Saturday, November 13, 2021

Day 18: Shin Splints!

 Day 18: 31 miles

    It was evident that Peter’s sore shin was morphing into full blown shin splints. This was made evident by the wincing and limping after a long morning descent. He laid down on a picnic table and I attempted to do some release to his calf and shin. Other hikers walked by and asked how they could get in on the action. We both have suffered from shin splints on thru-hikes before and taping it always seems to provide a bit of relief. We only had so much food with us and we had to make it to our next re-supply so hanging out and letting it heal where we were wasn't exactly an option. I watched Joanna Ford work through shin splints while still hiking 50-60km a day on the GDT last year so I knew it could be done! 

    It was a beautiful day and we just tried to enjoy it as best we could. Hiking uphill felt good for Peter and we just took it a bit slower on the descents. We stopped and ate lunch on this beautiful bluff, albeit a little windy! 

    Later in the afternoon we came across this beautiful lake, appropriately named ‘Blue Lake’, and I couldn’t resist a swim! The blueberry bushes were plentiful today and we made sure to take advantage of natures anti-oxidants! 

    At some point this day we were made aware of an upcoming town called Trout Lake. It seemed to be the talk of the trail and everyone kept asking us what shuttle we were getting on. I’m assuming that it wasn’t on our radar because its 13 miles off trail. We typically didn’t plan to go into towns that weren’t within a few km of the trail. We took some time to research this shuttle that everyone kept mentioning. A group of local volunteers rotates through a pick up and drop off schedule that runs 4 times a day, everyday. There is no cost to hikers but donations are encouraged. Once we found out there was real food to be had we were sold! Also, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give Peter’s shin a rest. We put in a pretty long day this day so as to put ourselves as close to the pick up location as possible as the first shuttle arrived at 830am. 

    We arrived at camp quite late. There was just enough daylight to wash ourselves off in the creek before settling into the tent for the night. We were still on a nighttime routine of watching one Netflix episode per night. I think we were on criminal minds at this point in the trip. I looked forward to that 45 minutes at the end of each day. We had earbuds (not wireless) that we shared so as not to disturb the other campers. One in Peter’s left ear and one in my right ear. Sometimes one of us would fall asleep but typically we were pretty engaged with the show. We both found it a great way to unwind at the end of each day. 

Next up: Trout Lake! 

Marathon and Pole Vault 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Day 16 & 17: Washington!

 Day 16: 19 miles

    I woke up early all comfy cozy in our hotel room but managed to stay in bed until 7am. The day prior I noticed a little coffee shop on the Main Street so I put on my clothes and went outside to check it out. It was very cute and I got an Americano and went back to the hotel to get ready for the day. I still had to do my food shop for the next 4.5 days. We did the shop and then had breakfast at the hotel with the voucher they gave us. Four and a half days worth of food was on the heavier side of what we had to carry but it all managed to fit in my 30L pack. 

    We decided to eat one last real meal before leaving town. The day prior I noticed a brewery just down from the hotel called Thunder Island Brewing and we were excited to check it out. It was definitely the hot spot as well as swimming with PCT hikers. The brewery even had a little blurb on their menu about ‘Trail Magic’ which encouraged guests to give the gift of a pint to a hiker! Highly recommend stopping here if you find yourself in Cascade Locks. After lunch we went back to the hotel to grab our packs and get back on our way. 

Bridge of the Gods

    I was very excited to be back walking because we were about to walk over “The Bridge of the Gods”. This bridge is pretty amazing as you leave Oregon at one end and enter Washington on the other. I was surprised to notice that there was no sidewalk to walk on and we had to share the lane with the cars. Luckily we made it to the other side unscathed! The trail picks back up on the other side and we were delighted by the sea of blackberry bushes. Our bellies were pretty full but we managed to take in a few berries. Blackberry picking in August is always one of my favourite activities back home and I am incapable of ever passing them up. 

Getting back on trail in Washington

We proceeded to walk 19 miles that afternoon to Rock Creek and got there just as it was getting dark. The last 2 miles getting there was the perfect grade for running and so we barrelled down the hill, full packs and all. Probably wasn’t the smartest idea but it felt so good in the moment. Plus, it was getting dark and I knew this would get us to the tent site a bit faster. Luckily, there was one tiny spot available and we quickly set up the tent via headlamp. 

