Monday, September 17, 2012

 Trail to the Mountain Guardians

The  Pacific Crest Trail is one of the great hiking experiences of the West Coast. I especially like the parts that are in the Diamond Peak Wilderness. We ventured out for a trip that was 4 days and 3 nights, one night which was spent on Diamond Peak itself.

The first night was spent high on a bluff over Odell Lake, a massive mountain lake frequented by fisherman.

a detail of the shale formation on the bluff

dawn on Diamond Peak, our destination
From Odell Lake, we proceeded down the PCT and were delighted to see the most mushrooms we have ever seen on this trail. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, I'll bet it is going to be a good year for mushrooming! I am not a mycologist, not even an amateur one, so I hardly ever collect mushrooms (except occasionally chantrelles, which I am sure about) so I can't even tell you what these mushrooms are. But it was lovely to see them poking up through the forest floor! Like little hydraulic jacks, my husband says :)

Another night was spent at one of the numerous mountain lakes in this area:

The following morning we could see our mountain destination even better.and we moved along up the trail,  eventually coming to another lake:

This one is known to us as "Crying Lake". Why? Because the first time I ever did one of these trips we finally got to this lake and my feet were so swollen I had to unlace my boots, we were covered with mosquitos, there were ticks in the grass and I was scared of bears. I cried :) But I made it through that trip and I have been coming back ever since. On this trip I found this heart-shaped rock on the shore of Crying Lake so I think that the lake and I have finally made up:

This is Mount Yoran, which is visible from Crying Lake. We plan to climb this one some day.

Now we were moving into the mountain zone and we started coming across one of the great benefits of a mountain trail---huckleberries and mountain blueberries!

Getting closer, we started enjoying some of the unique mountain scenery.

a dry streambed---usually filled with snow runoff during the spring and early summer
massive boulders propped up on shale formations

a tree growing in a large lava boulder
 Soon we were off the trail and climbing up above the treeline. The landscape changes dramatically, dominated by basalt boulders and shale and fields of pumice and quartz sand.
We were moving towards one of the snow fields when my husband suddenly yelled "coyote"! We watched a coyote run down the mountain not far from us, looking back at us nervously. I fumbled with my camera (is the macro on or off? what mode is it on? where is the darn zoom?) and, of course, he was gone before I could get a picture. I understand now how people can miss getting good pictures of Bigfoot, ha ha!! (wink).  But we went to where we saw the coyote and found one of his prints:

We suspect he was drinking from a spring that was fed by one of the snowfields.

Diamond Peak is a shield volcano that is somewhere around 100, 000 years old.  It has collapsed in on itself and has much more erosion than some of the other mountains in the Cascades (Thielsen, Bailey, etc). The result is that it has some very interesting lava formations on the top. I don't know what they are specifically called---I call them "The Old Ones" because many of them look like figures, like guardians of the mountain:

 Can you see the seated "figure" near the middle of the picture?

While on Diamond Peak we could see the Three Sisters Mountains in the East. A huge plume of smoke was billowing up on the right side of the mountains:

This turned out to be the Pole Creek Fire, an enormous wildfire burning in the Sisters Wilderness.

We set up our sleeping bags and prepared for a night under the great wheel of the sky.

The sun began setting behind the mountain, and trails of what I called "mountain steam" began to flow over the mountain top:

Right here is where I should be showing you fabulous pictures of the night sky, maybe with a meteor or two that we saw, and the orange red glow of the huge wildfire in the distance. But I can't because NONE OF THOSE PICTURES TURNED OUT, haha!! For one thing, it was freezing cold and my fingers barely worked. For another thing, I simply mostly don't know how to use my darn camera, I guess. Ah well, suffice it to say that it was a magical night. It is the first time I can ever remember sleeping out under the stars like that, far from city lights. We saw lots of meteors and could even pick out some constellations as they turned through the sky. Eventually the bright moon rose, in her last quarter, with Orion to her right.

Seeing the moon high in the sky, I knew that dawn wasn't far behind:

The wildfire smoke was giving dawn an extra orangey haze. At this point my husband was still asleep and I kept hearing little trickles of rock noises coming from somewhere above us. Hmmm, I thought, perhaps an elk is picking its way along the shale field towards the spring---we had seen elk tracks earlier. Right after I thought that, the mountain let loose with a tremendous boulder avalanche. The thundering was terrifying! Turns out there are often rock falls up there, maybe triggered by rocks cooling down and heating up. We were well below the boulder zone, but it was still scary.

After that, my sweetie got up and started making coffee. I was never so happy to see my camp cup of instant coffee and my bowl of instant oatmeal!
There was a lot of clouds and mist that morning and the "alpenglow" on the mountain was seen through a pink fog:

Too tired to attempt to summit the mountain (plus it is exceedingly dangerous from this direction because of all of the loose rock) we decided it was time to get rolling, so we packed up and then proceeded to hike the 12 or so miles out. Mountain guardians, we will visit with you next time!
A wonderful trip, one of the best ever!

Until next time, Happy Trails!!


  1. Que paraje tan precioso... pero no te dan miedo los osos y los coyotes?
    Aquí en España, no se puede ir tranquilamente de excursión a la montaña porque hay muchos incendios "provocados" y no puedes disfrutar de manera tranquila. Una pena... por no hablar de la desgracia de ver el monte quemado...

  2. Coyotes no suelen molestar a la gente --- osos son otra historia. Nunca hemos visto un out en la naturaleza, pero hemos tenido osos nos molestó en campamentos establecidos.
    Me encantaría ir de excursión a las montañas de España. Tal vez algún día!

    1. Este año a finales del verano, el monte de la capital Madrid, ha sido incendiado, llegando a quemar casas.
      Ha sido un desastre y una pena muy grande, ver cómo se ha roto la vida de los animales y ver todo quemado...
      Ha pasado igual por otras zonas de España, unos incendios terribles de grandes, desoladores.
      Ni en años, volverán a repoblarse...
      Una pena!