Lost in the Lava

Woke at dawn and after meticulously cleaning all the wetness on the fly, I was ready to go at 7:15 a.m.  The ground beneath my tent had stayed completely dry, and as I walked away the footprint of my tent was quite pale against the dark wet needled forest floor.

Hiking to a glacier!

I had thought the trail I was now on was the PCT.  According to Erik the Black’s book, it could not be any other, even though there was no sign designating the trail conjunction back on the hill where I had veered off.  I started hiking along it – it was well-traveled, had many fresh boot prints and was marked with cairns and long sticks held up by a pile of rocks, just like the PCT.  But the further I traveled it, the more uncertain I became. It was heading southeast, right up into the glacier, and I was supposed to be heading north.

Finally, after arriving at a point where many trails seemed to cross and criss-cross in a great tangle up high in the scree in the basket of the mountain with the glacier not far away, I decided to return to the PCT where I had veered off and wait for other through-hikers to pass by with their better, free maps.

Back on the knoll overlooking the mistaken trail juncture, I ate breakfast and

Correct creek crossing half mile downstream

examined my guidebook intensely while I waited for a through hiker to pass.  Someone had just that morning drawn an arrow in the wet dirt on the trail indicating the OTHER trail was the correct route, so after about an hour’s deliberation and breakfast, I finally hoisted the pack and took off in that direction.  Wouldn’t you know, it was the correct trail. It continued from the mistaken juncture for about another half mile where it descended and crossed

Morning evaporation from last night's storm

the creek at the well-marked juncture of Glacier Trail. I was slightly peeved with my guidebook – it showed no trail veering off up to the glacier where I had gotten confused, and didn’t show the very well-used trail along the river’s edge from that wrong trail to the correct one. There are so many omissions in his guide book that at the current level of accuracy, it’s not worth the money. I had lost at least two hours of hiking time due to the inaccuracy of the guide at this one location alone. Very frustrating, when you pay for what is supposed to be high quality, and discover you’ve received much less than was promised.

The hike entered lava flow areas and a long uphill climb. The higher I

Sweeping views of jagged mountains

ascended, the more sweeping the views became. Finally topped out after a steep switchback area in a lava canyon (also not designated in the guide book) and I met a man and his 12 year old son out doing a morning hike.  I mentioned to them they were coming to a steep descent, and after passing them and stopping ahead about a quarter mile, I saw them ascending the cinder cone to the east – they had decided they didn’t want to hike back up that steep switch back area, which I totally understood.

Minnie Scott Springs with pack against rock

I spent a few minutes just admiring the views from my lava rock stop, and finally packed up again to start descending the trail which led back into the forest and on to Minnie Scott Springs. Descending down into the meadow where Minnie Scott Springs gushes forth from the ground into fields of colorful flowers was like looking into a picture of Paradise. I ate a few handfuls of nuts and the father and son with their beautiful dog arrived back – they had camped at a campsite in the trees there the night before and weathered out the storm.  I gave their dog a few nuts which she gobbled right up, and took a picture of them all together and they were off.

Source of Minnie Scott Springs

After filling my Platypus with the cold delicious spring water I got only a few hundred feet down the trail before noticing the underside of my pack was far wetter than it should’ve been for having been set on the grass in the meadow. I pulled off the trail about 25 feet into a grassy area warmlit by the mid-day sun, took everything out of the pack and discovered that my Platypus had had pressure applied to the valve at the bottom and it was releasing water into the pack.  My sleeping bag had become a little wet in places, so I spread it out in a grassy area to dry, along with a few other things, and sat down to write in my journal and enjoy another little break.

Nature's Beauties

While I was there, 5 different through hikers passed and only one, a woman, saw me.  All the rest had heads gazing down at the trail as they strode quickly by, not giving their surroundings even a passing glance. What a way to hike! Or go through life at all!  It is all so short and when we get to the end we often look back and wonder why we didn’t slow down more, enjoy it more, revel in the moment’s beauty and just simply BE in it. But no, this over-adrenalized, goal-oriented society we “live” in creates a mind-set of “accomplish-accomplish-accomplish” instead of “experience-become one with-savor the moment”.  A sad statement of a common current condition in our culture.

Water jewels collected by plants

Finally everything was dry, and I carefully reloaded the pack with the Platypus’s lower hose fixture facing the frame of the pack, instead of  the interior. From then on I experienced no more problems with the Playtypus.

The sky was so blue, the sun so bright and just the right temperature it made crossing the lava fields easy – not hot at all. Flowers in the

Lava fields

meadows were emanating heady aromas, the soil itself was speaking in scents and shades of colors that the whole world itself seemed to be reveling in the day after the storm.  It all made me want to stay on the trail and not come out at Sisters…I wanted to delay the end of this segment as long as possible. Maybe that is why the leak in the Platypus had happened…it was another means for me to linger longer on the trail.

