Three Sisters Wilderness Area
Waking up at 5,281 feet of elevation this morning was pretty chilly. Mercifully, the morning did not have the strong winds that rocked us to sleep in the tent last night. A hot cup of coffee and a warm breakfast fired us up right quick!
Icy Street Shoes
Remember from a few days ago when I wrote about Mount Hood? I said something to the effect of, “a non-hiker in street shoes could do this.” Well, today I got to witness that very feat while hiking through the snow in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Today’s snow was much longer and more significant than what was at Mount Hood, not nearly as bad as Indian Heaven was a couple of weeks back.
Brianna and I were hiking along at our normal pace, slowed a bit by the snow, when we came to a single ledge crossing through the snow. A family of four was hiking down towards us, a mother with two daughters and a son, so we had to wait for them to finish before making our way up. The family was going so slow that Brianna and I stood in the shade and just watched everything unfold.
The daughter in the back decided she did not want to wait for her family and took a glissade down the hill on her butt; it wasn’t graceful but it worked.
The rest of the family slowly stepped their way to the end of the 40-yard stretch, the mom very cautious, the young son of maybe 12 downright panicking. He panicked so hard that he somehow dropped one of his hiking sticks.
I watched his hiking stick slide halfway down the hill, stopping well out of anyone’s reach. The mom yelled, “Romona, go get your brother’s hiking stick!” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Romona was not equipped to climb up a hill of hardened snow, basically ice, to get her brother’s hiking stick, so Brianna advised them not to panic while I put my microspikes on and took my backpack off. I felt like a superhero, walking on the unwalkable with ease, making it to the orphaned piece of equipment without breaking a sweat.
“Can you bring it up to me, please?” Was the next thing I heard. Sure, kid, my EMT-B skills are a bit rusty and I’d rather not go that route. The moment I handed him back his hiking stick was the moment I noticed that this kid had Air Jordans on. Wow, good on you! Could have been avoided by a little bit of research and preparation, but good on you for making it! I climbed back down and the family successfully finished their trek down off the hill. They thanked us profusely and we parted ways like strangers in the night.
The rest of the hiking day was par for the course, challenging and beautiful. Snow here isn’t dangerous, there are just 6-8 miles of it to slow you down. Brianna and I hike at about 2/3 speed over slushy snow, making it 8 miles over the same span of time we would normally have done 12. It is, for this reason, I was ok with setting up camp after a 16-mile day, well that and the spot is next to Reese Lake facing the beautiful South Sister mountain.
Our tent setup is a new one for me. The ground here is too hard to hammer in stakes so we have the stakes through the tent ropes and T anchored by large rocks. Home is a little lopsided, but it’ll do.
Waking Up to the Sister
The mornings we have overnight oats always start out faster than the hot breakfast mornings since there is much less involved. Getting out on the trail early is one of my favorite things to do, unfortunately, it’s also one of the things I’m worst at. Do I drink coffee or get lower temperature miles in and look for wildlife or enjoy a hot cup of coffee? This morning we did both. 3 bucks with nice racks fled from us as we started the day.
We ran into a lot of good hiker conversation on today’s trail. Trails weren’t filled with lava rocks or snow for a change, so we had plenty of time for breaks and small talk. The only real obstacle we ran into today was mosquitoes and they aren’t even that bad yet. Contradictory to my previous post, all of today’s hikers were Americanos. We swapped Indian Heaven hiking stories with an older gentleman and discussed bug mitigation strategies with an older gentlewoman.
I have been thinking more about the comments I made a couple of days go about there being more international hikers than US hikers crossing our paths thus far. The real truth might be that hikers of different nationalities and age brackets are more inclined to stop and talk to us, where the younger hikers typically walk right on by with very few words, if any.
Most people on the trail fall into one of three major categories, college kids, international, or recently retired. Brianna and I fall into a microcategory of 30/40 year olds. International hikers and those of the recently retired approach us and we reciprocate with meaningful conversation. I’m sure many of the younger hikers would reciprocate if we engaged them, it’s just not something we have attempted yet.
People on the trail are as finicky as they are in real life. I like to say a quick, “hello”, and attempt eye contact when we see northbound hikers coming our way. Most of the time, we will get a kind greeting and a smile back in return while other times people are so focused or uninterested in conversation they wear hard facial expressions that all but scream, “do not talk to me.” I still say something, just to confirm. Everyone is going through their own journey and responding to salutations from a stranger is hardly a requirement, but I do notice. It’s like playing heads-up poker for a single hand with hundreds of different people. Did I read their expressions correctly?
This trek ends in Elk Lake tonight. We got a fancy yurt to stay in for the final night of Curt and Penny travel time. We started the trip in a yurt in St. Ignace and we end it in a yurt here in Elk Lake.
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