Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Elk Lake to Santiam Pass

Reaching the PCT from the Elk Lake cut-off trail, I caught up to a slow-moving man with what looked like a stuff sack strapped to his back. "I'm going slow because my knee hurts," he was quick to say. Whatever, dude, I don't care!

"Your pack looks pretty ultralight," I ventured, trying to lessen the apparent sting of a woman passing him.

"It's really heavy," he complained. "Seventeen pounds!"

?

"It doesn't have a waist belt," he hollered as, giving up, I sped past. Seriously?  As I hiked into the evening, negotiating a few snow patches, I thought about the pictures I had seen in the PCT coffee table book of 1970s travel. The men in there carried huge external frame packs, were usually shirtless, showing six-pack abs, and, bonus, had short denim cut-offs. How did we go from that to 17 pounds being heavy in only 40 years?

I soon had more to think about at my destination, Sisters Mirror Lake, which I renamed "Sisters Mosquito Lake". Donning my head net and rain gear, I hurried down to the lakeshore where I hoped to eat with some sanity. Instead, a man in a full net suit approached, wanting to know where I was headed the next day.

Sisters Mirror Lake. Beware of mansplainers, ladies!

"Oh, probably South Matthieu," I said, knowing that it was 21 miles and that I didn't have to hike that far, but I could if I wanted to. Skeeter Suit's face took on an expression I know well. I was about to be mansplained!

"I think that's a little too ambitious for you," he intoned. I sighed as he droned on about a nice lake eleven miles away and how much climbing there was ahead. Would he have said this to a male hiker? Nope. Ladies, how much longer are we going to have to put up with this kind of stuff?

The only thing Skeeter Suit was right about was the climbing. There was a lot of it, but it was through such alpine, mountain-studded country that I didn't mind. There was also enough snow that I had to consult the map on a frequent basis.



After one such location, a guy approached me southbound, a cute dog in tow. Inexplicably, he was carrying an oven mitt, which I just had to ask about.

"What's up with the oven mitt?" I asked. Looking embarrassed, the guy muttered something about it keeping his "paraphernalia" dry. Thinking about it, I did detect a certain fragrance. Whatever, dude!


Obsidian lined the trail in the Limited Entry Area. You have to enter a lottery to day hike here, unless you are hiking through on the PCT. No camping is allowed.

At about mile 18 I caught up with two women section hiking from Crater Lake to Highway 20 and hiked with them for a few miles. Go ladies! When they stopped for a break I reached a steep, snowy traverse. What to do? It looked like most people had glissaded straight down, but that looked like a one way trip to the emergency room. I saw what looked like a beaten track through the snow, straight across the traverse, and decided to try that. Too late, committed, I saw it was only one set of footprints, and they were shallow. Kicking in steps, I held my breath until I was safely across. Soon I was at my campsite, a lake nestled in a small bowl--21 miles, so there, Skeeter Suit. Best of all, the mosquitoes had inexplicably disappeared, perhaps courtesy of an evening frost.

South Matthieu Lake--a perfect place for a swim.

The traverse looks way, way less scary here. Picture a steep free fall.


For every good day on the trail, there is often one that is not so good, and the next day was it. I had planned on a shorter day, but as I trekked across Highway 242 and into an unending lava rock climb, I realized that the whole stretch to Santiam Pass was dry. No water, for 21 miles, unless I wanted to go off trail to get it. I only had capacity for 3.5 liters, which was enough for the hike but not to camp also. Besides, the camping was limited on this stretch, seeing as it was mostly lava or burnt trees. It looked like another 21 mile day was in my future.

Pretty volcanoes all in a row. And lava. So much lava.

It was hot, oppressively so, and the only relief were brief patches of unburnt forest. On one of those stretches I encountered a strange sight: Camo Santa and his 4 camo-clad elves. I just had to ask: "What's up with the camo?"

