Summary of our Pacific Crest Trail SOBO hike 2014 in numbers

It has been almost two months since Dirt Stew and I finished our hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought I would summarize our adventure with a few interesting facts and statistics from our hike:

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We hiked 95.5% of the Pacific Crest Trail (roughly 100 miles short due to wild-fire closures)

The hike took 128 days

We took 8 “zero days” (days off) which included 4 days to go to a wedding

We walked an average of 20 miles a day (including zero days)

Longest day: 34 miles

We spent 97 nights camping on the trail

We spent 19 nights in paid accommodation (hotel, hostel, cabin, etc)

We spent 5 nights with trail angels

We spent 6 nights with friends/other

We had 15 days of rain or precipitation

We hiked on snow for at least part of the day for 16 days

We each went through roughly 5 pairs of shoes

The most north-bounders we passed in one day was 78

Number of other south-bound thru-hikers we met during our whole hike was 7

We spent $4,000 per person during the hike (not including food in mail-drops)

We had 17 mail-drops pre-made and 6 more were made during our hike

Our biggest expense was health insurance ($250/month per person)

Most expensive piece of gear lost: down jacket

Most water carried: 6 liters per person (we didn’t need all of it)

Base weight for Dirt Stew was anywhere from 10 to 15lbs

Base weight for Dormouse was anywhere from 8 to 12 lbs

Favorite sections: Northern Washington followed by the Sierra Nevada

We took 3641 pictures

The most picked up piece of trash was Mylar balloons, followed by plastic water bottles

We soaked ourselves in 5 different hot tubs

We hiked or hitched past 6 wild-fire closures (we found alternates for many, but not all)

We saw 5 bears (none in bear canister territory)

Most obnoxious animal: raccoon waking us up in the middle of the night

Cutest animal: the pika

Number of hikers in bad circumstances that we were able to help: 3

Best food experience: Aardvarks food truck

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dirt Stew: 1 medium sized pepperoni pizza followed by 1 large burrito

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dormouse: 1 order of mozzarella sticks, 1 bacon cheese burger followed by ice cream

Dirt Stew’s most missed creature comfort: a kitchen with food in it

Dormouse’s most missed creature comfort: sonic tooth brush

Number of voice recordings for the Halfmile project: 1500+

If you are curious about any statistics we haven’t thought of let us know in the comments.

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Independence to Tehachapi

Highlights: We enjoyed the remainder of the Sierra Mountains with a side trip up Mount Whitney. This is where the JMT hikers finish. We ran low on food, but were able to scrounge some extra food from JMT hikers finishing up their hike at Mount Whitney. We exited the Sierra right in time before any snow fall. As we descended from the Sierras into the desert, water became scarce and we had to start carrying more and more to make it from one water source to the next. In the desert we are the only hikers on the trail besides the occasional hunter. The additional water weight along with walking through sand has caused a flare up of an overuse injury in my hips. We are now taking several days off to go to our friend’s Don and Jenny’s wedding, which we are very excited about. I am hoping the time off will help my hips recover. This will be our first zero days in over 700 miles, so we finally feel they are well deserved!
Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Day 80: Mile 790 to Independence, 8.5 miles

September 19th: Despite sleeping above 11,000 ft, we were quite warm. We are getting better and better at selecting a good camping spot, and this one was well sheltered. We hiked down the Onion Valley Trail over Kearsarge Pass to get to the trailhead leading to Independence. The mountains around Kearsarge Pass were amazing. Knife’s edge ridges all around with lakes beneath.

Kersarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass.  Wow, right?

Kearsarge Pass. Wow, right?

Once in the parking lot, we waited and waited for anyone who looked like they were leaving. It took more than an hour before we found someone headed to their car, and I cornered them and asked for a ride. They obliged, and we sat next to their cute but afraid of car-rides dog in the back seat. As the dog drooled on my lap, panting, I also felt nauseous going down such a steep winding road. The trail head is at over 9,000 ft, and Independence is right around 4,000 ft. We got dropped off in front of the Subway Sandwiches, and immediately ordered a couple of sandwiches. We got a hotel room, showered, went to the library to write my last blog post, and got more subway sandwiches before falling asleep in a very comfortable bed.

