Location- trail junction
Elevation- 5,495 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 54.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1946.8 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Injuries- legs throbbing to the bone
Pain level- High
Spirits/Morale- accomplished, tired, sad
Days without shower- 3
What a day, what a day, I’ve officially reached my late twenties. I think I’m actually beginning to not like birthdays; they just keep coming faster and faster. There’s way too many things I still need to do for time to be moving this quickly…
I was hiking by 6:03am, and just caught the sun coming up over the mountains. I felt fantastic, ready to break my own records.
The morning was a total blur. I stopped once for water, a couple other times briefly to speak with southbound thru hikers, and once to speak to an older couple on horses with a Mule in tow. All snacks were eaten as I walked.
At 11:59am, I stopped directly where I was to take a 25 minute lunch break. I’d completed 19.3 miles up to that point; a new morning record.
Feeling somewhat refreshed after lunch, I hit the same furious pace once again. I was still very hungry, and began to continuously snack as I hiked.
Close to mid afternoon I ran out of water, and the search was on. Oregon has been a total crap shoot for water, so naturally all I had to choose from were lakes and ponds, but no water filter. I stopped off quickly at several large ponds, but didn’t like what I saw and moved on.
About 15 minutes before 4pm, I passed the 30 mile mark; another personal record for my quickest 30 miles. My search for water was getting a little more desperate, so I made the choice to get water from the next source, no matter what it looked like.
The next source was a small lake with muddy shores; I decided to make due. There was a fallen log that stretched out a good 20 feet into clearer water, so my plan was to walk out on it to reach the clean-er stuff. Walking out was the easy part, collecting water wasn’t. The water itself was only maybe a foot deep before hitting a very silty, very muddy bottom. As I crouched down balancing to scoop some water, my left foot slipped off the log, and down I went. I caught myself on the log before completely falling in, but my left leg went into the mud and silt all the way up to my knee; just lovely. With the water so stirred up with muck now, it was useless to collect. I moved on, but now my main focus was drying out my left shoe that was now twice as heavy as the right one.
I didn’t hit more water for another few miles, but was able to collect without incident from another clear pond. It was here that I finished the rest of my snacks…a bad thing. I never anticipated that I’d eat as much as I did today, but then again…I’d never pushed myself this hard, this fast, for this long. All I had left was my dinner.
At around 38 miles into the day, I had a pleasant surprise; I finally caught up to Mason and Butters. Honestly, I’d had no idea if they were ahead or behind. All I knew was that I hadn’t seen either of them for more than 1,200 miles, since Lake Isabella in the desert. This chance meeting was both a blessing and a curse.
I wound up eating dinner with them, and killing almost an hour and a half; the wind was nearly out of my sails. If you wanted my true feelings at the time, I would have liked nothing more than to have stopped there and camped with my old friends. Alas, I had to finish what I started.
It was right around 8pm when I left the spot where they were making camp, totally foodless. That long break was enough to cool my body down, stiffening up my joints and muscles; I was HURTING.
I passed the 40 mile mark while it was still light out; another new personal record. Then I began preparing for the night portion of my hike, genuinely looking forward to slowing down.
My trek in the dark was by and large very uneventful. I moved at an average pace, and dealt with a decent amount of blow downs, which was aggravating with just a headlamp. The forest was quiet, and the animal activity nearly non existent. At one point close to midnight, something big crashed off into the forest on my left. I never got a look at it, so your guess is as good as mine as to what it was.
The most interesting part of the night trek was seeing all the camping hikers. Strung out all along the trail, tucked into nooks, crannies, hollows, and along shores were all the tired thru hikers. I had no clue as to who I was passing, but I was sure that some of them had to be people I knew. It was cool to build a mental snapshot of all these travelers along this stretch of trail taking shelter for the night; all alone in their little corner of the world, only aware of their own immediate position; not knowing who was around, ahead, or behind them. I was the only one moving this night, the only one with the overview perspective of where everyone fit in. It was a cool feeling, and in a way I felt kind of like a guardian passing through in the night.
The hardest part of this night stretch was the pain that had set in on my feet and knees, and my hunger. Good grief was I hungry; and not having anything to shove down my gullet was enough to make me want to cry. Of course that depressed-ness eventually turned to cranky hangry-ness; annoyed with myself for not planning my snacks better after leaving Diamond Lake.
As my energy crashed hard sometime between 2 and 3 am, my hike became more of a slog. I had my head down, staring hard at the ground for any obstacles. My depth perception goes to shit at night, and I’d already had some good foot stubs on rocks, so I was determined to keep those to a minimum.
It was while focusing on the ground, that I nearly walked into a sign staked into the middle of the trail; I’d hit a junction. The only problem was that the sign didn’t say anything about where the PCT was going, or which of the two trails in front of me were it. So I pulled out my topographical gps map on my cellphone to figure out which way to go. Well, neither trail in front of me was the PCT. In fact, I’d unknowingly gone down the wrong trail at an earlier junction and was now hitting another one. Luckily, the junction I’d missed was only a couple hundred yards behind me. Nevertheless, it still added to my annoyedness.
I sat down to see how far I’d come; 54.5 miles. I really, really wanted 60 miles at least. My overall plan had actually been to do over 80 miles total, ending up at a highway that would get me into the town of Bend. Now all I had was another resort called Elk Lake Resort about 3 miles in front of me; after that, nearly 30 miles of nothingness until that highway. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t do another 30+ miles without food, let alone without my feet falling off. The only place I could get food was Elk Lake Resort, so I had to go there. The most aggravating thing was that I still wouldn’t hit 60 miles even if I went the rest of the way to the resort tonight. I wasn’t going to hike past it, then backtrack in the morning. That idea just felt ludicrous at the moment. So, at close to 3am, I threw down my sleeping pad on a flat spot right at that second junction and went lights out, legs throbbing to the bone; simultaneously pleased and disappointed with myself. Another trail birthday in the books…