The morning is cold, and my hip hasn’t magically healed overnight, so it argues with me when I try to move. It’s not as bad as it once was, though, and for that I’m thankful. I’m also thankful that it’s a town day again – I’ve decided to go into Bend with Spesh, take another zero, do my resupply for Washington. Deal with the consequences of another zero later. Still, the hike to McKenzie Pass is 22 miles – why do I keep doing this to myself? I know how I am on town days, antsy, anxious to be in town already, where there is food and bevvie and bed. Still, it must be done, and so, right around 8, a-hiking we do go.
We’re in the shadow of South Sister for quite a while, making our way down past tiny streams and larger ones, full of silt. Mmm… minerals.
At Mesa Creek, we meet a hiker having breakfast – he hiked to and climbed all three Sisters yesterday, and he’s beat, just sitting and enjoying the sunshine. He has all day to hike out to McKenzie. I can’t even imagine accomplishing something like that – but then I remember I’ve hiked nearly 2000 miles. Well then. Never say never, I guess.
The landscape is so strange through here, forested meadows, with wildflowers still blooming, giving way to a Mars-like landscape before turning back to forest again. We’re starting to be surrounded on all sides by mountains – the trail is preparing us for the North Cascades, which is supposed to be the Sierras-but-not all over again. We take lots of breaks today – Spesh is also looking forward to getting into town, giving his body a rest, going home. Not so much going back to work, but whatcha gonna do.
Still, as we move further north, we always have the Sisters to keep us company, looming above.
We enter the Obsidian Limited Entry area, where we’re supposed to have permits but we’re counting on my PCT permit to carry us through – we tried to grab permits as we entered the Sisters wilderness, but there were no more self-sign permits available at that entry point. I’m wondering why they’ve decided to call it the Obsidian area, but the trip up to Obsidian falls lets me know:
Obsidian Falls itself is beautiful, almost shower-like – I think about what it would be like to clean myself; I haven’t had a proper shower in… hmm. I don’t seem to be able to remember when my last shower was. Ashland, probably? Sooo probably entirely too long ago. I make it a point to count back later1.
At the top of the falls, the dust twinkles in the afternoon light; so much obsidian! I’m sorry I doubted you, naming committee, such as you were. Even if I’m still not sure why you call certain bodies of water ponds and other, smaller bodies of water lakes.
We round a corner, and there are a couple of weekenders sitting about 200 yards south of Sisters Spring. I look up, and there’s a group of 20 or so, doing yoga near the spring itself. …Huh. Don’t see that everyday. It’s just weird to me – I don’t know how weird it should be, given I live in the hippie front range where this happens all the time, but both the weekenders and I – and Spesh when he catches up from his potty break – are weirded out.
We go to the spring itself, get to see water just pooting out of the base of a mountain – this water is probably some of the purest water I’ve ever tasted, and it feels a shame to purify it. We also get to talk to one of the yoga session participants, who says they’re a group out of Eugene. She’s lived in the Front Range before, and tells me that Eugene is a great place for people who are tired of Colorado. Thinking about moving home bases right now is weirder than thinking about this yoga retreat – home is wherever I set up my tent right now, or, more broadly speaking, the trail itself. She’s nice enough, though, and she and Spesh – who grew up in Eugene, talk town while I sit and enjoy the sunshine.
A little further along, a rock is tending a bonsai pine tree:
It’s not long after the tree that we spot a Forest Service Ranger standing in the middle of the trail, badge and hacksaw and everything. Well then. He asks us for our permits; I hand mine over, but Spesh has none to give. He asks where Spesh’s permit is, and we inform him that his agency didn’t have any self-sign permits available down there. He corrects us, amusedly – nonono, the folks that work down *there* didn’t have their shit together2. Okay, fair enough. But hiking the PCT lets us travel through the Limited Entry area as long as we don’t camp, whether we’re thru-hiking or section hiking – and section hiking doesn’t require a permit if you’re hiking under 500 miles. It’s the middle of the afternoon, we’re going to McKenzie today, and we tried in good faith to get a permit… He’s smirking at this point, hands me back my permit. Get along little doggies.
And then it’s into Mars proper:
The lack of grass to absorb some of, rather than reflect all of, the light makes it hot hot hot through this section. So, of course, it’s up up up we go.
But goddamn, that view!
We get passed by the weekenders on the way to the top, and then, the top – WOOOO. And then we see what’s ahead:
Luckily, the trail’s psyched us out – it doesn’t go up that hill, but rather hooks along to the left under that ridgeline. We find, up ahead, that we’re not the only ones thankful for that.
