It had been several months since we’d taken a hike along the Oregon Coast so for a change of pace we headed to Pacific City to check out Cape Kiwanda and Bob Straub State Park. We parked at the lot for Cape Kiwanda near the Dory Boat Launch and started our hike by heading over to the cape. Haystack Rock rose from the ocean just beyond the cape while seagulls patrolled the beach.
After a little exploration on Cape Kiwanda we retraced our steps and headed out to the tide pools next to the cape. The tide was out far enough to reveal several starfish and anemones.
We then headed south along the beach toward the Nestucca Spit and Bob Straub State Park. Vehicles are allowed on certain parts of this beach but only a couple came down and none stayed long. Several flocks of seagulls were gathered along the beach as well as a handful of other ocean birds.
When we reached the end of the spit we turned along Nestucca Bay to make a loop around the spit through Bob Straub State Park. More birds awaited us in the bay including some ducks and a heron.
We also saw many clam shells and a couple of nearly complete crabs. We enjoyed watching the seagulls pick up the clams, fly them into the air, and then drop them.
We originally missed the trail that would take us from the bay shore across the spit to a forested trail network. When we reached an impassable estuary we turned around and located the correct path. We found a surprisingly dense and scenic forest waiting for us in the middle of the spit. Moss covered the ground and many trees while bright colored mushrooms dotted the green carpet. A few flowers remained in bloom even as many of the leaves showed their fall colors.
There was a confusion of trails in the forest and absolutely no signs indicating where any of them went or which was the correct one to reach the park. We eventually found ourselves in a meadow along the Nestucca River. The trail we were on went down to a nice little beach along the river where it promptly ended. We turned back around and took a different path only to wind up arriving at the same meadow from a different direction. At that point we had already been on a couple of overgrown paths and I was getting a little irritated at the lack of signs. It was time for drastic measures so we turned to the gps and struck off on a faint game trail in the direction of the park. This worked out fairly well as we wound up popping out of a thicket of scotch broom on an old road less than 50 yards from the parks entrance road.
We walked to the parks parking lot and then followed a short trail back to the beach and headed back toward Cape Kiwanda. One the way back we encountered the largest flock of seagulls we’d seen all day. They took to the air as we passed by making for a scene straight out of the movie The Birds. As I was busy taking pictures I realized I was a sitting duck and should probably move before I was hit by a seagull bomb.
Despite the constant presence of gray clouds we had only had a couple of short bouts of rain until now. We escaped the seagulls only to be met with a sudden uptick in wind followed by a heavy sideways blowing rain. The rain let up just before we reached the Dory Boat Launch and our car where we dried off a bit and then walked across the parking lot to the Pelican Pub & Brewery for some lunch. http://www.yourlittlebeachtown.com/pelican
The food was great and the view out to Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock made for a perfect end to an interesting beach hike.
After a (well timed) scheduled week off we were back on the trails this past weekend. A highly unusual storm had rolled through as September gave way to October. Not only had this storm brought record amounts of precipitation but some of that precipitation fell as snow as low as 4000′. The hike we had planned, Fuji Mountain, topped out at 7144′ so we weren’t sure if it was going to be doable but some warmer weather moved in and we decided to give it a go. If we managed to make it up to the summit we knew the views should be great, and worst case scenario we could just choose a different lower trail in the area.
Fuji Mountain is located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Highway 58. A pair of trail heads lead to the summit. From the SW a 1.5 mile option starts on road 5883 making for a nice short hike. We chose to start from road 5897 (Waldo Lake road) to lengthen the hike a bit and visit some of the areas many lakes.
The trail begins just below 5000′ and started out snow free, but that didn’t last for long. We quickly began seeing snow along the trail and then on the trail itself. We followed a single set of hikers prints as we climbed up toward the first of the lakes.
They weren’t the only set of prints in the snow. 🙂
It wasn’t long before there was more snow covered trail than not but the snow wasn’t very deep, only on occasion measuring 6″. The trail climbed for about a mile then gently rolled along a plateau dotted with ponds and lakes for another 2.5 miles. Many of these were at least partly frozen making for some pretty scenery.
