PCT Day 117 : Bad Decisions

July 30 (~07:45 – ~21:00)
Sky Lakes Trail Junction – after Dead Indian Road (30.8 mi / Total: 1759.6 mi) (+3.8 bonus miles to Fish Lake Resort)
Total PCT miles: 1794.5
Weather: Still hot, and hotter after I leave Fish Lake Resort.

I’m the last to leave the tentsite, but I move fast and the morning goes by quickly, so it’s all right. The trail is decently level, with only several almost-views in the thick forest – onto Fourmile Lake and Mount McLoughlin, looming only temporarily through the trees. My only distraction comes from meeting Jack the donkey, who is helping a father and his two sons hike a small part of the trail. The father is quite elderly, and the others are there to support him. And Jack is very cute, as donkeys are.

It’s 17 miles to the side trail to Fish Lake Resort, and I get there before 2 pm. It’s another lakeside campground with a basic restaurant and a small store, and I need to top off my resupply which I got in Mazama Village, just a few days ago. It means more bonus miles, but I don’t have much of a choice. I made the decision to get more food here, hoping for better options, and I’m running low. The side trail is supposed to be 2 miles, but everyone on Guthook mentions it’s only a little more than 1. It’s true – in a straight line it’s 1.3 miles. That should be okay.

But I quickly realise it’s not. The trail is an easy bike path, but it meanders greatly, and when I check Maps.me, it tells me it’s indeed 2 miles to get to the shop, and it feels like 2 miles as well. I can’t believe I’ll be adding so many bonus miles to today, and they won’t even count towards my PCT mileage.

When I arrive, it’s quiet. I was expecting a host of hikers, but I only spot one other backpack and no owner. I browse the shop – it’s tiny with just a few items of interest, and I pick up some dinners and snacks. When I pay, I ask for outlets, and I plug in my power bank, to power me to Ashland. I sit outside and order some hot food – fried zucchini, fish and chips, a coffee and a milkshake. The quality of the food is not amazing, of course, but the people are nice and it’s a good way to break up my day.

There’s not much else to do, so around 4 I decide to head back to the trail. My mood quickly changes and I get annoyed. Another 2 miles just to walk back to the trail. What a complete waste of effort and time. I decide to take the road instead of the side trail, which runs parallel and is only a smidge shorter than the trail, and try to hitch as I walk along, but no one cares to pick me up. I even manage to pass the trailhead without realising – it’s pretty well hidden, and the PCT sign is put up at a small parking space a little further up.

When I join the trail again I’ve had it with today. It’s hot, too hot. It swelters even though it’s late in the afternoon. In an effort to cool off I tear off my mesh bug skirt, my cap and think about the decisions I made to get me in this position. I should’ve just bought a few more crackers in Mazama and saved me the trip to Fish Lake. I probably could’ve made it with my battery pack – just about. I could’ve added these 4 miles to my PCT mileage. I could’ve done a longer day. I check my mileage left to Ashland, and I think, screw it. Let’s walk as far as I can today and try and get there tomorrow. There’s nothing much interesting in this stretch anyways, and I could use a challenge. It was supposed to take another two days after today, but perhaps I can make it. 55 miles to town. Perhaps I can. It would render my trip to Fish Lake even more useless as I won’t need to food I just picked up, and actually may ruin some of my plans for town, but the hell with it. Let’s try this once more.

So I keep on going, suddenly with purpose again, and my stride is faster. It’s 7 pm, then 8, 8:30, and I see a few other hikers, also purposely walking into dusk, and now I get how people achieve such high mileage out here in Oregon. Walking into the night. I walk and walk as well but I don’t make it as far as I hoped. I reach Dead Indian Road and I’m losing the last of light now, and I look for a tentsite, only to find someone else oddly set up in a parking lot. It’s not a hiker tent, and it spooks me a little.

I walk around, trying to find a spot out of sight from whoever occupies that tent but fail, and walk a little down the trail, back to the other side of the road and back down again. In the end I continue walking south with my headlight on, and scour the surroundings for a flat spot with little vegetation. There’s a bed of plants everywhere, and everything here looks like poison oak, and it could very well be, and I probably shouldn’t set up my tent on it. When I find an area with less growth I go for it, poison oak or not. And tomorrow? 42.7 mile left.

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