Before it was light out, wile I was half asleep, I heard a noise near me. I thought it was probably an early morning hiker headed out on the trail. Then, I heard it again! This time, I knew it was too close to me to be a hiker! It was a large animal. I shifted in my sleeping bag and told it to go away. It did and then came back! I was too tired to look, but knew it was a deer. I decided that I better get up and eat my breakfast. A lot of moisture had condensed onto my sleeping bag and groundcloth overnight. I packed up my wet belongings and started walking in the overcast morning light.
After a few miles, I reached the Obsidian Falls area, where a unique kind of shiny, black rock could be seen along the trail.
I had only previously ever seen this kind of rock in museums and enjoyed this section of trail. It ended all too quickly, however! I soon reached the Obsidian Falls, which were nice, but not remarkable.
I almost took a break there but decided to keep moving. I climbed the terrain above the falls and saw two men packing up their camp. As I headed on toward a tiny stream, I saw several other backpackers hiking down a different trail. They waved to me as I moved away in a different direction. I then started up a hill and found an open space to take my break. The sun had come out and I decided to take the opportunity to dry out my sleeping bag and groundcloth.
As I snacked, I watched a woman, hiking with her dog, study her map on a trail below me, and then head on. The two men approached and greeted me. I think they thought I had camped here last night. Once my gear was fairly dry, I re-packed my pack and headed out again. I walked by the two men again as they sat beside the trail taking a break. They now learned that I was hiking the PCT by myself (“You can’t do that!” one said) and asked me when I started. They said they had met a few others with similar start dates.
I continued on, feeling pressed to make it to the pass in time to meet my friend.
I passed by another man who was out hiking with his dog. I thought he was headed in the opposite direction, but then discovered he was going the same way that I was. He chatted with me a bit before I headed on. The landscape shifted into volcanic rock and my energy was fading. I felt so slow today!
The trail climbed steeply and my breath became labored. This was hard work! I looked back and was astonished to see the day hiker gaining on me! That never happens! He ended up needing to stop to give his dog some water and asked me where I was from. I finished up the climb, followed the trail to the left, and never saw him again.
The trail descended back into the woods and I reached the supposedly always flowing Minnie Scott Spring. Another solo female backpacker was adjusting her pack on a rock just before the stream. I said hello and went to check out the situation. It turned out to be an extremely shallow stream, where finding a running trickle looked to be a difficult task. Hmmm… I headed back along the stream and collected what I could and then sat down along the trail in the grass to filter it. The other hiker still needed to collect water for herself, and we started chatting. She asked me about my two liter (gigantic!) collecting bag and a couple of other questions and I soon learned that she was out here on her first backpacking trip ever! She had flown to Portland from Houston in order to hike a 200 mile section of the Oregon part of the PCT. I thought she was incredibly brave to do this alone! After her first two nights, she was finding the solitary nature of the experience to be difficult. I told her that if she was near any thru-hiker and didn’t want to be alone, she should ask if it would be okay to camp near them and that I could guarantee her that 99% of them would say absolutely!
As I drank my ice coffee, and ate my Snickers, she headed back out. Suddenly, I felt like a good friend was walking away from me! I wanted to catch back up to her and keep talking! I finished my snack, filtered the rest of my water, packed up, and headed out, expecting to see her not too far ahead. I was wrong! The girl was moving quickly! A family of four walked by me and I continued down to a meadow. Two women were approaching me and in the distance, I could see my friend heading into the woods to start the next climb! The women wanted to chat, though. One of them asked if she could shake my hand when she learned I was hiking the whole PCT! I told her she was sweet. The other one asked if there was water at Minnie Scott Spring and how far they were from it. I headed on and eventually caught up to my friend on a climb. She immediately let me pass and I was disappointed that she didn’t seem to want to chat. Then, I started asking her questions. Was she going into Bend? She said she was not, since she had just started from there a couple days ago. I asked her when she planned on finishing at Cascade Locks. I was also curious about what she had done to prepare physically for this because she was definitely in good shape! She said she had been doing CrossFit. Later, she lamented about following the advice of an older man employee at REI when she asked what to wear on the trail. She said she felt dumpy, but I disagreed! I told her she was welcome to come with me into town if she wanted and that she would have a sure ride. She thought about it and then asked if I would be willing to pick her up a hiking skirt at REI if she gave me the money. I told her of course!
A bit later on, she said that she was thinking more and more about coming into Bend with me. I turned around and smiled. We calculated how many miles she would need to hike a day in order to finish when she planned to if she made this extra trip. It turned out to still be very doable!
As we crested the peak, we met a group of women hikers who were very excited to talk to us. “Are you hiking the entire trail?”. They were blown away when I said yes and just as excited when Connie said she had just begun her hike two days ago.
After we left them, Connie said, “You must get that all the time!”. I told her I loved it!
I felt under a good amount of pressure to not arrive late at the road as I didn’t want my friend to have to wait for me. I told Connie I was going to pick up the pace, but that she should hike at a speed that was comfortable for her and that we would wait for her.
