Maxwell Butte

We were once again heading to Central Oregon this past weekend and wanted to get a hike in on our way there. After checking the weather forecast we chose Maxwell Butte hoping to get a close up look at Three Fingered Jack as well as views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. I had checked the forecast Friday morning and it called for mostly sunny skies which sounded promising, but I made the mistake of not rechecking one final time before leaving home Saturday morning.

We had already driven through a good deal of rain and were hoping that we might get above the clouds by the time we reached the Maxwell Butte Sno-park near milepost 79 on Highway 20. We were staring up at a very grey sky when we did finally arrive at the park which left us with holding out hope that the 6229′ summit might be enough higher to break above the clouds.
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We had parked close to the entrance of the sno-park near the restrooms and walked east across the paved parking lot to a gravel road which led to the official Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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Low clouds and light rain persisted as we followed the trail into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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After traveling just under 3 miles we arrived at a trail junction near Twin Lakes.
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Before turning right onto the continuation of the Maxwell Butte Trail we took a look at Twin Lakes. The map on our GPS unit showed a single body of water instead of a pair of lakes as the name would suggest so we were interested to see what we would find. The first thing we came to was a dried up area which looked as though it was often connected to a larger area of water we saw did still contain some water.
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There was a second smaller body of water nearby which looked as though it might be its own lake most of the time. We decided this must be the reason for the Twin Lakes moniker.
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We were still holding out hope that we would either climb above the clouds or they would start to break up as we began to follow the trail up Maxwell Butte. Colorful rocks told of the volcanic history of this butte and we passed numerous meadows along its slopes.
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We were on the lookout for deer in the meadows as we were seeing many tracks along the trail but we never spotted any. We did startle a pair of grouse who in turn startled us as the flew off down the hillside. We arrived at the summit to find only the site of the former lookout firmly in the clouds. This hike was going to be put on the redo list, but in the meantime we took a nice peaceful break at the summit.
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It turned out to be a nice hike despite not getting the views we had hoped for. The forest was peaceful and full of fall colors.
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The highlight of the hike wound up being a varied thrush that actually stayed put in the open long enough for me to get a few decent pictures.
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We see them fairly often on our hikes but they are shy birds who usually retreat deeper into the forest or underbrush as we approach. On top of that they are darkly colored making it that much harder to get a clear picture when they tend to stick to darker forest settings.

After returning to the car we continued over Santiam Pass and down into Central Oregon where we finally found our mostly sunny skies and mountain views. Maybe next time we’ll get them from the trail. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658753707059

