Mile #2001, Big Lake Youth Camp

Diversity remains the theme on the PCT up through central Oregon.  After leaving Crater Lake Rim, the trail plunged down through hot, dry waterless forest and I camped on the other side of Highway 138.  Although well-stocked with trees, the forests of Southern Oregon near the crest of the cascades offer little shade.  My guess is that this is because they are widely spaced and with down-sloping branches to shed snow.  The following day, to break the drudgery of the forest-desert march, I climbed Mt Thielsen.  Thielsen was mostly a scramble up volcanic dirt, dust and loose rock except for the last 80 feet, which involved a hand-over-hand climb straight up to the top.  

From Mt Thielsen and Shelter Cove Resort on Odell Lake, the forest began to get increasingly moist and verdant, providing a much-needed few days of shade, water and flat terrain.  Through this small section I bumped into Barb and Charlie, a middle-aged couple from L.A.  We hiked and camped together for a day and Charlie shared his recipe for “Hiker Heroin,” which is creamy peanut butter, honey, cocoa, chocolate chips, and powdered milk all melted together and put back into the peanut butter container.  

Charlie's Hiker Heroin
Charlie’s Hiker Heroin

Yesterday, I emerged from the forest and, after a stop at Elk Lake Resort (more on that) headed up towards the Three Sisters.  The sisters are large volcanic peaks arranged in a series from Elk Lake to McKenzie Pass.  The PCT skirts the base of all three and I haven’t hiked in a more incredibly surreal place since the Sierras.  The trail resembles a moonwalk in some places as it negotiates the solidified remains of ancient lava flows.  The PCT also passes through a number of wildflower-covered meadows and streams.  Like the Sierra Nevada, it’s hard to describe in words, so I hope you get a sense from the pictures.

Plan Ice Cream nearly met a catastrophic end yesterday.  On arriving at Elk Lake Resort, I walked into the camp store and saw what was essentially a corner with a few shelves of candy bars, ramen, and pancake mix.  I ate a bacon cheeseburger and drank a milkshake in the company of a section hiker named D.A.P. (stands for Drunk-Ass Phil), wondering if I could melt the mix and a Hershey’s bar together to make a mixture that would impress even Charlie.  DAP reminded me of the ubiquitous hiker box, generally present in every near-trail establishment.  The hiker box is essentially a leave it – take it place for hikers.  People put extra food, toiletries, store fuel, books, etc. into it and any hiker can come and rummage through.  From the hiker box I found enough food to last me to Ollalie Lake, 94 miles away.  It was a bit risky, as some of the food I took was homemade, dehydrated “soup” and cereal and it was clearly a toss-up as to whether I’d like any of it.  Hiker boxes are notorious for being full of random, unidentified, dehydrated food in baggies that people typically shun.  As it turned out, the “soup” thankfully transformed into a delicious beef-vegetable with the addition of 2 C hot water last night.

Mt. Washington looms across the Belnap lava field
Mt. Washington looms across the Belnap lava field

Today I walked through more lava, climbing the Belnap Lava Field, essentially a whole mountain of solidified lava.  More notably, I passed the 2,000 mile point; only 650 to go!  Tonight I’m staying on a lake beach near Big Lake Youth Camp, a Seventh Day Adventist camp that provides meals. laundry and showers to PCT hikers for only $5.  I’m staying for breakfast tomorrow morning.  I’m planning stops at Ollalie Lake Resort, Timberline Lodge, and Cascade Locks / Hood River before crossing into Washington in just over a week from today.  Off to bed for now.

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