01 Aug

PCT – Day 31 (31 Jul 18) – Cascade Locks

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Miles 497.4 – 505.6 >>> 8.2 (13.2 km)

We woke up very early (well before six) and were keen to make it to town for food and showers.

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Watching the sun rise higher.

For some reason though, neither one of us got into our stride and the trail stretched out like a rubber band and we felt like we weren’t getting anywhere.

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Just east of Greenleaf Pond.

We were indeed so slow that we began to wonder whether we were still on the right trail. As it turned out though, we weren’t really that slow, just slow, and covered the eight miles in about three hours. Somehow it felt like a lifetime though.

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Finally made it to the Evergreen highway 14.

As we stepped down on to the asphalt, we turned around and looked at the sign saying we’d walked 500 miles – and it felt good. Our weariness left us and we both felt like walking 500 more.

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The Proclaimers would be proud.

We walked a little further and suddenly stood in front of the Bridge of the Gods – our gateway to Oregon.

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The Bridge of the Gods.

The bridge does not have a dedicated pedestrian lane, so us hikers have to walk on the road, but all the local traffic, including buses and 18-wheelers, were incredibly nice and considerate and we didn’t feel unsafe at all.

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Crossing over the Columbia River.

The fun thing is that the roadway is covered with grating, rather than tarmac, and when you walk over the bridge, you can actually see through, between your feet, all the way down to the river. I stretched out my arms and felt a little like flying into Oregon.

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Trouble looking excitedly towards Cascade Locks.

Once on the other side we embraced and congratulated each other for making it this far. The weather was good and we were on our way to get breakfast. It was glorious.

Even though there is the Bridgeside restaurant right next to the bridge, we decided to check out town first. We made it to the Cascade Inn and ordered Omelette.

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Town food. Yay!

It wasn’t overly amazing but decent and we gobbled it all down fairly quickly. Here, we also ran into Tom again, who was about to hike a stretch with his wife. The two were leaving today though, whereas we’d decided on a night in town. Not sure we’d be able to catch up to them.

After that we went to the post office where Trouble could pick up new shoes that had been sent there by her daughter. I had made the mistake and sent my new shoes to the Cascade Locks Ale House … which, bizarrely, was closed on Tuesdays.

However, when I walked over to have a look, there was a sign saying that people wanting to pick up their mail could do so at 11 am. Thank you very much.

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New vs. old.

For me the problem had been that I needed shoes just when Altra switched their Lone Peak model from iteration 3.5 to 4.0 – and I couldn’t get either one in my size. I’d contacted Altra directly, but they’d just replied that I had to wait till the 4.0s were officially released and that they couldn’t help me. Thus, I had to order different ones and tried the Olympus 3. As it turned out, a terrible choice for me, and I suffered through most of Oregon from blisters and other nasty foot problems, until I could finally get some Lone Peak 4.0s in Ashland.

Anyway, we also ran into Twist and Army again and decided to try and get a hotel room together to make it a little cheaper for all of us. We decided on the Bridge of the Gods Motel and RV Park where we could get a four bed, two room suite. They didn’t have it ready until three in the afternoon though and we had to kill some time.

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Hanging out like proper hiker trash.

Trouble and I went to the grocery store and got some drinks and hung out in front of the store for a while, but then caught up with Army and Twist again to go get lunch at the Bridgeside restaurant.

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Great views. Great food.

We spent quite a bit of time there, until we finally checked into our hotel room, where we did the hiker deed and took long, hot showers in turn.

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Great place to stay: The Bridge of the Gods Motel.

We were somewhat de-smelled by 6:30 pm and Twist, Trouble, and I decided it was time for an ice cream. Army stayed behind with ice packs on his shins, because he was having trouble with them again.

The three of us made our way down to the Locks of Dogs & Treats and got ourselves some ice cream and then hung out in front of the shop in the colourful plastic chairs and watched the traffic whizz by.

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This is what a well fed and watered hiker looks like.

An hour later we got hungry and went out looking for somewhere to eat. We got the tip to try out the local brewery and were happy to give it a whirl. What a fantastic tip that was.

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Enjoying the great outdoors at the Thunder Island Brewery.

The place is really great and has outside seating next to the river. They offer their own beer, which is great, and truly excellent food.

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Trouble, Twist, Army, and Rogue.

We had a lot of fun and stayed late, until it was dark (probably around 10 pm-ish).

