Archive for the ‘Oregon – F’ Category

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 Miles Today: 33.1 Total: 2,100.1

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010


Today was smoke all day, beginning with an orange-red sun early in the morning– and a slightly late start  because I didn’t wake up in time.  As we headed out along the PCT,   beams of light coming through the trees were actually red when they hit the forest floor and tree trunks, so it almost looked as if the forest were on fire. It rapidly turned into a hot day— ninety degrees in the shade. Fortunately, there was plenty of shade! The forest was beautiful, with enough openness that you didn’t feel closed in, and broadleafed trees as well as evergreens.

We spent the morning walking through Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The folks there were busy with some logging.  Several spots along the trail were freshly clearcut, and we could hear the sound of chainsaws in other places.  Yesterday on our long drive around the fire,  we’d had a discussion with Mr. Peterson about forest management, including logging.   He said that believe it or not, there actually is a trend towards logging with horses (just like “in the olden days”), the reason being that horses don’t damage the forest like mechanized equipment does, AND they are cheaper than helicopter logging.  Interesting! 

We reached the nice log bridge over the Warm Springs “River” (creek, actually) and stopped to rinse socks and get water.  The light in the forest was incredibly beautiful, because of the smoke haze in the air.  All the trees and rhodies and plants looked as if they had a golden glow to them. 


Finally we reached big, blue and very smoky Timothy Lake.  Only a few people were camped  there (instead of the usual summer crowds), and those few were out in the lake swimming, yelling and splashing. Man, would we have liked to join them, but we needed miles, and there were rumours of a hiker cache at Wapinita Pass (True rumours, as it turned out!)  We had planned to stop for water at Little Crater Lake, but changed our minds when we spotted a really nice spring just below the trail.  It had a wooden sign that said, “Water”, but somebody had marker-penned in an indignant request, “People Stay Out!”  The spring does flow into a pretty little pool, and I guess maybe kids were playing in it??  We took a little rest break in the shade at the spring, and enjoyed the COLD, wonderful water!

All afternoon long, I felt as if I were hiking at sunset, which is my favorite time of day to hike!  I loved the golden light and the beautiful forest, but felt bummed that this loveliness was caused by a forest fire.  The trail is easy walking and we decided to aim for eating supper at Wapinitia Pass, just in case there was a cache there.  The PCT went on a long contour along steep mountainsides covered with rhodies, and most of the rocks were covered with moss.  Finally we reached the mountainsides where normally we’d have awesome views of Mt. Hood just up ahead, but (sigh) because of all the smoke, we could barely see Mt. Hood at all.


As we approached Wapinitia Pass, there was a great big log with (hooray!) a large cooler next to it.  We cheered and yelled, slung off our packs and looked inside to see what we could find.  Oh yes!  Goodies!   It had apples, soda, beer and candy— great additions to our crackers, peanut butter and dried fruit!   We got very comfortable, sitting on the ground with the log as a backrest, and enjoying the food.  It was hard to get up and go on. 

From there we hiked (the PCT was a Nordic ski trail at this point, well marked!)  till a couple of miles before Barlow Pass and managed to organize a cowboy campsite on a forest floor full of plants and fallen tree branches— not easy!  From what we could see up ahead, it looks like there are no more forest fires between us and Cascade Locks, and the smoke from the fires behind us is slowly lifting and blowing away.  I hope they are getting those fires “knocked down”!    Mt. Hood still has lots of snow on it, which will make the river crossings tomorrow rather “interesting”.   Bill and I agreed on “Second breakfast tomorrow at Timberline Lodge!”

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: In the land of Lamedon, home of Gondorian sturdy hillmen


Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Miles Today: 37.5 (27.5 actual + 10 fire closure) Total: 2,067

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010


Today was a day of rocks, fire and God’s perfect timing. It was an experience I will not soon forget!

 Early morning when we started out there was a beautiful “moonset” in the west— a golden round moon, clouds pink from sunrise, and the blue of early morning sky. Very gorgeous!  And only a couple of minutes of walking took us to Shale Lakes, which are a pretty set of little lakes.  The PCT began to climb up and up, headed for Jefferson Park.  Along the way, hooray!  We came to a whole lot of rhododendrons by the trail!  No flowers, of course (wrong time of year) but rhododendrons mean we’re getting closer and closer to Mt. Hood and the OR/WA border!  I cheered when I saw the rhodies! 

