Mile 1696 to I-5/Hitch to Ashland, OR
Daily Mileage: 23.2
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1719.2 NoBo
It was misting once again in the morning. We could see blue sky through the scattered clouds but we weren’t too optimistic. It rained lightly on and off but we made good time with the cool weather. We passed by three thru-hikers that flipped and were going southbound now as well as another two southbound thru-hikers, Ghost Hiker and Sparky, who initially became friends on the Appalachian Trail.
As usual, we had to dodge cow poop along the trail and saw a cow with her calf run down the trail in front of us. This was the second time we ran into this scenario. It’s both cute and funny at the same time, especially because you can hear their cowbells as they vanish into the distance. Mountain cows are what Steel Toe and I have been calling them.
We sat and ate lunch as we discussed how close we were to the hitch to Ashland. We could be there tonight with only 8 miles to go. We planned on staying in town tomorrow night, but we convinced ourselves that we deserve a room for two nights after having literally walked the length of California. So we got a move on and hiked at a pace somewhere between walking and jogging to make it to the interstate at a decent time.
It was 3:30 pm and we were hitching at the on-ramp. We were excited to potentially be in town tonight and start relaxing. A young woman living North of Ashland said she’d be happy to take us to whichever motel we would be staying at. We booked a night at the Rodeway Inn since we were told on the phone by the Super 8 that they don’t rent rooms to PCT hikers. That was fine though, because the manager of the Rodeway was extremely welcoming and I was obsessed with her black chow puppy laying outside.
We did our laundry next door at the laundromat and picked up a quick dinner at the grocery store. For the rest of the night we ate and relaxed as we watched Impractical Jokers on the TV.
Zero in Ashland, OR
Daily Mileage: 0
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1719.2 NoBo
We slept in until the last minute and ran over to the lobby to fill our trays with breakfast items and bring them back to the room to eat in bed. It was sunny out so we took the bus to downtown Ashland. We stopped at the outdoor retailers to buy fuel and exchange our Darn Tough socks that had holes in them. There was a thrift store nearby so we took a look and both found Merrell fleeces for $8 each. It’s getting colder and snow is in the forecast in the next few days so we figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an extra layer.
It started raining while we were downtown so we booked it to the post office and picked up our packages. Steel Toe ordered a new pair of Altras from REI since his current ones are pushing 600 miles. I opened up the package my parents sent and was excited to see new shoes, as well as an abundance of food for my resupply. (thanks Mom and Dad!)
We picked up any remaining items we needed from the Shop ‘n Kart near the Inn and were incredibly surprised by the vast selection. It was as if we walked into a more affordable version of Whole Foods. I don’t think we have any on the East coast but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out in the future.
We grabbed takeout from the Chinese restaurant next door and topped it off with a pint each of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Our night ended with nonstop laughter as we watched Impractical Jokers.
Ashland, OR to Mile 1732.1
Daily Mileage: 12.9
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1732.1 NoBo
As my mother would say, a restful night of sleep was just what the doctor ordered. It was truly wonderful. I jumped in the shower before Steel Toe and I grabbed breakfast from the lobby to bring back to the room once again. We continued watching Impractical Jokers as we lounged in bed and enjoyed every second of warmth. It didn’t look like it was going to rain today but it was still pretty cold outside.
After we checked out we attempted to hitch just before the on-ramp to the interstate. Within a few minutes a young man pulled into the gas station and offered us a ride. He told us about the clothing company that he started called Living Leggings and handed a pair to each of us. We thanked him, especially since it was getting colder and we don’t pick up our pants from home until we reach Crater Lake in a few days.
With the wind chill the temperature was in the low 50s so we both utilized the fleeces we picked up in town. We began hiking around noon and within the first hour we ran into a dead doe lying right on trail. Steel Toe took a picture and since we had service, called the county’s Fish and Wildlife Service to let them know the situation. They were happy we notified them, especially since hunters should only be aiming for bucks.
We hiked just about 13 miles and set up camp. We were sheltered by a few trees but still close to the ridge so the wind was a little unruly. After eating dinner and sipping hot chocolate under a nearby tree that gave us some shelter, we hurried into the tent before it got too chilly. I could see the lights from a nearby town in the valley and imagined I was inside sitting by a fire with a big fluffy blanket.
