Oregon: Thru Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of COVID-19

  • Updated: August 31, 2020
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 13th to August 31st
456 miles, 19 days
Ashland to Cascade Locks 

Oregon! The land of flat trail, green tunnel hiking, lava flows, and burn areas! And grand mysteries like who left a bunch of crabs laying out on those train tracks near Shelter Cove.

I crossed the California / Oregon border 97 days after leaving Campo and by the latter part of that adventure I was joking about being in full support of the State of Jefferson movement just so the PCT would get into a new state earlier! And then after all of that Oregon took just 19 spectacular days!

Circumstances & Challenges

"Oregon is easy!" - Everyone
"My feet really hurt." - Me

The two most common things I heard ahead of time about the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail was that it was flat and that it was a lot of green tunnel hiking aka through trees without a view. 

-ish. On both accounts. It was noticeably flatter than the PCT through California but there are some significant climbs here and there like Timberline. And while there are some sections that fit the description of green tunnel there were also beautiful views like the header image, a distressing amount of burn areas, and some thrice damned lava fields which were absolutely murder on my already battered feet.

Conventional wisdom says you need to reach the canadian border by October 1st in order to beat the onset of winter storms which can make it unsafe or impossible to finish. At this point after keeping my eye on the calendar all through CA I was in a comfortable -ish position assuming nothing major cropped up. But after my earlier adventures with giardia, achilles pain, sweat rash, and my ongoing foot issues I wasn't about to take anything for granted.

In Northern California a number of the other hikers I met started talking about doing all of Oregon in just two weeks AKA the Oregon Challenge. The goal was a combination of wanting to make up time and just provide an extra challenge now that we were all in such amazing hiking shape.

Some also did a 24 hour challenge where they tried to see how many miles they could get in during a 24 hour period. Hike your own hike and all of that but personally both of those sounded like the perfect recipe for more overuse injuries than I already had and would have detracted from my enjoyment of the section.

So I just kept on with my comfortable pace aiming for around 25 miles each day. In the end I took 19 days to get from Ashland to Cascade Locks which was reasonable without requiring undue misery. I even managed a 35 mile day though my habit of not wanting to get up early combined with foot and sweat rash struggles made 25+ mile days more rare than they would have otherwise.

Keeping up my pace ended up being a really good idea as the 2020 fire season was a monster with fires, smoke, and closures started popping up all over including several that I only just got past. But that was mostly an issue I'd face in Washington.

To that end I followed advice offered by Jackie McDonnell aka Yogi of Triple Crown Outfitters. Basically I avoided towns like Bend or Sisters and stuck to mailing packages to resorts along the trail. That required more mailing of packages than I'd originally planned for but with Jen now back home working that was easy enough if a bit more expensive. At least until the postal service started having issues again.

Mail Delivery Issues

Remember how I mentioned that mail delivery had seemingly recovered after the initial COVID-19 shutdown and become generally reliable again? Well then came a new Trump appointee and packages started getting delayed all over the place. In one case I arrived at at Fish Lake to find the food package that should have gotten there a week before hadn't arrived and seemingly wouldn't for several more days. As a result any gear changes from here on out would require about a two week lead time.

Oregon / Washington Fuel Canister Shortage

And then there was the great Oregon / Washington fuel canister shortage of 2020. I was relying on a butane stove for my dinners and of course my ever important morning coffee. They aren't easy to ship but I hadn't had any issues finding them until now. So what changed? 

COVID-19. Yet again. From my conversations with several store owners and my own observations along the trail there was a flood of people running outdoors who didn't usually do that sort of thing. And as a result they were hitting stores like REI and clearing out consumables like fuel.

This actually worked to my advantage a few times where I was able to beg or buy canisters off weekend hikers who had brought far too much. Other times I tried to stretch what I had and bought extra whenever the opportunity arose. 

Turning Back Into A Solo Hiker

I'd started the trail in Campo solo with occasional on trail visits from my girlfriend Jen. She then joined me full time for the 10 weeks of her summer break but now it was time for her to head back to SoCal and her teaching job.

This was a mixed bag since on one hand it meant I could move a bit faster but on the other I didn't have anyone to laugh at my jokes or listen to me complain about whatever pain or frustration was at the forefront of that particular day.