It was a truly fantastic day. Thank you all.

02 Aug

PCT – Day 32 (01 Aug 18) – Avoiding the Vortex … Mostly

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Miles 505.6 – 513.8 >>> 8.2 (13.2 km)

We started the day with coffee from the little machine in our room and hung out for Army’s wife to turn up, who was coming over from Colorado to spend a few days with her husband. She arrived around eight o’clock and we all decided to go for breakfast together and decided on the Bridgeview again.

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I was too hungry to take a picture before. So here’s a pic after.

We hung out there for quite a while and eventually had to hurry to check out of our hotel room in time. We said goodbye to Army and his lovely wife since they wanted to spend some time on the coast. This was the last time that I saw Army and later learnt that he never actually made it back on to the trail, because his shin splints were actually stress fractures in both legs. Really sorry, Army, hope you can try again another year.

Twist, Trouble, and I still weren’t ready to return to the trail and decided that it would be a good idea to go for yet another meal. We tried it at the Thunder Island Brewery again, because their food had been so good the day before. We arrived just when they were about to open and settled down on their outside furniture. Since we had our backpacks with us this time, they asked us whether we were PCT hikers. We answered in the affirmative and were told about their wonderful way of doing trail magic for hikers. Their customers can purchase a drinks coaster that are then collected in a glass cylinder mounted on the wall. A thru-hiker can then come, grab a coaster, and receives a free beer for it. The cool thing is that people write messages of encouragement or their social media handle on to the coasters, so that it becomes even more personal.

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Awesome way for a business to do trail magic.

Naturally we all grabbed a coaster and enjoyed a free cold one.

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Yes, I do look like Ray Charles.

It was real nice and relaxed to hang out there and we really weren’t keen to leave the pleasantness of Cascade Locks. We excused our staying there for longer by waiting until lunch time to order food, because …

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Guess what: another meal!

Eventually we had to drag our tired old bodies away from the brewery though and made our way over to the grocery store for resupply.

After that we also went over to the Ale House to drop a few things off into their hiker box. The owner showed us into their back room area that is reserved for hikers and we sort of felt obliged to sit down for a while. We were handed a menu and in next to no time I had also ordered a pizza. Even though I offerer Trouble and Twist to eat multiple times, I basically finished it off by myself. I think I’ve had seven full meals over the last 30 hours, plus various snacks and ice cream, and coffee, and beer. Yes, hiker hunger’s definitely set in. We finally made it back on trail by about four in the afternoon.

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Trouble celebrating that we didn’t vortex … too much.

From the start we were on a moderately steep up, going at around 450 feet per mile. Generally nothing too taxing, but after all this good food, it was slow going again. We took our time though, actually feeling good, and taking plenty of little breaks.

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Looking back at Washington.

The views were beautiful and we enjoyed the atmosphere in the evening light.

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Amazing views down into the valley.

Eventually we made it to a spot a little off trail, somewhere a bit after Teakettle Spring. It was a great site and we went to bed quite happy and pleased with ourselves.

03 Aug

PCT – Day 33 (02 Aug 18) – Fog

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Miles 513.8 – 533.9 >>> 20.1 (32.3 km)

The day began with the remainder of the up, we hadn’t finished the night before and walked straight into a burn area. As we got higher, we walked into clouds and the fog turned the bleak burn into a magical wonderland where you would expect to see gnomes and fairies to peak out from behind a tree at any moment.

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Patch caught up with us in the early morning.
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Amazing play of light.

The burn ended after about four miles and we emerged from the forest. The fog lifted a little and the clouds began to part and we had a wonderful spectacle as we were wandering along the ridgeline towards Wahtum Lake.

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The sun is peaking through.

It was indeed so beautiful that we decided that it was time for coffee, and we stopped for a brew at eight.

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Trouble enjoying her first hot coffee on trail and cookies for second breakfast.

As we were sitting there, enjoying the cool morning weather, the clouds began to break up and the sun came out.

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A toast to the sun, the great view, and the good company (and yes, the little bulge behind the clouds, just above my coffee cup is probably Mount Adams).

Eventually Twist caught up with us and we decided to hike together for the rest of the day. So even the best coffee break had to end eventually and we were back on our feet by nine.

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Wahtum Lake.

The land provided for a third breakfast on the way and we plucked and nibbled on some wonderful berries.

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Blueberry or Huckleberry?
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Salmonberry.

