Date: August 25, 2017
Miles: 31.2 miles (50.2km), from Thielsen Creek to Windigo Pass and from there along the Oregon Skyline Trail alternate to Crescent Lake.
Health: Feeling good.
We wake up early to try to get most of the 22 mile (35.4km) dry section done before it gets hot. Everyone else was up except for Topo. I go over to see if I can wake him up. As he doesn’t wake up I write him a note to let him know what our plan for the day is. Just as I’m about to leave the note he wakes up and we have a short chat.
We walk back to the creek to get water for the dry section. I camel up a bit and then fill up 2.75 liters, my full water capacity. I wasn’t expecting Oregon to be this dry so I got rid of my extra water bottles.
We’re hiking before 6 am and the trail is soft and easy, just like yesterday. The air is nice and cool — we make easy miles. On the way, we meet a few southbounders and hear there’s still plenty of water left at Windigo Pass — our next water source.
After a few hours, we reach the highest point of the PCT in Oregon and Washington. At 7560 feet (2,304m) it doesn’t feel that high. The fact that the point is also on a small hill doesn’t help. We take a quick snack break and then keep on hiking.
Even if the trail isn’t anything special today, the mood is high. Sam and the girls are getting along well and having more people around makes the time fly faster.
At one point Topo catches up to us. With all the talking and taking breaks, our pace has been a little slower than usual.
While hiking along a ridgeline I find some cell reception and make a call to Finland to discuss some work related stuff. I still don’t have any idea what I want to do after the trail when I get back home, but it’s time to start figuring something out.
I spend over an hour on the phone and once I’m finished, start hiking again. I hike for less than a minute to find everyone else having a lunch break not far from where I was sitting talking on the phone. They are already finishing and ready to leave so I take out some snacks and hike out with the others.
The trail is easy and I soon reach Windigo Pass with over a liter of water left. That was an easy dry section. There’s a well-stocked water cache at the pass and once everyone arrives, we stop for a second lunch.
I’ve read comments and recommendations about an alternate called Oregon Skyline Trail (OST) from Windigo Pass. The alternate cuts about 7 miles (11.2km) loop off from PCT and is supposed to be nice. While I feel like seeing something new, others want to stick to the PCT. We agree to meet up at Shelter Cove Resort the next day.
While the others continue straight on the PCT, I take a right from the pass and soon find the OST. After a short dirt road, the trail heads back into the forest and is pretty easy to follow. This is great since I don’t have a map for this trail and I’m following directions on an app called Halfmile. The app tells you when and where to turn, and whether you’re on or off the trail.
While I’ve been hiking alone a lot on the PCT, it never felt like I was actually alone. The PCT is so well traveled that if I’d sit down, someone would surely come by soon. The OST feels much less traveled and I don’t see any hikers at all. It feels kind of nice to really be alone on the trail.
At one point I have to stop to get some of the volcanic sand out of my shoes and socks. The volcanic sand gets everywhere and is really hard on your feet. I add some Leukotape to my feet and keep hiking.
I come to a fork on the trail and as the app doesn’t mention this I hesitate for a moment. The path to the right looks more worn out and it would make sense that would be the OST. I head to the right but keep my eye on the Halfmile app to see if I’ve left the trail. After about 500 feet (150m) the app says I’m off-trail. I walk back to the fork and head left. I keep checking the app every few minutes but it says I’m on the trail so I’m happy.
I soon make it to Crescent Lake where I had planned to camp and I’m almost done with the OST alternate. From here on it’ll be a short walk to Shelter Cove and I’ll be there early next morning way before the others. I made good time on the easy trail.
As I don’t have a map, and there are no signs, I can’t find the campsite mentioned in the trail notes. After walking around on a small forest road I find some people camping with a big horse trailer. I walk over to ask for directions.
The people seem surprised to see me and before I get directions they offer me food and cold beverages. It’s really hard to say no and I soon find myself sitting on a lawn chair with an ice cold beer and a nice big burger. We talk about the trail and they tell me about the horses and all the work they do here. Before I notice it’s getting dark and I have to find a place to sleep.
I apologize for having to leave so early and start heading out to find a spot for the night. Before I leave they fill up my water bottles and hand me one more cold beer for the night. I thank them for all their hospitality and then head on.
I find a nice camp spot close by and set up my shelter. I drink the ice cold beer while laying in my sleeping bag, all nice and warm with my tummy full of burger. This was a lovely surprise.