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Posts Tagged ‘Inspector Gadget’

**From September 2015**

The wind howled that night even more than the people howled at the moon. As I attempted to sleepily chug some granola with coconut milk powder, I knew I’d have trouble getting out of the tent that morning. Gusts of wind hit my tent and all I just wanted was to pull my sleeping bag over my head. Eventually, my mind won and I put on almost all of my layers, packed up quickly, and started hiking. Impervious to the weather, Memphis headed off first as usual. E.D. poked her head out of her tent as I shivered stuffing my tent into my backpack.

9:30am – puffy still on.

New in the past few years, this stretch of trail stayed above treeline on a beautiful ridge for about 14 miles. I kept my puffy on as I hiked uphill, higher on the ridge. This ridge was by no means flat. They almost never are. This particular ridge had quite a few ups and downs. The trail shifted sides of the ridge a few times and did not duck far enough down to water for at least seven miles. I did not remove my puffy until 11am and never removed my trusty Melanzana.

The alternative to this ridgeline went over Tincup Pass on a dirt road and remained a route option for bad weather. With the amount of ATVs out and lack of thunderstorms in the foreseeable future, we had opted for the ridge.

CDT ridge walking.

Eventually, later in the day, we finally began descending in an epic plunge through trees and switchbacks. At the bottom, the dirt road from Tincup Pass linked back to the trail. Guthook showed some PUDs coming up which did not sound very exciting. However, Ley had mentioned a ghost town called St. Elmo down the dirt road the opposite way of Tincup Pass. About the same mileage without the PUDs, E.D. and I decided to explore.

Sometimes, walking down the dirt roads is a refreshing break because it requires less mental effort in navigation if the body or mind is tired. Plus, there’s a ghost town. That we’d hit at night. Perfect!

About four miles of wandering down the dirt road, we hit St. Elmo and it was, indeed, creepy. We had passed plenty of campsites on the way in with fires burning and cars pulled off to the side of the road, but no one in the “town” itself. The buildings had a stock, old feel to them and when we peered inside with headlamps, the wallpaper which was on only half on the walls moved in the breeze.

The town hosted several large signs dictating the illegality of camping within the “town” limits—not that anyone would sleep well there. We found an old sign that had lots of pictures of previous residents and a little information on who kept up the “town’s” current appearance.

It was too dark to take pictures of St. Elmo, but this was nearby at dawn.

We had to switch dirt roads in town and we had slight difficulties with this at night while simultaneously trying to not get freaked out. This road hosted some interesting cliffs and not nearly the camping opportunities that the previous road had. We ended up finding a side road toward a broken bridge to camp on. We went around the large stone blockades figuring that was for cars and not people on foot and camped. We did not notice the RV on the other side of the broken bridge until it’s generator came on mysteriously later.

We skedaddled just before dawn to try and catch Memphis, who would doubtless be confused. We jumped back on trail at the Hancock trailhead and went around a beautiful lake on the way to Chalk Creek Pass. We still hadn’t seen Memphis. We didn’t find him on the long descent down either where we’d usually catch him.

Right as we were about to head up to another ridge toward Monarch Pass, we thought we might pull a fast one on Memphis if we took a dirt road over to the main road and walked that up to Monarch Pass and beat him to town.

It worked. Right as we got to Monarch Pass, immediately after taking our headphones out a Subaru of two ultra runners playing Eddie Vedder pulled over and asked if we needed a ride into Salida. Why yes, yes please!

We found the hostel and a pizza place while we texted Memphis the plan. Halfway through a pizza, Inspector Gadget and Last on the Bus messaged us asking where we were and how long we’d be in town. They said they’d meet us tomorrow for breakfast. Memphis got to the hostel right as we had finished a pizza each and we began the laundry process.

Gadget and LB did find us in the morning as we found Axel, who we’d been following about a day or two behind for almost two thousand miles. In my resupply box, my Mom’s friend Kathy had included an amazing array of temporary tattoos. While we decided on a breakfast location, I convinced everyone in the immediate vicinity that they needed to put on a temporary tattoo. Then, we set a few aside with Gadget and LB to get Mellow Yellow one at their next stop. With thru-hikers, hostel guests, and hostel staff fully equipped with at least one temporary tattoo each, we created a breakfast plan.

Axel had contacted Karla, an amazing trail angel in South Fork, Colorado who was passing through the area. They had planned on breakfast at a specific restaurant, which I later learned was the only good breakfast place in town. While she drove in, LB, Gadget, E.D., Memphis, and I hopped in LB’s car and got on the table wait list, so they could roll right into a table, which turned into a fantastic time.

After breakfast, we went back to the hostel to pack up slowly. So slowly, in fact, we decided we needed lunch before heading to the trail. LB suggested we go to Midnight Pizza and Brewery, so we enjoyed two pizza locations in Salida. That was an awesome suggestion.

