile 1391, 26 miles
August 22nd:
Quite early in the morning, we hit an unbelievable “cache” that some trail angels left for hikers.  There were lawn chairs, a picnic table, and a pantry built into something that looked like a kiosk.  There were also sodas, and a table with pots and pans and a camp stove for cooking yourself food.  We were completely in awe, and spent some time munching on crackers, sipping cool sodas, and sitting in comfortable chairs before leaving a note of thanks and moving on.  We got to a lake which had so many ospreys flying around, they were like pigeons.  People were fishing on the lake, and they pointed us in the direction of Cassel.  We only had to walk about a mile and a half up a dirt road to get to the Post Office where we picked up our package which had a new backpack for me.  My Golite backpack was becoming more and more uncomfortable, and I could barely carry any weight in it, and I was so excited for getting my new osprey pack.  I thought it was ironic that we got it in a place full of ospreys.  Good timing too, because we had to fill up with 12 liters of water to prepare for the 30 mile water-less stretch of the Hat Creek Rim area.  The pack felt amazing for the first hour, and then it started pushing and rubbing on several bones on my back.  It hurt more and more until I realized it was even more uncomfortable than my old back.  I was very upset, and finally Dirt Stew and I traded packs, and he wore my purple size small pack, and I wore his gigantic pack.  Surprisingly, this worked.  We walked through the Hat Creek Rim area, which felt a bit like death.  Everything was so dry, and there were basically no trees.  We passed many cows, and didn’t make it out of cow territory before camping for the night.  We hoped no cows would disturb us in the night.
Death in Hat Creek Rim

Death in Hat Creek Rim

Sunset from Hat Creek Rim

Sunset from Hat Creek Rim

Hat Creek Rim

Hat Creek Rim

Day 53: Mile 1391 to 1369, 22 miles
August 23rd:
Woke up to cows mooing at sunrise.  We got going and walked the rest of the Hat Creek Rim to the side trail to lava tubes.  This was an amazing side trip, which was only 0.4 miles off the trail.  The lava tubes are gigantic and you can walk through them.  They are basically like caves.
Lava Tube

Lava Tube

We kept on to Old Station, where there is an RV resort with a post office where we had sent another box.  We took a shower there, which came with a towel (very exciting).  They also had laundry (also very exciting).  We made a bunch of phone calls while waiting for our laundry to finish, and luckily my mother had realized that next weekend will be Labor Day weekend, and we would miss the post office where she was planning on sending us our package.  Thank god she thought of this, because it never occurred to me.  She also did all the research to find out that there was another store in town, open all days, that accepts packages. Stupidly, we still didn’t have the right data to be able to look up all this information ourselves.  We left Old Station feeling very clean, and as we walked out, heard many gun shots.  We sang loudly so as to identify ourselves as people, not deer, and finally got out of that area.  We made it to the boundary of Lassen Volcanic National Park, and pitched our tent in a flat area inside the park.  After falling asleep, Dirt Stew woke me up suddenly at 10pm: “What’s that noise?”  He asked.  I took my ear pugs out.  There was an animal outside growling, and scampering around.  I turned on my headlamp as the animal scurried up a tree.  I saw its eyes glowing, and felt some relief to see it wasn’t an extremely large animal (our fear had been that it was a cougar).  It made ungodly noises and ran up and down the tree at an amazing speed before jumping off and running into the woods.  We only saw its outline, and it was about the size of a dog, only it moved like nothing I had ever seen before- very quickly and low to the ground.  My heart was racing, and I left my earplugs out for an hour or so before sleep overcame me again.
Walking to Lassen

Walking to Lassen

Day 54: Mile 1369 to mile 1345, 24 miles
August 24th:
We spent the day hiking through Lassen Volcanic.  The Pacific Crest trail does not see many of the highlights of the park, so we were glad to have visited the park last year, and seen the sights that were far from the trail.  We took a side trail to see Terminal Gyser, which was definitely worth going to– with steam rising higher than the trees.
Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

Terminal Geyser

In the middle of the park there is a resort that existed long before the park was a National Park, called Drakesbad Ranch, and it is only a quarter mile off the trail.  We decided to go see if they had meals available there.  Going there was a great decision.  As I walked up, the owner asked “are you a PCT thru-hiker!?”  “Yes!” I replied, and he gave me a huge hug!  Weird, I thought, remembering how dirty and smelly I was.  But I felt right at home.  They had a buffet style lunch with tons of vegetables and fruit, which we had been craving.  We ate and ate, and talked with the owner, who told us he believed the devil-like animal that woke us up last night was a raccoon.  He said they become very aggressive, especially since so many people feed the animals.  He also welcomed us to go take a shower near the pool, and take a dip.  The pool was fed by hot springs, and was normally over 100 degrees, Fahrenheit, but since the drought they have reduced the flow, and the temperature was in the 90’s.  We jumped at the opportunity, and spent a half hour showering, and jumping in the pool, lounging on the toy noodles, trying to relax (something we don’t do often!).
Relaxing in the hot spring fed pool

