Monday, October 01, 2012

Pacific Crest Hike - Section 27 2012

We walked 231 miles through Oregon!  

PCT trip 27-2012
August 18 to September 1.

For this trip, I flew from San Diego to Seattle, where I met up with John Hart, and then continued together to Medford. Bill Henie, a friend of Bill Redman, picked us up and gave us a ride to the trail.

When we hit the trail at about 2:30pm, it was hot and muggy. Per John's plan, we did nine miles the first day. We passed south-bounders Caspar, Switzerland, Shoelaces and “John”, and we saw a buck and doe scampering through the woods. We camped next to a piped spring, which is a gift. I came up with a mnemonic for southbound report questions, “Name Camping Fire Water” , which covered all the pertinent information I wanted to get about the south-bounders and the trail ahead. Fire had closed two sections already, but more about that later.

The next day “Gadget” and “Minor” (because he’s 18) leapfrogged us. The weather cooled and “unmugged” for the rest of the trip. We met Gut Feeling, a lady through-hiker. Guess she gives good advice. Little Dipper also passed us. Southern Oregon is much drier than you’d imagine because volcanism has driven the water underground. The drier areas aren’t that attractive, but good forest cover keeps things cool. Overall, the climbs were easier in most places than we experienced in California. Oregon is flatter but not flat by any measure.

We walked into the Hyatt Lake Resort which has a PCT hikers camp and showers! It’s such a joy getting clean even after a few days on the trail. I figured I’d get very little cell coverage on this trip but I got calls and data out almost every day. I spoke with my wife often, which was nice. Eating dinner I was surrounded by Yellow Jackets and Bees; no stings, only annoying. The wife would have run away screaming. Insects have become banal. Ran into “Mataguay Connector” the next day. He’s Robb Langsdorf from San Diego, a walking encyclopedia about the trail. It was a great pleasure to see him.

We saw some focused south bounders early the next morning. They’re too far north for this time of year. The look on their faces mirrored our worries that they don’t have enough time to get through the Sierras.
We took the alternate path through Lake of the Woods. The road walk was annoying but the resort and surrounding forest were lovely. We had a great meal and were able to resupply odds and ends at the store. Lake of the Woods is a beautiful place for a family trip. We met Turtle and Willililli from Holland. Pitstop, Mary and Steve passed us southbound. We camped at Four Mile Lake and got water from an enormous hand pump. Not having to filter water is a gift. I felt like a pioneer.

We’ve heard a lot of woodpeckers over the years, and I've always wondered how their brain survived the pounding. I heard one and then thought, “Something’s different.” It was a tree slowly cracking and headed for a fall, a very similar sound: a rat-a-tat-tat and I noticed a swaying tree, wanting, hoping to fall over, but not yet. Spooky. It's something you worry about when you pick a camping spot.
The trail takes a wide berth around Mt. Theilsen, which has a sharp pointed peak, stark and beautiful. The handbook recommends a “scramble” to the peak without your pack. It looked very dangerous; not our cup of tea. Some braver ladies walked by us to the top. Theilsen Creek was running well and was a welcome lunch and water spot.

I mentioned to John that I was going to need some red tape to mark some items in my pack, and make it easier to find them, mark the front end of the tent for easier setup, etc. “I have that,” he said. I mentioned later I needed a sharpie to mark what’s left in my gas canister to pass it on to another hiker. “I have that,” he said. Later, as I was cooking my dinner, he offered, “Do you need salsa for your pasta? I have a few extra packets.” That man has just about everything! Someone in the Sierra’ recommended he use the trail name “Full Inventory.” Good choice, but he has finally picked “John for now”.

We met Firefighters three times on this trip. At the Butte Fire a phalanx of them came up the ridge we were walking on, tamping and digging as they went to put out every last bit of fire and smolder. They were impressive in heavy clothes and gear. Young women were in the group, too. It's a dirty, hard and I’m sure at times dangerous job. We got through by the skin of our teeth. Thanks to them I haven’t broken my contiguous hike of the PCT.