We did finally get back up to Monarch Pass that afternoon where we dallied more at the small store there because we searched the register to see how far ahead others had gotten from us in the meantime. Finally, we said goodbye to LB and Gadget and tried to get a few miles in before dark.

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Thoroughly debating the state of Cookie Monster’s burned foot, we decided to press on right after a brief chat with Splinter.

“Where have you been?” Hop-a-long asked since he should have been only a few miles behind us.

“Ya know,” he sighed, “I was trying to get way further than I was but then I hit Russel Creek and I heard the water rushing quite quickly underneath all that snow and ice at night and I didn’t feel safe crossing it, so I set up camp right then and there.”

“Safe decision,” I said thinking about how glad I was we hit that in the daytime and properly assessed it.

We trotted onward and upward and away from the very expensive Ollalie Lake Resort.

Then we ran into a worried woman and her teenage daughter both complete with large weekend packs that went over their heads.

“You guys know it’s hunting season, right?” she stammered.

“Oh, no. Huh.” Cookie said unconcerned.

“Well you’ll be fine once you hit the Indian Reservation because there’s no hunting over there,” she mentioned.

After she left we thought about what she said and how worried she was.  “Then why is she hiking south, away from the reservation?” Cookie asked me.

“She also had no blaze orange on either,” I pondered.  It was one of those “Huh.” moments where that’s all you can say without acting like a rude smart mouth.

We pushed on, into the night contouring up the side of one hill, then another, and then another.  Eventually, we camped in Pinhead Saddle where Hop-a-long had found a fantastically flat campsite.  Cookie crashed out immediately, Hop-a-long sewed up her skirt, and I read some Game of Thrones on my phone.

Timothy Lake

In the morning, we got moving early and pushed for a long day.  Cookie’s foot wasn’t any better and he was simply trying not to think about it.  He kept it wrapped to avoid infection and pulled an amazing feat of mind-over-matter and ignored it for the 30 mile day we logged.  The terrain did not present too many challenges, so the walking seemed pleasant and flowing.  We had a hearty lunch and a little whiskey near Timothy Lake which looked like it would have great swimming if the weather had been warmer.  I almost lamented the utter hot obnoxious weather of California which pushed me to swim every chance I got just to get the sweat off of me, then I remembered my eyeballs sweating and that thought shot straight out of my mind.

The trail followed the lake for several miles of beauty until it dipped over to begin contouring up another hill and we found ourselves back in the Doctor Seuss trees with their glow in the dark looking moss.  Unfortunately, it did not glow in the dark, but I did imagine a million different Halloween wig styles that one could create with the moss.

We had a slight water gap where we had to find a seeping spring for which Yogi gave several paragraphs of information on how to find it.  In actuality, a wood plant with “water” written on it and an arrow pointed almost directly to it.  We just had to climb over one blowdown to get there.  Out of exhaustion, we almost camped there that night since it was only a few minutes until dark and our bodies were going on the “screw you, I’m tired” mode while the mind told it “only a few more miles…”

Plugging on, we walked into the darkness and contoured a large ridge going up, then cruising around it until we hit hwy 26/35 which could take us directly to Portland.  We signed a register, then noticed a note that said there was a picnic table and a privy right across the street.  Done and done.  Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I took over that picnic table and camped right there after enjoying tasty whiskey beverages.

Right before bed, Splinter and Inspector Gadget passed by.  They wanted to make sure to get buffet breakfast at Timberline Lodge.  Admirable goal considering we have all heard about the breakfast and lunch buffets at Timberline Lodge for hundreds of miles.  Not to mention you can stare at the beautiful Mt. Hood in the process.

I woke up to a light rain on my tent.  Just enough that it would drive me nuts and just enough that I had to have a jacket on due to the wind and colder temperature.  I packed up as quickly as possible noticing that Hop-a-long had mysteriously already got up and left, probably in food desperation as she was down to a cliff bar or two for the last ten miles and I knew she was still hungry going to bed.  Eventually, I found where Cookie Monster had ensconced himself in trees and made sure he woke up, then I began heading up Mt. Hood toward Timberline.

There was one large hill to go up and over, then a sharp 2,000 ft climb up to the Timberline Trail that the PCT followed for a ways around treeline.  The weather was miserable.  As long as I stayed moving, I stayed decently warm and ok, but I, too, was running incredibly low on food and had gotten particularly hungry through this stretch.  I think some of it had to do with the fact that I had no extra body fat stored on me to kick into gear.  I took about a 10 minute break to guzzle some water and stuff a cliff bar to the face before I became wicked cold and had to almost jog up the first half of the 2,000ft climb to warm up.  It was the first time I had been able to keep my shell on while climbing and not end up drenched in sweat.  Of course by the time I reached the Timberline Trail, I had already burned though the 240 calories of the cliff bar and my stomach made its hungry state known by growling loudly at me.  To make matters worse, the last mile up was all sand!  With every step up, I slid back down a bit.  My stomach certainly was not pleased then.

