|all packed and ready to go|
We packed our bags chock full of basic necessities and some splurgy things too. We each carried an extra pair of shoes, a stool, and a pillow. I packed shampoo, conditioner, and an outfit for each day (horror of horrors for those minimalist backpackers out there). After all this was a weekend date and I didn't want to smell bad the ENTIRE time... We were well supplied and paid for it in the weight of our packs: mine was forty pounds and Curt's was over fifty. Backpacking is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Curt decided on an out-and-back route through the Three Sisters Wilderness. Demaris Lake (at 6,300 feet elevation) was our base camp destination and was 5.6 miles into the wilderness from the Pole Creek Trailhead. Camp Lake, 600 vertical feet further up the mountain pass and an additional three miles, would be our day hike destination. The trail system is part of a larger fifty-mile loop that goes around all three Sisters Mountains that we hope to hike in the future. It was good for us to get a flavor for the trails and a taste of the raw beauty that exists a mere three hour drive from our house.
|on the trail - first creek crossing|
I love the rhythmic pace of backpacking. Like running, it takes me a while to find my groove. I usually spend the first mile sweating profusely, breathing heavily, and mentally grumbling about why I thought it would be fun to hike uphill for miles with forty pounds on my back. But then I find my zone. My breathing and sweat production regulate and I'm able to fall into a steady rhythm that soothes my soul and quiets my mind. I soak in the world around me and chat with my studly husband blazing the trail ahead of me.
We laugh. We talk of the things that stir our souls. We strategize about the best methods to raise our brood of children. We share the things that God is teaching us. We talk about conflicts of faith. So often when one of us is weak, the other is strong and can build the other up. We analyze our marriage, offering praise to each other for the things we're doing well and suggestions on how to improve our areas of weakness. The time on the trail is life-giving to both of us.
Last year's backpack was so incredible, that I mentally prepared myself to be disappointed with this year's destination. It's hard to top incredible with incredibler. But when out of nowhere the thick woods opened up onto a serene lake with all three of the Sisters Mountains and Broken Top looming over it and reflecting in the water, we were anything but disappointed. We stopped dead in our tracks, looked at each other and laughed with glee. "We get to camp here?!?! Are you joking?" It was so beautiful.
|are you kidding me? We're camping here?|
Demaris Lake is one mile off the main trail. It's smaller and less-known than Camp Lake, a major destination point for backpackers and the end of the maintained trail for that section of the wilderness. You have to WANT to go to Demaris Lake, which is exactly why we chose it. We thought our chances of solitude were greater off the beaten path and we were right. There was not a single living soul at the lake. We did the happy dance on the shore when we realized we had the lake to ourselves. With the exception of one group that came for the afternoon and two Forest Rangers that passed through our camp every morning and evening, we owned the lake for the entire weekend. It was Edenic.
The Ranger told us where to find the best camp site on the lake. It was at the top of a bluff that overlooked a vast canyon of forest below. We pitched our tent up at the top of the bluff, gathered firewood, and set up our "kitchen." When the work was done, we took the trail down to the lake. Bright blue skies reflected off the shallow lake. The water was inviting and it was hot enough that swimming in the cold water felt so refreshing. We spent the afternoon at the lake, just relaxing and being together.
After dinner, we sat on our stools by the campfire and watched the sun set over the lake. When it got dark enough for the stars to start coming out, we laid on our backs on a flat rock and watched and marveled. The Northern Lights even put on a faint and distant show for us. We serve such a Mighty Creator!
Our day trip to Camp Lake was equally incredible. The snow level was at 6,300 feet, so as soon as we started to climb we encountered snow. It's a bit unnerving to hike over snow meadows without GPS, but we had a compass, a good map, and a few sets of quickly melting footprints to follow. Somehow we always managed to find the trail again and keep hiking. We hiked above the tree line and the view of the mountains opened up. There they were - North, Middle, and South Sister majestic and awe-inspiring - and we were hiking right through them! The higher we climbed the smaller and more approachable they appeared.
|leaving Demaris Lake to head up to Camp Lake|
The terrain around us changed quickly. Thick woods gave way to scrubby vegetation clinging to soil that was rough, rocky, and almost desert-like. Vast meadows, some still blanketed with deep snow, mixed with intimidating rock scrambles. The deeper we immersed ourselves in the wilderness, the more at peace we felt. It was like the stress of life melted away with each footstep and peace blanketed our souls like the stillness around us. It was heavenly.
|crossing snow fields|
Camp Lake was large with panoramic views. The mountains that seemed so big at Demaris Lake looked like giants at Camp Lake. The glacial pack was melting and huge chunks of snow were breaking off and dropping with a CRASH into the lake, sending wave after wave of ripples across the water. We picnicked on the edge of the lake. As hot as it was, the water was too cold to swim. One toe dip and a quick dunk under was all we could handle. After lunch, we napped in the meadow filled with wildflowers and listened to the snow clumps drop into the lake. It doesn't get any better than that!
|snow dropping in the lake|
|nap in the meadow|
The next morning it was hard to get motivated to hoist those heavy packs up on our shoulders and head back to the car, but we quickly fell into a rhythm. As we hiked, we reminisced about our journey to Oregon. God very clearly nudged us out of our comfortable life in Chicago. He asked us to leave all that was familiar and head into the great-unknown through a new life in Oregon. We knew beyond a shadow of doubt that this was God's plan for our family, so we obeyed. But obedience is not always easy.
Curt struggled in this new place so different from where he was born and raised. Everything was unfamiliar. The climate. His job. The people. The rain. The politics and things people valued. He felt the Promised Land had been dangled but swapped for the Wasteland.
His time in the Wasteland was not short. There was no quick fix or easy answer. But it's in the Wasteland that we really KNOW our Savior. It's here that He molds and shapes, chips away and chisels, bandages and heals, loves and comforts. In the Wasteland, we are stripped bare and rebuilt into a clearer image of our Savior. I was eye-witness to this life transformation in my man.
I listened to him complain and be angry. Saw him fight against sadness and despair. But day after day after day, he woke early to pour over his Bible, filling journal after journal with the things he was learning. I saw him live out what God taught him through those early morning meetings. My man obeyed, even when it was tough. Slowly but surely, he journeyed out of the Wasteland and into the Promised Land.
We both got emotional as we remembered Curt's journey. Looking back, God's faithful protection and gentle direction through the Wasteland was so clear. It was a good reminder to not "throw away our confidence" (Hebrews 10:35). When life is dark and we can't see ahead or behind, we can have confidence that God is faithful. Not just because He says He is, but because He leaves a track record of faithfulness in our lives.
|End of our journey - heading home content|
The last few miles on the trail, we praised God specifically for the ways He has been faithful to us. Then we lifted our Big Concerns that currently weigh heavily on our hearts to our Faithful God. As we prayed the weight of the burden fell off, much like our packs sliding off our sweaty backs when we finally reached the car. We drove home content on all levels. And confident of the hope we have in following Jesus on this great adventure called life.