PCT Completion Hike – Days 65 to 79

The phoenix must burn to emerge.
– Janet Fitch

From Shelter Cover, we continued hiking north, crossing Highway 58 before climbing along a fairly steep, long incline toward the Rosary Lakes area. This is a region that actually contains a series of three lakes, one feeding into the others. The views here were incredible and we had clear, fresh air to enjoy.

Hiking in Oregon during late July and early August, was a perfect time to be there. The temperatures were in the upper 70’s or low 80’s, we didn’t experience a lot of humidity and ripe huckleberries abound. With so many lakes and ponds, we managed to either have lunch or camp overnight almost entirely by water. At Maidu Lake, a mile off trail, the water was so warm that even Patti ventured in. There was also the most incredible number of half-inch sized frogs leaping and jumping all around the banks. It was hard not to step on the little guys. Other lakes we enjoyed were Bobby Lake, Charlton Pond, Taylor Lake, among many more.

I was fascinated by one section-hiker’s itinerary/strategy on hiking the trail. He drives a truck towing a trailer that carries his scooter. He drives to his planned end-point, drops off his scooter, then drives the truck to the trail head and leaves it there. He does his hike to his scooter and then rides that back to his truck. As section hikers ourselves, we spend a lot of time figuring out how to get to and from our trail heads. This guy had it down.

One of the greatest things about the Pacific Crest Trail is the help hikers receive from complete strangers. This often takes the form of a hitch into town or a water cache left for thirsty hikers through a dry area. More commonly, however, trail magic includes these folks hanging out near a trail head and providing fresh food and drinks to the hikers as they pass by. At Charlton Pond, Patti and I were greeted by Hannah and “Sparkles” who was a hiker herself. It was late in the day, almost dark, in fact. But as we approached we saw an eager Hannah waving her hand, chanting “You Who” at us. Next thing we know we’re eating pancakes with lots of squeeze butter and maple syrup, chips and salsa, candy and drinking nice cold local beer. We gorged ourselves after a long day of hiking before setting up camp on the banks of the pond. Then, in the morning, before moving on, we were walking by the area that Hannah and Sparkles were camped at, only to be offered fresh eggs and fruit. The generosity of these trail angels, and all trail angels, is a testimony of how good people can be – something we can easily forget living our lives day-to-day. Hannah and Sparkles provided magic for four solid days, hauling their supplies and food, including ice and cans of beer, into the forest, to more than 80 hikers by the time were leaving. Their generosity was amazing. They would not accept our donation to help with their costs. This was entirely on them.

The impact of fire, past and present, was visible as we moved on. Patti and I saw these areas in different lights. Patti saw the near-baron landscape, but pointed to the small flowers and sprouting green grass as a sign of beauty, remembering that life restores itself in these burn areas. And while I understand that, I was more pessimistic by seeing only the devastation that the fires produced. I was often frustrated by the number of miles we hiked through burn areas, regretting that we were missing what the fires destroyed. This yin/yang between us is good. It gives us something to talk about. In the meantime, however, smoke from the current fires from the region returned and dogged us for the next several days.

Soon after this, we met up with a hiker mentioned in an earlier post, Tequila John. We hiked together for a few days before parting ways, at least temporarily (or so we thought). But not before having a long, hard day walking into Olallie Lake. The three of us were so happy to finally get there at the end of the day, we celebrated with beer and a late dinner. The facility is within a National Forest and has a general store but no restaurant. So, dinner was still trail food. But we all enjoyed a late night before heading to bed. The next morning, we had an 8-mile climb we weren’t looking forward to. I think the beers and camaraderie from the night help us for the climb, even if the cost was in hours of sleep.

Patti and I wanted to attend PCT Days in Cascade Locks on the weekend of August 18. This is a big annual event put on by the Pacific Crest Trail Association. So, we hitched rides to Cascade Locks that Friday, leaving Tequila John at Frog Lake at Highway 26. We made plans to meet him back at Cascade Locks on the following Wednesday after he hikes into town there on Monday. He would take two days off while Patti and I would return to Frog Lake and hike back to Cascade Locks. As I type this it all seems overly complicated, but it all made perfect sense when the plans were made. PCT Days is a time to meet vendors and gear manufacturers, see what’s new in the areas of hiking and outdoor sports, and to network with and learn from some of the elite in the field. We were also able to meet with the PCTA’s Jack Haskell. We had lots of questions and concerns about the smoke and fire we were hearing about in Washington. We were only about 60 miles short from the state border and we had concerns. The news was not good. New fires erupted in several areas in the state, smoke was reportedly heavy. Some of the trail was closed. In fact the last 60 miles of trail, leading up to and including the Northern Terminus of the trail, was now closed with no walk-around yet established. Many hikers were moving on hoping for the best. But Jack made several good points about not moving forward. We now had a lot to think about. There at Cascade Locks, the air was clear. In fact, it was a beautifully sunny and warm weekend. So, it was hard to image the smoke up north being so bad. However, living in Southern California, we know all too well the realities, and that is that these fires produce such heavy and potentially toxic smoke that it’s never a good idea to be sucking that in.

