Day hiking delights in Central Oregon: 10/2-10/4 & the Journey Home 10/5-10/6/2016

Being a tourist for a few days is a great way to transition back to your front country life….

My souvenirs of choice – always maps!

With a sense of “we can go anywhere!” that having a rental car has instilled, Hemlock and I contemplate our options.  

Our trusty AWD Santa Fe

After doing some morning shopping at the Bend REI (totally overwhelming at times – so many choices!) for some new hiking tights to replace the ripped up pair I threw out, along with area maps (yay!) and a cheap used duffle to get my pack home a bit more protected, also an extra 25% off during REI’s garage sale, we want to see some nature that we wouldn’t get to see along the PCT corridor.  

We headed down to Newberry Volcanic National Monument and I’m blown away by the high quality of the exhibits in the Visitors Center and the awesome campy interpretative signs on the short trails.  The “Trail of the Molten Land”, ingeniously constructed through the lava flows, was particularly enjoyable.  

Someone has a sense of humor!

It was a cloudy day, with hints of sun peaking through at times, and my favorite new phrase is “ominous clouds to the (insert direction)”.  We saw both ominous clouds to the west (look at the new snow on Mt Bachelor!) and to the south, near the Caldera of Newberry Volcano at over 7000 feet.  

Hemlock at a viewpoint

Our plan was to find someplace to camp either in the Caldera area or at La Pine State Park the rangers at the visitor’s center had told us about.    We went up to the Caldera first, and low and behold, just as we found a free FS campground, it started to hail.  The point forecast stated up to half an inch of snow by morning, and all I could think was “driving down that long gravel road in snow in a vehicle I don’t know? I don’t think so!”.  I had our trusty vehicle on and in reverse so fast I made Hemlock jump out to grab her poles before they were left in the dust.  

Camping quite happily at lower and non-snowy La Pine, I decided to take car camping literally as I’ve never slept in the back of my vehicle before.  

Waking up to 25 degree temps (that felt colder) the next morning, I was very happy to huddle in my quilt until I just had to get out to go to the bathroom.

In deference to my still healing allergic reaction, we continued day hiking on extremely short trails as we made our way west to Eugene.  In La Pine we visited the biggest (in circumference) Ponderosa Pine tree, which was truly massive.

Hemlock with the Big Tree

The awesome Dee Wright Observatory (where I had been picked up at McKenzie Pass before going to Sisters the first time before flipping up to Portland to meet with Hemlock), made of lava rocks with clever view ports pointing out the nearby views, looked very different than less than 2 weeks ago – the nearby peaks snow covered when they were visible at all.  

Hemlock on top of Dee Wright Observatory with snowy North Sister in the background

Looking through one of the viewing portals at Dee Wright

Dee Wright Observatory from below

Descending into the western side of the cascades after McKenzie Pass was like entering a whole new world – lush and green and still autumn. We hiked 2 short waterfall trails – Proxy Falls and Sahalie Falls – both of which Hemlock remembered from coming here as a kid.  It was so neat to hear her stories and watch her remember back through the years – which way and how long to the falls?  

Hemlock picking berries

Upper Proxy Falls and the pool that goes no where but underground

Sahalie Falls

Koosah Falls from above

My knee was feeling a bit weird (maybe some left over water retention or inflammation?) so we didn’t do the full waterfalls trail loop.  Still, it felt good to walk a little in between the stretches of driving.  

Mark “SlowBro” PCT Class of 2014 and Nancy graciously opened their home and lives to us for 2 nights, and introduced us to the city living and great walkability of Eugene.  We talked gear (though I bowed out of the giddy hammocking demonstrations, ground tent dweller that I am), trail stories, and where life has taken all of us.  So incredible, what a wonderful stay.  They knew exactly how to spoil us rotten, with wonderful meals, homemade cherry pie, day hiking, showers and laundry.  Thank you Mark & Nancy!!  

