Posts Tagged ‘Lava’

As we piled into the Travel Lodge, we dropped our packs, had a beer and went to stuff ourselves full of AYCE Asian medley food. We topped it off with a continuation of a TLC binge.

We hid from the rain in the motel room which was conveniently next to a Wal-Mart. At one point, we gave up on relying on our shells and bought $5 umbrellas. Life instantly became better.

While we looked at the bleak forecast of rain and thunderstorms on and off for days, we browsed the CDT facebook page for information . Patch had just posted very snowy pictures of Cumbres Pass. The rain suddenly looked better and better.

The Mumms came to the motel with our packages and wonderfully gave us a full water report for the upcoming windmills.

Easily Distracted picking up a tarantula.

In the morning, after breakfast and lunch and a slow meander, we left Grants headed toward the Bonita-Zuni Canyon to cross El Maipais. We found some more tarantulas, used the umbrellas on and off, and we had some entertaining conversations relating to absolutely nothing.

One conversation had gotten pretty in depth between The Darkness, E.D., and Crosby. So in depth, in fact, that they missed the left turn into the next canyon and kept walking.

Wonderer and I were about 200 feet behind them. We yelled. They kept walking. We “cooed.” They kept walking. Wonderer made high pitched noises. They kept walking. I pulled out my phone and called The Darkness.

The Darkness: Are you kidding me? You’re calling me?

Me: You’re going the wrong way.

They all stop.

The Darkness: Really?

Me: Turn around. Wonderer and I are at the turn.

The Darkness: Oh shit. Ok.

They walked toward us. When they got to us, we took the turn and found a good stealth spot for the evening.

The privy. Photo credit: Crosby

In the morning, we wandered toward El Maipais watching the increasing threats of thunderstorms from multiple directions. We got to the edge of the park at lunch, so we began eating lunch at the picnic table while we assessed the possibility of crossing the 7.5 miles of lava in increasingly inevitable thunderstorms. It began to rain. We moved into the privy. All five of us fit in the well-maintained privy. As the storm lightened, two park rangers opened the door and looked extremely confused.

E.D.: Oh sorry, we can hop out. We were hiding from the thunderstorm.

Ranger #1: We just need to clean it quickly.

We all bunched into the overhang outside of the privy and talked to the rangers about how to cross.

Ranger #2: Well that storm will hit you, probably half way across. That storm over the ridge may hit you, it may not. That storm way over there probably won’t hit you. But that main one there looks the biggest, will definitely hit you, and there could be another wave right behind it.

Ranger #1: Six park employees have been struck by lightening here. Two of which were in this parking lot actually.

Ranger #2: There is iron in the lava that attracts the lightening.

Great. Thunder cracked. The rangers left. We moved back into the privy. The rain got heavier than the first storm. Then the hail started. Marble sized hail pelted the ground and filled the increasingly large puddles everywhere. As Wonderer sat on the closed toilet seat eating a jar of jiffy spreadable cheesecake, we watched large lightening bolts hit the lava on the trail.

Wonderer: Why do Americans eat this?

Crosby: No one I know does…

Me: I’ve never seen it before…

The Darkness: Have you seen fluff yet?

E.D.: That looks interesting…

After multiple hours with all five of us in the privy and the weather not improving, we decided to hitch back to Grants. At a break in the storms with more pending, we managed to snag two rides into town and we all piled back into the Travel Lodge.

The Darkness turned on TLC to continue our marathon abilities. Being Sunday, the TLC marathon was sister wives, a worse show than normal. After five hours of sister wives, Wonderer finally spoke up.

Wonderer: What is the plot to this show?

The Darkness: There is no plot…it’s just their lives.

Wonderer: Hmmmm.

E.D.: Yeah…

In the morning, we plotted to wander out again to the other side of the lava to avoid the still present thunderstorms.

Between storms.

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The next morning, Hop-a-long and I left before dawn again and began plugging away at the miles feeling the cold sinking into the ground waiting for snow.  Wanting to beat it, we continued slackpacking as long as possible.  Out of the horse camp we flew as it slowly began to get lighter.  Jubel was also on a mission: he had managed to leave before us!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALucky for us, the straight up and down several thousand foot climbs had subsided for a bit and we had rolling hills instead which gave our tired legs a wee break.  Noticing a lot of people seemed to be out enjoying the wilderness, I pondered why they were all there until I realized it was Saturday.  Weekenders.  Right.

