Minnie Scott Springs to Mesa Creek – 14.2 miles
My thirteenth day on trail was a trek through a geologists dream. Three Sisters Wilderness is full of volcanic heritage including miles of lava rock, obsidian, and mountain views.
Erin and I woke up to cloudy and drizzly skies. It was quite an abrupt and unexpected change from the previous couple of day’s hot and sunny weather. While not entirely unwelcome, the clouds hid some of the mountain peaks from our view. I supposed it couldn’t be perfect absolutely every day of my adventure!
We got a decently early start and were soon clambering over jagged lava rock to reach a pass on the northwest flank of the North Sister. From there we had a couple downhill miles to reach a unique section of the Three Sisters Wilderness – the Obsidian Limited Entry Area. The local forest service has been restricting access to the popular hiking area for nearly 20 years in order to allow nature to reclaim the trampled ground and of course to preserve the area for generations to come.
The fascinating part of this section of trail is the prevalence of sharp and shiny obsidian glass. Obsidian is pretty rare as it occurs only where geologic processes create volcanoes and where the chemical composition of the magma is rich in silica.
Besides walking over shards of glinting obsidian, highlights of the zone include high obsidian cliffs, waterfalls, and crystal-clear creeks. The PCT crosses through the very east end of the area, and due to the permit restrictions we had to stay within the PCT corridor. Even still we got a good taste of what the area held, including a chance to marvel at the lovely Obsidian Falls. We actually ended up sitting out a downpour under some big trees beside the falls. There are worse places to get caught in the rain!
Exiting the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, we hiked a couple miles through forest on the upper edge of a large meadow valley then ascended to a rocky plateau to the west of Middle Sister. The peak was hiding in the clouds but the sky was slowly starting to clear up. As we made our way across the plateau we had great views of nearby Husband Peak.
At some point in the afternoon we met up with a couple northbound hikers, one of whom seemed vaguely familiar. It was the thru-hiking vlogger Dixie. Erin and I had both spend time watching videos on her popular YouTube channel “Homemade Wanderlust.” It was fun to chat for a few moments with her and her hiking partner.
For the last few miles of the day our feet were treated to a soft, sandy trail as we descended about 500 feet through a thin and sometimes burnt forest. About a mile from our camp we crossed through an absolutely beautiful meadow and then ascended a ridge just to the southwest of South Sister.
Unfortunately our proximity to more meadows meant we were hounded by ferocious blood-sucking mosquitoes. Bug spray could only do so much and we quickly set up and jumped into our tents, leaving the rain flies open so we could still chat. We also broke a cardinal rule of the back country and ate our dinners in our tents (don’t worry though, we cooked them outside!)
Erin and I had covered a lot of ground that day, through varied terrain and with lots of ups and downs. We were both feeling pretty exhausted, me from the continuous trudge of the trail, and Erin from discovering new muscles! However we had each other to buoy our spirits and were looking forward to a good next day on trail.