Sunday, August 5, 2012

Death Hike Around the Three Sisters

This is going to be quite a long post, but mostly just long in terms of pictures (23), so please bear with me. Last Wednesday David and I started out on what we thought would be a 5-day, 50 mile hike around Oregon's Three Sister mountains, the third, fourth and fifth highest peaks in Oregon. We bought packs, a tent, sleeping mats and bags, a water purifier, etc. When all loaded down my pack weighed in at about 28 lbs, and David carried about 35. Not minimal by any means, but we met a guy on the trail with at least 50 lbs!! Here's David, loaded down:

Unfortunately when we finally caught sight of the first mountain, they weren't quite as big as we expected. David touched the top without even breaking a sweat.

At first I was really worried about running across a bear. Fortunately, that never happened, but we did see quite a few of these in the mud, which looked suspiciously like bear footprints.

After a while we did run into snow. At first it was just cute, little patches. I especially liked where they created little bridges across streams. So cute!

But when the patches started getting bigger - so big the obscured the trail, we were really, REALLY glad we had a GPS. We lost the trail on many occasions, but were always able to find it again with GPS.

On day two we turned a corner and suddenly ran into this spectacular view:

This a series of lakes called Green Lakes. We were curious about the name, since they are so clearly blue, until we got closer. The water was very green, and so clear you could see down to the bottom all the way in the middle of the lake.

At some point on day two I decided there were already plenty of pictures of David, so I mugged with the mountain:

Creeks and waterfalls were very common along the trail. Oregon is supremely breathtaking. I feel incredibly lucky to live here.

On day three we wound around to the west side of the mountains and our trail met up with the PCT for a while. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, the Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to Canada all along the west coast. I recently read a FABULOUS book ("Wild") about a girl who walks most of it.

Halfway through day three we were feeling some pain. When you are carrying that much weight, going up and down over sloshy snow, miles of sand and everything from tiny marble sized rocks to boulders, your muscles can get a little cranky, and your toes get downright mad. By this point, David could barely muster a smile.

We stopped at this scenic spot to filter more water and rest our feet:

We even soaked our feet a bit, but since this was pure snow melt, we couldn't keep them in for more than about 5 seconds at a time.

Day 3 was a long one. We ended up hiking quite a bit further than expected, mostly because we couldn't find a flat enough spot without snow to pitch our tent. By my estimates we hiked 15 miles that day. At the end, when my feet felt like bloody stumps inside my boots, I said, "I don't care where we stop, but we're stopping NOW!" So we pitched our tent right beside the snow. When we weren't hiking we spent all our time in the tent, because as soon as we stopped walking, especially in the evening, we were swarmed by mosquitoes. This next picture shows just how small our tent is. It's amazing we still love each other.

On the fourth day we decided to try and make it back to the car, since there were only about 16 miles left, even though we had originally planned to be out one more day, and even though we had two passes to traverse before we were done. The first pass, called Opie Dilldock Pass (what a name!) was absolutely the toughest part of the trip. We marched up a looooong series of switchbacks over bits and pieces of volcanic rock. Honestly I just looked right down at the ground and trudged until it was over.

But the view from the top made it all worthwhile!

Later we came to a treacherous bit of trail where we were expected to skirt along near the top of this snow bank. Every step brought us closer to sliding, so we did the only rational thing - we sat down and slid on purpose. It was the highlight of our whole trip!!! Here's David starting his slide:

 And here he is again near the bottom. Our butts eventually dried.

I didn't get a lot of pictures after this because I was too busy hurting! I had one thing on my mind and that was getting out early enough to drive to Sisters and eat a burger!

David took this last picture of us with his iphone, right before we reached the car. You can see we're not doing too well. Right now we can't imagine ever doing this again!!! But, we will eventually forget the pain. And we learned some things that we'll do differently next time. One, be in better shape before we go. Two, don't go so fast. Because as hard as it was, it was a great trip, and we hope to go on a death march every year from now on, and maybe, someday, bring Jacob.


