Oregon D

June 24, Fri.–19 miles–Oregon D Shelter Cove

Fri. June 24     Miles today: 19             Total so far: 751.6                Oregon section D and begin E

Amazing!  During the night last night, I thought I heard train whistles, so I carefully checked the map this morning, and yes indeed, Southern Pacific RR has tracks around here!  Bill and I deliberately got up at 4:15 am, hoping to avoid the mosquitoes for awhile, but no luck.  A lot of them were up already, and hanging around our net tent.  So it was headnets on, and hurry along the trail.

It didn’t take long to reach the road,  then we thought we’d get clever.  Looking at the map, it appeared to be an easy shortcut through the forest to Crescent Lake.  Not a good idea–we ended up doing a very long bushwhack (and I do mean BUSH–turned out there were lots of them) before we finally stood on the lakeshore.  Sunrise was beginning, and it was beautiful.  We hurried over to the sleeping campground for water, then went back to the beach for breakfast, in the morning breeze that kept away mosquitoes.  Crescent Lake is large, and has an awesome view of Diamond Peak.  Even though it was so early, fishemen were launching boats and heading out.  One guy in particular was so CLASSIC–the flannel shirt, battered hat, big dog and well-used fishing boat.  He wished us a very cheery “Good morning!” as his dog hopped right off the launch dock into the boat.  Hope they got a good catch!

We packed up and walked a couple more miles to the trailhead for our next trail.  (Note: we found out later that to walk the lower elevation trails was a wise choice.  The PCT was impossible without GPS and snow gear).  To get to the trailhead involved walking through a horse camp.  We noticed (through our headnets) that even the HORSES were wearing mosquito headnets! 

This is the trail/agility test course

This is the trail/agility test course

A little way up the “Whitefish Creek” trail, we officially entered Diamond Peak Wilderness.  The scenery was very pretty, but the trail was awful.  It was very rough and full of tree roots.  Both Bill and I tripped and almost fell several times, and it was hard to hike quickly.  To add to the fun, there were many fallen trees across the trail–sometimes a whole mishmash of them.  Climbing over tree trunks is slow going, and if you slow down, the mosquitoes swarm you.  I ended up having to wear a lot of “mosquito gear’ while hiking, which made me very hot and sweaty.  We reached pretty Diamond View Lake, and boy, did I wish I could just go for a cool swim,  but didn’t dare.  There was also another lake which had a lot of “shooting star” wildflowers and violets.  The guidebook comment about both the lakes was right on: “When Diamond Peak is photogenically snowclad, the lakes are mosquitoclad.”  Just to take a picture, I had to pay the price of several mosquito bites.  Without the “mossies”, those lakes would be wonderful.

Lovely little mosquito pond

Lovely little mosquito pond

We marched on, over a ridge, to meet Trapper Creek, which the PCT follows for several miles through the forest.  The trail was lined with all kinds of ferns and greenery, while the creek foamed and roared and rushed.  We rushed a bit, too, in a hurry to get to Shelter Cove Resort at Odell Lake for lunch and our next resupply box.  But finally, we just had to stop and rest, and that’s when we were passed by a group of 3 young guy thru-hikers, moving very fast (“To keep ahead of the mosquitoes” they told us.)  They were also heading for Shelter Cove.

Just before we reached the resort, we crossed the railroad tracks (and the whole time we wer at Shelter Cove, I could hear freight trains going by.  It was great!).   But there was something else wonderful about those tracks.  Apparently mosquitoes don’t cross them!  We didn’t see another mosquito till we left the Odell Lake area. 