Relaxing in the hot spring fed pool

We kept on, and hiked past the boundary of the park before camping.  Maybe the racoons here are less aggressive!
Day 55: Mile 1345 to mile 1321, 24 miles
August 25th:
We had camped between two dirt roads, and we were woken up at 5am (an hour before sunrise) by logging vehicles and machinary.  We got going by 6am, and the air was completely dusty.  The trail went up from the valley, and as we rose, I could see the haze of smoke left behind by the logging vehicles.  These people were logging basically directly on the trail.  There were signs warning us of falling timber.  We tried not to be annoyed, since this land probably belonged to them, and they were kind enough to let us walk though.
Logging on Trail

Logging on Trail

We got to the road going to Chester, and met a runner who offered to take us in.  For the first time we didn’t actually NEED to go into town since we didn’t have a package waiting there, but we decided we could spare an hour or so just to have a quick meal.  “All the hikers go to The Dentist”, the runner told us.  He dropped us off there, and there was a huge banner outside the dentist office saying “Welcome PCT Hikers!”  We went in and were surprised to be given toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and a coupon for a free meal at a local restaurant.  We were so glad we came to Chester!  We thanked the dentist, and the receptionist (the tooth-fairy), and made our way to The Locker Room, the local restaurant for which we got the coupon.
Dormouse and the Toothfairy

Dormouse and the Toothfairy

We had bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream.  Once we were stuffed, we went back to the road to try to get a ride back to the trail.  A couple picked us up, and the gentleman turned out to be an ALDA West newsletter editor (American Long Distance Association), and before we headed back to the trail, he took a picture of us.  Who knows, maybe we’ll be in the newsletter (!?)  The trail went up and up and up, and soon we found ourselves back above 7000ft for the first time in may days/weeks.  We made it to the midpoint monument, and after taking a few pictures, we realized a storm was approaching.
Midway Point

Midway Point

Why are we always at high elevation for storms?  We walked as quickly as we could past the exposed areas, and used our umbrellas when the rain finally came.  The storm was not bad, and the thunder didn’t continue for too long, so we were thankful.  We camped at lower elevation.
Day 56: Mile 1321 to mile 1291, 30 miles
August 26th:
The trail was very up and down.  I guess we’re no longer in Oregon!  We also saw so may deer, more than maybe the whole rest of the trail combined.  We also saw a small bear, which galloped away from us at an impressive speed.  We started the decent into Belden, and we had originally only planned on going 26 miles to where we knew there was a campsite, but we ran into a section hiker, who told us there were some very small spots a few miles further.  In order to make the next day easier on ourselves, we decided to keep going.  The sun began to set, and there were no spots.  Poison oak started to appear as well, and we got nervous about hiking in the dark with poison oak.  We decided to camp directly on the trail, but after examining our spot, we saw that we would be camping on a giant ant hill.  “This won’t do” I said.  I was not willing to spend my entire night killing ants.  We packed up and kept going in the dark.  Finally the trail widened a bit more, and there was space for our tent.  No ants!  My hips were very sore, and it was hard to fall asleep.  Since we went down about 4000 ft, the air was much warmer, and we basically did not need our sleeping bags.
Day 57: Mile 1291 to mile 1270, 21 miles
August 27th:
We had to go to Caribou Crossings, a small store in Belden to pick up our resupply package, and after that we wanted to hike the 20 miles to Quincy, a town that White Jeep had sent us another package with several backpacks for me to try on.  We got to Rt 70, and tried to hitchhike the 1.7 miles to Caribou Crossings.  The road was windy, with no shoulder, and cars going 55+mph.  Actually, that’s not true, there were basically no cars, only big trucks.  Nobody stopped for 45 minutes, and we were losing our patience.  We had miles to hike, and we were wasting time.  We decided we had no option but to walk.  The road-walk was horrible.  There was no room to safely walk, and it was curvy with a cliff going up on one side, and a cliff going down on the other, with huge trucks going 55mph.  One truck honked at us loudly.  We finally got to the store/cafe, and walked in.  A lady greeted us by saying “oh, I saw you guys on the road, I almost stopped to pick you up.”  A wave of anger went through me.  I looked at Dirt Stew, and I knew we were thinking the same thing.  It would take a lot of self control, but we would not buy a single thing there.  We took our package and walked out the door.  “Can you believe that?” Dirt Stew asked me.  We were both more angry than hungry, and just stuffed the contents of our resupply box into our packs and walked the 1.7 miles back on the horrible road, knowing nobody there would stop for us.  Yogi’s guide says “Belden is creepy.”  I’d like to second that.  There is nothing nice about Belden.  Heck, there’s almost nothing there, but what is there is creepy, and full of bad vibes.  We left as quickly as possible, heading up up up the other side of the valley.  The climb out of Belden was another 4500ft, and we soon found ourselves back up above 7000ft.  The climb was much nicer than the decent, and the scenery was finally beautiful.  We hadn’t seen such beauty in a long time, and it felt like we were getting close to the Sierra.  There were views of huge granite cliffs and lakes.  We made our way to the road crossing to get to Quincy, and managed to get a ride in.  We didn’t make it before the Post Office closed, so we got a hotel room, some food, and took a brief shower before falling asleep.
Cliffs

