My wife Jodie, and daughter Kathryn, want to meet up with me at Bend, Oregon and spend a couple of days with me. As much as I’d like to see them, I’m quite hesitant about taking two full days off from the trail; that means a loss of approximately fifty miles and I don’t know if I can afford the time – Canada calls and snow is coming. I still have a few days to make a final decision.
It was camping time by the time I reached Highway 138, and finding numerous flat places just beyond the road, I bedded down for the night. All night long, I observed brilliant flashes of light coming from the direction of Crater Lake. They were so bright, I had to get out of bed and look in the direction of the light to see if I could ascertain their origin. The lights actually pulsated. I would like to think the source was lightning, but there was never any thunder associated with it. Most likely, it was an alien spaceship that had landed in the forest on the other south side of Highway 138, and left its landing lights on.
It was almost daylight when I start walking this morning, but I can tell that the days are starting to get shorter, and the handwriting is on the wall, “Don’t linger and don’t take no shortcuts.”
I had a couple of snacks for breakfast – a Clif Bar and trail mix to get me going; I would stop later for a proper breakfast, after the sun came up.
Mount Thielsen was the dominant feature on the horizon this morning, and by eight o'clock I was standing at the trail spur that lead to the summit of Mount Thielsen. Hikers with extra energy will drop their packs at the trailhead and make the relatively easy climb to the summit.
There really was no place to camp here by the trail, but Brownie somehow had managed to eke out a space large enough to accommodate his sleeping bag. He poked his head out of his bag to see what the day looked like; I greeted him and wished him a Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah-day, then hiked around a bend in the trail where I sat down, opened my pack, and prepared to fix breakfast.
Being high up on the northwest side of Mount Thielsen, I had a wonderful, unobstructed panoramic view of the Diamond Peak Wilderness through which I would be hiking during the rest of the day. My choice for a breakfast spot was a bit precarious, as the trail was only three feet wide, and where it ended, it was a sheer drop-off of several hundred feet to the valley below. To get to my food bag, I had to first take out my sleeping bag which was in a stuff sack; I placed it on the trail, which unbeknownst to me, had a slight slope to it. With the sleeping bag on the ground, I turned my attention to my pack to retrieve the food bag, only to see out of the corner of my eye, my stuff sack with the sleeping bag inside, rolling towards the edge of the trail and the drop-off. I lunged for it and nabbed it just as it was heading for the abyss. Score one for team Rabbit Stick.
In a meadow beyond Mount Thielsen, I came across a wooden sign that declared the ground underneath the post to be the highest point in elevation on the Oregon-Washington PCT -- 7,560 feet.
There were many lakes off to either side of the official Pacific Crest Trail, with side trails that lead to them. Before the PCT, there was an earlier trail in this section called the Oregon Skyline Trail that was routed around several of these lakes, but when the PCT was completed, it stayed true to its mandate of staying to the crests of the mountains, therefore bypassing some of the more scenic parts of the Mount Thielsen and Diamond Peak Wilderness areas. Some of the spur trails I crossed were the Howlock Mountain Trail, the Diamond Lake Trail, the Maidu Lake Trail, and the Miller Lake Trail.
I had been passed by numerous hikers today, most of them heading for the camp at Six Horse Springs. When I arrived, it was late in the evening and most had either set up their camp or had obtained water from the spring and moved on. My mileage for the day was twenty-five and I was beyond being exhausted. I wasn’t moving fast when I came into camp; in fact, my gait resembled that of the Old Man Shuffle.
At the far end of the camp was a large log, on top of which sat Storytime and Cookie. Needing a place to sit down and contemplate my options for the evening, I moved towards the log, dropped my pack on the ground, and sat beside them. I asked for directions to the spring, and Cookie pointed to a trail leading off through the trees, and said it was a quarter mile down to the spring. I just sat on the log and stared at the ground, trying to get up enough energy to make the round-trip to get water.
I guess I looked quite dejected and exhausted, for Cookie took pity on me and offered to go get water for me. I told her I didn’t want to burden her with my water containers, but she said she was going down anyway and would be happy to take my containers with her. Reluctantly, I gave them to her.
This was the second time she has offered to get water for me; I was genuinely touched by her thoughtfulness and kindness. I was emotionally and physically worn out and I cried, but I didn’t want her to see my tears, for I was disheartened that I am at that point in life where others perceive the need to want to help me.
Eventually, I would have gone down the trail for water, but I truly was happy that she was willing to go for me. Saying “Thanks,” is never enough for trail magic. I set my tent up and stayed the night in camp with Charlie, Cowgirl, and Sherpa C; Storytime and Cookie moved on up the trail.
I rested well during the night and must have slept in, for Charlie and Cowgirl were beginning to stir as I rose from my sleeping bag and exited the tent. In the early morning light, I knuckled my eyes and sleeved my nose, struck my tent, and proceeded to pack my backpack. I was away from the camp before the others and headed into the forest with the morning sunlight just beginning to filter through the trees. Within a mile, I passed Storytime and Cookie’s campsite with their different and distinctive tents set up at opposite ends of the campsite clearing. I would be many miles up the trail before they overtook me.