Also that meant having to switch some gear around again since the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 3UL tent we'd been using was really overkill for a single person. 

We tried to plan ahead and had sent my Nemo Hornet 2P to Fish Lake figuring she could could take the Tiger Wall back with her. But in yet another example of the universe hating a plan she ended up having to exit at Ashland due to some foot issue related delays on my end.

That left me with a 56 -ish mile gap with a package waiting for me at the end with her name on it at a location with no ability to mail packages out. So I bought a piece of tyvek and an emergency bivy against the slight chance of rain forecasted and we did some negotiating with Fish Lake until they agreed to let me have the package. 


I'd been warned that Oregon was a long boring green tunnel but personally I loved all the green sections and there were enough views scattered around to keep things scenic.

The burn areas did get really tiring though. In addition to just being kind of depressing you can't camp in them without risking having a tree fall on you in the middle of the night. And it felt like 40% of the state was a burn area. 

And then there were the lava fields. They provided some striking vistas and when you look at the map they don't look that long but they left a lasting impression due to the punishment inflicted on my already battered feet.

The good news was that I was late enough to avoid most of the mosquitos that hikers earlier in the season had complained about. I only had a few spots where they were bad which was mostly due to being down by a lake.

The water situation was a bit of a surprise to me. For a good amount of the state I was filtering out of small stagnant puddles and I came to appreciate flowing water as a special treat. And it also started to rain a bit more but nothing like the downpours that would happen in northern Washington.

The Hike

Leaving Ashland :  Mile 1711.6

Thanks to some worn out shoes I'd limped into Oregon on incredibly painful feet. Fortunately I'd managed to find suitable replacements in Ashland so I was in high spirits as I hitched back to the point before Callahan's where I'd bailed out. 

I was eager to pick up the pace a bit since I was on my own again. But just a few hours down the trail I really thought I was in trouble. By now I was accustomed to my feet hurting at the start of the day and then improving once I warmed up. But after I finished the downhill and passing Callahan's they were getting worse.  

By now I had a callus in the middle of my footpad which would hurt sometimes on longer days. But now it felt like it was being pushed around and causing blisters in the area around it. When I was forced to stop after only about 20 miles I had to drain a blister that went all the way around the callus and up between my toes.

Needless to say my high spirits hadn't lasted long.

My general rule was just to get through the current day whatever that took. Usually the following morning things would have improved enough to be manageable. And sure enough the next morning I seemed to be able to walk a bit better.

It does kind of seem like every time I took a break and halfway recovered the first day back on trail was brutal.

The area right around Ashland was dry but soon I was in the green forests I'd been promised.

Also the mileage numbers were now starting to look rather encouraging with significantly less ahead of me than behind. But a lot can still happen in 800+ miles.

Fish Lake Resort : Mile 1773.2

I started off the morning of August 15th with 16 miles to get into Fish Lake Resort which was my next resupply. That's easily doable (most days) but it did mean I had to push a bit more than usual since the store that was holding my package wasn't open late and I planned to get back out on the trail to camp. 

Fortunately I ran into Vader in the first few miles and we ended up chatting and pushing through way faster than I would have by myself.

Unfortunately after a really smooth morning Fish Lake proved to be a slightly problematic stop. 

The resort is located two miles off the trail and we decided to hitch rather than add an extra 4 miles to our totals for the day. Unfortunately this proved to be one of the more difficult hitches of my hike despite Vader and myself presenting quite the dapper, friendly, and totally not smelly pair on the side of the road. Maybe our trail beards intimidated them...

Eventually Vader struck up a conversation with some trail runners who came by and they gave us a ride in.

when I arrived at the resort the box with my tent was there but the package with my food resupply hadn't arrived. 

So you may recall hat amid the general chaos of 2020 that there was a new political appointee who was put in charge of the Postal Service and promptly removed a bunch of machinery in the name of cost cutting / trying to force the USPS closer to failure. There were countless stories of packages held up and sure enough mine was one of those.

Fortunately I had a bit of food left and between the hiker box and the small gas station style store inside I was able to cobble together enough to get me to the next stop.

