Date: Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Start: Camped by the trail at Mile 1972.3, 6510 ft
Finish: The PCT crossing of Hwy 242 at Mackenzie Pass at Mile 1981.2, 5308 ft
Daily Miles: 8.9 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 1440.9
Weather: Warm and sunny
Accommodation: Room at Best Western Ponderosa in Sisters
Lunch: Tuna sub, chips and cookies
Dinner: Salad and patty melt & fries, ice cream, fruit salad & tapioca
Aches: Nothing new
Highlight: Although it interfered with my plan to quickly cover the 9 miles to Hwy 242 and hitch into Sisters for breakfast, the trail down to the highway was spectacular, if slow, in the early morning light. I was treated to fantastic vistas of distant peaks across the dark and brooding lava fields and sweeping forests. The trail crossed through the lava fields in places, giving a close-up look at the jagged honeycombed black rocks occasionally revealing cracks to the lava tubes that lie below. It all had a primal feel to it and I felt lucky to be there to experience it at that hour.
Lowlight: Despite the highlight described above, the last mile to the highway across a very rough lava field seemed to take forever when I was keen to get to the road and some breakfast.
Pictures: Click here
I woke at 5:00am and was hiking by 6:00am (managing to wake the dog camped with the girl nearby as I passed their tent) in the hope of getting to Hwy 242 soon after 9:00am, perhaps in time to hitch a ride with any regular commuters on that road. However, it was soon clear that it was going to be a slow hike as I climbed through a lava field on a steep soft loose rock trail, but I didn’t mind as it was interesting country and the views were superb. At that early hour, I felt like I had the place to myself, and at the same time, felt absolutely insignificant amongst this demonstration of the power of nature. The blackness of the lava fields contrasted with the many patches of remaining snow, some of which still covered the trail, the orange glow of the early sun and the dark greens of the forests. It was awesome and I didn’t mind just cruising along taking it all in and frequently stopping to check the views around and behind me.
Apart from a Cliff bar I had eaten while packing up (need to eat something with my anti-inflammatory), I had decided to try and walk the 9 miles without a break or further food, but was getting quite hungry and tired by the time I eventually reached the highway. It turned out to be a narrow paved tourist road winding through part of the lava field. Almost immediately a National Forests ranger stopped in his vehicle and said he couldn’t offer me a lift, but asked whether there was anything I needed such as food or drink. I said I was fine, and he suggested I walk east a few hundred metres to a tourist observatory where I was more likely to get a lift. I did this and soon realised that there was little through traffic on the road apart from tourists checking out the lava fields and the observatory which included nature walks through part of the lava field.
Nevertheless, it was pleasantly warm standing in the sun and I just kept sticking my thumb out to the few cars going in my direction and eventually got picked up by a couple of guys from London who were vacationing on the west coast. It was 15 miles to Sisters and they dropped me near the centre of town. I hadn’t booked any accommodation and reviewed my options as I walked around, eventually calling the Best Western, which was well-located (across the road from a big supermarket) and had a laundry, and negotiated them down on their price (still expensive). Sisters is a busy little tourist town and the motel claimed I was lucky that they had just had a cancellation. They said I could have my room in an hour, so I dumped my pack and had a late breakfast/early lunch at the Subway across the road before returning to check-in, shower, do my laundry and have a relaxing afternoon. Later, I caught up on a few tasks and had dinner at a nearby restaurant.