(This blog entry is from my Patreon blog, where you can see my Adventure Blog entries before anywhere else while supporting my trade and craft. Along with early blog posts, Patreon backers also receive access to trail comics, drawings, and videos.)
Originally published on August 14th
August 11th – Saturday – 22.6 hiked – 362 total
I woke up at 5:30 am and immediately needed to go to the bathroom. My choices were to find a place somewhere nearby in between a lake, a road, another road, and all these tent sites to dog a cat hole, or walk a tenth of a mile back to Olallie and use their pit toilets. Of course I go to use the toilets, and of course, there’s a line. And of course, I’m still wondering if I’m sick. Maybe I need more fiber in my diet.
I’m packed up and on the trail in less than an hour. The weather is weird this morning, very weird. The sky is thick with low hanging clouds moving very fast across the land. It’s cold and misty, but I’m fine with that. When cold I can hike faster because I don’t overheat at all, and I drink less water too, so that’s a plus. The trail for the next 50 miles to Timberline Lodge/Mt. Hood is some of the most gentle trails on the PCT, and I’ve heard of some hikers attempting it in a day. I’m not that crazy, but I do manage to get 9.5 miles in by 9:30 am. We were supposed to have lunch at the Tanner Spring, but it’s only 10 am when Bones finally catches up. We decide to fill up on water and hike until noon for lunch.
I’ve been listening to my audiobook almost non stop. I’m addicted to it. The narrator is so good with the overall tones of the story and the different voices of the wide variety of characters. It’s become my version of television. The entire recording is 35 hours long, I started it about a week ago, and I’ve only got 12 hours left now. I’ll definitely finish this before we get to Cascade Locks.
At lunch, I become bored and Bones suggests pulling out my sketchbook. I confess I haven’t drawn once in this stretch, and I kind of like it. I’m focusing more on enjoying myself while I’m here, rather than concerning myself with what I can produce to please my patrons. Though, to be fair, I have been taking lots of reference photos for BASHers since we’re in that section. Been thinking a lot about how I’ll finish up that script and whether or not I’ll keep it entirely factual or bring in elements from other hikes in relation to the character of myself and their growth. Autobio comics are weird.
After lunch, about thirteen miles in for the day, the blisters on my left foot are acting up. I’ve noticed that while my right foot is longer (as demonstrated by the single blister on my second toe with m last pair of shoes), my left foot is wider, and these women’s shoes are just a little bit too narrow for that foot. They’re all the shop had, and the shoes I ordered on Amazon to meet me in Big Lake (and couldn’t cancel in time) ended up being 2 sizes too small (albeit in men’s like I prefer). So I have a fat blister on my left pinky toe, on the side of my big toe and below by the main joint, and one at the back of my heel. My right foot is fine. But now m right leg is becoming sore from compensating.
We hike slowly after lunch because the goal was only 19-ish miles for the day, we only have 7 left… And it’s only 2 pm. The rest of the day is downhill too. We try and take it slow, hiking leisurely, but we arrive at 5 pm anyway, with a break in there too. Crap, it’s too early to stop. Plus the tent site we picked has a noisy boy scout troop in it. We eat dinner here, since there’s water, and decide to hike until we find a spot.
By now my foot is screaming at me. I need to drain that blister tonight before bed. We pass a few tent sites just beyond our original choice, but I shrug them off and say let’s go a bit farther, I can still walk. I ended up regretting that a little bit because the next tent site wasn’t for another 3 miles, and uphill. At some point, I stepped on a stick wrong and suddenly my blisters are hurting twice as much. I’m hobbling the last mile and a half. When we finally find some space to pitch our tents, a scraggly area just off the trail, and I finally get my shoes off, I realize the fat pinky blister had burst. Thankfully it wasn’t a bloody one or messy, but I worried about infection so I cleaned it really well and bandaged it up. Hopefully, it hurts less in the morning.
Our goal for tomorrow is about 18 miles to highway 26, where we can walk another mile down the road to a gas station for some snacks and soda we crave so badly. Then we’ll walk back to the trailhead and camp. I’ll be dreaming about hot Cheetos and iced tea tonight.
August 12th – Sunday – 22.5 hiked – 383 total
I was up and out of camp by 6:20 am again, despite rolling over and hitting the metaphorical snooze button on my watch. My blisters gave me a little trouble for the first mile or so, but I eventually caught a rhythm.
5 miles in I took a side trail to the Joe Graham horse camp. While there was usually trail magic here during peak hiker season, the usual trail angel had finished for the year. But I was after a different sort of trail magic: a pit toilet and a dumpster. Being able to sit down and do my business and not have to pack out my soiled wipes is the ultimate luxury. And to be able to dump my garbage and no longer carry that dead weight is also amazing. Trail magic doesn’t have to come from a person who hands you a cold soda, it can just be a surprise convenience.
