Tag Archives: oregon

Oregon Coast Storm of the Half Century

Several weeks ago a large weather event was predicted for coastal oregon and washington areas. Thankfully we were already scheduled to travel to the Oregon coast, so we had a front row seat. While a tornado touched down 5 miles south of our Friday-morning hike, we enjoyed an intimate, dramatic, but relatively safe weekend with family and friends celebrating my brother’s wedding. Congrats you guys… and welcome to the family Sarah!


picking up litter on the coast


grey on grey on grey

Dad likes the huge trees

My cute mom raises her glass

my dudes

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PCT Memories 2015

Harpo’s PCT Journal: July 27 – 29

*this entry didn’t post as scheduled so it is out of order with other journal entries*

Day 45 – 47 (Crescent Lake to Stuart Falls Trail south of Crater Lake)

Miles hiked this section: 69
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1824
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 835

Day 45

Leaving this RV labyrinth in the morning is as difficult as arriving was. We think there is a faster path back to the trail, but are thwarted by limited signage and end up using compass navigation to find the trail, about a half mile away through sparse, managed forest.

We lunch near Six Horse Spring, 15 miles into our day, and load up for our first long waterless stretch in Southern Oregon. I calculate how much I want to carry based on my average uses over the last few weeks. This week we will have stretches from 16 miles to 27 miles without water, starting today. My formula ends up as such: always drink about a liter at a water source. Then if it’s less than 10 miles, carry 2 liters. Less than 16 miles, carry 3 liters. Less than 25 carry 4 liters.

The body starts to complain and ache from these long hot days. Knees, shins, Achilles and blisters. My neck and shoulder tweaked in my sleep a few days ago and carrying the pack grows painful as we add more water weight. After some yoga at lunch, we hike out still sore and tired. We meet a new SOBO named Soaked and talk about his work as a seasonal forest ranger in New Zealand and the US. Sounds pretty rad.

Around 8pm we get to a sign that says we are at the Washington/Oregon high point around 7560 feet elevation. We could press on a few miles, but we are striking distance – just 25 miles – from the famed Crater Lake Rim. The most poetic way to approach the Crater will be to hike it at dawn in 2 days, so we camp early tonight to pace it out right.

Day 46

Thru hiking is a painful and beautiful process of breaking up with one’s self. Today in our long waterless stretches, I feel I am ascending thru the stages of grief. Reliving embarrassing remembrances of who I have been. What I did or felt or said in human interactions i haven’t thought about for years or decades. I feel despair, but than acceptance that all of these choices and foibles have led to this moment

There is no return to who I was. Something new must emerge…

Passing so many NOBOs now. Question of the day…  Why do almost all hiker beards end up red?

The day is long but passes nicely because we take lots of breaks. There is no rush today since we are only going 20 miles. I become friends with ants at lunch letting them drink miso soup from my tuperware lid.

We reach grouse hill camp before 6 — just a few miles from the Rim Trail. Tomorrow we will wake early to reach the lake before sunrise.

Day 47

Wake at 3:30 and hit Crater Lake by 5 am, and the horizon is already seeping orange. We hike a mile to find a nice spot to sit and eat oatmeal until we are too chilly and hike on. We take a .4 detour to the watchman lookout where professionals scope out wildfires.

As light grows so do our run ins with folks waking at the lodge and wandering out for morning nature experiences. We reach the lodge at the Rim Village at 8 am and get free coffees which we enjoy on the terrace overlooking the lake in rocking chairs. Life is super sweet.

After an hour or so, we hike 5 more miles to Mazama Village around noon. Laundry is only 1.75 and a 4 minute shower is .75 but it doesn’t matter cause we get quarters from other hikers and clean ourselves up. We drink beers and eat chips and charge devices and get our resupply box which my folks mailed. (thanks folks!) Then we enjoy a veggie burger at the restaurant and hike out.

After 6 miles Groucho spies a rocky outcropping about 300 feet east of the trail that looks flat on top with some sparce trees. We check it out and set up cowboy style watching the sunset pinken the mountains, as the almost full moon rises like a spotlight in the east.

