I really enjoy most memoirs about long distance hiking; somehow the rhythm of hiking becomes the rhythm of reading and you’re swept along the trail. One of the things I’ve noticed, however, is that narratives about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seem to break down about the time the author reaches the Oregon border. I’ve lived in both Oregon and Washington and I know that the PCT in both states is astoundingly beautiful. I figured this paucity of narration was a side effect of narrative fatigue after explaining the struggles with adjusting to the trail as well as the result head down hiking to make miles before the snow starts to fall.
Somewhere along the line I started to think, “I’m not so sure I want to thru-hike the trail.” It just started to seem like a not ideal way to absorb the beauty of the trail. A couple of years ago, Amazon suggested One Hundred Mile Summers: Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada by Eleanor Guilford.
Guilford began backpacking in the late 1960s with the Sierra Club. She became enchanted with backpacking and completed the John Muir Trail before expanding her hikes to the PCT. She generally completed a trail section each summer of about 100 miles, expanding the length of her hikes after her retirement, and finished the PCT at the Canadian border in August of 1989.
I really enjoyed reading Guilford’s account of her hike. She is frank and honest about what she experienced along the way and I think her section hiking approach really allowed her to be fresh and open to experiences the entire trail. I also felt a really strong kinship with Eleanor as a solo female hiker. She utilized Amtrak, buses, and hitchhiking to get to and from the trailheads and her home in the Los Angeles area, in her sixties and at seventy! Sometimes I had to remind myself that she wasn’t thirty like me!
Guilford’s hike being spread out over two decades meant that she was able to make observations about how equipment, attitudes, and policies changed over the years. While clearly not a professional writer, Guilford’s enthusiasm and positivity about the trail are infectious and never ceased to make me smile. I was a little disappointed that she ran into some rain in Washington, despite hiking in August which is usually a gorgeous month in the Cascades even at elevation, I wanted glowing Washington prose! (She did positively describe what she could see.)
Is it spring yet? I need some high mountain backpacking after reading One Hundred Mile Summers.
We finally found a date to head south and climb Mt. Thielsen! This time we were joined not only by Ezra but by Dan, a friend Forrest made when he worked the HP auction, who was back for another go-round in Oregon.
We had an absolutely beautiful day for a climb. The trail was really well constructed and the hike up the the PCT junction seemed like a breeze! (Dan for one might argue with me a bit on this.) When I got my first good view of the mountain I couldn’t help but notice its similarities to Mt. Crumpet (of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas fame). The scramble up the summit block was so much fun! Forrest scared himself a little bit when he decided to take an alternate (read: poor choice) route up but eventually we all found ourselves standing at 9,182 ft! (9.8 miles round trip, 3782 feet elevation gain)
The view was beautiful. We could see Bachelor, South Sister, Diamond Peak, and Mt. McLaughlin, not to mention Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey. We headed down the mountain ready to go find a place to camp and grab some dinner.
Finding a place to camp turned out to be a little harder than we’d expected as all the campgrounds on Diamond Lake were closed for the season. We wound up camping on a Forest Service Road that took off for lakes to the north…we were near the much less scenic dumping grounds for Diamond Lake Resort. We found some wood for a fire, cooked dinner, drank a couple of beers and all promptly passed out. I spent most of the night shivering in my pathetic excuse for a sleeping bag (fabulous for light summer hiking and 40 degree nights…not so great for the fall 25 degree ones) but eventually Forrest took pity on me and shared a bit of his amazing old Coleman bag.
The next morning we headed to the Diamond Lake lodge for some coffee. It was fun to sit by the huge old (1920s?) fireplace and talk to the resort workers about the resort and the area but it was soon time to head south to Crater Lake.
I’d never seen the lake and it was pretty amazing. I do have to admit that I was more enamored with the view of the super fun mountain I’d climbed the day before across the lake. We hung out in the lobby of Crater Lake lodge while eating our breakfast of bagels and checked out the display of the lodge’s history. It was a little sad to see how much it would cost to stay and eat at that beautiful place…out of this world expensive! We checked out the small visitors center, took some pictures, and decided against doing the whole rim drive to head out along the Rouge River instead.
This ended up being a fabulous idea! We got to see the pretty falls near the headwaters as well as the place where the river actually runs underground through some lava tubes (Forrest and I stood on top of it!). Just on a whim we stopped to see Mill Creek Falls and instead found ourselves at the Avenue of the Boulders. We all had a blast scrambling around the big rocks to see where we could get ourselves. Eventually we found the falls but they weren’t near as exciting as the boulders had been.
After that we headed back to Corvallis–but what an awesome October weekend!
Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.
Sunday, Forrest, Ezra, Thomas, and I headed up the slopes of Mt. Washington (7,794 ft). We left Philomath about 6:30 in the morning and even I chowed down on a Egg McMuffin as we headed east. We arrived at the trail head about 8:30 and were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes.
We followed the Pacific Crest Trail south for about three miles to get to the climber’s trail–Forrest and I hiked this in a speedy 40 minutes! After that the going got slower for me as my cruise focus has dampened my exercise drive recently. Still, all things considered we made decent time to the summit block. From the base of the block to the summit was so much fun! There wasn’t anything overly technical but there was a lot of climbing and scrambling to be had.
We ate lunch at the top swarmed by flies instead of mosquitoes but the view certainly was something. To the north we could see Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson, to the south/south-east there’s the Three Sisters, and several others (I need to go over my Oregon peak picking some more with Forrest…).
The climb down was something as well. Fortunately we’d brought rope because we’d read about a sketchy area for down-climbing. Sketchy was right! We all basically lowered ourselves down the rope hand over hand while walking our feet along the nearly sheer crack we’d climbed up earlier–it was exhilarating to say the least!
From there Forrest and Thomas took off down the scree slope while Ezra and I chose the trail. We chose wrong. It was long and hot heading down across the ridge and things didn’t get much better once we reached the trees. Forrest and Thomas beat us by a good forty minutes and went swimming in Big Lake while we were still slogging down the PCT being eaten the whole way.
All in all, it was a good climb and gave me inspiration to start running again (and not only running, but running hills and running then repeatedly). Too bad it’ll all come to a halt when I get on a boat in six days…
Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.