8/16/19-8/18/19 Obsidian TH to South Sister

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buckwheat
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8/16/19-8/18/19 Obsidian TH to South Sister

Post by buckwheat » August 19th, 2019, 10:22 pm

Starting from Corvallis, I took a 1/2 day of work on Friday, and drove up 242 early afternoon. The weather was great, and the traffic wasn't bad. I got to the trailhead about 2:30, and was off into the dust at about 2:45.

My original intention for the weekend had been to drive to Devil's Lake and summit South Sister again (having done so in 2017 and 2015), but I decided I was more interested in putting some longer miles in and stretching my legs rather than just climbing up, I adjusted my itinerary. I still had hoped to summit South, but I wanted to start from 242 and hike the longer traverse down the west side of the 3 sisters area rather than the 2-3 miles to Morraine Lake, and then 2-3 miles to the summit that I had done the previous trips.

At some point in the past, I had done the Separation Creek loop that took me through some of this area (from the Separation creek TH down to Horse Lake, Mirror Lakes, up to Linton Meadows, and back into the forest), and also had taken the Obsidian TH to summit Middle Sister (roughly 2012), so I more or less knew what to expect, but wasn't super familiar with the whole jaunt, so it would be a partially/largely novel experience rather than just retreading somewhere I had clear memories of.

Given I started in the heat of the afternoon after having worked 6 hours that morning, I was really only hoping to get 8-10 miles before setting up camp. There was a lot of elevation gain from the TH up to the PCT that I had seen on the map, and had a vague memory of from so long ago, but in 80 degree weather, when I'm as old and fat as I am, it sucked the swing out of my step. Luckily, there was more than enough views and enjoyment to be had to keep me moving forward even as I huffed and puffed. I stopped and chatted with a couple NoBo hikers in the stretch near Obsidian Springs & Falls. I opted not to try to pass myself off as a SoBo, though I did actively lament my employment status prohibiting that currently.

The few miles after Obsidian falls were smooth and generally slightly downhill which was nice for a late Friday, and balanced out for the uphill kicking my butt just a few minutes earlier. I just followed the PCT south, and avoided taking any of the side trails down to the meadows below. There is a lot more zig-zagging up there, but rather than go so far down as to only have to hike back up again, I decided to not derail myself. I stopped about 8.5 miles into the day around 7:30 PM. I was at a junction leading down to the meadows, or staying on the PCT and hitting Reese Lake. I looked down and there was an arrow and stones that said CAMP, and so I took that as a sign to go set up camp.

Wolfing down a PBJ, Nectarine, and some trailmix as I set up camp, I had time to do a crossword while winding down for the evening. I was in bed and asleep by about 8:45. Pretty standard practice for me while hiking, but by about midnight the nearly full moon had risen and my tent was so bright I thought someone had a headlamp on and was trying to set up near me. I tossed and turned for a couple more hours and got up around 5 AM. I took a leisure time getting up, sorted, and repacked, and didn't get on the trail until 6:15ish. My goal for the day was vaguely to summit south sister, and return to where I was, and camp back here again, which would only leave me with 8-9 miles out on Sunday morning.

I enjoy having shorter Sunday's on my weekend excursions, so I don't get home at 8-9 PM feeling beat, and out of time to do any sort of unpacking/cleaning/chores that need to be done. But, as I headed further south (over the hills and through the woods) and made my way down the PCT to the Wickiup Plain, I took the LeConte Crater trail that meets up with the Devil's Lake/Morraine Trail. Following this to the summit trail, I got to that junction about 10:30 AM. I'd been making pretty good time up until then, but was more interested in putting miles under my feet and having an easier Sunday than feeling any compulsion to push my self up the hill in front of me. Regardless, I pushed myself up it, or at least most of the way. I worked my way up to about the treeline/where the rocks start turning red by about 12 PM. At which point, I sat down on a rock, looked out, and relaxed for a bit. I decided, I didn't need to bag the peak again, and decided to tromp on down. It was a weird feeling getting so close, and then turning around. I could have pushed that last mile-mile and a half, and got to the top again, but mentally I just wasn't fixated on it on Saturday.

That being said, as I turned around and headed down by about 12:30, I had a few extra hours with my day. I strolled and chatted with as many hikers and even a forest ranger or two, without any great rush. By early afternoon, I was crossing the plain, and heading back towards some water. I took about a 45 minute siesta in the shade on the edge of a giant grassy field with a creek in the middle. I decided, I better get my move on, and started marching again. By about 6:30, I had hit Reese Lake, and decided that was a fine stopping point. I was tired and didn't put a lot of thought into my tent location, and so the stagnant air, and humidity around the lake caused my tent to get a lot of condensation over night. As I had gone to bed by about 7:45 on Saturday, even though I had hiked for 20+ miles and was exhausted, the moon kept playing its tricks on me and I kept waking up every 30-45 minutes, hoping it was morning. But it just never was. By about 4:45, I got tired of going back to sleep to pass time, and opted to break camp and get rolling. Once again, knowing I only had like 11-12 miles out today, and that I was getting an early start, I was relatively relaxed in camp, and didn't start hiking until roughly 5:45.