My trip home was a bit more circuitous than originally planned – I was originally supposed to fly from Eugene to San Francisco and then home to Cleveland.  I can now say I’ve been on a delayed/cancelled flight due to maintenance problems – you know it’s serious if they drive in a needed part from nearly 3 hours away.  Scary to think the plane had been ok’d to fly twice before earlier in the day.  The people watching was A+ with so many stressed out travelers where I felt laid back and “well, I’ll get home somehow!”.  I wasn’t having a scary allergic reaction in the middle of the wilderness after all.  I waited until the first rush of folks overwhelmed the poor United employees, and then waited in line.  In the meantime, Hemlock arrived for her flight to Denver to meet wth her folks, and I thought – perfect!  I’ll just invite myself along and fly home from Denver tomorrow rather than spend all night in an airport somewhere or take a red eye.  Hemlock was immediately supportive and enthusiastic, so I got rebooked quickly enough.  I’ll just be getting home 24 hrs later than I thought but hey – this is what having a flexible schedule is all about.  Less stress and “it’s the end of the world” syndrome when something goes wrong in a super busy life.  I like this slower, more relaxed and enjoying life experience I’ve got going on!  My only regret is that I didn’t have it scheduled like this from the get go – I missed the day hiking this morning.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all ;).  

Hemlock eating some hiking staples out of her food bag at the Eugene airport

Hemlock forgot it might not be socially appropriately to brush your teeth in public!

United was great and put me up for free in a Marriott near the Denver airport, and it was almost too posh for 2 semi-dirty hikers.  Hemlock’s parents were wonderful  – they grabbed my pack at baggage claim before it could be locked away somewhere while I waited in an interminable customer service line, and then drove us to the Marriott.  Thank you Neil & Nancy!!  We got take-out for dinner, and then it was far past hiker midnight.  

Breakfast at Einstein’s Bagels

Wrangling in my hiker appetite seems to be the big challenge coming off the trail once again – especially when airline meal vouchers allow me to happily consume many calories without even paying for them.  I know it’ll take my body a while to realize that no, I’m not just on a zero day.  

Finally arrived home, I marvel at wearing cotton clothing and the still summer-like hot weather in Ohio — wasn’t I just in autumn and even winter??  It’s like I’ve gone back in time.  The trees are just starting to turn, and the mums are vivid.  Time to start planning my next hike 😉.  

OR Day 32: 10/1/2016

My section hike for 2016 is officially over

Waiting area at Bend Urgent Care

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was – “gosh, I hope the sting site is better”.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t – at least, not enough to be worry free.  Time to get thee to the doctor!  The staff at the nearby Urgent Care center were incredibly friendly and gawked in amazed dismay at my leg.  However, no infection yet, and a script for prednisone to help reduce the inflammation was given.  I hustled back to the hotel and quickly prioritized tasks – because I wasn’t going to be lying around all day as probably the doc meant when she said to put cold compresses on as much as possible.  

Not as red, but the blister is impressively sized now

Post first dose of medication, and the redness and inflammation is significantly decreased! So relieved

Cold wet snow at the high elevations was the message from Hemlock – as the forecast for the next few days called for worsening conditions, she made the wise decision to turn around.  Time to get thee to the car rental agency and drive out to the trailhead before hypothermia could set in!  

I love that Enterprise will pick you up locally – so easy when you’re on foot!  In the “intermediate SUV” vehicle (that one lane gravel twisty gravel road now covered in slick precipitation was at the forefront of my mind), I quickly found a nearby pharmacy to get my script filled.  A super quick trip to the grocery later for food for the 5-6 hr round trip drive ahead  and I was on my way through rain and sleet at Santiam Pass (where the PCT crosses).  

Mid way, I was relieved to get an updated message from Hemlock that she’d gotten a ride out to the 2 lane paved forest service road.  I found her easily at the intersection, umbrella and poncho making a stark contrast to the rainy autumn conditions.  That last road had barely any traffic, I’m glad she didn’t have to wait too long for my arrival.  

The trip back to Bend flew by in comparison, Hemlock and I chatting and considering options.  The sun even peaked out at the low elevations, though the mountains continued to be blanketed with dark ominous clouds.  Newly fallen snow  was visible on South Sister and Mt Bachelor.  I’m glad we’re both inside tonight!  

