Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 124: Highway 242 to Santiam Lake Trail

A thin film of frost covered our sleeping bags and most of our gear. My toes alternated between comfortably numb and excruciatingly painful as I hobbled around packing up. After a brief stop for breakfast and to pick up treats at the Sisters Bakery, we found ourselves back at McKenzie Pass where the trail crossed Highway 242.

McKenzie Pass is a strange moonscape of dark reddish black lava rock. A wavy sea of dark rock extends in every direction. Walking on the moving jumble of rocks was fun...for about the first 20 feet. Then it quickly became slow, tedious, and at times, painful.

As we hiked, the large, steep pyramid shaped peak of Mount Washington came into view. We traversed around its west side, staying on its lower flanks.

We reached a significant milestone in mid afternoon: 2,000 miles! We passed the hiker friendly Big Lake Youth Camp with a slight twinge of regret that we could not stop in for a meal. Then we continued down to the Old Santiam Wagon Road, passing a tangled network of dirt roads and dirt bike trails that crossed our path.

Deep, blackish purple huckleberries lined our path. A few wild strawberries also grew near the trail, nestled in among and between the larger plants. We helped ourselves to generous samples of both varieties, finding them tasty and, when perfectly ripe, sweet.

My father met us at the Santiam Pass trailhead (4,810 ft), where he cooked us a delicious dinner. Then we hiked on into the sunset, finally making camp near a trail junction on a small ridge.  Although it was dusk when we made camp, Sierra immediately scrambled up the tallest rock outcropping she could find, descending in the dark by headlamp.

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