Days like today are why I hike!
PCT mile marker: 1977.2, Miles hiked today: 15.7, camped at South Matthieu Lake
Let’s be honest, sometimes walking day after day through a forest, no matter how lovely, can get boring. I have a higher tolerance for the “green tunnel” than many hikers but I also start to take being out in the backcountry for granted during a long distance hike – it becomes my new normal. Well, days like today shatter the norm and have me fall in love again with backpacking, mountains, being out in nature, etc. I’m incredibly tired right now, but still incredulous from the views and how demanding the trail was today, especially when passing through the lava fields. The pictures in no way do my memories justice, to either the sublime views or the surreal lava areas that made me feel I was hiking on the moon.
The sublime – passing South, Middle, and then North Sister mountains was incredible. There was also Obsidian Falls and a gorgeous mountain spring (literally water coming out of the base of the mountain!) to gawk at seemingly all morning.
The surreal – incredible lava and basalt formations were thrown down in the midst of the high country with no seeming rhyme or reason. The trail through here this afternoon was slow going due to crumbling rocks shifting underfoot and the steepness of the trail. To be fair, whoever built this section of the trail (and who maintains it now) was incredible – I couldn’t figure out where the trail could possibly go from down below. Most definitely I would not want to be up there on that traverse in foul weather, yikes.
Hikers encountered: haha, I naively told myself as I was leaving camp today “ok, it’s a Tuesday out of prime hiking season. Be prepared to only see a few folks. Let’s guess how many – 3!”. Yea, I saw 3 gals in the first 15 mins. For a while in the obsidian restricted entry area (which must be super popular locally!) I saw day hikers and week backpackers nearly constantly. Kinda annoying when you have to go to the bathroom in a very open area, but I had lots of conversations today to say the least. I stopped counting after seeing over 20 folks this morning alone.
Pet peeve: at obsidian pass where I had lunch, a day hiker was talking on her cell phone, which was super annoying. In my mind, it’s one thing to have a conversation with your hiking partner (and hers was wandering about taking pics), but people’s tone and pitch of voice changes so much when talking on the phone that it can be intrusive. For gosh sakes, take a photo and talk with your bestie when you get home! Let others enjoy the setting in peace and not having to listen to your half of the conversation. I wasn’t the only annoyed hiker – a couple going southbound backpacking gave her annoyed glares as well.
Gear minutiae: yea, the silk leggings weren’t a good choice for hiking in all day long – not at all durable, the legs are just shredded. I remember agonizing over what to pack and send myself at this time last month – I wish present Renee could send Past Renee a message – “send the warmer tights, it’s not 85 and humid here!” Oh well. I’ll wear the remnants tomorrow, then throw out in town. Somehow I doubt the small outdoors store in Sisters has a replacement in my size. Maybe I’ll be making a trip to Bend on my zero day, gah. It’s definitely becoming Autumn in the mountains with a vengeance – the wind was so incredibly cold today. Granted, being at or above 6500 feet in elevation has something to do with it, but even in the sun the vast majority of the time it was chilly if the wind was blowing. I wore my long sleeved shirt most of the day, along with my hiking gloves.
Speaking of cold, I’ll end with this – I am a human burrito right now, wrapped in my sleeping bag liner, quilt, with sit mat draped over my hips, and down booties on my feet and down mittens on my hands. My quilt is over my head, cocooning me in warmth. The wind howls down the pass, but I’m cozy though I can’t sprawl as is my wont. I’m already dreading getting out of the tent to pee before going to sleep. It’s been 5 full hiking days since I’ve showered – feeling extra sticky tonite despite the baby wipe bath. Yay for town tomorrow!