PCT Sections E, F, and G

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christabrews
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PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by christabrews » September 16th, 2022, 4:12 pm

I got several weeks off from work, and decided to use it to hike sections E, F, and G. I originally intended to start at Odell Lake, but the smoke from the Cedar Creek fire was pretty bad, so instead I started at Little Cultus Lake and did a road walk to the Irish Taylor trailhead. Technically, I did not hike all of Section E, but I did complete F and G. I had a hiking partner for the first week or so of the journey, but she could only take so much time off from work, so I hiked solo for the rest. I started out hiking 8-9 miles a day, but was able to increase to 14-17 miles day at the end. Unfortunately, I did not keep a journal while I was hiking, so everything written here is from memory. I am sure there are things I missed.


Day 1: Little Cultus Lake - Stormy Lake

My hiking partner and I started our hike from Little Cultus Lake (south of Three Sisters/Bend). We had to hike down an old dirt road to reach the actual PCT trailhead. The road hike was about four miles. A couple miles in, we encountered two PCT hikers who were getting off the trail because their water filter wasn't working anymore. They were both wearing mosquito nets. This was a bad sign. About a mile from the PCT trailhead, the mosquitos started to show up. We of course had nets and DEET, but these only helped a little. I was basically running from the mosquitoes for the rest of the day. I did not take many breaks and definitely didn't drink enough water. I felt so sick that night I didn't really eat dinner. Not a great start!

Day 2: Stormy Lake - Cliff Lake
The mosquitoes seemed slightly better in the morning, but we didn't waste any time getting out of camp. The bugs seemed to get better as the day went on. We passed a few pretty lakes on the way. We finally reached Cliff Lake and the shelter. There were hardly any bugs at this lake, which was a great relief.
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Day 3: Cliff Lake - Sunset Lake
I awoke feeling raindrops on my face. Since my tent was the REI Flash 1, a single-wall tent, the condensation builds up inside the tent, rather than on a rainfly. It was literally raining inside my tent. My down quilt was wet. We had to wait a couple hours for it to dry in the sun before we could leave. I’ve used this tent on past trips, but never had condensation this bad. We made our way to sunset lake. It was a pretty dull day of hiking, no views, not many lakes to appreciate. Also, my right foot started to hurt badly. We got to Sunset lake around 3pm. The campsite wasn't very nice. No real views of the lake, and accessing the lake required hopping some logs and walking through a marsh.

Day 4: Sunset Lake - Mirror Lake
We originally decided to dry camp on top of Koosah mountain, since the last comments on Mirror Lake in the FarOut said that the mosquitoes were horrible there. On the way, we saw three Sooty Grouse. Only this one made for a good picture:
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They were eating huckleberries, clucking away, and didn't seem to care much about us! It was cool to see. When we reached the top of the mountain, it was only 2pm. I checked my phone, and realized I had service.
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The FarOut App updated itself, and the latest comment (1 day before) said that there were NO mosquitoes at Mirror Lake, so we decided to continue 2 miles down the mountain to the lake. We hauled all that water up there for no reason. We got a great campsite at Mirror Lake. The shore was kind of a big rocky ledge with a drop-off. It was nice to sit in the water on the ledge, and then jump off to swim.
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Day 5: Mirror Lake - Devil's Lake Campground
It was a short and uneventful day hiking back out to the pavement, where my boyfriend picked us up. We went into Bend to stay at a vacation rental. We took the next day off to resupply our food, and buy a new water filter since the one we had was getting kind of slow. My boyfriend also brought me his 1-person tent, a Big Agnes Fly Creek 1, since mine wasn't working out with that condensation problem. I also bought new insoles for my shoes, which ended up (mostly) fixing the foot pain I was having.

Day 6: Devil's Lake Campground - Reese Lake
I've done this particular stretch of trail before, when I hiked around South Sister last year.
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That night in camp, at Reese "Lake" was interesting, to say the least. Let me back up though. About 0.2 mi before Reese Lake is a stream. Knowing that Reese Lake is more of a stagnant puddle, I decided we should gather water at this stream before getting to Reese Lake. This ended up being a great choice. When we got there, there were about 10 people swimming in this puddle of a lake. Someone even had a lawn chair out in it!

