Monday, August 15, 2005

Week 1, Day 3: Bingham Lakes

August 15th, 2005
Destination: Largest of the Bingham Lakes
Distance: 7.0 miles
Climbed: 500 ft.
Descended: 500 ft

On the surface, this should have been a much easier day than the first and, to a small degree, it was. We were still fairly weak and shaky from our heat exhaustion of the day before. The trail mix and power bars I bought for our lunches were unsalted and the oatmeal-type breakfasts were low in sodium. Our MaryJane’s freeze-dried dinners might have had enough salt (and they sure hit the spot last night), but our main meals were too low in salt for the amount we were sweating out under the sunlight of this Lodgepole desert we were walking through (be prepared to hear that term with increasing venom throughout the hike). Luckily, we brought some beef sticks and some Cheez-Whiz as treats and these turned out to be important sources of salt. Whenever we started feeling weak, a squirt of Cheez-Whiz into the mouth along with some water generally perked us right up. We hoped we brought enough to last through the trip.

This day turned out to be even hotter than the last, mostly because shade was limited for all but a mile or so of the trail. After breakfast and breaking camp, we hiked down to the Odell Lake trailhead near Crescent Lake. Along the way, we saw some animal crap in the trail that was full of huckleberries and seeds. I believe it was left by a bear. Cool. Sorry, no pictures; I don’t take pictures of crap.

The trailhead emptied out into the Whitefish Horse Camp, a stop on a trail called the Metolius-Windigo Horse Trail. Since we were heading toward Windigo Pass, we could only hope that it was a different trail than ours (a false hope indeed). We watered up at the spigots and took advantage of the upscale outhouses since our next indoor bathroom was about 40 miles away. Our Pacific Crest Trail guide had a convoluted set of instructions on how to get from the Oldenberg Lake trail to our current location. Trying to translate it backwards turned out to be futile, so we took a trail called the Horse Trail bypass (which was heavily used by horses as it turns out) and hoped for the best. We ended up skirting around Crescent Lake and getting back on a forest service road (road 60) to find the trailhead. It was actually much simpler than the book, so that was nice, but what I thought would be a fraction of a mile turned out to be a couple miles. We read the signs at the trailhead and paid special attention to the bear stuff. Getting ransacked didn’t sound like fun, so we read intently.

We continued up the trail as the day’s heat and the lack of shade bore down on us. We stopped frequently to eat and drink water to stave off heat exhaustion, but we were still shaky from the previous day. There were a number of Forest Service signs to point directions and give mileages, but it seemed as though the numbers given were only within about 25% of the actual distances. I think guesses were etched in sometimes. We were treated to several nice views of Crescent Lake as we ascended out of the basin. We had lunch at the shrunken Pinewan Lake and rested for quite a while trying to get our strength back and then moved on. We stopped at the largest of a group of lakes called Bingham lakes. It was such a pretty place, we decided to camp here instead of proceeding one more mile to Oldenberg Lake. A nice breeze blew in off of the lake and the area just felt good.

We replenished our water supply and made dinner. Heeding the bear sign, we looked for a tree that could meet the specs necessary to keep bears out of the food (branch 20 feet up, 5 feet out on the branch, with the bag hung 12 feet above the ground). There was no word what we were supposed to do when an enraged bear, pissed at being denied food, went looking for something else to get into (like a tent). Since I snore louder than a chainsaw and our food was triple-sealed in plastic, I wasn’t too worried. A couple of random notes... I ripped out my hiking shorts, so I packed a change of clothes into the tent. This lake had the nicest sand of any mountain lake I've seen (usually it is black humus silt and sharp sticks).

AN ASIDE: I forgot to mention this earlier, so I will present it as an afterthought here...

You can't escape mankind. You wear clothes made in textile mills, carry space age plastics around in your pack, eat foods that are made lighter using very human techniques, etc. but that is all fairly easily forgotten when traipsing through the woods. During our first few days out here, we've heard fighter jets on maneuver, innumerable passenger jets, a few light planes, and some road and boat noise near the bigger lakes. However, there is one other thing we heard for four days in a row at around 4 or 5am without fail: the early freight train moving over Willamette Pass. Each day it was fainter, but we walked over 30 miles before we got away from the whistle and thrumming of that metallic workhorse each dawn. I thought it would be interesting for you to know that.


Pandabonium said...

Looking at those pics I can only say what everyone does when seeing fireworks - "oooooo", "aaaaaah!",
"wow!". That is sure beautiful country.

Sorry about your toes, but from here it sure looks like it was worth it.

Anonymous said...

wow, that looks really fun, but it sounds like it was hard. i have done part of the PCT myself