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PCT Thru Hike – Oregon

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

After the many miles of California, Oregon seemed to fly by. Certainly the length of the trail in Oregon (450 miles) as compared to California (1,700 miles) had something to do with it.  Southern Oregon was quite similar to Northern California, walking in the trees a lot and hot, hot, hot.  The first major stop in Oregon for most PCT hikers is Ashland, Oregon.

I made a brief stop in the Ashland area, staying at Callahans Resort. This was a great overnight stop as it included dinner, laundry facilities, a shower, overnight camping and breakfast for a nominal fee.   Since I had just re-supplied in the Seiad Valley I did not need to make a full stop in Ashland.

After the stop at Callahans I continued towards Crater Lake.  As I was heading north I met a southbound hiker who informed me that the BLM campground at Hyatt Lake had FREE showers.  So, BLM campground here I come.  It was a great deal as the BLM campground had a campsite devoted to PCT hikers, costing only $2, yes $2, which , included use of the showers.  Oh those hot showers feel so good when you are on the
trail!

As I was nearing Crater Lake National Park and getting packed up one morning I was passed by a group of three hikers who were intent on reaching Mazama Village that day.  I too was intent on making the village that day.  The difference was; they had already been hiking for nearly 24 hours and had hiked through the night.  Seems at this point on the trail there was a bit of competition regarding how many miles one could hike at one time.  Ultimately this group hiked, by their own account 58 miles without sleep.  Too crazy for me.  As for me, I had about 14 miles to go to reach Mazama Village that day.

Entering Crater Lake National Park was a bit anti-climactic as other than the signpost not much changed on the trail.  A few miles later things did change as, much to my surprise, the trail was actually less maintained inside the park as compared to outside the park.  What’s up with that Crater Lake National Park?  Although there were numerous blow-downs the trail was still well marked and quite manageable. Eventually, as I neared the more heavily used part of the trail near Mazama Village the trail conditions improved.

After a quick resupply I headed up to the rim of Crater Lake to take some afternoon photos.  After getting some photos I continued hiking around the rim and tried to find the trail leading away from the rim in the dark, under headlamp.  I was unsuccessful and ended up camping in a small nook of a downed tree, out of the wind at the far end of the rim trail.  The next morning I awoke to a nice sunrise took a few more photo’s and departed the lake.

I’ve heard that as one travels the PCT in Oregon you could stop every night and have dinner in the various Camps and Resorts along the way. It seems that may be the case, as the resorts I’ve heard of include
and in order are; Diamond Lake, Fish Lake, Elk Lake, Big Lake Youth Camp, Wilamette Pass Ski resort, Ollalie Lake (closed for renovation this year), Lost Lake (store, no restaurant) and finally, Timberline Lodge.

Although I did not test the “dinner every night” theorem I made a few stops along the way while in Oregon.  My first stop was a quick afternoon at Elk Lake Resort for some pizza (at happy hour no less) followed by a stop at Big Lake Youth Camp, a resupply point for me.

At Big Lake I was picked up by friends for an overnight stay which included plenty of good food and hospitality.  A few days later I met friends and family at Waldo Lake, near Willamette Pass, in Central Oregon for a weekend off the trail.

In addition to going past Crater Lake the PCT also passes by I also saw Mt McGlothlin, Mt Thielson, Mt Washington, the Three Sisters which are comprised of the South, Middle and North, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt
Jefferson, and of course, the stately Mt Hood.  One interesting side note is that in the vicinity of the Three Sister are peaks named Husband as well as Little Brother.  Interesting!  The mid-section of Oregon includes some fairly impressive lava fields which rival those seen on the big Island of Hawaii.

In North Central Oregon the rain began in earnest, thankfully it only lasted for a couple of days.  When the rain stuck I was hiking with two fellow PCT’ers.  On the first day of the rains we were leaving the Jefferson Park area (Mt Jefferson) and managed to reach Ollalie Lake and hang out on the porch of the currently closed store through the worst of it.  We resumed hiking and hiked until after dark, setting up camp in the rain.  The wind blew and it rained most of the night.  In the morning I was still warm and dry.  I continue to be impressed with the MSR Hubba as it has not failed me yet.  Others have not been as lucky.  I’ve seen others whose tents have either blown down or leaked.  The next day was not much for making miles as we started late and quit early, only reaching Clackamas Lake by mid-day.

While at Clackamas Lake we received a health dose of trail magic in the form of burgers, corn on the cob and hot chocolate from some  car- campers who hailed from the Portland area.  We gathered firewood andhad a pretty good sized fire to dry things out.  After that both the weather and our attitudes improved.

At night fall the skies began to clear and the temperature started dropping.  I was a little worried that I might be cold as the Lafuma bag I bought while in Tahoe is only rated at 30 degrees.  As it turned
out my worries were unfounded.  I gave the bag a good shake to fully loft the down and settled in for the night,  Overnight it was quite cold, in the upper twenties I’d guess.  The Lafuma bag came through once again.  I think the thing I like the most about this bag is the extra down in the hood and in the foot-box.  It really does make for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Continuing north we began to catch glimpses of Mt Hood to the north, covered with a fresh blanket of snow.  So, I guess it was c-c-cold the night before and there was certainly a positive side of the rain which
is the impressive views of Mt Hood with new snow. Seeing Mt Hood was a welcome sight as it was an indication of how far north we had come on the Oregon section of the PCT.  We arrived at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood on Monday of Labor Day weekend.  Arriving at dinnertime was a plus as once again we skipped cooking for ourselves and let our debit/credit cards do the cooking.  On a whim we check to see if there were rooms available and opted to share a bunk room.  We took the opportunity to re-dry all of our gear, do laundry, shower, etc.