Day 17: 27 miles

    We didn’t start walking until 7am which was about an hour later than we typically start walking. I noted that Peter was hurting. This may have been from all the running I made him do the evening prior. I believe his shins were starting to bother him. It’s interesting because I got shin splints the first time we did the PCT after he made me run downhill for 5 miles on what would have been a 35 mile day. 

PSA: running downhill with a weighted pack although fun in the moment may be harmful! 

    Around lunchtime we came across a guy, known as Spamual Adams, sitting down on the trail eating biscuits and gravy. He said a womandropped off some beers and gave him the meal. The beers were trail magic so we sat down with him and enjoyed a nice cold one! Another fellow named Purell joined us as well. We would go on to leap frog with these two for weeks. The trail angel came back and told us that she hiked the trail last year and was in town for a wedding. She knew the trail was close by and decided to drop off some beers. We chatted to her for a while about her experience the year prior and what it was like hiking during the pandemic! 

    We managed to pull ourselves away from having all the beers as it’s good to save some for the other hikers 😜 and started a long 10 mile climb. About a third of the way up the climb we noticed a brown bag sitting slightly off the trail on a stump. Was it trail magic? At this point, any unmarked coolers or bags of food seem like fair game in the woods. There were fresh tomatoes and avocados in this bag so Peter helped himself to an Avocado. The weird part was that sitting on the stump was a can of Pepsi and on top of the can was a hit of acid. Peter put the acid in the brown bag and we carried on our way. At this point I was pretty convinced that this wasn’t trail magic and we just helped ourselves to someone’s avocado. Days later we met other hikers who had also come across this mystery brown bag and they had helped themselves too so that made me feel better. 

    Peter’s shin started to hurt by the end of the day but it didn't seem to bad yet. It would start to be a problem in the days to come…stay tuned!

Marathon and Pole Vault

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Day 15: Cascade Locks and Tunnel Falls!!!

 Day 15: 28 miles

    This morning was wet!!! Not only was it the wettest day so far it was also the most adventurous as we climbed up and over a hundred plus downed trees. Luckily, my Arc’teryx rain gear that I used on the GDT kept me warm and dry and the Forclaz gortex overmitts Peter got me for Christmas worked like a hot damn. 

    These overmitts deserve a paragraph of their own. One of the biggest pitfalls of my GDT experience in 2020 was how cold and wet my gloves were from the dewy brush and eventual rain. Had I had something like a gortex overmitt I would have faired much better. Having warm hands is essential when its cold and if your gloves get wet you’re pretty screwed. I knew Washington was typically a wet state and I was excited to finally get to test out the combo of glove and overmitt and see how dry my gloves stayed. I guess the only con to the mitt is that it’s hard to use your hands if say you need to re-tie your shoe or get things in and out of your bag. I guess it’s worth mentioning Peter’s latest find: Showa Temres 282-02 which is a waterproof breathable thermal insulated glove. This glove eliminates the hardship of having a mitt for dexterity. I will play around with it and see which system I like better. 

Peter’s make-shift trail skirt didn’t survive the day!

    After a hard morning of hiking we realized there was an alternate trail into Cascade Locks. We saw that it cut off some miles and would get us there sooner so we didn't hesitate to choose that route. People had made comments that it is the best alternate on the trail so I was excited to check it out. Now, what I didn’t know is that I would be witness to one of the most spectacular things I had ever seen: Tunnel Falls. I guess if you have ever done Rainshadow Running’s Gorge Waterfalls race you have seen something equally as spectacular but I hadn’t ever done it and I was floored. You quite literally go into a tunnel behind the falls. I can’t believe the PCT doesn't follow this route! The trail you follow down by the falls is quite narrow with big drop off’s which made it quite exciting and exhilarating. 

