Back to Northern California

Southern Oregon - Border to Bend, OR

Ashland, OR
I end up at the old Highway 99 and follow the pavement towards the Interstate 5 onramp. As I approach the overpass, a pickup pulls over, and Norm offers me a ride to town. Not quite knowing where to go, I stop at the first fast food joint. I Spy and Booty! They're headed next door for breakfast, and I join them, enjoying a gigantic omelet at the busy breakfast place. I take a quick shower at their place—fully clothed—and now look and feel somewhat presentable as I begin my travels through town. They head out to hitch a ride back to the trail, and... there's Mike and Naomi! I take the extra bed in their room, and we head out—in her parent's car— to the center of town. I enjoy an all-you-can-eat lunch at an Indian restaurant with Bams and Man Down, and limp my way to the creekside park nearby. It's quite warm out today, and I find a shady place on a park bench, take off the shoes and socks, and type away, catching up on journals with the roar of traffic on the busy viaduct above. I head over to meet Norm, the computer consultant who gave me the ride to town, at work, and spend time on a spare computer checking emails and uploading my journals to my website. I meet Mike and Naomi, and her parents, for dinner a bit later as the sky starts to spit out some wind and rain. We get back to the room and I nervously check out my right foot. For the first time on the trail, the area around my navicular bone is swollen.

Stage I may respond to rest, such as a walking cast. Pain and inflammation may be controlled with anti-inflammatory medications. It is important to be sure that Stage I patients realize that the use of shoes with additional arch support and heel elevation, for the rest of their lives, is imperative. Arch support, whether built into the shoe or added as an orthotic, helps support the posterior tibial tendon and decrease its' work. Elevation of the heel, reduces equinus, one of the most significant contributing factors to PTTD. If Stage I patients return to low heels without arch support, PTTD will recur.

Fear runs down my spine, and I get the chills thinking about it. Am I going to be able to continue much farther? If I overdo it, I could permanently damage it even more? I'll see how things look tomorrow morning. I spend the rest of the evening journaling, and researching my PTTD foot issue on this PDA, feeling a bit more uneasy as I read on about the great things that could go amiss with my foot between here and Canada.

I head down to the motel's laundry room to pick up my clothes, and... hmmm, there's a couple pair of disgusting, smelly shoes outside that room; covered in an inordinate amount of dirt, soles are probably full of poison oak, holes worn on the sides from detrition, punishing trail abuse, and expanding feet. I pass by the door, crowded with four hikers. Blackfoot, Trainwreck, Moneyshot, and Vagisil all stare over at me, noticing an absence of the frowzy, unkempt beard that I've finally whacked off. They're all smiles as they arrive, and start settling in as the unsettled, angry sky decides what kind of weather to dish out. Blackfoot and I break out in a brief laugh as we see each other clean shaven for the first time—which I won't do again until the Washington State Line. I give my pack a quick wash in the shower, and it's time for lunch. I see Bams, Bob Dole, and Ido in town, and we enjoy some filling pitas as the skies outside grow ever darker. I sit down at a bench on main street and start to build my own orthotic from an inexpensive drugstore bought brand, some moleskin, actually a lot of moleskin, an extra pair of stock insoles from a running shoe store nearby, and some cheap gel arches.

Building my own orthotics
I don't know how much good this will do, but I have my $500 custom pair in Crater Lake four days away, and need something to get me there. I take advantage of the $60 I plunked down for the warranty program of my other $100+ pair, and send the old, now ineffective pair back.

The old, tired ComfortFit orthotics with over 1,730 miles that have outlasted almost three pair of shoes
I finish the work with my "custom" orthoses, with tourists staring down at my little construction project, trying to figure out what I'm doing. I complete my phone calls and other chores in town as the last three months—as of yesterday—of my life race through my mind. It's difficult to believe I'm here already. California was incredible, with the high mountain deserts in the south, the spectacular High Sierras in the central part of the state, and the rolling mountains, ridgelines and high volcanic peaks in the north. On the other hand, I've been in that State for over seventeen hundred miles, and a quarter of a year. It feels good to have gotten the %#$* out of there, and I look forward to the adventure ahead. I return to Norm's office, and send out the last emails. It's the end of his workday, and he offers to take me back up to the trail. "I have a cot or pullout sofa you can sleep on" he remarks, knowing I want to get our of town after two days. I glance outside at the darkened skies and happily accept. We head out of town back up to the base of Mt. Ashland, and hit up Callahan's for dinner. They have a hostel out back, and I glance out the window knowing there are a bunch of poor, smelly, homeless thru-hikers out there, and right now I don't feel like one of them—ha!

