Day 125: Fire Everywhere

August 17, 2017: Hiked 16.8 miles on Three Sisters fire detour

We woke up around 4:30 this morning to a howling wind. I sat up and looked outside and the sky was crystal clear. The stars were so bright and the moon lit up the entire sky. We fell back asleep for a couple hours and awoke to a cold, sunny morning. 

We hiked the rest of the way around Green Lakes and had the most incredible view of South Sister. 

As we hiked on a little further, we came into view of the Middle and North Sisters too.

It was nice to finally be out of the thick forest of trees and have a view.  The trail has been getting a bit monotonous lately and it was nice to change things up. 

Through the morning we hiked closer and closer to the smoke plume which seemed to be getting pushed pretty hard to the east by the wind. 

We went through an old burn area for awhile:

And came upon another fire closure:

Or a party by the looks of the flagging. Fire party?

We got onto another trail here and got even closer to the fire to the point where we could see the actual smoke plume. 

At one point we looked back at South Sister and suddenly it looked a lot smokier than it had this morning. 

We weren’t sure if it was smoke from this fire wrapping around the valley or from a new fire that started behind us. 

We made it down to the Poles Creek trailhead where we were close enough to see tankers and copters flying around.

We started our road walk portion of the detour down forest service road 15 and the smoke was so thick it looked like dusk even though it was only a little past noon.

The view behind us was starting to disappear too.

We made it a few miles down the road where we came upon a creek and decided to stop for lunch. As we were sitting there about 10 feet off the road, a sheriff truck barreled by going about 50 miles an hour heading the direction we had just come from, leaving us in a cloud of dust. About 10 minutes later he came back the other way going just as fast. We wondered if he was possibly evacuating the trail head, but we didn’t even have a chance to jump up and stop him to ask with how fast he was going. 

We got up from lunch and hiked on a little further where we found a few fire personnel and pickups on the road. They asked us where our car was and when we told them it was nowhere nearby, they explained that the fire was making a huge push in our direction and was only about a half mile away so they had closed down the road we were walking on to fire off of it to hopefully stop the spread. They kinda looked at us like lost puppy dogs so I finally said,  “Well what do you want us to do, wait around here?” And then they finally remembered that they had trucks and could probably drive us off the road. The incident commander told us to jump in his truck which was completely full so I offered that we could sit in the bed and he agreed telling us we probably didn’t want to sit inside with all his smelly gear anyways. Hahaha. He must not have got a whiff of us yet.

We sped down the bumpy road and tried to hang on. 

The IC dropped us off at Highway 242 and even gave us a couple bottles of water. We let him know that there were probably going to be a bunch more hikers coming through since this was still listed at the alternate on the PCT website.

We crossed the highway and tried to hitchhike west back to the PCT for about half an hour before a lady drove by and told us the highway was closed seven miles up, before you could even get close to the trail. Man, we just can’t catch a break. So we turned around and hiked into the town of Sisters where we found out the highway was going to be closed for a long time. 

So we changed our plans. We picked up some more groceries and found out from our cashier that they had started evacuating part of the town of Sisters. We headed out to Highway 20 to try our luck at hitching on a different road, hoping this one wouldn’t suddenly catch fire too. But we were in luck. The highway stayed open and a nice lawyer from Bend picked us up. He is also a search and rescue volunteer so he knew all about where we were hiking and we had fun telling him about the trail and hearing about the rescues he’s been on. He took us up Highway 20 and even drove us five miles off the highway down to the Big Lake Youth Camp where we had a package waiting for us.

We passed a huge incident base for the fires on the way in so I’m guessing these closures are going to be in effect for awhile. 

The youth camp was awesome. 

They are super hiker friendly and let us shower, do laundry, and eat with them and all the compensation is donation-based. They even have a little hiker hangout where there are hiker boxes and charging stations. They also let us set up camp by the lake. There were a bunch of other hikers there too, so we chatted for a bit about the closures and then took a quick shower and dropped our clothes off to get washed in the morning. 

We went down to the lake and set up our tent on a beautiful beach and ate dinner as the sun set. 

Tomorrow we’re going to attempt to hike out of here back up to the highway, where we’ll have up hitch once again to get around the next fire closure. And Oregon, the “easiest” of the three states is proving to be the hardest of them all.

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3 thoughts on “Day 125: Fire Everywhere

  1. A couple friends from Redding, Ashley and Shawn (who know you from the brew pub where you used to work), pointed me to your blog when you started your hike.

    It’s the best!

    I’ve been planning to hike the 3 Sisters area with Ashley’s dad in a couple weeks. Your info on the fires is very helpful…

    Safe travels,
    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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