After scarfing down our baked potatoes real quick as we were leaving Shelter Cove we walked a mere six miles. We were quite happy to ‘near-o’ (walking near zero miles) properly as our packs were heavy from resupplying. (I say ‘properly’ because some of our ‘nearos’ are as long as 12, 15, or 17 miles, shorter than our usual but longer than near zero). After the six-ish miles we reached a scenic lake, Lower Rosary Lake. Sadly it was a bit too chilly for a swim though we were fairly freshly showered. It seems nights have been very cold ever since we crossed the border into Oregon. Our guides said they would be but it is weird that the climate seems to abide so strictly to state boundaries.
The campsite we were using was clearly quite popular. We’ve learnt that well formed campsites (i.e. with fire pits and logs) that are close to trail heads seem to be surrounded by unburied toilet paper. It seems that some of the less experienced or less conscientious weekenders don’t seem to know how to poop in the woods. When Physio went to take care of some business himself, he encountered a whole lot of unburied poop and toilet paper. It was a real buzzkill. Despite the scoop with the poop, we managed to make some more food, eat it down, snuggle up in the tent and go to sleep.
In the morning we did our standard morning camp chores and set off. We (but especially Cashmere) were excited to find some nice, though small, berries! We passed the also scenic Middle and Upper Rosary Lakes and then leapfrogged with a friendly young hiker named Patchie until we ended up walking with him, which was nice. We had our morning tea by a ‘Eugene [Oregon] to PCT’ track that made me think of our very dear friend Lora Bailey who’s from Eugene.
After morning tea we wound up hiking with a lovely guy named Bearly. Bearly has a propensity for attracting bears. He has encountered six so far on the trail (all in California…thusfar). One even kind of charged at him and he retaliated by acting big and scary. He was lucky that, despite his small stature, the bear backed down. He ‘bearly’ survived.
Bearly has also been getting a little annoyed with the increasing presence of used toilet paper. Bearly truly lives by “Leave No Trace” principles and doesn’t carry toilet paper at all. Instead he uses rocks and mosses. He told us he wants to make an educational YouTube video called “Pooping in the woods, Bearly style”. It was certainly entertaining walking with him.
While we didn’t get many views through much of the day, we did get some good glimpses of the ‘Sisters’ three large, snow-speckled Cascade volcanoes we were approaching (not pictured…yet).
After dinner by one gorgeous lake we set up camp by another a few miles on and went to sleep.
Following our nearo, we wanted to take advantage of Oregon’s relatively gentle terrain to get a little further ahead on our schedule. We had walked 25 miles (~40km) the previous day and hoped to walk 26 (~42km) or so this day, day 128. This was fairly decent progress by our standards but there certainly are plenty of more hard-out hikers around. For instance, a number of hikers do something called, “the Oregon Challenge” where they try to hike the whole state’s 428 miles (~685km) in 2 weeks or less. To do so, one would have to average about 31 miles (~49km) per day. We tend to find any mileage approaching 30 to be fairly unpleasant so did not even consider taking that challenge. It is also more difficult as a couple who share meals and gear as you can really only walk as fast as whoever is walking the slowest that day.
Anyway the huckleberries were prevalent as we tried to start off, immediately slowing down berry-crazy Cashmere. She has actually made herself a special berry bag that she can hang off the front of her pack so that she can pick some berries as we move along (or she tries to). The bag was out and in action this morning.
We had morning tea by one of the very many nice lakes around. There wasn’t much to report before lunch time. However, when we stopped for lunch we had a rather weird visitor. For whatever reason a shirtless (american guys love getting shirtless) hippy wanderer with a dog decided to hang out with us. Cashmere felt a bit bad for his dog walking in the heat and gave him some water and then the dog showed off by eating a yellow jacket wasp. Physio wasn’t keen on the hippy dude’s way of talking in a perpetually trippy voice. Cashmere thought he was mostly harmless but wasn’t impressed when he told us he had camped in a protected area and had a fire when there is a fire ban in place.
