Thursday, August 28, 2014

Of Thunderstorms, Fires and Lava Fields

After two Zeros I finally worked up the courage to leave Ashland; not an easy task in a town like this. With an amazing hostel, movie theatres, a lot of great restaurants and the best ice cream I've ever had, this place was a true vortex. But eventually I forced myself to go back to my beloved PCT.

One way to keep my mind busy while hiking is listening to music on my phone. Since I'm just walking all day long, I don't really have the time to read any books. But after three and a half months of hiking through California, I got pretty tired of listening to the same songs over and over again. So my friend Polar Bear introduced me to the idea of listening to podcasts. After I downloaded a bunch of podcasts on my phone, I realized that the miles on the trail were just flying by. From instructions about how to rob a bank, to a story of a young woman who became the first human to beat rabies without a vaccination, the mysterious murder case of Ötzi, diaries from people who experienced hell in World War I, and how to get rid of the goat plague on the Galapagos Islands, I slowly worked my way through all these fascinating stories that kept my mind distracted so that the endless forests of Oregon don't drive me crazy. My favorite podcast of all: a show by Radiolab about the scientific approach of how to get rid of all mosquitoes in the world. Where can I sign up to support this?!

I slowly worked my way through the first miles in Oregon, still fighting with a few fires around the CA/OR border. A couple of days after I left Ashland I ran into a very frightening afternoon thunderstorm. As I was hiking across some barren lava fields, dark clouds rolled in behind me. I took a break from listening to my podcasts when I was scared witless after a lightning bolt struck the ridge right behind me; according to the volume and speed of the growling thunder that followed this bright flash, it must've been closer than 300 meters. I turned around and stared at the part of the trail behind me. "That could've been me being fried to death right there", I thought and decided to get out of there as fast as I could. A few miles later, as I approached Highway 140, I spotted a brand new fire just south of Mt. McLoughlin. When I got to the Highway the firefighters were already busy putting it out before it could grow any bigger. All I could think about was: "I hope the trail doesn't go through there!"

The next day I ran into a group of firefighters returning to camp after working on a fire north of Mt. McLoughlin. They invited me to some Gatorade and food at their camp, about half a mile up the trail. I even scored a cigar, although they made me promise not to start another fire with it. Deal!

On August 19 I arrived in Crater Lake National Park. I've already been here last year for a short vacation, so this was the only part of the PCT that was not all new to me. During the following nights the temperatures dropped significantly, and for the first time in months I slept in my wool underwear and had to close my sleeping bag at night. Forcing myself to get up the next morning wasn't very pleasant.

My next stop was Shelter Cove Resort, where I picked up my second food-drop. Most resupply stops in Oregon are ski resorts which only have small General Stores with very limited supplies, so in most cases you're better off by sending yourself food from real trail towns. A short lunch break and a shower and then back to the trail; this time headed for Santiam Pass to hitch into Bend.

Some parts of Oregon can be a bit boring because you're just in the woods all day without any views. The nice thing about it, though: it's flat. 32.4 miles (52.1 km) in a single day marks my new personal record now. When I arrived in the Three Sisters Wilderness I finally got some vistas again. Lava fields can really make a picturesque landscape, but hiking through this terrain sucks. Expect your pace to slow down by at least one third of the speed you're normally hiking. Also, finding campsites is nearly impossible, unless you like to sleep on razor blades. When I finally found a nice spot some miles north of McKenzie Pass, I decided to call it a day and hike the remaining 13 miles to Santiam Pass the next morning.

Two section hikers gave me a ride directly to REI in Bend. After I purchased some new gear (after 2000 miles my pants were totally worn out and needed replacement), a young lady who works at REI offered me to stay at her home instead of spending money on a hotel. Then I went to have lunch and the people at the table next to me were so amazed by my stories about hiking the PCT and AT that they bought me some more food (I must've looked really hungry). I decided to have a drink (Bend has a massive amount of breweries!) and when I left, the bartender paid for one of my beers. Could a town be any better? I LOVE BEND! Too bad I have to go back to the trail today. I'd like too spend more time here, but time is a factor, as usual.

Next stop will be Timberline Lodge. Some of you may know this place from a movie that includes hallways flooded with blood and a crazy axe-murderer. Any guesses?

Happy Trails,


  1. Great pics, as usual, but hard to imagine you with a cigar 8-)

  2. Ahoi, bist du dir sicher das du in den USA bist? Laut beschreibung und ein paar deiner bilder bist du auf dem weg zum Amon Amarth, bist auf den letzten 3000 km iwo falsch abgebogen? XD. Ich kann mich ratzerennt nur anschliesen, sehr geile Bilder, Feuer ist halt immer gut gerade dann den es groß wird.