View from the hotel – even from this distance, dark ominous clouds blanket the mtn range

Oh, the glories of having a semi-suite room.  The fridge, microwave, and 2 electric burners came to good use after another trip to the grocery store.  

Gear explosion to dry out

Hemlock showing off her kitchen gloves (keeps her hands warm in cold conditions like today)

My doctor’s orders are to let the sting site/blister be warm, clean, and dry, and to monitor closely for infection.  So, backpacking in these conditions is pretty much out.  362 total miles for the month of September is pretty good – I’ll take it!   

I have a nice 65 mile section here in Oregon to finish up, next year perhaps – plus, there’s no way I’d want to finish at Olallie Lake and do that drive for a 3rd time, so I guess I’ll just have to re-hike some miles and go back to Timberline Lodge!  I really wouldn’t mind finishing the entire PCT there :). 

Day hiking, on the other hand, for the next few days until my flight home…..decisions, decisions!  Just a different sort of touristy adventure these last few days here in central Oregon.  

To the folks I summited Mt Katahdin with 3 years ago today to complete my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail – I was thinking of you today, and remembering the glorious autumn weather we had!  

OR Day 31: 9/30/2016

I didn’t think I’d be back here so soon….

Miles hiked today: 9.5, Cumulative Oregon section miles: 362

TMI alert: some medical misfortune being described ahead!

Morning thoughts:  Not the most restful nights sleep – the bee sting was super itchy and inflamed, making for quite a bit of discomfort and fidgeting.    Therefore I’m reasonably sure it rained only very briefly last night, and the second time could’ve simply been wind blowing drops off surrounding trees.  The wind has died down to nothing, and the sky was clear and full of stars when I got up to water the leaves at 4:30am.  Hopefully the weather holds the rest of today.  It’s 5:44am right now and I’m tired, but ready to get 9 miles down the trail to Olallie Lake and beyond.  

Evening/next day thoughts:  yea.  Soooooo….I got to Olallie Lake, but  no further.  As I changed into my hiking clothes in my tent this morning, I noticed the red area around the bee sting site had significantly spread and was inflamed.  Uh-oh.  

As I walked, Hemlock kept asking me “how’s it doing?  How are you feeling?” And my answers went from “I don’t know” to “It feels weird” to “My knee hurts”.  The pressure on my knee cap from the inflammation kept getting worse and worse, and I tried so hard to walk normally….but eventually I was hobbling a bit.  The last few miles were pretty uncomfortable.  But it was a lovely day!  Hemlock also did a great job at distracting me when I needed it most.  

Cold compress!

I knew I was going no further at Olallie Lake – now, the question was how to bail and get to a town with a doctor.  From a place so remote that there was no phone or cell signal.  Once again, my Delorme inReach paid for itself!  Dad to the rescue to do the calling for me.  

Hemlock and I made Plan B – she would hike on, I would get to town and see the doc, and then, fingers crossed, I would join her on Sunday or Monday for the last stretch of trail between Santiam and McKenzie pass, where I had hiked to northbound before going to Portland.  

Hemlock hikes on without me

Olallie Lake is gorgeous, and the folks who run it are friendly and had no problem with my loitering and taking over a sunny bench for the rest of the afternoon.  The stellar view of Mt Jefferson came and went – a storm she was a comin!  

View from my bench

Redness deepens and a blister starts to form

Xcab, a great Bend based small business which specializes in shuttles to remote trailheads for hikers and bikers, came to pick me up, and I was on my way to civilization by 6pm.  A 3 hour ride later (including a one lane gravel road for the first hour) saw me in Bend, inspecting the growing blister on the sting site.  

Happily, my driver advised me to stay in a hotel just 0.2 miles from an Urgent Care, so plans were made to go as soon as they opened at 8am.  Showered and laundry done, I took some more Benadryl, coated on the antihistamine cream, then fell into bed.  

Hikers encountered: none! 

Gear minutiae: I’m glad I’m in a hotel room tonight to dry out!  

Health update:  uhhhh….see above.  

OR Day 30: 9/29/2016

Happy Birthday Hemlock!

