I went to get water for coffee and found the lake was frozen solid! Oops.
That’s how cold it was last night. I had water in my hydroflask (one of the reasons I’m carrying it is to have unfrozen water in the morning) I could use, but I guess I couldn’t have prevented any other water in my tent from freezing due to the deep penetrating cold. I had stayed warm during the night though….my 5 degree quilt was worth every penny!! (It might have literally been 5 degrees last night). Getting my tent stakes out of the frozen ground proved to be a task. I had to dig and pry, but finally they were all out, although some were a little bent.
I warmed up quick though as I climbed towards the first pass, marveling at the frozen landscape around me, and trying not to slip on the frozen ice just below the snow. The sun hit and felt rejuvenating.
I can’t adequately put into words what this 20+ mile crest trail is like. It hangs on the top or near the top of granite peaks. It unveils the world below and I had views over to the Wallowas where I started and the Strawberries where this route ends near John Day. For a while Strawberry Mountain’s 9,000′ peak stood above a layer of clouds and appeared to be floating in the sky. Everything about the day and the hike was almost unbelievable. I will 100% be back here, and couldn’t believe I was hiking in this splendor for the first time.
The cold prevented me from taking long breaks, but it started to ease some by mid day. It was the wind that was the biggest chilling factor, and any time I wanted to pause or stop I had to find a windbreak so I didn’t turn into a She-ra popsicle. Once I exited the North Fork John Day Wilderness the snow started to melt out a little, and I actually found flowing water over the trail to supplement my meager supply.
The crest trail kept giving, and didn’t ask for anything in return until the end of the day when my tired leg didn’t quite clear a boulder I was stepping over and I ended up leaving some shin skin as a tribute, the blood running into my sock. A small price to pay for the experience!
As I approached Rock Creek Butte, mountain goats were everywhere! Their thick shaggy coats were brilliant white and were the key to their survival in this steep rocky place. Baby goats ran to catch up with their families and I felt very lucky to share the trail with them.
My destination was Twin Lakes which sat in the shadow of a deep mountain cirque, but when I spied the lakes they looked cold. Real cold. Snow was still on the ground around them, and I doubted the deep pocket they were sitting in had gotten much sun at all during the day. I wanted a warmer night if possible, so I passed them by and went another mile or so until I found a little grotto of trees with just enough space for me and my tent. I was exhausted, but I was happy with my decision as the air felt noticeably warmer. My gauges were off though, because things in the tent started freezing and I still felt warm. Extreme cold puts everything into perspective!
I had a multiple course dinner…I’d be getting to Sumpter tomorrow, my last resupply stop, and was trying to eat as much of the food I was carrying as I could. I’ve rolled into each resupply stop with some food left, which is not bad. I’m hungry, but not ravenous…the hiker hunger usually kicks in around a month or so on the trail, basically when all of your fat reserves are gone, and I wasn’t quite there yet. It’s dangerous though to enter the holiday season as we are with an insatiable appetite.
It was another fabulous day on the Blue Mountains Trail!