Our call to duty positioned us 4.5 miles into the Willamette N.F., North of Santium Pass, near Sisters, Oregon. This particular hitch was our second two-weeker in a row. My team survived the elements and the grueling work of the Gifford Pinchot but unfortunately we had to see Jesse sit this one out for fear of flaring up a lower back injury. Luckily, we received a new addition to team Beaverslide in Alana Stickney. Alana had just finished up a 3 month SCA crew in Umatilla NF and was itching to get back out into the field. We learned that she has a different pallet of knowledge about trail work through the different projects that she had previously worked on, which was a total bonus! Even though our line-up has changed a bit over the past couple of months we were certain that whatever this hitch at Three Fingered Jack was about to unfurl, we could handle it.
In the section of trail we were hiking through to get to our campsite we got to see the after affects of a fire that occurred eight years ago. We hiked through the “burn” area as it was called to reach our camp. The eerie feeling that was evoked cannot be fully explained unless you experience it for yourself. However, there were many signs of life with huckleberry bushes and lupine flowers edging the path. Once we reached a greener area, we were able to descend to Summit Lake. When we reached our campsite, we were certain this site was almost heaven. Summit Lake has the most breathtaking, crystal blue water that looked as though it had just melted from a mountain top. And the view we were given was an over look of Black Butte and to the south, the edge of Middle Sister appeared in our many sunrise photo opportunities.
On our third day of the hitch there was a lightning storm that completely engulfed the Three Sisters Wilderness and much of the Willamette National Forest. There were numerous fires to our south but the most prominent raged around Mt. Washington, less than 6 miles away. The next morning and for the duration of the hitch, we would watch the fire on the mountain and with the remnants of smoke lurking in the distance contemplate the awesome powers at work.
Each day began with checking-in with Eugene Dispatch via the Forest Service radio to let them know where we were; we also listed to some of the chatter regarding the fire fighting. We then began a steep climb to our worksite. We were presented the opportunity to finally cut some big timbers down for check steps with the cross cut. Alana already had experience with falling trees, so it was Nate, Whit and I that got some practice with good ol’ Feliciana (our beloved cross cut). Our check step regimen became so crisp and refined that by the end of the hitch we had a total of 47 check steps in place along with 6 water bars. Each day seemed to bring a lot of hikers through our area and it was great to run into people we had met earlier on the trail, truly “trail magic!”
We also got a visit from Trevor! Little did we know he loves to swim and did he ever! No matter the weather conditions, Trevor was out there in the middle of Summit Lake like an otter basking in the sun and enjoying the cool water. His help and his upbeat attitude helped us all on the trail and in camp, doing whatever was asked of him. He even brought us goodies and things that we forgot to pack (hose for Coleman gas stove, almond butter, little watermelons, chocolate, etc…..).
On our day off some of us hiked to Three Fingered Jack and some hung around camp and had a spa day in Summit Lake. Jack was quite the hike and held spectacular views of the Oregon horizon. The feeling of invincibility did not last long as I (Andrea) placed my hand on the crumbly wall and some rocks started to plummet to the bottom. It was a bit of a reality check or lunch time…. As Nate and Sterling wanted to go further, the summit seemed a tad bit unattainable as to the rocky and unstable terrain seemed to make a way down more of a challenge.
Hitch number seven is at an end but the memories are forever seared in our minds as those two, epic weeks at Summit Lake.
Trail Maintained: 2 miles
Check Steps: 47 (34 timber/13 rock)
Water BArs: 6 (4 timber/2 rock)
Reinforced Drainage Dip: 1
Thru-Hikers Met: 18 (Two Hats, Top Shelf, Drop Dead, Slap Shot, Mr. Fox, Rox Lox, Yankee, Cricket, Barb (and Jack a.k.a. Tequila Kid), LaFawnda, Euro Trash, Happy Meal, Mowgli, Spice Rack, Flash, Crasher, Lighthouse, Broken Record, Happy Whale and more.)