When I needed to, I stopped to take a pack break and a few minutes later, was surprised to see Connie approaching! She was an impressive hiker!
I stopped at the next lake for a moment and said that I wished I had time for a swim. She said I would have time later on, but I knew my schedule was too strict. We headed on and I again took the lead. I kept checking my watch and the miles I had left. I had not a minute to waste! I did realize that the stress I was putting on myself to get there exactly at 3 was a bit ridiculous. Surely, my friend would understand if I was a bit late…
The trail came out of the woods and headed across a maze of lava rocks. These ones were a bit harder to walk on than the previous lava field. I could see the road, but the trail kept looping around in crazy directions. I could see a stone tower by the road and people standing on top of it and I imagined my friend being able to see me approach from it. I also imagined that she was telling the other people about me and my hike and that they were all cheering me on!
At last, I arrived at the road, just 2 minutes after the hour. Strangely, no one was there. I didn’t even see the tower. I didn’t want to walk up the road for fear that Connie would think I had abandoned her, so I sat down by the road and dug out my food bag. I was so tired and so hungry. Several minutes later, my friend drove by and stuck her head out the window. “There you are!” she exclaimed. She motioned for me to get in. She began telling me about her ordeal finding the trail and wanted to immediately head into town. It wasn’t easy for me to cut in and tell her that someone else, still on the trail, was hoping for a ride… We headed up the road to use the restrooms and and our way back down, found Connie, looking off into the distance. I felt bad about not being there when she arrived!
We headed toward the town of Sisters, which I had thought from reading the town descriptions, was a very tiny place. It was a lot larger than I had imagined! Allyson asked if we wanted to stop at the coffee shop. That sounded good to me, even though I was dehydrated. (When she had first asked me if she could bring me anything, I thought about asking her for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bottle of water, but then decided not to. Still, I hoped she might bring something… She did not, however). The coffee shop smelled SO good inside! I instantly became happy! I bought a cookie and coffee and paid for Allyson’s treat, as well, since she came all the way out to help me. Then, we relaxed into the leather couches while Allyson started to look up motels in Bend. The choices were overwhelming. She didn’t want to stay long, so we headed right back out. This time, I was given the task of picking out a motel, while she drove, which was a bit stressful for me.
We found one with a pool, but it turned out not to have a washer or dryer. My mind started to become overwhelmed with all of the activity around me as we pulled into the motel. Allyson told me to relax for a minute while she checked us in, and then we took our things up to our room. I started rinsing out my dirtiest articles of clothing, one by one, and Connie took her shower. Then, I showered and we headed out to find dinner. Again, it was a bit of an ordeal. Bend was a big place! It was not at all a trail friendly town. A car was a requirement. We located a tavern-like place and then spent a significant amount of time trying to find a parking space. Then, upon entering the very loud restaurant, we learned that there would be a wait. So, we headed back to the car and drove around town some more. We stopped at a burger place that was more like a fast food restaurant, but they sold wine. As we sat at an outside table, eating, I started to relax a bit. I wanted to get a milkshake after my meal, but suddenly Allyson said that it was almost 8 and REI was about to close! So we raced across town and got there 10 minutes before closing. I asked for my resupply box and then ran around the store, trying to remember the things I had wanted to look for. Why did I not make a list? Allyson helped me find a new shirt, I looked for a matching bandana, which I could not find, I tried to find a plastic eye dropper bottle (also not there), and then remembered I needed another tent stake (my titanium stakes were worthless!). Connie found her skirt, and we checked out and headed on to Whole Foods. Allyson’s sister had had a lot of experience with C. Dif from strong antibiotics over the course of her life and also worked as a nurse in the ER. She wrote down the names of 2 antibiotics that would probably help, as well as the strain of probiotic that I needed in my system. It turned out that the probiotics I had been taking since Lone Pine did not contain this strain and that is why they weren’t having any effect. I bought capsules of the specific strain, another box of general probiotic capsules, and a yogurt like shot of probiotics to drink tonight. I also bought a fudgey brownie. Connie bought a bottle of wine for us to share. She said she was so grateful for our willingness to take her in, but I was just so happy that she had joined me! We headed back to the room and Allyson brought our clothes to the laundromat and washed them for us, while I opened my resupply box and started sorting. I learned that Connie was inspired to come out and hike this section of the trail after reading “Wild.” She had already been a fan of Cheryl Strayed before this book came out, when she wrote an advice column for an internet site. Many people who had seen me on my hikes had mentioned how brave I am to hike them alone, but I thought what Connie was doing was far more brave! I don’t think I would have undertaken my first backpacking trip ever all alone, and I certainly wouldn’t have flown across the country to hike 200 miles my first time! We weren’t able to find a wine opener anywhere and were growing more and more tired by the moment. I fretted about which bed to sleep in. I didn’t want to offend my old friend or make my new friend uncomfortable after just meeting her…
When Allyson returned, she said I could share the bed with her, so I did. However, I was not at all comfortable and my mind raced all night long. In my exhausted condition, I was not able to get any sleep.