If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. – Katherine Hepburn
The sun was up early, mostly because nothing blocked the horizon and its big pink orb appeared as I packed up in the lava dust. I can’t help but think of that scene in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ when the man falls off his camel in the desert’s anvil and he has to be rescued before the sun come’s up or he’ll be cooked.
None-the-less, I give my neighbor one of my liters of water trusting I can manage carrying two. I’ve already ‘cameled up’ with one this morning before suiting up and heading for the rocks.
It is the strangest wasteland here as I head up first on dust and a few rocks and then all on small chunks of pumice, about the size of my fist. The lava is solid, but appears to still be in motion with wave upon wave stacked against each other, seemingly oozing. I drop my phone trying to get a photo and crack the screen protector. Of course, that’s what it’s for.
And it’s a decent climb up this jumble of rock – as well as down. I can see why people suggest avoiding this crossing mid-day as there isn’t one living thing for miles. Unless you count us hikers – a gal wearing an umbrella, a pair of women eager to get this over and done with, a man saying the rocks just suck the energy out of him.
I admit, it is not easy to walk here, but to quote Grandma Gatewood, PCT hikers can be real ‘panty waists.’ The trail is constructed beautifully, cut right through the rock and snaking around so it doesn’t have to go up and down with every lava wave.
I think of climbing Mount Taranaki in New Zealand when only poles marked the way. If DOC was making a path across the lava rocks, they would likely only give a suggestion of a route and a hiker would do a lot of climbing. As it is, I take an hour or so to cross.
And I am fine with water, drinking all I have before heading uphill to the first lake. I enter the Three Sisters Wilderness – whoops! I thought there were only two. As I twist and turn back on lava for a mile, I see an out-of-focus Jefferson. There is a lot of dust in the air. Walking feels like a fun house here looping around – Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is running through my head – and finally I’m spit out on dirt. Have I told you I love dirt? I practically kiss the ground the walking is so easy.
As I walk through forest on the edge of an ancient ash heap, I think again about how to manage attacking comments. I realize what bothers me most is being ‘one-dimensionalized’ as though everything about me can be summed up in a sentence. There was never any curiosity about who I am or how I think, just assumptions. I can take criticism but I won’t accept bias.
On one smooth heap of a hill are two boulders set precariously. The color and simple geometry reminds me of David Hockney or Georgia O’Keefe. I enter a meadow and look for a promised water source of Minnie Scott spring when a tattooed hiker crosses my path wearing a wild hat and Native American beadwork. He’s a happy hiker – or stoned.
At a gorgeous meadow with a glacial stream pouring out of mid-Sister running its length and encouraging thousands of bright purple lupine, I meet about twenty boys. They’re affable handler tells me they are ‘Rangers’ from the Assembly of God Church.
There is a distinct split in the group of the slightly fitter ones – who gamely move ahead to set up camp – and the huskier ones left behind, taping their feet and experimenting with wearing extra socks. Mr. Handler tells me the PCT hikers put them to shame on the hills. I say it’s because we carry less weight. It’s harder to pack for a short trip, because you might want steak, then of course vegetables – he and I have a good laugh before I press on to the big hill he spoke of.
It is an up and takes me to a fantastic view of mid-Sister, snow fingers reaching down. My eyes look down too and I notice obsidian – everywhere, sparkling in the sunlight like diamonds and so smooth and shiny, it looks like liquid.
All the way to the next meadow, I’m surrounded by this magical black rock. I don’t really need more water, but I meet some hikers out for the weekend, self-deprecating and fun to chat with. They point me in the direction of a group of ladies relaxed on the stream bank. Ladies who Lunch, is what they appear to be and I simply must take their picture.
We begin talking about my hike and soon three of them have invited me to stop in on my way through Northern California. Oh, this is so great! Like New Zealand meeting absolutely lovely people who ask you over and the next thing you know, you’re friends for life.
I say so long until I get to Cali and press on as giant cumulus clouds build and thunder rumbles over South Sister. I check my map and happily take note I stay fairly low, the trail moving into the forest now.
I skip water at a stream and head uphill to a small lake just as the clouds evaporate, and clear skies reveal an exposed red heart-shaped area on her flank. I almost walk past thinking I’ll walk three more miles, but turn in at the last second to find Rook, Erin, Bounce and Supe on the shore – Erin is actually in the water in her skivvies. With them is Bobby O! So good to see him again.
I give it up and set the alicoop here, take a spectacularly refreshing swim that gets the dust off my legs – how does it get all the way up there when I’m in long pants? – share a few laughs on the shore, then tuck in by 7:00, ‘hiker midnight.’
It was a superb day of something totally new to me with all that walking on lava rocks. And now, I lay back in my bed looking straight at the mountain as she releases an avalanche in a long, crashing tumble.