PCT Day 124-126

Day 124

We got up at our standard time of 6:30 and hiked out at 7:50. It was a calm albeit a bit chilly morning again so we hiked pretty fast for the first two hours. T-Bone quickly fell behind due to his foot pain. We noticed that the trees around us had now became predominantly firs instead of pines, hinting at our approach to Washington state. We also passed a multitude of lakes and ponds and could see many more down in the valleys. Time went kind of slowly as we pushed on in the mozi-infested forests, hoping to get to the lunchspot at Island Lake soon.

That day we met lots of dayhikers and weekend warriors – something that has occurred a lot mor in Oregon than it did in California. Just 3 miles before our lunch spot T-Bone caught up with us after having taken a painkiller. All three of us then marchef on in the lush green forest, passing more lakes until we finally reached the correct one after 15,7 miles.

Island Lake was a bit smaller than I had expected and the island in it was only about a square meter big. But despite that its water was clear and nearly Carribean blue, so Kristians immediately went for a dip. We took it easy and had a long lunch, I even dozed off for 10 minutes or so.

We now had only 12 miles to go until our chosen destination – Sisters Mirror Lake. I put on a podcast and cruised away – after 3,5 miles we reached the last stream until the lake and filled up our bottles with cold clear water (a nice change to all the lakewater recently). The podcast then carried me forward for another hour or so, through more forests and past other hikers. The podcast sadly ended just as the biggest climb of the day started – 4 miles & about 600 meters of altitude gain. The beginning of it went fast but at just 1 mile before the peak I was out of energy.

I decided to take 10 minutes, eat a bar and drink some water. I wasn’t in any hurry, after all. The bar really helped and I cruised up the last bit. Suddenly I could see out into the distance – there were the Three Sisters, huge snowy volcanoes, but it was all hazy from the forest fire smoke and taking a picture was really useless. Right at the peak I saw Kristians on his phone, sitting on some rocks, and Shiva having a phone call – it was a good place to catch some cell service.

Now Kristians and I only had 1 mile to go and it was all downhill. We quickly reached the beautiful lake and pitched our tent on the grass for the first time in about 1800 miles of the PCT. T-Bone had already swam, set up his camp and was ready to have his dinner in the tent – the mosquiti situation was the worst we’d experienced so far!

We also got our camp up, washed up and quickly got into our tent. Another hiker also camped alongside us but we still didn’t know where Sensei or Coconut & Tomb Raider were. So even though this was one of the last days when it was allowed to make a campfire in Oregon the mozis just didn’t allow for it.

Day 125

We got up at 5 to beat the mozis but sadly they were already up too so we had breakfast inside the tent. The tent raincover and the sleeping bags were also wet from the condensation but we planned to dry everything out during lunch.

We hiked out and soon came out to a big meadowy clearing and for the first time in a while we were not in a forest. Instead, we were surrounded by views of the huge Sisters mountains, volcanic rock and other scraggy peaks. The sun was still rising and we were pretty cold until it hit us but luckily we were out of the mozi area. After crossing the first meadow we started a small uphill back in the trees and caught up with T-Bone who in return had caught up with Sensei! Turned out he had also camped by the same lake last night!

We continued in the forest for some time, going up & down and through burned areas. But soon enough we started to cross lots of streams, large open meadows, patches of blooming wildflowers and at all times saw The Sisters looming over us. Just a bit before our planned lunchbreak we passed through the restricted-access Obsidian preserve and checked out the Obsidian Falls.

Only a small climb, a descent and a pond later we arrived at the lushest, greenest, most wildflower-covered meadow ever. Right above us was looming the snowy Middle Sister. We set up a real gypsy camp as we dried out all of our stuff. We cooled down out feet in the freezing cold water, ate our lunch and generally just enjoyed our break. Again lots of hikers and groups passed us and it was no surprise – this was one of the most scenic areas we’d seen in days!

