Monday, October 14, 2013

Have you ever tried Oregon?

It's been over a month since I got back from Oregon. I thought another vacation in the wilderness would do me some good. And because my wish to hike the PCT has grown more vivid than ever, what would've been more suitable than a short trip to the United States' west coast to explore a piece of this trail before I set out to hike it in its entirety next year?

Just one of the many beautiful spots I saw...
I met a lot of people in the USA on my AT thru-hike, so it's relatively easy for me to find a place to stay. In this case I visited my friends Thresh and Rainbow. Both of 'em moved from Maine to Oregon a while ago and currently live and work in a "Retreat and Conference Center" called Breitenbush Hot Springs. To be a bit more accurate: this place is a hippie commune, stuffed with great (and some weird) people and is definitely worth a visit.

Breitenbush Hot Springs
My stay in Oregon included hiking, bathing in hot springs with a bunch of pretty naked hippie girls, taking saunas (also including naked hippie girls), backpacking a short section of the PCT in Crater Lake National Park (no naked hippie girls here, sorry), climbing mountains, exploring nature, and hanging out with people drinking beer and watching their jam sessions (of course those two things go very well together). Hell, I even wrote a poem; I never even thought I could to that. After all, this place is great to be creative. While hiking one of the trails around Breitenbush one day, I found what is probably the most silent forest on earth. I don't remember the last time I've been in a place so quiet that I could hear the sound of blood rushing in my ears or the heartbeat pounding in my chest.

Emerald Forest Trail
Our trip down to Crater Lake brought back the image of how big this country is. What looked like a two-hour drive turned out to take half a day. Well, maybe that's because we stopped near Bend to visit a National Volcanic Monument called Lava River Cave, a mile-long cavern shaped by volcanic flow. In some sections it is up to 58 feet (18 m) high and 50 feet (15 m) wide. Lanterns can be rented at the entrance, which I recommend if you didn't bring a flashlight. This place is darker than a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night. Also, it is wise to bring some warm clothing since the temperature in there is a constant cold-as-balls degrees Celsius.

Lava River Cave
By the time we made it to the National Park it must have been around 5 or 6 pm. We started hiking southbound along the PCT and continued on a side trail the next morning to get closer to the lake. I don't know why exactly the official route is located a couple of miles west of Crater Lake, but neither do I care. Thresh did the PCT last year and told me that pretty much every hiker chooses to hike the trail on the rim of the lake to get the panoramic view. Sure, you could play purist as well and follow the official path through the woods, but from what I've learnt you would miss out on a great vista. The water's deep blue could easily make Neptune himself jealous.

Crater Lake
In dire need of a beer, we decided to hitchhike to the nearest village (it's actually just a souvenir shop) only to find out that this place is brimmed with tourists and they don't sell beer. Bummer! Somehow, this place reminded me of the Shenandoahs in Virginia: apparently the first rule for most US National Parks is: if there's no highway leading all the way to the vista, most people think it's not worth going there. But do as you please; it's not my job to judge you, fatties. That way it wasn't too hard for us to hitch back to the car when we figured out that is was getting late and we still had several hours to drive home.

What trail could this be? I've got no idea, hm...
On our way back we stopped in Bend to have a few beers with this guy. Lesson learned: other than on the east coast, you can find tons of tasty beers on the west coast. Nothing like this rat piss called light beer (although you can always find a PBR if you really insist on violating basic human rights).
The rest of the time I've spent with things like hiking around Breitenbush and climbing Devil's Peak to get a stunning impression of Mount Jefferson. I wish I would've had the chance to hike up there, but Rainbow told me that it takes some mountaineering skills (and gear) to go all the way to the summit. And so I decided to let the day end by soothing my muscles in one of the hot springs, which isn't a shabby way to let the evening die away.

Mount Jefferson
And the conclusion? I'm rested and well prepared now to set out for this journey in 2014. There's still an empty spot on my backpack for a PCT patch. Gotta do something about it, eh?

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