Independence, CA

Independence, CA

Day 81: Independence to Mile 786, 10.5 milesSeptember 20th: We slept really very well. We packed up and went to “Jenny’s” for breakfast where we were immediately pegged as being thru-hikers by the way we were wolfing down food. A man at the table next to us tried to talk to us and we mumbled answers between mouthfuls. We then went back to the library and printed out the very important “water report” which would give us valuable information on where we would be able to find water in the desert. We got even more subway sandwiches before finding a ride back to the trail. The forecast was thunderstorms for both today and tomorrow, and we were going to be reaching the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, Forester Pass tomorrow. Thunder clouds were building as we went back over Kearsarge Pass, but we made it safely down into the valley before the storm broke loose. We cuddled up in our tent as thunder and lightning tore through the valley. I really started to worry about tomorrow and getting over Forester Pass with such aggressive storms in the area. We fell asleep as the storm continued.

Day 82: Mile 786 to Crabtree Ranger Station (mile 767), 19 miles

September 21st: We woke up before sunrise, as we usually do, and I saw flashes lighting up our tent. “More thunderstorms” I said to Dirt Stew. “What should we do?”. “Stay put” He replied. So we went back to sleep for half an hour, and woke up again when it was light enough out to see the sky. I poked my head out and was surprised to see blue sky. We packed up quickly and started marching our way up Forester Pass to beat any further storms. I was really happy to see we weren’t the only idiots out there trying to make it through. It was an ant’s march of John Muir Trail hikers also trying to make it over the Pass. There was a very small powdering of snow on some of the higher peaks. As we got closer, I realized it was actually small balls of hail from last night’s thunder storms. We headed up, passing several groups of hikers as we went, and as we climbed above 12,000 ft, signs of the altitude started affecting me. I was tired and lightheaded, but every time I looked back and saw very ominous dark clouds creeping over the ridge in our direction, I found it in me to push a bit more. When we got to the top I peered over the edge to the other side and was surprised to see blue skies on the other side. I felt strangely safe on top of Forester Pass, I could see for miles. There were a few others also at the top taking pictures. We snapped a few pictures, and got a nice Australian couple to take one of the two of us, and we headed down the other side.

Forester Pass

Forester Pass

As we took a break at lower elevation, the Australian couple caught up with us, and we hiked with them for a couple miles trading hiking stories. They had hiked the GR20 in Europe and talked about how difficult the terrain on that hike was compared to the PCT. It sounded like an interesting trail. We hiked to the Crabtree Ranger Station, and camped there, at the base of Mt Whitney. The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be good, which I am so thankful for. The one place you really don’t want to be in a thunder storm: Mt Whitney! Before we went to sleep, I studied our food situation. It looked very grim. Only 2 or 3 snacks per day and barely enough calories for breakfast, and our jar of peanut butter was almost empty. Dirt Stew was hungry and showing it. I was feeling OK, so I told him I was full and gave him the rest of my instant mashed potatoes. That barely made a dent in his hunger, and I knew we were both going to be starving in a day or two if we didn’t find more food. We discussed the situation as I shivered in my sleeping bag, and we decided we would swallow our pride and beg for food from the John Muir Trail hikers who would be finishing their hike on the top of Mt Whitney. It took me over an hour to warm up, even in my 10 degree sleeping bag. This is probably because of lack of calories. Usually I eat an extra 300-500 calories right before sleep to keep me warm at night.

