"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!