Saturday 16th July
Start: Santiam Pass, mile 1998
End: Rockpile Lake Bushcamp, mile 2012
With much reluctance we left Bend and headed back to the trail. I’m going to miss that place; the endless food choices and king-size bed in particular.
A trail Angel named UberDucky (aka Brian) gave us a ride back to Santiam Pass trailhead, where we had hitchhiked from only a few days before. He does this throughout the hiking calendar for nothing but gas money. We were very appreciative. Our bags felt ultra heavy given all the nice food that we have brought in town.
Overall today was more of a mental challenge than a physical one. It was nearly 11am by the time we started hiking, so we were happy to aim for a camp only 14 miles away. As its the weekend we passed lots of day hikers. I felt very jealous of them. They were out enjoying the same scenery as us, yet were able to turn around and go back to the comfort of home tonight. The prospect of the five straight nights of camping that we now have before us is wearing me down. I like to hike. I don’t like to camp!
We passed another young couple doing a south-bound section hike who had started just 2 days after we had. The guy summed up my sentiments perfectly when he said: “it just gets old”. He was referring to the chore of camping night after night. My focus to overcome these feelings is to concentrate on completing Oregon in this next week. It will feel like an epic achievement, and will hopefully spur us onto Washington!
The hike began with a 5-mile steady ascent, most of which was through a silvered forest of old burn. Amethyst coloured wildflowers attracting buzzing bees flanked the rocky path. The sun was shining. Unfortunately for us amidst the heat we had to ration water for 10 miles to the first pond.
We partially climbed and navigated around the western face of Three Fingered Jack – the jagged mountain we had seen in the distance from near Youth Camp. As we got closer to it’s north face, stripes of black and red volcanic layers appeared. Some of the scree slopes that we needed to cross were a little dubious. Awesome I thought – a chance to mess up my new hiking shoes!
We met some interesting characters today, but my personal favourite was loincloth man. We didn’t actually get introduced, but he was hiking in nothing but a loincloth and pack. I have now seen it all! Why is it never the young, buff people who feel like being naked in public? I tried to get a sneaky photo from behind, but he was moving too fast for me. After him we met a cute young girl hiking alone after her boyfriend had bailed on her (typical)! She enthusiastically told us: “you got this”, referring to us reaching Canada. This made us laugh as she had only just met us, and we had both been moaning about camping the entire time!
The last 4 mile into camp took us through a more recent burn zone. This meant lots of blown down trees to climb over, and a bleak scenery as life was yet to return there. When the views opened up I was pleased to see Three Fingered Jack looking very far behind us – we were on the other side of it this morning! And even further back, the string of Three Sisters still sprinkled in snow. Progress!
We are camped on the edge of a very windy Rockpile Lake. A large grazing deer startled me shortly after we arrived. He appeared out of nowhere and was very close by. He was also staring at me whilst eating, with a look that told me this was his turf! I shall go to sleep tonight happy in the knowledge that we have ‘just’ 129 hiking miles left of Oregon!