That was my justification for ordering two meals (both of which I demolished) before grabbing a quick shower, throwing my dirty clothes back on, and heading back out to the trail. And I ended up walking back about a third of the way before I managed to get a ride.

Don't Blink or You'll Miss the Southbounders

This section was where I ran through the main bubble of southbound thru hikers such that there was this year. I'd seen a few before this but they'd mostly skipped parts of the trail due to the amount of snow on the north end. Then on the morning of August 16th I ran into a big cluster of people hiking quickly with their heads down. They didn't seem to be in a talkative mood but I did have a nice conversation with a guy named Lobster claimed that only about 35 people had set off to do the entire trail SOBO.

That night I camped right next to Christi's Spring enjoying a spectacular sunset through the trees. And right around sunset the mosquitos came out in force making me really happy that I had my tent again. I filled all my bottles from the spring and then retreated into the tent to do everything from behind a safe barrier of mesh. 

A Long Dry Carry

Right before reaching Crater Lake I was working my way through what looked like a 25 mile water carry. I was getting pretty dialed in as far as my water needs and generally just cameled up at each water source and then carried a liter. But 25 miles is a bit too long for that a decently long carry. Fortunately I came across a Guthook comment that mentioned a puddle maybe a quarter mile off the trail about 10 miles in so I planned accordingly and headed for that.

I happened to come across another hiker along the way that I'd met before. While making the usual trail smalltalk I happened to mention how that puddle up ahead was really a lifesaver vs having to carry water for the whole 25 miles and he got a shocked look on his face. Turns out his phone was out of battery and he didn't realize he was in the middle of a long dry section. He had maybe 1/4 of a liter of water and maybe another 18 miles to the next marked source.

Needless to say he was rather happy he ran into me.

The puddle was stagnant but decently sized. Unfortunately as with many of the puddles around here it had evaporated down quite a bit and to get water I had to balance out on a small log and then crouch down without plunging a shoe into deep mud. And to think I could never do a balance beam as a kid.

Crater Lake / Mazama Village And How I Almost Broke My Ankle : Mile 1821.7

I reached Manzama Village on the south end of Crater Lake on August 17th and I had a choice to make. Most people I talked to were planning to take an alternate route walking along the rim of the crater and stealth camping along the way so they could enjoy the sunrise over the lake.

That sounded nice (if technically illegal) but I was quite invested at this point in doing a purist continuous footpath run along the PCT. And the alternate was shorter than the actual PCT. So of course I went and did the actual PCT.

Since it would have been a shame to skip the lake completely I took advantage of a really enthusiastic trail angel named Dwight at the Manzama restaurant to get a ride up to the lake and back for the requisite social media photos.

I've heard estimates that you take over 5 million steps while doing the PCT. And in my case I can't tell you how many times I just randomly stumbled or rolled my ankle especially later in the day. Most of the time I caught myself on my hiking poles or managed to walk off the relatively minor pain.

This was probably the closest I came to doing real damage. I was just following Dwight down the stairs to the scenic viewpoint feeling happy when something happened. I stumbled, almost fell down the stairs, and managed to land on my ankle at a bad enough angle that I felt a sharp stab of pain and a rush of adrenaline. 

It scared the crap out of me but I think it was worst for Dwight who was afraid I'd just ended my hike right there.

Fortunately I managed to walk it off, get my pictures, and get back to the trail just in time to get rained on.

So how was the section most people skipped in favor of the rim hike?

It started out with a really nice segment through a lush forest that I had almost completely to myself. And then the burn area started.

It wasn't hard trail but it was monotonous since if you've seen one endless expanse of burned out tree trunks you've seen them all. I ended up pushing on on well past dark since I didn't want to camp around dead trees that could easily fall over in the middle of the night.

Finally I stopped at Red Cone to get water and despite the sign saying it was closed due to falling tree danger I managed to find a spot in a still living -ish grove of trees that I felt comfortable with.

Picture from the following morning

I was quite amused by this sign talking about how 300 people a year tried the PCT considering the number is now in the thousands in a normal year. I heard estimates that even with COVID there was around 750 people starting out in the southern section and eventually less than 100 near the northern end.

