PCT Oregon – Crater Lake

9th August Sunday Crater Lake  From our great campsite on the crater rim we sauntered down to the rim cafe for breakfast then descended through forest to the post office only to find that it was closed on Sundays. As we were due to pick up our resupply box we would have to wait until tomorrow.

The campsite was down the road so we set off to pitch our tent and enjoyed inactivity for the rest of the day. Chatted to Rebecca and four female hikers dubbed ‘The Nike Girls’ as they were bedecked in sports lycra clothing. They were thru-hiking south with the help of a parent with a support vehicle which gave us a lift back up to the village for some supplies.

Crater Lake camp L-R Martina, Scott, Sundog, Rebecca

After collecting our packages the next day and reading our mail we hiked south at 12 noon with heavy packs in hot weather. We walked on until 8.30pm through more lodgepole pine forest spotting some elk along the way and passed Rebecca and Scott bivvying beside the path (they were hiking ‘ultralight’ and were using a tarp sheet instead of a tent to save weight).

Discovering the possibility of more swimming potential, we took the Sky Lakes trail for the next few miles descending down to sparkling Margurette Lake for a swim before regaining the PCT. This area was ‘lake heaven’ as the terrain was dotted with lakes much to our glee and we camped between Island and Dee lakes just off the trail. The water in these high lakes still felt cold and there was some magical quality about immersing our overheated bodies into the waters. It seemed like it could revitalise us and add strength to our hiking limbs!

Map of Sky Lakes with its lake dotted landscape

Martina was up and active the next morning at 6am cooking breakfast. I followed groggily in the dark and put my feet into my boots to go to the toilet. I hit something distinctly soft and squidgy and let out a yelp! When I looked at my boot there was a big ‘Western Toad’ sitting inside that had found a lovely dark warm home for the night. I jumped back and Martina had to empty it out for me as I was a bit squeamish. The toad didn’t seem too bothered by its ordeal and leapt off into the woods.

Our hike continued round the east flank of another volcanic mountain, Mt McLoughlin. Unfortunately the trail stayed in the trees most of the way past the hill and we didn’t see too much of it. The heat was almost unbearable that day- not helped by the red lava rock that we hiked over which seemed to intensify the suns rays. It was probably the hottest day of our hike and we visibly wilted in the heat. Our lunch stop was by a gurgling stream near a road crossing of Hw 140 which we made use of to cool down a little. In the afternoon we struggled on to gain 10 miles over more lava slopes in stifling heat. Martina was delighted to find a diversion picking berries alongside the trail which now were ripening perfectly. Our bed for that night was in a small wooden shelter with its own water pump.

We left at 6.15am the next morning and by 7am it was already getting hot as we climbed the slopes of Baldy Mountain. We passed lots of variety of trees which was nice to see- Douglas Fir, Sugar Pine, Cedar, Ponderosa Pine and others which we couldn’t identify! At a road crossing near here we were startled as we emerged from the forest by huge trucks coming trundling by at speed.

We reached Hyatt Lake that afternoon where we had sent a resupply box. Unfortunately it hadn’t arrived so we decided to hike on the next day and go into the town of Ashland nearby and try and intercept the parcel there. An interesting meeting for us was with a hiker called Jonathan Breen who had hiked northbound all the way through the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains that we retreated from in early June- our first northbounder encounter!

Next day after a bit of hiking we hitched into the town of Ashland. The guy who gave us a lift is planning a golf trip to Scotland this year so we had plenty to chat about. Ashland is small, touristy, expensive – and we loved it! It has an annual Shakespeare Festival which was running when we arrived and the town felt bustling and alive.

Since it was Sunday 16th August we waited in Ashland for our parcel to arrive on Monday. It was no hardship and Martina in particular enjoyed the cosmopolitan feel of the place.

We managed to deal with our parcels on Monday and were able to hitch out back to the trail without too much difficulty with a young girl driving her fathers Range Rover – I guess we must have looked trustworthy!

Our next few days were on open rolling ridge lands with plenty of flowers to keep our interest as well as views south to the Trinity Alps – our next major mountain range in California. About thirty miles south of Ashland we came across a PCT California border post – we had made it back to California. A hiker trail book was attached to the post and we had an interesting time reading the comments of hikers we knew who had already passed this way. Marathon Man was heading south at speed but Brian Sweet, our fellow hiker on many occasions, seemed to be having difficulty hiking alone and his entry sounded a bit down. When hiking a trail of this length every one of us had their ups and downs (ours mostly when we were ill, or it was too hot or there were too many trees and no views!) but it was more difficult I think for Brian hiking alone as the days through trees can seem very lonely indeed.

