PCT OR Section E

Oct. 22: Piracy of Warmth

When I hiked out this morning, maybe an hour after first light (but still, it seemed, before Owl and Phoenix passed, or, at least, I didn’t see them go by or their footprints in the snow), I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop at the end of the day or how far I was going to hike. It wasn’t my primary concern. Instead, my major goal was to arrive at Elk Lake Resort to pick up my food resupply.

My mom and I had been on the phone with Wendy, the proprietor, for several days concerning being able to pick up the package despite the resort’s seasonal closure. The package was definitely there, and I wanted to get there before nightfall to ensure I could meet someone to fetch it for me. I had 16.5 miles to go before 6pm. No big deal, right?

It really wasn’t. The snow had stopped. The frost was melting. The trail was mostly flat and the slopes were gentle.

The most incredible bit of trail was a place where the trail suddenly dropped into an enormous open rocky treeless plateau with an enormous mesa of piled boulders on one side. It sloped gently up for a mile with no shade to be found in a way I hadn’t experienced since the High Sierras.

As soon as there were trees again, I stopped for lunch, and after that, the trail went back to being its boring Oregon self. There was one nice view of the few small buttes in the area from the side of Koosa Mountain, but nothing of interest from there to the junction to Elk Lake.

A half mile down the side trail, I tripped and bit it hard. The way I was laid out on the sandy slope, with my head below my feet, it was very difficult to rearrange myself to be able to lift the pack on my back enough to get my feet under me. Even with my bear can nearly empty of food, my pack was as heavy as it had been in a long time thanks to the heavy winter clothing I was carrying. So I laid there a while just getting up the gumption to do that little bit of awkward weight-lifting.

Anyway, I made it down to the resort with an hour of daylight to spare, found someone in the lodge immediately, and after a little bit of confusion (which involved me looking right at my package while the guy never did and claimed it wasn’t there until he made a call and went back to look again), I had my food. I plugged my phone into an outdoor outlet and then spent a half-hour repacking the contents of the box into my pack and bear can.

I called Wendy to let her know the package was received alright. She noted that it was getting late, the sun was setting, and offered to let me camp in the campground. So I told one of the men working there that I was going to do so, and he pointed out that it was going to be very cold that night, maybe dropping into the teens. He promised to bring me firewood.

But nevertheless, I hiked up to the campground and picked out a site and started to pitch my tent.

I was almost done when a golf cart with firewood arrived. A whirlwind of activity involving a screwdriver and some headlamp assistance followed, and I found myself in a camp cabin with a propane heater running. I cooked and ate and went to bed on a mattress. I was the opposite of cold that night. In fact, I left my sleeping bag unzipped and open.

Total distance: 16.5 miles

Sisters Mirror Lake
Now that’s a snow vehicle conversion!

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