As Fire Ant, Braids, Miguel, and I make our way through Oregon, we tend to have the same conversation with fellow hikers at every spring and shady lunch spot we find.
Us: We’re really loving Oregon.
Them: Oh yeah. It’s great. I can’t believe it’s gonna be over so soon.
Us: Yeah, crazy how time flies.
Them: I know! I’ve got four days of food in my pack and then I’ll be in Cascade Locks.
Them: I mean, you can do 30, 35 miles a day here, easy.
Us: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Them: Well, see you up trail.
Us: Yeah, see ya.
Them: *walks away*
Us: We’re definitely never seeing them again.
Going roughly half the speed of many hikers, though, we’ve come to accept the mantra, “Last one to Canada wins.” The trail angel Legend gave us this saying a few days ago: “When I hiked in 2013, I set two records: I took the longest to get to Canada, and I had the most fun.”
We met Legend and another trail angel, Coppertone, just after crossing highway 242, North of the Three Sisters. We had had a late start to the day, so we hiked 2 miles across lava fields in the gathering darkness, my headlamp and high-top boots sparing my ankles some nasty turns.
As we reached the first available campsite, we noticed a group of other hikers sitting in lawn chairs. “Welcome!” Coppertone said. “Would you like a root beer float?”
The correct answer to that is always yes, so we stayed up a few more minutes to drink our floats before finding a spot to throw down our stuff. I cowboy camped for the first time, not so much because I wanted to, but because I was too lazy at that point to set up my tent. I slept well, though.
The next day we woke up to Legend cooking pancakes, and we had a delicious breakfast before setting off again. Backpacking is no picnic. But, in this case it actually was.