The South Sister

Aug 6 2007

random trip report
Larry and I wake up pre-dawn and drive to the Devil's Lake trailhead. The trail is 6 miles each way and climbs 4,900'. The first couple of miles go up a pleasant pine-filled valley. About halfway there's a landmark: a 9-foot high boulder with a nearly planar face.

The trail emerges onto a flat area overlooking Moraine Lake. After a half mile it steepens, and a steep stretch of loose dirt and rocks leads to The Notch, a saddle point overlooking a glacier on the southeast face of the mountain, with a pretty lake at its base.

I chat with a group of 3 hikers going at about the same pace. Turns out they're siblings - a woman from Bend and her sister and brother from So Cal. A hiker passes us going at a pace that would be brisk even on level ground. A bit later, another guy (45-ish, tall/thin) passes us actually jogging (up the very steep, loose slope). He looks like he does this every day before breakfast.

I reach The Notch ahead of Larry, and enjoy one of the trail bars Alice packed for us. I drive away a pesky squirrel with my hiking pole. I stretch out on the ground and close my eyes. The squirrel climbs onto my head; I leap to my feet cursing.

The trail continues up a ridge to the left of the glacier cirque. It is very steep, and consists of red volcanic rock ground to sand, with occasional larger rocks. I have to concentrate on foot placement to avoid slipping. The thin air starts to get to me; I get out of breath and have a slight headache. I slow my pace considerably. Time goes by and I don't seem to have moved. For a while I lose my will to continue, and I form a theory that the only truly worthwhile hikes are those where I lose this will; this restores my will.

The trail angles to the left, and after a while it emerges on the rim of the crater at the summit, which is about 200 yards across. The actual summit is around the other side, but that walk goes fairly quickly. From the top there's a tremendous view - half the state of Oregon, so I'm told. The Middle and North Sisters are very close - the North looks interesting - big cliffs all around the summit.

I lie down for a while. Eventually I see Larry on the other side of the crater; I can tell he's hurting. Turns out he got major leg cramps, and a host of other aches and pains.

The descent, of course, goes much faster, and the loose sand becomes an ally instead of an enemy. The last couple of miles, through the forest, seem to take a long time but I'm enjoying it so much I don't care. Except for being tired, I feel pretty good. No knee or back pain, which is what I fear on hikes like this.

I enjoyed this hike but wouldn't do it again - I don't really like heavily-traveled routes, and the trail is too damned slippery.

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