Day 83: Mile 767 to Mt Whitney on to Mile 762, 21 miles

September 22nd: We woke up cold, but that was a good sign because the sky was completely clear of any clouds, a good day for climbing Mount Whitney. I was tired and very worried about the food situation. I had visions of losing energy to hike the miles necessary to get us out of the Sierras to get more food… It would be a snow-ball effect, and we would starve! There was frost everywhere, and as we climbed, the rocks above Guitar Lake were covered in ice. We were dragging our exhausted bodies up the mountain. Each step felt like it took all the energy in my body. We had barely eaten anything for breakfast. The plan was to stop at the intersection of the Whitney Portal Trail (where people hike down to civilization), and the trail up to the summit and eat a spoonful of peanut butter while waiting for JMT hikers to pass by, asking them if they had any extra food. When we finally got to the intersection we were pleasantly surprised to see a line-up of backpacks and several hikers hanging out there. We sat down and opened up our peanut butter. I asked a hiker: “Did you hike the John Muir Trail?” The hiker was a Brittish fellow named Shaun who had taken 20 or so days to hike the JMT and was about to summit and finish his hike. When I asked if he had leftover food, he produced half a jar of peanut butter, half a jar of Nutella, and a freeze dried meal. My eyes lit up. Other hikers over-heard our conversation and started digging in their packs as well. We got another freeze dried dinner, some jam in a squeeze jar, some honey, some packets of “Gu” energy gels, and some candy. I thanked them profusely and ate a “Gu” packet plus another spoonful of peanut butter. Suddenly hiking was easy again. We had the energy to make it to the top of this mountain! We passed many hikers, most of which were probably day hikers hiking in from Whitney Portal. Many looked in bad shape with the elevation paying a toll on them as they hadn’t had the many nights to acclimatize like we had. At the top there were tons of people all congratulating each other and taking pictures. I felt like a spectator at the end of a marathon. This wasn’t my victory. I certainly didn’t feel like I had conquered this mountain. As we stood there, on the tallest point in the continental United States, I felt vulnerable and exposed. There was a hut with words of warning to support my feelings. The sign read something like: “This hut will not provide shelter from lighting storms. If a thunder storm is approaching, get off the summit”.

On top of Mt Whitney

On top of Mt Whitney

I wandered around the hut and saw a large marmot standing on his hind legs not a foot away from a group of hikers. He was begging for food. I suddenly felt in good company. “We blend in well with the wildlife” I told Dirt Stew pointing to the marmot. We snapped a few pictures and headed down.

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

On the way down I did have a sense of success. We had effectively made it out of the High Sierra before the first snow, and we had gotten enough food to make it to Kennedy Meadows. We got back down to Crabtree Ranger station where we had left our tent and sleeping bags (and unfortunately also my umbrella), and packed up. My face felt hot, and I felt really dumb for forgetting my umbrella for the hike up Mt Whitney. I undoubtedly had a sunburn. As we left the intersection of the JMT and the PCT all the people disappeared and we were once again on our own.

Day 84: Mile 762 to mile 737.5, 24.5 miles

September 23rd: It was nice to be on our own again. We didn’t need to worry about being caught peeing in sight of the trail, and we didn’t have to worry about all the camping spots being taken. The terrain really changed, and we were obviously walking into the desert. To be honest, the terrain really started to change right after Forester Pass. The trail was very sandy, and it was difficult to walk at a good pace with each step sinking into the sand. We suddenly started having to worry about water sources, and so we started carrying several liters each. We ate a lot, having scored extra food yesterday. I still felt like I could eat everything in my food bag in one sitting. Dirt Stew earned his trail name again by spilling half the contents of one of the freeze dried meals in the sand. We exited Kings Canyon National Park, and as we passed several side trails, literally all the footprints in the sand disappeared except for one. “Robert’s alive!” I shouted back to Dirt Stew. His footprints were clearly visible as the last person who had been through this section. We had worried a lot about Robert. He must have been freezing cold without warm clothing and nothing but a 32 degree bag. He was also low on food when we parted ways, and I wondered if he also begged from the JMT hikers. It struck me as funny that out here in the wilderness without cell phones, Facebook, email, etc. a few footprints in the sand was a way of communication.