Sisters Mirror Lake

Thursday had been the wettest day of our vacation week but the clouds began clearing overnight and Friday promised to be mostly sunny. We wanted to get some views of the fresh snow on the Cascades so we headed up the Cascade Lakes Highway past Mt. Bachelor and Devils Lake to the Sisters Mirror Lake Trailhead. We stopped for quick pictures of the mountains along the way.
Three Sisters and Broken Top
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Broken Top
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Mt. Bachelor
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It was damp and a little chilly as we set off on the Mirror Lakes Trail and entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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At the .4 mile mark we came to a signed trail. Our plan was to do a clockwise loop hike and return to this junction form the north.
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Beyond the junction the trail passed ponds, lava flows, and Junco Lake before arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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Junco Lake
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We turned left on the PCT then right toward Sisters Mirror Lake after .2 miles.
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We followed trails around the lake to the SW side where the snowy white peak of South Sister was visible.
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After enjoying the view at Sisters Mirror Lake we began to wander off trail visiting the numerous other lakes and ponds in the area and getting better views of South Sister.
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We eventually made our way to Denude Lake where we picked up a clear trail again.
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We followed the path to the next lake which was Bounty Lake.
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After Bounty Lake we came to Lancelot Lake.
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We spent some time at Lancelot Lake. First we explored the area just west of the lake where some ducks were enjoying a cold swim in a small lake/pond.
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Then we wandered out to the rock wall that damned the lake and took a relaxing break in the sun.
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After our break we continued around the lake marveling at the clear yet colorful water of Lancelot Lake.
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We then made our way back to Sisters Mirror Lake and back to the PCT where we turned left for .4 miles passing the trail junction we had arrived at earlier and then leaving the PCT at a sign for Moraine Lake.
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We had expected to have some nice views of the South Sister on this portion of the hike. It looked like we would be passing along the edge of the Wickiup Plain, a pumice flat that we had passed by on our South Sister Loop the year before. As we hiked it became increasingly apparent that the trail would be staying in the forest and not reaching the pumice plain offering only brief glimpses of the tops of the South Sister and Broken Top.
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We could tell we were close to the plain so we made the decision to head cross country through the trees in order to reach the better views of the Wickiup Plain.
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We wound up finding a path which led across the plain so we followed it toward Kaleetan Butte.
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Mt. Bachelor Joined the view along the way.
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We wound up arriving at a familiar trail junction on the far end of the plain. It was the trail we had taken from Moraine Lake during our South Sister Loop. We also noticed a small sign at this end of the path we were following stating it was closed. Had we known we wouldn’t have followed it, but there were no signs at the other end. We turned right at the junction following an old road bed that predated the wilderness designation.
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After a half mile we arrived at the trail junction where we would have come out if we had stayed on the trail instead of heading for the plain.
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We headed toward Devils Lake descending around Kaleetan Butte for a mile where we arrived at another junction.
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We followed the pointer for Elk Lake which would lead us back to the Mirror Lakes Trail in 1.6 miles passing Blacktail Spring and Sink Creek along the way.
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It was really nice to see the mountains with some fresh snow on them after the dry Summer we’d had. The weather that had forced us to change our vacation plans had provided some great scenery for our final hike. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658876331925

Paulina Creek – Ogden Group Camp to Tenmile Sno-Park

Sometimes it’s the hikes that we don’t expect a lot from that really surprise us. According to the forecast the Thursday of our vacation week was going to be the wettest day of the bunch. We chose Paulina Creek as our destination since mountain views were likely out of the question and rivers or creeks are good rainy day hikes. We began our hike at the Ogden Group Camp just 2.8 miles from Highway 97 on Road 21 to the Newberry Caldera.
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The Peter Skeen Ogden Trail covers over nine miles along Paulina Creek from the group camp to the Paulina Lake Lodge at Paulina Lake, the creeks source. Our plan was to hike approximately 6 miles up the trail to a waterfall near the Tenmile Sno-Park. According to the guide book we would see McKay falls near the 2.5 mile mark and the other fall near our turnaround spot. Other than that we didn’t have a lot of information on what to expect from this hike.

It was raining when we arrived at the trailhead so we threw on our rain gear before setting off across a footbridge over Paulina Creek.
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We spent much of the hike to McKay Falls off of the official trail as it often veered away from the creek. The creek put on a nice show along the way including several small waterfalls.
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There was plenty of wildlife as we spotted several deer including a small buck that was lying dead near a second footbridge where the trail recrossed the creek. A little beyond the second bridge we spotted a good sized buck grazing by the creek.
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When we reached McKay Falls we were already impressed with the number of smaller waterfalls we’d seen along the way.
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Beyond McKay Falls the trial entered an area that appeared to have been burnt by fire at some point leaving young trees and manzanita.
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The trail was quite a way above the creek in this section but the lack of large trees made it easy to see.
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The trail then reentered forest that had not been affected and new trees were added to the mix including various firs. IMG_0601//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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The waterfall action picked up again and we spent more time off-trail searching for views.
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We began to wonder if we would know which fall was marked in our guidebook as our turnaround point. Our solution was to watch the elevation on our GPS unit since the book showed the waterfall at 5400′. This turned out to be a good plan because we came to a nice waterfall that would have been worthy of being marked in the book around the 5100′ elevation.
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Just upstream from that fall was another nice pair of falls.
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We still hadn’t reached the 5400′ elevation according to the GPS so we continued up the trail even further where we came to the largest fall of the day.
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We could see an additional fall upstream through the trees and kept going. This one turned out to be Island Falls, the only other fall with an official name.
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There was a footbridge just beyond Island Falls leading to Tenmile Sno-Park. We walked out onto the footbridge as our official turnaround point but couldn’t help wondering how many more falls lay between us and Paulina Creek Falls a little over 3 miles away.
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On the return trip we stuck to the official trail until we reached the footbridge near the dead deer. Instead of crossing the creek we stayed on the north side following a clear path back to the group camp.
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Despite being the wettest day of the week it had been the perfect day for hunting waterfalls along the creek. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658448480299

