Friday, August 21, 2020

Sisters Mirror Lake

It had been two years, two months, four days, three hours, one minute, and twenty-three seconds between my last backpack trip and this humble trek into the Three Sisters Wilderness. And the backpack trip prior to that occurred so long ago that only Two Sisters existed back then because the Third Sister had not been born yet. It had certainly been a while, for sure. Yet, for some odd reason, I'd been hankering to make myself miserable by carrying a heavy pack for miles and miles. Consequently, I  decided to do an easy hike just to make sure all the right gear was in working order and mostly, just to see if I still remembered how. 

It was blue sky overhead, on the hike out

Because I wasn't trying to challenge myself with an epic test-of-manhood trek, Sisters Mirror Lake became the destination of choice because it wasn't that hard and because the scenery in nearby Wickiup Plain is world class stunning. However, my paper map, a trail sign, and the map on my GPS were not in complete synchronous agreement about the network of trails in the area, causing me to miss the world class scenery part.

Just another dismal day in paradise!

This is the age of Covid-19 and since restaurants, bars, concerts, and other fun mass-gathering diversions are off limits, the next best thing for entertainment is the outdoors. Accordingly, it was with some dismay that I approached Sisters Mirror Lake Trailhead, passing over a mile's worth of cars parked along the roadway. On the fly, I mentally readjusted my intended route and parked at Devils Lake instead, where I was fortunate enough to find a parking spot. It was at this time that I became a proponent of next year's looming expensive permit system designed to limit visitors, as it was just a veritable zoo at every trailhead along the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway. 

The dusty trail beckons

The dusty trail angled steadily uphill as I made my escape from the civilization and cars all wadded up and crammed together in trailhead parking lots. My backpacking muscles, well atrophied from the two-year layoff, were soon complaining. The good news though, was there were little or no mosquitoes in the forest and the temperature was fairly cool with rain predicted for the late afternoon and most of the evening. Nevertheless, the cool temperature did not stop me from becoming as sweaty and smelly as a sock after an evening of racquetball. 

You lie!

The aforementioned trail issue arose at an intersection with (according to the sign) Trail 12.1, the Wickiup Plains Trail. On the map I had printed, Trail 12.1 continued on into Wickiup Plain proper, an amazing barren pumice plain with an up close and personal face-to-face stare-down with South Sister. There was also (on the map) a Trail 12.2 which ran further south but not in Wickiup Plain. However, putting some misplaced faith in the trail sign which clearly said "Wickiup Plains Trail" and "Trail 12.1" both, I grabbed the first path peeling off to the left. 

The view from my campsite

Wrong. The sign had been as wrong as a giraffe with a stiff neck, a fact divined after a couple of miles of hiking in viewless forest with no spectacular volcanic wonders of Wickiup Plain to be seen. I should have heeded the advice of my GPS. As it turned out, I was on the rather nondescript Trail 12.2 instead, which was later confirmed when I ran into the Pacific Crest Trail. At least I was on the right path to Sisters Mirror Lake and after a short walk through forest transitioning to grassy meadows, I arrived at the small lake on a distinctly overcast and darkening afternoon. Camp was set up on a secluded isthmus strategically situated between Sisters Mirror Lake and a small nameless pond. 

Some of the evening's rain collected on a spider web

The rain arrived in the middle of the night and I was toasty warm, all snuggled up in my sleeping bag, falling asleep to the soothing sound of rain falling on my tent fly. The next morning it was a pleasant surprise to find the rainstorm had packed up and left after completing its wet business at Sisters Mirror Lake. And speaking of completing wet business at Sisters Mirror Lake, I may have done some of that too, TMI. 

Mornings like this are why I backpack

Sisters Mirror Lake was eminently tranquil and quiet, mirrorlike even, and the tip of South Sister did reflect nicely on the lake’s perfectly still and glassy surface. Small clouds of steam hovered over the lake in places, and sunbeams lit up the misty clouds in a scene that only a poet could adequately describe. Me, I just said "Ooh, wow!" and just let my camera do the talking for me.

South Sister would have been cooler from Wickiup Plain, just sayin'

After a hearty breakfast, it was back the way I came, the only change from the day before being that the sky was clear instead of overcast with dark and moody clouds. Accordingly, on the way out I could actually see some of South Sister here and there along with House Rock, a prominent landmark off to one side of Wickiup Plain. I'm glad to report I don't feel like any gear had been forgotten so obviously I still remember how to pack a backpack. While the hike was not particularly challenging, I wasn't overly tired so my legs are still capable of moving His Flabbiness along the trail for a moderate trek, meaning there’s a distinct probability of more backpack trips in my future. But for now, it was mission accomplished, over and out!

A small pond next to my campsite

For more photos of this weekend backpack trip, please visit the Flickr album.

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