a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
starts with a single step.
Miles 679.6 to 690.1 (10.5 Miles) Lost in the Woods Camp to Mesa Creek Camp
The alarm wakes us at 6am but we pretend not to hear it. Leave us alone! Our bodies are aching so bad, we were (ok, I was) cold all night despite the hot water bottle, the liner in the sleeping bag and it being June!!! But that‘s what you get for sleeping surrounded by snow. Our tent surrounded by a big cold white fridge. So alarm, leave us alone, we need to sleep some more today.
At 6.45am we finally manage to get up somehow. Our calves are hurting like hell! Hiking in snow is so incredibly exhausting! And it‘s most likely not going to get better today either as we will be staying above 6000 ft almost the entire time.
Ok, we are now ready to attack, but first let‘s find the trail. Found it! Awesome, off to a good start! The trail soon leads us out of the woods, thank you very much, and onto a beautiful snow covered meadow. Meanwhile the Middle Sister (or is it already the South sister?) makes an impressive appearance. Well, hello there beautiful!
The snow is still frozen and easy to walk on. The beauty surrounding us makes it easy for us to actually enjoy this morning. Sure it‘s exhausting, calves are already burning, but the silence, except for the snow crunching beneath our micro spikes - krch krch krch - is meditative, the fresh air so healthy and the sun already there to greet us. We feel like we are the only people on the planet right now. This part of the PCT will be crowded in a couple of weeks from now, and we‘ve got it all to ourselves.
After about 2 hours, or 3 miles - yes, the going is very slow - we stop for breakfast in the most amazing spot. One of the sisters (talking about the mountains here) is straight ahead of us, the sun is shining in our faces and warming us. We hang our sweaty clothes and shoes out to dry and have a delicious breakfast with the usual: oatmeal, toast with mayonnaise, cenovis, mustard, cheese and summer sausage, coffee and hot chocolate. Life is good.
After an hour we finally take off again. We still hike on either snow covered meadows or in snow covered forest. Yes, we haven‘t seen the trail since yesterday morning. Yes, it‘s annoying and quite challenging to keep following the one set of foot steps of our unknown hiker friend and continuously check on our Guthooks app if we are still on the right track. I hike with my ice axe in the left and with my phone in the right hand, a trekking pole lose around my right hand wrist. Not exactly professional mountaineering style. I probably look quite ridiculous. Dario is always about 50 metres ahead of me, following the foot steps or adjusting his direction based on what I tell him from Guthook. He postholes quite a bit, falling or sinking deep into the snow. I actually think by now the score of who fell more times is even, if not in favor of Dario. ;-)
Suddenly we hear a voice! Crunchmaster, a hiker we‘ve been in touch with regarding this section is standing down there! We‘ve been expecting to run into him any minute now because we knew he was coming towards us from the south. Before we started this section we tried to find out about the snow conditions and to see whether there were going to be others hikers in this area, for safety reasons. So there he is! Crunchmaster from Tennessee is on his third attempt to thruhike the PCT this year, and has already successfully hiked the PCT twice, as well in 2018, but we never ran into him last year. We tell each other all about the upcoming parts and he assures us that it’s not too bad for the next 20 miles, but that the trail will still be covered in snow for most of the time. So nothing new there. We talk for about 20 minutes, make him promise to come visit us in Switzerland. And off we are, back in the woods, but only for another half an hour and now with an additional set of tracks to follow, yaaaay!
It finally gets easier, less traversing in steep forest slopes and around trees. We are back in a beautiful plain and finally in lower terrain. Hello trail! It's good to actually see you again!!! We take a short lunch break to stuff our mouths with Sour patches and Twix. We aren't really hungry, but need the calories, the energy. We pass a burnt area, encounter some ski tracks, but slowly make our way down the mountain with the help of our microspikes, ice axe and most importantly, our trustworthy Guthook app. Thank god for Guthook. We finally reach the valley bottom, it's only 4pm but we decide to call it a day. There is another ascent coming up and we don't want to risk having to sleep on snow. Plus, tomorrow morning the snow on the ascent will still be frozen. Plus, this meadow is beautiful!
