PCT Eclipse

Bridge over marshy ground

The night on the porch was rather cold and misty so the next day I awoke without having attained much rest the night before.
The next stretch was about 100 miles. They were filled with lakes, views and trail magic, but all together uneventful.
My mind wasn’t in the game as much as it had been. I wanted to hike with people I fit in with and being with these people made things rather unenjoyable.

The day I got into the next “town” (really a ski resort) I did 23 miles by lunch time. I immediately went to the hiker famous aardvark express, where I hoped to find Lt Dan. This establishment is a food truck located in a gas station parking lot. Don’t let its location fool you, the food truck give huge portions of some of the best thai food I have had. It was there I caught up to lt Dan and his group. Plans were made, and the next morning I started my hike out with them.

I Immediately clicked with them and felt the social connection I had been longing for in the past stretch. They were all early twenties and very fun people. Just a few miles into the walk, Cupid (a girl from CO) realized an injury she thought would heel in town still hurt so her and Curry (A twenty four year old from Switzerland) headed back into town with plans to meet us in the next town.

Instead of leaving on the original PCT, Lt Dan, Bee Keeper, and I decided to take a side trail that led to a hot spring and then reconnected with the pct. The Hot spring was an 11 mile hike in and we arrived on the first night. After paying a rather hefty price to camp we headed up to the spring.
I was amazed to see a cave coming out of the side of the mountain and filling the two pools below it with steaming hot water. The cave was about three feet wide by five feet tall and went 30 feet back, into the mountain. Just a few feet above the first pool, I climbed into the cave and waded back into the darkness. The water was about 2 1/2 feet deep and by the time I reached the end of the cave it was almost pitch black. A small wooden bench had been placed right over the hole in the rocks where the water came from. After airing for a few minutes with by lower half in hot water and my upper half in thick steam I returned to the tubs and spent the night relaxing and talking with friends. Outside of the cave.

Bee Keeper

After our one night stay at the hot spring we continued on. The side trail we hiked on was much less groomed than the pct and involved much more climbing around fallen trees than walking on ground.

The talk of the trail up to this point had been the upcoming eclipse. Being in Washington, we were outside the path of totality but would still be able to witness a 90% eclipse. So after a rather big climb, a small group of hikers formed on top of the pass as the temperature dropped and the land darkened. A few hikers had thought ahead and bright eclipse viewing glasses which made the experience extremely interesting.

Eclipse viewing party

After a long break watching the eclipse we hiked into town and met up with Cupid and Curry at a trail angel’s house. We made such good time that we decided to take a zero. This had been my first day off since Bend Oregon. Reunited, the day after the zero we set off once again into Washington’s wilderness.

Goat Rocks

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After a quick goodbye it was back to the trail, having only been in town a few hours. I needed to make up ground and every hour that passed increased my chances of my group getting too far ahead to catch up to. Another reason I was anxious to get back on trail is the next stretch was regarded as one of the best of the whole PCT. The first two days are spent under the shadow of Mt. Adams and the next two are in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. As I rapped around the base of Adams it’s magnificent beauty stopped me at every viewing point. The afternoon I set out I got in 11 miles before dark and set up camp. Stories of one of the famous Washington rain storms coming was circulating on the trail. That night around 11pm the rain begin and as I awoke on the second day, the rain was still going. I tried to pack up as much of my stuff as I could in my tent before getting out but getting wet would be inevitable today. As I hiked, the rain/mist soaked me too the bone and hid the mountain looming close over me. It rained almost the entire day and by the time I got to camp I was still cold and wet. I quickly set up camp and crawled in my sleeping bag. Even though half of my time around Adams wasn’t what I hoped, tomorrow I would enter the Goat Rocks. When I woke on day three, the rainy mist was still there… Preparing for another wet day I started to hike. As the trail climbed I eventually made it above the cloud cover and was given a breathtaking view of Adams with dark clouds at its base. After going over a pass I entered the start of the goat rocks, the land was rich was green grass and alpine streams, all with aggressive rocky mountains looming in the distance. I took a side trail and climbed a close by mountain named Old Snowy. Taking side trips like this are uncommon while thru-hiking but I think it is rather important for the mental aspect to remind yourself that you are out here for fun. Not just to make big miles.
After my side trip I descended back to the pct and to a short section of trail known as “the knifes edge”. Accurately named, this trail walks along a thin mountain edge with massive drops on both sides. Being so high up I was still above the clouds on the knifes edge and the views continued to amaze.
When I reached town the next day I found my group. Sadly Lt Dan was leaving with new people after hiking with the group since the desert. I had to resupply and charge devises so I said goodbye to him and stayed with the others. Unfortunately Lt Dan was the one I was closest with so I felt like an outsider with these people. When I asked to sleep on the floor of their hotel and the said it was too crowded, my suspensions were conformed.
That night I slept on the porch of the hotel and planned to hike with them for only the short foreseeable future.

