Day 93, July 25th
Start: Mckenzie pass, mile 1,990
End: ridge above mirror lake, mile 1,963
Miles hiked: -27 😉
Not a chance, Mac, Guthrie and I got picked up by Blanche and her friend, Brooke, at 9:30. They offered to take us back to the trailhead – again, so beyond nice of them! They are hiking the Oregon section together in just a few weeks, and they’re being extremely smart about gear and being prepared. They will do very well!
Today, guth, Mac, not a chance and I will hike south through the sisters wilderness. We have already hiked this trail – in the rain. It’s supposed to be a highlight, as carrot and not a chance said from their prior hikes, and I don’t want to miss seeing it.
When debating yesterday, there were pros and cons to every decision due to the fires. When will they open? What are the detours like? If we hike north, we may not be able to hitch and make dirt monger and bearclaws wedding in timberline – which I really want to be at. Hiking south we’ll be redoing miles we’ve already hiked. We still are risking hitching there as well. We could have just hitched today. No decision is right or wrong. Each has parts that I don’t like.
It got me thinking of what’s important to people in their hikes. What each person, and myself specifically, values in being out here and making tough decisions like this. Some hikers are purists, walking every single mile of the pct. No shortcuts here. They walk the road around fire closures, for 30+ miles at a time in order to keep the continuous foot path. This is extremely admirable, and very very tough. I am not a purist. On the opposite side of the spectrum there are those who are just out for a good time. Not concerned about doing all the miles, but rather having a good time, and enjoying the trail as they see fit. They may skip several hundred miles, spend more time in the beautiful sections, and eventually make it to Canada, or not, in a wild adventurous ride. I would argue that most hikers land somewhere in between. I am definitely no purist. In the desert where there was a fire closure before Idyllwild, and after the Anderson’s, I hitched the roads. I don’t enjoy hiking next to cars flying by, it stresses me out, and makes me uncomfortable. It is by no means the wilderness experience I am looking for. But I also like to hike all of the pct that I can. There are sections I missed, probably 20 miles worth before the fire closures; 4 miles out if buck lake, 8 miles in the wind storm of Tehachapi. But it’s minimal. When the fire closures came, mixed with the wedding of our good friends, it really made our group debate what this hike was for each person, what’s important.
When making the decision, there were 48 miles of pacific crest trail that was closed from sisters to timberline lodge, of 100 or so miles of total trail. Almost half the pct not open due to fires. Ten of the open miles were between the two fire closures, and would be tough to hike unless you walked the detours on forest service roads and some paved roads. So essentially, the way I was looking at it, the trail was only 40-50% walkable on the pct. If I skipped it, I would be missing roughly 50 miles of the pct that was open. That’s a lot of trail to miss, and tough to not do. If I did it, walking the closures, I would also miss my friends wedding to be walking it. Those factors eliminated this decision for me. I also could hitch from sisters right to timberline today. It would ensure that I get there on time, that I make the wedding, and I could have some time to play around, maybe go to Portland, and have fun. That sounded like a good option. The third was to hike south, walking trail we’ve already done, and then spend Saturday hitching. It would be great to see the sisters, I really was excited for this area. If would mean in hiking 33 miles of the pct, which helped ease my mind about missing miles north that were open around the fires, even though it’s not those miles. As an added bonus, I may see friends that are just behind us. That would be a blast, seeing friends I may not have seen again otherwise. The four of us decided to do this today. Carrot decided to hike the closures and miss the wedding. Coughee, JrSr and sheriff woody decided to hitch right away, and enjoy the trail around mt hood, possibly make it to Portland.
No choice is right or wrong, it just depends on what you want. We’ll all have fun, we’ll all be hiking, and we’ll all hike the hike we want. No decision is perfect, as the fire closures are just a pain to deal with as a hiker.
So we all head out, hiking south from
Mckenzie pass. It’s strange hiking south. I know what the trail is going to do. I remember from just two days ago when the trail will go up, down, in a meadow, by a river. The views to start are spectacular, and I’m happy I’m getting to see them this time around.
“The weather won’t steal this from us. Not this time!” Not a chance says.
“It’s beautiful!” Guthrie exclaims, looking north towards three finger jack, my Jefferson, and mount Washington. These mountains are rad, and the contrast with the lava field is spectacular. We hike on, meeting day hikers, section hikers, and weekenders.
We pass some amazing lakes. Lakes I didn’t even look at the first time through. The sun sparkles on the ripples in the lake as the breeze calmly passes. The sisters reflected. I’m happy to be seeing this, happy to be here, happy that I’m with friends. It’s so peaceful, so relaxing, no rush to make miles. I breathe in the fresh air and let out a sigh of release as the stress of the decision leaves my mind.
Soon we run into kimchi. She’s happy to see us, and is going to try and hitch around the fires to make the wedding. She says big sauce is ahead of her, but we haven’t seen him. Dang! We must have missed him. They did 52.4 miles yesterday. A double marathon. Say whaaaat? It’s great to see her!
Ten minutes later we see the red white and blue!
“Awww yeahhh!!!!” As he starts dancing on the trail.
We all yell back and forth from afar, everyone busts out in their best dance moves! It’s big sauce, and the party has arrived!! American flag shorts, cowboy hat. I can’t help but crack the biggest smile and burst out laughing at the scene. His energy is always amazing. So positive, so happy and upbeat. He will always bring up the mood, it’s what he does.
“I think I’m going to get a new outfit.” He says “people just don’t take me serious!”
“What!? No!!!” We respond. “You’re big sauce, amurrrica!”
“I’m a serious hiker guys!!” He says as he busts out the million dollar smile. He’ll never change his clothes, he’s messing with us. “I want to be take. Seriously, I’m not just out here clowning!!” He says laughing. Gosh, it’s good to see him again!
We talk for a while and hear the first fire closure has been lifted, and we debate what to do. We’re 15 miles south already, pretty much committed. If only we had known if would open. We get stressed for a second, and big sauce assures us we are doing the right thing. “You don’t want to miss this section, it’s too good!” He says. And wildo is behind him, who now goes by Ed the duck. Would love to see him! We hike south, feeling good!
The mountains change, showing their western faces as we traverse around each sister, one by one. They spectacular, snow covered with permanent glaciers. I see a group up on one of the glaciers near the summit. They’re all roped in, walking in a line. It reminds me of my friends Dan and Brandon back at home. They climb stuff like this often. I’m hoping to get into it soon, the very technical climbs. I would love to be up there with them!
Soon we it walk up and find the others with Ed the duck (wildo, from the UK). I give him a big hug, it’s great to see him! We talk for some time, discussing the trail and how we’ve been. He takes a picture of all of us. “I thought I wouldn’t see you guys again. I was so bummed out about it.” He says. It’s good to see him.
The day gets late quickly. We’ve been having a blast, and it’s been cruising by. We shoot for a campsite on a ridge above mirror lake, a few miles south. It’s got great views of broken top mountain, and the sisters. Guthrie and I set up Our shelters with a great view of broken top at sunset. It’s been an unbelievable day. No longer am I frustrated by the fires and the circumstances. I’m out in the wilderness, enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery around. I can’t let some fire closures stress me out.
I talk with woody, and they’re all having a blast. Took six hitches into timberline, including riding in a semi truck. They hiked around mt hood and are going to Portland tomorrow, just having an absolute blast. They, just like us, made the right decision. We all did, I think.