Starting late to head to Summit Lake then on to Crescent Lake to meet Burton at Whitefish Horse Camp I knew that the 21 + miles would include a 6 to 8 miles road walk.
As I hate road walks I wasn’t looking forward to the day but was soon delighted by the rise in grade
and then the view of Cowhorn Mountain even though we had a long climb and I missed the noted lakelet water source somehow.
There was a small saddle which allowed me to enjoy a big lake I thought might be Crescent Lake in the distance.
The trail continued through timber and was fairly easy to follow except for the snow we had little difficulty going around.
I wondered how the snow would have been to cross a month ago or if it would have even been possible with a horse then.
The vast views soon were left for the forest and we got to Summit Lake at the south shore at road 700. I had to travel to the northwest corner to catch 6010 and decided to walk to give Issy a little rest. We crossed the road a few more times and then right at an intersection was Summit Lake Campground and only one other person was enjoying the clear lake water. Issy thought we were home but I urged him on down the hard dirt road towards Crescent Lake. Road 6010 was washed out and not passable with anything but a Jeep or 4 wheeler and the gullies at some points were such that we had to pull way off to even ride through. There were large rocks sticking out in the middle of the road which would tear the bottom out of any low vehicle. I later found out that Burton drove several miles with just the truck to see if he could meet me but was turned back with all the gullies and rocks. I did get a glimpse of Diamond Peak and finally worked my way down to Crescent Lake.
At the blacktop road I headed north to Whitefish Horse Camp and with my telephone working I was able to call Burton and locate him in camp. Whitefish Camp turned out to be a wonderful camp with many horse people camped around the loops. Here I met Jean, Gail, Tracy, Bonnie and Lynn. These horse ladies were generous with their time and answered my many questions about the Oregon trails which to this point were so lovely. Lynn even gave me her copy of the Oregon Equestrian Trails book which had all the horse trails along with directions to campgrounds and detailed descriptions of them. This book became my follow up reference to my subsequent ride north. I am so grateful to have met these fine horse women and my only regret was that I couldn’t stay and enjoy their company more.
The ride today was to be short, only 13 miles so I took Shanty on a leash and headed out of Whitefish Horse Camp towards Odell Lake. Taking the Whitefish Creek Trail we had good footing with lots of signs of horses having traversed this trail. Issy loved it and moved smartly out. The grade was pleasant and easy so I relaxed and enjoyed Whitefish Creek roaring along side. We passed several stagnant ponds each of which Shanty had to test the waters.
We got to Diamond View Lake and I was lucky to get another picture of Diamond Peak with it’s snow caps.
Arriving at Trapper Creek we found a bird protecting her location from Shanty by swooping down on her and almost pecking her. Shanty was not used to a bird having the upper hand and she scurried to the creek for cover.
At the creek I lead Issy down a steep bank and out to a flat peninsula covered with lush grass. The creek surrounded the finger of land and we relaxed for an hour eating and drinking.
Moving on we followed the creek from the high side and turned off at an access trail where the Southern Pacific railroad crosses. I smelled a meal cooking and thought to myself how great it smelled. Burton was within sight and had already started dinner. Pengra Pass just up the trail and Hwy 58 at Willamette Pass would be my next jump off spot. But we loaded up after eating and wanted to head to Weston Equine Services in Sisters. Weston’s was recommended to us by Tracy who we met at Whitefish Horse Camp and since the plan was for Burton to fly back to Arkansas for 2 weeks I wanted a good base camp where Issy would be safe and hopefully I could have some assistance moving my trailer. Paul and Alison’s farm proved to be the perfect spot to leave Issy and take Burton to Portland to fly home and then pick him up 2 weeks later. Alison was fully prepared to haul me to the trail and pick me up a few days later. What luck! As I was making plans with Alison Burton changed his mind and decided not to leave. This would make the trail from Willamette to McKenzie Pass a much easier trip.
