PCT days 36-50: Big Lake Youth Camp to Etna

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, August 23, 2010

In the town on Etna, CALIFORNIA!!! Shirley's back in her home state and re-energized...yeehaw. We are making good progress; so far we've covered 1,057 miles and 186,533 feet of elevation gain...wowsas.

We're having trouble uploading photos, but Yannick was able to put add a few pictures to the previous entry.

Big Lake Youth Camp to Crater Lake
Day 36 (8/8/10): We're still pretty full from dinner at the Big Lake Youth Camp, so we forego the all-you-can-eat breakfast...lightweights! :) We depart the youth camp at 11am and head for McKenzie Pass. This area is very open, sandy, and dry, almost desert-like. Along the way, we pass an older man in need of water; we fill his bottle and hope he makes it back to his destination without too much trouble. We ration our remaining 1.5 liters for the 12 miles to the Pass and get pretty thirsty as we hike over lava rocks and next to cinder cones. At McKenzie Pass, we are very pleased to find a bountiful water cache to fill our bellies and our bottles. From here, we walk over more lava flow and feel as though we're walking on the moon. We pass Lava Camp and here, the trail becomes a well-maintained highway traveling through forest, meadows, sandy hills, and volcanic remains. We end our day at Minnie Scott Spring, an oasis amidst an arid landscape.
    When we read about people doing 40 miles a day through Oregon because it is so flat, it gave us the impression this area would be bland. Why else would people blaze through it? We are pleased to find quite the contrary -- Oregon has treated us with beautifully diverse scenery since our first miles in this state and we can't wait to find out what lies ahead.

Day 37: We leave our camp hidden in the trees and continue our journey on the moon. The Three Sisters area we are hiking through is amazing and Yannick says he wants to come back here in the future to do more exploring. As we hike along the West side of Middle Sister, we come to a sudden opening in the trees, revealing a magnificantly peculiar view: a rolling field where a lava flow suddenly stops on the left, a partition of openness over a yellow rolling land, then a dense, green forest on the right. Each of these pieces on it's own would not be very interesting, but the three abruptly coming together is a beautifully curious sight.
    Soon, we get to the junction with Elk Lake. So far, we've been mosquito-free, but this is where we've been told to start watching out for the blood suckers again. We get to an area with dozens of lakes and the mosquitos are bearable, so we reserve our precious deet for later. We make camp 28 miles from today's start and even have a little time to sit by a campfire while eating dinner. The fire is nice and makes us feel as though we're on a liesurely camping trip. A quick wash in the lake and off to bed.

Day 38: We start hiking at 6:30am and it is thankfully too chilly for the mosquitos to come out. A few hours in, we meet the most awesome person -- an 80-year-old little asian lady solo section hiking the PCT. Helen's already completed CA over the past few summers and is hiking Oregon this season, then will finish off Washinton next year. She's so humble, saying she is "so slow" and can "only" cover about 12 miles per day, then adds that she was able to do big 15-mile day yesterday. Because of her speed, she has to carry up to 20 days of food at times and needs a warmer (read: heavier!) sleeping bag to keep her arthritis at bay. With the load she is carrying, we wonder if we would be able to make the progress she does day after day. It is so inspiring to see her doing this at age 80 -- that's 50 years older than us! Yannick wants to trail name her "The Terminator" because he bets she can kick your grandma's butt, heheheh.
    At noon, we break for lunch at a lake and dip our feet in the water while we eat. Yannick's feet are rubbing in his shoes strangely and the bottoms of his feet bother him. We spend over 30 minutes relaxing by the water and enjoy the view; one of the best breaks ever. While hiking, we stop frequently to chat with the passing Northbounders. We meet "Beaker" and her boyfriend "Z-dog." Beaker is the first thru-hiking female that we've met, although she thinks there is another ahead of her.
    Somehow, even with our stops today, we hit our 30-mile goal by 7 pm. Shirley is still feeling pretty good although Yannick feels a little trashed -- such a rare event. Yannick thinks we should take advantage of the situation and we decide to put in a couple extra miles to make the most of the day. What a trooper! We end the day at 32 miles, a couple miles South of Bobby Lake. As we lay our heads down to sleep, the hundreds of mosquitos outside our tent lovingly sing us a lulliby..."BZZZZZZZ!!!"