Mile 1732.1 to Fish Lake Resort
Daily Mileage: 10
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1773.2 NoBo
We were expecting rain or snow this morning but it held off. It was pretty chilly last night with the wind but we could see the sun coming up over the mountains this morning. It eventually slid behind the clouds so the temperature dipped back down to the 50s. We walked on the dirt roads for a little while as they mirrored the trail. We admired the beautiful log cabins that were scattered throughout the fields.
By late morning we made it to a trailhead near a decently trafficked road. We called Hyatt Lake Resort to see if their restaurant that was a mile and a half off trail was open. Not only were they open, they offered to come pick us up. We couldn’t say no, especially because it began to rain. The cook picked us up in his small pickup truck and I rode in the cab.
We took our time drinking coffee and eating our food as we stared out the window at the lake beyond the drizzle.
Instead of hiking backward to the trail we continued North on the road that skirted Hyatt Lake. We decided we wouldn’t refuse a ride if one was offered to get us back toward trail. After about 2 miles a woman who just moved to the area with her husband picked us up and drove us to the main road. We started walking East toward the trail and within a mile we were picked up by a young guy from Latvia who was in the area to visit friends and pick mushrooms. He was headed to Fish Lake, near a cafe, which would put us ahead a couple miles but we weren’t going to turn down another hot meal.
We each ate a burger with hot soup and for dessert I savored a marion berry pie with ice cream as Steel Toe slurped a chocolate malt. We watched the rain come down outside once again and decided to hang out until about the time they closed. The two women working behind the counter were very welcoming and happy to chat with us. They told us about a wolfpack in the area that was becoming a nuisance. Just what we wanted to hear.
Since we were way ahead of schedule we decided to camp at the resort at one of the spots they allow thru-hikers to stay for free. We reluctantly headed out and setup the tent in the rain. Steel Toe got a fire going but it was raining just enough that we didn’t feel like sitting outside. We relaxed inside with our warm layers under our sleeping bags. When it got dark we watched an episode of The Americans before heading to bed.
Fish Lake Resort to Crater Lake, OR
Daily Mileage: 3
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1823 NoBo
The rain was brutal last night. We still kept dry though inside the tent. We couldn’t get the will to get moving so we slept in a little and hoped the rain would start to let up. It never did. We contemplated our options for the day. We could start hiking and potentially be in the rain and cold for the next two days until we reach Crater Lake, or we could try to hitch up that way and give ourself some leeway with the schedule. We decided to try the latter.
I was pretty fed up with the rain and wasn’t enjoying the 40 degree weather that accompanied it. I would be happier even lying in the tent as long as I was warm and dry. We packed up quickly and walked to the highway. We weren’t getting a ride right away so we started walking East. After thirty minutes, a man living nearby picked us up and even offered to bring us all the way North to Crater Lake National Park. We couldn’t refuse. He was nice enough to stop along the way at different sights in the Park.
As soon as we got there, we realized the general store at Mazama Village was closed for the season. It was raining so we started walking the road toward the Visitor’s Center. Within a few minutes we were picked up by two siblings visiting the area from Alaska. Thankfully our packages were being held at the post office. We also mailed a few items home. Afterward, we attempted to hitch again, this time to the Rim Village closer to the lake. We were picked up by an older couple that have been traveling in their van. We rode in back with another couple who also needed a ride to the lake. We learned that they were Oregon transplants originally from New England.
We walked around and the fog cleared so we had an amazing view. We hung out inside the cafe for a little while to charge our phones and get warm. The rain finally stopped but it was still cold and breezy outside considering we were at higher elevation. Everyone visiting the lake was extremely nice. Many recognized that we were thru-hiking and asked if there was anything we needed. Others congratulated us for being only a few weeks away from finishing our journey.
When we mustered up enough courage to go back outside we hiked roughly 3 miles around the lake on the West Rim Trail. It’s an alternate to the PCT and skirts the lake so I’m not sure why one would choose the less scenic option. We ventured down a side trail to Lightning Springs where there was a spring and decent tentsites. We ate as we tried to dry out the tent and then as soon as we were done we hurried inside. It’s much colder here but we’re excited that sun is in the forecast tomorrow.
Crater Lake, OR to Mile 1856.1
Daily Mileage: 15
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1856.1 NoBo
Thankfully we didn’t experience any precipitation last night. We slept in a little and actually got up around 7:30 am. We weren’t in too much of a rush since we were ahead and only planned for a half day anyway. We got back on the West Rim Trail for about 2 miles and then took a half mile side trail up to The Watchman, where there was a National Park Service fire lookout at the peak.