  1. What a great trip! Dick & I (in our younger years) did a lot of back packing in Rocky Mountain, Southern Ohio and a little in Alaska. so I know your does go away....did ya take your paints! yea! right! When can we get you back at the Beach Art Center?

  2. Fantastic pictures and an amazing feat. I can't imagine doing such a thing!

  3. Oh, Carol and David - I'm glad you survived and were not eaten by a bear! I love, love, love the progression here, and truly admire you for daring to try this. Yes, you'll go again, you know you will! And it will take longer for you to reach the state of the final photo! Which, BTW, is the best photo EVER.... :)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing... You guys are the best! Wow, what a beautiful place you chose to move to! Glad you had no bear encounters and hope you finally got to enjoy that burger!

  5. My brother lives in Portland City and I visited for the first time last summer. Beautiful country!

  6. What a FUN post, although it was obviously treacherous at times. Thanks for letting us share in it, and live vicariously through your pictures. Glad you got through it safely... it didn't look like there was anyone around to help you if you'd come into problems. Beautiful country !!

  7. What a great trip! Love your clever photojournalism!

  8. Oh wow, what an adventure!! Thank you so very much for sharing, Carol!!

  9. Nice hike

    Thank you for posting the beautiful pictures with you narrative

  10. There was a time my husband would be jealous for it not to be him and I...these days we will have to be happy living vicariously through you...r post. :)

  11. Truly rounds out your human experience, especially since you spend a fair amount of time near a computer. Bravo dear friends and thanks for sharing some high (and low) lights. Amazing. Inspiring. Flabbergasting.

  12. Way cool artist.
    I saw some painting ideas, the lake and snow patch pics.
    Good for you.
    Yo big fan.
    Bob Ragland

  13. You guys are amazing - thanks for sharing the adventure. Bring on the Epsom Salts!

  14. Thanks for sharing this amazing journey with us. The photos are great! I have seen parts of Oregon. You moved to a spectacular place.

    BTW, living in Cedar Creek I can give you a weather update. Hot and dry however we got .15 of rain yesterday. It is still green around for the most part. There are yelllow wildflowers all around. Quite a contrast from the past 7 or more years of high heat and drought.

    Carpe diem!!! And continue to enjoy your life!!!!!

    Judi Vreeland

  15. I Follow your every move and I hear a wonderful comic voice behind all you report on. Ever think of doing the standup comedy thing?

  16. Next time maybe a pack animal for your painting gear???

  17. Yup! I say take it slow next time. Sit for awhile and muse over the natural beauty(with Mosquito nets over your heads)! Also bigger tent and dark chocolate for dairy free pick-up!

  18. I have talked to people hiking the Appalachian Trail and many use a light pack, under 30 lbs, or even an ultralight pack, under 20 lbs. And that's for a 6 month hike!

    I loved all your pictures of this hike. I hope your feet have recovered.

  19. Despite the fatigue and soreness at the end of the trip, sounds like it was otherwise a good one, esp. for being first-timers.

    My recommendation for future backpacks, especially where elevation changes are encountered: trekking poles. I've done quite a bit of backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and believe me, they are worth every penny...and then some!

  20. Thanks for sharing the great adventure! Beautiful post. Me too, I'm resting now... :)

  21. What an interesting trip and photos, thank you for sharing.

  22. That was fun to read! And the photos were amazing! Makes me want to try some hiking and camping...I never have done it. So glad you are both home safe.

  23. Seeing your photos makes me miss backpacking!

  24. Every once in a while it's good to put yourself out there. I did a solo trip around pelican island once about a five mile trip but it was in some bad weather, windy and on the other half the waves kicked up and I also had to deal with tanker waves lol. Thinking of dooing a solo trip around Galveston island if I get the chance uh oh.. lol. You look like your about to pass out in the last photo, must have been tough.