Posts Tagged ‘Madison Ski Hut’

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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After all the beauty of Crater Lake, the PCT through Oregon followed a line of volcanoes and the tall mountains which

Crater Lake

conveniently went in a northward line.  We could see the first one ahead from the rim, Mt. Thielson.  A trend emerged as the PCT methodologically traveled northward; we would climb to a certain point on the westward side of each mountain, just enough to get a few good views, then contour around it until we went steadily down, back into the trees.

Surprisingly, I did not want to walk locked into a green tunnel, despite the exposed and super hot California because Oregon had turned cold and my body had not yet adapted to near freezing temperatures at night yet.

I caught Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget warming in the sun where a side trail split off to go to the top of Thielson.  None of us were convinced the summit wasn’t technical, but we could only see part of the trail up.  What we could see was mostly scree, which is fine going down, but going up is a bitch and a half.  We opted to continue down the PCT toward Thielson Creek to eat lunch.  My motivation had not yet recuperated from the cold by lunch which had begun to worry me.

Right as we left, the three of us ran into a guy hugging a tree and taking a MySpace photo of himself in a spot that didn’t seem unique to any of us.  As soon as he told his story, we understood.  His name was Scarecrow from Long Island.  He had almost completed his thru-hike last year, in 2011, but the snow slowed him down and he had to miss a chunk of trail from the spot where we found him until Bend, and then from Skykomish, WA to the Canadian border.  He told us about his restless nights and inability to sleep well at night because he hadn’t finished.  He had completed the stretch sobo from Bend to Thielson Creek and was about to head up to Skykomish to finish.

He helped my motivation significantly, not only from his excitement, but because he confidently said we were going to make it to the border and I was getting sick of people asking us if we’d make it since so many other hikers had already gone through.

We passed through a section of trail that had recently opened four days earlier after the Butte Fire damaged the area significantly and crossed the trail for about a quarter mile.

We passed the Oregon/Washington high point afterwards and continued until we camped for the night in a saddle that offered comfortable pine needles to sleep on.  By that time, Hop-a-long was getting seriously worried about itchy bites that were beginning to cover both of her arms, hands and neck.  I gave her some anti-itch cream, but that only goes so far when a person has so many bites.

By late morning, we reached Windigo Pass which offered an alternate trail which would bypass about 9 miles of PCT and rejoin at Willamette Pass near a ski resort.  A note posted at the trailhead gave information for a local trail angel based out of Bend named Lloyd Gust.  Hop-a-long called him and asked if he knew anything about bed bug, chigger, or flea bites since we couldn’t quite determine which ones were biting her.

“Do you have bites in threes?” Lloyd asked her on the phone.


“They’re bed bugs.  We don’t have many, if any at all, chiggers around here,” he replied.

Seeing an RV park and a road close on the alternate route, she went that way to find a hot shower and laundry to blast the bed bugs out of her clothes and sleeping bag on high heat.  She even found spray rubbing alcohol to add to the bed bug death mix.  Inspector Gadget and I kept going on the main PCT and expected to meet her at Willamette Pass.

The next morning,the temperature went down to about 27 degrees and frost covered our tents.  Trying to simultaneously ignore my alarm and convince myself I needed to get up and hike somewhere, I laid in my sleeping bag staring at the frost above.


I bolted into sitting position, still in my sleeping bag thinking a damn bear was right outside my tent.  Then I saw a headlamp.  It was 6am.  Who the hell is walking already packed up at 6am in this cold?

“Who is it?” I asked.

“WHAAAAAA!!!!” the person startled, “oh shit, I didn’t see you guys there!  It’s Splinter.”

“Shit man, it’s Gadget and Veg!” Inspector laughed.

“Hey guys!” Splinter gasped seemingly delirious, “I’ve already done 48 miles! 12 to go until Shelter Cove Resort and I’ll have 60 miles in 24 hours!”

“You’re fucking crazy,” I muttered still waking up.  “Why did you want to do that?”

“I needed to catch up!  And I wanted to see what I could do for a long day.  When I had 30 miles done in the first 12 hours and I wasn’t tired, I figured I’d go for it,” Splinter laughed.

“Dude,” Gadget started, obviously shivering, “come hang out with us at Willamette Pass after you pick up your resupply and eat pizza.”

“It’s only open on the weekends though, it’s Friday,” Splinter said.

“It’s Saturday,” I said.  “It was Friday when you started hiking this crazy mileage.”

We went up near Diamond Peak, contoured around, then headed down through a throng of day hikers who did not seem to understand headphones blasting as a don’t-talk-to-me sign.

“How far up is the lake,” one asked in a whiny voice.

“Which lake?” I asked in return.

“Uhhhh…the lake…” he responded looking confused.

“Dude, I passed at least twenty damn lakes this morning, I don’t know which lake you want,” and I continued on while he looked perplexed.  I had decided not to eat trail lunch since fresh salad, pizza, and beer would be at the ski resort in about four miles.  This, however, increased my annoyance with day hikers who wanted to ask the usual mess of questions.  Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I’m starving and there is food that is not in my pack right ahead, probably where you parked your car.

The ski resort was not busy in the slightest, so we took over a table and several outlets to charge all of our electronics while we ate several rounds of food and drank some beer.  Hop-a-long had just gotten there and regaled us about blasting the bed bugs out of her stuff and the bites seeming to stall, or at least not get worse.  Splinter caught up with us and decided just to start drinking instead of taking a nap to not mess up his sleep schedule.  Always a great plan.  He had managed 60 miles in 24 hours and then started drinking beer.  Props.

That evening, we hiked out a few miles to the Madison Ski Hut which was a ski shelter shaped like an octagon for backcountry skiers.  We spent the night reading the register and figuring out how to booby trap our food from the scurrying mice that also inhabited the shelter.

The Oregon Hiker Highway with the super cool moss.

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