The Epilogue.

It has been three weeks since I completed the ODT. In that time I had a rough reintroduction in the modern world. Within three days of finishing the ODT I was ready to go back to Owyhee State Park and hike 800 miles back to Bend! The modern world that we live in is a terrible place after you had 26 days of solitude.

 

I have had plenty of time to think about my 34 days on the ODT. Many people have asked me if have I had some great personal revelation while I was on the ODT. The answer is no. What I did come away with while I was on the ODT was the discovery of what an amazing state Oregon is and how few people visit the remote SE corner of it.   I had no idea that any of this existed until I visited it. Pictures and blog posts will never provide the sensation that one gets when you are all alone out in these areas that have existed largely untouched for thousands of years. My hope with this blog and presentations that I will be giving is to inspired some of you to hike part or all of the ODT in the future and come away with the same enjoyment that I did. I have a few topics that I wanted to touch on since finishing the trail.

 

Building a trail vs. leaving it alone.

When I first began researching the ODT I was very curious about the cross-country sections of the route. This was new territory to me from a thru-hiker prospective. I was confident in my navigation skills but I have never done a thru-hike that required so much navigation off trail. My initial thoughts before I started the ODT where that I would come back with suggestions on the route and push to build a trail where there was no trail. Looking back now that I have hiked the entire ODT I would leave the cross-country sections largely alone. I really feel that this gave the ODT its own unique personality versus a predefined path such as the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. When I think back to the cross-country sections such as the Burma Rim, Diablo Rim, Abert Rim, Pueblo Mountains and the West Little Owyhee those where the magical moments on the route – even if they where tough at times!   These are the places on the ODT that are largely untouched by man. That is what made the ODT a special journey for me. However, there always is a catch. Far fewer people will come visit these areas because there is no established trail. My advice is if you are inspired to come visit these areas but uncomfortable with the navigation is to take training to become confidant in navigating in the backcountry. Sharpen those skills and you will be rewarded for the investment that you took in yourself to be able to visit an area such as SE Oregon on the ODT.

 

ODT vs. PCT

I have been asked many times since I have been back – which is better the PCT or the ODT? After thinking about it my answer is nether is better. The two trails offer very different experiences and I enjoyed my time on both. For me the PCT was a great introduction to thru-hiking. I learned so much in those 4 ½ months on the trail and made some life long friends along the way. The ODT was a completely different experience with so much solitude. This trail pushed me at times and taught me that I can do a grand adventure solo and have an amazing experience.

 

ODT for my 1st Thru-hike.

I had a few people ask me would the ODT be a good first thru-hike? No! You need to have experience thru-hiking a least the PCT and or the CDT. Having the support of other hikers the first time around is critical and if you get yourself in trouble at least someone will come by and help you out. If I got in trouble on the ODT it could be weeks or next year until someone found you! Also, the lack of water and navigation are not something you want to tackle without experience.

 

Start Date:

I started hiking the ODT on May 17th 2014. I know enough about Oregon’s climate that I would be hiking after most of the spring storms and I would finish before the heat of July. My hunch worked well for me this year. I encountered three days of light rainstorms after leaving Bend. I was also dodging rainstorms in the Owyhees. The majority of the rain when it did fall was at night when I was in my tent. While I was in the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge I had a snow fall on me for 30 seconds. It was odd because it was 60 degrees outside! While I was hiking it never got above 90 degrees. The hottest day was 91 degrees and this was when I was in McDermitt in an air-conditioned hotel room. I had the least amount of snow in the Steens. The Owyhee was at its lowest point when I hiked down it. I don’t think I could have planned the start date any better. I know the hikers that started before me had much more severe weather than I did. Again, I was the luckiest guy alive to have such wonderful weather along the trail.

 

Wildlife and Critters:

While on the ODT I saw the following wildlife: Deer, Elk, Antelope, Wild Horses, Jack Rabbits, Coyotes, and more birds than I knew existed. I saw Cougar paw prints in the Pueblos. I never saw any sign of a Bear the entire hike. I saw a total of 3 Rattle Snakes and many other grass snakes. I think for me the biggest surprise was the ticks. I found a total of 6 of them on me from the Fremont National Forest all the way to the start of the Owyhees before Anderson Crossing. Be sure to check for them!