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Old Friends and New States

The breakfast was everything I dreamed of. After lounging around for the better part of the day in a food coma, I forced myself to leave and get a few more miles in. I finished the last part of Oregon by myself. It was rather uneventful and my mind was on the state to come. Another thing that preoccupied my mind was that my friend Christopher Bitter and his dad and brother were meeting me at the border to backpack with me for a few days. Back home in the summer I pretty much see Chris every day so I was super excited for him to come out to the trail to meet me.

At Cascade Locks the Bitters pulled up in their Uber from the airport. Some negotiations went on between me and Mr Bitter about what gear they should take and then the next morning we headed off. Crossing the Bridge of the Gods, the Oregon/Washington border was a moment I had been thinking about for a long time. From there we hitched to the trial and started the hike.

Brige of the Gods

Right after starting we were hit with a brutal 10 mile climb. I was rather used to these types of climbs but the Bitters were not. Despite their lack of experience with this terrain they all held their own. The first night we dry camped and I showed them a hiker favorite meal. “Hiker bomb” is instant mashed potatoes mixed with ramen soup.

The next day we got in 15 miles ending at Blue Lake. While thru-hiking it is easy to get into a type of funk, where miles are the only thing that matters. You don’t make camp fires or swim in lakes enough and it’s rather sad. With Chris I was able to slow down and truly enjoy the area around me. At blue lake we swam, rock climbed, fished and made a fire. It was a beautiful lake and our night there was one of the best.

Group Picture at Blue Lake

The next day we hiked similar miles and ended at another lake. This time almost all of the camping was taken up by weekenders and we had to struggle to find a spot. We were all a little tired by the time camp got set up so not as many camp activities occurred.


We had originally wanted to finish our trek with a climb of Mt Adams but after learning about how much snow was up there, we decided against it. So without that in the itinerary we had an empty day. We knew we wanted to camp somewhere but our section of trail was ending and it seemed the only place to go was in town.

As soon as we reached the road a trail angel named Gary was there dropping hikers off. We talked with him for a bit and he decided to drive us to a camping spot on a river a few miles away. We all hoped in the couch in the back of his truck and headed down the road. The spot he took us to was super cool and a great way to spend our final night. Additionally the next day was Mr Bitter’s birthday. As it just so happened we did a fifty mile trek for his fiftieth birthday. A great was to celebrate if you ask me.

Couch Hitch

Gary picked us up the next morning and drove us into town where we all devoured some pancakes and french toast. From there I resupplied and the said my goodbyes to the Bitters. Having them was amazing.

Chris Bitter

While we were together my group got a little ahead so hopefully I will be able to catch up before to long. As for now I’m back on my own.

Noel Nelson (PCT mile 2192)

The 50 Mile Day


On the PCT there is a challenge to backpack 50 miles in a single day. When I started the trail I thought this was absolutely insane. That is the distance most backpackers do over 4-5 days. Trying to walking that far in a single day seemed crazy.

To a guy I was hiking with though, it didn’t seem so crazy. Lt. Dan was up for the challenge and because of my competitive spirit, I was sold on the idea fairly quickly.

The most popular place to do this from is Ollolie lake to Timberline Lodge. This might have something to do with the fact that timberline lodge is known for their incredible breakfast buffet. During the evening at Ollolie lake, Lt Dan and I planned out big next day.

At 1:15am our alarms rang and by 1:45am we were on the trail. Through the darkness we hiked for hours, only pausing briefly to look up and marvel at the stars. By the time the sun rose we had been walking for almost five hours and we hardly stopped till lunch. With 30 miles down we decided to take our big break. In the most magical act of trail magic I have seen thus far, a car camper just happened to be offering food to hikers at the exact spot we stopped for lunch. By this point I was already extremely tired and this made all the difference in the world. A hamburger and nap re-energized me and soon we were walking once again.

The hours faded by slowly and every mile seemed to grow longer than the last. By mile 40 I was exhausted.