This section is what I think of when people talk about Oregon being flat. It was good trail but pretty much no views just endless trees.

Water was also a bit sparse but a series of three caches were well positioned. The instructions in one of the early ones made it sound like the smaller cache runs out in a normal year but this year there was plenty.

This section had the dubious distinction of being the highest point along the entire Oregon / Washington section of the trail. And it was a nondescript saddle with a small sign hung with prayer flags. I left just as a group of southbounders started to light up in the name of getting high at the high point.

Summit Lake and the Last Hurrah of the Mosquitos : Mile 1889.3

When people talk about how bad mosquitoes are that can mean a lot of different things. I've had students in the wilderness class who will spray themselves head to foot in DEET the moment anyone even says the word mosquito in the same zipcode and then you have people like Jen who will host entire conventions of the little bastards on her hiking hat without complaint. And beyond straight numbers there's often a lot of variation in just how driven they are to bite you.

As I dropped down a gentle hill towards Summit Lake I started to get bit. No problem, that happened from time to time and I was used to just walking a bit faster and slapping the occausual ones that managed to land on me.

But it quickly became apparent that that wasn't going to be sufficient here. As I started to accumulate bites I had to resort to stopping and quickly struggling into my wind pants, jacket, and bug net. In order to not get completely eaten alive I did this while hopping around and slapping at myself as the little bastards seemingly dove at me from every direction. Meanwhile at a nearby campsite an entire family was watching my antics with clear confusion.

I pushed on squinting as best I could through my headnet as it got dark hoping they'd let up or that I'd get far enough out of the basin to escape them. Unfortunately the combination of too many miles and not enough water led to me having to settle for a slightly questionable stagnant pond. 

I filtered as quickly as I could and then dove inside my tent where I spent the entire night hearing the whine of mosquitos right on the other side of the mesh and trying to kill any that managed to sneak in while I cooked dinner.

I hadn't put the fly on in the name of expediency so when it started raining around 4 am I had to scramble out and throw it on while getting bit by the still present hoards. And they were still there when I had to head out for my early morning cathole expedition.

So between that and a rather bad case of sweat rash that had kicked in late in the day I was not at my happiest.

I hadn't planned to overnight in a town or resort until Cascade Locks but I was having a bad enough morning that the thought of being dry, away from mosquitos, and not in pain from my pack rash was too tempting.

Since I was supposed to reach Shelter Cove later that day I pinged my parents and asked them to check if there were any cabins available. Which there wasn't but we managed to find alternate arrangements.

Crabs...In The Woods?

One of the more random things I came across during the trail was along the connector trail leading into Shelter Cove. The trail crossed a train track where I was hit be a putrid smell coming from...a pile of dead crabs just sitting out on the train track. I have no idea.

Shelter Cove : Mile 1906.6

Shelter Cove Resort is only a mile off the trail so it's a popular stop. They have cabins, tent / RV sites, and a fairly well stocked store, and a restaurant.

While the patio had signs asking hikers not to bring their packs in they've set up a tent off to the side specifically for us complete with a hiker box and powerstrips.

I heard more than one story about people having batteries stolen from here after leaving them plugged in overnight. For what it's worth I try never to leave mine unmonitored.

While I could have stayed in a campsite that wasn't much better than just being out on trail. All the cabins were booked but a Guthook comment pointed to a local named Donna who had an AirBNB cabin she rented out and as part of the very reasonable fee she would provide rides to and from the resort.

It was only available for a single night but that was fine by me. The shower and dry sheets did wonders for my disposition and if the internet was too slow to be usable that was a relatively minor inconvenience. 

The food options were a bit limited so I took Donna up on her offer of fried chicken from the local tavern where she worked. This ended up causing me some issues the following day but I did appreciated the effort on her part.

After a restful night and another luxurious hot water shower Donna drove me back to Shelter Cove where I had a hefty breakfast burrito and spent a little time at the thru hiker area chatting with others.

There was a mix of section hikers and a few mexico to canada folks like me. I had an interesting chat with some guys who had previously done the Appalachian Trail who were bucking conventional wisdom and planning to finish in mid October. They claimed previous years showed it was often still doable then and they didn't want to finish early since they didn't really have anything in particular back in civilization to return to.

