Tuesday, August 21, 2018

More on the End of the Trail

Sat 8/4 (contd.)

  • Pain in my back is pretty sharp when I stand up after dinner, get in the tent, put on / take off the pack, bending over, etc. can be painful
  • Once I am hiking the back rarely barks at me.  When I stop to talk to another hiker, the first step or two hurt
  • I keep Ibuprofen in my pocket.  I haven't taken any yet but it is close just in case
  • It is 215 miles or another 10 days to Cascade Locks.  I am trying not think of the distance but just keep putting in the miles each day
  • I have two different bail-out options in mind

Sun 8/5
  • Hiked from Stormy Lake mile 1932.8 to Sisters Mirror Lake 1956.5 = 23.7 miles
  • I med a SOBO (Southbound) who met Garrett.  His name is Soul_______(I only remember 1st half of his name).  He said Pathfinder was doing BIG miles but stopped to talk. And that he got sick at Hyatt Lake, and went on to say what a nice guy he is. 

10 by 10
  • Many hikers try to do 10 miles by 10:00 am.  I've done 10 x 10 several times because the hiking is fairly easy.  I had 11 miles by 10:00 am today
  • Garrett via Becky gave me a third bail out option depending on how my back is doing. 
  • Realistically, I am in shape for 15 miles, and perhaps 18 miles. Because my timeline here is tight, the plan calls for a cool 20 miles each day.  I've been doing 22-24 miles--two reasons: 1.  To keep me on schedule: to buy the possibility of an easy day should I need one.  Doing 20-24 miles has a drawback--at the end of the day, I am totally spent.  I set up tent, get water, cook dinner, and eat.  Then I just want to lie down and do nothing.  My energy for the blog or anything else is gone.  I hurt all over.  I don't want to tend to my feet.  I just want to lie down and let sleep overwhelm me. 
Mon 8/6  - Tying in my Steps & Completing the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Hiked from Mirror Lake mile 1956.5 to McKenzie Pass mile 1981.3 + 1/2 mile to and from Lava Camp Lake each way = 24.8 + 1 = 25.8
For 25 years or so I've talked about hiking the PCT.  Starting in 2000, Harold and I began hiking Washington and northern Oregon PCT in sections.  In 2016 I completed the last 35 miles of Washington.  Last year I hiked 1700 miles of the PCT from the Mexican border to Ashland, OR.  Fires and closed trail ended my hike some 300 miles short of  McKenzie Pass.

"Maybe, just maybe today will be the day," I'm thinking.  It would take a big day but I was hopeful.  

A few miles into the day I could see Rock Mesa (a lava field).  The map indicated that I needed to cross several lava fields.  The map was spot on.  Lava fields are nothing but a pile of rock.  With each step the lava rock moved, shifted, rolled.  Each step took concentration and a prediction of what would happen to the rocks when I stepped on them.  I had to be deliberate and use my hiking poles to maintain balance.

I had some great views of two of the Three Sisters (volcanic mtns.)

In the afternoon I came to Sister Spring.  You could see where the water bubbled up and watch small gravels move.  The water was wonderful.  Three other hikers were there and had no problem sharing the water.  I told them what was in store for me at McKenzie Pass.  A young woman looked up from her phone, "That's only 10 miles from here.  You'll make it today."

A few miles later I entered the restricted Obsidian Area.  A special permit was required to camp there.  In the next two miles I saw more obsidian rock than I thought possible.  This would have been a sacred area for the Native Americans.  I imagined obsidian rock from Oregon making its way across the continent one trade at a time.

The McKenzie Pass area is a lave field and there is no water.  So, 1 1/2 miles from McKenzie Pass, I turned onto Lava Camp Lake Trail and headed for the lake.  Tonight was to be another "dry camp" and I needed more water to get me through the night and for next morning's hike.

Back on the PCT I entered my last lava field of the day.  One thing about it, the PCT doesn't believe in "easy".  The last mile and a half was a gnarly, jumbled mess of lava rock.  Finally, I hit the pavement.  I walked across the road and found where the trail continued northbound.  Hiking on lava can be much like walking on marbles.