Cliffs

Santiam Pass to Ashland, OR

Highlights: This long section in Oregon has been quite flat, and so we have been trying to hike many miles to make up for lost time up in northern Washington due to snow.  This section has been less scenic than previous sections, except for Crater Lake, which was an unbelievable sight.  From right before we arrived at Crater Lake until several days afterwards, we have experienced many electrical storms resulting in wild fires throughout the area.  At Crater Lake, we just managed to pick up our mail at the store before an electrical storm caused the entire area to lose power.  We left without showering, doing laundry or getting any “real” food.  We pushed to make it to Ashland by Friday, August 15th, before the Post Office closed for the weekend, and in doing so, averaged 30 miles per day for 5 days straight.  I honestly never thought I’d be able to say that.  After we arrived in Ashland, we were confronted with grim information on what lay ahead: many more fires in Northern California, with several sections of trail closed.  Piecing together the open sections seems almost impossible, and there are almost no alternative trails to choose from.  We will consider our options, but most likely we will have to skip a large chunk of Northern California, giving up our hard-earned continuous footpath from Canada.

Day 35: Santiam Pass to McKenzie Pass, 18 miles

August 5th:

After finishing up some chores and eating breakfast with White Jeep and Seminole, we headed back to the trail.  Right at the road, we met a couple of hikers, and stopped to say hi.  We said we were southbounders, and they looked at us with wide eyes, almost in disbelief.  “We’re southbounders too!” said Metric.  Metric and Sticks started their hike on July 9th from the Canadian border, and had been right behind us for quite a while and didn’t think they would catch up with us so quickly.  With a couple of slower days due to our stop in Bend, they had managed to catch us.  “We were told there was a couple named Dirt Mouse and Door Stew somewhere ahead…” Metric said.

They were sitting next to a cooler someone had placed by the side of the road, and we asked them “was there any trail magic in there?”.  They told us it was just full of trash, but that there was a message inside the cooler that read something like this:  “These sodas are for Pacific Crest Trail Northbound Thru-hikers.  If you are not a Northbound Thru-hiker, we won’t stop you from taking one, but please consider the northbound thru-hikers, who have hiked nearly 2000 miles to make it this far.”  We were all deeply offended, but slightly amused at the same time.  Southbounders almost never get trail magic, and if we do, it’s because we’re passing the Northbound “herd”.  People don’t even consider that people hike the trail in the opposite direction.  Metric and Sticks hiked off to Big Lake Youth Camp to resupply, and we hiked on.  We crossed the Lava Rocks, which everyone told us were arduous, hot, and hard on the feet, but we found them quite interesting, and not too bad.

Trail through lava rocks, with one of the Sisters in the background.

Trail through lava rocks, with one of the Sisters in the background.

White Jeep met us at McKenzie Pass to test the GPS rig, and we decided to spend another night in town so as to make a few resupply boxes to send to ourselves in the Sierras.  We wound up getting to bed late, but having done quite a lot.
Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

Day 36: McKenzie Pass to mile 1973, 16.5 miles

August 6th:

After eating another large breakfast with White Jeep and Seminole, we made it back to the trail and thanked them profusely for driving us back and forth so many times.  We continued to hike on the lava rocks and cinder fields, and we were very happy we had our umbrellas for shade.  The day was clear unlike previous days, and we had beautiful views of the Sisters.  Dirt Stew had been talking since before we started our hike about the Obsidian Trail, where there were very interesting volcanic rocks.  This trail passed the PCT, and we could make a little loop to regain the trail further along.  I went along with the idea, but the trail was not worth it.  We wound up doing several more miles, a lot more elevation change, and it turns out that the rocks were also along the Pacific Crest Trail, and we actually wound up going back on ourselves on the PCT to get to the Obsidian Water Fall.  Oh well.  We camped next to a lake buzzing with mosquitoes.

