Day 133: These Sisters Are Serious Volcanoes

We’d heard about the Sisters several hundred miles ago, a set of three striking mountains in relatively close proximity somewhere in Oregon. I wasn’t quite sure exactly where they were until today, when we came around a corner and suddenly it was obvious that that’s exactly what we were seeing — the first of the Sisters. The funny thing is that I didn’t necessarily recognize them from pictures per se; rather, they’re by far the biggest and most impressive mountains around here, and I was pretty sure that was what we were looking at.

The Sisters are a very popular area to hike in, which means that

Day 132: The Beautiful Oregon

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to say here — at least in this part of our hike, some days just aren’t that different from the day before. We’re fortunate to still be in the part of Oregon that’s packed chock-full of lakes, relatively flat, and heavily forested; this means we’re spending our days cruising right along in the shade, and have water easily accessible at almost all times.

It’s gotten to be fairly warm outside during the days — up to the lower 80s — which means that

Day 131: Lake to Lake in Oregon

To my delight, we’ve continued meandering from one lake to another in this part of Oregon. We easily passed half a dozen large lakes today, and just as many smaller ponds, most of them ranging anywhere from “pretty” to “truly beautiful”. It’s as if someone flipped a switch, and suddenly Oregon has gone from dry hillsides to lake-dappled landscapes. The fact that the trail through here is largely flat just makes it all the better; the going’s easy and we can cruise right along. (This doesn’t make twenty-three miles in a day easy, exactly, just…easier than it otherwise would be.)

We continue to bounce right along with

Day 130: The Day We Saw the Fishing Tournament on the PCT

Just like the Wienermobile, a fishing tournament is not exactly something I expected to see on this trail. Yet there we were this afternoon, sitting in the grass in Shelter Cove, Oregon, watching a crowd of a couple hundred people listen intently to the announcer as the results of the contest started to roll in. Given my interest in fishing (to those who don’t know me: zero or even less), this was quite a cultural experience for me. (And, even more so, to Treeman and Hedgehog, who are from Berlin — a place where I somehow doubt they have many fishing tournaments.)

Shelter Cove was our resupply point for this leg of the PCT, and it’s really just

Day 129: Skyline? What Skyline?

We’ve been hiking in forest-fire smoke for so long now that it’s come to seem almost ordinary to us. Yesterday, we thought we’d perhaps finally started to come out of it as it disappeared in the late afternoon and evening. But, then, almost everybody we camped with yesterday described the same thing: waking up at about 1 AM, smelling smoke all around them, and having a hard time falling back asleep. I suppose that’s evolved deeply into humans: if you smell smoke, don’t go to sleep. The smell of this smoke is interesting, too — it really does smell exactly like the world’s biggest campfire. If we didn’t know that vast amounts of forest were on fire out there somewhere, it might even be pleasant, in its own way. It certainly isn’t anything like smelling smoke from a factory or power plant, thankfully.

Don’t get me wrong:

Day 128: Back Among Friends

We’re camped tonight just a few feet away from Treeman and Hedgehog, and got to eat dinner out here with them. Physio and Cashmere are just a short ways down the trail, as are Morningstar, Cookie Monster, and Rob Steady. We spent all day long bouncing back and forth with them on the trail — getting passed by them when we took a break, passing them when they took a break — and I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. The entire day felt better, passed more quickly, and I was just in a great mood all day long. It’s so good to be among friends again!

Treeman and Hedgehog actually caught up with us last night, as did

Day 127: Sunrise Over Crater Lake

Our alarm went off at 3:00 AM this morning, insanely early even by hiker standards. It was painful getting out of bed, but we had a mission: we were headed up to the rim of Crater Lake to see two things — the Perseid meteor shower, and sunrise over the lake. As bad as you know you’ll feel on only five hours of sleep, sometimes it’s more than worth it to have an experience out here that you probably could never have any other time of your life. So…up we went, and headed up the trail.

It turns out that, so early in the morning, you sometimes see things you probably never would’ve seen any other time.

Day 126: Crater Lake, and Back On the Trail

It’s amazing sometimes how fast things change: last night we were asleep in a giant, comfy bed in a hotel, and tonight we’re back out under the stars. We’re camped tonight only about a half-mile away from the rim of Crater Lake, about as close as you can get, and have plans to get up incredibly early, at 3:00 AM. Why? Because, in the span of just a couple of hours, we’ll get to see two things: a meteor shower, and the sun slowly rising directly over Crater Lake.

This is a particular treat because it’s actually

Day 125: Family!

Today was the second time I had visitors on this trail, and, this time, it was family. We’d been planning to meet up with my parents at Crater Lake for months; as we slowly made progress towards Oregon, we were able to give them gradually firmer and firmer dates of when we’d be there. Well, today we got to Crater Lake…and, lo and behold, they were here!

