In this smoky stretch between Crater Lake National Park and Ashland, we traverse more burn areas and volcanic terrain, deal with long waterless miles, and indulge in some more off trail treats at a fishing resort.
Hello everyone, a quick update on the fundraising and other trail stuff:
I’m so ecstatic to announce that I’ve raised $2435 out of my goal if $2650 for suicide prevention with AFSP National! This is so incredibly huge to me, and I’m feeling a bit emotional at the recent outpouring of donations. A big shout out to Sig, Anne Figge, Kristine Bell, Brittney, Pamela, Pedro, Jesse, Ann Podlozny, Suzanna and Peter. Thank you so much for your generous donations and helping to save lives.
If you’re enjoying my trail journals and other posts regarding the outdoors, please consider donating to my campaign with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 100% of all donations go directly to community programs that educate people about mental health and prevent suicide.
My hike is funded by myself.
Click the link below to make a tax deductible contribution:
As for the thru-hike, I’m doing really well, besides the obvious homesickness that I occasionally get. Lately, I’ve been slightly struggling with shin splints near the end of the day, and hip pain at night. Other than that, I’m fine and I’m confident I’ll work out my physical issues. To all my friends and family back home, I miss you guys so much and I hope you had a fantastic summer!
Without any further fuss, here’s my latest trail journal, featuring my final push through Oregon.
Day 42: Mazama Village to Smoky Ridge Camp, 30 miles
I wake up when it’s still dark and terribly early, but my bladder is forcing me from the warmth of my sleeping bag. I head to the loo in the dark, and when I get back to the hiker site, Cheesy Puff and Chance are starting to break camp. We get going fairly fast, but once we try and pass by the village store and realize there’s fresh coffee, we stall a bit to drink some hot java. We linger far too long outside the store, eating pastries and chatting with other hikers. We finally push off after 9, taking the side trail back up to the PCT.
The gray haze of wildfire is back in the air, and the coolness of morning fades into a stuffy, hot day. The trail winds through forest early on, but quickly turns into another grim burn. We’re walking through more ash, and the smell of soot is overwhelming. It’s hard to breath, and it’s almost as if we’re walking through the fire itself.
The burn gives way to a high ridge, with trail that’s covered in scree. We climb for a few miles, passing over a saddle notched in the hill, and then descend again, hugging a hillside as we go. The rocks we walk across are as thin and delicate as dinner plates, and sound like glass breaking beneath our feet.
By evening, we’re traversing a ridge, and the smoke in the air turns the sky into another fiery sunset. We find a small clearing in the trees and beside the trail, and lay out our Tyvek sheets to cowboy camp. I’m tired and sore, and once I snuggle down into my warm bag, the obnoxious sound of mosquitoes buzzing near my head instantly gives me anxiety. I try to hide my head inside my bag to avoid the bastards, and decide that cowboy camping will be a thing of my past from here on out.
Day 43: Smoky Ridge Camp to Fish Lake Resort, then to Lava Field Camp, 27 miles
We rise at the crack of dawn, ready to put in another high mileage day and have a pit stop at the Fish Lake Resort along the way. I have a box waiting there for me, and the cafe promises burgers and fries, and of course, ice cream.
It’s yet another smoke filled day, with an over baked and stuffy feeling in the atmosphere. My nose and lungs sting, and I’ve developed a bit of a ‘smoker’s cough’ from the constant inhale and exhale of burnt timber. As soon as the sun clears the mountain top, it goes to work heating up the earth and sky, and we’re forced to walk through another hellfire day.
We have little water between us, and we beeline it through charred forest to Christi’s Spring. The seep is off trail a bit, down a small hill and trickling from greasy ground. Wasps and bees swarm, trying to quench their thirst as well and terrifying my companions. We fill up and filter, and quickly eat a few snacks and head out again. Delectable diner foods are calling to us, after all.
We find relief in the shade of a dense forest, and steadily hike downhill towards the highway. Once we’ve all regrouped at the road, we try to hitch to the resort, but have little luck. We start walking down the highway, arms outstretched and thumbs out as we go. Eventually, a man pulls over and we pile into the back of his SUV. He drives us the remaining way to the parking lot for the resort, happy to be helping out a band of weary hikers. The lake is looking a bit anemic, with frothy green waters lapping up on mucky shores. There’s no one out fishing, likely due to the unpleasantness of the conditions. A wind whips across the water bringing a foul, fishy stench with it. We’re undeterred and shuffle into the diner.
We saddle up to the diner bar, and I immediately order a strawberry milkshake. I also order and inhale a cheeseburger and fries, as well as a few root beers. After I finish eating, I grab my resupply box from the curmudgeon of a cashier, and then join Cheesy Puff and Chance outside on the patio.
We relax a bit, letting the cool breeze coming off the lake sweep over our overheated bodies, despite its stink. I wash my socks in the bathroom sink, and get my food in order inside of my pack. After we feel satisfied with more ice cream and a round of cheap beers, we start trying to hitch back to the trail.