The ground is wet from last night's rain, and the sky is filled with a thick blanket of dull clouds hovering over the rolling landscape. He drops me off at the trail on the way to work, and I head up through the soggy landscape. Tired and groggy eyed, like I usually am first thing in the morning, I sleepwalk the first several miles along the trail. Before I know it, I've done ten miles; another great reason I don't drink coffee. The wind is blowing through the treetops, absorbing water out of the fog like a sponge. I'm coated with a cool layer of water as I travel through the wispy clouds.

Good training for northern Oregon and Washington State
It's 46° at 11am, and the dense fog and wind are slowly increasing in intensity. After three months of scalding sun and heat, today feels wonderful. It's not wet or windy enough to be cold, and I never break out into a sweat. I meet a father and son, and their dog, happy with the wild change in weather today, reporting it was 104° in Medford a few days ago. The afternoon storms started a week and a half ago, bringing in something other than ninety and hundred degree heat. The dry lightning has also brought wildfires to the area. Back at the Heitman's, Hiker Hideaway in Old Station, there was a fire that resulted in the evacuation of half the town, and the loss of electricity and phone service. It came within a mile, but I don't hear any bad news about the event. It's late afternoon and 50° out as I reach the Hyatt Lake area. Not needing any supplies, I head on looking for a place to camp.

I come across Sugar Momma, who I haven't seen on the trail since the Mojave Desert, is back on the trail after an injury, and we camp near a high point at Wildcat Hill. The temperature never did climb above 55° today, and we share the usual trail stories and adventures.

As late morning arrives, I see a hiker taking a break on a log. It's not a dayhiker, not a fellow northbounder I've seen before. Is it a southbound thruhiker? It is—the first southbound thru I've seen. Nomap started in mid June at Manning Park, BC, and he's working his way south to the Mexican Border. A few hours ago I was asking myself when I'm going to run into the first southbound thru hiker. It usually happens around Crater Lake, a few days north of here. As afternoon arrives, and the sun bumps its way to the top of the sky, my pace starts to slow considerably. I take a long break, typing away my journals, glancing at my handbook and maps, and getting water out of the well at Brown Mountain Shelter. I start along the trail again, moving with a slow gait and a limp as my legs warm up. The next ten miles still seem to go on forever as I follow the narrow, pumice rock covered trail surrounded by soccer ball sized rocks dotting the talus slopes. I find a flat, grassy spot in the trees, with the faint white noise of traffic headed down the highway to my north. I've already noticed several changes since I stepped into Oregon a few days ago. The twilight that used to hover over camp well past 9pm has disappeared. Now it's dark at nine. The bugs—mosquitoes, no seeums, flies, and gnats—they're gone too, unfortunately they'll probably be back in no time. The big ants that like to crawl over my belongings, my food, and me—no, they're still here. The ninety degree days and seventy degree nights? I'm glad it's almost mid August, those are disappearing too. The forest canopy has grown denser, and the shade feels great, but the I've hard the panoramic views will soon become few and far between.

I cross the highway near Fish Lake and continue through dense treecover. Without looking at my map, it's difficult to tell whether I'm on a high, broad ridge, or traversing along a plain; except for the fact that water sources are about every ten miles. I originally planned on hiking the scenic Sky Lakes Trail, but I'm trying to meet a lady I met back in Idyllwild who's a firefighter in Crater Lake NP. Also, it's a bit buggy out here today, and the mosquitoes in the Sky Lakes area would ruin that hike for me. As tempted as I am to slop this not-so-safe DEET stuff all over me, having it ooze through my skin into the bloodstream for the next several days doesn't appeal to me. I continue the usual swatting of my shoulders as the buzz-turn-bite of the noisy bugs continues. Okay, so I was wrong about the lack of views today as I wind my way over Devils Peak. The horizon is dotted with farms spread out like scattered confetti. As the western horizon turns into a subdued sunset, I see the first other people today, eating at camp, or noisily expressing their frustration with their stove. I find a small flat spot just off the trail as the sky turns dark.