Harpo’s PCT Journal: August 4-9

Day 53 -57 (Ashland to Etna)

Miles hiked this section: 118

PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1607

Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 1052+
Day 53

We wake in Ashland in our soft king size bed feeling like real humans: rested, clean, calm, pain free, with fresh clothes and full bellies. We debate and decide to take another zero here. It feels like vacation for real. 
A lazy morning blogging, ordering new shoes, and window shopping at the co op. Finally a moment when we’re full enough to not to go berserk in a grocery store. We have an early happy hour before amazing Mexican food with Lynn and George. Lynn is especially hyped on the margaritas, and I have two with her. We close our day at the classy wine bar called Liquid Assets. 

Day 54

The fundamental truth of hiking: what goes up must come down. So it is with the euphoria of town.
I wake at 4am sleeping on the floor near the restroom in our hotel room. Apparently my tolerance for booze is null. The Dionysian ritual of celebration and reward has reduced me to a feral, booze swilling carpet sleeping animal. The Kingsize bed with 8 pillows is only 5 feet away. Our hero has fallen. Today I will pay. 
After ‘stealing’ jam packets at the continental breakfast we shuttle back to Callahans Lodge. Lynn and George begin their journey north, and we’re left so grateful for their company and generosity. 
I sit at the hotel restaurant staring at a half drunk mimosa fighting, and sometimes winning, a battle with nausea. You can’t win all the time…I eat bread and butter and coke and vow to never again mix and match liquor.
We hike out around 1pm, and get in 14 miles before cowboy camping on a beautiful ridge. 

Day 55

Smoke fills the horizon as we make our way toward California. The light is diffuse, dense and mysterious. I listen to a lot of music today. Around lunch we run into our friend Chewie who we met on the AT. He is hiking northbound this year And we take an extra break with him to catch up. 

A few hours later it’s HELLO CALIFORNIA as we reach the border. Despite the victory of finishing two states, we know we still have 2/3 of the miles to go – fact many disgruntled NOBOs will remind us of in coming days. By the numbers NOBOs we pass now will need 20 miles every day to finish before snow hits the North Cascades. They are tired of California, tired of walking, and are fully in the midway psychological battle common with thru hikers. Can they finish? Should they? Why bother? What is the meaning of my life? Is this really remarkable or am I just fulfilling a sysiphian task each day of walking up another hill? Who am I anyway? This sucks…

We have our own existential crises but the yoga training and previous hike of the Appalachian Trail provides us with more coping tools. We sing. We enjoy silence. We relish town and fun but always get back on track hiking pretty quickly. We make rituals. We set aggressive physical goals. We breathe. We find time to create. 

Day 56

Town day! We have 25 miles until the trail passes right thru the town of Seiad Valley. We hope to make it by 5pm. 
The first 10 pass quickly. Listening to music I am visited by my mother in a reverie and really really feel homesick. I haven’t lived at home for almost 2 decades and yet I long for that type of extended connection and time with both my parents. Likely this will not be possible until October. Only 2 months away… But here time stretches and days seem endless. I have a lot of days to wait and many miles to go. 
At the pass I run into Groucho for an early lunch. His eye is almost swollen shut because of a bee sting. We have 15 miles left to town on the PCT, but he has a hot tip from a NOBO that the forest road here goes straight to town cutting off 3 miles and a 1000 foot elevation gain. It also runs alongside a creek with a killer swimming spot. We are sold and enjoy the easy grade, swimming spot with cliff jumping into a cool river, and run ins with locals. Les, on old timer who’s live in the valley since the sixties, hears the neighbors’ dog barking and rides his bike out to talk to us. He wears a NRA hat, a nineties slogan tshirt, and ripped jeans with suspenders. We learn a lot about the history of the valley and he offers us a spot on his lawn. 
The last 4 miles we sweat on the paved road and then we are in town with Pepsi and Pringles.  We see a section hiker Jessie headed south who we met at Shelter Cove, and another SOBO Soaked that we met near Crater Lake. We hike out with Soaked 6 miles to a burned out campground full of burned out NOBOs. It’s smokey but not currently dangerous. 

Day 57

We camp low and sticky at 1000 feet, waking early to climb14 miles. The 6000 feet gain takes us till 2pm where we are rewarded with a cool spring and the friendly company of Soaked and Jessie. Soaked, a forest ranger, is fun to hike with knowing a lot about wildlife, safety, fires, plants and regulations. As a bonus he is a wildlife EMT with good stories. Jessie, a “reluctant pediatrician” is also a delight. She shares my midlife crisis world view, meditates in her spare time and savors the solitude of backpacking. We talk frankly about gear and girl issues and I am happy to have a new friend. We all camp together at the best site in a long time – a high rock outcropping nestled in a pine grove with great views of sunset. The smoke dissipates above 7000 feet and we see impressionistic clouds turn from white to pink to ashen muave and midnight blue as the stars start to emerge. Later, we see the Milky Way hovering like the Holy Ghost amongst the scattered stars. 

