A WEEKEND HIKE IN THE MOUNT JEFFERSON WILDERNESS

Morning greets Mary. Mary greets morning.

Morning greets Mary. Mary greets morning.

I’ve never trained for a thru-hike. In years past, I’ve prepared myself as mentally as possible, while throwing in a few days hikes. Maybe an overnight. Often blister fueled in the inaugural miles, my body ached, my mind tired and overall the act of thru-hiking was a bit more painful than necessary. Not this time. This time I’ve thrown more weekend backpacking trips into the mix and less day hikes. Now, instead of carrying a barely noticeable day-bag, my body is once again becoming accustomed to 20-and 25-pound loads as I hike 15- and 20-mile days. (On a thru-hike I will hike more than these milages, but this is training, right?) Additionally, instead of staring at a computer screen or writing down a list of to-do’s that inevitably get lost on an everyday basis, out on the trail it’s real-time. How does my pack feel? Do I think the means of organization is effective? What can I do different to be more efficient? Lightweight? Planning is often at its best while out there, in the mountains, ascending unforeseen climbs or lazing beside a lake. There,  I can give thorough thought about my gear, hiking pace, interests, goals and overall joy in the mountains.

This last weekend I packed up my bag for two nights and headed into the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. I was amped. It was a blue-bird day, with temperatures in the high sixties. I headed up the trail, whose path cut through barren, grey stalks creaking in the wind: remnants of a past forest fire. Despite the seemingly dead forest, there was ample beauty to be found.

Fall is here!

Fall is here!

Morning turned to afternoon as I passed a dozen lakes, some that provided a moment’s rest. I’ve started a new book and I gladly took the opportunity on these easy mile days to flip from chapter to chapter.

The second day I woke early, making a pot of coffee in my Snowpeak titanium french press. I need to figure out a alternate system so that I’m not carrying a french press and cooking pot. (I just started drinking coffee and this is a new luxury!) Although they are both ultralight, it’s unnecessary. Boiling mac n’ cheese in the french press would prove tricky, however, as it’s a wee bit too small. Perhaps I can customize a lid and press for the cooking pot? Hmmm. I need to consult the www and my friend Shera’s boyfriend Kirk on that one. (FYI, Shera just completed the CDT and has earned her Triple Crown in doing so! Read more here.) As I pondered the efficiencies of cookware, I gazed across the lake I’d camped beside.

Sunrise at Marion Lake.

Sunrise at Marion Lake.

Ducks, ten to a line, paddled across the surface of Marion lake, an enticing body of water for its size and that morning, solace.

A few miles later, and practicing a bit of spontaneity, my route turned east toward South Cinder Peak. I hadn’t looked at my map thoroughly, as had I done so, I would’ve realized there was a steep 1,000-foot climb. Great training indeed, and the views at the top were superb.

I reunited with the PCT after, heading south toward Three Finger Jack. My destination: Canyon Creek Meadows. Again, spontaneity led me to something awesome. In fact, this was stellar. The trail withered as it gained elevation and soon I was scrambling up a steep slope. Lateral moraines sat the beneath the massive flank of Three Finger Jack, one of the many volcanoes in the area, and one that tops out at 7,844 feet. A glacial lake that was the color of milky coffee sat in it’s bowl. And at the saddle: a sweeping vista of immeasurable beauty. All to myself.

A speck in a great, big beautiful wilderness.

A speck in a great, big beautiful wilderness.

By morning my phone’s storage was maxed, and the battery on my camera spent from having taken so many photos. I zipped them tight in my hip-belt pocket and ascended the north side of the saddle. Although trail-less, it was by far an easier hike that the way I’d come from and it would avoid having to back track which perhaps is the allure to a one-directional, end-to-end thru-hike. I marveled in my ability to just wing it and dropped into unfamiliar terrain before reuniting with a trail a mile later.

All in all, a great weekend spent training and planning for a year-long hike. Calendar Triple Crown, here I come!

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