After a meal at Lake of the Woods I had stomach problems for three days. I ate some of John’s Ramen, which I don’t consider nutrition, hoping it would go down. It didn’t. I decided to go to sleep and clean it up in the morning, but magically the big black ants made it disappear. It was as magical as if Elves shined your shoes while you slept.
We met a group of very young trail workers, a modern WPA, doing a great job. Later, we ran into Mismatch, Little Brown, Challenger, Spatula, Molasses, Kayla, Nightwatch and Jawbone. We eve saw a Corgi with a backpack. A Corgi’s too low for a backpack, and though bottoming out had a good attitude. We met a family with two teen boys with enormous backpacks. Dad referred to them as Sherpas.
We shared the trail with horses four times this section. I get dirty hiking, but a horseman gets filthy. If you’re unlucky and not the lead horse it’s even worse. One horse was a bit nervous passing us and the rider said, “Say hi to the horse. It calms them down.” I said hello to about 10 horses this trip. A dusty trail is an unsociable trail. You need to spread out to breathe. Our lowest morning temperature was 34 degrees. Brisk. I told John I was getting big condensation in my tent. He said “it’s from you. The colder it is the more moisture inside.” You wind up packing away your tent while it's still wet. We saw Magic Bag , Wiggy. Chimney Sweep and Lightweight, almost all of them passing us north.

Along the way we stopped at two places where a private company had “won the government contract” to run a campground, store or restaurant. Xantera is a big outfit in this business of “Concessionaires”. At Mazama below Crater Lake, and at the rim of the lake, they run several places. The system is faulty. They’ve got good and bad staff, sweet old ladies and evil-acting ones, creepy guy employees I’d fire in a flash. A standout though was James, who created a sorely needed water cache north of the rim. We had a delightful waitress with screaming red hair. A young man who must have somehow passed the drug testis the cashier at the gas station. They have a foreign exchange program with earnest but unintelligible workers. Private enterprise can be great, but there’s something rotten here.
Molasses was lovely hiker we met at Mazama. She carried a “little red summer dress” to wear when she needed a ride. “I have a problem,” she said as she showed me her closely cropped hair. “With this outfit I once got 17 rides.” I believe it. I hope she stays safe.

Crater Lake was almost invisible because of the fires. Thick smoke obscured the view of this phenomenon. The trail follows the rim in a roller coaster of exertion. I have to come back with my wife to appreciate it. An amazing lodge on the southwest rim would be worth a few days stay. A brother and sister team leapfrogged us for a day and a half. Chuckles, Lawnmower and Grasshopper passed us. For the first time, I saw a sign “No Mushroom Hunting”. There must be some kind of special mushroom up threre!

Passing Highway 58, the forest got lusher and the lakes got better and more common. I’ve never seen more lakes in my life. The map is blue pock marks. Lower Rosary Lake was one of the beauties, clear and picturesque. The warmest night north of there was at Desane Lake. I pumped water for both of us at Bobby Lake. It was quite spectacular to be the only one present at a giant lake. We saw a fire crew, exhausted from the recent mop up. We passed and surveyed Charlton Lake, the final camp of Bill “AsABat” Jeffery. I walked around, half expecting to see some evidence of his last day alive. He will be sorely missed. Charlton Lake may be the best lakeside camping on the whole section, even with afew mosquitoes. Afterward, we passed through another 3 miles of burn.
I’m very fortunate to have John Hart for a partner. He’s interesting to talk to, he is a wise man, he’s humble, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the trail. He knows his caloric needs and calories per ounce of our snacks. He can give a thumb-nail sketch of the day’s difficulties, trail and challenges and total elevation gain. He knows what our water availability is. He knows the basics of next years section and plans for it. And much, much more. I’m a lucky guy and try to do whatever I can to be of help: tell some jokes, read the hiking prose from the handbook. John takes care of the hard data.

The end of our section was above Elk Lake Resort on a burned-out promontory. I always look in all directions to remind myself where we’ll be starting next year. We saw fewer than 50 people in 231 miles. Never has so much money, effort and planning gone into fewer people enjoying the outdoors. Only 710 miles left to the Canadian border! I'll probably make it by 2015. This trip went fast, as usual. - 15 days on the trail in a snap. It was a good trip and adventure. I lost 7 pounds. A “Thank You” to Bunny Slayer (Judson Brown), who gave us a ride to town.