In Shelter Cove I lingered a bit. I got one last root beer and was able to catch up with family. My brother in London has a new baby boy on the way any day and I’m always excited to talk with him and his family when I can. No baby yet and all are doing well.
I pushed out of the comforts of the lakeside fishing resort and back to the trail. It was late and I wouldn’t be able to get much hiking in. But got away from civilization and back on trail.
The next day was a slow day at first. I was pushing hard but felt like I was getting no where. I was trying to catch two gals, Beads and Kiddo. They had invited me to join them in Bend, OR where Kiddo had a friend who was willing to put a couple of us up. The mental game of trying to catch up was wearing on me. I decided to just hike longer that day and not necessarily harder. It took the pressure off and I enjoyed the hike more.
Thunder storms threatened early and lightening struck just miles away. I listened first as I heard planes and helicopters flying in and out of the storms. The rumbling of all of it made for an interesting soundtrack as I meandered through the pine forest. At one point, I saw a cargo plane with open sides fly low overhead. With the high pines, it was hard to make out what it was doing. I soon found out.
A couple hours later, thunder still rumbling, two guys came walking towards me down the trail. A moment of confusion had me perplexed enough to ask “What are you doing?”
They were carrying axes, wearing yellow collared short sleeve work shirts, carhart pants, work boots, baseball caps, covered in dirt, and sweet handle bar mustaches.
“We’re putting out fires,” said the smiley short guy in front “what are you doing? Hiking to Canada?”
I hardly heard his question. I was 6-10 miles from any junction let alone a road. Where had they come from. Well, I chatted for a bit with these fellas and found they were smoke jumpers. One from Redmond OR, the other from McCall ID. They had been called in to respond to the lightening fires that were expected. As their plane flew near the thunderstorm, they’d watch for smoke and jump from the plane into it. It was inspiring meeting these fellas and I thanked them for being bad asses before we both went out separate ways. We all had quite a ways to go.
Rejuvenated by my conversation, I pushed on. I caught Beads and Kiddo taking a break at 1800. They were gonna push ahead another 6 miles into the Sisters Wilderness. I decided to join. We hiked to Mirror Lakes and set up camp.
The next day, I got on trail before 5:30. It was cold and misty. I walked and the mist lifted revealing small lakes, wild flower meadows of bright Indian paintbrush and purple lupine and the three sisters (mountains) rising in front of me.
Here, I began to recognize the terrain. Half a life ago, I was on an Outward Bound adventure in this wilderness. As I began to skirt the middle sister, I got a clear memory. At 17, it was my job to navigate a group of other high schoolers in a 10 mile hike that day. I turned us up the wrong wash and ended up leading the group 2 extra miles up a steep lava rock climb. It ended up saving us 5 miles the next day but I didn’t have many friends that day. I recognized the wash we walked up and the lava rock plateau where we ended up camping that night. It was fun to be back there and remember so vividly a long past experience.
The rest of the hike was full of day and weekend hikers from Bend and surrounding areas. They wished us luck. When hearing I’d been on the trail over 100 days, two separate groups pronounced “You look GREAT!” It was hilarious to hear with snot and food in my beard, salt crusted shirt, and black dirt covered legs. But I took the compliments.
In good spirits, I reached McKenzie Pass. I stuck out my thumb and waited in the sun. It wasn’t long before a family with 3 young boys offered me a lift. They made room in the back of their Tahoe and I wedged in next to the ice chest. The boys passed me grapes and cookies as we chatted and they drive down from the mountains to Bend.
I’d meet Beads and Kiddo at REI later that evening. Time in Bend was great. A night of beer, pizza, burgers, ice cream, and more beer had us zombies by 10 and near sleep walking by 11. Way past hiker midnight but well worth it.
This morning was full of more food. Shortly, I’ll say goodbye to both Beads and Kiddo. They are both taking some time off and I may not see them again on trail. They’ve been wonderful smiles to see and great companions when our paths have crossed. Birdman is not far behind and part of me thinks I’ll see him soon. Time’ll tell.
Back to the road to catch a hitch to the mountains. Back to the trail. Back to my comfortable discomfort.