We walk along the highway again, thumbs out, hoping to get another ride. A man in a truck licks us up, and we climb into the back and speed up the highway. He drops us off at a trailhead parking lot, and we all talk trail for a few minutes before setting off again. The day is fading quickly, and a 30 miler may be out of the question now.
We cross several volcanic rock fields, through an area that had caused me quite a lot of anguish on my NOBO thru-hike in ’16. After 27 miles, we decide to stay in a small site just off trail and within an alcove of trees. More familiar faces show up shortly after and cram in, and we don’t mind the closeness of everyone. I’m too tired to care about much anymore, especially rules concerning etiquette.
Day 44: Lava Field Camp to Prairie Camp Near Pond, 30 miles
Another early morning, and another 30 mile day.
We head out as the sun is rising, and push five miles to the Brown Mountain Shelter, where there’s an old fashioned metal water pump sticking out of the ground. There’s also a picnic table, which we take advantage of for eating our breakfasts. I share my stash of Cap’n Crunch cereal and powdered milk with Cheesy Puff, and we shovel its sugary goodness into our faces. A lovely man with a rambunctious husky stops by, and offers to pack out any trash we have, and hands us all PCTA logo stickers. What a wonderful surprise it turns out to be, and I thoroughly enjoy the company of the curious pup.
The trail keeps us in the forest for quite some time, traversing flat land that’s covered in huckleberry bushes and pine trees dripping in lichen. Cicadas play their symphonies overhead, wild buzzing that fills all the nooks of the forest.
It’s hot and sticky, and there’s still a noticeable thin gray haze in the air that has us coughing and choking as we go. Midday we look for water off trail at a campground beside a reservoir, but the water has been shut off and the lake is nearly empty. We collect a meager amount from a makeshift handwashing station, filter it and move on. With only a liter of water, I’m worried about what’s ahead.
We’re finally able to get decent water from an outflow of another reservoir, and it’s clear and cool, and so delicious. We have a small break here, savoring the refreshing water on this uncomfortably hot day. The three of us sit in silence, in a row on a fallen log. The concern of long water carries is heavy on our minds.
We make our final push to camp, in a dried out brown meadow that resembles a prairie. Crickets welcome in the evening with a tune as we pitch our tents, and Chance flings his last two tortillas like a frisbee to Cheesy Puff and I at dinner. Above the meadow is a small pond, and although it is slimy and full of frogs and other delightful creatures that sing into the night, we still have to drink its putrid water. Thank goodness for filters.
Day 45: Prairie Camp near Pond to Callahan’s Lodge, 19 miles
The three of us pack up in the dark, and start hiking as early as humanly possible to get into town so we can escape this dusty, waterless landscape and enjoy some hard earned creature comforts. Our headlamps guide us for the first few miles, before the sun crests over the rolling beige hills of the Ashland area. We’re approaching the stateline now, and the landscape is looking more California-esque with every step; fragrant bitter sage lines the trail and tumbleweeds sail past us as they catch the wind.
A constant breeze has cleared the air of any smoke by the afternoon, making hiking conditions much more tolerable. We hurry in and out of forest, crossing dirt roads that bear unfriendly trespass warnings and lead to unseen ranches.
The three of us reconvene once we reach the paved road to Callahan’s, and where an excited bunch of NOBO hikers talk our ears off for a moment about how much fun they had in Ashland. Just as we’re about to step foot onto the hot tarmac, a van pulls up and a man tells us to hop in. He drives us the couple of miles to Callahan’s, a kind gesture that our tired and swollen feet are grateful for.
At the lodge, which is really quite posh and far too upscale for us dirty vagabonds, they allow us to camp on the lawn behind the restaurant for a small fee. They also give us vouchers for a free pint of beer each, and my heart leaps. We park our rumps in front of the bar, ordering giant lunches and draught beers.
When evening comes to the back lawn, we retire to our tents which we’ve pitched next to the gazebo and in full view of the alfresco diners. It’s a surreal moment, falling to sleep with the sounds of wine glasses clinking and the soft conversations of a world that I feel far removed from.
Day 46 & 47: Double Zero in Ashland
I wake up stupidly early, and desperately need to pee. The problem is, the lodge has locked its doors and I’ve nowhere to go. Cheesy Puff is in the same boat, and we’re in agony. They finally unlock the back door and we rush inside. I’m agitated and ignore their ‘hikers, do not bathe in restrooms’ sign and use the sink as my own personal wash basin.
After packing up, we head to the freeway on ramp and begin our attempts to hitch into Ashland. A few motorists pass us by, looking fear stricken as they speed past. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait too long and nice woman gives us a lift. She’s meeting friends in town for breakfast, and offers to drop us off at the cafe she’s headed too. The three of us agree we could do with bellies full of pancakes, and happily tag along.
The three of us split a motel room for two nights at the Rodeside Inn, which has a pool and is conveniently located near a post office, laundromat, and most importantly, the Caldera Brewery.
I have a terrible amount of errands to run over the next few days, but I still manage to get some down time in and have a few pints with my friends, call home and lounge by the pool for a bit. At the end of it, I feel relaxed and happy, and I’m looking forward to starting a new state with fresh legs and a clear mind.