The Posse was back at it again. This time on the mountain known as Middle Sister. In some circles it's called Hope. I like that name. Who among us can't use a little more hope in our lives? For the Posse, it was a lot of hope. This was my fourth time scuddling around on the rocks and sand of Middle. The weekend before, I reached the summit for the first time. I really enjoy this mountain. It is a bit harder to climb than it's sibling to the south. The traffic of travelers is much less also.
Six of us reached the trailhead at pole creek together. It was a warm afternoon. The initial miles are what I refer to as carnival line miles. When you are at the County fair, waiting with all the other zombies in line for a ride. You sense excitement and you're happy when the line surges forward. In the case of our Middle Sister ride, the line was filled with beautiful sights. There were no greasy food huts or screaming kids to be seen. The ride we were headed for takes you over ten thousand feet into the sky. Beat that zipper. The reason I bring up a fair. Our County fair was happening that weekend. I felt for the zombies in town.
The trees are all burnt and falling over, they quietly moan about a fire years earlier. They have a cool look to them. We were able to see Faith and Hope through their frizzled branches.
It wasn't long before Grace was visible too. The Posse has a connection with this mountain. A love that feels like getting mule kicked in the bread box and kissed with a sledgehammer.
The scamper to camp was good times. An afternoon well spent. If you want to climb Middle using the north route, be sure to take the climbers trail that branches off the main avenue right around the four mile mark. When we reached camp the rest of the group for this expedition was there to greet us. I took a few minutes to watch the Posse mill around, creating their personal space for the night. Even in the secluded outdoors, it doesn't take anytime at all and we make a little neighborhood. The mosquitos were thick. They appreciated their meals on heels. One of my coworkers told me, after seeing the video of this expedition, that leave no trace means not camping on grassy areas. Duly noted, we will keep this in mind moving forward. The afternoon and evening passed with an anticipation and excitement. We had been planning for this climb many months. The time had come to summit Middle Sister. The group was nine strong; three of them had a bit more on the table. Keegan and Jose had attempted South the year before and stopped short of the summit. Joseph had stopped short of the top of Middle the year before as well. If you have ever played poker, you are aware that sometimes it's better to fold a hand and take the loss. There will be other cards dealt and opportunity to make back what you lost. Middle Sister was another hand, would the men call it's bluff? Would their efforts be a royal beatdown? I had a front row seat and I could hear Kenny Rogers singing the gambler, in my mind.
We were awake at four the next morning. Pack up camp and be on the trail around five was the plan. Groggy travelers staggering around in the black early morning to climb a ten thousand foot mountain. In the trees nearby came a sound none of us wanted to hear. A big cat. It sounded agitated. Someone said, "Everyone get together." All you could see was lights on everyone's head as we grouped together. The cat kept yelling out. After a few tense moments, Keegan announced that he was the source, he had planted a FoxPro out in the trees and used it as a way to wake everyone up. Well played Keegan. He had told me of the trick so that I would be able to video the event. It was a great start to the day, everyone was laughing.
Climbing a mountain is much like eating a whole pizza by yourself. You may shovel that last piece in your mouth and send it down into your belly; there's going to be discomfort during and after the meal. When I climbed South last year, I didn't celebrate truly, until the days following the climb. As the sun broke through, I watched eight people amble toward the top of a mountain. Making the summit was the intention. Even if some didn't, I was impressed with their willingness to try. It takes difficult situations to build character. Climbing and reaching a spot where you can't go any higher is intense. The feeling on a mountain is welcoming with the thought of not staying long. If your crazy aunt Florence invites you over for dinner, you may pop over for a few. As soon as she tells you that her cucumbers grew like mad in the garden and she has too many on her hands. She had to get creative with her recipes. Before you know it, she offers you a pickle squish smoothy. You are up and out of that situation. Go and visit but don't stay long.
The best route I have found for Middle is the north side. Once the snow has begun melting on Hayden glacier, one must go around Prouty Point to the north and continue up from the west side. It's called the saddle. You can see it in the above photo. The views are spectacular once the saddle is achieved.