If fire and smoke had not chased us off trail, any one of some other reason may have led to the same decision. We began to see earlier in July that we may not be keeping our schedule. And as days passed, then weeks, our chances to catch up were diminishing. We were pretty sure by mid-July that we may not make it and decided that if we in fact couldn’t make it, we might consider leaving all of Washington for next year. Our schedule was more to do with getting off trail by mid-September to reduce our risk of getting caught in an early snow fall. Also, previous nerve injury to my neck that causes a lot of pain in my shoulder had began flaring up back in June and was a factor throughout the completion hike, so there was that, too. The final straw that gave us the impetus to make a final decision was the smoke, however, and Jack’s suggestion to come back next year and finish it then. I called Tequila John to let him know. He was on his way to Cascade Locks as planned. He decided to also get off trail and for the same reasons. His back was injured and he was tired of the smoke. We made future plans to connect next year to finish the trail together. This was his second attempt at a thru-hike. Next year, we will simply pick up where we left off.

After PCT Days, we hitched back down to Highway 26 to start our way back to Cascade Locks. Patti and I both were sad and quiet that day, hiking out. Our hike was drawing to a close for this season. And I know that I at least, continued to question our decision. But Patti bounded on, trying to be positive which helped me, too. And the following morning, we both agreed that it was going to be a great day and we would take our time to finish the last 55 miles we had to do. We even took the time to have hot coffee before we got up out of the tent and enjoyed it leisurely before pushing off. We would be approaching Timberline Lodge, a famous National Historical Landmark hotel. We planned to stop by to take a few pictures.

Very soon after getting out of the tent and over the first ridgeline, I began to realize that the air quality was diminishing. Soon after that the smoke began to move in. And by the time we got to Timberline Lodge, visibility was reduced to about 100 yards. I wanted to take sometime to sit and post our decision to leave the trail to Instagram. This was my effort, I suppose, to get the process started and to accept this was what we were going to do. I posted a picture of the smoke and explained our decision. Our health is more important than the hike.

After taking a few pictures, we put our packs back on. We wandered out to the trail. We began to hike. Within a quarter mile, perhaps even less, Patti said she was getting a headache. And I finally had an epiphany: if we aren’t doing Washington because of smoke, why are we hiking to Cascade Locks in smoke? We looked at each other. We sadly agreed that this was stupid. And then we found our way back to the lodge. Our decision had been reached.

After a quick lunch and a few phone calls, and using a borrowed magic marker and cardboard we dug out of a recycling bin, we made two signs:

SMOKEY PCT HIKERS
TO
PORTLAND

PLEASE!

Within 4 hours we were in Portland, showered and eating a nice home cooked meal at my friend’s home. It was not an easy decision to leave the trail. And we continue to miss it even after two weeks.

Moving forward, we plan on getting back to the trail next July. We’ll need about six weeks to complete the last 550 miles we have remaining. We will be trying to connect with Tequila John. Hopefully we can all make that work. I’ll be posting more pictures to Instagram (Instagram.com/mcshap). And over the next several weeks, I’ll be updating our pedometer readings, gear list and will post additional thoughts on our hike.

Lynn Shapiro

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PCT Completion Hike – Days 48 to 64

Our last update from Yreka, CA, mentioned the smoke from fires around the area. The day after arriving in Yreka, we were having lunch at a Subway when another hiking couple came in. There is an unspoken recognition between most hikers and the four of us got to talking right away. They were hoping to ride share to Ashland, a hiker resupply point a few miles north. We mentioned that we were were hoping to connect with a trail angel we’d already been in touch with. Things worked out for all of us, with the trail angel, Bill, aka “Chanti,” giving Patti and me a ride to the trailhead and the other couple a ride to Ashland. We all spoke about the smoke and fires on the way. But not until after we gave trail names to Lightening and Thunder who told the story of being out on the trail one rainy night, when a bolt of lightening struck a tree near them. Apparently it split the tree in half.

