Section 8 – Shelter Cove to Ashland

In additon to Diamond Peak Wilderness, Mt Thielson Wilderness, Sky Lakes Wilderness, and Soda Mtn Wilderness, we also walked through Crater Lake National Park on the rim trail (a highlight of the trip so far). We also reached the highest point of the PCT for Washington/Oregon (7560′), which was superceded the same day by our excursion up Mt Thielson (~8500′; summit ~9200′) and a few days later by The Watchman (8013′) in Crater Lake NP. Despite this the walking seemed fairly steady, staying around 6000′, without much ascent/descent.

D48 Wed 31 July. Shelter Cove off mile 1906.6 to Summit Lake mile 1890.7

08.30 to 18.15 PCT miles 15.9 + 1 bonus mile = 16.9 miles

Another day to forget. Spent the whole day trying to manage my left leg, which was suffering from shin splints. Felt frustrated that the injury could impact our ability to complete the thru hike if I need to take a week or 2 to rest and recover.

Strapped up the leg as best we could: turns out the compression bandages I’ve been carrying in the first aid kit the last 15 years or so have lost most of their elasticity. K did a great job with a crepe bandage over the top. She also insisted on carrying both food bags, map and water; her pack was so heavy she could barely lift it, I guess 25kg. Mine was very light.

Left Shelter Cove gently ascending to 7000′ to contour the slopes of Diamond Peak.

The map suggests this would be above the treeline, but we found it was right on the edge so we did get a few views of where we’ve been, 3 Sisters and Mt Jefferson, and where we’re headed (Mt Thielson: the pointy one in the photo).

Stopped frequently to rest and stretch my calf. At one stream K even found an old patch of snow and bagged a handful to use as an ice pack! What a hero. Lunch was a breakfast burrito carried out from Shelter Cove, which kept us going all day, with no need for choc breaks.

Then gently downhill to a front country campsite at Summit Lake. Nice lake. Rather more people here than expected for a Wednesday evening.

Leg feels surprisingly reasonable. The strapping seems to have helped a lot, along with carrying little weight. Have to see how it feels in the morning and whether it will feel up to a 12.5 mile water carry.

D49 Thr 1 Aug. Summit Lake mile 1890.7 to Six Horse Spring mile 1872.1

06.05 to 16.20 PCT miles 18.6

Back to early starts to beat the heat. Nice dawn mist as we walked the 1.2 mile length of Summit Lake. But buggy. Oh so buggy. Picardin repellent not quite up to the job, we had to use headnets and K had to wear her waterproof jacket.

Good news is that somehow my shin is feeling much better. I guess a combination of K’s heroic carry yesterday keeping my pack weight to a minimum, lots of stretching, ibuprofen, and careful bandaging has facilitated some healing. Not 100% but 18 miles with a normal load went slowly but OK.

Met a chap nobo, exchanged the usual trail ahead info and mentioned the shin splints. He said he’d suffered over 1000 miles ago. His solution was those compression leg warmer type things. So a) there is hope and b) we’re doing the right thing with the bandage to provide support. Maybe I can get something easier to use in Ashland. Unfortunately K is suffering somewhat today after her huge exertion yesterday. Hopefully we’ll both be on better form tomorrow!

Good views from the high point of the day at around 7000′ on Cowhorn Mountain, back to Diamond Peak and out to a variety of lakes in a sea of trees.

Big water cache at a dirt road crossing on Windigo Pass (mile 1878.2)

While we were there the Trail Angel who maintains it, Devilfish, arrived to pick up the empties so it was great to be able to thank him in person. While we didn’t need the cache, guzzling an extra liter made the day much more pleasant.

More bugs on the way up from Windigo Pass, it was only 6.8 miles to our destination at 6 Horse Spring. Hot in the pm sun and v dusty again. Showers and laundry from only 2 days ago seem like a lifetime.

Got to the campsite at 16.20. Then after pitching the tent had to go get water. Its only 0.1 mile in a straight line to the spring but its such a steep descent there are probably 0.3 miles of zigzags which lead to…er well we’re not drinking that!