We find a lovely and dry spot to pitch our tent, right next to the Mesa creek. The sun is shining right into our tent, it feels warm and cozy. We make a pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes for dinner and go to sleep at about 8pm, what an exhausting, but beautiful day!
Miles 669.4 to 679.6 (10.2 Miles) + 6.5 Mile Roadwalk to trailhead (Total 16.7 Miles).
Sisters to Lost in the Woods Camp.
Today we head back to the trail! Finally, yaaaay! The bad weather front finally disappeared and we are ready to go!
A few days back Maya found a trail angel called Fred in the PCT Facebook group who kindly agreed to give us a ride to the trailhead or basically to the furthest possible point on the road towards the trailhead. As of now, the road going up to McKenzie pass is still closed 6.5 miles before the pass because of snow - which basically means that we will have to walk that part as well…
At exactly 6.30am Fred shows up in his red Subaru Crosstrek to pick us up. What a nice guy he is! It turns out we are the first PCT hikers he ever helped out! Fred spent his youth in Germany so he still speaks it pretty fluently! Very cool. So next we drive by a coffee place, get three coffees, off we go.
As we drive up towards McKenzie pass the landscape and surroundings suddenly feel very familiar – we drove the exact same road a year ago. But last time we continued our hike north of McKenzie Pass all the way to Canada. This time we are hiking south. So after a drive of around 15 minutes we reach the barrier from where the road is closed. Fred parks the car and a lady walking her dog takes some pictures of the three of us. Then we say goodbye to our new friend Fred and start our next section on the PCT. We heard that the snow line starts at around 5'500 feet (~1'700 meters). The pass itself is only 5'300 feet in altitude- so basically we should be fine with snow.
The hike up isn't too bad and in around 2.5 hours we reach McKenzie Pass. There are some minor patches of snow left, but not a lot. Otherwise the pass is beautiful, kind of "surreal lunar surface"-looking with all the lava rocks.
Only problem is that the pass is just the entrance gate back to the PCT, which then will lead over the Sisters mountains and therefore is most of the time above 6'000 feet - snow is a guaranteed certainty.
A previous post to the PCT Facebook group revealed that we are most likely the first hikers in the season hiking those mountains from north to south. But there is another PCT hiker called "Crunchmaster" going from south to north, whom we should cross at some point in this 40 mile stretch.
The air is super clean and fresh, but cold as well, we are both a bit nervous, but excited at the same time. The first 3 miles are relatively easy, there is some snow left, but nothing major. We make our way through a big lava field, then a stretch through forrest follows. Now we start getting higher in altitude, Soon we reach 5'700 feet and the snow kicks in. Now we are glad Brad made us buy those ice axes - they come in very handy by now. We have to traverse a wall covered under 6 feet of snow and on the side the wall goes down steeply for some 600 feet at least. There is no room for error now... We put on our micro spikes and slowly make our way across this dangerous part to the other side. This was not easy, but doable. For the next couple of miles the terrain becomes flatter, but snow is getting a bigger issue by the minute. After a while we have lunch on a snowless patch next to a beautiful lake. There is not a single cloud in the sky and the sun is shining with all its power. This results in countless reflecting drops of melting snow in the tree branches over and next to us. It is like rain on a bright sunny day!
From here we continue through more and more snow and after a while the trail is completely covered under 6 to 10 feet of snow. Now it is essential to have a GPS to still find your way through this winter/summer wonderland. Of course we don't try to stick to the non-existing trail - instead we just cut through it and take the easiest way. At some point we glissade down the mountain and later we find a PCT sign that is almost completely covered under snow.
By 7pm we finally find a more or less snowfree place to pitch our tent for the night. There was no water accessible for the last hours so we need to melt 2 or 3 kg of snow. The water tastes terrible, like burnt water, but it is still water. And so we cook dinner and crawl in to our sleeping bags. Today was very exhausting, but at the same time exciting as well! The adventure continues tomorrow when we will reach the high point at 6'500 feet. But for now we turn out our lights and within seconds pass over into a deep sleep.
3 Zero Days in Sisters
We sleep in and wake up well rested. This campground is really lovely: lots of room, a creek flowing right next to our site, clean showers and restrooms and a five minute walk away from the town centre.
