Clackamas Lake to Jude Lake – 24 miles
I was one week into my PCT adventure and I was pretty sure I’d figured Oregon out. Turns out Oregon is a whole lot of nothing (forest) between somethings (mountains or lakes.) The best way to get to the somethings is to travel as efficiently as possible through the nothing. Which is precisely what I did for my seventh day on trail.
After enjoying a day or so of R&R my body was ready for a challenge. I was finally going to check off one more item on the PCT thru-hiker to-do list – hike a 20-mile day. The terrain was going to be pretty straightforward with a bit more uphill than down and a few good water sources throughout the day.
I got myself organized the night before for a quick departure in the morning. I set my alarm for 6 a.m. The key to achieving a 20-mile day isn’t to walk faster, it’s to walk longer hours.
Before I knew it my alarm was going off. The morning light filtered through the trees of Clackamas Lake campground as I got my gear stowed in my pack and did some stretches. It was only a little cool out and was even a bit humid as I set out.
I didn’t want to ruminate on the passing miles so I forbade myself to check mileage on my PCT Guthook app as I went. I also set a one-hour timer. After an hour I’d stop, sit, snack and stretch then get moving again.
The first five miles were all gradually uphill, followed by a few miles downhill to Warm Springs Creek. I took a good break at the water source, snacking, soaking my feet and chatting with another hiker. I’d been seeing lots of hikers going northbound but we seldom took the opportunity to stop and chat. It was fun to hear about Doc Orange’s adventures and get a bit of intel on the trail ahead.
As I got moving I was once again on an uphill slope. I continued gaining elevation for the next few hours and thankfully the weather stayed somewhat cool and cloudy. It even drizzled on me a bit as I climbed to 5,000 feet near the summit of Pinhead Butte. I caught a brief glimpse of Mount Hood from the north slope and saw ahead to Olallie Butte while headed down the south slope.
I was over halfway through my day as I reached a good-looking break stop in a saddle near Pinhead Butte. I was planning on taking a longer break to have some lunch but the weather didn’t agree to that plan. It suddenly got quite windy and larger raindrops started to fall. The best way to stay warm in the wilderness is to keep moving. I scarfed down a snack and headed onwards.
An hour later and a few more pleasantly downhill miles along I reached my last likely water source for the day at Lemiti Creek. There was a nice campsite with some benches to sit on for a longer break. The only problem was the nearby marsh and meadow were an obvious breeding ground for mosquitoes and other bothersome bugs. My break certainly wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped for as I took in more calories and did a few stretches with my buzzing company.
I only had five more miles to go which would of course be the most challenging of my day simply due to mental and physical exhaustion. The trail ascended once again, gradually regaining the 650-feet of elevation I’d lost when I’d descended to Lemiti Creek. The trail bordered more clear cuts and crossed a couple more forestry roads. I plodded upward and onward, finally reaching a crest.
My last mile was a straight downhill track to Jude Lake. I’d started hiking around 7 a.m. and ended just after 6 p.m. I’d kept my legs moving and my brain busy with podcasts and music. The weather had stayed overcast and cool and the trail had been flat and spongy. While I hadn’t quite hiked a marathon distance, it was easily the longest I’d ever travelled on my own two legs.
It was raining gently and of course the mosquitoes were swarming as I set up my tent and made a well-earned hot dinner. Of course I was tired, but not as much as I’d imagined I’d be. I was incredibly proud of myself and perfectly thrilled at the overall condition of my body. I was finally a trail crusher.