I have been wanting to do a longer back packing trip for years and I finally decided that I would just plan one and do it! So I looked up a few places, bought some books, read a lot of peoples blogs/articles online, and decided on a part of the PCT in Oregon for a goal. I invited some friends to come along on the journey as well for company. For all of us this would be the longest trip we had ever done by several days. And thankfully for me and Sarah, this trip is the one that solidified our obsession with that fickle lover, backpacking
Prepping for this trip took a few months of figuring out logistics, doing a few shorter trips near by to test gear, and to make sure this is something we really wanted to do. I picked an area on the PCT that had ample water sources, a half way point that we could mail supplies to and get things at a small store if needed, great scenery so we would hopefully have a good experience for the hard stuff we would endure, and nothing too crazy like giant mountain passes or snow to cross for newer backpackers. So I picked starting just North of Crater Lake in Oregon because it seemed to fit my above hopes. You can never plan for everything of course but I was just hoping we would have a good time and I think we succeeded.
We tested out a few different food options on our practice trips. I love salty stuff over sweet personally and got sick of any bars VERY fast. (I despise ProBars with a vengeance) I like the Alpine Aire brand freeze dried meals the best (anything with mashed potatoes was a big hit) We also got some great black & refried dehydrated beans at local bulk stores that were SUPER good, the dehydrated hummus tasted great but upset all of our stomachs. The fruit strips we brought were a total bust, neither tasting good or providing calories. Also Nuun was a daily lifesaver, especially the one with caffeine in it! I switched to Poptarts at our halfway point because oatmeal makes me want to die and I was so stoked that I did that and will never go back! We mixed in trail mix, meat bars, various nut butter packets, tortillas, peanut butter crackers (one of my faves), gold fish, tuna in packets etc for lunches or snacks.
Travel & car drop crap
Our trip began with the drive up to Diamond Lake Campground in Oregon just North of Crater Lake from our home bases of Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa, California. There we stayed the night in a campground with the last luxuries of running water, picnic tables, bathrooms, and a small restaurant with beer, before heading out the next morning onto the Howlock Mountain trail that would take us to the PCT. When we all arrived we ate some food in the little restaurant, I had an artichoke dip that tasted a little odd but I was too hungry to complain and took it down like a wild animal.
We had 4 cars total for 6 people, due to one friend going up the day before to camp at Crater Lake, 1 wanting to leave a car halfway if she had to get off trail due to her back issues, and then we had to drop 2 cars at the ending point to shuttle us all into Bend for a rest day before heading home. So when we finally all arrived at Diamond Lake from about a 7 hour drive from Oregon, we then had to drop one car at the mid-way point and the 2 cars at the finish Elk Lake. It was a long and exhausting day to say the least. Getting cars set up at the start and finish of some backpacking trips is sometimes the most annoying/difficult thing to plan!
After we ate and set up tents at Diamond Lake everyone except for me and one other person, the royal tent guards, left to do the unpleasant car drops. Which means driving in the dark to trail heads several hours away you have never been to before, arriving back to Diamond Lake after 12pm to get into a tent to sort of sleep, and then getting up early to hike up a mountain the next morning, NBD. We considered trying to hitch hike into Bend from Elk Lake but decided we would rather have a fail safe way to get into town, as we would be a big group of smelly odd people.
Nerves vs food poisoning
Sadly for me just as everyone finally arrived back and got into their tents my stomach started being a jerk with either nerves or food poisoning (damn you artichoke dip!) Needless to say I did not sleep at all and spent my evening going back & forth to the glorious flushing toilet. I was pretty worried at a few points that this thing was gonna prevent me from going backpacking at all, which just seemed to make it worse by increasing my anxiety level. Luckily for me shit literally settled down by morning and I felt better about hiking out for 10 days.
We were a big group by backpacking standards, which for a trip of this duration solicited several odd looks and comments from others we met along the trail. We eventually dubbed our group “The Wagon Train” as often times we would pass groups and they would be surprised that the bodies just kept coming by. Plus the Oregon section of the PCT has history of being part of early wagon train roads, so there’s that. However, even for such a big group, the experience was overall positive and worked out well, with continued friendships and plans for trips in the future together. We of course all had our moments of being cranky, tired, in pain, or overwhelmed but we all powered through and are hopefully better people for it.