Fall River and LaPine State Park

The day after finally getting to see the Green Lakes clouds had moved into the mountains bringing snow to the higher elevations and rain lower. A pair of hikes near LaPine, OR offered us a chance to stay below the clouds while visiting the Fall and Deschutes Rivers.

Our first hike of the day began at the Fall Creek Campground located off the Cascade Lakes Highway near milepost 15.
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Fall River is fed by springs located less than a mile from the campground which causes the water to be crystal clear.
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We started our hike by crossing the river on a footbridge and heading east .4 miles downstream to a dirt road.
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Along the way we began noticing many trees that had been gnawed by beavers, some rather recently.
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We began watching intently hoping to see one of them. After reaching the road and returning to where we had crossed the footbridge we stayed on the south side of the river and continued west toward the springs. We didn’t see any beavers but we saw plenty of other wildlife along the way to the springs.

Fish in Fall River
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Mergansers
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More ducks
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Small birds
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Kingfisher
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Great Blue Heron
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At the springs we spotted several deer.
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The clear water near the springs was brightened by green plants in the water.
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There is a parking area near the springs as well as the rentable Fall River Guard Station.
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We returned to the campground on the north side of the river resulting in a nice little loop back to the bridge. We continued to see wildlife along the way.

Duck
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Golden-mantled squirrel
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Robin
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Merganser
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Deer
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The trail on the north side of the river continues east past the campground for a total of 2.4 miles before reaching private land. We decided to check out that section as well. More wildlife and peaceful river views awaited on this section of the trail. There was also plenty of evidence of beavers but they never showed themselves.

Golden-mantled squirrel
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Crossbill
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Ducks
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Aster
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Small bird
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Chipmunk
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After reaching the private land and returning to the car we drove 5 miles back toward Highway 97 on the Cascade Lakes Highway and turned south on a gravel road where we had seen a pointer for LaPine State Park. Just over a mile on the gravel road brought us to a pair of parking areas on either side of Fall River. We parked on the south side of the river and set off on a 5.3 mile loop through LaPine State Park.
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We decided to do the loop counter-clockwise and headed right away from Fall River. The forest was fairly dry and mostly lodgepole pine here which can be a little less than exciting.
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After crossing a couple of dirt roads we ignored a trail at the 1 mile mark that split off to the left sticking to the Fall River Trail using the many trail signs along the way.
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At a well signed junction within sight of a fee booth we turned left heading for the McGregor Viewpoint.
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The viewpoint offered our first look at the Deschutes River as it wound through the park.
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Continuing on the loop we veered left at the next trail fork then ignored another left staying straight until we reached a dirt road junction. We went straight toward the river on a dirt road heading for an old house ruin that was shown in our guide book. As it turned out the house had been completely torn down.
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We followed the road a little further then turned right on a trail with nice river and wildlife views and passing two other old ruins.
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Ducks
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Nuthatch
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Northern Flicker
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Heron
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The first ruin was along the Deschutes River.
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The second was was along Fall River.
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The trail followed a short section of dirt road after the second ruin. We turned right on a nice path sticking close to Fall river only to find that we had turned too soon and the path we were on followed a ridge down to the river where it abruptly ended. We backtracked to the road, turned right and quickly found the signed trail we should have taken. We followed the trail for a little less than a mile then forked right heading for Fall River Falls.
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From the falls it was less than a half mile along the river back to our waiting car.

These were great hikes for a less than perfect weather day and both of them offered multiple distance options. The nearly level terrain and abundant wildlife also make them good hikes for kids. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658868264591

Green Lakes (Finally!)

