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PCT Update 4: I Am Now Peak Hiker Trash

PCT Update 4: I Am Now Peak Hiker Trash

AnthonyFoti Nov 1st, 2021
Hot Sauce's 2021 PCT Thru-Hike

Well well, here we are. If you didn't already know,I finished the trail. Like the dang whole thing. So this isn't really an update but more of my story of how it all happened and how I'm feeling about it all. So what I have below is my collection of stories from my time in Oregon. And in another post I will talk about Washington and my feelings after completing my hike. As you will see, Oregon was quite the collection of shenanigans. I took on a lot of new challenges, and things changed a lot over the course of my hike through the state. It ended up taking way longer than I thought it would, and you'll see why. My expectation for my hike ended up being hit with a lot of realities, but that's not such a bad thing in the end. Anyways, for now - Goodbye California, and hello Oregon!

Crossing the border into Oregon was immensely rewarding. If you think about it, California is a massive state and we just walked it the longest way possible. In a weird way I was expecting everything to change once you crossed over the border. Rumor had it that Oregon was mostly "flat,'' had better trail towns, and more to see along the way. It was the place to do hiking challenges, and to speed up if you had the capability. Even in our little tramily we had this notion that we could be through Oregon and into Washington in 2 weeks, by doing 30s and taking less time in towns. We were high on our own hiking prowess and had no idea what was in store for us. Spoiler alert: we didn't finish it in two weeks. Let's get into it.

Ashland is the first resupply town in Oregon and a really good one. Not too small of a town but also not too big. Locals knew hikers and were willing to help them out, and it had everything I needed. At this point I was getting ‘endless summer’ vibes and I was doing my best hiking yet so I sent a lot of my extra stuff home to save on weight and space. I pared down to using a Frogg Togg rain jacket (cheaper and lighter), sent home some more junk and best of all: I got a pair of (running) jorts and a fanny pack which I sent myself via the Ashland post office a few days prior. I can still say that Ashland is where I took on my peak hiker trash form that would get me to the end. The other important thing that happened in Ashland was the very trail-famous ABC party. A few hikers who had rented an Airbnb in town were conveniently throwing a birthday party the same time our group was there. But this wasn't just any party, it was an Anything But Clothes & Anything But Cups party, so everyone got super creative and started taking any cloth-like items in their packs and forming clothes out of them. For me it was my tyvek ground sheet wrapped to look like a toga, held together by a carabiner and my fanny pack. I looked like ancient roman nobility and felt like it too. People were wearing tents, cardboard boxes, K95 masks as bras, bubble wrap, trash bags, life vests, diapers and so many other combinations of random objects. It felt like a college house party and everyone was in a great mood. Hikers like to have fun and this was a blast. The only problem: it's 2021. Lots of people in enclosed spaces was not the best idea. You might be able to guess how this plays out.

When we got back on trail it was crowded. The bubble was it's strongest yet we were seeing a lot of people who had jumped up trail because of the fire closures in California. Somewhere between Ashland and Crater Lake, one of the 5 people in our tramily was feeling sick. Like fever and flu-like symptoms. We live in the woods so we didn't think much of it at that moment, or not until a day or two later when two others got a cold just before we got into the Crater Lake area. I think we ended up having multiple "oh shit" moments within a several hour period. I'll just give a quick summary of how this played out from here since so many things happened: The first person who was sick took a quick-response test from a day hiker who happened to have one with him during his visit to Crater Lake; positive for covid. Big sad. Luckily there were other trail angels who offered to drive to bend, rent us a car and drive it to Crater Lake so we could get tests and get off trail. Seriously they saved our butts so much, I'm so thankful for them. We all drove to Bend and took tests; ⅗ positive for covid, and I wasn't one of them. I had gotten covid before leaving for my trip which I think helped me fight it off this time. Either way the 5 of us quarantined in an Airbnb for 6 days because we felt like it was the safest thing to do. It was stressful to handle, but ended up being so relaxing and enjoyable once we were there and we had real beds and showers. We sat around, watched movies, drank beer, and ate a lot of food. Not so bad for a situation that was quite unfortunate from the start. Though as a group we did feel bad that we could let ourselves get that irresponsible with everything going on in the rest of the world. We didn't think covid was a real issue since we didn't see the condition of things outside of the trail, and we faced a harsh reality. I definitely learned a lesson.