The birthday girl with her birthday pudding

Camped at PCT Mile Marker 2052.5, Trooper Spring

Miles hiked today: 17.6

Today was a day of forest walking – lovely but pretty uneventful as far as views are concerned.  A brief glimpse of Mt Jefferson and 3 Fingered Jack in the hazy distance in a brief burn area, and that was pretty much it.  It is nice to see what I’m hiking towards, but I figure you gotta have the days like today to really appreciate the grand epic days even more.  This morning in the chill air Hemlock and I were both glad to find a sunny break spot, even if it was under some power lines in a clear cut area.  The buzz buzz sound soon faded in the background, and day quickly warmed up from there.  

Autumn forest

At our late morning water source (the inaccurately named Warm Spring River – the water was ice cold and it was a creek at most) we met a solo thru hiker named Monarch.  As we had a longer sustained climb after the river, Hemlock hiked on ahead with Monarch, and I was glad she had some company.  I could hear their voices echo down the switchbacks, which was neat.  

Rock art near a mud puddle spring

I ended up taking a break with Monarch, so was able to chat with her too.  The climbing was nice and gradual, and I was happy I was able to stick to my 2mph pace (for the most part) – ahh, PCT grade I do appreciate you. The flying gnats that are still about (they bite but they don’t look like mosquitos?) swarm unpleasantly at times, but the real annoyance today was that I got my second bee sting of the trip. :(. At least it is on my right leg (first was on my left) so the legs can complain equally now!  I wasn’t really paying attention as I was talking with Monarch about the joys and literal pains of thru hiking, and essentially trapped a bee between my hand and leg as I was sitting cross legged eating second lunch.  Ouch!  It retaliated in quite effective format.  I was a bit grouchy for the rest of the hike this afternoon, but it went by quickly enough.  

Bee sting on my right knee – ouch!

Hemlock’s birthday is today, and we were treated to a beautiful sunset across the meadows here at camp.  Some gorgeous pink, gold, and salmon colors etched across the sky and the gathering clouds.  Trooper Spring here is an interesting water source – a deep but clear pool with some funk and pine needles on the surface but delightful all the same.  At some point a “dock” was built to allow access to the deeper part more easily.  

Hemlock at Trooper Spring

After arriving so early (a bit before 5pm), we leisurely set up camp, talking with some NOBOs as they arrived and then left, and ate dinner.  We had a great non-campfire discussion around the fire ring until the late hour of 7:50pm!  Oh, and I may have contributed some birthday pudding in there as well :).  

Hikers met: Monarch – SOBO flip flopper (she hiked north to Crater Lake then flipped up to Canada and has been hiking south back to CL.  2 SOBOs from Australia, and then in camp (they came to get water but left) – a NOBO thru hiker group of 3 guys and 1 gal, then another older guy arrived.  They looked so tired and done.  My guess for the # of folks we’d see today was 6, Hemlocks was 15.  At 8, I win!  

Gear minutiae: I lost my sole hair band 😦 though I hope to find it when it’s light out tomorrow morning.  I chose beige thread for sewing the holes in the shorties tonight.  4-5 more days of hiking, it can last that long!!  The silk hiking tights, on the other hand, are pretty much done for.  

Health update: chafing, bites, sting, and cough – oh, and an odd sort of bruised feeling in my right inner ankle that started yesterday or the day before.  A record night of pill taking – Allegra, ibuprofen, and Benadryl.  Ahh, and yes I do this to myself voluntarily.  

OR Day 29: 9/28/2016

Easiest hiking day on the PCT!  

Little Crater Lake – 45 feet deep and 34 degrees!

PCT Mileage Marker 2079.1, camped at Miller Trail Junction (near Clackamas Lake)

Miles hiked today: 18.8 + side trails to Crater Lake, Horse Camp, and Clackamas Lake – probably at least 1 more mile

Wow, today was a virtual stroll through the autumn woods – for nearly 20 miles.  In perfect weather – sunny and bright blue skies, a breeze at times, and otherwise hiking in the shaded forest anyhow.  No wonder thru hikers do 30 miles per day through Oregon, we meandered to see some awesome lakes, and lollygagged, took long breaks, and still made it to camp by 5:30pm.  The elevation change was minimal (about 1500 feet of climbing and around 2200 descending) and was so gradual, with rolling hills, that it really feels we were hiking flat trail all day.  In fact, we had lots of actual flat trail too – and wide, park-like trail versus the normal PCT grade.  

