Note: the cumulative miles for the previous two days are off by 100 miles. For Day 173, it’s 2,252 and for Day 174 it’s 2,262. The fat fingers were flying to recreate that post.
Morning at the Timberline – we were able to sleep in a bit since the breakfast buffet didn’t open until 7:30am. We had to hit the buffet which was, as trail rumors go, the best on the entire PCT.
It did not disappoint.
But we were bad hikers. With full bellies, we gave each other the look, and a few minutes later we were back in the room taking post-breakfast naps. The alarm went off, giving us enough time to check out before the deadline.
I also had just enough time to recreate that last post.
Finally leaving the lodge in the very late morning, we bundled up against the wind. A cold front had moved through overnight, so it was quite blustery out.
Once back on trail, we noticed quite a few families out on the trail for short hikes, but all were headed back to the lodge. The winds were gusting strongly into the 45-50mph range, blowing sand across the trail. Not very pleasant for anyone, especially the little ones.
I was keeping an eye on a mother and her little daughter who were coming up the hill. I was eyeing spots to move over and let them pass when all of the sudden,
Why am I seeing the tread on the bottom of my right shoe?
Why am I landing on my knees?
Why am I looking at the trail?
Why am I looking at the sky?
Why am I looking at the trail?
Why am I looking at the sky?
Well, this is the end of the hike.
I rolled my ankle hard, then ended up rolling down the trail towards mother and daughter.
Once I stopped rolling, I quickly assessed. No excruciating pain, just me on my pack in the middle of the trail.
Jen ran up to help, but all I could do was unbuckle from my pack so I could get up. I hopped up and didn’t have any issues other than a bit of queasiness from the dump of adrenaline.
She did a quick assessment and thought we should head back to the lodge to see how things worked out. But I wasn’t sure we needed to backtrack the half mile back uphill. To prove I felt fine, I walked up the trail, spun around on my right foot, then balanced on it. Nothing felt out of sorts. But just to be sure, I checked our data and saw that we had a bailout option just five miles down the trail which would put us just a couple of miles outside the nearest town. So at least we would be moving in the right direction.*
So we braced ourselves against the wind and blowing sand and continued. Another half mile or so and we were in the midst of a brown-out.
As we walked along the spine of a ridge, the winds coming down the southern slope of Mount Hood were being forced over the ridge and accelerating. At its worst, we were bracing ourselves against gusts of 60-70mph carrying clouds of sand and reducing visibility to mere yards. But we kept moving, knowing that the trail would drop over the lee side of the ridgeline and we would get out of the wind. Which we did. Then we entered the forest, which cut the wind even further. Which meant that only fine dust filled our sight and breath. But eventually even that thinned out.
Soon we were at our bailout option and found no need to use it. Other than two bloodied knees, everything felt fine. So we continued.
After the previous few days of climbing, we finally had a day of descent and generally flat terrain. We were in the fabled part of the trail – “Oregon is (relatively) flat (compared to California and especially Washington)”.
So we cruised.
By mid-afternoon we were able to look across the valley at Mount Hood. It was crowned with a beautiful cap cloud, but everything was hazy thanks to the dust that was still blowing off the mountain. I hoped for a better view later, but never saw the mountain again.
So no pictures from today. Sorry about that. But this view of Mount Jefferson from Mount Hood gives you an idea of what we’re working for the next few days.
* re: turned ankles – not a day goes by that one of us doesn’t trip, stumble or turn an ankle. Thankfully our trekking poles save us from a lot of falls. But we have been lucky that none have led to injury. Perhaps it’s luck that we both have strong, flexible ankles, but we haven’t been hobbled yet.
But when we talk to day or section hikers, the most common question we get is when they see us in our trail running shoes is “how can you carry your pack over the terrain without the support of hiking boots?”. That used to lead to longer than necessary conversations, but now the reply I’d “barring a congenital issue or previous injury, how can you expect your ankles to get stronger if you keep them wrapped in heavy supportive leather?”.
Day 175 – 18 / 2,280 (2,076)
The whole day was in the trees, with only one or two views, mostly through the trees. But that was not a bad thing, as we had our noses down and were taking advantage of the terrain. We had to erase any deficit from our unplanned but highly enjoyable stay at the Timberline Lodge.
As you can see by the numbers below, we also managed our longest day yet, a shade over 29 miles.
I haven’t put miles on my feet like that since the Rodgau 50K back in 2010. Jen had never put any miles like that on her feet, but she pushed hard the whole way and just rocked it.
Now I need to find a day of helpful terrain and see if I can get her to break that 50K mark. I just can’t tell her too much beforehand, as the distances get in her head early and she dwells on the enormity of it instead of just grinding out the miles. She’ll get there.
Oh, and then there was this.
Day 176 – 29.17 / 2,309 (2,047)
The alarm went off and Jen was wide awake and rating to go. Me? Not so much. I don’t recall the many times she tried to wake me up, but she tried. So we slept a bit more.
We had a few miles from camp to get to Olallie Lake Resort where we would resupply. Luckily they were still open, but only for a few more days, then they would close for the winter. If they were closed, somewhere here in Oregon would be a food carry for 150-180 miles. That’s heavy.
This is the view from the dock.
Not too shabby. That’s Mount Jefferson in the distance. We would be on its slopes before sundown.
But first we had to make it there.
But first, a fun view of Mount Hood. It was hard to believe that just 48 hours prior we were on its slopes, getting sandblasted.
Then this meadow view of Mount Jefferson. We wondered how many northbound hikers saw this view, as they would have had to stop and look behind. This stretch for them is predominantly downhill and level all the way to the base of Mount Hood, so many push hard to get 30+, 40+, and in some cases, 50+ miles in one day. Those paces leave little time for looking around.
We still had a few miles of climbing up to about 7,000′. We popped up to the ridgeline and the reveal of Mount Jefferson was jaw-dropping. I could only say “Wow!”. Then, after a few minutes of taking it in, I told Jen that this view of the mountain could easily place it as my favorite mountain in Oregon, even higher than Mount Thielsen. She knows how much I love Mount Thielsen, so she was a bit surprised.
We’ll see Thielsen again next week, so I can reevaluate. But for now, a couple more views.
We set up camp a bit early, just 1/4 mile shy of a glacial stream. It’s a bit notorious of a crossing, so we’ll hit it right after sunrise when the flow is lower.
Day 177 – 17 / 2,326 (2,030)
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