As I made my way onto the final ridge before Six Horse Spring, I met Sherwin & Fire Hazard (last seen at Shasta) and Woodsmoke (last seen in the desert), camped up on a sheltered rise. We chatted for a while before I hit the trail for the last 3 miles. Oddly, a little while later a nosebleed started, and continued for some time until I reached the camp. A little unnerved by the nosebleed, I was even more dismayed to find every nook and cranny in the tiny space filled with campers. I eventually managed to snare a tiny corner between a tree, a fallen log and the trail before settling in to the familiar sounds of snores and distant rustling. Thankfully I had enough water such that I could avoid a trip down to the spring tonight. I had completed some really good mileage today, and felt really great about the days progress.
Day: Friday, August 26th 2016
Miles: 1836.6 – 1869.6
Remote Site 1836.6 – Six Horse Spring 1869.6
Literally and figuratively.
Some days, you’re just elevated by the previous days sights and sounds, and I was up and out of camp at 8AM this morning, a little later than normal given my late finish yesterday, but I certainly had a bounce in my step. However this was tempered with the fact that there was few water sources on today’s hike, i.e. few springs, rivers and lakes.
Despite the heavy water load leaving camp, I only packed a three day food supply from Mazama Village, so the weight should not present much of a problem. The initial terrain was hot and dry however and I could feel it even early in the morning. The PCT thankfully takes a direct line from Crater Lake to Mt.Thielsen to the north, so there was little energy expended in switchbacks or en-route detours. I was excited to get up close to Mt.Thielsen, given its incredible prominence and unique shape. Referred to as the Lightening Rod of Oregon, it surely was one of the more unusual sights in the region beyond Crater Lake itself.
I was aiming to try a new break strategy of 11 miles between breaks today – not too long, not too short. About 3 miles in, I met a southbound Japanese hiker, who asked if he could take my picture. I was quite happy to let him, so he took 3 pictures. Surprisingly however he didn’t seem to have any interest in knowing my name for the picture, and rather abruptly walked away as soon as he took the picture without much commentary. I marched that first 5 miles pretty quickly and hit Oregon route 138 earlier than expected, along with a water cache, which I didn’t need.
Entering the Mt.Thielsen Wilderness, the trail was largely below the tree line, obscuring views back to Crater Lake or of Mt.Thielsen itself, however it was a good day for a hike, visibility was great, and in the shade it was really very pleasant.
Eventually rising along a bluff, I was able to make out Crater Lakes rim and the Watchman intermittently between clearings. It is a huge area of wilderness and the views, when they came, were expansive.
Finally closing in on Mt.Thielsen, I was given an incredible view of the peak and its flanks. Its a very handsome peak, with some incredible steep rocky slopes on its eastern and northwestern sides, and turly dominates the landscape around here.
I eventually stopped for lunch with at the trail cutoff for Mt.Thielsen, and helped myself to a Cheeto burrito whilst admiring the view, dealing with the inevitable cheesy fingers as a consequence.
A northbound thru-hiker, whom I came to know as Meerkat from Australia arrived at my lunch spot as I was about to leave. She was gung-ho to summit Mt.Thielsen and asked if I wanted to join her. I think that probably would have in another life, but I was conscious of my still aching feet, and losing time. I seem to have slid back into that mindset of mileage and time obsession, just two days after my low-point epiphany. Meerkat continued on, and ask me to give a message to her friend Six if I met him. Bidding farewell, I continued northwards and followed the trail just beneath Mt.Thielsens impressive peak for the next few miles.
Finally arriving at Thielsen Creek, I gazed in awe at the incredible peak high above, its glaciers dribbling water and rocks into the valley below. The creek as crystal clear and gushing with water, such a wonderful water source in the hot and dry terrain. I spoke with a woman and her daughter for a while, before another hiker Six, arrived to grab some water. Realizing he was Meerkat’s friend, I informed him that she was hitting the top of Thielsen and that she’d catch up to him.
Walking further further along the trail, it rose gradually through a series of mild bluffs between a beautiful ridge line to the east. I arrived to a nondescript point on one of the passes, only to find it was the highest point in Oregon and Washington, a surprising fact given the moderate terrain in this area versus that which lies ahead in Northern Oregon and Washington.
The trail eventually ducked back into the trees, and followed a long and meandering series of featureless low hills for a few miles. There was glimpses to the east an west at times, and I wondered when I would get a glimpse of the volcanic peaks ahead, now that Thielsen and McLoughlin were nowhere to be seen given the trail was deep into the wooded ridgelines of mid-Oregon by now.