Arrival in Saint Jean Pied de Port

Waiting at the Pilgrim Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France.
Waiting at the Pilgrim Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France.

We have arrived in the small French village of Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPDP) after a train ride from Paris.

The high speed TGV train was a pretty amazing trip, often traveling at 300 kilometers per hour (about 186 mph). The 770 kilometer trip from Paris to Bayonne, France was just under four hours.

In Bayonne we changed to a smaller regional train that was packed standing room only with Camino pilgrims for the hour long ride to SJPDP.

Once in SJPDP we checked in at the Pilgrim Office, received our “Credencial del Peregrino” and are all set to begin walking over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain tomorrow.

Lancaster & Lake Havasu City

London Bridge Locks
London Bridge Locks

The year started with a trip to Lancaster, CA in the high windy desert 70 miles north of Los Angeles. It’s not exactly the garden spot of California, but it is home of the Lance Camper factory.

Camping last year in our new 21 foot trailer.
Camping last year in our new 21 foot trailer.

Back in March we purchased a new 21 foot Lance travel trailer and some warranty repair work needed to be done.

The friendly folks at Lance Campers did a great job replacing our bathroom sink and countertop, sealing a leaky window over the bed, and adding an extra latch to a kitchen cabinet so it doesn’t pop open when we travel.

New sink installed by the Lance Camper factory.
New sink installed by the Lance Camper factory.

Lancaster, CA has the last Costco and Trader Joe’s stores that we see for awhile, so we stocked up on provisions before heading to Lake Havasu, AZ and the Xscapers RV Club Annual Bash.

The Xscapers Bash has grown a lot since we stumbled across the group outside of Quartzsite, AZ back in 2016. That year we crashed the last few days of the event which was about 50 RV’s in the desert. This year the Bash has grown to 312 rigs with more than 500 people.

The Xscapers Bash is a mix of fun events (guacamole throwdown, mac & cheese fest, music, margarita contest) and educational presentations (solar power, astronomy, RV tax issues, and more).

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, AZ.
London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, AZ.

Yesterday we went sight seeing in Lake Havasu City, which means going to the London Bridge. Back in 1968 the London Bridge was sold and then moved from the River Thames to the Arizona desert where part of the Colorado River was rerouted under the newly reconstructed bridge. People do seem to be attracted to the bridge — the population of Lake Havasu City has grown from around 4,000 people in 1970 to 54,000 today.

Rethinking Social Media

Oceanside, CA sunset.
Oceanside, CA sunset.

I am rethinking social media for 2019 and will be moving updates about our adventures to the LonCooper.com blog and away from Facebook (which I mostly stopped using in 2018).

We are in the middle of planning a number of adventures for 2019 — a walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, hiking Wyoming or Colorado on the Continental Divide Trail, and fun RV adventures across the West. A goal for 2019 is to be better about updating my blog. So, stay tuned.

PS – You will need to refollow LonCooper.com if you want WordPress to send an email about new blog posts. A technical issue caused the blog follower list to be reset.

We Finished The Oregon PCT

The Muddy Fork
The Muddy Fork

Today we walked across the Bridge Of The Gods in Cascade Locks, OR to finish our hike of the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Deb (AKA aFloat) has now hiked 2,144 miles of the PCT counting her hike across California in 2014. I have now hiked across Oregon three times on the PCT and each time the trail has had a different look and feel because of snow, rain, and fire conditions.

Oregon has been great hiking but the unseasonably warm weather and smoke from the many wildfires made the hiking this year just a bit less pleasant than normal. The late snow thaw kept the trail blocked by some very big downed trees forcing some creative hiker get-arounds. Wildlife encounters were rare, but still special. The berries never made an appearance until the final days and they are sparse and unripe as yet.

We are elated to have finished the state but have mixed feelings about what we missed: the snow fields of Diamond Peak and the (non-PCT) Eagle Creek portion. However, everyone hikes their own hike and so did we. And we can live with our decisions quite happily.

The Final 100 Miles and a Wildfire

A helicopter fighting the Whitewater fire near Jefferson Park.

We arrived in Olallie Lake Resort and are now down to the final 100 miles of our 430 mile hike across Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Walking only 100 miles more feels a little like we are practically done, or at least this hike is winding down to its final stage.
We can see snowy Mount Hood looming large ahead. It’s the last large mountain in Oregon. Mount Hood is 11,200 feet tall, but the PCT only briefly climbs to 6,000 feet as it traverses around the mountain. Snow should not be a problem this late, even in this high snow year.
This past week has been interesting hiking. We hiked for miles across lava fields near McKenzie Pass. We climbed part way up and around Three Fingered Jack. We hike around Jefferson Peak and through beautiful Jefferson Park.
Near Jefferson Peak we encountered the Whitewater Wildfire burning about a mile from the PCT. We watched as three firefighting helicopters flew overhead scooping up water from lakes in Jefferson Park and dumping it on the fire.
As we reached Olallie Lake Resort we noticed looking back the smoke from the wildfire seemed greater than when we passed the day before. Then we learned that the Forest Service would be closing the PCT near Jefferson Peak this morning because of the fire. We made it past this fire closure with about 24 hours to spare. We feel bad for the hikers behind us caught up in this trail closure.

The Three Sisters

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South Sister

The Three Sisters Wilderness is an amazing section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

When I hiked this section on my 2014 thru-hike I experienced several days of heavy rain and almost never saw the mountains.

This trip the weather has been perfect, wildflowers are blooming everywhere, and the snow covered Three Sisters mountains dominate the skyline 4,000 feet above. Water has been plentiful, the trail is almost snow free, and the camping excellent.

We can see several mountains on the horizon that we will be approaching soon. Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and off in the distance Mount Hood.

Several southbound hikers have reported snow is not an issue to the north. Every hiker has a different idea of what easy snow is. What’s easy to a guy that has been guiding on Mount Rainer the past five years is probably different for us. One of the hikers said she hates snow and didn’t find it difficult, so we are encouraged.

In other strange news, a southbound hiker reports there are no mosquitoes in Northern Oregon. We have had a bunch of them in Southern and Central Oregon and are skeptical of this report.