The Resort at Shelter Cove

The Resort at Shelter Cove

The general store staff at the resort are extremely helpful and friendly.  They quickly had our resupply box, and best of all, a trail register–the first one we had seen in Oregon.  We signed it, “Bill and Monty Chipman, from swollen hot feet to cold wet socks.”   We were only the 4th hikers to sign it so far this year.  Cat’s Pa was just ahead of us.  I went into the store and got a hodgepodge of stuff for lunch, since the store has only an espresso bar.  We ate and relaxed on the porch, while the other 3 guys who passed us sat under a tree and had a few beers each.  I also tended to our food resupply and refilled our food bags with FIVE days worth, in case we had snow problems in Sisters Wilderness.  (Note: good thing I did!  We had “bigtime” snow hassles there!).   Since the food wasn’t all proper “trail food”, it made the food bags heeeeavy.  Groan.

"It's summertime" flowers

"It's summertime" flowers

Then lucky Bill went off for a swim in Odell Lake (which by the way, is very pretty) while I sat on the store porch and wrote journal stuff.  I tried very hard to write fast, because I wanted to swim, too, but I kept getting distracted by the antics of a ragtag, ruffianly looking squirrel who was busy raiding the bird feeders.  The store owner came and started hanging some beautiful flower baskets.  “It’s summertime!” he said.  I hadn’t even thought about that.  But he was right–it was a beautiful summer-day-at-the-lake, for sure.  I finally finished writing, Bill finished swimming, and when we looked at the time, we said, “Yikes! We’ve gotta go!” 

Here come MORE hiker boxes!

Here come MORE hiker boxes!

Just as we were shouldering our packs to leave, the UPS van came in to deliver MORE hiker resupply boxes!  I guess we weren’t the only thruhikers to skip up to Oregon!

OREGON SECTION E

On we went, till we were across Highway 58, and the PCT took off uphill.  We stopped to cheer a little: “Yay, we’re in Section E!” before following the nice smooth (no more roots ‘n rocks) trail.  It’s a Nordic ski trail in winter, too, so of course that meant it was also well-marked.  We reached Lower Rosary Lake, where a family was camped and having fun out on the lake with an inflatable boat.  We’ve done that, too, and it reminded us of some good times with our kids years ago. 

Middle Rosary Lake

Middle Rosary Lake

 On we went to Middle Rosary Lake with its dramatic Rosary Rock backdrop, and a welcoming committee of mosquitoes.  But we found a knoll where the wind blew all night long to drive them away, so our evening serenade was rushing wind, flapping tarp and faint train whistles.

June 23, Thurs.–26.1 miles–Oregon Section D

Thurs. June 23    Miles today: 26.1     Total so far: 732.6      Oregon Section D

We woke up at first light, before 5:00 am, and there were NO mosquitoes!! “Quick, let’s go before they wake up!” we cheered, and hurried to break camp on a quiet, no-wind, 40 degree morning.  We walked briskly along Highway 138, very happy because there were no cars and no mosquitoes!  it didn’t take long to reach Cascade Lakes Road #60, our turnoff to go back to the PCT.  At the intersection we found some nice picnic tables and a “morning sun patch” perfect for breakfast.  (And still no mosquitoes!) 

The infant Umpqua River

The infant Umpqua River

Next came the long, long walk up the road, back to trail again.  At one point, we crossed a little stream and a sign said it was the North Fork of the Umpqua River.  Amazing!   I’m used to seeing the Umpqua as a full-fledged big RIVER, down by Interstate Highway 5.  Well, the North Umpqua was really pretty, and it tastes good, too–we got a good drink and filled our water bottles.  In case you were wondering “Don’t you filter your water?” the answer is “No.  We just drink it!” 

Mosquitoes on Bill's leg--argh!

Mosquitoes on Bill's leg--argh!

Near the trailhead, I saw an odd sight–a cute little tree all balled and burlapped and sitting by the road.  Why??  Oh well, not much farther to Windigo Pass Trail and then the PCT!  We cheered when we reached the trailhead and were so glad to be on TRAIL again instead of road!  But on the trail, the mosquitoes were waiting.  They were awful.  Merely wearing a headnet was not enough; they were biting through my shirt and sungloves.  So I had to put on my rainjacket and another layer of gloves, which were very hot to hike in.  When we stopped for a rest, I had to cover my pants with plastic, too, or they would bite right through the fabric.  

