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PCT - McKenzie Pass to Seiad Valley

Backpackers:  Carl Fisher, Brian Lewis, Ed Tucker (written by Carl)

August 4, 2012 (non-hiking day) I flew from Green Bay WI to Portland OR on United Airlines with no problems (a minor miracle).  Brian drove from Seattle WA, picked me up at the airport and we headed to Corvallis OR where Ed had already arrived at his daughter's house.  I am beginning this trip with bronchitis, using an inhaler, and allergy medicine to keep my lungs clear.  I have high hopes that my breathing doesn't force me off the trail.

The Adventure Begins August 5, 2012 (Day 1)

Up at 4:30 AM and on the road at 5:00 AM and after a quick stop at McDonalds for breakfast we arrived at the McKenzie Pass OR trailhead at 8:15.  Thanks to Eric (Ed's son-in law) for driving us.  It took us 20 minutes to find the trail (not a great start!) and we had to be aided by a northbound (NOBO) hiker - we are southbound (SOBO).  McKenzie Pass just north of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area and is smack dab in the middle of several huge lava fields.  The day started out sunny and then became overcast - initially warm and then hot.  The majority of people who hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike are NOBO (from Mexico to Canada) and since we were hiking SOBO we expected to run into quite a few NOBO's.

Two of the first NOBO's we ran into was a pair of ladies with trail names of "Blair Witch" and "Trail Bait".  They were both quite colorful and talkative.  Blair Witch initially hiked the PCT in 1977 and was now hiking it with her cute daughter, Trail Bait.  Mom had to become Blair Witch to "protect" her daughter - according to her.  We ran into 15 or 20 NOBO's in total.

The first day of hiking is always tough as one's body adjusts to the rigors of the trail.  The highlight of the day is the Lupine wildflowers in full bloom.  They have a sweet, delightful, and fragrant smell each time we pass them.  I am having minor toe issues and all of us ended the day tired but anticipating tomorrow.  Bronchitis is being held at bay by the inhaler and allergy medicine.  The one downside is the allergy medicine dries up my nose and throat so when I have dry mouth I don't know if I need a drink of water.  Ed and I shared a bottle of Yellow Tail Cabernet wine in camp.  This cheap bottle of wine is excellent - maybe all of the sloshing in the backpack makes the wine better?  Well... maybe not.  The evening ends with a light rain tap, tap, tapping on our tents while being serenaded by loud, clapping thunder and a huge lightening show.  This is my maiden night in my new Lightheart Solo tent so I have fingers crossed that all goes well.

Snow in August - Really? August 6, 2012 (Day 2)

The rain last night turns out to be a steady down pour for a couple of hours.  Good news is that the Lightheart Solo tent held up well.  I did learn one thing - pitching the tent on a slight downward slope results in sliding down in the tent all night long.  The upside of the rain is that there are no issues with water, the streams are running nicely.  Yesterday's hiking was slow due to lava and today the going is slow due to crossing many, many snow fields.  The snow fields were nothing dangerous and the trail was easy to follow, just slippery and poor footing.  I would have thought all of the snow would have melted out by now.

At lunch time we met three guys, two in their 60's and one in his 70's, who were having lunch so we stopped to talk with them.  They are a fun loving group of guys that give us hope that we can hike into our 60's.  Upon arrival at Sisters Mirror Lake, our intended camping spot for the night, there are lots of mosquitos.  Instead of staying we fill up with water and decide to push on and dry camp, away from mosquitos.  We ended up going up and over Koosah Mountain which is not a great plan for the end of the day.  Ed is very tired and my feet are sore with blisters getting worse.  We camped in a reasonably flat spot, the food was good and the wine even better.  We had excellent views of the South Sister Mountain and several others throughout the day.  I saw two deer - these two deer and one grouse constitute the only wildlife seen the entire trip.

Polly Want a Cracker August 7, 2012 (Day 3)

Temperature in the AM is a comfortable but chilly 55 degrees and ends the day at 82 degrees.  We complete 12 miles before lunch and I am having lots of toe issues.  It is sunny all day long but the hiking is in the forest most of the time.  At camp Ed and I clean up and do laundry as we are camping right next to a lake.  It was good trail all day long with only minor uphill.  We ran into Green Way Grannie who was hiking for a cause in Corvallis OR.  Grannie is 81 years young and very spirited.  When asked her secret to hiking at her age she responded, "Do a good job of picking your ancestors."  We are 7 miles ahead of the original plan and, even being ahead of plan, it has become evident that I did not pack enough food for lunches and that Brian and Ed packed too much.  Brian offered to share crackers with me at lunch to have with his tuna but only if he would submit to being videotaped saying "Polly want a cracker."

