I came a long way. 2650 miles and more than 150 days later, I have completed my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail on Sept 24th!
I am happy, relieved, proud, excited… and haven’t fully understood yet that the hiking has really come to an end.
Hiking the PCT meant freedom and new encounters every day. I got used to beautiful sunsets, landscapes that take your breath away. It was a pleasure to meet all these amazing people on trail – especially Cactass, Tinkle and Spirit Kick.
Thanks to my family, friends and former colleagues for their support and encouragement during the last months.
The last two weeks in Washington were the biggest challenge during the hike. We got soaked in heavy rain several times (where also my phone died), had snow several times. We were at a point to turn back and leave the trail due to the weather and limited food. But the weather changed and the sun dried our gear and motivated us to push on.
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”
PS: I will be updating the blog for the missing weeks in Washington with amazing photos during the next days…
It was still light rain when I woke up with first light. It was comfortably enough in the tent, but the thought of getting out into the rain, having to hike 28 miles through the rain to make it to Cascade Locks was not the most attractive one…
So we stayed in our tents during breakfast, hoping for the rain to stop. At least it changed to just a drizzle when we finally got out and packed our tents. While my tent had held up well during the night, I realized that I had pitched it in a small ditch last night. Water had collected right under the tent and pushed through the floor into the tent. I did not have too much water inside, but the tent itself was soaked with water and mud.
Still I had to pack it and get everything into my pack. We started hiking with rain gear – in my case just my thin wind/rain jacket and short pants and the pack protected by a rain cover.
With 28 miles to go and cold wind and continuing rain, we reduced the breaks to a minimum. It took maybe 30 minutes to get my feet inside the Salomon Ultra X shoes soaking wet.
The clouded sky stayed dark the whole day – walking through the dark forest foggy from low hanging clouds was really special. A new experience after 4 months good weather on trail. But thruhiking can not just mean good weather hiking I guess…
Despite being wet and cold in the beginning, I enjoyed the experience.
There were so many blueberry bushes along the trail. Eating the ripe blueberries washed by the rain was delicious… The only way I want to eat blueberries from now on… 😁
The rain finally stopped and with hiking fast, I was able to get warm even with just the thin rain gear I had. The thought of getting my better weather gear from a box shipped by my good friend Steven to Cascade Locks was helping.
The last few miles offered views onto Cascade Locks.
Today would be the last hiking day in Oregon. The PCT famous Bridge of Gods in Cascade Locks leads into Washington, the last chapter of my PCT journey. It was an amazing last hiking day that Oregon provided. Short before Cascade Locks, I saw a bear cub, a snake and a group of deer – as if the animals were wishing a farewell…
We made it around 7.45pm into Cascade Locks. Two rest days (zero miles days) are planned. Good to dry the gear and get some rest before heading into Washington.
Woke up 6.45am to make it in time for the breakfast buffet at the Timberline Lodge at 7.30am.
The food was really great. Half of the restaurant’s guests were hungry hikers. And we made good use of the buffet… I had two full plates of egg, sausages, potatoes, waffles, pancakes… And another two plates with fruits, pastries and cake. And at least four cups of coffee.
With the bellies full and power banks recharged we left the lodge around 11am.
After the first miles, we ran into a volunteer from the USFS (US Forest Service), doing statistics on the trail usage and rewarding thruhikers with candy. We took an alternate for several miles – the Paradise Loop trail that MathMan, a thruhiker from 1975 had recommended to us two days earlier.
Skies were clouded most of the time. The great views from the morning on Mt Jefferson and the nearby Mt Hood didn’t last. The PCT close to the lodge was overrun by day hikers, so we moved fast and missed the 2100 miles marker. Not an issue – we created our own on the Paradise Loop trail with Mt Hood as background.
We walked in the afternoon with dark clouds and few rain drops. During a last short break at a forest road, I saw two day hikers having trouble to start their car. The battery was empty. We volunteered helping to push it on the street and down the hill to get it started – it worked! The good deed of the day. They were very relieved… With no cellphone service in the forest, getting help would have become difficult.
We pushed on to make it to about 22 miles today despite the late start to a tentsite with water. That would still leave 28 miles to go to Cascade Locks tomorrow.
We made it to the tentsite just at nightfall at 8.15pm, pitched tents and collected water with headlamp. With the night came rain… First real rain on trail. I cooked my dinner while sitting in the tent and ate inside.
