Preparations

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Dehydrated food. Ziplocs. Recipes. Mail orders. Counting. Averaging. Checking. Checking again. Wondering if my Snickers and M&Ms stash would survive a house of teenage boys (hint…they did). Toiletries, sundries, and meds, oh my. And this was just the resupplies.

You wouldn’t think food would take this much effort, but it’s a balancing act. How many days? How many miles? What’s the elevation gain/loss? Are there any hazards which might slow you down? How much nutrition do you need, and is it (kinda sorta) balanced? Do you have enough calories per ounce (100+ is optimal)? Do you have enough variation so that you won’t go bonkers?

And gear. New pack. New hydration setup. An umbrella (yes, an umbrella). Spraying Permethrin on every piece of clothing, in preparation for the notorious Oregon mosquitoes.

I can’t believe it, but it’s getting close. On Wednesday, Steve is dropping me at the train station, and I’ll head to Eugene. My longtime friend Robin is hosting me for the night, and in the morning she’ll drive me up to Willamette Pass. And then…it’s time for a hike.

Trailbound!

For those of you who have been to Philmont Scout Ranch, Trailbound is a special word. It means you’ve finally arrived, after many months of preparation. And it means that the next day is the start of your long awaited trek.

So, I’m using the word for my next section of the PCT. Needless to say, I’m a little excited.


Steve took me to the station early this morning, and I boarded the train for Eugene. I’m Trailbound!!!

July 21, 2016, Mile 1905: And We’re Off!

 

At the Willamette Pass Trailhead, mile 1905

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I spent Wednesday riding the rails between Seattle and Eugene. My longtime friend Robin picked me up, and we had a wonderful evening together, nomming at McMenamins, grabbing fresh marionberry shakes at Prince Pucklers, and just hanging out like two old friends do.

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In the morning, another longtime friend, Mary Beth, came by to pick me up. We three have known each other for twenty years, and it was a real treat for me to spend time with them.

Mary Beth bundled me into her car, and we headed the hour plus drive up to Willamette Pass. It was great to catch up with her. Then a quick hug, and I was on the trail!

 

July 21, 2016, Mile 1912: On the Trail

At Maiden Peak Ski Shelter, mile 1912

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I stopped to make my first journal entry at Lower Rosary Lake, mile 1908. For my blog, I’ll be using the mileage from Halfmile’s maps, recorded in 2014.  The Oregon section of my trip will be from Willamette Pass 1905 to Cascade Locks 2144.

I will be journalling using voice memos. While this means I have to transcribe everything at home, it allows me to add far more detail. Call me over the hill, but it’s much easier to talk than to type with my thumbs.

Lower Rosary Lake is a lovely teal color, and I had the place to myself. At three miles in, it was a nice spot to have some lunch, adjust gear, and so on.

It turns out that I left part of my hydration hose at home. My system uses a Sawyer Squeeze filter inline, from a dirty water bladder, through the filter, and out the drink tube. Internally, I am using an Evernew hose, which functions as a drinking straw to the bottom of the bladder. Looks like I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way, by filtering water into my two plastic bottles (e.g. Smart Water), and then drinking all at once when I’m taking a break.

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I shouldered my pack again, and headed up and over a small ridge. Tonight’s destination was Maiden Peak Ski Shelter. This is a fantastic little cabin, built especially for back country skiers, but also available for use by hikers. And tonight, I had the whole place to myself.

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I settled down on a long bench, amidst table and chairs and a large wood stove. It’s a great destination for the first night on the trail…I only had to worry about half of my systems, and could leave tent adjustments for later.

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The wood stove area had a designated place for backpacking stoves, which meant I could cook my pasta inside. Dessert tonight would be a large scoop of Nutella…full of fat and calories, to stay warm overnight. Oh, and it’s darned tasty as well.

I signed the hiker registry, looking for familiar names, and then hit the rack.

July 22, 2016, Mile 1928: First Full Day

At Taylor Lake, mile 1928

 

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Today was a wonderful way to get going. My first destination was Charlton Lake 1923. The water was lovely greens and blues, and the temperature was perfect. I took some time to soak my feet…too bad I didn’t take time for a swim!

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Turns out this is a car camping destination. It was a bit jarring to see vehicles, and hear them up and down the forest road. But it wasn’t as crowded as it might have been. I hear tell that Waldo is a mob scene.

After relaxing and nomming at Charlton, I headed up the trail to Taylor Lake 1928. This was 17 miles for the day, which matches my personal best from last summer. I’m not pulling the thru hiker miles, for sure! I’m hoping to do my first 20, probably later this trip.

I saw my first blowdowns today. Oregon was slammed this winter, and the number of blowdowns is shocking. I heard it’s even worse in the southern half of the state (I’ve started almost exactly in the middle). The blowdowns were in the middle of an old burn, on top of a ridge. Guess I’d better get used to it.

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The mosquitoes are starting to make their presence known. It’s not bad, just a pain in the butt. Nothing that picaridin and a head net can’t deal with, though.

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July 23, 2016, Mile 1941: Humble Pie and New Friends

At Horseshoe Lake, mile 1941

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Remember the whole “lots of blowdowns” thing? Yup, it’s a thing. Slow going today, thanks in part to Mother Nature’s obstacle course.