Anxiety strikes again at 1am – awoken by a coughing fit, I’m lying here worried about and scrutinizing every sound I’m hearing from the nearby roads.  Who is up at this hour?  Do they mean us harm if they find us?  Feeing vulnerable, blind in my tent in the dark, I burrow in my quilt to use the light from my phone as I don’t want to be visible.  I can’t hear anything now, my heart slowly starts to slow down.  Sleep?  Not possible quite yet.  It turns out that trucks sped by on the nearby highway, using engine brake to go around mountain curves, all night long.  Don’t truckers sleep?  

Despite the less than optimal sleeping conditions, Hemlock and I got going at our normal 7am start time.  No real sunrise overlook today, but it was so interesting seeing the sunlight try to penetrate the deep pine forest to where we were.  We lucked out big time with our break spots today – a picnic table at a major road crossing, then Little Crater Lake for lunch, and Timothy Lake in the afternoon.  

There was another ladder-like structure at the road crossing, and even taller than the one we camped by last night.  We were perplexed – what was it for?? Again no explanatory signage, and so our imaginations went wild making up scenarios.  They included: go-go dancing structure; a place for the folks who walk on stilts and hang the blue diamonds for the winter skiing paths to rest; an alien ship landing pad; a Pokemon Go location; and my personal favorite (Hemlock’s idea) permanent loom demonstration sites where little old ladies re-enact the Timberline Lodge WPA ladies making the rugs and draperies out of old CCC uniforms like back in the day!  2 silly hikers are we – there must be a logical (and apparently obvious?) explanation.

Hemlock swimming across Little Crater Lake

Hemlock, adventurous gal that she is, actually swam in 34 degree Little Crater Lake!  She came here as a kid, and family legend had her dad swimming across the lake – so of course she had to do the same.  I was posed to take pictures and in the back of my mind be ready for a possible rescue which thankfully wasn’t needed.  At 45 feet deep, it’s an amazing blue aquamarine color, and while much much smaller, a great cousin to Crater Lake.  Certainly it was less crowded!  Plus it had a bench!! It’s the simple things out here :).  

View from the bench at Little Crater Lake

Hiking around one side of Timothy Lake, I was delighted by the glimpses of the lake and the rapidly turning foliage of the undergrowth.  It smelled like fall!  My favorite season. We spent a long time at our break spot just looking at the lake and listening to the water lap on shore (and trying to ignore the construction vehicle sounds echoing across the lake from the National Forest campgrounds).  

Break spot view at Timothy Lake

Frankly, the only disappointment of the day was that the Horse Camp we were aiming for was essentially shut down for the season – we were able to use the pit toilets but water wasn’t on and no one was in evidence.  However, the trail junction to Clackamas Lake was less than a mile further, and we easily found a social trail down to the lake to get water. That spot even had a spring inlet so water was flowing (always preferred, less floaties).  

For the second night in a row, it was warm enough for us to stay out of our shelters/sleeping bags until 7:30pm, chatting and laughing.  You can’t say we didn’t make the most of the wonderful weather today! 

Hikers spotted:  16, which was closer to Hemlock’s guess of 20 to mine of 10.  5 of which were backpackers – a couple I think I met one evening before the Elk Lake Lodge turnoff (which they went on to) and Puck!  I met Puck at Maiden Peak Ski Shelter the day I hiked out of Shelter Cove.  It was the day I was suffering the worst with the blisters, and he was so encouraging.  I hope I was encouraging to him today, he looked so tired and kinda done in.  Otherwise, we met day hikers at Little Crater Lake and around Timothy Lake.  

Gear Minutiae:  one of my toe socks now has a hole :(.  I don’t actually want to sew it as I think it’ll chafe.  