    After the heaven that was this waterfall, we had roughly 5 miles to hike to the trail head/parking area where we had planned to hitch into Cascade Locks. It was very clear by the shear number of people that this was a popular trail. We would later learn that this trail has been closed for 5 years due to a forest fire and had just re-opened 2 weeks prior. Once we got to the parking lot I almost immediately hit the porta potty because duty was calling! As soon as I got out there was a car leaving the parking area. Peter told me to throw out a thumb and so I did and they pulled over! That couldn’t have gone any smoother. The couple made room for us and drove us the 3km to Cascade Locks and dropped us off outside the Best Western. The town of Cascade Locks is beautiful and situated on the Columbia River. It’s a small town and there weren’t many options for accommodation. We walked into the Best Western and asked if they had any vacancy’s. The concierge told us that there was only one room left in the hotel and it had a king size bed and would be $269US for the night. Now, it was a Friday night in August and the likelihood of us finding anything elsewhere would be slim. Sometimes you just have to splurge and splurge we did! Best decision we ever made ☺. 

    Unfortunately, we didnt have a ton of time to relax because we had to mail ourselves some packages as the re-supply options in Washington (we thought) were slim. The post office was closing in one hour and so we had to quickly shower and then walk to the block down to the grocery store and shop for the next 3 weeks! Luckily, the town was so small everything was within a block of each other. Ideally we would’ve saved this for the next day but the post office was closed on Saturdays. Because there was only one grocery store and everyone else was also shipping items ahead, it was slim pickings! We did our best to gather enough calories and went to the post office and packed up 4 large pre-paid boxes. This just means you pay a certain price for a certain size box. I think it was $15-20US per box. We got that done just in the Nick of time and proceeded to walk across the street to the Ale House to relax and have some beer! Peter’s sister Kathleen had also mailed us a package to the Ale House with new shoes and other items we needed from home (socks, chafe lube, insoles, shorts, nuun etc). Oddly the package was not there and it turns out it got wrongly delivered to the grocery store and was just sitting on the floor by the entrance way! Luckily, no one nabbed it. 


    The Ale House was super rustic inside and the beer was so good! They also had fantastic pizza. We went back to our hotel afterwards and did laundry and chilled out. The next day we walk across the famous Bridge of the Gods into Washington!! Stay tuned…

Marathon and Pole Vault 

Day 14: Timberline Lodge!

 Day 14: 32 miles

    This morning we woke up around 430am with a goal and one goal only:  GET THAT BRUNCH! We had more than a half marathon to hike to get there and most of it was uphill. While I was still in the tent Peter saw 3 headlamps go past us and said it was the Thrupple. They must have woken up around 3am because the closest tentsite was 5 miles away. 

Mt. Hood 

    We started hiking and for the first time in a long time I lead out the front. I don’t know what came over me, maybe it was the imaginary smell of pancakes and coffee or potentially the cold ramen from last night was kicking in but I started hiking like a crazy person. Within an hour we had caught up and overtaken the Thrupple. Was it a competition? Absolutely not but there was no way the Thrupple was making it to brunch before me.

If you zoom in you can see a dozen nuns!

    You know that feeling when you’re in a race and your pushing hard and it feels so damn good and the only thing that might stop you in your tracks is a bunch of sand…well we hit sand. We went from the hiking pace of our lives to feeling like we were moving backwards while walking forwards. This happened roughly 3 miles before the lodge. The last hour to the lodge was the biggest slog of my life. It was almost like some sort of sick joke. At this point the euphoria was lost, along with my mojo, and I did what I could to not fall too far behind Peter. 

    Timberline lodge is a thing of beauty and is where the movie ‘The Shining’ was filmed. If you've seen the movie you can imagine it’s a bit eerie. I was here in 2016 with a few of my friends when we ran around Mt. Hood. It was so cool to be back. 

    We got to the lodge at 10am and promptly made our way to the restaurant. Luckily, they didn’t seem to be too busy and we got a seat right away. I went straight for the banana and pecan pancakes, eggs, potatoes, sausage, fruit and coffee. I think the cost of the brunch was $35US which I don't think I would typically splurge on but there was no price I wouldn't pay for a buffet brunch at that point. There were a bunch PCT hikers that had been dropped off there that morning as a drop off point to get around the closure. Our friend Rotisserie was in this group and he joined us for breakfast. The one nice thing about getting a seating around 10am is that they switch from breakfast to lunch at 11am. If you’re there then you can also enjoy the buffet lunch. I’ve learned not to gorge myself when there is still an entire half day of hiking left to do so I enjoyed some salad and veggies that were part of the lunch menu and it was nice to get some actual greens in me. Greens are few and far between on this trail. 

