Picking it up
Once again, it took about two hours of sticking out a thumb before I got a ride out of Ashland. Hitchhiking on the northern PCT ain’t easy. Because I didn’t hit the trail until nearly noon, I was only able to crank out 18 miles before dark, even though it was mostly easy going.
Oregon is well-known as the easiest section of the PCT, as it’s mostly flat, well-maintained, and the weather is usually forgiving. And because it’s flat, you can find a spot to set up your tent just about anywhere, which means you can always put in a few extra miles in the evening. In other areas, suitable camping spots can be 5-10 miles apart, which means starting at about 5:00 PM, you have to take the next campsite you find.
I’d planned to start doing big miles in Oregon, but on day two out of Ashland, I was held up once again, this time by Trail Magic! A local had parked his camper truck on a dirt road in the woods and was handing out cokes and peanuts. I got there at about 5:00, sat in a canvas chair next to two other hikers, and relaxed for a while. After an hour, I was about to get up and hike the 3-4 miles to my intended campsite, but then he said he was about to grill burgers. Well…
After a burger, whiskey-coke, glass of wine, and hours of jovial conversation, it was already getting dark. Our generous host said if we camped nearby, he’d make pancakes for everyone in the morning. Sold!
A few more hikers passed by as we were grilling pancakes and heating coffee, and most stopped for breakfast. A few walked through without a second thought. I never thought I’d see a hiker turn down free hot food, especially after seeing several not bat an eye at paying $18 for a cheeseburger.
Among other things, Oregon is famous for mosquitos, and because of the late snow, it was currently peak season. Normally, they’d have cleared out and moved north into Canada by this time of year. Many who hike in Oregon during mosquito season opt to use long sleeves, pants, and head nets. I used none of these, but instead used a healthy dose of DEET on all exposed skin, and before hitting the trail, treated all my clothes and my backpack with permethrin.
DEET is merely a repellant, whereas permethrin is an insecticide. You’re not supposed to get it on your skin at all, and instead, apply it to your clothing (while wearing a mask), let it dry, and your clothes should now be mosquito-proof for the next six weeks or so, depending on how often you wash them. I never saw it happen, but supposedly, if a mosquito lands on permethrin-treated clothing, it’ll immediately fall over dead.
I got some bites here and there, but this was nothing compared to Canada and Alaska, and I even had it worse on the Appalachian Trail, where I was applying DEET three times per day. Out here, I only applied DEET once per day, and that seemed to be just enough. Notably, I never got bitten through my clothing, which normally isn’t uncommon. In addition to permethrin and DEET, I was also putting garlic powder on at least one meal per day and wearing lots of bright colors, both of which supposedly make you less attractive to mosquitos. Whatever it was, it seemed to work.
I finally managed a couple long days, 25.5 and 28 miles, leading up to Crater Lake. I had to camp in an exposed burned area, high up on a saddle, but that meant I had a mere nine miles into Crater Lake, most of them downhill. I’m a big fan of near-os, so this was perfect.
Those last nine miles had a lot of snow patches, which made me nervous. The reports had said there wasn’t any snow in this area, and quite a bit up ahead. “But it’s melting fast” was what you’d hear every time someone discussed snow, dating all the way back to Etna, four weeks ago. If it had been “melting fast” for four weeks, it’d be gone by now.
PCT hikers are allowed to camp for free at Crater Lake, in a designated area with no established campsites or services, outside of two picnic tables and a bear box. Bathrooms with potable water and cold showers are free, but located elsewhere in the campground.
Only about a half-mile walk from the hiker campsite, there was a small general store and a restaurant. Evidently, many hikers wound up getting free pizza from tourists at the restaurant, but I wasn’t so lucky.
Once again, I was able to get a full resupply, and then some, from the hiker box. Several hikers were stressing out about the store having limited selection when there was a box full of free food there for the taking.
Given a free place to stay with free food, I took two days off at Crater Lake, still waiting for snow to melt. But it’s melting fast.
from PCT North