First thing we do is prepare the boxes we plan to ship to Etna because we had shipped way too much stuff to the Timberline Lodge and are still carrying that huge box with us. While Dario drops the boxes off at the Post Office to have them sent to Etna I go to the grocery store to get some cherry tomatoes, cheese and a fuel canister. Now we're all set, ready to head out. Except for breakfast! We've been looking forward to a real American breakfast burrito and look up online where we should go. The "Hop and Brew" it is, right around the corner from the campground. And it's delicious. We are sitting outside, downloading some maps and checking the weather forecast. To be honest, it really doesn't look good. Bad weather is one thing, snow covered mountains another thing. Those two combined - probably not so much fun and possibly a bit dangerous. Are we up for this? Not really. Are we in a hurry? Not at all. Then it's decided, we will stay in Sisters and let the bad weather roll through the mountains while staying dry down here. We now have three full days in this cute little town where a big event is coming up - the Sisters Rodeo, one of the biggest, if not the biggest in the US!
The next couple days are filled with an unusual amount of reading, relaxing, eating good food, talking to interesting people and blogging in the library. One night we go to the Sisters Saloon for some burgers and a Caesar salad, everything is being prepared for the rodeo and the atmosphere is great! This is America like in the movies. It's kinda cool and we are definitely enjoying ourselves. In a month from now we will almost be back home after almost 15 months and we appreciate still being out and about, feeling free and flexible.
After three days of rest, many delicious breakfast burritos, a lot of hours spent in the library and restaurants we pack our stuff on Friday night, ready to head out the next day. The weather will be perfect again - warm and sunny! Tomorrow morning a trail angel called Fred will pick us up at 6.30am and take us to the trail head up at McKenzie Pass, or at least as close as possible since the pass is still closed for traffic. We missed the trail and can't wait to head back out there tomorrow!
SOBO Mile 551.4 to 555.7 (4.3 Miles)- Mt Jefferson View Camp to Timberline Lodge
It's 5am. Time to get up if we want to have at least a slight chance of reaching the Timberline Lodge in time for the famous breakfast buffet. We are both feeling a bit nervous not knowing what the conditions are like ahead of us. According to Jerry, our informant :), we should be running into snow immediately and all the way up to the Timberline Lodge. 4.3 miles of snow. Make it 1 mile per hour progress, we should get there by 10am or 11am, and no breakfast buffet for us. So let's hope for the best while preparing for the worst. This is also our system when it comes to microspikes and ice axe. As long as we wear that stuff we are likely not to run into snow. As soon as we take them off is usually when the snow starts. Murphy's Law is what they call it, no?
So off we go, microspikes on our shoes, ice axe in the left, trekking pole in the right hand. Not even two minutes into the hike a pine cone gets into my spikes and before I know it I am laying face down in the ground, my knee bleeding, my hand hurting. What a great start to this day! Let's hope it only gets better from here. We take off our spikes and eventually reach the river down in the valley. Snow free so far. So far so good. We are feeling really lucky. So far it really is better than yesterday.
The river crossing is the first challenge (expect for staying on our feet and trying not to fall again). And it is once again pretty challenging. It's good we're crossing really early in the morning, because the snow melt and amount of water coming down gets way worse later in the day! But still, it is quite a challenge to cross on the rocks. Dario is feeling confident, jumps over to the other side, leaves his pack, comes back to collect mine so that I can cross pack-free. I manage, but not without getting my feet wet.
Onwards we go, up up up the mountain. The last climb to Timberline Lodge where the breakfast is calling us. In the beginning it's almost snow-free, but eventually the snow patches become more and more common until we are completely hiking in snow. But before we know it we are up on the plateau with 360 degree views all around us. And it's just breathtaking. We don't mind hiking in snow as long as it's not on a steep mountain where we have to traverse all the time. But this, this is fun. And then, the first signs of civilisation: ski lifts! Ski lifts running in June. Welcome to the Timberline Ski Area!
Another 30 minutes later we make it! There's the lodge, what a great moment to be back here! And to actually see the beautiful scenery where the lodge is nestled into. Last time we were here it looked like this:
Now it looks like this:
Much better. Much much better.