It's All Good August 8, 2012 (Day 4)

The rest overnight was great and my feet feel good to start the day.  The mosquitos are hungry.  The different people we meet who are hiking NOBO are very interesting and fall into several different categories.  Some are silent and driven and don't even stop to talk as we pass each other.  A number of them are unique, like Green Way Grannie, are fun to talk with and then there are the "hippie" types.  They look ragged, smell ripe, and have a lazy attitude.  My standard question to all of the hikers is "How's your hike going?'.  The standard hippie answer was along the lines of "Hey dude, it's all good."

I am having a jock itch problem (to go along with my feet issues) - nothing serious just irritating.  We filled up with water at Charlton Lake in order to hike an additional 4 miles to dry camp in an attempt to get away from the mosquitos.  It is a 15 or 16 mile hike tomorrow to Shelter Cove Resort where we have sent re-supply boxes and, hopefully, get a shower and a meal.

Carl Goes Commando August 9, 2012 (Day 5)

Brian, the long distance hiking expert, told me that many folks doing long distance hiking have jock itch issues and they solve it by going without underwear.  I decided it couldn't get worse so I went commando today - to no avail.  Hot, sweaty, itchy with sore feet describes my day.  We stop and talk to a lady whose trail name is "Low Amp" who started on the trail at the California / Mexico border April 6.  Not more than 20 minutes later we ran into another lady who started exactly one month later than Low Amp and would soon catch up with her.  I guess she should be called "High Amp".

I am still fighting a blister on my right little toe but the left little toe seems to be doing better.  Walking between noon until arrival at Shelter Cove at 3:00 PM was very painful.  Fortunately all of our re-supply boxes arrived so we are loaded with food, get a shower and do a load of laundry.  The store at Shelter Cove is very limited so I had a breakfast burrito and apple for supper and bought Pop-Tarts for breakfast.  The three of us shared a bottle of Red Zin wine.  I would have liked more "snacka" items in my re-supply box.

We made two important decisions.  First, Ed and I will not carry wine and, second, we will take an alternate PCT route which is a bit shorter with less elevation change.  We are doing all of this to position ourselves to make it through a 25 mile waterless stretch of trail.  Our goal for tomorrow is a few miles south of Summit Lake, depending on how we feel (or how my feet hold up).

Mosquito's Suck! August 10, 2012 (Day 6)

It was very, very buggy all day long which is the highlight (or should I say low light) of the day.  When one hikes in mosquito infested areas not only does one wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a head net but it is not comfortable to stop and rest so the hiking seems non-stop.  Ed suggested I use Neosporin on the jock itch.  That did the trick so no more commando.  The morning is a quick downhill hike with slow uphill in the afternoon.  We pump water at Summit Lake (surprisingly almost mosquito free) prior to climbing uphill to a campsite that was 100 yards off the trail.  I am beat when we arrive to the campsite but recover quickly.  There are still lots of mosquitos so Brain ate supper in his tent while Ed and I eat quickly and then get into our tents early in the evening.

Diamond in the Rough August 11, 2012  (Day 7)

It is becoming repetitive but the day started off very buggy again.  We have great views of Diamond Mountain throughout the day.  Our lunch break is taken at the Tenas Peak trail junction and at 2:30 PM we get water at Tolo Camp which was 1/3 mile downhill off the trail.  Ed dropped the content of his pack and went down to fill up both his and my water while I wait at the top with the gear so my feet could get a rest.  I now have 3 blisters on his right foot, small toe, big toe and heel.  Moleskin does not want to stay in place on my foot so I am using duct tape and my foot is starting to look like the tin man's. Carl's foot - looking like the tin man's After getting water we push on for another 4 miles and dry camp once again.  All of these "extra" miles are setting us up for the 25 mile dry section.

There has been a lot of smoke in the valleys.  Several NOBO hikers offered that they thought it was a controlled fire based on a sign they saw.  (Actually there were 3 wild fires burning created by lightning strikes during the storm our first night hiking).  We select another nice campsite about 100 yards off the trail but still lots of mosquitos.  My right foot blisters are getting worse.

Getting High on the Trail August 12, 2012 (Day 8)

My feet feel OK as the day begins and we start uphill to reach the high point of the PCT in OR/WA.  Unfortunately it was all downhill for my feet from this point.  Not only did the right foot blisters get worse but my left foot got a heel blister that was worse than all of the others.  I decided before getting to camp that when we hit Hwy 138 the next day I was going to hitch a ride to Mazama Village at Crater Lake National Park and wait a day for Brian and Ed to join me.  My hope is that a day and a half of rest will help the blisters recover so I can finish the trip.  Generally, I end each day with very sore feet and a couple of hours later, out of my boots, they feel pretty good.  That is not so this evening.  Around midnight I was awoken in my sleeping bag by pain in both heels.  I spent the next hour or two contemplating what to do - and came to a decision.