My diet the last few days has been pretty simple; a small box of granola bars, a few packets of salmon and tuna, a couple small bags of cereal, 8,360 calories of a 3.5 pound bag of M&Ms, and 9,600 calories from 4 pounds of gorp/trail mix. Mike and Naomi have become tired of those last two items in every preplanned maildrop, so I gladly accept when offered the almost eight pounds of unopened food. Today I curse it. This stuff is starting to taste like rabbit dung. I'm out of everything else, and the repetitive, monotone flavor and texture has put me into a serious state of mind—a food mood state! I cruise the twenty miles with my less than three quarts of water to Crater Lake's Mazama Village for their all-you-can-eat (AYCE) lunch buffet by 1pm. On the way, I traverse a noisy mountainside filled with the raspy bark of a coyote echoing through the fire burned forest.

Crater Lake National Park

Food mood is setting in
I arrive at the Annie Creek Restaurant, and the Hostess can see the desperate-for-something-besides-M&M's-and-gorp look in my face, and promptly seats me. I down a vegetable and fruit rich salad, three heaping plates, and wash it down with two more gargantuan plates of lasagna, pizza, rice, and whatever the rest of these things are. I'm now sitting here at the picnic tables in front of the Mazama Campground Store in agony as my body slowly processes the who knows how many pounds of lunch I've just consumed. In an hour or two, I'm sure I'll be back for dinner.

Coyote and Chuck Norris

I stop back into Annie Creek for breakfast, excited about the opportunity to load up on another AYCE buffet. There's a family at the adjacent table asking me the usual questions, and I find out they're from Denver—and even stayed in a vacation rental property I deal with at work, back in Vail, CO! As I start to work on replenishing my depleted energy reserves with heaping plates of eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes, I see Too Obtuse, and Mike and Naomi headed in my direction. We stumble out a while later, and return to the picnic tables outside the Mazama Campground Store. My goal today is to hike twenty miles to highway 138 near the north end of the Park, and hitch a ride back. As we lazily sit here enjoying each other's company, and watching tourists shuffle in and out of the store, exhausted after their long drive around the Rim, afternoon rolls around, and I think I'll do fifteen miles. Alright, I'm going to hike ten. It's evening now, and maybe hiking the four miles to the Rim will work. Forget it, I'm doing another AYCE dinner.

After almost killing myself with excessive food intake last night, I did it again for breakfast this morning. A van shows up later in the day, with the names of hikers scribbled all over the exterior—some simply write their trailnames on the side, most leave colorful signatures or elaborate drawings.

Well over a dozen other hikers roll in today, and some of us decide to hike the four miles to the Rim, and then hitch a ride back. Twelve Percent, Moneyshot, Chop Chop and I approach the Rim Road, and peer over the stone guardrail at the intense blue body of water a thousand feet below.

Crater Lake
Most of the major highlights along the trail are visible days before ever reaching them. This one is different. Wizard Island, the cinder cone near this side of the lake, thrusts above the crystal blue waters that give this famous body of water its distinct look. We gaze at the spectacle for a good hour or so, and find rides back to Mazama Village. I check in at the Store again, seeing if my maildrop has arrived; nope, even though it was mailed almost a week ago, it still hasn't arrived. A group of us return to the restaurant for dinner—I think this is my fourth AYCE meal here—and crawl our way back to the picnic tables. Most hikers received maildrops here, and have left behind items they're sick of. I sort through the Hiker Box, and purchase some items at the small store, managing to find enough to make it the three days to the next resupply. Chuck Norris shuttles us back up to the Rim, and sixteen of us hike on as the sun throws up it's spectacular display of colors as it dives below the overcast horizon.

The grey, cloudy sky is upon us this morning, and fog occasionally darts over the Rim, sprinkling me with cold water as the wind whips the treetops around. Blackfoot spots a Bald Eagle I fail to find before it disappears behind a cliff.

The fog quickly burns off, and the lake takes on an amazing bright blue appearance as we gaze at the cold waters a thousand feet below us for the last time. The trail takes a turn away from its lofty perch, and heads north towards the Park boundary.

