Thursday, August 18, 2005

Week 1, Day 6: Diamond Lake Resort

August 18th, 2005
Destination: Diamond Lake Resort
Distance: 12.0 miles
Climbed: 500 ft.
Descended: 2,300 ft

It was still pretty dark when we got up and going. The morning air at 7,000+ feet was chilly but still. It was dead quiet all night with only an occasional (and unnerving) noise among the sticks on the ground or branches in the tree. I don’t think Ladybug slept that well either since we carped at each other about unimportant things. In any case, we set a personal record by being on the trail by 6:35am.

After about a mile of hiking and more climbing, we reached high enough where the views were just busting out to greet us. Although the elusive Mt. Thielsen was still obscured by Howlock Mountain, we were happy to see the low, thick clouds down in the valleys like ghostly lakes spread out below us and to see this high country. The reddish knob of Tipsoo Peak was a great site. We worked our way along the outside of that peak along a hill side of reddish soil just below the timberline. Still climbing; but gradually now.

We reached another saddle and reached the high alpine meadows. Although only a few of tiny, purple dwarf lupines were still blooming and an occasional pipsissewa, one could imagine a month earlier where dazzling reds, blues, and yellows complemented the greens and the loud buzz of thousands of bees, flies, and mosquitoes would have filled the air. Only the flies remained to greet us at this late date. Somewhere in all these fields, we reached the highest point of our trip at 7,560 feet. This was also the highest point on the PCT in Oregon. It was unmarked so we didn’t realize it until we were going downhill for good.

As we kept walking along to the west of Howlock Mt., we finally reached a spot where we could see Mt. Thielsen. I am a sucker for stratovolcanoes like Mt. Hood, St. Helens, etc., so I considered this view to be a prize for the trip. Although not well glaciated, Mt. Thielsen has a great alpine look (kind of a Paramount Pictures thing) and it is known as the Lightning Rod of the Cascades.

We started to descend for real now, with some 2,300 feet down to go before reaching our destination. Although it was a relief not to be climbing anymore, we were on a mission to finish so we increased our pace and it punished our feet (more on that later when they hurt more). We met a few interesting characters that morning. The first were a pair of hikers who were actually filthier than we were. Although we hadn’t showered in days, we at least tried to keep the first layer or two of dust off of us. The guy in this group had a mop of dark red hair and his face was literally grimy like a three year old after playing in a sandbox with a popsicle. A woman walked behind him but she was only slightly dirtier than we were. We asked where they started today and he replied in a huffy voice, “Mexico.” I concluded he was a jerk, but also in a hurry to “get mileage” as some try to achieve records out here.

We also met an older man in his seventies or possibly even eighty walking about as slowly as we did most of the trip. He was very nice and we chatted for a few minutes about destinations, arrivals, and equipment. He was carrying a single trekking pole.

Digression: Trekking poles are lightweight aluminum walking sticks. They look like ske poles modified to fit a walker’s hand. Some people swear by them and some don’t feel the need. Of the dew dozen people we came across on the trail, there were many who used poles and many who did not. I used them for this hike. It took my arm muscles a couple days to work into the routine, but I found them invaluable for stabilizing my bad feet and maintaining a constant speed. On the other hand, Ladybug kept hers stowed in her pack for 99% of the trip. On at least three separate occasions she tried to make use of them, but they just didn’t feel right. My advice to those who are contemplating a long hike is to see if you can borrow a set for a day hike to see if they are “your thing.” End of Digression.

Soon we descended to the Howlock Mountain trail junction and left the PCT superhighway behind. We did not see another person for seven miles. This trail descended along the spine of a ridge. Much of the first couple miles were spent in a beautiful and shady forest of giant mountain hemlock trees with trunk sizes reminiscent of redwood stands at times. This forest was broken by more open areas as we traversed sideward along steep hillsides as we steadily went downward.

As we continued for a couple more miles, signs of horse use gradually increased as did the amount of sunlight penetrating to the forest floor. I’d had enough experience in this region by now to recognize that we were now below 6,500 feet. Somewhere in this stretch Ladybug and I both thought we heard quiet voices, but we were fatigued enough and driven enough not to mention it for several minutes. When Ladybug did mention it, I was immediately relieved not to be the victim of auditory hallucinations. We never saw anyone though and trudged on without solving the mystery.