Day 85: Mile 737.5 to mile 711, 26.6 miles

September 24th: We woke up early at 5AM and decided we may as well get going. We were going to have to make a habit of hiking in the dark either in the morning or the evening as we are losing day light with each day that passes. The trail climbed down several thousand feet, and we saw our first cactus. Desert indeed! We were unsure of many of the water sources. One spring was piped into a trough that had a dead chipmunk floating in it. Luckily I could take water directly from the spring. The trail is dominated by wildlife tracks: bear, deer, coyote. Obviously nobody but PCT hikers and animals hike this section. There were many, many bear prints, and the ever-apparent Robert prints. We passed through huge meadows which were quite chilly in the morning. The trail here is obviously not maintained on a regular basis. Some downed trees looked like they had been there for years. My hips are sore, as they have been for many days, in fact my right hip has been bothering me most of the trail. The sand aggravates it, and the pain wakes me up at night making it hard to get a good night’s rest. My face is obviously quite sunburned from the hike up Mt Whitney. My left ear in particular is blistering quite badly.

Day 86: Mile 711 to mile 694, 17 miles

Now that we are at lower elevation, it is very warm at night. We walked 9 miles into Kennedy Meadows, and the wind really started picking up. We had a very hard time keeping our umbrellas up. When we got to Kennedy Meadows, we heard that a storm system was due to move through the area in a couple days, and this wind was probably associated with it. We took a shower in the outside shower stall, and although the water was warm, we were frigid because of the wind. We ate burgers, did laundry and unpacked our resupply box. We were excited to get new shoes.

Old shoes

Old shoes

We wandered down to Tom’s place across the street where he let us use his wifi. We hiked out in full ninja-hiker gear with shirts around our faces in order to protect ourselves from the sun and wind, and ran into a northbound section hiker who said “you guys must be thru-hikers”. “How’d you guess?” we asked. “Well, you look like you’ve walked almost 2000 miles!” He replied. “Can I take your picture?”. “Sure!” We answered. As he left I said to Dirt Stew: “Let’s take a picture of ourselves! It’s the first time someone’s told us we look like we’re thru-hikers who’ve hiked 2000 miles!” We snapped a picture at arm’s length and looked at ourselves on the little screen. We looked a lot like we did only 100 miles in. We were covered from head to toe so as not to get sun burned.

Do we look like thru-hikers?

Do we look like thru-hikers?

As we hiked into the desert we saw a jackrabbit jump across the trail. We camped near one of the few water sources listed on the water report. It took us a good 20 minutes to find it based on the description, but realized that it was much easier to find for northbounders than southbounders… as usual.

Day 87: Mile 694 to mile 670.5, 23.5 miles

September 26th: We took 10 or 11 liters from Fox Spring for the 30 mile dry stretch and then found a cooler less than 5 miles later. There was no water in the cooler, all it had in it was two cans of seltzer water. Whomever left those has a strange sense of trail magic. Not that I object, but seltzer water has 0 calories, and just tastes like fancy water to me. We split one, and left the other for whomever’s behind us. For some reason I was very exhausted, and when I took a short break to sit down, I nearly fell asleep on the trail. My hips are very sore, and the weight of the extra water is not helping. Dirt Stew is carrying a lot of the extra weight, but even so I am still struggling. At some point during the day I took off my pack and realized my right hip was numb to the touch. I panicked a little, and called Dirt Stew over. He told me something similar happened to him a while back, and he thought it was because the hip belt was cutting off circulation around the hip bone. It was disconcerting to be able to pinch myself and not feel a thing. Eventually the feeling did came back. The camping options were very limited as the trail followed steep ridges for many many miles, and when we found a flat spot, we stopped early. My hips were so sore that I was happy to call it a day early.

Day 88: Mile 670.5 to Lake Isabella (mile 652)

