Captivating Wilderness

Day 87

I ate breakfast in my tent while the others decided to eat it down the trail. Being last out of camp was fun! I took my time; stopped for pictures and attempted to locate an unusual sounding bird. Realistically I could always take my time, but I get competitive when out front. At Summit Lake, I stopped for water and washed my handkerchief. The lake was beautiful, with sandy edges and a turquoise hue.

Not long after entering Diamond Peak Wilderness, I caught up to Hobble-it and Pluto. The three of us ate lunch at a sunny viewpoint. A mile later, emptying out of a picturesque mountain basin, was an ice-cold creek with delicious water. To cool off, I soaked my ball cap in the stream and put it on my head. Icy water trickled down my back. The trail traversed around Diamond Mountain, long swathes of snow interspersed with dry bits of trail.

Originally, we planned to camp at Midnight Lake, where the three of us found Sandbag hiding from mosquitos in her tent. However, Sky-Hi had hitched to Shelter Cove and reported free hiker camping plus showers. After dinner at the lake, we pushed on to the resort. It meant a 27-mile day, our longest yet.

We used coordinates sent by Sky-Hi to navigate to the PCT camping. I set up my tent, and then Sky-Hi gave us a quick tour. The shower was welcome, almost too hot, with lots of soap and a pile of clean towels. I returned to the camp store porch to notify Pluto of his turn. As dusk fell, I plugged my battery pack into the electrical outlet of a nearby, unoccupied camp site. I felt tired so I went straight to bed.

Day 88

We spent the morning relaxing at Shelter Cove Resort. Around 3:00 p.m., we returned to the trail. Pluto, Hobble-it, and I got on where we left off yesterday, while the others hiked the paved resort road to where the trail intersected a busy highway. The PCT is a choose your own adventure!

It felt great to move my limbs after a morning of rest. The woods were shady and mysterious. At Lower Rosary Lake, I heard voices and saw people in the water. It was Sandbag, Pluto, and Sky-Hi; they beckoned me in. I lowered my pack, stripped to my underwear, and plunged into the lake. It was brisk, yet refreshing. I swam and treaded water for perhaps 15 minutes, until the arrival of Hobble-it. Then I filtered water while I dried off in the light breeze and warm sunshine.

Back on trail, I hiked along the edge of the lake, through a patch of woods, then along the shores of Middle and North Rosary Lakes. The trail ascended and I chatted with Sky-Hi for the last couple miles. After nine miles total, we stopped at Maiden Peak shelter. It was a log building with paned windows, a wood stove, and clean interior. A hiker named Skeletor napped on one wooden bench. We ate dinner then hung our food bags from the rafters. While Pluto slept on a downstairs bench, the rest of us climbed the ladder to the attic, where we spread our pads and sleeping bags on the wooden floor.

Day 89

I felt like a rotisserie chicken, rotating from side to back to side all night. Not the best sleep, but at least I couldn’t hear Skeletor’s snoring through my ear plugs. Plus, no rodents disturbed our slumber.

After 11 miles of hiking that passed quickly, I spotted Hobble-it’s poles propped against the sign for Charlton Lake. A short path led to the shore where only a few mosquitos lingered. Pluto and Sandbag were there along with Hobble-it. We ate lunch as a plucky Camp Robber kept an eye out for any dropped morsels. Eventually Sky-Hi arrived and I did some yoga. While getting ready to depart, I accidentally crushed a bee against my forearm. It stung me and flew off. I got an angry red welt.

Shortly after leaving the lake, the trail entered a desolate burn area. It was all dirt, dead trees, and no vegetation. Luckily no mosquitos either! I found it intriguing, especially with the snow spotted Sisters’ peaks just visible in the background. Sandbag discovered a spot with excellent cell service.

As soon as we entered the woods, the mosquitos returned with ferocity. I postulated that the true reason hikers walk quickly through Oregon is they can’t stop without being eaten alive. There was pond after pond, which didn’t help. We set up camp near one such pond and fled into our dwellings. Looking up at a cloud of insects whining above my tent’s netting, I decided to wait until morning to pee.

Day 90

Upon exiting my tent, I quickly realized my rookie mistake in leaving my head-net behind. I dove inside to retrieve it then set off to dig a cat hole. Back in my tent, I ate my oats and killed the ~20 mosquitos that had snuck inside. In the background, Pluto swore and killed mosquitos in his tent while Sky-Hi boiled water for his morning coffee. Sandbag and Hobble-it were already on trail.

Morning is my favorite time of day to hike. The world is fresh, waking; the light astounding. I hiked five or six miles in silence. Once again there was a plentitude of ponds and lakes. Hobble-it and I leap-frogged a bit, then I got ahead and saw no one other than a few southbound folks. I began Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Around the turnoff to Elk Lake Resort, the mosquitos disappeared. Even though my body doesn’t react to their bites, it is still annoying to feel their tiny proboscises digging into a shoulder, finger, or elbow.

Having done 20 miles by 2:30 p.m., I ate a late lunch at Sisters Mirror Lake. A light breeze rippled the surface of the tree-lined lake. With five miles to go, I set out and soon entered an open expanse of land. On my right loomed South Sister Peak, looking especially beautiful with a patchy snow cover. Its slopes descended into loose volcanic rubble.

In a large meadow, I found Sandbag sitting in her tent. I set mine up next door. After washing my feet and calves in an ice-cold creek, I ate dinner and chatted with Sandbag for hours, until dusk. At one point, Hobble-it arrived and informed us that the guys stayed behind at Sisters Mirror Lake. Then she went in search of hammock trees, there unfortunately being none nearby.

Day 91

My second day of hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness and it officially supplanted Crater Lake as my favorite area in Oregon to date. There were so many astounding vistas: the stark Sisters Peaks with their snowy crevices, volcanic rocks strewn amidst trees, green meadows with burbling streams.

In one such meadow, I crossed a wide, shallow stream and found Sandbag taking a snack break. I joined her and she vented a few frustrations. Then we proceeded through the 1.8-mile Obsidian Area; full of obsidian chards. I admired a large one that filled my hand and exclaimed over boulders of the material.

As Sandbag and I chatted, the miles passed quickly. We separated when I got ahead on a steep volcanic pass and ate lunch in different spots. In the midst of a downfall area, we met up once again and chatted until the Lava Lake junction. I appreciated her company over the day, especially as we said goodbye and I continued on solo. Why solo? Find out in my next blog entry, this one is about wilderness.

After parting ways, I hiked 1.5 miles through loose lava rock and crossed a highway, entering the Mt. Washington Wilderness. The going was not easy as it continued through more loose lava fields, yet the mountain fascinated me. It looked like a giant shark tooth. The fun continued as downfall mixed with the lava rock. I took a break to eat dessert and part of my dinner.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, I regained solid ground, surrounded by low-lying vibrant green ferns and black and white tree stubs. I felt an overwhelming gratitude and happiness to be on trail. In a clearing amongst living pine trees, I set up my tent, having covered 28.7 miles! My longest day to date and my first night solo camping on the PCT.


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