The breakfast buffet tastes better this time because we don't feel as deflated and demotivated as last time. We then call our parents to let them know we made it. Talk with them some more. Always great to talk to family. <3
We then collect the box we had shipped here and consider our options. The next stretch is from McKenzie Pass near the town of Sisters to Shelter Cove at Lake Odell. 75 Miles. It's Tuesday today (we arrived 1.5 days earlier than planned!) and we know that the weather will turn bad on Thursday. We also know that this section will most likely be 100% snow covered. We don't want to be doing these miles in bad weather. It will be challenging enough with the sun shining. Maybe we should get a room at the lodge and stay here for the night before hitching to Sisters? We're not really in a rush... or we hitch to Sisters and try and gather some local intel. Maybe it won't be as bad? While we are debating what to do, a woman approaches us asking if we're PCT hikers. Yes we are, and so is she. Carmen is a Kiwi, and hiking with a Dutch couple: The Duchess and The Flying Dutchman. There are thruhiking this year but have been finding it really rough to find snow-free sections this year! It turns out they also just hiked here from Cascade Locks and the footsteps we saw and that helped us out immensely belonged to them! They will continue south from Highway 26 to Sisters and will take the bus down to Government Camp from where they are hoping to catch a ride to the trailhead. We decide to join them on the bus and hitch to Sisters. Staying at the Timberline Lodge is just too expensive (and overrated according to our 3 new hiker friends).
The bus soon shows up, we pack our packs and our huge box into it and get a ride down to Government Camp. Now to find a hitch for 5 people (because as it turns out, we all need to head west from here on Highway 26). And we're in luck. After about 10 minutes a lovely couple in a truck stops for us. Not only will they take the other three down the road to the trailhead, but since they are headed to Bend they can take us almost to Sisters!!! It's like a 2h drive, so we are really lucky! We were counting on taking at least 3 different hitches to get to our final destination today!!!
We are all bundled up in the back of the truck, exchanging phone numbers and having a blast. Sooner rather than later the other hikers get off and we jump into the front of the truck. Steve and Cathy are a great couple from Vancouver, WA and time passes by really quickly while we tell each other all about our lives. We are dropped off past Redmond and soon get another hitch by a young local couple. They drop us off at the Sisters Campground.
As we are still not sure if we will hike out the next day or not we decide to get everything ready in case we are hiking out the next day. This means doing laundry and getting some new carton boxes for shipping. We skip dinner because we aren't hungry at all - that breakfast buffet really has got you covered for the whole day (Dario did eat 4 plates packed with eggs, sausages, ham and frittata)!
So for now we are ready to hike out the next day and brace the worsening weather. We should be able to reach Elk Lake in 2.5 days, this would give us a shelter while it's raining, and possibly snowing on us. But nothing is set in stone, we'll just wait and see in the morning. But so far we are right on schedule!
SOBO Mile 534.2 to 551.4 (17.2 Miles) - Windy camp to Mt Jefferson View camp
When we hear the alarm clock going off at around 5.30 in the morning, we realize that our bodies still haven't quite adapted to hike 10 to 12 hours a day, and in a rather dizzy state or as I would call it, "my zombie mode", we decide to snooze for another hour.
But what a good night we actually had! Totally different to the one before. So now we feel kind of recovered again and pack up everything in again less than 40 minutes!
We calculated that now it is only around 22 miles to the famous Timberline Lodge, the place where they shot "The shining" with Jack Nicholson in 1980. Which also happens to be place where we had to take a cab to Cascade Locks the year before, since we felt so miserable of being snowrained on for the last couple of hours and not being allowed to dry all of our wet gear in the lodge. If you would like to have a more detailed reminder of last year's Timberline experience, here‘s the link to our post of September 12 of last year...
As I mentioned it is only 22 miles, but Jerry King, who works for Search and Rescue in the area, told us that there is still a lot of snow at elevations over 5400 feet, so the last 7 miles of the trail are supposedly all covered under 4 to 6 feet of snow, which is equal to 1.2 to 2 meters of snow... yaaay... and you wonder, why he knows that? Well, Iwas asking myself the same question. Turns out that he and his team had to rescue 2 hikers from a terrible situation the weekend BEFORE. That didn't sound very promising, but Jerry calmed us down and assured us that they were two 19 year old guys and were rather inexperienced and furthermore they got caught up in really bad weather.