Anyhow as our afternoon walking progressed we came to a junction where we could take a slight alternate route to go via Elk Lake Resort where there was a restaurant. We were trying to resist and get some miles done. Then we heard Clutch’s awesome parents would be there also, doing trail magic. Oh man. Funnily enough that actually pushed us to not go there as we realized it would be a real hiker vortex. We’d never leave! So we were strong and task-oriented and resisted.
Also coming into view was a pointy good-looking volcano with a ski resort on the side. Later we figured out this was probably Mt Bachelor. We could also see South Sister and she was looking real fine.
After some more hiking we had an extensive dinner break by a lake called Sisters Mirror Lake. It was extensive because we both went for a swim. It turned out that was the only way you could actually see a Sister Volcano and really only the very top. Cashmere’s swim was cut a little short by some crazy birds who seemed incredibly interested in trying to steal some of the food we had left out on the shore.
After our dinner we hiked onward to some treeless volcanic plains. With no trees in the way we got our first close up views of South Sister. As the sun set we continued to hike enjoying the open space and lack of other hikers. Eventually, well after dark, we started to look for a campsite and found some flat ground tucked into some trees. With the new moon the night sky was incredible so we decided to cowboy camp. It had been a great day.
Because we had cowboy camped we awoke early, at dawn. This was pretty good because we were aiming to do near 25 miles again as we’d figured out that would work fairly well for us to save a day and not kill ourselves.
We had a strong start too, covering 10 miles before morning tea, without even really noticing the miles go by. We weren’t ravenously hangry either. To be fair, the views of the Sisters had been incredible, distracting us from the trail itself. We had also glimpsed some cool other peaks that were a little further off. There were two pointy-looking scraggly ones and one big snowy volcano, presumably Mt Jefferson. Also, we had found a patch of Cashmere’s absolute favourite kind of blueberry which was awesome. Thusfar we sure were liking these Sisters.
We had our morning tea by the Obsidian Creek and next to a very nice waterfall. When we first sat down for morning tea we thought the area had been recently burnt because there were black shards everywhere. However, closer inspection of these shards revealed they were actually obsidian. According to the reliable resource of Physio, obsidian is created when lava hits water, making a gorgeous black rock that is a bit like glass. It was everywhere around us.
After our strong start we got a little too cocky about how good we are at hiking. We set our sights for our next break on a lake in just under eight miles. Despite the amazing views of Middle Sister, North Sister, and all their glaciers, the miles dragged despite the awesome views. The eight miles to the lake was either loose sand or it was loose ankle- breaking chunks of lava rock. Physio first found himself complaining about the loose sand – it seemed like hard work. Then after miles of hiking along lava fields suddenly the sand seemed like a luxury.
The afternoon of hiking was also hard because it was hot and there was almost no shade. To make matters worse the lava rock seemed to be emitting heat back at us from below. After hours of hot slogging we finally arrived at the lake. Cashmere got the dinner food cooking, which we were having for lunch because another long waterless stretch was coming, while Physio got into the lake for a dip. Cashmere soon joined Physio and it was heaven in that water.
After we got out of the lake and ate lunch we had to start walking again. And guess what the majority of the next many miles were? You guessed it….lava! Ugh. Man that stuff is tiring and slow-going. It also pokes into the bottom of your shoes and makes your feet sore. What kind of an explosion caused all this lava?
After much slow slogging along we made it to a road, McKenzie Pass. How did they even build this road in the lava? Much dynamite must have been involved. There was a cool-looking lava castle a mere 0.2 miles up the road but we were honestly way too tired to make the tiny side trip. I am even getting tired thinking back about it.
So we carried on trudging on the other side of the road through more lava. Cashmere was dishing out pep talks to Physio like crazy. As it started to get dark we got through the last of the lava and set up our cowboy camp under some seemingly magical trees, exhausted. We didn’t even care that there was lots of smoke around. What difference does it make wheee the fire is? We rapidly ate our snacks to fill ourselves up and went to sleep.
