Miles Hiked: ZERO
After the events of the last 24 hours and hiking out in the middle of the night, I spent two days thinking about my plans moving forward with the trail.
The 60 mile section between Hwy 138 and Shelter Cove have been closed. Another fire near the California and Oregon border broke out called the McKinney Fire closing over 100 miles of trail between Etna and Ashland. North of Shelter Cove another 20 miles are closed for the Lions Head fire closure. A closure that has been in place for at least three years now. Most people opt to skip more than 20 miles there because the hitching and shuttling can be logistically complicated and expensive. My goal for the year is to hike every single mile of open trail. Having my continuous footpath disrupted at mile 1872 was such a bummer. After getting through California without any issues, being in Oregon felt like a false sense of security. Especially after the small fires popping up all over the last few days with triple digit temperatures and lighting storms all over.
After all of these closures, a lot of PCT hikers have had to make hard decisions on how to beat complete their hikes. I for one, totally expected this moment coming into this hike. I just thought it would happen to me in California and I’m glad it didn’t. From the beginning I felt a sense of urgency to complete the trail before fire season started. When I decided to thru hike the Tahoe Rim Trail I knew I was taking a risk of this happening. I told myself that if a single wildfire appeared somewhere north of me on the trail while I was hiking it, I would quit and go back to making forward progress on the PCT. Had I not done all those extra miles, my continuous footpath would not be in jeopardy. Same with taking two days off for Mount Shasta. I definitely needed at least two of the 8 extra PCT zeros I took but all those extra zeros also exhausted me because I was hiking during all of them. Especially Shasta.
After reading accounts of fellow hikers who had fire much closer on their heels than I did, I realized pretty much everyone was going to have to skip massive chunks of trail. The longest section of open trail left to continuously hike between Etna, CA and Cascade Locks is now 125 miles. And I already completed those 125 miles. If I continued North from Shelter Cover I could hike 120 miles before having to shuttle around the Lions Head Closure. Many hikers who were far behind the fires are opting to skip up to Ashland or Bend Oregon. Basically every hiker south of the California border and Around Crater Lake is relocating. I’m not sure what the decision making behind relocating to Bend is because I know most people are choosing to shuttle north from there to miss over 60 miles of the Lions Head section.
I thought about what to do, and at this point I have decided to head up to the Washington border with Midnight and Trail Diva. From there we will hike North as long as we can before trail days. Then we will hitch back to Cascade Locks at the border to celebrate for two days and see all of our friends again. I had to miss AT trail days in 2019 because my best friends got married that weekend. I haven’t been able to make it to a trail days event ever since. I don’t want to finish my Triple Crown without getting to go to one of these events while I am on trail. It is a big priority for me to not miss this event. After trail days I will either first complete all the miles I have left in Oregon with hopes of the Lions head closure opening, and then do the remaining week to the Canadian border, OR do those two things in reverse direction. Either way, I will be celebrating the completion of my Triple Crown sr the Canadian border AND finishing all remaining open miles of the PCT this year. Then I will hopefully go to Leadore Idaho to finish a 150 mile fire closure I had last year on the CDT.
The idea of going to Washington is mostly in hopes that I can hike through the whole state before something else catches on fire up North. And to hopefully be able to hike the remainder of Oregon as one giant section rather than broken up.
To be honest, I’m not thrilled about possibly having more miles to finish before I hit the Canadian border. I always dreamed of finishing my Triple Crown by walking all the way North on the PCT without any gaps or flip flopping sections. Regardless I knew that this journey would not be straight forward and I’ve experienced a wild turn of events at the end of both of my other thru hikes. I can’t say I didn’t expect something like this to happen. I am stoked to be going to Cascade Locks 2-3 times instead of just once, stoked to be choosing to hike with two awesome ladies on the same page as me, and stoked to be out here on this journey regardless of things not going according to plan. I’m thankful to hear that all my other hiker friends are safe from fires and for the people on the front lines doing the dangerous work to contain these fires. Mother Nature is someone who must be obeyed.
Midnight’s friend Rigo was a huge help in driving us up to Cascade Locks and to REI where I was able to replace my shoe insoles. Tomorrow I will hike in Washington!