After months of preparation the day has come to start hiking the ODT! I woke up at 5:30 to take my last shower for 6 days. Crammed down as many leftover slices of pizza from 10 Barrel Brewing as I could. Soon Dave and I were on our way to set my very last water cache and then finally the ODT trailhead which is the Tumulus Trailhead in the Oregon Badlands.
It is always surreal to start a long distance hike. Getting the obligatory pictures and saying goodbye to Dave. The last minute jitters work them self out. Once this is done I headed out to the unknown for the next 6 weeks. The first 9 miles are very flat and a wide sandy trail. I made quick time and arrived at the Flatiron Rock Trailhead about 3 hours later. I meet a couple going out for a short hike and explained to them what I was doing. They never heard of the ODT. I collected my water cache and then crossed highway 20 for my first cross country section.
Prior to leaving for the ODT I had been working very hard on sharping my map and compass skills on top of my GPS skills. Now I finally get to put them to work! I had a 1 mile x-country hiked. I jumped the barbed wired fence and went a general west direction. 25 minutes later I was at my destination. I crawled under the barbed wired fence and I was at the Horse Ridge Trailhead.
It was another wide sandy old jeep trail that I followed up the hill. It was the first workout on the ODT because the sand makes it difficult to climb the ridge. Eventually it leveled itself out and I had an outstanding view of Bend and the Cascade mountains. I meet a big burly fellow and his dog out for a hike durning this climb. Little would I know that this would be the last person I would see or speak with in person for the next 5 days….
I followed the trail to the point of my next x-country section. I hiked across the hillside up to a ridge. On the map set that ONDA provided they showed a very large private property block but there is no fence indicating where this property starts and a stops. As I was making my way to this area, I could hear gun shots in the distance. I was never quite sure where the firing was coming from but I am sure it was some guys out target shooting in a gravel pit in the valley below. I was still a bit cautious and followed the ridge line longer than I needed to before cutting down the hill to hit at old jeep trail. I continued down the ridge to the valley floor and could see my destination in the distance: Pine Mountain.
I followed and off highway vehicle trail system to the base of Pine Mountain. Then the 2000 foot elevation hike to the top began. It was a slog that took me about 45 minutes after a long first day. Eventually I was to my destination and found my water cache and set up camp for the night on the top of Pine Mountain. It was lights out for me at 8:00pm. Word of advice if you are planning on hiking the ODT with a cell phone with AT&T service – their coverage is terrible. I only had service at one spot all day. From that point on I did not get service until Diablo Mountain 5 days later.
I was awoken around 1:00am to thunder, lighting and a torrential downpour on top on Pine Mountain. It always makes me a bit nervous being out in the woods under my tent that requires my metal trekking pole to hold the tent up. The perfect lighting rod!
This morning I had to spend extra time drying out my gear the best I could before heading out. I had some great views descending from Pine Mountain to the valley bellow. Once I hit the valley floor it was a full day of walking on OHV and road walking in the pine trees. It was very easy hiking and was easy to navigate without a compass or gps. I had made my way down to Sand Springs. This was the only trail water I used in the first 160 miles of hiking. The spring was low and was the color of iced tea… It had plenty of creatures swimming around in it. After treating my water I was on my way again.
I only saw one car from a distance all day. The weather was cool and it rained a couple of time on me. I stopped by a couple of cow tanks. One had less than an inch of rain water and the other had red bacteria gowing in it. Both of these are unreliable water sources. I have included a few photos. Eventually I made it to my next water cache at the Squaw Flat. There was a earthen waterhole for cows to drink out of here as well but it was muddy cow shit water that I was thankful for the water cache that Travis and Melissa set up for the group of hikers this year.
I then headed cross country to meet up with a road that goes around Green Mountain. At this point I felt an incredible pain in my right foot. Turns out that I got a blister on the ball of my right foot. The next 4 days would require me to tend to my foot on breaks to keep it from getting infected. I set up camp at the NE corner of the Green Mountain lava field and went to bed.
I broke camp and was hiking by 5:15am today. I had a beautiful sunrise with cool temperatures. I made a great time for the first couple of miles and then I began a long cross country stretch through a pine forest that eventually turned to a miles of walking trough sage brush. Eventually I made it to a road that lead to Sand Springs Campground. I had originally planned to get water from this camp ground. However, I still had 3 liters of water to make it to my next water cache so I skipped it.