Knowing I would be 5 days or so on the trail we decided to catch up on groceries and wash so Issy just relaxed in a large paddock watching the other horses graze nearby. It seemed like Weston’s was made for us! See www.westonequineservices.com
I couldn’t wait to to ride the Three Sisters Wilderness. I researched the trail last night and thanks to Lynn for her Oregon Equestrian Trails Book I found that Harralson Horse Camp at Waldo Lake was just a few miles off the PCT. So again I would have one less night of camping and this also would make Issy’s load lighter. The day would turn out to be 29 miles of riding but the climbs were not too demanding and there was plenty of water. Issy just sailed through the forest. We had barely gotten into a rhythm when Issy alerted as he does when there are hikers ahead. Even Shanty stopped dead in her tracks. Then I saw a couple of hikers and their goats along with two dogs. I had to grab a picture and they kindly obliged.
Our first stop was at Rosemary Lake just a few miles out. Although there were no campers at Rosemary Lake the heavy use was evident and it concerned me that we could have such an impact on the forest.
After a quick drink for Issy and a swim for Shanty we moved on. As always, the views were magnificent and we passed two more lakes with Shanty taking advantage of both. The forest had many downed trees but none caused us any problems.
The tread became rock and rough but this was old school for Issy. He never faltered.
We pulled off the PCT on a west bound trail towards Waldo Lake to head to Harralson by way of Road 5898.
Luckily, I was correct and we only had a mile on blacktop to the dirt road to Harralson. Arriving there I was surprised not to see Burton already set up, in fact there was no sign of him. I opened my maps to be sure I had the correct place and that I had given him the correct directions since he was so consistent about being at camp before we got there. Issy knew we were home and stood there waiting for me to unsaddle him so he could relax and graze so I found a picnic table and unloaded everything on top while looking for my satellite phone with which to check on Burton. Within a few minutes I got service and was through to Burton who was waiting for me on one of the cross roads. I actually looked for him when we crossed but I must have just missed him. In no time he was in camp and we set up the pen, had dinner and discussed the next few days.
The southern most boundary of Three Sisters Wilderness was only 4 miles up the trail and I was anxious to get our feet on the trail. We had another long day of over 26 miles in front of us but thanks again to Lynn’s book Issy was packing light and we would meet Burton at Elk Lake where he was to haul us to Quinn Meadows Horse Camp. We passed through miles of burnt forest but the footing was excellent with Issy full of himself.
Water was easily accessible for us with lakes and ponds all along the way once we got out of the burnt area. Shanty jumped in one and was actually chased by a water snake causing her to head for dry ground like a bullet. The wildlife hasn't been kind to Shanty!
After 3 hours I stopped for us to have a snack in hopes that Issy would stop grabbing at every green leaf he saw. Thanks goodness for Purina Senior…it always satiated Issy for hours. I lost count of the lakes and ponds until we got to Reserve Meadow where Issy pulled his head down with such force that I almost dropped the camera. I guess he finally used up his morning snack so I gave him a late lunch of Senior but we had to move on so he couldn’t enjoy the bright green tender grass.
The mosquitoes were a minor annoyance much to my surprise and using some Deep Woods Off was all that was needed. Finally, by 3 o’clock we arrived at Island Meadow Trail which was our exit off the PCT to meet Burton at Elk Lake. The drop in elevation was steep and it pulled Issy even fastere then his usual walk so I dismounted and met Burton parked right at the trailhead. We drove the 3 miles to Quinn Meadows and found a corral and nice camp spot. Looking back I realized that Issy’s walk was so strong that we had gone 26 miles in only 6 hours and he seemed to be able to do much more if I would just keep his belly full!
We decided to rest today since tomorrow was to be another long day. This gave us the opportunity to meet and chat with some of the other campers. I met 3 great gals – Emily, Sue and Sally and they were such fun to visit with. Emily came over to our site and gave me the name of a very knowledgeable trail angel Kate who erected the many signs in the Three Sisters Wilderness. After quizzing Kate I was able to find out that the trail to McKenzie Pass was difficult but possible. She told me how she had taken her 3 year old colt over it recently. I heard about the Obsidian glass cutting right through horse’s boots as well as the demanding lava stretches and was assured that Issy would be okay.