Oregon B

June 17, Fri.–22.8 miles–Oregon B and C

Friday, June, 17     Miles today: 22.8 + a LOT of “being lost miles”      Total so far: 624.7

Roadwalking to Lake of the Woods in rain/snowflakes

Roadwalking to Lake of the Woods in rain/snowflakes

When I woke up this morning, I looked out from the tarp at–falling SNOW!  It melted as soon as it hit the ground, but the temperature on our little thermometer said 32 degrees.  Brrrr! It was hard to get up, but we knew we had to hit the trail–or more accurately, the road shoulder–to get to Lake of the Woods.  We put on our warmest clothes, AND raingear and headed out, thinking about breakfast at the Lake. 

 But after an hour, we were both so hungry that we just HAD to eat, but WHERE?  We were walking through a mixture of freezing rain and snow.  Then we saw a perfectly dry, protected place under a tree–aha!  Now the trick was while we were still warm from hiking, to manage to gobble down some granola before we “friz”.  And we managed it.  Hiking is a lot more fun when you’re not starving hungry!  And we needed a bit of fortification, because as we were walking along, we were being passed by log trucks, and boy, do they FLY! Hang on to your hat when their “bow wave” hits!

40 degrees + blustering wind at Lake of the Woods

40 degrees + blustering wind at Lake of the Woods

Finally we reached Lake of the Woods resort, complete with snowmobile trails, only there wasn’t any snow–just rain now, and the temperature was 40 degrees.  We headed straight for the grill at the dock–I’m sure I could smell the pancakes from half a mile away!  The wind was whipping the cold gray lake into whitecaps.  Last time we were there, it was August, the air was warm, the lake was blue, and we were swimming!  This time, we were bundled up and headed staight into the warm, cozy grill.  It’s very homey there with couch, rug, fireplace and tables. We tucked our packs in a corner and launched into a “second breakfast” in true hobbit fashion. 

Well-stuffed, the next thing to do was shop at the store, where I bought more food to supplement what we’d mailed to ourselves at Hyatt Lake.  (The Hyatt Lake store doesn’t have much).  A man at the store (the resort owner/manager, maybe??) warned us of the danger of hiking on into such cold, stormy weather, and urged us to rent a cabin–“Only $95 a night”–till things improved.  We knew the resort was probably really hurting for customers (they had a big fishing tournament scheduled for tomorrow, and probably hardly anyone will come), but we declined politely, and headed out into the rain. 

View of "The Great Meadow"

View of "The Great Meadow"

I was looking forward to seeing the Great Meadow north of the lake, and was not disappointed.  First you come to a pretty marsh complete with yellow waterlilies, then the Great Meadow itself was COVERED with wildflowers.  Awesome!

START OF OREGON SECTION C

By crossing Highway 140, we entered “Section C” of the Oregon PCT guidebook.  We did have some trouble finding the trail on the other side, then we REALLY HAD trouble following the trail once we found it.  We were literally going in circles on various other trails in the area, and getting more and more frustrated, till finally we figured out that all the trail signs here are tiny strips of board nailed WAY up high on the trees, and the trails themselves are not always obvious or easy to follow.  We probably wasted a good 2 or 3 miles of hiking up wrong trails before we finally got solidly on track with the PCT. 

The sun's coming out, and the view is worth cheering about!

The sun's coming out, and the view is worth cheering about!

