ODT Section 24: Day 0 – 11 Miles

You may remember this spring I headed to the Owyhee Canyonlands to lead a hike on Section 25 of the Oregon Desert Trail for the group Friends of the Owyhee (FOTO). That was also the first time I had hiked that section because in 2016 I had packrafted the river and reservoir as part of a water alternate to the ODT from Section 21ish (I put in at 5 Bar) to the end at Section 25. Essentially I paddled 141 miles as opposed to hiking 142 miles. I don’t know how the numbers are so close, but pretty cool that they are!

I hope to continue guiding hikes for FOTO, so decided to give myself and the future hikers on these trips a break and hike it first. While the trip this spring went really well and we made it on the 27-mile (primarily cross country) section just fine, I was doing a lot of micro navigation as we were hiking. I found that since I was leading people who might be on their first cross country hike ever, that ideally I wanted to have a mental lay of the land before getting out there all together.

So I connected with Becky, a FOTO board member, to see if she wanted to hike with me and help shuttle a car at the very least. Becky was the co-leader on my spring trip and we got along great, so was stoked when she was free and wanted to come along for a day of hiking.

Becky was able to pick me up in Rome yesterday where I left my car, and we drove around to the incredible Leslie Gulch. If you want to know why it’s incredible, check this out:


I decided we would hike a potential alternative that would bypass a steep and challenging bit of trail between Spring Creek and Leslie Gulch. At high water hikers have been flummoxed by this section as the map shows the route going on the banks of the river…a bank I have never seen since I started working for ONDA. Apparently when this section was originally scouted the water was so low that you could easily walk on the edge. Not so in the past few years. Even well seasoned athletes like Jeff Browning and Heather “Anish” Anderson have had problems here: Anish backtracking and finding a route inland, and Jeff, basically ended his attempted ultra run of the Owyhee after getting here in the middle of the night and not finding a way around until day time, precious hours he needed to finish on time. Watch the Patagonia film about his attempt here.

So Becky and I took off behind the Slocum Creek Campground to see what we could see. The canyon was awesome walking, until it wasn’t, and we climbed up a thousand feet to the rolling ridgeline above and tried our luck up top. It went! It went with one kind of sketchy talus field, that wasn’t too sketchy once we got there. We continued on, found some various things of interest (I’m being vague on purpose!) and when I could see the rest of the high route was clean, we dropped into a drainage to see if we could get back out.


And we did! We didn’t hike the whole alternate I had scoped out on Google earth, as Becky had to get back to Boise, and I would try and connect the route tomorrow from the original ODT.

So that would leave me trying to walk game trails high above the river to make my way around the problem area like most of the other hikers have done. There is no flat path along the water again, and for September in a dry year that is interesting…it must have been incredibly low when Jeremy (my predecessor) was creating the route.

ODT Section 24: Day 2 – 17 miles (43 miles)

I didn’t sleep much, or at all. When dawn came I sat up and made my coffee and a freeze dried egg breakfast I picked up on a whim. Not a fan.

Today would be mostly road walking, and when I say road, I mean this:

For all the exposure and zero trees, the day wasn’t too hot. I could see clouds forming and each time I thought the rain drops might catch me the road took a turn or they stayed just out of reach. As it was it didn’t look like any of the rain was hitting the ground, instead was evaporating before it could touch the parched earth.

Mid morning I noticed a helicopter flying pretty low. To my surprise it circled me twice and went to land in the dry reservoir I happened to be walking by at the time. I had a jolt of worry that I had accidentally push my help button on the satellite beacon I was carrying. Ooooo no!!!

I walked over within shouting distance of the copter when four people got out. I soon found out they were with the Vale BLM and were surveying the earthen damns of some of the reservoirs out here. Whew. They were surprised to see me and offered snacks, but I had packed too much food as it was and passed on the helicopter trail magic.

I continued on and was so tired at lunch that I lay out flat on my tyvek and closed my eyes for half an hour… setting my alarm in case I fell asleep for real. I wasn’t sure I would wake up since I hadn’t slept last night.

