It began early as one of those “I’ll toss this out and see what happens” remarks in early 2011 during one of the visits between my daughter and I. I can’t really place who was where because the statement was what was memorable. “Mom, why don’t we hike and summit South Sister this summer?”
Yeah sure, we’ll do that, I’d love to, that would be cool! Let’s get together and make plans.
That summer of 2011 the summit hike got buried in the daily activities and routines of life, buried behind the lawn mowing, the get-out-on-the-water-and-kayak-cuz-it’s-good-weather days and the other thing; work, and all those other daily mind invasions.
I used to think I was fairly active and would score a 7 on the Activity Barometer, I probably really only rate as a 5 and I came to that conclusion instantly when she invited me to do this climb/hike/camp and summit event.
Later that summer daughter and son-in-law shared that adventure, just the two of them, something they will both memorialize in their lives. I was thrilled for them and also a bit relieved because in the back of my mind I truly thought I was not capable of that kind of trek. And besides, Kevin and I were able to have the boys that three days while mommy and daddy were camping and summiting.
Along comes April of 2012 and there was this phone call:
“Mom; now that we know your heart is okay, I would really like to do the South Sister Summit with you!” to which I replied, “Okay, I’ll do it”...
Over the ensuing three months, I would occasionally wake in the middle of the night thinking, “What have I done??? What was I thinking??” And now I can say I am so glad I did!
August 3rd, 2012, (a Friday) we met each other at the Devils' Lake parking lot around in separate cars. While I went and changed from jeans to lighter fabric hiking slacks, Sara went through my pack and fixed it for me; re-stuffed my bag, made it look better than what I had done. "You don't need this, mom, I have this and that and you won't need this either"...
She helped hoist the pack up on my back, all 35 pounds of it, then got hers on and off we went.
Now that I look back on it, I think we left too late in the day and the heat had already begun to settle in and I had stopped at McDonalds' and gotten a sausage McGriddle (yeah, great start).
I don't think we had even gone a whole mile before the effects of sausage, heat and weight knocked me upside the head like a two-by-four! I could not get the pack comfortable and I had already begun to drip sweat. Not only was my heart pounding but my head was throbbing. Poor Sara, she was trying so hard to be a good spirit lifter, "You can do this, mom, just take it easy". But there comes a time when you have to just stop, when you have to realize your limit, I was scared of being where we couldn't get help if this turned out to be more than 'palpitations. When it got to the point where my legs went weak and I was throwing up (about another half mile), we stopped. Sara took my pack off, loaded it on her front (meanwhile her pack is on her back) and we turned around and went back to the cars, a mile and a half away... Not only was I 'heat sick' but I was heart sick about having to stop, we had planned this for months and I didn't want to disappoint her and yadda yadda, you know how we beat ourselves up. Now when we look back, we know God intervened on our behalf because…we were on the wrong trail.
That night I recuperated from the shaky legs and head throbbing but not the overwhelming sadness. I woke up crying in the middle of the night, even though we had decided that rather than try to haul in the overnight packs, we would make a day hike out of it on Saturday and our goal was to make it to
, about halfway up. Now, South Sister is 10,358 feet up so Moraine Lake is 5,000 something or at least 3-4 miles, the round trip hike is a 12 mile trip. Moraine Lake
Yesterday morning, August 4th, we got up at , left the house by and were on the trail by , a much better head start and I was wearing a Camelback (3 pounds?) instead of the backpack. We each had an MRE and our water. Sara and I reached the lake and a wonderful plateau about 2 and a half hours up, all the way she kept asking me if I felt okay, “Let’s make it to the next shade tree”. She WAS my cheerleader. I felt so good I told her we'd keep going, one step at a time.
We made it all the way to the False Summit, which technically is only 300+ feet shorter than the Real Summit. I was THRILLED to have made it as far as I did! It was grueling, it took me an hour to walk a mile uphill and then we hit the 75 degree angle loose rock and shale. That was terrifying, I could NOT look down. There was no designated trail since it changed with every climber. There were some boulders and that turned out to be the easiest way to ascend, at least they didn't move. We reached False Summit and we hugged each other and cried! I did it, I did it, I did it! I high-fived Sara, too. Now if we were to have attempted the True Summit, that was nothing but straight up and loose, red cinder (worse than the shale) and I was done. My feet would not have made it, or my thighs. I was happy with where I was, 10,000 feet. On the other side of the False Summit was a glacial pool, Lewis Pond, which we hiked down to, removed our socks and shoes so we could stick our feet in it—yes it was COLD but oh so refreshing. We refilled our water bags (they were pretty much EMPTY!) So, yes we summited. No regrets, no resignations, just pure joy that I could share that with Sara. I will tell you the hike down was much faster and a bit shorter with two 'glacier rides' but just as painful; other people had already paved a few butt trails and so I graciously rode down hollering, "Yahooooo!!!" no skis or toboggan needed there. And the very last part of the trail was extreme switchback with foot deep drops and tangled roots rising to catch a boot when you're not looking. Lots of old knobs sticking up and I remember thinking, "How many trekkers have you caught unaware?"...but each and every step was painful on the toes, the knees, the thighs and the hips, and it wasn't just me that was hurting. We were so glad to hear the sound of cars on the highway and we knew we weren't far from the car. Finally, we got to the car, peeled off the Camelbacks and jumped in, Sara knocked down the seat and went to sleep (remember, she's a mother of two young boys) and I drove us home, about 45 minutes.
We each took a shower, Sara made us a wonderful light dinner and salad and we toasted our success with
and cherries! Champaign
Now today, no blisters on my feet but they are terribly sensitive and I can't sit for too long or I won't be able to walk.
“So Mom, you want to do this next year, only we’ll camp, too?”
One year at a time, baby girl, one year at a time. But oh how I will treasure this memory forever!