But wow!  After a longish climb uphill, the PCT rewarded us with amazing views.  We could see most of huge Klamath Lake, and many beautiful mountains.  Up top where we were, it was all rocks and cliffs, AND it was about time for lunch AND the sun decided to come out!  It was the perfect place to dry our damp gear on all those nice rocks, plus cook up a pot of food.  And just as we were loading up to go on, back came the clouds and the cold.  We had to stop a second and thank God for the gift of such a great lunch break!  That is one of the things I really like about being a thru-hiker.  Nothing can be taken for granted; you really are depending on God for things as basic as water to drink, a dry place to sleep, and He not only takes care of those things, but also gives much more–like a bit of sun just when we needed it, and awesome beauty to admire.  I guess if we were atheists or agnostics, we’d just call it “serendipity” or “luck”, but in view of the obviousness that God is real, we rejoice that when these things happen, we can say, “Thankyou, Father!” and give the credit where credit is due.  I used to be an atheist, for the simple reason that to recognize the evidence that God is there, would also involve having to acknowledge Him as the Creator and King of the universe.  I liked running my own life my own way, and since “my way” was quite successful (outwardly), I could conveniently ignore the core of selfishness that was the source of everything I did.  When I finally did have the guts to meet God,  He showed me how over and over again He had reached out to me, to show me He was real and He was there, but I had equally determinedly pushed Him away.   So now, it is a wonderful thing to be able to turn to Him when we’re frustrated and lost on the trail, AND to be able to thank Him for the many joys of this trail!

Bill admires simple, elegant engineering

Bill admires simple, elegant engineering

We hiked on to Four Mile Lake, where again we had trouble finding the right trail, and wasted a bunch of time hunting for it.  But it wasn’t all in vain.  We got great views of Mt. McLoughlin and a chance to cross a very interesting dam spillway.  Bill was impressed with the simple but clever engineering on the spillway for controlling water output.  (Basically, it involved stout planks dropped into slots.)  After finally figuring out where we were for sure, and which trail would get us back to the PCT, we passed several very pretty lakes that reminded me of the ones in Lassen National Park, one of our favorite backpacking destinations. 

Snowpatch on the trail--not good!

Snowpatch on the trail--not good!

 And oh, the wildflowers!  Sometimes the trail was actually lined with tiny little yellow and white lilies.  And there were lots of mushrooms, too–all kinds, sizes and colors.  Snow patches became more and more numerous, but never enough to be a problem.  It was a cold afternoon–45 degrees,–when we found a dry patch under a tree near Long Lake to eat our supper of crackers and cheese and dried fruit. 

A little bit more hiking, and finally we reached the PCT again!  It was time to celebrate!  We did a couple more PCT miles before hunting for a campsite–not easy to find!  But before it really got dark, we found a somewhat flat place on some nice soft duff under a tree.  It was VERY cold, which meant NO mosquitoes, hooray!  And just after we’d finished setting up the tarp and getting our gear sheltered, it began to rain again.  Wow, talk about perfect timing!  We made sure to thank the Lord for such a gracious gift of “weather timing”, both tonight and at midday.

June 16, Thurs.–21.6 miles–Oregon B

Thurs. June 16    Miles today: 21.6  PCT + other miles      Total so far: 601.9!!!    Oregon section B

Today is special, because we passed the 600 mile mark!  Hooray!  The morning began very cold and dark.  Since the store didn’t open till 7:00 am, I stayed in my sleeping bag writing journal stuff till 6:45.  When we got to the store, we saw lots of ominous dark clouds, and there was a lot of wind once we were in the open by the lake.  The “store guy” got our boxes down from the loft, and I drank fresh hot coffee while sorting through the food box and the “gear” box, which included maps (at last!!) and more “mosquito stuff.” 

When that was all done, we enjoyed several great “breakfast sandwiches” and conversation with the caretaker and “store guy”.  They were totally fun to talk to–man, can they tell stories!  If you are a thru-hiker, and you resupply at Hyatt Lake Resort, ask them to tell you about the time a “storm-out-of-the-blue” turned the whole boat dock over! 

But besides the fun stories, the guys also warned us about the weather–the forecast was for rain, turning to snow above 5,000 feet.  Hmmm.   And listening to the news on the radio, we heard about a 7.0 earthquake in northern California, which worried us (we LIVE there!) till we found out it was in the WAY north, near the Oregon border.  Whew!   The two guys told us a shortcut back to the PCT, and a bit after 9:00 am, we were off, and glad that in our small way we could help the cash flow at the Resort.  All the Oregon resorts are really hurting so far this year.  They had no snow this winter (so lost all that business), then in spring (April, May, June) when the boaters, fishermen and campers normally start to come, it’s been cold, rainy/snowy and miserable.  Not a pretty picture if you are in the resort business.

