South Sister from Camp Lake
I arrive at a road closure sign 5 miles from the Pole Creek Trail head. My excitement quickly turns to a feeling of defeat. The Forest Service is working to improve the Pole Creek access road after a fire from last summer that consumed over 26,000 acres.
My mind fills with thoughts of quitting. After all, this closure will add 10 miles to my round trip adventure. I can turn around and go somewhere else. But, where?
I begin filling my mind with positive affirmations to combat the bad thoughts. “This is an opportunity for me to follow the rules and obey the closure.” You are prepared for this.” “You will be stronger for making it through these extra miles.” “Just pack up your bag, eat some food, lace up your shoes and start walking.”
I accepted this as an opportunity to test my mental, physical and spiritual strength. The walk started at 6:00 PM.
The next 5 miles gave me a chance to respect what had happened last summer and the work that others were doing to restore this beautiful place.
I see four deer as I near the trail head around 7:15 PM. My feet transition from gravel road to ash covered trail. I start noticing the small ounces of life among an otherwise dead environment. Baby pine trees are sprouting through what looks like a battlefield. Bugs, birds and a cool breeze remind me that this is life after death.
As the next few hours pass the sun begins to drop down behind North Sister. My feet take me from a blackened forest to one that is green and lush as I leave the Pole Creek burn zone.
As darkness sets in I pull out my headlamp and the sounds of of the forest come awake. I hear crickets, mosquitoes and the crackling of branches. I cross a stream and nearly lose my way, but manage to get back on track.
Around 10:30 PM, I walk over a hump and drop down into a glacial pond. This will be camp for the night. I am exhausted from my 11 mile run that morning followed by an unexpected 12-13 mile hike. I feel a sense of peace and happiness, my eyes and mind melt into the stars as I drift asleep. This is life!
Day 2: Summit and Beyond
I awake at 6:45 AM with the rising sun. Today is a new day to reach the top of a mountain. I cook some oatmeal, pack up my camp and walk to Camp Lake where I will leave my pack.
I mentally break the 3000 vertical feet into three different sections. It is much easier to tackle a large goal if you have small goals along the way.
I reach the summit two and half hours after departing camp, phone the parents, snap some photos, take in the panoramic view of the Cascades and beautiful forest below and mentally prepare myself for the 15 mile hike I have to get home.
The first thousand vertical of my descent was plain sketchy. Every six or so footsteps a rock would roll out from under my feet and I would have to catch myself. No wonder more people get hurt on the way down.
When I reached the snowfields my shoe ski skills got put to work. This was the fun part of the descent.
I arrived back at Camp Lake around lunch time, relaxed for an hour and took my favorite photo from this adventure of an Indian Paintbrush with Camp Lake and South Sister in the background.
During the hike out my mind was filled with positive reflections of the great people, places and things I have in my life.
To say the last 5 miles of gravel road were easy would be a complete lie. My feet hated me for travelling roughly 42 miles in the last 36 hours. I could feel two new blisters forming, which means there was four or five. The mountain bike tracks in the road made me wish I had mine. If only the road were open.
I had to snap out of these “what if thoughts” and just enjoy the fact that I was walking through time. I was in a beautiful place and had just conquered another mountain that taught me priceless lessons about life and myself.
When at the end of the road I feel overjoyed with a sense of accomplishment. One journey has ended and another will soon begin.
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