the blog

Days 119-128 // sisters, mordor, jeff & hood

Hello friends!


After a bit of a whirlwind few weeks vacationing with my parents, being in my friend's wedding, and reconnecting with friends, I'm going to do my best to get the rest of my journey up on the blog. Thanks so much for being patient! I'm excited to share more of my favorite moments from the trail with you. And one plus of being home is that I can blog from my laptop and actually add video clips, hooray! Enjoy this post about the diverse and beautiful landscape of Oregon!


Much love,

Calzone


Day 119 // 31 miles (my personal record!)

PCT mile 1942.4

Total miles: 1421.3


I did it! I actually hiked more than 30 miles in a day! And while it was a long day, I didn't feel like it wrecked my body or anything like that.

Sunrise at Rosary Lakes

We got up early from our spot at Rosary Lakes - Cheer left about a half hour before I did, but I still made it out of camp by 6:45am.


The first 6 miles or so went by really fast. I was mostly just walking through a pretty grove of woods until I reached Bobby Lake, my first water source for the day.



For all you Parks and Rec fans out there, I was amusing myself way too much thinking of the scene where Ben, Tom, and Jerry are making the negative campaign ad against Bobby Newport and saying "Bobby" in these deep scary voices 😂 It's funny what pops into your mind on the trail sometimes...


Bobby Lake

The lake was really peaceful and beautiful. I didn't see Cheer there, but I sat and had my breakfast quickly while filtering water. Apparently, she had been a bit further down the shore... whoops. I assumed she was ahead of me still and I headed back to the junction.


Stitch was taking a break there and I said hello. He's a nice and kind of quiet guy from New Zealand that's been hiking with Rag Doll.


I cruised my way towards Charlton Lake, where we had planned to have lunch. It was beautifully blue and surrounded by pines. Boy, these Oregon lakes really make me wish I had a canoe!


Charlton Lake

Cheer showed up a bit later, along with Rag Doll and Stitch. We were both feeling okay about our 30 mile goal still, though we knew it would be a challenge. A group of hikers down the shore from us were blowing up their mats and going for a swim. I was super tempted to join, but we knew we should keep moving. Such is the life of a thru-hiker some days. Cheer and I have definitely chosen to hike shorter days to enjoy a great campsite, but we also have to choose to push ourselves other days to reach our goal. It's all about balance.


Today was definitely a Tour de Lakes. We made our way past Brama Lake, Irish Lake, and another one I don't remember the name of that was a beautiful turquoise color.


We also hiked through a hot and exposed burn area, but the lack of tree cover meant that we could get our first views of the Three Sisters! I can't wait to see them up close!



At one point, I came around a corner and saw a small furry animal moving out of the corner of my eye. It was a cute little weasel! I stopped and watched it chase its friend for a good two minutes. So funny.



We stopped to get water at one last lake before our intended campsite. I was pretty tired, having already made it 27 miles, but the good ol' Snickers break always seems to come through for me with some extra energy.


We got closer and closer to South Lake, but unfortunately, the three camp sites there were already taken. Cheer was pretty exhausted, so we looked at the potential places we could squeeze our tents in, but they didn't look too good. I saw there was a super nice, large group of tent sites less than a mile ahead at Mac Lake, so we decided to push just a bit further.


Mac Lake

The spot was sooooo much better, despite some mosquito action. We whipped up our tents and watched the sun set over the lake as we ate our dinner. I was super proud of us. I had done almost three times the mileage I did on my first day of the trail, and I still managed to enjoy the day. Definitely a win.


Day 120 // 23.8 miles

PCT mile 1966.2

Total miles: 1445.1


I had a slow morning at Mac Lake, still feeling the effects of our long day yesterday. Cheer left a bit after I woke up, and we decided to do breakfast at Dumbbell lake.


I felt like I was dragging all morning, so I put on my latest Agatha Christie book to give me something to focus on besides my dragging feet. So far, I've listened to "And Then There Were None," "Murder on the Orient Express," and now, "Murder in Mesopotamia." I still haven't been able to guess any of the endings correctly!


Dumbbell Lake

I made it to Dumbbell Lake and found Cheer waiting for me. There was a cool little peninsula to explore, so after a coffee break, I went down to the water.


The next section of trail was another shady wooded area. I got further into my book and stopped to filter water at a stream. Cheer and I held up our phones like Rafiki holding Simba in an attempt to see if Sisters had any cute Airbnb's, but it was not to be.