Slightly rejuvenated, I ate the avocado I’ve been carrying (so worth it) and continued on the roads. I listened to a bunch of podcasts today. I was feeling a bit lonely and the voices helped to fill the space. This will be my last multi-day hike for a while (not counting another 5-day trail work trip next week and a week in Death Valley this November) and I’m ready to be home for more than a few days at a time.

Mid afternoon I dropped down the rim to cross country to the Owyhee River for water and camp. I didn’t recognize the area from my packraft trip two years ago till I got to water’s edge and spied a huge cave surrounded by greenish spires of rock. Oh yeah! I was right around the corner from one of the most stunning sections by Iron Point and Montgomery Rapid.

The river was beautiful and much clearer than the reservoir at Leslie Gulch had been. I stripped down and washed myself and most of my clothes and soaked in the river as much as the extremely annoying flies would let me. I hope they die, or disappear, when the sun sets. As long as they leave me alone.

I thought I might have to set up my tarp tonight with all the heavy clouds from earlier in the day, but there is nothing in the sliver of sky that I can see from in the canyon.

The Trail Show Podcast: Sunshine Coast Trail

Alright folks! One of my favorite podcasts of all time The Trail Show, (more beer, less gear) just released episode #74 featuring my lovely friend NEMO talking about our Sunshine Coast Trail hike.

For those just tuning in, you can start reading about our hike here: Day -2

Still plan to do a recap post and link to my databook. In the meantime enjoy some more photos from our hike!

 

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 8: 4 miles (112 total)

More people had come in during the night and I noticed an extra tent. This was now more people in one place than I’ve seen on the entire trail! No wonder… I was only 4 miles front Saltery Bay and the finish of the trail.

I made my coffee and packed up quietly. I stopped in the shelter before I left to sign the register. This trail has a series of trail register in the shelters, and some at the campsites too. I left an encouraging note for the other hikers and mentioned if anyone ever wanted to step up their hiking game that they should check out the Oregon Desert Trail 🙂

I walked with coffee in hand and picked my way along the coast line, looking out to sea as much as I should have been looking out for tripping hazards at my feet. I took a few breaks. It was a short morning, but there were benches, and views, and I wanted to savor it all.

A cool little spot had a sign hanging up: Pirate’s Cove. I would come back here in a second and camp… I hope to be back some day! Not to hike the trail again, but with sea kayaks in tow to paddle all the water. The shoreline was epic and I want to see it from a boat.

Right to the end there were steep ups and downs and the sweat was pouring. All trail creators must be vulnerable to the grumbling of hikers who don’t like where you put the trail, and I had my own thoughts: “Geez, Eagle is at it again, making you work till the very end.” I bet I must get cursed out by Oregon Desert Trail hikers!

After the last steep climb and descent I walked closer to civilization. I finally came to a trailhead and the end of the trail!

I didn’t see Nemo, who had planned to pick me up. It was only 9am…maybe she had a pastry for me??

I walked further to the parking area for the ferry and saw her come around the corner. NEMO!

Team She-mo at the finish… So sweet and bittersweet. Nemo’s knees were still swollen, and it appeared the pain was muscles and tendons… Not structural, so nothing long term, which was a relief because I had been talking about future trails I want to hike with her…. We have plans! Plans that bum knees have no part of.

She did have a pastry for me! Last night Courtney took her to a black berry festival at the reserve, and she brought some bannock… or a donut like fried bread. Yummmm.

I changed out of my nasty smelly hiking clothes and we got in the car for a stop at a coffee shop for more caffeine and sweet things.

Then to the tourism center for a map of the area and some other goodies like presents for the fam back home (Salmon Candy!).

Then to shower! Oh showers are such good inventions.

Once clean I was almost hungry again, so we went to a taco shop in town and celebrated with margaritas and tacos. Then a walk on the beach, then we decided since I had finished so early that we would try to get one or two of the ferries out of the way this afternoon and make some progress towards home.

We packed up and said our goodbyes to the gracious Courtney and her girls, and drive back to the ferry terminal where Nemo had picked me up a few hours before. As it was Sunday we were worried the ferries would be full, and had a scare when we heard there was a long line and long wait.

But upon arriving we cruised right through and in place for the next boat. Yes!