Shortly after crossing the South Waldo Trail the Fuji Mountain Trail began climbing again. In another mile we met up with the trail coming from road 5883 and began the final 1.2 mile climb to the summit. Here there were more hiker tracks in the snow but we only saw one other couple who were on their way down after spending the night on the summit.
As we climbed we began to have views of snowy Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen to the south, but these views paled in comparison to what awaited at the summit. When we arrived at the summit a 360 degree view awaited with Waldo Lake and a string of snowy peaks to the north and more mountains to the south. To the east lay Wickiup Reservoir and Odell Lake with distant Paulina Peak and nearby Maiden Peak in between. To the west were the foothills leading to the Willamette Valley.
It was a beautiful day at the summit, sunny and warm with no wind. We took our time eating lunch and enjoying the tranquility before heading back down. On the way out Heather and I decided to take a brief side trip along the South Waldo Trail to the Island Lakes. It was around half a mile to Lower Island Lake with it’s green water and tiny rock island. Just up and across the trail from Lower Island Lake was Upper Island Lake which also had a small rocky island.
The warm weather made the return trip pretty slushy as the snow was melting fairly quickly. When we arrived back at the half frozen pond the scene had changed quite a bit.
We all really enjoyed being able to take a hike through the snow and it made for a nice change of pace. I don’t know if the early snow is a sign of things to come or just a fluke but it was enjoyable. Happy Trails!
We headed out on the first day of Autumn for our first post Summer hike and boy did Fall arrive in full force. We headed to the Roaring River Wilderness to check out several lakes on a loop hike. There was a possible view of Mt. Hood and several Washington snow peaks, but it was obvious from the forecast that any views were unlikely. The Roaring River Wilderness is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest and one we had yet to visit. We began our hike at the Shellrock Lake trail head under cloudy skies and a light mist.
After donning our rain gear for the first time in months we decided to do a “warm up” hike to Hideaway Lake in the opposite direction of our planned hike. The trail to Hideaway Lake started on the opposite side of the road from the Shellrock Lake trail. A short .5 miles path brought us to the lake which we then circled on a 1 mile loop. After completing the loop we returned to the parking area and set off toward Shellrock Lake.
The Shellrock Lake trail quickly entered the Roaring River Wilderness and just a short while later we arrived at Shellrock Lake. Fog drifted over the water at this peaceful lake which had plenty of campsites but no campers.
We passed by the lake and began climbing at a sign for the Frazier Turnaround. This portion of the trail was fairly steep and rocky and also full of rough skinned newts. After 1.3 miles of climbing we arrived at Frazier Turnaround where we could have parked if we’d been willing to try the terrible access road.
From Frazier Turnaround the loop portion of our hike started. We followed a sign pointing to Serene and the Rock Lakes. Our first destination was Middle Rock Lake. We took the quarter mile path to the lake where we spotted numerous crawdads and a frog.
The trail continued along Middle Rock Lake and was supposed to take us to Upper Rock Lake. We ran into a little bit of an issue as we attempted to follow this portion of the trail when it appeared to veer away from the lake. We followed this faint path uphill where it was becoming increasingly overgrown until it finally disappeared at several fallen trees. Thinking the trees had blocked the path we worked our way around them and picked up what appeared to be the continuation of the faint path which quickly ended below a rock slide with no lake in sight. It was time to break out the Garmin (again) which revealed that we were too far to the right of Upper Rock Lake so we set off cross country through the wet brush. We passed a pair of scenic lily pad ponds before finally reaching Upper Rock Lake and finding a good trail leading to it’s shore.
We followed the good trail down and discovered the source of our confusion. A tree had fallen along the shore of Middle Rock Lake which had hidden the trail and obscured the view of the single pink flagging that indicated the correct path. We had turned right at the uprooted base of this tree on the only visible path to us at the time.