Carried on down the hill a bit and found a very small but crystal clear stream. Spent 30 mins filtering 6 L and picked up a further 4L in the dirty bags. Had a quick pan-wash of hands and face and then 15 mins hauling back up the hill. Far too much like hard work at the end of the day. Very glad we were not late arriving or planning to move on.

Tasty dinner spoiled by constant war with mosquitos, but custard and cookies then one of our leftover home dehydrated meals hit the spot, with some yoga inbetween to ease the aches.

Dry day tomorrow: no water until the next campsite at 16 miles so a bit of a haul but an early start should beat the heat and we think the water should be right next to the campsite!

D50 Fri 2 Aug. Six Horse Spring mile 1872.1 to Mt. Thielson mile 1853.9

05.50 to 15.00 + 1h45 PCT miles 18.2 bonus miles 1.5 = 19.7 miles

Rejoice! For the campsite is free of mosquitoes! What a lovely evening, perched on the ridgeline of Mt. Thielson at 7333′, almost above the treeline, with a light breeze and no flying blood suckers! Ahhhh.

This morning was a misery of bugs as soon as we opened the tent doors. And little of interest in the forest. Some nice hanging old mans beard, which never extended all the way down the trees, presumably die to the snowline at about 6′.

Passed the highest point on the PCT in OR/WA. Just a stick in a small clearing:

Opening up with views of Mt Thielson:

Then things brightened up at Thielson Creek 16 miles into the day. Ice cold crystal water for foot dabbling and lunch.

Decided to pick up water and push on another 3 miles to current campsite.

K sewed the tent back together, living up to her trail name (Cross Stitch). One of the pole sleeve ends has punched through, fortunately a 5 min needle job, but rather annoying on a $700 tent! Emails will be sent!

At 4pm we pitched and left the tent and attempted Mt. Thielson.

Only 0.8 miles along but 1600′ up. Mainly steep scree, after an hour we were about 700′ short of the summit at approx 8500′ but the “reasonable” scree became something more like a thin cover of ball bearings over a sheet of glass. The fun factor dropped and the “serious consequences” alarms went off. We enjoyed the views over seas of trees and towards the rim of Crater Lake, took some photos and came back down.

Some lovely couple of hours drinking tea, doing yoga, and cooking Knorr Mexican bean rice sides with a packet of tuna and a sprinkle of parmesan. K just off to catch the red sunset (if she can find a decent shot between the trees!

D51 Sat 3 Aug. Mt. Thielson mile 1853.9 to Grouse Hill camp in Crater Lake NP mile 1839.2

06.05 to 12.25 PCT miles 14.7 + bonus miles 0.5 = 15.3 miles

Woke to a nice pink dawn.

Easily downhill 5.5 miles to another huge water cache. Massive thank you to the trail Angels who provided this; made the bags so much lighter!

Then a very gentle ascent into Crater Lake National Park. Through trees. Complete with nice baking sun and biting mosquitoes. Er, yep. That was it. I don’t think the camera came out all morning.

Arrived at the Rim Road rather earlier than anticipated, at 12.20 where we were extremely grateful to find a third water cache very well stocked. So that’s tonight and tomorrow’s water sorted in an otherwise dry stretch.

As we want to take our time on the rim tomorrow we stopped at the only permissible campsite 0.5 miles off trail.

Spent the entire afternoon here, relaxing, doing yoga, catching up on the blog and a monster 3 hour session planning the 625 mile stretch from Ashland down to South Lake Tahoe. Even though we’re a little behind the original plan, we think we should be able to get the average mileage back up to around 22 per day, which will only put us about 4 days behind the original spreadsheet based plan. Not bad for well over 1400 miles by the time we get there.

Also spent the afternoon looking at a couple of birds one of whom hopped his way around the campsite in distress. He had probably after damaging his wing when he tried to fledge.

The absence of natural water does make the trail rather dusty, with no way to get washed – especially if you’re using well ventilated/fragile shoes! Again K seems to have chosen better shoes for the current conditions.