After the lunch we had two bigger uphills to go. What started as a usual foresty trail over a hill quickly transformed into this out-of-this-world volcanic rock environment, just like on Mars. We took a billion photos and enjoying this we quickly ascended the multiple switchbacks that took us to the plains between Middle and North Sisters. There was still snow here in places but luckily not on the trail. The open area also meant, however, that it was very windy.

We got to walk on a ridge in this insane environment and really appreciate how small we were in comparison to these ancient towers of fire & destruction. We then started to descent, the trail switching between soft sand and hard volcanic rocks. T-Bone was having foot problems again but we soon all met up by Matthieu Lake, where Kristians and Sensei decided to take a dip while me and T-Bone just rested.

We had just 4 miles to go and we hiked all of it together. We went from this volcanic area to a green forest, then inti a burned forest and then back onto the volcanic rock. My hiking poles got stuck so mang times I thought I’d break them. By this time my feet were also already pretty tired so the ricks hurt my feet. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we came upon the highway at McKenzie Pass. It seemed like there was no traffic there so we decided to walk 0,1 miles up the road to an observatory & viewpoint with a parking lot.

Sensei’s phone got some service here so we called the trail angels whom we had met at Mazama Village – they were so happy to hear from us and Erin, the daughter, promised to pick us up within 30 minutes. Until that we just sat at the exposed parking lot, frying in the sun. Luckily we had some water to drink because it was HOT!

Erin soon arrived in an orange Honda. Our plan was to first go to the store, then the pizza place and then to the house. Erin’s house was located a bit outside of Sisters, in a nice quiet neighbourhood. They had a huge house and two big dogs – the reason they were able to host all four of us was that Erin’s three brothers were already living their own lives and thus their rooms were vacant.

We of course all had bought too much food from the store as we went there with empty stomachs plus we got big pizzas. We thus spent the evening eating, talking and watching Dr Strange on Netflix. Erin’s parents Charlie and Deirdre also soon got back from a concert and we got to say hello but by that time it was already pretty late so we were going to bed. We planned to take a zero the next day as we nedded to resupply and T-Bone and Kristians both needed to get new shoes, for which we’d have to drive to Bend.

Because I had bought a yerba mate drink from the store and drank it before bedtime (caffeine!) I ended up having a very restless and sleepless time that night but I guess I can only blame myself.

Day 126

As mentioned I barely slept this night but everyone else definitely had a good night’s sleep in a bed. We went downstairs at about 8:30 and had a proper big breakfast. We sat by the table and talked for long with the family before heading out to Bend for our shopping spree.

Bend is a bigger town 20 miles from Sisters. We first checked out Trader Joe’s and then did our resupply at Food4Less, it was a fairly priced store with good selection. Next up we drove to REI to get shoes and other minor things for the guys. Kristians decided to try a different shoe and bought Merrells instead. They didn’t have T-Bone’s size, however, so we went and drove to a running store downtown. He got Altra Timps.

By this time we were all starving already so we decided to visit one of Bend’s 20 breweries for some food (and beer for Kristians). That was a proper meal and the place was packed – the whole town, in fact, was full of people during Wednesday daytime. We even had a hard time looking for a parking spot. When we got out of the store we realized just how hot it was! In the car on the way back to Sisters I also took a nap – because of the heat and the fact that I hadn’t slept much.

Once back at the house in Sisters I took a real nap and others hanged out with Erin and checked their stuff on wifi. At around 18 Kristians and the help started to prepare dinner – we had decided to cook a curry dish for the family as a thank you. Erin also surprised us snd baked a vegan chocolate cake! Sensei made a huge bowl of salad.

Once I got up there wasn’t much left for me to do but I helped to wash dishes. We then all sat outside on the porch and had dinner together – everyone except Deirdre, that is, as she had gone to the movies with her friends. Charlie told us stories from when they worked in South Korea as teachers, Erin told us stories from her PCT hike and we all shared scary stories from hiking trips – mysterious light in the dark, a dead motorcyclist and noisy (grizzly) bears. It was an amazing evening where we thoroughly rested. But then it was time for bed as we were heading out to trail again the next morning. I did a bit of packing and then worked on our blog before falling asleep – this night I’d sleep perfectly!

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