I lasted two days. I probably need a new hobby. I am not going to be overly reflective or make excuses (although I will list the progression of my choice later) but it came down to the most simple of truths. I DID NOT LIKE IT! Nothing cooler or deeper than that. But at the same time some good did come out of it, and as I am hopped up on antihistamines for the next few days I will make my peace with Oregon Section C, the ****er. This will be long winded, so you can skip to the summary at the end if you wish. : D
Narrative of my Decline into “Get me the F out of Here!”
I will admit sheepishly that having a buddy that is willing to cart my sad ass off of a mountain at a nearest cross-point is a luxury, and one I have used before. It also helped me realize that if I am going to be balls-deep in the woods/mountains I would like to know an “out” that is within a days hike.
I knew I was going to have to go above and beyond my regular pace to get through this section, and the first day I set a goal of X miles (a personal best), with a bonus being XX miles (unrealistic for me) and camping at a spring. I knew that if I could make that mileage, I would continue on the next day and try to match it. I promised my Dad (and me) if I started hitting the more dangerous conditions that I was not prepared for, by the end of day two I would turn around.
The conditions to which I refer were some sketchy cliffs, an ice wall, and steep snow crossings. *know thy limits* I was counting on the hot weather to resolve those by the time I got there.
I was dropped off at the trailhead a little after sunrise. It was pretty heading north from Fish Lake, but I hadn’t slept the night before and was on auto-pilot. A little ways in the woods, the sun started shining through the trees and a sweet little doe was in the path in front of me. She wasn’t scared and just sat there and looked at me. I laughed out loud (remember no sleep, lol) and said to her ” Ok, I get it”, and let my mood lighten way the heck up and felt the original motivation pour back in. She was unimpressed with my outburst, and walked away letting me cross.
My feet quickened and I was soon hiking at a pace that surprised me, and as a positive feedback loop, kept urging me on. I HAD THIS!! Then….then the bugs started. It was a few at first, as expected from the reports. Then it quickly became many. Then it turned into so many mosquitoes that I couldn’t stop to catch my breath or take a drink without being swarmed. There were mozzies in my eyelashes, ears, trying for my mouth and nose, and landing everywhere. I had a bug-net in my bag (thank goodness right at the top) but to stop to get it meant getting swarmed so I planned as I was walking: unbuckle pack, swing it around, hold breath, unzip pack, close eyes, and find net. As expected as soon as I stopped I was covered, but was able to get net out of bag and throw it over my head as planned. Mozzies were FOILED!!
I discover swarms, and am still in a good mood. Briefly.
The next several miles were a blur, at least I wasn’t smacking myself repeatedly in the face, but the rest of my body was open game. Now, I TREATED my clothes with permethrin, and sprayed the rest of me with picaradin. I assume it would have been a LOT worse if I hadn’t, but it didn’t seem to matter much to them. These blood-suckers meant business. I tried to make it humorous by calling them “my entourage” and scolding them if I stopped for a breath and they took longer than three seconds to swarm. I tried to take some pictures but doing so meant having my hands and fingers bitten.
By the way, I had never seen a mosquito swarm before. It is hundreds. It is a cloud. It is a choking, panic-inducing, loud, stingy nightmare.
What about the good news?!?!
Oh yes, so the cool part is, because I couldn’t stop and rest I blew through my goal X, AND goal XX by 2pm!! I made it to the spring, where another group was resting and pitched my tent so damned fast and crawled in. I killed the mozzies that followed me inside and then took a nap on the bare tent floor with my pack as a pillow. I hadn’t started thinking about quitting yet, believe it or not. I was jacked up and happy I had done record+ miles and was feeling invincible. All I needed was to refill water in the morning and I should be good to go.
Then the Bad…
More hikers showed up, so I wasn’t going to be alone thank goodness. They were stopping a little early too, as you do sometimes when regulating water stops. After my nap, I went down to fill up at the spring and the swarms down there were a horror-movie. I bent down to put my bottle in the water and was covered instantly, I couldn’t see through my face net, and I felt the bites and bugs going up my shorts (yup). It was terrifying, and tripped over myself even trying to get back to the safety of my tent. I was able to gather maybe two ounces of water. Not going to work.
