Friday and Saturday, 17-Sept-2021 and 18-Sept-2021
“One does not simply walk into Mordor”, Boromir said to the council.
“The Lord of Gondor speaks truly”, said Ben, “But one can walk through it, if one is quick and keeps their wits about them”
“Ohh.”, Boromir responded.
I’m not saying that’s 100% how it happened… but that’s probably exactly how it happened.
How what happened? Ohh, how Laurel and I walked through Mordor, of course!
We’d spent the week checking the weather and debating different hikes to try. Originally we’d planned on spending three days hiking into Green Lakes, in the Sisters Wilderness, before we’d realized that permits stopped being required the next month, and not that month. Then, we looked at a few hikes in Washington… but they had rain all weekend long.
The weather out in the Pacific Northwest is fickle though, so we kept our wits about us and kept checking the forecast, ’till we finally found a spot with available permits and a clear-ish weather window: the Western edge of the Sisters Wilderness, across the ridgeline from our original goal!
We cut the trip down to two days, thanks to the rain, but aside from that we kept the plan similar – meet up early on Friday (I’d have pancakes ready and waiting, of course), and then hike into camp before sundown on Friday. Then enjoy the sound of rain on the tent Saturday morning, before hiking out as the rain started in earnest.
The plan went as… well, as planned. Chocolate Chip pancakes with Bacon, some coffee, and a relatively normal 3hr drive brought us to the trailhead. Good conversations were had both in the car and on the path, though the trail did put a bit of a damper on conversation as we got into the burnt area of the wilderness.
Did I mention that part? The online trail description mentioned that there were a few miles in the middle that had been part of a wildfire, but… as can be expected, the trail description didn’t quite convey just how burnt this was. We’re not talking “lightly singed” trees, here. We’re talking scorched earth, blackened deadwood. The forest had been regrowing over the past two years, of course, but it was still noticeably dusty and devastated… a fact which added quite a bit of solemnity to the hike.
We persevered, though.
Walking through the burn was a good meditation aid, but I’ll freely admit that I was quite thankful to get through and back to living forests. Both Laurel and I had a rough time of it; burning through our water much more quickly than expected, between us and making sure Biscuit had enough to drink… the sun was warm, and the trail was dusty, and the views seemed to sap our energy as we continued through…
Until, finally, we came through Mordor to the other side… our destination, Husband Lake
It’s interesting – I’ve hiked in the Sisters Wilderness many times before, but I’d never heard of a mountain called “The Husband” before. It’s nestled to the West of the main Three Sisters, in a parallel valley to the Green Lakes valley. There’s a series of small lakes, and the PCT even goes through the valley a little ways to the East.
It’s beautiful, barely travelled, and… I don’t quite get why it’s not as popular. As you can see, dear reader, we may have gotten some stellar views as we unpacked, set up camp, and the sun dipped down toward the horizon.
Laurel, being the MVP that she is, had insisted on carrying my inflatable kayak. We’re heading to a lake, so clearly we needed to be able to paddle it, right? Right.
I’ve used the kayak quite a few times before, but this was my first time using it on a proper backpacking trip… and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing. Quietly sitting on the lake as the sun sent light scattering through the clouds and smoke? Gorgeous.
Laurel set up the tent while I paddled, then she paddled off while I filtered the water and started prepping dinner… it was gloriously chill, and an amazing post-hike start to the evening.
The only one unhappy with the situation was Biscuit, I’m sorry to report. He was definitely not a fan of the humans splashing into the distance where he couldn’t check on them, and so stayed as close to the kayak as he could on the shore… after swimming for a while, of course. But it was cold, and he’s a svelt pup, so we quickly dried him off and bundled the poor dear up while we cooked dinner, drank wine, and chatted on into the night…
The next morning dawned exactly as we’d expected – to the pittering sound of rain on the tent.
There’s something gloriously relaxing about waking up on a cool morning in the rain. It wasn’t quite cold, thanks to having three people in the tent… well, two people and one dog… and the sound of the rain was just inconsistent enough that it was both soothing and interesting at the same time.
I lay, drifting in and out of sleep, for quite a while… It was lovely, and absolutely what I’d been hoping for when we talked about going backpacking. But, after a little bit, I started to feel restless… and found myself outside, braving the rain to do a bit of exploring and to make a bite of breakfast.
We’d packed coffee, instant eggs, cheese, and some tortillas… nothing too fancy, mind, but enough that it was lovely and fun, and just enough work to assemble that we had something to do in the warm dryness of the tent. I’d been tempted to just push through the rain, but Laurel insisted on waiting for a bit… I wasn’t convinced that the rain would hold off, but hanging out in the tent was fun, and she’d put up with me pushing us onward the day before… so turnabout is fair play, and we spent an hour or two just relaxing and chatting in the warm dry spot in the storm.
She was right, it turned out. The rain slowed, then stopped completely.
We headed out into the world, packed up, and got ourselves underway back toward the truck. The hike out was long, and definitely wet, but also beautiful. It was easier to chat, since the trail wasn’t quite so dusty, and the fine mist helped keep us cool… cool enough that we didn’t really want to slow down much, as we made our way down the trail.
It was lovely – a major shift in climate from the day before, but an excellent ending to an excellent hike.
Trail map: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/oregon/foley-ridge-trail
Foley Ridge trailhead permit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/recarea/?recid=4435&actid=104
Distance (Expected) = 14.6 miles, plus 1mile to the lake
Distance (measured on FitBit) = 22+ miles
Elevation (expected) = 2,368 ft
Elevation (measured on Fitbit) = 2,520 ft