Carl Calls it Quits August 13, 2012 (Day 9)

During the night I decide that I could most likely keep going on but I might risk permanent injury to my feet and the right thing to do is to stop hiking.  It is a very hard decision for me.  I appreciate the support given to me from both Ed and Brian on my decision.  Since today is the 25 mile day with no water they want to get started early to get more hiking done in the coolness of the early morning.  We get up at 5:00 AM and my left foot still really hurts so there was no question in my mind about heading back to Corvallis OR as I don't think one and a half days rest will be enough.

We arrive at Hwy 138 at 7:45 AM and say our goodbyes and good lucks.  I do my best to wipe the trail grime and smell off of me and change into a cleaner (not clean, just cleaner) shirt.  There is a truck at the trail head and the owner is leaving on a day hike to return in 3 hours.  He offers me a ride to Mazama Village when he returns.  I put Brian's tips on hitchhiking to use (something I've only done once in my life and that was over 35 years ago).  His tips: don't wear a hat, no sunglasses, make my hiking poles short and not look like a weapon, make my pack as small as possible, be "unscary", and SMILE.

Hitchhiking

At 8:40 (an hour later) after 19 cars passed (yes I counted them) the twentieth one stopped.  Ernie was not heading to Mazama Village but was going to Diamond Lake Resort (about 10 miles away).  I asked if he thought I could get a ride to Eugene or Corvallis.  He said he was pretty sure that someone that worked at the resort would be going into Roseburg (where I was pretty sure I could catch Greyhound).  Since this started as a big adventure I thought, "What the hell, give it a try."  Ernie, as it turns out, had been the chef at the resort until a month ago and still knew most of the staff.  When we arrived he called the manager to get authorization for me to use the staff shower (a benefit to anyone else I rode with) and to ask if there were any runs going to Roseburg.  The shower was approved but the run to Roseburg had left 45 minutes prior.  I took a shower and headed to the registration desk where they found me a ride with a staff member but not for two days.  I put my backpack on, went outside and started reading the bulletin board.  A resort worker, Larry, approached me and asked if I was hiking the PCT.  I gave him my standard sob story about leaving the PCT, my blisters, etc.  Larry said he would see what he could do to help me and walked away.  Five minutes later as I was slowly walking around the resort to find a good place to sit that would give me an opportunity to talk to folks about my plight I heard Larry calling to me.  He said he had me a ride to Glide to which I had to ask, "Where's Glide?"  Turns out it was about 30 miles from Roseburg.  I hesitated but then remembered my big adventure and said to myself, "What the hell, give it a try."

So in the first 50 minutes of hitchhiking I received my first ride, a shower, and found a second ride with Nicolette.  Nicolette, an unmarried, 33 years old, mother of an 11 year old, talked for most of the 2 hour ride.  She loved her car (her words), an old blue one with a cracked windshield, littered with old fast food meals and cigarette butts.  I'm pretty sure the dashboard and floorboard had never been cleaned.  She brought me to Idleyld (just west of Glide) gas station to wait from my next ride.  I went inside to purchase a sandwich which Nicolette had told me were "the best".  I asked the clerk if she had any ideas of where I could get a ride to Roseburg.  She said no so I asked if it would be OK for me to sit at the picnic table in front.  She said it would be OK but not to harass the customers.  She brought me a piece of cardboard and a marker upon which I wrote my destination and propped it against my backpack.  I sat down to eat my sandwich and make this journal entry.

An hour later, just as I finished the sandwich and making journal entries up walked Wes who said he could get me another 5 miles down the road.  I said, "Thanks but I would wait."  Would he consider taking $20 for gas to take me to Roseburg (30 miles away)?"  He said no and went inside.  As Wes was leaving he said he'd take me to Roseburg.  Wes lives in his van and immediately told me he hoped it would make it to Roseburg.  He is currently unemployed, has held many different types of jobs and came to Idleyld to buy beer and supplies for a friend that grows medical marijuana!

After a quick 45 minute ride we arrive at the Greyhound bus station which is closed until 4:00 and the bus leaves at 5:15.  Wes says, "Hey, let me buy you a beer for your birthday. I know the owner of the bar next door."  "Sure, why not?" is my response.  On the way into the bar I said, "I should be buying you a beer." To which Wes responds, "I'm using your $20."  We both had a Black Butte Porter and 45 minutes later Wes (the unemployed guy) wants to buy me a burger so I didn't have to wait at the bus station.  I turned him down but what a nice guy.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  I arrived in Corvallis at 9:45 PM.