Woke this morning in the motel at Klamath Falls and took the short walk to the bus station for the shuttle back to Crater Lake! The drive up was both quick and informative as Brian our driver filled us in on all the points of interest along the way! I asked him to drop me just short of Fort Klamath.. where Rock Doc and I had hitched just two days before.. to get into Klamath Falls itself.
After being dropped I could road walk (??!) the 24 miles Back up to Crater Lake thereby continuing the trend of unbroken steps from Mexico! This walk I was not looking forward to and wished I could have continued on in the shuttle with the other ‘sane’ passengers.. as the walk was both tough on the feet and legs as well as extremely monotonous.. as well as dangerous without sidings as the cars and trucks sped by?!! Anyway.. finally with Mazama Village in my sights.. I literally flew the last miles to the store for refreshments!
Camping tonight with a good number of other PCT hikers at the Mazama RV park and campground.. pitching my tent as the heavens opened and the deluge that is still now continuing.. began! The air is cool and fresh.. with the musty smell of rain settling on the surrounding forest floor.. and I’m off to sleep!!
PCT DAY 126.. August 9th Mile 1853.5 7000 feet 20 miles (from North Junction of Crater Lake!)
Started the day with a scenic ride around the open ‘East Rim Drive’ of Crater Lake courtesy of Devilfish.. one of the trail angels in the area! (The ‘West Rim Drive’ is currently closed due to all the wildfires in that area?!)
Rolling thunder resounded throughout the day accentuating the brooding skies above and threatening bucketfuls of rain at any moment?? None however fell.. so the air continued.. tight with the static and electrical charge of the thunderclouds above!!
Towards the end of the day and rounding a bend.. I was presented with the full glory and magnificence of Mt Thielson.. climbing high into the sky above me from the forested floor below! I eventually camped at the base of this great mountain.. a beautiful spot by Thielson Creek with a number of other hikers.. enjoying conversation and laughter around the warmth of a campfire as we ate dinner.. and watched the late sun disappear behind Thielson’s granite and snow capped peak!
Today we passed active smoke and fires that had obviously only just started.. some only a half mile or so from where we were on the trail.. Billowing smoke permeated the air and skies high above us and! I think the high mileage today was in part due to the fact that we were practically rushing to get through this area of smoke and flames.. not knowing exactly where the fire might be.. and how exactly it might affect us??! Just the smell of smoke through the trees tends to put a bullet up ones behind?!!
Thunder rumbled throughout the day with lightening in the distance but once again no rain.. so hiking was pleasantly cool.. I have however managed to develop a pain somewhere in my upper left leg.. either a stretched muscle or tendon which has made almost every step a misery?! Compounding this are the blisters between my toes.. so my mood once again was one reflecting the dark clouds above!!
Come evening however.. Tatters and I found the tiniest peninsular jutting out into the clear blue waters of Summit Lake and set up tent below the pine and spruce.. only feet away from the waters edge! Such a gorgeous location.. and one that would be bound to change any mood.. once my boots were off and the feet free to breathe again.. the sun made a final showing and lightened the senses.. before slipping away behind the distant mountains!
PCT DAY 128.. August 11th Mile 1904.4 4800 feet 17.6 miles
Ok.. so here’s the story.. We all have a ‘love/hate’ relationship with this trail.. unfortunately over the last few days.. mine has not been one of ‘love’?!
I’ve been feeling pretty down.. pretty low over the last few days.. in fact as dark as the thunder clouds overhead.. the reason.. uncontrollable forest fires! Oregon is literally on fire.. and new fires keep on popping up and closing more portions of the PCT.. with no real viable alternate.. in or out?!
The reason I’ve been feeling so low about this.. is due to the fact that when I started this hike.. I had solidly determined to walk EVERY step of the way from Mexico to Canada and so far I have.. I even road walked over 24 miles the other day at Crater Lake (road walking is definitely NOT fun.. is hard on the feet and can even be dangerous!) Anyway I walked the road as an uninterrupted hike..
I had even determined to do the long arduous road walk for 60 miles around the Mt Jefferson fire closure even though it meant an extra 20 miles added to an otherwise 40 mile PCT hike! Everyone thinks I’m crazy.. but I had my reasons! An uninterrupted.. no excuses hike from border to border!
Anyway.. today down here at Shelter Cove by the lake.. we were informed online that yet another fire has started just north of here and once again the PCT is closed in that section?!!! (These fires are often started by lightening strikes during thunder storms.. the likes of which we have had over the last few days!)
So.. now with no really viable ‘in or out’.. due to the remoteness of the terrain we’re traveling through.. I’m having to get off the trail at a place called Elk Lake Resort.. mile 1950.1.. and get back on at Highway 28.. mile 2084.0!! (This is due to the new fire closing mile 1960.0 to mile 1967.0.. and the Mt Jefferson fire closing mile 1992.0 to mile 2037.0!) The only place to get off the trail is Elk Lake.. south of the new fire and really the only place to get back on is the Highway 28.. north of the Mt Jefferson fire?!!) This to me.. is crushing!!
