Day 133: These Sisters Are Serious Volcanoes

We’d heard about the Sisters several hundred miles ago, a set of three striking mountains in relatively close proximity somewhere in Oregon. I wasn’t quite sure exactly where they were until today, when we came around a corner and suddenly it was obvious that that’s exactly what we were seeing — the first of the Sisters. The funny thing is that I didn’t necessarily recognize them from pictures per se; rather, they’re by far the biggest and most impressive mountains around here, and I was pretty sure that was what we were looking at.

The Sisters are a very popular area to hike in, which means that we saw many more “weekend” hikers today than we had in a long time. (PCT hikers, perhaps unfairly, tend to use the word “weekend” to describe any hiker hiking less than, say, a couple of hundred miles.) We saw single folks, couples, a group of Boy Scouts, all out doing various legs of trails around here or doing the big loop around the base of the Sisters. It was kind of nice, in many ways, to see people other than just fellow PCT hikers, which is most of the company we’ve had for quite a while.

(Being around the Sisters today also was a reminder of just how far we’re hiking every single day these days, too. I’d imagined us slowly progressing past the Sisters over the course of a week or so, but early today we glimpsed South Sister from a distance…and this evening we’re camped well north of North Sister, with Middle Sister in between. It’s kind of crazy to look in the distance and realize that we really do come that far every single day.)

Late this afternoon, the trail suddenly took us into very beautiful, truly new terrain. We crossed into the “Obsidian Limited Entry Area”, a rare part of this National Forest that requires a special permit to enter — although PCT hikers don’t need it, we’re prohibited from camping in this area. I soon saw why: the trail shifted rapidly from ordinary ground to crossing red volcanic rock, with black, glass-like obsidian rock scattered everywhere. From a distance, it looked like the ground glittered, as if someone had smashed many glass bottles everywhere, but it was the natural rock, glinting in the sun in a million different places. It’s beautiful and unlike anything else we’ve seen. (And, yes: White Walkers, beware!)

We spent the remainder of the evening climbing up and over giant piles of red volcanic rock, with black rocks scattered among them and piles of obsidian from time to time. It’s almost like being on the Moon, it’s such an outlandish landscape here. I know this is another one of the memories I’ll take with me and keep always after this hike — this unusual, wildly different place hidden away in the middle of Oregon.

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