I went into this section with hopeful anticipation. I was tired of walking but I was excited for the miles ahead. I knew they were beautiful, I knew it was just a short time until I would be through Oregon and I knew the end of this journey would start approaching quickly. We had taken a few days off while Leapfrog’s girlfriend came out to visit and the final day of the break sitting by Diamond Lake I could feel my mind and my legs very ready to get back to trail. It was hard to know if it was cause I wanted to get this next section done or because I knew what the trail had in store for me.
The first day out we pushed 31 miles, cruising past Mt. Thielsen and finishing what I hope will be our final long water carry. The whole day I passed new faces, people I had never met before. Our bubble was gone and had faded into the massive Oregon bubble that had formed. From talking to SOBOs we figured there were about 50 hikers in each 25 mile stretch of trail all the way from Ashland to Oregon. Everyone was in the state at the same time this year cause of the fires in NorCal.
We ended the day finding our old friend Poppins. It had been almost 800 miles since we’d seen him. He’d been enjoying his time and fighting his way around the fires with everyone else behind us. It was good to see an old friend, it meant there were probably more just ahead.
On the 14th we cruised our way to Shelter Cove, a resort on Odell Lake. Diamond Peak was beautiful, and it’s glacial water was a wonderful treat for lunch, along with the lakes and ponds that dotted the land but ending the day at a resort was even better. I had a delicious burger and a soda, took a bath in the lake and we found even more friends that had been just behind us before we took our zeros earlier in the week. It was a good place to end a day.
I spent a lot of that second day out trying to figure out how I felt about the journey so far. Truth be told, I’m tired of walking, I have been for a couple hundred miles now. There are still beautiful sections and places and there are still wonderful moments along the way but what I found simple pleasure in has found its way to feeling like a job. I’m going to spend the last hundred miles of Oregon trying to change that, but at this point I’m less than 30 days to the end so I can suffer as needed (if needed).
The morning of the 15th we found our way out to Willamette Pass and up into the 3 Sisters Wilderness, we’d spend the next three days here. It was a land of lakes and ponds, dotted with burn zones, sporadic granite cliffs and a slow change to volcanic rock as you continued north. It was somewhere I’d love to come back to with a Kokopelli packraft and a 12 pack of beer to spend the weekend exploring each lake along the way.
As we approached the South Sister on the second day, you could start to see the faint patches of snow higher up on the mountain. It was a sign if what was to come. That afternoon we found our way down to Elk Lake Resort for yet another resupply, afternoon drink and some warm food. Part of me wanted to stay but I knew McKenzie Pass and the final push out to Washington was only a day away.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of rain on my tent. It was cold. The mid-70s of the day before had crashed down into the upper 40s. Getting out of bed wasn’t terribly hard, I was excited for the cold weather. The wind later on in the day would prove to be less than ideal though. The mountains were moody this morning as I wandered my way through the best parts of the Three Sisters. The peaks faded in and out of clouds and the landscape became ever more volcanic. There were blueberries to snack on everywhere. It was beautiful and reinvigorating.
On the 18th we’d find our way to McKenzie Pass with a friend waiting to drive us around a fire closure. We’d make new friends helping some other hikers getting towards Bend (shoutout to Darrin, Kaitlyn and Oscar), we’d run into Stretch and Steer and help them bounce around the fire closure as well. I’d be dropped off just south of Mt. Hood and the three day race to get out of Oregon and make it to Trail Days at Cascade Locks would be on. It was exciting and also tiring. Excited to be finishing Oregon, tiring to know I still had 500 miles (about 3 weeks of hiking) ahead.