Foley Ridge to Devils Lake
August 29-September 1, 1987
We go through our lives reassuring ourselves that nothing is perfect so the Labor Day Obsidian trip from Foley Ridge to Devils Lake must have just been a fiction-like Odyssey rather than a perfect weekend. Well, whatever it was, it was quite a way to wrap up the summer season. On Friday afternoon, August 29, our trip members made their way more or less independently from the end of Foley Ridge Road on up Foley Ridge Trail to a crest between Substitute and Proxy Points. There a camp was made and the group slowly assembled itself as evening approached. Sunset found our members on top of Substitute Point, in awe of the beautiful red sky to the west and pondering our route through the wilderness to the east. As commonly encountered in summer months, the members were treated to the deep red evening tones of the Sisters which were silent giants within ten miles of this point.
Sunrise the next day found Bob Foster dragging the leader of this trip out of bed and off to Proxy Point Summit which offered an intimidating view of the Husband, which we reckoned would be climbed later that day. The trip east toward Linton Meadows offered visits to several small ponds and lakes, all in peril of becoming non-existent, plus a walk through an unnamed pumice desert north of Linton Meadows. Husband Lake became the ideal lunch stop as the group members enjoyed sunbathing and foot soaking along its shores. This was such a glorious sunny day, it appeared doubtful that we would reach the summit of the Husband due to an extended napping and sunbathing stop along the base of our objective’s threatening southern cliffs. However, thanks to Bob Foster’s beckoning from far above, the lazy sun worshippers within our ranks managed to forge upward to join Bob at the base of a sort of summit chute. Although a couple of our members didn’t need assistance up this chute, a rope proved to be a source of reassurance on this ancient Cascade peak. The party expected fantastic views and was not let down on this sunny day as smoke from distant forest fires and field burning seemed to be staying far to the west. The second night of this journey found the group camped along the roaring Linton Creek just a few yards from its thundering beginnings. It is important to point out that even though this was the opening day of the high Cascade hunt, and that there were probably fifty camps around Linton Meadows, this remained a wilderness experience. The many horse camps were all secluded in lodgepole groves and did not seem out of place.
Day three provided along hike southward away from spectacular Linton Meadows, past James Shelter and to a large unnamed meadow on Mesa Creek. It is surprising that this meadow lacks a name as it is rather large, the Pacific Crest Trail crosses it and two meandering creeks meet there to form a north branch of Mesa Creek. The majority of the group enjoyed a prolonged lunch break here in the sun and in the intimidating presence of the Rock Mesa and South Sister. A constant grind upward followed as the hikers headed southward on the Pacific Crest Trail looking forward to level ground on the Wickiup Plain. Because the group members anticipated a dry camp on the plain, they were particularly aware of the rate at which the small stream along the trail was decreasing in size. Surprisingly though, even during this very dry summer, water was available in this stream within a thousand feed of the top of the grade. At the top of the grade was a crest with a great view of the Wickiup Plain to the south and the steep shoulders of the Rock Mesa to the east. Traveling another mile, gently upward to a point in the middle of the plain, the group set up camp at the tree line. This spot offered views south and north of the entire Wickiup Plain and to the east, Rock Mesa and Le Conte Crater. It was late afternoon now but the group just couldn’t sit still as the view offered so many options for side trips. While three of the members climbed to the top of Le Conte Crater, another, Bob Foster, scouted a route up the Wife. The group on Le Conte Crater rationalized that the Rock Mesa wasn’t as rough as they had been told so two Obsidians, Ken and Steve, raced down the Crater and commenced to travel at a rather fast pace from boulder to boulder crossing the Rock Mesa. Occasionally the summit pinnacles of the Rock Mesa could be seen but never seemed to get closer. However, just as it became dark, these two hikers found themselves exactly in the middle of the Mesa, climbing one pinnacle after another, trying to find the tallest one. Once the tallest was found, it was decided that the path of least resistance back to camp would be to continue due north and then circle the Mesa to the west. This plan was followed but proved to make a very long trip in the dark. In places, the walk provided some awesome feelings of inferiority to mother earth as the route took these hikers through some deep narrow canyons between the South Sister and the north walls of the Rock Mesa. By the time these two long lost hikers reached the Wickiup Plain the moon was out and full and seemed to provide as much light as the sun in this treeless environment. These hikers arrived at camp in time to have dinner at midnight. It was difficult to sleep that night as the absolutely fantastic view of the Plains, Mesa and South Sister by moonlight lured attention away from sleep.
The fourth and final day included a climb to the summit of the Wife and the House Rock as well. The group then broke camp and hiked to Devils Lake where they were picked up by a prearranged ride back to the cars at the Foley Ridge Trailhead. Thirty miles of hiking, and visits to seven summits over four days made for an ideal Labor Day weekend for this group. Although this has been a long trip report, many things have been left out. Perhaps some items of interest about this trip will provide campfire discussions on future trips, such as why Bob Foster should be considered the honorary fire warden for the Obsidians and where those unexpected gifts from the gods found along the trail really came from. This group of energetic and adventurous hikers included: Barb Elsen, Christine Ligneau-Kolstoe, Steve Wolfe, Bob Foster and Ken Ball (leader).