Or, in my case the night before, finding a piece of gear when you need it. When I was hiking the desert last year I searched the towns desperately for a sunbrella to use while hiking. The sun is a deadly laser, and I knew I would hike faster with one. I never found one in a town, but my friend Boxes found one in a tree and graciously gifted it to me. It’s still in my pack now, it was beneficial during my small bit of desert hiking last month, and even more so in the Sierra during the afternoon thunderstorms. The only reason I still have it with me at this moment is that I’m cheap and don’t want to spend the money to mail it home.
But about last night. When we had finished our dinner at the river and were packing up, I found a pair of earbuds behind where my pack was sitting. They must have fallen out of someone else’s pocket. In these situations, I feel for the person who lost their item, but there’s no telling how long it had been sitting there, blending in with the dark dirt, or how far away the original owner is. You see, less than 60 miles into our adventure this year, my earbuds–my high-quality sports earbuds–caught on a Manzanita bush and the right bud died instantly, and since then the audio quality in the other had been deteriorating. The inline button has stopped working too. Anyway, these earbuds not only work, but they’re high quality. I bought a new pair on Bend but ended up returning the next morning because the audio quality was just awful. I indulged this morning and listened to music until lunch, something I rarely do because music drains my battery faster than audio books.
And hilariously enough, as I’m writing this, Bones returned from a visit to a nearby pit toilet (we’re camped at the Frog Lake snow park) with a handful of MSR mini groundhog stakes and a lightweight trowel. Bones finds more stakes on the trail than you’d find in a steakhouse. Lucky for him, because he broke two of his already.
The morning hike was pretty flat and I reached our lunch spot at around 10:30 am. I figured an early lunch was fine, we want to be to camp on the early side. Bones shows up 20 minutes later, even though he left an hour and a half after me. Fast bastard.
We make it about 4 miles after lunch before a road crossing where a small sign proclaims ‘Trail Magic!’ I flail at Bones and hurry up to the road where a large truck is parked, and behind it are a half dozen folding camp chairs, 2 big coolers, a Rubbermaid bin of snacks, and a jolly looking man named Madds Baker. An ice cold cherry coke is put into my hands, as well as a bag of Cheetos, a cup of pasta salad, and a fistful of homemade cookies. Oh, this is a good day.
Madds is a Seattle local, born and raised in Everett, and in his youth hiked many of the trails up there, including the Enchantments where we hiked earlier this year. Now he’s retired and spends most of his summer driving up and down the PCT in Washington and northern Oregon distributing trail magic to the hikers. We sat with him, enjoying the shade and our delicious goodies, and had a good chat. In lieu of donations, most trail angels only want stories and quality conversations from hikers. And the bulk of us have many stories to tell.
Giddy on caffeine and sugar, we hike the rest of the way to camp. Bones says he has cell service a mile out but says I need to call Missy. Why? “She’s freaking out about something. Says she needs us.” I sigh but call her.
It’s strangely disorienting to be hiking the wilderness one second, then talking to the weird rectangle you always have in your pocket to someone many, many miles away. Technically she’s only like, 40 miles away, Portland only just down the road now, but I digress. It turns out to be nothing, just excitement. She’s apartment hunting right now for the three of us, we need to move to Portland in September since her lease is ending. This has put us in a predicament as we won’t have Portland jobs yet and we’re also in the middle of nowhere for another week. I tell her I’ll call tomorrow when we’re at Timberline, and we hike on.
We wanted to be to camp early tonight because camp is the Frog Lake sno-park and highway 26 crossing. Down the road, about 2 miles is a gas station. Gas station means snacks, soda, beer, and maybe even a bathroom. I originally wasn’t going to go with Bones to the store, but it was so early I felt I had to. But it was a painful walk on that pavement, my blisters very unhappy with me. I avoided limping, though, since Bones was hiking ahead of me and I figured a female-bodied person limping down a highway in a skirt and no bra would attract unwanted attention. I was offered a ride from someone obviously familiar with the trail, but I declined since Bones was so far ahead of me. Safety first. Turns out the same person offered him a ride too.
The gas station didn’t have any booze that I liked in a can Icould pack out easily, this had become my reality and I’m okay with it. I don’t need alcohol all the time. Honestly, if I liked beer I’d be in a lot of trouble. I bought an ice cream sandwich, a Squirt, a Po Boy sandwich for dinner, a canned coffee and a danish for breakfast, and a bag of salami sticks. In impulse I got a sticker for my bear can that resembles a pedestrian crossing sign saying ‘Sasquatch Crossing’, with the human figures replaced with stereotypical Bigfoot silhouettes.