The next morning my hiking partners over the last week decided to skip breakfast, planning to hike 32.5 miles by starting early.  I opted to stay for breakfast and planned to hike about 25 miles.  Breakfast was
a buffet complete with fresh fruit, waffles, and the rest of the usual breakfast fare.  I think I ate for all three of us!

After the buffet my progress was rather slow as there were plenty of photo opportunities of Mt Hood to take advantage of.  So much for a 25 mile day.  I ended up hiking into the night, again relying on the Mammut Headlamp.  Along this part of the PCT the trail is in the Bull Run watershed which supplies drinking water to the City of Portland. Although it was a nice section of trail the camping opportunities were limited and I camped at one of the few spots I found, at a small spot near the trail junction to Lost Lake.

The next morning I arose early as I was meeting friends at the Eagle Creek Trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge in the afternoon.  I opted to take the Eagle Creek Alternate trail rather than the PCT as it is more scenic and a unique and largely undisturbed ecosystem.  Along Eagle Creek I caught up with Ryan and Bob Rob who made their goal of the previous day and were hiking with a friend of Ryan’s that was providing their ride to Portland for a resupply.
As for me, my journey for this year is complete.  Although the days are getting shorter and the weather could change at any time, more than anything I am just “done walking” for this year.  For the last few weeks I had the feeling that was it time to get off the trail.  From the beginning my hike was “about the journey” rather than the destination.  From that perspective I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  I enjoyed the journey, met a lot of really nice people and both saw and photographed a lot of beautiful scenery.  I’ll be putting up a website with many more photo’s this fall so others can also savor the beauty of the trail.  Should any of you out there in cyber-land choose to do a section or a thru-hike of the PCT I wish you nothing but good luck and the wish that you too “enjoy the journey”.

PCT Journey, Volume Three – Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Greetings everyone.  Wow, what an incredible journey I had through the High Sierra’s.  When I left Kennedy Meadows the forecast was for mixed rain and snow as well as cold temps for the first few days followed by a warming trend.  The forecast was correct which made for some late starts, early stops and some less than ideal hiking conditions.

A couple of nights out of Kennedy Meadows I camped at about 11,000 feet, approximately one-mile short of Cottonwood Pass.  About 3 AM I awoke to the sound of sleet hitting the rainfly.  Sometime during the night the precipitation turned to snow.  I awoke at 6 AM to a beautiful morning and began my day by taking a few photo’s and brewing a cup of tea.  By 7 AM the weather had deterioriated and the snow began again in earnest.  So, rather than hiking in it, I opted to wait it out and I crawled back into the tent and waited it out.  I was thankful for having a good tent and bag.

A few days later after hiking through a bit more weather I reached Crabtree Meadows on June 17th.  Crabtree Meadows is the western “jumping off” point for climbing Mt Whitney.  According to others, it snowed on Mt Whitney on the 17th.  The 18th broke with good weather and an early start (5:30 AM) on climbing Mt Whitney.  My climbing partner, Danny (AKA “Trail Virgin”), and I made good time and reached the summit before noon and enjoyed the view before the weather closed in and we headed down.  The SMC Capra Ice Axe and Stubai crampons provided by Tahoe Mountain Sports were a great help in getting up and down the mountain safely and quickly.

After the hike up Mt Whitney came Forester Pass.  Although Forester Pass is approximately 13,000 feet and is spoken of as formidable I found it to be less challenging than the Mt Whitney climb.  There was a long snow field leading up to the pass, as well as a rock scramble to transition from the snow field to the trail (switch backs).  Overall, not too bad.

Other passes had their challenges, including a near-vertical last-pitch at Mather pass as well as the route finding on the Northern side of Muir Pass.  I found Muir Pass to be the most challenging due to the length of the snow fields and the route finding.  As it happened my journey through Muir Pass was a solo journey which added to the slow going as a result of slowing down for both safety and route-finding purposes.

I reached Muir Trail Ranch on June 24th, a few days later than planned, for a much needed food resupply.  I was ever so glad I included a package of fig bars for immediate consumption in the resupply bucket.  Although the pack was heavier due to the resupply I felt great as I headed back up the hill from Muir Trail Ranch.

A few days later I reached Red’s Meadow where I planned on topping off the lunch supplies, having dinner and an overnight stay at the campground.  At Red’s Meadow there were also “Trail Angels”.  “Just Ben” and Bethany as well as one of their relatives were there providing trailside snacks.  They also had use of a condo in Mammoth.  So, it was off to Mammoth for a shower, a bed, use of the laundry facilities and a couple of good meals.  I had a 24 hour hiatus as I got off the trail at 3 PM one afternoon and was back on the trail by about 3 PM the next afternoon.  Thanks Ben and Bethany!

I had a great hike from Red’s Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows, including an easy climb through Donahue Pass.  Along the way I ran into other hikers I had not seen for a while including “Magellan” and “Sugar Mama” as well as Joel and Katie, newlyweds from Mammoth.

I reached Tuolumne Meadows early in the afternoon on July 1st for a much needed rest.

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