August 25th, Monday
“Slackpacking” southbound, 2096.9 to 2084.5
We woke up early to commemorate our fourth month on trail. It was crazy that we’d been hiking this long! And although we were going to stay at the Timothy Lake campground for another two nights, we decided that we would slackpack a bit of the trail to cover some miles.
|My unsuccessful attempt at a Strader family photo.|
Zach cooked eggs and bacon (with Ivy and I giving him lots of advice) while Gary left to jog the 13-mile trail around Timothy Lake. In the meantime, we ate a lot of food and discussed what to do.
At first we planned to hike northbound, from Timothy Lake to the crossing of a highway roughly thirteen miles away. However, with our limited cell reception, we realized it would be easier if Gary dropped us off at the highway crossing and we hiked southbound back to camp. Ivy had never walked more than four or five miles in one go before, but she was determined to go with us.
We packed a light daypack for Zach and I to take turns carrying, full of water, a filter, lots of snacks, and some layers, maps, and other essentials. When Gary returned from his run, he drove us to the Highway 26 trailhead, dropped us off, and said he’d see us in a few hours. Then the three of us set off southbound to trace our steps back to our campground.
The first part of the trail led us along a wooded slope, with a fantastic view to our right of verdant sloping mountains leading up to the snowy peak of Mount Hood. Then the trail delved into a flatter forest, with pretty trees and moss and carpets of pine needles.
We ran into a lot of people we knew that day, who always greeted us with surprise and teased us, saying that we were sobos now! We saw Ché, Nick, Shutter, Trinket and Lobby, as well as a few others. Later, Ivy said that she thought they all looked exactly alike: dirty and clothed in polyester and bearded (where applicable). It took an experienced eye to be able to tell any of the guys apart.
Despite not being a “walker,” Ivy hiked at a pretty furious clip, keeping up with Zach, who often had me scurrying behind. It almost felt harder to walk without a backpack than with one— the extra weight, while exhausting to haul around, made my body feel like it was larger and more solid, as if it gave me mental momentum. Without a pack I felt light and weak, like a feather blown about by the wind. It was all I could do to keep my poor light body going.
Near the end of the trip, we made a detour that Gary had recommended, to Little Crater Lake. We walked into a clearing and gasped.
Little Crater Lake was very little— probably thirty feet in diameter. However, it was also about thirty feet deep, and spring fed, so the result was a perfectly clear, surreally blue pool, a shade of electric turquoise that outshone even a swimming pool’s color. We stared in awe at an upside-down tree skeleton in the water, which we could clearly see all the way to the bottom.
We hung out here for a while, reading the informational signs, eating snacks, and gaping at this incredible little pool. After a break, we booked it back to camp. Ivy was exhausted, but had held up well!
Gary had a pot of chili and some cornbread on the grill, and soon we all sat down to dinner. I felt unreasonably tired considering how little we’d hiked today— and without a loaded pack, too! It was yet another reminder that the trail was much more mental than it was physical.
We played Boggle, and Ivy slaughtered us. Not only is she really good at Boggle, but my brain had not had to do anything related to words or pattern-finding for months, and I could barely eke out three-letter words at all. I wondered what it would be like to return to my job as a writing tutor after neglecting my brain for six months. We really were getting ready for the last leg of the trail, and I could start thinking of life beyond the PCT. It was a strange feeling, and exciting.
We went to bed around hiker midnight because we were all so tired, having all walked or jogged 13 miles. However, around 9:45 a couple women and a kid drove up and camped in the site right next to ours and were being pretty loud. Then a guy from a nearby campsite walked over to join them, bringing some crawdads he had caught to roast. I had never heard people eat sandwiches and crawdads so loudly. However, they were clearly having a great time, and it wasn’t midnight yet, so we just let it go.
However, they kept it up, getting louder and louder. They were all very drunk at this point, and the conversation was a little less jovial and involved more cussing. Finally, around 1:30, Zach walked over and asked if they’d be quiet. They were very contrite and apologized profusely. However, the alcohol had given them short memories and soon they were at it again.
Soon it became apparent that the man (a married man, as we gathered) ended up inside their tent. And they were still drinking. And then things got nasty, and the two women were screaming at each other while the man tried to calm them down.
Zach went hunting for the camp host, but couldn’t find him. I huddled in the tent with Ivy, sharing her blanket because it was a chilly night. And all the while the women screamed at each other.
It seemed like hours passed before Zach returned with the camp host and his wife— it turns out the normal camp host was gone, so there was a replacement who wasn’t camped out in the same spot. Just as they walked out, we heard a bloodcurdling scream. One of the women had ripped the other’s nose ring out.
The camp host was very firm, and the women, drunk as they were, sobered up enough to know that they were going to get in very big trouble if they didn’t shape up. The camp host escorted the man out of the tent, where his sleepy and confused wife joined him out on the road.
The women quieted down, still snapping at each other to shut the F up, but were soon quiet. Zach and I returned to our tent, feeling tense. However, the man, who hadn’t been scared enough to sober up, was causing trouble, saying that he hadn’t done anything wrong and there was no reason for the host to be hassling him. The host ended up calling a ranger on him, and gave him one hour to get packed up and out of there before he was thrown out. The guy kept arguing, insisting that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Zach and I finally fell asleep, still listening to the drunk guy trying to justify himself. It was a very weird night.