Last week at this time I was trekking up the side of the third tallest mountain in Oregon. South Sister (aka “Charity”) is, as the name indicates, the southernmost peak among the Three Sisters in the Three Sisters Wilderness of the Cascade Range.
My younger brother, Brad, turned 40 in late July. As a gift to him I used airline miles to fly him across the country for a short backpacking excursion into the beauty that is Oregon. He lives in Charlotte, NC. I didn’t have that many airline miles, so we were limited on the dates and flight times. The closest I could get to his birthday with the miles I had was last week. So last week he finally arrived in Eugene on Wednesday morning after an overnight delay in San Francisco. He hit the ground running. We took off toward the trailhead soon after his arrival. After an hour on the road, we stopped in Oakridge for lunch at The Brewers Union Local 180, Oregon’s only real ale pub and brewery. It’s the closest thing to a British pub I’ve seen in the States.
Brad checking out the hike I planned.
After lunch and another couple hours on the road, we arrived at the Green Lakes trailhead. We hiked along the Green Lakes Trail for a couple of miles until we reached the intersection with the Moraine Lake Trail. The Green Lakes Trail follows Falls Creek for most of this section. The hiking is easy and the scenery is idyllic. There was a waterfall around every turn.
One of about a dozen
Another mile and a half or so along the Moraine Lake Trail led us to Moraine Lake and the U-shaped valley/crater in which it is situated.
At Moraine Lake we found a spot to pitch our tent and settle in for the night.
Me as chef for the evening
View of Moraine Lake from our tent spot
The next morning we hit the trail to the South Sister summit. The hike ascends over 4000 feet and is about 9 miles round trip. In addition to the elevation and distance, we had to contend with lots of wind and tons of scree. It took about 7.5 hours all total—about 4.5 up and 3 down. Despite my aching joints, grit in my teeth, and scree in my boots, it was magnificent.
Here we go!
Moraine Lake from the summit trail
Brad trekking across Teardrop Pool, Oregon’s highest lake.
Two brothers with two sisters in the background
You might be wondering what’s the big deal about a backpacking trip with my brother. Well, it’s a trip of firsts. I had never been backpacking before. Brad and I had never been camping together ever. It took us over 40 years and living on opposite coasts finally to do something like this. I can’t say that I caught the backpacking bug; although I am sure I will do it again. The best part was the time with my brother. I miss seeing him regularly. We may see each other once a year at best. I hadn’t seen him since Thanksgiving of last year, and I am not sure when I will see him again. And when we do see each other it is always with lots of family around. It was really nice to spend about 48 hours with him. It made me nostalgic in a lot of ways. One thing that kept coming to mind while we grew more silent as our hike grew more strenuous was a saying our parents used to say to us when we faced difficulties—”That ain’t no hill for a stepper.” It works well in Texas. It hasn’t gone over as well with my boys. They don’t quite understand Ain’t. The saying came to mind for obvious reasons on our hike toward the summit, but I thought of it as well with regard to where Brad and I have gone in life. We’ve both had our hills to step over. Brad more so than me in a lot of ways. As we hiked up that hill, I was more times than not following my little brother. He’s always been more of an athlete. I would look up to see how far ahead he was and think how proud I was of him—not for leaving me in the dust on our hike, but for the person he had become. He’s not perfect, but he’s a good man, and I love him dearly. Happy late, late birthday little brother.