We even ran into a couple of fellow Australian hikers from Canberra and we talked for a bit.

I also ran into a local couple who were out on a day hike and they told me that upcoming Timberline Lodge was great, but only the breakfast buffet really worth it. So we had to decide on how far to go today and settled on doing fewer miles today so that we’d arrive there tomorrow evening, rather than for lunch.

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Wildflowers on the western flank of Indian Mountain.

This gave us ample time to enjoy the scenery.

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Smiling for Mount Hood.

Around five we decided to set up camp at a small site next to Salvation Spring, just above Lost Lake, and settled down for the night. It was nice to stop early. A group of NOBOs arrived a little later too, but had no interest to mingle and so we just sat around, enjoying dinner, until some rain drove us into our tents and hammock.

All in all, it had been another amazingly beautiful day.

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Two tents and a hammock.
04 Aug

PCT – Day 34 (03 Aug 18) – Timberline Lodge

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Miles 533.9 – 555.7 >>> 21.8 (35.1 km)

Klang, shuffle shuffle, bang. That’s how our day started around half three in the morning when the group of NOBOs, who’d shared our campsite, decided to break camp – without any consideration for us.

We stayed in our sleeping bags though and only got up around six. We had breakfast, packed up, and left. Twist stayed behind for a more leisurely morning. Trouble and I were on the trail by around seven and ran straight into thick fog, which sometimes made the landscape look bleak, …

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Dense fog.

… and sometimes mysterious and beautiful.

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Mood lighting.

At around twelve, we reached the Muddy Fork creek and did a log crossing, which was fun. Twist also caught up to us and we took turns taking photographs of each other.

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Trouble enjoying a spot of tree hugging.

Shortly after we had to decide to stay on the PCT or to take the parallel alternate trail up to Ramona Falls. We decided to go the alternate, since it was basically the same distance and we were keen to see how good a “tourist” trail was compared to our beloved PCT.

Turned out that the tourist trail was quite beautiful and the path itself wonderful to walk on, since it was wide, well graded, and filled with fine gravel.

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Up to Ramona Falls.

We took pictures of each other in front of an impressive rock wall, only to find out that the rock wall doesn’t look at all impressive on the pictures.

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Posing for some rocks.

That doesn’t matter though. It was fun anyway.

Eventually we made it to Ramona Falls and it was quite beautiful.

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Ramona Falls.

I spent a little extra time, tying duct tape around my ankles to try and keep the band aids in place that were covering the sore spots on my heels from my bad foot wear. Some of the tourists stared at me mystified.

Soon after (being back on the PCT proper), we reached Sandy River and had to do another crossing. I just jumped over it from rock to rock, but the two ladies were much smarter and found a bridge made of drift wood.

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Crossing the Sandy River.

The trail began to rise a bit more sharply from here on out and it was immensely impressive to imagine how the landscape had been formed by rain and snow and volcanic activity.

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Looking up Mount Hood.
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Standing 500 ft (150 m) above Sandy River.

The scenery remained quite rocky and it was amazing to hike through this incredible landscape.

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Trouble looking quite small in this majestic landscape.

The higher we got the better the views.

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The gorge carved by the Zigzag River.

We crossed the Zigzag River …

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We were quite glad that most of the snow melt had thundered through here before we came.

… and on the other side were finally able to see the summit of Mount Hood.

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A glimpse of the summit.

Even though we were really keen to make it to Timberline Lodge and get some town food into us, I still had time to enjoy the wildflowers from time to time.

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Lost a penny?

We really enjoyed hiking through this area. It was really quite spectacular at times.

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Looking up Zigzag River.

We reached the ski areas and therefore civilisation at just after six. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but it was also nice to have phone service again.

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Plenty of communication.

Soon after we could see the roof of the lodge peeking out and we imagined to smell the food already.

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The roof tops of Timberline Lodge.

A sign told us how far we’d come and it felt good.

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No, the miles are not exact, since the trail changes a little every year, but who cares?

We were really keen to get some food though and we quickly walked around towards the main entrance.

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Timberline Lodge.

Just out of curiosity, we checked whether they had a room for us, but they were fully booked. Later I found out that the cheapest room would’ve been $255 per night anyway, which neither of us would’ve been willing to fork out. It was nice dreaming about it for a moment though.

We looked around the various restaurants and decided on the Blue Ox Bar, where we ordered beer and pizza.

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Twist looking sad because there was no vegan food to be had.