 

Thank You.

I want to personally thank all the volunteers and staff at ONDA for all the countless hours that they gave to create the ODT – THANK YOU! I am aware of how huge of an undertaking this was and I am so grateful to be able to thru-hike this incredible route. This is such an amazing area of Oregon that is largely unknown to so many. I just spent a couple of days hiking around the Gorge over the 4th of July weekend. I already miss the beauty and solitude of the ODT! Having the opportunity to be one of the 1st people to hike the ODT is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am thrilled to have had this experience in my life and now it is time to share it with others. Thank you to Sage for providing guidance and sharing wisdom from her 2013 traverse of the ODT. Thank you to Melissa and Travis for helping with the water caches this year. This was a big time saver! Lastly, thank you Dave and Cheryle for all your help and trail support from far away. You guys are the best!

2014 ODT Water Report.

Here is a recap of the water sources on the ODT that I visited.  Surprisingly, most of the sources listed in the guidebook had water and I found other water sources along the way.  I also discovered that some water trough that are not mentioned in the guidebook and maps had water as well.  If the ranchers are rotating their cattle through the area, they will have a water truck come out and fill up the trough.  Unfortunately, unless you have the cattle rotation schedule you cannot rely on the water being there.  I also am including my approximate water cache locations for your planning.  With the exception of the 1st cache I placed two gallons at every location and it worked very well for me.  I always had more water than I needed. I treated all my water on the ODT with Aquamira unless I cached the water or got the water out of a faucet.  Here is your ODT 2014 Water Report:

 

CV001 – Water

CV009 – Water Cache

CV034 – Water Cache

CV052 – Water

CV085 – Water Cache / South Reservoir had dirty cow water

CV086 – Did not visit

CV101 – Water

CV109 – Rock Well’s troughs had water brought in by water truck – unreliable.

CV111 – Water Cache

WB002 – Water Cache

WB031 – Muddy Cow Water

WB037 – Water Cache

WB061 – Muddy Cow Water

WB063 – Muddy Cow Water

WB070 – Water Cache / Rocky Waterhole had Muddy Cow Water

WB085 – WB102 All water sources listed had water as well as sources near WB096 and WB097.

Between WB107 and WB108 there was numerous water sources including a flowing irrigation ditch.  Most had agriculture runoff in it.  In a pinch you can get water along the way.

WB113 – WB116 – Water. Note, the trail crosses Crooked Creek several times as you climb up the valley.

WB117 – Water at this waypoint – Not listed on the map

WB118 – Water

WB119 – Water near this waypoint – Not listed on the map

WB122 – Had water – looked gross.

WB125 – Water

WB129 – Water

WB131 – Water

WB135 – Water

WB138 – Water

WB145 – Priday Lake had water

WB149 – Dry, but Colvin Lake had water

WB160 – Water

WB164 – Dry

WB166 – Dry

WB167 – Dry

WB172 – Water

WB175 – Water

WB176 – Water

WB180 – Water

WB181 – Dry

WB189 – Dry

WB191 – Very low on water

WB192 – Water

WB194 – WB197 – Water

WB201 – Water

WB208 – Water

WB210 – Very low on water

WB212 – Spring very low on water.  Poker Jim Lake had water.

WB216 – Good

WB218 – Had water – no flow and stagnant (I stocked up here for the next 24 miles to WB235).

WB219 – Did not visit.

WB228 – Dry

WB233 – Had muddy cow water

WB235 – Good water with electric pump water

WB240 – Dry

WB245 – Dry

In between WB248 and WB249 muddy cow waterhole.

WB249 – Water

WB250 – Water

WB252 – Water

EB009 – Water

EB010 – Water

EB014  – Water

EB017 – Water

EB018 – Water

EB020 – Water

EB021 – Water

EB025 – Water

EB026 – Water

EB029 – Water

EB038 – Did not visit.

EB044 – Water

EB045 – Water

EB048 – Water

EB051 – Water

EB069 – Dry

EB070 – Water

C24 – Water

EB082 – Water

In-between C42 and EB091 had water at the spring.

EB097 – Water

Post office in Denio had water spigot outside.

