July 31, 2016, Mile 2017: The Mental Game

At a campsite, mile 2017

Per my plan, I slept in. And then I didn’t get out of camp until noon. I did some much-deferred camp chores, but generally speaking I felt like a discouraged slug.

I left camp, and hiked over Minto Pass, where I ran into the trail crew. They were finishing up, and toting their tools and an enormous cross-cut saw. We chatted briefly, and I thanked them again for their work.

At 3+ miles, I hit Rockpile Lake 2012. It was gorgeous, and if I had had more gas in the tank the night before, I would have stayed there. Alas.

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The proverbial straw was that I discovered I’d left my foam pad back at Wasco Lake. This is a 1/8″ thick pad which fits into the back of my pack. In the spirit of multi-use, it can be used to pad/support the pack, act as a sit pad, and add extra insulation/padding to a regular inflatable. I had cut this one to fit. And while the pack functions fine without the pad, it rides differently, and needs to be snugged up quite a bit to keep the weight from sliding around.

So there I was, short on miles, short on energy, short on time, with a heavy pack, and losing gear. I was *not* a happy camper.

After an hour (yes, a full hour…sigh), I had loaded up on water, poured calories into my system, and shouldered my New! Improved! pack, for the five miles to my evening’s goal.

Discouragement weighed on me, as I kept plugging along. In case the audience is curious, a long distance hike is absolutely not a frolic through the trees. Some of it is just that, but some of it is just plain hard work, and a lot of it is winning the mental game. It’s very easy to slip into negativity…trust me. One of the tricks you can use is the five-day rule. This states that if you truly want to quit, you have to wait five days before you bail. So in the spirit of the five-day rule, I wondered what the next five days would bring. And although I really had no idea what might happen, I figured I’d give it a try. Tune in on August 4 to see what the future held.

A couple of hours later, I neared my goal for the evening. And then I was suddenly blessed with a wildflower-strewn alpine meadow…only my favorite terrain in the high country. It was like God was saying, “It’s okay…I’ve got this.”

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Then I rounded the corner to the campsite, and it held an in-your-face view of the south side of Mt. Jefferson. The sun was low in the sky, and the mountain reflected more and more alpenglow as the minutes went on.

I shared the site with Shower, a man about my age, who sported long blond hair and beard. He was doing 35s, to make a rendezvous with family at Timberline in a couple of days. He also told me that despite his looks, he was the retired Assistant Director of Fish and Wildlife for the state of California. That’s the thing about the trail…it’s the great equalizer.

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August 1, 2016, Mile 2028: Hiking Buddy

At a campsite, mile 2028

Shower was gone when I got up. I took my time, but didn’t dawdle this morning.

The trail was more or less downhill for several miles, traversing a wooded ridge. I stopped for a mid-afternoon break at Milk Creek 2125. It was the perfect size creek for a ford, foot soak, and quick rinse. Talk about relaxing!

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I pounded out a few more miles uphill, to get to a campsite at 2028, along a tiny seasonal creek. The site is covered with older blowdowns, which leave just a couple of spots for small tents. I wedged my tent into one spot, set up camp, and made dinner. I also laid out my plans for tomorrow, which will include fording Russell Creek, hiking through Jefferson Park, and ascending/descending Park Ridge (7000 ft). The plan for the next day is to hit the Olallie Store, a tiny facility on the shore of Olallie Lake, and purveyor of wonderful trailside munchies.

Just as I finished getting organized for tomorrow, a woman showed up, looking for a place to throw down a tent. I showed her the one remaining spot, and she started making camp. I hung out, and we chatted away.

I introduced myself, and her response was, *You’re* Rest Step? (Wow!). I said, Well, yes I am. She introduced herself as Petra (pronounced Peetra), and said that she was on the Women of the PCT FB group. Apparently she had met Brenda (Atta Girl), who mentioned my name. Cool!

We’re pretty similar in hiking style and personality. She’s from Yuma, and she decided that, upon her retirement from tech, she would hike the PCT. She skipped the Sierra and flipped north, like many hikers this year. She’ll return to the Sierra later this summer, after the snowmelt.

