Day 40 – 44 (Bend to crescent lake on Oregon Skyline Trail)
Miles hiked this section: 86 ish
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 to mile 1913 ish
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 766 ish
Today we take our first zero day. The Ratcliffe family welcomes us into their home in Bend and we are overwhelmed by their hospitality. I miss seeing my Kate 😭, but her parents, brother and nephews take care of us – showers, laundry, tofu dip, miso packets, wine, laughs – and they help us with errands. We embarrassingly have to be shuttled to the 2 post offices in Bend 3 times (each) because a General Delivery package is on walkabout. THANK YOU JIM YOU ARE SENT FROM HEAVEN. And, note for other hikers GD mail is only at the big post office, NOT the downtown post office.
We rent mountain bikes for $25/day – Groucho has been talking about mountain biking for 200 miles, so maybe he’ll finally shut up bout it. I hit up a few easy trails while Groucho shreds for 7 hours on his day off. He’s a happy camper and in love with Bend. Groucho sez: “It’s a giant mountain bike park somebody put a town in, and the town is almost entirely composed of breweries.” He has seen the promised land.
It is so hard to leave the comforts of home, family and civilization. Jim and Maggie the dog shuttle us 40 minutes back to the Lava Lake. I’m sad to see them go, but we’ve got places to be….
I plug in an audio recording of Tolkein reading middle earth limericks for motivation. After only 3 miles of hiking we stop at a pretty lake and try to eat our way out of a weight problem – we have so many good snacks due to care packages from Groucho’s seester and cousin. We feel the love this week.
We walk thru some lava fields NOBOs have been bitching about for days. I find them beautiful. There is no shade but we have umbrellas and the landscape is gorgeous for miles around with the fabled dysfunctional family surrounding us: the Sisters, the Wife, House Rock, Husband Lake, Little Brother… the story is that they throw lava back and forth, explaining the awesome rocky landscapes.
We break to eat more snacks 5 miles later and Martin arrives. He has just hitched back from the town of Sisters. The afternoon passes quickly walking and chatting with him.
We hike past Obsidian Limited Entry Area where the ground is covered in glittery black rock and dust and a gushing spring runs out of a mountain thru a meadow and turns into a roaring waterfall.
Martin drops off early and we hike a few more miles, making time for yoga before bed and cowboy camp near a meadow.
Groucho and I wake early to justify a stop at Elk lake resort, the first of many lakeside resorts we will pass in Oregon. If we hike enough miles early we can take a break and have beer at a picnic table.
I don’t know if he’s meditating, grumpy, sore from biking or what, but Groucho seems withdrawn so we walk apart all morning. My life is passing before my eyes in the early morning solitude – jobs, shows, projects – trying to guess at different paths like grasping at straws. What each place and person taught me, and how this leads me to the present moment. At one point I wonder if I am actually dying. Maybe a thru hike is a living way to end a chapter of ones life, and start anew when you finish your next life’s journey.
We get in 15 miles before noon to the Resort, 1 mile off trail. Like a mystical beast Martin beats us by 30 minutes – even though he started 3 miles behind today – since he took a wrong turn in a meadow and ended up road walking here. We get tipsy – a six pack of good local IPA is the same price as 3 singles. We settle into a long break. Around 3 pm I rally the troops… We are at risk of making this our forever home. On our way out we meet a new SOBO- a bright young buck from Seattle named Sailor. We hike merrily (and wobbly) to camp as a group at Dumbell Lake.
We all wake at 5:00, and leave camp around 5:30… All hiking within minutes of each other but I find myself alone for the first few hours. Eventually Sailor catches up – he could crush past me but cheerfully hikes at my pace and we arrive at Stormy Lake 12 miles in, by 10am. Groucho has been waiting for a half hour and wants to go on – the mosquitoes are thick here. I feel crushed. I am torn between taking the break I want here and hiking with the group. I remember from the AT my constant sense of exhaustion and failure always being the one at the back. I don’t know if it’s my short legs and stride (I’m only 5’4″) or my attack, or my lack of trekking poles but hiking with all these dudes… I always feel like I am racing to catch up. Sometimes I am literally running.
These thoughts put me in the worst mood. I am GRUMPY.
The air his dry and hot as we traverse another burn area. My thoughts are dark. A couple days ago Groucho fell asleep while I was talking to him and I didn’t even notice. I feel lonely… seeking friends in the pikas and huckleberries. Developing crushes on the musical poetry of Regina Spektor and Bill Callahan playing in my earbuds.
We break for lunch at beautiful Charlton Lake. We’ve gone 22 miles and it’s only 2pm. Sailor and Groucho seem surprised and impressed and I’m like “duh. We’ve been running all day.”
I’m exhausted and done walking, but in another 10 miles we’ll be at one of the only enclosed shelters on trail. I guess this is the endurance training… The terrain is easy but the last 3 miles are uphill. The last mile we start making extremely witty fart jokes (is there such a thing?). The adrenaline kicks in and suddenly I am laughing so hard I can’t breathe. I think I might pass out. 15 minutes later we pass a little wooden sculpture and arrow Martin has left at the turn off. We get to the beautiful octagonal shelter and Sailor is also there. 33 miles today and we feel like a million bucks.
At dawn, we wake with the wrong way gang at the shelter and hike to shelter cove resort as a team, chatting and merry. We pass a three lakes and several NOBOs including one topless hiker (you go girl!) and then, as we reach the lakeshores, a long train goes by covered in graffiti. It feels quintessentially American as Martin photos Groucho and I waving to the conductor who blows his horn.
I am crushed. While the resort’s amenities include tables, a hiker box and espresso, there is NO VEGAN TOWN FOOD. The flashing neon pizza sign cruelly refers only to Red Baron frozen pizzas. I eat a bag of skittles mournfully. All the anticipation of snacks leading to a void makes me anxious. We pick up a resupply box we mailed from Bend. There are good snacks in there but I want TOWN FOOD. Sailor resupplies entirely from the hiker box. We have a nice conversation with Shadow and CountryMouse – a couple of serious long distance walkers who are also AT vets.
A new wave of NOBOs arrive – packs exploding, buying 30 racks, searching for wifi and power. We need to get out – there are prolly 30 NOBOs here now. Sailor is still scrounging and Huck (Martin’s new trail name) has a sore shin so has decided to stay awhile. Navigating social niceties exhausts me. I am happy for the solitude and forward momentum.
We hike 10 miles to crescent Lake campground, a beachy lake recommended by a NOBO. Sailor catches up and hikes with us. It’s difficult navigating into the campground so we wander around the paced maze, looking for the caretakers in a swarm of RVs and kids on Mtn bikes and barking dogs… before giving up. It’s been a long day so we chose a site right by the beach. No caretaker appears to collect our money, so we sleep for free…
Thanks, I treasure your summaries! Like Martin’s structure showing the way!