PCT Day 118-120

Day 118

Today was going to be a long day – not because of the mileage (21 mi) but the heat, long water carry and endless mosquitoes. We got up at 6:30, fought the mosquitoes to go pee and pack and hiked out at 7:50. We continued downhill and after 2 miles crossed the last water source for the next 19 miles. We both decided to carry 3 liters of water, but to get that water we fought off an army of mozis.

We hadn’t agreed with T-Bone (Sensei hiked out before us and planned not to take a lunchbreak) about where we’d have a lunchbreak so as I fell behind the others I could only estimate when it’d be. The hike was very hot and often times there wasn’t much shade. Besides that we also started an ascent. Burned forest and fallen trees described the 10 miles up to lunchtime – apparently T-Bone had got stuck on a fallen tree here and ripped his shorts open. I even got a bit lost for a moment while the trail disappeared under some fallen trees.

What seemed like an eternity finally took me to the top of the climb – here I saw T-Bone and Kristians eating. I found out I had been a whole 45 minutes slower than them! So we had a super long break and I almost even had a nap. When we got moving again it was super hot and the mozis here were so fast that they could attach onto you while you were walking!

The trail continued downhill and was pretty straight and flat. Something was weird, however – it was only 4pm but the sunlight looked as if it was already sunset. It was all because of the forest fire nearby – it turned the sunlight yellow. But this section went fast and after 2h and 25min we hit the road. We then started to try to hitchhike to the Mazama Village, which was only 2 miles from us, right next to the Crater Lake.

We had no luck hitching so we started to walk – after 5 minutes a car picked us up. A conversation later we had agreed to be hosted by these trail angels at Sisters, which should be in about a week! We thanked the two lovely ladies for the ride and met up with others in front of the general store. Everyone had already picked up their resupply packages so we went to get ours. Turned out they didn’t have our packages and that we should try to call the post office the next morning at 9.

So we all decided to go and put up our tents at the hiker/biker campground and proceed by taking a shower. We found out that our campground had free showers – the only problem was that the water wasn’t exactly warm. Next up T-Bone, Kristians and I went to do our laundry and get some dinner at the restaurant. I managed to get some wifi and worked a bit on the blog and checked the forest fire updates.

After dinner we saw that all the driers at the laundromat were full so we decided to put up a clothes line and dry our clothes in the fresh air. Another hiker then arrived – Shiva. Shiva had started his hike on the same day as T-Bone but had to take a month off trail (the reason he had caught up is because he hikes so fast). We then bought some more snacks from the store and went back to the campground.

The sun was now setting but we all decided to sit by the picnic table, eat a bit and decide on the next day’s plan.

Day 119

Kristians and I woke up at 8 and packed up. But we took it slow, had breakfast by the picnic table and waited for the others to wake up. We then went to the general store to try and figure out the resupply box situation. After some calls to the post office and the lady checking the mail room for the third time it really seemed as if our boxes had been lost. Kristians had an idea, however – what if instead of noting down the “to” recipient they had written the “from” recipient. And when we checked the log, there it was: Jon Banta! We shrugged it off because we were happy to get our boxes.

While we repacked our bags in front of the general store about four other hikers arrived – some fast guys doing the Oregon Challenge (hike through Oregon in 2 weeks). We relaxed, talked and in general just tried to avoid starting the hike. But at 12 it was time for this convoy to finally leave. Only the faster guys managed to get a ride but the rest of us hiked the 2 miles of slight uphill to the trailhead.

The first mile of the trail was pretty easy and flat, the trees shading us from the heat of the sun. The trail then started to go uphill steeply for about an hour, wrecking my calves. I had fallen a bit behind the others but met up with them once we arrived at the Rim Village. We were instantly surrounded by hundreds of tourists so after filling up our water bottles we quickly escaped to the viewing platform.

Wow! The lake looked even better than I’d seen on the pictures. The huge crater was filled with Carribean-blue clear waters and in the center was a huge volcanic island. Tomb Raider and Coconut caught up with us here and started a bit after us – they weren’t sure about where they’d camp tonight.

We took a lot of photos and videos and then continued our hike on the Rim Trail (this is actually a 15-mile PCT alternate due to a fire closure on a section of the PCT). Steep up and downhills guided us along the crater rim, surprising us with great views all along. After 2 miles we took a left turn onto a side trail leading down to the Lighting Spring. This was to be our camp for the night – an easy day!

The side trail zigzagged down the hill and we raced Sensei down – we won. We set up camp right by a stream and wanted to enjoy the quiet evening but no wind also meant lots of mosquitoes. With long pants and sleeves we managed to have our dinners but were pretty much forced to go to bed early.

We went to the tent already at around 7 and it didn’t take long to fall asleep. We planned to wake up early the next day, at about 5:30, so that we wouldn’t drink that much water during the 7-mile dry stretch in the morning. The night ahead was to be pretty eventful, though: T-Bone managed to puncture his matrass and fixed it at about 2am; an animal of some sort went around our camp at about 3am, stepping on all the branches and making lots of noise.

Day 120

We woke up already at 5:40 – T-Bone was already up because he hadn’t slept well due to the matrass. Sensei already left while we finished eating and packing but T-Bone was only a bit ahead of us. We quickly hiked the relatively easy uphill 1 mile back onto the Rim Trail when we caught up with T-Bone. We could see a lot of smoke from the forest fire to the South from us.

We had 7 miles to the first water cache – I hiked this whole distance with T-Bone, talking about everything. We also took the last pictures of the Crater Lake and Sensei decided to climb a short sidetrail to a viewing tower on to of a hikl to take some more photos. Once we hit the original PCT trail again we spent about 10 minutes filling in our bottles and taking a rest. We now had about 8 miles to the next water cache and it was pretty much completely flat. The trail was now in a not-so-dense pine forest and there were fallen trees everywhere that we either had to climb over or go around. I think we crossed maybe a 100 of these.

I was now hiking alone in the back and due to the heat and fallen logs it took forever to get to the next cache. But finally at about 13 I reached the dirt road by the cache and found out I was only a couple of minutes later than Kristians and T-Bone. Shiva – the hiker from the previous day – was also there, having his lunch, but left soon after. We took a good hour long lunchbreak and filled up our water bottles for the next 9 miles.

These 9 miles started with a gradual 7-mile uphill but because I was once again hiking with T-Bone and talking it went pretty fast. Because he also hikes a bit faster than I normally do I pushed myself and overall we did good time. Most of the time the trail was still in pine forests but there were sections with open ridges with views down into the valley and of the mountain and volcano peaks around us. On one of these ridges we suddenly saw a huge plume of smoke just over the next ridge – it looked so close!

Once we reached the top of the climb we saw Kristians waiting for us – apparently he was just 5 minutes ahead. Now the trail headed down and we only had 2 miles of switchbacks and easy terrain to go. The time flied and suddenly we crossed a big beautiful stream and had a view to the amazing, craggy peak of Mt Thielsen. We hiked a couple of hundred meters further to a small campground and set up our tents. We proceeded by making a small campfire and eating our dinners just as Sensei finally arrived.

We went to bed pretty early as we were tired, our feet hurt and the next day promised to be long – 33 miles (56 kilometers) to the Summit Lake. T-Bone had fixed his matrass and also hoped for a good night’s sleep.

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