She’s also a slower hiker, although with many hundreds of miles under her trail runners, her “slow” is faster than mine. And like me, her balance is a little suspect.

After a lot of good conversation, we planned to hit the trail around 6:45 tomorrow, to ford Russell Creek.

August 3, 2016, Mile 2052: Ice Cream and Gentler Terrain

At Trooper Spring, mile 2052

Interesting night. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by loud voices and a bright flashlight. The voices were calling, “Search and Rescue. Riley, Riley, is that you? Riley, Riley.”

It took a minute to get my wits, and then I said, “No, this isn’t Riley.” They asked me to stick my head out for a negative ID, and I signed my name as well. Turns out that somebody passed on a tip (later disproven) that Riley was using an orange tent. I have a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1, which is definitely orange. The SAR team apologized, and all I could say was, “No apologies needed. Thank you for checking.” Lord have mercy. **

I awoke to sunshine and no wind, with a delightful view across the lake. Love mornings like this.

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I headed down to Olallie Store, which was just two downhill miles away. It’s a tiny store, with snacks and resupply items, piped water, and no electricity other than a small generator. It’s a great place to take a break over ice cream and cold drinks. Mmm…ice cream!

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I stayed for a couple of hours, talking with different people. I met Cashmere, a woman of about my age, who is another member of the Women of the PCT group.

Before leaving, I attempted to get my hydration system set up. No dice. Chia Seed and her husband Quinoa had a syringe, so I could completely backflush the filter.  The filter is working fine, but I can’t get the inline system functioning. So from here on out, my system is two 1.5 L bladders for dirty, and two SmartWater-esque bottles for clean. Not sure if I can fix this at home.

With my second-best hydration system in play, I headed nine miles toward Trooper Spring 2052.

As of the last day, the terrain has changed noticeably. It is much closer to Washington than it is to the lava fields and burns of just a few days ago. Looking at the map, it appears to be more of the same for at least awhile. So tomorrow I’m going to try for my first 20 mile day. It’s a personal goal, and if something crops up I won’t be overly concerned, but it’s a nice-to-have.

** Footnote: As of mid-September, Riley has not been found. The search was called off in early August, and his family has returned home to California. Lord have mercy.

August 4, 2016, Mile 2073: Five Hundred, and Twenty

At a campsite, mile 2073

Today began with two goals in mind. The first was to hike my 500th PCT mile, and the second was to complete my first 20.

At 2059, I celebrated my first goal. The usual way to celebrate is to use whatever is local to create your number. Pine cones fit the bill, and I now have my very own 500 to mark the occasion. I’m mighty proud!

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The second goal was reached early this evening. It was the perfect day for it: the tread was gentle and the trail was mostly rolling. So voila! I’ve done a 20!

I’m also planning my ascent to Timberline Lodge. I could do it tomorrow, if I were willing to do another 20, but the uphill to Timberline is incredibly sandy…imagine trying to climb an enormous sand dune. So I think I’ll stay at Barlow Pass, five miles prior, and then head up the next morning.

Oh, and remember the five-day rule? Over the last five days I’ve forded/scrambled Russell Creek, climbed a ridge, descended snow fields, hit 500, and got my first 20. I’m feeling pretty good.

August 5, 2016, Mile 2089: Magic Powered

At Barlow Pass, mile 2089

Go figure, I was tired this morning! I was dragging a bit, as I followed the ridge above Little Crater Lake. And then…OMG MAGIC! (Yes, it’s actually spelled this way). Some kind camper, probably close at hand, had left a cooler with fresh fruit and soda on ice! Epic!

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Buoyed by the magic, I headed down the trail. In about five miles, I crossed an unpaved forest road. There was a man getting into his truck, and when I stopped to talk, he said that he’s doing the trail by nickels and dimes…day hikes, covering as much as he can. Brilliant! And then he gave me a liter of water, out of one of his Nalgenes. This may not seem like much, but when you consider the energy needed to haul 2.2 lbs of water for, say, four miles, it adds up in a hurry. More magic!

