Throughout the PCT, I gave myself a bunch of mini-challenges as I get a lot of satisfaction out of completing challenges. I think that in part ruined the longest hiking partnership I had and made it so that all others remained quite short. Imagine hiking with someone all day, pushing yourself to go farther than you wanted to, only to hear about how your hiking partner feels unsatisfied because he didn't go far enough. I imagine that's quite annoying to say the least, but that's what I put others through.
I needed a new challenge, but hadn't dreamed one up yet when a group of hikers told me about the Oregon Challenge. They talked amongst themselves about how stupid it was. I mean, who wants to rush Oregon when it's so nice? I'm exactly that kind of stupid. The Oregon Challenge is to hike all of Oregon in 14 days or less (average of 33 miles per day).
I only had one problem: people. There were some people who meant more to me than the Oregon Challenge. I had Boardwalk in front of me who I had been chasing since South Lake Tahoe and the Wizz Sisters behind me who I told I would resume hiking with them if they ever asked me to. I never caught Boardwalk and the Wizz Sisters never asked.
However, I did have the Trosens. They used to live in Ashton, ID, but moved to Corvallis, OR. We met in church when I decided to be a loner (typical for me) and LeAnna and her daughter seemingly decided to not let me (not typical for me). That day I met the entire family and developed a friendship with Dave and LeAnna.
Before they moved, I told them I planned to hike the PCT and we set in motion trying to make it work so we would meet sometime in Oregon. Despite trying to meet the Oregon Challenge, I made meeting with the Trosens a higher priority. Sure enough, the only way to make it work was to slow down for a couple days and spend longer off the trail than I wanted to. But they drove 5 hours to spend about 2 hours with me, which is a sacrifice I fully understand and greatly appreciate. That ended up being a tremendous morale boost for me.
How much I fell behind schedule didn't matter that much. With 150 miles left, I had the time to make it up and still complete the Oregon Challenge. I only had two problems:
I didn't think I had enough food.
My shoes were showing serious signs of wear and my shoe package didn't arrive on time.
I decided to go for it when other problems started creeping up. Leaving the Trosens and Big Lake Youth Camp, I headed out to get as far as I could that day only to see the potential for stormy weather brewing. Looking at my maps, I decided to stop at a relatively sheltered spot than have to camp up on a ridge if I kept going. I stopped about 2 hours short of where I wanted to stop.
The storm came in and it rained for much of the next day. Wanting to stop at Ollallie Lake Store to get more food, I had to stop short again by about an hour because I arrived shortly after they closed. The next morning I was at least an hour later leaving than I wanted to because I had to wait for the store to open. In all, I lost 4 hours by this time.
I still had a chance to make it up until things really took a bad turn midway through the next day. My right shoe ripped open with my toes on the outside of the shoe. I tried taping it together, but my feet kept getting worse. Even with the food and caffeine to keep pushing the distance, I ended up being cut short by how much my feet could handle. Meeting the Oregon Challenge wasn't worth not finishing the PCT.
Finally, on my last night, I realized that I could no longer meet the Oregon Challenge. The next day, I hiked with Dairy Queen to Cascade Locks knowing I wouldn't get there in time. However, conversation with Dairy Queen kept my mind off my feet and I was able to congratulate him on finishing the Oregon Challenge (it turned out that a math mistake cost him actually meeting that but I didn't learn that for a few days).
I still got to Cascade Locks in time for what was important to me: I got to go home to see the last two days of the Senior Babe Ruth World Series. Through that last 150 mile stretch, whenever I lacked motivation, I simply sang this song:
I got to see my high school baseball coach, other coaches who I used to coach with, and a high school teammate. I also met a wheelchair bound man by the name of Dan Molitor, a paraplegic after a car accident. Listening to him talk about his current life inspired me like crazy as he talked about wheelchair racing with a lot of passion and had an interest in my hike. He even corrected my coach when he called it the Pacific Coast Trail.
I wouldn't change anything about how the Oregon Challenge went. I got to see the Trosens. I got to hike with Hammer and Section B when I wouldn't have if it wasn't for slowing down to meet the Trosens. I made it back in time for a trip to Johnson-O'Brien Stadium to watch a team I used to play for in the championship game. I got to meet Dan Molitor. Also, failing to meet the Oregon Challenge gave me the idea for the CYTC.