Another hiker we spoke to about this only said: "And after all you are from Switzerland, so you should be familiar with snow, right?!" Ahhh right, we deal with lots of snow back home, especially when we are going to ski in the mountains. Oh and of course, there is this annoying snow layer of five centimeters for two days in December, which makes your feet wet when walking to the bus station!
So in short, it is one thing to have been skiing in snow in a resort and a complete different thing to be out there in the wilderness with no signal and only your phone to navigate your way through ice and snow. But we are confident that we can do it. And thanks to Jerry we know what to expect, which is really helpful! Thank you so much, Jerry!
Right now in the morning there are some clouds in the sky, but in the afternoon we are expecting blue skies - so all good for our first real snow adventure. As we continue our hike we are rewarded with some beautiful views of Mount Hood in the South and Mount St. Helens, the famous volcano, which erupted in 1980 (apparently didn't stop Jack Nicholson meanwhile chopping the door in the Timberline Lodge saying "here comes Johnny!"), Mount Adams and Mount Rainier in the North.
At about 11am we stop under a powerline (it was the only place with a little sun, that's why) and have a late breakfast accompanied by the monotone buzzing of the powerlines. We still enjoy our breakfast, finally again as much Nutella as I want, without worrying about all the calories!
We hike on for the next 3 hours, enjoy it lot and suddenly the sun is out again and temperatures start to rise. After descending to the deepest point on this stretch (only to ascend three times the amount later) we cross a bridge over a small creek and rest for some time. It is so beautiful out here! Everything shines in this lush green and looking so fresh and new and there is still no snow! From here it is supposed to be about 6 miles until we should hit the first snowy patches. Hard to believe but we are at the lowest point, so yes, it makes sense. From here we split up, we agree to meet again in around 2,5 miles next to a river we have to cross (no bridge according to our navigation app aka Guthooks). I go ahead and soon lose sight of Maya. From here we start to climb again (really...) and after a while the trail branches off to the right towards the river. And of course from here it is all down... again!
Soon I reach the river and meet two guys having late lunch there under some trees. They tell me that they just came down the mountain to here, so they know exactly what the two of us will encounter. I ask them "how was it?", both of them answer "oh it was terrible! Still a lot of snow, we couldn't find the trail most of the time and had to check all the time using our gps. But you can follow our footsteps now." It took them 9 hours to do the 8 miles or so from the lodge to here, pretty much all downhill for them. That's going to be...interesting. And above all we have to go up, not down like they did. A couple of minutes later Maya also arrives at the river and has the same talk with the guys.
But problem number one for now is how to cross that river! There is no bridge and the water is raging, especially now that it is already later in the afternoon and the sun is melting snow fast. We go up and down the river shore and finally find a more or less promising spot to cross it. There is a small log, around 3 meters long (9 feet) but not very thick. I go first and use my poles to slowly balance my way to the other side. Here I take off my pack, go back on the other side and bring Maya's pack to the other side. So now it is Maya's turn. She slowly balances over the log and with a big jump gets to the other side as well.
Cool, no we are ready for the big climb towards the snow. And we still haven't eaten any lunch. But that is okay, we first want to do the big climb.
And indeed it is a rather big climb. For the next 2 hours we climb and climb and... climb. Soon we encounter pine trees covered in old men's beard, a moss that is acid green and grows up to 2 meters in length. We take some funny pictures of me with my new green beard. Kind of reminded me of one of my favorite commercials as a child, starring an Alp-Oehi (basically an old, beardy guy living in the Swiss Alps), wearing glasses and saying with a very Swiss accent it's cool man! Here, it's this one.
So now we continue and reach the first snow patches. Not very big ones but from here it starts. And after another 10 minutes the snow becomes deeper and deeper. But at least we don't sink in the snow as it is still pretty compact. But from now on the trail is covered in snow and we hardly see any footsteps. The sun must have melted them away by now. It now gets really sketchy. We pass a steep face covered in snow and have to traverse it. Maya doesn't pay attention for only half a second and slides down the snow fast... luckily only for a couple of meters into another tree. But still it is dangerous now and we now realize we HAVE to use our microspikes and the ice-ax. So now things are going a bit better and we eventually reach a small creek where we have to get water from. The creek is mostly covered in snow as well. And again it is Maya who slips while trying to cross over a snow bridge. The bridge collapses, she screams and falls into the creek still wearing her pack. I immediately run over to her and finally we manage to get her out of the very cold creek. Luckily only her butt got wet and she managed to save the phone from falling into the water as well.
