We started this section on the rim of Crater Lake as we took an alternate route to the PCT. This was because we heard the views would be spectacular. The night before we’d gone up and not been able to see much but we were told that the mornings normally clear up. Unfortunately for us this didn’t happen so we had lots of smokey pictures.
We then started hiking out of the park northwards with the rest of the trail family. Here we decided to fall behind the rest of our crew. This was an inevitability as some of the group have days in September they need to finish by. For us there is no rush to finish so at a spring 26 miles into the day we decided to call it a night and let the rest of the trail family keep going. The spot we picked had an epic view of mountains and stars and it was nice to be able to sit out in the light, relax and massage out the feet.
The next day the smoke started to clear and we were awarded with some great views. It was in this section where we started to meet a lot of south bound PCT hikers. One of them told us about some trail magic 20 miles ahead which was good motivation to keep going that day. Upon reaching the trail magic we were cooked the most awesome burgers and had the best IPAs we’ve had so far. It was also nice to see the rest of the trail family here.
At this point the rest of the trail family took a shortcut off the PCT which meant we ended up losing them for the next few days. Staying on the PCT the views changed again and we were rewarded with crest views and lakes. Summit Lake was the most beautiful so we stopped here for an early lunch.
Hiking alone again has been really nice. We’ve been able to go our own speed without worrying that we are holding anyone back. We’ve also had the chance to chat a lot more. It reminded us to live up to the commonly used phrase out here: hike your own hike.
After a night on the shore of Arrowhead Lake we made it to Shelter Cove Resort. Here we had one of the best showers on trail followed by burgers. We also picked up our package before heading back out again. As we were hiking out we met Homebound, a Canadian who was hiking home having started on the 4th of June. Some people really fly through this trail! Unfortunately for us we heard the news the PCT has now been closed at the Canadian border due to more fires. Our hope is it is reopened by the time we get there but this is looking less and less likely.
Over the next few days we passed countless lakes opting normally to spend the night at one. The smoke fluctuated from being super hazy which gave Jen a headache to clearing up to show us the mountains ahead. For Jen this has been a bit demoralising as we came to the realisation it’s been over a month now without smoke. One afternoon ash started to fall from the sky again which had us worried, as it meant a fire must be close. That afternoon Jen experienced one of the first times on trail where she thought about quitting or skipping, as the hike was no longer enjoyable. We spoke seriously about how Joal could continue with the equipment we had and where we would meet up again. The following morning another hiker told us the ash was coming from a fire 6 miles south of us. Luckily the smoke cleared a little and so did Jen’s mood.
The final day of this section we hit lava rocks. Walking through this area felt like walking through Mordor in Lord of the Rings. Whilst rough on our feet, the smoke meant the temperature wasn’t too bad. I guess there are upsides to everything :).
Finally we made it to Big Lake Youth Camp. This place is epic and we got a great meal which was a vegan curry. It was fantastic to be able to rest in the hiker hut, use the WiFi and recharge our devices.