Lava Lake Camp Junction 1982.6 to Big Lake Youth Camp 1995.1
I love waking up early. The lava is otherworldly in the dark. Shadows from my headlamp play on the rocks. It all seems so magical and wondrous and I just want to savor it.The first light appears slowly. The birds that chirp at this hour have strange songs. Time passes slowly but also feels limitless and spacious.
I’d been expecting difficult footing, but the trail through the lava is gentle and I love skipping through the rocks. Compared to the lava rocks I used to hike through during my winter season working at El Morro National Monument, when I’d explore nearby El Malpais National Monument, this is a cakewalk. But I wonder what I’d think if I’d done this back in 2014 when I started hiking the PCT.
Dee Wright Observatory is the perfect place to watch sunrise. Built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it features little windows that identify peaks like Jefferson, Washington, and the Three Sisters. On top, there is a metal peak finder to identify all the surrounding geological features.
My parents took me here by car many times on family vacations. I remember reading all the signs and trying to memorize the shapes of the mountains so I would be able to identify them later. My parents always knew all the names of the mountains wherever we went. So I understood this to be an important thing to be able to do.
Though out here on the PCT, there have been a few times where I see a new mountain peak when I get up to a pass and ask another hiker coming from the other direction what it is. And they say they have no idea, they just hike and don't bother with the names. And I just shake my head and pull out my maps. There are so many different ways to enjoy this trail. But I need to know the names of the peaks or else I feel completely disoriented.
I meet more SOBO hikers that all warm me about there are more lava rocks ahead. "That's what I’m hear for!" I want to say. Because I love the lava. But I end up just nodding and smiling.
I take the side trail to Big Lake Youth Camp and arrive in late morning. They don't serve lunch until 1 so I have a few hours to take a shower and relax. I see some of the other nobo hikers I haven’t seen for days so it's great to catch up. They are really nice at the camp and I decide to hang around for the night.