Wednesday, August 30
Small pond at Mile 1915.5 to Elk Lake Resort, Mile 1950.1 + 1.1 miles to Elk Lake Resort
34.6 PCT Miles + 1.1 off trail miles = 35.7 total miles
I cruise along through the day without much issue. The miles come to me and I am halfway to 30 by noontime when I stop for lunch beside Shadow Lake.
It is afternoon now and I notice that the sun is becoming very dim and the air is beginning to stink of smoke. I am walking by numerous lakes and ponds and now they look as if they are shrouded in fog.
Usually by now Charlie has caught up to me and passed me or is talking away right behind me. Today he is nonexistent. I push on.
I text my friend’s contact in Bend, Brendan, and let him know my ETA for Elk Lake. This guy is awesome. He is also going to go to the store and get some bars for me and more Advil. We make plans to meet at 8am tomorrow morning as he will be coming up to the lake for a morning swim with some others.
There is a camp 32 miles from this morning’s start and I make that my target since I now see that it would be 35.5 miles all the way to Elk Lake Resort. I reach the campsite at 7:30, which is right at dusk these days. I’ve just gotten my water filtered and I’m midway through setting up my tent. I decide to double check the forecast on my InReach to see if I’ll need my rain fly tonight. When I start the device, there is a message from Brendan.
“Things are getting dicey. Elk Lake Resort is under a Level 1 Evacuation Order. Santiam Pass is closed. You should be prepared for me to just collect you.”
Literally seconds later, a Calzone comes flying down the trail announcing tat the police are at Elk Lake and evacuating everyone from the area because there is a fire 2 miles away. He has no idea if the fire is between us and the resort. He really needs off and as I am left standing there, dazed. Do I camp here or go to the 3 more miles to the resort? Will I be able to sleep if I do camp here?
I’m still standing there struggling with a decision when Charlie shows up. He thinks it’s best to go to the resort. Although I had just about decided to stay put, I surmise that the most important thing right now is to probably be with other people so I drop a curse word, take down my tent, pack up and start hiking the 3 more mikes to Elk Lake with Charlie.
I am tired, sore and irritated now. My throats is also getting sore from the smoke. Charlie keeps talking away and although I don’t want to engage in conversation, I listen to him for the distraction. Through my headlamp light, I can see ash falling from the sky and the moon is a bright orange color.
It takes what seems like forever to get to the resort. We expect to see blue lights flashing or a deserted place.
Not the case.
We find some folks outside the lodge restaurant and they share that a Level 1 evac simply means they are put in notice for evacuation. Level 2 is pack your bags. Level 3 is LEAVE.
Charlie and I get escorted to a campsite. It is 10:30. I quickly unpack and make dinner. There is cell service here and the draw to post a blog and catch up on emails/texts keeps me up until 11:30 until I can stay awake no longer.
My body collapses into deep sleep.