July 11- 12.5 miles, camping at Bobby Lake
I left Shelter Cove around 10:30, but because I found 4G service on top of a ridge, I sat in the trail for about three hours finally uploading my video and blog post. By the time I was finished, my phone battery was down to 4%.
Another PCT hiker named Kurt caught up to me while I was wrapping up my post and we ended up hiking together for the rest of the day. I originally met Kurt (from Canada) at Mazama Village near Crater Lake. He’s section hiking the entire state of Oregon and since he’s still kind of fresh on the trail, his feet are killing him. He’s had some of the worst blisters I’ve ever seen!
We stopped at Bobby Lake at 5:30, only twelve and a half miles from Shelter Cove, because his feet were hurting and I really didn’t feel like pushing hard the first day out of town. Plus, Bobby Lake is really beautiful with some great campsites. Seven and Slow and Steady showed up later that evening and the four of us had a really great time that evening together, passing the ukulele around and talking.
I first met Slow and Steady and her boyfriend Seven when I was hitchhiking from Yreka to Etna. They’re hiking from Castella, Oregon to Skykomish, Washington during their break from nursing school. Together, they speak the most musical Spanish I’ve ever heard.
July 12- 23.5 miles, camping at “S” Lake
Rain, rain, rain. It rained most of the day, but since there was only a little thunder and no lightning, I found the rain really lovely. In a way, I think it made this section more interesting because there aren’t any views other than the dense evergreen forests and numerous lakes and ponds.
I hiked with Kurt again in the afternoon. I really enjoy his company. He has an unassuming clarity of thought and eloquence that’s just charming. We probably won’t see too much of each other because he hikes fewer miles than I do each day, but I hope we run into each other somewhere else on the trail!
Around 8pm, I was winding down a hill and heard loud laughing echoing upward. I assumed there must be several people camping and was surprised to find only a single girl. She was soaking wet in yoga pants and a cotton t-shirt, struggling to put up a tarp using athletic tape, and laughing hysterically. Honestly, she looked a little nuts like that and seemed to be totally unprepared for camping in the rain, but at least she was having a sense of humor about it. I gave her my spare twine and we secured her tarp well enough, but she’ll still probably have a cold, wet night.
I plodded on through the rain for another mile or so until I decided I just needed to stop at the very next lake, whatever it was. It turned out to be little “S” Lake with three section hikers and a southbound hiker all squeezed onto a little peninsula. They had a large fire going and were telling dirty jokes.
“Room for one more?” I shouted through the rain.
They were so jovial and welcoming around their campfire that I really couldn’t have picked a better spot. The rain continued late into the evening and I had to wipe down the tent several times to make sure my sleeping bag didn’t get wet while I slept. I boiled some water and poured it into my dromedary bag. It feels quite cozy with the hot water bottle inside my sleeping bag, a good book in my hand and all the noises of rain, hiker snoring and hiker farting outside. These have to be the gas-iest hikers I’ve ever camped with in my life!
July 13- 22 miles, camping near Mesa Creek
The morning was fresh and clean with only traces of last night’s storm clouds left in the sky. Everything I had was damp or wet through. I reluctantly put on my still soaked socks and boots, wrapped up my wet tent, and hiked into a very misty morning.
I had read in Yogi’s Guide that Elk Lake Resort was only a mile off trail and so, when I arrived at the turn off at 11:15 am, it was hard to say “No” to the idea of a hot lunch, bathrooms and electrical outlets. The resort was much like Shelter Cove, except that it’s Wi Fi was twenty times better and they had a restaurant with really great food. I ordered a salad, a pulled pork sandwich (I seem to be on a pork kick recently), a beer and a mint n’ chip milkshake. Four hours later I was finally rambling back up the trail, reminding myself that beer and hiking don’t really mix.
I wasn’t prepared for the stark change in scenery I was walking into and it completely caught me by surprise. I came out from the dense trees onto Wickiup Plain and ran smack into a view of Le Conte Crater, Rock Mesa, and South Sister peak all lined up perfectly.
Le Conte Crater is a cinder cone created 6,000 to 8,000 years ago by volcanic eruptions. The Wickiup Plain was created by older lava flows dating back 20,000 years. The massive and desolate Rock Mesa formed when a vent erupted only 2,000 years ago. The guide book notes that because the lava from the vent was so viscous, it cooled and solidified before completely spreading out over the plain, leaving the lava piled high above as a mesa and looking very much like a tidal wave frozen in time.
South Sister is one of three volcanic mountains for which this wilderness area is named. It’s the youngest of the three peaks and because it hasn’t been exposed to any more than the two most recent glaciation periods, it hasn’t suffered much from erosion. Thus it’s retained it’s lovely symetry and is also the tallest of the three Sisters at 10,300 feet. It’s still an active volcano and is closely monitored by researchers.
I’m camping tonight in a meadow just below South Sister. The clouds are rolling by the peak and I keep looking out of my tent to catch a glimpse of her red-headed summit. Since I had a couple hours of daylight remaining, I washed up with a little dromedary bag shower (which was very cold), played ukulele and read a book I picked up for free at Shelter Cove. The zipper on my tent is being finicky and I hope I can nurse it for another six weeks of use. If I’m lucky, the bugs won’t be too bad in Washington and then I won’t even need the zipper. [Fingers crossed!]
July 14- 20 miles, camping at the Sisters’ City Campground
Once I had climbed out of the meadows and trees, I entered what looked like an alien world. Black obsidian glass framed the trail for several miles and when the sunlight broke through the clouds the hills sparkled like glitter.
Rather suddenly, the obsidian gave way to rough, dull lava rocks of reds, greys, and black. This was an enormous field of lava, covering 65 square miles from South Sister and Rock Mesa to Mount Washington. It was the largest lava flow of the Cascade Mountains since the Pliestocene era. When I reached the top of my climb and could see how far the field extended, it brought images to mind of entire continents forming by eruptions greater than this one.
I hadn’t planned on visiting the city of Sisters, but, again, it seemed like the timing was right and the amenities tempting. Also, I just started having some strange pins and needles along my back today and a couple of half days in a row probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. I think I might have a pinched nerve, but I’m not sure if it’s from my pack or from how I use my trekking poles.
I was picked up by a family of four on their way home from a biking and kayaking trip. They squeezed me and my pack in even though their truck was full to the brim. The two kids, college students, are planning to bike down Highway 1 in August. The parents picked me up because they pictured their own children standing on the side of the road and hoped that good people would stop for them. I like their reasoning!
They drove me fifteen miles into town and dropped me off at the city campground, where hikers and bikers can set up their tents and shower for $5 per night. I’m sharing the space with a Belgian family who are cycling from Portland to San Francisco with their two little kids. They’re shy, but very sweet and the kids are playing with my ukulele.