The trail was slow going, though.  It was very rocky, and I could not hike fast for fear of tripping and falling.  I managed to avoid doing that, but poor Bill did fall once, right off the trail.  He ended up scratched and bruised, but no worse.  Whew!  I’ve seen people who just bop along a rough rocky trail, moving fast–wish I could do that, but I’d be on my face in no time!  The slow going continued all morning and into the afternoon.  “There’s no way we’re going to get 30 miles today,” I thought to myself, and was a bit bummed.  All I could do was resign myself to doing the best I could.

The scenery on this part of the PCT is great, though!  We had grand views to the west, as well as glimpses of Mt. Jeff towering alongside us.   I wondered how bad the crossings would be of the various snowmelt creeks coming down off Mt. Jeff, but we had no problems.  At Milky Creek, Bill decided to stop and wash socks.  I was wondering how it would be at notorious Russell Creek, but no problem there either–Russell was an easy rockhop.  Several other backpackers (not thruhikers) were hanging out at Russell and they had a dog with them that barked and growled at us ferociously.  Its owner promptly dragged it off the trail and made it sit down while we went by.  Thankyou!  Often we have to remind the owner to get control of their dog.  This guy didn’t need any reminders.

We were looking forward to seeing Jefferson Park— one of the prettiest places on the whole PCT. But two things worried me.


One was a constant parade of helicopters overhead (never bodes well in the wilderness). The second was “Where are the hikers?”  When we were here in 2005, the trail in and near Jefferson Park was a busy place.   Today the only hikers we’d seen so far were the few at Russell Creek. 

Finally we reached the unbelievable beauty of Jefferson Park.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s like you are right at the foot of snowy Mt. Jeff, among intensely green meadows full of wildflowers.  Little sparkling lakes with sandy beaches are scattered here and there; pristine little snowmelt creeks are meandering through the grass.  This is one of the most beautiful sections of the whole PCT, and we strolled along, stopping to admire everything.

But something was weird and different.  I couldn’t figure out what it was at first, then suddenly I realized what it was.  “Bill,” I said, “where is everybody?”  We were the only people in the entire Park.  Usually the place is swarming with dayhikers and backpackers.  And it was a beautiful day, in August, prime hiking season.  Very strange.

Shrugging our shoulders, we hiked on, tackling the big rocky climb up over the shoulder of Mt. Jeff.  Our feet were very sore by the time we reached the top–I guess we older folks just don’t have as much fat padding on the bottoms of our feet!  But the climb and rough trail were SO worth it!  The views are gorgeous.  At the top are a lot of tough little gnarly trees that somehow survive the rigors of life up here, as well as alpine wildflowers barely an inch or two high, but very pretty. 

As we expected, the north side of the Mt. Jeff shoulder had plenty of snow!  Most of the trail was completely covered over, but there are rock cairns to help hikers figure out the general direction to travel.  So we started scrambling down the snowfields-interspersed-with-rocks.  It was sort of High Sierras all over again.   I even glissaded down one of the snowfields.  But we continued to puzzle over “Where are the hikers?”  We could not even see any footprints in the snow!  

And now we had yet another concern.  From up high on the shoulder, we’d had a great view of Mt. Hood  (yeee-ha! ) but also a great view of FOUR separate narrow plumes of smoke in the vast forests down below.  Were they burn piles?  Hardly likely–this is wilderness area.  Were they Forest Service controlled burns?  Maybe. We got out our maps and decided that the PCT went inbetween a couple of the smoke plumes, so hopefully we were OK.   Our stomachs were yelling for lunch, though, and it was very chilly and extremely windy, so we agreed to hike downhill enough to get out of the wind before stopping to eat.

After getting through all the snowfields, we found a nice little sunny, windprotected hollow.  That sun felt good!  We cooked and ate lunch, then rested for a few minutes in the warmth before hoisting packs to finish the descent to Ollallie Lake.  We were planning to get water at Breitenbush Creek, once we reached the road.