The day was turning into evening and I stilled walked on. Feeling almost like a zombie, my brain stopped thinking and all I could do was put one step in front of the other.

To top it all off the last three miles of the day were a pretty decent climb.

In the darkness once again Lt Dan and I both kept on moving until finally, 19 1/2 hours of walking later, we reached camp.

This was by far the most difficult physical trial I have ever undergone and after finishing it, my pride in my accomplishment was substantial. My exhaustion was equally so though, so after a fist bump and a little dinner I crashed. Hard. With dreams of the breakfast that awaited me as my reward

Breakfast at Timberline

Noel Nelson (pct mile 2094)

Where there’s Smoke

Theres a giant mountain in the picture. try to find it

This time of year in Oregon is beautiful. They days are nice and long and up in the mountains the temperatures stay cool. The only down side is, it’s forrest fire season. This is a problem we don’t have to deal with in San Antonio, but it is a real issue out here.

From the church camp we hiked on noticing the increasingly smoky air around us. In the Mt Jefferson Wilderness that lay only a few days ahead a wildfire had been burning.

The fire grew quickly despite the forrest service doing all they could to subdue it. We learned that it had even reached the PCT so the trail had been closed ahead of us. An alternate had been set up, but for only 10 miles of trail being closed, the alternate was 40 miles of road walking.

As we approached the closure the smoke got so thick it cut visibility down tremendously and made breathing rather difficult. I had to put a damp rag over my face to breath comfortably and finally reached the trail junction where we split. As we approached, the forrest service said

they were going to close even more miles of trail because of how fast the fire was growing.

Smoaky hills

I hated having to miss the 10 miles but I was lucky to make it through before the closure got even bigger.

We arranged a ride to get around the alternate with Peanut’s boyfriend who lives close by. He brought us to where the trail resumes and that night we camped on a lake and he cooked elk stakes. A pretty good celebration of not dying in the forrest fire.

Noel Nelson (PCT mile 2042)

Elk for dinner

The Ground is Lava

For three days I hiked alone, after Jim dropped me back off at the trail. I was able to do longer days without having to stay on pace with others which was nice. I also passed through the “Obsidian Falls Limited Entry Area”. This area is highly protected and rightfully so. There are water falls and alpine meadows through the whole 8 mile stretch. At the end of it I even got my permit checked for the first time since I left.

Obsidian Falls

When I made it to bend I was able to catch up with my group and enjoy an additional day of rest.

Hitching out of bend was rather difficult as it is a rather large city by PCT sandards , but after a little while someone who was familiar it the trail drove us the whole 40 miles back.

We resumed our hike mid afternoon at the correctly named “Lava Field Campground”. Hours were spent treking over hot, ankle breaking field of lava rock. Lava as far as the eye could see, distorting the views with the waves of heat it threw into the air. It made for a long slow day. Having heavy packs full of food from town didn’t help either and the moral sank low within the group.

Lava Fields

As the first day back on trail continued, we noticed how  we passed by a church camp on a gaint lake. We went there and were welcomed most graciously. They took us through the cafeteria line and we camped out on a sandy beach, watching the sunset over the lake. Lt Dan also plays the uke so we had a jam sesh and it cured all our aches and pains from the days hike.


Sunset over the lake

Noel Nelson (pct mile 1992)

Crater Lake

The most famous natural wonder of Oregon is probably Crater Lake. The PCT passes right by, so naturally hikers take a day off and hike the rim trail around the lake.

Joe Dirt Enjoying the Veiw

I was able to sneak in the national park without paying by taking a sketchy side trail that dumped me out at the village part of crater lake. It was at this village that I met a new group of hiker I would end up being with until the present moment. The group Consists of Peanut, a female lawyer in her thirties. Lt. Dan, a 24 year old from Israel that has been traveling the world for well over a year now. Fluffy, a theology/philosophy major in his thirties and Joe Dirt, a recent college grad from california.

It was with this group that I rode the bus from the village to the rim of crater lake. From there we ventured to a beautiful lodge right on the lake edge and enjoyed a fancy breakfast with a breathtaking view. The meal was so good it made the idea of hiking unappealing so we rested on the porch watching the boat in the lake and the tourists running around taking pictures.

Crater Lake

Slightly after noon we headed out and hiked the rim trail. The clarity of the water below and rich blue tones of the lake were breathtaking. I found a shady spot on the edge and played the three songs I now know on my ukulele. I eventually took a side trail back down to the pct and resumed my hike.