We had one more of the Rock Lakes to visit, Lower Rock Lake, which was on the other side of the loop trail so we returned the way we came and went down to visit this last one. There wasn’t much to see there, just a nice little forest lake so we quickly returned to the Serene Lake trail and continued our loop. The trail had dropped down to the Rock Lakes but now we were climbing up through a nice forest. After several switchbacks the trail leveled out and arrived at Serene Lake. This was the deepest lake of the day and was surrounded by rocky slopes and forest. Clouds drifted up over the hillsides surrounding the lake while we had a snack on it’s shore.
We left Serene Lake and headed for our last point of interest, Cache Meadow. The trail continued to climb as we continued on until finally leveling off on a plateau above Serene Lake. Here would have been the mountain views with Serene Lake below but the weather had not cooperated and only Serene Lake was barely visible below.
The rain began to pick up as we approached Cache Meadow. The meadow was larger than I had expected and the remains of a vast display of flowers covered the ground. Now only a few aster held some lingering petals. A small unnamed lake filled one end of the meadow but we didn’t explore much due to the increasing rain.
The next four plus miles was through the rain as we completed the loop back to Frazier Turnaround and then descended back to Shellrock Lake. The rain did let up as we left the wilderness area long enough for us to change into dry clothing before driving home. The only thing missing was a cup of hot chocolate 🙂 Happy Trails
There isn’t much like a midweek hike in September, the crowds have thinned out but the weather can still be great. When I was putting together our hiking plans at the beginning of the year one of the hikes I really wanted to do was Hunts Cove. The hike starts at the very popular Pamelia Lake Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness which is one of only two areas in the Oregon Cascades (not counting Crater Lake NP) that requires you purchase a permit in order to enter them. Due to the popularity I decided to purchase our permit for a weekday after school started to hopefully minimize the number of other people we’d run into.
Having purchased our permit over four months in advance I was gambling on the conditions. Last year we had gotten permits for the other fee area along the Obsidian Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness, only to spend the entire 18.6 mile hike in wet and view less low clouds. We lucked out this time though. The forecast had started out as cloudy with a chance of rain but by the time the big day arrived the outlook had greatly improved to clear skies and a high in the low 70s. As a bonus the snow level had dropped down to between 6500-7000′ meaning there would likely be some new snow on Mt. Jefferson. As an added bonus a friend of ours, one of Heather’s running buddies, Jessie, was able to get the day off and join us.
We set off on the Pamelia Lake trail in the soft light of morning through a peaceful forest along side Pamelia Creek. Soon we were surrounded by the sound of rushing water with Milk Creek to our left and Pamelia to our right. Milk Creek comes from glaciers up on Mt. Jefferson and evidence of a 2006 mudslide littered the forest floor. Just over 2 miles in on the trail we reached a T shaped junction at the edge of Pamelia Lake. To the right was a 3 mile trail up Grizzly Peak and to the right lay the path to our loop into Hunts Cove and then back on the Pacific Crest Trail. Before turning right though we headed down to the lake for a photo op.
There was a good deal of wildlife present on the lake. A great blue heron flew from a log in the center of the lake into the far grassy shore and a family of ducks glided silently into the reeds. Several canada geese could be seen at the far end of the lake near the lakes inlet.
We made our way around the lake to a second junction. Here we had to decide if we would do the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. We decided to stick to the lake shore and go counterclockwise first to Hunts Cove and then to the PCT. The trail crossed several streams that seemed to be flowing very well given the time of year. We assumed the recent rain/snow had helped rejuvenate them. Our favorite crossing was on a footbridge over a small scenic falls.
The trail began climbing gently as we passed the far end of Pamelia Lake. The path traveled along Hunts Creek, crossed over it, and then climbed up above it on the side of a ridge. As we climbed we began getting glimpses of Mt. Jefferson across the valley with it’s dusting of new snow.
At a sharp switchback we could hear what sounded like a waterfall a short distance away so we took a faint side trail in the direction of the sound and discovered a beautiful waterfall on Hunts Creek.
Just a short distance from the falls we found the signs marking the trail to Hunts Cove where we took the left fork travelling above a pretty meadow with a view across to the mountain. A half mile later we arrived at the first of the two lakes that call the cove home. Hanks Lake was up first. It was a lovely lake lined with meadows and a view of Mt. Jefferson.