Day 39: The alarm goes off at 5:30am and we struggle to wake up. For a change, Shirley starts to stir first. Yannick asks, "How do you feel?" and she grumbles a little, then answers, "tired." He then asks, "What are you going to do about it?" She replies, "Get up and start hiking." She sits up and starts getting dressed when she hears Yannick chuckle, so she curously asks what that was about. He says he was just laughing because that she gave the perfect answer to his question.
    We hike until about noon and take another luxurious lake lunch with no mostquitos in our one little spot where we sit. The hiking today is forest, lake, pond, mosquitos. Rinse, repeat, and multiply by 31 miles. We actually wanted to stop at 27 miles to stay at Summit Lake, but decided not to once we started inhaling mosquitos at the lakeshore. Four miles later, we thought it might getter, but we were wrong...we had to stop for the night despite being engulfed by the mostquitos. Once inside the tent, we manage to zip the tent door closed, trapping only 40 or so of them inside with us. We spend the next 15 minutes in "search and destroy" mode. Once we are done, dead bodies lay everywhere and our hands are black with little mosquito bits. Now, time to sleep peacefully...aaah.

Day 40: Today, our motivation is water. We are heading into a very dry section and there aren't many water sources along the trail - the springs and lakes require short detours to fill up. We hike 8 miles and find a water cache along a dirt road, so we fill up 4 liters there because we hear the spring coming up is no good. We get to the trail junction that leads to the spring and take a lunch break on a log. As we sit there, a girl comes charging up from the side trail, does a 360, looks at us and asks, "southbounders?" We talk to "Hummingbird" for a few minutes and find out she's been doing 45 miles a day through Oregon and even hit 60 miles one day. She wants to be the first female to yo-yo the PCT (start in Mexico, go to Canada, then turn around and head back down to Mexico!) and will attempt it next year. We give her some water to make it to the cache because she is out and was depending on the spring. She hovers a few more minutes to talk, then zooms away...fitting trail name. 
    Continuing on, we reach the highest point in the Oregon/Washington section (7,560 ft) and finally reach the water source after a long day. At Thielsen Creek, we bathe and do laundry in the cold water until our fingers are so numb, we can't take it anymore. We camp nearby.

Day 41: As we hike through the hot, dry, sandy forest, we bake in the direct sunlight. Today is scorching hot and we have to go 26 miles to reach our next water source. We meet at least 40 Nobos (northbounders) and give them info about their upcoming water. This section is mind-numbing and we hike in a daze up a long hill until we finally get to the rim of Crater Lake. Such an impressive lake with commanding views as we complete the 6 miles around the crater rim. As we reach our destination for the night (Rim Village), we take advantage of the public restroom to "shower" and do "laundry" in the sink. We follow this with a mediocre dinner on the flat concrete pad adjacent to the bathroom building. We have only one thing on our mind tonight and it's the buffet lunch tomorrow in Mazama Village. As darkness settles in, we set our tent on the crater rim.

Day 42: As dawn bring first light, we are amazed by the number of cars shining their headlights on our tent. We realize that our campsite is not really camouflaged. There is a marathon along the crater rim road today, which explains the heavy traffic that early in the morning.
    Five miles down the trail and we are in Mazama Village where we get excited to meet Miki and Anita. We just completed a 170 mile section of the PCT in 6 days with no resupply. We can't wait to eat Miki's homemade football sushi! After picking up our resupply box, we head for the buffet...mmmhh! The best food we've had since we started the PCT. Yannick has a hard time standing up after that. The rest of the afternoon is spent "chillin'" and story telling until the evening where we go to the trailhead to spend the night.

Crater Lake, OR to Seiad Valley, CA
Day 43: As hard as it is to leave friends and the comfort of civilized life again, we are back on the trail at 7am. The day is hot, but the terrain is mostly flat. Despite our lack of motivation, we still cover 28 miles, finishing the day with views of Mt. Shasta, 85 air miles to the South. California, here we come!!!

Day 44: We look at the maps and see that there won't be much elevation gain today and we're both feeling good, so we plan to crank out the miles. We make good time until about 1pm, then Shirley slows down because of the heat...it always affects her. We take a break in the afternoon to cool off in a river, where we go all-in and it feels so good! Refreshed, we are able to make it to Brown Mountain Shelter by sunset. Just after we pitch the tent, another hiker arrives. We have dinner with Nathan, then call it a night...a mostquito-free night!