Alarm 6.15am, breakfast, on trail at 7.30am. Cold in the mornings as we are getting more North and closer to Washington.
First stop after a couple of miles at Little Crater lake.
We continued on through the forest with a cloudy sky, definitely looking like rain is coming.
The climb to Timberline Lodge from 4000 to 6000 feet was strenuous, with the trail getting sandy. But the expectation to reach the lodge and with that getting dinner was motivation to push on.
Made it to the lodge at 6pm. We had pizza and beer at the Blue Ox bar.
When we left after dinner to find a tentsite in a small forest above the lodge, it had gotten really cold at our altitude of 6000 feet. We hurried with pitching the tents and got into the sleeping bags quickly. Some hikers returned after more beer at the lodge later to the tentsite…. one guy had fun playing loud music from his bluetooth speaker late at night…
Woke up at 6.15am, nice breakfast with lots of food from the shop, including a cinnamon roll. When the shop opened at 7am, I also got a coffee there.
Some small talk with an older hiker that I had already chatted with yesterday evening. It turned out he is a trail angel out of San Diego when he offered us freshly made breakfast burritos. 😁 His trail name is Otzi, he through hiked the PCT in 1975!
We accepted the burritos gladly and carried them as second breakfast for the 10 miles morning break…
Lunch and water break at Warm Springs river, 19 miles in. We joined Happy Hermit and Paradise in their shady spot.
We kept on hiking in the evening until 8pm. Looking for a protected tentsite, we passed Happy Hermit’s and Paradise’s campsite. The clouds looked like rain was coming, so we wanted something less exposted to wind.
We finally came to a very beautiful spot right at Timothy Lake, another hiker Dang had already a fire going and invited us to join.
It got more and more cold – had breakfast in tent. The trail had been smokey since days – the sky looked really hazy. We were on trail at 7am heading into more lava fields.
I loved the landscape, even though it was windy and difficult to walk. It reminded me in some regards of the Sierra – but most of it looked just alien, like from a different world.
We took a longer break with cellphone coverage at a lake – I had my coffee and booked a place in Cascade Locks, the gateway into Washington.
A highway crossing was coming – a chance for trail magic. But no luck. A bit disappointed, we took a break right next to the street and had some snacks. After a few minutes, a pickup stopped and two men got out. They wanted to know if the crossing trail was indeed the Pacific Crest Trail. We learned that they were father and a friend of a trail runner attempting an Oregon crossing on the PCT. After some chat, they offered sodas and bars which we happily accepted. The trail provides… 🙂
At the end of the lava fields, I came to a crossing of the trail. With the trail so evenly splitting, it reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost.
Robert Frost – The Road not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
We finally got out of the lava fields and headed towards our next resupply stop, the Big Lake Youth Camp short before mile 2000.
We arrived at 5.30pm at the youth camp. Surprisingly nobody from the camp was around – they were obviously on a break. But the PCT designated hut was populated with hikers. We helped ourselves to a shower, laundry, picked up our resupply boxes and ate some dinner from the hiker box.
Around 9pm we left cleaned up and with devices charged, walked a while to a designated camping area, mile 1995.
We got up at 5.30am and continued our chat with Excel during breakfast. She would leave later since she only planned 8 miles for today. She had been off trail for some days due to the smoke and was slowly increasing miles again.
We left at 6.30am. We had amazing views on Mt. Thielsen. With the smoke and a cloudy sky, the morning sun offered some nice photo opportunities.
We took water 8 miles in at Thielsen creek 1854. It would be a long water carry, took 3.5 liters for the next 22 miles.
After the lunch break at mile 1863 at 2pm at the Maidu lake junction, we had several milestones waiting… the highpoint of the PCT in the states Oregon and Washington at about 7500 feet as well as the 3000 km marker.
Considering the overall PCT highpoint at Forester Pass in the Sierra at around 13000 feet, this is really not so much…
When you walk on the PCT and suddenly run into a group of hikers, there is either trail magic with free sodas or beer to be expected… or cellphone coverage. 🙂
Continuing on, we had an increasing humidity and even a few drops rain…
With the limited water availability today, we had to push on to the next source and camped at a water cache at dirt road at mile 1876, the crossing with Skyline trail.