Experiencing Oregon (August 3-12)
August 3. The landscape of the day was hiking up and down over dry grassy yellow meadows, scrubby brushy areas with lots of oaks, pine forests. I could look back on Pilot Rock for a time. Not the most scenic of sections, but not terrible either. Hot again. I felt pretty tired all morning.
Maybe part of my weariness was continuing to hike under smoky skies, the sun often shining red, the forest and land bathed in an orange glow like perpetual evening golden hour.
I saw several huge conifers today! That’s been going on for a while, and continues to amaze and comfort me.
In the evening I crossed over a dirt road and saw a trail angel waiting, with her van, canopy, tables and chairs set up. I sat with her for a bit, and listened to some trail news. She said that due to wild fire closures in southern California, many hikers had been forced to skip sections of trail, which I had known. But then she told me that over 100 hikers had camped together a few days ago in a town I had passed through recently (Etna). This was significant to me because when I was in Etna, there were no more than 30 camping in the city park area.
More incentive to me to keep moving every day, preserve a more peaceful hiking experience.
August 4. The morning hiking was wonderful today. The trail angel yesterday had told me that today and tomorrow are to be cooler, and so far, she’s right. I am so glad. I had more energy, even using my trekking poles to hike. (For a long time I haven’t had the energy to lift my arms to use my trekking poles when I’m hiking! I think it’s the heat.)
Today I hiked over lava fields I had heard so much about. Different scenery, large grey chunks of lava boulders on the mountainside, with a red path winding through. I wondered if trail maintainers had carted the smaller red stones in to line the trail. I can only imagine how much time and effort went into that.
It was hot to walk over these lava field patches, but not unbearable, and the fields were broken up by patches of shade. Amazing that pines and shrubs are able to get a hold in among the lava at all!
It was another somewhat hazy day, but I did get a few views of Mount McLoughlin, an impressive looking dormant volcano. Steep sides, with a coned summit.
I had an interesting wildlife encounter in the evening. As I hiked up to an established camping area, with multiple flat empty sites, I noticed a deer watching me. Initially he skittered away, but only a few feet before approaching again, as if curious. It was eerie, I haven’t experienced a deer behaving this way before. After I set up, he kept walking near my tent and noisily eating bark from trees nearby, and pawing up the ground. The loudest deer I’ve heard. I kept hoping he wouldn’t come over by my tent and start chewing the salty straps of my backpack. Though the thought crossed my mind, I was half asleep and didn’t muster the energy to lift my pack into my tent with me!
Fortunately when I woke up in the morning, my pack was no worse for wear, with no signs of being disturbed. Later another hiker told me that sometimes deer are drawn to the salt in urine, so maybe he was nosing around in a spot where I had peed.
Thankful to have seen the unique lava fields today, for the cooler weather, and even for a different wildlife encounter.
August 5. It was tough to get moving today, in part because it was another smoky day. I smelled the smoke, and could even see ash flecks on my gear and in the air at times. It always makes me wonder what the overall toll is going to be, on the creatures and plant life that live here.
Throughout the day several other hikers passed me. Some familiar faces, and some new. Even with flatter terrain lately, it’s all I can do to hike 25 miles in a day, I don’t know how it is that others are getting in more. When I voiced that observation at a creek, one hiker told me, “Caffeine and ibuprofen”. I laughed, and she laughed a little too, but added, “Truly”, and then offered her friend some more ibuprofen.
We all approach our days differently, I guess. I don’t plan to start medicating any time soon.
August 6. Woke up early this morning, with the anticipation of hiking into Crater Lake, and also of getting an early start and potentially holding my own with these hikers around me! Lately I have been hiking alone, and often feel that others are passing me. I can feel a competitive spirit stirring.
Kind of silly, but it was satisfying to get packed up and hike by other tents that were still standing. Not to mention, this early morning was beautiful, as they often are. I hiked by this pretty grove of pines with golden sunlight lighting up the boughs, another one of those truly peaceful scenes that may stick with me for a long time.
Entered a large extensive burn zone. I was glad to be walking through in the morning. Somehow at that time of day it wasn’t so exposed or ugly.
The morning was cooler and the skies above were a clear blue. It was so good to be hiking under smokeless skies for once.