We had a great dinner of pasta with sundried tomatoes and summer sausage. We went away from our campsite to do dishes, and on the way back (on the actual PCT) I glanced over to the side and saw a naked man standing there. I quickly looked away and kept going to the campsite, my hiking buddy following me. As soon as we got there I started laughing. She seemed confused. I asked if she saw the naked man, and she said no! She completely missed that. Probably for the best. A little while later, a thru-hiker showed up. He seemed really down – more than just a hard day of hiking kind of down. He remarked that there were a lot of people camped in this area, and I told him he could camp next to us. He was very grateful and gave us a bag of candy. We learned that he had been hiking for 97 days since Mexico. His tramily all quit, and he was the only one left. He suffered from Giardia somewhere in California. He didn't bother setting up a tent and just cowboy camped. We never caught his name. I hope he's doing okay!

Day 7: Reese lake - Minnie Scott Springs
We were a little low on water, so I went to collect some from Reese Lake. There was a ring of oily scum around the edge of the lake - all sunscreen and yuck from those people swimming in it. Nobody should swim there, it's just too small of a pond. I filtered some water, but decided to have that bottle be "backup" water that I would replace at Obsidian Falls. I was really looking forward to this day's hike, since I had not been in this area before. Obsidian Falls was gorgeous, and I was able to dump the backup water and replace it with delicious, clean, water from the stream.
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We eventually hit the lava field. From there, we had to go over Opie Dilldock Pass. Hearing stories online, I was prepared for a very difficult climb. While hiking in the lava was challenging at times, the pass was not that big of a deal! The pass between South and Middle Sister last year was much more difficult, in my opinion.
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On our way over the pass, we saw a man in a straw hat off the trail in the lava field, yelling nonsense. We pressed on quickly to get away from him. We got to Minnie Scott Springs about 4pm. Nobody else was there. We were about to get set up when the crazy guy in the straw hat showed up and sat on a rock by the stream. He had a handlebar mustache and was dressed in all black. It was a hot day. What was wrong with him? We didn't set up our tents until he left. We quietly decided that if he was going to camp there, we would leave. Thankfully he left! We were later joined by two other section hikers.

Day 8: Minnie Scott Springs - Hwy 242
The zipper on my boyfriend’s tent rainfly broke. I would have no choice but to buy a new tent when we got back to town (I ended up going with the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2). It was an easy downhill hike to Hwy 242.

Day 9: Hwy 242 - Big Lake
My hiking partner had to go back to work, so I continued on alone from this point forward. My boyfriend dropped me off at the Hwy 242 trailhead. This lava field was worse than what I experienced south of here. The lava rocks were much larger, so it was slow-going. But, I was rewarded with great views of all the Sisters and Mt Washington.
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I camped at Big Lake, where I had a reserved campsite.

Day 10: Big Lake - Three Fingered Jack
I made a trip report a few weeks back about Summit Lake. Originally, I planned to camp there on this section hike. Now that I could do more miles, it no longer made sense for me to camp there. I still used it as a water source. I reached Summit Lake to collect water around lunchtime. Nobody else was around. I collected enough water to dry camp on the western side of Three Fingered Jack. I heard that mountain goats frequented this area, and could even be camp pests. I was excited, having never seen one in person before. Unfortunately, I only saw one mountain goat, and it was very far away. I didn't get a very good picture. No goats or humans joined me in camp that night.


Day 11: Three Fingered Jack - Shale Lake
The theme of the day was burn areas and traverses along exposed ridges. At times, the wind was pretty high, which made me nervous. I stopped at Rockpile Lake for lunch, where there were a ton of blueberries.

I reached Shale Lake for camping, which was absolutely gorgeous. This night would be much different than the last, because an entire boy scout troop showed up. A ton of other people showed up too, and kept walking into my campsite and declaring they couldn't find a campsite. It got pretty obnoxious.
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As I was sitting by the lake, I noticed some fishing line that was littered there. I thought, no way there are fish in this little puddle. It’s as small as Reese lake and certainly there would be winter-kill. Later on, I saw a fish jump! It was tiny, but clearly there are fish here. Who knew.

Day 12: Shale Lake - Russell Lake
This day started out well, because the trail was all downhill under good tree cover. I made great time down to Milk Creek, which was more of a raging river. A bunch of thru-hikers were sitting and taking a break there. I sat down too, trying to figure out how I was going to cross. I kept hearing gunshots. Pretty soon, these two guys in camo came over the hill with an AR-15. They didn’t say anything to us and kept going.