I went back up and sat by a smoke fire the other group made, and told them about the water. Water is your lifeline out here so there was no skipping it. This is when I started doing the math. One hiker went to go fill up and came back, verified my report, and appeared traumatized for a few hours as he was trying to beat and smack the bugs out of his clothes.
We all complained for a bit about hiking the Oregon section in July (most thru-hikers hit it August when the bugs are less murdery).
Up until I did the math, I was going to keep on. I am not sure why through my meticulous sometimes ridiculous planning I didn’t factor in the water. I ASSUMED that it was Oregon, high snow year, water would be everywhere. WRONG! My previous hiking partner was really good at mapping out water, but nope, not me. My ASSUMPTION sealed the deal that night that I ****ed up big time.
**This part is technical and boring but explains a bit**
The two miles before Christie’s Spring (mi 1782) the blow-downs started, This means that every few feet there is a tree across the trail that you have to go over/around/under and it significantly impacts your pace. From Christie’s Spring, the next water is 15 miles. And the next after that is at Mazama Village, another 20 miles. That would leave me stuck for water since both of those with the blow-downs and upcoming snow and treachery would make those two-day trips instead of one. If I were so motivated I could have rationed my water and not cooked any food, but obviously since I am writing this, I was not so motivated. I in no way, had the desire to combat the mosquitoes, on top of eating dry ramen and oatmeal, on top of dealing with blow-downs and snow slopes, there was just nothing left that I found joy or pleasure in…and as much as I would love to have conquered my “Everest” (Section C), I just didn’t want to anymore.
Summary: The last sentence is the real reason, no excuse. I could have done it. I was over it. I went into this hike not invested, came out feeling like I made the right choice.
I coordinated my rescue (haha) with my Beastie, and hiked back out (it was rough, I think all the bites were making me sick? but at this point doesn’t matter), and when I got back slept for the next 18 hrs.
I’m breaking up with the PCT for now. (sure Terra, we believe you)
I love hiking. I love camping. I love hiking by myself but do not like camping by myself. So to combine those, I think I will explore shorter hikes, or long-distance hikes with a partner AND/OR having my husband meet me every other day or so. I’m still figuring that out, but for now this hike was not meant to be hiked.
Is it crazy though that I still crave to hike the desert section? lolololol shutupterra
P.s. I purposefully left out what it was like trying to use the bathroom.
P.p.s. I’m still swatting at phantom mosquitoes.
6 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly”
Kristene here, nice to meet you! I live in Redding, CA. I cant remeber how I found your blog but followed it some last hike and now this hike.
I am a backpacker and have been hiking for 1.5yrs now. I just want you to know…I FEEL YOUR PAIN!
I have LOVED every hike Ive been on….until this summer. I planned a huge 550 me hike this summer and only got 130 of it accomplished….and I really had to resist the urge to not throw my backpack into the trash before I even got into my house. I was hot, I pushed myself too hard, I hated the sweat, the dirt, the lack of water, my fear of camping alone. I pretty much hated it all!
Im just going to put hiking out of my mind and see if I long for it again. I really want to feel guilty about all the money, time, energy on all this for what looks like nothing. Oh well! I can think of alot worse vices right!??
I just want you to know I totally understand what your feeling! Youre still a rockstar!
HYOH….or in our cases….DONT! LOL
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Wow Kristene, we may be perfect hiking buddies! I have a TON of food left…lol. You up for the AZT? lol
You still have my admiration for doing something that most of us would only talk about. Timing is everything- I think you learned that on this trek. I don’t doubt that you’ll complete what you started at a better time. Congrats!
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Aloha Karen! I learn so much from every hike : ) I will figure out my “zone” someday, and love the hell out of the journey finding it. Xo Miss you! P.s. Grandbaby #2 on the way.
Thank you! I think the whole time I was hiking I was thinking, ” You a-holes just wait until I get home and blog about you!” 🙂
I laughed so many times during this post!
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