Anyway, we were in good spirit, it was 17th August and we were in our final US state with only a mere 1,050 miles to go !

Next Northern California………

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PCT Oregon – Cascade Summit

5th August Cascade Summit Resort We arrived here mid morning and, picked up our resupply box, showered, pitched our tent nearby and started some ‘serial snacking’. A few other hikers turned up and there was a nice laid back atmosphere as Sideshow got his guitar out and the rest of us dozed or chatted away in the shade of a tree beside the wooden veranda of the shop front. The ‘A team’ with dogs, Sideshow, Mensa were there and two hikers we hadn’t met before- Scott Williamson (aka Let it Be) and  Rebecca. Scott, amazingly enough, was on his 4th PCT and has completed the other long distance trails the CDT and AT. He was seemingly in training for a double ‘there and back’ PCT hike the next year. Martina organised everyone to chip in for a local pizza delivery to the campsite that evening to end a lovely restful day.

Our chosen route out of Cascade Summit was on the Skyline Trail which followed Trapper Creek upstream to Diamond View Lake. Strangely enough, the PCT rarely followed rivers, tending to traverse round hillsides and keep to higher ground, so it was an unusual pleasure for us to follow this variant trail.

Diamond View Lake and Diamond Peak

We moved into a dry forested region of lodgepole pine which was one of our least favourite environments. The trees formed a bit of a monoculture and didn’t provide enough shade from the sun for us. To add to that, the ground was now very dry and dusty and we found that  the person in front kicked up a huge cloud of dust as they hiked such that we ended up hiking 100m or so apart. For us it was the ‘Oregon Desert’.

Martina hiking through Lodgepole Pine in Oregon

We had a new plan today to add a bit of variety to our hike. Instead of camping mid evening, cooking dinner and sleeping, we thought we would stop around 6pm and cook/eat dinner for an hour beside the trail then move off and get a few extra hours hiking done in the cool of the late evening and into the night. This plan was helped by the fact that there was a full moon at the time and might mean that we could cover more miles in the day.

As it turned out, cloud moved in around 8.30pm so that we were walking in the semi-dark but we still made it to Tolo Camp with more than 28 miles hiked.

We needed to descend off trail to pick up stream water the next day as we had a 16 mile waterless stretch to a creek at the foot of Mt Thielsen. Our route took us along pleasant tree covered ridge tops before we arrived at the creek at 3.30pm where we both promptly fell asleep after making and eating an instant cheesecake. Perhaps our tactics of hiking so long yesterday were not so good after all! Wisely deciding to listen to our bodies we set up camp in this lovely spot below Mt Thielsen. Another hiker, Sundog, arrived later on- Sundog is a pharmacist in Arizona (when he is not hiking) and told us about excellent hiking down there where there are cliffside Indian dwellings and carvings.

8th August We knew we had 26 miles to go to our next planned stop at Crater Lake village so we rose early and hauled lots of water for this hot dry stretch. At about 4pm and after 20 miles we reached a busy tourist road lookout over Crater Lake itself. And what an impressive sight it was. A deep turquoise blue colour lake, seven miles in diameter and formed around 7,700 years ago when volcano Mt Mazama blew up and then collapsed in on itself. After a few days hiking ourselves in the forest we observed some intriguing tourist activity here- one RV trundled up to the viewpoint, the driver wound down his window and started shooting a movie of the scene whilst the rest of the family didn’t even look up as they delved into their takeaway burgers. A few minutes later they drove off- I presume they had ‘done’ one of the natural wonders of North America!

It was easy to leave this scene and hike for 5 minutes on the rim trail round the edge of the caldera to stop on our own for lunch. It didn’t seem that many people left their cars or RV’s here on foot, so it was quiet.

An enjoyable 6 mile hike round the rim of Crater Lake took us to the rim village where we met Sundog again and indulged in a $10 buffet dinner. We decided it would be nice to camp on the crater rim itself rather than in the forest so we walked a mile back up the trail and discreetly set up our tent at sunset ( camping is not actually allowed here). We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and then with the reflection of the moon on the lake’s surface.

Next from Crater Lake to California!

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PCT Oregon – Olallie Lake

29th July Olallie Lake Olallie Lake was a pleasant spot with views out to Mt Jefferson and a wooden ranger station and small shop. We picked up our resupply package and eat as much snack food from the shop as we could pack in.

Next day we head out towards Mt Jefferson through the forest in intermittent cloud. At Scout Lake we manage another swim, had lunch and took in the views over flower meadows up to the heights of Mt Jefferson. The way forward was to be quite similar for the next few hundred miles with forested undulating terrain then rising to traverse singular volcanic peaks.