Lots of SOBO (southbound) hikers passed us today, and one of them was our friend Sunny! The last time I saw her, I was heading down to Horseshoe Meadows to get to Lone Pine. She had decided to flip to the Northern Terminus and hike south.


We bumped into a guy named Sherpa that we had met at Shelter Cove. He was coming from Elk Lake Resort, a stop we had decided to bypass. We had lunch together and then tackled a big climb (Well, big for Oregon. It wasn't that bad).


After a bit of a descent, I saw a view that made me audibly gasp - South Sister in all her glory.


I made my way down this huge open area, just in awe of the incredible view before me. I couldn't help but thank God for the beauty he dreamed up. These wide open spaces just leave me with this incredible sense of wonder and thankfulness. I'm reminded that I am just a small part of this universe God made, but yet still preciously loved. I look around me and remember that life is so temporary and it is such a gift. I'm so thankful to be on this journey with God, and I don't want to take one day for granted.



Cheer and I had one more burn area uphill section to make it through before getting to some amazing alpenglow views of South Sister and Middle Sister.


South Sister


Middle Sister

We found a picturesque meadow near a stream, and camped in sight of the two epic peaks.



Definitely one of my best campsites.

Day 121 // 29.6 miles

PCT mile 1995.1 (plus 0.7 alternate trail to Big Lake Youth Camp)

Total miles: 1474.0


I slept in a bit today, my body still pretty exhausted from our 31 mile day followed by a decent 24 miler yesterday. Cheer and I had briefly talked about making today another lighter day, but as I fired up my Guthooks app, I realize that the water situation would make that challenging.


Several streams I thought we could potentially camp near were reported as dry on the app. Unless we wanted to do an extremely short 13 mile day, or another 30 plus mile day, we'd have to shoot for Big Lake Youth Camp, 29.6 miles away. And we were getting a late start. Yikes.


Part of me was excited about our choice though, since I had heard that the camp was super hiker-friendly and we had originally planned to bypass it.


Cheer left a bit after I woke up, and I slowly got myself packed up. I began my morning hike with some beautiful trail that wound its way past Middle and North Sister.


Soon afterwards, I entered the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, a small piece of the trail that my permit allowed me to hike through, but not camp in. Part of this included a small side trail to Obsidian Falls!



It was pretty hot out, and I was already pretty sweaty at this point. I ventured down to the falls to enjoy a refreshing break and splash some water on myself.


Shortly afterwards, I came across a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers. I refilled my water, had another energy bar, and checked Guthooks. Looking ahead, there weren't too many more water sources, but South Mattieu Lake looked like a good lunch spot goal.


The landscape rapidly changed from green meadows to lava rock. I had heard that this section had some particularly tough rocky terrain, so I braced myself for this unexpected long day that would probably be hard on my feet.


I climbed up one section that had a ridiculous number of short switchbacks, but I was also enjoying how crazy and different the landscape was. It was feeling more and more like Mordor, a preview for some of what was to come later in the day...



I soon caught two other hikers, Sun-Kissed and Brightside. They were pretty fast, but really friendly. We both made our way up and down some steep sections, and just before Mattieu Lake, I caught up to Cheer.


We found a nice shady spot under some trees and enjoyed chatting with our new friends. Sun-Kissed had made it through the Sierra and was keeping up a pretty fast pace ever since.


Some pretty huge clouds began to move in as we started up again. We got some great views of the peaks ahead of us and could see Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and even the faint outline of Mt. Hood.


Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson

We made our way down a pretty large burn area and that was about when we reached Mordor.


The landscape was so unbelievable! And with the overcast skies, it seriously felt like we were Frodo and Sam, trudging our way across the plains to reach Mt. Doom. The trail was completely made of lava rock, and some of the rock was pretty large and difficult to walk on. Thankfully, there were a few patches of sandy wooded trail to break up the lava rock hiking and give us relief. But soon afterwards, we started on another two mile barren section of uphill that gave us a run for our money.


Mt. Washington (aka Mt. Doom) from the lava fields

A bright spot in all this difficult terrain was bumping into our friend David (Biscuit) from the desert section! He was the one whose tent collapsed on him near Warner Springs on a windy day :P It was so great to see him still on the trail - I hadn't seen him since Bishop and wasn't sure if he was still out there. But he had decided to skip up the trail from Horseshoe Meadows and hike south.


After making it through the craziest lava field ever, we just had a bit of semi-rocky downhill and then one last big climb past Mt. Washington before a downhill to the youth camp.


