Sunday 17th July
Start: Bushcamp, mile 2012
End: Bushcamp, mile 2030
Last night’s camp was bizarre. An arctic wind picked up shortly after we arrived, and as the sun went down a thick mist enveloped the lake. I had to wear two pairs of socks to regain the feeling in my toes. Yet at 2am when nature called (the worst part of camping), I braved it to go outside and it was silent. I was startled by how bright it was. A perfect round moon was being mirrored in the lake, illuminating the camp. I swiftly fell back to sleep, but the next day Conrad told me he had heard either a large deer or elk grazing right by the tent just after that. Lucky it hadn’t woken me, because in the dead of night I would have convinced myself it was a cougar!
The day started walking along a ridge that provided us far-reaching views. On one side Mount Jefferson beckoned, it’s perfect conical shape resembling a melting walnut whip. On the other side, steep slopes covered in trees stretched as far as we could see. What stood out was the contrast of burn zones verses living green trees. Hovering above were thick clouds which made the mountain tops appear like islands in a vast white sea.
We made good progress today. Having seemed to climb for a good proportion of the hike, we made camp besides Whitewater Creek just after 5pm. Mount Jefferson, so far away yesterday got closer and closer until we were circling its base. The mountain is huge. It is technically a stratovolcano, and the second tallest peak in Oregon. It has multiple glaciers, giving it a craggy scared appearance, and many alpine lakes in its shadow.
Having crossed the Cathedral Rocks area and refilled our water at the very pretty Shale Lake, we rather confusingly began to lose altitude. At around 4000-5000 feet the forest was very different. Bright green ferns and grasses overran the path, which we trod with care given my last encounter with poison oak. Hummingbirds frantically hovered around us, making an extraordinary noise for such tiny creatures. The sound of crickets were frequent.
As feared, we began an enduring climb in the mid-afternoon heat. Conrad is having an issue with his hip bone causing him a lot of pain. We therefore took regular breaks, and lightened his pack. I am at a loss about what to do about it. He is in denial, and refused to seek any medical help when in Bend. I guess we have to monitor it and hope for the best.
Making me nearly crap my pants as we rounded a bend, a solo forestry worker was beside the trail doing some maintenance. He asked our details, gave us a lecture about burying our poo at least 6 inches down, and then warned about a forecasted thunderstorm later tonight! We spent the rest of the afternoon gazing up at the sky in worry.
A mile from camp we had the pleasure of crossing Russell Creek, which the PCT maps warn is a dangerous crossing. Sure enough the water was thunderous, and arching over it a questionable snow bridge showing advance signs of decay. Lucky for me Conrad insisted on going first and made it across a bit further below the main trail crossing point. Looks like we shall live to hike another day!