Yours Truly

Across a flowered meadow a couple strode south on the trail.  I asked them to take a picture of me, as I have had very few taken of just me. It turned out he was a photographer, and he gladly took several photos. We visited a bit, and I returned the favor for them. They were doing a loop around the Three Sisters, and were packing heavy packs – over 40 pounds apiece. The camera off his neck weighed darn near 10 pounds alone! And they even had a bottle of wine tucked in their packs – they were doing it right!

Bees exploring my toes

A little further along on a lava slope I met two young men heading south. One of them was packing a pair of K2 skis stuck up high above his head, which of course prompted me to ask where he was planning to ski. It turned out he studies the melting of the glacier I had inadvertently hiked up toward, and he was planning on skiing it! His friend was visiting from France, and was checking out the potential of attending university over here. I mentioned to them the

Yapoah Crater

horrendous cracking, breaking sounds I’d heard the night before during the storm, and the local man thought it might have been a rock face on the mountain crashing down. Fine young fellows, and a pleasure to visit with.

A little further along I met Dennis and Chris and we stopped a visited awhile, also. They are from Tumalo, just next to Bend, and are out hiking for a week or so. They

Dennis and Chris

were a delight to talk with, and I enjoyed our conversation immensely. After about 20 minutes we parted ways.

Finally I arrived at South Matthieu Lake and the Scott Pass junction. The alternate route departed just north of this point to North Matthieu Lake which was my destination for tonight’s camping spot.  About 1.5 miles later I arrived at it, only to discover there were a number of car campers already there with loads of screaming kids, and the wind was kicking up sporadically.  I swam in the lake, sunned on my tent fly, and contemplated whether or not to hike out

North Matthiew Lake

to MacKenzie Pass and hitch back to Sisters this evening. It was pushing 5 in the evening and the sun was hovering about 25 degrees off the horizon.

Finally I felt inspired to hike out the rest of the way this evening. Packed it all up and set out at a clip of about 3 miles per hour.  I was hoping to arrive at Hwy 242 in just over an hour, as the guide book puts it at a 3.5 miles walk from North Matthieu Lake. Passed all the landmarks posted in the guide and then arrived at the lava fields.

Never-ending lava fields

The trail through the lava trudged on forever, paralleling Hwy 242. I could see the observatory on the Hwy situated to the northwest. After lots of walking to the west I was opposite it, and later still it was to the northeast!  I was growing more and more unsure that the trail I was on was correct – why was it not headed north to intersect with Hwy 242?  Had the trail that branched off over a mile back been the proper one to take?  A large dead log had been placed across it, making me think as I had passed it that it was not to be taken. Surely it had been at least 4 miles since I’d left North Matthieu Lake.

And finally, just when I was berating wildly out loud about the

More never-ending lava

ludicrousness of this insane trail and feeling about ready to lose my mind, the trail rounded a little knoll facing north and descended within a few feet to the Hwy.  I could’ve cried I felt such release from all my exasperation, but a car was coming and I stuck out my thumb and he stopped!  The very first car!  Which was highly fortunate, because I learned that there is hardly anyone on this road!  It is the least used road on the way to Sisters, with Hwy 20 being the much more traveled route. Talk about good fortune!

Kurt was a day hiker and had just gotten off the trail himself. We talked all the way in to Sisters – he was going to Bend – and told me he had met the Green Tortuga down on Scott’s Trail.  I was most impressed – Green Tortuga went over 8 miles out of his way to hike an historic trail. He is a through hiker whose journal I have read regularly. His writing is excellent and he paints a picture with his words. I was hoping to bump into him along the PCT so now I had an idea where he was. He’s not far behind me, and will pass into the next section (which I am skipping) while I rest up in Sisters and Bend for a few days before driving to Cascade Locks.

Kurt dropped me at my truck and I immediately drove to Three Creeks Brewing Co. and ordered my Salmon Ceasar Salad. From there I walked across the drive to the movie theater and watched “Eat Pray Love”, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Drove back to Heather’s house and parked my truck in her driveway for one last night, and crashed in the back on Brandon’s old dog mattresses.  It’s so odd to be back in civilization. Pleasant enough, but sorta strange at the same time. Realities have so many different faces and they seem to wrap within each other. I drifted off thinking about the utter beauties I had seen, smelled and shared space and time with in the incredible Three Sisters Wilderness.

Swimming and Sunning Spot at North Matthieu Lake


About sayslife

On Sabbatical to live out some Bucket List dreams. Life just keeps zooming along, and friends keep passing away. Time to live never seems enough, as the daily duties always seem to keep calling. Now I'm changing that. Gonna see the world. Come along for the ride - you're invited :)
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3 Responses to Lost in the Lava

  1. Don Lattimer says:

    Feel like I’m there! Great writing. Thanks.

  2. Sayward says:

    great to hear from you! I just finished that post, so to read the ending you may want to re-read it 🙂 Where are you now? Thank you for your compliments 🙂

  3. Dennis and Chris Lipscomb says:

    Hi Sayward, we really enjoyed talking with you on Wednesday north of Minnie Scott Spring! Cool seeing our picture in your blog! We had a great hike, came out on Sunday. We will be avidly following your hike and adventures, have a wonderful adventure!

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