ALRIGHT! Here we go…
Got onto the trail around 5:00am. Was up at the Crater Rim around 6:30am. Climbing is still no way to start the morning though. Anyways, this place amazes me each time I see it. If you never knew it was here you would probably miss it.
Got water from the fountain and made breakfast while overlooking the lake. While walking back to the bathroom I saw a couple PCT hikers. Lodgepole and his son Maverick.
I washed my socks in the bathroom sink. I heard someone coming into the bathroom so I shoved the socks under my armpit and pretended like I was washing my really dirty hands. I just didn’t like the idea of him having to look at me washing my socks with black oil like water coming off of them.
Saw Midnight Chocolate and Cowgirl outside of the bathroom. They were going to take a few days off at Diamond Lake since their parents had a cabin there.
Walked along the rim trail for several miles. This route is the “official alternate PCT route” now. Back in the day the PCT went down and around Crater Lake. Almost every hiker would skip the PCT and head around via the Rim Trail instead. They changed it in the 90s so the main PCT is the horse route and the Rim Trail is the “Hiker PCT”.
My friend Ron has spent a lot of time at Crater Lake, in all seasons, doing landscape photography. I held my camera at an angle, rapidly moved my arm so the photo would be blurry, pointed it right into the sun, and took a photo of the lake. (later I posted it on Facebook and asked Ron if he was jealous of my photo)
Got around to the north side of the lake and saw a couple of women taking photos of each other. I asked them if they wanted a photo together and they said sure. I ended up taking a Human Clock photo of them. (Hi Sheryl and Linette!). They were from Petaluma so of course I mentioned “Winona Ryder and Tom Waits”. They had no Winona stories but did have a couple about Tom Waits.
Gavin came by a bit, saw me standing there BSing. He laughed and said, “I thought you were gonna do a lot of miles today?!”
We hiked together for a few miles and then took a break. Gavin laughed when I said “man, only 60 more miles until I’m excited that there are only 10 more miles left to hike”.
He stayed there and I continued on. It was surreal hiking like this…fast speeds and little sleep. I was in the “zone” until a giant elk came crashing through not far from me. Finally starting to see elk after nothing but deer.
The trail had a ton of windfallen trees across the trail and it slowed me down a bit. Climbing over, under, and around trees really slows you down.
Pushed it really hard up the hill and was getting a little dizzy. Mt. Thielsen came into view. It is this 9000 foot peak that is a giant spire. It has always kind of creeped me out. Awhile later I got to the trail junction with the trail that goes to (almost) the top. From there you have to do some rock climbing to get to the top.
The reason this mountain creeps me out is because in 1996 I stopped to eat lunch at this same trail junction. I left after lunch and the trail continues around below the north face of Mt. Thielsen, with open views up to the top. When I was in the town of Sisters a few days later I was reading the local newspaper. One girl had fallen to her death on Mt. Thielsen. It happened right about the time I was finishing lunch and walking around the north flank of the mountain. I was basically right there when this all happened and I didn’t even know about it. All I saw was this spooky mountain peak from the trail.
I had strong cell service from the junction so I called Cora to say hello. Towns don’t have payphones like they used to, and cellphones rarely work in the mountain towns that the PCT passes through. So if you want to talk on the phone you have to do it from the trail now. It was good to talk to her and I got moving around 6:30pm.
I needed to get moving and could hear loud voices coming down the summit trail. I tried hurrying so I could avoid socializing, but the guys saw me. They told me a bit about the summit. The two guys were quite characters, they kind of reminded me of The Jesus and Liam from The Big Lebowski. They asked if I was on the PCT and I said I was. The proceeded to give me all of these facts I never knew about the PCT. They were amazed I was hiking it solo, most people don’t. (most people do). Washington state is loaded with Grizzly Bears, so they told me to be careful. (it is not loaded with Grizzly bears).
Had a really fast walk to Thielsen Creek. It is the first water in 25+ miles from the Crater Lake drinking fountain. I was thinking about the two guy and really wished I wasn’t in such a hurry. It would have been fun to play Mr. Naive and ask them a bunch of questions about the PCT just to hear their authoritative responses.
For the next few hours I was hiking faster than I have ever hiked. Went past the high point of Oregon and didn’t even know it. Apparently there is a sign but I didn’t see it or it is now gone.
I constantly kept doing math in my head trying to calculate how far I should go that night, how much I should sleep, and where that would put me tomorrow. Stopped a few times to shove food into my mouth, oatmeal, candy bars, etc. Spent awhile trying to figure out if I should take Advil or not, but didn’t take any. Each time I stopped though it would take me a solid five minutes to go from a really crippled walk back to Forrest Gump flying speeds. I knew not to eat a lot of food nor stop for more than 10 minutes, otherwise my body would start shutting down and I’d never get it started again.
By this point I had been hiking with my headlamp for several hours. Bats kept flying in front of me several times. Maybe it was because the damn mosquitoes had returned. Nothing like they were in Yosemite though.
Was flying down a hill and tripped on something. My poles caught my fall. I walked back to see what it was and it was a springy tree root sticking about an inch up across the trail. I busted the root off so it wouldn’t trip another hiker.
I was glad to be hiking at night and not needing as much water. All of the water in this section is either crappy little stagnant ponds or off the trail a good distance.
To entertain myself I would see how far I would go in six minutes, then multiply it by 10 to get my miles per hour. The best I did for a six minute burst was 4.1 miles an hour.
I felt pretty drunk by this point even though I had no alcohol in my body. The headlamp lit the way and my body just kind of followed the light.
I put on some Springsteen and that got my mood up. I started debating again if I should take some Advil. Right at the moment I decided to stop and drop by pack and take the Advil, the line in the song Luckytown came on where he sings “stepping lightly and feeling no pain”. I took that as a sign to take the Advil. I guess I wanted to see how far I could go without needing pain pills, but eventually I didn’t care.
Speaking of Springsteen, just for fun I decided to listen to the song “Real Man” off the Human Touch album. I hadn’t heard it in probably ten years. I wanted to see if it was as bad as I remembered. Yup, it is still a giant turd of a song that is one of Springsteen’s most hated songs among fans. If you ever want to pull a funny on a hardcore Springsteen fan, just mention how much you love the song “Real Man” and watch them freak out.
I walked past someone’s tent around 11:00pm. I saw a headlamp flash my direction but they didn’t see me. At this point I was getting close to 40 miles.
I decided that I was gonna push for 50 miles. Then I spent awhile trying to figure out exactly how much. Sammy Hagar can’t drive 55 miles per hour, but I should be able to hike 55 miles in a day. How far would two marathons be? In junior high my friend Kevin and I did the “50 mile club”. Finally I decided I would go for the two marathons. I knew a marathon was 26.2 miles but wanted confirmation. Just then I saw that my phone had a couple bars of 4G service. It dropped back out to “no service” again. I walked back a few feet until the service popped up again. I looked at the wikipedia page for “Marathon” and saw that a marathon is 26.22 miles. (since 1920 onward).
I knew that two marathons would be 52.44 miles, but I had to doublecheck on my calculator to see if that was right..my head was so fried.
Passed the double marathon mark and started looking for a place to camp. Couldn’t find anything so I kept walking. Went past Windigo Pass and saw a campspot. I don’t like camping in sight of a road so I kept on moving. Finally found a spot just past 54 miles.
Made dinner so it would put me into a food coma so I could sleep. I wanted to be asleep before it started getting light. By this point I had been awake for 24 hours and was a little loopy. I could see the daylight coming as I fell asleep. Set the alarms on my phone and my ipod, I was not gonna get this far only to sleep in too long on the last day!