August 14, 2022
Bend to Oallie Lake at mile 2046.7, then to campsite at mile 2055.6
(45.8 PCT miles skipped due to the Lionshead Fire Closure)
The morning of back-on-trail days are always chaotic. I will myself out of bed and organize my pack explosion down to a somewhat manageable pile, make coffee, and munch on some Oreos while I download more video and audio content to my phone. I take the hair dye back to Safeway, and they accept it, thankfully. I grab Jumbo a bottle of chocolate milk, as requested, and get myself an americano from Starbucks. Then it’s the final whirlwind of packing back at the hotel.
Hailey arrives at 8:45 in her van loaded with amazing snacks. It’s so cool to meet her in person after communicating online for so long! We’re joined by two other hikers, Plants and E, and then the six of us start the long journey around the Lionshead closure. On the way, Hailey tells us a little about the geology of the area. It looks totally flat out in the dry beige high desert, but then the road dips down suddenly into a huge gorge formed by the Deschutes River. Far above the water, we can see rows of columnar basalt much like that of Devil’s Postpile. Hailey tells us that this is from a lava flow that came all the way from Idaho.
“I’m like, 80% sure on that, though,” she adds, laughing. “Check me on that.”
(I didn’t fact check; I have no internet as I write. But we’re going to roll with it.) In any case, it’s an extremely impressive landscape, one that reminds me a lot of driving in northern Arizona. We talk at length about the PCT, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, and fires, among other topics. Hailey is planning to thru-hike the PCT eventually, and she seems really excited to be with us and talk about the trail. If there’s one thing I know about thru hikers, it’s that we never get tired of talking about thru hiking.
We pass through a little town, then I see a sign for a gas station and ask to stop for the restroom. Said restroom ends up being closed, so we backtrack to the casino and use that bathroom instead. It feels like one of those “what even is my life and where am I” moments as I walk past brightly flashing machines. When I come out, Plants shows me a card she picked up for Hailey at Safeway to thank her for driving us. In it, she writes something along the lines of, “You turned our headache of how to get around the closure into an adventure.” This feels so apt to me. It’s really fun to have a surprise road trip in the middle of our thru-hike!
We have a little longer on a highway, then we make a turn onto some smaller paved roads. It’s thick, lush forest here, the kind of thing you’d imagine if someone told you to picture Oregon in your head. The two lane road turns into a one lane road, and a car passes us and tells us that the road is closed five miles ahead. We decide to go down and check it out for ourselves, and it turns out that the trail makes a hard left before the end of four miles. See? You should always go and see things for yourself.
The one lane paved road turns into a two-lane gravel road. The motion starts to lull me to sleep. I think town days make me even sleepier rather then helping me rest! Not far down the road, we see a couple of hikers with their thumbs out. When we get closer, we see that it’s two folks we know, Merlin and Marvel. They pile in the car, and not much later, we’ve arrived at Olallie Lake, our destination.
We all take a moment to get organized and eat a few more snacks. (Sea salt and truffle oil kettle chips?? Hello. Amazing.) Then we take some photos, swap contact info, and we’re on our merry way!
I still cannot believe that Hailey was willing not only to take us around a closure and on a very long road trip, but also to drive three hours from the Portland area to pick us up in Bend in the first place. It was genuinely incredible trail magic. What might have been an all-day series of annoying hitches turned into an awesome adventure with a really cool person—and snacks! Hailey, we can’t thank you enough. I’ll look back on this drive with such fond memories!
Back on the trail, it’s a burn for a little while, but it’s not long before it gives way to lovely pine forest again. We hike and chat with Merlin for a bit, then wind up running into Leia and talking with her. We pull over for what we intend to be a short break by a pond, but it turns out that we are inexplicably exhausted, and we all fall asleep on the ground.
We decide to do just over 5 more miles and to try to get up early for a decent day tomorrow. We walk together the whole way, then make it to camp by the delightfully early hour of 6:30. The mosquitoes don’t seem to be a thing, so we set up in our cowboy sardines configuration and cook dinner, during which a few very bold birds try to get some crumbs out of Jumbo. Once dinner is done we lay down and discover that there are, in fact, a large amount of skeeters around. They bite my fingers while I try to type. The worst. I hate them. It was so nice to be in a building for two nights without getting attacked by these evil little suckers. I put my head net on and retreat into my quilt. Hopefully they’ll go away once it gets cooler…