Looking annoyed, because probably many others had asked the question,  one of the elves explained that they were scouting for elk and were trying out the camo outfits to "see how they breathe." Whatever, dudes!

There were a few pretty, unburnt sections.

I stumbled on through a blazing forest, finally reaching Highway 20. In order to get to the rest of the trail and the parking lot, an intrepid hiker must sprint across several lanes of oncoming traffic. Forget the bears and mountain lions, this is the scariest part of the hike. Luckily, it's not eclipse weekend, so I made it across without incident and completely out of water.

TL; DR: Strange encounters, mansplaining, camo, camo, camo, alpine gorgeousness, lava, burned forest, 48 more miles of the PCT hiked!



20 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. There's tons of supportive guys, too bad the others are the ones you remember...

      Delete
  2. A shame about the male egos, but from your photos, wonderful scenery, especially on 'lava' day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes it was quite the day. And very hot--you would have felt right at home, I think, but a bit too warm for me!

      Delete
  3. Boy you encountered some weird people! That's Oregon for you, I guess. My hubby passed a couple of guys smoking weed on our hike this weekend. And yes, this weekend was a scorcher. I can't believe you did that lava section from McKenzie to Santiam Pass - you must've just cooked. Glad you survived! And I've also hiked in the Obsidian limited entry area. It's a pretty place!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I am glad it wasn't just me being a wimp. I have seen a lot of "Team Green" on the PCT this summer.

      Delete
  4. I actually can't recall my last incident of mansplaining on a trail. My lifetime favorite is still the German xc skier at Eaglecrest ski area in Juneau, who lectured me after I fell on a steep downhill, telling me that I wasn't allowed to ski on these trails because I was "accident prone person."

    That looks like a beautiful segment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, that's funny. Usually I don't meet mansplainers. I was kind of surprised to see it on the PCT where there are a lot of women hiking these days.

      Delete
  5. Like so many others, I work in a male dominated atmosphere. Although many years ago, all of the "male comments" started to cease. Now I notice that they are starting to reappear... why is it that men have to make such comments in the first place? There are plenty of women everyday that outdo them, and truthfully why should it matter? OOPS! I forgot, the male ego HA!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I noticed that too...the reappearance. Weird. People seem emboldened these days to say whatever they think.

      Delete
    2. And it isn't only men who seem to feel free to say whatever. A friend this week met a former high school classmate, and the classmate looked at her and said, "You used to be thin." Ugh

      Delete
    3. I can't believe someone would say that!

      Delete
  6. I've backpacked this segment too! It's gorgeous! :) It's funny what we remember from backpacking trips. Sometimes they are all about the other people and others are about the scenery. Looks like you got a mix of both! I love the Three Sisters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! And here I thought the mysterious Matt was making an appearance. Oh well, Karen is just as good. The PCT is always good for some stories it seems! I am getting to like this area also!

      Delete
    2. It must be fun having the PCT so close by - no long car trips or plane rides to access!

      Delete
  7. Sorry about the guys.

    If you ever see me (unlikely), and I ever say anything like that (also unlikely), you have permission to poke me with your spear (or whatever is handy and seems appropriately pointy).

    But I was born without without ego (either a left one or a right one, actually), so it's most likely if I say something dumb it's because, uh, hmmm, uh....

    Sorry. I thought I had something to say. Maybe not. Who can say?

    Anyhow, The Ultralight Hiker just posted about some cool tiny weapons in the "Farming, Home & Gardening, & Guns" section of his blog ( http://www.theultralighthiker.com/miniature-weapons-the-toothpick-crossbow/
    ).

    Might be decent conversation enders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha thanks! I really try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Probably he thought that section was difficult when he did it. It's a good lesson not to open your mouth sometimes.

      Delete
  8. I love how you give everyone a trail name!!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love the visualizations. Can't stop smiling :)

    ReplyDelete

Hello out there. If you liked this post, please leave a comment so I keep writing!