Tonight is our last night out on this trip, and that makes me sad. It’s been really awesome to do a trip where riding bikes isn’t the primary focus. Instead, we’ve climbed mountains, soaked in hot springs, went swimming in lakes, and for the most part, tried to stop riding before we were toasted. It’s been new and novel. And the riding was pretty damn good too…
Today we climbed the South Sister, which was one of the selling points of this entire trip for me. I think the big volcanos in the Cascades are pretty awesome, and the S. S. is the third highest peak in Oregon. It’s also one of the only ones that doesn’t really require any rock or scrambling skills, so it tends to be a pretty popular hike at 12 miles round trip and nearly 5,000 feet of elevation.
We got one of those semi-early Scott and Ez starts. We left our tent and gear in the campsite and went looking for a place to stash the bikes out of sight. Bikes secured, up we went. Well, a few steps before Scott had to go back to the bikes to get something but couldn’t find them at first. Made me feel good about our hiding place.
The climb was spectacular. One thing I’ve really missed on this trip, and probably should have appreciated more on the CDT last summer, is the big views. Luckily, this trail pierced treeline quickly and we were treated to giant views both up and down.
And then we saw the smoke. Coming from a fire down in the Medford area (we hear) and maybe the Umpqua, the whole top of Mt Bachelor across the road was obscured. Views to the west and south were hazy as we climbed into the smoke, both smelling it and feeling it in our lungs. Bugger. It had been perfectly clear yesterday.
Luckily, by the summit we’d climbed out of the smoke and we got to share somewhat muted views with a PCT section hiker who’d come up as a side trip. South and east was pretty covered in smoke, but we could make out the hills as far north as Mt Jefferson. The views of the Middle and North Sister were stunning.
Eventually, we circled the crater and headed down the loose ash/pumice/rock. Sliding half in control was actually a really good time and we had to stop several times to empty sand and rock out from our shoes. We’ll see if we pay for it tomorrow.
Swimming in the lake was the first order of business. Then a 4 mile pedal to Elk Lake Resort down the road. It was a zoo, but they served burgers and sandwiches, but once again, their designation as a ‘grocery store’ on the Nat’l Geographic map is an overstatement. It’s okay, we hauled plenty of food from Sisters two days ago.
Tomorrow, we retrace our steps to the top of Mrazek, a well-known and shuttled trail in Bend, and hopefully coast most of the way back to town. Then that’s it. And that’s sad.