Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness
Day 1: Arrival day! Mike and Phoebe arrived at the Sea-Tac Airport two hours before our first student was scheduled to arrive and staked out a spot near baggage claim 2. Everyone arrived safe and sound and we all enjoyed a lunch of PB&J, grapes, and pretzels. As soon as all our students (or adventurers, as we like to call them) were present and their baggage claimed, we moved to a more secluded area and did our gear check: everything was emptied out of their packs and we went through the packing list item by item to make sure we had everything. Once that was completed, we drove to a nearby REI to pick up some last minute gear. Then we began our drive towards Oregon! We drove about two hours south to Seaquest, a campsite near Mount St. Helen’s. On the van ride, we played Mafia and also a few rounds of Never Have I Ever, in which we learned that both Flavie and Danny have eaten bugs in the past. Once we arrived at our campsite, we went through a tent set-up/take down demo, and then held a competition to see who could set up their tent the fastest. It was close, but the girls’ team won, clocking in at 5:01! Then we talked about trailer and van maintenance and how to use the Coleman stove. Next it was time for our first dinner together: a simple, no-cook meal of subs, salad and chips. After dinner, we gathered for our first evening circle around the picnic table. While enjoying our cocoa and cookies, we shared our Roses, Thorns, and Buds of the day, and then went over the responsibilities of the Leader of the Day. Nathan boldly volunteered to be our first leader of the day, and we handed the signature alarm clock off to him. Next we all went around and talked about our goals and aspirations for the trip. We had bought a strand of colorful Tibetan prayer flags before the trip started, and each adventurer wrote their goals on a flag in permanent marker. We will hang the flags in every campsite we stay in the remind us of our goals. Since we were all pretty tired from a day of travel, we brushed our teeth and then headed to bed, excited for the upcoming trip.
Day 2: Today was mainly a travel and prep day for our backpacking section that starts tomorrow! We packed up camp this morning super-quick, so we headed to the Mount St. Helen’s visitors center across the street. We talked about the student contract while admiring the majestic Mount St. Helen’s in the background. Then we watched a short informational video about the volcano and explored the museum a little bit. Then we were off, continuing on or way to Oregon! While driving, we played many games of Contact, and Andrew stumped us all (for hours) with a very tricky riddle. We stopped for a picnic lunch and then continued on our way. We arrived at our campsite, Tumulo State Park, in the afternoon and then began our backcountry prep. Everyone was very focused and efficient so we got it done in no time. Cook crew prepared a delicious meal of tortellini and salad, and after we ate, we had evening circle, in which we went over our route for our backpacking trip. We also did a trust-building activity with some p-cord, and had Danny volunteer to be leader of the day. After circle, we brushed our teeth and headed to bed!
Day 3: Today was our first day of backpacking in the Three Sisters Wilderness of beautiful Oregon. We were met by Mark from Cog Wild Shuttle Service at 8am and then we drove about 40 minutes through some stunning Ponderosa pine forests and incredible lava fields to our trailhead, Lava Camp. Then we were off! We hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail all day, through towering pine trees, along the edges of lava fields from 8000 years ago, across snow patches, in meadows of wildflowers, and up mountain passes. It was amazing! Even though it was a long and pretty tiring hike, everyone stayed positive and they were so supportive and encouraging of one another. We reached our campsite at Sawyer Bar, tired but happy, around 4:30. We set up camp and Katherine kindly filled and then purified every single person’s water bottles, an act greatly appreciated by all. Then we all did yoga led by Phoebe under the clear blue sky with a view of the mountains in sight. Everyone needed a good stretch and bit of relaxation after our challenging hike. Then we made and ate a tasty meal of jambalaya with veggies and sausage. After dinner, we had cocoa and evening circle, and then we all crawled onto a small outcropping of rocks to get a view of the jaw-dropping sunset. It was a good time for some group pictures! After a few games of cards, including a rather competitive game of Mao Mao taught to us by Danny, we got into our tents, warm and cozy and dreaming of more splendid days to come in the Three Sisters.
Day 4: Today we awoke to clear blue skies and bright sun at our campsite near Sawyer Bar. Katherine, our leader of the day awoke early and got water boiling for breakfast and then woke everyone else up. We packed up our sleeping bags and pads and then ate breakfast. We cleaned up camp and were hiking by 9:15! Once again, the landscape and scenery were absolutely breathtaking-one mile we’d be hiking through forests of towering pine trees and the next we’d pop out into wide open valleys, framed by glacier-topped peaks with huge, sparkling fields of obsidian tumbling down their sides. It was awesome. We stopped for several water breaks by pristine glacier-fed streams and enjoyed lunch in the shade of a pine forest. Toward the end of our hike, wedging out for a while at Reese Lake, swimming in the cold water and then warming up on the hot rocks. Once at camp, we set up tents and then did another yoga class, with a perfect view of the South Sister directly in front of us. Cook crew made a great rice and bean stew, and after dinner we had a shortened evening circle (due to the onslaught of mosquitos). We hurried into one tent to escape the bugs and played some cards and then it was off to bed!
Day 5: This morning we awoke to another bright and sunny day. Flavie, our leader of the day, woke up early to boil water and then woke up everyone else. We ate breakfast and packed up camp, and then began hiking. Our hike started on a trail snaking through moss covered trees and last mountain streams surrounded by fragrant, purple wildflowers. The landscape changed dramatically as we hiked past huge ancient lava flows in wide, dry meadows. We hiked so fast that we were in camp by 2:30pm! Our campsite was right next to Moraine Lake, so we spent a few hours swimming, talking, reading and napping. We had a tasty dinner of penne pasta with cheese and sauce. After dinner, we got our bags ready for our summit attempt of the South Sister tomorrow, and then had evening circle. Then we played some cards and headed to bed, visualizing ourselves on the summit tomorrow!
Day 6: Today we summitted the South Sister! We got up really early and ate a quick breakfast, and drank A LOT of water. Then we packed up our day packs with rain gear, lunch and snack food, warm jackets, and water bottles, and headed out of camp. The approach trail began through rolling meadows as we made our way to the base of the mountain, towering above it. It was hard to believe that we would soon be on top of it! For four miles we climbed and climbed, the trail getting progressively rockier and steeper. It was strenuous and challenging, but everyone supported and encouraged one another as we made our way, slowly but surely, to the top. After 4 1/2 hours of steady climbing, we made it to the summit! At 10,358 feet, the views were incredible! We ate lunch on top, feeling proud. Then we made our way down the mountain, which went much quicker than going up! When we got to camp at 2:30, we had plenty of time to hang out by the lake, swimming and napping. Cook crew made a great dinner of cous-cous and veggies, and after dinner we had evening circle while gazing upon the distant summit of the South Sister. After circle, we plate cards and then went to bed, tired but feeling very accomplished.
Day 7: Today we finished our backpacking section and are currently in Bend, showering, doing laundry, and grocery shopping. Tomorrow we will begin our two-day rafting trip, which we are all excited for.