Poor Twist couldn’t get anything vegan though and left Trouble and I to it,to find something more to her liking. The pizza was delicious anyway.

Trouble and I were still hungry though and made our way up to the top floor, where we had seconds at the Ram’s Head Bar & Restaurant.

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The lodge’s central area with restaurants at the top and below.

So we had some more food and I enjoyed a good glass of Whiskey to celebrate the day.

We had to leave when it got dark though to find a spot for the night. We walked outside and were quite surprised by how cold it was and we quickly walked down towards the parking lot and soon found a spot in between some trees to set up camp.

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Camping just behind the parking lot.

It was surprisingly nice and quiet and hidden from the world around us. It was good.

05 Aug

PCT – Day 35 (04 Aug 18) – Little Crater Lake

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Miles 555.7 – 576.0 >>> 20.3 (32.7 km)

My day began around six o’clock. Trouble had been up for a while and had already made it to the restrooms and back before I was even awake.

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Trouble’s hammock in front of my tent.

We both took time to call our respective families, before we packed up. The connection was good enough that I managed to video call my family who, by happy coincidence, was together in one place. It was really nice to see them all.

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Still, better than a dirty phone booth.

We packed our things up and made our way to the main building.

We were quite eager to get to the fabled breakfast buffet, but it turned out that we were too early. Thankfully the lodge provided free coffee in the main lobby, which pacified us somewhat.

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Trouble enjoying a mug of wakey-wakey juice.

At 7:30 am the doors finally opened and we scored a nice table with view on to Mount Jefferson in the distance.

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The sliver of light on the right is Trouble’s face.
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There is Mount Jefferson …
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… and there’s our food. Well, at least the first plate.

The food was quite excellent and there was plenty of it. Trouble managed only two plates before waving the white flag, which annoyed her greatly. I put away a bit more and managed three. When we finally surrendered our table we walked away stuffed and satisfied.

We made ourselves comfortable back in the lobby and aided digestion with a few more cups of coffee. Eventually though we felt like eating something more (yes, that’s how it goes with food on the trail), and left to find a convenience store or something.

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View from the front entrance.

We didn’t find a store, but a collection of vending machines in the Wy’East Day Lodge, which is a modern building next to the main lodge. We spent a ridiculous $3 each on a small can of soda and a chocolate bar, before we realised that a resupply from here would be financial suicide. We decided to be frugal instead. We also met another thru-hiker there, 18 years of age and a really pleasant fellow, called The Kid. He didn’t just share some of his extra food with Trouble, but also initiated us into the wondrous world of pine cones, rocks, and leafs and their pros and cons, when utilising them as toilet paper.

Eventually we managed to leave the lodge at around 10:20 am and hit the trail.

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A last view on to the parking lot.

The trail drops 2,000 feet (600 m) over five miles (8 km) down to the Mt. Hood highway 35.

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Crossing highway 35.

The trail on the other side was really quite gorgeous and went through forested area with beautiful views of Mount Hood.

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Beautiful trail …
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… with stunning views.

When being able to look back like this, it always amazes me how far a pedestrian can actually travel in one day – not that we’d even done an amazing amount of miles.

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Wandering through awesome forest.

We were already thinking about dinner and setting up camp, when we came across a sign to a side trail saying “Little Crater Lake”. Something stirred up from the depths of my cluttered old brain and I thought we should check it out. The lake was formed by an underground spring that washed out the above lying rock and is always freezing cold (around 34°F (+1°C))and has a rich turquoise colour.

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Wandering through awesome forest.
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It’s really quite blue.

The lake was quite busy with tourists and we ended up telling our story to a couple who were staying at the nearby camp ground. They gave us the tip to actually go to the camp ground, since there was a hand pump with good drinking water. So we walked the few yards over and filled our bottles. As we were pumping away, the lady of the couple we’d talked to earlier, came to see us once more and handed us a small pack of strawberries and apologised that she didn’t have more to give us. Why, what a gift to give. Thank you very much, indeed.

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Walking back from the camp ground.

It was already seven when we left and we didn’t really feel like walking a lot further. So we just walked another thirty minutes to Timothy Lake and set up camp at the water’s edge.

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Beautiful site at Timothy Lake.

We sat by the water for a while, saw an otter swim by, and watched the sun disappear behind the hills across the lake.

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Perfect location …
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… with amazing view even from within my tent.