D52 Sun 4 Aug. Crater Lake rim trail alternative route to Mazama campground

05.20 to 13.00 Alt route miles 13.4

So excited to visit the Crater Lake rim trail! It is an “official” alternative to the main PCT, but for us it was a preference and as it turns out a requirement because the PCT itself is closed due to mountain lion activity in the area. We didn’t see one 😦

Early start and nice walk through meadows to get to the rim with views back to Mt Thielson. The rim was nice and quiet at 0620 when we got to the west end.

K took looooaaads of panos all day long…unfortunately we need the laptop to stitch them together so they can’t appear on the blog at least until Ashland next week (or even later due to timings)!

It was of course busy at the east end coz thats where the car park and shop is. And for us a $4.50 small cup of fresh fruit (oh so nice) and an ice cream for elevenses.

Easy 5 miles down hill, though hot and v humid through trees to Mazama campground where we shared a tent site for $5, had a free shower and much needed laundry for $3 (I don’t smell, its my shirt that stinks!)

Looks like the store has all the basics we need for a 2 day resupply: gas cannisters, ramen noodles, packet of tuna, chocolate, trail mix that kind of healthy stuff.

So another short day to rest the aches and pains. My shin is recovering well, thanks to K’s expert bandaging (maybe Tracey’s official physio idea would be different! 🙂 )

K limps on with sorely feet but claims she’s slightly better.

D53 Mon 5 Aug. Mazama campground to mile 1799.3 high camp before Devil’s Peak

05.35 – 16.35 PCTmiles 20.7 + 1 bonus mile = 21.7 miles

Early start as we wanted to beat the heat, had a very long water carry, and had to get back to over 20 miles per day (dictated by water availability).

Trees with bugs to start. Then exchanged bugs for hot sunshine after 7 miles as we entered a burn area lacking any shade. But hey, no bugs is good!

Saw a kaleidoscope of butterflies 🙂 and some large fungi.

Siesta 1-2 pm ish once we got back into growing forest in the shade.

Lots of discussion on resupply at Ashland…the problem being we’re likely to get there Friday pm. The post office with our bounce box containing the laptop, tea bags and milk powder, shuts at 5pm and doesn’t open again until Monday. Don’t want to burn 3 days pointlessly so have been considering how we can get our package (and very excited to collect a “care package” from my Novartis friends who’ve very kindly told us to expect), do the computer jobs, buy and portion 625 miles worth of food, pack that all up and post it all on. UPS could save the day as they are open Saturday. But they are in the next town over. Plans are brewing…

Started the climb up Devil’s Peak to our campsite at a small stream, the only water all day and the only water until 14 miles into tomorrow. Been a heavy water carry (8 liters), but pleased that my shin now seems good (lots of stretching and still using compression) and K did ok with various aches and pains. Hopefully her new backpack waiting in Ashland will help a little more.

Beautiful spot to stop perched quite high with views over Union Peak and back towards the Rim. Camped with a couple of other hikers, both were at Mazama last night but both aiming for 36 miles tomorrow (!) So unlikely to see them again. Jo and ???

I’m hiding in the tent while K is getting bugged doing sunset photography.

Need 27 miles to Fish Lake tomorrow for dinner and resupply so fingers crossed, its a big day as we recover from our injuries!

D54 Tue 6 Aug. mile 1799.3 high camp before Devil’s Peak to Fish Lake Resort off mile 1773.4

05.10 – 16.45 PCTmiles 25.9 + 2 bonus mile = 27.9 miles

Up and at ’em! On trail before dawn. Above the trees for about 3 miles along Devil’s Peak ridge. Dawn was very pleasant, if not spectacular.We saw Mt McLoughlin early in the day but not many lakes due to the trees (although we know they were out there as we were in Sky Lakes Wilderness). Saw a double sky bow through the gathering cloud.

Then down into the trees and bugs. Hot, dry and dusty to. And that was it 25 miles of soul destroying forest.

