Compared to the four month it took us to hike through California, we cross Oregon in nothing – just over three weeks it takes us! Of course, this state is much smaller than its southern neighbour, we’re trained now and instead of a huge obstacle that makes it senseless to hurry (we’d have been in the Sierra too early), we now have Canada getting closer, drawing all northbounders north like a magnet. But the main reason why we suddenly advance much faster is the trail itself: Some call it “flat”. This is not true, of course. After all, we’re still on the pct, and the pct goes up and down and up and down… But I’ll say that in Oregon the trail is relatively flat. It’s very well graded and soft under our feet because we’re almost always walking in the forest.
I love all the green around us! The trees have beards and there are many huckelberry bushes. And chipmunks, lots of them! They are so cute when they interrupt their running around to eat, something that happens every few seconds.
The chipmunks are so fast that I couldn’t get a picture. The trees are more patient…
Also, there are many surprises in the forest, like cool lava fields (Andy, whose shoes have gone through more than 800 miles, can feel every pebble and gets a little grumpy while crossing the lava) or – bad weather. For the first time since entering the Sierra Nevada, we get rain and the temperature drops drastically. It shows us that our summer gear is not up to several days of wet, cold weather – it’s actually good, because it makes us realise which additional gear we have to get for Washington… And luckily, the rain stops in the morning of the second day and we can dry all our wet gear.
The sky is already gray…
Vincent, trying to move the cabin we have lunch at to stay dry…😉
The forest and all its plants also look beautiful in the rain!
A very wet milestone😉
The sun appears just in time for us, because that evening, we reach crater lake. I’ve heard a lot about this place and am very curious to see it! Because we want to really enjoy it with enough time, we decide to not climb up to the lake that night but camp in the campground in Mazama village – with around twenty other pct-hikers… With more than half of them, we spend a very funny evening in the restaurant near the campsite!
When we finally reach crater lake the next morning, I immediately understand why so many people think this is a special place. There is some magic about this big, completely still lake in the huge crater that is left after Mt Mazama blew up a few thousend years ago. Stunned, we stop to contemplate it – despite of the noise of the road and the numerous tourists around, the lake somehow keeps its mysterious and majestic atmosphere… Hiking the rim-trail around the crater, we don’t advance very fast because we stop again and again to admire the view and take pictures.
North of crater lake, the pct passes through a landscape of gentle hills covered in forest and dotted with lakes. It’s lovely and I enjoy the swimming a lot!
The water is almost as calm as in crater lake!
One of the most beautiful campsites of the whole trail!
The “little”crater lake…
We pass huge, impressive volcanoes and soon reach the three sisters – three snowcovered volcanoes close to each other. The scenery there is awesome, one of my favourite on the trail! We get out of the forest for a little and pass through the obsidian area where the late afternoon sun makes all the shiny rocks sparkle… And at sunset, we cross a big lava field. In the last rays of sunlight the rocks become intensely red and their weird shapes against the setting sun are spectacular!
The South Sister and the Middle Sister.
The lava – getting red…
And then the sun sets…
We’re very glad we could see part of the lava like this because there are more lava streams to cross that unlike the first one are a little annoying and not half as beautiful. Luckily, we do a resupply stop before and Andy can buy new shoes.
Andy’s feet feel so much better now!
After the lava fields, we enter a big burn area. The two days it takes us to cross the rest of the lava and all that burnt forest are not my favourite parts. (I know we’re very spoilt on the pct as far as scenery goes…) We also get another rainy day, but as we reach Ollalie lake resort that evening where we can get a hot chocolate, it’s not too bad…😉
We walk faster now to reach the famous Timberline lodge on the slopes of Mt Hood. The outside of this big hotel appears in the movie “The shining”, but that’s not the reason why it’s known amongst thru-hikers. For us it’s famous because of its great all-you-can-eat breakfast-buffet! We reach it in the evening and decide to go and have dinner there as well. Just in time before it closes we can order some pizza in the bar where there are a few other thru-hikers. We have a lot of fun together, and just as we’re about to leave, something really cool happens!
Two hotel guests give us the code for the hot tub/sauna area. Strictly speaking, it’s only for hotel guests, but the temptation is too big – we can’t resist. Taking a shower and soaking in the hot tub feels absolutely amazing and we stay until I start to feel faint… Deeply relaxed, we fall into our sleepingbags that night, dreaming about the upcoming buffet. The pct never fails to surprise us!
Mt Hood, the last big volcano and the only step climb in Oregon. The thought of the breakfast makes us fly up, though…
The big expectations we had for the buffet are not disappointed! And the best is that there are many pct-hikers, some of which we haven’t seen for month! I’m so happy when unexpectedly Mustard (we met after Sonora pass, she’s Swiss like me and we got along very well immediately – she was a glimpse of home for me and it felt soooo good to talk swissgerman for a little…) and her friend Goodiebag show up! It’s great to catch up and hear how they are and how the trail has been for them. We also meet Polkadots, Logic, Gilligan and many others. What a great and in a nice way weird community we are!😄
When we finally roll out of Timberline lodge, we realise that we are only 50 miles away from Cascade Locks, the last town in Oregon just at the border to Washington. Excited we realise we’ll be there two days later! Unexpected trailmagic stops us, though (if you thought that after emptying a huge breakfast-buffet we couldn’t eat more, you were wrong😉), we have a lot of fun with the amazing trailangel and some hikers we’ve just met in Timberline lodge.
Due to bad planning respectively not looking well enough we end up in a campspot where there is only space for two people who like each other very much. Very much – our tent doesn’t fit! So for the first time, we cowboy camp. It’s an interesting experience, and we both sleep better than expected, although somehow, the tent makes me subconsciously feel safer and rest better… Who’d have thought that we’d learn to cowboy camp on our last night in Oregon…😉
Through the cold and wet weather we get the next day we walk fast to keep warm and reach Cascade Locks. We haven’t hiked as far as we wanted to the day before. With the motivating thought of sleeping in a bed tonight, though, we fly and try to do our biggest milage so far, 32 miles (~ 51km). We meet Mustard and Goodiebag again and decide to share a room, so we push on together. Just as we start to get really tired, we see the huge Columbia River down in the valley. This gives us energy for the last miles, and in the evening we reach Cascade Locks, the end of Oregon and the door to Washington!
This is not a lake, it’s the Columbia River!
We laugh and hug each other and celebrate this milestone with many others in a brewery just next to the water. Watching the sky turn colourful and then dark, enjoying the magical atmosphere, we feel like we’ve accomplished something big, and we talk long into the night and get to know each other better… The last 500 miles are before us, and for the first time I think that we can really, really reach Canada!