September 27th: We hiked towards Lake Isabella where we would spend a night, and as we approached we saw the storm coming in from the north that had caused the high winds for the last couple days. We hiked fast, and managed to out-run the storm. We felt a few rain drops, but that was it. We wondered what impact the storm had on folks north of us. We got a ride into Lake Isabella and got dropped off in front of a pizza place. We each ordered a large pepperoni pizza and chowed down. Dirt Stew finished his pizza in no time and started eyeing mine. When I was ready to share, he had a couple slices from my pizza as well. There was one slice left, and we both looked at each other wondering if we could finish it. I was stuffed. The one piece would have to go in a ziplock bag. This was embarrassing. We got a hotel room and took showers and did laundry. I called my mother while laying on the bed in the hotel room, and as the sun set I felt completely exhausted. Dirt Stew was jumping up and down ready to get more food, but I told him I was still full from pizza. “Go ahead” I told him, “I’m going to take a nap”. I woke up again an hour or two later when Dirt Stew opened the hotel room door groaning. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I wish you were there to laugh at me and to tell me to stop eating.” He replied. He had eaten a large burrito, and struggled with the last bites. He had wrapped the literally last bite of burrito up and brought it home. Moments later I was back asleep.

Day 89: Lake Isabella (mile 652) to Mile 636.5, 15.5 miles

September 28th: We slept in slightly and ran some errands. We found out that the storm that we saw north of us yesterday caused snow to fall in the Sierra. We got out just in time. Apparently some folks experienced a foot of snow! We ate breakfast at the “Dam Korner Shop”, and tried to get a ride back to the trail. Lake Isabella is 30-something miles from the trail, and getting a ride back wasn’t easy. One guy offered us a ride part of the way, and we accepted it, but from there it was hard to get another ride. Finally a couple stopped and asked us where we were headed. It turns out that they only lived a block or two away, but they drove completely out of their way to give us a ride back to the trail. It was very generous of them to do that for us, and we were very grateful to make it back finally. We hiked past dark into a section that had some trees, which was nice. I was feeling pretty good coming out of town, so far my hips were not sore.

Day 90: Mile 636.5 to Mile 609, 27.5 miles

September 29th: We walked through large sections without trees. This really looks and feels like the desert. With no shade, we took almost no breaks until we found a Joshua tree that provided just enough shade for us to squeeze under.

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

We came across two water caches in this section, and were overjoyed to find sierra mist was left there too. We split one so as to leave more for folks behind us. The citrusy carbonated caloric beverage was very refreshing.

Water cache!

Water cache!

Unfortunately my hip pain came back with a vengeance to really put a damper on my mood. Hiking in pain is difficult, and taking ibuprofen every few hours doesn’t feel right either. We were warned in town that hunting season just started, and as we climbed up into a forested area towards the end of the day, we bumped into a hunter who had fallen asleep while sitting on the trail waiting for deer to show up. We kept alert for hunters as we hiked through the forested area, talking and singing loudly. We came up with a song to sing during hunting season:

Doe a deer is NOT over here

Ray, the name of a PERSON

Me, a name PEOPLE call themselves

Fa(r), how long your gun can shoot!

So, don’t shoot me in the head…

La, I’m singing this to YOU! Ti (tea), a drink I’ll make for you

if you don’t shoot at me now, now now now…

Day 91: Mile 609 to mile 580, 29 miles

September 30th: We got up and packed up. I went to go dig a cat hole and got scared half to death by a deer, and then instantly got scared again that hunters were nearby. We were near a dirt road, and hunters were driving past in their off-road vehicles. We kept vigalant. We decided to trade hip belts on our backpacks because Dirt Stew was very uncomfortable with his, and mine had more cushioning. This worked for most of the day, but the belts were not really designed for the opposite packs based on where the velcro was, so we had to switch back again in the evening. We walked through a burn area, which contained our first sighting of poodle dog bush, a poisonous plant that can cause similar skin rashes to poison oak. We also saw our first horny toad, a funny creature who is actually not a toad at all, but rather a type of lizard.

Horny Toad

Horny Toad

We also started walking through a very expansive wind farm with wind turbines as far as the eye could see.

Wind farm

Wind farm

The trail is used most by cows, it seems, and they not only rip up the trail, they also completely destroy water sources by crapping right in them. We were happy that one of the springs had a fence around the source where we could take water that had not been contaminated by cows. All in all this section is certainly not the most beautiful one, but it is a unique experience. It is one of those sections you would never hike through unless you are trying to get from point A to point B. We camped very close to the wind farm, and struggled to sleep.