From here on we continue and are now a bit scared to even find a spot not covered in snow to pitch our tent. Also navigation is not easy, almost none of the trail is snowfree and it’s a lot of up and down in the snow. But somehow me manage. And then we suddenly are not sure where to go, left or right? I start going right, Maya goes left..and booom, she falls again. This time it is a hidden tree that created a hole in the snow, in which she fell into. Luckily she is also fine this time, and for now takes the clear lead in numbers of falling.
We discover in Guthooks that there is a potential campsite only half a mile from here and it is all downhill now. We are hoping so much that the site is free of snow and it turns out our wishes are fulfilled. There are two tent sites looking west on top of a very steep wall, which is going down for 200 meters. Not only does it provide an amazing view of Mount Jefferson and the sunset, but it is also snow free! Jackpot! We pitch our tent, cook dinner dry our soaking wet shoes and enjoy a spectacular sunset! What a day and tomorrow we only have to do 4.3 more miles. But the trail also passes the exact place where the two guys had to be rescued the week before... Oh boy... But that is a problem, future Maya & Dario can deal with... at least for now :)
SOBO Mile 514.5 to 534.2 (19.7 Miles) - Woods Camp to Windy camp
Well. Not the best night's sleep we've ever had. Considering how beat we felt last night walking into camp we were expecting to sleep like babies. But I guess it takes getting used to, to sleep outside, so far away from other people. Every noise you hear could be a potential predator. Not really. But still, the mind can go crazy places when you feel so far away form civilization.
We get up at 6am after hitting snooze for a while. By now the sun is out, the birds are singing and it's going to be a great day! We pack up and hit the trail after 35 minutes. We're still as fast as before, that's unexpected!
Luckily we've hiked the entire 4400 foot ascent yesterdat so now we get to ridge hike for a while and enjoy the views up here. We find the most perfect breakfast spot after 2 miles and while eating our oatmeal, nutella tortillas and mayonnaise/cenovis/mustard sandwiches we watch a small plane flying over our heads multiple times. What a perfect day for a scenic flight around Mt Hood. Because yes, Mt Hood, the destination of our first section is right there, ahead of us. Completely covered in snow, looking majestic.
We pack up after 40 minutes and start hiking again. Finally I get some cell reception and contact our families to let us know we're doing fine and haven't run into snow at all yet. I also receive a text from Jerry King, who's part of the Search and Rescue Team in Portland and has been providing us with information about the snow in the area. Before hiking out we tried to gain as much intel about the snow conditions as possible. The PCT Facebook Group is a great source of information and is also where Jerry got in touch with us after I asked if anyone in the group was familiar with the conditions. So the text we receive from him is about a missing hiker in our area! He asks us to stay on the lookout for him, which of course we are happy to do. Hopefully the hiker is fine! Now the plane we saw earlier shines in a different light. Is it a SAR plane looking for the missing person?
The views keep getting nice as we head more and more into the wilderness. From up on the ridge we discover Mt Adams, Mt Rainier and Mt St. Helens, volcanoes in Washington we hiked on and around last year! And Mount Hood just keeps getting bigger right in front of us. So close and still a couple days away. We hardly meet any other hikers, this is definitely not like last year. The main reason being that the hiker bubble is way further south, now going into the Sierras or going around the Sierras in an attempt to evade the snow. But from what we've been hearing, there is snow all over the PCT this year. And we should hike right into it in a couple of miles.
My shoulders really really hurt. This is nothing new, they hurt almost every day last year too. But just before it gets intolerable we stop for lunch at Lake Wahtum, but not before running into some people from Search and Rescue, looking for the missing hiker who now has a name: Thomas. They still haven't found him, and neither have we. I really really hope he just got lost, but is fine otherwise.
