Collier Glacier

September 2-4, 1978

The Collier Glacier trip was a Comedy of Errors. On Thursday there were nine signers, by Friday two more had signed, but three had cancelled. Saturday morning three signers did not show up by departing time. My first error of the trip was waiting for the no-shows, then calling one of them and learning she had left home at 8:00 for the trip. (Two were from out of town, therefore, were not called.) So we waited for the late comer thinking she would arrive in a few minutes, but it turned out to be twenty-five minutes. Discovered she had stopped at the grocers on the way in. We finally left town at 8:45 a.m., forty-five minutes after the 8:00 a.m. departure time.

The day was cloudy as we left Eugene, but turned into a very nice day weatherwise. We arrived at the Lava Lake trail head about 11:00, and were on the trail by 11:20. My next error(s) was letting the faster members go ahead of me with instructions to wait from time to time. Everything seemed to go smoothly until after lunch at South Matthieu Lake. Although I gave instructions to take the right fork in the trail a short distance from the lake, four of the party of six took the wrong trail. Three had departed first, then one more who became mixed in with another group. Paula and I were only a few minutes later in leaving the lake, and I became suspicious almost immediately when I could not see our advance party. However, decided that perhaps the rear guard had taken longer than presumed, and that the other four had hiked out of sight (which they had done, but on the wrong trail). After ten minutes of hiking we met some hikers and asked them if they had seen our advance party. They had not. Walked another five minutes and asked a second group if they had seen our party. They had not. We were now fifteen minutes from South Matthieu and I decided that the other group must have taken the wrong trail for sure. We dropped our packs and Paula stayed with the packs while I started back to the lake. On the way one of the party showed up, saying she had discovered she had taken the wrong trail, but had not seen the other three and figured she was the only one off course. I sent her on to wait with Paula, and I continued on to the trail fork near the lake. By this time several people had arrived along the trail, but not our group. Also, by then 30 minutes had elapsed, and there was no way I could catch up with the fastees on the wrong trail, if indeed, they were on the wrong trail.

After leaving arrows and “Obsidian” marked in the trail a couple of places, I returned to join Paula and Pat. Since I had told the advance party to wait for us at the Willamette/Deschutes signs on Yapoah, I thought I should go on to that point to see if indeed they were that far ahead of us. Pat and I did the scouting, leaving Paula behind with the packs. On the way we met three horseman whom we asked if they had seen our party. They had not, but we discovered that they had not been on the trail around Yapoah. In our conversation with the horseman we learned that they would be going down the Scott Trail from South Matthieu. By now it was fairly certain that our lost group had gone that way, so we asked the riders to tell our group, if they saw them, to return to South Matthieu Lake and stay there. I was not thoroughly convinced, although it appeared that our lost party had taken the wrong trail, so Pat and I continued further up Yapoah, but before getting to the Forest boundary we encountered more horseman, and they had not seen our three either. Pat and I retraced our steps to waiting Paula, having used up over an hour of precious minutes. (I hope you aren’t confused, but just wait, the story gets better—or worse!)

When Pat and I returned to Paula, lo and behold the three lost members were there. They had gone two miles down the Scott Trail to the Green Lakes Trail, discovered their error and returned. They had received the message from the horseman, but chose to ignore it and came on to where Paula was waiting. By now over two hours had elapsed, the lost party had hiked an extra four miles (some over very steep up & down trail), and it was now four o’clock. As leader, my decision was to return to South Matthieu to camp, then continue on to Minnie Scott Spring the next day. We were tired from hiking, hunting and waiting, and the spring was more than two hours away. The lost ones wanted to go on; I was unable to persuade them to return to the lake, so we parted company. From there they were on their own, no longer a part of the Obsidian group.

Pat, Paula and I donned our packs to return to the lake, but shortly decided to have a dry camp in a lovely wooded area. After setting up Pat’s tent, Paula and I went back to the lake for water. (The round trip took thirty minutes.) After dinner and some fun with an Eskimo yo-yo we three crawled into the tent and were cozy as three-bugs-in-a-rug. During the night, there were several showers, plus lightning, but the next morning it was beautiful after the fog burned away. By 8:30 we were on the trail to Minnie Scott and Collier Glacier. However, we left our camp set up, only taking day packs for the eight-mile round trip to the Collier Glacier viewpoint atop the end moraine. The sun was warm and bright, but as we reached Minnie Scott near 11:00 the fog drifted in. We continued on in the wind and drifting, swirling fog to the Collier viewpoint trail where we met the three lost hikers returning to their camp at Minnie Scott. We three continued to the viewpoint hoping for a break in the fog so we could see the glacier, and we were not disappointed. We didn’t stay long as the wind was strong and cold. Before returning to Minnie Scott, we went to Oppie Dildock Pass to look down on the switchbacks in the fog. Returning to the spring we had lunch with the lost group, then back to our camp by 3:30 p.m. By now the weather had become worse, so we decided to pack up and get out. It began to rain before we were all geared, but we were on the trail by 4:30. The wind blew a gale, especially around South Matthieu and on the ridge north, but once in the trees it was more pleasant, except for the ever falling fine rain. I was less wet than Paula or Pat because I had more rain gear, but we were all dripping and glad to get to the car by 6:00 p.m. where we could get dry and warm. After a stop at the Rustic Skillet for dinner, we arrived in Eugene at 9:30, thankful that we were not camping in the wind and rain. Paula Vehrs, Pat Diller and leader Lois Schreiner enjoyed each others company on this memorable backpack. (The three lost ones stayed another night at Minnie and hiked out Monday, arriving home at 4:00 p.m.)

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