Timberline Lodge

Once I made it to Timberline Lodge, I beelined for it thinking only of how hungry I was when I ran into Dead Animal who had driven up to hang out and do some more slackpacking for us.  We went inside to find Hop-a-long, Splinter, Inspector Gadget, Tickled Pink, Last on the Bus, Blood Bank, Panorama and Xana.  Cookie rolled in not too much longer than that and thus began our waiting out of the weather.  We got to wait it out in the best spot possible: Timberline Lodge, location of filming of the movie The Shining.

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2,000 Miles Down!

We collected Cookie Monster at Santiam Pass, where my Mom dropped Hop-a-long and I off around 1pm.  He managed to get away from his real job for five days in order to hike 100 miles with us to Timberline Lodge.  We were both super excited to see him.  He brought his usual large pack full of goodies and his constant supply of Swedish fish (except they weren’t exactly Swedish, they came from a gas station on the route).

After we drank a few remaining beers that my Mom had gotten and my Dad so graciously paid for, we set off in the surprisingly hot afternoon weather.  The burned terrain offered little to no shade and the threat of having to walk through the lava rocks loomed over us for miles.  Due to so many volcanoes in the vicinity, this did not surprise us, but our feet told us they did not wish more torture.  I had just switched sandals again, which seemed to instantly make my feet feel better as well as my knees.  I believe the foam had decreased so much that I had no padding in the second pair of best-sandals-ever, Tevas.  They lasted 1000 miles, just like the first pair, but the time had come to retire them.

This section, unlike the last, had far more elevation change, albeit nice grades.  We climbed for almost 8 miles and above 6,000 feet on the west side of Three Fingered Jack.  Upon getting a clear view of Three Fingered Jack, it did appear as though some guy, presumably named Jack, had raised his hand in the air and had somehow lost his ring finger leaving the pointer, middle, and pinky fingers.  Contouring the side of the mountain gave us all kinds of views of Jack’s hand and missing finger.

At the north end of our contour, we looked out at the taller Mt. Jefferson from Porcupine Rock.  By now, the sun had seeped all extra moisture from our bodies as if wringing out a sponge, while our livers began demanding the extra liquid to process the beer we had drunk at the trailhead.  Result: headache.  Not horrible though.

In true PCT fashion, we went down around 1,000 feet, only to climb back up 1,000 feet.  The downhills always seem way shorter even if the distance is, in fact, longer–all much to my chagrin.  Our final ascent back above 6,000 feet we did at dusk.  We reached Rockpile Lake with headlamps and it took us a few extra minutes to sort out our surroundings.  We first came across a small, gross, unmarked pond with a marshy area around it which did not provide great camping.  However, upon further investigation, we stumbled upon the actual lake, which was less gross and actually had a spur trail around it leading to various great, flat, cleared campsites.  We were thrilled!

Hop-a-long and I set up our tents in the biggest flat spot while Cookie Monster set up his hammock in some nearby trees.  We all cooked dinner together and listened to the luxury of the speakers Cookie had packed out.  His iPod on shuffle changed genres and generations more often than Lady Gaga changes her fashion statements.

In the morning, we had the most relaxed on trail start that I remembered.  We did not leave until 8:30 am after sleeping in until just past 7am.  Crazy!  We bounced around on contours and ridge lines for quite some time, chatting, snacking, and laughing before plunging down to around 4,000 feet to cross Milk Creek, which was indeed Milky and one of many milk creeks to come.  It meant we would begin to climb up the side of Mt. Jefferson to contour around with fantastic views like the other volcanoes.

The climb, however, was about 3,000 feet of elevation gain over about 8 miles and was separated into three sections of roughly

Left: Old Sandals, Right: New Sandals

1,000 feet.  We managed the first two sections, then stopped to eat dinner at what looked like the last water source on the map. We sat in what the map called “Jefferson Park” and it definitely seemed like a park; a wide, lake filled plateau stretched out around us with small streams feeding various lakes and quaint tree clumps.

After dinner, we had the final 1,000 foot push up and over the last ridge we would climb and then enter Mt. Hood Wilderness.  It was also the steepest and took us a bit of extra time since we were tired at the end of the day.  A man, base camped somewhere in Jefferson Park, had gone off on a day hike with his two misbehaved dogs who growled and barked and ran at us.  Really dude?

We reached the top of the ridge right at dark and had to turn on our headlamps, only to see the biggest snow field we had seen yet on the PCT in 2012.  It stretched on well past where our headlamps could reach, so we examined the map and regrouped.  We had to make a sharp right angle turn, which we found without snow, but then the trail plunged downhill into the snow abyss.  Dirty footprints marked the way for a wee bit until they started contouring when we knew we were not supposed to contour, but rather, go uncharacteristically straight down the slope.  We found a cairn and then the dirty footprints disappeared.  Despite knowing we did not want to contour more, we did just that to get onto rocks and layer up to figure out a way down.  The warmth had gone away with the sun and we had just our headlamps and the stars to guide our way.  We went back to the cairn and broke apart there.  I stood at the cairn so we would have the last point of trail, Cookie went down slowly, and Hop went back over the footprints a bit.  We did not go far apart so we could all still communicate.