The first ride was smooth, and I looked back at what I had just hiked… A week long hike goes so fast! You just get into the rhythm of it, and then it’s over. But I do love these short ones… except for the knee pain.

We had an hour drive from the first ferry to the second, and all the cars raced to get there first. It seemed silly till we got to the next ferry terminal and after a few hours waiting for the next boat found ourselves 8 cars from getting on the boat. 8 cars! I should have driven faster. Now we had to wait 2 more hours for the last ferry of the day at 10:30pm. Yuck!

We were tired and I was fighting against cranky me who was itching to come out.

Finally we were on the boat and heading the right direction.

It was close to midnight when we pulled away from the terminal on the edge of Vancouver, and decided to make it over the US border and find a hotel.

The border only had one lane open and a lot of cars… So that took a while. The border guard seemed tired and cranky as well, and he didn’t ask us anything too hard.

We pulled over at Bellingham and found respite in a Motel 6.

(I won’t do another post for tomorrow, which sees us get to the airport, say goodbye, and where I push through the long drive back to Bend. But I will do a recap post soon with things like an overview of the trail with map. And some tips and suggestions for hikers. I’ll also upload my databook for future hikers)

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 7: 18 miles (108 total)

The campground had been quiet during the night, and I slept hard.

I found the trail at the far end of the car camping area and as I walked into the woods noticed some walk-in spots that looked lovely.

I was on a mission and my legs felt strong. To climb Mt. Troubridge! 4,281’ in 12 miles. Bring it!

I flew up that mountain. Not stopping for long, I wanted to keep pushing on, and I was at the hut, a short distance from the summit before noon.

I ate some left over little smokies, and decided to push on to the summit as there was no water or swimming options here.

I pushed on and look a lovely break and nap all spread out on my sheet of tyvek. No people! I was surprised as it was Saturday… and no people.

I was almost out of water so decided to go to Rainy Lake. The trail went DOWN… so much down. My knees were screaming by now with the thousands of gain and loss. I was going right back down to sea level. Oofta.

But when I picked my way down the steep trail to the lake I was so glad I made the effort. Deep waters right from shore, and not a person in sight! I stripped and and dove in the water, and just like that I wasn’t a sad dirty sack of hikertrash anymore, I was a sleek water nymph in a misty lake.

I filter some water and left for my destination only a few miles away… Fairview Hut on Saltery Bay.

When I got into the hut there were kids and people everywhere. I found a little flat spot in the trees near the water where I could set up, and it wasn’t long before I was in the tent enveloped in total exhaustion.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 6: 15 miles (90 total)

When I woke in the morning I was surprised to see Nemo had set up the tent during the night. Surprised because I hadn’t woken up at all when she set it up. That is how hard I have been sleeping out here.

After coffee and breakfast we started on an uphill climb to Walt Hut. The morning was cooler than the past few and I even started hiking with a jacket on. As we were in the mountains I have my down jacket, fleece, and hat and mittens. I have only worn my fleece, the nights here are quite mild, but for the first time today I felt the hint of fall.

We saw views for almost the first time. A lot of the smoke had blown off and we could really appreciate the dramatic mountains around us rising out from the sea.

We made it to Walt hut and met a few hikers that hadn’t left yet for the morning. They had just made a pancake breakfast and shared some left overs with us. Score!

Nemo had been dealing with some knee problems, the steep climbs and descents were wreaking havoc on her muscles and tendons, and her pain level kept increasing. The first kilometer down from the hut was supposed to be the steepest on the whole trail, and by the time we made it to the bottom and had lunch she didn’t think the knees would hold up for the rest of the trip. We made it a mission to get to our next campsite on Lois Lake by taking easy grades, so I routed us from trail to road, road to trail, whatever looked the easiest walking for her. When she started comparing her knee pain to childbirth I knew she was most likely down for the count. We were meeting Courtney and some of her friends at the campsite tonight for a BBQ, so we could evaluate some options when we got there.

We stumbled in both exhausted. We claimed a campsite and went to the beach. My main mission on this trip was to hang out with Nemo, so I was totally willing to call it with her and take a chill day. Yes, we were two days from finishing the trail, but it didn’t seem as important to finish solo as it did when we would finish together.

