My dog fears fireworks. Her pacing, panting, crying, and inability to be calmed is difficult to witness and often throws me over the edge too. Because of this, each fourth of July we go to the mountains and celebrate the way of the natural world. We wake with the sun, walk with the clouds, sleep with the stars. My heart is the only thing exploding out there as it bursts with the simple joy of knowing everything I need for the next few days is on my back. Or by my side. We will have a fine Independence Day, Wisdom and I, on the high, snowy grounds of Diamond Peak Wilderness.
I'm blaming it on being the first backpacking trip of the season and me being out of practice, but it took a few false leads and wrong turns before I finally found the trail we wanted, the one to Yoran Lake. As we walked along, I tried not to think how in four miles we'd be leaving the trail all together and relying strictly on map and compass for awhile. Having a good sense of direction isn't a strength of mine - I once got lost five feet from the trail for over an hour - but I did review my map and compass book before leaving home and knew I'd have to face the challenge of traveling cross country if I wanted to complete this loop. But that was still four miles and a couple hours away. At the moment, we were climbing gradually through the forest and the pre-hike jitters I always get when preparing for a solo, multi-day trip in the wilderness were slipping away. With each step, each tree, I felt more connected to the world around me. I was on the trail again, traveling, walking home.
Three alpine lakes and Wisdom swam in all of them,
but soon it was time to bid the comforts of the trail farewell and break out the map and compass. I estimated where on the map we were, where we wanted to go, and took a bearing. Not to mention a deep breath! Then we stepped off the trail into this.
Somewhere out there lay the Pacific Crest Trail and I hoped we'd find it.
Forty five minutes and a few moments of, "It all looks the same!" later, Wiz and I spilled out onto the PCT, my old friend. It was a time for jubilation, hydration, and salutation to be sure!
In 2016, my cousin and I hiked the Oregon section of the PCT and it felt good to be on familiar ground. Although really, this was new trail under my feet. There are many alternate routes along the Pacific Crest Trail that hikers take for different reasons, and my cousin and I took two of them. One was the Eagle Creek Alternate through the Columbia River Gorge that almost everyone takes for the waterfalls and gorgeous scenery. The other was the Oregon Skyline Trail Alternate (OST) at Windigo Pass for resupply purposes. The OST alternate was a tough decision because it meant we would not hike the long contour across the view-packed meadows and rocky slopes of Diamond Peak, a "very special section" of the PCT as one thru-hiker told us in 2016. Ultimately, my cousin and I chose the OST alternate because it fit our needs and goals, but here I was about to hike that "very special section" we missed. And I really didn't put it together until that moment!
As Wisdom and I walked along, I wished my cousin were with me. And then I found she was, as I relived our hike and memories from that long, wonderful month on the trail. They were all right there- our campsites and funny mishaps, our long lunch breaks and silly conversations that helped pass the miles, our fellow hikers and all their trail names - they were all right there, walking along the Pacific Crest Trail with me once again. I guess these things are as much a part of the mountains and time as the trail itself, and when you know this, you know you need never be alone.
Later that night at Divide Lake, we found the mosquitos and the mosquitos found us. I guess they liked us, too, because they never left us alone for the next three days!
My new look!
I didn't know it yet, but I would be living in this thing.
The next morning we returned to the Pacific Crest Trail and continued south. This was my favorite part of the trip as the trail stretched across the east shoulder of Diamond Peak. It was very scenic and very high. Snowfields covered the trail in places and streams just coming out of hibernation trickled downhill. Wildflowers bloomed and early thru-hikers, who began their hike in Mexico, were already halfway through Oregon. Diamond Peak was waking up and Wiz and I could feel it. We were waking up too. I saw it in Wisdom and sensed it in myself- this reawakening to a wildness and a freedom that is almost forgotten in modern day life. And through it all, Diamond Peak, with its stretched out ridge and jumbled mass of peaks and plugs, dominated the scene and that was just fine with me.
Camping that night at Marie Lake, the mosquitos forced Wisdom into the tent at 630 and I wasn't far behind at 7. They sounded like rain pelting the sides of the tent and we didn't come out from the safety of those four walls until morning. However, as ferocious as those bloodsucking parasites were, I was excited for the day. Hopefully, it was going to yield the main reason we were in this mosquito mecca - the reflected view of Diamond Peak in Mountain View Lake. You can only get the reflection this time of year when the water level is high and the mountain still has snow. Later in the summer when the bugs are gone, unfortunately, so is the view.
There are many beautiful places in the world; I'm lucky I can walk to some of them.
The mosquitos at Mountain View Lake are especially hellacious, so camping is not recommended. And if "especially hellacious" means anything more than what we'd already experienced, we were definitely taking that advice. Diamond View Lake lay a few more miles down the trail, so on we went.
We arrived around 130, and found a great camp hidden from the trail, but still with a partial view of the lake and Diamond Peak. Yet something felt absent. And more relaxing. The mosquitos! They were gone. Time to rejoice and throw my headnet to the wind! After three days of eating, drinking, and brushing my teeth in that thing, it was nothing short of liberation to finally shed it.
Wisdom had some luck too. A bowl was left on the trail near the lake. With no one around to claim it, I brought it back to camp and boom! Just like that Wisdom was glamping- with separate bowls for food and water!
We spent two glorious, relatively mosquito-free nights at Diamond View Lake hanging out and listening to the song of the wild. Our hike ended at Shelter Cove after five days in the wilderness. My cousin and I, in 2016, stopped at Shelter Cove to resupply, shower, and do laundry. We signed the guest book with our trail names. This trip, the only thing I did was stop at the hiker box and drop off two meals in honor of Bee Keeper and Sky Shadow, two spirits who still walk the Pacific Crest Trail together.
For food and hike logistics, read on:
In 2013, I began dehydrating most of my meals for my hikes. I found I felt better with my own food, likely because I cut out all the processed stuff and loaded each meal with fruits and vegetables.
On this trip, of the 11 meals I ate on the trail, 8 were ones I dehydrated and assembled myself. Highlights included Dungeness crab with eggs, polenta, and veggies (my new favorite trail breakfast!), Curry chicken and rice with veggies, Chili, and Hummus. This was the first time I tried dehydrating hummus myself and it was delicious. I'll never buy the already dehydrated stuff again. This was way better! I can't express how much my morale and strength is improved by having healthy and yummy meals to look forward to each day. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Wisdom and I were out from July 3 - 7 and completed a total of 34 miles, including a 6 mile day trip to Saddle Lake. We gained a total of 3900 ft of elevation with 2100 of that coming on Day 1. Yes, with a full pack! Of course! We camped at Divide Lake, Marie Lake, and Diamond View Lake for two nights. They were all excellent.
This was a great trip and I'm already looking forward to doing it again next year - as I'm sure the thousands of mosquitos are too. Happy hiking everyone!