If you are familiar with our hiking past you may recall that on 5 previous occasions we had planned to and failed to see the Green Lakes in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Over 20 years since our foolish first attempt we finally made it to the lakes when we could see them. Ironically our visit was prompted by some of the very reasons we had been forced to abandon previous quests to see the lakes. Snow, fires, and the threat of thunderstorms had forced us to cancel our backpacking plans and led us to Central Oregon for a series of vacation day hikes. On Tuesday we headed for the Green Lakes Trailhead, once again attempting to reach the lakes.

The forecast called for overcast skies but there was no threat of thunderstorms and the snow wasn’t scheduled to arrive until later that night. We arrived at the trailhead as the sun was rising. The mountain peaks were fully visible under a high ceiling of clouds.
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We set off on the familiar first 2 miles of the trail along Fall Creek passing its series of waterfalls.
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After passing the trail junction to Moraine Lake we were on unfamiliar trail. We had hiked this section before but it was by headlamp on the way out of the wilderness after mistakenly thinking a fire and started nearby while we were camped at a tarn below Broken Top. We had packed up at dusk and hiked out in the dark missing the lakes and the scenery along the trail. Fall Creek was much calmer along this portion of trail flowing between the trail and a lava flow.
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After hiking another 2 miles the trail entered the southern end of the Green Lakes Basin.
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Several trails shot off in different directions and we veered left toward the day use peninsula of the middle and largest of the three Green Lakes.
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The views from the day use area were great and we watched some ducks enjoying a morning swim on the lake.
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We resumed our hike passing along the east side of the lake heading toward the third and final lake. This lake truly lived up to the Green Lakes name.
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The Green Lakes Trail continues past the lakes climbing .7 miles to a pass between Broken Top and the South Sister before continuing down to Park Meadow. We headed for the pass to check out the views we’d missed on our night hike. We discovered an interesting landscape including some rocks showing the signs of long gone glacier.
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At the pass the views extended down into Central Oregon and north to Mt. Hood.
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After doing a little exploring (and picking up another balloon) we headed back down to the Green Lakes.
The balloon in the trees.
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We were interested in checking out what appeared to be springs feeding into the third Green Lake and followed a path around the north shore only to discover a small “Area closed for restoration” sign less than 10′ from the springs. We couldn’t figure out why the forest service didn’t put a sign where the path split off from the main trail instead of clear back by the spring, but we obeyed the sign and turned around after taking a picture of what we could see.
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It was a little over a mile from the third lake to the first lake which we had skipped earlier when we headed directly to the day use peninsula on the middle lake. We explored the area around the first lake before picking up the Broken Top Trail which came from the east to join the Green Lakes Trail just south of the first lake.
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The Broken Top Trail makes it possible to turn the hike into a loop and we took advantage of this and headed east on the trail.
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The trail had some nice views of Broken Top and also offered glimpses of Mt. Bachelor, Sparks Lake, Cowhorn Mountain, and Diamond Peak.
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After traveling a little over 3 miles on the Broken Top Trail we arrived at a familiar junction.
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The trail from Todd Lake which we had used on our visit to Broken Tops No Name Lake joined on the right and we turned down it for .9 miles to another junction where we turned right again on the Soda Creek Trail.
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We got a bit sidetracked on our way down this trail. We began searching for waterfalls along Crater Creek when we spotted what looked like prime waterfall terrain. After a little off trail exploration we discovered a pair of pretty little falls.
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The falls were a little low on water but looked like they would be really nice with a higher volume of water. Later I discovered there were a couple of other falls in the area along Crater Creek while doing a little research on waterfallsnorthwest.com.