Once on the trail, Patti and I moved onto pretty easy hiking, at least by California standards. Smoke continued to dog us that day, that evening and all of the following day. We had a short reprieve when the air seemed to clear the next day. We hiked into a dense forest hinting of the “green tunnel” some describe Oregon to be. We were also seeing a lot of burn areas, left behind from last year’s fires, where entire sides of mountains and hills were wiped clean. After just a few short days of reasonably clear air, the smoke returned. The air was hazy and the sky was gray.

One afternoon, Patti and I stopped for lunch on top of a mountain. The sky was clear. Patti went .8-mile below the trail to pick up water at a pond and carried it back, maybe 35-minutes tops. We made and had lunch, maybe 15-minutes. And we also made a phone call realizing we had service for the first time since Yreka. When we first arrived, I pointed out to Patti a cloud of smoke that was clear on the opposite ridgeline from our vantage point. In the time that passed between arriving and our leaving about an hour later, we were emerged in smoke that moved in from the opposite mountain.

I grew frustrated that each day we moved further north the smoke would move back in during the afternoon hours. There were both obvious and subtle indications of fire. The headaches and dry throats were clearly caused by the smoke we were inhaling. But a beautiful sunrise or sunset, with the sun a bright orangey red instead of a bright yellow, drew away from the fact that the color we were seeing was caused by smoke.

The burn areas also exposed a huge need for trail work to get the PCT through this region back in shape. There were downed trees crossing the trail in quite possibly hundreds of places. Fires have ravished some of the trail. It will likely take decades to correct. More funding is always needed.

One of the trail’s more famous resupply points is Crater Lake. Patti and I have been there before so knew to expect to see the bluest clearest water we’ve ever seen. It’s the signature feature of the park containing it. When we approached Mazama Village, the official resupply point within the park, the air was plenty smokey. There were lots of hikers there, perhaps 50, many of whom we’d already met. The PCT near the park had been diverted previously due to a fire last year. The original PCT segment had just reopened. However, many hikers were still choosing to do the diverted trail because it actually gets hikers closer to the rim of the crater nearest the lake. In either option, Patti and I could see that the air was smokey and from our point of view, not safe. In fact, smoke reports posted by the National Park Service were dubious. So, we decided to jump ahead, now a second time, to see if we could get ahead of the smoke. We hitched a ride and got dropped off just north of the park. This decision would prove to be significant later on. We might have thought to move even further up the PCT, perhaps giving us some space. But we wanted to limit our jump forward as it was equally important to us to do as much of the PCT as possible.

At one point, we began to hear other hikers discuss the Oregon Skyline Trail. This is a spur trail that meets up to the PCT and is, in the end, a few miles shorter. I think there is also more water along the way to collect. (A side note here, that we found Oregon to be much dryer than expected through the month.) We decided to take this trail, hoping to see a little more of Oregon than we had. Along the way, we found some great lakes to stop at. One lake, Bingham Lake, was just a short distance from the OST. We found it and had the entire lake to ourselves. It was shallow and warm. We were able to collect water, freshen up and do some “laundry” all in one stop.

We were growing excited to get to our next resupply point, Shelter Cove. There we would receive a box full of goodies and get a chance to eat something other than trail food. We took showers, did real laundry, ate at the restaurant and shopped in the general store before settling in for the night at their campsite. The staff there was great. They were very accommodating to hikers. They have a tent and charging station available for hikers, along with picnic tables, a microwave, hiker boxes and trail registry. The WiFi, however, was painfully slow.

We began meeting other hikers, though not a lot of them. Those of us on the trail, despite the smoke, seemed resolved to wait and see how things would develop, and to continue hiking in the meantime. We began picking up more strength and endurance. We built our daily mileage up to 16-18 miles per day comfortably, and up to 20-22 on good days. We caught up with one hiker we met at Crater Lake, Tequila John. We would later leapfrog him several times before we all decided to hike together. We enjoyed having a fresh voice to speak with. We got acquainted quickly.

Photos on instagram.com/mcshap

PCT Completion Hike – Days 12 to 30

Checking in after completing our first 400-plus miles of our PCT completion hike. We have now been on trail for 30 days and are well more than half done with the entire trail. Our latest adventures took us from Sierra City, where we last left word, to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. We have lots of stories, have learned a lot of lessons and have posted a lot of pictures on Instagram, too.