From left to right. Joseph, Markus, Chris, Keegan, Kyler, Jose, Apollo, Vivian. Joseph and Vivian are tried and true Peak Posse adventurers. They know what it takes to climb mountains. A very matter of fact duo who embrace the challenges of our group. Markus is my brother in the Christian faith and climbing this mountain together was a real blessing. Many times on the way up we expressed Gratitude to God for such an awesome place. I didn't know if he would make it up. He did. The Tarzan yell from the summit was pure fun. This was my first time climbing with Chris, he blazed up Middle. Talking with him later, he didn't reach a point mentally or physically where he thought about giving up. I look forward to more summit attempts with Chris in the mix. If there is one person I know who may love mountains more than me, it's Keegan. If youtube only had videos of summit attempts, he would be ok with it. As I mentioned earlier, Keegan had tried to climb South last year and wasn't able to stand at the top. He dropped a lot of weight and not only did he make the summit of Middle with no problem, we are embarking on the South Sister sleepover within days of me writing this. Full packs all the way to the top and camping there. It was very, very cool shaking his hand at the top of Middle. Kyler is a summit machine. He was with us when we climbed Mcloughlin in the snow. That was quite the adventure. When I watched the video footage of the scramble near the peak of middle, Kyler was there, clawing his way up. Those images capture the sheer will and energy required to find a mountain top. I can say with confidence that this wasn't his last summit. It was Jose's birthday when we made camp. He was on this expedition to prove something. South Sister was a fight. He didn't come out on top. When a man has something to prove to himself, you will see a man for what he is. The evening before, Jose was on the fence about his chances of reaching the top. Once we hit the trail the next day, I saw nothing but try, relentless pursuit. When he reached the top he found a rock and laid down in the shade. It wasn't easy for Jose. Apollo was a stranger to me. I know very little about him. To be introduced to someone in a harsh environment, like a mountain, and to see only positive character traits, tells me he is made of some good stuff.
The reason I dedicated this part of the story to these people, I understand how special this group is. There wasn't a cross word spoken, everyone felt comfortable. The comradery was genuine. I gauge the success of the Peak Posse by the experience each person has. The mountains and canyons are the stage, the individuals are the actors. Trail conditions, exposure to the elements, and the stress it places on people makes a mountain attempt a serious affair. Each person was aware and responsible for themselves, while at the same time, light and lively.
There is one last player in this adventure, Middle Sister. It is a fun mountain to climb. You will encounter different trail conditions, which makes it all the more exciting. Dirt, snow, loose rock, steep scrambling and sometimes no trail at all. If there was a drink called the Middle Sister, it would be sweet, cold and powerful. Overall, it's what I would call an entry level mountain. The only spot that makes it more than that, is a section just below the summit. Upon first glance, it is intimidating. As you get closer, it isn't all that. My suggestion for tackling this section is to stay on the ridgeline and then scramble up staying close to the firm rocks. Take your time, if you see a loose rock, avoid it. We watched several travelers approach below the ridge and they were slow going and sending boulders down the mountain. Dangerous.
After this short scramble, the summit is achieved. I like the way a mountain feels. Up so high, breathing air that the mountain is sharing. The sounds are different. Voices sound muffled in a way, like in a room. It is confining, the space is small and conversely open and free. Saying it's special is to bring the mountain down to the definition of a word that doesn't do it justice.
We are creatures that love experience, challenge. We also like telling our stories. That's what life is, our story. The story itself is unaffected by the way we choose to let it shape us. When I climb a beautiful mountain, like Middle Sister, I can make the experience about me or I can make it about us. The mountain, myself, God, the people with me and even people I have never met. I've heard people say that climbing a mountain has changed them. They are different now. I tend to believe that they aren't so much changed as they are introduced to themselves. A mountain is an opportunity to see who we are without a filter. We all have an idea of who we believe we are. We get to choose the suit we will wear for all the world to see. Put in difficult situations, the real person will make an appearance. The three piece suit we want everyone to see may turn out to be a pair of wrinkly sweats and a soiled flintstones shirt. A mountain is a mirror. Sometimes we won't like what we see, sometimes we will. A group of nine people went up Middle Sister. I appreciate their willingness to let me travel alongside them. It was my honor and privilege.
I have included links to the you tube videos of the expedition at the bottom of the page.
Here are a few pictures taken when I climbed the mountain using the south ridge route.
,South Sister mountain in the great State of Oregon is nothing to be scoffed at. She stands majestically over the landscape at over 10,300 feet. She's a big beauty, to be sure. Now you'd think for a first summit attempt, a group of guys, would choose a tiny mountain. Maybe a big hill would be in order. And since we aren't too crazy that's just what we did. We climbed a big hill. Some of us did. The plan was that the hill would prepare us for South Sister. Well, we did summit that hill and you can be sure that with chests puffed out and heads held high, we were sure that South Sister was as good as climbed. After all the hill, it was 4500 feet tall.
A few weeks later we slither out of our beds at 3 am. Up while its still dark to drive to the feet of a big mountain, South Sister. This girl ain't no joke.
We arrive at the trailhead by 5:30 and the parking lot is so packed we have to circle around to find a spot. There are a lot of people that enjoy a special kind of pain. The kind of pain that makes you stand up and march around the jalepeno pepper garden and drink milk by the gallons. That's right. Burning pain.
