Sunday 26th June
Start: Fish Lake Resort
End: Bushcamp mile 1882
On paper today should have been pretty straightforward. Only 11 miles would take us from Fish Lake to Christi’s Spring, an important water source. Easy right?
At Fish Lake over a last hot breakfast we were feeling eager to get back on the trail. Mostly we felt excitement at the prospect of reaching out first milestone and official resupply point at Crater Lake. My feet were also improving.
As we left the resort’s owner Pam gave me a hug and warned us to be safe. A number of their guests including two young girls called Tori and Michelle had decided to come off the trail and bypass this next section due to the reported conditions. It was uncertain as to what lay ahead exactly as we hadn’t met any hikers coming southbound. A US Forest Ranger pulled up as we were leaving and gave us more confidence because his only warning to us concerned bugs! Surely the actual trail was all good then?!
Once again Jan and Scott kindly offered is a ride back to the trailhead. It was sad to say goodbye to them as they are now driving up to Crater Lake. I hope our paths cross again. We started hiking at 10:15am. We reached camp completely broken at 6:15pm!
The first few miles climbed only gradually through damp forest, but the heat and number of tree blow downs made it incredibly slow going. We had to make it to Christi’s Spring as that was the next water source. 2 hours in and we had moved just 3 miles! And they were tough miles. Climbing over and around trees with a full, heavy pack felt like torture. It was hard on our knees and feet.
The ranger hadn’t been kidding about the mosquitos! They were not playing to the usual rules here. Despite being covered in deet and wearing long clothes Conrad had has face stung and our bodies rapidly became covered in bites. They don’t even usually like me, especially when Conrad is nearby. By mid afternoon we were navigating in head nets which was less than ideal! At camp that evening they really stepped up their game and made every little task unbearable. I have truly never experienced anything like it before.
About 4 miles in we took a wrong turn thanks to some awesome signage and ended up on the amount McLoughlin trail. We realised 20 minutes in. At this point we had a decision to make. Either turn around and walk back up the hill we just came down, or reroute on to Fourmile Lake where we could get some water. The fear of running out of water won.
Walking down a forest service road to the Lake the heat was bad. Thankfully after a mile just as we were beginning to regret our decision a truck came up behind us. Without even thinking about it I stuck out my thumb. He stopped! Rick was heading to the lake with a truck full of camping and kayaking equipment but offered us a ride if we could squeeze into his tailgate. We bundled on and hung on for dear life!
Once at the lake we found a great spot on the shoreline to rest. A gourmet lunch of wraps with peanut butter, Nutella, and cheese was served. And crisps. Sad times. I had been hoping there might have been a campsite store.
From the campsite we took the Twin Ponds trail, stopping by a water pump to refill. Off we went up a completely deserted path back into the wilderness. At one point we noticed what seemed to be some paw prints which resembled exactly what I would expect a mountain lion’s prints to be. I made lots of extra noise after that!
Once we reconnected to the PCT we had added only 1 extra mile to our day – thanks to Rick. I don’t think I could have done much more and still made it to the spring. The forest felt deserted. This was to be our first solo wilderness camp. I was spooked. It felt unsettling to be so alone.
This we agreed without doubt has been our toughest day yet. Conrad has coined the phrase ‘Fackered’ to describe it. The mosquitos have certainly taken their toil too. We retreated into the tent as quickly as possible.