This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
We take an extra day in Ashland. It’s hard not to. Even after a few days off, I am still so tired. We mail our boxes, then collapse, incapable of doing more than calling out for pizza.
Finally, we find the energy to leave. A PCTA employee gives us a ride back to the trailhead, telling us about the trail work he has been doing. A big winter storm has toppled what seems like half the trees in Oregon. We get a good start. Seventeen miles on the first day, not bad for starting at noon. Then twenty seven the next, ending at a shelter full of coolers of beer and soda. My motivation is flagging though. The first few hundred miles of Oregon is the dreaded green tunnel. It didn’t bother me in Northern California, where it was broken by sweeping ridges and incredible views. But after a while, I miss the mountains, the volcanoes on the horizon, and of course, my ridges. Then we hit the blowdowns. Shake’nBake is a full foot taller than me, and he vaults over the fallen trees, disappearing into the distance as I struggle behind him. Soon, I lose him completely. I’m exhausted by scrambling over what should be an easy section, so frustrated I want to cry. I sit down alone and eat almost an entire bag of gummies. Immediately I feel better. A mile later I find Shake N Bake, just standing up after taking a break of his own. The blow downs continue all the way to Crater Lake, although I start to find my mojo a little more. We eat at the little restaurant at Manama village, then climb steep Annie Creek trail to rejoin the PCT. We have what we think is the perfect plan- hike up to the rim of the crater, watch the sunset, and then camp at Lightning Springs, the only place along the rim where we are allowed to camp. Then another hiker tells us that Lightning Springs is closed. I’m so frustrated- there are no signs to this affect, and now we are faced with the option of night hiking another ten miles and missing most of the view, back tracking, or illegally camping. We choose night hiking- the moon might be bright enough that we don’t miss too much. But then we reach the rim and it is beautiful and I don’t want to night hike anymore. Suddenly, another option presents itself. A man offers us a ride back down to Manama, and there is a shuttle we can take back up in the morning. He drives us down the winding road, undoing our two hours of hard work. He tells us that he lives out of his car, and often picks up hitchhikers. He talks of rubber tramps and dirty kids and other things I’ve only ever read about. We take the shuttle up in the morning with new friends. The crater is beautiful and we stop to eat lunch by a tourist overlook. We people watch, playing national park bingo. Then, finally, we leave the rim. The scenery stays stunning as we pass Mount Thielson. We chose an alternate into Shelter Cove, taking the Oregon Skyline trail past lakes that shimmer like jewels. The lakes continue past Shelter Cove, and there are blueberries and huckleberries to stop and eat. The miles are supposed to come easy in Oregon, but how can you hike past this without stopping? We swim in freezing lakes and stuff our bellies with berries every chance we get. Smiles over miles, after all. Just outside of Elk Lake, I feel a familiar tickle in my throat. My ears hurt and my sinuses as well. Oh well, maybe I can beat this cold before it hits. I detour to Elk Lake, hoping for cold medicine and orange juice. Ice cream and beet salad is all I find in the end. Maybe that will help? We climb into the Three Sisters Wilderness and the views open up. I didn’t realize how much I missed the open spaces until I was back in them. We eat dinner by a creek, chatting with some weekend backpackers. They ask if they can give us some food, maybe some trail mix? I can’t stomach trail mix anymore, but I say sure. Oh wait, they have hard boiled eggs, would I like one instead? My face lights up like it is Christmas. Real food! I feel fantastic in the morning, cold forgotten about. I fly down the trail, circling the sisters, passing obsidian and lava. The lava slows us down some, ice cream scoop sized rocks turning under our feet, but we make it 28 miles to Big Lake Youth camp, where I have a box. I lie down to sleep and my cold comes back full force. I stare up at the stars, struggling to breathe, snuffling and coughing and feeling sorry for myself. We don’t leave until the afternoon. It’s only a few miles to the 2000 mile marker. Then the trail climbs and I lose EB and Shake N Bake. I struggle to catch my breath, clawing my way up the climb. I find Shake N Bake eating dinner. He refuses to go any further, telling me I need to sleep. Thirteen hours later I wake up at nine, my latest morning on the trail. I feel a little better though, so maybe it was worth it. We circle three fingered jack, dropping down into a burn. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, obscuring Mt. Jefferson in the distance. I can’t tell where it is coming from- are we walking into a fire? Finally it clears a little and I relax. We play the same game with Jefferson we have with all the other big mountains, circling and admiring from all angles. Hood appears in the distance. I love this trend- seeing the next large mountain appear, then disappear again behind you. We drop down to Ollalie lake, which has a little store. They don’t have much more than junk food and wine, but that’s all we need. We hang out by a camp fire, laughing with friends. In the morning, we are slow to leave. The weather turns as we head towards Timothy Lake and Mount Hood. It’s been cold for a few days, but now it spits rain too. I hike up the final climb to Timberline Lodge shivering in my rain jacket. We decide to spend the night - it’s only fifty miles to Cascade Locks and we have to wait for the post office to open after labor day anyway.