Sadly though, the peaceful views didn’t translate into a peaceful evening. There’s also a campsite across the lake that is accessible by car and is also suitable for groups – and it was Saturday. We heard drums and shouting and singing until we fell asleep.

06 Aug

PCT – Day 36 (05 Aug 18) – 600 Miles

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Miles 576.0 – 600.6 >>> 24.6 (39.6 km)

I woke up at our usual six, whereas Trouble took a little longer today. I’d packed up quietly and watched the sunrise as Trouble tried to catch up.

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Sunrise over Timothy Lake.

The view was stunning, but it was also freezing cold, and I was really glad to be able to wrap myself into my puffy. We left the lake and made our way through the dense forest.

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Magical forest.

As we crossed Skyline Road soon after, we were amazed by the rather grandiose trail sign that greeted us on the other side.

On second thought, we decided that it was actually perfectly appropriate for us.

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Just in case you didn’t know where to continue.

It did warm up in the end and at around 9:40 am we stopped at a dirt road (Wilson Road) for coffee and a bite to eat and were quite happy to sit in the sun.

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Coffee stop on Wilson Road.

We were back on trail for only minutes when I heard a commotion in front of me and saw a family of deer crash out of the undergrowth. They didn’t seem overly concerned by our presence and only moved off when we came a lot closer.

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Curious deer.

I felt excellent and sped up a little and left Trouble behind. I didn’t want to get too far ahead though and felt like a break anyway and stopped at the junction to the spring, before getting to Warm Springs River. Once Trouble caught up with me, we moved to a flat spot down the little spur trail to settle down for a little afternoon nap. However, we barely had time to get comfortable when we heard voices approaching and the three girls Pokerface, Jack the Ripper, and Full Moon we’d shared a ride into Trout Lake with, came around the corner and were quite ready for a break too.

We actually spent well over an hour there and had a great chat with the girls. Eventually though, we had to get going. We said goodbye and got underway. We had six miles of up in front of us and wanted to get that done to enjoy the late afternoon.

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View from the North Pinhead Butte.

We reached the top around 3:30 pm, which was great, but Trouble didn’t feel too chipper and needed an infusion of food before being ready to keep going. Soon after we got going again, we entered an old logging area that was covered in beautiful wildflowers.

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Signs of logging and wildflowers.

We made it down the hill to Trooper Spring to top up our water supply, but it wasn’t the best and I decided to filter.

By that time we were quite willing to call it a day, but we just entered a burn area and it was difficult to find a place with healthy trees for Trouble to suspend her hammock from.

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Mile 600.6. Great little spot.

We did find a pretty good one in the end though and were glad to hit the pillows.

07 Aug

PCT – Day 37 (06 Aug 18) – Olallie Lake

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Miles 600.6 – 617.3 >>> 16.7 (26.9 km)

We were awake early, but stayed in bed a little longer, because we felt a bit lazy. We made it on to the trail by around seven.

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Jude Lake.

It was only seven miles to our next town stop: Olallie Lake. Well, not actually a town stop, although there will be a shop where we’ll be able to get some food and resupply.

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Somewhere between Jude and Triangle Lake.

I arrived first at around 9:30 am and waited with beer and coffee for Trouble to arrive.

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Olallie Lake Resort.

We sat on a bench for a while, relaxed, and enjoyed the gorgeous view of Mount Jefferson.

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Cheers, Mount Jefferson.

Eventually we willed our lazy bones into an upright position and checked out the store for resupply. It was crazy expensive, but had everything we needed.

Later on, the three girls (Pokerface, Jack the Ripper, and Full Moon) arrived, plus a few more hikers, including The Kid.

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Catching sunshine and cold feet.

We hung out on the jetty for a while and dunked our dirty feet into the fabulously cold water – before we read the sign not to do it because the lake is the drinking water supply for the Resort. Terribly sorry.

Later on we heard that a couple of trail angels had set up shop in one of the cabins and were doing trail magic for a whole week. Amazing.

So we walked over and met Trash Panda and her partner Broken Leg, who offered hot dogs, bananas, and cool drinks. Fabulous. Thank you so very much.

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Tell hikers that there’s food, and they gather.
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Broken Leg and Trash Panda. Thanks so much.

We spent quite a bit of time there, talking, eating, and enjoying company. Later we were told that they would serve Mexican food for dinner and we were all invited to stay. So generous. However, Trouble and I were both keen to keep going and decided to escape the vortex and leave. We managed to get out by two.