After hiking all morning and afternoon through pine forest, I finally got to the road that led down to Mazama Village, a campground area within Crater Lake National Park. I walked up to the store where hikers can pick up packages, and as expected, walked into a big group of hikers, eating, chatting, sitting together, catching up.
There were so many people there, I got my package and resupplied, but it took a long time because it was interspersed with chatting with other hikers. It was nice, especially after hiking alone for a stretch.
I saw an old friend there, who told me he was hoping to hike out again within the afternoon, along Crater Rim. He asked me how the last few days had been, and I said, “Good” as the automatic response, then said, “Well actually, kind of boring and dry.” He laughed and laughed at that, maybe because he could relate, or because he knew I was saying I was weary of hiking alone.
It felt good to be with a friend to see iconic Crater Lake. When we got to the rim, the lake was so blue and beautiful, breathtaking to see in person even after having seen it on post cards or calendars time and again. Wild to think that we were looking at a mountain, and down on a crater within that mountain. What a massive mountain. From a nearby sign I learned that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.
We were fortunate to see it clear, before hazy smoke blew in. We hiked along the rim trail, through the evening and into the dark. The rim trail was beautiful, the path well-traveled and mostly well groomed, with some sinking sand and steepness that my friend complained about. It was one of those times that I couldn’t really feel the physical challenge because I was so glad to be there.
We looked out on Wizard Island, steep rock spires along the lake rim, a stunning sunset with pretty, dark smoke clouds nearby. The deeper blue of the lake in the evening. More islands down by Wizard Island, and pretty beaches extending from the rim, way down below. It was perfect.
We hiked into the night, passing another hiker here and there (leap-frogging). Earlier in the evening, he’d made delicious smelling coffee at a scenic spot, setting out a fine kettle and all. His luxury item. Pretty neat. He told us that he’d make us a cup, next time we were around.
We saw the sunset deepen, and the stars come out. We hiked and hiked, in order to make it out of the park before stopping to camp, per Crater Lake National Park rules. I was glad the hiking wasn’t difficult. And I loved that this evening was different, that we were out in the landscape, looking up at that dark sky, so late.
We finally did hike up to our intended camp site, then set up our tents by headlamp, ate dinner, chatted. Bugs chirping all around our site, significant because some landscapes have been silent and dry lately.
Great day. Beautiful sights and good to experience it with a friend.
August 12. The morning hiking today was absolutely beautiful, through Three Sisters Wilderness. We (myself and two friends) started the day by crossing over a beautiful windswept open area with low growing plants, some dying so that they were golden and red. To our east were the Sisters mountains- Middle and South Sister, Broken Top, and Rock Mesa. Rock Mesa and Le Conte Crater were so wild, the area looked like something out of Star Wars, with this big craggy grey lava mass. The sun appeared to rise up out of Broken Top, it was really something.
Lots of day and weekend hikers were out in this area. I stepped aside to let a southbound thru hiker pass by, and something made me look closely at his face and try to place him. He said, “I know you!” and I realized he was an old friend from the Appalachian Trail, someone I had hiked with in the final weeks of that trip. It was really something to see him, to stand and catch up a bit, and later to sort through my funny and silly memories of him, like hiking through cold Maine rain, playing a game of “Who can spot the most banana slugs”. I felt proud of him and excited for him, imagining that he had cherished his first thru hike enough to head out again on another, four years later, like me.
It was a day of good people. One of my friends took several breaks throughout the day, often sitting to look and see and absorb and celebrate the beauty all around us. At this point in the hike, I see many hikers pushing through, putting in big miles and seemingly less aware of the gift of being out in this wilderness. My friend pointed out different peaks to me, and we both wondered at the glaciers we could see way up on South Sister.
In our last miles of the day, we walked over some more unique lava fields. The footing was difficult here, stepping on loose pieces of lava all the time, but it also felt worth it. Red and grey lava stretching out over miles and miles and miles. Some hearty conifers somehow growing in the midst of it. The glaciated mountain (North Sister) and other mountains in the background. What a scene.
And now some photos.
Thankful for the stunning beauty of the past week- Crater Lake and Three Sisters Wilderness.
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