Shale Lake to Three-Fingered Jack – 16.2 miles
As I was hiking the PCT through Oregon I was listening to an audiobook called “The Pursuit of Endurance” written by Jennifer Pharr Davis, a woman who set a speed record on the Appalachian Trail. Waking up the morning of my tenth day on trail I had to remind myself of something I’d learned the day before, the four Cs of endurance – control, commitment, concentration and confidence.
My entire being was tired. My feet were sore, I was itchy from bug bites, I was lonely and pretty darn dirty. But I was committed to hiking the trail and seeing the beauty of Oregon. I was confident that I could physically hike it. I had control over how far I’d walk between breaks and I had various tools and techniques to help maintain my concentration.
I also reminded myself that I was so close to my first well-deserved rest day. I had just one more full day of hiking and the next day I’d arrive at Big Lake Youth Camp which provides free showers, laundry and fresh meals to PCT hikers. I was going to spend two nights at the camp, with an entire day of not hiking anywhere.
With all of that in mind I got myself packed up and moving.
The first few miles of the day were pretty decent though there was still patchy and icy snow to navigate. I took a break for my second breakfast high on a ridge with a great view of Mount Jefferson. The sunshine felt great as I sat on bare ground between snow mounds though the bugs were a bit irritating.
The next stretch of my day passed through miles of burnt forest leaving me feeling hot and exposed. I was already getting tired of the charred trunks and the mostly lifeless earth beneath them. I did have one special moment along this section when I noticed the masses of butterflies flying in the wind towards me. I’d seen these butterflies clustering near Mount Hood and hadn’t really noticed them since but now here they were in the thousands. They were so delicate and beautiful.
Around mid-day I was welcomed back under the shade of a still-green forest as I came to Rockpile Lake. The lake was perfectly refreshing and there was a nice breeze keeping the mosquitoes at bay. I sat at the edge of the lake with my feet in the water for a while. I was also spotted by a couple mule deer who didn’t seem to mind my presence too much.
I was really glad to have had such a nice mid-day break because the rest of the afternoon was mentally and physically challenging. I was back into burnt forest nearly as soon as I left Rockpile Lake. The burns were from different years of wildfire and each had created quite a bit of damage to the trail. I really had to watch my footing as I worked my way past the blackened snags and downfall.
My last water for the day come from a small pond in the middle of miles of burnt forest. It wasn’t a prime water source but it would have to do as there wasn’t any more water until sometime later the next day.
Three more miles took me up to the 6,500-foot shoulder of Three Fingered Jack, a jagged old volcano. I actually surprised myself at how competently I climbed the trail and I supposed it was the beauty of the striated rock face that pulled me onward. It was cool and windy at the crest but I still took a short break to enjoy the nearly 360 view around me.
The hard work was done for the day. I took my time hiking the last mile, enjoying the westward views from the edge of the mountain. I found a great campsite on a rocky outcrop below the western face of Three Fingered Jack. Looking out one side of my tent I could watch the clouds wisp over the jagged teeth of the peak. Out the other side I watched the sun slowly descend towards the horizon.