PCT Day 42, Shelter Cove to Oldenburg Lake (via Skyline alternate) 16 miles

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope. – Helen Keller

I awaken in my cozy bed to the soft tump-tump of cat paws on the hardwood floor above me. I feel so good having seen my lovely friends and taken a day off to experience a bit of the ‘Hippie Capital of Oregon’ and reorient my perspective on this grand undertaking of walking another long trail.

Tom makes me a cappuccino from his fancy machine and whips up eggs and potatoes while Andrea picks up bagels on her run. Life is beyond good this morning. I read my program from Shakespeare in the Park and want to share a snippet from the dramaturg.

Pericles is about taking risks, falling short and suffering consequences. It’s about having the fortitude to endure the hardships Fate inflicts on us. It’s about losing everything and then – astonishingly, miraculously–finding it again. Adventure, suffering, joy, love, loss, redemption; isn’t that the best we can hope for in life?

Yes, I say out loud and Tom wonders if I mean I want a second cappuccino.

Yes, please!

I can’t overstate how much I love this visit. I just slip right into my friends’ gorgeous house on the hill and conversation takes us everywhere – music, of course, books, travel, politics, Burning Man, careers, social issues, the outdoors. I was thirsting for this kind of connection and here it is.

Oddly, too, I learn that the weather was awful the past two days on the trail with rain and golf ball sized hail. Talk about timing. We drive back up to Shelter Cove, an inflatable kayak and gear packed in the trunk so they can drop me and enjoy a mountain lake.

It’s suggested that I take an alternate trail that cuts a few miles and passes some beautiful lakes in an otherwise dry region. It’s a bit confusing at first as I cross train tracks and look for signs. I have photos of the map pages and the trail appears faintly next to the PCT on my app.

It feels a bit like the first day of school and I can hardly bear to say goodbye. We hug, I promise to text from Crater Lake and off I go, following a beautiful rushing stream. I feel good heading up with not too much weight for around 85 miles. I vow that this time out, I am hiking my own hike and staying true to what works for me.

The air is cool, rain water glistening on the leaves. Not a soul is here, just the wind soft in the tops if the trees, Charlie Brown Christmas trees muscling in for space where trees have fallen.

I think back on what I talked about with my friends that a life in music can be incredibly fulfilling at the same time it can crush your soul. Both friends share horror stories that sound a lot like my own from way back when. From this perspective, it’s darkly humorous recalling them and oddly, they feel far less personal anymore.

A friend sent me this quote from Thoreau –

Let us not look back in regret, forward in fear but around us in awareness.

You could definitely peg him as mindful a hundred years before it was trendy. I think this hike forces awareness on me and a letting go of the past and trying to force the future.

But it also is demanding I get to know and become comfortable with who I am. I was in knots over the competitiveness and cliquishness that made me feel isolated and lonely. It’s really not all that different from life as a professional musician. When I’m grounded in who I am, what happens around me doesn’t have as profound an effect on me. Sure, I still can be hurt or feel rejected, but it can’t reach my core.

I come to Diamond View Lake and eat the delicious cucumber and tomato Andrea sent off with me. The mosquitos join me at lunch so I don’t linger long, working my way through more dry forest to a horse camp where I meet a lovely couple with two dogs and two horses. At first, the dogs fuss, but after I’m offered a Dr. Pepper and sit down for a few minutes to talk, they come over and lean their bodies right up on mine – even placing a paw affectionately on my foot to keep me with them – as I scratch their soft fur.

We talk about hiking, the trail itself and its popularity and what to do if I’m stalked by a cougar – play really loud music. I linger a bit, but decide to walk a bit further this afternoon so try and find the trail, which completely eludes me.

I ask a motorist who helps at least with showing me which way is north. Then two ladies at another camp point me towards the camp hosts. Jim and Jerry have a mega camper and have placed flower pots on nearly every available surface. They offer me a seat and a Shasta Kiwi-Strawberry pop, then pepper me with questions – “What’s your trail name?” – and offer loads of information.

I finally see my first hiker of the day coming north who gets the same treatment, plus Jerry brings us apples. He tells me there’s good camping ahead and they mention I need to walk a mile on the road. Good thing I stopped or I would have gotten lost.

Jim loads me up with tootsie rolls and I head back out towards Windigo Pass where I’ll meet the PCT again. Right before I leave, they mention I need to take another alternate because the trail is closed due to a cougar kill. Good lord! A cougar attacked a hiker and killed him.

I practice my high notes for my ‘Queen of the Night’ cougar defense and stay alert. It’s a mostly dry and flat walk through the woods with a few small ponds. There is one confusing spot and just as I’m wondering if I’m on the right trail, two hikers come towards me, apparently thinking the exact same thing. We exchange information and I snap a picture of this lovely couple before I search out the final lake before Windigo Pass.

Oldenburg is perfect and no one is here. The trees grow right up to the bank, making a perfect reflection in the waning sun. I set up and cook sitting in moss, the mosquitos only minimally annoying. Blueberries are at peak right at my feet and I gorge for dessert before tucking in, a crystal clear night ahead.

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Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

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