Section hiking the Oregon PCT in 2019 proved challenging yet rewarding. I traveled a record number of miles in a day pushing my body and mind past previous limits. I saw sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon that I had never seen before. I also decided that I had seen the most scenic parts of the Oregon PCT to be content with moving on to other adventures and sections of trail in the future. I’m also thankful I was able to train and get out in the wilderness, especially before the Oregon Permit system comes into effect next year, making spontaneous trip planning a bit more difficult.
My first section of the PCT was a 21 mile loop in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. I used the trip as a higher miles training day hike with my full pack weight. I began the trip at Santiam Pass and headed northeast about 10 miles until I reached the PCT, then turned south toward my car. Thankfully, there were very few mosquitoes on the trail for June. My favorite section of trail was southbound on the PCT passing close to Three Fingered Jack and seeing the 5 or 6 pure white mountain goats up in the scree rock!
My main trip planned for the PCT for 2019 was hiking from south starting from Odell Lake to Crater Lake, a total of about 75 miles. I planned to hike in mid July in order to beat any extreme fire smoke which as plagued the northwest the passed two summers. However, 2019 proved to be different. We had a late hard winter hit with record snow in Central Oregon, which meant a delayed dry season and tons of mosquitoes in the high snow melt. Within the first 5 miles I was trekking at a fast pace just to stay alive! 5000 ft elevation proved clear, but as I approached 6 and 7ooo ft, the mosquitoes were deadly. I made it to Summit Lake, and stripped my gear and clothes off down to my shorts, jumped into the frigid water submerged to my neck, and took a wonderful break from getting bit. I enjoyed a meal in the lake, where reflecting back, I easily could have completed a loop down to Crescent Lake returning to my car and calling the rest of the trip off. But being committed and stubborn, I pressed on! I ended up traveling 43.5 miles that first day, on the move for about 14 hours! Ridiculous and crazy I know! I’m still astonished that it even happened because in the moment, the day felt like it was never going to end. Water was hard to come by that first day, so my plan of splitting the mileage more evenly went out the window. I messaged my wife to pick me up the next day at Highway 138 because the bugs were horrific and I would rather spend time at the lake with the family than trek with these bugs alone in the wilderness! I found camp by a small lake at night so I could have water to drink and boil for dinner, but had to eat it in the tent to avoid getting eaten alive.
Day 2 of the backpack trip south on the PCT, I started the day around 6am. I was happy to get moving to loosen up my tight muscles and was surprised at how good I felt given the previous days mileage. The trail climbed immediately up to the PCT High Point for Oregon and Washington. Thankfully the mosquitoes thinned out and there was a nice cool breeze setting in. I was looking forward to passing by Mt. Thielsen which I had climbed during summers fighting forest fires. I had been watching my snow map closely leading up to this trip, so I wasn’t surprised to run into some snow through the trees around Mt. Thielsen. After 19 miles on Day 2, I was so happy to make it to Hwy 138 and even happier to see my family, and the food they brought! Overall, the trip was successful, even though I didn’t make it all the way to Crater Lake Village, which would have been another 15-20 miles. I wasn’t able to sit down and enjoy many views since the bugs were so bad, and I’d say 90% of the terrain was in the trees which is my least favorite, especially when hiking solo.
My last trip on the Oregon PCT was through the Mt Jefferson Wilderness. I’ve seen Jefferson Park and Park Butte twice in the past, but really wanted to connect where I had hiked through this wilderness. I decided to see the most scenic section and trail run/hike a 16 mile piece of the PCT. The trial was again, in the ‘green tunnel’ most of the way except for some shots I captured below.
That’s why this trip concludes the Oregon PCT for me! I’ve covered about 75% of Oregon, the State I’ve lived in most of my life. I’m ready to plan some bigger adventures in the future in my favorite high alpine terrain, such as the John Muir Trail and the North Cascades in Washington. I also have the Wonderland Trail and Teton Crest Trail on my list.