Some of the biggest huckleberries and blueberries we’d seen were growing in large patches around the shore and we stumbled up a pair of sooty grouse in one of the thickets.
After a refreshing rest on the shore of Hanks Lake we continued on to Hunts Lake. Although Hunts Lake has no view of Mt. Jefferson it offered it’s own attractions. Heather spotted several fish in the clear water and over the lake loomed Cathedral Rock where we would eventually find the PCT.
We left Hunts Lake and returned to Hanks Lake to begin the real adventure. From Hanks Lake we could have returned to the trail junction and continued 3 miles to the PCT on the official trail or we could look for a former trail that lead from the far end of Hanks Lake up to the PCT shaving off a mile or more from the hike. We opted for the off trail adventure and set off around Hanks Lake in search of the old path. Using a Green Trails map I knew the old trail followed an inlet creek up to the PCT below Cathedral Rocks so we worked our way to an inlet creek and began working our way up along it. The map only showed one creek so despite not being able to find a convincing former trail we sallied forth through the brush.
The map indicated that the trail had eventually crossed the stream and continued on the far side so when I spotted a decent place to cross we hopped over to the other side. We found several sections of what could have once been a trail, but they could have been game trails as well and never saw any blazes or other indications of an official trail. Next we stumbled on a lovely meadow with a small pond in the center. At that point I decided to consult the Garmin. I knew we were headed in the right direction for the PCT but it wasn’t until I looked at the Garmin that I realized we had followed the wrong creek up. The Garmin clearly showed the additional stream that wasn’t on our other maps so that mystery was solved. Now it was a matter of finding the least steep climb up to the PCT. Using the GPS I headed to what looked like the most gradual ascent passing through a pair of small heather meadows.
Leaving the second little meadow we climbed one last steep section and suddenly popped out on the PCT. We were probably about a half mile further down the PCT than where I had expected to meet up with it, but that just meant a little shorter hike. After celebrating our find we turned left and headed north. After just a couple hundred yards the PCT dipped a bit and passed right along the edge of the meadow we had just left. That was good for a laugh or two :). This section of the PCT was great as it traveled between Cathedral Rocks on the right and Hunts Cove below to the left. Views extended across Hunts Cove to the far ridge and Three Fingered Jack beyond.
The PCT then reaches a plateau below Mt. Jefferson that is dotted with lakes and ponds. The first pond we arrived at was a strange red color. As I approached the water a frog swam from the shore and floated in the colored water.
Next up was Shale Lake and a wonderful view of the mountain.
Shale Lake had some great looking tent sites and next to it was nearly dry Mud Hole Lake. Across the trail lay Coyote Lake and several other small ponds.
Leaving the plateau we began descending down toward Milk Creek with views of Pamelia Lake below. Just before reaching Milk Creek we reached the turn off for the return trail to Pamelia Lake. Before heading back I went down to the Milk Creek crossing to get a picture of Mt. Jefferson.
We started smelling smoke while I was getting the picture at Milk Creek and when I turned around the sky behind us was filled with smoke. Then I notice that there was smoke drifting in front of Mt. Jefferson as well. When we got back to Pamelia Lake the scene was quite different than it had been in the morning.
Smoke had settled in the valley but we had no idea what the source was. On the way out there was just a bit of smoke in the forest but it didn’t detract from the beauty. Green moss covered much of the ground and dozens of varieties of mushrooms and fungus added character to the view.
We had a blast on this hike. For the most part we had the trails to ourselves the whole day and the weather had been perfect. Aside from the bit of smoke at the end of the day (which was apparently due to a controlled burn being done by the Forest Service near Sisters, OR) it couldn’t have been better. We’d knocked out 18.2 miles in just over 9hrs. It was really fun having Jessie join us on the hike. It was great having someone that didn’t even blink at the 5am departure time or the distance/time we were planning on doing. What a way great to spend a Thursday in September 😀 Happy Trails!