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Just south of Upper Lake.

The afternoon hike was wonderful and we walked through some extraordinary scenery.

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West of Horseshoe Lake.

Then we were on a steep incline and had to do about 1,500 feet (450 m) over three miles (5 km),up to 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of elevation.

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Climbing up to Park Butte.

The up didn’t feel so bad, since the views were so amazing and we stopped frequently to take pictures and appreciate the views.

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The higher we got, the more snow fields we saw.
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We even had to cross some.

I waited for Trouble just below the highest point, because I wanted to go to the top and stay there. She agreed and so we kept going.

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Yes, that’s a bag of chips in my pack.

Well, the view at the top was spectacular, but nowhere to set up camp. So we kept going, waiting for somewhere with a decent view.

Low and behold, we found a spectacular site about a mile down the hill, a bit south of Sprague Lake, just before crossing the creek.

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In the shadow of Mount Jefferson.

We set up tent and hammock, and got dinner ready, before we finally went to bed. Yet another marvelous day. Thank you.

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Room with a view.
08 Aug

PCT – Day 38 (07 Aug 2018) – Three Fingered Jack

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Miles 617.3 – 644.8 >>> 27.5 (44.3 km)

We got up early enough to enjoy our breakfast to a wonderful sunrise, at around six.

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Gorgeous sunrise.

We packed up and were under way by about 6:30 am and were still able to enjoy the colors of the morning light.

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Mount Jefferson bathed in morning red.

Throughout the day we kept running into a British couple we’d met a few days earlier: Columbus and Blue Bear. It was fun to spend some time with them, especially since Columbus and I were enjoying a wonderful Aussie-Pommy banter with plenty of friendly give and take.

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Russell Lake and Mount Jefferson.

We came some wonderful little meadows with gorgeous wildflowers that were glowing in all sorts of colors.

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Beautiful wildflowers, just south of Bays Lake.

Shortly after though, we entered yet another burn area and vegetation became sparse.

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Plenty of old burns in this area.

We had a few water crossings to do that tested my agility, but it was nothing too taxing. Only Trouble got wet feet occasionally, because of her limited stride length, when the rocks in the creek beds were too far apart.

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Trouble crossing Russell Creek.

We reached the 1,000 km point at around 9:30 am and were actually hiking with Blue Bear and Columbus at the time. I’d packed out a couple of tiny red wine bottles from the shop at Olallie Lake and we all had a toast for the occasion. Trouble wasn’t really into drinking and bequeathed her bottle to the Brits who drank it gratefully.

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1,000 kilometers: done.

The 1,000 mark was in the middle of a recent burn area and it was all very bleak and dusty, so we didn’t sit down there and moved on quickly.

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The burn area around Jeff Creek.

It was a few minutes later, when I came around a bend in the road when I got startled by the growl of a big cat nearby. I stopped immediately and looked around, but couldn’t see anything. Probably the closest I’d come to a Mountain Lion.

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Looking down on to Hunts Lake (Hanks Lake to the left.)

Blue Bear and Columbus eventually left us behind, because they were hiking much faster than us. Trouble and I kept enjoying the stunning scenery.

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Happy hiker in front of Mount Jefferson.

We kept wondering how it was possible that we’d read in other hiker’s journals that Oregon was boring. So far, Oregon had been nothing but absolutely stunning.

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Always a change of scenery.

We kept hiking into the evening.

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Sunset over the Willamette National Forest.

When we thought the day was over (it was already past eight o’clock), we began our ascend of Three Fingered Jack. It’s an ancient and extinct shield volcano that is highly eroded and makes for some really quite spectacular scenery.

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Three Fingered Jack.

It was incredible to be walking up and along the ridge. Towards the end, where the trail begins to switch-back up to the top of the ridgeline, I perceived some small white dots. As I looked closer, I realized that they were mountain goats and got really excited. Trouble and I had been very disappointed to not have seen any in the Goat Rocks Wilderness and were keen to finally see some on the trail.

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Yes, the small white dots are mountain goats.

I turned around to tell Trouble, but she was quite a bit behind me, and I had to shout. However, she couldn’t understand what I was saying and assumed I was just amazed by the scenery. So I was quite disappointed by her apparent indifference, until she came closer and realised what I was actually pointing at.