It now means that after hiking the extremely picturesque but dangerous and certainly VERY difficult Sierra in this high snow year.. after swimming three ice cold creeks from snowbank to snowbank.. and quite literally risking being drowned (3 hikers have sadly already drowned.. and this.. along with other deaths from hikers tragically loosing balance and sliding over cliffs.. has been the highest death rate of ANY year on the PCT to date!) I suffered trench foot from having ice cold.. wet socks and boots for weeks on end.. crossed countless freezing rivers and creeks.. traversed cliffs of ice.. which is NOT hiking.. it’s ‘mountaineering’.. all of which tested our resilience and determination to the max.. just to complete an uninterrupted hike.. and now.. to me.. it is devastatingly disappointing that I will not complete this hike uninterrupted.. as the fires of Oregon are putting paid to that!!
My legs ache.. my back aches.. my shoulders ache (all a constant and something I can deal with).. but I also presently have painfully bruised feet (due to walking slightly differently.. from both pounding the downhill stretches trying to ease the pain of the blisters between my toes of both feet.. and the aforementioned road walk!) I have nerves that are pinching in the soles of my feet and yesterday I strained a muscle in the groin area of my left leg! The latter.. once again probably due to a slightly different gait over hundreds of uneven and rocky miles?! This is all no doubt.. adding to my already somber mood?!
(Today was the very first day since I started this hike.. that I have had to take Ibuprofen.. numbing the pain.. so that continuing is possible!)
I WILL however complete the hike.. and I will get over this! For now though.. I feel devastated.. I feel crushed! There is after all.. absolutely nothing I can do.. and to circumvent BOTH fires would mean literally hundreds of extra miles.. time I don’t have as I spent the extra time crossing the Sierra..and the time on my visa will expire long before that! I’d rather continue and do the remainder of Oregon and Washington.. to finish as best I can in Manning Park.. Canada!
There.. I’ve had a winge.. it’s out there.. and now I’ll get on with it!
PCT DAY 129.. August 12th Mile 1930.8 5600 feet 26.4 miles
Today’s highlight was definitely running across the two gorgeous trail angels.. Sparkles and Hannah.. Between them.. they’d set up their very significant stall on a gravel road crossing the PCT! Once again.. these good and generous people give their time and money to ensure hikers find a little ‘magic’ on the trail..
They had a table set up behind which Sparkles (her trail name from last years hike).. was cooking up burgers and hotdogs.. whilst her niece Hannah handed out soft drinks and cookies to those PCT hikers that passed! They had boxes of goodies.. and bins full of ice cold soft drinks.. the dreams of many a hiker!! We stayed for well over an hour chatting.. whilst I was plied with hotdogs and soda!! I think I consumed an embarrassing 5 hotdogs and 3 Fanta’s in just over an hour!! The ‘hiker hunger’ had set in?!! Thank you both so very much for giving up ‘your’ time.. to ensure ‘our’ time on the trail was made that much more memorable! You have helped enormously in reviving my somewhat sagging spirits and somber mood.. For the remainder of the day.. I was fairly dancing down the trail!!
PCT DAY 130.. August 13th Mile 1950.1 5300 feet (19.3+1.3) 20.6 miles (to the closed trail at the turn off at Elk Lake Resort and then the short walk to the Resort itself!)
Today was FREEZING!! We woke (Tatters and I) at 5am.. as we only had the short walk to Elk Lake Resort to complete.. The trail has been officially closed from there on.. due to now.. ‘various’ forest fires actually ‘on’ the PCT.. all apparently started by lightening over the last few days.. I donned every layer of clothing I have.. 3 in all.. and started hiking in 0C (32F) temperatures!!
The trail passed numerous lakes and ponds as we progressed through the green tunnel of forest.. very similar to the last few days with an even trail made soft by all the pine needles.. By the time we arrived at Elk Lake it had warmed up sufficiently and it was there that we met the next two extra ordinary people I just have to mention.. Ginny and Jim Elliott!
They had driven up to the Resort on hearing the news that the PCT had been closed.. wanting to assist any hikers needing a lift out.. We not only got a lift for the 32 miles into the town of Bend.. but also a wonderfully comfortable bed at their beautiful home for the next two nights!! What is it that makes two ordinary people take on such an ‘extra ordinary’ undertaking??! Accepting total strangers.. smelly dirty ones at that.. into their gorgeous home and offering these strangers all the amenities/comforts of that home.. and all without recompense??
An understanding of the needs of hikers.. PCT hikers to be exact.. a belief in the goodness of mankind and the basis of knowledge that as human beings we are not all out there to destroy one another.. but rather to help and assist each the other.. In this case they are offering help and assistance.. as well as shelter to those travelers passing by on the road.. a very basic.. but extremely generous gift that has been emulated now.. for thousands of years! Thank you both sincerely Ginny and Jim.. for your extra ordinary kindness and trust.. in sadly.. a modern world sewn with both fear and mistrust!
PCT DAY 131.. August 14th Zero day in the town of Bend!
Today Tatters.. Tim and I spent the day resupplying.. doing laundry and airing out sleeping bags and wet tents! The tents were wet due to a particularly dewy morning yesterday with the extreme cold! Very relaxed day.. attributable once again to the kindness and generosity of our awesome hosts.. Jim and Ginny!