Wizard Island
I stop for a journaling and food break, and try turning on the phone. I have a signal out here, call the post office back at the Mazama Store, and find out my maildrop has arrived. Not needing the food anymore, I forward it to Timberline Lodge at the base of Mt. Hood. Trainwreck passes by, who hasn't received hers either, and shows a big sigh of relief when I find out it's also just arrived—with new shoes and contact lenses she desperately needs. The half dozen of us stop at Highway 138, near the Park Boundary, and take a break. A white van—with colorful trailname signatures all over it—pulls over, and Chuck Norris, Coyote, and Trainwreck hop out. Malted beverages are handed out, and we eventually continue on. The dramatic, spired Mt. Thielsen looms ever closer as we near Thielsen Creek and end our day. The Perseids Meteor Shower peaked last night, but the skies have been cloudy, and it looks like this one will have to wait 'till next year. I've set up my tent again part way to keep out the condensation I slowly create as I exhale, and I'll have it ready for action if the skies decide to rain.

Blackfoot built a fire last night, the first time since the High Sierras almost two months ago. I struggle to break camp as my fingers numb in the 35° air. I struggle to keep up with my journals again as several of us stop for breaks during the last several days. I stop in a sunny spot near the Oregon/Washington high point this morning, and reminisce about the last several days as I warm my chilled fingers in the bright sun. It's 57° at 1pm, and never gets much warmer, perfect for hiking.

The old PCT diamonds
I pass some old PCT diamonds, probably almost thirty years old, and finish my day on a lofty ridge beside Cowhorn Mountain, watching the fog rise over one side of the ridge, and tumble over the other. Wild Child approaches, eager to get in a few more miles before she ends her day.

I gaze at the brightly colored eastern horizon with Cowhorn Mountain and the distant Mt. Thielsen drenched in a spectacular kaleidoscope of alpenglow. There is thick frost covering the toe of my bag as last night's lows dipped below freezing. Later in the day, I gaze back towards Cowhorn Mountain and Thielsen Peak, tracing the route I've taken over the last three days.

I wind my way around Diamond Peak, and the many ponds that dot the area. I leave the trail and get a brief glimpse of a bald eagle as I hear its high pitched cry. I reach Shelter Cove Resort on Odell Lake, and pick up my maildrop. The very small store has a couple bags of chips I enjoy for dinner, as I relax at a picnic table with Magic, Vulturedeath, Mystic, and several others. Twelve Percent rolls in, after his 40+ miler to get here. I get a ride on the paved road from Amish Gypsy's mom, and finish my day overlooking Odell Lake a bit after dark.

I'm up at the crack of 9:30 on this bright, sunny morning. I hear the high pitched cry of a bald eagle as gather my belongings and head the mile to highway 58. I head up the road to Willamette Pass and climb the stairs at the ski area lodge to the cafeteria.

Breakfast of champions (or Sunday brunch)
I order a large 16" Summit House Combo pizza, piled high with everything, and a beer at ten o'clock in the morning, spending almost an hour and a half finishing it. I sit here in agony, slumped over my chair as I type away, hobbling over to the soda fountain for more water. I slowly manage to return to the trail as 3pm approaches. I run into Don again after the climb up to Rosary Lakes, who was also enjoying some food at the only-open-on-weekends ski lodge, stuffing his face with a gigantic salad and ice cream. I meet a couple of southbounders, Tortoise, and several minutes later Miss Parkay. They started exactly two weeks after I did, only spotting one other thru hiker by the time they reached I-15 somewhere around the two hundred mile mark. Disappointed, they decided to southbound. Yesterday I tried hiking without my trekking poles/crutches—depending on how I feel—all day for the first time and did the same for most of today. It feels good not to spend so much energy using those things. In conversation with Don, I blew by North Rosary Lake, the last water source for over nine miles, unnoticed. I head down to Bobby Lake, and wade into the chilly waters to soak my beaten and battered feet. I watch the waterbugs swarm the mosquitoes I swat and throw into the water as I haul out three liters. I'm not thirsty at all, maybe my stomach is too full to accept anything else, but I know I need it. A little before 9pm, I manage to get in a measly eighteen miles before finishing my day.