The balance of the day was rolling trail, traversing ridges, and the like. Barlow Pass 2089 was 17 miles on the day, and there was a great spot for tents, near a picnic table, privy, and a small parking lot. I ended up sharing with a NOBO (Mighty) and a SOBO (Matt), and being passed by a pair of people about my age. Mighty is friends with Cashmere, whom I met at Olallie.

Timberline tomorrow!

August 6, 2016, Mile 2094: Timberline

From Barlow Pass, it was about a five mile climb up the side of Mt. Hood to reach Timberline Lodge. Especially toward the top, the tread was mostly sand, which slowed me down. But as I stopped to take a break here and there, I looked south to see Jefferson, and the Sisters. It was awesome to see how far I’d come!

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I reached Timberline 2095 in the very early afternoon. The trail goes right through a couple of campsites, so I pitched my tent in the lower one, staking it out against the increasing wind. I emptied my pack of all but toiletries, dirty clothes, and my puffy, and headed down the hill.

The first stop was the hiker shower. It’s basically the shower version of a Porta-Potty. There was only a small bottle of shampoo, and of course no hot water. But I made do, rinsing out my shirt as well. I didn’t have a towel, so I just put on my wet clothes and called it good. Everything dried quickly in the dry, hot wind.

I got my resupply at the gift store. Whoever gave me the tip of using fancy duct tape on both your box and your wallet was spot on. All I did was show up, show them my wallet, and somebody said, “I recognize that! I know exactly where it is.” This saved a ton of hassle, and I was able to take my box up to the large patio area to shuffle my resupply.

I sat down next to a couple about my age. One of the women was telling me about their backpacking trips, and I offered to share a few of my excess items: trail mix, and a few extra dinners. The other woman was happy to have the dinners, but she insisted on getting my address so that she could return them once my trip was through. I narrowly escaped that one. We had a great time, chatting about our various trips, until it was time for dinner.

With my new resupply, I headed down to the Blue Ox, the local (small) pub. I had a 12″ pizza and a 12″ salad, while catching up online. Then I headed over to the day lodge to call Steve and keep charging my battery.

I headed up the hill about 8:00. The wind had been increasing, and one of my new campsite mates, Vessica, was having a heck of a time staking down her MSR Hubba Hubba. I couldn’t help her, but the other person, Animal Lover, had a few ideas.

I rechecked all the stakes and guy lines, and brought my umbrella inside the tent. I opened it and anchored it down, providing a good wind block. Hat tip to Jan for the great idea!

Breakfast buffet tomorrow!

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August 7, 2016, Mile 2104: Breakfast and Serendipity

At a campsite, mile 2104

Today was the day! The Timberline breakfast buffet has legendary status among long trail hikers. I believe it’s ranked #1 in on-trail meals, for every long trail across the country. And yes, it deserves it!

Waffles and eggs and sausages and potatoes and coffee and orange juice and pancakes and fruit and…

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I shared a table with Lock and his girlfriend Caps. We had some commonalities: she has been involved with Scouts and Venturing as well. Today was her birthday, and they decided to take a zero at the hotel. At $280 per night, this was no small endeavor, but like they said, it was their first zero since Mammoth. Happy birthday Caps!

After a long, relaxing meal, I hit the trail around 11:00. It was more or less downhill, with a few traversals of deep glacial ravines. I ran into Sugar Mama, and found out she’s watching over Shrek’s place while he’s out of the country. So hopefully I’ll see her down the hill.

I had a wonderful bit of serendipity today. As I crested a ridge, I noticed a guy eating his lunch. I opined, “Heck of a view,” and he turned around to smile. Then he looked at me quizzically and asked what my name was. “Rest Step,” I replied. He said, “I know you. From the Dinsmores, last summer.” It was Flash! What are the odds?

Anyway we hugged, and caught up. He’s in the Portland area, and was out for a day hike. We took a picture together, and I left with a big smile.

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I decided to stage ahead of the Sandy River, and threw down my tent at a small creekside camp at 2104. As always, I prefer to cross rivers and large creeks first thing in the morning, to give myself whatever advantage that I can get. So my tent is pitched fifteen feet from the creek, guaranteeing a lot of condensation. I’ve seen lots of people go ahead and cross now, but as always, I’m conservative.

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