Off we go, my backpack was heavy. I laughed as my daughter, Faf picked it up with a groan. That thing was heavy. The others had quite a bit of weight strapped on too. If we had only known what lay ahead. The packs would've been lighter. For sure. The first mile or so was uphill and through a forest, in the dark. Happy voices giggling and prancing. Fresh spring daisies about to get pulled up by the roots and sent through a wood chipper. The fun had begun. Hey South Sister. We coming to get you!
As dawn ascended and we ascended out of the forest, we caught our first look at the girl. It didn't look so bad. The top was right there, you could almost touch it.
The next mile was mostly flat and the views were outstanding. We could see Broken Top.
Mt. Bachelor was there too.
Our spirits soared with anticipation. We were doing it. The climb had started and the score was people one. South Sister zero. I imagine if a mountain could chuckle, she was having quite the time looking down on us. Watching us scampering around, wasting all that energy laughing and carrying on. Spirits were soaring like the eagles. We were mountain climbers and South was about to yield to the punishing feet of serious folks.
Realization of the size of a task is sometimes all it takes to break the strongest of men and women. As we made our way to the foot of this mountain, it got bigger and bigger. When we took our first break, the full picture of what lay ahead came into view. South Sister is a big, big girl. I believe the point that we had acquired before disappeared. It was back to people zero, mountain zero. The task at hand was formidable.
As we started up South we started taking more breaks and less steps between the breaks. And what happens when things start getting tough. We complain. Now this isn't kid type complaining. It's the adult version. When a kid complains they are looking for Mom or Dad or somebody to fix the problem. When adults complain it comes with no expectation of resolve, and so it's more hopeless. After all South wasn't going to help us out and nobody was volunteering to carry someone up the mountain. So the internal struggle started to manifest itself in the outside world. I don't think I can make it. This is dumb. I may stop right here. Etc. Etc. South Sister one. People zero.
Now don't think we are a bunch of sissy pants here. We all have some fire in our bellies. It's just that the fire was in our lower extremities too. If you've never been in a situation where you want to do something but the old bones aren't on board, you know what is happening. If not, please don't judge harshly. Despite the agony and steepness of the trail there was still joking and laughing. It seemed like the happy arrived when butts hit the rocks for a break. At 8200 feet we took a break. A nice long one.
In order to conquer an opponent one tactic is to separate the troops. This is what she did to us at this point. The youngsters were already bounding up the side of South with no cause for concern. Now, the group separated even more. Bryant and Tyler and Aaron headed up. I walked with the boys, Scotty, Keegan and Jose for a little bit. They decided that teardrop lake would be their ultimate goal and so I started up on my own. Here's a little bit of info for you. Teardrop lake is actually teardrop pool. It's located at the top of South Sister. The lake commonly referred to as teardrop has no name. If I was going to name it I would call it. Areyoukiddingmeitisstillsofartothetopfromherethismustbesomekindofjoke lake.
I crest the ridge where the lake is after climbing and climbing up and up where loose rocks and dirt encourage slips and trips. Thanks South Sister. Two things become clear at this point in the expedition. First as you can tell by the name I've given the lake, It is a long, long way up and very, very steep. To me, it was like the climb had only begun. I can't describe the feeling of dread that pierced into my soul. I think I let out a laugh of the lunatic. My mind was blown. Before I had time to let what I was living in that moment sink in, Tyler is talking to me about being terrified out of his skull. Seems the last little bit to the lake was steep enough to kick his fear of heights into full gear. When he crested the ridge and saw what lay ahead, it wasn't the enormity of the task that paralyzed him but the sheer height of this thing. He was babbling and pacing around real fast. I think he said something about me taking his shoes to the top and he'd wait there for me to bring them back. It could've been he said to tell his wife he loved her and make sure his kids remembered what he was like. I'm not sure what he said, but I was sure that I was in the presence of desperation. A desperate man will latch onto you and pull you under too. I had to get out of there. My plan to take a fifteen minute break at the lake turned into a three minute walk into the dark areas of a disturbed mind. In a way I'm glad Tylers’ mini breakdown happened at that point. It made me forget about what lay ahead. If we are to understand the scope of what's happening we must come face to face that South Sister is a mean, mean girl. For as many people who stand proudly at the top, there are many that don't make it. Of those that do, a little something inside shrivels up in the fetal position and faces the corner sucking its' thumb. South Sister three people zero.