About 300 yards up the pavement and I made it to McKenzie Pass.  It was just before 5 pm.  The hikers I met at Sisters Spring asked, "how does it feel?  You just finished the PCT."  

I was satisfied.  Looking north I knew there was an unbroken line of footprints leading some 650 miles to Canada.  Some of the steps had been taken 18 years earlier.  Looking south there was an unbroken line of footprints, almost 2000 miles of them,  leading to Mexico.  

Fours years ago I had a complete rupture of the quadriceps tendon in my left leg.  The surgeon said hiking the PCT would be "iffy".  Well, "iffy" and I did 2000 miles the last two years.  My hike of the PCT was now complete and I was very satisfied.

The other hikers had told Tony about me.  When he came down from the observatory, Tony asked, "where's the guy who just finished the PCT?"  The hikers points to your truly.  Tony said follow me.   There was a Tecate Beer, chips, blueberries and gorp.  Any beverage you do not have to carry, treat or filter is wonderful.

I could have gone to Bend with Tony right then but I wanted to spend the night at McKenzie Pass.  I also had a decision to make.  Continue hiking northbound or  get off the trail.

After Tony takes the other hikers to Bend, I am filtering water behind the toilet (the only shade at McKenzie Pass).  A guy comes up and talks.  He get real excited about what I've done and says he'll cook a hamburger for me.  His name is Gup, a mountain biker.  When I get to where burgers are cooking, Gup has a third guy with him named Sam.  We're talking when out of the blue, Sam asks me, "How certain are you about going to heaven?"

I said, "100% certain. Do you want to know what I believe?"  They said, "yes," so I recited the Apostles Creed.  I think they were flabbergasted.  I told them about hiking for the kids at Camp Korey.  Sam gave me $40 for the Camp.  Now, I was flabbergasted.

WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY!!  I completed the last steps of the PCT.  There was free food and drink.  I was asked what I believe and I was given money for Camp Korey.

My choices for the night -- pavement, lava rock, or the concrete pad behind the toilet.  I slept on the concrete pad.
Tues 8/7
  • This morning when I started, I'm thinking, "I don't remember this."
  • It took awhile to remember that years earlier we started at a trailhead that was west of McKenzie Pass.  Officially, I completed the PCT this morning (8/7) .
  • Made it to Big Lake Youth Camp.  I spent the last 4 miles to the camp walking behind a gal--McGuyver.  She seems pretty resourceful
  • Big Lake Youth Camp is Seventh Day Adventist, and really set up nicely for PCT hikers.The A-framed hut has refrigerator stocked with pasta dishes.  Just you know, there was not one bite of the pasta dishes by the time I left.  The middle room is where you picked up your re-supply box and did laundry.  At the very back were two bathrooms with showers.  At 1 pm they served a nice lunch of burritos.  I loved the fresh veggies.
  • Unless my back is bad overnight, I intend to push on another 100 miles to Timberline Lodge--5 more trail days.  It is easy to catch a bus to Portland from Timberline. 
  • Hiked from McKenzie Pass 1981.5 to Santiam Pass Trailhead 1998, plus one mile each way to Big Lake Youth Camp each way.  19 miles total
  • I specifically went to the trailhead because of picnic tables - a pace to sit.  I cowboy camped (no tent) next to a picnic table which was near the toilet.

