Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pamelia Lake and no Mt. Jefferson

Pamelia Lake

After Susan and I ran the Three Sisters Loop, Susan asked me if there was a loop around Mt. Jefferson. I told her I didn't think there was, but of course once I got home I pulled out my Mt. Jefferson map to verify. There isn't, but looking at the map it jogged my memory of previous Mt. Jefferson backpacking trips I have done in the past. Knowing that I was going to have a low key Labor day weekend, I thought if by chance I could get an overnight pass to Pamelia Lake, I would go camp and do a run and head back to Portland. 

By some luck I was able to secure a camping permit for Friday night. I originally thought that I could run the Hunt's Cove loop but come to find out the trail is closed due to a forest fire. However the PCT North and South were open, so I thought I could run to Jefferson Park and back which is ~15 miles. I emailed Karrla and asked if she wanted to join me on this short trip, we backpacked Hunt's Cove years ago, but we haven't trail ran together. She was game!

We got to Pamelia Lake around 5pm and most of the campsites were open, which was really odd given that it was Labor Day weekend. We found the perfect huge campsite with a great view of the lake and a nice fire pit. We hung out by the lake and drank beers and had a campfire as the evening  started to cool off, it was the perfect camping evening.

Beer!

Beer and filtered water - need to stay hydrated 

We were both woken up to drizzle on our tents, but by the time we actually got up the rain had stopped. There was only a 20% chance of rain, so I expected it to clear up by the time we started running. After a little coffee and breakfast we were on our way running on the PCT towards Jefferson Park. But shortly after we started it started to rain, but more than that the trail had over growth which was wet from the early morning rain, so we were getting soaked running through it. After about 2 miles we were drenched and cold, we decided to turn around and head the other way on the PCT to see if the trail clear of over growth. Luckily it was, we were able to get 10 miles of running in. We never got to see Mt. Jefferson, but that is even more reason to go back next year.

back tracking

Waterfall off the PCT


Monday, September 1, 2014

Three Sisters Loop

North Sister at sunrise

11 years ago my first multi-day backpacking trip was the 50+ mile loop around the Three Sisters in Central Oregon. Since then I have done multi-day hikes all over the world and in the Pacific Northwest, but the Three Sisters trip still remains one of my favorites and most beautiful. I have been back to the Three Sisters Wilderness several times in the last 11 years for overnight trips and even to climb South Sister, but never to do the full loop. Once Susan and I started talking about doing the loop around Mt. Hood, I knew if we completed that we could do the Three Sisters. 

Ann backing the 3 Sisters Loop 11 years ago

Mt. Hood is shorter distance wise (~40 miles), but it has almost double the elevation (10,000 feet), and it has the Eliot Creek washout. We almost completed the full Mt Hood loop in 2013 and we would of completed it if it wasn't for getting lost and running out of day light. Even though we didn't complete the loop we still ran about the same distance and were confident that we could do the Three Sisters loop in 2014, but only with the prerequisite that I backpack it first, so we didn't run into any unexpected surprises. 


Since I took 6 weeks off in March and April this year to go to New Zealand and another 2 weeks off in June to go to Scotland, the likelihood of me being able to take a week off to hike the Three Sisters was zero, so we put it on the back burner until 2015 and planned other runs closer to home. Well that was until, joking around, I said to Willie (our running coach) that we should go run Three Sisters together. He said that he was going to do the loop in 2 weeks, and we could join him and his friend Heather. 

I was so ecstatic; that was all I could talk about for days. I immediately booked a hotel in Sisters for the night before. My husband, John, even offered to go with us and work from Sisters while we ran so we didn't have to drive ourselves back after running 50+ miles. I really could not believe this was actually going to happen

Hikers only


Gear and food (this is not a full list but it covers the important / interesting stuff): 


In my mind miles 30-40 were the hardest, so I decided to break this run into 10 mile segments.