I put my backpack on and tear out of that situation. My hope is that Tyler, being so competitive, will follow me by instinct. After all, it may be a very, very steep trail but it's not like walking beside a cliff face. Tyler will be fine. The grade of the trail is relentless. The trail is loose red rock. Did I mention that South Sister is a red head? As The climb continues, I start to realize that I'm feeling a bit queasy in my belly. I say it was an effect of gaining altitude so quickly. So it goes, walk 30 seconds take a belly break, walk another 30 seconds, again with the belly break. Things weren't going as smoothly as they should.
I believe that climbing a mountain happens more on the inside than on the outside. We must first conquer the mountain in our burning muscles, or mind or in whatever other place things the struggle may appear. Someone may be right there beside you talking, cheering you on, and that's nice. It does all come down to a will to keep climbing. At about 9000 feet we all were resigned to make it up and South couldn't stop us. There was an excellent view of Broken Top for us to enjoy.
As I crested the false summit with Faf and David, his brothers were chuckling at Dave and talking casually, they had been all over the top for the last hour and a half to two hours. Thank the Lord for the boys. They had scored us two valuable points. South sister now had three points, humans two. The true summit lay just across a frozen tundra. We walked around.
I made it to the marker that indicates the summit, yet did not sit up where the kids were.
Have you ever watched an nfl game where the ref makes a horrible call at the end of a game and a team ends up winning when they should've lost. I can imagine the players on the "winning" team walking into the locker room, knowing the scoreboard says they won, inside knowing they didn't. This is how I felt. I was there, standing at the top. Yet, I felt beaten. I remember as I took my backpack off to rest for a few minutes. I was leaning forward and closed my eyes to thank God for letting me climb around on his earth. I couldn't feel gratitude, I couldn't fall into a period of joy, peacefulness. I was plain, beat down, tired. More so from the effects of the altitude then muscle tired. Although it was tough physically. So maybe instead of climbing that last 15 feet to the top, I relented. The ref had to pick up his flag and say no penalty. Let the true victor have the victory. South Sister 5, humans 2. Now Faf and David and Aaron did make it also. That's three more points for us. Knotting the tally at 5 apiece.
Besides Tyler taking his fear of heights head on. Which he deserves big ups for. We have some unsung heroes from this expedition. The boys down at what is commonly referred to as tear drop lake. Oh, before I forget, here is the actual teardrop pool.
So back to the boys. These guys have some serious backbone. They fought harder to get where they did then those of us who made it to the top or near the top. They worked as one unit. They moved up to the lake with purpose. From what they told me, the group mentality kept them going when the individual would have failed. That is something special. Again, as much as I would like to hand out brownie points, I'm afraid having coffee and soaking your feet in a glacial lake doesn't equate to standing on top of South Sisters big red head and giving her the proverbial moon over the summit. South eight. Humans five. I'm not sure if Bryant made it to the top, my gut says he didn't. He was helping Tyler. But... he has been to the summit many times so we will call it a push. South Sister, you win this time. Me and Tyler have a beef with you girl. Expect a rematch in 2019. Lord willing.
Here are a few more pictures for your enjoyment...
Tyler said the experience was otherworldly. It was like a gigantic amusement ride.
Faf said it was grueling but definitely worth it. You have to keep trudging along no matter how hard it gets.
Scotty said painfully great to describe his introduction to this marvelous landmark.
Bryant and Keegan both termed it the ultimate suckfest.
When you get to a special spot in the world, it's special because of the experience it offers. I can't describe the way that place encompasses you. It has an open, vast, awesome setting that is individual and personal. It stirs the soul. When I was up there I told a number of people that I had no desire to climb a mountain again. That one time was enough. By the time I was home and had dinner and a shower, my opinion was different. It was then that I recounted the experience and felt the joy and the peace and the gratefulness. South Sister is not mean at all. She offers something very individual, personal and powerful. It couldn't be that way if she wasn't a believer in tough love. Tyler says that when he looks out his window or opens his door and sees that mountain, he is affected by it. I understand that he can't put words to what he is feeling. I don't believe there are words for it. If I had to try, I would simply say, it was a perfect day.
So, what is the new idea? Part two coming soon.
Thanks South Sister
Here's a video of the day...
A few short weeks ago, some members of the Posse climbed Mcloughlin. It was a fun, snowy adventure. This new story details the climb we enjoyed with some of the other Posse proud. The snow wasn't as deep; we were still swimming in happiness like grandma in the deep end of the pool. Grandpa doesn't cannonball anymore, he has a bad back.
We stayed at a nice campground at Fourmile lake which is three miles from the trailhead to Mt. Mcloughlin. The info I read about the camp was that it's first come, first served. When we arrived, there were reserved signs hanging all over the place. I noticed they had a lake of the woods resort logo on them. Please do not call lake of the woods for a reservation. The number to call is 877-444-6777. The lake was cool and all. People were boating and fishing. I thought about a dip in the coolness. I decided against it. It was a little on the cool side and the mosquitos were out in droves. After we set up camp, we walked around a bit, hoping to see the star of the show. Sure enough, through the trees we could see it. What a beautiful sight.