It was interesting considering how much I'd stressed about making sure I'd finish by the end of September. It did make me feel a little less neurotic about my schedule but as it turned out end of September was pretty much the end of the season this year. 

(Also one of them was really happy to meet me because she'd seen my trail name in a register and had it on her list of best names on the trail.)
I left around 10 am eyeing what looked like rain clouds forming in the distance. And then a few miles out I came down with food poisoning.


Food Poisoning, Charlton Lake, & The Lilly Fire : Mile 1925 -ish

A few hours up the trail I seemed to have come down with a mild -ish case of food poisoning. 

My progress was slow and I just wasn't having much fun between the nausea and the occasional need to run off the trail to dig a cathole. Which was a shame since the area was actually quite beautiful.

Once again I just tried to focus on making it through the day in the hope that the next morning things would be better. I decided to aim for Charlton Lake with the plan of stopping early and camping with access to water.

Due to my struggled I arrived right around sunset. And when I tried to find a place to camp every spot I found was taken up by car campers who had walked over from a nearby road. And a good number of them were being quite loud.

So I filtered a few liters of water and pushed on figuring I'd just dry camp at the next tent spot. But there didn't seem to be any. And then it got dark which made it harder to find the less obvious spots. Then it started raining on me. And then I ran into smack into a fire closure blocking the trail.

The far side of the Lily Lake Fire closure the next day

I knew there was a small fire closure up ahead but I didn't realize it was so close. The official reroute around the fire activity required backtracking to Charlton Lake and then hiking around to the east or west. 

I won't say I wasn't sorely tempted to just walk around the ribbon and keep going especially since I'd seen pictures of the fire a few days back and it was just smouldering off to the side of the trail. But between my conscience and the multiple layers of ribbons and signs I wasn't going to be able to claim I'd just made an innocent mistake.   

I spent some time looking along the road to either side of the closure to see if I could find a place to camp but still had no luck. Eventually I gave up, hiked back to Charlton Lake, and somehow managed to find an unoccupied site to spend the night. 

Lily Lake Fire Reroute, Waldo Lake, and Why I Don't Like Dogs

The next morning the rain mostly cleared and after drinking coffee that most assuredly wasn't strong enough I packed away my wet tent and got moving. I ended up picking the western detour since it went by the second largest lake in Oregon (Waldo Lake) and would bring me to a campground which would have a pit toilet. Because you never want to pass up the chance at one of those.

Unfortunately it also had numerous dogs running around off leash and I had two separate incidents where I had to fight off aggressive dogs with hiking poles while the owners shouted ineffectually from camp and then tried to assure me their dogs never did things like that. 


And this was while just walking down the road through the campground.

I did run into a few car campers who were really amazed that I was walking from mexico to canada which was fun. And a few others that looked at me like I was a dangerous homeless person they didn't want near their children. So I guess it was a mixed bag overall.

The reroute only added about 2 miles and most of it was spent hiking along a dirt road through another older burn area. I never saw any smoke from the Lily Lake Fire. 

It did get smokey again later that day but from talking to day hikers it looked like another case of getting blown in from far off fires.

Elk Lake : Mile 1952.6

My stop at Elk Lake Resort was probably the one I'd skip if I were to do this again.

While in Northern California I'd done a number of longer segments between towns here I doing shorter ones so I didn't have to carry a ton of food. And also that gave me more chances to eat town food since I was pretty much always feeling hungry these days.

Elk Lake Resort was only 46 miles after Shelter Cove. I stopped there since the next resupply option wasn't for 100 miles at Olallie thanks to the Big Lake Youth Camp having closed for the season due to COVID.

The resort seemed nice enough and the paid showers were a really nice setup but the place was expensive, offered very limited supplies, and was flooded with tourist.

They had a mask check station at the entrance but the old hippy looking guy managing it tried to just wave me through when I stopped to put mine on. Their store was closed but they were making limited sales through the window where people checked in for their cabins or campsites. 

Supplies on offer were limited to a few very expensive cliff bars and similar items most of which were more use to car campers than a thru hiker like me. And more important to me they were out of butane fuel canisters.

