Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trip Report: Obsidian Trail/Middle Sister Adventure

Trip Report from Sept. 20/21, 2010.  Bold print below corresponds to video time points.  Read along and when you get to a bold time point press play 'til you get to the time on the video.  This way you can "see" exactly what I'm describing in the TR.

Kohl & I got a chance to hike the beautiful Obisidian Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness of the Cascades last week.  We left town early afternoon on Monday and spent one night in the wilderness before coming home late Tuesday evening.  This trip was very last minute and we didn't know we'd be going until about 2 hours before our departure.  However, Kohl & I had both hiked this trail in 2008 with our partners and I felt comfortable with our plans.  I'm telling you this because it will make you say "oh, that's what happened" later...

We arrived at the Trailhead about 4 p.m. to find about three other cars in the parking lot (:01).  We knew we didn't have a lot of time to hike as it would be getting dark just before 8 p.m. or so.  We hit the trail and quickly ascended through the very wet (it was misting on us as we started our hike (:12) forest, noting many mushrooms and unique plants along the way.  After about 2 hours or so we exited the forest and encountered a fantastic sight; a lava flow (:21)!  This flow was only about 1/4 mile in width but we were happy to have a change of scenery and a chance to view the North Sister.  Unfortunately she was out of sight when we got around the corner but the change of pace was nice nonetheless (:29).

After finishing our stint on the lava flow we headed back into the woods.  At this point in the trip we were at a fork in the trail (:33).  Go left and we'd continue on toward our planned campsite, making a summit attempt the following morning very probable.  Go straight and we'd end up an hour or so later at Obsidian Falls, along Obsidian Creek, and not where we wanted to be.  So we went straight- oops!  We didn't know until the following morning that we were making this mistake, so we tromped off happily into the woods looking for a nice place to eat and set up camp.  We discovered more finds, like a pine cone that I at first believed to be a mushroom (:36).

We hiked for another hour or so, every few minutes getting a gorgeous peak of North Sister in the Alpen-glow (:40).  Shortly after it was getting dark enough that my camera wasn't working except for up-close shots.  We decided that we'd take another fork in the trail, this time to Obisidian Falls.  As soon as we got within ear-shot of the whitewater racing down the mountain next to us I started to realize that we'd indeed ended up on the wrong trail.  Up to this point, we felt that it was possible that we just didn't remember the trail that well.  Now we were realizing that we weren't where we wanted to be.  Bummer.  Anyhow, darkness and empty stomachs were the priority at this point, so we raced up the trail to a flat area where we could set up camp.  A few minutes later, we were pitching the tent and starting dinner (:48).  It was cold up here, about 40 degrees I would say and I donned gloves to keep my fingers warm.

After our meal we moved the bags down near the creek to give the bears something to eat other than us, played some rummy and then went to bed.  Sleep was difficult for Kohl I later learned but I was very tired and knocked out quickly.  Something about being in nature always lets me sleep well.  Our original plan was to wake around 5 a.m. to make a mountain summit attempt, but we both decided to hold off until after sunup due to our new found lost-ness.

We awoke around 8 or so and were VERY cold!  Problem was the sun was hitting the rain fly on the tent and melting the ice that had formed overnight.  While I was cold, I was less inclined to get wet so got up and out of the tent in a hurry, unlike Kohl who was already wet AND cold (:53).  Breakfast was oatmeal with fresh-filtered creek water to wash it down (1:02).  We made a decision at this point that I feel now was very wise, but at the time I was quite bummed about.  We knew that we were not where we thought we should be for a summit attempt, so we planned to hike around on the trail we were on until after lunch and then head back to the car, tails between our legs, not attempting to summit Middle Sister.

We broke camp and hiked down below the falls (1:12) to the original trail and headed south away from our Trailhead.  We were quickly greeted with a wonderful view of Middle Sister and lots of plant life that was turning a beautiful fire-red color (1:37).  We hiked about 40 minutes or so from our overnight camp and realized that we could scramble up a nearby ridge for much closer and personal views of the mountain, and possibly see North and South Sisters as well from a higher viewpoint.  We made a good assessment of the trail where we departed on and agreed where we'd head once we were off-trail (1:45).  We scrambled up the loose lava rock ridge and quickly found an amazing view of South Sister (1:57).

After soaking in the view to the south and refueling our bodies with granola bars we decided to go yet further up and to the north to see about views of North Sister.  We really pushed our bodies here and got a great workout to boot as we ascended another 1000' or so up the flanks of Middle Sister (2:09).  The views were astounding and the fact that we hiked above the cloud layer to the west was pretty neat as well (2:13).

After our final ridge was summited we decided to head back down for the trail, which we could see a LONG way down below us (2:32).  After about 45-60 minutes we rejoined the trail and headed back north toward the car.  We made quick work of the trial out of the Wilderness Area and enjoyed a tasty beer at the Trailhead just before 5 o'clock (2:53).  All said, some things went unexpectedly and we did well to communicate to one another when one of us wasn't comfortable doing something.  The trip was definitely a fun one and I was glad to be recreating with Kohl, a friend I hope to share many more backpacking trips with.

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