Day 45: Shirley is going painfully slow. Literally. Both her feet hurt and her legs feel like lead. The trail is un-endingly un-interesting, which is not good for the wandering, un-motivated mind. After about 20 miles of this, we take a long break at a creek to soak our feet and lounge in the grass. When we finally get moving again, we can see thunderclouds rolling in. We speed up and hike quickly as we count the seconds between the lightning bolts and sounds of thunder to figure out how far the storm is. We want to make it as far as we can before it starts pouring overhead. We laugh as we spring through the woods and get glimpses of rainbows and godrays shining into the valley -- this is exactly the kind of thing Shirley needed to get her butt moving again! After 8 miles of hilly terrain, we finally come to a suitable place to camp just as the sun begins to set. Aah, perfect timing!

Day 46: Not even a mile from where we camped, Yannick comes face-to-face with a bear. When Yannick sees it 40 feet away, he comes to a dead stop and the two look each other in the eyes, then the bear takes off and bolts down the hill. Yannick is very impressed by its strength and speed, crashing over branches and dodging trees as it runs...and is glad it ran away from him rather than at him. 
    As we hike on, the scenery opens up and we can see across mountains and valleys for miles on end. We can feel California getting closer. We pick up our last Oregon resupply box, head across the 5 fwy and move onward towards Shirley's home state. we camp just 15 miles away from where the trail changes stats.

Day 47: We cross fields of yellow grass and wildflowers as we say goodbye to Oregon and cross into CA by lunchtime. Happy cows greet us in the middle of the trail and we hear the ringing bells from a herd of sheep in the distance. it feels good to have walked across two entire states on foot. Now, just one more to go...one BIG one! CA is almost 1700 miles of trail, more than half of the PCT. Today, we complete 16 miles in CA, bringing us to a total of 31 miles today.

Day 48: Not even a quarter-mile from camp, we see a young black bear who runs up a hill before we even notice him. As we walk by, he curously watches us from a safe distance. Several miles later, we cross paths with 2 rattlesnakes right on the trail. During the last 5 miles to Seiad Valley, we have to avoid poison oak along the trail. Boy, CA is dangerous! At the valley floor, the temperature is 98 degrees F and it's already 4pm. At the store, we meet a few Nobos waiting for the day to cool off before heading up the steep hill. We go into the store and load up on fresh fruit and baked goods -- by the day's end, we eat 4 bananas, an orange, a watermelon, two tomatoes, a lemon bar, zuccini bread. It's so good, we guy more for the next day's hike. 
    For the night, we decide not to pay $10 per person to share a 10x10 ft piece of land with another couple at the RV park and choose to sleep under a bridge instead...like real hobos! :P

Seiad Valley to Etna
Day 49: When we start hiking up the road and it's chilly enough to make us put on our beanie and gloves while we walk uphill; what a contrast from yesterday evening. We've got a lot of uphill to do today! Along the way, we spot two more bears grubbing on some berry bushes. An hour later, we see a bow hunter looking for deer and bear and gets a little excited when Yannick tells him about our bear sightings. We don't chat long though, it's getting late in the day and we still have a few miles to go before dark. We get into camp next to an old Forest Service cabin around 8:30pm and find 10 or so Nobos sitting around a campfire. We hang out for a while, then head off to la la land.

Day 50: We take off before any of the Nobos wake up. We only have 24 miles to go to reach the town of Etna because we were able to do a good 31 miles yesterday. Regardless of the relatively short distance, we can't afford to chill because of the overall amount of elevation we need to complete today. Shirley's motivation is back and we make good time, getting us to the road just before 5pm. The first car we flag down offers a ride, but we find out we need to go in the other direction...at least we know which way Etna is now. Two more cars in 5 minutes and we get our ride to town.
    In town, we find Steve and Kristen again, then run into Jason and Cassandra at the grocery store. the Southbounders are a tight pack this year! Yannick and I buy ingredients to make a giant seafood salad, then head to the city park for a moonlight picnic before pitching the tent next to the bbq pits.

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