Then, we hiked up the last few feet up to ridge and were greeted by an absolutely spectacular sunset on the other side. Smoke from the wildfires was hovering over the horizon and turned the sunset into a fantastic spectacle in ruby red.

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Astonishing sunset through the wildfire smoke.

We sat there for about twenty minutes, until the sun was behind the horizon.

Then we suddenly realised that we still had to find a camp site and set up for the night. We were lucky and found a great spot only about 500 feet (150 m) further down the trail. It was a little grove of pine trees, and in its midst was an established campsite, just big enough for one tent, but plenty of choice for Trouble to sling her hammock.

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Camp site between Porcupine Peak and Three Fingered Jack.

Shortly after we’d set up, Blue Bear and Columbus arrived, and later another NOBO as well. But they had to set up somewhere to the side and below us, since there wasn’t space. We warned them of the mountain goat tracks we’d seen down there during the twilight, but they ended up not having any intruders during the night.

This day’s been so rich of experiences and full of adventure and things that happened, that it’s quite difficult for me to believe that it all happened in just one day.

What a truly extraordinary day.

09 Aug

PCT – Day 39 (08 Aug 18) – Sisters and Bend

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Miles 644.8 – 651.7 >>> 6.9 (11.1 km)

It’s a town day, hurray. This is always something that gets us going early, but for some reason Trouble sort of slept in and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up. So I packed up my things quietly and then waited for her to get up. When she did get up, she wasn’t very pleased that I’d let her sleep, but joked that I’d probably tried to quietly leave her behind.

Once Trouble had packed up her belongings we said goodbye to Blue Bear and Columbus, who’d got up late too, and were on the trail by about seven.

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Still walking away from Mount Jefferson.

It was beautiful again to walk into the morning. As we walked over and around the western ridgeline, we saw more mountain goats gathered on the western slope, which put us into an even better mood.

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Not visible, but up there were more mountain goats.

The rest of the morning was quite gorgeous, even though we were mostly hiking through an old burn area. However, it was old enough that there was already plenty of green growing again and the trail wasn’t sooty and charred any more.

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Mount Washington lurking from within the wildfire smoke.

As we were getting closer to highway 20, the scenery changed a little and opened up to a more open forest with plenty of grassy areas in between.

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About two miles north of highway 20.

As we got down to the trailhead parking area, Trouble took a quick pit stop at the outhouse, before we made our way to the road to set up shop.

To our surprise, we found that Blue Bear and Columbus were still there (they’d overtaken us earlier), along with a whole bunch of other hikers. My thought was immediately that we’d probably have a long wait ahead of us, but Trouble was uber-positive as usual – and she was right.

Seconds after we arrived, the whole group came back across the road, all smiles and joviality, because Salty had had enough of waiting and had called a limousine service to pick them up.

This meant we had the road to ourselves, and within just a few minutes, a couple of uni students on their way to a section hike stopped, and gave us a rather speedy ride into the little town of Sisters. Thanks a lot.

Once in town, Trouble and I steered immediately towards a diner and ordered food. Hmm.

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The Gallery Restaurant & Bar in Sisters.

We were already tucking in, when a stretched limo pulled up and the other hikers emerged and entered the same diner. Naturally we made fun of them for coming so late.

Eventually we had to say goodbye though, since Trouble and I had decided to hitch into the bigger town of Bend, about twenty miles further down the highway. We walked down to the end of town and again, within minutes, had a ride from a couple trail angles, whose son was hiking NOBO this year.

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Thanks a lot for the ride.

As usual when coming to town, the first thing we did was go get food. We got comfortable in The Original Pine Tavern and ordered burgers, beer, and lemonades. It was great.

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Juicy burger at the Pine Tavern.

After that, we checked out a few accommodation options and settled on the Motel West Bend, which was cheap and clean and quiet. We even received a special hiker rate and were really happy there.

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Motel West Bend.

Once we’d settled down and had cleaned ourselves, it was already time again to go in search of more food.

We ended up at the Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House, where I devoured an excellent Reuben sandwich and washed it down with some beers. Life is good.

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Good food at the Deschutes Brewery.

Later we went for a little walk through the Drake Park along the Mirror Pond to aid digestion. On the way back we stopped at the Bend Brewing Company and settled down on the outside patio. I ordered beer and Trouble went for a root beer float. The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm, and there was no more hiking to do. How wonderful.

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Lounging lazily on the patio.

Eventually we called it a day though, went to the Safeway shopping for night supplies and were in bed by about eight.

