PCT SOBO DAY 35 – Oregon is not flat

Trooper Spring – tent site
31.5 miles. 6538ft up. 5207ft down. 

I was chilly in the night. I wished I had my hat on, but it was in my bag and I didn’t want to go rummaging at 2am. I opened my eyes and was almost blinded by the moon. How bright?! I tried to take a picture and then stuck my head under my sleeping bag to keep it warm. 

The alarm ripped me from my deep dreamless sleep at 5:30. It can’t be time to get up already. I hit snooze. When it went off again I unplugged my air mattress. No going back now. I was packed up and ready to go in 22 minutes. I stood up and I felt some soreness in my hips and knees. These big miles are hurting. 

The other two people were moving about in their tents and I left them to it. It was cold, I started with my puffy vest on and my hands in my pockets. Although I’m a little sore and a bit stiff it’s amazing what a rest can do for you. Yesterday I felt like all the bones in my feet had broken. Today I feel ok. 

As I walked I went through very distinct pockets of hot and cold air. And eventually after about an hour it warmed up enough to take off my puffy. 

It was 9 miles to Olallie lake. 9 miles to a soda. 9 miles to an ice cream. 

I got those 9 miles bashed out in 3 hours and 10 minutes. I saw a few nobos on my way, but more recreational hikers than pct hikers. Walking into the resort I saw a couple heading out, I assumed they were heading north but when I got to the store I was told they were SOBOs. Maybe I can catch them up. 

No ice cream at the store. So I settled for a soda and and orange juice. I wanted to stay for one hour. Pick up some extra bits of food and chill out for half an hour. Chilling out was difficult because it was so windy, and the dust was blowing everywhere. Oregon needs some rain! 

I sorted out my food and bought a few bits from the store. It’s a pricey place. $5 for a bag of Fritos! Well, I have no other option. Hopefully I have enough food for the next 6 days. I chatted to a northbounder from Ohio for a while. He was telling me how difficult the Sierras were for him. I’m guessing Ohio is fairly flat? 

On the way out I had a sudden urge to drop off the kids, luckily there is an outhouse at Olallie lake and it had just had a fresh air freshener put inside it. So it was ok that I stayed in there for 10 minutes. Something is not right with my bowels. Hopefully I have removed it all. That was unexpected and left me feeling a bit delicate. As I was standing outside contemplating putting my bag on my back I saw a girl approaching, oh no, she’s been waiting for the toilet, how embarrassing! But it turns out that she wanted to give me some of her spare KT tape. Ok sure! Nice trail magic. 

I had been there an hour and 40 minutes and it was time to get moving. And it had become hot all of a sudden. Really really hot. I spend most of my time moaning about my being in the trees and now all I want is to be in the trees, in the shade. 

It was uphill for the next 10 miles! It started through burn area then went onto a ridge and then started climbing up towards Mt Jefferson. Up through the lava, over loose rocks, through a couple of snow patches. It was a long slow hot climb but I finally made it to the top with views of Jefferson on one side and Mt Hood still just visible in the distance on the other side. I was at the top at 3pm. Still on track for my 2.5mph pace, and considering all the uphill I was pretty pleased with that. 

But it was 3pm and I still had 12 miles to go. I was hoping to make up some time on the downhill. But it was 8 miles and 6 of those miles were rocks. The rocks kill your feet, you’re never sure which way your foot is going to twist when it lands. A lot of the time they twist inwards which hurts. So I made my way down, first to a creek for water. I still had half a litre but it was hot, like it had come out the hot tap. So I was looking forward to some nice cold creek water. I was disappointed. The creek water was warm too. I made myself drink a litre before moving on. I definitely haven’t drunk enough today. I carried on down the rocks and came to a little bridge, the drop was a bit higher than I expected and I went over on my ankle, I saved myself from a total wipeout with my trekking pole. I was a bit shaken up so I sat down for a bit and ate some Fritos. I treated myself to a change of socks. 

The ankle was ok so I carried on. More rocks. 4 miles in I came to Russell creek. No choice but to get wet crossing this one. The water came up to mid thigh and it was flowing pretty fast. It was also icy cold. My feet were numb when I got out on the other side. as I was drying them off I got intense pains in my heels. As I got going again and my feet warmed up a bit of the pain went away. It feels good to get rid of some of that dust. 

