Day 143: Lava Rock: The Bane of Boots Everywhere
Friday, August 10, 2018 8:39 pm
Location: Campsite 1986.6 (1986.6 miles)

With yesterday’s early finish, I was rested enough to get an early start today, hiking away from my campsite at 6:30, my earliest start in awhile.

Draining the blister on my toe last night helped considerably; there was nearly no pain in that toe as I started hiking, and it didn’t get worse throughout the day. It turned out better than I expected.

In the morning, the trail passed by Middle Sister, the shortest of the Three Sisters by just a few dozen feet.

After passing Middle Sister, the trail briefly entered the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, during which small chunks of obsidian lined the trail, glinting in the sun. Shortly into the area, Obsidian Falls graced the side of the trail, a cascade of water flowing from a creek (which the trail crossed) down a short cliff and over a well-worn bed of obsidian.

Obsidian Falls
Obsidian Falls

The falls are fed by a creek fed by Sister Spring, which the trail crosses shortly after.

Sister Spring Creek
Sister Spring Creek

While in the Obsidian LEA, the trail passed North Sister.

After passing North Sister, the trail took a brief jaunt through lava rock. It was a rough area to hike, with a few steep sections where the trail was loose lava rock. The smoke, fairly thick in the air, gave the nearby mountains a ghostly appearance.

After leaving the lava field, the trail crossed Minnie Scott Spring, where hundreds of butterflies had gathered on the ground, madly flitting away as I crossed the spring.

Crossing another lava field brought me to South Matthieu Lake, where I took a break for dinner. So far today, it’s been cooler than it was the past two days, and there was a nice breeze the latter half of the morning, which was pretty nice for going through the exposed areas. But, with the breeze at the lake, I was actually a little cold while I was sitting waiting for my dinner to cook. (The wind also kept blowing my stove out, despite the windscreen I have for it.)

After leaving the lake, the trail went through a burn area, and then another section of lava rock, with even more rough and misshapen rocks that were very frustrating to hike through, even as it was quite different and interesting scenery from before. My pace slowed significantly, my feet hurt, and I’m fairly certain the bottom of my boots was getting chewed up by the lava rock.

Mount Washington
Mount Washington

After an arduous hike, the trail reached Highway 242 at McKenzie Pass, where a trail angel was waiting on the side of the road with food and drink. It was a most unexpected and welcome trail magic. Saint James, whose daughter hiked the PCT in 2012, had beer, grapes, cinnamon rolls, bananas, and apples available to hikers, as well as chairs and the shade from the hatchback of his SUV. I was there with a few other hikers for probably about 20 minutes, during which time we got some strange looks from drivers wondering why a bunch of people were sitting in chairs on the side of the road while others were trying to hitchhike away.

Not quite half a mile (through more lava rock) later, at a trailhead with a small parking lot and a few campsites, was more trail magic. Coppertone, who hiked the trail in 2006, had an RV (which I saw at a trailhead a few miles before Mazama Village last week) that he travels around in, camping out at trailheads to give out magic for several days at a time. Though he was running low on supplies now, I was still able to get a root beer float and some cookies.

From the trailhead, the trail climbed up towards Little Belknap, a volcano, and was a nice dirt trail again for a mile or so, following alongside the lava flow before crossing into the lava rock again. The climb up was a chore to hike, but not as bad as the hike through the lava rock to get to the road. It was a bit breezy out, and as the sun descended, it passed behind smoke, making the waning hour of sunlight much softer and redder than it otherwise would have been.

A short side-trail to Little Belknap’s crater split off from the PCT; if it weren’t so late in the day, I might have considered taking it just to see what was there. Nearly eight, and the sun no longer visible (though not below the horizon yet), I didn’t have time to do that; night-hiking on lava rock would have been a very bad idea.

Shortly after that side-trail, another side trail connected to the PCT, and a large flat area there provided a number of campsites with a good view to the south.

Tomorrow: A short detour to Big Lake Youth Camp, and skip on past Bend.