Wed 8/8 Day 14
  • Last night my back really growled at me.  It was very sore and stiff.  Looks like I'm going home.  I am bummed about not making it to Timberline Lodge or to Cascade Locks to finish Oregon.
  • I did hike north another 1 1/5 miles to take a photo of the 2000-mile mark.  Now I can say I hiked 2000 mile the last two years
The Hitch to Bend
  • Santiam Pass is on Hwy. 20 and gets much more traffic than at McKenzie Pass
  • It took half an hour to get a ride.  Car after car did not stop.  I kept saying, "it only takes one"
  • Jim was the one who stopped.  Jim makes carbon-fiber bicycles, each for big dollars  Jim is very active - mountain bikes, road bikes, hikes, climbs.  He was the perfect ride for me.  I wish I had gotten his contact information
  • Jim took me to Bend and dropped me off about 8:30 am where the Central Oregon Breeze bus departs for Portland, right next to Burger King
  • Turns out the bus for the day left at 7 am.  So, I caught the local bus to the bus station.  Had to wait until noon for the ticket agent
  • Met a young woman hiker from Australia.  Her trail name - Bean Dip.  She is a really nice girl.  She said the hostel was pretty cheap
  • At noon the ticket agent told me that the next bus for Portland would not get there until 10:30 pm.  Much too late for an early riser like me
  • I called the Central Oregon Breeze and reserved a seat for 7 am the next morning
  • By now it is almost 1:00 pm, I am getting desperately hungry and desperately want a motel room near where I catch the bus in the morning.  Becky is working with me  and giving suggestions.  She found motels near the bus station and near Burger King (where I would catch the bus next morning)
  • Have you ever seen the Snickers commercials where very hungry people turn into a bear?  That was me!  My hiker hunger had kicked in.  I could not make sense of how to get back to Burger King and whether there was a motel nearby.
  • The third time I asked the ticket agent about getting back to Burger King he said, "You need bus #4.  You catch it on this side of the street"
  • I was out the door in a flash.  I verified I was on the correct bus feeling happy.
  • A male hiker was on the bus.  He just had a haircut and shave.  He showed me before and after photos.
  • I got off the bus at my stop.  Across the street was Burger King.  I turned around I saw a motel, one of Becky's suggestion - Sugarloaf Mountain Motel
  • I had a sinking spell when the clerk told me how much the room was going to cost.  Convenience won out, I checked in.  From there it would be a snap to make it to the bus stop by 6:45 am
  • The clerk told me that Applebees was down the street.  It was just after 2 PM and I almost skipped down the street.  After lime chicken, a salad, a dark porter and lots of ice water, Kevin (Wayfair) had returned and the bear was gone.
  • I had had a shower at the youth camp and only hiked 9 miles afterward.  I COULD NOT BELIEVE HOW MUCH DIRT CAME OFF THIS OLD HIKER!!
  • Showered, well fed, hiking shirt hand washed and set outside to dry, bus ticket secured.  I was set!
  • At the airport the next morning I would need to purchase a ticket to Spokane
Thurs.  8/9

  • This would have been Mom's birthday
  • Bus ride to Portland airport was easy as pie.  Getting a ticket to Spokane was....frustrating.  To Mom's credit I did not blow a gasket
  • Alaska Airlines has routes to Spokane
  • It took some asking but I made it to the correct line.  The line crawled slowly but I made it to the front of the line.  When it was my turn the agent handed me a paper that had their reservations phone number. Maybe I should have cried "party foul" or "I'm going to another airline"
  • I dialed the number and received, not a person, but a "voice".  Voice said to say things like "reservations".  Seems like every time I wanted to speak, the "voice" interrupted.  After 3 tries I am darn near screaming "reservations" into my cell phone
  • I finally get a real person and reservation made
  • Now to check in via the kiosk.  I just made the reservation, but reservation line and kiosk were not on speaking turns.  
  • Same with 2nd kiosk
  • At the 3rd kiosk a very nice, middle aged Alaska clerk came to my aid.  I think she knows the look of frustration.  
  • We had to go to a 4th kiosk to get checked in.  I think it took time before computer and kiosk apologized and got back on speaking terms 
  • She took me to the correct line and went to get a heavy-duty plastic bag for my pack
  • I was whisked through security pretty quickly.  I may have had the Clint Eastwood look - "Go ahead and make my day!"

  • Flight to Spokane was uneventful.  On the drive home we needed to make several Abby stops.  This was a long time for a dog to be in a car.
  • I am still a little bummed about not making it to at least Timberline Lodge.  5 more days is all it would have taken
  • But I am ecstatic about tying-in my steps and completing the PCT. 
  • Just so you know the PCT is a trail worth repeating


  1. Kevin,

    You are amazing! This is a remarkable lifetime accomplishment. I'm proud of you!