Today is July 25th and we are now in Oregon, just south of Crater Lake. Tonight we’re camped next to one of the Snow Lakes, which is more like a small pond. Today was one of our prettiest days in Oregon yet. We passed by miles of huckleberries and green forests then climb upward at the end of the day to walk along a ridgeline, obtaining our first scenic view in Oregon. Now we lay under the stars as I reflect on where we’ve been.
It’s been hundreds of miles since we last made a post, and I apologize to all of you who’ve been following along on our adventure. When we last left off, we were in South Lake Tahoe. Since then we’ve been through a number of small towns speckled throughout Northern California, and benefitted from the kindness of strangers on several occasions.
So, why haven’t we been posting?
First of all, it’s been difficult and time intensive to upload articles to our blog since we often don’t have any internet service when on the trail. The hiking has also become more intensive, and demanding as we’ve walked through record breaking, triple digit temperatures and two heat domes. Up until a couple weeks ago I had never even heard of a heat dome. Now I’ve walked through two.
Along with the heat, has also come the early arriving fire season. With heat, smoke, and fire, hiking through northern California became a push to get further north. We would wake at 4 am then hike until it was too hot, take a break in the shade then continue hiking into the evening. Hiking became a grind. Water was scarce, and the heat, terrain and cumulative effect of hiking for four months was squeezing my joy and enthusiasm. Aside from limiting my time to write, I also didn’t feel compelled to write about being miserable, my daily backaches and the heat. I didn’t want to whine. Seeing the beauty in every day on the trail became difficult, and I simply wanted to be done. My mind would pull me home.
Our dogs. The smell of the Puget Sound. The cool Northwest air. But, I’m reminded that the heat dome we walked through also had effected the northwest. In Seattle the temperature reached 104 degrees, a ridiculous high. When I grew up we never had temps that high in the summer. Sometimes it never felt like summer at all, or maybe it would reach that rare day in the 80s. Even more rare, a summer day that reached 90. But now here we are and times have changed. It’s a common point of conversation we’ve frequently repeated on the trail with the locals in every town we’ve crossed.
“It’s not usually like this.”
“We maybe get one day in the hundreds, but never a whole week and never this early in the year.”
“It never used to be like this. I’m not sure what’s happening.”
As I think about these moments, I’ve realized, this is the story of the trail. It’s the story of drought, heat and now, fire. This is the story of the west. This is the story of the world. This is the story of our homes, seemingly changing from what we used to know.
Currently, to our East, the Bootleg Fire consumes southeastern Oregon, and is the second worst fire in Oregon state history. To the south, several fires have broken out in Northern California causing PCT closures and the evacuation of towns we weeks ago walked through. To the north, in our own homestate, the Cedar and Cub Creek 2 fires burn near the PCT Canadian terminus, threatening to consume our beloved towns of Mazama and Winthrop.
Last night we met a couple at Fish Lake who had been evacuated from their home in Chester. This morning we met a couple who lost their home to a fire last year in Phoenix, OR.
I can’t help but think of the people we met in Chester, Burney, and Quincy, many of them now evacuated. These were the strangers who showed us kindness when we showed up in their hometowns, exhausted, dirty, and thirsty. Now their homes are threatened. The harshness of reality is hard to comprehend.
For the moment, the Oregon air is cool. As I lay on my inflatable mattress, replaying the last several hundred miles, I hear some raindrops on the tent, and I hop outside to affix the rain fly. Then I’m back inside, listening to drops of rain tapping on the tent sporadically. This one simple sound gives me comfort. But, then I hear thunder in the distance and I feel guilty to enjoy the sound. There’s potential for the lightning to cause a fire, far away or near, near my home or another’s.