We covered the last sixteen miles into Crater Lake’s Mazama Village — the main part of the national park below the lake itself — starting early this morning. As often happens when

Day 124: Long, Long, Long Days

The last three days have unquestionably been the three longest days in a row of this entire trail. All three have been in the 24–25 mile range — much longer than we’d ever normally do up until we hit Northern California, and even longer than the 23 miles per day we’ve been trying to do since then. As you might imagine, three such days in a row is a whole new level of exhaustion above and beyond even just one such day, which is all we’d ever done before. I write this weary in body and in mind both.

It might not seem like an extra mile or two

Day 123: Of NOBOs and SOBOs

As you know from reading this blog, we’re hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada, heading north. This makes us northbounders, or NOBOs for short in PCT lingo.

As NOBOs, our challenge is this: don’t start too early — usually not before late April — or else the High Sierra will have too much snow on them to pass. At the same time, make sure you keep moving quickly enough to get to the Canadian border by late September, or else the north Cascades, in Washington, will start having major snowstorms come through and you’ll have to quit. All told, this requires hiking mileages in the low 20s on average to complete the PCT in a single season. This season, we got a break because there was extraordinarily little snow last winter (as in, some of the lowest recorded snowfall ever), so we got to start earlier, in early April.

About 90% of PCT hikers are

Day 122: I Like Oregon

So far, I think I really like this state. Part of that is psychological, I recognize: it’s so nice to finally be in a state other than California, and to feel that big sign of progress. But, much beyond that, this has been a genuinely nice place to be the last several days. Oregon is making me happy.

The areas we’re hiking through are more strikingly pretty than I’d expected. The hills here are

Day 121: What Season Is It? Smoke, Of Course!

I’m actually not even joking. Around here, smoke is pretty much a whole season unto itself. After seeing the immense amount of smoke that’s been hanging in the air for the past week, I talked to some of the hotel staff this morning — and apparently this is completely typical for this time of year. There are pictures in the local paper of students going to college classes with surgical masks on. It’s the kind of thing you expect to see in pictures from Beijing, but which you usually don’t associate with, say, Oregon. But I can see exactly how it happens, every single year, from all the wildfires. It affects everything: apparently one local has to clean his window air conditioner constantly because of all the particulates from the smoke that get in it.

Leaving Callahan’s Lodge this morning was

Day 119: Pit Stop!

Today, we headed towards Ashland, Oregon, near our first zero in Oregon at Callahan’s Lodge. More on that in a few, but an unplanned surprise happened to me on the trail on the way there. We got up very early this morning (so as to have as much time as possible at our hotel) and started hiking while it was still twilight. Less than a mile in, I stumbled over a rock on the trail and managed to fall. Fortunately, I broke my fall with my face.

This is one of those falls that makes you look a whole lot worse than it actually is.

Day 118: OREGON!

It only took 1,690 miles and nearly four months — but we’re finally in a different state! We started hearing cheering at about noon today, a half-mile south of the border, and kept hiking…when we approached the border itself, we saw a big group of hikers sitting there, eating lunch, and cheering each person to come cross the border. In other words, this is a big deal for PCT hikers — and it sure felt good to us!

California alone is nearly two-thirds of the entire PCT — 1,690 of 2,650 miles. From the start of the PCT to where it crosses the Oregon border, it’s only (“only”) 739 miles as the crow flies, but well more than double that as you hike. California contains the southern desert, the High Sierra, and the endless forested mountain range called “Northern California” on the PCT. It’s so epic in and of itself that it’s easy to forget that there are, actually, other states on the PCT.

Mentally, however, since not long after we left Sierra City, this border has been our goal.

Day 117: Ethereal Walks

Walking high up in these mountains, with clouds above and smoke all around, makes this an ethereal hiking experience. One fellow hiker today said he felt as if we were all walking through Mordor. While, thankfully, there is no Eye of Sauron looking over all of us, it does feel a little bit like that. Burned forests, overcast skies, this omnipresent thick smoke from forest fires…it all creates an otherworldly feeling as we hike along. It’s not unpleasant, even, just…unusual and so different.

We started the day by climbing, and

Day 115: Heat and Fire

We’re in the middle of a heat wave up here in Northern California. There’s never a weather report for being on a random mountain at 6,500′ — but our iPhones have been reporting expected highs of 102°, 104°, and similar temperatures for nearby towns. Those are usually several thousand feet lower and hence hotter, but we’re still getting highs in the upper 80s and lower 90s. And it feels so, so much hotter than the desert ever did, because it’s humid, too. Right now, I’m writing this from a tent where it’s 71° and 94% humidity. Try sleeping in that sometime…let alone hiking in it.

Just like yesterday, wildfires define the landscape here. Unlike yesterday, though, we actually saw one today: