Day 134: Walking on the Moon

The Pacific Northwest’s mountain ranges, I hadn’t realized, are completely dominated by volcanic activity. This has been evident on the trail so far largely by looking up at the mountains around us, which often seem to rise out of nowhere and stand alone, unlike the High Sierra.

But today we got much more direct evidence of all that volcanism: we spent hours walking across what seemed like endless fields of hardened lava, huge giant black rocks piled on top of infinitely more huge giant black rocks. From afar it’s striking — hills that are entirely black and clearly not dirt, ridge after ridge after ridge. From up close, it’s even more impressive, and just as difficult to negotiate as you might imagine. Even on the trail, you have to watch your footing carefully, and straying off the trail would be unbelievably slow going.

It didn’t help that we’re in the middle of a short but intense heat wave here, and temperatures soared into the upper 80s while we were hiking across all this lava. It was slow going, and, every time we’d crest the top of one more hill composed entirely of lava, we’d hope to see solid ground. But, of course, we were almost always disappointed; there were a few hills made of actual dirt in there, which we loved, but most of it was just hours and hours of hiking across this stuff. It was some of the slowest and toughest hiking we’ve done in many weeks.

It was tough, but being out there was also kind of amazing. Experiences like this are part of why I wanted to hike the PCT, and they’ll stick in my mind forever. Being out in the middle of it was like walking across the moon, and I genuinely just never had any idea that Oregon had miles upon miles of terrain like this.

After lunch, we fortunately came to more Earth-like, not Moon-like, trails, and could speed up a bit, although the heat and the perpetual climbing of the trail still made the hiking pretty difficult. We were in a hurry, too: we were on our way to Big Lake Youth Camp, and we knew that dinner was served at 5:30 sharp.

Big Lake Youth Camp is a summer camp run by the Seventh-Day Adventists, and they’re truly one of the most generous groups of people on the whole trail. We arrived just before 5 PM, and, by 7:30, we had: showered, had our laundry done for us, charged our electronics, eaten dinner, received our resupply boxes that were waiting for us…all completely for free. (Donations are accepted, and I gave them far more than enough to cover any costs they had, for us and for quite a few other hikers, too.) It’s kind of an amazing place, and they do it just out of the goodness of their hearts. A huge thank you to them for being so good to all the PCT hikers who pass through and count on it as a resupply base — it was wonderful.

We also caught up to Treeman and Hedgehog there, which was great; we’re camped right next to them tonight. I don’t know how much we’ll see them in the next few days — I think we’re likely to go slightly faster than them, in order to get into our next resupply stop in the morning — but it’s so good to keep being around them.

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