Our immediate trail however took us up to  a mist shrouded Shale Lake where we camped after 23.6 miles. Martina certainly was going strongly again! We met up with fellow thru hiker Woodstock here and hiked with him past Three Fingered Jack – a mountain which we didn’t see due to thick mist all day. In retrospect the mist was a bit of a blessing as it made for cool hiking temperatures and we were much less physically fatigued than when hiking in the sun.

The sun was soon out again though as we hiked past Mt Washington into a weird landscape of solidified lava. We stopped to stroll up to the top of Bell Knap crater for the views south to the Three Sisters our next destination. These three peaks rose up as snowy cones in a north-south orientation above the dark red lava based rock and intermittent forest.

Martina on old lava with Mt Washington behind

We crossed Hw242 just past here in the burning heat of late afternoon  at McKenzie Pass. We had both long since neglected to use any sun block cream and the sun’s rays didn’t really seem to have any effect on us even though we were exposed all day. We put it down to quickly developing a coating of sweat, dirt, grime and dust which was as effective a sun barrier as any! Our camp that evening was at lovely South Matthieu Lake on the north slopes of North Sister mountain which was planned to provide us with another superb soothing evening swim.

2nd August After a refreshing but cold pre breakfast swim we were hiking by 7am up into the great arena of old volcanic activity around North Sister. Surrounded by lovely lush green meadows and purple lupines it made for a scenic days walk as we skirted the heights of the snow covered Three Sisters. The scenery was fitting somehow as I had calculated that we had now hiked 1,330 miles – and that was halfway! We were jubilant that we had made it so far but slightly melancholy as well that we had seen so much, had so many things happen and yet it was only half of the journey. Could we survive the same distance again (?)- that was the question going through our minds as we hiked south and onwards.

Later that day we came upon a large outcrop of obsidian rock- obsidian is volcanic glass that has solidified extremely quickly after volcanic eruption. It would have been useful to locals to make arrow tips and blades and it was unusual to see such a large exposure as this.

In the evening we reached Mirror Lake for a cooling swim then hiked another mile uphill to find a clearing with open views back to the Three Sisters to pitch our tent. Our plan the next day was to deviate from the PCT by about 2 miles down to a small shop at the Elk Lake Resort to pick up some fresh (or just different!) food. We made the 5 miles hiking by 9.30am to find two other PCT hikers- Sideshow and Mensa. Sideshow is a bit of a character as he is hiking with an acoustic guitar! – albeit a ‘backpacking’ cut down guitar. Also there were the ‘A team’- two hikers and their hiking dogs. We had a good breakfast and stacked up on chocolate but found the owner a bit grumpy so we moved on fairly quickly.

Our days were now beginning to develop a planned structure here in lake dotted central Oregon. We would scour the maps at camp in the evening and work out which lakes we could stop at along the way for lunch, dinner and camp to maximise our swims that day. So it was that we had lunch at Dumbbell Lake- which fulfilled all our requirements; a cool, deep, secluded, clear water lake and it even had a rock promontory which we could use as a diving board- perfect! That evening it was Stormy Lake which, rather unusually for the journey, had other campers ensconced- a scout group. I was very weak that evening and it turned out to be simple dehydration which was easily solved by just keeping drinking.

We met Sideshow again at a shady spot beside Charlton Lake and stopped to hear him play ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd. It was tempting just to stay there all day but we knew we were 14 miles to our next resupply stop at Cascade Summit and wanted to progress so that we could hike there easily tomorrow.


Our next day involved an easy forested descent down to  Highway 58 and Willamette Pass then 1.5 miles down a side road to Cascade Summit resort where we intended to laze about and eat for the rest of the day!

Next Cascade Summit on to Crater Lake Oregon

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PCT Oregon – Washington Border

16th July Cascade Locks on the Washington/Oregon border. Cascade Locks was a natural place for us to rest for a day as we had just completed Washington state with a final long 147 mile section. We had noticed that in Oregon the trail didn’t pass by any large towns where we could shop for provisions easily so we decided to do a large shop in Cascade Locks and mail the supplies to ourselves via general delivery to three points through the state. Our diet and shopping requirements were quite unusual and we received some strange looks in the supermarket as we bought industrial size quantities of pasta, soups, chocolate, nuts, raisins, breakfast muesli and dried milk. M&Ms were a favourite as can be seen here as we used our motel room to repackage the food into smaller bags and week-long parcels.

We managed to briefly visit the city of Portland to refresh some of our worn gear by hitching in and, due to a frustrating lack of public transport around, we reluctantly took a $60 taxi back to Cascade Locks. It was here that we finally jettisoned our ice axes as the snow looked to be receding fast and the temperature was a hot 25C.