Courtney arrived with delicious beer, and her friend Kim and her boyfriend pulled up and had a big spread set up in minutes with hamburgers and sausages on the grill. Impressive!

Nemo broke the news to Courtney that her hike was finished, and suggested I continue and show the Sunshine Coast Trail that it didn’t take both of us down. Well when she put it that way…

Courtney wasn’t able to camp with us, so Nemo started pulling her stuff together. I repacked with the resupply bag I had left at C’s house, and before I knew it they were both pulling away.

That happened so suddenly! I was left with a solo hike where a reunion tour of two old hiking buddies once was. Bummer. But I only had 30ish miles to go and was so close.

One last big climb up Mount Troubridge. I would finish my 22,000’ of elevation gain somehow! I won’t let it take me out too.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 5: 13 miles (75 miles total)

We were so tired that we slept until 7am. We were going to have a slow lazy morning; we deserved some leisure!

After breakfast on the scenic picnic table, we gathered our things and set off for another day. The terrain was gentle and we spent the morning walking on old logging roads. It was exactly what we needed. Nemo’s knee is bothering her and she was careful not to strain it more, the even walking definitely helped.

100k Taquila

The kilometer markers passed quickly… much faster than yesterday (every kilometer of the 180 kilometers of this trail has a marker on a tree. At first we hated them, but now like them… If they are spaced properly. Think of it though, a section of trail in the middle gets rerouted and the distance changes… Every single marker from there on needs to be moved! We think that is what happened yesterday.)

The morning passed lazily by and we had lunch at March Lake just before a little climb up to the next hut. Wow, this hut was fantastic! Or rather the swimming dock in the lake was fantastic. Elk Lake had two large old trees tied together and cabled to the shore with a wooden platform spanning the logs and a wooden ladder to get in and out of the water. It was so welcomed. We dove in and swam around, feeling the heat leaving our bodies. We basked on the wooden dock for some time before filtering more water, having a snack, and packing up to move on. There were a few people in the hut, we said hello and got a little beta on the next section.

More old road walking and even terrain. Bliss after our two incredibly hard days!

Our destination was Coyote lake, which has a campsite on the north and south end of the little lake. We could hear voices down the trail to the first site, so kept walking to the next one. It was small and perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the lake, but it would do just fine for the night.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 4: 13/16 miles (59/62 miles total)

We were rested after our dark subsurface sleep… kind of. Nemo had been attacked by biting noseeums during the night and was feeling a bit itchy.

We packed and chatted with the trail crew before starting our descent from Confederation hut. Several thousand feet down. And we were feeling pretty good about it all. Our legs felt surprisingly refreshed after yesterday’s punishing miles.

We took a break at the bottom and tanked up on some water for the next long climb up to Tin Hat Hut.

The first half of the climb was pretty smooth. At least from our energy levels. We lunched right in the middle of trail, spreading our tyvek on the ground and lounged around eating olives, hummus and cheese and crackers.

The second half was harder. Up and up. Unrelentlingly up.

Sweat was poring, we were cursing, knees were threatening to blow out and when we finally made it to Tin Hat Hut and saw we had just climbed 3,665’ in 4.2 miles, we felt justified in our groans.

Break time was a delirious whirl of snacks and hobbling up and down the shelter steps. People tell us this hut has an amazing view, but we couldn’t see anything for the thick smoke. Disappointing.

We looked at the miles and data book for the next section and it appeared in just 3 miles we would make it down to our next campsite at Lewis Lake. We started down, it was steep! The climbs are brutally steep to the point where you question your thigh’s ability to power you up one more step, and the descents are so steeps you think your knees will blow.

After an hour we were still high up on the mountain and we started to suspect the miles were off. We started to wonder about an offhand comment Eagle made about the mileage (really Kilometers here in Canada) being off on the way down, and we wished we had asked him more. After an hour and a half of walking we come to the first marker. NO Way have we just spent that amount of time walking 1.5 km. Our normal pace is 4-5km an hour. Booooo!

So now we started questioning everything. How long would it be to camp? We didn’t know. Were there other sneaker extra miles coming up? We didn’t know. Would we still finish when we wanted? We didn’t know.