Mt Washington and Three Fingered Jack in the distance at sunrise

Matthieu Lake with North Sister behind, at dawn

0-10
We arrived in Sisters, Oregon the night before and stayed in hotel so we could get a good night's sleep. We woke up at 4am, got all our stuff together, grabbed a bagel and slammed Stumptown Cold Brew before heading to meet Willie and Heather at the trailhead. Google gave us some screwy directions, so we arrived a little after our agreed upon 5am, but not too late. 


Susan had forgotten her headlamp, but luckily Heather had an extra one; we did need them for the first 30-35 minutes. We were also lucky that it had rained a bit the night before, the normally sandy trail was pretty packed down. 

Heather crossing one of many tree bridges

The trail from the Lava Lakes trailhead climbs for ~3 miles before it intersects with Scott Trail #4068, which is the start of the actual loop around the Three Sisters. We were walking up the trail a lot more than I wanted to and that is when I found out that Willie ran the Crater Lake Marathon 2 days before, and he and Heather hiked to the top of South Sister the day before. Talk about pre-fatiguing! I had to keep reminding myself that we had 48+ more miles to go and there would be plenty of hills to run. 

Scott Pass at sunrise

Supermoon sunrise


Once we reached the trail junction, we decided to run clockwise. I had printed out the detailed directions from portlandhikers.org that described the loop in that direction. 

Almost immediately from the Scott Pass Trail junction we started to run through the Pole Creek fire burn area from a few years ago. It was an interesting contrast with the sun starting to come up. 

11-20

Ann and Heather stopped for a break in one of many huge burn areas

Desolation and beauty in the burned forest


The burn area continued almost to Park Meadow. Once we reached Park Meadow we decided we would continue to Green Lakes to take a break and refill our water.  Green Lakes makes a good rest spot, not only because it is beautiful but also it is right before the climb between South Sister and Broken Top, which is the second highest point on the loop (6660'). 

Our first water crossing

Carbonized wood 
Middle Sister (?) through the burn

There wasn't a lot of running going up to the pass, but we had spectacular views of Broken Top. One of the awesome things about this particular loop is the amount of different mountains you get to see, unlike Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Hood, where there is just one prominent mountain.  


Broken Top, across Park Meadow

Green Lakes Pass, with Broken Top and South Sister (r)

Broken Top, from the pass

South Sister, from the pass


The pass is around mile 20 and I was feeling pretty good, we decided that we would stop for "lunch" at Wickiup Plains, which is around mile 26. 

21-30
Susan & Ann, selfie with Broken Top


Susan & Ann with South Sister at Green Lakes Pass


The next 6 miles was pretty runnable and I decided to go for it. I ran with Willie for a while and talked his ear off, which I am pretty sure had to do with the Double Espresso Clif shot I had at Green Lakes. I also started to notice that Susan was falling a bit behind and walking a lot more of the hills than I expected. At one of the trail junctions before Wickiup, Willie decided to wait for Susan and Heather, so I ran by myself for a while. It felt really strange to run without Susan, but I was feeling so good and I figured she was having a good time getting to know Heather. 

Ann's rave run down to Green Lakes


Ann's rave run down to Green Lakes


I got to Wickiup Plains and waited for everyone else. To my surprise Susan wasn't that far behind me, but she also wasn't with Heather. She said Heather had started to slow down a bit, which I would've too if I had climbed South Sister the day before. Willie and Heather caught up shortly after and we had a nice lunch and talked about the morning and what we had ahead of us. I also took notice of the time and realized it was going to take us more like 14 hours than the 12 hours we had anticipated. Luckily I was able to text John, so he wouldn't be sitting at the trailhead worried for hours. 

South Sister from Wikiup Plain


South Sister's distant mohawk


South Sister and a delicious stream-- our first water refill


Willie told us the next section was pretty runnable, but it was also getting pretty hot (high 90s) and a lot of the area was exposed. I told Susan I would stick with her this time, since Willie was hanging back with Heather. We decided that we would take our next break / water refill at Obsidian Falls, which was approximately 10 miles away. 