17th July We left Cascade Locks and the Washington border via the local diner for a fulsome breakfast and headed away from the official PCT to hike the Eagle Creek trail south. This promised some unusual river and waterfall scenery and seemed more interesting than the PCT here abouts.

This was soon born out as we hiked up alongside a steep river gully with lovely waterfalls of all shapes and sizes tumbling over fallen trees, basalt rock and moss. As the temperature was now sizzlingly hot we were soon debating over the best pools for a dip and discovered one at the Devils Punchbowl with its very own tree to serve as a diving board. It was extremely refreshing and reminded us that it was our first proper trailside swim since leaving Canada. As it is a great pleasure for both of us to swim outside in rivers and lakes we were now on the look out for any potential locations!

After lunch and a further climb up the river gully we arrived at Tunnel Falls – a beautiful waterfall where the trail has been tunneled in behind the falls high up above the main river valley. Later that evening, we eventually made it to camp at about 4,300 feet and 18 miles at Indian Springs after a hot day of climbing.

Tunnel Falls

Next day, after an early start at 7am to put in some miles before the heat built up too much, we came to a clearing to see Mt Hood nearby – a lovely snow draped volcanic cone. Our hiking though, was mainly along a tree covered ridge with occasional views out to Hood and also Mt St Helens Rainier and Adams to the north. Higher up on the slopes of Mt Hood we emerged out onto vivid green open alpine pastures, dotted with flowers and crossed by tumbling streams and found a great camping spot.

Mt Hood

Cloud drifted around the mountain as we traversed its slopes next morning before coming across Timberline Lodge- a ski resort which was still open on 19th July! Our trail south descended back into trees on hot hard ground and I began to suffer sore feet with new running shoes I had bought in Portland. Martina also was suffering much worse than I was and it seemed that the Giardia picked up first in mid Washington still hadn’t cleared her system yet.

We started out the next day from Little Crater Lake and Martina was exhausted. Five miles further on we hit the edge of Timothy Lake and saw some fishing boats on the sparkling water. We rested by the side of the lake and sat on a log and to my horror, Martina went grey and blacked out! I was panicking and although Martina came round quickly we both got a huge fright. Our priorities changed, and after a half hour rest we walked round to a campsite we could see at the far end of the lake and set up camp and had some food. By mid afternoon Martina was still dizzy so we decided to abandon the trail for the moment and head for the nearest doctors surgery.

Little Crater Lake

It took us a couple of hitches to reach Sandy, about 30 miles east of Portland where we found a doctor and a motel. Martina was very weak still, quite dizzy, was sick through the night and having difficulty holding down food. 

We hung about in Sandy for a couple of days whilst Martina rested then, when she was strong enough to move around, we rented a car and explored the northern Oregon coast and had some fun being normal tourists. On the 27th July we drove back to Sandy and Martina received her diagnosis from the doctor- she still had Giardia! She was given another course of drugs and we both decide to return to the trail at Timothy Lake to see how things would go from there.

Timothy Lake

We both enjoyed sleeping beside the lake under the stars again that night and were glad to back on the trail if a bit apprehensive about how Martina would do.  Our next day we managed a good start with a pleasant 10 miles to Warm Springs mostly walking in forest and accompanied by loud evening thunderstorms. The forest hiking continued as we headed south towards Olallie Lake where there was a ranger station, small shop and hopefully, our resupply parcel that we had sent from Cascade Locks. We made it that day covering an incredible 21 miles and Martina was delighted to discover a great little camp next to small Head Lake nearby to Olallie which was perfect for swimming.

Next from Olallie Lake south to Cascade Summit…

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PCT Oregon – Introduction

The Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon changes in character subtly from that in Washington to the north. The section in Oregon is flatter, drier, more volcanic and less glaciated than Washington tracing a route along high ground with an average elevation of about 5,100 feet. Rolling hills cloaked in mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine forest are typical whilst the region generally is dotted with many sparkling lakes.

There are some unique landscape features that the PCT passes through or near. A standout is Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, a volcanic caldera about 7 miles in diameter now filled with beautiful turquoise water. The official PCT avoids the lake however there are alternative trails that provide lakeside views around the rim of the lake.

In the north there are a series of dormant volcanos such as Mt Hood which dominates the city of Portland, the Three Sisters, Mount Thielsen, Mt Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. Although the PCT does not summit any of these it climbs high onto their slopes as it traverses round providing excellent and ever changing views. 

Read on as we start hiking from theĀ Washington border into Oregon……

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