Picked up water at Christie’s Spring about half way through the day, so it was a fair old water haul all day.

Popped out on the highway and spent 5 mins under the blazing sun trying to hitch the 2 miles to Fish Lake. Long, straight 60mph road = no luck. Gave up and walked the nearby forest path instead.

Well worth it for the milkshake and cobb salad. And burger, and a free beer (K had a second milkshake!)

Found a flat pitch in the trees 0.5 miles from the resort. K got some shots of osprey with fish (trout) from Fish Lake! So tired after a long hot day didn’t even wtite up the blog, but relieved that my shin and K’s feet both held up to the miles.

D55 Wed 7 Aug. Fish Lake to piped spring mile 1755.2

07.00 – 16.45 PCTmiles 18.2 + 1.5 bonus mile = 19.7 miles

No bugs! We’d heard rumors that there are no bugs South of fish lake and didn’t quite believe them. But its like someone flicked a switch. Suddenly its not unpleasant to stop for 5 mins, or for lunch!

The first few miles through lava field around Brown Mtn (we think Black Mtn would have been a more appropriate name) were open and pleasant.

We reentered the forest and were really pleased to find huckleberries to harvest as we walked! So tasty and fresh, full of vitamins too. Hands stained red/blue with juice 🙂

Lunch of instant mash with pepperami at Brown Mountain Hut where a good upper body workout was required to operate the water pump. Well worth the effort for clear and cold water.

A sign indicated we have completed one third of the trail….interesting as with the various bonus miles we’ve actually walked 944 miles to cover 889 Southbound PCT miles!

The afternoon dragged though. Poopped from yesterday, and just plodding through trees. One brief view of Mt Shasta before more trees. About ready to be done with Oregon’s forests now.

Camped at a piped spring with 2 other pleasant chaps. one guy from Whitley Bay (near my home town). Would have chosen to camp at a different, flatter spot 0.1 mile away, but for the second time in 900 miles some f!^&£$ urchin left a deposit of human faeces and toilet paper in the campsite. I am at a complete loss to describe how angry this makes me. Move away from the campsite and GET A TROWEL FOR THE FORMER AND A ZIPLOC BAG FOR THE LATTER YOU IDIOTS!

Best to forget it and move on. we have nearly crystallized the plan for Ashland resupply and should make the Post Office on Friday.

Oh, and K had to sew up my shoes this evening, again. She’s a star.

D56 Thr 8 Aug. Piped spring mile 1755.2 to piped spring in a nice meadow, mile 1730.1

06.15 – 17.45 PCTmiles 25.1 minus 2.7 shortcut miles = 22.4 miles

Made it to a lovely campsite in an open meadow of grass, with a pond, and a piped spring, on a ridge….getting here though, there’s a story.

The chap we camped with last night (not the one from Whitley Bay, the other one) who had done 6 miles to camp, was heading only to Brown Mountain Hut as his next day, and who said he had 16 days of food with him, told us that Little Hyatt Reservoir was a stinking algae infested swamp. Therefore, we choose to carry 1l of water from the nice spring we were camped at 5 miles to Grizzly Creek, the only other water source today.

Here we had to pick up 5l to last the remaining 18 miles (keep in mind we are finding its v hot in the afternoon, around 90°F). Grizzly Creek had a lot of particulate matter so we had to pre-filter through some coffee filters we carry for this very purpose. But thats very slow and it took 45 mins to get what we needed, so we lost our usual early morning cool walking to the filtering and because we got up later so as not to disturb our neighbors.

So loaded up we head into the forest….which I can at least say is changing a bit from dense conifers to more open pines, allowing grass to grow between the trees, and the occasional view of surrounding ridges; pleasant if not spectacular.

We arrived at Hyatt Reservoir at 1pm with 3l of our 5 liters left, exactly as planned, to find a huge flow of crystal clear water. So incredibly frustrated by the misinformation. However, K did catch some dippers in the outflow.

