After throwing the last of the indoors wood in the fire around 4am, I got in a good stretch of sleep that ended with some bizarre scenes including very clashing and mismatched music. The confusion gently woke me to find that the music was real.
I didn’t wake until it was quite light out this morning. And it’s hard to get moving when the world and all your gear are wet. So it was 9am before I started hiking.
The trail was kind of meandery, up and down through the forest. It started out by coming by a lot of lakes. Later, it would come close to lakes, but not close enough that you could see them from the trail. In general, there were no views or any interesting sites for the latter half of the day.
I got up well before first light to head out into the cold and down to the lake. I plugged my phone back in, gathered some water from the lake, and carried it back to the cabin to filter before packing up.
The sun rose while I was packing, so once I had my things removed from the cabin, I walked back down to the lake to fetch my phone (which had only gotten 10% battery from the very low current trickle in the past hour) and returned to the cabin for photos. Then I made sure the propane heater was off and locked up the cabin again.
Across the street at the trailhead, I was not even a quarter mile up the spur before I had to stop to dig a hole. It was still pretty cold, but at least the sun was well up.
It was probably 8am by the time I made it back to the PCT proper, so I promptly stopped for my morning snack, but after that I had no reason to stop until lunch.
The trail was kind of plain again in terms of scenery, though it did pass ponds and lakes on a regular basis all day.
In the afternoon, I passed a pack sitting beside the trail. A bit later, a light mist started to turn into actual rain, so I stopped to change into rain clothes. Owl caught up to me then. It was his pack I had passed while he was in the woods filling his own hole. He had called to me, but I had not heard him over the podcast I was listening to. He said the others were all ahead. I said I was planning to camp at Stormy Lake. He said he and the others were planning to push on to the next lake after thanks to complaints about the wind at Stormy. I had no intention of doing that. It meant another hour of hiking in the rain after sunset. Besides, I would have no need to pitch a tent the next night and so could make it a bigger day.
So, I camped alone at Stormy Lake, warm and dry in my tent as the rain continued. outside.
Total distance: 18.5 miles
Trail progress: 17 miles
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
Up well before dawn this morning, and the fog was still hovering. Tent was wet, but not as wet as the others’ because they had opted to camp under the trees, which have a habit of gathering fog and dripping it down like rain.
I was packed up as quickly as anyone and the first to leave camp as the sun started coming into view. I set out into the midst of the lava field. Someone in there, Owl caught me up, but he hadn’t taken off his warm pants before starting out, so I left him behind as he changed out of them.
I stopped for my mid-morning break after a little under five miles, eager to take advantage of a tree-covered in the sea of lava. All four of the others passed me during those fifteen minutes and I didn’t catch them again until the end of the day.
When I finally came to the end of the sea of lava and worked my way up the side of a partially burned ridge to Scott Pass, I stopped next to South Mathieu Lake for lunch. A chill wind poured over the pass, so I couldn’t stay sitting still for long. I packed up and got moving.
Soon, the wind brought a light dusting of snow. I stopped for a snack and pulled on my jacket and snow pants and put my Packa on my pack. I also filled up on water at the next creek I crossed. My hands were freezing as I filtered it, but it sure beat having to do the same after the sun went down.
With the last of the afternoon, I entered to the two mile stretch of the trail through the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, a section of trail through and on actual obsidian. Chunks of it underfoot. Obsidian Falls flowed over it. Very cool. But the rules for the area are no camping and stay on the trail, so I got out the other side as quickly as possible.
I had to pull out my headlamp to do the last couple of miles over cold, snowy hillsides. Finally, I came to the Linton Meadows Trail junction, where comments indicated there were tentsites to be found around. In fact, Owl and Phoenix’s Duplex was just a little past it down by the edge of the trees. I shouldn’t have let them pass me because I couldn’t see anything else level and large enough, and it was getting late. I went on maybe another half mile past them until I came across a just barely big enough shelf of snow above the trail. Looked pretty flat.
I haven’t mentioned this, but for the last five miles I had been desperately holding my bowels. I was done. Couldn’t hold it anymore. This little spot was going to have to be enough.
The second thing I did upon arriving was set up my tent and pull all my stuff under the vestibule. I put on another layer of clothes, climbed into my sleeping bag, and only then started cooking in the vestibule. It was pretty dang late by the time I was ready to go to sleep.
Total distance: 20 miles