I like mountains… well more specifically, or I guess more generally I like nature and being out in it. Nothing makes me happier than to get out in the woods, away from the world and just breathe the fresh clean air, listen to the little creatures of nature and just let all my thoughts and worries flow away with a stream or a cool breeze. That, and you cannot question amazing views like the one above.
That being said, I one day discovered this website. http://www.mountainphotographer.com/sawtooths-trek/
I instantly fell in love with this mountain range and decided I needed to hike it! It was no small undertaking. I had never been there, I didn’t know anyone that had been there, it was in a different state, and I had never actually backpacked anywhere.
Long story short, I decided to sideline that trip for another time when I had a bit more experience in the backpacking world, and some more time to dedicate to the hike and tackle something a bit more close to home and more often traveled.
Enter the Pacific Crest Trail. My friend that was going to do the Sawtooths hike with me suggested this as an alternate. I had never really thought much about it. I had heard of this trail that people hiked from Mexico to Canada but it never really struck me what an undertaking it was or what awesome things they must experience, so I started researching.
I went out to the Internet and found as much information as I could about this mysterious trail. I read people’s blogs, trail reports from day hikes and section hikers and fell in love with this trail. I had to do it! It was settled.
I only had one week worth of vacation to dedicate to the hike so I had to pick a section. I figured I didn’t want to stay too close to home but I didn’t want to waste a whole day traveling so I chose a section between Hwy 20 and Mount Hood. This would be a great section that would put us going over Three Fingered Jack and Mount Jefferson, past some cool lakes and over some amazing terrain. I was excited!
Fortunately I had been accumulating backpacking gear over the last year or so because I knew that backpacking was something I wanted to do. I had spent a crap-ton of money at REI so that I had a dividend that would make a pack super cheap. Any time I had a birthday or Christmas was coming I would stock up my Amazon wish list with backpacking gear such as tents, cook stoves, hammocks, and other backpacking tools.
Having all this gear was great. Any time I would go camping I would test out a new piece of gear. When I got my tent I set it up in my living room immediately.
When I got my Solostove I went out in the back yard immediately and tried to get it to work. (Things were wet, and I only had a flint and no lighter, it was a tragic experiment.) I was excited to have all this new gear and wanted to make sure I knew how to use it before I ventured out!
During this time of gathering backpacking gear I would go on day hikes as often as possible. (Really, its part of what spawned this blog.) I mapped out the trail, planned where we were going to camp and how far we were going to go every day. I looked at pictures of the section we were going to hike. I read blogs and trail reports and continually got more and more excited!
I knew that since I had never actually backpacked before I should probably take a few overnight trips, since I was about to spend several and didn’t want to go out completely blind. My buddy Stalker and I decided to head up the Eagle Creek Trail to Tunnel Falls and get a good practice trip in.
I learned a lot that trip. After working a 10-hour day, running on 4ish hours of sleep, hiking with a 35lb pack is not a great idea. I also learned that there are exactly 427 adjusting straps on my pack that need to be tightened to properly secure and balance my load and if even one of these straps is loose it increases the weight of the pack by 10x. I also discovered that my camping hammock is not the right size and not really a great hammock in general for sleeping in. It was still a great trip and I was glad that I did it and worked out some bugs before taking on a grand adventure such as a week on the PCT.
During the next few months I continued to gather equipment, get excited about backpacking this section of the PCT, went on a long walk with my wife and her friend through the West Hills of Portland with my pack all loaded up, and generally prepared for a week of relying on only what was strapped to my back to survive. (The best part of that walk was going into Starbucks with a fully loaded pack and all the fun looks I got from people. C’mon it’s Portland, is it really that weird?)
Finally it came down to the last couple weeks and all I really had left to put together was food. There were so many options. Buy prepackaged backpacking food such as Mountain House, dehydrate my own, try to live off of twigs and berries and beef jerky for a week. Eventually Stalker and I decided to split the meals and do a ½ dehydrate our own and prepackaged food. It worked out well but we brought way too much food.
The next thing we knew we were a week away. Temperatures had been good, weather had been good but we decided we needed to check out the snow levels on Mount Jefferson. We weren’t prepared for a lot of snow hiking and that would definitely be a deal breaker for us. Stalker and I found a short hike to Jefferson Park Ridge on the PCT and headed to check it out. Things were looking good. There was snow but it was easily passable.
We met a couple through hikers that had started from Mexico and were well on their way to Canada who said the snow was no big deal and that the mosquitos were a bigger problem. We agreed.
It really was a great hike and made us just that more anxious to get on the trail. We weren’t even deterred by the amazing thunderstorm and hail that we were caught in as we were hiking up to the ridge. I really just added to the experience, and gave us awesome views like this.
We were excited beyond belief! Things were going well, lining up and we were going to have an excellent hike! Then… disaster struck. The very thunderstorm we had been stuck in had set the woods on fire, along with half the state and they closed the PCT from Hwy 20 to Olallie Lake. That was 2/3 of our hike.
So… at the last minute we had to change plans. We went from Hwy 20 to Timothy Lake to Timothy Lake to Cascade Locks. The mileage was about the same so we figured we would be ok. Unfortunately all the planning of mileage per day had flown out the window, where we were going to camp every night, gone. We were officially winging it.
We were determined and were going to make it work! So on July 21, 2014 we set off on a different section of the PCT than we had originally planned, not knowing what was in store for us but with a can-do attitude and looking forward to a week on this legendary trail no matter what it threw at us.
Coming next, Day 1 – The Adventure Begins (Lower Timothy Lake to Lower Twin Lake)!