And then we hiked back to the trail, albeit slowly. It was easier to hike back with my blisters, since now we were going uphill. We arrived, made camp, ate dinner, and now we hide from mosquitoes until bedtime. Tonight we’ll be sung to sleep by the sounds of passing semi trucks on the nearby highway.
Tomorrow we have 10 miles to hike to reach Timberline Lodge. We won’t make it in time for breakfast buffet, but the lunch buffet is just fine.
August 14th – Tuesday – 10.3 Hiked – 393 total Sandy, OR
The original plan was to sleep in. We were aiming for lunch at Timberline anyway so there’s no reason to get up early. But I woke up at 5:31am from a scary dream and there was no way I was going back to sleep. So I packed up, slammed the Double Shot coffee drink, and headed out at my normal time.
Aside from a few small sections, my whole day is uphill, and I’m ready for it. This will be my third time hiking this section, but my first time in two years. I’m in much better shape and have a much lighter pack, so this should be easier, right? Amazingly, it is. Listening to my ‘Wake Up Rock’ playlist on my new headphones I storm these hills, and when I get up the main rise I switch to the song I played on repeat for hours when I was here during BASHers; Go with the Flow by Queens of the Stone Age. It works just as well now as it did then.
I cross the highway at Barlow Pass and switch to my audio book. This last 5 mile stretch to the lodge is very, very steep, and I need more of a slow chug rather than a charge. A little ways up I pass a southbound hiker. We do the usual smile and nod–we’re both using headphones to push through morning stiffness–but when we pass… I realize that he seemed very familiar. That face… Could it have been?
“Camelbag?” I ask, turning. He keeps walking, music playing. “Camelbag!”
In the last few days of the desert last year, we hiked with three new folks. Dory, Bear Tripper, and Camelbag. Dory ended up hiking with us in NorCal, Oregon, and Washington. But Bear Tripper and Camelbag continued on to the Sierra and we hadn’t seen them since. I found Camelbag on Facebook a few months ago and discovered he was finishing his hike this year, sobo, leaving the Canadian border a few days before we left from Walker Pass. I didn’t think we would cross paths but… there he was.
And there he went. I didn’t know him well enough to feel comfortable stopping him… and I hoped when Bones and him passed later they would have a nice reunion.
So I kept hiking. And when taking a break at the last tent site and spring before the forest ran out, Bones came up a few minutes after me. Like always. I could be busting my ass all morning with a two hour head start and he’ll still only be a few minutes behind me in the end. I asked him if he had ran into CB, and he flipped.
“That was him?? Man, I thought that was him but I didn’t want to be weird!”
Oh, damn us and our social awkwardness. Bones cursed and swore, clearly upset. Dang it.
We moved on. While the last 5 miles to Timberline were super steep, the last two miles were the steepest and the very last mile is loose sand. But we weren’t in a rush, and we took our time. Sometimes it was literally one step forward, two steps back, as my feet sank into the sand and I slid down the hill. We made it to the lodge around 11:15 am, and I had enough time to run to the bathroom and change into my less-smelly sleeping clothes for lunch.
We ate our fill and I had too much coffee, while Bones had a cocktail. The ending result was a sleepy Bones and a hyper Weasel. We collected our resupply boxes and waited for the bus.
Our plan was to ride into Sandy, OR to the Best Western for two nights. Trail Days is this weekend, but there’s only 50 miles of trail left. We’ll get there on time providing we leave Wednesday. The hotel ended up being more expensive than we expected, but we got a discount and they gave us the room with the jacuzzi. Oh. My. God. The only thing that would have made this better would be robes (and sadly Best Western is not quite that fancy).
So, after this next stretch, we’ll be done with this Adventure. I have a lot of things happening very quickly after returning to normality. Bones and I applied for an apartment in Portland with a friend today, so we may be moving very soon after returning. There’s an awesome opportunity waiting for me in Stumptown too, and I can’t wait to get started on that and spill the beans here. I also have Rose City Comic Con coming up SO SOON. (My table number is X-11, by the way, with SpycyShark!). We didn’t get into Short Run, which is a bummer, but that frees up my schedule for other stuff. Maybe I’ll do more hiking this fall? Or maybe I’ll get my job back at the small grocery store in Beaverton to pad my Adventure Savings (or, I don’t know, pay rent like a responsible adult).
I turn 30 this November, and I’m not sure what to do with myself. It’s such an arbitrary number, but a significant one I guess. I feel accomplished enough to be entering my 30s without complaint. Life’s pretty neat right now, and I have no huge issues. That could be the Oreo McFlurry and the 2 Square Mile hard ciders in me though. But who can say, right? Haha.