EB120 – Water

EB123 – Water

EB128 – Water

EB130 – Water

EB150 – DRY

EB153 – Low Water

EB157 – DRY

EB160 – Water

EB167 – Water

EB171 – Water

EB173 – Had Water – LOW

EB177 – Water

EB178 – Not listed on Map but had water and one more tank with no waypoint had water.

EB181 – DRY

OC007 – Gross water

OC012 – Had water but HEAVY cow activity

OC013 – Did not visit

OC019 – Water

OC029 – Water

OC036 – Water

OC040 – Three Week Spring DRY.  New Road Spring Water

OC043 – OC077 plenty of water

OC080 – Water

OC084 – to the North Upper Dry Lake No 2 had water.

OC091 – Water Cache

OC092 – DRY

OC096 – Muddy cow water reservoir to the north by the jeep road.

OC099 – Muddy cow water reservoir to the north of the fence line.

OC105 – Did not visit.

OC109 – Water

OC110 – Water

OC118 – Water

OC133 – Water

OC136 – Water

OC141a – two water troughs with piped water at the bottom of the hill to the south east just off the map.

OC143 – Water

OC148 – Water

OC150 – Water

OC152 – Water

OC156 – Water

OC162 – Did not visit

Mud Spring – Great water. Filled up here to the end.

OC181 – Did not visit

OC184 – Did not visit

OC192 – Water

OC195 – Water

OC197 – Birch Creek Reservoir had water but is private property.

Gear Review.

Rather than focus on every piece of gear that I took on the ODT. I am going to highlight what worked the best and what failed out on the ODT for me.

 

What worked:

1)   Gaia GPS App for iPhone.  This is the best $19.95 I have EVER spent on anything related to hiking.  It is very intuitive to use.  Loading maps, GPS waypoints and tracks is simple. The app and phone never let me down as far as finding a satellite signal and pinpointing my location (including the WLO in a narrow canyon) and getting me to the next waypoint – highly recommended!

2)   Patagonia Gi II Pants.  These pants are the toughest pants I have ever wore for hiking.  They have thousands of hiking miles of them and are still in great shape. When I was on the PCT I went through two pairs of pants in 1400 miles.  Once I switched to the Patagonia I have been hiking in the original pair for 4 years now. The brush on the ODT is unrelenting in the Oregon Cannon and West Little Owyhee and the Patagonia Gi II survived largely unscathed.  They are lightweight and dry out fast after they get wet, they have protected my legs from the sun and they are comfortable to hike in. highly recommended.

3)   Zpacks Hexamid Solo tent.  If you are not familiar with this brand they make ultra lightweight hiking gear out of Cuben Fiber.  My tent with ground sheet and 8 titanium stakes weights 1 pound.  This tent is also a hold over from my PCT tru-hike in 2010 and as traveled the world with me.  This is its second thru-hike and held up to the ODT environmental conditions.  That said, this was its last thru-hike as Zpacks has made improvements to their design and mine is near the end of its useful life.  I will certainly purchase another tent from Zpacks for my next thru-hike.

4)   Going stove less on the ODT. For the length of this hike not carrying a stove was a great decision for me.  I did not have to worry about fuel, water to cook with and the additional weight I would have had to carry.  I did eat a lot of peanut butter and tortillas but I never got sick of it on this hike.  If I was hiking for 4 months that might be a different story.

 

What failed:

1)   Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 boxer shorts.  This pair of underwear lasted about 200 miles before the crotch completely wore out leaving me with the worst case of chaffing I have ever experienced on the inside of my thighs. Unfortunately, there is nowhere along the entire ODT to buy new underwear. My friend Dave came to the rescue and overnighted me new underwear and Desitin to Fields, OR.  Avoid this brand for hiking underwear.

2)   Leki Cressida Trekking Poles.  My Leki’s where holdovers from the PCT as well when my previous trekking poles broke in the Sierras. I purchased these in South Lake Tahoe and have been hiking with them ever since.  Both handles broke on the ODT.  One of the poles broke the very first day on the ODT and the other broke in the Trout Creek Mountains.  I was able to glue the 1st pole cork handle back together in Paisley.  The 2nd handle I had to tape together and make it last to the end of the hike, as I was unable to find epoxy in McDermitt, NV or Rome, OR.