It still seemed more than the average weekend crowd out to walk around a bit though, so I asked one, “Do you know why so many people are out this weekend?  Is it a holiday that I’ve forgotten about?”

“Oh no.  It’s just probably the last nice weekend of the year,” he replied in a matter-of-fact way.

Great.  400 miles left and this is the last nice weekend?  Well, shit.  Hop-a-long and I caught Jubel leaving a shallow lake at the 10 mile mark for the day.  We waved in and out and sat down for a rest since we had not stopped yet.  That’s the great thing about slackpacking: more miles with less pain.

We had found ourselves in another lake filled area, but so many of the lakes here had lost quite a bit of water.  Sandy stretches between the marshy grass and the water showed exactly where the water level usually reaches but had receded away.

Headphones went on and we kept walking.  One foot in front of the other.  We ran into one dirty looking guy on a wild horse and learned that horses react better if you step down from the trail instead of up since they don’t always understand how big they are.  More horse poop…awesome.

Hitting the first road, we took a short break to see if Dead had made it there and we meandered around.  Finding nothing, we left a short note written in rocks that we had been there in case he found the spot later.  Several miles further, we found him at the next road and we plumped down tired, guzzled a beer, and stuffed our faces with some chips and salsa.

It was still another ten miles to the easiest way to get off into Trout Lake where Hop-a-long had long-awaited shoes mailed to her.  Already being 2:30 pm, we decided that 20 miles was enough for the day and Dead drove us into the very small abode of Trout Lake where we grabbed Hop’s shoes and headed back into Stevenson where we splurged for a room (the absolute last one in town…we called everywhere) and resupplied at a giant Safeway.  Who knew so many people visit Stevenson, Washington on a non-holiday weekend?

No matter, we got everything set and went to Walking Man Brewery where we enjoyed a wee bit of beer and some grub before retiring back to our room and doing some long needed laundry which had not gotten done in over 130 miles.  Oops!

In the morning, we did our usual sleep in, take our time, and leave right at check out time to head back to the trail.  Before hitting the trail, we stopped for some lunch at a podunk little restaurant which turned out to be absolutely delicious!  However, we found ourselves so full that we had to sit and hang out at the trailhead for almost two hours.

To be fair, we actually had to bring our whole packs for a stretch since we weren’t sure if Dead could get to the next road before Goat Rocks.  Also, we found ourselves having to deal with yet another fire on the side of Mt. Adams.  Finding a map, we saw that the fire had stayed at least 1.5 miles to the east of the PCT which was still open to thru-hikers, but no one else.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I amused ourselves at that, not knowing whether to take offense to it or not.  Either they didn’t want to hear thru-hikers complain about the closure until the PCT was actually on fire, or they just don’t care about us.

We plunged into it and found ourselves in thick smoke that gave us headaches quickly.  Coughing and coughing, we scooted up and began to contour Mt. Adams not seeing anything too great due to the smoke cover and our bloodshot eyes.  Finding Lush and Man Party, we chatted for a few moments, then pressed on for another mile or two.  We got as far away from the smoke as we could and camped on lava ash for the night.

Wanting to get away from the smoke more, we got up early and headed onward trying to clear our heads of wildfire smoke.  We did get a few glimpses of Mt. Adams and it’s glaciers through thickets of smoke which was a brilliant sight.  We contoured away from the smoke and down the north face of the mountain toward what some people claimed to be an exceptional lava spring.

It gushed buckets straight out of a large heap of lava rocks to pool in a brilliantly clear divot.  Hop-a-long and I both treated it despite how awesome it looked due to close proximity of clearly used toilet paper, campsite, and a road.  Every time that happens, it saddens me that people couldn’t walk just a little further away to relieve themselves.

We hit the road and found Dead Animal ready to cook us lunch with the trusty Coleman stove.  Hop-a-long and I plopped down, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcut vegetables, and helped wherever he needed it.  He regaled us about his entertaining night camping right next to the road while we told him about the smoke.  Lush and Man Party joined in for a little bit but managed to keep on a better schedule than our go for 10 miles, then take a 3 hour break, then another 10 miles etc.

