DAY 4: Panther Creek to Lava Bed Camp
I had my first properly solo night on the trail, however I’m not entirely sure it counted with a full campground 0.2 miles away… either way I slept well and was awake with first light.
I was a bit slower getting out of camp. The biggest amount of time was taken up bandaging my feet. I was nursing 7 blisters, 3 of which had already popped on the trail. Not awesome. I was also getting into more of a morning routine, including some much-needed stretching in my tent to work out the kinks of the day before.
The first few miles on trail that day were a slog of switchbacks. I counted out eight switchbacks on the map and turned it into a “drinking game” for myself. Every time I reached a turn I’d stop, count out the switchbacks left, and reward myself with a good drink of water!
Thankfully the grade eased out a bit once I gained the ridge. The next couple miles were a gentler climb, rolling along the ridge and slowly gaining elevation. The forest also became more varied, with wildflowers to add pops of colour to my journey.
For lunch I made it to a beautiful campsite on a high shelf with a view south of Mt. Hood. I gave myself a good hour’s break there to relax, eat, and to dry out my sweaty socks and boots.
The miles passed by a lot more slowly after lunch. I put on a podcast to alleviate some of the boredom. My high point for the day was Big Huckleberry Mountain. I had gained over 3000 feet through the day. On the north side of the summit, I was rewarded with my first view of Mt. Adams.
A couple miles on I stopped for a break at a large empty campsite. I refilled my water and had a snack.
The last couple miles were tough ones. My feet hurt and my muscles were tired. I put on a podcast and kept trudging along through the forest. Eventually I spied the weird lava rock that indicated I was getting close to camp. I’d be hiking alongside the Big Lava Bed for the next few miles, a massive jumble of lava rock formed when a nearby cinder cone erupted.
I made it to my campsite by about 4 pm. It had been a tough day, and also a bit lonely. I had seen a grand total of five people all day.
My evening was quiet. I explored a bit around the edge of the lava bed and then made dinner. I tucked in early but the evening sun wasn’t letting me fall asleep as early as I want. These long summer days are a blessing and curse!
Eventually I drifted off, allowing my body to rest and recuperate in hopes that I could keep going another day.