“It’s down here!” Cookie yelled when he hit rocks again and found a cairn where we suspected the trail hid underneath the snow.  Hop-a-long and I made our way down to him and we repeated the process two more times before reaching a marked campsite near some ponds which was really not a campsite, but it worked.  Unfortunately, there were no trees, so Cookie had to bivy instead of setting up his hammock.

We jammed out to Cookie’s iPod with speakers while eating dinner, gazing at the very star-filled sky and staying warm.  I went to lay down and try to sleep earlier, but all of a sudden I heard,

“Oh hey look!” Cookie said, “a headlamp coming down.”

“I bet it’s Splinter!” Hop-a-long said excitedly.  She began using her headlamp to signal the single headlamp down to the trail.

“I bet it’s Inspector Gadget,” I said from inside my cozy tent and warm sleeping bag.

About 10 minutes later, the headlamp came close and it was indeed Inspector Gadget who thanked her for the headlamp signal since he did not have hardly any tread left on his shoes or hiking poles to steady himself in the snow.  He went a few more miles to get to Olallie Lake Resort for lunch.

We got a little bit better start the next morning, but still not early.  We continued downward a bit, then the trail undulated in a general downward trend until we hit Olallie Lake.  The “resort” was a handful of small cabins without electricity or running water, a collection of picnic tables, and an exorbitantly expensive “store.”  I broke down and bought a $6 bag of chips since I had run out of chips and craved the salt as well as a coke for the caffeine factor.

Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I commandeered a picnic table and cooked ourselves lunch so we did not have to cook dinner.  Cookie’s iPod and speakers came out blasting Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” among other crazy selections.  Then, the unexpected happened.

A large fly bug thing landed on Cookie’s hand, startling him into spilling freshly boiled water out of his jetboil right down into his right sock.  He instantly took the shoe and sock off and hobbled to the lake to cool off the burn while I cleaned up the spilled pasta and dug through my med kit for the burn dressing I had.  Hop-a-long went back into the store to find more burn cream so we could make a larger dressing with a large gaze pad.  When Cookie got back from the soaking, the top part of his foot oozed clear fluid.  Luckily, the wool sock he had on, protected his foot somewhat by absorbing the liquid, but it was still a bad burn.  We dressed it all up and assessed our options.

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Madison Ski Hut

Madison Ski Hut kept us warmer for the night and surprisingly, we had no trouble with mice!  Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I had a great time reading random entries out loud from the trail register and sipping on some brew packed out from Willamette Ski Area.  We got a late start the next morning due to cold temperatures.

The terrain between the Ski Hut and all the way to McKenzie Pass was pretty mellow filled with lake after lake after lake.  So many that we had to keep a watchful eye on the map to make sure we knew our location.  Not to mention, we had to watch for water that we could get to easily that wasn’t nasty.  Lots of times, the lake water we could get to had nasty pond scum and a funny color while the nice, pristine looking ones had marshy areas leading up to it.  The best hope was always a large blow-down that we could walk out on, grab water, and go back to filter it.

This region, being so close to several major roads, had more visitors than we expected.  Lots of weekenders had gone out to enjoy the wilderness.  Should be great yogi-ing opportunities, right?  Wrong!  They all brought just enough food with them.  Bummer.

Not only were there a billion lakes, but there were also a billion side trails going of to more lakes.  A good few of them were labeled differently from the maps which threw us for a loop.  Most of the time, we could figure it out by examining the map closer, but sometimes Halfmile’s maps were too zoomed in to tell.

Hop-a-long and I decided to push that evening for a 30 mile day, so we hiked into the night, surprisingly keeping a better pace than most parts of the day.  We chatted, hiked, and seemed to have to pee constantly.  I found it more tolerable to hike later in the day instead of earlier in the morning when the temperatures hovered around freezing in the morning.  The body, being already warmed up from hiking all day, did not seem to mind the same temperatures hiking at night as it did straight out of the sleeping bag.

It just so happened that Hop and I planned on camping at a marked campsite on the map near Desane Lake which three tents had already claimed, complete with barking dog.  No one else had camped in the past 7 miles, but then, just in the spot we wanted, someone already had it.  Damn.  We went about a third of a mile later and found a suitable flat spot to call home for the night after we cleared the pine needles.

With a decent start in the morning, we got off and found some relatively clear-looking lake water and the weekenders with the dog came by and talked to us for a while.  They seemed nice, but asked all the usual questions, including the favorite, “Do you carry a gun?”  Ummm no.  Not necessary, and quite heavy really.

