Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Twins

"Double the pleasure, double the fun, The Twins are fun for everyone!" I may have missed my calling as a jingle writer but then again, I'd have to learn music and lose my self-respect, but on the other hand it would pay the bills. And moving right along from inane rhymes to the far more serious topic of hiking, this was Getaway Day of the campout at Odell Lake and just as I broke up the long drive to the campground by hiking to Bobby Lake, I decided to break up the long drive back home with yet another hike in the Waldo Lake area.

Trail sign at the intersection with the PCT

The Twin Peaks Trail is basically Bobby Lake Trail's neighbor from a parallel universe, meaning that the two trails were only about four miles apart but travel in parallel to each other, and never shall the trails meet. Each trail begins from the Waldo Lake Road, both cross the Pacific Crest Trail, and both head due east to reach their respective destinations. Each spends several miles in dry and dusty forest with nary a view to be had but there the similarities end. The Bobby Lake Trail is relatively level while the Twin Peaks Trail is most assuredly the very antithesis of level.

It was a dusty slog for the first several miles

The soils in the Waldo Lake area are volcanic in nature and in keeping with the theme of this week's hiking, my legs were soon covered with a thick layer of volcanic dust. Within a mere quarter-mile of the trailhead, the path inclined sharply and I began having 
glute-burning flashbacks to the last time I was here. Apparently, the trail hasn't gotten any less steep during my extended absence. At ground level, it looked and felt like it was just another slog up through a forested grade but the reality was that the trail was actually climbing the slopes of The Twins. 

A pond of stagnant water provides succor for mosquitoes

After a mile or two of thankless toil on the slopes of The Twins, the trail crossed the Pacific Crest Trail heading to either Charlton Lake or Bobby Lake, depending on your direction of travel. If anything, the path had become even steeper in grade as it slogged on ever upward through a densely shaded forest. In testament to the geologic origins of the (relatively) small peak, basaltic formations of gray and black rock flanked either side of the trail. Also flanking the trail were a series of small stagnant ponds and sparse meadows, the meadows sprouting where there once were shallow puddles before summer's heat dried them out.

Just about on the crater's rim

And just like that, the forest ended and the trail charged madly up a slope comprised of inch-high grass. Just when you thought it couldn't get any steeper, it did, but I was by now fully committed to reaching the two summits. After a hot and sweaty bit of hiking, the grass thinned out and then it was all red, brown, and ochre pumice and small rocks as the footpath finally reached the rim.

Wildfire smoke occluded the view of Waldo Lake

The Twins (or Twin Peaks) implies there are two completely separate summits independent of each other. That indeed is sort of correct but really, the two summits are just a pair of high-points on the rim of a single volcanic crater. The first twin is the smaller of the two and it sits on the north end of the rim. It was with some eagerness that I reached the top of the first twin, fully anticipating a stunning and expansive vista from Waldo Lake to the Three Sisters.

A spectral South Sister looms in the distance

If I squinted hard, I could maybe and just barely make out either of those landmarks, surprising because Waldo Lake in particular was really very close to the summit and should have been easily visible. Unfortunately though, large areas of California were aflame and a white cloud of haze was hiding Bend and the rest of central Oregon from view. Closer to home, fires had broken out 
in the Opal Creek Wilderness, on the slopes of Mount Jefferson, and in the Sweet Creek area of the Coastal Range. I'm not sure which one of those fires were contributing the layer of dirty brown smoke but it may have been a combination of all of them. 

If nothing else, The Twins are colorful

At any rate, the haze and smoke did detract from the would-be view. Despite the limited visibility though, it was still kind of awesome in its own little opaque fashion. South Sister, Bachelor Butte, and nearby Charlton Butte were all visible in a spectral ghostlike smoky way. Charlton Lake and several large reservoirs to the east accented the dark forests covering the land between peaks. Huge Waldo Lake sprawled right below the smaller of The Twins, a great big sapphire hole in the forest tapestry covering the volcanic terrain.

The path climbs up to the taller of the two Twins

A short walk to the taller Twins summit provided some sense of closure and the same views but with the addition of Diamond and Maiden Peaks to the south. Gold and Bobby Lakes kowtowed and prostrated themselves at the feet of their respective mountains, demonstrating utmost reverence for those greater than themselves. And always, the view from either Twin provided a look at the colorful rocks of and soils of the other Twin.

A sparse prairie between Twins

All good things come to an end, though and so it was with this hike. On the way down, I ran into several groups of mountain bikers on foot, laboriously pushing their bikes upward, breathing heavily as they did so. Good, I was thinking it was just me but maybe the trail really was as steep as it felt.

Gold Lake grovels at the feet of Diamond Peak

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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