Day 58

Groucho and I wake by 5:00 to get an early start. Sunrise is made gorgeous by the smoke. At our morning break we are visited by a deer and her fawn. They are not habituated to humans, but she also seems disarmed by our singing so they come quite close. 
We pass about 40 NOBOs today over gorgeous rolling mountain crests. It’s hard to go quickly passing so many but we keep conversations brief. We finish 26 miles by 4:45pm – probably our fastest marathon. We get a hitch 10 miles down a rite road to the friendly town of Etna. We are out of food and the have a grocery and town food! Out hitch is a lovely young woman who lives on a commune started in 1968 up in the mountains. 
We eat at the local brew pub and camp for free at the city park under a giant oak. 


Harpo’s PCT Journal: July 31 – August 3

  Day 48 – 51 (Stuart Falls Trail intersection to Ashland)
Miles hiked this section: 97
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1727
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 934+

Day 48

Tonight is the Full Moon and we want to hike into moonrise. We wake pretty early to get some miles in early -15 later we hit the first water of the day. I’ve been sweating and hot and am out of water just as we reach the cool creek. A hundred tiny frogs greet us and we take a break here. We intend to set up camp and take a nap. Our plan is to take advantage of the cool evening and glowing full moon to get in some breezy miles this evening late into the night. Looking for a mid day resting site, we end up ascending up to the high pass at Devil’s Peak. The blessed breeze cools us and we eat snacks and try to nap, although we are soon covered by big black ants, so we get up and  hike on.

Water is scarce, and it’s a scorcher, so around 6pm we hike .3 miles off trail for the privilege of getting some disgusting water at one of the little Snow Lake’s… more like a pond. Murky brown and smelly, we wonder if the nearby horse feces has anything to do with the poor water quality. Thanks equestrians.

As sun sets the air is marginally cooler, but then a welcoming committee of mosquitos finds us as we descend and we are forced into our wind pants and coats for protection. The moon finally makes it out – bright and beautiful, but mostly obscured by trees now that we have descended.

Despite our best efforts, we are tired having pulled about 29 miles today. So we throw the tarp and net tent up right by trail and sleep.
  Day 49

The morning starts out hot, but we don our wind gear again because there are a million flies and mosquitos clinging to the outside of our net tent. We walk 3 miles to the glorious Christi’s spring. I dump a liter of that rancid lake water I couldn’t bear to drink, before grabbing 3 liters of the cool, crisp, clean, clear, delicious water. Mosquitos also abate, so we are able to drop the extra layers and enjoy the rest of the morning.

Mid-day we reach Fish Lake. It’s a 2 mile trail detour, but they have BEER AND CURLY FRIES AND SWEET POTATO FRIES. So we go for it, meeting several cool NOBOs and getting vegan protein cacoa powder out of the hiker box!

We avoid the vortex and get out 2 hours later, getting a ride back to the trail head from some rad section hiker dudes.

As I get ready to hike, we hear nearby sound of thunder. The air is humid and clouds have rolled in, but still the heat is opressive. I’m eager for rain, we all are, it’s so dry. But thunder is scary.

We start to walk, our goal is 10 more miles tonight, and the path is so wide and flat that we are able to walk side by side. I even convince Groucho to hold hands for a minute and he reluctantly agrees. He hates holding hands. The beer has made me light and cheery. We reach a clearing and I exclaim “this trail is so NICE”. And my heart sinks. It’s a little TOO nice. Groucho agrees… he wonders if we made a wrong turn back at the road. I use the remaining 5% of my phone battery to check the GPS and indeed it shows us a mile off trail. $&*!

We go back. I am bummed but Groucho is super cool and nice about it. I say “at least now there is something to blog about.” Famous last words.

As we get back on track we start passing goregously maintained Trail thru lava fields. At this point we hear a chopper in the distance that passes overhead and hovers nearby. After 5 minutes of noise, I finally spy a plum of smoke about a mile East as the crow flies on Brown Mountain. The mountain we are currently walking around. This is a bit freaky as we can see smoke, but have no idea the magnitude of the problem. We determine the wind is blowing westerly and we are headed Southerly past this mountain if we just continue on. So that is what we decide to do. An hour later, I can smell smoke, thick enough that I occassionally cough, and the sky to the West grows hazy, mountains obscured and the sun glorious through the haze.