Me hiking toward Middle Sister

By late afternoon, the terrain changed from lake filled rolling hills to glacial melt streams flowing down from Middle Sister in the Sisters Wilderness.  Hop-a-long and I toyed with the light and our cameras to take pictures of the beautiful views.  It had large areas of red rock scree on the south side.  After a quick dinner, near a non-milky glacial stream, we set off again into the dusk to hike around a good portion of the large volcano.  We did get slightly confused as to which stream we were at because some of the ones that Yogi said should be flowing were and some were not.  At night, it was a bit harder to use other aspects to figure it out; the clearings helped us quite a bit, because we could see their rough shape, even with a headlamp and match them to a map.

Around 10:30pm, we reached an area near some shrubby trees and went off trail to find some flat spots.  The trees proved significantly warmer than the clearings, yet the clearings offered plenty more flat spots, so it took us awhile to find a good one.

The next morning, we only had about 15 miles to get to McKenzie Pass where my Mom was going to meet us and bring us trail magic.  Most of it was in the downhill direction as well, with a few exceptions of course.  The biggest exception was a short climb over lava which moved and twisted with every step making it harder than it should have been.  A little ways after the top, we came across one of the tastiest springs on the trail: Minnie Scott Spring.  We could see its source bubbling straight out of the sandy bottom.  I sat there and watched it for a bit, it was that amazing.

Through the Lava to McKenzie Pass

From there, we had a mere 7 miles to McKenzie Pass and stunning views of Mt. Washington, Three-Finger Jack, and Mt Hood in a line in front of us.  The going was good until the last miserable mile of lava rock that had not been smoothed out and seemed to reflect heat back up at our faces.  We then found my wonderful trail magic filled mother after a bit of worrying and went in to explore Bend.  The story of the trail magic is here: Mom Trail Magic.

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After all the beauty of Crater Lake, the PCT through Oregon followed a line of volcanoes and the tall mountains which

Crater Lake

conveniently went in a northward line.  We could see the first one ahead from the rim, Mt. Thielson.  A trend emerged as the PCT methodologically traveled northward; we would climb to a certain point on the westward side of each mountain, just enough to get a few good views, then contour around it until we went steadily down, back into the trees.

Surprisingly, I did not want to walk locked into a green tunnel, despite the exposed and super hot California because Oregon had turned cold and my body had not yet adapted to near freezing temperatures at night yet.

I caught Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget warming in the sun where a side trail split off to go to the top of Thielson.  None of us were convinced the summit wasn’t technical, but we could only see part of the trail up.  What we could see was mostly scree, which is fine going down, but going up is a bitch and a half.  We opted to continue down the PCT toward Thielson Creek to eat lunch.  My motivation had not yet recuperated from the cold by lunch which had begun to worry me.

Right as we left, the three of us ran into a guy hugging a tree and taking a MySpace photo of himself in a spot that didn’t seem unique to any of us.  As soon as he told his story, we understood.  His name was Scarecrow from Long Island.  He had almost completed his thru-hike last year, in 2011, but the snow slowed him down and he had to miss a chunk of trail from the spot where we found him until Bend, and then from Skykomish, WA to the Canadian border.  He told us about his restless nights and inability to sleep well at night because he hadn’t finished.  He had completed the stretch sobo from Bend to Thielson Creek and was about to head up to Skykomish to finish.

He helped my motivation significantly, not only from his excitement, but because he confidently said we were going to make it to the border and I was getting sick of people asking us if we’d make it since so many other hikers had already gone through.

We passed through a section of trail that had recently opened four days earlier after the Butte Fire damaged the area significantly and crossed the trail for about a quarter mile.

We passed the Oregon/Washington high point afterwards and continued until we camped for the night in a saddle that offered comfortable pine needles to sleep on.  By that time, Hop-a-long was getting seriously worried about itchy bites that were beginning to cover both of her arms, hands and neck.  I gave her some anti-itch cream, but that only goes so far when a person has so many bites.

By late morning, we reached Windigo Pass which offered an alternate trail which would bypass about 9 miles of PCT and rejoin at Willamette Pass near a ski resort.  A note posted at the trailhead gave information for a local trail angel based out of Bend named Lloyd Gust.  Hop-a-long called him and asked if he knew anything about bed bug, chigger, or flea bites since we couldn’t quite determine which ones were biting her.

“Do you have bites in threes?” Lloyd asked her on the phone.

“Yes.”

“They’re bed bugs.  We don’t have many, if any at all, chiggers around here,” he replied.

Seeing an RV park and a road close on the alternate route, she went that way to find a hot shower and laundry to blast the bed bugs out of her clothes and sleeping bag on high heat.  She even found spray rubbing alcohol to add to the bed bug death mix.  Inspector Gadget and I kept going on the main PCT and expected to meet her at Willamette Pass.

The next morning,the temperature went down to about 27 degrees and frost covered our tents.  Trying to simultaneously ignore my alarm and convince myself I needed to get up and hike somewhere, I laid in my sleeping bag staring at the frost above.

THUNK

I bolted into sitting position, still in my sleeping bag thinking a damn bear was right outside my tent.  Then I saw a headlamp.  It was 6am.  Who the hell is walking already packed up at 6am in this cold?

