Monday, August 29th
We wake from our epic perch above Reese lake. I roll onto my back. Mandy looks at me.
“Last night, you didn’t move at all. I thought you died!”
First night’s sleep on trail is always heavy. I am so tired from all the fresh air and exercise, that often I will sleep for 10+ hours the first couple nights until my body adjusts.
I feel great. It’s a cool morning and we are amazed that we had the whole campsite to ourselves. No other campers showed up. We eat our breakfasts and I drink coffee, tea for Mandy. It takes Mandy a long time to pack up but I don’t mind. Well, is she actually slow? Or am I just well practiced from life on the PCT? No matter though. There is plenty of day for our leisurely 13 mile walk to Matthieu lake.
Packed and caffeinated, we’re off, crossing a west facing ridge that is wet from the morning dew. Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and tall grasses kiss our legs with moisture. To the west is a prominent mountain called the Husband. There’s also a mountain north of the sisters called the Brother. There’s a strange family dynamic going on here, if you ask me.
There’s nothing quite like morning time on the trail. The air is cool and crisp, and a delight to walk in. We pass a disheveled thru-hiker eating something out of an old Talenti gelato jar while speed walking. This does not surprise me.
Soon, the sun makes an entrance, poking through the canopy above us. Like a lizard, I can feel my body start to warm. The forest floor is dappled with sunshine. My feet crunch down on the pine needles coating the path; we start a gradual climb up to Obsidian Falls.
The falls are grand and perfect, as if designed by some award winning landscape architect. We snap some pictures and catch our breath. Climbing past the falls, we find a place to rest next to Sister spring, which feeds into the falls. There are several day hikers here, it’s the most people we’ve seen so far. Munching on bits of things from our food bags, Mandy says something funny. I tilt my head back and laugh loudly. A day hiker notices us and comments on our unbridled joy. We look at each other and laugh again.
Soon after, we approach the Collier lava flow, an impressive landscape dotted by hearty evergreens poking optimistically out of the rock. Everything is rocky and sharp. The shape of the lava rocks is chaotic. Each piece with an possible number of sharp edges. The flow is so large and completely lacking in symmetry or order, that it feels otherworldly. I feel my body warm up again – we’re starting the climb to Opie Dilldock pass. The approach is a set of switchbacks up the source of the flow. The red and black rock walls line the trail on both sides. They close us in as we get higher. The rocks which form the tread are grapefruit sized, perfect for rolling one’s ankle. It’s kind of stressful, like a strange dream where nothing is quite right, but you must keep walking, no matter what. It reminds me of a book I read a long time ago, called Hyperion. This place is where the The Shrike would live, his sharp body blending into the scenery.
We finally reach the top of the pass, the landscape is immense. Straight ahead, the Collier Crater juts 2,000 feet into the sky. Ink black rock covers it completely. Somehow, it absorbs the landscape. To the south, a huge valley leads to the Middle Sister. It takes up most of the southern sky, and her biggest glacier – the Collier Glacier seems to defy gravity. It hangs over the rock, creating an enormous shelf of ice. It’s mind bending to see so much recent geology in once place. The eruption must have been insane. Behind us is a tortured landscape of lava as far as the eye can see.
The trail descends, wrapping around 1/2 of the Yapoah Crater. Then, a sparse forest dotted with lava rock, with hearty green plants adorning the rocks. The sun is less intense as they day wanes, and I enjoy the thought of getting to camp and dipping my feet in the water. Mandy will surely go for a swim.
Our home for the night is South Matthieu lake. It is very round and very serene. North sister is ever present, Lynn and Villard glaciers reflect light from the setting sun.
I get a little bit of cell service. I’m flooded with texts asking if we’re ok. I begin to worry – what could have happened?
There was a shooting at a store by our house, and it made national news. A young man with an assault rifle terrorized our local grocery store with bullets and blood. People died.
Fuck. Where is Jon? We go to that grocery store all the time.
I text him: “please let me know you’re ok. I heard there was a shooting at Safeway”
He texts back: “I’m safe, it’s very sad”
I try not to let my mind drift into what-ifs. It’s bad enough that my neighbors died while picking out lettuce, and a man hid his children in an aisle while bullets rained down on them. No, that is bad enough, I tell myself.
Mandy puts on her bathing suit and slinks into the lake. She absolutely loves swimming in alpine lakes. She looks like a mountain mermaid. I, on the other hand, really dislike water. So in an act of bravery, get into the lake all the way to my thighs. It’s not too cold and it feels nice for about….5 minutes.
“Ok, I’m good! Getting out now!” I tell her.
Mandy shakes her head at me, laughs, and then dives back under the water.
We dry our clothes and enjoy dinner with a view of the lake. A couple pass us, looking for a campsite. Soon enough, I am full and tired and eyeing my sleeping bag. I curl into bed and am sleeping before the stars shine.