August 2, 2016, Mile 2041: Discouragement Busters

At Upper Lake, mile 2041

Petra and I headed uphill to Russell Creek, first thing this morning. The creek runs through the bottom of the old glacial bed, which in this case means you have to descend a long, steep scree and boulder slope, ford the creek, find the trail, and climb back out the other side.

The trail down was easy enough, with cautious footing, although one section required a controlled butt slide down to the next set of boulders. Kudos to Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for being tough enough to handle challenging slopes.

The creek itself can best be described using the following phrases: fast, glacial, silty, faster, cold, powerful, and “really effing fast.” Arrange those words how you will. I can’t imagine trying to ford it in peak snowmelt.

At the trail, there were a handful of boulders which looked like a potential rock hop. Unfortunately, there was no way to confirm their stability, and this was not a place I wanted to compromise. So we looked further upstream, for someplace we could ford. I extended my poles and prepared to probe the silty, opaque water.

We made it halfway across, to a little island, and from there we felt for another crossing. Packs were adjusted, poles arranged, and we angled our way across. Success!

A well-deserved hug later, we needed to find the trail. O, trail, where art thou? It couldn’t be seen from where we were at. Petra scrambled up a couple of places, but didn’t have any luck. For anyone who doesn’t understand how easy it is to lose your way, I invite them to do what we were doing.

The third time was the charm. We went downstream, even though we couldn’t see any sign of the trail, and then voila! we found a spot to scramble up.

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Wider than it looks

Our victory lap involved having breakfast half a mile along the trail. Petra threw her pad down, and we had hot tea and munchies for breakfast. Awesome!

We continued up the hill, with me pushing and her holding back. Finally I said that I needed to return to my normal pace, and that I knew she’d need to speed up. With great big hugs, and a hope to hike together some time, we said goodbye. I am *so* glad to have made such a great hiking friend!

Almost immediately after Petra forged ahead, I came to Jefferson Park. It’s a large plain immediately to the north of Mt. Jefferson: full of clear lakes and meadows. I would love to spend several days there, but it was refreshing even to meander along its trails.

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After hiking out of Jefferson Park, the trail begins to climb Park Ridge, gaining 1000 ft in 1.6 miles. It was a push, but it felt good.

Part way up the ridge, I met a Search and Rescue team. They were looking for an overdue backpacker named Riley, last seen in Jefferson Park. They gave me a description and showed me a picture, but I hadn’t seen him. I heard lots of helos yesterday, though. Prayers for him and his family, and the rescuers.

I crested the ridge at almost 7000 ft, and began the descent on the north aspect. There were several large snowfields, and as a person who doesn’t boot-ski, it might have been a problem. But there were loads of kicked-in steps, and I added a few more of my own. No problems at all, just a gentle descent and lots of fun.

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I continued the descent through glacial rock, and lots of wind. After about five miles, I took a snack break, and it was there that I met the second SAR team, who were searching the perimeter around Riley’s car. We chatted briefly. At this writing, he had been reported missing five days ago.

I reached Upper Lake 2041, in the early evening. I set up camp, rinsed out some clothes, and staked out the tent against the wind. I was tired, and needed a hot drink. And I was very, very proud of myself.

Footnote: KGW, a Portland TV station, had reporters in the area where Riley’s car was located, and in the area I passed through. In their story, they briefly interviewed Petra, who was about 90 minutes ahead of me at that point.

Footnote: Riley’s body was found in August, 2019, in a extremely steep glacial area above Jefferson Park. He was recovered on September 3. His father Robin was there at the trailhead, waiting to take his boy back home. 

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