    After brunch, Peter had to take care of something that required the internet for about an hour and half so I sat down and digested and checked in with family and friends. Once back on trail I immediately felt ill. I liken it to being a kid at a soccer tournament and you have a bit of time between games and you go to McDonald’s and eat a burger and fries 30 minutes before you have to be back running and sprinting around on the field. Anyone else know that feeling? It was almost hard to enjoy the beauty of what was in front of me and in the moment I was a bit regretful of brunch. Luckily, that feeling only lasted 3 hours and then I felt wonderful and had reconciled my feelings towards brunch. 

    After a long and hard afternoon of hiking we set up our camp just before dark. Looking ahead, we got excited because we were going to reach Cascade Locks the following day which is right on the Oregon/Washington border. This also meant a potential hotel stay as well as Peter’s sister had sent us a package with new shoes! Stay tuned…

Marathon and Pole Vault

Day 13: Peter got stung by wasps!

 Day 13: 35 miles

    Today involved a lot of forest walking. It wasn't overly eventful to be honest. The highlight for me was this pretty silly moment when I got really hangry. Peter was hiking ahead of me and I decided that I wanted to eat a payday. If you don't know what a payday is it’s like a delicious nougat/caramel bar covered in salted peanuts. It’s a dream that sadly isn’t available in Canada. Due to my hangryness I spontaneously decided that I didn’t want to just shove this in my mouth while furiously hiking and rather that it deserved to be treated with respect and could only be eaten while seated. This way it could be thoroughly enjoyed and that is the only way I was going to eat this bar. So out of nowhere in my most whiniest voice I yelled up trail to Peter that I was going to stop and eat. He looked perplexed and exclaimed he was confused why he had to backtrack to me. I had already decided that where I stopped was where I had to eat this bar and no moving would be happening on my part. He begrudgingly walked back towards me and sat opposite me on the trail. As I sat, eating my pay day, seemingly living my best life, Peter yelped in surprise and terror. The yelping continued some more until he realized he must have disturbed a wasps nest! We both quickly got up, albeit Peter more swiftly than I, and he flew on up trail, holding his poor bum cheek that got the brunt of the stings. I followed suit, unscathed, wondering how I avoided the terrorist stings. The resentment was real. 

    Timothy Lake was a thing of beauty! We got there late afternoon and took some time to stop and swim. I was happy to have some flip flops as it was quite rocky off the beach. Flip slops were a luxury item for me this go around. I didn't bring any last time but I really enjoyed having them. 

    We hiked for as long as we could this night because we wanted to make it to brunch the next morning at Timberline Lodge. I was growing increasingly anxious because I now HAD to have this brunch. The comments on the app said it required a reservation and if you didn't have one you had to arrive really early to get a table. We had no way of calling to book a reso so we knew we would have to hustle the next morning. We had 15 miles to hike to get there…stay tuned

Marathon and Pole Vault

Day 12: Getting around the Closure!

    The distance to Pamelia Lake trail head was a bit of a mystery to us because it’s not on the PCT. Our app didn’t really show exactly how far it was off the PCT but we took our best guess. Because of this unknown variable we woke up pretty early to ensure we were there for our 1pm pick up. We ended up doing 15.7 miles by 11am which left us plenty of time to eat and wash up in the creek. In that time we met another PCT hiker who had just been dropped off and was continuing his hike Southbound. He had gotten off trail for a bit to hang out with his family in Portland and we chatted with him and his mother for a short while. Once he left his mother asked if we wanted some peaches, an offer I joyfully accepted. Her son was in his early 20’s and as I sat eating my peach I couldn’t help but think about how cool it would be to follow your child on such an adventure. I imagine it would be both nerve wracking and exciting watching him walk back on trail, solo, into the unknown. I wonder how my experience would be different at 20 versus 37? 

