Monday, August 24, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 121: Bacon and Whiskey

DAY 121
August 23rd, Saturday
2041.7 to 2067

We woke up the next morning around 6:30, determined to get an early start. We jumped out of our tent and packed up in a frenzy, watching the morning mist clear to reveal Mount Jefferson’s peak swathed in morning light and snow. We were headed back to the trail by 7:00, and our grumpy neighbors weren’t even awake yet.

The trail took us along the alpine meadow, then into a forest and up a sharp ascent. Again, Oregon had spoiled us with all its mild grades— the sudden rise in elevation had us huffing and puffing, although we were still in good spirits. At the top of the climb, we saw Mount Hood in the distance, a sharp peak draped in snow. It looked like we’d get to Timothy Lake (on the near side of Mount Hood, where we were meeting family) tomorrow as scheduled! The thought of seeing family again was so exciting it was nearly unbearable.

The trail down the side of Mount Jefferson crossed some snow fields, so it was good that we were here in the morning. As we strolled over the crunchy ice, I remembered how scary the snowfields in the Sierra had seemed. Now my only concern was not slipping on the ice and not melting my retinas (I had put on my sunglasses before going across). 

After a while the rocks and snow gave way to a tree line, and we walked down the rest of the mountain in a pleasant forest. We saw that we were nearing a campground soon, and when we reached a trail junction, we saw a sign: “Magic Magic Magic! Will trade beer, water and whiskey for thru-hiker stories.” Excited, we were happy to take the detour.

We found a young guy with curly red hair who had a huge propane stove set up in the back of his hatchback. “Hey guys!” he said as we walked up to join him and a few other hikers sitting around in lawn chairs. “Today I have whiskey, soda, and BLTs. What would you like?”

Ecstatic, we said yes to all three, and he promptly pulled a package of bacon out of a cooler and began frying it up on the stove. “I’m Red Bandit,” he said. “What are you guys’ names?”

“Tabasco and Leftovers.”

Red Bandit started in recognition. “Hey, I remember you guys! You gave me all those extra meals in Wrightwood!”

I shuffled through my memories, straining to remember that day many months and 1700 miles ago.

“Yeah, you guys had a bunch of meals left over, so you gave them all to me,” Red Bandit said. “I didn’t have to buy anything at Wrightwood because of it.” 

At last I did remember him, vaguely— we had seen him at the outfitter just as we were giving away our extra meals… back in the days where we didn’t eat every scrap of food. 

Red Bandit handed us huge BLT sandwiches, sizzling hot from the stove. “I guess this is my way of saying thank you.”

“I think we got the better end of the deal!” I said, laughing.

We asked him why he wasn’t hiking, and he said that he’d had to quit the trail because of crippling tendonitis. “I decided that I might as well go do trail magic,” he said. “My dad thought it was a good idea, so he chipped in some money so I could buy the more expensive stuff, like bacon.”

We drank soda, Zach had a PBR, and we also swigged some whiskey (because 10:00am is totally the perfect time for alcohol). We chatted with the other hikers, most of whom were just doing sections of Oregon. We all talked about Crater Lake and one woman told us about several non-PCT trails that she had hiked in the past month, which was cool.

At last we said goodbye and hiked on. The trail was easy, as most of Oregon had been, but we were both feeling physically worn down. My muscles ached for no good reason and Zach’s hip belt was rubbing his skin to a sandpaper-textured shade of red. We were well fed now, which kept us going, but it was hard to make miles.

We ended up spoiling ourselves by taking another detour later that day: Ollalie Lake Resort. It was only half a mile off-trail, and we saw no particular reason to hurry since we were now well within striking distance of Timothy Lake. Plus, the resort had a sign on trail that said, “Welcome PCT class of 2014!” promising, “Ice cold BEER + soda,” “Snacks + resupply,” and “Hot coffee + friendly faces.” 

Zach and I walked through a little pine wood to a wooden building surrounded by cute little cabins, which all faced Ollalie Lake, a placid silvery-blue body of water with a great view of Mount Hood (wreathed in cloud, as usual). The employees there were indeed friendly, and the camp store was clean and cozy. We ended up buying some snacks there, even though we didn’t really need them.

We sat outside and ate some Snickers, watching the tourists and the pretty lake. A curious family walked up and asked us about the PCT. Inevitably, where we lived came up. “St. Louis,” I said, bracing myself.

Potatoes with olive oil! (Zach
used about a cup of oil per batch)
“Oh man,” the father said, his face turning grave. “Have you heard about all that stuff going on in Ferguson? I’ll bet you’re sooo glad not to be there right now.”

I sighed wearily. These comments didn’t annoy me— people were just trying to be empathetic— but they wore on me. “Actually, I kind of wish I was there,” I said. 

He looked confused, but moved on to the next subject.

We hung out for a while, enjoying the pleasant atmosphere, then hiked back on trail and continued to slog through the miles. Our bodies were exhausted and in pain, but we were in fairly good spirits, since we’d eaten “town food” twice today and were excited to see family tomorrow!

Later in the evening, we passed into an area that had very recently caught on fire— this section had just reopened a few days ago. The trees still had their leaves, but the trunks were scorched and the leaves a shriveled brown. Ashy black pine needles covered the ground, and we saw ditches that had been dug as firebreaks around the area.

We made it to our goal for the night, a dip between two peaks called Pinhead Saddle. Camping was limited on this little section of flat ground because there were a ton of weekend hikers out. We were still a bit gun-shy after the grumpy tourists at Russell Lake, and tried in vain to find a place away from the weekend hikers’ personal space.

At last, a section-hiking older couple called over to us, “There’s a couple good spots over here.” Relieved, we walked over, said hi, and found a nice campsite about ten feet from them, tucked in between the slender tree trunks. Despite our pain, we were exhausted that night, and fell asleep knowing that tomorrow we’d get to see family.


1 comment:

  1. To hear about the burned and scorched areas saddens my heart. Glad it was re-opened so you could continue your journey and bring you ever closer to your family.