August 30, 2012

Visitors in the night along the PCT

Cathedral Rocks and Mt. Jefferson

On an early July morning I walked into Pamelia Lake, located in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, planning on spending the night somewhere in the wilderness. A spongy, needle laden trail beneath giant Douglas firs led me to the lake, where I was greeted by an abundance of blooming rhododendrons.


I sat on a log near the lake’s shoreline for a while and watched trout rise to the lake's calm surface, feeding on the abundant insects flittering about. I don’t know why, but the water brought along that morning tasted especially good, so much so that the bottle was soon empty. It was time to replenish from a wild source.

The lake’s water level was low, so the forest litter floating in the lake was condensed, making it difficult to collect water without some forest debris sneaking into my water container. So, after collecting a mixture of water, leaves, pine needles and a little silt, I popped a few iodine tablets into the murk, waited a bit, then gagged it down. I had yet to learn that a handkerchief or bandana used as a strainer worked great to keep gathered water debris-free.

I pulled out my map and studied where I had come from and where I was headed. After putting it away, I shouldered my backpack once again and strode up the trail toward Hunts Cove.

 Part of Hunts Cove

I stopped briefly at Hanks Lake then continued on to nearby Hunts Lake, laid out my sleeping bag to lounge on and took in the sights. A forest ranger, hiking to Marion Lake for the weekend, stopped to say hello. She told me about how Marion Lake had become a zoo on the weekends and that its overuse was becoming a major concern. Her job was to make sure people followed the wilderness rules. Not easy for one person at a party of 300 others.


After spending a good share of the day at Hunts Lake, I backtracked and took a switchback trail connecting with the PCT at the 5,600' level. I followed the PCT along spectacular Cathedral Ridge, where a view of Hunts Lake appears hundreds of feet below. After passing a few tarns as the sun set, I once again laid out my sleeping bag a few hundred feet off the trail and fell asleep.

 Hunts Lake from the PCT

Later that night I awoke to what I’ll describe as muted thuds occurring in a rapid succession. I didn't move, realizing the thunderous alarm was coming from the same direction I was staring. My eyes, not needing to adjust much in the forest partially lit by the nearly full moon, latched onto a deer herd as they appeared from the trees and ran down a small hill directly toward me. They then hesitated, but continued to creep closer.


I decided to play a little game, seeing how close the deer would come before they noticed me stretched out across their path. I remained still, keeping my eyes open, never really thinking they'd walk over the top of me. But they kept coming. Finally, as they moseyed no more than 7 or 8 feet from me, I sat up. They scattered, like cottonwood seeds in the wind. I think they actually would have walked right over me if I hadn’t moved.
 Intersection with the PCT near Cathedral Rocks

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