Now that we are a month into this, we are starting to see some of the differences between how we used to hike sections and how we are now hiking the remainder of the trail in its entirety. Planning is simplified to some degree. We no longer have to figure out transportation to each trailhead for each segment, for instance. But it’s more complicated in other ways, such as having a viable and successful resupply plan. There are other considerations, too. Being out on trail for an entire month has brought new dynamics to the hike. It’s no longer a mere physical task, though it is still that, for sure. But I’m finding the hike now just as much mental as physical. So, this brings in new dimension, as well. Patti mentioned the other day how she wakes up each morning and at first a thought sweeps over her about how hard this hike is. Soon enough, that fades and the wonder of the day takes over. For me, I find myself thinking about the hugeness of the world around me, and seem to seek a space in it where I make sense of what that means.

We are still decoding our new normal, trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t and how things might work better. We look for efficiencies everyday and we continue to dial in what works best for us. We continue to struggle getting our daily mileage over 15-miles. We have done many days over that figure, just not consistently. In order to match our goal to be done with the hike by September 15, we see each day at least a small part of that probability diminish.

We had a string of equipment breakdowns. Much of our gear is old or just not doing what we need. So, we have spent the last couple of days researching, finding and acquiring new gear as needed. This includes new shoes for both of us, a new pack for Lynn, a new water filtration system, new rain poncho for Patti. These items all either completely gave out on this latest outing, or wore out after normal use. We also needed to call for a replacement tent as the brand-new one we used only for 40 days or so, started breaking at the poles and screen. It was very stressful while on trail seeing each of these items break over a period of just a few days. Still more than 70 miles out from any stopping point, we could do nothing but rely on duct tape and employ a world of patience until we could take care of these problems once off trail.

Another major issue we are working to resolve is our weight loss. Patti has lost 8-pounds and I have lost 14. According to a calorie-burn calculator I found online Patti and I are likely burning around 5000 calories per day of hiking, well more than we can take in. So, we are constantly fighting weight loss and keeping up our energy. To this end, we are looking for better and more calorie-filled foods along with rich proteins. As an example, Cliff Bar Protein Builder bars carry 400-plus calories. Compared to the Nature Valley brand bars we were using, we more than doubled the calorie counts for our breakfasts by making this one change alone.

As we headed south on the trail, we saw and met many of this year’s thru-hikers. At first, we saw what one hiker described as the “elite” – those that hiked the Sierra Nevada Mountains as they approached it. We also met many people who jumped ahead of the Sierra Nevada and bounced back to the Sierra once the snow had mostly melted. Then, we started seeing hikers who started later in the season, finished the Sierra but did so only after the winter season had all but ended. Either way, Patti and I both hold a lot of respect for thru-hikers, no matter how they do it. It’s a great accomplishment ether way.

About Pace

Patti is 5’1”. I’m 5’11”. We did some testing (we have plenty of time :)) and found that for every 100 strides I make, Patti has to make 140 strides to cover the same distance, a remarkable difference. This has led to a lot of our time on trail spent separately. No matter how I try to modify my pace to match Patti’s, I gain speed over time and end up well ahead of her. If Patti tries to keep pace with me, she wears out and then falls behind, then, too. She does carry more endurance though and can hike beyond my stopping point. We are still working on how to make things work but right now we spend a lot of our time on trail hiking alone.

We will continue updating our progress as we are able. We don’t often have service. But when we do, I’ll update our progress.

As always, thanks for following along. Pictures on Instagram

Lynn Shapiro

 

 

PCT Completion Hike – The First 11 Days

Resting today – a forced rest – in Sierra City, roughly 130 miles from our start at Chester. Little snafu with our resupply box getting sent to the Post Office instead of the general store where we could get it picked up today. But given it is Sunday, we’re here in Sierra Ciry until tomorrow when the PO reopens.

So far, the hike has been a venture of many hits and missess. Our first resupply, for instance, was scheduled for Belden. But when we arrived, we found our box never arrived. So we had to buy supplies there at premium prices and have our errant box bounced to a destination northward once it is found. And Belden was a bust at best as we found it less than hiker-friendly and would suggest to future hikers to bypass Belden altogether and visit Carribou Crossing instead. There, the staff is much friendlier and helpful. And prices were more reasonable, too. Just one more note on this: Belden does not receive USPS services. Resupply boxes must be sent UPS or FedEx. But in nearly all other cases, the hike this far has been an absolute dream.

Got dropped off at the trailhead at Highway 36 Wednesday afternoon, June 13, at 4:30. We walked three miles before knocking off for the night.

