Day 94: Fields of Lava

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Mile 1967.9 to mile 1995.1 (27.2 miles, 43.8km)

Today started out amazing but ended up being a nightmare afternoon.

Only about three miles in for the day I entered into the limited entry Obsidian area. A geological marvel. Huge areas of obsidian littering the ground. The reflective black surface shinning in the morning sun took on the look of glistening water. Rivers of glass. Obsidian is formed when extruding lava cools so rapidly that crystal growth is limited, forming natural glass.

This whole area is volcanic in nature, carpeted by scoria and lava flows. The Three Sisters, all volcanic plugs dominating the horizon and amazing views across to Mt Washington and the lava fields beyond.

The afternoon can only be described as horrendous. I’ve walked on many different surfaces in my hiking life – knee deep mud for days on end, hill sides of shale, deep sands and railway ballast fuels of rock. Never, ever have I encountered anything as difficult to walk on than lava.

Lave sucks. Nice to look at the huge fields of the stuff, horrible to walk on. It is sharp, loose and odd shaped. Every single step causes ankles to twist at unexpected angles and grind so grippy, catches the shoes to trip you up. It’s hot, exposed and unrelenting.

Catching a shoe I tweaked my right ankle pretty bad causing some minor strain in the ligaments on top of my foot. I had no option but to keep walking and the modified stride then moved the pain up into my shin muscles. Ouch, ouch, ouch. I had obviously caused some damage and need to rest my foot but couldn’t do it here. With little water and nowhere to camp I had to press on another 6 miles to the Big Lake Youth Camp, a summer camp that welcomes PCT hikers.

And boy do they look out for us. They have a new building entirely for thru-hikers with a lounge area, full kitchen, wifi, showers (with towels, soap and shampoo) and free laundry. Plus for a donation they provide meals – all vegetarian and very healthy.

It was great to make it to the camp and be able to put my foot up and give it a good massage.

While they do all this, hikers can’t camp on the property however they do have a 15 min trail leading to a secluded cove on the edge of Big Lake where hikers can camp.

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