July 19, 2016
Elk Lake Resort to bushcamp (mile 1972.4)
Miles: 22.4 (20.9 PCT miles + 1.5 from trailhead to PCT)
Our total miles: 1566.1
Our alarms went off at 5:30. Laurie couldn’t open her eyes. She felt glued to the bed. Andy forced himself to get up and turn off the beeping alarm from across the room. We never seem able to go to sleep at a reasonable hour when in town.
Last night we turned the lights off around 11pm but were woken up at 1:30 am by a woman yelling “Natalie, Natalie” and knocking on our door.
We were all tired but ready and excited to get back on the trail.
Bright, one of our blog followers and a fellow backpacker, offered to take us back to Elk Lake Resort at 6:30 am.
While painfully early, we wanted to cover miles to get to our next resupply point the following evening. Plus, there was still a chance of thunderstorms and mornings usually have better weather.
We ate leftover Pad Thai for breakfast and were outside when Bright pulled up right at 6:30.
We chatted a little and then hopped in the car. It is amazing how much we have come to trust and depend on the kindness and generosity of strangers. And even more surprising how strangers quickly feel like good friends.
The drive to the trailhead was beautiful. The top of Mt Bachleor was hidden by fluffy gray clouds. We can imagine living in Bend and riding our bikes on this road someday.
We got to the trailhead around 7:30. The air was cool and the mosquitoes minimal. We expressed our gratitude to Bright, took a few pictures and hiked back up to the PCT via the 1.5 mile horse trail.
As we stepped foot back onto the PCT the swarms of mosquitoes returned. We had our mosquito nets handy so we quickly put them on and kept walking, joking about how they must be spraying something near Elk Lake to keep the mozzies away.
The trail gradually climbed 1400 ft through the trees. As we reached a high point we had nice views of Mt Bachleor and South Sister. The clouds hid the tops of both mountains and gray dominated the sky.
The trail opened into a long tundra after a short downhill. We chased the sun and patches of blue sky, trying to avoid the dark clouds that gathered west and south of us.
We were in awe of the beauty. Patches of green and brown contrasted with the green trees and deep brown rock face of South Sister.
Throughout the rest of the day we wandered between forests, meadows and open tundra. The Three Sisters were prominent companions as we made our way north.
Around 11:45 we passed a beautiful meadow with lupine lining a babbling brook. We had planned on a later lunch but couldn’t resist this magical spot. We sat down, took off our shoes and within 10 minutes Laurie was fast asleep.
We hung out for 45 minutes, bathing in the warmth of the sun. Andy happily ate his butter and jam sandwich until Waldo (formerly known as Derek) caught up with us. We hiked together the rest of the afternoon.
We hiked past small tarns with crystal clear water, bright pink Indian Paintbrush and many other small plants. The Sisters towered above us, providing a great backdrop for photos.
We ate lunch in a meadow, watching the clouds play hide and seek with South Sister.
This section of trail is extordinarily beautiful. With the beauty come the crowds. We saw at least 25 other people today, the most we have seen in 1 day since Crater Lake. It is awesome that this area is so accessible and that people come out to play here.
Around 4:30 we entered the Obsidian Limited Entry Area. We took a very short side trail to a waterfall and admired the shiny properties of the obsidian rocks. They glistened in the sun, as if they too were wet.
We continued along, stopping every 10 or so steps to take pictures. It’s nice hiking at a relaxed pace and not pushing too hard. It allows us to enjoy beautiful days like today.
We ate dinner next to Sister Spring, a really magical place. This is the headwaters of a creek. Water just comes out of the mountain.
Unfortunately the mosquitoes enjoyed this area as well and chomped on us as we munched on our meals. It is really cool to drink and cook with water that just appears from the base of a mountain. It was worth a few itchy bites.
We hiked the last 3 miles to camp in the evening light, walking alongside a lava field with many dead trees. It was beautiful.
We got to camp a little before 7:30 and were in bed by 9. We are all tired from the lack of sleep and 20+ mile hike.
We will sleep well tonight.
Tonight we are grateful for expansive views and magical springs.