- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Where the heck was the lake?

I had been hiking for two hours, so I knew I should have already arrived. Unless . what about that junction about 4 miles back?

Ah, that missed turn while hiking deep in the Cascade Range can be the undoing of any hiker.

And this hike was boring - nothing but trees, and me alone with my thoughts.

Something needed to change quickly. I was expecting to find a pristine mountain lake that would make all this worthwhile. Instead, I continued pounding along the trail.

Finally, the trail climbed up onto a ridge where I could glance out at distant mountains. Then, the path began switchbacking up through the forest, as if with a greater purpose.

When I reached the top of the crest, I knew I had taken a wrong turn - but what a wonderfully serendipitous wrong turn it turned out to be. Instead of eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at some mosquito-infested lake, I was gazing at unique, awe-inspiring views of Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor.

Yes, I know we see these peaks from Bend all the time. But this was a sort of up-close-and-personal view from a much different angle, looking at them from the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

The climb to the top of 6,520-foot Koosah Mountain was not hard, but it was certainly rewarding. South Sister appeared in and out of a shroud of white and gray clouds. Broken Top gleamed in the sun as if some sort of beacon.

It was weird being so bored one minute and then so inspired by mountains the next minute.

The hike was not supposed to go this way. This was supposed to be a relatively easy hike from the Elk Lake Trailhead - located directly across Cascade Lakes Highway from the entrance to Elk Lake Resort about 33 miles from Bend - to Horse Lake and back, maybe three hours.

Instead, I had turned right onto the PCT when my intention was to stay on the Horse Lake Trail. So what was supposed to be a relatively flat amble to the lake became an increasingly steep climb up Koosah Mountain.

After consulting my map and confirming my misstep, I was determined to continue to the top of Koosah and then down the other side all the way to Sisters Mirror Lake. But snowdrifts blocked my way on the north base of Koosah. I walked up and over several of them but soon realized it would only get worse. So I made the decision to head back the way I had come.

I climbed back up the north side of Koosah then back down the south side. I ran part of the way back toward the trailhead to save some time. Still, the 10-mile-plus hike required more than five hours.

While I never made it to Horse Lake, I did experience a portion of the renowned Pacific Crest Trail. I realize that hundreds of ambitious thru-hikers complete the entire PCT - some 2,650 miles across California, Oregon and Washington from Mexico to Canada - each summer. But for those who want to enjoy just a tiny slice of the incredible trail, the hike from Elk Lake to the top of Koosah Mountain is a good choice.

Even if they meant to go somewhere else.


The original story can be found on The Bulletin’s website: https://bit.ly/1JKvYHA


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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