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Pacific Crest Trail – Day 6 Lolo Pass to Wahtum Lake

Pacific Crest Trail – Day 6 Lolo Pass to Wahtum Lake

on Aug 26, 2014

The next morning we got up and ate a modest breakfast as we were light on water.  We knew one the first things we needed to do in the morning was restock our aqua supply, fortunately it was only 1/4 mile up the trail.

As we headed out we were greeted with the view above.  It was still a little crazy to think that the previous morning we had been on the side of that mountain and had traveled so far.  I enjoyed this view as I knew it was going to be one of the last few views we had of this mountain as we headed toward the Columbia River Gorge and closer to other mountains such as Mt St Helens and Mt Adams.  I felt a little sad leaving Mt Hood as it had provided me with such amazing views, but I figured I still had a lot more to see on the trail so I continued on.

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The water stop to fill all our packs and bottles was just a small stream that went across the trail.  During the few minutes it took to filter all the water we would need for the day I noticed something that made me quite unhappy.  Well, actually 2 things.  My awesome sunglasses I had found the previous day had left me, and there was giant hogweed on the trail, right next to our water source.

Giant hogweed BigNow it’s time for a PSA.  Giant hogweed is a nasty nasty plant.  It looks a lot like a few other plants out there but has lots of hairs on its stalk and some angry looking leaves.  We first encountered this plant on the Oregon Coast when one smacked me in the knee.  I had no idea that there was a problem until a couple days later I had blisters on my leg.

Giant hogweed sap contains toxic chemicals known as furanocoumarins. When these chemicals come into contact with the skin and are exposed to sunlight, they cause a condition called phytophotodermatitis, a reddening of the skin often followed by severe blistering and burns. These injuries can last for several months, and even after they have subsided the affected areas of skin can remain sensitive to light for years. Furanocoumarins are also carcinogenic and teratogenic, meaning they can cause cancer and birth defects.The sap can also cause temporary (or even permanent) blindness if introduced into the eyes.If someone comes into physical contact with giant hogweed, the following steps should be taken:

  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and COLD water as soon as possible.
  • Keep the exposed area away from sunlight for 48 hours.
  • If hogweed sap gets into the eyes, rinse them with water and wear sunglasses.
  • See a doctor if any sign of reaction sets in.

If a reaction occurs, the early application of topical steroids may lessen the severity of the reaction and ease the discomfort. The affected area of skin may remain sensitive to sunlight for a few years, so applying sun block and keeping the affected area shielded from the sun whenever possible are sensible precautions.

Ok, I am done educating now, back to the important stuff.
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We continued on the trail.  It didn’t seem like it was too long before our view of Mt Hood was even farther away.  It seemed like we had traveled impossibly far in such a short amount of time since we were on foot.
IMG_20140726_105441823_HDRBefore long we were passing lost lake.  Today’s hiking was much easier that previous days.  We were climbing some elevation but it was not nearly as steep or as miserable as the switchbacks of hell and since we weren’t climbing up the side of Mt Hood and dropping down into canyons with rivers it seemed almost flat.

The section of trail we were hiking today did have some sections that were getting pretty overgrown with stuff.  We actually ran into a crew that was out clearing the trail.  There was a section where the giant hogweed was quite prevalent and I had to roll down my sleeves and my pant legs so that I wouldn’t come in contact with it.

Eventually we moved out of the woods so much and into some more open section.  It was very pretty and we switched sides of the ridge we were hiking along to the west side.  From here we could see views of Mt St Helens and more towards Portland.  Fortunately we were far enough away we still couldn’t see  any signs of civilization.

We noticed the amount of work that had been done on the trail at this section and were quite impressed.  Where we should have been hiking across jagged rocks and shale it was a nice dirt trail.  There were some sections that looked they could still use some more work, or like we were hiking down an old stream bed but overall it was very well maintained.

We also wondered how they got all the equipment out there to do all this work.  We were quite a ways away from any roads or anything, so that meant they had to hike all their equipment in.  A new respect for those workers was gained and we have talked about volunteering ourselves.

Finally we crested the highest point of the day at Indian Mountain.
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IMG_20140726_145508228The views here were amazing.  We could see Mt. Adams, Mt St Helens, and down the Gorge.

At this point we were all running out of water and knew our next water stop was just down the trail, so after a few pictures we headed back down the hill.

When we got to the Indian Springs camp area Stalker went off to get us some water.  As we sat there and waited we met a few other people that were passing through on day hikes or that had come from Wahtum Lake.  We knew we were close and were excited to have a lake and a nice campsite for the night.

Once we got all our water in order we headed back on the trail.  It was a very nice level hike to the lake but it seemed to take a lot longer than we expected.  I think we thought maybe we were closer or something.  Stalker took off ahead for the next few miles or so.  I tried to keep up but he was on a mission or something.

I have to say I enjoyed the time hiking by myself for that bit.  It was nice to just be in my own head with my own thoughts and not have someone asking how far to the lake, or how far we had gone.  It was even nice to just feel like I was on my own for a bit.  Sure I passed other people on the trail but all I had to do was smile at them and walk on.  It is peaceful hiking by yourself.  You can clear your mind and just take it all in.  Even though there had been long sections of our hikes throughout the days where none of us spoke, I was still acutely aware that they were there and it made things different somehow.  Not to say that I wasn’t glad we were all there together.  I enjoyed our times together, especially at night around the campfires, just as much as my time alone on the trail.IMG_20140726_163211255_HDRFinally we made it to the lake.

I didn’t know this, but apparently Wahtum Lake is the party lake.  Every campsite we found was overrun with people consuming alcohol and hooting and hollering.  We made our way to the other side of the lake and up the hill and found a suitable campsite.

As we were setting up, we had a guy come ask us if we had any beer he could buy from us.  We explained that we had backpacked in and had been on the trail for several days so, no, we did not have any alcohol for him.  He was amazed that people would do that and then trotted off through the woods to the next campsite.

After we got camp set up we went back down to the lake and washed ourselves off and enjoyed the frigid lake water.

That night we enjoyed a nice hot meal, had some great conversation and enjoyed our life on the trail that unfortunately only had one day left.