I am proud of us. We both have anxiety but express it like calm adults and make reasonable, calm decisions. We went to a lecture this winter in wilderness decision making (mostly about risk assessment regarding traversing avalanche terrain) and I think it really helped.

We talk to several NOBOs, and one says the smoke disapates if we just continue on South. So we do.

As dusk falls we sing and the last hour passes beautifully. We arrive at the Brown Mountain shelter and sleep inside.

  Day 50

This is my hardest day on trail. We wake early, but yesterday my blisters took a turn for the worst. I don’t know why but after 2 functional weeks, the Olylmpus’s don’t work any more. I am getting blister after blister on weird places on my feet. I feel hot. thirsty. cranky.And I become a bad person. Groucho is a good sport. \

My mood is made worse when we get to the next watersource, Klum Lake, and there is zero signage telling us how to get down to the lake. I lost my phone charger a week ago and the phone is finally dead, so I can’t check our navigation apps for answers. I feel helpless and mad. We end up overshooting by a half mile in exposed, hot, sunny forest, and have to back track to get water.

We finally make it to the lake,  and again, no signage, so we end up at the group site, filled with dudes who have been having a high school reunion every 2 years since 1974. It’s charming but I am  hot and hungry and dirty. We walk down to the lake and it’s muddy and poluted and there is broken glass everywhere. We can’t even swim.

I rinse off in the drinking fountain, working for 15 minutes to clean off my dusty feet so I can treat my blisters. A section hiker Marty McFly gives me good advice and some extra blister care supplies. Life saver. I lance all my blisters and drain them and dry them. I apply a little triple antibiotic and then put a piece of duct tape on them.

It’s 4pm and I put back on my shoes. We want to go 15 more miles today if possible.

We walk on. I feel like crap. I begin to spew out complaints so I walk alone a lot. I want to be in Ashland NOW. I don’t want to walk anymore.

We get to Hyatt Lake campground at 6:30pm. We have to walk .3 miles off trail to find picnic tables. We want to go 5-7 more miles but I am in pain. And my Achieles hurts. And because again there is crappy signage I don’t know where the free showers are or how to get down to the lake which we can’t even see from the picnic table. And I refuse to walk any extra point-anythings if it will not get me closer to Ashland. I am done with this.

Groucho is patient and kind. He is sympathetic. and I repay him with utter desolation. I want to quit. 

So we walk on. and get more water 1.5 miles later. And then make a video for our friend Janani. And then I want to find camp. We both agree. We start looking. And for 3 more miles we walk and can’t find a single place to camp. The terrain is steep meadows. No flat spots, no dry spots, no bare spots. NOTHING. This is the worst. We’re both getting cranky. And then a glorious opening in the forest and a huge Lodge Pole Pine emerges that has a flat, bare spot perfect for cowboy camping. I don’t even care if it rains, this is the best spot. I just need to sleep. We lay our stuff out and do just that.

  Day 51

Sleep is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe it, but I wake refreshed under the hugetree. My feet don’t even hurt. I am excited about town, and exhilarated to get going. We still have 18 miles to go, but I have been promised a free beer at Callahans if I pass their thru hiker criteria test. I am stoked.

The morning breezes by. We see cool things and walk a lot and quickly. A mile from town we run into an acquaintance from the AT -Chicory- she is going NOBO on the PCT. We have been looking out for her. She looks and sounds great. I’d love to hike with that lady someday.

We get to town and indeed Callahans has a complimentary beer for bonafide thru hikers. We enjoy it tremendously. I can’t believe I made it here. After awhile we head to the entrance to the highway and get a hitch after 3 minutes from an awesome trail runner. Ashland is minutes away. We are in civilization.

August 3

Zero in Ashland. Nothing happened this day unless you count: A surprise visit from Groucho’s parents! New shirts! New shoes! New shorts! Delicious food from the amazing Co-op! A swimming pool at the Best Western! A serenade in the park! A bottle of sparkling wine! And watching old movies from the biggest King Sized Bed I have ever experienced. Thanks for a great zero Lynn, George, and Ashland.

Harpo’s PCT Journal: July 22 – 26

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

Day 40
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.

Day 41

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.

Day 42

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.
Day 43

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.

Day 44.

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.

photo by Huckleberry Hound

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…