Three Sisters Wilderness Day 2 – Linton Creek Exploration

The second day of our four day backpacking trip was set to be an adventure. Our plan was to spend the day “off-trail” exploring Linton Creek which is home to several rarely visited waterfalls. We had camped at Eileen Lake on the NE side of The Husband and originally planned on hiking down the official trail to Linton Creek where we had eaten our dinner the night before, but during our evening exploration of the area behind our campsite we realized we should be able to follow a dry creek bed we’d seen and reach Linton Creek by a more direct route. It would also allow us to avoid another trip through all the frogs along Eileen Lake.

I woke up a little before 5 and went down to the lake for a bit to look at the mountains.
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Heather woke up and I was busy getting ready for our breakfast and the days hike when I looked up and noticed there were deer about 50 feet from our tent. Heather was still inside putting her hair into braids and hadn’t noticed them yet.
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I got her attention and we watched as they nibbled on some plants then entered the little meadow by our site and had their own breakfast.
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They looked up at us occasionally but didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with our presence then left the same way they’d come slowly disappearing into the forest.
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After our breakfast we threw on our daypacks and got ready for our adventure. We had our compass and three different maps including the map loaded on the Garmin and I had studied the area using Google Earth. That research along with information from a few trip reports and the Northwest Waterfall Survey had us feeling pretty confident that we would at least be able to reach Duncan Falls and possibly Upper Linton Falls if time allowed. I also established a turn around time in order to make sure we had enough time to climb back up from wherever we ended up.

We followed a use path from our campsite through the little meadow along the dry creek into a larger meadow. The use path ended at the larger meadow so we hopped into the dry creek bed planning on following it as far as possible.
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We had to leave the creek bed in the meadow for a bit when we started running into small pools of water. We got back in shortly after leaving the meadow but that also didn’t last long because the creek bed was getting deeper and we spotted downed trees blocking it further downhill. We didn’t want to get stuck in the bed and be forced to backtrack so we got out and started bushwacking through the forest.
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We gradually made our way downhill toward the meadows surrounding Linton Creek. There was some blowdown in the forest but it wasn’t ever too bad and the vegetation was sparse enough not to cause any problems. We used the Garmin and our maps to keep us heading in the direction we wanted. We were aiming for the northwestern end of the meadows where Linton Creek enters the forest near a series of whitewater. We managed to reach the meadows fairly close to that area and made our way to the glassy creek.
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There were a few flowers still blooming including some very tall monkshood.
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The South Sister loomed behind us over the creek and meadows.
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Shortly after Linton Creek enters the trees it takes a horseshoe bend through a rocky chasm where it puts on its first whitewater show. We were on the south side of the creek and able to side-hill along and around the ridge that the creek bent around which allowed us some good views of the now raging creek.
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After rounding the ridge we came to the first small unnamed waterfalls. A pair of short drops were visible through the trees.
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A little further was another whitewater slide.
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The creek was putting on a good show and we were trying to stick as close as possible to it given the terrain. When we couldn’t see the creek we listened intently for any indication of another fall. The creek then began a second horseshoe bend turning back toward the NW. Somewhere in the middle of the bend was where we would find Duncan Falls. It was one the two main targets for our hike and we heard it well before reaching it. We arrived at the top of the falls and could tell we were not going to be disappointed.
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The ridge stayed and made a wide swing around the falls. We were finally able to get a good view though.
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It was a spectacular waterfall. After standing in awe of this hidden gem we worked our way down a steep hillside to the creek a little ways below Duncan Falls. We could just see the bottom of the falls through some trees and briefly considered hiking up the creek to reach the base but decided against that in the end. We still had a lot of bushwacking ahead of us and the thought of wet shoes and socks was not appealing plus I was fairly certain that I’d fall in and ruin the camera.
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Below Duncan Falls the creek settled down some as the terrain became a little more level.
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At one point we found what looked like it could possibly be a beaver pond.
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We then came upon another pair of small waterfalls.
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In the other trip reports that I had seen the hikers had been on the north side of the creek from Linton Lake until somewhere below Duncan Falls. We had originally planned on staying on the south side of the creek the entire time, partly to be different, and partly because the top tiers of Upper Linton Falls were said to not be visible from the north side of the creek. That changed when we could see that we had arrived at point directly across from the start of a large meadow on the other side of the creek. It looked so much easier than picking our way over and around logs and brush and there was a perfect log to cross the creek on near us. We gave in and walked across the log and entered the meadow. I had read about the meadow and the reports called it marshy but I was hopping the dry year we were having would lessen that, but there was still plenty of wet spongy ground and both of us had soaked shoes in no time.
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We aimed for the closest stand of trees and exited the meadow. We took a short side trip to check out one of two small lakes/ponds that the maps had shown toward the back of the meadow.
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After checking out the pond we began making our way back toward the creek. Shortly after rejoining the creek we found another log we could cross on and got back to our original plan of being on the south side of the creek for Upper Linton Falls.