South Sister across Morraine Lake

31-40

Crossing the stream near a trail junction

All I really remember up to Obsidian Falls is that every trail junction that we came to, I couldn't believe how long it took us to get to it. Every mile we ran felt like it should have been at least 2. Susan at this point said she was ready to see something besides South Sister, because it did feel like we had been looping around it for quite awhile. The heat was starting to zap us and Susan was struggling to even run up the slightest incline. We decided when we got to Obsidian that if we didn't see Heather and Willie by the time we left, we would just take off and leave a note on their truck, since we were heading back to Portland that night and they weren't.

Finally another mountain! Middle Sister through the trees

Mountain, obsidian-littered hillside, creek, forest, trail-- ingredients of paradise

Trail junction

As we approached Obsidian Falls, I told Susan that we really should try to run more of the hills because it looked like a rainstorm was starting to roll in. But even her walking uphill was slower than normal. I knew she was hurting, but she said she was ok. 

Middle Sister and a stunning, fragrant lupine meadow


We filled up our water bladders at Obsidian Falls, the cold water was so refreshing after running in the heat for the last few hours. As we were getting ready to leave Willie showed up without Heather. He told us to go ahead without them and that she was ok but just moving slowly. We all congratulated each other for making it this far and we headed on our way. I was relieved to have seen Willie and know that everyone was doing ok. 

Obsidian Falls-- the only photo either of us took


A little after leaving Obsidian we ran into an odd woman who asked if we were trying to run away from the thunderstorm. We told her we were running the loop in one day, she said she was walking it. I am still not sure we were talking about the same loop, but she was right the clouds looked like a storm was coming. Susan was feeling better and said she would try to run more.

Ann running through the intimidating lava hills


41-51+

We ran what we could but a few miles after Obsidian was the highest point (7000') of the loop: Opie Dilldock Pass. There were quite a few jokes make about the pass's name. The pass and the trail are very rocky, so even without the elevation gain we would have had a hard time running it. From the pass we had excellent views of Middle and North Sister, Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson. On the other side of the pass there was still a small snowfield on the trail. I decided to cross the snowfield, while Susan found an alternate trail. She was the smart one. [Ed. note (clearly Susan's): IT'S IN WRITING NOW!]

I took the low shortcut. Ann went across the snowfield.


I thought that Opie Dilldock pass was the only volcanic rock area, but I was reminded pretty quickly that it wasn't. We had yet one more rocky area to traverse around the Yapoah Crater. We ran what we could after passing the rocky area but I could feel that the day was catching up to me and the 2 miles to the Matthieu Lake junction felt almost as long as the 10 miles from Wickiup to Obsidian. We got really excited when we finally saw the Matthieu Lake junction sign, we had officially completed the loop and we had less that 3 miles back to the car. Susan flew back to the car. I couldn't keep up with her, but I was on cloud 9 knowing that we had done it! 

View south from the top of Opie Dilldock Pass


Despite it being pretty hot we had excellent views all day and beat the rain. We really couldn't complain at all. We both felt very fortunate to be able to do the loop and that Willie and Heather allowed us to tag along. 


Finished the loop!

More pictures from the trip:






Ann crossing a nicely modified tree bridge


Burned-tree arch with Ann running past

Life begins to return to the burn

Horses this way (at a water crossing)

Susan & Ann, selfie with South Sister

Chartreuse lichen

Ann crosses at the edge of the lake

Idyllic mountain stream

A long ridge off South Sister

Wide open Wikiup Plain

Heather and Willie running across Wikiup Plain

Ann in volcanic moonscape

A mariposa lily

Ann killin' it



Cairn in the crater after Opie Dilldock Pass

Strange volcanic rock shapes echo the distant mountains