Health update: have I mentioned with the increased temps since the weekend that it has equaled mosquitos again?  Of course, they’ve been chomping on me.  Mosquito buffet here.  A few of the bites are getting to the super itchy stage.  Otherwise, cough is about the same – a bit worse with the renewed dusty trail, but nothing horrific.  Some chafing still going on – nothing horrible, just annoying.  Even after the long day, feet and legs are feeling good, a little achy but that’s par for the course.  

OR Day 28: 9/27/2016

Nero out of Timberline Lodge

Morning view from the steps of Timberline Lodge – where we’re going (Mt Jefferson)

PCT Mile Marker 2089, Miles hiked today: 5.5, camped at Barlow Pass

Ahh, the decadence of staying at one of the gorgeous historic lodges – I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!  Timberline is a great place – a CCC era building made of wood, stone, and wrought iron.  Just amazing it is in the great shape that it is – less than 1% has been replaced, though features have been added, like the pool.   

View from the mezzanine – the stone fireplace goes down another level!

Coffee, tea, and a view of early morning Mt Hood before the buffet opened

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the breakfast buffet here at Timberline, and it didn’t disappoint!  Hemlock and I stuffed ourselves silly for over an hour before we finally finished.  Cheesy eggs, frittata, sausage, pancakes, fruit, and pastries – what I ate and that wasn’t everything, just yum. 

We had planned to do only a few miles today since yesterday was a full day of hiking for me and my legs are tired.  So, check out at 11am meant gathering resupply together, packing up, and even time for a short lay down on the bed.  The lodge is very hiker friendly and no one bats an eye at us loitering in the common area for several hours with our packs, making phone calls and doing internet tasks like backing up photos and blogging.  Hemlock decided to take a lodge tour, while I went upstairs to the Ramshead Bar for lunch on the mezzanine.  I’d been craving a good salad for days, and it and the lovely warm crusty bread certainly didn’t disappoint! 

I feel a little guilty (but not really) for not eating out of my very heavy food bag as once again I’m carrying extra so I don’t have to buy as much at Olallie Lake – a consequence of moving resupply points at the last minute — still very much worth it!

The weather coming up looks like it is turning, so I’d better soak up all this sun.  The wind has a chill again, goodbye Indian Summer.  

Hemlock’s alternate use for the umbrella – photography!

It’s not often I take a Nero like this – hiking few miles late in the day.  In fact, I can recall only one other time on the PCT, leaving Scissors Pass at 4pm to avoid the heat.  We cowboy camped on a ridge to watch the Blood Moon eclipse that night, which was awesome.  No astronomical events like that tonight, we just needed to hike a few miles to set us up for the week ahead, my final section back to Sisters OR.  It would be incredibly easy to get sucked into the vortex around Timberline Lodge – sooooo easy to stay for many days, what a great place.  

The hike today was literally a downhill stroll – we dropped to 4100 feet from just over 6000.  The top section was exposed and sandy, and I was glad we were SOBO as I wouldn’t have wanted to climb up all that sand!  

Sand in my shoe after the initial descent off Mt Hood

We then had some lovely forest walking for several miles, stopping midway to tank up with water to dry camp.  Here at Barlow Pass we’re close to a road, which is odd as when I’m solo I try to be a bit further into the woods.  However, no one has come by, and this seems like a decent location.  Can’t beat the picnic table, trash can, and clean port-a-John either!  

What is this for?? Let’s use if for food hanging!

Other than Hemlock getting stung (by a bee?) the day literally had no strife, only relaxation and a great mini hike.  Ahhhhhhh…….

Bets are that it will be foggy tomorrow morning – saw the valley covered this morning from the lodge, plus we coulda swore we saw some on the tallest pine trees in the distance as we enjoyed evening chatting at the picnic table.  It’s so warm we didn’t have to dive into our tents right after dinner!  

Gear minutiae: I chose the silver thread for this evening’s inevitable sewing repair on my shorties.  They just need to hold together for 6 more hiking days….

Health update:  legs and feet are happy again, cough is lingering but still much improved.  Chafing issue from last section is happily much improved thanks to Hemlock’s huge tube of Aquaphor – it’s great stuff, I wish I’d been able to find it in Sisters.  Never leave home without it!  

