Highway 140 mile 1780 to last water before Crater Lake, mile 1809
I needed a good day to remind myself that I am capable of completing this journey, and I finally got it today, in the form of 29 miles! Whew.
We got an early start, and I hustled right out of the gates up a 1300 foot climb. We quickly arrived in the Sky Lakes Wilderness area and the hiking finally got beautiful again - I'd definitely love to come back here again as we definitely don't have enough time to properly appreciate the area. Took a nice break at a spring and then carried on after taking in some of the scenery.
We begrudgingly decided to opt out of the Sky Lakes alternate route after realizing that completing sufficient miles was the day's goal. The alternate route passes by a handful of beautiful lakes, while the PCT climbs high above those lakes through a waterless stretch. It would have been too much of a tease to pass by all the lakes without being able to stop for a swim and a nice campsite - we're on a mission now and Canada is looming!
Later in the afternoon, we passed the 1800 mile marker! I realized we only have 8 of those left...pretty wild to even think about. The hiking became even more stunning with sweeping views of volcanoes surrounding us in all directions, lava fields, and beautiful trees. I felt like I was on top of the world, quite literally. So beautiful. At one point I peered South and caught a glimpse of Mt. McLaughlin far in the distance. The camp I had left that morning had been on the South side of the mountain, and here I was just a few hours later watching it from at least 20 miles North. It really hit me that the rest of the trail and trip is more or less a direct route to Canada - no more farting around hiking miles East, West, or South for days at a time as would frequently happen in California. Seeing how far away that mountain was from my single day of hiking gave me chills. All the anxieties since Ashland seemed to wash away and I stopped questioning myself for just a minute as I took in that view.
Still, there's plenty more trail ahead. I didn't think I'd still be facing self-doubt on whether or not I'm capable of completing the trail so far into the trip. I assumed if I made it to Oregon, I'd have no question about the certainty of finishing, and that everything would seem like a walk in the park by this point. The trail continues to challenge me, and the struggles take me by surprise. I mentioned to Slosh recently that I thought this would become "easy" at some point - he responded by telling me about a professional cyclist, who was asked in an interview about how he "made it look so easy." The cyclist responded that it never gets easier - you just push yourself harder, go faster and further. The trail is similar - it never becomes easy, we just push ourselves harder. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is the hardest thing I've ever done! It's also so rewarding, and I'm looking forward to the feeling of having completed the journey..in just over 800 miles!