Packs were heavy. Patti started carrying about 23% of her body weight. I was carrying 27%.

Big climb out of the gates next morning. But we felt good. Climbed to 7200 feet before leveling out. Lots of ups and down. But realized in the end that we had done 2000 feet up. About altitude: we both needed some time to adjust – not unusual for us. We have since breeched 7000-feet elevation a number of times.

We have seen some wildlife, but many deer specifically. One night, while in our tent, we heard footsteps. I looked out to find a deer about 20 feet away. Then, a few minutes later that deer along with another passed by again. Beautiful animals. We saw yet another small buck another day while we were putting up our tent. Several others along the way.

We both have a few aches and pains to work out. But nothing serious.

Our equipment is holding up for the most part. But my backpack is starting to rip in several places so I’ll need to address that. Also our Sawyer Mini is filtering water but the water tastes bad. So, we will be replacing that soon. In the meantime, we will continue using our full sized Sawyer Squeeze.

We remain in great spirits and having a blast. Thrilled to be living out a dream we’ve dreamed for many years.

People have asked about the trail: the trail is most usually about 18-inches wide, sometimes narrower. It is at times soft with pine needles bedding. Sometimes nothing but rocks that are jagged and dangerous. The trail can be straight or crooked. Steep or flat. Uphill or downhill. Dirt or sand. Sunny or shady. Wet or dry. Or, all of these things inside of a single mile. But it is at all times beautifully awesome and inspiring. Along each side of the trail the holes left by trekking poles by hikers who have passed before us, become a track. I have imagined these as a train track. My poles fall lockstep into the groove, a rhythm forms, then I almost feel propelled by what only could be a metaphysical caboose. The hike becomes a glide, or a floating almost just chugging along.

We will continue providing updates as cell service and Wifi allows.

Thanks to all of you for following along.

I have found it very difficult to post pictures using WordPress. So, our photos will be on our Instagram page at Instagram.com/mcshap

Lynn Shapiro

The Countdown

We are traveling ever closer to the trail. In Arizona now, Interstate 10, westbound, it’s early and we plan a full day of driving. The destination: Redding, California. There, we will get just one last day to prepare our packs, and get the van ready for long-term storage. We will catch a bus heading to Chester. And there, at mile 1331 of the Pacific Crest Trail at Highway 136, Patti and I will step foot on trail.

We’ve traveled a long distance since March 23 when we left Encinitas. We have both left our jobs. We left our home in the hands of a property manager. We sold nearly everything we own. Commitments required a swing around family and friends in the midwest. We moved through 14 states, put more than 9000 miles on our new van. We’ve been in sleet, snow and a blizzard, rain and humid, hot, sticky sun. We hiked these months as many trails as we could find, using this time to physically prepare for the 90-day hike we will soon begin. Our feet walked the hollowed ground of the Ozark Trail. We also visited Beale Street in Memphis, the Civil Right Museum in Jackson and cooled our feet in the waters of the Gulf Course. Now, the trail is just ahead of us.

Our hiking the PCT started as section hikes. Often just afternoons, we would go out to those sections that were nearest our home. But as those sections got completed, our hikes took us further away and that began lengthening our hikes. Soon, we did five days, then a couple of 10-day hikes. Last year, we did 175 miles in the course of 15-days. We have now completed 1100 miles of the PCT. We have 1550-miles left to complete it. We will hike these miles in a single shot.

I’m not sure that I am prepared to hike the remaining 1550 miles as a “thru-huke.” Patti and I have spoken often that our previous section hikes were always encumbered by time restrictions and other limitations. These would kind of taint the experience of hiking and diminish the thrill of completing a challenge. There was always something holding us back, pulling us back, to the realities of our lives.

I believe that hiking 1550 miles will be as much a mental thing as it will be physical. We were asked the other day if we were “ready” for the trail. We answered with only the physical component in mind: we wish we had more training hikes in, but we feel ready and excited. But mentally, I’m still getting my head wrapped around the enormity of what we’re planning to do. I expect this experience will teach me. I suspect I will be humbled. I look to embrace it. I want to feel and see it. I want to taste it.

Starting next Wednesday, I will begin posting short updates of our progress as we weave ourselves up the PCT corridor to Canada. I will likely post some pictures here on the blog. But more pictures of our travels will be posted to our Instagram account at: www.instagram.com/mcshap We encourage you to also visit our page there as most of our better photos are posted on that platform.

Patti and I both sincerely appreciate those of you who follow along and for all of your support.

Cheers!

Lynn