OR Day 27: 9/26/2016

Climbing Up Mt Hood

PCT Mile Marker 2094.5, Miles Hiked 12, Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge from the PCT

Only 12 miles today but with no gas in the engine (translation – I didn’t sleep well last night), climbing a total of 4400+ feet in elevation went super slooooooowly.  In the realm of 1mph for the AM climb.  Sigh.  On the other hand, the scenery continued to be spectacular today.

Mt Hood from my morning break spot

Anxiety can strike at the most inconvenient times and places.  For me, it was 12:30am after I got back into my tent after watering the leaves.  Instead of shutting my eyes and enjoying the warm night and sleep, I laid there worrying about all sorts of things, sparked off by the more immediate concern of the river ford first thing in the morning.  If only I could magically switch my brain off!  

I popped up awake and out of my tent at 5:45, and wasn’t really surprised to see Hemlock moving about as well (really, I saw her headlamp at that hour, not her!).  We were packed up and at the Muddy Creek by 7.  Skirt tucked up about my waist, and pack as waterproofed as possible, I waded in and was swiftly across – Hemlock encouraging me all the way.  The ford was really not a big deal – no surprise slippery rocks and water just above my knees at the deepest part.  

Hemlock and Pathfinder excited we made it across without taking a dunk in the very chilly water

From the other side of the river, the log tree “bridge” looked much less intimidating, but I’m still glad we chose the ford option as being safer for us.  

Scary Logs over swift moving Muddy Fork

After we got dried off and changed into dry socks, we happily set off down the scenic Ramona Falls alternate, which parallels the PCT for 2 miles.  We followed the babbling brook until the Falls, which surprised me how tall and impressive!  

Peaceful Ramona Creek

Ramona Falls

Within half a mile we had the only other ford in this section – of the Sandy River.  It ended up being a non issue as there was a reasonable log bridge across a much less deep creek.  A truly spectacular view of Mt Hood included!

Photo from Hemlock/Joan

Then….the climbing.  And more climbing.  And lovely autumn foliage along wonderfully constructed switchbacks.  And more climbing – up 2000 feet in 3.5 miles.  Not even AT-like but I was struggling.  I stopped and ate “I just need more calories/fuel!” but unfortunately not – the legs were just tired and just wouldn’t go any faster.  Oh well.  I immediately began thinking of and obsessing over contingency plans – I’d give Hemlock the reservation # for the Lodge so she could go ahead and check in, if I absolutely had to I had enough food and water to camp out, etc etc.  

Hiking down to the Zigzag River was a nice change of pace, but boy was the day heating up!  We had a great southern view of what I think is Mt Jefferson, and the views on the switchbacks during the climb of the remaining 3 miles were lovely.  Thankfully shaded 75% of the time, as it was hot in the sun, that’s for sure.  I’ve definitely been gulping down the Gatorade the past 3 days in the summer-like conditions.  

I made it to the Lodge just after 5 (when of course the store closed to pick up my resupply box), but checking in was swift and our “chalet” room of a bunk bed and shared bathrooms was perfect.  Frankly, I think we’re one of the only folks on this floor in this wing!  The bathrooms are great – there are several and each private with locks, shower and toilet.  Frankly, even more convenient than a motel room since we didn’t have to share just 1 bathroom!  We even have a sink in our room.  This must be a great set-up for folks coming to ski in the winter months.  

Room post pack explosion the next morning

I’m clean and my clothes are clean, and I’m sleeping in a bed tonight.  Bliss!  

Gear minutiae: it is so much easier, and much more pleasant, to sew clean shorties under a real light, sitting up.  Compared to laying in my tent, hoping I don’t puncture my inflatable sleeping pad with the needle, by the light of my headlamp.  

Health update:  cough is a bit worse again here at a dry 6000 feet, but nothing like it was.  It was practically gone in the moist, lower, air the past few days.  Blisters are almost nearly healed, and the larger shoes are most certainly the correct size.  Feet, except for the regular “you’re going how many miles today?”are doing much better.  Legs are a bit tired after the past few days but having a good night’s sleep and a Nero tomorrow out of here will undoubtedly help.