Day 107: Smokey Santiam Pass

August 2, 2017

Total daily miles: 13.9 miles

Total PCT miles: 1605.4

Start: Santiam Pass (mile 1998.4)

End: Rockpile Lake (mile 2012.3)

Total elevation gain/loss: 2910.4/1450.1 ft

I’ve learned enough by now to know that getting out of town is never fast and today was no different.  We said goodbye to Renee, who has been an awesome host.  She’s been so nice and full of energy, it’s been great to get to know her a bit.  Again, future hikers should definitely check out Recharge, especially if you’re in town during beer yoga!

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Playtime with a dog makes Michael’s day.

The rest of the morning was spent packing up, loading new blog posts, and researching the upcoming fire closure for the Whitewater Fire in Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.  The fire closure and reroute is still the same as when we got off trail a couple days ago, although we’ve heard that the fire has spread.  Our plan is to get through the area south of the fire closure as quickly as possible in case it spreads further.  The good news is that someone posted some helpful information about water access and camping options during the 45-mile reroute, so that’s a big relief and help for us.  We’ve packed some extra food to account for the fire closure, although it looks like we should be able to do some supplemental resupplying as we pass through the town of Detroit, Oregon.  I’ve loaded extra audio books and podcasts for all the additional road walking.

As we were packing up, I remembered that Tom (my former boss who we went off-trail from Crater Lake to visit) had mentioned that he would also be in Bend at the same time as us.  I texted him to see if he was still around and he offered to drive us back out to the trail.  Sweet!!  This ended up being especially helpful because we needed to make another trip to REI to replace my sunglasses (it looks like the lenses are covered in sap or something else that I can’t seem to get off) and a drug store to get contact lens solution (there aren’t any within easy walking distance of old-town Bend).  Tom and his son were such great sports driving us around and then to the trail head (which was luckily sort-of on their way out of town).  It certainly made things so much easier for us and helped us get back on trail much earlier than if we’d had to hitch.

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Back at Santiam Pass.

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We were back on trail by about 2pm.  The haze that we noticed a couple of days ago in the Santiam Pass area is definitely worse today.  Information about the fire closure was posted at the trailhead and we didn’t see very many people on the trail this afternoon.  The first part of the trail was hot and exposed — an old burn zone.  In the distance, we could see a huge plume of smoke rising above the mountains.  My pack felt heavy with a full supply of food and water, and walking towards the smoke wasn’t making me feel any better!

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We’re heading in this direction…

The trail this afternoon alternated between burn zones and being partially forested.  It looked like we would have normally had some great views had they not been obscured by the haze.  The climbs definitely slowed us down, as did quizzing the few southbound hikers that we met about how they dealt with the fire closure.  So far, no one we talked to did the walk around — hitching from Olallie Lake seemed to be the most popular option.

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Getting hazy.

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The smoke is getting thicker.

When we met up to collect water at a pond about ten miles in we decided to push ahead another four miles or so to Rockpile Lake.  The smoke was getting thicker and hiking a little later than I’d normally prefer seemed like a better option than sticking around in the smoke longer. 

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A deer spotted along the trail.

We pulled into Rockpile Lake after 8pm and quickly set up camp and ate dinner.  The bugs here actually aren’t that bad (maybe they don’t like the wildfire smoke?) and we were able to eat outside the tent in the last bits of light before darkness fell.  The lake is very picturesque, so it was nice to be able to enjoy it for a bit despite our late arrival.

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Rockpile Lake in the evening haze.

The deer here are aggressive — they basically started circling in on me to get to my pee while I was peeing!  I can hear them walking around outside our tent as well, looking for any salt-laden gear that they can find.  Thank goodness we can fit everything in our tent!

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The plan for tomorrow is to get up extra early (4:30am!) so that we can get off trail as quickly as possible.  The heavy smoke makes me nervous!

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: sore left shoulder.

Michael: sore left foot.

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