Apparently there was a shortage of butane canisters in the area and this would continue to be a problem for the rest of the trail. After talking to multiple stores along the way it looks like the issue was all the people who normally don't go outside much who after the Stay At Home orders expired suddenly ran out, bought gear, and flooded into the wilderness buying mass amounts of consumables like fuel canisters.

Fortunately I knew they didn't have much food to buy and I'd arranged to have my parents send me a box of food. In addition to the food I'd asked for my dear mother included this little bit of encouragement.

It wasn't uncommon for me to have extra food once I'd sorted through a resupply box. Sometimes this was because items only came in large quantity bags and sometimes it was because I still had extra items left over from the previous segment.

In a normal year most stops have a hikerbox which is just a bin where you can leave extra food and gear for other hikers to take and hopefully use. Due to COVID Elk Lake said they weren't doing a hiker box and fair enough but it was really a bummer to have to throw away multiple expensive food items that I just couldn't justify carrying.

I actually waited around an extra hour until another hiker showed up which ended up being a section hiker who really didn't need anything I had but at least I felt a little better when he took the unopened tube on Nuun I'd been about to toss.

While I waited I realized that I'd been on the trail for a very very long time because the people running around in bikinis were massively distracting.

They did have an open restaurant and I took the opportunity to get some hot food. Unfortunately it both expensive and the portions were so small I had to order two separate meals to halfway fill me up much to the amusement of an older gentleman at the next table.

Mirror Lake Smokejumpers : Mile 1958.7

Leaving Elk's Lake I was a bit stressed by how low I was on fuel. If I'd known earlier that I wouldn't be able to find fuel I would have picked dinner options that could have been cold soaked. But unfortunately several of my diners had hard pasta that really needed to be boiled.

Then a few miles I ran into a nice couple with a few kids and a dog that were just out for a single night and had an extra medium sized canister that they were happy to sell me. So with the prospect of hot dinners and coffee restored I was in a much happier place.

I continued on when all of a sudden all hell broke loose. It sounded like planes buzzing me repeatedly though I couldn't tell what was going on due to the trees. Thinking of the smoke I sent a message to Jen and my parents to see if there was a fire nearby.

As it turned out there was just one plane and it was smokejumpers doing a drop at Mirror Lake. They'd been circling because they couldn't locate the fire they were aiming for. I got to the lake just after they landed and met a group of them hiking around the to as they said "interface with the public." Turns out it was a small lightning strike triggered fire that had flared up again and was only about the size of a pizza.

Sisters Wilderness : Mile 1964 -ish

Next up was Sisters Wilderness which was quite pretty and finally got me out of the trees and seeing some decent views again. My eyes kept getting drawn to the three Sisters peaks and I made a mental promise to come back and climb them at some point.

Obsidian Limited Entry Area : Mile 1971.5

This section had a number of limited entry areas where my PCT permit allowed me to walk through but I wasn't supposed to camp inside. They were all relatively small though so I never had an issue like Lassen where I had to make a hard push to get through.

The Obsidian LEA was one of these and one of the highlights of the entire state for me. There was a spectacular waterfall, beautiful meadows, and large scattered deposits of black obsidian. And then it dumped me in the thrice damned lava rock section.

Oregon Lava Flows: Mile 1975 to 1988

This section was not very long but it left a really strong impression.

I've done a number of hikes through lava flow areas. Craters of the Moon and some of the climbs down in Mexico which remain some of my favorite trips.

However those trips weren't almost 2,000 miles into a cross country hike where I was wearing light trail running shoes offering limited protection. My feet went from their usual state of being slightly battered but functional to looking like this...

When I posted that picture to social media i ended up getting messages for the next week expressing abject horror. 

And once again this wins for the best lava section comment on Guthooks:

I pushed on doing my best to manage the pain. So I was extra appreciative when I reached McKenzie Pass and found that someone had left several cans of beer in a shopping bag with a note saying they were for PCT hikers.

It being the end of the day -ish the beer tasted amazing. But it was also an IPA and I was a bit dehydrated so it soon hit me like a truck.