Just about the time we really needed it, we heard the trickling waters of Thielsen creek. This was the first real stream we had run across in 48 miles and it was as if we could hear the Music of the Spheres. We crossed the creek on a log (another reason I was glad to have trekking poles to offset my terrible sense of balance) and soon we were sitting in a small meadow of yellow monkeyflowers. We drank a bunch of our water so we could refill as much as possible from the purest source of water yet. As beautiful as it was, though, we knew that a few pebbles of deer poop upstream could mean a nasty bout of Giardia, so we treated this water as well. We finished off the Cheez-Whiz to be sure to have enough salt for the last four miles. We spoke during some of our rest breaks about what kind of food and drink would really hit the spot after a week of dried food. The favorites were fresh salad and either burgers or chicken. Ladybug mentioned V-8 and I thought about a cold root beer to drink. We settled for power bars and trail mix of course, but the real food was near now. Our descent was now more than half over and my toes were killing me. Ladybug’s feet were in great pain too. We took about 45 minutes to recover at our private streamside meadow, then we were off again.

Now that we were below 6,000 feet we had one more gauntlet to run, four more miles of the Lodgepole Desert Dust Circus. Actually, the term we started using for it at this point was “that f-ing lodgepole desert.” Apparently, horse people like to ride in “open country” that resembles the Ponderosa since the trail almost immediately turned into a dusty, horseshoe rutted hellhole the moment we entered it. Once again, we were forced into to inhale horse poop laced dust cocktail for most of the rest of the hike. For the next three miles, there was little happening except hiking, grumbling, and foot pain. When we finally heard road traffic from Highway 138, we were relieved to know that we were almost there. A giant culvert pipe passed under the highway that was big enough for people on horses to pass through. It was stinky from horse poo, but we experienced a refreshing minute of cool shadiness. We met our first horse train just past the tunnel with only 100 yards left to the trailhead.

Once at the trailhead we had about a mile to go (but we didn’t know that yet). We tried to inquire with the only people we saw about the direction to the resort, but they were riding away by the time we got to where we saw them. We found our way to the road to the resort and started walking down. A sign said it was a 1/2 mile to the lodge and it was about right. There was almost no shade and it was a very hot walk, but it was nice to be out of the dust. My feet felt like hamburger at that point pounding along the pavement and gravel. Eventually, we saw the beautiful Diamond Lake and checked in to the lodge. Twelve miles of hiking by 2:30pm and we felt it.

We could barely manage the stairs up to our room. We opened the door and gleefully dumped our dusty old gear. The first order of business was SHOWERS. We both took showers and got into the cleanest clothes we had left. Then we headed down to the lodge restaurant for lunch. Real food! Real water! We walked down to the lodge gingerly and with very tired muscles. People noticed our wobbly gaits to be sure. We sat down and ordered lunch. I went for the reuben sandwich, mushroom barley soup, and some orange juice while Ladybug had a chicken breast sandwich, cottage cheese, and tomato juice. Oh, that soup went down so nicely. I felt my self rejuvenating with every spoonful.

We walked around the resort area a little bit and enjoyed the lakeside. We called family to let them know we were safe. Mostly we napped, showered again, and laid in those wondrous clouds of comfort called beds. The beds were the hit of the day. After dinner back at the lodge (more fresh treats), we were ready to crash and so we did.


DewKid said...

Further digression: One of the dew dozen people? I wish I was one of the Dew Dozen. Mmmm Dew.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks for the awesome photos. Is Howlock the redish looking peak? Beautiful.

After a long day hiking through horse manure dust, what you need is a long soak in hot tub with a bar of "COW" brand soap. A treat from the teat. Cow brand!

The Moody Minstrel said...

I think Snabbie is allergic to milk. No cow soap for him.

All in all, that trip is sounding like some of the most enjoyable torture known to man.

Anonymous said...

Truly a very interesting story, all of it. Did you take notes, or send minute by minute updates on a blackberry to your main server? I would have trouble remembering all that, let alone identify native flower species;)

I wonder how long we can tolerate these word jumbles before giving into the spammers. Seems like once you log on, it would be enough.

Don Snabulus said...

Dew: I agree...Mmmm.

Red Peak: Is Tipsoo peak. Howlock Mt. is behind me in the top picture that contains me for this post.

Cow soap: I can use soap made of milk, but I just can't drink much of it.

Blackberry: I agree...Mmmm...Oops. I mean I used a personal analog assistant (PAA, or memo pad with pen)to write notes along the way. Cheaper, lighter, more shock resistant, and the batteries last forever.

Torture: It was a challenge but not torture. I am looking forward to getting back out there and doing more as soon as I can.

There is a little more to the story, so stay tuned.

ladybug said...

I really liked doing it overall, and the last day was actually the best - with all the views we had. The dirty hairy guy was the only rude person we met on the trail. I secretly hoped his girfriend/girl Friday would ditch him at the next available opportunity and make him carry his own darn pack!