We spent a few moments figuring out what that cloud looks like. What do you think? Here's a close up of it...
The evening was very pleasant. We sat around the campfire and ate dinner. Our conversation, casual as us, had some thought provoking spots. Certainly we talked about the maker of such a great spot in the world. Always thankful. We decided that a very early start would be best. Wake up at four to hit the trail by five. Hoping to get sleep, we burrowed into our tents around half past eight.
When my alarm started yelling at me, my first thought was, "Man I don't want to work today." Then I remembered I was bound for the top of Mt. Mcloughlin. Sweet! I have to say that this group was all business. Everybody was up and packing their tents and eating breakfast without a word. We were in the PT Cruiser headed for the trail at 4:45. I have to admit that the first expedition group could learn a thing or two from the youngsters. I will only mention one person by name. My competitive nemesis, Tyler. You got schooled. What took you an hour and a half, was done in forty five minutes. Faf, Dave, Peter are the gold star winners of the day. We trucked up the mountain with precision and purpose and it all started with a quick up and out at camp.
Once we arrived at the trailhead, the now infamous can of bear spray struck again. I had my backpack sitting in the drivers' seat of PT. Not watching what I was doing, I hit the trigger. SSSSSSSWWWWWWSSSSSSSHHHH. Soaked the side of the car door and my arm with the poignant stuff. I was expecting to fall down while grasping at my eyes and trying to breathe. I did cough and gag but it wasn't as bad as it could've been. I am fortunate. Long ago, I lost the trigger locking piece for the spray, every since, I have been using the stuff on myself instead of the bears. Will I break down and buy a new can? All signs point to, probably not. Am I smarter than a mince meat pie when it comes to bear spray? Again, probably not. One time I thought I had met a mince meat that was very smart indeed. Turns out, it was my brother. I can't see so well without my glasses, and he had a bad case of teenage acne happening.
The good thing about the bear spray was that it acted as a great mosquito repellant. They were a constant companion until we left the tree line. The first mile of the trail is an uphill climb. Not very difficult to handle. Mile two is the easiest of them all. From three miles on, it's steep and steeper. The trail is rocks and bigger rocks with a light peppering of cinder thrown in for good measure. I was really amazed at what we had walked over in the earlier snow expedition.
Mid-week is the time to climb Mcloughlin if you want solitude. We made the summit and were well on our way down before we saw other travelers. It is always nice to have a mountain to yourself. After a break at the bottom of the ridgeline, we continued upward. It took us less than four hours to summit. The last mile is really a lot of fun. There are white dots painted on the rocks to help you stay the course. If you like, you can pick many different routes up the mountain. Make sure that you stay close to or on the ridge though.
The weather was mild, it was nice. We didn't have to worry about being blasted by the sun when we reached the exposed part of the journey. The clouds hung around, this gave the atmosphere a mysterious feel. It also blocked the views. That was the only negative aspect of the expedition. I hoped that as we climbed higher, we would pop up above the cumulus. It was not to be on this day. That's ok. The feeling on the summit was more intimate in a way. We had a personal meeting with Mcloughlin, members only. You won't find out about it on facebook. Mcloughlin deleted it's account years ago. It was a big hassle. One of the three sisters got turned sideways because friend requests weren't acknowledged and soon all the mountains were freaking out. Almost caused an eruption. Mcloughlin was out. Bye bye facebook. The day before, while driving to camp, I watched the clouds. They were so high. When we were among them, I was well aware that we were dancing in the sky. The height that Mcloughlin achieves is neat beyond belief. It's a different world and it sinks into a person.
We hopped and skipped and dazzy-waddled our way to the top. We laughed and enjoyed the morning. Being in the wilderness has freedom attached to it. It's a good thing. At the tip top, I again, thought about how different the mountain was. There were a few nervous moments when we were in the snow; without snow it was fun and light. It was comfortable, the zephrys were light. Right below the final summit push, the going was steep and the path we chose was cinder and loose. This is when the seven rest technique was invented. It's simple yet effective; take seven to ten steps, then rest for a few moments. Crazy leg burn won't make itself home inside your gams and movement up the mountain is steady. I will be using this new way of climbing often.
I mentioned earlier how fast we climbed the mountain. Not only was The Mcloughlin, I think it's appropriate to call it that now, instead of Mt. Mcloughlin, I say The Mcloughlin. Not only was the mountain different, the group made it different. The joy of climbing a mountain is the way the people and the earth together, make a unique experience. I am very thankful that Faf, Dave and Peter joined me. Our identity as a unit was no nonsense, scoot and boot up the ridge to the peak. The snowy spine, which is the picture on our homepage, was replaced with big honkin' rocks. We looked through the geo-cash boxes, signed our names on a piece of paper, then started down.