We take a looong lunch break by the lake, soaking up the sun, eating ramen noodles and Roni pasta, a favorite of mine. When it's eventually time to start hiking again our bodies are aching. We are not used to this anymore! This is hard! My feet also hurt even though I love these shoes! I hope it's going to get better soon.
And then finally, we hit the snow. It comes in regular patches, so every couple of meters we run into another patch. They are relatively easy to go over or across, we're not worried yet. But we are also aware that there will be more, we have not yet made our way to the highest point. These snow patches we enjoy. It's kind of fun to walk in the snow, makes it all the more adventurous.
We had planned to hike 16 miles today, but every campsite we get to, we find that we don't like it. It's either too exposed and windy, or too far down off the trail. So we keep walking. After 19.7 miles we finally call it a day. Wow! Almost 20 miles on first full day. We never expected that!
We even have some cell reception and find out that they have found the missing hiker, who got lost as it turns out. A happy ending on a happy day. This is great news! We watch another episode of our favorite baking show (and only baking show that we watch) while eating our couscous with Indian curry. Yummy!
SOBO Mile 505.6 to 514.5 (8.9 Miles) - Cascade Locks to Woods Camp
We slept wonderfully. The weather is beautiful, perfect for hiking. This is the day we've been waiting for for a really long time. We quickly pack up everything, say our goodbyes to Jamie and dogs and head out with Brad. After a quick breakfast stop we are on our way to Cascade Locks. We are both feeling elevated and nervous, lucky and a bit emotional. This is a big deal for us. An almost 15 month trip, starting and finishing it with the PCT. Being back here after having experienced so much in the past year.
And then, finally, here we are. Cascade Locks. Last time we were here the weather was awful. We had gotten an Airbnb apartment with BigBro and enjoyed every second being able to be inside, in a cozy home. It feels like we've never left. It feels like this is the exact place where we are supposed to be. The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, no snow to be seen anywhere. Brad is in no hurry which means we take a lot of pictures together in front of the PCT marker there and, as it is National Trails Day here in America, talk to the two women under a marquee promoting the trails in the area. We feel in no rush to leave, take our time to drink a few liters of water each, finish off our coffees, go pee like 4 times each, talk some more, pee some more. And around noon, at last, feel ready to start hiking. We say our goodbyes to Brad. Thank you so so much for taking us to Cascade Locks, for letting us stay with you, for being just the best friend. We can't wait to see you again in Switzerland!
And off we are into the wild. Back to where our heart and mind long to be at the most. And it's beautiful, beyond magical. Even though we have a 4400 foot climb ahead of us in the next 10 miles, the hiking feels easy, natural. There are a lot of day hikers around as the weather is beautiful and it's the weekend. Soon enough people already start asking us if we're hiking the PCT, and we tell them our story. That we hiked over 80% of the trail last year. That we are back to finish the sections we missed.
Soon we are alone. Most day hikers left at a junction headed to some water falls. We don't see anyone else for the rest of the day. Up, up, up we go. But we are motivated, hardly stopping for any breaks. After 4 hours it's time for lunch. We are already way up high, eating our lunch with a stunning view of the Columbia River below. Wow. This is it. This is what we missed so so much. It's really hard to describe this feeling. But there's just something about sitting in the middle of nowhere, knowing we walked here. Being surrounded by remote wilderness and beautiful nature, All alone. And eating Swiss Mayonnaise & Co. A perfect moment.
We hardly need to check our water report because there is water flowing everywhere. Snow is melting fast. We skip the first campsite as it is occupied (there is someone else out here, that's a real surprise!) and hike another mile to another spot. It's still light out, the sun only sets around 8.45pm. We set up camp, surprisingly quickly, cook pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and then settle into our sleeping bags to eat and watch Netflix. I found a Christmas version of the Great British Bake-Off that I downloaded. Let's watch that. In June. Whatever. It feels incredibly good. It feels perfect. It feels- like home.
Thursday and Friday, 30/31 May 2019
As I‘m writing this we are somewhere up in the mountains of Northern Oregon, back on the PCT.
Yes, this is Day 1 of Round 2. We are filling in the gaps, piecing the puzzle together, mile by mile, step by step.