Day 37: Mile 1973 to mile 1944, 29 miles

August 7th:

Another sunny day, but there were more trees, providing us with some shade.  The terrain was very flat, and we passed more lakes than we could count.  With all these lakes, come mosquitoes.  We’ve started passing more and more northbounders, and once in a while we stop to chat with them to exchange information.  An elderly couple stopped to chat with us, and we introduced ourselves.  “You’re Door Mat and Dirt Soup?” the half-deaf elderly man replied, turning his ear towards us. “no, no, Dormouse and Dirt Stew…” We grew tired of introducing ourselves to so many people we would never see again.  For them, passing a southbounder was rare, but as we go south, more and more northbounders cross our paths every day.  They’re quite a bit nicer than the early-birds, but spending 5 or more minutes talking with each one and making any forward progress is almost impossible.
The trail has been so dusty, and we are covered in a layer of black dust.  Our feet are completely black, and our legs are starting to look the same.  We are happy that we are currently carrying way too much food, and so we are constantly gorging ourselves.  Having bought probiotics in Bend, my stomach is doing much better.  We camped by a spot called Cougar Flat.  We didn’t get eaten by cougars, so we must have gotten lucky.

Day 38: Mile 1944 to mile 1917, 27 miles

August 8th:

Today was an easy day, as the trail continued to be quite flat.  As we came to a road crossing, we found a note left behind by a northbounder saying that a ranger had told him not to hike north of that road due to a fire.  We must have managed to hike past this fire without knowing it, and we were glad to be headed south.  We took a long break at a surprisingly bug-free lake, and continued to eat tons of food since we were still carrying much too much.  We found another surprisingly bug-free lake to camp beside, and fell asleep very fast.

Day 39: Mile 1917 to mile 6 on alternate trail, 21 miles

August 9th:

We got up late since there were only a couple of miles to Willamette Ski Lodge, which apparently had a restaurant only open on weekends, and it was a Saturday.  We slowly made our way there, only to find that in fact it was closed all summer due to low business.  Irritated with having slowed down to hit this spot, we continued on to Shelter Cove.  Shelter Cove was basically an RV camp with a small store, coin operated showers, and coin operated laundry.  It was crawling with Northbounders.  We barely had a spot to set our stuff down, and stuff our resupply food into our packs.  The showers were $1.50 for 3 minutes.  It was impossible to get clean in 3 minutes, so when the water ran out, we spent some time just scrubbing ourselves before adding more money.  We decided to hike out, taking an alternate trail called the Oregon Skyline Trail which had more water available than the PCT in that area.  As we were on this alternate, we ran into Sideways D and Moonshine, two hikers we knew from the Appalachian Trail in 2010.  We knew they were also on the PCT this year, but had no idea when we would run into them.  It was just chance that we both decided to take the alternate.  We traded stories and talked about our various aches and pains.  It turns out Sideways D was hiking on a stress fracture in her foot, and she had similar muscle spasms in her neck as I do.  I am hoping that getting a more sturdy backpack will help with the muscles in my neck.
Appalachian Trail 2010 reunion!  Sideways D, Dormouse, Moonshine and Dirt Stew (from L to R)

Appalachian Trail 2010 reunion! Sideways D, Dormouse, Moonshine and Dirt Stew (from L to R)

Later that day, Metric and Sticks caught up with us, and we camped with them.  They told us they wanted to make it to Ashland by Friday before the post office closed for the weekend.  We had asked Don and Jenny, our wonderful resupply people to send my new backpack to Ashland, and I realized that if we wanted to send my current backpack back home, we probably should also make it to Ashland before the Post Office closed.

Day 40: Mile 6 on alternate trail to mile 1856.5, 33.5 miles

August 10th:

We hiked to the junction of the alternate and the PCT, and crossed paths with Halfmile, who is also carrying a custom GPS rig to log the trail, going northbound.  We sat with Halfmile and discussed logging campsites and water sources, and other details before continuing on.
Dirt Stew and Halfmile with their custom GPS rigs.

Dirt Stew and Halfmile with their custom GPS rigs.