We knew we'd have to night hike a bit to get there due to our late start this morning. So Cheer and I just enjoyed the sunset and pretty views of Mt. Washington.


Mt. Washington from the other side... what a difference!

Night hiking isn't my favorite, but I looove getting to hike during the sunset.

I was pretty tired heading in to the camp, and I was a little nervous about showing up so late. Thankfully, we bumped into a nice camp employee who showed us where we could check in. And due to some interesting circumstances with the water being shut off earlier in the day, the hiker hut was open late since no one had been able to do laundry or shower earlier.


The hiker hut was this awesome A-Frame lounge with a kitchen, shower, couches, hiker box, and a washer/dryer we could use. They even had some treats for us to eat. And I also found out that we are allowed to eat for free in the dining hall as long as we do so before the kids show up. So nice!


We made our dinner at the hiker hut, then walked down the shore of the lake to the spot we were allowed to camp. There were lots of other hikers there, but boy, we were ready to collapse into our sleeping bags after today's long day.


Day 122 // 4.8 miles

PCT mile 2000.9

Total miles: 1479.8


I woke up this morning to the sound of a few other hikers packing up camp. I wanted to make sure I made it for breakfast, so I started getting my things together. Since it's a little walk to the main part of camp, I figured it would be easier if I just packed up everything now. Cheer and I were planning on staying in Sisters, and the youth camp was just under 5 miles from the highway. We had decided to try and hike out after our free breakfast at the camp so we could hitch to Sisters earlier in the day.


It was fun seeing the camp staff prepare for the day and pray before the mealtime - it reminded me a lot of my experience working at Springhill Camp up in Michigan.


After devouring our pancakes, Cheer and I went back to the hiker hut to investigate the hiker box and use the wifi there.


We ended up hiking out around 10am. It was a hot but short stretch to the highway. This area had burned before, so the tree cover was more sparse. During this stretch we passed the rock marker for PCT mile 2000. Hooray! Though it's not 2000 miles yet for us, it's so crazy to think about how far we've come.



We made it to Santiam Pass and stuck out our thumbs for a ride. After only about 5 minutes, who should pull over but an Oregon State Trooper 😂 At first, I was a little nervous that maybe we weren't supposed to be hitchhiking on this road, but pulled over and asked if we were doing okay.


"Yep! We're just trying to hitch a ride down into Sisters to resupply," we responded. "Any chance you're headed that way?"

"Sure, I can give you girls a ride!"



Officer Hansen helped us load our stuff into his trunk, and we were off. The drive to Sisters was at least 20 minutes, so we really appreciated him taking the time out of his day to get us there. He cracked us up a bit when he said that he only picks up hikers that look particularly tired and worn out. Haha. Being thru-hikers, I guess we fit that description all the time.


We got to talking about what it was like hiking cross-country. We shared that overall, we feel pretty safe as women on the trail, but we always carry our emergency SOS beacons for safety. He was happy to hear we were prepared.


Once we got into town, he dropped us at Snow Cap, a local burger and ice cream joint. The food was excellent, and it was understandably busy on a hot day.



Soon afterwards, we were able to check into a room at the Sisters Inn and Suites, and we invited our friend Rag Doll to share our room with us. I collapsed on the bed for a while after getting to the room - it was such a heavenly feeling. I was super excited for a good zero day. After we had all showered, Rag Doll, Cheer, and I walked around the town for awhile, just exploring. Sisters is incredibly cute.


We stopped by a pizza joint and brought it back to our hotel for dinner. It was really nice to relax, knowing that we'd have all day tomorrow to work on our resupply and errands. Plus, we were messaging with Stevie Wonder and Snickers, who were currently at Big Lake Youth Camp. We were excited at the thought of reconnecting with them the next day!


Day 123 // 0 miles

PCT mile 2000.9

Total miles: 1479.8


Today's zero was so lovely.


Cheer, Rag Doll, Stitch and I enjoyed getting coffee at Sisters Coffee Co. (sidenote: best coffee shop on trail) and buying produce at a local fruit stand.



After resupplying and doing laundry, my sister's sweet friend Heather came to pick us up and give us a ride to the REI in Bend! Heather met my sister Charissa while they were both nurses with MercyShips, a floating cruise ship hospital that sails to impoverished coastal areas in Africa to perform free medical procedures. She lives in Bend, OR now and was willing to help us out :)


Snickers, Stevie, and their friend T.W. (Trojan Warhorse) had just made it to Bend and were hoping to meet us. After our REI stop, Heather and I picked them up and brought them to the sushi place where the others were waiting. It was so good to be reunited again!


