“Serpentine Stream”, Three Sisters Wilderness
Big bags of bacon and Buckeye Nation
Several years ago a good friend from my undergrad days at Kenyon College, Rod Simpson and I planned a backpacking trip in Oregon’sThree Sisters Wilderness Area. Rod, his brother, Matt, and brother in law, Froy, all avid Ohio State fans, joined my Bend friend and frequent hiking partner, Troy McMullin. Troy and I quickly adopted the catch-all term, “Buckeye Nation” to refer to our visitors from the east.
While I’m very familiar with Troy’s hiking ability and tolerances, I didn’t have a sense of what we could expect from Buckeye Nation. We departed from the Obsidian Trail Head on the west side of the Three Sisters Wilderness on July 27th. Our plan was to travel uphill on the popular Obsidian Trail, connect with the Pacific Crest Trail, head South, towards the crux between South Sister and Middle Sister, where we would scramble up to the Chambers lakes Basin and the beautiful Camp Lake. The Well Laid plans of mice and men….. as we rechecked the intersection of the Obsidian trail and the PCT, we encountered large patches of snow. This was worrisome as we had a ton of elevation yet to gain. We followed our intended route southward as planned. Our plans went down the drain. We soon reached a solid snow field that extended for miles and frequently had difficulty finding trail markers. Me, Troy and Buckeye Nation hiked for several miles over deep snow before setting up camp in a rare patch of dry ground. While Buckeye nation was an intrepid trio, Troy an I were concerned that our route would get dangerous and morale would falter.
That evening at camp, we had a fantastic time, getting to know each other and sharing trail stories. While Me and the Buckeyes melted snow, Troy climbed a nearby butte to reassess our route. We learned that it is actually quite easy to “Burn Snow” by putting snow directly into a hot camping pot, thereby making drinking water taste like water which had been used to clean a Barbecue grill. Not good. Troy spotted a verdant and inviting meadow several miles away far below us in elevation. That evening as we settled in for the night, Our Ohio Friends inquired about the danger of Bears. While Bears are occasionally encountered in the Three Sisters Wilderness, I’ve never heard of them being a problem for backpackers. I suggested that we hang our food with standard bear prevention protocol but noted to the Buckeyes that there was minimal concern about bears on my part. Having worked at Denalii National Park for a summer, I was well aware of bear protocol but felt safe in our location. Troy and I shared a tent. Troy asked how confident I was about our lack of bear danger. I reassured him and he said, “Good because I have a really big bag of Bacon in the tent with us”. I replied with an amused chuckle as he unearthed A Big Bag of Bacon! We laughed hysterically as we both knew big bags of bacon violated any safety protocols in bear country! We shared a desert of Bacon With Buckeye Nation and enjoyed a night of sound sleep.
The next morning, we descended, off trail, rapidly downhill on snow covered slopes toward the green meadow Troy had spotted the night before.
“Serepentine Stream”, Three Sisters Wilderness… the Capture
The meadow was magical. Filled with wildflower meadows, expansive views of the Three Sisters Mountains, and free flowing water which did not require ‘Burning” in our scamping pots! The meadow was our Shangri-la. A wonderful haven filled with butterflies, placid pools and the wonders of summer. During our midday explorations of the meadow, I discovered the scene that would become “Serpentine Stream” I was immediately smitten with the undulating stream, the plethora of wildflowers , and the looming presence of South Sister in the background. I vowed to return later that evening near sunset with my large format camera gear. As the sun descended, the mosquito activated. There were thousands of them. Deet and gortex were my only refuge. I was perpetually swatting them away from the front of my camera lens. In addition to mosquitos,This magical meadow was filled with millions of Wildflowers( Jeffrey’s shooting stars, Marsh marigolds, and buttercups. The nearly full moon and the distant South Sister were merely bonuses in this enchanting setting. The focal point in this fine art print of Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness needed to be the mesmerizing stream which slithered through this alpine meadow like a gigantic serpent. I captured the scene, and retreated from the mosquitos. I spent the remainder of our trip fretting about my undeveloped 4×5 sheets of film I had just exposed in this amazing place.
I would be thrilled when I finally viewed my result on a light table. The Prints of “Serpentine Stream” are much like the place itself, which is always my goal. Elegant and mesmerizing!
The remainder of our adventure was a paradise of summer greens and wildflowers. The men of Buckeye Nation proved to be wonderful hiking partners and even better people and Bears never discovered Troy’s Big Bag of Bacon!