A very long day today.  Both in terms of miles and the difficulty of those miles.  Of the 29 miles today, probably close to 10 of those were on lava fields.  And for the record, lava fields will obliterate your feet.  My feet would have felt better today if not for the lava.

I woke up at 5:20, but I must have listened to music for too long or took to long with breakfast or something, because I did not hit the trail until 6:20.  Last night started out very cold, but this morning did not seem as cold as yesterday morning for some reason.  Once I got walking the cold came on with a vengeance, though.  As I got down to the lake I was trying to get to last night, it got noticeably colder and everything was covered in a thick frost.  I even passed a group of six or seven hikers all cowboy camping on the same tarp and all of them were covered in frost as well as all of their gear.  Looks like stopping a few tenths up the hill paid off handsomely for me.  I saw frost in the shadows well after 9:30.

The morning stayed cool even out in the large meadows with the sun shining down on me.  I held my hands out to the sun to try to warm them, but it did not work.  The wind erased anything that the sun managed to do in the warmth department.  The views of South Sister mountain were fantastic all morning.  I had seen pictures of this meadow before and always thought it was lush grass.  It turns out it’s dead gravel with just enough green weeds to give the illusion of grass when viewed at a shallow angle.

I managed to get to Obsidian falls for lunch.  I rolled everything out right in front of the falls and cooked away.  It was a nice break and the spring that fed the falls was the coldest spring of the trip by far.  There were multiple springlets all pouring out frigid water headed for the waterfall.  Too bad it had a high iron content, or it would have been the best water on the trail.

Shortly after lunch, the first of the lava fields started.  The first one wasn’t too bad.  It’s treadway was mostly sand and tiny gravel.  It was easy on the feet, but it was a big climb, so it went slowly.  The views were incredible, though.  From the valley, the flows look like eighty foot high piles of rocks.  But from the top of the mountain where they originated, they look like rivers of rock flowing away from the mountain.  Fun to look at, but not fun to walk on.

I still had several miles to go to McKenzie pass and it was near 4 pm and I was tiring, so I made some coffee.  It always does the trick.  Shortly after 4:30, I got a text from Ireland that they were in their hotel.  Good for them, I still had five miles just to get where they went into town from.

The trail was nice, but a mile out from the pass, the lava returned and it was just the perfect size to not be able to walk on it.  That was the longest mile of the day.  It took a while, but I finally made it out to the pass at 6:30.  I was beat and hungry.  There was a van there and several hikers.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but it looked like the father of one of the girls was following her down the trail.  Another girl was going to ride into Bend with them.  They offered me a ride, but I still thought it would be better to hit town from the next pass earlier in the day where I could actually get chores done and not have to stay another day.  I graciously declined.  I have better luck with rides when I am NOT looking for them.  Santiam pass better not be a nightmare hitch.

Two of the other hikers that were there were a mother and son duo and the son couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven.  I know the record is something like seven for the youngest through hiker, but this kid seemed so young to be out here this long.  He seemed to be enjoying it, though.  He had an adult pack that looked absolutely huge on him.

The trail North of the pass was just as bad as South of it.  It was five miles to the next campsite and it looked like at least four would be nasty rocks and a 1000 ft climb to boot.  It was already after 7 PM so this would be a headlight finish to a long day.

The climb up was not bad, but the rocks were.  It seemed every minute I would hit my foot wrong and have shooting pains.  Luckily, it was only three miles of rocks, so I was able to find a campsite high up, but it’s soft and flat and I got there at about 8:20 so I was able to set up camp and start cooking in the waning light.  Wearing flip flops at night always helps and my feet already feel better.  I’m hoping I can find a reasonable place to stay tomorrow to rest up a bit.  I’m looking forward to it.