Wednesday 13th July
Start: Bushcamp, mile 1986
End: Bend, via Santiam Pass, mile 1998.4
I want to be a kid in America. More to the point, I want to be a kid who goes to Summer Camp. Having woken to an early alarm and frantically packed up camp on an empty stomach, we hiked our hardest effort for 7 miles to arrive at Big Lake Youth Camp for breakfast at 9am!
The first few miles were all uphill with a load of blow downs, so I became increasingly desperate in thinking we wouldn’t make it. Breakfast would be a cereal bar if not, and that wouldn’t cut it today! The approach to camp was a burn zone, with some wild flowers starting to show life returning. I expected to see a big lake as we weaved down the mountain, but not until long after I heard the sound of children singing did we catch sight of the place. It was comfortably hidden amongst the trees.
Arriving at the camp I felt ecstatic – we had made it! After registering with a very cheerful young camp counsellor, we left our packs with a pile of other hiker gear and headed for the dining hall. It felt like an old wooden school canteen. Today’s menu was bagels, vegetarian patties, and a cereal bar. Without even thinking I loaded my plate with every side option available – my bagel had butter, jam, peanut butter AND cream cheese on it (and I had seconds)! What a glutton.
I have to say I have never enjoyed a bagel as much in my life! Plus some oatmeal. Hunger makes everything taste great, and I couldn’t have appreciated those cooks anymore. We sat in the staff mezzanine area, which was nice because downstairs was pandemonium! The kids here are full of energy, even singing over their food. I wish I could have been that enthusiastic about anything at that age!
We chatted with some of the staff. They all looked young, wholesome, and were super friendly. Is someone handing out happy pills here?! Toby from Eugene had just graduated as an aero-mechanic, but thinks he wants to work with kids. Jeff, from Tillamock, a pretty Coastal town we have previously visited is about to start his third year of a biblical studies degree. These guys were in a good place – the camp is run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Whilst in camp we were trying to make use of the wi-fi to book a hotel room in Bend. We tried for over an hour in vain, so decided to wing it. During this time I was also doing some spying on the other hikers food bags – a few girls were reorganising their bags having just received their resupply boxes. I came to the conclusion that they eat more on a daily basis than us. How annoying. The issue is that they are hiking a few more miles a day, so in a typical section they are between supply points for less time. Hence overall they can carry more food per day. Catch 22 situation – the heavier our pack the less we manage to walk before our feet are killing, yet the more we walk the hungrier we are. We shall continue to try increasing our miles and see if we can improve things.
I was sad to leave such a happy place, but these feelings were surpassed by the excitement of getting to ‘town’! The sun had really heated up during the last couple of hours. We set off at pace keen to reach highway 20, and hopefully a ride off the trail. As we were walking through another burn area I was staring at the deformed alien-looking trees thinking about the last few days. There have been stretches of the trail, (such as this morning), where it really feels impossible. I don’t think my body can continue to pull me forward. But then we make it. That is such a great feeling to reflect on.
I was nervous about whether we would catch a ride (and whether we would never be seen again), but within 2 minutes of me holding up my homemade ‘Bend please’ cardboard sign a pickup truck stopped! Carl is a fellow hiker who was going to the nearby town of Redmond and was luckily in no rush! He was happy for the company, and I found him easy to chat with. Talking about the upcoming US elections is always a conversation-starter! What a very wonderful person to go out of his way to drop us into downtown Bend – 40 miles from the trailhead.
Driving through downtown Bend was a sensory overload! I could smell food. There are so many shops. We could go anywhere, have anything! The choices are over-whelming! After checking into a very overpriced hotel, our first stop was a late burger lunch. Conrad’s prayers answered. After that I rewarded my messed-up feet with a pedicure. Whilst away from Conrad for the first time in ages I dashed around shops looking for something to give him for his birthday tomorrow. Without being able to carry much the options were limited – I brought some fancy food bars, a nice soap for him to use in town, some foot powder, and healing cream for his rash – not your typical presents! At least he will have something to unwrap.
Tonight I had the best hot shower EVER. Conrad did our laundry, and then we went for a few drinks in a Latin Bar. Whilst there we were mostly excited about the prospect of getting to sleep in a bed tonight – I can’t wait!