Hey Oregon hikers,
I summited South Sister during the smokey weeks of August about a month ago and it actually wasn’t too bad. To summit has been on my Oregon bucket list for some time now and I ended up hiking it on back to back weekends with Hood to Coast (also on my list). I will save everyone from a long post of South Sister because there is a million out there. This report will mainly share my own experience.
What’s funny is that the air quality in Bend was in the green zone all weekend (in the 50 range or something) and I was planning on hiking South Sister on Monday morning to avoid weekend traffic. My girlfriend and I filled our weekend with lake fishing, trail running, and a waterfall hike when the air was great. We woke up early on Monday to find that the air quality was in the 90ish range and super smokey outside. Throughout the weekend in Bend, the air would clear during the day and feel a lot smokier at night. Unfortunately between Sunday night and Monday morning was the worst of that entire week.
I absolutely don’t recommend South Sister when there is a thick layer of smoke out, especially if you are new to hiking or mild to intense cardiovascular activity. My circumstance was that I had just came back from a long vacation, took Monday off to summit South Sister, and also took Friday off to run Hood to Coast.
With the smoke present I missed the amazing views of the cascades that most people see along the hike and on the summit. What I did get was an erie trek with people appearing and disappearing through the sea of smoke hovering around us. I’m a horror movie buff so I enjoyed how the smoke changed the atmosphere of the whole hike. With that being said, there were fewer than 50 people along the entire hike, which I think is pretty uncommon (maybe rare). I just wore my running shoes (road not trail) and they fared pretty well during the incline sections of loose rock. I would however recommend trail runners, hiking boots, and definitely hiking poles for summiting South Sister.
At the top the smoke had thinned enough to where I could see Broken Top, the glaciers, and snap decent photos. It’s windy at the summit, but there are a lot of wind barriers made of stacked rocks that you can hide behind to enjoy your lunch.
Coming down we lended a kid some duct tape because the sole of his whole hiking shoe had come off near the Summit. In his shoe’s defense (not his) his hiking boots were a pair of Nike ACGs that looked like they had been worn in before he was even born. Super vintage, style points not mile points.
I hope you enjoyed this write up,
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
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