Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Comedy of Circumstances (and errors), Day 1

Well, we are back from our July 2006 Pacific Crest Trail hike, but not without paying a price for lack of preparation and just dumb luck (of the bad kind). However, our faith in humanity received a boost and if my knee recovers well, then it will all have been worth it. Dangnabbit if I haven't already gotten ahead of myself so I will start back at the beginning. Most of our pictures are from the last part of the trip but I will try to fill in with stuff from the 'net as I can.

July 17th - Willamette Pass to Rosary Lakes - 3.1 miles (and 600 feet up)

Image borrowed from

My brother (hereafter known as Mr. Nice Guy) consented to drop us off at the launch point at Willamette Pass (elevation is about 5100 feet) after we had lunch at nearby Odell Lake Lodge. There were some mosquitoes around so we applied our DEET (supposedly repels mosquitoes), donned our packs, waved goodbye to Mr. Nice Guy and started up the trail.

At the beginning of the trail, the beargrass was blooming with cream-colored spikes of flowers rising out of a green bunch of grass-like leaves. The forest was predominantly mountain hemlock (similar to fir) and it was nice and shady for the most part. The weather was warm and dry (although much cooler than the lowlands) and it was a beautiful start.

We steadily climbed along a generally straight bearing up the mountainside finally turning near the saddle beyond which the lakes waited . As we made our way to our ending elevation of 5830', the beargrass was eventually replaced by Davidson's Penstemon (left), Cat's ear, and other small flowers in masses on the ground. We sustained a number of mosquito bites and resolved to do a more complete job of protecting ourselves after we finished hiking.

We reached the first of the three Rosary Lakes, South Rosary Lake (right) to find that the mosquitoes were becoming more numerous, but we also found that staying on the windward side of the lake was the best way to keep them from bugging us. Our original plan was to stop here for the night but we wanted to shorten the next day's hike (or so we thought) and therefore pressed on past Middle Rosary Lake and to the land bridge between Middle and North Rosary Lake.

This land bridge looked like a wonderful campsite, so we chose it. There was a brisk wind blowing across the site between the two lakes that mostly eliminated the pesky mosquito problem. We set up camp using our lightweight mosquito-net "tent" and got everything all set for dinner (mostly ramen noodles). We spoke to a gentlemen who was the forester for this area a couple decades ago and he told us a bit about what it was like to work here then. Eventually we turned in for the day, crawled into our sleeping bags (or as a friend of mine calls them, fart sacks) and listened to the wind ruffle our netting. Ladybug heard crickets, but I couldn't so I may need to get my ears checked.

Some time in the evening the wind died down and the night passed under beautiful stars with the crescent moon coming up a few hours before dawn. We woke up to find the mosquitoes back with a vengeance. We rubbed ourselves and our clothes more completely with DEET (we had 100% DEET spray, 30% wipes, and some 25 lotion). I dug a [For reference to those who were there on our Boy Scout trip those many years ago, we were at Sisters Mirror Lake level on the skeeters] headnet out of our pack (why didn't I bring two?) and gave it to Ladybug to keep the persistent insects off her face. After washing the DEET poison off my hands, we made macaroni and cheese for breakfast (oodles of noodles!), filled our water bottles in the lake and treated them with iodine. We added the crappy taste neutralizer to the water, finished packing and started on our way so we could get away from the mosquitoes.

Sidenote on Iodine: Those who grew up and backpacked over the last 30 years probably cringed when I mentioned iodine. Those who used good old Pot Aqua remember the brown water and horrible flavor of their treated water. I don't know who figured it out or when, but it turns out that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) neutralizes the bad flavor and removes the ugly color from iodine treated water. The water still tastes slightly of Vitamin C, but a citrusy flavor is definitely better than chemical. Way to go, Pot Aqua!

Notes: North Rosary Lake picture borrowed from Penstemon picture found in Google images.


Pandabonium said...

Beargrass blossoms and South Rosary lake look beautiful. The mosquitoes remind me of a summer at a lake in Minnesota. Between the bugs and the bats I was lucky not to be carried off.

ladybug said...

We also saw some crawdads at the 1st Rosary Lake, as it is the biggest one. We also had some cool pictures of sunset and sunrise on the huge rock cliff outcropping at the 2nd Rosary Lake,'ll see.