I wake at 5:45, and while nobody’s rustling yet, it’s time to get out and moving. I’m hoping to do 30 today, but I’ll settle for anything over 25, really. Just a solid day of moving down the trail. It’s 6:45 by the time I’m ready to roll out – a little later than I’d like, but it can’t be helped. I can’t get out in under an hour, apparently. Still, I’m reminded that I’m earlier than I could be as I wave to Butterscotch, doing his first stirring in his bag. He’ll catch me, and then I’ll have company, at least for a minute. Today’s going to be a good day.
It’s a climb to start, but the sunrise is full of pinks and purples, throwing light all over the mountains and rock formations to the south. Couldn’t ask for a prettier sight.
Once the sun gets a little higher up and stops painting the landscape, I get wrapped up in writing, focused on completing another post before I hit the top. I pass a group of rowdy hikers, which, this early, I presume to be thruhikers, on my way up towards Three Fingered Jack.
Sure enough, just down the trail, I hear footsteps behind me – it’s Mozart, holy hell! It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen him, but we don’t talk long – he just started his day and wants to keep his momentum. Sterling’s close on his heels, and we talk for a bit longer, walk together – I have way more of a shot at keeping up with him than I do with Mozart. There’s talk of MAGA – he’s supposedly somewhere close by, and apparently the trail rumor is that MAGA and I are gonna “throw down” – since Kennedy Meadows, 1300 miles ago, things have apparently evolved from the original “I’d like to ask you some questions” to “LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMMBLLLLLE”. That’s trail rumor for you, though.
We round the corner near Three Fingered Jack together; he points out tiny white moving dots on its surface, which I take to be mountain goats. He’s not sure, but that is what I have decided they are, if they’re gonna stay so far away, be tiny specks like that. He chuckles at me, and soon loses me on the downhill. That’s well enough; I can’t get MAGA out of my head. It’s been 1300 miles since I saw him last and I have no material with which to question him. Well. Better get to thinking.
We round a corner into a shaded burn dotted with stretches of talus:
And then it’s down, down some more, to the first water source of the day. Happy Trails is about 200 yards south of the pond, stops me to chat. Lots of folk up ahead, apparently, including MAGA and his family, hiking with him for a bit. I’m not prepared/don’t have the emotional energy/not interested in being goaded into “rumbling” in front of his family, and I’m trying to make 30 today, and-and I don’t need the water, so I skip the source, opting to see where my water takes me, or at least climb to the next one.
Scanning the profile on Guthook, there seems to be a lot of climbing today, so I check Halfmile’s app to get the stats. It appears there’s 6700 feet of up and 5700 feet of down today. Woof. well. At least when I climb, the views are pretty.
When I make it to Rockpile Lake, all is still and somber, and I do need water, so, enjoying the silence, I climb out onto a log to fill up, try to avoid the silt my balancing and rebalancing on the log is kicking up.
Taking a food break lakeside, I run into Todd, whose name I’m sure is real until he tells me his real name is Chris. Well. There’s like to be a story there. Sterling, who’d stopped at the water before, also stops to take a break here – they’re fast, so fast – and if I’d like to keep up (I would), I have to keep moving (I do).
Up and down, up and down, I will lead them up and down, hikers hate ups in field and town. It’s pretty enough walking, though, and soon enough, I’m treated to views of Mount Jefferson for my trouble.
There are a lot of hikers around today, hanging out, lingering. It’s pretty great to see so many faces and still be able to hike alone. I don’t know why I’m strange like that. Maybe everyone is.
Closer and closer the mountain looms, the more I walk – not a bad prospect for an afternoon, for sure. Sterling and Todd catch me, and we ooh and aah for a second together, before I shoo them off ahead of me.
I arrive at Shale Lake to find Mozart, Sterling, Todd, Sleepy Andy, and OMG ZIPPEE sitting and eating lunch. I want to catch up, and should probably eat something anyway, so I sit with them chat, laugh, munch, enjoy the sunshine.
They say I should camp with them, tell me where they’re going – 32 miles from where I slept last night. Oof. I only did 21 yesterday, and I had a zero before that, so I’m not sure my body will bend to my whims in this regard. Regardless, I’ve got to get moving, and I leave before any of them to have a better shot of camping with them.
From Shale Lake, it’s a lot of down, and clouds are starting to form as I walk. One by one the others pass me, all basically running down the hill holy shit. How do their knees take it? Is that something I can do? I try for a bit, but my knees start to argue; I push through, then my hip starts to argue. Welp. No more of that, then.
I get to the bottom at Milk Creek, where everyone’s taking a break. I sit with them, take a breather. I talk about not being able to keep up, and get brushed off. Mozart tells me that if I really want it, I’ll make it. I don’t know about all that, but I promise to try my damndest.
It was down into a valley to get to the creek, so now it’s up, so up, such up.
About halfway up the climb, I come to Russell Creek, and hear hooting and hollering from the bottom of the ravine:
They’re all waiting for me, want me to make it. I’m newly energized – I’m probably gonna make it! – and we all set off together, after one last look at the creek:
Up up up, as the day grows cloudier and cloudier.
The weather starts to get sketchier and sketchier, spitting rain and howling wind. I make it to the top – the 31-mile mark, and the entrance of the Mount Hood Wilderness, woo! – and consider stopping since the light’s going quickly, but nobody’s here, and I don’t want to have to listen to the wind all night. Maybe it’s calmer down below.
I’ve lost a solid 150 feet of elevation before I realize I’ve like as not made a mistake – the wind is screeching in my ear to distraction, there are approximately five different trails in sight at any given point, and the trail is super rocky, to boot. If I’m not careful, the fading light will trick me into me rolling an ankle or falling down. I stay on the trail by the grace of Guthook and squinting, and even when I put on my headlamp, it’s not strong enough to really help me out in the fog. Or, as it turns out, the rain/snow/sleet/wet stuff that’s falling on my head. Alrighty then.
I strap my headlamp to my wrist to help me see the rocks in the trail, and start jogging down the hill as I saw the others do earlier. It seems vaguely unwise, given the rockiness of the trail, but I’d like to get where I’m going and get into my tent and warm and dry bag.
When I get to where they said they were gonna stop – and where there’s supposedly a campsite, according to Guthook – I can find neither them nor it, so I keep going, stumble onto a campsite where another tent is already set up. It’s dark-dark now, and I don’t like night-hiking alone, so this is home, I guess. I don’t know where the others are – are they further along? Further back in the trees? It’s hard to tell, but now that I’ve stopped, I’m worried about cooling off while wet. It’s also hard to get into my down jacket, and, once I start setting up, to put on my rain gear about halfway through the process. While the tyvek has no desire to cooperate, I eventually make it work and crawl inside.
The wind is whipping so hard, even under my vestibule, that I don’t think I’m going to be able to cook dinner tonight. My body has some choice words to say about this, but there’s nothing to be done about it – not unless I want to waste a ton of fuel. I shovel snacks into my face in consolation, and just resign myself to a screeching body for the rest of the evening. Then it’s face into my sleeping bag to start the recycled air process1, and shivering myself warm so I can fall asleep.
Date: August 31 • Start: 2002.4 • End: 2034.2 • Day: 31.8
Notable Accomplishments: First long day in a while • Saw Mozart, Sterling, and Zippee again! • Did not get hypothermia
 Basically, you make it so that you’re breathing into the bag – it’s kind of gross, because you’re breathing in stale warm air, but it heats up the bag pretty quickly. I can’t do it all night, but it’s nice for starting the warming process.