For this river crossing, I ended up jumping between two big boulders. I continued on, into the worst burn area of them all. It was hot and felt like it would never end. I reached Russell Creek. This crossing would be more difficult than the last. There were four thruhikers having lunch at the river. I stopped there to have lunch too and was chatting with them. One of the thru-hikers helped me out with this river crossing, but it wasn't perfect. I slipped on a rock and fell forward slightly. When I got to the shore, I realized a water bottle was missing. It must have fallen out when I slipped! Oh well. I still had plenty of water, and I only had one more day to hike before reaching Olallie Lake Resort. There was only a mile left of burn area before I got to Jefferson Park.

Jefferson Park seems largely untouched by the lionshead fire. This was also probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience: I had the entire place to myself! I had a very quiet evening at campsite #30 at Russell Lake and got great pictures of Mt Jefferson reflected in the lake.
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Day 13: Russell Lake - Olallie Lake Resort
I awoke, seeing a pink glow through the tent walls. I quickly got out of the tent, hoping to see a beautiful sunrise. Nope. It was smoke. There was ash raining down from the sky. I quickly packed up camp and started up Park Ridge. It seemed like the smoke might not be as bad in that direction. The ash got so bad, I ended up wetting down a t-shirt to use as a mask. Thankfully, the smoke was better over the ridge.
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The rest of the day was mostly downhill, but through more burn areas. It was a hot day. I was struggling as I finally reached Olallie Lake Resort. Olallie lake allows PCT hikers to camp in the day use area, so I set up there and had a couple beers from the camp store. My boyfriend would pick me up the next day. While I was eating dinner at one of the picnic tables, a thru-hiker came by and was talking to me. He said, "This really is the way to live!" This was right after he came out of the outhouse barefoot...


Day 14: Olallie Lake - Pinhead Butte
There is an ominous sign just a little bit down the trail to Watch Out for Bears! There was also a random smokey the bear sign. I think part of it must be missing? It was kind of creepy, how it was just there with nothing else around. There were a lot of comments in the FarOut app about bears and cougars here. I was pretty on-edge. This part of the trail isn't very exciting either, so it's easy to get in your own head. I got to my campsite, and nobody else was around. I stepped up my bear safety, and actually cooked/ate far from my tent and hung my food even further away than I normally would. I managed to sleep alright.

Day 15: Pinhead Butte - Timothy Lake
In the morning, I thought I heard snoring. I opened the tent door and looked around, but didn't see any other tents. I must have been imagining it, I thought. I got up, had breakfast, and got ready to go. After I got my pack on and started to leave the campsite, I noticed there were two people cowboy camping on the other side of a log! I have no idea when they showed up at night. I slept through that. I hope I wasn’t too noisy getting ready to go.

This day was mostly downhill, and pretty uneventful. Not much in the way of scenery. I got to Timothy Lake and had a quiet evening. Never saw any bears or cougars!

Day 16: Timothy Lake - Lower Twin Lake
I followed the PCT along the shore of Timothy Lake, and then took the junction for Little Crater Lake. I've seen it before, but decided to take a break there. It was cloudy the first time I went there, so I got better pictures this time since it was sunny.
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Another section hiker was also taking a break there. He and I talked for a while. He told a really funny story about something that happened to him the day before, at Ramona falls. He stopped there for lunch, when these two women showed up with a horse, four goats, and two dogs. All of these animals caused problems for him. The goats got in his personal space and were trying eat all the plants near him. The dogs were poorly trained and were jumping on him and trying take his food. But the horse was the worst. It kept smelling his backpack. He thought this was harmless, but suddenly the horse grabbed his backpack and threw his things everywhere! He yelled at the women to get their horse under control, but they just rolled their eyes at him. He gathered his things and left, deciding he could not have lunch there.

I was about a half mile from the US-26 crossing when I heard rustling in the bushes ahead. I looked and it was a BEAR! It took one look and me and was GONE. I did not get any pictures of it. It was a startling experience. So ironic that everyone was talking about bears in the remote warm springs area, and then I actually see one a half mile from the pavement.

I arrived at Lower Twin Lake where there was only one other group camping.

Day 17: Lower Twin Lake - Timberline Lodge
One of my trekking poles broke on the climb up. It was the Black Diamond Distance Z, which folds up. The string inside that kept the tension on it snapped. I would have to take the bus into Government Camp or Sandy to buy a new set, once I got to the lodge. No way would I attempt the descents into the gorge without two poles. My knees would not be having it.