The dog’s humans chat with us for a bit longer – and they offer to give us a ride into Bend if we’re still at McKenzie Pass when they get there. Rad.
Eventually, we make our way back to Earth:
And run into an acquaintance of Spesh’s from Kickoffs past. He seems nice enough addressing Spesh, but more than a little patronizing when he talks to me, giving me “advice” that isn’t so much useful as it is a no-brainer. Yes, it’s going to get cold. Yes, cold enough that the water is going to freeze in my bottles. I know he probably feels like he’s establishing a connection with me, but I feel like I’ve made enough miles at this point to be… well. If I don’t fully understand the physical implications of what that means, I’m as prepared as I mentally can be, and no amount of waggling that in my face is going to make me more prepared. The only way through that is… well, through it.
As we continue along the path, we pass a southbounder whose GPS track is apparently a little too old to trust, and, at Minnie Scott Spring – after we fill up – there’s a Forest Service not-Ranger standing in the path, who seems a little overly-authoritative. As a not-Ranger, he can’t legally ask us for our permits, and really, at this juncture, it’s getting late – I’m not particularly interested in chatting. For his part, he just seems interested in holding us up so that his direct supervisor – dealing with a passel of Outward Bound younglings on the other side of the clearing – will come over and handle us. We just talked to (one of) the (actual) Ranger just down the way, we explain – and we’re trying to make McKenzie Pass before it’s too late in the day to get a hitch. I feel like I’m a skipping record at this point, but I don’t want any trouble, so we play along as he asks us more questions, finally can’t see a reason not to let us go. Jesus. Piss or get off the pot.
Down we go, past a gent who’s carrying two packs – his pack, and the pack of his friend who’s not doing too hot. We pass the latter a little later, and he is for sure on struggle street. Lucky for them they’re going to Minnie Scott. I hope there’s room for them up there.
Down and up, to the top of our final climb for the day – playing and replaying the interaction with Spesh’s acquaintance has ruined my mood, and it’s only two folks southbounding Oregon giving us mints that lightens my spirits any. Heading back downhill helps – at least, until the trail turns into lava rock. Then I’m hurting and worried about my hip and about the weather in Washington because that asshole put it into my head and there’s literally nothing I can do about it right now or in general why the hell am I worried about this. When the trail turns back into forest pathway again, I take out my moodiness on it, hauling at four miles an hour for the first time on the whole trek. I’m sure it’s pretty – we’re treated to views as we descend, and nice campsites, and and and – but I just need to be at the road already.
Of course, just after the Lava Camp Lake junction, but before the road, there’s more than a mile of this:
I am frothing-at-the-mouth angry now, refusing-to-open-my-mouth-because-I-100%-will-take-it-out-on-Spesh angry. We’re walking on what is basically volcanic talus and every step is agony, stabbing my feet, larger rocks threatening to roll ankles, re-aggravate my hips. I try not to rage-cry, but I do once I see the highway. I’m not sure if the people who roll in right behind us understand, but eh, I’ve never seen them before. What are the odds I’ll ever see them again?
We pick through the remnants of some formerly-nice trail magic that’s now partially rotting in a cooler by the side of the highway. Then it’s up along the road just a little ways to the Dee Wright Observatory, to look around before trying for a hitch into Bend.
In the parking area, we don’t even get the chance to get our thumbs out before a father-daughter duo ask if we need a ride down to Bend. Um, yes. Yes we do. They’re kind enough to drop us off at the Deschutes Brewery – one of my favorite microbreweries in the US3. I catch some Pokemon outside – town time nerd time – and Spesh squeals on me to the host, who shakes his head at me before directing me upstairs and onto the patio. They don’t want our stink contained by walls any more than we do.
Turns out, they have really good food at the brewery, and while we munch I find the cheapest place I can for us to stay – the Dunes Motel. We walk there – it’s not too far – and Spesh lets me take the bathroom first, where the water feels way too nice for me to freak out that I’m basically marinading in my own dirt. I do take a shower after the bath, though, to actually get clean before slipping between the clean sheets. The bed feels like a cloud, and I’m asleep before I know what hit me.
Date: August 28 • Start: 1958.4 • End: 1981.2 • Day: 22.8
Notable Accomplishments: Last day with Spesh • Admitted insecurities and hesitations • Bend and Deschutes Brewery!
 Twelve days ago. I have not showered in almost two weeks.
 I may be paraphrasing a bit. Or a lot. The gentleman was very professional.
 BLACK BUTTE PORTER OR BUST