August 21, 2015
Big Lake Youth Camp (2001.5) to Rockpile Lake (2022.2)
20.7 PCT miles today, .8 non-PCT miles today
2068.1 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,198 ft, – 1,656 ft
The Cascades are really something. We did less miles than we expected today, mostly thanks to Big Lake Youth Camp’s incredible generosity, but we still managed to hike from one major Cascade peak, past another, and close to a third all in one day. Each mountain in the Cascades stands alone, surrounded by miles of flat land, so they are easy to spot and it is a unique experience watching them grow bigger and bigger until we’re right on them, and then watching them shrink back down in size as we hike further north.
This morning we had the privilege of sleeping in and waking up naturally with the sun. We took our time getting all packed up since we knew breakfast wouldn’t be served until 8:30. We headed over to the PCT lounge for a bit to check out the hiker box one more time, and then casually made our way over to the cafeteria. The campers (it was family week at the camp) all lined up and we joined in, still not quite believing that we were actually going to be fed with no strings attached. The food came out and we filed through, piling hashbrowns, cinnamon rolls, soy sausage, and orange slices on our trays. We ate our food with huge smiles beaming from our faces, and without meaning to, congregated with all the other hikers at one table. Every employee that we met at the camp was welcoming, friendly, and truly interested in our hike. We enjoyed many pleasant conversations with employees and campers alike, and even got to chat with Les, the camp director. We stayed longer than expected, indulging in seconds, and even thirds when it came to cinnamon rolls, before finally heading out. By the time we got on trail it was after 10am, and we knew we wouldn’t be getting in as many miles as we’d hoped. However, we both felt the late start had been well worth it in exchange for our time at such a comfortable and generous place.
The hiking went rather smoothly throughout the day, with our only complaints being the vast burn zones and the occasional uphill patches of sandy trail. As I mentioned, we began close to the base of Mount Washington, with Three Fingered Jack off in the distance. By lunch, we had neared Jack and after lunch we traversed around its western edge before crossing over a ridge at its northern end and seeing a whole other side of the mountain. Throughout the afternoon we could look back and watch the Sisters, along with a bunch of other smaller mountains and buttes, recede into the distance. It was only yesterday morning that we woke up at the base of South Sister, and now we’re less than a couple miles from Mount Jefferson and the Sisters are mere dots on the horizon. It’s this kind of tangible progress that we were missing in Southern Oregon and the kind that really keeps us motivated.
Tonight we planned on loading up on water when we reached Rockpile Lake and then dry camping a few miles later, but when we got to this pretty little lake, we couldn’t pass it up. Something about its size and location, right in a little crater high up on a mountain reminded us of the high alpine lakes in the Sierras, and the abundance of flat camp sites sealed the deal. We’ll have to make up for our short day by doing slightly more miles for the next couple days, but we’re feeling good about today and don’t regret our decision one bit.