We had an amazing view from the top. Not only could we see all of Crater Lake, but surrounding mountains as well. Mount Shasta sat in the far distance to the South while Mount Thielsen and Diamond Peak lied to the North where we were headed. We ran into the couple we met yesterday from New England. They chatted with us for a bit on the hike down and wished us luck as we parted ways.
We continued to hike for a few miles on the West Rim Trail and decided we’d try our luck hitching to Diamond Lake Lodge when we hit the highway. After realizing that Mazama Village in the National Park was closed, we were feeling unsure moving forward about our next resupply stop, Shelter Cove Resort. Many of the places we’ve been stopping at the past few days are limiting their hours now that it’s off-season and some close completely during the month of October.
We knew if we could get to Diamond Lake, we could connect to WiFi and at least call Shelter Cove to make sure they would be open and we would be able to resupply. They said they weren’t fully stocked but they still had some options. We figured it was good enough. We ate lunch at the lodge then walked to the highway to attempt to get a hitch back to trail.
A couple picked us up after we walked a few miles and funny enough, we ran into a southbound hiker at the trail where they dropped us off. He was headed East so he slipped right into the car we came from and we wished each other luck. I assume he’ll be the last person going SoBo that we run into, and considering his timing he must not be planning on tackling the Sierra this year.
We hiked roughly 8 miles and found a great tentsite near Thielsen Creek, which is fed from the glacier on the mountain. We were at the base of the mountain and could only see part of the peak because it was covered in a thick fog. It began to sprinkle but thankfully we already had the tent and everything set up. Lying in the tent we can hear the rocks becoming unsettled higher up on the mountain and occasionally slide down. We’re far enough away to be safe, but I assume the loud crackling will wake us up throughout the night.
Mile 1856.1 to Oregon Skyline Trail
Daily Mileage: 22.2 PCT + 1 OST
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1878.3 NoBo
It was a restless night for me. Surprisingly it wasn’t the rock slides that kept me up, but the aches in my feet and legs. There’s definitely a part of me that cannot wait to sleep in a real bed without my feet aching at night. Of course I will miss this- the simplicity of the entire journey, the friendliness of strangers, the quality time outdoors. It has been a wonderful experience, but I can feel myself getting ancy for the next adventure.
Immersing back into real life will be exciting for a little while, and I can only imagine how grateful I’ll be for routine things like coffee in the morning, a homemade meal, a car to run errands, a hot shower, and most importantly a bathroom at night that I don’t have to wear a headlamp to get to.
Steel Toe and I initially wanted to get a 30 mile day in, which meant taking advantage of the daylight. The sun has been rising around 6:30 am and the dark sets in just after 7 pm now. The alarm went off once, then twice, then it was shut off altogether. We told ourselves we got ahead yesterday and could afford a lower mileage day today. It was raining out and we were also hoping for it to stop. We watched an episode of Mindhunter as we carefully ate our breakfast in the tent.
We finally began hiking at 10:30 am. There was a constant mist all day long. It created a fog so thick around the mountains that looking out at the viewpoints was like peering into the void. The forest was silent save a few birds every now and then that flew from one tree to another seeking shelter. We made good time with the easy terrain and eventually hiked 22 miles by 6 pm.
My left foot was aching in all the wrong places. Structurally it just feels worn down. I’m looking forward to taking a break from walking so many miles each day. We were faced with another decision of which route to take. Although the new PCT is supposed to be more scenic, we decided on the old route which is now the Oregon Skyline Trail. It would cut off a few miles and send us directly to Shelter Cove Resort instead of having to eventually take a mile plus side trail.
We only hiked a mile or so before picking a spot to setup camp. It was getting dark already so we didn’t waste time setting up the tent and cooking dinner. It’s cold tonight but thankfully not as unbearable as it has been in the past.
Oregon Skyline Trail to Maiden Peak Shelter
Daily Mileage: 19 OST + 8 PCT
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1914.4 NoBo
It felt good to get some decent sleep last night. I was warm in my quilt and the forest was relatively quiet. It rained throughout the night but stopped briefly for us to break down camp and pack up our belongings.
There was a light mist once again, but thankfully the sun eventually came out and warmed us up a bit. The ground was soft from the constant mist and the orange pine leaves mixed with the deep brown colored dirt formed artistic swirls that appeared like fur that belonged to the Cheshire Cat’s more sinister brother.
