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.
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!
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!