I finished the day with ice cream and another locally brewed beer.

Clearly I’m drinking too much, but the calories are excellent and it’s fun.

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Why yes, I ate the whole tub.
10 Aug

PCT – Day 40 (09 Aug 18) – Big Lake Youth Camp

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Miles 651.7 – 657.5 >>> 5.8 (9.3 km)

The day began with us both being keen on breakfast, and so we made our way to The Breakfast Club on NE Greenwood Avenue. After that we made our way to the Safeway supermarket for resupply, and then returned to the hotel to repackage everything.

We went out once more though, down to Walgreens and I picked up a super cheep buzz cutter, because my hair was getting a bit too long and shaggy, and I really wanted to cut it before getting back on trail.

Back at the hotel I did the deed, while Trouble enjoyed the last minutes of the luxury of a real bed.

We checked out and made our way back to the Deschutes Brewery, where we’d been the day before, and enjoyed a great lunch on their outside patio. I enjoyed pizza and Trouble went for the Reuben sandwich I’d had the evening before.

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Piiiiizzzzzzaaaaa.

It was nice sitting there and watching the city life waft by, but eventually we couldn’t delay any longer and had to go. Since we didn’t really trust to get an easy hitch out of this relatively large town, we’d decided to take the bus back to Sisters and then try to hitch from there. We made it just in time to the bus terminal. The signage was a bit confusing and we were glad that we walked into the Greyhound terminal, where we got the right information and bought tickets from a very nice man at the counter. We then walked out and jumped on to the bus, which was just about to leave at 1:00 pm.

In Sisters, we treated ourselves to one last cold drink and then walked out to the end of town and stuck our thumbs out.

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Shedding weight. Felt good without all that hair in my face.

We weren’t standing there for very long, when an elderly couple in their pick-up truck stopped and offered us a ride. They told us that they were regularly ferrying hikers and indeed picked up another group from where they dropped us off.

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Nice, flat terrain.

It felt good to be back on trail. After just a few yards, we came across the 2,000-miles-to-go sign, but were quite content that, today, we’d only do 5.8.

We came across a few NOBOs who told us about upcoming trail magic. As usual I was a bit more skeptical about it than Trouble, but was pleasantly surprised to find two coolers at the side of the trail. One with sodas and one with beer. And they were still cold-ish. Thanks so much, Packman.

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Packman Pete’s magical boxes.
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Delighted to have cool drinks on a hot day.

Trouble took a root beer and I went for a Dr Pepper. We sat on the coolers for a while and enjoyed the drinks. Then it was time to hike on. We didn’t get far though, because just a few hundred yards later we came to the little parking area, where the trail crosses the Old Santiam Wagon Road, and were greeted by a young lady and her blind dog, who offered us peaches and an opportunity to pet her pooch. It was so nice. Thank you very much.

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Double trail magic. What a day.

Eventually we made it to the turn off to Big Lake Youth Camp. Even though we hadn’t even hiked six miles and had trail magic twice, we were terribly tired and weary and were complaining the entire three quarter mile to the camp about how far we still had to go.

Once there, we were amazed at how huge the camp is and to how much trouble they go to accommodate hikers. It’s truly incredible.

First we had to register and got a name tag that we had to wear in camp. Naturally, I got misspelled as Rouge, which was cause for much hilarity to Trouble.

After the registration, we were directed to the hiker A-frame that was built specifically to host PCT hikers. It’s got a kitchen, laundry facilities, and two showers and toilets.

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The hiker A-frame.
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A massive “thank you” to the generous sponsors.

On top of that, they feed any hiker who comes along – three times a day. And they’re really not stingy with the food. It’s amazing. The evening we were there was pizza night and we were ushered through the dining hall before the camp kids had their turn.

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Not just pizza, but also fresh fruit. Wow!

We had tables outside behind the building and were also given cold, fresh water to wash everything down.

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Hungry hikers in a row.

After dinner, we were shown where we were allowed to set up camp for the night. We had to walk past the boat ramp and their repair yard and soon found a nice little spot at the water’s edge. It was warm enough and we decided to try our first night of cowboy camping. For a change, I hung my food bag to deter the local chipmunks from getting too greedy and fat, and then we settled down for the night and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over Big Lake.

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Phew. Don’t know how this can keep happening, but it was yet another amazing day. Thank you PCT.

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Gorgeous sunset.