    Devilfish arrived right on time and we started the long drive to Ollallie Lake. The PCT closure itself was only 23 miles but the drive to get to Ollallie Lake takes a bit over 4 hours. We made a few stops along the way and even picked up some SOBO PCT hitcher’s that were heading into Portland. I think all in all with all the stops it was about a 6 hour ride. To say we were beyond grateful was an understatement. 

    The 3 miles North of Ollallie Lake were also closed and so we decided to camp at Triangle Lake so as to avoid travelling on closed trail in the morning. Prior to getting dropped off here however, Devilfish took us up to Ollallie Lake because he said it was worth the view and he was picking up another hiker heading Southbound looking to get around the closure. There was also a store I was pretty keen to get to as I really wanted to grab some beer and snacks before it closed. When we got there I was surprised to see the Thrupple. They had decided to go through the closure and looked like they had a long hard day. They were covered in black soot from all the burnt trees they would have had to climb up and over. We chatted with them briefly and I found out the lone woman is from Saskatchewan. When she found out we were also from Canada she asked if we had ever done the Great Divide Trail. They were interested in doing it next year because they were a bit disappointed with the lack of wildlife sightings. I assured them they would probably see a lot more wildlife on the GDT. The lack of wildlife was something Peter and I noticed as well, although I wasn’t really bothered by that. In 2014, we only saw one bear in 1200 miles and we didn’t see any on this trip and barely any skat at that. 

Ollallie Lake

    We got dropped off at Triangle Lake and before setting up camp we decided to go sip beers by the Lake and watch the sun set. It was a fantastic way to end a big day of travel. Big cheers to Devilfish for being so selfless and helping hikers get from point A to point B! 

Tomorrow we get to Timothy Lake and the following day a race to Timberline Lodge! Stay tuned…

Marathon and Pole Vault 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Day 11: Sisters Oregon!

 Day 11: 16.5 miles

    There was an excitement in the air this morning because for the first time since starting the trip we were going into a town! We could've easily hitched to Bend from Elk Lake a few days back but decided against it since we'd both been there many times before. Instead, we opted to go check out the small town of Sisters! I had never been there before but was excited to scope out a new part of Oregon. The tiny town stops are my favourite! 

    We walked 1.5 miles to highway 20 and prepped for a morning of hitchhiking. This would be our first hitch of the trip! It wasn't but a mere 15 minutes later that we were jumping into a pick up truck with a nice fellow from Redmond. He had to go through Sisters on his way home and was happy to give us a lift. He was a retired correctional facilities counsellor and judging by the raft he was towing behind his truck, was quite the outdoor enthusiast. For some reason knowing he also enjoyed spending his spare time in nature made me feel safer. 

    We got dropped off outside this very trendy coffee shop and found our place on one of the outdoor picnic tables. Peter took advantage of the wifi while I went in and ordered us some breakfast frittatas and coffee. We spent the next couple of hours here, eating pastries, drinking coffee, and charging our devices.  It was obvious that Sisters is an active community and there were lot's of bike commuters dressed up in office attire coming and going from the coffee shop. I was very enamoured with the town and wanted to live here immediately. 

    We had a little issue we had to problem solve while we were in Sisters and that was getting around a 23 mile trail closure. Getting around it was proving to be quite complicated. Our goal was to miss the least amount of trail as possible which meant getting off at Pamelia Lake and getting back on at Ollalie Lake. This option was also the most difficult logistically because neither of these trail heads were off main roads/highways which would make hitching near impossible. Most hikers were opting for easier drop off points but this also meant missing significant sections of trail. Peter put a post up on the Central Oregon Trail Angels Facebook page asking for help to get around the closure. Luckily. a trail angel and avid thru-hiker Devilfish offered to take us to exactly where we wanted to go and he was available to do so the next day at 1pm. This meant we had to hitch back to the trail head this afternoon, hike as many miles as possible (ideally 17 miles) before nightfall and hike another 15 or so the next day before 1pm. Cool cool cool...