Later on in the day, a very fierce thunder storm hit the area just as we were approaching the Oregon highpoint for the trail.  We wondered why it was that we were always in sketchy places when storms hit.  We decided that it had more to do with the areas we were in, more than timing.  We basically ran over the exposed highpoint and down the other side of the ridge to the safety of trees, and coverage.  With a view of the valley, Dirt Stew and I both saw a huge lighting bolt hit a spot in the trees below.  Almost instantly, smoke began to rise.  We caught up to Metric and Sticks at a water source, and told them about the wild fire we saw get started, and further down the trail, we saw it again, and realized that there were in fact now several fires in that valley.  We kept hiking to get away from the area, doing a few too many miles for our poor feet, and camped in a safe spot.
Day 41: Mile 1856.5 to mile 1828, 28.5 miles

August 11th:

We got up early to make it to Crater Lake in time to do chores and eat restaurant food there.  We also wanted to spend some time looking at Crater Lake itself.  We took the Rim Trail, walking half way around the lake to the other side.  The lake was incredible.  Much bigger than I was expecting, and absolutely stunning.  It was hard to imagine the huge mountain that must have been there before it blew.  We gazed down into the lake from the Rim Trail, and admired the geology.
Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Tons of tourists to take pictures of us in Crater Lake  National Park.

Tons of tourists to take pictures of us in Crater Lake National Park.

So happy to see Crater Lake!

So happy to see Crater Lake!

As we looked up towards the sky, however, we noticed more ominous clouds moving in.  We couldn’t waste too much time at the rim, and get caught there in a storm.  We found the trail down to the Mazama Store, and followed it down.  We got to the store before 5pm, and grabbed our mail and resupply boxes, and found a corner to pack our stuff in our bags before heading to the restaurant.  We found Sticks and Metric also hanging out by the store.  They had sent their box to the wrong place, and were trying to figure out how they were going to get enough food for the next section.  Luckily, we had too much food, and there was some other leftover food in the hiker-box (place were PCT hikers can leave items they no longer need, or extra food), so they were able to piece together enough to make it to the next town.  Suddenly, the electrical storm was on top of us, and before we were able to pack up, the electricity in the entire area was out.  We rushed over to the restaurant to see if we could get in and get food, but they were closing down already.  We rushed back to the bathrooms to see about getting a shower or doing laundry, and they were being closed as well.  I checked my cell phone in order to call home, as I had promised from Shelter Cove, and there was no cell phone signal.  It started to rain, and we huddled under an awning trying to figure out what to do.

Sticks showed up with a big bag full of food, and we asked her where she got it from.  “A ranger brought it over to the hiker-box. Apparently someone left it in one of the bear boxes next to the campground, and they have to clean them out once in a while.”  We sat there and ate peanut butter on bread, apples and cookies, and discussed our options.  Metric and I decided maybe it was smart to try to get a ride out of there and find a hotel.  We stopped some people in vehicles to ask about leaving Crater Lake, but it seemed that everyone was spending the night in the campground, and the nearest town was quite far.  It would be difficult for us to get back to the trail in the morning.  A man came over and said that he was missing his food that he had put in the bear box, and what we were eating looked very familiar to him.  We all felt instantly horrible, and guilty, and gave him everything we could that we hadn’t already devoured, and offered him money for what we had eaten.  We couldn’t believe that the ranger had somehow taken food from someone who was still at the campground and given it to us.  The man didn’t seem too upset, turned down our money, but he did want his peanut butter back.  I felt really bad, but the damage was already done.  At least we got some food.  As the man said, we probably did need it more than he did…  Once the rain subsided, we all decided there was nothing left for us to do but hike out.  Only slightly fed, still totally dirty, and not having contacted anyone at home… we walked back out into the forest.

Day 42: Mile 1828 to mile 1798, 30 miles
August 12th:

We woke up to the sound of thunder.  The thunder storms kept following us all day, and we soon found ourselves in some sketchy areas on open ridges.  Half way through the day, we passed a northbounder who turned around and said to us “oh, by the way, there’s a tree on fire about 3 miles back”.  This guy looked like he was on drugs.  He had a wild look in his eye, and we wondered whether we should believe him.  Having felt like we had just met Moses, and not sure of what to do, we just kept pushing forward.
Soon enough we passed some more northbounders, and asked them if the story was true.  Yes, it was true.  At roughly mile 1804, there was a small forest fire about 20 ft from the trail.  They had made it past, but that was over an hour ago, and who knows if it had grown in the meantime.  “Hike your own hike, die your own death” one of the hikers said to us as we kept on towards the fire.  As we kept moving, I started wondering if we were making the right decision to keep going forward.  At this point we were on an exposed ridge, and the electrical storms that had been in our vicinity all day were almost on top of us again, and the immediate concern was getting to a safer spot, even if it meant heading towards a wildfire.  We kept on.  As we went, we kept making sure we had a plan of escape in case the fire expanded towards us.  We finally saw it from afar, with a small plume of smoke blowing with the wind.  It didn’t look too big.  When we got to the fire, it was much less scary than I had imagined.  It was about 20 ft from the trail, and it just looked like a bunch of undergrowth and dead trees on fire with much more smoke than flames.  We took some pictures, and kept going.
New wildfire, 20ft from the trail.