T.W., Stevie Wonder, Stitch, Rag Doll, Snickers, Cheer, and Me!

We wrapped up the evening with some ice cream at Baskin Robbins, then said see you later to the guys. They're taking a zero tomorrow, so we're still a day ahead, but we're certain that we'll be hiking together again sometime soon!


After Heather dropped us back in Sisters, Cheer realized that she had accidentally left her wallet in the backseat of the car. Uh-oh. We texted Heather, and Cheer decided to find a ride to Heather's place in Bend the next morning to pick it up.


Day 124 // 9.7 miles

PCT mile 2010.6

Total miles: 1489.5


This morning, Rag Doll and I enjoyed Sisters Coffee Co. again while Cheer got a ride to Bend with a trail angel. Heather had to work this morning, but she was able to hide the wallet on her porch for Cheer to pick up.


After lunch at the Mexican restaurant in town, we hitched ourselves a ride back up to Santiam Pass with a guy in a white pickup whose name escapes me.


He was a super friendly dude who owned a roadside assistance/car repair company, and he had been in Sisters for a softball competition with a team he coaches. It was really interesting talking with him about how he had worked to build his business. Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, he was used to a fast paced life, but here in Oregon, things moved more slowly than he was used to. He had a wife and kids to support, but he seemed super motivated to keep hustling.


Part of me was really impressed by his drive, but another part was super exhausted just hearing about how much energy he was putting into work. I guess I have a different outlook on things now; while I admire passionate people that work hard, I also deeply believe that we need to balance that work with rest and community. There are so many people who work ridiculous hours to afford some "dream lifestyle", yet their relationships and souls are suffering. You are not indispensable, no matter how much you want to believe you are. Take a vacation. Set some boundaries. Life is short, and I'm pretty sure I won't be wishing at the end of my life that I spent more time at the office.



After getting dropped off at the trail, we saw a nice couple there offering cold drinks! We told them we were coming from town, so we didn't need much, but we appreciated the gesture! I took a Gatorade, and we started our climb.



It was already after 3pm, and the trail was hot and exposed. Thankfully, Cheer and I still had our umbrellas. We may be the only hikers in Oregon still carrying the weight, but man, those things come in clutch when you need them. The shade was a relief.



Eventually, we made it towards the top of the climb and were rewarded with a super epic view of Three-Fingered Jack, an iconic mountain with three huge pinnacles.




We also got a good view of Mt. Jefferson, our next big mountain near the trail.



I started listening to "Death on the Nile," my latest Agatha Christie book. I was feeling super tired from the heat, despite our short day, but Cheer and I kept trudging along as the sun sunk in the sky.


We reached a little clear pond with some campsites available and set up next to Rag Doll. The sunset was a beautiful cotton candy pink, and though we were in a burn area, everything looked so beautiful.



Day 125 // 23.8 miles

PCT mile 2034.4

Total miles: 1513.3


I got a pretty late start today - I woke up as Cheer was heading out, but as I convinced myself I'd only sleep 5 more minutes, I accidentally snoozed for an extra hour. Welp, nothing I can now but get up and go.


I hiked alone for most of the day. I don't usually mind that, but I was feeling pretty down on myself today. I was moving slow, and I was behind my friends. Ugh. But at least I was moving, making progress towards my goal, and even if I'm moving slow, it's better than standing still. I made it up the morning climb and noticed something that looked like smoke. Soon I realized it was just a thick layer of fast-moving cloud. Thank goodness. I've been so glad that we haven't had to deal with any crazy fires that have closed the trail. That hasn't been the case the past few years, so I'm thankful.



I started to see Mount Jefferson getting closer and closer and eventually got some fantastic views near where I stopped for a break. I accidentally ate almost my whole bag of chips while taking a 10-minute break and listening to "Death on the Nile." This mystery is a nail-biter for sure!





Because my appetite was thrown off by my stress eating of the chips, I didn't really stop for "lunch" until 3 or so. I reached a peaceful lake and met a long distance rider who was riding south from Cascade Locks. That would definitely be a cool way to explore the trail!



The clouds were thickening as I moved into a pretty charred burn area. It's always sad to think of these beautiful areas being ravaged by wildfire. I can only imagine how beautiful this section must have been before, but now I just press on through miles of blackened trees.