But then everything came to a screeching halt.  At the road, a USFS guy in a red pickup truck was waiting. “Sorry folks, your trail is CLOSED.” Oh no! “But we’re running a shuttle for you hikers around the fire zone.  Are there any more thruhikers coming in behind you?”  Bill and I thought of Phooey, but we hadn’t seen him all day and had no idea where he was.  We told the USFS guy, a Mr. Peterson, that we only knew of one, but he might be ahead of us.  Peterson looked at his watch and said, “I’ll wait 45 more minutes, but then I’m taking you guys around the fire.  By the way, would you like something to eat? ”   Well, the fact that we’d eaten lunch not too long ago did not deter us from saying, “Sure!  Whatcha got?” 

Peterson gave us some US Army MRE’s that even heat themselves up.  So we had meatloaf and mashed potatoes and other goodies while waiting the 45 minutes.  Peterson told us that all the access roads and trailheads to Jefferson were closed because of the fires. No wonder nobody was at Jefferson Park!  After the 45 minutes were up, there was no sign of Phooey, so we tossed our packs in the back of the red pickup and off we went, bouncing and jouncing on the very rocky road.  “There is a short way back to the PCT,” Peterson told us.  “But I can’t take you that way anymore–it’s closed by the fires.  So I’ll have to take you the long way.”  “How did the fires start?” we asked.  “Lightning strikes?”   “Yup.  We had a storm a couple of days ago.” 

It turned out that Peterson was basically the “Chief Kahuna” of this whole USFS area, and it was on his authority that the hiker shuttles were running.  THANKYOU, Mr. Peterson!  The longer route we were following took us right close by to one of the fires, and it looked pretty scary–a lot worse than it had looked from up high on Mt. Jeff.  Peterson stopped the truck and got out to have a look at it.  “I don’t like this,” he said.  “I’ve been bugging HQ that they ought to knock this one down instead of just letting it burn like that.”  He started talking on his radio, apparently “bugging HQ” some more.  “The best way I can describe what the fire looked like would be to say that there were a lot of tall trees on fire in such a way that they looked like torches.  There was a lot of smoke, too.  I mentioned this to Peterson, and he said, “Right.  What you’re looking at is a “torch” fire.  It’s nasty, but could be a lot worse.” 

Suddenly, it was like the fire exploded!  It started expanding like crazy, right in front of our eyes.  Peterson leaped into the truck and grabbed his radio.  “Get in!  Quick!” he said.   “It’s gone to a crown fire!  You guys will be the LAST hikers to get through. Even the road isn’t safe now.”  “But what will the other hikers behind us do, then?”  I asked.  “They will have to turn around and go back,” Peterson said, as he steered the jouncing truck down the rocky road.  Clouds of smoke were billowing behind us, and orangered flames.


Bill and I were riding along and thinking, “Lord, we are in awe of your timing, AGAIN.  If we’d reached Breitenbush Road even an hour after we did, we’d have had to turn back.   Instead, we’re on the LAST hiker shuttle to get through. Thankyou, Lord, thankyou!” 

Very soon, helicopters were flying overhead, carrying water to dump on the fire.  Peterson stopped off every now and then to check on the closed roads, to make sure that not only were they closed, but that there was a USFS person there to enforce the closure.  At one of them, the “guard” asked anxiously, “How long do I have to stay here?  That fire is getting bad!”  Sure enough, ashes were falling all around us.  Peterson gave him some instructions about when to leave, and drove on.  “I’ll take you as close to the PCT as I can, ” he said, and finally took us up one of the closed roads to a trail crossing near Jude Lake.  We thanked him fervently for his efforts in fighting the bureauocracy and getting the hiker shuttle running, plus driving us all this long way round.  “My pleasure,” he said.  What an awesome guy!

