First published in Botley Bridge, a village magazine in Hampshire, UK.
Over the last month of July some things have changed. I'm now comfortably able to walk 25 to 33 miles a day. This means I can relax about finishing the Pacific Crest Trail before my visa expires. I have got used to sleeping in a tent and spending less time in towns. At the end of July I walked through the California - Oregon border and have walked more than than 1800 miles. I feel strong yet still challenged by the new dangers presenting themselves to me in this region.
As I write this I have started the Oregon challenge or at least my version of this challenge. That is to complete all the miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon in two weeks. In reality I will be competing this region in less than 15 days to allow myself a rest day in the middle. A few days into the Oregon challenge we heard the devastating news of the forest fires in Oregon and California. The closest forest fire that could have affected my journey would have been in northern California. The PCT association have since decided to close 100 miles of trail as it has become impossible or too dangerous to hike through. I am very fortunate to have already completed that section of trail when there was no forest fires although the weather had been extremely hot, over 40°C for a week. It may have been this hot spell combined with lightning storms that caused the fire. I know a lot of hikers in the 100 mile closure that were evacuated and taken to towns in Oregon.
As we are now walking through Oregon we are aware of other forest fires in this state; there is a fire to the west of southern Oregon which is now 30 miles away from the trail, there are further forest fires to the north of the trail which are likely to cause disruption to my hike and present logistical and planning challenges.
The Oregon challenge itself sounds like a very difficult task but actually the grading of the trial is much better than previous sections in California, so far the Oregon PCT paths are much flatter and I am able to cover great mileage each day. I am now hiking with two other people; another woman from England and a German man. We spent some time planning our route and food resupply strategy for the 2 weeks and decided to send ahead 3 parcels of food to collect in small mountain resorts on the trail. In theory we will be time efficient allowing us to focus on hiking 31 miles every day.
It may be that there are forest fires ahead on the trails that we will have to bypass in the next week, infact over the past 3 days we have already had to alter our plans and reroute after Crater Lake. Forest fires are something I was not able to prepare myself for in the UK but it is normal to expect forest fires at this time of year.
Next month, all being well I will have finished the trail at the Canadian border and be reading the September article from the comforts of Botley!