One day you realize that not only is it August, but that you’re actually in Oregon.
If, like me, you stop and look up from watching your feet and things seem different to you, try this handy checklist to see if you’re in Oregon:
1. Cold nights
The other morning it was 36 degrees in Faceplant’s tent. Theres been more than a few times that I wished I still had my down jacket (its in my bounce box 100 miles north of here in Sisters). I think this weather is an anomaly, but other Trail lore suggests it’s not far off. Last night we slept below a snowfield and the wind was brisk.
2. Snowy mountains again
It’s good, but slightly worrying, to see snow-capped mountains. It reminds me that summer doesn’t last forever, and that Washington awaits. The snow is nice, because due to the volcanic soil here, theres little running water around. We did a 26 mile stretch the other day with no on-trail water.
3. Dayhikers and PCT Southbounders
The trail’s busier here. There’s even people on horseback. There’s a lot more side trails here too. It’s nice to see more people out and about. Plus, NorCal, I mean Jefferson, is empty of almost any people, not just hikers.
4. No water
The soil and rocks are mostly volcanic here, which means its super dusty and filthy, and also there’s almost no surface water. We’ve pulled from frog ponds a few times.
5. Its flat
Not really, but relatively. A 25 mile day might have 3000 feet up and 3000 feet down. In NorCal, that distance might have five or six thousand of elevation change.
6. Everything’s on fire
Smoke everywhere. And when they run low, they import it from wildfires in California.
7. You find yourself walking around Crater Lake
Since Crater Lake National Park is 100 miles north of Ashland, if you get here you can be sure that you’re in Oregon.
8. No more lizards
The last little “pushup” lizard we saw was on the walk out of Callahan’s in Ashland. You might see a blue skink though. Just leave it alone, or it will shed its tail.
9. Rain is a thing
Not everywhere, and not all the time, but rain is back. Hopefully you kept your raingear when you bounced your warm stuff to Washington. At a minimum you’ll need it for the bugs.
10. The sign
Obviously, when you see the sign, you know. If you skipped the section due to fires or because it was hot, you missed the sign.
Hopefully this helps you figure out where you are. When your days run into weeks and months, and you count miles in candy bars, and you know the day of the week by the smell of dayhikers, things can get tough to figure out.
But hang in there, Washington is only a few hundred miles away!