PCT Day 127-129

Day 127

We slept long again, waking only at 8. Our plan was to quickly eat breakfast and then get going as soon as possible but that was, simply put, hard to coordinate with 4 people. Everyone but Kristians was actually pretty much on time with final packing and breakfast but he of course took time to cook his breakfast and eat and enjoy the wifi. It was of course nice to chat with the family around the breakfast table but we knew we had to get going…

The last thing to do before heading out was to cut the massive watermelon that we had bought the day before – as Erin was heading out of town she would drop it off at the trailhead where we would finish that evening – as trail magic and as motivation for us.

We said our goodbyes to Erin and Deirdre, took a group photo and then Charlie dropped us off at the trailhead at McKenzie Pass. We thanked him too for hosting us and set off. It was about noon when we started and already pretty hot – we knew that the 16 miles ahead were going to be pretty exposed but at least there wasn’t too much uphill.

The whole 16 mile section was almost dry, so we needed to ration the water we had – there was only a pond at about 12 miles. In the beginning the trail crossed more lava fields but then continued on sandy ground and was a bit more shaded by trees. Some burned forests and some hours later, after a long gradual uphill, I finally saw Kristians sitting on a log, having a break. I was so happy to finally take a rest as my feet were pretty tired already. T-Bone soon arrived and was clearly unhappy – his feet had been in pain, even in the new shoes. Sensei then also caught up with us and we all had lunch for about 30 minutes.

We now had 6 more miles to go and it was pretty flat. We knew there were two things to look forwards to: the 2000 mile marker and the watermelon! This section actually went pretty fast for me, helped along by a podcast about Blackbeard the pirate. Pretty soon we passed a pond where we all filtered some water to quench our thirst. Kristians of course then flew ahead but the rest of us met up at the big milestone marker and took a bunch of photos. All we needed to do now was to hike 2 more miles, cross a highway and walk until the trailhead. Soon enough I saw Kristians sitting by the cooler with watermelon – what a way to end a tough but short day!

We set up camp by the parking lot where there was also a water cache. Sensei even found some trail magic beer for him and Kristians! We started to have dinner by the picnic table but T-Bone was thinking that maybe he would catch a ride back to Sisters with Erin when she was driving back and picking up the cooler anyway. His feet were sore and had felt hot the whole day, even despite the new shoes, so he was now thinking to try sandals or something new. Altras clearly weren’t working for him. Soon enough Erin and Deirdre came from their daytrip to Corvallis and saw us – we chatted for a while and they were happy to take T-Bone back for another night and help him get new new shoes. So we said goodbye to all of them, enjoyed our dinner despite the windy evening and then went to bed, planning to sleep long the next morning. The moon was huge and yellow that evening, shining its warm light on our tent.

Day 128

As planned we woke up late, maybe at 7. Sensei was already almost packed and finishing his breakfast. Kristians and I packed up the tent but then took it very slow with our breakfast by the picnic table. A chipmunk was also hunting for our food scraps so we had to be pretty vigilant. We finally set off at about 8:30.

We planned to hike 28 miles to reach a water source called Milk Creek. The day started with a long gradual uphill, mostly through burned forests, which went pretty fast for me as I distracted myself with a good podcast. I passed a lot of dayhikers and southbounders and soon found myself on top of a ridge, enjoying some amazing views of the snowy Mt Jefferson. After a while the downhill startef and I reached a pond where Kristians was waiting for me – we needed to filter some water.

It was now getting pretty hot and there wasn’t much wind either but the trail traversing the hillsides and the great views made up for it. In 6 more miles I reached the shallow but clear and beautiful Rockpile Lake where the others were already waiting for me. We soaked our feet, rested, quenched our thirst and ate for a while before setting off again.

The next 8 miles of trail was a mix of green forest, downed trees, tens of springs and burned sections. In 8 miles I came upon the Shale Lake, where the others were already waiting for me – once again we needed to refill our water. While Kristians and I were sitting there we saw a deer from across the lake – it started to skirt the lake and walked right up to us an passed us very close. But we couldn’t sit there for very long – the mosquitoes were in the midst of their evening feeding time.