New wildfire, 20ft from the trail.

Soon enough, another storm passed through, and pea-sized hail started falling from the sky by the bucket full.  Finally, we got to a flat area, and camped.  A few lingering mosquitoes were there to welcome us, and chase us into our tents for the night.

Day 43: Mile 1798 to mile 1766, 32 miles

August 13th:

We woke up to the sound of soft rain.  The thunderstorms subsided, and the rain also eventually stopped, and we were thankful to be off of exposed ridges, and out of wild fires.  We got to an area of lava rocks, and the trail through the rocks was absolutely amazing.  I could not believe the amount of work that must have gone into making the trail as flat and easy as it was.  It was covered in some small red rocks, and I wondered where those rocks came from because all of the other surrounding rocks were grey.
We got to a side trail to a shelter which is where we planned on stopping to get water since they had a well, and inside the shelter there was a hiker register.  As I signed the register, I noticed that Sadie had been there earlier in the day.  We had almost caught up to her!  We pumped some reddish water out of the well, and Metric and Sticks walked up to the shelter and chatted with us for a couple minutes.  We made plans to stay with them in Ashland to split the cost of a hotel room.  We were tired, and the miles were going slowly, and when we passed some northbounders playing 20 questions, we decided that was probably a good way to pass the time.  “I’ve got something” I told Dirt Stew.
“Ok, is it eatable?”
“Yes”
“Is it like a main dish?”
“Yeah”
“Is it a hamburger?”
“Yeah….”
We cracked up laughing.

Day 44: Mile 1766 to mile 1736, 30 miles

August 14th:

Today the trail was quite boring compared to previous days.  Without thunderstorms, or wild fires to run to or from, we lost motivation to hike quickly.  Our energy levels were very low, having not had a proper meal in town for over a week.  As we dragged our feet, we decided we needed to try to eat every hour.  We took out most of our snacks and stuffed them in our side pockets for easy access.  After many hours of eating 200-300 calories every half hour to hour, we finally regained some energy and started walking at a reasonable pace until the end of the day.  We heard from northbounders that the trail up ahead, south of Ashland would be closed for us.  We knew we would need to research alternatives once we got to town.  At the end of the day, while trying to set up our tent as the sun set, I noticed that one of my trekking poles was missing.  I had hiked all day using only one of my poles so as to be able to hold my umbrella in the other hand, and we decided we must have left it at our last campsite, 30 miles back.  I was very sad.  There was no way we were hiking back to get it, and that pole had been through so many things with me.  I fell asleep thinking of all the hikes I had done with that pole.  It probably had well over 3,000 miles of use.

Day 45: Mile 1736 to Ashland, OR, 10 miles
August 15th:

We got up early with the intent on making it to Ashland early in the day.  The sunrise through the haze was quite stunning, and the hills were quite beautiful.

Nice sunrise over some beautiful rocks during our walk into Ashland.

Nice sunrise over some beautiful rocks during our walk into Ashland.

We had a lot of chores and errands to do and most importantly we had to figure out a way around all the upcoming fires.  After getting into Ashland and taking a look at the PCTA website, we realized working out a way around these fires was going to be really tricky.  As we made our way to a store that carried maps, we ran in to Cheeseburger, another old friend from the Appalachian Trail.  After buying a map of the area, we sat down at an ice cream shop and chatted with Cheeseburger, trying to relax for a moment.  We then tried to find a computer to do research on, but the Library was closed on Fridays.  So we tried to piece together information that was given to us while making phone calls to various agencies.  We caught up with Metric and Sticks, checked into our hotel and attempted to do laundry and take showers.  The laundry at the hotel failed to wash our clothing, so we dragged our dirty clothes half way across town in search of a laundromat and dinner.  We found dinner, but no laundromat.  As we ate our Thai dinners with our pile of stinky clothes next to us, we decided to simply complain at our hotel and have them try to fix the laundry machine there.  That proved successful, but we went to sleep much later than we had anticipated.

