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City: San Diego
Begins: Jul 12, 2019
Date: Sat, Jul 27th, 2019
Start: Big Lake, OR
End: Shelter Cove, OR
Daily Distance: 87
Trip Distance: 237.0
Entry Visits: 629
Journal Visits: 1,460
Guestbook Views: 100
Guestbook Entrys: 16
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North and Middle Sisters rise above the lava fields
Big Lake Youth Camp to Shelter Cove July 27 - Aug 3
Where the PCT passes through it, Oregon was created by fire and ravaged by fire in turn. The trail navigates through staggering burn areas, some so recent the smell of ash lingers still. Some from years ago, with thousands of newly grown small trees scattered among the ruins of the forest that was. In most places the winter snow germinated waiting wildflowers. Stand on a ridge and turn 360 deg: as far as the eye can see in all directions lies a burnt wasteland, millions of skeletal trunks pointing upward. Some black as charcoal, some silver, their charred exteriors having eroded away over the years, some still dripping with the ghostly fragments of moss that once hung from shaded, dewy branches. Oregon has been burning at a prodigious rate this past decade.
I’m heading into the infamous lava fields at 6am in the early chill air. Mile after mile, the trail traverses through chunky lava sharp enough to chew up boot tread. Oregon’s Cascade volcanos and their creation are front and center here along the PCT. Though standing stately and aloof for the moment, the history of volcanic chaos is everywhere. In places the trail follows the very edge of a lava flow suddenly stopped short. 30 or even 50 feet high, it’s easy to envision the molten lava tumbling and sliding along the ground and then grinding to a halt. The whole area seems to churn.
As I navigate my way carefully through the lava, a view of several more volcanic mountains is on the horizon. Two of the Three Sisters (North Sister and Middle Sister) make an appearance, and another, The Husband. A southbound hiker catches up to me and shows me an app called Peak Finder. Using your latitude, longitude and altitude it identifies all the peaks your phone points to, and can even be rotated to see what’s beyond the horizon. It’s really very cool and together we check out all the peaks we can see. I’m so tuned in now to the lava that I think I can’t go wrong stopping for the night at “Lava Camp”, situated a bit off trail on a lake. It’s a popular spot with the locals, it turns out, and it’s Saturday. I fall asleep to the sounds of country rock sounding from across the water.
After another couple days of hiking the spectacular South Sister comes into view and she’s a shocker! Her sedate sisters are grey and a bit snowy, but she is red and black and almost cracked in half. I camp just west at her feet in a small stand of trees near little Season Creek. It’s a beautiful, secluded spot and the setting sun lights up the the mountain’s fiery colors.
I’m truly exhausted. My legs are swollen like overstuffed sausages and my face is bloated each morning when I wake. My feet hurt. A lot. I’m still not conditioned to the trail and my electrolytes are off. I debate staying here at Season Creek under South Sister’s intense gaze because this last day, just 13 miles, has overwhelmed me. But instead, I take my time in the morning, enjoy the beauty surrounding me, and vow to just relax and go slowly. I leave camp at 9 and hike a slow, leisurely 10 miles, stopping in a large meadow full of wildflowers for an hour to eat and relax. A shallow stream winds through it as smooth and silent as silk. While I’m basking, a father and his perhaps 12 year old son pass by. They’re both struggling under heavy packs and the intense heat, and look like they’d rather be watching sports on TV and eating nachos, dad with a beer in his hand and son with a Coke. The boy offers me a shy, game smile. His dad asks if there are any lakes ahead to swim in. There aren’t, I have to tell him, and they move resignedly on. I’m touched by them both out here with their heavy packs and determination, having a father-son adventure.
It takes about 2 ½ weeks and finally my mind and body have come to terms with each other. It’s the moment all long distance hikers wait for. My feet are mostly ok, my legs look normal again, I’m less worried that my body will collapse. It’s my trail zen moment, knowing that whatever happens it will be ok. Now, three weeks into my hike, I’m taking 2 rest days at a lovely lakeside resort, Shelter Cove. It’s full of families and huge campers and great food. Tonight one hiker organized a hiker hot dog and s’mores party. It starts at 7, almost my trail bedtime, but since I’m just hanging out for another day tomorrow, guess I’ll go eat my fair share!
Halo's PCT Adventure 2019
"All I want is to be happy being who I am
To be strong and free
To see day arise from night
I want to feel I've lived my life."
From "Gabrielle's Song"
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