The next day we hiked around the Three Sisters through crumbly volcanic rock to Elk Lake Resort to meet my mom. My Saint of a mother had come to Oregon to slack pack us. Now for those of you who don’t know, slack packing is when someone takes all of the things you carry on a regular basis and shuttles them up trail for you, leaving you with only a day pack to carry up the trail. The theory behind this is that you can accomplish bigger miles with a lighter pack on, a theory we planned on testing our very first day of slack packing by attempting a forty seven mile day. But in order to slack pack you need a willing individual to shlep all of your gear around while you walk all day. Enter: my mom. On the AT my mom had been able to come out and actually hike with us for a week, but as our daily miles continued to increase and our time constraints tightened it became clear that hiking with us was no longer an option. When we suggested a slack packing adventure she was willing and excited. Thank goodness, I am not actually sure we could finish this hike without a slack pack through Oregon.
Five days of slack packing came along with other benefits as well, other than just doing beastly miles. It put us into a lake resort or large campground every night, which have amenities that aren’t always available to us, giving us something of a mental break from the repetitiveness of backpacking for four months. It also consisted of hiking huge miles, until anything we had ever actually attempted before, which felt like an adventure to me. Remember how I was recently complaining about the lack of adventure out here? Well heading out at four in the morning to see if you can hike forty seven miles in a day when the most you have ever walked is thirty two miles… To me that is an adventure. So we rolled into Elk Lake Resort and met my mom who was all set up in one of the hiker sites. She was a sight for sore eyes. We ate at the resort that night, which was a noisy happening place, complete with a live band, and headed to bed as early as we could after packing everything we would need the next day and talking through all of our plans and contingency plans. We all stuffed earplugs into our ears to drown out the loud music coming from the campsites near us and passed out, Kyle and I had an early morning wake up, which went something like this:
*Alarm goes off and I sit up to take out my earplugs*
“Babe,” says Kyle in a somewhat alarmed voice.
“I ate an earplug.”
“I thought it was a green gummy bear.”
At this point I was laughing so hard but also trying to restrain my laughter because it was four in the morning that I had peed myself slightly. This is not the kind of thing one needs to hear when they have just woken up and their bladder is still extremely full from a nights sleep. Kyle went on to explain that he had woken up from his gummy bear dream to find himself chewing on his earplug but he was still half asleep and before he could stop himself he had swallowed it. While he was telling me this I was frantically trying to unzip the tent and escape outside before I emptied my entire bladder onto our sleeping pad. Needless to say, quite the way to start our forty seven mile day.
How does one accomplish hiking a forty seven mile day? You wake up early and start hiking before the sun comes up, you hike until the sun goes down, and in between you strictly keep track of how many miles you are hiking and hour and how long your breaks are. We maintained a three mile an hour pace for sixteen hours and alternated between ten and twenty minute breaks every eight miles. We pushed hard, listened to some podcasts, and tried to ignore all the aches and pains our bodies were having. By the end of the day my body felt numb and I actually thought I could have kept going forever. Kyle on the other hand could barely walk. We both had blisters. We were both exhausted. But we made it and frankly, it was kind of exhilarating. Luckily for us it was a pretty easy day in terms of terrain.
We had been in communication with my Mom all day and she met us at the trailhead, peeling my backpack off of me and ushering me into the car. We drove down to Shelter Cove Resort, which seemed so merry and inviting in the dark, lights twinking and campfires flickering as we drove through them to our campsite. My mom had set everything up for us, tent and bed ready for us to fall into, and piping hot chicken chili ready for consumption. While we stretched and ate she started to heat up water, determined that we should get to wash our feet in warm water before going to bed. Of course it was at this point that her forty year old Coleman stove, the same stove she had been bragging about on Facebook earlier that day, decided to go up in flames. We rushed next door and borrowed our neighbors fire exhtingusher (thank you RVers) and put it out. Luckily, the flames had also engulfed the tea kettle so we still had warm water for our feet. After our feet and our arms and my face were clean (my mom attacked me with a wet paper towel) we also got arnica foot massages from my mom before being sent to bed. I don’t know how we would have done that day without her, much less any of the days that followed. A day that started with laughter ended with laughter and Kyle earned himself a new trail name: Gummy Bear. Now we are Gummy Bear and Pony Bear, which really seems to perfect to be true.