The last two miles were forest so I could get a move on finally and I got to Milk Creek in half an hour. I could see two people on the other side. It was Ruth and Alex, the couple from earlier today. I had done it. I had caught them up! I looked for somewhere upstream to cross the creek but there was nothing so it was shoes off and wade through again. This time not as deep. I headed to the couple. ‘You must be Ruth and Alex’ I said. I think I freaked them out a little. But I explained to them about seeing their names on registers and passing them at Olallie. Then she asked me if I was heading south too. Well I bloody hope so I thought, otherwise I’ve just crossed the creek for no reason! I kept that thought to myself. I want to make friends with these people. 

We had a chat about the time pressures on us to make it through the Sierra in time. Is it fun, having all this pressure on to make big miles? Is it fun to get to camp every night and have your legs pulsing and your feet throbbing so much it’s difficult to get to sleep? This is my third +30 day in a row and it hurts. I’m not sure this is fun. I’m also not sure it’s sustainable and I’m very worried about injuries. 

They debate whether they are going to camp at milk creek or continue 4.3 miles to the next camp site like I intend to do. I hike on. I had been there half an hour talking to them and it’s now 7pm. I’ll get to camp at 8:30 if I’m lucky. Just as its getting dark. 

I power on, it’s all uphill and I have to apply mind over matter. I can’t be dawdling up this hill. I try and maintain a 3mph pace. I do pretty well, the sun is setting and as I’m going up the hill I am trying to outpace the sun, the higher I climb the more sun I get. But of course I can’t outpace the sun and eventually it slips down behind the mountains. Twilight. The bushes are alive with bugs, every so often it will sound like a giant swarm, I walk faster past these bushes. I still have .7 miles to get to camp and it’s getting darker. I pick up the pace. The forest is becoming more terrifying with each passing minute. I stomp along the trail. Alerting any creatures to my presence. I am steaming along, avoiding the rocks more by luck than judgement. I watch the arrow on the GPS creep closer to the tent marker. The last half a mile seems to take forever, I turn the torch on on my phone, I eventually see tents. 4 of them. I made it just as it got dark. 8:35. 
I throw my stuff down and set up my tent as quickly as possible. No one has said anything to me and I’m aware that hiker midnight is fast approaching. I’m all set up in 15 minutes, I kill the 5 mozzies that have made it in with me, I rummaged in my food bag and found something with the least noisy wrapper. A chocolate muffin. Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip muffin. That’s my dinner. I inhale it in about 3 bites. It’s not enough really but I don’t want to make loads of noise. 

I lay down and my legs and feet are pulsing and zinging more than ever. I feel like they are going to keep me awake. Maybe after I’ve struggled my way through writing this I will fall straight to sleep. 

I hear a commotion in the bushes. I think I hear hooves and the sounds of air being forced through nostrils. Please let it be something harmless. There are a few other people here and I keep confusing their noises for animal noises. 

Ignore it. 

Im dehydrated. I ease the feeling with some lip balm. That always makes you feel less dehydrated. My food is in my tent with me. That doesn’t ease the animal fears. 

My face is covered in dust. My hands are filthy. It’s late. I’m tired. I hurt. I’m not sure how fun this is. 30 miles a day is not sustainable. 


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.


9 thoughts on “PCT SOBO DAY 35 – Oregon is not flat

  1. I feel that race with the sun. You are really pushing now, and Oregon is the place to do it. I hated setting up camp in the dark. Only did it when the miles required it. I understand why you feel the need. Breaking camp and leaving in the dark, no problem. Liked walking into the light.


  2. Unreal photo of Mt Jefferson with lake in front! Soooo beautiful. You may be in pain and exhausted Alex, but thank you for the stunning pictures!


  3. Amazing! After trekking over 30 miles, and settling down, setting up camp, eating a dinner (?) you have the energy to record the day in such a way that we feel like we trekked right along side with you (minus the excruciating heel and leg pain). Glorious in all its pure technicolor detail. Amazing! And thank you! Keep enjoying the trail, keep eating, and tell the mileage pressure gnome on your shoulder to get lost… so you can revel more freely in your journey. Really like your blog filled with such astute observations, thanks again for sharing! PS: Remember too, you aren’t out there alone- we have your back if you ever need it-one call away.


  4. Wonderful photos, Alex. I’m still hoping you publish a book one of these days and you can include your very creative recipes of trail food. Seriously – I love Fritos and avocado and what a great energy filled combination. Hike on, Alex – we’re all routing for you. Safe travels.


  5. Camp on the south shore of Irish lake. Did I write that earlier? 300 yards east of where the trail meets the lake. Follow the dirt road.

    There is a two tent site at the top of the ridge going up Three Fingered Jack SOBO. Take the left trail in the morning, not the right one.

    The hamburgers are good at Elk Lake. Met an older lady hiker there last Oct who had logged 45000 miles.


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