Aug 15th – Distance – 10.4 miles. Ascent 505 ft. Descent 1739 ft.
I had a great sleep the first night out – with a cloudless sky, the stars were out though obscured by a bright moon, and though the temperature dropped, I was comfy in my sleeping bag. On waking up, I spent a little time arguing with myself that staying in bed was the best course of action, but before long, the get up and get moving side prevailed. The trail routine set in quickly – bag rolled up, pad deflated and packed, clothes on, gear packed up and climb out of the tent. After some oatmeal with huckleberries and an orange for breakfast (Ken dined on a kiwi), along with a cup of coffee, we hit the trail at 09:10.
Just a mile into the hike we passed out of the forest and crossed the first of a few lava flows. While the last estimated volcanic activity was more than 1000 years ago, in some areas the lava flows are massive rock piles with little growth or vegetation, though looking closely, lichens cover much of the rock, and some bushes and trees are making inroads. Much like visiting the blast zone at Mt. St. Helens, volcanic power is palpable among these 1000+ year old lava flows.
After crossing the lava flows, we crossed a number of creeks, eventually picking our way across the Lewis River. As you can see from the photo, along with being chilly, the glacial runoff can be pretty silty. From there it was back into the forest, skirting the miles of lava between us and the mountain. Along the way we ran into a southbound hiker heading to Ashland OR. He had finished the PCT and AT a number of times, and decided that long distance hiking was not for him. Instead he was only going to do 500 or 1000 mile hikes, so this year it was from the Canadian border down to Ashland. He was an exceptionally upbeat hiker, and seemed earnest when he suggested that section hiking at a slow pace was the way to go, because then you took the time to really enjoy every step of the way. I’m not sure if everyone agrees, but I’ll take that as validation for our approach… Speaking of which, when we reach the junction with the Highline trail we took a little break.
Throughout the day, we played leap frog with a man and woman in their 50’s who were friends from Spokane, out to do a section hike. Continuing north, we took a short break at meadow site where Killen Creek tumbled down a waterfall right alongside a campsite. It would have been a great place to spend the night, though the bugs were quite insistent in their quest for blood. We spent a little time enjoying the water and sun, but then donned our packs and carried on.
We continued north through the forest, eventually running into a wall of lava, where we turned west for a short ways until we reached the camp at Lava Springs.
At Lava Springs, water bubbles up from under miles of lava fields – It’s icy cold, as clear and clean as you can imagine, and simply delicious. We set up camp, had some dinner and chatted with several through hikers. Three were heading south and five were heading north. With dinner done, we washed up in the creek, a little ways downstream from the spring, chatted with the folks from Spokane who were camped above the Springs, then climbed into our tents and drifted off to the sound of the springs.