So what happened today? Hmmm... I passed one small creek today flowing out of a lake. Every other water source has been small lakes, actually most are more like ponds, with the trail zigzagging around on the gently rolling terrain. I listen to the whistling of the wind as it blows through a burn area I pass this morning. Today was thick forest with almost no views, but I still managed to get a quick glimpse of The Sisters on the northern horizon. I'm camped up on a ridge just over a mile high at 5,300ft. The mosquitoes are an absolute nightmare. I don't know where they're coming from, but I'm being wildly attacked from all directions. Dozens of them lie dead all around me as I add to the pile every few seconds. I have a nice bug net at home, but decided to tough it out, thinking they'd be gone in early August. For the most part, the last few weeks have been somewhat tolerable, with the occasional swarm buzzing around me when they have a chance to find out where I am, or the pack chasing me along the trail every now and then when I take a break. It's 9:30pm, and the dull, noisy buzz is still in the air, but waning fast. I'll see what kind of blood loss I suffer when I get up tomorrow.

I'm still alive, but the skeeters were around all night long. I began my trek by passing the last few ponds before entering the Three Sisters Wilderness. The terrain opened up with views stretching from horizon to horizon, with small, deep glaciers hanging tightly to the vertical walled peaks.

The Three Sisters
There were a couple of meandering creeks, milky white in appearance from the melting glacial snow that lie above me. A few small pockets of snow lie near the trail, even with the warm 80°+ temperatures out here today. The sun is endlessly blazing down on me climbing some of the dark, obsidian lava flows, with sun heated, sharp volcanic rocks baking me as I travel along with no shade. It easily reminds me of some exposed Southern California sections. My main concern were, as usual, the feet. I filled up my gallon waterbag (old wine-in-the-box bag), found a nice place to sit, and rinsed my chafed feet. The daily routine is helping, but it never seems to solve the always different foot issue. They're always in one of two states, either bombproof, or they feel like they've been bombed. Now the chafed, red spots are forming under my arch, so I tried sticking a large piece of moleskin on the sole of my feet. I'm sure this will create some other sort of issue. At least the PT tendon problem is stable. When it became more noticeable, I'd add a layer of moleskin to add arch height, hoping it wouldn't stress the peroneal tendon on the outside of my right foot. That happened for the first time last fall, and I needed an expensive MRI to diagnose it. Now I have a general idea of what I need to do. I headed on to a side trail to Lava Lake Campground to get my water for the next eighteen and a half mile dry stretch to the Santiam Highway. Okie was camped there, shuttling a section hikers to their trailheads. It was getting dark as I started my trek through the lava fields, and I wondered if I'd ever find a place to camp in this inhospitable terrain. I found a large flat area a little after crossing McKenzie Highway at 9pm, ready for the long day to be over.

Hiking through the lava fields with The Sisters in the background
The last mile of trail yesterday, and next three today, were on brutal, sharp lava rock that traversed through the large expanse of lava fields that cover most of the surrounding terrain. It was dark in appearance, ready to absorb the sun's rays later today and fry the unsuspecting hiker passing through during the mid afternoon heat. It was slow going as I carefully placed my feet around the ball bearing rocks.

Mt. Washington
I glance at my Databook, and notice the 2,000 mile mark I'll reach this morning as I hike past a small, unmarked side trail to Mt. Washington. I reach Santiam Pass around noon, and put out my thumb for the over fifty mile trip to Bend. I head up to a pullout area down the road, and see Magic and Vulturedeath hopping into a car. They've been here almost an hour with their thumbs out, and I get lucky. Our driver Bob takes us to the Town of Sisters Post Office where the other two pick up a maildrop. We head on to Bend, where Shari—who I met near the Heitman's in Old Station at the Hat Creek Campground store—has offered a place for us to stay. I reach her on my phone, and the offer has been sweetened. Now it's a fully furnished vacation rental home she manages for a friend. Mostly rented during the holidays, she just had some tenants move out this morning, and has offered it to us. We cheerfully accept, and Bob drives us to the front door. It's a relatively new home built in the last five years, in a quiet neighborhood, on a swift flowing canal. This is going to be great!

Continue to Northern Oregon

Back to PCT 2009