    As with every town stop our next goal after eating was to find the laundromat. Luckily the town is quite small and it was only a few blocks away. We quickly discovered they were all out of soap and Peter sent me to get some. However, all the places I went to were either closed or had closed down permanently and I had no choice but to go ask a friendly neighbour. The first door I knocked on went unanswered so I walked down to the next block and found a really nice older man who was in the midst of setting up his home veggie stand. As he went to gather some soap I looked over the veggies and picked out a beautiful field cucumber to buy. I figured that would be a nice trade off for his kindness and a bonus for us considering we hadn't been eating many vegetables!

    While Peter watched over the laundry I went to the local campground to have a shower. One of the funny things about doing laundry is you need something to wear while you're washing your clothes. This typically meant wearing your rain pants and jacket or sometimes I went Survivor styles and wore my buff as a shirt. It was a beautiful sunny hot day and here I was walking through the streets of Sisters, Oregon in a long sleeve merino shirt and rain pants that were rolled up to my knees. I was desperate for some shampoo and conditioner but couldn't find any little bottles to buy anywhere. I almost started asking campers in the campground but that felt like too much. I think I paid $1 for 2 minutes and judging by the way the water pressure nearly knocked me off my feet, it was all I needed. By the time I came back to the Laundromat Peter had made a ton of new friends, including some hard working Forest Fire Fighters. He also managed to tear open the crotch of his rain pants! The pants were now useless so he did some cutting and sewing and magically turned them into a skirt that had quite the slit down the middle (pictures to come on next rainy day).

    We packed up our bags with all our clean clothes and headed to the local outdoor store Hike-N-Peaks. Peter needed a new bandana which he used to clean himself off with at the end of most days. While we were in there we met another couple who were PCT hikers. They said they were about to go do laundry and asked where they could buy soap. The gentleman from earlier had given us enough for 3 loads and we were happy to unload our remaining supply and pay it forward. At the same time, one of the employees said "Well, it's 12 o'clock, who wants a beer?", to which we replied "We do!". I later read in the gut hook app comments that this store was very hiker friendly and often offered free beer to hikers. At this point we had already received three acts of kindness and my heart was bursting with gratitude. 

    The final task of the day before having lunch was to find a grocery store and do our re-supply shopping. The store was quite large but it was lacking in some of the staples that we were looking for (i.e wraps) but we're alive today so it couldn't have been that bad. We went outside with our new goodies and started to pack our food into our backpacks. As we finished packing, the sky opened up and it began to rain. Conveniently, a restaurant called Takoda's was within arms reach and it so happened to be recommended to us by one of the forest firefighters that Peter had made friends with at the Laundromat. From the outside, as well as the inside, Takoda's didn't look all that inspiring. Whenever I go into a town I want to try the local hot spots and this just didn't seem like one of them. I'm a bit embarrassed about the tiny tantrum I had but I was hungry and wanted something boujee! At this point, the rain had turned into thunder showers and I begrudgingly ran into Takoda's. Peter ordered a chicken burger and a beer and I ordered a BL'A'T with fries and a beer. Our server so generously gave us free access to the salad bar because we were PCT hikers. The servers were super friendly and were very interested in hearing about our hike, In the end, they comped our beers, gave us free salad bar, and even gave us a PCT discount. By the end of the visit, I was screaming "Takoda's for the win!". Just another reminder not to judge a book by its' cover.

    By the time we had left the restaurant the sky had cleared and we set off down the street to find a good  hitch spot. Within 20 minutes a blue minivan had pulled over and we eagerly ran over to it hoping it was for us! As we approached we saw she was frantically clearing away items and making space for us in her car. She apologized for the mess and I reassured her it was the last thing on our minds and we were just grateful for the lift. The ride was eventful and I couldn't help but be a little concerned that the speed odometer was just spastically moving back and forth. Luckily, we made it in one piece and thanked her for her generosity. I think in total we had 5 acts of kindness in the short time we were in Sisters. A short visit to remember! 

    It was roughly 3 o'clock by the time we got back on trail. Our full bellies carried us until the darkness of night where we found a place to camp around 9pm. We quickly set up our tent and tried to clean off in the lake before getting all cozy into our sleeping bags. 

    The following day we would be picked up by Devilfish and would start the big adventure around the closure! Stay tuned...

Marathon and Hot Ballz (he just got given a new trail name c/o Mark Grist)