On the climb up Mt Hood, I got stuck behind a big group who were probably hiking the timberline trail. They all had massive backpacks, stuffed to the gills. One guy had a folding lawn chair strapped to his pack.
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I made it to Timberline Lodge, picked up my resupply box, and was informed there was a high-wind advisory for the next two days – up to 45 mph gusts on exposed ridges. I had a room booked for that night, but decided to see if I could extend my stay by one night. The lady at the front desk looked at me, and said she didn't think there were any rooms available, but asked for my name. Upon looking up my reservation and realizing that I had stayed there before, suddenly, there was a queen room that was available. Her tone changed significantly. I later learned from another employee that they've been having a lot of problems with PCT thruhikers this year - dining and dashing, staying and dashing, sleeping on couches without a hotel reservation, trashing the rooms, etc. She saw (and probably smelled) that I was a PCT hiker and wasn't going to give me another night until she realized I was a repeat customer.

The next day, I took the bus into Sandy to get new trekking poles at Next Adventure.

Day 18: Timberline Lodge - Topspur Trail Junction
The wind was still pretty bad, even two days later. There was so much dust, I barely took any pictures. Mt Hood was mostly obscured the entire day. The wind got a little better as I continued north/down in elevation. I took the Ramona Falls alternate, which was a great decision. Ramona Falls was the highlight of the day. After taking a break to appreciate the falls, I hiked on to the Muddy Fork river. At least there is a big log to use for crossing here. I then had 1500 feet of elevation gain in 2 miles to get to my campsite. I stopped at a stream about halfway up to gather water. I could have camped at the Muddy Fork, but that would have made the next day 18 miles and over 3000ft of climbing.

Day 19: Topspur Trail Junction - Indian Springs

Most of the great views of Mt Hood were obscured by dust and smoke kicked up by the wind storm. I didn’t take many pictures this day. Along the way, I encountered another sooty grouse. This one flew up into a tree and then sat there clucking at me.

I reached Indian Springs, which has a big open area for tents and a picnic table. There is also an old pit toilet, but it looked pretty rickety and unstable. I wouldn't use it. I set up, ate my dinner, and then two other hikers arrived to camp there as well. We all went to bed, and about an hour later, I heard a voice outside the tent. I thought it was maybe another hiker getting in late, trying to find a spot. I was listening to an audiobook at the time, so I took out my headphones and stuck my head outside the tent. There was a guy standing there in the dark. He said, "I'm so sorry to wake you. I'm lost, and my phone is dead." I asked, "Where did you start from?" and he said, "I don't know." Great. We charged his phone using one of our battery packs. He tried to figure out on the map where he started, but wasn't sure. He said he was driving around aimlessly, checking out the area, when he saw a big, rocky hill (Indian Mountain). The PCT passes it. He thought it would be cool to watch the sunset from on top of the hill, so he scrambled up there...in sandals. Well, it got dark, and somehow he ended up on the PCT instead of the road he drove in on, and then made his way to our campsite. The road he was on wasn't on any of our maps, so he decided that he would sleep on the picnic table and then figure things out in the morning. Note that he was wearing sandals, shorts, a long-sleeve shirt, had NO FOOD, NO WATER, nothing! We gave him all our jackets so he wouldn't freeze.

Day 20: Indian Springs - Cascade Locks
In the morning, I gave the lost guy a cliff bar, and one of the thru-hikers gave him a water bottle. He asked, "Does this campground have a shower?" and it took everything I had to not laugh at him.

He remembered passing Wahtum Lake campground when he was driving the day before, so we told him how to get there from here, and then that would jog his memory and he could hopefully backtrack and find his car.

We were almost done packing up when he drove down the road to where we had camped, to let us know he found his car and was safe. What a dummy! He was pretty young, probably only 21 or 22. I hope he learned his lesson!

It started dumping rain as I began hiking. I chose to take the Eagle Creek trail rather than the actual PCT. From what I understand, this is what many thru-hikers do since the PCT itself is not very exciting going into the gorge. The highlight of the day was Tunnel Falls. I had the rare treat of seeing it all to myself, right around when the rain stopped. I was there so early in the morning, no day hikers were there yet.
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I took my time this day, appreciating all the waterfalls. Finally, I took the paved path into Cascade Locks and walked across the Bridge of the Gods, where I finished my hike.