After regaining the trail in a meadow where we startled a pair of deer we began to switchback down toward Soda Creek. Corner Falls was the only fall marked on the map in our guidebook which was located at the corner of the final switchback. It wasn’t quite as impressive as the falls on Crater Creek and we were unable to get a clear view due to another “Area closed” sign at the path leading away from the switchback.
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The trail then gradually descended another 1.3 miles to a crossing of Crater Creek where we found another nice little waterfall.
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The forest turned to drier lodgepole pine and passed through some old lava flows in the final 1.5 miles before popping us out at the Green Lakes Trailhead parking area.
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We had felt a few drops of rain over the final half mile or so of the hike, and as we were changing at the car we began to notice a few small snowflakes mixed in the rain.
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Later when we looked at the GPS information it showed a distance of 19.1 miles for the day. We hadn’t meant to go that far but there is something about the Three Sisters Wilderness that makes it really easy to wander. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658424002889

Belknap Crater

We had originally planned on backpacking around Mt. Hood on the Timberline Trail on our recent vacation but the weather had a different idea. The forecast called for rain and snow showers for most of the week so we started searching for a Plan B. Between active fires and less than encouraging weather forecasts we decided that a backpacking trip wasn’t in the cards. My parents provided a solution though and we were able to pay them a visit in Central Oregon and do some day hikes from there. We stopped on our way over to Bend to take our first hike visiting Little Belknap and Belknap Crater in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

The hike started off at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing of the McKenzie Pass Highway.
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We followed the PCT through a forest on a small hill surrounded by a lava flow produced by Little Belknap.
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Black Crater rose above the lava flow to the NE.
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The trail left the forested hill and briefly entered the lava flow before reaching a second forested hill.
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Belknap Crater and Little Belknap were visible ahead while the North and Middle Sister loomed on the horizon behind.
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The closer we got to Little Belknap the more detail we could make out of the colors and textures of this geologic feature.
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The lava flow offered many interesting features and it was interesting to see the few plants that had managed to find a foothold in the rocky landscape.
Lichen on the lava
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Turtle
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Little tree
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Ewok waving
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Rock hill
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Just under 2.5 miles from the highway we reached the Little Belknap Trail with a view of Mt. Washington and distant Mt. Jefferson.
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The Little Belknap Trail climbed to the summit of Little Belknap.
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Along the way the trail passes three caves.

Lower cave
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Middle & Upper caves
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Middle cave
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Upper cave (beware it drops about 40′ right near the opening.
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The final pitch to the summit is on a dark red cinder path.
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The 360 degree view includes several Cascade Mountains as well as some lower peaks.
Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson
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Belknap Crater
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North and Middle Sister
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Broken Top
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Diamond Peak
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Black Butte & Black Crater
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The Husband
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Scott Mountain
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After visiting Little Belknap we continued on the PCT until it left the lava flow. Shortly thereafter the trail split at an unsigned junction.
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The PCT continued straight but we forked left on the unofficial trail toward Belknap Crater. The trail climbed gradually through a sparse forest to the base of the crater. The views here were great. The blue sky was dotted with white clouds high above the summit.
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We were surprised by the various colors and different features on Belknap Crater now that we had gotten close.
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The trail skirted up around the north side of the crater before launching more steeply up toward the summit.
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The views were excellent from the long summit ridge, especially of Mt. Washington.
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There was a large crater on the SE side of the summit which consisted of various colored rocks.
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After checking out the summit and crater we began descending down the west side of Belknap Crater toward a smaller crater on the NW flank.
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This crater wasn’t as colorful as it was made up of darker lava rocks. At the bottom we could see lots of tracks in the sand.
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There was an interesting line going up along the east side of Belknap Crater. We couldn’t tell if it was a game trail or just some odd feature but it didn’t appear to be a trail used by people.
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We took a final break on a downed tree near the PCT junction with a great view of Belknap Crater.
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The sky was becoming increasingly cloudy as we headed back to the car. It was a sign of things to come. On this day though the weather had been nearly perfect, and we were looking forward to the rest of the weeks hikes.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658844385675

Panther Creek Falls and Indian Heaven Wilderness

What a difference a week makes. On our previous hike to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area we spent our time in a chilly damp fog and then dealt with the occasional rain shower. Our most recent hike to the Indian Heaven Wilderness was the exact opposite with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s. This was a hike that had been pushed back a couple of weeks first due to smoke and next the weather conditions of the previous week.