Once again, we stretched our small stomachs to their limits and then had to lazily sit there while we digested a good portion of it.

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Madison Ski Hut

Madison Ski Hut kept us warmer for the night and surprisingly, we had no trouble with mice!  Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I had a great time reading random entries out loud from the trail register and sipping on some brew packed out from Willamette Ski Area.  We got a late start the next morning due to cold temperatures.

The terrain between the Ski Hut and all the way to McKenzie Pass was pretty mellow filled with lake after lake after lake.  So many that we had to keep a watchful eye on the map to make sure we knew our location.  Not to mention, we had to watch for water that we could get to easily that wasn’t nasty.  Lots of times, the lake water we could get to had nasty pond scum and a funny color while the nice, pristine looking ones had marshy areas leading up to it.  The best hope was always a large blow-down that we could walk out on, grab water, and go back to filter it.

This region, being so close to several major roads, had more visitors than we expected.  Lots of weekenders had gone out to enjoy the wilderness.  Should be great yogi-ing opportunities, right?  Wrong!  They all brought just enough food with them.  Bummer.

Not only were there a billion lakes, but there were also a billion side trails going of to more lakes.  A good few of them were labeled differently from the maps which threw us for a loop.  Most of the time, we could figure it out by examining the map closer, but sometimes Halfmile’s maps were too zoomed in to tell.

Hop-a-long and I decided to push that evening for a 30 mile day, so we hiked into the night, surprisingly keeping a better pace than most parts of the day.  We chatted, hiked, and seemed to have to pee constantly.  I found it more tolerable to hike later in the day instead of earlier in the morning when the temperatures hovered around freezing in the morning.  The body, being already warmed up from hiking all day, did not seem to mind the same temperatures hiking at night as it did straight out of the sleeping bag.

It just so happened that Hop and I planned on camping at a marked campsite on the map near Desane Lake which three tents had already claimed, complete with barking dog.  No one else had camped in the past 7 miles, but then, just in the spot we wanted, someone already had it.  Damn.  We went about a third of a mile later and found a suitable flat spot to call home for the night after we cleared the pine needles.

With a decent start in the morning, we got off and found some relatively clear-looking lake water and the weekenders with the dog came by and talked to us for a while.  They seemed nice, but asked all the usual questions, including the favorite, “Do you carry a gun?”  Ummm no.  Not necessary, and quite heavy really.

Me hiking toward Middle Sister

By late afternoon, the terrain changed from lake filled rolling hills to glacial melt streams flowing down from Middle Sister in the Sisters Wilderness.  Hop-a-long and I toyed with the light and our cameras to take pictures of the beautiful views.  It had large areas of red rock scree on the south side.  After a quick dinner, near a non-milky glacial stream, we set off again into the dusk to hike around a good portion of the large volcano.  We did get slightly confused as to which stream we were at because some of the ones that Yogi said should be flowing were and some were not.  At night, it was a bit harder to use other aspects to figure it out; the clearings helped us quite a bit, because we could see their rough shape, even with a headlamp and match them to a map.

Around 10:30pm, we reached an area near some shrubby trees and went off trail to find some flat spots.  The trees proved significantly warmer than the clearings, yet the clearings offered plenty more flat spots, so it took us awhile to find a good one.

The next morning, we only had about 15 miles to get to McKenzie Pass where my Mom was going to meet us and bring us trail magic.  Most of it was in the downhill direction as well, with a few exceptions of course.  The biggest exception was a short climb over lava which moved and twisted with every step making it harder than it should have been.  A little ways after the top, we came across one of the tastiest springs on the trail: Minnie Scott Spring.  We could see its source bubbling straight out of the sandy bottom.  I sat there and watched it for a bit, it was that amazing.

Through the Lava to McKenzie Pass

From there, we had a mere 7 miles to McKenzie Pass and stunning views of Mt. Washington, Three-Finger Jack, and Mt Hood in a line in front of us.  The going was good until the last miserable mile of lava rock that had not been smoothed out and seemed to reflect heat back up at our faces.  We then found my wonderful trail magic filled mother after a bit of worrying and went in to explore Bend.  The story of the trail magic is here: Mom Trail Magic.

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