On the descent, we would stop and look back up toward the top. The clouds parted and I was able to get some shots.
, The total amount of time we spent on the trail was six and a half hours. PT was blasting down the highway for Central Oregon during the noon hour. A tired bunch of happy travelers snoozed away; I was glad to be sitting. Mt Mcloughlin is pure joy in the form of a huge pile of rocks. If you haven't had the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.
A few nights after the climb, I was laying in bed thinking about it. I've found that there are specific spots that burrow into my brain from each mountain. On this climb it was right above the false summit. The clouds were thick, as we approached the edge of the ridgeline, it looked as if it dropped off into nothingness. My mind took me back to the spot. Imagining myself there, in the dark, I felt the wind blowing and the peak of the mountain watching me. A mountain is a lifeless chunk of earth. I understand that. At the same time it seems to be a quiet, powerful force. It watches the people come and go. The clouds pass endlessly. Sunrise and sunset. Years and decades push time up against the slopes. Still it watches. There is something fear inspiring about The Mcloughlin. Could be that it makes me feel small. It reminds me that my time on earth will pass and it will remain. That spot will still be there. I find myself wanting to be there, in the dark, with the wind running wild through the rocks and trees. I would be ok with the fear and uncertainty. It's as close as I can get to timeless for now, maybe that's why I like the mountains so much. Eternity runs through my veins. A mountain let's me live in it for awhile. Soon my thoughts are back to laying in a bed, in a room, Safe. There's something to be said for being safe too. Who would want to read about that though? I sure wouldn't. I wager that The Mcloughlin wouldn't either.
Here's a video of the day...
Mt. Mcloughlin is a pure delight to climb. If you are new to climbing, this is a good place to start. It's more difficult than South Sister even though it is shorter. The final part of the trail is pretty steep and there are a lot of boulders to bound over. This is what separates it from South Sister. The trail is ten miles out and back, it can be accomplished in a day. We were coming from Central Oregon so we decided to make it an overnight expedition. I am glad we did. It gave us the chance to kick back in the wilderness, enjoy the atmosphere. We camped about two miles from the trailhead, leaving us with three miles to the summit on Saturday morning.
Aaron arrived early and had a fire and tent sites figured out. It was the closest thing to five star camp service that I have experienced. We all made it to camp around late afternoon. Everyone except Lance, he arrived as the sun had set and darkness covered the forest. We spent the evening enjoying camp food and did our best at telling scary stories. Does an urban myth lose it's effectiveness the more you age? Yes it does. Even if it is a true story? Let me answer it this way. Is the thought of losing your job and not being able to make a mortgage scary to you? Maybe failing health causes anxiety. An urban myth can't even scratch the surface of your scary bone. You know, the scary bone? It's the one that's connected to the, my life is so repetitive and the best thing I can see on the horizon is binge watching a Netflix show, gristle bone. So while I will give props to Tyler and Brittanie for trying, overall scary story grade, D+.
When we emerged out of our slumber jackets at 5 am, we had anticipation coursing through our veins. By the way a slumber jacket is a tent. Here at the Peak Posse we broaden our horizons literally and our vocabulary gets to grow like a fresh blade of Mt Mcloughlin grass. Speaking of someone that knows a lot, Lance. Climbing with him is story time on the trail. He told us about the different trees and the clouds, what kind they were and how they formed. Plus many other things. When my wife saw the video of this expedition, see saw Lance and asked who he was. She said he looks like a real life lumberjack. We both agreed that we wouldn't be surprised to find out he lives on the top of Mt Mcloughlin. His stories get an A+. Thanks Lance!
The trail to the summit climbs steadily. Soon we were in snow covered landscape and at the ridge of the mountain. Although the weather forecast had been for rain, possibly thunderstorms, we had perfect weather. The wind was also a concern. In fact about 700 feet below the summit, it was blowing really hard, dropped the temperature down to around 20 degrees. I remember thinking that if it was blowing like this up at the top, maybe we shouldn't cross the spine. Turns out when we reached the spine, the wind was non-existent or a very slight breeze. Aaron remarked afterward how everything we were concerned about, disappeared as we climbed. I had prayed for weeks prior, that we would have sunny skies, no wind, on the mountain. For me, it was an answer to my prayer.
