At 5:30pm it was still 99 degrees. I had walked out of town about 4pm, willing the temps to go down as I looked at the thousands of feet I needed to climb.
By 5:30 I had left the last of the paved road behind. It felt like walking through a broiler … the road was covered in fresh shiny black chip-seal…but I wasn’t a piece of cheese toast melting to perfection under that hot; I was a hiker with 7 days of food in their pack and an unbearable quantity of water. I was hiking something of sorts that hadn’t quite been done before…at least not from the town of John Day, and I had no water knowledge for the first 30 miles of this new route.
Just what is the BMT you might be asking? Hang with me friends, all will be revealed in good time. But for now, that climb, and the main goal: don’t pass out from the heat.
Thank goodness my boyfriend Kirk is a smart man. When looking at the logistics for this hike yesterday, I realized what the climb entailed and saw the crazy hot temps forecast. Kirk suggested I slackpack myself partway up the mountain.
I think that saved me.
As I was setting up my bike shuttle earlier (this is a self-contained, one tank of gas, as little contact as possible hiking trip.. cause you know…COVID) I drove to the end of the pavement and stashed a bunch of water and half my gear. Hike smarter, not harder. I would walk out of the Oregon mountain town, John Day, with my most precious cargo: a week of food, sleeping bag, and tent.
I lay sweating in the shade next to my cache for the next hour, waiting for the evening hours before setting out again. I had another 2,000′ on deck, up into the Strawberry Mountains Wilderness (did someone say strawberries?!?)
I didn’t have a set goal for the day, so I simply lumbered up the steep gravel road towards the Crane Mountain Trailhead.
I passed several water sources, but they were all below a former mining site; the map was sprinkled with mining prospects, and my sweet repose was next to some mounds of tailings….all signs that led me to pass on any water downstream of these places. Who knows what might have leached into those water sources.
I encountered no cars on the next few miles, and as I sweated my way to the trailhead (almost at the crest of the mountains) it was almost dark. Wanting to sleep on the trail for my first night, I started down the single-track dug into the steep sides of the ridge and wrapped around to a saddle just as I was having trouble seeing the trail anymore.
I found a flat-enough spot and set up my tent…it was windy and clouds threatened moisture, a threat I very willingly desired.
Night one on the BMT. Bring it.