Andrew and I arrived to the Devil’s Lake Trailhead around Midnight on Friday morning. The parking lot was almost as full as the sky was with stars. The Perseids Meteor shower was going on the entire weekend, so I was excited to get out of the car and watch some shooting stars. My friend Cameron had made it there a few hours before us, as we ran into Portland traffic and some random road construction on 26.
Andrew went to bed almost immediately, as he had been working the entire day and then drove us 5 hours (pussy). I stayed up with Cameron and watched the night sky and shot the shit for awhile. He caught me up on our friends back home, explained whatever the hell Pokémon Go is to me and shared our thoughts on the universe as we watched beams of light shoot through the sky. I probably saw more shooting stars that night than I have in my entire life! Around 2am, it was time to try to get some sleep.
Well, it turned out to be a REALLY early morning. Turns out, sleeping in the passenger seat of Andrew’s car isn’t all that comfortable. I didn’t sleep for a second, but luckily I was excited to get this 50 miles going! We got on the trail around 7:30 after the diva, otherwise known as Cameron, got his shit packed.
Side note: If you need anything and everything you ever needed while backpacking, go with Cameron. That kid has the moon and the fuckin’ stars in that pack… and probably your favorite season of Friends…
I must say, what I originally thought was the hardest part of the hike turned out to be cake, once I got into day 2. The very first part of the hike is ALL uphill. About .5 miles in I was already hurting. I had to swallow my pride and take a break to let myself breathe. I figured stopping shortly after starting is less embarrassing then puking off the side of the trail.
Once we reached the top, holy shit, did I forget about the ascent I just experienced. The view of our first mountain was so majestic. When I was hurting and just wanting it to be over, I just kept asking myself “WHY”… but then you get to the top of that hill and see these insanely gorgeous views and you remember exactly why you put yourself through it. About a mile later, we found ourselves at Moraine Lake.
From there we hiked through some beautiful meadows, quiet streams and green, lush forests. We eventually made out way to Green Lakes where we stopped for lunch and took a plunge into the freezing cold water. No matter how cold it is, after hiking with 25lbs on your back, it’s always going to be refreshing.
From here, we had to get back on the trail to make it to camp. We arrived into camp around 2:45pm and set up in this GORGEOUS meadow. I had a perfect view of the South Sister from my tent. It was nice to relax my feet and not walk on the blisters that were starting to form.
The next day was challenging, as we woke up at 3am to start hiking. There is an 8 mile burn zone on the trail, so to avoid the Sun’s relentless heat, we got going early. All of us were running low on sleep, but the cold weather was refreshing and bitter enough to wake us up a little. It was really fun to hike at night. No one was out and all we heard was the soothing whispers of the forest. We stopped to rest a few times to take photos and watch what was remaining of the meteor shower.
Leaving early to tackle the burn zone was a smart idea. It was about 7 miles of no water and no shade, had we hiked it in the middle of the day. Plus, I think seeing it with the sunrise as a background was much more flattering. After the burn zone, we reached Alder Creek where we resupplied our water and geared up to make the trek to Mattheiu Lake. This ended up being the hardest part of my day as I now had 4 blisters on the bottom of my feet.
Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that I’m a friggin’ idiot and didn’t break in my new hiking boots before this trip. Whoops.
The ascent up to Mattheiu Lake was very difficult. I’m happy Cameron had the same pace as I did, otherwise my ass would be all alone trying to trek up that mountain. Andrew is a fucking beast and was literally whistling in the distance while hiking up that 500ft of elevation.
There was a group of early 40’s dudes from the East Coast who had flown out here to hike this loop. We passed each other about 6 or 7 times because one of our groups would be resting and drinking water. The last time we passed one of the guys, he told us to enjoy this while we’re young, because it only gets harder. I’m sure it does get harder but it’s funny because we saw people multiple pushing 70 out there hiking the loop. They were probably more fit than my fat ass. It gives me hope that I can continue doing this stuff for another 40-50 years.
Speaking of fat asses, ass chaffing is a real thing. Next time I’m bringing vaseline.
