August 8, 2022
Highway 58 at Willamette Pass to campsite by Taylor Lake at mile 1930.3
(60 miles skipped due to the Windigo Fire Closure)
Morning arrives, and we all pack up quickly. It’s fifteen minutes between the time I’m awake and the time I’m more or less packed and ready to hop in the car. We drive out of the forest and down the road. I sense the need for a bathroom and ask Wiggs to pull over at a trailhead with a privy. This is opportune because there’s a huge bottle of hand sanitizer, from which I siphon a small amount into my little bottle. I was running low. That would have been bad if I’d forgotten.
On our way north around the closure, we drive through the little town of Chemult. There’s a market that doesn’t look that impressive on the outside, but it turns out to have some amazing breakfast sandwiches, coffee, pies, and other little treats that we gladly gobble up.
It’s not too much farther from there to the trailhead near Shelter Cove. I was thinking that it would be hours in the car, but it turns out not to be too bad of a drive. Soon we’re pulling into a parking space. I try to convince Wiggs to come hike a couple of miles with us, but today is his town day and he has some chores to do, including going to the doctor and having his wrist looked at because he thinks he might have sprained it yesterday. So he needs to get to Bend to get that done.
I give him a couple of big hugs and thank him again for saving us from the fire closure and taking us to such an amazing campsite. I’m genuinely sorry that we don’t get to hang out more, but I’m glad we had this time at least. Then we’re off, back to the land of hiking and sweating and eating food from a bag.
The trail is absolutely lovely. It’s an uphill, but the grade is so gentle that you can hardly notice it. My phone is a little low on power and so is my power bank, so I’m resisting listening to anything or checking Guthook too often today. I start off with Jumbo, end up on my own, and marvel at the clarity of the air. It’s not smoky at all, and the forest is a lush, thick green. It level out at a lake, where we gather water and then carry on.
I stop at the backcountry ski shelter out of curiosity more than anything. It’s a really amazing building, sort of an octagonal cabin with a wood stove and solar lights. I imagine how cozy it would be to be here in the winter. There’s no water, though, so I just sip from my bottles and eat a little snack.
Our plan is to stop at Bobby Lake for lunch. It’s a little off trail, but not by much, and it’s one of the only water sources for a while. When I get to the junction I don’t see the usual trekking poles telling me they’ve gone down there, but I decide to trust our plan. Turns out I was right and they’re down there. It’s an absolutely stunning lake. I put my pack down and walk right in. The water is so clear, even pretty far out into the water. I go under the surface and splash around, swim out, take in the world around me. Is there anything more weightless than being in a crystal-clear lake in the mountains?
I eat my lunch while I dry out. Jumbo and Tribute finish before me since they didn’t stop at the cabin, and they head back to the trail. It’s me alone with my thoughts for a few miles after that. It’s weird how used to music and podcasts and audiobooks you can get. It’s almost like a crutch. It’s way harder without them today. But the terrain is very gentle, with soft paths rolling through forests and past lakes. There are no streams; the water sources today are exclusively lakes. Lake water doesn’t taste as good as stream water, but it sure does make for a beautiful view.
Around 4, I stop at Charlton Lake. Jumbo and Tribute are there, and since we only have a cool five miles left before camp, it looks like we’re settling in for a good break. There’s a log just next to the shore, perfectly perched there for soaking our feet. We sit there feeling the cool water wash over our skin while we enjoy the wide view of the lake. At first it’s a little smoky here, but then a breeze rolls in and everything is totally clear again.
Soon we start back up the trail. I walk with Jumbo at first, then we run into Tribute and we walk together for the last couple of miles. We’re getting close to Bend now, and the talk is all about what we’re going to do there. Our major plan is to float the Deschutes. We’re going to just sit in tubes and float down the river like a bunch of lazy potatoes. It’s going to be great.
Our campsite is a lovely little spot next to a quiet pond. It’s still not too late, despite our less than early start and long lake breaks. I love this about Oregon. The terrain is so soft, so gentle, so easy to make miles and actually enjoy life. While we’re cooking dinner, Royce and Smiley roll up to camp. They found a road walk around the Windigo closure and are finishing up a huge day to catch up with Rolls. It’s really good to see them! They stay and chat for a while, then continue on to their planned camp. I cook my thanksgiving dinner and impress myself by eating the whole thing.