The PCT runs on "flower power" in Oregon!

The PCT runs on "flower power" in Oregon!

Back on the PCT, while we enjoyed the hike through the woods around Hyatt Lake, and with me still going nuts over all the wildflowers, we felt it–our first “drip from the sky”.  It was as if the rain was trying to make up its mind whether to start or not.  I got out my “just in case it rains” gear, which means I tied my raincoat around my waist and had my umbrella handy.  Half an hour later, it really DID start to seriously rain, but that didn’t stop us–we practiced hiking in the rain before we started the PCT. 

Around noon, we reached a CANAL out in the middle of the forest, full of water running fast, and a little way beyond that, there was a gravel path leading to a bridge–the perfect spot to stop and fire up our little alcohol stove, far from the pine needles on the forest floor.  The rain was stopping, too, hooray!  However, the air temperature was only 50 degrees, and we quickly discovered that alcohol prefers to be warmer than that before it will light.  We had a bit of a hassle getting our stove going!  From now on, we decided, Bill will put the fuel bottle inside his jacket for a couple of hours to warm it up before we cook! 

PCT emblem with rocks & sticks

PCT emblem with rocks & sticks

Back on the trail, we were very grateful for the fact that the rain had stopped, and for the very well-marked trail.  They use little silver diamonds, which are easy to see–and they put them both up high and down low.  Just for fun, at one roadcrossing, somebody made a “PCT emblem” with sticks! 

But one thing really annoyed us.  (Brace yourself–I am getting up on a soapbox here!)  We were going through a stretch of forest that looked very pretty and healthy–vigorous trees, plenty of wildflowers, some “down logs.”  Then we came to a roadcrossing where signs warned that it was only OK to take downed wood (with permit, of course) in the woods we’d just been through.  But on the other side of the road, the forest was to be left alone.  The “left-alone” forest was absolutely a horrible mess.  The trees looked sick, the forest floor was covered with dead trees and branches, and it was a forest fire explosion just waiting to happen.  It made us feel very angry.  I am NOT an “environmentalist”, and this was a classic example of WHY!!!  I think that forests are God’s gift to us, and should be CARED for, not “left alone.”  The planet we live on is not the perfect place God created originally.  Ever since we people decided we could tell God to “get lost”,  our planet Earth has taken the brunt of it, first having to endure the massive destruction of Noah’s Flood, then the massive aftermath of the subsequent Ice Age, with extreme weather changes, etc.   And since then, it’s been either being abused and exploited, or worshipped and “left alone”.   Either way, the earth suffers terribly.  The Bible is not kidding when it says in Romans 8:22,  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together .”  Anyone who wants to “protect” the environment by “leaving it alone” is really being cruel and heartless.  The environment needs us to care for it and help it any way we can.  And obviously,  picking up dead branches in the forest makes a VERY HAPPY forest.  (End of soapbox!)

Mossy trees

Mossy trees

Anyway, we continued on, reaching the summit of Mt. Baldy, with awesome views of a huge valley below.  And there were more wildflowers–including lots of wild delphinium.  We had a very long downhill stretch (hooray for patella support straps!  No pain!) and reached a large flat with lots of very mossy trees.  There was moss all over the ground, too, and it was tempting to stick some in my hair so I’d look like a Marshwiggle (from C.S. Lewis’ book “The Silver Chair”).  In that same forest, we came to a tree marked with red and yellow tags to identify it as a “Bearing Tree”–to mark a section corner, where you could literally “take your bearings” from the tree!

Late in the day, we reached Dead Indian Memorial Road, and turned off the PCT for an alternate route that would take us past Lake of the Woods, which has a restaurant and store.  We walked a mile or so along the road before turning off into the Winema National Forest and setting up our tarp for the night.  it was a chilly 46 degrees when we hung our damp socks on the “clothesline” under the tarp, and we were glad for warm, comfortable sleeping bags, and VERY pleased when we did our “mileage math” and discovered that we’d passed the 600 mile mark!