Day 92: Mile 580 to Tehachapi (Mile 566.5), 13.5 miles

We slept extremely poorly. Huge gusts of wind were causing our tent to flap about loudly, waking us up every few minutes. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get comfortable due to my achy hips. At about 1AM Dirt Stew asked if we shouldn’t just get up and hike, but the thought of being groggy and hiking in the dark didn’t appeal to me at all. The wind farms were certainly well located; we were not. At some point in the early hours of the morning, the wind died down slightly and we got a few hours of precious sleep. We overslept our alarm, but didn’t mind too much as we needed to sleep. We packed up and started walking towards town. The wind persisted throughout the day. We saw our first road-runner, which looks surprisingly like the cartoon character. It moves in quite an unusual way by half running, half flying. We descended several thousand feet to route 58. The trail follows route 58 for a mile or so, which I believe is probably the most ugly mile of the PCT. The highway is on one side, barbed wire fence on either side of the trail, nothing but desert for miles, and wind farms in the distance. Being next to the highway meant we were in trash-land where people throw stuff out of their cars with no regard for where it winds up. The trail spits you out at an overpass where we realized hitchhiking would be impossible. Luckily there was a sign suggesting we call a bus to stop at the overpass we were on, and we did just that. We sat there huddled under the shade of our umbrellas, the only shade for miles, while the wind gusted creating dust and trash clouds. Disgusting. Occasionally a large truck pulled out, pushing more dust in our direction. We waited an hour or so for the bus, and dreamed about the food we would eat in town.

Waiting for the bus...

Waiting for the bus…

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

The bus drove us into town and dropped us off in front of Burger King. We gobbled town several burgers at Burger King (something I never thought would be so appealing), and checked into a hotel. From here we are going to take several days off in order to go to Don and Jenny’s wedding. We’re so excited to see our friends again and celebrate with them before heading back to the trail to finish our hike. I’m also excited to have a few rest days to hopefully help my injured hips recover. We went to Kmart for some snack food, and I bought some nail polish to try to make my hands and feet look presentable for the wedding. We’ll let you know in a few days how a couple of hikers have enjoyed a wedding!

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.

Trout Lake to Cascade Locks

Highlights:

This section was much shorter than previous sections, and less scenic.  We were mostly in wooded forest with some lakes/swampy areas, and towards the Washington/Oregon border, there gradually got to be less water, and therefore less bugs. The sections ended with crossing the Columbia River on the hair-raising Bridge of the Gods.  We encounter ever increasing North Bound Thru-Hikers (NOBOs).  Black flies and poison oak rear their ugly heads for the first time.  Gear is failing left and right.  Finally, as we descended to the lowest elevation of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest is hit with a heat-wave.

Day 25: Trout Lake to Mile 2216, 21.5 miles

After a restful night in our tiny hut (the whole hut is about the size of a king sized bed), we ate a great breakfast at the Buddhist Bed and Breakfast with the other guests trading stories about each others adventures.  We got a ride from fellow guests to the Trout Lake Grocery where we found our lost maps!  We were very thankful to get a ride out since hitchhiking was almost out of the question since we had gone on so many different roads to end up at this awesome spot.   We were also incredibly lucky to find the maps that we misplaced in the hiker box at the Trout Lake Grocery Store.  While we were there we had some ice cream.  We started the day late but hiked late because we ended up in a long stretch without water.

Last view in Washington: Mt St Helens

Last view in Washington: Mt St Helen’s

We camped near a meadow.  When setting up camp we discovered that my umbrella had broken again and our tent bug net had a large hole in it probably due to rodents.  To top it off my air mattress had a hole in it from my ice axe puncturing it through my backpack.  I spent about an hour attempting to repair all of these items.  The sleeping pad would not hold air, and we were determined to make it to an outfitter once we got to Cascade Locks.  In the end  I slept on Dirt Stew’s sleeping pad while he used the blue Walmart pad sections we had made for extra insulation on the snow.  It was a good thing we kept them that long.  We fell asleep to the sound of whining mosquitoes.