However, the trail itself was very pretty and easy to hike on–no rocks or roots.  There was one creek crossing with a log high up above a goodsized creek.  I decided to be brave and try go across on the log instead of my usual, “Oh, I’ll just ford it!” philosophy about creek crossings.  I have to admit I was scared, and “prayed my way” across, but I did it, and it was a good feeling!  (And hey, I did it with a headnet on, and hordes of whining mosquitoes. )  Those of you who have no problem walking across logs probably think I’m silly, but they really do scare me.  I have really crummy balance!  

All along the Windigo Pass trail, there were big 3″-4″ size white toadstools popping up out of the ground along the trail, and even ON the trail. I would have taken a picture of them, but the mosquitoes were too fierce.  (I have to take my gloves off to use the camera).  I did finally take a picture of the mosquitoes on Bill’s pant leg. By noon we’d reached the Pass AND the PCT.  We cheered, and then considered how we were going to cook and eat dinner in a cloud of mosquitoes.  The solution was to put on not only the rainjackets and headnets we were already wearing, but our rainPANTS as well.  Then while I cooked dinner, Bill set up the net tent so we could sit inside it and eat in peace.  (Well, actually not SIT–we had to make like ancient Romans and recline). 

After dinner, we headed happily along the PCT, accompanied by the mosquitoes, but had a bit of trouble locating our next “PCT Alternate” trail, called the Oldenberg Lake trail.  In the “olden days” it was the PCT official route.  According to the ranger’s advice on “heavy snow areas”, the official PCT would take us right back into snow again, while the “old” trail would be lower elevation, and according to the guidebook, much nicer than the “new” PCT.  We figured that if we had to choose between slogging/postholing/being lost-in-snow VERSUS dealing with mosquitoes, it’s a no-brainer.  We chose the mosquitoes!

Beautiful lake--but oh, the mosquitos!

Beautiful lake--but oh, the mosquitos!

Sure enough, the “old” PCT was mosquito heaven, but it also was very beautiful.  We passed  really pretty lakes, where we’d gladly have stopped for a swim….but oh, well!  I wish we could have gone swimming–I was so hot and sweaty inside my raingear.  We met a guy out trailriding on his bike with his dog.  We talked a bit while he slapped mosquitoes.  He was the only other person we saw today.  At 7:00 pm, even though we had plenty of daylight left, we decided to call it a day in another “Oregon Desert” of lodgepole pines and mineral soil near large Crescent Lake.  Up went the net tent, we hurried inside, and soon were doing our best to clean up our sweaty selves while the humming hordes surrounded our little tent. 

I was a bit concerned about my right ankle.  It is sore, but not puffy at all.  I guess it’s just grumping about all the roadwalking we’ve done lately.  And I am SO GLAD to have a net tent!  I made it myself, with a modification of Ray Jardine’s design.  Ray’s design does give a bit more room, but I was trying to save on weight, and we have JUST enough room to do things like clean ourselves up in peace.  I don’t even want to think how awful it would be to camp in these conditions without net tent protection! 

 And to those who say, “So, if God is so smart and loving and all, why did He make mosquitoes?” my answer is, “Almost all mosquito species don’t bother people at all, and they are a VITAL part of the pollination requirements of many plants, not to mention food for birds.  The biting business is a result (again, like all the other bummer stuff in the world) of PEOPLE telling God to get lost, and refusing to trust or obey Him.  Part of the consequence of that rotten choice is that everything got messed up, and we get—tada!! Mosquitoes that bite people! ”  One of the most important things to me about actually knowing God through what Jesus did for me, is that in my own small part of the world, I can help lessen the effect of “the Fall”.  In this case, though, we just hunkered in our tent and planned to get up early again BEFORE the mosquitoes!