***Continued from yesterday’s blog, where Katie and Andy had made it through the Wickiup Plains, Katie had fallen with her pack on, and they had encountered a pixie-ish couple from Seattle who had lost some clogs…
Leaving Team Seattle behind us, we continued our slow but steady pace outstripping a few other hiking teams. I was proud of us, even though I know it wasn’t a competition. There was a small, unnamed lake that we were on the lookout for, a site we had thought to camp yesterday if we had energy after summiting South Sister (no.). So far, my knee was holding steady. We blew past the lake, small and filled with debris.
Not far from the murky unnamed lake, a man stood on the side of the trail, looking at his map. He stopped us, wanting to know where the closest water was. He held a tin cup in his hand. His clothes were light, good hiking gear. His pack was concise, he clearly had a well-used system. But then he had this purple tote bag slung over one arm. Zinc was poorly rubbed onto his nose.
“Thanks,” the guy said, and then he wrangled us into another conversation.
We tried to disentangle ourselves but when we began to hike, he fell into rhythm with us.
“Huntsville, Alabama, huh?” he said from behind me.
Because this was my father in law’s pack, he’d put his address all over it. So we talked for a minute about Andy’s dad, his job as a scientist. Andy picked up the pace. It was grueling, but I knew what he was doing–trying to shake our new companion. I kept on Andy’s heels. We trucked mile after mile.
We passed a few meadows, and when we entered heavy tree cover again, we come across two women who appeared to be in their seventies sitting on a log. There wasn’t a trailhead for about eight, maybe ten miles.
“Oh, hello,” they said, as if we happened upon them in a cafe.
Since our grueling pace wasn’t dislodging our new friend, maybe a long break would. We stopped, chatting for almost twenty minutes with these two women. One of them was wearing a hat sporting the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail logo. They had hiked that one not long ago. Make no mistake, these women were sleepers–they looked like your frail grandmother, but could likely out-hike even a seasoned PCT-er.
“You all came together?” one of them asked.
“No,” I said, motioning to me and Andy.
The woman nodded, and then looked at our new friend. “What’s in the satchel?”
The man stared into the distance as if he hadn’t heard. She repeated the question. He shrugged and held his purple tote closer to his body. “Stuff,” he said.
That didn’t make us feel any better. The man then went and sat down on a log behind the two women, clearly waiting for us. Team Seattle passed us, giving us a strange look, as if we had wanted to collect these other hikers.
Finally it was clear that we had to keep going. Satchel wasn’t going anywhere. We said goodbye to the ladies and returned to our grueling pace, fast enough that conversation was impossible. Before long, we were at Reese Lake, our destination for the night. It was about noon.
Team Seattle was setting their camp. Andy refilled our Nalgene bottles. Satchel took off his shoes and waded in the water. I went over to Team Seattle to tell them the secret water source hint the ladies had clued us in about from the Obsidian Limited Use Area. I also told them to watch for Satchel.
He just set off all my alarm bells, and then being cagey about this totebag he had. While open about living in Eugene, he’d said he was hiking the loop as well, but it just didn’t make sense, as he would get suddenly close-lipped about which direction he was following on the loop. I did not want to sleep at the same site as him.
Andy helped Satchel with his maps, which were old–from the seventies, before the creation of the PCT, which did not appear on the maps at all.
Finally, Andy did this polite kiss-off move he does so well. Satchel had kind of a hurt look on his face, but when we finally found a place to perch over the lake to eat lunch, Satchel had disappeared.
I took my boots off while we ate, as we meant the lunch break to be long. If we pushed ahead, our next water wasn’t until the Obsidian Limited Use Area, where we didn’t have a permit to camp. We would have to hike through it, refill our water and then camp on the other side of it.
There was a possibility of water earlier, if the streams on the map were still there. We had asked the older ladies about this, and they said all of the creek beds were dry. So we took a deep breath, feeling good, and pushed on. The topography on the map looked fairly flat, and had we not just run down eight miles of trail in less than three hours? With stops and injury!
Boots on, we continued. Once we were safely away from Reese Lake, we gossiped about Satchel, but we never saw him again.
“At mile 37.4 is the beginning of the Obsidian limited use area. Camping is only allowed with special permit you can get from Detroit Ranger Station. There’s a quota on the number allowed. I’ve never had anyone check this so you might take your chances and camp discretely. Like there’s an area about 0.25 mile Northwest of Sisters Spring that is far enough off the trail no one would notice you (maybe).”
We cruised on, dreaming of food we wanted when we got off trail. The Obsidian Area was definitely a change–small chunks of the volcanic glass littered the trail. We climbed up to higher altitudes to view a waterfall. Then we found the Sisters Spring, and following it back to its source, the fresh water was incredible.
The sun was low, my feet were swollen. We’d already hiked well over 10 miles, much at a grueling pace. We didn’t bother filtering the water, just dipping the Nalgene into the pool. The water tasted incredible–cool, crisp and almost sweet.
“Mile 39.1 is the end of the Obsidian Limited Use Area.”
In a little over a mile, there was a sign posted announcing the end of the Obsidian area. Immediately we began to look for a flat spot. The trail hugged the side of a mountain, so flat spots were few and far between. Andy spied what had been someone else’s campsite. We picked our way down to it and made camp. In less than fifteen minutes we had tent up, boots off, dinner made.
The trees were tall pines, the peaks soaring above us by what seemed a hundred feet. The wind made them sway, a soft ruffling sound to lull us to sleep. I wrote in my journal and we took turns licking the inner liner of the Chana Masala we ate for dinner. Neither of us even wanted dessert.
My feet throbbed. I doctored my knee again. My whole body felt shot through with nerves. I could barely lay still. I turned circles in my bag while Andy snored softly next to me. The charms of Merlin and Arthur in my book couldn’t hold my attention.
Finally, I gave into the restlessness and stared up into the tips of the trees, watching them sway in the dark, resigning myself to exhaustion the next day.
No matter how tired I was, I still felt good, flooded with endorphins. My feet bloated, tingled. Sleep would come some other day.
Day 5 Statistics:
On Trail: 9:00 am
Off Trail: 5:45 pm
Total Miles: 15 miles
2 granola rations
2 cups gorp
1 Clif bar (macadamia nut, natch)
BackPacker’s Pantry Chana Masala freeze-dried entree (I starred this one three times it was so good. I highly, highly recommend. Also some of the most protein we’d had and yet also vegan.)
Water: 7 liters