It was a great experience! At the same time, I’m not sure that I would ever want to hike the whole PCT at once. I think the routine would start to feel like a job or a chore, and I would end up not enjoying it.

cfm
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by cfm » September 16th, 2022, 4:53 pm

Good job Christabrews!

That was a great read, thank you for sharing your experience and all those interesting encounters you had. Glad you got to see a bear and it behaved normally.

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christabrews
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by christabrews » September 16th, 2022, 9:23 pm

Thanks! I am glad it behaved normally as well! The only other bear I've seen in the wild was in Yellowstone, from the safety of a vehicle.

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bobcat
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by bobcat » September 17th, 2022, 7:34 am

Great report, christabrews! Some nice detail and photos on that stretch of the PCT!

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teachpdx
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by teachpdx » September 17th, 2022, 10:26 am

A couple weeks back we ended up less than 10 yards from a juvenile black bear in far northern BC. It was just hanging out, eating berries, couldn't even be bothered that we were there. It saw us but just stayed put and kept on eating.

I'm so used to the bears here running away at the slightest sound, but even raising voices it couldn't be bothered to move. We had bear spray out and ready but it really couldn't care less about us being there and we just watched it for a couple of minutes. Eventually it scurried off and we were able to continue the trail.

And wow, quite the assortment of characters you encountered along the trail. I've had very few strange encounters in my hiking... you catalogued more in this single section hike than I have in the past 20 years, most likely.
instagram: @remyodyssey

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christabrews
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by christabrews » September 19th, 2022, 5:45 am

Wow! You must have gotten some great pics though!

I haven't encountered this many interesting characters while hiking before either. Although one time my boyfriend and I ran into a bow hunter in three sisters wilderness. Unfortunately he turned out to be one of those people who is difficult to end a conversation with.

quail
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by quail » September 19th, 2022, 6:39 am

Great TR, thanks for posting. Seems like you really experienced a bit of everything, nature-wise and people-wise. Props on helping the lost hiker!

Disappointing to read about thru-hiker issues at the TL lodge. I heard that about 1900 thru-hikers have passed through the Trout Lake area north of your route. More crowds, more problems, I suppose. Although it sounds like you also met a lot of really nice folks, too.

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christabrews
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by christabrews » September 22nd, 2022, 5:25 pm

I think it's definitely more crowds, more problems. I'd say the majority of people I encountered were good people. But there were definitely a couple bad apples I encountered...the kind of people who aren't considerate or responsible and are kind of just being..."creatively homeless."

keithcomess
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by keithcomess » September 23rd, 2022, 7:58 am

I have a different take on the PCT situation described in this report. While the resilience and optimism of the OP are really commendable, the conditions encountered on the trail are depressing: a needlessly and heedlessly polluted lake, abandoned fishing line, disruptive and disrespectful behavior by (large) numbers of hikers/campers and trashing a hotel (to the detriment of all). These are depressing and sad commentaries on the "wilderness ethic" a significant section of the public seems to have adopted.

Harkening back to my early backpacking years (starting in 1970 in Colorado when encountering another hiker was a rare experience), I've abandoned the concept of "wilderness solitude" as an expectation. What I can't accommodate to is the behavior reported here (and which I've also experienced on sections of the PCT and elsewhere in recent years, especially on the Wallowa Loop). It's probably reflective of overuse and the new and selfis "ethic" of "bagging" a trail promoted by equipment retailers, auto manufacturers (showing AWD vehicles churning through streams and over rocks, with tents set on non-established sites) and other "outdoor" web sites (REI's ads come to mind). Very sad and very ominous for the wilderness.

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retired jerry
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Re: PCT Sections E, F, and G

Post by retired jerry » September 23rd, 2022, 8:32 am

What I remember is that in 1970s there was less respect for wilderness. More trash...

I've encountered a lot of PCT thru hikers the last few years. There's a different mentality. For example, they often camp in large groups. A couple times I've set up my tent by myself, then I'll wake up the next morning and they'll be 10 tents nearby.

Also, people walking around Mt Hood.

But that's fine with me. I can find solitude most of the time. Sometimes I'll just be lazy and camp where I figure there might be more people later. It's just a different experience.

But that's just my opinion :)

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