We made it to the top, took a breather and set up camp. We had the rest of the day to chill and relax by the lake and have lunch. Unfortunately, there was a group of shitty, obnoxious pre-teens next to us making all sorts of ruckus. At one point, the only well-behaved kid said to the girls, “You guys are being so loud. Do you want people across the lake to know you’re stupid”? Smart kid.
Luckily, we had a pretty sweet camping spot overlooking lava fields and some gorgeous views of Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. You could even make out Mt. Hood in the distance. Cameron and I hiked to the top of the hill above our campground and got some pretty amazing shots.
Also, watching the sunset from the top of this hill was probably one of my best highlights from this trip. It was unreal.
The next day was more of a blur as I was mostly just sore and trying to not collapse from all the blisters, chaff cheeks and everything else I wanted to pop Vicodin for. We did hike through some pretty rad lava fields, gorgeous forests and meadows so beautiful you would cry. We ran into a lot of other hikers on the third day.
One thing I really love about backpacking (and getting outdoors in general) is the camaraderie. Even if I am sweating my ass off, hurting like hell and want to give up, if someone passes by me, I always smile and say hello, and they usually do too. It’s refreshing and makes you feel good. People are so friendly and polite, minus those little shits and their stupid Dads that didn’t tell them to shut up. Maybe I was just pissed because I had just hiked 15 miles and could barely stand.
On this day, we hiked through Obsidian Falls, which is what exactly what it sounds like: a waterfall flowing over Obsidian rocks. I immediately threw my shirt off and washed myself under the falls. It was ice cold, as the water comes out of the mountain only a couple 100ft from the falls. It definitely woke me up and replenished my aching body.
The next 7 miles to camp (it felt like so much longer) were absolute torture. At this point, I was pretty much limping to camp. This was the hardest point of the trip for me. The beauty and serenity of day dreaming and enjoying the views were completely gone. It was so bad that I didn’t even pull out my camera to photograph nature’s eye candy.
Every step I took I kept asking myself, “If you can’t do this, how the fuck are you going to hike the PCT”? It was that, along with “Just take another step” or the more external and audible “UGH” or “FUCK”. If one thing stopped hurting, the next one would, and it wouldn’t be subtle. I now see why PCT hikers say that a lot of their trek is mental, and this weekend, I only did about 1.8% of what I’ll be doing next year . It made me more nervous, but somehow more excited.
Our last camp spot of the trip definitely made all the pain and torture of hiking with blistered feet and sore legs totally worth it. It was nestled deep in the forest on a path where we saw NO hikers. Also, it wasn’t totally obstructing of a view of the South Sister, but this time, we were on the other side!
We made a campfire that night, stayed up late and talked, laughed, smoked AND I bought a travel sized Kahlua that I mixed with powdered Vanilla Latte, and yes, it was fucking delicious. Cameron and I wrapped up the evening around Midnight and got some rest before the 8 miles back to the car in the morning. This was the best night of sleep I got. It was the most comfortable and I got high enough to pass the fuck out.
The next day was just as beautiful, just as difficult, but the most rewarding. Arriving into camp, I was just happy to see the car and know that I was only 45 minutes away from eating some good food and consuming beer at 10 Barrel in Bend.
Although this was a pretty brutal trip on my legs and feet, I learned so much. I know which gear I need to swap out/upgrade, to BREAK IN MY SHOES before I hike 50 fucking miles in them and to bring the stuff I want and leave the shit that isn’t as important. The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to push yourself, even if it hurts. The rewards will be worth it. Also, surround yourself with good people when doing such endeavors. Your friends will support you, help you out, cheer you on and not make you feel like a total pussy.
Through those 50 miles, a lot of the time I was thinking to next year when I hike the PCT and debating whether it’s something I should do or not. However, when I would get to camp, see some insanely unimaginable views, make some delicious hiker food and have some good chit-chat with my friends, I would forget all my doubts and fears. I just want to go and be with Mother Nature and see all she has to offer me.
I might not be near ready to take on 2,650 miles of hiking from Mexico to Canada. I might be crazy to think I can tackle such monstrosities. Well, I might be a fool, but holy shit, I am one excited and determined fool.
Here’s a short video I put together of our trip.