Now we only had a short downhill section to go – it was mostly fallen trees and burned forests but thanks to the podcast time just flew by. I reached a green, bushy hillside with huge rockpiles and could hear the big creek even before seeing it. Upon going a bit closer the trail kibd of split up without a clear sign as to which way is the PCT so I just went straight for the river. I then saw Kristians waving to me from the top of a cliff, where they had found some tentsites. The trail up to the cliff was on loose sand and scree but better than nothing.

We then went down to the freezing cold stream to wash our feet and get some water. As we looked upstream we could see the massive walls of Mt Jefferson, the setting sun colouring it orange. We all sat outside our tents and had dinner together by a makeshift rock table. That evening was truly magical and despite not having T-Bone, Coconut and Tomb Raider with us it was still a great social evening on trail.

Day 129

We again slept long – what was the rush? Sleep and recovery are very important when hiking an average of a marathon a day. After the usual morning activities we set out at about 8:25. Today would include 22 miles, at least 2 proper stream crossings, one big climb, some snowpatches and also the first proper views of Mt Hood.

We crossed the Milk Creek relatively easily but ironically, right after the crossing I stumbled on a branch and faceplanted. About half an hour later, while crossing one of the hundred fallen trees, I cut my knee open. What a morning! But despite these little mishaps the hike was going good: 8 miles of gradual uphill took me from the burned forest into huge green and flowery meadows. Tge trail traversed the amphitheatre-shaped Mt Jefferson, crossed many alpine streams and finally ended up on the ridge of the mountain.

At the start of the downhill we had to traverse rocky ground and three bigger snowpatches before hitting the next set of meadows and forests. Because of the beauty of this area – as was to be expected – we passed a lot of hikers, in all ages.

I was feeling pretty fast and strong and soon crossed the trailhead parking lot before hitting a lake where we’d agreed to meet. We had some snacks, filtered some water and enjoyed the warm day. But we didn’t stop for long as the real plan was to get to the Olallie Lake Resort by the afternoon.

We had about 6 miles to go and a small uphill too. Podcasts again carried me effortlessly through this green forest, past countless hidden lakes and by many other hikers. Soon enough I reached the resort and saw, to my surprise, a sign that there was trail magic at the lake! Because we had started the PCT relatively easy we hadn’t seen as much trail magic as the “bubble” usually does so this was very exciting.

As I got to the campsite I saw a picnic table surrounded by hikers – besides Kristians and Sensei there was also three unknown hikers plus Yellowjacket, Ramen Shaman and Lifehack (the guys who had stayed at the same trail angel as us in Sam Diego and started the trail 1 day before us). The trail angel, Nate, was offering us watermelon, tortillas with veggies and grilled babanas but we decided that the first order of business was to go for a swim!

After soaking in the warm lake and catching up with the guys we went back to the table to get some food in us. We talked more to Nate and learned that this was his second year of doing trail magic. We also met his dog, Baby Girl, and in general had a good time. We also set our tents up close by, got some drinks from the general store and had our desert of grilled bananas with melted peanut butter chips. Our 2 British and 1 Saudi Arabian friends then left – they had organized for a ride out and were skipping ahead to Timberline Lodge (2 days’ walk) due to Yellowjackets foot problems. We took a group photo and said bood bye.

Soon T-Bone arrived, looking tired and hungry – he gad done a 31 mike day just to catch up with us! But his feet were still not doing great, despite buying 2 new pairs of shoes just in case. He quickly went to set up his tent and then more or less passed out from exhaustion. We, however, enjoyed the company of Nate and a bunch of other hikers: there was a retired police officer/homicide detective/personal investigator called Ironman; two vegan hikers going southbound to finish up the section they had missed during their last year’s through hike; a mother with her two daughters who were just hiking for two weeks.

Soon enough the clock hit 20:00 and it was hiker midnight – we had to get some sleep. The evening by the lakeside was calm and quiet despite the campers, fishers and dogs and we looked forward to another night of great sleep.

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