Day 46: Ashland, OR, 0 miles
August 16th:
After much research and particularly with some help from White Jeep and my dear mother, who were able to do some research on a computer, we decided we were going to need to skip ahead by at least 200 miles.  We were very bummed that we would need to give up our continuous footpath from Canada to Mexico, but the only way we could avoid that would be to walk on interstate I-5 for nearly 90 miles.  I was not going to do a 90 mile road walk on an interstate.  I’m not that much of a masochist.  So, assuming we could find a ride down I-5 for 80 or 90 miles, we could pick up the PCT again south of most of the fires.  The last fire, the “Hat Creek Rim” fire, we were told was no longer keeping the PCT closed.  So the plan is to skip ahead to Dunsmuir, and rejoin the PCT there.  This may be a blessing in disguise, as we are in a rush to make it to the Sierras before the snow starts, probably by early October.  We decided to spend another night in town to rest.  Today and tomorrow will be our first non-hiking days since we started a month and a half ago.  We had managed to average over 20 miles a day for 45 days up until this point.  Time for a day of rest.

Cascade Locks to Bend, OR

Highlights: While the last blog post was rather whinny (sorry, but not every mile of the PCT is going to be fun), the hike out of Cascade Locks was again amazing for us.  We took the Eagle Creek Alternate, which follows a set of amazing waterfalls.  We soon climbed high into the mountains again and reached Mount Hood where we stopped at Timberline Lodge to resupply.  We then took the Ramona Falls alternate, which ended in a gorgeous waterfall, with beautiful rocks.  We then hit our first wildfire closure, and had to walk an arduous 30 miles on road to detour it, and were met with horse flies, no shade and no water for 30 miles.  After regaining the PCT around Jefferson, we hit some patches of snow, and walked through burnt out sections for quite some ways before hitting Santiam Pass and meeting White Jeep, who gave us a ride to Bend, and introduced us to our custom GPS unit to hike the rest of the trail with.

Day 29: Cascade Locks to mile 2132, 23 miles

July 30th:  After running a few more errands, and satisfying our need for town food, we headed out of Cascade Locks, taking the Eagle Creek Alternate.  The trail followed steep walls with beautiful waterfalls and pools, and the trail even went right behind one of the larger water falls.

Eagle Creek, Tunnel Falls

Eagle Creek, Tunnel Falls

To regain the PCT, we took Indian Springs Trail, which was very steep and reminded us of what a non-stock graded trail was like.  I was proud to get up it still going 2 miles an hour, as we climbed about 1000 ft per mile.  Indian Creek Trail regains the PCT near the top of the ridge, and Dirt Stew and I checked the map to make sure we were walking the right direction.  The trail was amazingly flat, and covered in pine needles.  “Too good to be true”, Dirt Stew joked.  He took out his GPS just to check our progress.  “SHIT!” He shouted.  We’re going the wrong way!  How was this possible?  We both had checked the map.  We had hiked an hour or longer going northbound on the PCT, going an amazing speed on this well groomed trail.  We cursed at not using a compass when we had looked at the map, and kept wondering how we made the wrong turn.  We never did find out, but we probably went 4-6 miles out of our way.  We still managed to do 23 trail miles, so in all we probably hiked 28 miles that day.  Once we were headed in the right direction, we met a very helpful NOBO who gave us accurate information about water sources up ahead.  We decided that not all NOBOs are liars. 🙂

Day 30: Mile 2132 to Timberline Lodge, 25 miles

July 31st: Today we decided to take the Ramona Falls alternate- another scenic trail with waterfalls.  These alternates are almost the same mileage as the PCT, but more scenic.  The falls reminded me of a pyramid of champagne glasses with water pouring over them.
Romona Falls

Romona Falls

We hiked a difficult 25 miles up to Timberline Lodge, gaining quite a bit of elevation.  We got beautiful views of Mount Hood, and got our resupply box at the Lodge in the evening.
Mount Hood

Mount Hood

We had been told the the breakfast buffet at the Lodge was $25 per person (an earlier lying NOBO).  We decided to camp not too far from the lodge and save the time and the money by not going to the breakfast buffet in the morning (biggest mistake ever).  We later found out the buffet would have only been $15 per person.

Day 31: Timberline Lodge to Summit Lake Rd (on alternate), 31 miles

August 1st: We got an early start and met a few NOBOs who told us about an upcoming fire closure.  Most NOBOs had hitchhiked around the closure, avoiding a 30 mile road walk.  We met one NOBO who had walked the road, and he told us there was no water along the route.  We were determined to walk it, as we did not want to give up our continuous footpath from Canada to Mexico.  Later we found Little Crater Lake, just .1 off the trail.  It was a deep mesmerizing blue, and I wanted so badly to jump into it and go for a swim.
Little Crater Lake

Little Crater Lake

It was hot an humid out.  I took my shoes off and stepped in.  My feet almost immediately went numb.  A helpful sign told us about the lake and how it was formed, and explained that the temperature of the lake was always 34 degrees F.  Ok, I wasn’t that desperate for a swim.  We continued, and started walking next to another lake, so we stopped and jumped in with our grubby clothes on.  Much warmer than Little Crater.  It was nice to cool of and wash off some of the grime.  We got to the wild fire closure, and filled up every water bottle and container we had with water to prepare at a nearby camp ground.  A nice family offered us a fresh mango and bananas, and we were happy to have fresh fruit.  We started walking the road, and decided to hike late to avoid having to hike too long in the heat of the day tomorrow.  The heat gave way to a thunder storm, and we were glad to have our umbrellas, as the rain turned to hail.