We knew we were getting close to our goal but before we got to Upper Linton Falls there was another nice little fall with a great viewpoint.
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The next fall we came to was the top tier of Upper Linton Falls.
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The roar from the creek was amazing as it thundered steeply down toward Linton Lake.
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We found our way down to the third tier where there was a nice viewpoint.
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The fourth tier was visible below.
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The ridge we were on began to swing away from the creek though. We could see Linton Lake far below and went in search of a decent view but there were too many trees to ever get a good clear look.
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We found one final viewpoint of Upper Linton Falls. We appeared to be somewhere between the 5th and 6th tiers.
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There was a big drop below us but no way to get a look at the lower tiers from the south side. We decided that just gave us an excuse to come back some day and hike up from Linton Lake to see Lower Linton Falls and get a look at the lower tiers from the north side. In the meantime we sat at the edge of the enormous fall recharging in the cool breeze it generated.
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We had made it to our goal just before the established turnaround time and now it was time to climb back up to Eileen Lake. This time we did stick to the south side of the creek avoiding the marshy trap of the meadow. By doing so we located a couple more small falls we’d missed on the way down.
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We also managed to find a balloon which happens more often than you’d think (and we’d like) in the forest. We retrieved the garbage and packed it out with us.
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We arrived back at Duncan Falls to find it was just as impressive the second time around.
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After Duncan Falls we left the creek and took a more direct route toward Linton Meadows which avoided the steep ridge above the whitewater of the first horseshoe bend. White fluffy clouds hung over the mountains when we finally reentered the meadows.
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We were paying more attention to the views than to where we were going and wound up passing the spot where we had entered the meadows in the morning. We turned up a different creek bed instead. It looked similar enough that we both thought we remembered certain details as we passed them but as the drainage got steeper and we started noticing more blowdown than we’d remembered we knew we had made a wrong turn. Using the GPS and our maps we could see that we were just on the other side of the ridge we’d come down but we had found a different little meadow here and it’s creek had a little more water which was home to some larger frogs and fish.
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We were able to make our way over the ridge at the far end of the meadow and picked up our earlier path just about where we had entered the dry creek bed near the start of our hike.

According to the Garmin we had covered 9.3 miles. We both had a few scrapes and bruises as well as some mosquito bites and Heather had been stung in the shin by a yellow jacket but it had all been worth it. We spent the evening at Eileen Lake watching clouds float by and then disappear over the Three Sisters.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157656375371832

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7 thoughts on “Three Sisters Wilderness Day 2 – Linton Creek Exploration”

  1. I enjoyed this post, as it covered some ground I haven’t seen for more than fifty years. In 1959, my parents, my brothers, and one or two others hiked from Eileen Lake (or perhaps the portion of Linton Meadows below the lake) to Proxy Falls, following a long-abandoned trail that we had heard rumor of, probably built by the CCC in the 1930s. I was six at the time, which I remember distinctly because I was stung twice by yellow-jacket wasps as we approached Proxy Falls. I had a fairly severe allergic reaction and have carried a bee sting kit ever since.

    Although we didn’t have the close-up view of the falls in Linton Creek, there were several points where the views were fairly spectacular. I’ll try to find time to look through my father’s photos to see if I can find any from this hike.

    It’s great to see that people are still exploring the wilder parts of our wilderness areas.

    1. Hi Fred, I am really curious about your experiences in that area. If you ever see this message, please email me. I would love to see any pictures or hear any tales you have from the area.

      Thanks, Tony

    2. Hi Fred, I am really curious about your experiences in that area.I would love to see any pictures or hear any tales you have from the area. If you ever see this message, please email me.

      Thanks, Tony

      1. Hi Tony,
        I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I haven’t had time yet to delve into my father’s photo archive, but I expect that there were at least some from that trip. I distinctly remember a lot of switchbacks, clambering over and under blow-downs, and a few vistas.

        I was chatting about this recently with one of my older brothers, who is visiting Oregon this month (he and his wife live overseas and don’t get here all that often). He also remembers this trip, and a few others exploring the vicinity of lower Linton Meadows. He’ll be back in town this weekend. We’ll chat and I’ll take some notes, then get back to you if I learn anything useful.

        If you want to move this to direct e-mail, you can find me at fredtep at gmail.

        Fred

  2. This is awesome. My trip report was the one on Portland Hikers that you referenced. I loved your post and it brought back a lot of good memories. I’ve been back in that general area 4 or 5 times since and there is a lot of cool stuff up there. After reading this, I now know I have to go back up there to camp again and keep exploring.

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