Once we got back to the PCT, we made tracks north as fast as we could!  Behind us was what looked like big gray clouds coming in, but it was SMOKE.  We did not want to be anywhere near it!  Fortunately, the trail was nice smooth dirt through the forest, and we could move fast.   We reached Lemiti Meadows and kept going as quickly as we could till we were past Chinquapin Viewpoint.  At sunset we stopped and cowboy camped on a saddle.  It was a pleasant, breezy evening, with crickets singing.  We were sorry to have missed 10 miles of PCT–10 very pretty miles, with lots of little lakes, plus of course, great big gorgeous Ollalie Lake.  But oh, are we grateful to God for His perfect timing! 

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Reach the northeasterly lands of Morthond


Monday, August 23, 2010 Miles Today: 28.1 Total: 2,029

Monday, August 23rd, 2010


We had cowboy camped in the woods of Big Lake Youth Camp last night, and woke up this morning to everything WET— fog was all over the lake and us! Oh well— we headed back (at 6am) to the nice warm laundry room at the camp, where I put our very grubby socks to soak, and explained to Bill how to wash them once they’d soaked awhile.  Then I went off and took a “thorough” shower, trying my best to wash off  the ground-in dirt on ME!  But no matter how hard I scrubbed,  I just could not get the dirt off the bottoms of my feet.  I wondered how far some of that dirt has been travelling with me??  I finally gave up, dried off, bundled up in all my warm clothes (it was a bitter cold morning) and dashed back to the warm laundry room, where I worked on finishing up journal entries. When I went to see if our socks were done, I discovered that they were still just soaking, and Bill hadn’t washed them at all.  Sigh. 

But we managed to finish up the socks, and get our damp sleeping bags dry in time for breakfast– a fabulous all-you-can eat feast, and the friendly cook came out to eat with all us hikers. When we were all just about done with our first round of food and were thinking about going for seconds,  he asked, “Would anyone like some ice cream?” There was a collective gasp of delight followed by a chorus of “Yes, please!” So in addition to everything else, we each got a great big ice cream sandwich!  And then we still went off for seconds on the regular breakfast food, till we were stuffed to the gills.  We enjoyed talking with all the hikers.  One guy was thruhiking SOBO with his dog, but had decided to skip the “lava horror walk” since it would be too hard on his dog’s paws.  He volunteered to join the work party at the Youth Camp today, as he waits for a friend to pick him up, then drop him off at a different point along the PCT.

We went back to the laundry to collect our now clean and hopefully dry gear, and found the BLYC laundress had arrived to work on the Camp laundry items.  She was a very sweet lady, and we had a good time talking to her for awhile about the Lord and about how different people react when they find out that you are serious about following Christ, and when you (gasp!) actually try to tell them about how to know Him.  She said that yesterday there were 10 thruhikers at BLYC, and they all wanted to do laundry, so she just laid aside all the camp laundry and told them, “Go for it!”  She in effect let them take over the laundry.  “It was really strange, though,” she said.  “The hikers stayed in the laundry room and the art room next door ALL DAY.  Usually hikers go out to the lake for a swim, or hang around on the porch.  I guess it was just too cold to do that.”  No kidding–it was still a very cold morning!  Brrrrrr!


We loaded up on water— one of the SOBOs warned of “no decent ontrail water for 30 miles!” and headed out. Just before Santiam Pass, surprise! A cache full of what I guess is the official Oregon thruhiker cache drink— Pepsi. Then on into a burn zone, which was there in 2005.  Regrowth has been very slow.  There were lots of wildflowers, but only a few small pine trees.  Very sad.  The PCT launched into a  big climb up to 3-Fingered Jack mountain with awesome views of the 3 Sisters and Mt. Washington to the south of us.  We met some more very clean backpackers who were heading OUT of the mountains.  I guess they didn’t stay IN the mountains very long, or they’d have been grubbier!

Finally we were up high enough to have views of Mt. Jefferson, and as the day progressed, those views of “Mt. Jeff” got more and more impressive!  One of the fun things about the PCT in Oregon is seeing a magnificent peak on the horizon, then watch as it gets closer and closer.  We were still hiking in “burn zone”, and everything was ashy and charcoal-y.  I was very glad when we reached an unburned, green “island” where we could stop for our Snickers break!  The trail was often very rough, and had a lot of fire zone litter on it–pieces of burned bark, small branches AND even some snow patches!