I'd had some hopes of making it through the next lava section but I was just done. I ended up making camp a short distance later taking advantage of the last dregs of a water cache to get through the night. My feet were in such bad shape that I started thinking I might need to hitch into Sisters and take a zero the next day.

I might well have done that except for a communications mishap with Jen the next morning that sent me storming off down the trail determined not to rely on her for help. Fortunately after some bad initial pain my feet basically went numb and the trail even improved after a few miserable hills of lava rock.

Also what could be better than a lava flow area or a burn area? How about a burn area that's also a lava flow?

Big Lake Youth Camp : Mile 1995.1

Big Lake Youth Camp presented a bit of a moral quandary for me. I really needed water considering I'd been dry all day and it was rather warm out. Normally the camp was a major resupply stop for people but this year they'd closed due to COVID. Notes on Guthook all agreed that they'd let you use their faucet as long as you left right after.

It was only a short diversion from the trail and you didn't even have to backtrack if you took a use trail and then followed the road back to the PCT. But again I was almost 2,000 miles into the trail and I'd been an absolute purist about not skipping any segments.

I was pretty sure I was being ridiculous but I was also hot, very thirsty, and pretty sure that I wasn't thinking 100% straight. So in the name of not doing anything I'd regret later I walked all the way past the camp, picked up the road, and then hiked out and back. So go me, I managed not to miss one little pointless section of burned trail :P

At least the road was easy walking. I found a faucet and while I was filling my bottles and guzzling down multiple liters of water I could see someone eyeing me from a distance. I started to get nervous that maybe I wasn't supposed to be here when I was approached by a friendly workers who was super excited to talk to me about my hike.

I drank so much water that I'm pretty sure I was sloshing as I walked back up the road. And before I even made it back on trial I ran into another older gentleman who was super excited to talk to me.

And then came one of the big milestones of the trail! 

I'd officially come 2,000 miles since leaving Campo!

I was funny about these mileage milestones. I'd really look forward to them only to arrive, dutifully take my selfie, and move on without any undue celebration.

Take That 2020

2020 hasn't been the greatest of years for everyone. Political unrest, a pandemic, murder hornets, and everything else. So I decided to do everyone a solid and take a solid on mile 2020.

So yes, I dug a cathole and took a dump on 2020. You're welcome.

Jefferson Wilderness

I was one of the people who had a valid thru hiking permit for the PCT issued before the pandemic and before the PCTA decided no one should be hiking. Some of us had them, others didn't, and pretty much no one was checking them. In fact I made it all the way here before running into a random ranger coming up the trail who wanted to see it. 

Jefferson Wilderness had some great views but this was where smoke started to become a bigger issue again. I'd had a pretty good run smoke free since Northern California but I could smell smoke in the morning and soon I could see it settled down into some of the canyons below.

The trail dipped worryingly close but mostly skirted the worst of it.

Olallie Lake & Resort : Mile 2046.1 

Olallie Lake was a brief stop but ended up being a really fun one. Once again I just happened to have a Sierra Club adjacent friend who was in the area. Mark was out in his new conversion van and reached out offering to meet me along the way which ended up being at Olallie.

He brought a badly needed fuel cannister and some cold beer which we enjoyed in the company of Captain Awesome and Sweet Meat who were both at the end of their section hike.

The lady running the store was really nice and they had a really nice selection of hiker food. I was able to easily buy enough to get me the next 51 miles to Timberline.

Pretty much the first thing I'd do when I reached a town was find a place to plug in my battery. Here they were happy to let me plug in but since they were off the grid the power came from a solar panel on the roof. 

Unfortunately that meant if the sun wasn't currently hitting the panel you were SOL. And even if it was currently generating power it was such a small amount it barely had an effect on my battery. Fortunately I'd been conserving.

Yeti Danger?

I'm not sure what the story is with the Yeti / Bigfoot signs but there were quite a few of them through here.

And hey, the Yeti danger was high...

Mount Hood / Timberline Lodge : Mile 2097 -ish

The day before Timberline was my biggest single mileage day of the entire trail. This was due to getting a break from my foot and rash issues combined with good trail. It was actually a really pleasant day except for a brief game of nighttime frogger I had to play to get across Highway 26 after dark.

And then the next day it was all climbing up to Timberline.