The last miles were slow, and we finally made it into camp, exhausted. We thought it would be a shorter day, it was not.

Our camp had a nice little picnic bench where we relaxed for a while after our swim.

Sunshine Coast Trail Day 3: 18 miles (46 total)

We woke up and sorted our food for the next leg of the hike. We found a spot in four days time for Courtney to come and camp with us and bring our last two days of food. This was a most excellent turn of events because our next section had some wicked climbs, and even two days of food weight would make a big difference.

We were back walking by 8am and quickly climbed Scout Mountain which gave us a view of her house where we had just been. And then what goes up must come down and we walked all the way down to cross Powell River, stopping to eat black berries that practically burst in our mouths.

After a nice break under the bridge we continued on to walk along the edge of Powell Lake. Now I’ve come to learn that walking along the lakes out here primarily means a rocky/rooty up and down adventure, and this time was no different.

We met up with a road and it wrapped around to a giant log platform that some teenagers were jumping from, Nemo began calling out. Turns out it was Kalen, Courtney’s daughter! We chatted for a few minutes and continued on to another beach. We decided it would be ridiculous to pass on another swimming opportunity even though we hadn’t come very far, so we dropped our packs and dove in.

We walked along the shore again, up and down. Up and down and had lunch at a small beach that we resisted to urge to swim. We had to make miles if we were going to meet Courtney on Friday, but more importantly we needed to make miles to finish in time, make all the ferries, and make the long drive back so Nemo could catch her plane home. Onward!

We climbed up to another lake, Lost Lake, and the trail skirted it and didn’t even meet the water. And then another Lake, Inland Lake came into view and we found a lovely, flat and wide dirt path circling the whole lake. Excellent! Bikes and families were out enjoying the day. And we inched our way along the path until coming to a picnic table where we could take a break. I was struggling. The miles were not coming easy today and we had a giant climb before we could make camp.

Fueled up with cold pizza and salty things we made the push. This was a straight up Appalachian Trail climb. All up and no mercy, We may have whined a little bit, maybe cursed a little bit, but we slowly inched out way up. If there was a sweating world record I surely won a podium spot. Drenched.

Finally the going eased and we came to Confederation Lake. We could see a trail crew had recently been through and there was fresh evidence of new log bridges and lots of loping. We finally made it to the shelter only to find it full with the trail crew.

A full crew of ladies! BadAss! They had been flown up on a sea plane with their tools, but would be hiking out tomorrow. Bummer was there was no flat place to tent. They offered us the crawl space under the cabin, but it looked a little like a coffin, so we were not initially interested.

We had a swim and made dinner before we Nemo realized that the guy on the porch was Eagle, the founder and creator of the Sunshine Coast Trail! We talked his ear off for a few minutes and it was pretty awesome to meet him up here… On the trail no less!

After trying to find a spot to camp we finally relented and went back to the coffin. It was bigger than I had initially thought, and we both climbed in and made our nests for the night.

Tired.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 2: 18 miles (28 total)

We woke to a misty morning and could barely see the water below. Smoke from forest fires or normal mist? We weren’t sure.

We packed up and cleaned the shelter a bit (packing out some large pieces of trash) and started hiking south. Soon we came to an old clear-cut and we spied two juvenile black bears hanging out across the way on an old logging road. They paid us no mind as they wrestled amid the tall fireweed.

The trail once again presents us with lots of climbing and rooty/rocky footing. It’s tiring. We climb straight up for 5 steps, then straight down for 3. Up for 10. Down for 7. It works our legs like nothing else can. Thru-hikers have the most epic and strong legs out there, and we were earning ours with some first-day pain.

We made it to the next hut with hopes of a swim, but the water was surrounded by mud of the kind we didn’t feel like sinking in to. We had lunch and took power naps.

We climbed and descended. Climbed and descended.

Late afternoon we got to Sliammon Lake and had a nice overdue swim. We didn’t linger too long because we were due to meet Courtney in a few hours and hang at her house for the night.

Lake bagging

Tired.

Courtney met us about a mile in and gave us the extra oomph to finish a long day.

Pizza and beer.