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Posts Tagged ‘Volcano’

2,000 Miles Down!

We collected Cookie Monster at Santiam Pass, where my Mom dropped Hop-a-long and I off around 1pm.  He managed to get away from his real job for five days in order to hike 100 miles with us to Timberline Lodge.  We were both super excited to see him.  He brought his usual large pack full of goodies and his constant supply of Swedish fish (except they weren’t exactly Swedish, they came from a gas station on the route).

After we drank a few remaining beers that my Mom had gotten and my Dad so graciously paid for, we set off in the surprisingly hot afternoon weather.  The burned terrain offered little to no shade and the threat of having to walk through the lava rocks loomed over us for miles.  Due to so many volcanoes in the vicinity, this did not surprise us, but our feet told us they did not wish more torture.  I had just switched sandals again, which seemed to instantly make my feet feel better as well as my knees.  I believe the foam had decreased so much that I had no padding in the second pair of best-sandals-ever, Tevas.  They lasted 1000 miles, just like the first pair, but the time had come to retire them.

This section, unlike the last, had far more elevation change, albeit nice grades.  We climbed for almost 8 miles and above 6,000 feet on the west side of Three Fingered Jack.  Upon getting a clear view of Three Fingered Jack, it did appear as though some guy, presumably named Jack, had raised his hand in the air and had somehow lost his ring finger leaving the pointer, middle, and pinky fingers.  Contouring the side of the mountain gave us all kinds of views of Jack’s hand and missing finger.

At the north end of our contour, we looked out at the taller Mt. Jefferson from Porcupine Rock.  By now, the sun had seeped all extra moisture from our bodies as if wringing out a sponge, while our livers began demanding the extra liquid to process the beer we had drunk at the trailhead.  Result: headache.  Not horrible though.

In true PCT fashion, we went down around 1,000 feet, only to climb back up 1,000 feet.  The downhills always seem way shorter even if the distance is, in fact, longer–all much to my chagrin.  Our final ascent back above 6,000 feet we did at dusk.  We reached Rockpile Lake with headlamps and it took us a few extra minutes to sort out our surroundings.  We first came across a small, gross, unmarked pond with a marshy area around it which did not provide great camping.  However, upon further investigation, we stumbled upon the actual lake, which was less gross and actually had a spur trail around it leading to various great, flat, cleared campsites.  We were thrilled!

Hop-a-long and I set up our tents in the biggest flat spot while Cookie Monster set up his hammock in some nearby trees.  We all cooked dinner together and listened to the luxury of the speakers Cookie had packed out.  His iPod on shuffle changed genres and generations more often than Lady Gaga changes her fashion statements.

In the morning, we had the most relaxed on trail start that I remembered.  We did not leave until 8:30 am after sleeping in until just past 7am.  Crazy!  We bounced around on contours and ridge lines for quite some time, chatting, snacking, and laughing before plunging down to around 4,000 feet to cross Milk Creek, which was indeed Milky and one of many milk creeks to come.  It meant we would begin to climb up the side of Mt. Jefferson to contour around with fantastic views like the other volcanoes.

The climb, however, was about 3,000 feet of elevation gain over about 8 miles and was separated into three sections of roughly

Left: Old Sandals, Right: New Sandals

1,000 feet.  We managed the first two sections, then stopped to eat dinner at what looked like the last water source on the map. We sat in what the map called “Jefferson Park” and it definitely seemed like a park; a wide, lake filled plateau stretched out around us with small streams feeding various lakes and quaint tree clumps.

After dinner, we had the final 1,000 foot push up and over the last ridge we would climb and then enter Mt. Hood Wilderness.  It was also the steepest and took us a bit of extra time since we were tired at the end of the day.  A man, base camped somewhere in Jefferson Park, had gone off on a day hike with his two misbehaved dogs who growled and barked and ran at us.  Really dude?

We reached the top of the ridge right at dark and had to turn on our headlamps, only to see the biggest snow field we had seen yet on the PCT in 2012.  It stretched on well past where our headlamps could reach, so we examined the map and regrouped.  We had to make a sharp right angle turn, which we found without snow, but then the trail plunged downhill into the snow abyss.  Dirty footprints marked the way for a wee bit until they started contouring when we knew we were not supposed to contour, but rather, go uncharacteristically straight down the slope.  We found a cairn and then the dirty footprints disappeared.  Despite knowing we did not want to contour more, we did just that to get onto rocks and layer up to figure out a way down.  The warmth had gone away with the sun and we had just our headlamps and the stars to guide our way.  We went back to the cairn and broke apart there.  I stood at the cairn so we would have the last point of trail, Cookie went down slowly, and Hop went back over the footprints a bit.  We did not go far apart so we could all still communicate.

“It’s down here!” Cookie yelled when he hit rocks again and found a cairn where we suspected the trail hid underneath the snow.  Hop-a-long and I made our way down to him and we repeated the process two more times before reaching a marked campsite near some ponds which was really not a campsite, but it worked.  Unfortunately, there were no trees, so Cookie had to bivy instead of setting up his hammock.

We jammed out to Cookie’s iPod with speakers while eating dinner, gazing at the very star-filled sky and staying warm.  I went to lay down and try to sleep earlier, but all of a sudden I heard,

“Oh hey look!” Cookie said, “a headlamp coming down.”

“I bet it’s Splinter!” Hop-a-long said excitedly.  She began using her headlamp to signal the single headlamp down to the trail.

“I bet it’s Inspector Gadget,” I said from inside my cozy tent and warm sleeping bag.

About 10 minutes later, the headlamp came close and it was indeed Inspector Gadget who thanked her for the headlamp signal since he did not have hardly any tread left on his shoes or hiking poles to steady himself in the snow.  He went a few more miles to get to Olallie Lake Resort for lunch.

We got a little bit better start the next morning, but still not early.  We continued downward a bit, then the trail undulated in a general downward trend until we hit Olallie Lake.  The “resort” was a handful of small cabins without electricity or running water, a collection of picnic tables, and an exorbitantly expensive “store.”  I broke down and bought a $6 bag of chips since I had run out of chips and craved the salt as well as a coke for the caffeine factor.

Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I commandeered a picnic table and cooked ourselves lunch so we did not have to cook dinner.  Cookie’s iPod and speakers came out blasting Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” among other crazy selections.  Then, the unexpected happened.

A large fly bug thing landed on Cookie’s hand, startling him into spilling freshly boiled water out of his jetboil right down into his right sock.  He instantly took the shoe and sock off and hobbled to the lake to cool off the burn while I cleaned up the spilled pasta and dug through my med kit for the burn dressing I had.  Hop-a-long went back into the store to find more burn cream so we could make a larger dressing with a large gaze pad.  When Cookie got back from the soaking, the top part of his foot oozed clear fluid.  Luckily, the wool sock he had on, protected his foot somewhat by absorbing the liquid, but it was still a bad burn.  We dressed it all up and assessed our options.

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