Rambling through Oregon’s High Cascades

PCT miles 1912.2 to 2067 – Willamette Pass to Mt. Hood National Forest – Total PCT miles 2067

Rest Time at Olallie Lake

After pizza feasting at Willamette Pass, Gabriel, Hotrod, Broken Record, Light House and I headed down to the Shelter Cover Resort to pick up our resupply packages. Gabriel and I had started to walk down the road to the resort. Hotrod, AT alum and believer that “the trail provides”,  insisted that we’d be able to get a ride. He was right and got his ride to pick us up; saving us another 40 minutes or so of walking.

The next day would be a slow start for the five of us as we’d all pick up and organize our resupplies at the Shelter Cove Resort. We stayed up way past hiker midnight quietly talking about nothing terribly important and watched the stars move above the towering firs. A lovely night, the type of night made for the PCT.

A leisurely morning of trail chores, coffee and breakfast burritos topped off our partial day of rest. The rest and a little more ibuprofen seemed to take care of my shin pains; those worrisome twinges ceased to be a problem.

By afternoon, Gabriel and I parted ways with the boys. The Canadians patiently waited while poor Hotrod repaired his down sleeping bag. (It had suffered a melt down, literally. A few nights prior, he’d slept in the same spot he’d cooked his dinner and the duff-heated by the stove-smoldered and melted the nylon of his sleeping bag. In the morning Hotrod awoke to feathers drifting and a smoking sleeping bag!  Lesson dully noted.) Thankfully, since Gabriel and I aren’t using a stove for the rest of the hike; this is a risk we won’t be taking.

Bugged by Bugs

From Willamette Pass the PCT enters the high lake country of the Central Cascades. Lingering patches of snow and shallow lakes provided ideal mosquitoes habitat. Indeed the mosquitoes were very persistent for a few days. They prompted me to plot stories about mosquitoes that change their blood sucking ways.  I’ve got a pitch all ready for Pixar.

The pestering insects even drove us to eat dinner in the tent one night. Their persistence was the ultimate annoyance. We questioned if one had a net loss of calories per meal if they had to exert a great deal of effort to swat bugs before, during and after every bite. Gabriel and I didn’t bother to find out the answer, we ate in our tent and minimized the bug nuisance (bears were more welcome than mosquitoes). Even though we were annoyed greatly by the mosquitoes we never put on DEET. Long sleeve shirts, pants, gloves, gaiters and bug nets covered our bodies and kept the bites to a minimum.

A Favorite Day

Hiking ever onward through the lake filled land of the Deschutes National Forest we at long last made it into the heart of the Three Sisters Wilderness. After a misty start to a crisp morning, Gabriel and I were breakfasting with views of Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister. There was a hint of fall in the air as we waited for the sun to rise higher and warm our bodies. Surrounding us were familiar peaks and routes that we’d explored the previous autumn. Memories of past trips and visions of future wanderings were all connected by the thread of the PCT, we’d step in our footsteps before and we will step in them again.

We were admiring the edge of the Wickiup Plain and Le Conte Crater when we met Free Range. She had been drying out her gear in the morning sun and was just getting her pack in order. We hiked with her, happy to meet a kindred spirit and a remarkable woman. Nearly 2000 miles into our journey and we were meeting people, learning about them and listening to new stories, and confirming first hand tales of this years hike as true or tall fiction. It felt good to make a new friend. And a reminder that friendships forged on trail have a richness to them, that comes more readily that friendships forged in everyday life.

The trail alternated between gardens of golden grasses with laughing sparkling creeks, copses of gnarled hemlock, and lush green meadows overflowing with lupine and paint brush-flowers vibrant and fresh as early summer. We had close up views of South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, the Husband, the Wife, the Brother. Peaks so familiar in an area we love well. The PCT on this day showed us that we did not have intimate knowledge of the country, that we need to return to the Three Sisters to fully explore and admire the favorite spots once more.

As we headed north beyond Obsidian Falls, we entered territory new to both of us. A landscape of dramatic undulating red and black lava fields that rise 30-40 feet above the trail, interspersed with some of the most lush wildflower meadows we’d ever seen. New views of crumbling eldest North Sister from lava fields that gave me pause in my desire to some day climb the mountain. The northern end of the Three Sisters Wilderness highlighted the volcanic formations of the Cascades and tucked into it pockets of sub-alpine forests, meadows and flowers.  The PCT had given us a new favorite spot to return to again and again.

New clouds moved toward us from the western horizon. Their dark grays and blues imparted an ominous feeling of storm. The sun blocked by clouds could no longer warm us,  gone was the pale warmth of a late summer day and back was the cold nip of fall. A reminder that summer and autumn do not always tread the line of the calendared seasons, the earth’s rotation around the sun.

We layered up and scurried along the roller coaster of lava rock to reach Lava Camp near McKenzie Pass. Southbound hikers had shared tidings of trail magic, if we could get to Lava Camp by the end of August. Our 30-mile day enabled us to enjoy the last night of trail magic hosted by Lost and Found and the Hiking Fools. Many thanks to them for trail treats of homemade bread, hotdogs, Rice Krispie treats dipped in frosting, comfy chairs and kind hearts that wanted to give to fellow hikers.

2000 mile day and an impromptu Moldovian feast

The morning we left Lava Camp was numb fingers cold, start out in all your layers cold. The last day of August and it felt like winter would start on September 1st. Moving across the lava fields provided little cover from the wind, and motivated us to keep a brisk pace to stay warm.  We were also motivated as today would mark 2000 plus miles of walking and there was potential for a hot lunch at the Big Lake Youth Camp where we’d pick up our resupply package.

The stark and other world-feeling lava fields gradually shifted to familiar forests Then to the charred remains of forests on Mt. Washington’s southern flanks, more other world feeling landscapes. But both fire of rock and fire of forest comprise the High Cascades.  Indeed, Mt. Washington is encircled by several recent forest fire remains. Even as we hiked on the mountain’s western side there was a fire burning on its eastern slopes. Thankfully we did not have a detour here, but other hikers coming a few days after us would.

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