“Who is it?” I asked.

“WHAAAAAA!!!!” the person startled, “oh shit, I didn’t see you guys there!  It’s Splinter.”

“Shit man, it’s Gadget and Veg!” Inspector laughed.

“Hey guys!” Splinter gasped seemingly delirious, “I’ve already done 48 miles! 12 to go until Shelter Cove Resort and I’ll have 60 miles in 24 hours!”

“You’re fucking crazy,” I muttered still waking up.  “Why did you want to do that?”

“I needed to catch up!  And I wanted to see what I could do for a long day.  When I had 30 miles done in the first 12 hours and I wasn’t tired, I figured I’d go for it,” Splinter laughed.

“Dude,” Gadget started, obviously shivering, “come hang out with us at Willamette Pass after you pick up your resupply and eat pizza.”

“It’s only open on the weekends though, it’s Friday,” Splinter said.

“It’s Saturday,” I said.  “It was Friday when you started hiking this crazy mileage.”

We went up near Diamond Peak, contoured around, then headed down through a throng of day hikers who did not seem to understand headphones blasting as a don’t-talk-to-me sign.

“How far up is the lake,” one asked in a whiny voice.

“Which lake?” I asked in return.

“Uhhhh…the lake…” he responded looking confused.

“Dude, I passed at least twenty damn lakes this morning, I don’t know which lake you want,” and I continued on while he looked perplexed.  I had decided not to eat trail lunch since fresh salad, pizza, and beer would be at the ski resort in about four miles.  This, however, increased my annoyance with day hikers who wanted to ask the usual mess of questions.  Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I’m starving and there is food that is not in my pack right ahead, probably where you parked your car.

The ski resort was not busy in the slightest, so we took over a table and several outlets to charge all of our electronics while we ate several rounds of food and drank some beer.  Hop-a-long had just gotten there and regaled us about blasting the bed bugs out of her stuff and the bites seeming to stall, or at least not get worse.  Splinter caught up with us and decided just to start drinking instead of taking a nap to not mess up his sleep schedule.  Always a great plan.  He had managed 60 miles in 24 hours and then started drinking beer.  Props.

That evening, we hiked out a few miles to the Madison Ski Hut which was a ski shelter shaped like an octagon for backcountry skiers.  We spent the night reading the register and figuring out how to booby trap our food from the scurrying mice that also inhabited the shelter.

The Oregon Hiker Highway with the super cool moss.

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Delirious from 36 miles and tipsy from the beer, I stumbled down the road to a user trail spawned by Yogi down into the Mazama Village of Crater Lake.  According to the Yogi guidebook, if you walked the road into the Village, you would have to pay at the entry booth and the proper side trail was extra miles.  She claimed that you could bushwhack down when you see a guard rail on the curve of the road straight down to Mazama.

When I got there, I found Scooter in the store buying beer.  He took me over to campsite E17 where Dead Animal had set up camp complete with Coleman stove and grill.  He had just gone to see if I was at the trailhead, but Hop-a-long, Scooter, and Tahoe showed me where everything was.  I barely managed to sit down when a beer maneuvered its way into my hand and Hop-a-long filled a plate with soy chorizo, peppers, and onions.  We sat around a fire talking, cooking, and having a few brews.  Dead Animal filled me another plate of potato product fried and covered in ketchup.  Apparently, I need to eat.  It’s actually true.

Everything went grand until some gun totting park rangers came by with their flashlights up by their heads looking all serious and such rolled up.

“We got a few noise complaints for over here, you guys need to keep it down,” one said in his best cop-like voice.

I looked at my watch…it wasn’t even 10pm yet!  Quite hours were from 10pm-7am.  We had no music playing and we weren’t even talking loudly or drinking outrageously.

“What’s in the bag?!” one said with his flashlight beaming over on the picnic table which was covered with food, stoves, bags of all sorts.

I was closest, so I answered, “which bag?”

“The bag by the phone.”

“What phone?”  There was no phone on the table, probably because there was no cell service to speak of down there.

“The bag by the phone,” the guy started to sound more irritated.

“Oh, the MP3 player?” I asked and picked up the bag that had a garlic clove in it before we used it all.  “It had garlic in it.”  I picked it up and smelled it.  It smelled strongly of fresh garlic.  “Here, you smell it,” and I shoved it in the woman’s face.

Sniff sniff.  “hmm, yeah, garlic.”

Damn rangers.  Get out of here.  Go find some teenagers to bust for underage drinking or maybe the people who couldn’t stand 35 degree nighttime temperatures across from us who sat in their car with the heat on from 4 am on…thats between quite hours and a car engine running is not exactly quite.

Gadget rolled up around 11pm, right as I was going to bed and chilled out.

None of us got up early in the morning, besides Gadget who went to get a long early breakfast at the restaurant near the store.  Eventually, we made some breakfast, got our packages and formulated a plan which turned out to be somewhat of a cluster fuck.  For starters, the PCT split so an equestrian PCT separated from a hiker PCT for about 13 miles.