Finally we were up on the shoulder of 3-Fingered Jack, and from that point on, the trail is absolutely awesome!  The views are fantastic.  Far below us were green meadows at the foot of “Jack”,  the massive “Mt. Jeff” lay just ahead, we were out of the fire zone, and the day had finally warmed up enough that we weren’t shivering!  When we reached Rockpile Lake, we decided to stop and get water, and there was Phooey, taking a break.  “I’m tired,” he said.  He’s been doing 30 mile days, too, trying to get to Cascade Locks in time for Trail Days.  We all agreed that Trail Days had better be good, considering the effort we’ve been putting out to get there!

It was wonderful to be getting closer and closer to Jefferson Park.  I love the “high alpine” feel of this whole area. All the plants, trees, etc and the very dramatic mountains make you feel as if civilization is far away. We ate dinner on a saddle with a great view of Mt. Jeff.  At 7 pm, we were still on a long contour along a steep mountainside, and I began to worry about finding a place to camp before dark, but awhile later, we spotted  a small grassy hollow.  The wind was blowing hard and very cold, but down in the hollow it was rushing overhead instead of blowing right on us.  We put up the tarp (for dew protection) and the net tent so we could sleep in peace, with no mosquitoes.  The sound of the wind in the treetops was very soothing.  Our only concern is that we are both smelling some smokiness in the air–it seems to be coming from the south and west of us, so we should be OK up here on the PCT.  Jefferson Park tomorrow! 

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: Left Paths of the Dead and reached the Morthond Vale waterfall


Sunday, August 22, 2010 Big Lake Youth Camp Miles Today: 28.6 Total: 2,000.9

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010


Brrr! A cold 38 degree morning! We packed up fast and hit the trail, hoping for a hill to climb! (Hills warm you up!) The clouds of yesterday and last night were mostly gone, so I took a picture of one of the nearby Sisters.  I’ve learned that up here in Sisters Wilderness, the clouds can blow in really fast, so if you can actually SEE the mountain, better take a picture of it quickly, before it’s shrouded in clouds again! 

The PCT wandered all over the place, up and down, and around hillsides.  The farther we went, the more AMAZED we were that we ever made it through here safely in 2005, when we were so lost that all we could do was take a compass heading and try to travel north. 

In the early morning light, the trail took us through several very pretty meadows, full of wildflowers.  Some of the meadows were “lupines only” and some were “mixed bouquets”!  I felt as if I were walking through a flower garden.  Backpacker tents were scattered here and there, usually in the trees at the edges of the meadows.  Nobody was up yet!  We stopped for a quick, very shivery cold breakfast in a cold wind, and as we were just finishing up, along came Phooey, and he hiked with us for awhile.  All of us were in awe of the scenery, and we were running out of superlatives to comment on it!  Eventually we left Phooey behind and were hiking by ourselves again.

I was particularly looking forward to seeing Obsidian Falls and wondered whether there really was that much obsidian in the area.  Well, the falls were very pretty and it’s true— the whole place really does have tons of obsidian!  In 2005 everything was covered with snow, and we couldn’t see the ground at all.  I enjoyed walking the PCT by the falls this time, and seeing the ground all shining with obsidian flakes. 

But finally we were into what I call the “lavalands”— miles and miles of all sorts of lava, from dramatic, twisted red formations to miles of grey boulder piles.  We stopped to get water from a spring at the beginning of the lavalands, and then headed up into what feels like another world.  The few trees up there are “bonsai-ed”–all dwarfed, twisted and gnarly.  I am in awe of the fact that they are able to survive.  The trail is very rocky and often steep, but the views of Sisters are spectacular.  If we were not thruhiking, I would want to go exploring this area or at least just stop often and “soak up” the scenery. 