Day 26: 2216 to Wind River, 28 miles

I woke up exhausted.  We slept on a slope and my sleeping pad was sliding all night, and I kept winding up basically on top of Dirt Stew.  After breaking down camp we found ourselves engulfed in mosquitoes and black flies.  It turns out that the meadow we camped near had a large pond for breeding biting insects.  I decided to call it Black Fly Pond.  It turns out the black fly season and mosquito season overlap.  You learn something new every day.

I will call this "Black Fly Pond"

I will call this “Black Fly Pond”

This day we found ourselves passing through increasing amounts of NOBOs.  We stopped to take a break and found ourselves in a group of arrogant NOBOs also taking a break.  Their inflated egos reminded us of how we felt after finishing the Appalachian Trail.  Not even one month after completing that trail, we decided to go on an ambitious hike on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and found ourselves completely unprepared because we were over-confident and had done little to no research.  Just because we walked a lot thru-hiking, didn’t mean we were prepared for anything.  At the end of the day we started our decent into the lower elevations near Cascade Locks.  As we descended, the temperatures climbed, as well as the humidity.

Day 27: Wind River to Mile 2159, 29 miles

This day we had two 2,000 ft climbs, which we found difficult in particular because of the hotter and even more humid conditions.  According to our guidebook, there was a stretch of the trail ahead without water.  NOBOs confirmed that there was no water on the trail for 11 miles. In preparation for this long stretch without water we took a long break at Snag Creek making sure to have our meals that required water, and drank lots of water with them.  This was our last water source for 11 miles during the heat of the day.  We loaded up our packs full of water.  Then, as we climbed, we passed water source after water source up the slope.  Essentially these NOBOs had retold us the information we had already had in our guide books and did not add the fact that there was plenty of water going up the mountain.  They had made us needlessly carry another 4 lbs each of water up 1,000 ft of elevation.

Half way up the second climb, we thought there was a chance of making it into Cascade Locks.  We were dying for a shower.  We were swimming in sweat and sticky all over.  We could see the Columbia River down in the distance, and asked more NOBOs about the decent into Cascade Locks.  A number of times they stated that we could easily do it and they had taken X hours.  X hours was always the right amount of time for us to get into town with time to spare before sunset.  After crossing foot tenderizing scree (rock) fields and searing clear cuts, we started to wonder how long we had and what the rest of trail down looked like.  I asked another NOBO what the trail was going to be like into town.  He said, “it looks like this the rest of the way”, pointing to the trail below his feet which was covered in pine needles beneath a shady canopy.

Not so fun descent into Cascade Locks

We then managed to lose the trail having headed down a fire road, and had to decide using the GPS, whether we would go back quite a ways, or bush-wack a shorter distance to regain the trail.  We pretty much knew at this point that we wouldn’t make it to town.  To add insult to misery, we suddenly realized that most of what we were hiking through was poison oak.  We hadn’t noticed since we were pushing hard to make it to town, and now we were probably covered in it. We continued to walk through clear cuts and poison oak as we searched for a place to camp.  I cursed the NOBO who told us the trail would be easy, and decided never to trust them again.  I knew that we would now have to protect our sleeping bags from the poison oak on our skin.  For me this meant sleeping in my long underwear, but for Dirt Stew, it meant sleeping in his rain pants since he lost his long underwear bottoms many miles ago.  We were miserable, and 4 miles away from town, setting up camp just as it got dark.

Day 28: Mile 2159 to Cascade Lock

We woke up and walked into town dodging poison oak here and there.

We've done more than 500 miles!

We’ve done more than 500 miles!

We walked across the Bridge of the Gods to Oregon experiencing extreme vertigo from walking on grated roadway 200ft above the Columbia River.  We were so thankful that we had not tried to go over this bridge in the dark the night before since there is no pedestrian walkway, and we were thrown in with all the cars zooming past.  No shoulder either.  No pictures were taken because Dirt Stew was afraid he would drop his camera through the road into the river below.  We were happy to eat breakfast followed by a foot of ice cream soft serve an hour afterwards.  We’re so happy to be showered and our laundry done.  A few more chores, and we’ll be off tomorrow morning.