I passed most of the day by listening to podcasts such as American Scandal and Young Charlie. We made it to Shelter Cove Resort around 3 pm and resupplied with the small amount of food they had left. We inquired about camping there but they wanted to charge $10 per person so we opted to just hike back to the trail.
At 5 pm we hiked out and planned on getting as far as one of the lakes 7 miles up trail. When we arrived we realized we were only 3 miles or so from a shelter, so we decided to push on. We hiked in the dark for about an hour with our headlamps shining and were happy to see the cabin around 8 pm. We had it all to ourselves.
Steel Toe put on a fire for a little and we ate at the table. One of the local ski clubs built and maintains this shelter, and they even have solar lighting. We set up our pads and sleeping bags upstairs in the loft. It was nice to fall asleep without listening to the sounds of the forest.
Maiden Peak Shelter to Bend, OR
Daily Mileage: 11.2 PCT + 6 FSR
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1925.6 NoBo
Even in the shelter it was cold. We woke up in the dark and ate breakfast at the table while we waited for the sun to come up. We started hiking around 6:45 when it was just light enough to see without the aid of a headlamp. We could see frost on the pine trees so we knew the temperature must have dropped last night.
My left foot starting hurting again within the first 5 miles. We took a break at the top of a climb to snack and give myself a little relief. It didn’t last long though because our hands started going numb. We hiked as quickly as we could. Steel Toe and I looked at each other and let out our complaints. We were tired and cold, very cold. And I was in pain. Was this worth it? We’re so close to finishing but we aren’t enjoying ourselves any longer.
We decided we would look at the map and see what our options were. Maybe we didn’t have to hike for another two full days in the miserable cold. We found a forest service road that led to a paved road where we could potentially get a ride North to Bend. When we reached it we realized it wasn’t well traveled. A few cars passed by, but within twenty minutes a man pulled over on his way North to Sunriver.
We popped into a coffee shop to get a hot beverage then walked to the highway to hitch. After ten minutes two guys with a trailer pulled over. We got into Bend and started looking for a place to stay. After a rude encounter at the Cascade Lodge, we walked next door to Sonoma Lodge and were pleasantly surprised that it was even cheaper.
We got one errand out of the way and went to the laundromat then picked up a few items for dinner at the Grocery Outlet. We couldn’t get over the relief that the heat brought us in the room. It was a much needed night of comfort.
Zero in Bend, OR
Daily Mileage: 0
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1925.6 NoBo
I cannot express how amazing it felt to wake up in a comfortable bed with my head buried in a pillow. We lounged in bed for quite some time, eating the breakfast items we bought from the store and watching some television.
We eventually rolled out of bed and walked to the Old Mill District fifteen minutes away. Our first stop was Avid Brewing Co. to try a few ciders. I’m not usually a cider fan, but the one I chose was delicious and almost tasted like a sour. We got a text from our friend Kevin who we met on trail in the early days. He lives in Bend and was on his way to pick us up.
We all went to Parilla where we ate huge burritos. We chatted about the trail and all of the friends we’ve met, and Kevin announced that since he had to get off trail in Tehachapi this year, he and his wife would tackle the trail next year from the very beginning. Shortly after we stopped by Boneyard Beer and I tried one of their double IPAs. We said goodbye to Kevin afterward and wished him luck getting ready for the trail next year.
Steel Toe and I checked out 10 Barrel Brewing for a few of their sours and then headed toward the Old Mill District once again. On our way as we walked through a residential area we spotted a buck munching on some grass in someone’s front yard. We laughed about it. Dinner included a few pierogis from a food truck, Arby’s, and some snacks from the store. We lounged in bed for the rest of the night as we watched The Martian.
Zero in Bend, OR
Daily Mileage: 0
Total PCT Mileage: 505.5 SoBo + 1925.6 NoBo
Yet another day of sleeping in. It was completely called for so I don’t feel bad one bit. When Steel Toe and I woke up, we lounged in bed searching the internet on our phones for apartments. His job begins in December so we have less than one month to find a place and move in.
We headed out around noon and walked to the downtown area for lunch. A bunch of locals recommended a Thai restaurant called Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats, and boy was it delicious. The green curry I ordered brought me back to my visit to Chiang Mai a few years ago. We spent the rest of the day walking around Bend, eating ice cream, and resupplying for our second to last stretch.