3)   Otterbox Preserver Series iPhone 5 Case.  This case did a great job keeping my phone protected from the elements until West Little Owyhee.  I always kept the iPhone in my hipbelt for easy access.  After my first swim across the river of about 75 + feet I checked my location on the Gaia GPS to discover that water has seeped into the inside of the case!! This is after I made sure everything was sealed tight on the case before I entered the water to swim. I had to stop and pull the case apart to dry out my iPhone. Luckily the phone continued to work.  This was the one section on the ODT that the Otterbox needed to work flawlessly because I was going to be in and out of water for two days.  If the iPhone were damaged I would have been in serious trouble trying to navigate out of the Owyhees. For the rest of the Owyhees I ended up sticking the iPhone in my pack with the rest of my gear inside 3 contractors trash bags.  I would not recommend this case to anyone after it failed to protect the iPhone from a short swim in the Owyhees.

4)   Brooks Cascadia 9.  I have used Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes exclusively since the fall of 2010 for all my hiking. I started with the Cascadia 5 and in my opinion is still the best model they ever made.  But like all running shoe companies they have to change a great thing… Cascadia 9 just came out just before I started this hike and I was hesitate to switch from 8 to 9 but I really had no choice in the matter.  Well, I ended up developing blisters on the balls of both my feet right under the “Pivot”.  In addition to the blisters my second pair that I had sent to me in Frenchglen were almost destroyed by two days of canyoneering in West Little Owyhee.  The stitching around the toe box had come undone and the top of the shoe was separating from the bottom! I had to tape them up to get them to the finish at Owyhee State Park 130 miles away.  I understand these are “trail runners” not “canyon runners” but the blisters are inexcusable as I never developed a blister on the previous models.  I will be looking into another trail runner for my next hiking shoe.

Words of Wisdom For Future ODT Hikers.

I want to pass down some additional wisdom to any of you who plan on hiking the ODT in the future.  Send yourself a pair of knee length gaiters to Frenchglen.   They will save your shins from all the bushwhacking on the second half of the trail.  I wore mine in the following areas of the ODT:

 

  • South of Wildhorse Lake in the Steens.
  • The south end of the Pueblo Mountains when you descend into Denio Basin.
  • Trout Creek Mountains because of the cheat grass.
  • Oregon Canyon and West Little Owyhee because of the heavy brush.
  • 3 Forks to the Owyhee Reservoir because of the cheat grass and tall sagebrush.
  • Remember to take them off when you have to swim in WLO.  You don’t want to weigh down your legs when you need to kick to get to the other side!!

 

When cross-country hiking from Alvord Lake to Fields and you are approaching Borax Lake stay on the track to the north. EB039b, EB040 and EB041.  I made a beeline to EB041 and walked right up on the 300-degree hot spring vents.  I could have easily walked right into them if I was not paying attention.  Stay to the north!!

 

If you did not read “Jake’s Alternate Route” for Denio Creek please go to Day 21 on this blog and do yourself a favor – you will thank me later.

 

When planning your hike down Oregon Canyon and West Little Owyhee plan on making less than a mile per hour.  The first 24 miles of WLO from Anderson Crossing plan on 1 mile per hour for this stretch of the hike.  From 5 bar to 3 Forks if you take the canyon plan on about 1.5 miles per hour to complete this stretch.  It took me 5 days and 3 hours to hike from McDermit to Rome.

 

In the heavy bushwhacking of Oregon Canyon and West Little Owyhee use your pack as a battering ram to get through the willows.

 

Communicating to the outside world via Cell Phone.  I had terrible service with AT&T.  From Bend to Diablo Peak I had no service.   It did work in Paisley and Fremont NF.  NO cell phones work in Plush.  I had no service in Hart Mt.  I had service in Frenchglen.  No service in the Steens.  I had phone service in Fields but no data.  I had service in Denio.  No service in Trout Creek Mountains.  McDermitt had service but data was painfully slow.  From there I had no service at all. Rome and Owyhee State Park have no cell service at all.  The pay phones in Owyhee State park where out of order when I was there.  No contact with the outside world so make your pickup plans well ahead of time!