Day 32: Summit Lake Rd to mile 2045, 31 miles

August 2nd: We woke up to the sound of rumbling, and having remembered the horrible storm that was in the morning at Goat Rocks, we decided to close our eyes and sleep through it.  The storm dissipated quite quickly, and we decided to get going.  The road walk was tedious.  There were lots and lots of horse flies attacking us all day.  The sun climbed, and it got hot, and humid.  Our feet hurt, and we grew very tired from chasing away the horse flies and trying to stay cool under our umbrellas.  Cars passed us, and the road went from paved to gravel, and each car that passed kicked up a bunch of dust into our faces.  People stared at us from inside their air-conditioned cars, and we cursed them under our breath.  Only one nice man stopped his car and asked if we needed any water.  We were so happy to reach the end of the detour, and find a small shack next to a lake which was renting out boats and had some cold soda to sell.  We jumped in the lake, drank our soda and carried on.  I was feeling exhausted, and it didn’t help that my stomach had been bothering me almost every day, making it difficult to eat enough.  As we hiked on, two young men in heavy work clothing with hard hats, walkies-talkies, and axes in hand came down the trail.  They smelled of smoke.  We knew immediately that they were smoke jumpers, and we questioned them about the conditions.  They told us there was a new fire just over the next ridge, but it was away from the PCT, and was almost out.  We were glad to hear that.  The air was thick with smoke and the sun shined almost red through the haze.  Just a mile before we decided to camp, I got a nose bleed.  I figured it was due to the dry smoky air combined with walking through the heat and not eating enough.  I got into the tent and felt like I wasn’t having fun anymore.  The road walk had taken its toll on me, and I was beat.

Day 33: Mile 2045 to Rock Pile Lake, 23 miles

August 3rd:  We slept in past 7am to get some rest and decided to take it easier today.  We passed some small snow patches, and of course with snow and snow melt come the mosquitoes.

Some small snow patches

Some small snow patches

They hadn’t been bad recently, but gaining elevation we entered back into their territory.  The air was still smokey, but the terrain was nice and easy.  I was still having big stomach issues, and had a very hard time eating anything.  We decided that we would go into Bend at the next road crossing and get a proper meal, and some stomach medicine.  As the day progressed we started walking through miles of burned forest.  We met some nice NOBOs who told us all about the trail up ahead and where they stopped in towns, and which restaurants had good food, etc.  We are passing many NOBOs each day, and it seems to me like they are getting nicer and nicer as we go.  We camped by a very nice lake, which surprisingly had no mosquitoes.  I was once again happy to be on the trail.

Day 34: Rock Pile Lake to Santiam Pass, 15 miles
August 4th:  We had an easy  15 miles to get to Santiam Pass where Route 20 would take us to Bend, OR.  We walked through many more miles of burned area with very little water, but the terrain was easy, and the miles went by quickly.

Miles of burnt forest

Miles of burnt forest

Cool rocks

Cool rocks

We passed by a NOBO who told us that a man named White Jeep and his wife Seminole were waiting for us at the Pass.  What a surprise!  We weren’t expecting to be intercepted by them until Shelter Cove.  Perfect timing, as we needed a ride to Bend, and some good food and rest before heading on.  White Jeep has been working on mapping the PCT, and wrote the Half Mile App to make it easier for hikers with smart phones to navigate.  We had agreed to carry a custom GPS unit which would map the PCT as we hiked, and take notes about water sources and camping spots as we went.  I was very excited to start doing this, as the information we were hiking with was obviously lacking in data.  White Jeep and Seminole handed us cookies, chips, and bottled water, and drove us directly to an all you an eat buffet.  As we stuffed our faces with plates of fried food and fresh vegetables, we discussed the ins and outs of using the GPS unit to log the trail for the next 2000 miles.

Checking out the GPS unit

Checking out the GPS unit

After doing some chores, we were happy to go to sleep early in a little motel run by an Indian family.  As I put my head on the pillow I smelled Indian curry.  I let my mind wander towards Indian buffets as I fell asleep.