When we did get back on trail, things had changed. The highly social hiking environment we had before getting off for covid had left us behind, and what was left was a much more serene and desolate experience. Most of the bubble was now days ahead of us, so now it felt like we had the trail to ourselves. Before we may have seen 30-50 people in a day, and now we would maybe see 10. As much fun as that bubble was, I really loved the change. It felt like the old way, like how I expected hiking the PCT would be.

The weird part was, after 3-4 days back on trail we made the decision to get ourselves to Cascade Locks for a hiker festival called PCT Days. In a small town just at the intersection of the Columbia river and the PCT, an event is held for thru hikers to join, mingle and have fun. A whole lot of gear brands come with a booth to sell or give out free items. There is also food, beer, and raffles all centered around hikers. They even open up the park on an island right on the Columbia River for anyone to camp on while the event is taking place. Honestly the event is amazing. You have hundreds of people all camping out with each other, you get a ton of free stuff, and it's all hikers. At an event like this it's not hard to fall in love with the hiking community. Our hitch up to the event was pretty impressive considering we left from shelter cove resort off of a more remote highway in the more southern region of Oregon. It only took 3 rides and no more than an hour of waiting total. Getting back to trail, even easier since we found a former hiker who was going southbound to Bend. PCT Days was also our last chance to see the rest of the tramily who was a week ahead of us. We knew we wouldn't catch them before the end of the trail so it was our chance to say goodbye and good luck before the run for the end of the trail. Unfortunately ⅖ of “The Stragglers” (our 5-man covid group) would decide to hike north from here and skip most of Oregon. I didn't want to miss any of the trail I didn't need to, so back to shelter cove I went and our group was now down to three.

It was pretty desolate on trail before we left for PCT days, but now it was even more dispersed. Since it was now just the three of us, things went back to a more solo style hiking experience. You had a lot more time to hike by yourself which was quite refreshing. No more trouble finding camping spots, or having to talk to the people you didn't like at water sources. We had the trail to ourselves so we decided to shake things up. How so? Well by hiking a lot of miles of course. We first started with the famed "24-hour challenge." See how many miles you can hike in 24 hours. I started at 6am, and without too many breaks made it to 60 miles exactly. I finished at around 4:30am and not a moment too soon because I was absolutely dead. This got us into sisters which was an amazing trail town I will be visiting again. We then crossed these awesome lava rock fields that destroyed our shoes. Once we heard about the all you can eat buffet at Timberline Lodge next to Mt Hood, we decided to do 51 miles so we could wake up and hit it up for breakfast/lunch. I can definitely say this time it was a rewarding challenge and totally worth it. This section of trail between Sisters and Mt Hood was also incredible since you are hiking from one giant volcano to the other, and you never stop having an incredible view of them. Finally we pulled off consistent 35s through the last bit of Oregon to get back to Cascade Locks by the last day of August, a goal we had made together back when we left that town the first time. We pushed ourselves a lot through the last stretch of Oregon and it felt good to finally make it through the state. We were passing people left and right, hiking big miles, and we felt amazing. I think this is where I was the best hiker I had been on the whole trail. We were back to Cascade Locks for our second time, and we made it count with another zero. A good break before taking on the last section of trail: Washington.

Oregon started off as something I thought would be a breeze. I'll admit the hiking was...less challenging like everyone was saying, though we put our own spin on the trip that made everything more fun and rewarding. If I wasn't hiking with friends, I don't think I would have done so many long days of hiking, though I don't think I could have done any of those challenges without the others there too. I think I learned how not to hold onto my expectations too tightly, because things can change so much and so quickly. I also learned that you can accomplish way more than you think if you have the right mindset. We made it fun, and I made sure I was still having fun. I'm pretty sure that's why I was able to hike as fast as I was. Oregon gave me a lot of confidence in myself, most of which I would take with me through Washington to the end of the trail. It's a beautiful state and I feel lucky enough to have seen most of it through all my adventures on my thru-hike. I will definitely be returning in the years to come, and possibly moving there some day? wink wink For now, we have one more state until this thing is in the bag, and it's a good one. Bring on Washington!

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