While technically we hadn’t taken a break since Shasta, CA, nearly 200 miles behind us, we had been planning to complete our own version of the “Oregon Challenge”, which typically means traveling from Ashland,OR (near the start of the PCT in OR) to the WA border in under two weeks (~456 miles). Our plan was to start at the actual border of OR and to do it in less than 12 days if possible, averaging about 38 miles a day in the process. OR is the largely the easiest section of the PCT, relatively speaking, and has convenient, albeit limited, resupply options.
Southern Oregon is honestly our least favorite part of the trail. It is highly populated (comparatively), with large amounts of private land around private resort lakes and parks, lower in elevation so it can be very hot/dry with less views and can also be extremely dusty. That said, it still beats a day in the office and has it’s own, limited charm (calm down OR people, it’s still a nice place). We stopped by Callanhan’s Lodge to pick up a box, but then started cruising at a swift pace immediately, knowing the clock was ticking.
As you approach Mt. McLoughlin, the scenery picks up a bit, what hadn’t been picked up, however, were downed trees from recent snow and wind storms.
We had heard reports of fires in Crater Lake (a few might remember we narrowly escaped fire there in 2015 by mere hours), but pushed on through the downed trees and navigational errors they caused to make it to Crater Lake just in time for them to close a section of the trail due to a fire on the west side of the park.
We met a couple hikers from 2015 that gave us and a few others rides around the Lake to bypass 20 miles of Trail that had been closed due to the smoke and flames. This is an unfortunate reality of the trail, but we knew from past experience, it could be so much worse. Regarding the ride, Trail Angels in the form of strangers or friends once again showing up when you least expect and most need them, another point for humanity and is a large reason we find ourselves in this community as much as possible.
North of Crater Lake, especially upon passing Elk Lake, OR steps up it’s game in a big way. The Three Sisters area and Mt. Hood provide an amazing exclamation point, reminding of why this state is commonly praised for it’s Pacific Northwest beauty. The Volcanic presence of this portion of the Cascades sometimes gives you the feeling of being on an alien planet, but most importantly, it’s easy to pretend to be a badass adventurer, who also eats Jumbo Honey Buns on a daily basis.
The closer we got to Mt. Hood, the more my lower leg started to swell. It didn’t particularly hurt, just restricted my mobility, so as always, we pushed on…despite the weather turning a bit for the worse for the first time since Central, CA.
Once we climbed up Mt. Hood and took a quick break to indulge in this famous Ski lodge’s buffet, the concern over my leg became real. We had dealt with bad weather that day, but the chilliness and certainly not the rain we had dealt with had not improved the swelling. Once I got a cut and it wouldn’t stop bleeding, I knew I had a bigger issue. I also had 55 miles or so to Cascade Locks and the end of OR, so we headed back out into the rain.
Despite feeling like I was freezing to death during a 95 degree day and no longer being able to move my ankle, we made it to the OR/Wa border in about 11.5 days and had a house rented for a couple nights to try and recover. The leg was certainly infected, but nothing 5 days off with Turmeric and elevation can’t fix. We had made it back to where it all came crashing down on our hike last year and some random bacteria lodged in my leg was not going to keep us away from WA, a place we had been dreaming about since last August, after fires stopped our hike. Mission Accomplished, now we got to venture into the unknown….