PCT 11: Walking Home to Central Oregon

The first day in Oregon was a beautiful one. We could still see Shasta poking up over the horizon and yet it felt different since we were viewing it from another state. Town and I were still hiking with Snowcat and company who were all shooting for getting to Ashland on the same day. I was on schedule to make it to my family reunion on the coast so we enjoyed taking our time a little and chatting with the other hikers around us.

Looking at Shasta from another state

Despite having a bumblebee fly right up my shorts while I was filtering water and stinging me, there was a wonderful moment of trail magic with a cooler full of sodas just left for the hikers. We spent nearly an hour talking around the trail magic, while I observed my bumblebee sting growing to the size of a hard golf ball. With the sun getting lower we were forced to push on and find a camp spot.

A great spot for a break with wonderful views and cell reception for the first time in Oregon

After a restful night I woke up to the smell of smoke in the air. I immediately tried to get cell reception to look up if we had a forest fire in our area. Lucky for us it was a forest fire north of us just off of interstate 5 and wouldn’t be anywhere near the Pacific Crest Trail. We had avoided forest fires and trail closures up until this point and I was very happy to keep this trend up for as long as the forest fire season would permit.

We made our way into Callahans lodge, the point where the PCT crossed I5, where Town and I planned on beginning our hitch up towards Eugene. The lodge allowed hikers to have a free beer with any meal so with the expensive breakfast we agreed that 8 am was the perfect time to make up for it with a free beer. We were also joined by King Slayer, another PCT friend from the desert who had also rushed to get to Ashland.

We then made friends with the waitress who offered to give us a ride into Ashland. We jumped into her car and she whipped out a joint to smoke while driving and said “I hope you guys are ok with weed and loud Jesus music”. Having already committed to the ride we said we were totally down and we took off.

In Ashland she dropped us off next to the freeway on ramp in the hopes of us getting a ride quickly. I wandered into a nearby gas station and with the staffs help I was able to scrounge up a large piece of cardboard and was then gifted a sharpie marker by a couple in a van nearby. With a sense of familiarity, they said its amazing what you can get with a hobo credit card aka a cardboard sign. I laughed, thanked them and we threw our sign together.

Within 30 minutes a woman pulled up and offered us a ride to Medford. She had just finished up working for Peace Corp in Central Africa and was extremely kind in giving us a ride. From Medford we were promptly picked up by a professional pilot who had just finished up with checking out his aircraft and was now driving home to Forest Grove. He immediately offered us a road beer to enjoy in the back seat and Town and I enjoyed chatting with him with big grins on our faces at our awesome luck for the day. Two rounds of free beers before noon!

In Eugene he dropped us off at the University of Oregon campus and We quickly looked up a local brewery to meet my mom at so we could get a ride with her to Newport on the Oregon coast and the family reunion. Once we settled on a brewery we walked over in our stinky hiker clothes and our backpacks smiling at the odd attention we were getting. Eugene was not a trail town so we stood out in a different way but we were enjoying the adventure and didn’t care one bit. At the brewery we went to I tried the old “did you know we are hiking the PCT” comment with the bartender and she immediately offered to give us beers on the house! Happy to be enjoying our third free beer of the day we waited for my mom.

Once she arrived we were off to the reunion. I was so happy to be able to make it after having set the rough goal of getting to Ashland in time months in advance and being able to stick to it and actually make it in time despite so many unexpected obstacles on the PCT.

The coast was relaxing as always and it was great to share stories from the trail with family members I only saw once a year. After several days of gorging ourselves on food my dad offered to give us a ride back to Ashland before he headed home to Bend. The drive was extremely interesting because we got up close and personal with the forest fire raging off of I5 and we shared more stories of the trail with my dad in payment for his awesome kindness to drive us.

The Wambaugh Family Reunion with a stray Town on the far left

In Ashland we stayed for another two days allowing time for Bolo and Happy Feet to resupply, so Town and I partied a bit with some other PCT hikers in one of the local hostels before heading back to trail. Happy feet decided he needed an extra day to hang out in Ashland so once back on the trail it was Bolo, Town and I. We had met our goal of making it for the family reunion so we could slow down a bit and go at a pace more enjoyable for everyone. Bunyon had made plans to meet us with my parents at Crater Lake so we would be seeing her in less than 100 miles!

To be completely fair the PCT from Ashland to Crater lake was not very exciting with minimal views, lots of mosquitoes and a suddenly busier trail with the north bounders meeting the main wave of south bounders. The silliest anecdote from this section was when Town gifted Bolo and I some powdered drink mix, not enjoying the flavor, at 4 p.m. Little did we know the powdered drink mix had three times the caffeine of a cup of coffee so I was up late into the night staring at the tent ceiling and listening to the mosquitoes buzz outside just like the caffeine bubbling in my stomach.

A new member of the trail family
One of the more beautiful views in the 100 mile section between Ashland and Crater Lake

The camping spots at night were busy and one night I woke up to find that the camp spot we had chosen was filled with almost 20 people, mostly cowboy campers, despite only having room for 4 tents.

Looking north trying to spot Crater lake, but knowing we wouldn’t get a real view of it till it was directly below us

Happy Feet caught up to Town and I as well and we hiked together a bit again but we were all so used to going our own pace that we mostly saw each other during lunch in the middle of the day and at the camp spot for the night. There were some beautiful sections of lava flows we hiked through but our approach to crater lake was very anticlimactic despite the beautiful lake that I knew to be so close.