The false summit gives our first look at the landing strip and above that, the summit
I mentioned "the spine." As we were walking to camp the day before, we met four travelers who had reached the summit of the mountain They showed pictures and described the conditions as fearsome. At least one of them did, the guy who is scared of heights. They also said the wind was ferocious. We all seemed to focus in on the spine. Especially Tyler. If you haven't read the story or watched the video of our South Sister adventure, then you must know that Tyler is scared of heights. So all of this information had created a great amount of emotion among the group. I must say it didn't disappoint. The summit was a lot narrower with snow on it then from the pictures I had seen sans snow.
Once we reached the ridgeline, it was pretty basic, follow the ridge to the false summit. From there, continue along the ridge to the summit. It was a bit tricky walking in the snow along the ridge. There are voids in the snow, so sometimes you posthole up to your waist. It makes you feel a bit uneasy. Couple that with the wind, the exposure from being on the side of Mt Mcloughlin and you have the ingredients for a little dish I like to call, Mountain sloppy Joes. When you eat a sloppy Joe, it ain't pretty. soon you can have sauce all over your face, clothes and plate. A sloppy Joe is a culinary enigma. That's what our footsteps were. Will I sink? Will I sink? Will I sink? Repeated 5000 times.
There was a rock outcropping that I called the landing strip, close to the summit. That's what I thought from the false summit anyway. Once we were on it, the truth was revealed. The final push to the summit meant going across a steep face of the mountain that was totally snow covered. Trekking across it was more unnerving than simply climbing up it. It was so steep that as I was standing upright, I could reach out straight in front of me and touch the ground. Steep! Once across the face it was a matter of scrambling up to the spine. For me, the spine was easy after traversing the face of the mountain. Everybody made the summit except Vivian. She had health concerns once she reached the false summit and decided to enjoy the beautiful view and wait while we tredged up. We were the only people on the mountain, the decision to stay alone for 20-30 minutes was acceptable. I applaud her for being able to listen to herself and analyze the conditions. She made the wise, safe decision.
Tyler told me later that as he left the landing strip and moved across the face that he was yelling, not thinking, yelling out loud. "It's only wind! It's only snow!" This gave me a glimpse into the fight he was waging on that mountain. A mountain let's you experience a whole range of thoughts and emotions. I felt fear, doubt, joy. I was overwhelmed when I approached the landing strip and saw what confronted me. At the same time the awesome scene that was the backdrop for the movie of my life that day was humbling, isolated, majestic. I'm sure I didn't experience the fear that Tyler did. He started up Mcloughlin that morning as Tyler. He isn't the same Tyler now. Something that can get inside you and change you is powerful beyond words. It seems the more I stack words, one on top of another, the less successful I am at conveying the true essence of climbing a mountain. As much fun as we have on our expeditions, and we do have fun, the true reason for the Peak Posse is to get shoes kicking up dirt, or snow, on the trail. The effect it will have on you is a mystery.
Tyler described the climb up South Sister as the longest, coolest amusement ride he had ever been on. That's a good word picture. For me the walk down South was nothing short of unrelenting anguish. In some cases the hike down is the real climb on the mountain. So it was with Brittanie. She scampered up the thing like nobody's business. Coming down was a different story. She struggled. Kyler, Joseph, Lance and Aaron made it to the summit and The views were breathtaking. Joseph was the first to reach the spine. He has a calmness about him, Vivian too, that is much needed on expeditions. I imagine seeing their faces on many more expeditions. This was Kyler's first summit. I have a sneaking suspicion that he will reach many more. This guy is one of the cool kids. Hey ladies, he's single! In the short time I have known him, Aaron has become a brother to me. We giggled like schoolgirls standing on the summit together. It's crazy how you push and strain and moan and complain, even if by thought only, for hours. Then, instantly the outlook changes. I found out on the way down that beside all the struggle inherent for climbing, some of the posse had soaked, freezing feet. We all can tell you things we learned and won't repeat on the next expedition.
It was a pleasure to hand each of the Posse members their Mt Mcloughlin patch. It's something that will remind them of what they did June 1st 2019. Mt Mcloughlin is a fantastic mountain to climb. If you decide to try it, Prepare and prepare some more. Some of the Posse missed out this last trip and we are planning a one day, summer attempt, probably in July.
A new chapter has started, it's entitled "The Peak Posse and Middle Sister" Will you be one of the characters in the story? The world can always use more travelers. If you want to be a part of the Peak Posse, It's so easy. Get some friends together and start climbing.
There are mountains all around you. There are mountains inside you. What will you do when those mountains collide?
For your enjoyment, we have a video of this expedition below.
Canyon creek meadows is a good hike for the entry level hiker. It's about five miles long but can be sprinkled with more fun by visiting the glacial lake at the foot of Three Finger Jack. Let's get started.