Interesting enough I ran into a PCTA board member on the way up the hill and had a nice chat. The PCTA had told everyone not to hike and had stubbornly stuck to that position despite an increasing amount of evidence that it was safe. They'd even gone so far as to contact trail angels and tell them not to host hikers. (And then later they pissed off even more people with a statement on Fb seemingly saying that everyone should be understanding and accepting of racists.)

According to the lady the ongoing anti hiker condemnations were coming specifically from the executive leadership and they hadn't really been in contact with the board. So I felt compelled to share that with other hikers who I ran into spouting the common refrain of "fuck the PCTA".

I really like climbs that involve good trail. Unfortunately this one had deep sand near the top which made it feel like walking at the beach.

Timberline itself was half closed but they still had food available and were accepting resupply packages. The lady scarred me briefly when she came out with a small amazon envelope but no large food box but a second check found it.

I ended up joining another thru hiker named Flash at some of the tables outside the bar where I plugged things in and then went in search of hot food. And oh lord did I find hot food.

I would say I'm a connoisseur of nachos while my girlfriend would roll her eyes and claim I'm obsessed. And I'd say she's being needlessly negative about the most amazing of food groups.

A $24 plate of nachos might seem a bit excessive but I'd come over 2,000 miles and had an appetite to match. So as they say go big or go home.

When the bartender brought my order he mistook my reaction as the order being wrong. I had to call him back and explain that it was due to the angels singing in my ears over the most beautiful sight I'd seen in a very long time.

If I ever write a book about this whole thing Wild style maybe this can be the bullshit emotional and spiritual zenith of the trail.

I demolished the entire heaping mound along with two beers. And oh god it made me happy. It also made the hike out of Timberline slightly miserable but it was totally worth it.

The trail was packed with people doing a loop around Hood and there was also a bit of a windstorm kicking up so when I found a open quasi protected campsite after 5 miserable -ish miles I decided to stop for the day. 

As much as I like talking to people and was generally a bit starved for socializing it was a bit exhausting going through busy sections of trail. Some people would be friendly but others would see me coming and insist on stomping 6 feet off trail and staring off in a hostile manner refusing to even say hello.

I started trying to preempt people by both jumping off trail before they could and yelling out overly friendly greetings but needless to say I was happy to get back to quieter sections of trail.

Wahtum Lake : Mile 2130.8

Once I was past Mount Hood it felt like a victory lap to the Washington border with flat empty trail and no more major climbs. I also had weather roll in and spent the last evening in Oregon making a mad dash to Wahtum Lake and throwing up my tent in cold dripping rain.

The next morning it was still raining and everything was hidden under dense fog but I didn't care. I was about to finish Oregon and hit Bridge of the Gods!

Cascade Locks / Bridge of the Gods : Mile 2147.1

Bridge of the Gods is an impressive bridge spanning the Columbia River. There are small ish towns on either side with Cascade Locks on the south and Stevenson to the north. I went for Cascade Locks since it was the first thing I came to.

It was a rather emotional moment for me walking into town. I hadn't spent a lot of time researching the PCT and I only had the vaguest knowledge about things north of Shasta. Bridge of the Gods was a name I'd heard but it seemed like it was so far up there that it was almost inconceivable that I'd actually make it.

And yet here I was 119 days and 2150 miles later. And I was starting to think I might actually manage this whole Canada thing. 

When I arrived in town I had my usual priority list: food, then shower, then a place to sleep. Fortunately the where I was going to sleep part had already been taken care of by Jen who had booked me a hotel room so I wasn't even technically slacking when I walked straight to the Alehouse and helped myself to a rather large pizza and excellent local beer.

And it was fortunate that I did go straight there as the Alehouse closed mid afternoon and stayed closed for the next two days! And it was the best food I had during my stay.

Not the Alehouse. Expensive beer. Soso food.

I stayed in town for two nights which felt like only about half what I really needed to recover. But I had a schedule to keep and town stays were costly.

Still it was glorious having a full day off my feet and now I was only about 500 miles from Canada. 

Next up: Crossing the bridge! Washington! Mountains! Spectacular Views! And the entire west coast catches fire...

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