Days 70-71 – shale lake lImited entry area to bend
June 18-19 | SOBO Miles 630-669
In the misty morning fog, we rolled out hazily and resumed our trek through the snow.
It was slow going. We just barely did three miles before 10AM. Of the three of us, I was really having a time of it… slipping and sliding everywhere along some pretty moderate-consequence slopes dotted with treacherous tree wells. My legs were jello by mid-morning and more than once I got pretty spooked and psyched myself out. Not my most favorite of mornings to say the least.
I moved at an elderly snail’s pace so as to avoid a long fall to certain doom, in the process raking my calves against scattered tree branches and taking multiple knee-falls and faceplants as I battled with gravity. The guys were very patient as I held back some crocodile tears. Little photo evidence of this exists for good reason.
Many (read: only around 10 or so) hard-fought miles later, we scrambled up a rocky ridge and finally hit dry trail, skirting around tons of tiny ponds.
Victory was short-lived, however, and soon we were faced with our next snowy obstacle. His name? Three-Fingered Jack.
I was racing up the incline ahead of the guys with a chip on my shoulder and something to prove after the morning’s events. Store Brand only caught up to me when I stopped to check Guthook to make sure I was on trail, asking me if I had run the whole way up.
Instead of traversing the angled snow that covered the PCT, we again opted to ride the ridge, which this time involved some very high-risk rock climbing along a jagged spine composed of loose volcanic stone. With each step, gravel underfoot came loose and bounced straight off the side of the cliff, letting you know what your fate would be should you lose your footing.
Well, all I can say is that we made it out alive and I’m glad my poor mother was not a witness.
Weary and spent, we took an emergency break around 6:30 to have a rescue snack before any of us gave out. We hiked another few miles and–thank God–descended out of the snow and into a grassy meadow.
The new danger, however, was that we were all running out of food. After my dinner of ramen and carrots with peanut butter, the contents of my food bag consisted of a protein bar and an Emergen-C. We hit the hay haggard and hungry next to Highway 20.
The temptation to hitch straight into town the next morning was real, but we knew we wanted to push the extra 17 to McKenzie Pass. Our saving grace, 4 miles in, would be Big Lake Youth Camp, with its promise of a large, free hot meal.
Their hospitality did not disappoint. They have a whole A-frame dedicated to PCT hikers, full of free Dutch Bros. coffee and a stacked hiker box, not to mention a fridge rife with leftover fruit, yogurt, and salad, all of which we snagged. We caught the tail end of breakfast service for the camp staff-in-training and scored some hot biscuits with butter & jam and gravy along with Frosted Flakes, which we ate overlooking the lake. And it’s a Christian camp so you know the big man was looking out for us.
On top of that, we each took a quick rinse in the camp showers, scrubbing off our outermost layers of dirt so we would arrive to town slightly less filthy.
I filled my shake jar with coffee and we hit the road with 9 miles to go.
Awaiting us within the final 4 miles was a minefield of lava rock that pierced the soles of my shoes with each step. It dawned on me that much of my trouble of late might have been due to the fact that I hadn’t replaced my shoes for over 800 miles…
At last, after traversing the barren surface of Mars, I reached the highway, catching up to Store Brand with Trashcan right behind. We gobbled up the remains of the Big Lake food and scored a hitch to Bend in less than 30 minutes, a feat given the limited amount of traffic. I rode next to Tess the Rottweiler who had just gone swimming in a lake, stroking her ears the whole 45 minutes to Bend.
Our hitch dropped us at REI where Trashcan got replacement parts for his broken trekking pole and I got a shiny new pair of Altra Lone Peak 4’s. Snow, bring it on. For giggles we each weighed our packs without food and water on the store’s scale, my base weight coming in at the highest at 15lb 6oz (Trashcan’s being 15lb 1oz and Store Brand winning with 12lb 14oz). Then a super nice lady named Pancakes who hiked the trail in 2016 pulled us aside in excitement and gave us $20 worth of trail magic to buy ourselves a round of beer.
The guys’ Aunt Molly picked us up from there, having generously offered us her home for the night along with her husband John. We enjoyed an evening of IPAs, hot showers, chips & guac, salad, corn, and brats on buns (a tofurkey brat for me) topped off by cookies, raisinets, and several hours of hilarious conversation, carrying us through to the bedtime hour. I’ll certainly sleep well tonight.