The trailhead is located at Jack lake, and requires a five dollar parking fee. Jack lake is a serene little lake, unassuming. The mosquitos can be thick, so prepare for a feast where you are the main course. The day after we went, I was covered with bites. My wife said I must be mosquito bait. Instead of having the flowing hair of Fabio, and the features of Robert Redford, which is the envy of the dudes and melts the hearts of the fair maidens, I'm the guy that is oh so sweet for the blood sucking bugs of the world. I guess it's better than being a poster boy for leeches. There were a lot of new trees sprouting up along the trail, we called one spot the tree corridor. The combination of the two, lake and corridor, was a good start to the journey.
The trail was pleasant and there were strange looking flowers growing. If you know what they are from the picture below, please leave a comment. We would like to have a name for them. Right now, I call them the alien flower.
We followed the trail that so many other travelers before us had tread. It gained altitude slowly. It was a carefree morning and this place fit the bill to a tee. We were led to a few small ponds, and the view of Three Finger was really enticing us to move closer, and closer.
We reached a fork in the trail; one way took us back to the trailhead and the other choice was to a glacial lake at the foot of Three Finger. There were a few people camping at this spot. I was a bit envious that they were still slumbering away. Not so much that I was tired and needed a break. They had the chance to enjoy an evening on the doorstep of a mountain. The fire crackling away while the conversation floats on the breeze as easy as the smoke. Watching the sun set and scrambling into a tent and sleeping bag. It's cool having your living room be dirt, mountains, and trees and your butler is the bees.
The trail started gaining altitude and soon it was into the snow for us. The many different views and conditions changing made this a very enjoyable outing. We met a few travelers headed down and asked about what we could expect on our way to the lake. This is a good place for me to point out that perspective is a good word to keep in mind on the trail. We were told that the snow and the steepness was formidable. That we were a ways from our destination still. Everyone did say that the reward was greater than the effort. We continued on. We were in our trail running shoes so if the snow became to much, we would turn back. Thankfully we were able to keep going without sinking into the snow and it wasn't long before we crested a ridge and found the lake. It makes me laugh a little because T saw it and the first thing she said was, "That's it?" It was still covered in snow and really didn't resemble a lake. The view of Three Finger Jack was very good. There's nothing like standing before a mountain and appreciating how small it makes you feel, while at the same time filling you with a feeling of worth and belonging. Every peak is different, Jack was gnarly enough that I didn't picture myself standing on the summit. I would be content with the view from below.
We were hanging out at the lake viewpoint; T saw a goat, who seemed to be looking at us, from quite a ways away. I interject here to tell you that she, T, that is, not the goat, is a big fan of the rock hopping friends. We had heard that there is a good chance one might see a mountain goat on this trail. She was very happy to get her eyeballs on one. The picture below is a good shot of the goat.
After a rest, we decided to attempt hiking up to the saddle. This proved to be the steepest section of the trail for us. We took it easy and rested often, wasn't long before we made it to our ultimate destination. The views are gorgeous up there. The weather was so nice. What an enjoyable time we had. Canyon Creek Meadows is highly recommended by us. It offers nice, easy hiking and if you choose, more strenuous trails. If our story ended here, that would be good enough. Something very amazing happened while we were on the saddle. First, enjoy these pictures taken from the saddle...
I mentioned earlier that T loves goats. She has four of her own, Lilly, Sam, Benny, and blue. On her water bottle is a sticker that says, "I love goats." When we reached the saddle, off in the distance was a goat walking our way. I've spoken with some of my friends that are hunters, they told me that goats don't have anything to do with us humans. They see us coming, they are going. They prefer their human interaction from a distance. We didn't know this at the time and thought that it was really neat that out friend kept walking closer and closer.
Soon we were yelling at him, T said he was a he so I went with it. He would stop walking and we would invite him closer. He would amble closer. He walked as close as ten to twenty yards from us. He stopped to chow down some fresh Three Finger grass, I hear that's the good stuff. We talked to him, and soon he sauntered on, doing his thing. This whole thing made her day. She still is talking about it. What are the chances of a lady who loves goats, climbing up on a mountain and having a wild mountain goat walk up to her? God does so many extraordinary things for us. It turned a very good day into a day that we will never forget. Our son, who is an avid hunter, has watched the video and is completely blown away by the whole thing. Yes we did. We have a video of the whole trip on the trail, goat included. The link to the video is below. I didn't realize that T had some video on her phone of the goat encounter of the cool kind. I added a second video for your enjoyment.
If you are looking for a place to go hiking that offers variety, consider Canyon Creek Meadows trail loop, and if you're feeling like a goat, be sure to include the short detour trail to the glacial lake at the foot of Three Finger Jack.