Day: Saturday, 27th August 2016
Miles: 1869.6 – 1904.1
Six Horse Spring 1869.6 – Shelter Cove Camp Site 1904.1
Being surrounded by fellow hikers at camp, obviously means that one sacrifices the pleasure of isolation and quiet in the mornings. This morning was no different, given every potential camp spot was taken, on this high ridge between peaks. I awoke to some southbound hikers (a hiker named Siesta and two others) planning out their day. Their friend was going to trail-run to the spring, a considerable distance downhill and back, so they were timing him as he set off. I finished breakfast and set to the same job, albeit walking, in my own case. It was a steep steep hill down to Six Horse Spring, I certainly want relishing the idea of the return haul up to camp, as it dropped deeper and deeper into a ravine in the side of the hill. Eventually finding the first muddy pond, I went further and further down until I met the trail-runner, still filling up at a tight dribble falling over a muddy ledge. We chatted for a while before He headed back up the hill, and I took my turn trying to syphon some water into my platypus. There was a spring a few miles ahead, so I carried about a liter back up the hill (after chugging a liter at the spring). I was very impressed with my little camp last night, the Solplex really is a neat tent in a tight space.
Hitting the trail, it was a refreshing cool morning with blue skies, and I was pretty happy that I seem to have once again dodged the mosquito swarms that I dealt with a few days back. It seems that it is simply too dry around here, with no water for miles. That means no mosquito breeding spots (at least once spring and summer melts the final pools), but also some long water carries.
After a few miles, and entering a burn zone, I bumped into a Southbound hiker who mentioned that the next spring up ahead was essentially dry. Just a muddy pit was left of the water source, and that I should decide on my strategy through to Shelter Cove accordingly. This was a big problem for my day, as I had loaded a little over a liter when leaving camp, which would safely get me to that spring (previously reported as very reliable). The hiker said he had heard of the Oregon Skyline Trail alternate, and that has a lot more available water. I had heard of this alternate, but with little information on it, I was hesitant at the idea (if allured by the name). I walked onwards, pondering the idea.
At one point I checked my phone and found some cell coverage, so I quickly loaded some trail reviews and a map of the Oregon Skyline Trail. It sounded like a pleasant alternative to the Pacific Crest Trail, with plentiful water and matching the PCT closely in terms of mileage. Whilst disappointed that I’d miss some of the PCT, turning back to refill a large haul of water, before returning to this point would take a significant part of the day, necessitating carrying even more water in order to sustain a night of dry-camping. It was a no-brainer to take the OST and I didn’t hesitate too much about it when I reached the break-off. Signing a trail register right there, I spoke to Sherwin and Fire Hazard who had similar ideas to myself, being disappointed at the last minute change of plan due to the water issues but none of the alternatives were very pleasant. I joined a dirt-road for a brief road walk before the OST would cross my path.
Meeting the Oregon Skyline Trail was by no means obvious however, and none of the signage indicated its existence, however one helpful blog I had read earlier in the day mentioned that the Oldenberg Lake Trail was correct. I had cached some other maps when I had cell phone coverage, so I continued on (somewhat) confidently.
It became apparent early on that the name of this trail was a misnomer, as the Oregon Skyline Trail seemingly was very light on the ‘skyline’ aspect. We were neither walking along a skyline, nor had views of one. The trail took a very direct line through an arid, hot (and getting hotter) wide valley floor, virtually all of which was inside the tree-line, except for an occasional side glance to a lake, along with irregular cross-trails going from east to west. I did love the names of some of the lakes I passed, certainly some creative ones such as Nip and Tuck Lakes.
I eventually stopped at one large and beautiful lake for a break and a water-refill, with Sherwin and Fire Hazard close by along with another hiker. It was really hot and for the first time in many miles I could feel myself getting some sunburn, so I doubled up on some Factor 50.
Passing more pretty lakes, I wonder why this wasnt named the Oregon Lakes Trail! I was certainly impressed with the amount of water around here, along with the lack of mosquitos. There was also a number of mountain bikers out enjoying the day. The mountain-bikers reminded me of what a pleasant existence we have on the PCT, with only other hikers and a occasional horse rider to deal with. I like mountain biking as much as anyone, but each one of the bikers I met on the trail took me by surprise, travelling at speed, and kicking up dust clouds for a few minutes after they passed. Some obvious ‘modal-bias’ had set in, but this was their trail and I was sharing it, so I got on with business.
Eventually closing in on Shelter Cove, I met a fun Austrian hiker heading southbound, named Johnny Tuna. We chatted for some time, and he had some great stories of passing through Washington. Sometimes you meet people aiming southbound and wish the were northbounders! I took his name an hoped to follow him as he continued his way south. Gazing to the west, I could see the ridge that the PCT follows, and even one confusing trail junction had a mileage marker for the distance to the PCT, 5 miles to the west.
Around 3PM, and with 10 miles to go, I became aware from reading a Guthooks review that the shop at Shelter Cove (where my resupply package was waiting) closed at 6PM. I really wanted to get my food supply, and hopefully one of their famed hot-dogs, so I started to hike at a much quicker pace. Feeling that I was making good mileage, around 5miles in, I passed one southbound hiker who informed me rather bluntly that I wouldn’t make it (thanks buddy, how helpful). I kept rolling regardless and despite a series of blow-downs, I raced down to the trail-head, across the Amtrak tracks and in the gateway of Shelter Cove resort at 5:58PM on the button. After the disappointment of Seiad Valley, I wasn’t sure I could take the disappointment of another general store closing in my face!
I raced to the front door, only to find an open sign flashing in the window, and opening hours until 7PM!! Phew! I rolled into the group of hikers packing and unpacking next door to the shop, only to see my old buddy FlyBy after over a week! I was really happy to also find Powder, Tesla, Real Irish (as if I’m not real Irish!!) and a number of others all hanging out by the plug-socket. It was a really nice setup here at Shelter Cove, and with a hot-dog and a can of beer in my hand, the long and fast hike was definitely worth it!
Later, I cooked a small dinner, while recharging, using some wifi and listening to the blissful white noise of the air conditioner. Simple bliss! I eventually retired to the PCT hikers camp in the woods after a long and eventful day.