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in Washington State southeast of Mt. Adams. http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/wildView?WID=258 This was our first visit to this particular wilderness and we had chosen the Thomas Lake Trailhead as our starting point. The trailhead is located along Road 65 (Panther Creek Road) approximately 21 miles from the city of Carson, Washington. We planned on taking the Thomas Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs north-south through the entire wilderness) and then following the PCT north to Junction Lake where we could do a 4 mile loop past several lakes before returning to the car. We also had the option of going off-trail and hiking up Gifford Peak before reaching the PCT.

Before we got to any of that though we stopped along Road 65 at the Panther Creek Trailhead to take the short path down to see the falls.
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After checking out the falls we continued on to the Thomas Lake Trailhead.
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The parking area was nearly full at 7:30am which told us we’d be seeing plenty of other people on this hike as we set off on the trail.
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There were occasional views of Mt. St. Helens as we followed the trail up through the huckleberry filled forest toward Thomas Lake.
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We reached the first set of lakes after a half mile.
Thomas Lake
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Dee Lake
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Heather Lake
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Just past the first three lakes was a trail junction with a short path to Eunice Lake.
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After visiting Eunice Lake we returned to the Thomas Lake Trail which climbed steeply up above those lakes before leveling out through meadows ablaze with red huckleberry leaves.
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More lakes and ponds awaited along this stretch of trail.
Brader Lake
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Naha Lake
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About two miles from the trailhead the trail took a sharp right at a trail sign.
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There were a few more trees along this section of trail but also still plenty of berry bushes and lakes/ponds.
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After about a mile when the trail crossed a small creek we needed to decide if we were going to try the 0.8 mile climb of Gifford Peak. We were below a rocky outcropping but it appeared that we could sidehill up steeply to a saddle where we hopped to pick up the ridge and follow it to the top.
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With the help of the topographic map loaded on the GPS unit we gained the ridge and found a path that was fairly easy to follow.
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The first section up to the saddle proved to be the steepest and the rest of the climb was more gradual. Openings near the summit offered views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Hood
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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Rainier
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It wasn’t exactly the clearest of skies as there seemed to be a haze in every direction. Whether it was smoke from fires or just due to the heat/humidity in the area we weren’t sure but it was still a nice view. We reached the summit to find a small summit register and a view of Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks.
Mt. Adams
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Goat Rocks
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After making our way back down to the trail we continued on passing Lake Sahalie Tyee before reaching the impressive Blue Lake below Gifford Peak.
Lake Sahalie Tyee
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Blue Lake
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We arrived at the PCT at the far end of Blue Lake.
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We turned left and headed north toward Junction Lake which was 2 miles away. At Junction Lake we took the Lemi Lake Trail to start our loop.
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Some of the best fall colors were in the meadows between Junction Lake and Lemi Lake.
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As we reached Lemi Lake we were discussing the differences in the lakes on this hike verses in the Olallie Lake area and one of the things we’d noticed was that we hadn’t seen any ducks on this hike. Just as we were discussing that we noticed a lone duck floating on Lemi Lake.
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The Lemi Lake Trail ended just over 2 miles from Junction Lake at the Indian Heaven Trail.
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We turned left continuing on our loop and passing above the busy Clear Lake.
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We arrived back at the PCT after just .3 miles and took another left passing Deer Lake and more ducks.
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Not far from Deer Lake was Bear Lake where we decided to rest for a bit and have a snack. Bear Lake rivaled Blue Lake with it’s impressive colors.
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When we had completed our loop and returned to Junction Lake we decided to take a shortcut back by following an old abandoned trail to the Thomas Lake Trail near Rock Lakes.
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This abandoned trail was still easy to follow and passed through even more scenic meadows and past additional ponds.
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After 1.7 miles we arrived at Rock Lakes.
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We picked up the Thomas Lake Trail at the sign where we had taken the sharp right earlier that day. From there it was just over 2 miles back down to the trailhead.
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The total distance of the hike was 14.9 miles in the wilderness plus .3 miles at Panther Creek Falls which made for a nice full day. It was a great first visit to the wilderness and we look forward to going back to check out some of the other trails in the area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658130857169