August 17, 2015 (21st Re-Ration – Bend)
Irish Lake (1936.7) to Elk Lake Resort – Bend (1958.4)
21.7 PCT miles today, 1 non-PCT mile today
2001.7 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,850 ft, – 2,145 ft
This morning we walked past a southbound hiker (probably a section hiker based on his pack size) and when we asked him how we was doing, his response served as a reminder and conviction. He simply replied “Living the dream”, smiled, and walked on. Pickles and I pondered the comment for a few minutes before Pickles stated out loud that the guy had just hit the nail on the head. We are, in fact, living the dream. It can be very easy to forget that fact when we’re going through a tougher time, but that is when we need the reminder most. Even when the miles feel long, the sun is extra hot, and our feet won’t stop aching, we are still getting to do what so many people would love to do if they only felt that they had the time, money, or energy. In fact, we are getting to do exactly what we’ve dreamed of doing for years on end. There is still no other place we’d rather be or thing we’d rather be doing. We won’t always get to hike the PCT (in fact, it will all be over in about a month’s time) so it is helpful to be reminded that we should be grateful for this opportunity while it’s here and focus more on the good than the bad.
This was all such a powerful message to have running through our minds today because even though we “only had 23 miles to hike”, and they included almost record low elevation gains and losses, they still felt ridiculously challenging. When we’re feeling good, we’ll often practice Spanish, listen to music, or listen to our audiobook, but when I’m in pain, it is so distracting, and feels like it demands so much attention, that all I can do is hike in silence and slowly watch the seconds tick by. It didn’t help that our desperation for getting to Bend had become a palpable urge and that we could not have possibly arrived any sooner. We knew friends, drinks, food, and a bed all awaited us, not to mention a full day off our feet, so we had worked ourselves up dreaming about our arrival.
We must have passed over 30 “ponds” today, which did lift our spirits a bit. We got to have an early lunch alongside the beautiful “Horseshoe Lake”, where, to our delight, we watched two river otters frolic and play in the water. When we finally got to the side trail that would lead us out to Elk Lake, our rendezvous point with our friends, we practically jogged down the final one mile.
When we arrived at Elk Lake, there was a sign saying that our trail angel family from Mazama Village (the family of hiker Clutch) was parked in the RV park. We were a little early so we stopped by to say hi, and even though no one was home, they had left a note saying to grab a drink and so we gratefully obliged. We headed over to the lodge and our friends, Erika and Troy, were already there, loading things up from their fishing/camping trip they had just ended. It was so great to reconnect with old friends whom we hadn’t seen in almost 2 years, and talk as if it had only been days. We stopped by the liquor store and grocery store before going home for showers and more conversation.
Sometimes the disparity between our morning and our evening, separated by just a few hours and 20-something miles can be mind-boggling. Tonight we went out for dinner at a classy, modern restaurant. I borrowed one of Erika’s dresses and sat at a table drinking wine and smelling of shampoo among a bunch of other city dwellers who would have never guessed at my smelly, dirty state just hours before. The rest of the evening has been filled with laughter, a bit of drinking, and lots of story-telling. If hiking the PCT is living the dream, then having this time off the trail to reconnect with old friends is the icing on the cake. These evenings are the ones that make all those long miles and hard work totally worth it.