I eventually came to a somewhat sketchy river crossing where I had to use caution. The water was milky white from silt, and it was flowing pretty swiftly. I was slightly nervous, being alone, but after a bit of scouting, I found a good shallow spot where I was confident I could ford.



Originally today, Cheer and I had planned to go 26 or 27 miles today to the top of the next climb, but with the sun starting to sink and my body aching, I realized I probably wouldn't get that far before wanting to camp. I was able to spot a good stream that was 3 miles closer to me and decided to shoot for that instead. I figured I could get up early and catch up tomorrow.


I made it out of the seemingly unending burn area as the daylight waned. I was in thick cloud cover, and a little disappointed that I was probably missing some sweet views, but I eventually climbed up to an incredible evening view of Mt. Jefferson.




I found a relatively flat spot not far from a stream and set up my home for the night in the shadow of Mt. Jefferson around 9:30.



Day 126 // 28.6 (plus some extra random side trail...)

PCT mile 2063.0

Total miles: 1541.9


Today was a tough day that got better... then worse again.


The morning started with a tough climb that featured absolutely incredible views of Jefferson. SO breathtaking.



As I reached the top of the climb (and officially entered the Mt. Hood National Forest), I saw a decently big snowfield and some rocky terrain. It was slow going trying to head down. Once I made it past the snow, I thought I would be good, but my foot slid on some loose gravel and I came down hard on my butt.



Oof. Falling with a giant pack on is always the worst. I just sat in the middle of the trail for a minute, letting the pain wear off, and trying to let out my frustration a bit. Then I picked myself up and kept at it.


The trail was super confusing here. There were lots of little spur trails that weren't the official PCT, and they kept throwing me off. Finally, I found the actual trail and was on the right track.


However, maybe an hour later, I noticed that I was slightly off the trail according to my Guthook app. What the what? I didn't even remember seeing a spot where I could have veered off. I found a trail that looked like it might reconnect to the actual PCT and I decided to take it.


After a while of walking parallel to the trail, it did eventually reconnect to the PCT... but I blew past the junction. I had to keep checking my app to find the right direction and realized the trail went across a dry stream bed that I hadn't noticed before. Oh boy.


I was beyond frustrated with my morning, realizing there was no way I'd catch up with Cheer today. And that's when I reached a dirt road and heard a chorus of hikers yelling, "TRAIL MAGIC!"



Man. As people out here like to say, "the trail provides." And God likes to give his kids good gifts. This was exactly what I needed. The trail magic was provided by two former thru-hikers, Apricots and Psycho, as well as a prolific trail angel that goes by the name O.G. They had cokes in the cooler, lots of snacks, and O.G. was making breakfast sandwiches. Yessss. I pulled up a chair and had a great time conversing with some other hikers. It was a much needed break. I didn't want to stay too long, but O.G. was just starting to make these chocolatey banana boats - bananas with sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. So I stayed for dessert and headed out around 12:15pm.



At this point, I had only hiked 7 miles or so. I was hoping to catch Cheer at camp, but I knew she was shooting to hike a 30 mile day. Yikes. But I was feeling pretty determined, and revived by some wonderful trail magic, I was going to get as far as I possibly could, dang it! I made my way up a climb and conversed a bit with Fitbit and Airbud, two hikers that I had been talking to at the trail magic. I had met them super briefly around Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra, so it was fun to bump into them. I stopped at Jude Lake to filter up some water.



I met a few hikers headed for Ollalie Lake Resort, a pretty hiker-friendly lake resort only a couple miles away. But I was on a mission. The only thing that was slowing me down at this point were the huckleberry bushes that had suddenly popped up along the trail. I took lots of little berry picking breaks as I kept at it.



I had anticipated that this section of the trail would be easier because the trail profile showed that I'd be going downhill for a good ways. Unfortunately, it was also pretty rocky and rooty, so I was having to take my time and step carefully. I wasn't able to go all that fast, so I knew I'd be getting in late tonight.


Fortunately, I got a message from Cheer saying that she was going to shoot for a closer camp site near a stream, so my hope was restored that I could catch up with her tonight. Aaaand that's when the thunder clouds rolled in. I could feel the storm brewing for a while. I stopped to eat a tortilla wrap around 4:30, put on my windbreaker, and tried to get as far as possible before the skies opened up.



It started lightly sprinkling as I reached a spot where several section hikers had set up camp. Everyone was getting ready to hunker down around 6:30, and I didn't blame them. I stopped to filter water from a stagnant stream that was drying up. I knew I had almost 8 more mil