Here we took a shortcut. The PCT makes a 4.3 mile, 180°, excursion west through a forest. The reservoir access road goes straight south and crosses the PCT after just 1.6 miles. With all the bonus miles we’ve done, I have no hesitation in cutting off 2.7 miles of tedium.

Had a siesta 2-3pm as it was stupidly hot. Then the rest of the afternoon was a gradual uphill to gain the crest of a ridge. Again some more open meadows and views, feels like the landscape is changing as we approach Northern California.

And now camped ready to get to Ashland after only 12 miles tomorrow morning. Good job as the only food we have left is 1 portion of porridge oats and 1 packet of M&Ms!

D57 Fri 9 Aug. piped spring in a nice meadow, mile 1730.1 nearo to Ashland & Medford

05.20 – 09.20 PCT miles 11.4

Woo-hoo!!!! Made it to Ashland!!!! 🙂

Oh man, it feels like a long time coming. Washington was quite episodic, 5-7 days out per section and limited options for resupply stops.

Southern Oregon felt more continuous, while we popped into several resorts (i.e. campsites with very small stores and restaurants) and had the odd shower, we haven’t had a night out of the tent since Cascade Locks, which makes it feel longer.

Today’s few miles started before dawn (we’ve lost an hour of daylight since we started). Mostly along a ridge wirh intermittent meadow of browned, dry grass. Early morning misty views of Mt. Shasta and Pilot Rock (a basalt column and nesting site for peregrin falcons, although we didn’t see any).

Motivated by town (and lack of food to stop for!) we made super quick time to the road.

Just wandering down the road towards the obvious place to stick out our thumbs for the 7 mile hitch to town, a car was turning around having just dropped off two northbound hikers. Beth wound down her window and extremely generously offered a lift!!! Perfect timing and such a kind and generous gesture.

Beth and her small dog gave us a ride right to the post office where we picked up our bounce box and a surprise box from my old Novartis friends.

We headed to the nearest ice cream shop to fuel up (10am). Then went to Mountain Provisions store where Osprey had arranged to provide K with a brand new rucksack under warranty as her 6 year old bag has lost some structural rigidity (which we had temporarily foxed with sime 1.5mm cord). The shop was really helpful as osprey had arranged the wrong size bag, but they gave us the right size ftom their stock free….then I shopped for some replacement stuff and they gave us a 10% PCT hiker discount. Awesome.

Free lunch at Starbucks courtesy of a voucher K had for some volunteering back in Boston.

$2 on the bus to get to Medford and our hotel. Ahhhh. Pack explosion all over the room. Showers. Laundry…luxury.

Opened the huge care package from Kevin et al at Novartis. Wow! My ex-colleagues are sooo thoughtful and generous! We are quite overwhelmed with their kindness. Everything a hiker could need: energy bars, instant noodles, trail mix, mysterious oriental delicacies whose labels we can’t read 🙂 but are very tasty (tried them already!), insect repellent, mouth wash and dental floss (is that a not-so-subtle hint???), and sewing kit for K absolutely blown away! Thanks folks!!!!!

Walked to Walmart and spent scary amounts of money and 3 hours buying resupply for the next 625 miles down to South Lake Tahoe.

Came back to the room and cooked steak tips, new potatoes and a huge fresh salad for dinner, washed down with the first bottle of wine we’ve had since White Pass, WA. Happy happy.

Lots to do tomorrow in prep for the next section…zero days are never relaxing! But there’s always lots of food 🙂

Summary: We had been looking forward to Crater Lake even before we got on the plane to Washington, and it didn’t disappoint. Otherwise the days blended into each other as it was mostly just walking through trees. By the end of the section we both just wanted to finish with Oregon and get to N California.

V disappointed that the PCT dosen’t visit any Oregon wineries – we had envisioned afternoons enjoying a glass of vino in the sun. The reality was hot, dusty, and some times buggy miles in forest.

Current stats:

Total miles walked: 978.0

Miles to Mexico: 1718.7

Days out: 57

Days when it rained: 16

# free beers: 9 (5 for D, 4 for K) 🙂

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