Tuesday, July 29, 2014

South Sister Weekend Excursion

Fact: at 10,358 feet, South Sister is the third tallest mountain in Oregon.
Fact: South Sister is a nontechnical hike.
Fact: everyone knows South Sister is a nontechnical hike.
Final fact (is this played out yet?): everyone climbs South Sister in July.

This was my experience this past weekend, at least. Nevertheless, this hike was a real stunner and the crowds did not detract at all from the experience.

Even this jaded Alaskan had nothing bad to say. In the background are (according to people who don't really know that much about Oregon) the other Sisters, Three Fingered Jack, Jefferson, and Hood. 

Unfortunately, this also means that I'm ruined; I'm 99% certain that nothing else in Oregon can live up to South Sister, and I'm already mad about it. But hey, better to have experienced than blah blah blah, right?

Let's rewind to Friday. We didn't leave Eugene until 5:00 p.m. because of various work commitments (work commitments and responsibilities? What's that?) and, because climbing a mountain isn't adventure enough, without a campsite! We very nearly paid dearly for that mistake. Which, I'd like to add, wasn't my doing. I was all for reserving a campsite but was told that campgrounds abound in the area and there was no possibility of us not finding something. Well, I suppose that turned out to be true, but only because we slept at a horse camp.

Have you ever heard of a horse camp? I hadn't. It's just a campground with corrals at each site for (duh) horses. I'm not sure what horse camp etiquette is but apparently it's not camping without horses. According to the camp host, we were the most hated group there. Sorry, horse folk, that we didn't come equipped with loud, smelly animals [side note: I'm cool with horses but come on, they're definitely louder and smellier than no horse, right?]. The camp host was fine with it, though, no one else showed up needing the spot, and we couldn't stomach driving to yet another campground at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Horse camp it was, then!

I had a pretty miserable night, puking up my Manley's clam chowder and shivering throughout the surprisingly cold night (you're welcome for that visual). Fortunately, I felt slightly better the next morning at 7:30 when we drove to the Devil's Lake trailhead.

The first mile takes you through woods, but once you emerge from that boringness, you're treated to some pretty awesome views for the rest of the hike (that's ten miles of views!).

Mt. Bachelor, or something.

 Cairns, my favorite!

And, of course, the summit.

I swear to you there is no filter on this, even though it looks like there is and even though I refuse to use that hashtag that proves there isn't.

It took us roughly 4 hours to summit hiking at a pretty leisurely pace, and once there we took the time to enjoy it. This is something I often forget to do; I'll hoof it to the top, spend 3-5 minutes there, and turn right back around. This time, though, we were there for nearly an hour. There may or may not have been whiskey and cigars involved (don't try it at home, kids!).

The way down was a bit of a slog (turned death march once the blister on my foot burst open and I had nothing to put on it), but we were back at the campsite by 5:00, where we spent another fun night.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend! I give this hike a billion thumbs up. It is, in my book, the most worthwhile thing in Oregon (that I've seen).  A distinguished award, indeed!


Up next: that time I checked out the site of a fall race to see whether it might make for a good first (mini-) ultra. Verdict: ugh.


  1. What do you mean no filters? You managed to filter all the people out of your shots... amazing. I'd pay for that app. Sweet views...but is that a scree field you're hiking up?

    1. Filters change the coloring of a photo. Instagram has a bunch of different filters you can use, so the default assumption is that an Instagram picture has a filter on it. That's why you often see #nofilter as a photo tag.

      The last mile or so is all scree, which is fine by me! A lot of Alaska hiking is on similar terrain so I'm used to it. Also, trekking poles help a lot!

  2. Wow-this looks amazing. I want to go everywhere in Oregon now!

    1. Yup, pretty awesome stuff! If only the entire state could look like this...

  3. Beautiful views! I'm glad you enjoyed your hike! Looks like something that would be enjoyable to hike multiple times. If that's not impressive, I can't even imagine how pretty Alaska must be in real life. I was answering the question, "would you rather travel to Alaska or Hawaii," and being a former marine biologist, I'd be tempted to say Hawaii because of the snorkeling/diving, but after seeing all of your Alaska photos, I'd definitely be torn between the two!

    1. Oh, this is definitely impressive, but Alaska's even more so! I strongly encourage you to hit up Alaska sometime (and take me with you!).

  4. Yup, you were right, I'm totally jealous of your South Sister trip. If I ever find some time to sneak away this fall, it needs to be here. AK has ruined me for hiking forever too, only a few places have been comparable (Alps, Glacier NP maybe).

    1. I'm glad you understand! I feel like a snob with my strict "no trees" policy, but once you've seen Alaska, very little can compare.

  5. How odd that you were the most hated group at the horse camp because you didn't have horses.... especially since there wasn't another group with horses who found themselves without a place to camp because of your group being there. Odd. Your hatred of trees ("hiking through that boringness") cracks me up.