Uke jam sesh on the lake

After my nature high from time spent by the lake, the trail was less appealing for a day or two. That wore off though and eventually life on the trail continued. With my new group I hiked to shelter cove, a small rv resort where our close family friend Jim Plant picked me up. He took me back to his house to take a few days off trail to rest. We went to the movies twice and after a hours of netflix I feel like I’m caught back up with all the films i’ve missed.

After two days he dropped me back off at the trail and I pushed on with hopes of catching back up with my new group in the town of Bend.

Noel Nelson (pct mile 1891)

The Start of Oregon

Before leaving Ashland, my mom gave me money to get a massage. On the way to get it, I saw a music store and decided to stop in. While in the store I fell in love with ukulele. After a call with my mom it was decided and I spent the massage money on the instrument. So there is now music on the trail!

I loved my time in town but no matter how nice Ashland was, I was happy to start this new stage of my journey in an all new state .

Sunset in the forrest

Oregon is famous on the PCT for its beautiful forests and flat trail. In fact the trail is so flat that there is a challenge where you backpack across the whole state in two weeks. Even though I didn’t want to rush through Oregon, I was stills able to do close to 30 every day without killing myself. Additionally every few miles is a beautiful lake so I have been able to stay pretty clean.

Lunch break at a lake

Before I left, I heard rumors of the mosquitos that plagued the trail in this section. I didn’t take heed of these warnings and left without bug spray. For this I paid the price. Only a day after getting back on trail had over 50 bites all over my body. Even while walking I would be getting bitten by multiple bugs at a time. This was extremely frustrating but on a positive note it made taking breaks hard to do so I pushed farther, inevitably doing more miles per day.

Views from Oregon

The bugs aside, the shady forrests and plentiful lakes and rivers have made for amazing hiking. Every day is a new adventure in this new state and I love it.


Noel Nelson (mile 1819)

California/Oregon border

After nearly three months of walking, on the 16th of july I crossed the border into the second state of my journey. Oregon! Oregon has been a short term goal of mine for a long time. The scenery and trail hasn’t changed much but just the knowledge that the biggest part is behind me is incredible.

Firsts nights campsite view in Oregon

The final stretch in california was a time of reflection for me. I have gone through so many different climates, met so many people, had good days and had bad ones all in this state. It is beautiful and diverse. Most importantly, it has given me countless memories I will cherish for a lifetime.

A tree “eating” the pct sign

Just to put a cherry on top of the sunday, less than a mile before the border was some trail magic. A group of people were remodeling an old cabin and decided to help hikers as well. So for my last afternoon in this state I sat and drank sodas and ate hotdogs with my fellow hikers.

Trail magic/cabin rebuilding before border

Once in oregon I only had 17 mile to my first town, Ashland. Luckily my Aunt Sarah used to live her. So out of her kindness, she called around to old friends and was able to find me a place to stay. I was also treated to the best breakfast I have every had at a restaurant called Morning Glory. All in all the start of the state has been great and I only expect it to get better.


Noel Nelson (pct mike 1716)

Breaking Point

We didn’t get out of Shasta until after lunch and had 4,000 foot climb in the hottest part of the day. The direct sunlight and steep rocky trail were brutal. Even though we left late in the day we still tried to get in as many miles as possible. This ment pushing hard all day. Around 9pm we arrived at camp exhausted physically and mentally. We had only gone 22 miles that day and had to stay on a 25 mile per day pace in order to make it to the next town without running out of food. We were already behind.

The next day my goal was 30 miles to make up for the difference. Once again temperatures reached in the high 90s and I found myself constantly laying down to sleep. Even with the exhaustion I pressed on all day. By the time I arrived at camp I had done 27 miles but felt like I had done 50. I had pushed all day and not reached my goal. Mentally I was completely drained. I found a campsite and collapsed into my tent, falling asleep almost instantly.

The next morning I felt a little better but my body didn’t want to move. Even so, I still had miles to make so i packed up and trudged forward. My pace massively slowed down compared to the days before. Surprisingly, a slower place seemed helped me stay positive and take few breaks. By the end of the day I had done 33 miles. More miles than each of the past two days and I felt good the whole time. So I have decided to change my pace. Going slower helps me go father. I guess is the story of the tortoise and the hare. My goal now is the go slower, and go longer. We will see how this works in the upcoming weeks.


Noel Nelson (pct mike 1603)