Scooter and Tahoe decided to slack pack 14 miles to where the trail came back together.  While Dead Animal shuttled them to the trailhead, Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I bummed the camp showers and walked to the store to do laundry.  In the meantime, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk showed up and joined our plan to slack pack a whopping 5 miles up to Crater Lake Rim.  After stuffing our faces full of food from the store, we grabbed some beer and got shuttled by Dead up to the trailhead.

Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk took off first and stayed ahead of us the whole time.  Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and I started chatting and drinking beer on the first two miles since it was flat.  We knew we were moving slowly since each of us had a beer in hand, but we also knew we were supposed to shoot upward when the trail split.  Almost an hour and a half in, we knew something was wrong because the trail was still flat.  We definitely weren’t going 3mph, but we weren’t going a mile and a half per hour either.  Gadget checked the GPS which showed us on the trail, but upon second glance, we realized that the GPS only had the equestrian trail marked and we had gone about two miles past the junction.

We hurried back moving faster than 3mph until we saw the junction.  Looking at the sign, the top had “Dutton Creek Trail” underlined and only on the third line down said “Crater lake Rim Trail – PCT.”  None of us looked past the top line and dismissed it as a side trail.  Underneath the sign, a piece of paper taped up said, “Horseys <–, Hikers –> Don’t be a Dumbass like Us.”  Great.  Didn’t even manage to see that.

Scurrying as fast as we could, we tried to race to the rim.  The trail, however, had other plans for us.  It shot straight up, pulling an AT number and we soon realized why the equestrians went around and not up.  Eventually, we hit the road that ran around the rim for all the yuppies and we walked to the cafe since the sky threatened rain and Dead Animal had gone to drop off Scooter and Tahoe’s stuff further on.  We warmed up there since the wind was fierce out near the lake until Dead Animal came and we formulated a plan of where to stealth camp so we didn’t have to pay for a pricy campsite again.

Right as we were going to bed, some music came bombing out of the woods, in the form of Magellan.  We gave him some chips, salsa, and beer since the store had already closed and he stealthed there with us.

The cold morning gave us a late start and we slack packed the 9 miles to where the hiker PCT and the equestrian PCT rejoined.  We took our time as the trail shot up and down to every viewpoint imaginable.  We dodged tourists, took pictures, and drank some beer while we hiked.  Dead Animal cooked us a good large meal of epic portions and we drank as much beer as we could fit into our ever shrinking stomachs.  The extra beers we left by the trail with a note to pack a can out for the other thru-hikers who we knew were not more than a day behind.

Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget got a head start on me and landed about a mile ahead of me that night, but I caught them in the morning.  I would have caught them sooner, but we had one of the coldest nights on trail up until that point and it zapped my motivation to move apart from my sleeping bag.

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The Standing Stone Brewery, where we ended up at in Ashland, was excellent and I ate copious amounts of food with good beer.  When we realized that the hostel was full, we had to hitch three miles back to the interstate, where all the cheap places to stay were located.  In the process, we encountered the local squatter population which seemed to want to take us in as their own since we were dirty, had backpacks, and therefore must not have any money to stay anywhere or buy our own food.

“Hey! You look like me!” one guy said walking by with a non hiking backpack.  Hmmm….how do I say this…no.

“Hey!  You know, the best squatting is down by the bridge!” Another one said.

“Thanks, but we’ll take a cheap motel instead,” Hop-a-long said.

We ended up having to call a taxi since everyone kept confusing us for the squatters begging for food near us, one of which had a sign that read, “Divorced Bigfoot…anything helps.”

Once we got there, Hop-a-long, Trooper and I split a room in the cheapest motel, the Relax Inn where we were put in the very end room, right smack next to the interstate.  The room reminded me of my freshman dorm room at college complete with concrete blocks and the owner dude watering the same flower bed for 30 minutes to watch us air our sleeping bags and put sink laundry out to dry.

After resupplying the next day, we somehow managed to spend most of the day eating, sleeping, and sending food places.  All in all, it turned into an inadvertent zero day.  We did not realize that until we found ourselves wanting food and noticed it was dinner time. Handily, a decently priced Mexican restaurant was located behind the motel, so we went there and ended up finding Splinter and Scooter who had hitched back to Shasta to climb it, then hitched back to Ashland, then Spins and Baboon.

Hop-a-long and I managed to get back on trail by noon the next day while Trooper waited for Funk to show up, who had gotten a day behind.  We also saw Tahoe and Taka at the trailhead and we leapfrogged them for the rest of the day.
At that point, Oregon did not seem too different from California: smokey from the nearby fire, dry, some sand, and a big fat rattlesnake.  Hop-a-long had boogied right by and it slithered out of the way to my right without rattling, but still managed to make me jump back, then ease closer to get a better look and see if I could get a good picture of it.  The thing must have been three and a half feet long!  Crazy!  I hadn’t seen a rattler in a while, just lame little garter snakes.

