PCT Day 113 : Is This The Start Of Wildfire Season?

July 26 (~06:40 – ~19:45)
Summit Lake – before Oregon Highest PCT Point (28.3 mi / Total: 1861.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1692.2
Weather: Hot.

I sleep with my rainfly open, and when my alarm goes early in the morning, I snooze and watch the skies over the lake change colour. It’s a beautiful spot, but unfortunately the flying torture machines never left, and I can hear their high pitch buzz throughout the night. It makes for another interacting and rushed departure, and I continue my way as quickly as I can.

Surprisingly, the mosquitoes aren’t too bothersome as long as I don’t stand still, so I’m able to keep going without too much confrontation. Today has a lot of ascend again, and it makes me think of the PCT challenge to finish the 450 mile Oregon section in two weeks, which means a daily average of over 32 miles. I, for one, couldn’t imagine doing that. My 25 mile days take all day already. It does make me wonder if Oregon is easier for northbounders. I’ve had a lot of sharp descends and long, endless climbs, would it would be easier if it was the other way around. But perhaps I’ve just had a few unlucky days, and the heat and mosquitoes don’t make the trail feel any easier.

Despite my tired legs being forced to climb uphill for most of the day again, the trail has a few treats. The first uphill leads to a mosquito infested but nevertheless beautiful lookout over Crescent Lake, and a rocky ridge walk with some splendid views over the pale layers of valleys and mountains. I take pictures despite the overwhelming bug attacks until I drop my camera off a rock, and watch it tumble down. Surprisingly, it’s still okay. A few more dents, but it works. Phew. I quickly grab it – time to move on.

At the end of the stretch I realise there are hardly any mosquitoes, and I take advantage of it by sitting down and having a break. I’ve regretted not taking a break when possible before, and I don’t want to end up walking forever and wearing myself out, especially as I have a long day ahead of me. I need to hike 28 miles which will take me along another ridgeline, and make up for yesterday’s lower mileage day.

When I get down to Windigo Pass and the dusty road, I am greeted by gallons upon gallons of water. Trail angels! Amazing. I’m in a long stretch with limited water sources and this cache is simply amazing. I fill up lots, and get on my way, back up the hill again.

The views dwindle now. A few peeks through the forest, but mostly just a long ascend through the woods. I have to go off trail to get more water, down steep switchbacks and past a few stagnant and unpleasant ponds, finding a perfect stream a little lower. I take lots of water again – I have another 10 miles until camp but no water until at least 5 miles into my day tomorrow.

Then, out of nowhere, I get passed by another southbounder, which hasn’t happened before. She doesn’t chat, but warns me from a distance and races on, disappearing swiftly and leaving me in her trail of dust. I guess that’s how people do 30 miles days. I’m having a bit more trouble. My legs are tired and my feet hurt. I sit down for short breaks often, which is always a bad sign, but I still push on. I can make it.

When I get close to the campsite I’m happy to see it isn’t taken yet. It’s all mine. The views are blissful, a few peaks nearby, and I’m only a mile away from Oregon’s highest point, at 7573 feet. It’s windy up here, and a little less hot, and it’s great because it means there are no mosquitoes. First the first time in days I can set up my tent in peace. What a luxury that’s become.

I stay up until late as usual, and it’s pitch black outside when suddenly I smell smoke. A camp fire? Surely not. I go outside. Everything dark as night, I can’t see anything burn on the skyline. I did hear the first wildfires have already started around Ashland, could this smell have been carried over by the wind? I go back inside my tent, and then the smoke disappears.

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