Why? Well yes sure, we remember the hardships we endured in Washington, hiking in rain, and eventually snow, for days on end, just wishing to be in Canada already. Or in the Caribbean. Anywhere but here. I know that this is how I felt a lot during the last days. But I also felt an era was coming to an end. An era of a great life spent outside, of meeting the most beautiful and amazing people, of discovering how much we are capable of if we just pull ourselves together and do it.
We have been travelling for 13 months now, going on 14. Our travels took us to Canada, then Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and finally Hawaii. Our trip after the PCT cannot be summarized in one blog post only, but let‘s just say it was the best year of both our lifes. We feel extremely privileged to have been able to embark on a journey like this. To live in a country where you can save up for 1.5-2 years (not even on a huge salary) and travel for almost the same amount of time. Looking back I feel truly grateful.
We missed the PCT, always. Lying on a beach in Colombia our conversations went back to the trail, climbing volcanoes in Ecuador reminded us of hiking. The mountains in Patagonia, strikingly beautiful, we compared to the PCT. We visited many trail friends in Australia. In short, the PCT was constantly on our mind and in our heart. So much that we decided that we will come back. We still have some unfinished business! Those miles we skipped: now we want to do them. We want to be able to say that we hiked every single step from Mexico to Canada, once across the length of the US. Also, we just want to have that trail life back. Life in the purest form. Eat, hike, sleep - repeat.
So after a week in Hawaii and mostly camping on the beach we land in Portland on May 30, 2019. Brad, trail name The Prodigal, a dear friend who we met on our first day on trail and have hiked with for quite a few weeks back in the desert and in the Sierras, picks us up at the airport and takes us to our hotel. Thank you so much, Brad! It's so awesome to see you again! Brad also brings with him two boxes that we had shipped to his place: 2 new pairs of trail runners (the beloved Altra Superior 3.5's for me, the HOKA One One Stinson ATR 5's for Dario, AAAAND a package from home. Dario's awesome parents sent us a box with Swiss mayonnaise, mustard, cenovis (like Vegemite, but so much better!) and Swiss chocolate. And yes, little hygienic dispenser bags, the best dirty toilet disposal system ever (I apologize if this is too much information). Anyway, thank you again so so much Phads and Mutz, this is the best resupply ever!
We get changed and then drive on to a Thai restaurant ‚Eem‘ where we are joined by Potluck, another PCT friend of ours whom we know from desert times. Both guys live in this super cool city. We have so much to catch up on, time flies when you‘re in good company. ;-) Later we get some beers, listen to some live music and eventually head back to the hotel at 2am to start packing for the next day. We plan to leave the city the very next day in the afternoon after getting all the usual chores done (resupply, ship boxes at the post office and pay a visit to REI, our favorite outdoor equipment store ever!)
The next day we do our stuff, feeling a bit hungover. And of course we underestimated everything we have to do! It soon becomes apparent that there is no way we will be able to drive to the trailhead at Cascade Locks and start our hike today. Brad suggests we stay at his place for the night and we are happy to spend some more time with him. So first things first. A real American breakfast. Dario has been dreaming about this for months, and ends up finishing both Brad and my plates as well! He's living proof that pre-hiker hunger is also a thing.
The day flies by while we head to REI and spend like 2 hours there, organize our resupply, ship two boxes to the Timberline Lodge (with resupply) and San Francisco (with all our stuff for home that we don't take on trail with us) in literally the last minute before the Post Office closes for the week and make a delicious pasta dinner. Brad's housemate Jamie joins us and we all share stories and laughs during dinner, sitting outside in their backyard sipping wine, joined by their two dogs Lucy and Stella. What a fabulous last night in civilization!
Tomorrow we will finally be back on the PCT. We're both feeling nervous and excited and anxious. Anxious because we know there is still a lot of snow around and we are not exactly well prepared for it. In fact, 2019 has been the highest snow year in the Western US mountain ranges since like, they started recording. In this much higher than average snow year every terrain above 5000 feet is still covered in snow and, guess what, a lot of the terrain we will be hiking through is above 5000 feet. Brad had us convinced to buy ice axes, so this does give us a sense of security (even though we don't really know how to use them). So before we go to bed we watch some youtube videos to learn how to use the ice axe. Let's just hope we don't have to use them to self-arrest.
Alright, time for bed. We blow up our air mattresses and go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.