All four of us took a break by a spring that had a spigot.  Distrustful of random spigots in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we all treated it, and why not…the sawyer squeeze filter is so easy!

That night, Hop and I made it a little past a small highway and set up our tents in the most flat patch we could find, which wasn’t that great, but I slept fantastically anyway because the extra warmth of the tent blocked the breeze.  I reveled in having the extra two or two and a half pounds that my MSR Hubba offered.  I could definitely notice the weight change though.  Bye bye tarp!

I saw Tahoe in the morning as he packed up and we chatted for a wee bit as we took the newly rerouted PCT which seemed to add half a mile to go around the west side of a large hill instead of the east side.  Hop-a-long decided to cut off two miles by walking the dirt road instead, so I did not see her until lunch, where we also found Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk.

At the next water, I sat down to filter it when none other than Little Brown walked up heading sobo.  I had met him at the 501 shelter in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail.  He had major knee surgery and the doctor told him not to thru-hike this year, so he decided to section hike.  Good spirit!  His knees seemed to hold up well and he told Tahoe and I a few stories with emphatic gestures.  He also gave us the important information that the last spring on the way into Crater Lake Mazama Village was dry.

We passed many small roads the whole day until we came upon Dead Animal with his blue Neon, a cooler of beer, and a five gallon bag of box wine.  We promptly sat down, drank a beer, and complained about how our feet hurt.  All three of us checked out the map and realized that the Brown Mountain Shelter (super weird to have a shelter on the PCT) was less than three trail miles away and .2 from another paved side/back road.  At the end of 26 miles, we hoped in the car and went the 2.8 miles up to the next road, then walked south to the shelter with arms full of food, beer and boxed wine.

The only person there was Little Steps, who had given us rides to and from the trail at the Anderson’s Casa de Luna (mile 478).  She was super excited to camp with other thru-hikers since she hadn’t in a bit.

Hop-a-long and I annihilated a large box of lettuce, some cookies, and any other food we could find, while entertaining ourselves with a trail register.  Her, Dead Animal, Tahoe, Little Steps and I began a game of “Slap the Bag” in which one person holds the five gallon wine bag for someone to slap and drink from above them.  Little Steps even joined in our little shenanigans…and she’s 60!

After dark, Scooter rolled in and before he could even get his pack off, we made him chug some delicious box wine, then stuck a beer in his hand.  He had a grin from ear to ear.  A wee bit later, Inspector Gadget rolled in and got the same treatment.  This went on until the five gallons was gone and we blew the bag back up with air to use as a pillow.

The morning was a little rough, but we managed to make it back to Dead Animal’s car where he cooked us all breakfast while we hovered in the little sunlight that poked through the trees.  It seemed as though fall had begun to set in since the nights became significantly colder and the days got significantly shorter.  Dead took all our stuff up to the road 10 miles later to Fish Lake so we could slackpack across the lava.

Despite the lava, the trail actually had such amazing construction that a great amount of dirt had been brought it so as not to roll your ankles with every step over sharp lava rocks.  The miles whizzed 0n by and we were back at Dead’s car before we knew it.  There,  we cooked lunch and Hop-a-long whipped up an amazing sautéed vegetable, soy chorizo mix to cram into a tortilla for easy mass calorie intake.  The boys cooked bratwurst.

Unfortunately, no roads crossed the trail in the next 51 miles to Crater Lake, so we had to take all our stuff there where Dead Animal said he’d be the following day.  Inspector Gadget set off first on the challenge at 2pm, then Splinter at 3pm, and finally I left at 3:30pm.  Hop-a-long was battling a giant brain crushing headache combined with an obnoxious back rash from her pack, so she hopped up to Crater.

Twelve miles up trail, after scaring some day walkers, I found Gadget at the first water where we cooked dinner.  I had surprised myself flying up that first climb when I was so un-motivated.  We only managed two more miles or so after that and crashed out on a  side trail thinking no one else would hike that.

I was pretty determined the following day to make it to Crater Lake despite it being 36.3 miles away.  I went for it.  Up by 4:30am, hiking by 5:15am, and in almost all my layers because I walked all over a windy ridge.  The morning miles flew by pretty well, until I hit the 1800 mile mark and plopped down in the sun to grab a snack.
The only notable feature of the day was Devil’s something or other which had these sweet rock features going all over the place.  Why is anything crazy awesome have “devil” in the name?

On the way down, about 15 miles in, I ran into Scooter right after he finished digging a cat hole.  That was the only time I saw him that day until Crater.  From there, I went in six mile-ish segments all the way to Crater Lake.  I had begun to get tired, so I chugged some Crystal Light Energy (aka crack).  My feet had also begun to hurt for no apparent reason, so I took my socks off and that seemed to help significantly.

I hit the road at 7:50pm, found a tall boy beer Dead Animal had left, chugged it and walked deliriously into “town,”  ready for an entertaining evening.
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