We woke up in the morning excited to have finished walking through lava the previous day only to soon find, more lava! No! This wasn’t on our topographic maps. Luckily it only lasted a few miles and we only had 14.5 miles (~23km) to walk out to the road to go rest up in the town of Sisters. There is little that stands out from those miles. Most of the day was spent hiking through burnt forests. We did traverse around a big rocky mountain called Mount Washington.
The highlight of the days hiking was not views of Mount Washington. The highlight was something much more random. For some reason we became really entranced by some huge gravel piles. Why are they there? Why is there gravel pouring out of that building? Are they planning to cover all of the trail through the lava fields in gravel? The gravel mysteries were so intriguing we just kept staring at the piles and stumbling on rocks and roots on the trail. So now we have perverted feelings about gravel piles and high voltage power lines. We are getting really weird.
Shortly after the gravel piles we hit the highway and stood there with our thumbs out half-heartedly as cars and trucks whizzed by at high speed. Physio thought we were wasting our time, and insisted that we try to find a better spot to hitch. We crossed the road and hiked a mile or so to another trail head. As usual the first pick-up truck we saw picked us up and took us to Sisters.
Once in Sisters we went to a cafe and then spent hours trying to figure out where to stay for the night. Sisters had a lovely public park with excellent WiFi, which we took full advantage of. The cheapest accommodation we could find was $130 per night and we thought we were doomed to a night camping at the RV park. Cashmere then called the Sisters Inn, who did one of the most extreme hiker discounts we’ve ever heard of. Instead of the online price of $130 a night we could get a room for $80. What’s more it included breakfast!
So we walked across town to Sisters Inn and started doing our hiker trash chores. Once we had clean clothes we walked 1.5 miles back across town to the Two Creeks Brewery for dinner and a beer tasting platter. After the 1.5 mile walk back to the motel we were well and truly ready for bed. However, we made the mistake of turning on the TV before bed and found ourselves awake hours later watching movies. When you spend your days with so little stimulus, a TV is almost irresistible once turned on. Eventually we managed to turn the TV off and went to sleep.
We awoke feeling worn out and not at all refreshed. The spread out design of some small US towns can make it hard for hiker trash like us to actually relax while enjoying the benefits of town. After breakfast and a very poor attempt to resupply (Physio in particular was really struggling) we found ourselves getting another night at the Sisters Inn.
The rest of the day was spent making an epic journey to the Post Office, trying to take care of ‘real world problems’, eating pizza, completing our resupply, blogging, and lying on our motel bed watching movies.
The trip to the Post Office was really draining. It was even further away than the brewery, but it didn’t serve tasty beers. This made Physio extremely mad, because it was really hot and he wasn’t going to get a cold beverage. In a fit of despair Physio started to mutter “what am I doing with my life?” You know a Post Office is far from town when you walk past self storage and other industrial land uses before you get there.
From the Post Office we headed to the library to take care of some real world tasks (e.g. our annual company return, our personal tax returns, and Physio’s student loan payments). On the way from the library to our motel we met the mother (Bitsy) of a hiker we know named ‘The Homie’ who offered us a ride back to the trail at 7am the next day. This provided just the motivation we needed to get trail ready.
That night we finished resupplying, ate a weird dinner in our motel room utilising the microwave (oh yeah, livin’ it up!), blogged and just sort of got ready to return to the trail.
We awoke early and set about trying to eat as much bread, cheese, and tomatoes as possible. One of our habits in town involves buying too much food to eat in our motel room and then freaking out and having a huge feast.
After ‘breakfast’ we stumbled out to Bitsy’s car feeling a little over fed and set off back to the trail.
In the next blog we’ll write about the hike to Timberline Lodge – on the slopes of majestic Mount Hood.