I then meet up with another jeep road walked through a sea of sage brush. This eventually lead to an area that a rancher had his cattle out to pasture. Cows are a funny animal. My 1st experience with herd of cattle was on the PCT scared the hell out of me as this particular herd charged hikers! This time the herd of cattle took off running the opposite direction as I approached them. They had a couple of cow tanks full of water but lots of green algae growing in it. I could of treated and drank this water if needed, but I had a water cache set up three miles away.
I left the cows behind and hiked cross country again to the entrance of the Lost Forest. This forest has many ancient pine trees that are many hundreds if not thousands of years old. What is also remarkable is the sand dunes that are moving into the lost forest. The sand is from Mt. Mazama, the mountain that left behind Crater Lake 7000 years ago when it exploded. Apparently a large amount of sediment landed in this area and you have sand dunes 7000 years later!
I collected my water cache and took a break. While I was on break I climbed one of the dunes and took the photo below. You can see a storm blowing in. About 45 minutes later it started raining for the next three hours. I put on my rain gear and hiked until reached Sand Rock. I am not sure of the history of this rock but I climbed it and included a picture below. The rain finally broke and I sent up camp for the night. This was day two without seeing another person.
I awoke to a cool morning which was a good thing because today’s hike started with a 17 miles of cross country through sage brush. I made good time and stayed mostly on track until late morning when I was buzzed by an Air National Guard F-15. I had a fascination with military jets when I was a kid. I was immediately captivated by the jet. So much so, I was not paying attention to my map and was looking at it the upside down and went the wrong direction for 10 minutes before I figured out what was going on. I got back on track and made good time to my food/water cache that I left on Friday.
I took a couple hours off and then hiked towards the Burma Rim. I had 7 liters of water on my back (15.75 lbs) plus a full resupply of food. This was the heaviest my pack has weighted since I started. I worked my way up to the Burma rim and was struck by its awesomeness and the fact I was the only person out here. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world at that moment.
I continued up the 4×4 track until it ended and headed cross country again in the sage brush and set up camp at 7:30. That night I could hear the coyotes singing up on the hillside. Tomorrow was going to to a huge cross country and the Diablo Peak and Rim. This was day three without seeing another person. I was not bothered at all that I was not seeing anyone. In fact, I was energized by this!
Today has been the best day on the trail for me to date. Got rolling at 5:15am and hiked up and over Burma rim which was fantastic. I saw my first group of wild horses. They where awesome too! I ended up seeing several groups of them this day. I continued on to a coordinated water cache that afternoon and made my way onto Diablo Peak/Rim. It was amazing. My favorite place along the ODT yet and Diablo has one of my favorite views ever! The attached pictures speak for themselves, but the do not do it any justice. Again, I felt like the luckiest guy on earth for the second day in a row!
The hiking around Diablo was rocky and slow going at times. I saw my first
rattle bull snake today on my way up to Diablo Peak. After a 15 hour day of hiking I made camp in an area that cows made space to pitch a tent in the sage brush. This was my forth day of not seeing another person. Note to future hikers, I was able to get cell coverage on Diablo peak. My first time since the start 5 days earlier. Tomorrow I will make my way to Paisley!
Town day!!! Got up and rolling at my normal time. It was pretty much down hill all the way to Paisley. Today I had a lot of cows follow me for miles. It was interesting to see how these cows reacted to me compared to the group I saw two days previously. After a couple of hours I reached a dirt road that lead down to Paisley. After about 2 hours I meet my first person in 5 days!! It was a rancher on a horse! It does not get any more rural Oregon than that.
I made it into town around noon. I got a room at the Sage Inn, the only hotel in Paisley. Collected my resupply box at the PO. Then got lunch at the cafe. I did laundry and got checked into my room. I have been soaking my feet in Epsom salt and getting caught up with friends and this blog. Oh, and I have been watching the History Channel non-stop. Paisley really is the perfect trail town for a thru-hiker.
Quick post for today. A zero day means zero miles hiked. I spent the day relaxing and getting prepared for the next stretch. As before, I do not expect cell service for several days. I have heard great things about the trails in the Fremont National Forest and visiting the Abert Rim. Until the next update – happy trails!