Just like that old camp classic, “Can’t go over it, Can’t go under it, Can’t go around it, Gotta go through it!”, each bit of fallen tree had to be negotiated in its own special way. Naturally, the one which required the most unflattering, face planting, butt-wiggling squirm was the one which had a Korean college student as a hidden witness.

Once I got up, dusted myself off, and tried to salvage what little dignity I had left (precisely none), the student leaped maybe four feet to the top log, bounced lithely to the second, and landed gracefully right in front of me. There was nothing for it except to introduce myself as Rest Step, and congratulate him on his gymnastic prowess.

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The student introduced himself, but admitted he had no trail name yet. This, of course, was the perfect opportunity for me, and I bestowed his name: “Balance.”

Trail names are monikers used by a hiker on long distance trails, such as the PCT. In almost all cases, they are given by another hiker, based on something that happened on the trail. Very occasionally, as in my case, they are based on an interesting back story.

Anyway, once Balance had headed on his way, student after student after student followed in his path. There are probably a dozen all together, and they were separated by quite a bit.

I finally hit the trail, and caught up with Ye On Il, who is 25. He and I had almost identical paces, and we hiked together for probably two hours. It turns out that he was a forestry major in college, and that one of his goals is to climb (you guessed it) Forester Pass, in the Sierra. So naturally, I had to bestow on him the name “Forester.”

And if that wasn’t enough, I met my first friend from the Women of the PCT Facebook group! Kim De Wolff is hopscotching her way toward completion of the trail. We recognized each other…apparently my trail name is known…and we chatted for probably fifteen minutes. What an awesome treat!

And if *that* wasn’t enough, I ran across another Women of the PCT friend! Brenda (aka Atta Girl) was heading south for her exit point. As often happens, she was carrying too much food. Ye On Il had just confided that their group’s latest resupply hadn’t happened, and so Brenda shared some of her excess. Trail Magic!

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Shortly thereafter, I came to Horseshoe Lake, mile 1941. I shared a campsite with Jose, an opera singer from Vancouver, WA. He’s got three weeks between gigs, and wants to hike as much of Oregon as possible. More power to him!

July 24, 2016, Mile 1950: Relaxing at Elk Lake

At Elk Lake, mile 1950

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Got an early start this morning, and knocked off eleven miles in 4.5 hours (which for me is pretty good). The goal was to arrive at Elk Lake Resort, 1950, in time for lunch.

Elk Lake is a state park, but more so. It has the requisite tent and RV sites, but it also has a café, shower, boat rental, and so on.

Saw the Korean group again. Because they didn’t get their resupply, they didn’t have enough fuel. Jose, the opera singer I’d met the night before, has a real knack for cross-cultural communcations; he went around the entire camp with the students. Of course, most folks here are car campers, and use the ubiquitous green Coleman fuel canisters, which don’t work with backpacking stoves. Nevertheless, he was able to rustle up enough fuel to last them until the next resupply.

As soon as I arrived, I ordered a burger, shake, chips, and soda. Because food. That was darned tasty. And then I paid for a tentsite…$10 for hikers. Can’t beat that with a stick!

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Grabbed a shower, which included ten minutes where the lights were out. I got to rinse out a few clothes as well, and then headed up to my tentsite. I hung up my clothes, and headed over to the pump to get some water.

Well, right next to the pump was an RV with an extended family group. Because the pump was slow, I couldn’t help but hearing their conversation. And what kept coming up? Bothell…my home town.

When I had filled up, I stopped by their picnic table and said, “Excuse me…I don’t mean to eavesdrop…but I thought you might be saying Bothell. And that’s where I live.”

They told me about the huge fire that had taken out some 15 businesses in the old section, last Thursday. I immediately texted Brendan, to find out if Zulu’s (his board game café) was okay. It was, but a friend’s business was not. Lord have mercy.

The family invited me to sit down with them for chips and snacks. Didn’t have to ask me twice! When one of the men heard that I was hiking the PCT, he jumped up, ran into the RV, and brought me out several pieces of fresh fruit. Awesome!

I had dinner tonight with Jose, who I’d met the night before, and with Micah, who is doing all of Oregon. We had a most amusing time with a woman of about 40, who was decidedly in her cups. She kept gushing about our hiking, and about Jose’s opera career. But it was all fun, and she loved every minute of it.

When dinner was over, I went back into the store. Suddenly, I looked up, and there was a *very* familiar face. Turns out it was Hallie Swan (aka Sonic), from the Snow Basics class I took in March!

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There’s a reason she’s named for Sonic (the hedgehog). She started at Campo on May 15, about ten weeks ago. That’s an average of about 200 miles per week, including breaks. Today, she knocked off 40 miles just to get to Elk Lake in time for dinner. Yesterday, she did 50. Apparently she’s become a bit of a legend!

I sat with her while she had her dinner. Then the bartender came over to say hi, and we introduced ourselves as a thru and a sectioner, respectively. He said that he always buys the first round for thrus. I changed my story, suddenly becoming a thru myself. Two shots magically appeared, and life was grand.

Hallie was incredibly encouraging. She’s had all these great adventures, but she wanted to hear about my hike. We shared my campsite that night, and talked until well after nine…otherwise known as Hiker Midnight.