For a Monday morning, it's pretty clear and beautiful. The skies are blue and there's no haze from wildfires. On my drive to work I could see five peaks - Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters.
And when I looked at the top of South Sister (also known as "Charity") I thought, "I've been there!"
I hiked to the top of South Sister with several friends on August 10th. Yes, in Oregon some of our mountains have trails all the way up to the top. This one happens to start at the Devil's Lake campground, a short drive from Bend.
Just because there was a trail doesn't mean it was easy. In fact, I knew going into this that the hike would be hard. But it was still much harder than I thought it would be. And looking back, it was totally worth it.
At 10,363 feet South Sister is the third-highest mountain in Oregon, and taller than all the other nearby peaks. When I started looking down at the top of Broken Top, I realized how far we'd climbed.
The air was thin, the wind was cold, and we were all getting tired... but somehow we pressed on. We slogged up a steep grade of cinder and scree and made it to the top. Along the way we saw clear blue lakes, snow, glaciers, wildflowers, and many other brave souls making the trip.
This will be the hike against which I measure other trips for a long time to come - based on difficulty, length, excitement, and payoff. It was a big one on all four counts.