Eventually we reached a multi-trail junction marked by a big rock cairn.  Paths headed out in all directions–but there was no trail sign!  We stopped and puzzled over our maps, tried going up one of the paths, concluded, “This one is not the PCT” and went back to the junction just in time to meet Phooey and Symbiosis puzzling over THEIR maps.  All of us finally decided which trail was the PCT and Bill & I took off.  By this time, I was starting to think about the possibility of supper at Big Lake Youth Camp.  If we hurried, we might make it!  But I also knew, from 2005, that many miles of what I call “the lava horror trail” lay ahead of us, where we’d be forced to slow way down. So I decided that every place I could, I would run instead of walk.  Bill was feeling very well, and had no trouble keeping up!

Soon we were meeting lots of very clean backpacker groups who were heading IN to Sisters Wilderness.  The difference between them and us grubby thruhikers is quite striking!  We stopped for a quick lunch at South Matthum Lake in a bitter cold wind that was blowing a lot of clouds our way.  Symbiosis caught up with us while we were eating, and stopped to talk.  He really admires Bill for doing the PCT at age 70!

The trail comes down off the mountains, goes through some pretty woods, and then begins the “lava horror trail”.  It extends all the way to the highway, and then miles beyond that.  All around us were acres of lava boulders.  The trail wanders among them, and the trail tread itself is  lava rocks.  No nice pumice or gravel tread here!  It’s ROCKS!  It is unbelievably rough, and our pace slowed to a crawl.  It took us a long, long time before we finally reached dirt trail again, and by the time we got there, even Bill was literally yelping in pain.   My feet hurt so much that I could hardly walk.  We stopped by the dirt trail, sat down and took off our shoes for awhile.  My feet were literally throbbing, and Bill said his hurt something awful.   If anyone asked me, “What are the toughest parts of the PCT?”  I would tell them “The lava walk after Sisters Wilderness!”

  But we could actually see Mt. Washington to the north, and thoughts of  Big Lake Youth Camp dinner were very encouraging, so after a bit we got back on the trail and hurried along as fast as we could on our sore feet.  The PCT takes a very convoluted route to reach Mt. Washington, which includes a very long downhill, then a very long uphill, some more lavawalking and a route that goes way off to the east instead of travelling north.  To add to the fun, it was all a forest fire zone of blackened tree trunks and ashy ground. 

But finally the trail turned north and west again, climbed back up to Mt. Washington, and went back into green forest.  Looking to the west, we could see that the Willamette Valley was clear and sunshiny, and so were the drylands to the east of us, but up in the Cascades, where we were walking, dark clouds were blowing in fast.  Well, we were hiking as fast as we could along the trail, even running again when possible, and that’s what we were doing when we caught up with Phooey.  (He’d passed us during the lavawalk section–the rocks didn’t bother him!)  Phooey was down on hands and knees, collecting pine cones and making a SIGN in the trail that said, “2,000”.  Wowee!   “Are we really at the 2,000 mile mark?”  we asked him, and he said, “Well, according to my GPS, we are!”

We walked on a few more minutes, and there was the turnoff to Big Lake camp.  But at the camp, all appeared deserted.  Nobody was in sight.  Phooey came along, and we all tried to figure out “Where’s everybody?”  Finally we flagged down a camp staff guy, and he said all the camps were done for the summer.  The last camp finished up yesterday!!  But he said we were welcome to use the kitchen (including any food we spotted there), do laundry, etc., and he got our resupply boxes for us.  He told us there’d be a nice big breakfast in the morning, since this week was a “work week” to get the camp ready for winter.

So we got all the hot chocolate we wanted, plus some fruit, and I cooked our trail dinner on a “regular” stove!  I sorted our food and got the packs ready for the run to Timberline Lodge.  At 30 miles per day, we should make it in 3 1/2 days.  Then I got to take a shower!  I was so tired, though, that even though it was nice to be clean, more than anything, I just wanted to lie down!  Once all was done, we headed off along the lake to find a campsite in the woods, and set up camp with the sun already set, and the woods growing dark.  Once I lay down, it hit me how tremendously tired and sore I was, and I felt a bit overwhelmed.  Trying to do 30 miles a day I always feel like I have to hurry, all the time, and it is not fun.   I am very glad to be here at Big Lake, though–it is so beautiful.

Walk with Aragorn to Minas Tirith: In Paths of the Dead, all light fails, the Dead follow