PCT Day 115: Lava Hell and Big Lake

August 11, 2022

Mile 1974 to Big Lake Youth Camp

21.1 miles

I wake to the sound of Jumbo opening his oatmeal packets. He always tries to do this quietly so that Tribute and I don’t wake up and he has more time. So I go back to sleep. The next time I wake, I hear tent stakes clanking together, check my phone, and realize it’s 6:30, well past when we usually get up. I’m very impressed at myself for the speed at which I go from unconscious to packed up. Tonight we’re planning to go to the Big Lake Youth Camp, where we hope to get dinner, showers, and laundry before we go into Bend tomorrow. We desperately need all these things. It’s been twelve days since our last actual town stop, and we all feel disgusting and depraved.

Just before we leave, Tribute notices something behind a rock and investigates. It turns out to be two packets of freeze-dried apple cinnamon cereal. Jumbo and I are both dangerously low on food, so we each take one for our second breakfast break. Score!

I am very slow this morning. I do not have the joy and energy I had yesterday. Ain’t that just the way. But it’s still beautiful today. It’s very volcanic, with lava rocks and steep switchbacks working their way up the side of a volcanic slope. The light is gorgeous falling on the lava and the far-off peaks with their little snow patches.

I stop for water at a lovely little spring where you can see bubbles coming up right from the earth. From there, its a series of nice ridges all the way to Matthieu Lake, where Jumbo is already pulled over and chatting to some other hikers. Tribute comes up to join us and we filter water and eat our magical rock oatmeal. It’s alright, not super tasty cold soaked. But it works.

Soon the trail wanders downhill and turns into lava fields. Pointy, irritating rocks crunch painfully underfoot. The sun is starting to be blazing hot now, and I’m not having a good time. I try to focus on how cool it is that I’m literally walking through cooled volcanic earth goo, but I am simply annoyed. I stop at a cooler full of trail magic cans of coke and sprite, take a Sprite for lunch, then walk across the street and find myself on another long lava nightmare trail. There’s a bit of a reprieve where the path turns back into dirt, but then it enters the black pointy fields of death again and I fall far behind Jumbo and Tribute, walking pitifully slowly.

Finally, mercifully, the torture ends and I see the boys sitting in the shade. I take just enough time to construct a wrap with the last of my lunch materials, then I filter the rest of my water out of my CNOC and into my bottles. Then it’s back on trail.

There’s a little more lava, but it’s not too bad. Mostly, the issue for the last six miles or so is the fact that I cannot keep my eyes open. I am so sleepy, I feel myself drifting off as I’m walking. I can’t help it; I have to pull over for a power nap. I only give myself five minutes, but it seems to help. I don’t exactly rocket up the hill, but it gets done.

I stop for another break when I see J and T in a patch of shade. Jumbo gives me a snickers, which seems to help me a bit. Then it’s three more miles to the camp, and it’s looking like we have plenty of time to make it for dinner.

We take the side trail and walk the 0.8 miles to Big Lake Youth Camp. When we arrive, we hear the sounds of kids playing capture the flag as we follow signs to the headquarters to check in. It’s a beautiful camp with cute A-frame cabins scattered among well-maintained mulched walkways. The woman at the headquarters directs us to the PCT hiker building, and we take showers and put in a load of laundry so that we won’t have to spend time doing this tomorrow in Bend.

Dinner is a magical buffet of seemingly endless pizza and salad with all kinds of toppings. They let us go back up for seconds, and the hikers all load up their plates. It’s the first time I’ve felt genuinely full in days. As we’re eating, Gus and Cathole roll up and join us, talking about Bend and their plan to road walk around the Lionshead closure. It’s great to see them and actually sit down and have a proper meal while we chat.

Back at the PCT building, we finish our laundry and have tea and coffee while we wait. Then we pack up and head to the cove by the lake with Gus and Cathole to camp. There are no mosquitoes, at least not yet, so we all set up for cowboy camping. The water of the lake laps up against the shore, a soft purr. I feel so clean; I can literally smell how good my hair smells. This place is such a beautiful reprieve. And tomorrow is town!

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