PCT Day 99: A Wild Turn of Events

Miles Hiked: 42

PCT Mileage: 1872.1 (mileage north)

This morning I was motivated to get moving at 5am. I groggily packed up all my things and started walking down the trail at 5:15am. The trail was totally flat this morning and went through a forest of young trees. It was 10 miles to a water cache after Highway 138. There was a cache where we were camping as well but since I didn’t drink too much on my night hike last night I didn’t need to access it. Without these two caches it would have been a 28 mile water carry from the start of the rim trail to Thielsen Creek. I drank two liters of water over the ten miles to make sure I was hydrated for the day. I also used one of the Electrolyte tabs that Midnight gave me at Crater Lake. The Cache was a big one with about twenty 5 gallon jugs of water. I was so thankful for whoever did this! Here I ate some protein banana nut oatmeal for breakfast. It was delicious.

I hiked another 7.7 miles to Thielsen Creek. My feet were hurting and the second I got there I took off my shoes and started rolling them with my cork ball. It was a scenic spot with a great view of Thielsen Peak. The water was ice cold. I soaked my feet in the creek for a few moments but it was so cold it was painful and I had to take them out quickly but it totally helped! I filtered water and ate some snacks. Six miles later Diva and I took an hour long break at a great view in the shade. I rolled out my feet, stretched, ate, and just laid down trying to close my eyes. Break time goes by so fast!

After our break it was 11 more miles to Six Horse Spring where I wanted to camp. It was also the next water source. I new I would take a break between then and the water. I called my parents and got to talk to them for about 30 minutes before my service dropped. They are sending me one of my resupply boxes to Timberline Lodge in Northern Oregon. Eventually my feet hurt so bad I had to sit down and take a break to roll them out. Using my cork ball was relieving. I hiked on through the dense forest but had to stop and eat some food because I got so hungry on my way. A fast hiker named Flamingo passed me and I tried to keep up with him. We talked for two miles and the time flew by. I spotted a plume of smoke not too far from the trail. I wasn’t too alarmed because I knew that the tolo mountain fire had been burning nearby for a few days at this point and was relatively small. At camp it was starting to thunder storm but not too bad. Diva and I debated hiking farther but my feet hurt so bad I just wanted to set up camp. Hiking a few extra miles would help us with tomorrow though. It was 6pm and I was happy to be done hiking because I had hiked until 11pm the last two nights and was feeling really tired. After setting up our tents and getting everything ready, Diva and I went down to the water source together. It was a steep 0.2 miles down to six horse spring. I usually don’t like to go down to water sources that require too much effort. I did have one liter left and could have kept going but figured Diva was out of water.

Back at camp, we learned that people were getting evacuated off the trail from both sides of us. Gushers said he was pulled off trail by a Sheriff at Windigo Pass, six trail miles north of us and the next water place I planned to stop at. Another hiker let us know her tramily was evacuated off of highway 138 just south of us …

Despite hearing about other hikers getting evacuated from roads on either side of us I was still adamant about camping where I was. I had hiked until 11pm the previous two nights. The early bird schedule was all out of whack. My feet have been killing me and I was feeling like absolute garbage glow general fatigue for the past week. Just two days ago I felt on the verge of heat injury despite being a person who thrives in the heat. I wanted to stop hiking the long miles but felt motivated to get through Oregon because they were at least very easy long miles. At six horse springs I was STOKED to end a 33 mile day at 6pm. Thank god for being at camp early for once.

I smoked some weed to put myself to sleep. Hoping to wake up early and start hiking before five am the next day. I was optimistic that the Windigo Fire would be put out immediately or at least small enough to not affect the trail. At 9:45pm Trail Diva woke everyone at our camp up. “We need to leave right now. I don’t care if I am wrong. There is an uncontained 100 acre fire by us and here is the evacuation plan.” I was high, sleepy, and annoyed about hiking more. I was already so wrecked and just happy to have had a chill day for the first time in a week. Begrudgingly I packed up my tent and threw everything into my pack in a chaotic manner. I wasn’t letting the Trail Diva hike out alone in a panic. Also I admired her willingness to make the safe choice despite the odds of being wrong. Our whole camp left right behind us. The 33 mile day turned into a 42 mile day ending at 1am. I shed a few tears hiking southbound because I was so frustrated that a good day couldn’t just be a good day. We had to have a whole nighttime adventure as well. It didn’t hit me until I finally got to Miller Lake that I had actually had to hike away from a fire situation. In the past, fire closures have been put in place before I reached a location.

The next morning we hitch hiked down some forest service roads into the nearest town. The first text I received was from a mutual friend from college saying she heard about the fire and was willing to come pick me up because she knew I was in the area. Luke and Abby drove me to Shelter Cove to pick up my resupply box and Trail Diva and I headed to the nearest hotel to get some sleep. At 2pm that day we were literally yelling in excitement that we could finally go to bed.

After much thought and being able to read all of my fellow hikers fire experiences along with more information about the fires, I have decided to turn this hike into a flip flop. Fires are popping up all over the trail in Oregon and Northern California. Two days ago I sent my dad a satellite message because I was surrounded by fire helicopters scooping water out of the lake next to me. Thankfully he has been on top of any fire updates and able to stay in contact with me about them. I read about experiences of those who had hiked out of the McKinney Fire in California with fire much closer on their heels. An originally small fire that blew up unfathomably quickly overnight. One of my companions who unknowingly camped through the night and started the 24 hour challenge in that section hiked through flames directly on the trail. The choice to go to Washington hasn’t been easy but feels like the right thing to do. Not that we are any safer from fire in Washington than we were in Oregon but it seems like we can at least hike a whole state at once that feels more likely to not be in a blaze.

I am thankful just to be able to cross the California border without any issues. Going into this hike I fully expected to have to end my continuous footpath in California due to fire season. To be honest I have told myself I never felt ready to hike the PCT so soon but it feels like time is ticking on the forest fires way too fast out here. I think about how much more burn the hikers next year will have to see. Getting to Oregon was a false sense of security. It felt crazy to not have had any smoky days up until then. We all thought that maybe we picked the luckiest year to hike. Anyways, I am happy to hear that everyone made it out of the multiple fire situations safely and is seriously reevaluating their hiking plans. To me, this is what thru hiking is about. All the decisions you have to make that lead you down the craziest paths with the coolest people you never thought you’d meet. I am thankful to all of those who are on the front lines putting their lives at risk in exchange for low wages. I am grateful I am not being faced with evacuating my home as many who live in the area are. Nothing truly matters more than being safe. I am stoked for this flip flop and to experience the trail in a wildly different way than I had pictured.

Happy Trails

-Early Bird

Published by Deserrae Potts

Thru Hiker Blogger

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