The day went pretty uneventfully, and it was a lot of retrodding over stuff I had seen 2 days earlier. It was still gorgeous, no doubt about it, but I was just thinking how nice it would be to get back to my car and put on my flip flops and pour my gallon jug of water all over myself. I saw some deer about 15-20 feet away from me, and they feel so much more majestic out in nature than they do when you see them in civilization. I sat and drank a bunch of the water from the Spring, and meandered back towards my car. I got back to the Obsidian TH around 11 AM, and took 15 minutes to rehumanize myself. When I got back to Corvallis around 2:30, I fell fast asleep in my bed for a couple hours, but by Sunday evening, I was up and feeling like mysef.

No a lot of mosquitos (maybe 5). Trail well maintaned. A decent number of people so I never felt abandoned. My tent was easier to use and setup than expected, and quite quick. The landscape was beautiful and varied. The distance (approx 42 miles total) left me tired but not useless. Not quite as speedy of a hike as I had wanted, but overall, no complaints.

Pictures to be attached in the morning, when I have more energy. Work today was exhausting, and I need to get some sleep. I'll try to include some sort of map, so I can show you'all more than just ' at a junction', or 'at a alpine meadow'.

Highly recommend this Obisidan to South Sister journey for anyone with a couple days to spare and wants to see something that isn't just the climbers approach trail. Alternative option would be to head over to Mirror Lake on day 2 instead of up the mountain, and eat down there before turning around and coming back.

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buckwheat
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Location: Corvallis

Re: 8/16/19-8/18/19 Obsidian TH to South Sister

Post by buckwheat » August 20th, 2019, 4:56 am

Part of the burned out area approximately 1 mile from Obsidian TH off hwy 242.
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Shortly after the approach trail meets with the PCT.
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Its not a misleading name. There literally is endless Obsidian up there. The ground is just made out of it.
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Friendly neighborhood snake bit off more he could chew and had this oversized frog in his mouth. Not sure if frog was dead or just playing dead, but the snake couldn't drag him up hill to safety.
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Around 7:30 PM on night 1, this sign lead me to camp.
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As I may have mentioned, first real trip using the TarpTent ProTrail(2?), and it set up super easy, and I had no issues with it. A little more spacious than the bivvy I'm used to, but still not a full tent.
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A lovely alpine meadow full of blue flowers.
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Looking at south sister from the LeConte Crater trail.
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The spring fed stream just above Obsidian falls. High quality H2O.
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I'd worn a pair of Montrail Bajada's with darn toughs all weekend, so when I got back to my car and could put on my flipflops, I reveled in it, but I'm pretty sure my toes are still dirty.
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I tried to include a panorama shot, but it just got warped when I uploaded it, and I'm sure you've all seen the area above Morraine Lake a few hundred times.

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retired jerry
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Re: 8/16/19-8/18/19 Obsidian TH to South Sister

Post by retired jerry » August 20th, 2019, 5:17 am

That is a great are, thanks for report

This is the last year before they restrict access to everything in Three Sisters/Jefferson

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buckwheat
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Joined: September 5th, 2016, 2:30 pm
Location: Corvallis

Re: 8/16/19-8/18/19 Obsidian TH to South Sister

Post by buckwheat » August 20th, 2019, 4:09 pm

Obsidian TH already has very lax usage restrictions. Its like 40 people / day and 40 separate people / night. I didn't have a permit until Thursday, and they had availability for Friday. It was 6$ for 2 nights for the limited use area restriction.

Its a bittersweet problem. It will be nice to have fewer people in lots of the areas for the environment and for the people visiting it, and it will encourage people who want to get out and adventure to find new places with smaller crowds. That will help keep the fragile ecosystems and trails looking better and less browbeaten, and let people explore more of their neck of the woods.

The money right now is so minimal, I almost would prefer they don't charge anything, and just restrict access. Restricting access and charging like 2$ a day just seems silly.

The park ranger from the McKenzie river station I ran up to up there talked to me briefly about the usage changes that will happen in 2020, but my retention of what she told me isn't that great. The gist of it was that most of the high volume areas will have some restrictions, and the lower volume areas will have self issue at TH permits just to record people using it and show that the system is working. It seems designed to be minimally invasive, but probably most of this discussion is better suited to one of the other boards than the trip reports board.

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