South Sister Redux : This Time It's Electric
Earlier this year, while sitting around with The Teacher, my now Evil step-sister Sydnee, and her husband Ryan, we talked about going hiking. I mentioned hiking South Sister three years ago and Ryan stated, "I'd do that hike again". The Teacher was obviously not going to be a major hike, but Sydnee said she was interested as well. Yep, that's how things like these start. South Sister is not something you hike in the Spring (unless you want to use snowshoes). You wait until Summer is almost over. So, we all waited and waited until a couple weeks ago when the discussion started up again. We had one day that worked into all of our schedules. Now, all we had to do was make sure the trail wasn't still knee deep in snow. Based on a couple of websites and word-of-mouth, we had enough reassurance that it was clear enough, so we made plans and set last Wednesday as THE day. We figured it being a Wednesday would also keep the crowds down. The only potential threat was an afternoon thunderstorm in the forecast. My trusty copy of 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William Sullivan states: "If you can't see the summit, don't go on. What looks like a fluffy white cloud ahead can prove to be a dangerous blizzard at the top". Something well worth keeping in the back of my mind, especially when the forecast calls for potentially bad weather. Of course I was somewhat burned in my previous South Sister hike on the suggestion of "bringing at least two quarts of water per person". Last time I brought roughly three quarts and ran out of water on the return hike with about 3 miles to go. What made it even worse was I had nothing in the car to drink, so after making it to the car, I was rewarded with a 30 minute drive back dying of thirst. That hike taught me to always stock the car with a cooler and an icy drink. It also taught me to bring more water this time around. Of course, the downside to bringing more water is the weight it brings. Was I am ultra-light hiker? Nope, not even close. My Pack: -(6) 32oz bottles of water (with one Powerade) : weight 13.5 lbs
-Backpack with first aid gear, flashlights, knife, compass and pants: weight 7.6 lbs
-Food : sandwich, (5) Cliff Bars, (2) apples, (3) pepperoni sticks and a small bag of Cheetos: weight 3.0 lbs
-Camera gear : weight 10.5 lbs Good thing my camera gear included my sub-2 lb tripod (wouldn't want things getting too heavy). Seriously, my pack was around 35 lbs. Trust me, my shoulders were damn sore after this hike. So, with all of this said, here's the recap of the actual hike. We met at my place 7:00am sharp, which was early enough to make it to the Devils Lake trailhead by 8:00am. The skies were nice and clear. Prior to the actual hike, I began to call Ryan The Sherpa since he was about the size of the Sherpas that assist climbers on Mt Everest. The fact that he summited South Sisters many times prior, gave him Sherpa cred. Sydnee truly earned her Evil status on this hike, by stating she would be slow, when in reality she sprinted up the mountain and back. Evil indeed! After messing around a bit through The viewless grueling forest segment, we started to see sunlight once again. Here's The Sherpa pausing briefly at an interesting rock formation.
1,650 feet in elevation gain over 1.2 miles. This time around was even harder than before. With snow pack lasting longer this year, parts of the trail still had snow. Basically this meant you had a few sections where you had to walk on snow, uphill. Thankfully, The Sherpa let me use one of his hiking poles to make it more manageable. Where the trail had a bit too much snow still, there were alternate trails that we took. This meant there were more large rocks to climb over and trees to bend around. The push up to the false summit was tough. One of the hikers from the other group stated "you've got to be kidding me", when we basically went every which way as the trail vanished.
The big difference from last time, was that this was the most crowded section of the hike. However, not this time. There were less than 10 of us on the cinder soup slopes of joy. About half of the people going up were the group we played leap frog with earlier and there were a few other hikers coming down that had a much faster pace than we did earlier in the day. So, bye bye Lewis Glacier, and up we went.
Can you tell when you are about to be struck by lightning? There is often a warning: a feeling similar to what happens when you touch a static electricity generator, or when you take the clothes out of the dryer and separate a staticky sock from a towel. This is to be expected, since lightning starts as static electricity that breaks down the air to neutralize the charge. The result is that people about to be hit can feel the hair on their bodies stand on end and sometimes report a tingling sensation. If you are in a storm and feel this, act immediately. This is all the warning you are going to get. Get as low as you can to the ground. If you are not the highest point around, you are less likely to be hit. If you can find a nearby ditch or draw, get into it. Rolling to the ditch is much smarter than running there. Rolling in something wet will also help to get rid of the charge accumulation on your body. Avoid holding on to anything metal. If you have a tool in your hand, drop it. If you are touching a metal object, get away from it.Honestly, I didn't read this until after I was home. But, as you could see from the photo, I was about as far away from finding a ditch as you can get. I debated trying to find some rocks to hide in, but there was nothing. Going off the side of the trail was not really much of an option either. I thought about dropping the poles, so I held them loosely. It started to rain as well. Normally, this was the section were you stop every now and then, and remove the rocks and cinders from your shoes. Today, that was the furthest thing from my mind. I knew I simply needed to get down off this ridge! When I reached Lewis Glacier, I basically hopped over the edge onto something resembling the trail. I could tell I was off by a bit, but I just did whatever I could to get down off the mountain. Thankfully, the static in the poles went away by the point. The next photo was not taken going down, but it shows how far into the next section I went before actually stopping to empty my shoes.