My parents and Bunyon met us at the Crater Lake campground in the woods. We loved spending a wonderful evening chatting with them and enjoying a few food comforts that one can only enjoy with a cooler and a big cook stove in the form of cold beer, hamburgers, eggs and bacon!

Getting the whole trail family back together again was nice and it was great to catch up with Bunyon since she had been off trail for the last month. We had a beautiful day to enjoy the views over Crater Lake while we meandered around the rim and continued north as a trail family reunited. I hugged my parents goodbye and we all thanked them for the awesome trail magic they provided us and said goodbye, knowing we would see them in 100 miles in Bend.

The trail family back together!
My awesome parents helping us out!

North of Crater lake the views disappeared again but the weather was nice and we made good progress. We ran into many other PCT hikers pushing hard for personal records of daily mileage to get to PCT days, a through hiking festival in Cascade Locks, in time. Our group wanted to take our time and enjoy visiting my family in Bend so we decided to drive to PCT days instead of rushing the trail to arrive in time but this didn’t stop me from wanting to try a personal challenge for myself.

I was stung by a wasp during one morning and it quickly developed into a very nasty allergic reaction with every mosquito bite on my body madly itching, my leg swelling up painfully and my lips beginning to go numb as I got more light headed. Luckily Bunyon had benadryl on hand and it immediately made me feel better, but having never taken benadryl before I was quickly hit with drowsiness and the rest of the day was an extreme struggle.

Despite this I was developing an idea of how to give myself a personal challenge of hiking 50 miles in one day and I would need to do it in a day and a half to time it out perfectly to arrive in Bend at the end of my challenge day. The next morning we only had 12 miles to Shelter Cove, the jumping off point for my challenge day. I took my time trying get Happy Feet and Town to join me, knowing full well Bunyon and Bolo had no interest in going for it. Happy Feet agreed to give it a shot with me and Town wanted to head out that day to get a head start on us and see how he was feeling from there.

Happy Feet and I got up at 2 a.m. to begin since I wanted to get to Century drive at a reasonable time to hitch hike into Bend before it was dark and we set off into the dark. We pushed a hard pace and covered allot of ground in the early hours talking to distract ourselves from the lofty goal. While walking through one campsite near a lake at 4 in the morning we accidentally awoke a PCT hiker camped there and from the tent he called out “is that you Cro?” It was Superman, a hiker we had met in Kennedy Meadows! We said hello briefly but quickly said goodnight so he could go back to sleep before Happy Feet and I pushed onward. It was interesting hiking along ridgelines in the pitch black of the moonless night, we knew there were views around us but it looked like the cliffs and hills just rolled off into an impenetrable blackness.

At the top of our first main climb Happy feet suddenly started having some serious stomach issues. He stated he was going to give up on the big day, worried he may have gotten food poisoning stating he was going to set up his tent right there and go back to sleep. I pushed onwards into the dark passing other PCT tent spots and even a seasonal back country ski shelter that was popular for people to stay in. Walking past all these points before sunrise I was a witness to a part of the day I don’t see often and watching the forest begin to glow as the sun rose into the air made me happy to have this moment selfishly to myself.

Other hikers began to wake up but I was on a mission and didn’t chat much. I stumbled across Towns solo camp spot just as he was waking up. He said he might try to make it all the way to Century Drive with me but no promises. With Mosquitoes attacking me I quickly said goodbye to Town as he hid in the shelter of this tent.

Smiling at the beginning of my 50 mile day

I stopped to get water a few times and eventually set myself the allowance of a 30 minute nap at lunch as the 2 a.m. wake up time began to catch up with me. I met a fire fighter crew wandering around off of the PCT as they spot checked a fire they had recently put out, after informing me that everything was fine I kept pushing onward compartmentalizing my day. My ipod died and I found myself with out music so just had to push with no musical distractions ever more conscious of the pain in my feet from the constant plodding along.

Viewing the three sisters through a burn section of the PCT

As the day progressed I pushed harder and harder wanting to arrive at the Cascade Lakes highway by 7:00 pm in order to get a ride with my friend Brian who had graciously offered to give me a ride into town! Not wanting to keep him waiting it was the perfect motivation to push through the pain.

As I became extremely tired in the last 10 miles the mosquitoes came out in hordes and I was too tired to walk at my fastest pace, not giving them a chance to land on me and suck my blood. Instead I was so tired they had plenty of time to easily keep pace with me and I was quickly covered in many bloody spots from where I smashed them too late.

One of many mosquito cesspools I had to try and push past
One such cesspool with a strong breeze, keeping the mosquitoes down and allowing me to take another 30 minute power nap
Looking how I felt at mile 49 of my 50 mile day

It was a special kind of misery to end the day but when I finally arrived at the trail head to Brian waiting I was so happy to see a friendly face. He quickly gave me a ride into town and we enjoyed chatting about my experience and his girlfriends experience, who was also hiking the PCT.

Once at my parents house I took my shoes off and stumbled around like an invalid happy to be done. I was so excited for a shower and the chance to drive to the trail head the next day so I could greet my trail family with trail magic and a ride provided to them by one of their own!

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