We reached into our bag of backup hikes this past weekend and grabbed what wound up being a decent little hike. We were needing something in the Portland, OR area because after the hike we were set to celebrate the upcoming birthdays of my Grandmother Zana (89) and our Son Dominique (18) at Gustav’s http://gustavs.net/. Our original plan was to hike up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood but the forecast called for thunder storms so we decided to save that one for another time and went to plan B which was a loop around Timothy Lake.
I am a bit hesitant when it comes to hiking around a lake because loops like that can sometimes lack a scenic diversity, but Timothy Lake was in the right area and had an appealing distance and elevation gain (14.2mi & <1000′). We started our hike at Little Crater Lake Campground in order to visit Little Crater Lake before starting the loop. Little Crater Lake is the result of a cold spring that has removed soft soils over time leaving a clear blue pool of water. Reflection in Little Crater Lake
A pair of ducks floated on the small lake while the surrounding meadows were draped in a low layer of fog. Shortly after leaving the lake we arrived at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail where we turned left for .3 miles to the start of the official loop.
We remained on the PCT heading south, crossing Crater Creek, and passing several small springs before reaching our first good view of Timothy Lake. A great blue heron flew by and landed in a tree a little further down the lake shore from where we stood.
For the next 2 miles the PCT stayed in the forest away from the lake shore. Numerous paths led from the trail toward the lake but we stuck to the PCT as I was on a mission to find a view of Mt. Hood.
We knew Hood was visible from the lake, but we didn’t know from which part of the trail, and we’d managed to forget both the guide book and a map. When we reached the Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River the trail split from the PCT and continued along the lake shore toward the first of several busy campgrounds. It was at the second of these campgrounds that Mt. Hood was finally visible.
The campgrounds reminded me of another reason I am leery of lake loops. Crowded, noisy, and often disappointingly dirty (Is it really that hard to throw your garbage away?) these types of campgrounds are diametrically opposed to the tranquil beauty of nature. I think it’s great that people want to go out and enjoy God’s creation, but it would be nice if more of them respected it enough to be good stewards as I believe God intended when he gave man dominion over it. End of rant and back to the trail ;).
We hurried our way through the first 3 campgrounds and then were faced with a fork in the trail. To the right a path led along the lake but the sign indicated the only allowed use was for bikes. The left fork showed open to horses, hikers, and bikes and since we had already commented on the bike tire marks on a hiker only portion earlier we went left. This fork crossed paved road 57 and continued through the forest parallel to the road until reaching the dam that created Timothy Lake.
After passing through yet another campground the trail once again became peaceful as it continued on to Meditation Point. Meditation Point is a peninsula with a small tent campground. We took the short .3 mile trial to the end of the peninsula which had a nice view despite no longer having a view of Mt. Hood.
Continuing on the loop after Meditation Point we worked our way around the lake to the NW side where the top of Mt. Jefferson was now visible.
Just a short while later we spotted a line of ducks floating on the lake. We headed down to the shore to get a closer look and as we were doing so an osprey had the same idea.
It was interesting to watch as the ducks began to huddle together while the osprey flew overhead. After a couple of passes the osprey flew off leaving the ducks in peace.
After that interesting encounter the hike was fairly uneventful. We went around one final campground before veering away from the lake for good and returning to the PCT. We stopped again to marvel at Little Crater Lake before returning to our car and completing the trip.
There are still several designated wilderness areas close enough for a day hike that we have not yet visited. Wilderness areas by definition are areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” In his book Listening for Coyote William Sullivan says of wilderness; “We need a place where we do not belong, just as children delight in sneaking into forbidden rooms and attics, for a glimpse of the unknown.” My hope is to eventually visit as many of Oregon’s 46 wilderness areas as possible and our latest hike checked one more off our list.
Our destination was the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Willamette Pass in the central Cascades. Waldo Lake is the second largest natural lake in Oregon and oddly enough is not actually inside the Waldo Lake Wilderness boundary. There are a number of hiking trails to choose from in the area but for our trip we decided on a loop up and over Waldo Mountain with stops at Waldo Lake and the Salmon Lakes. This route would give us a good sample of what this wilderness had to offer.
The trail head parking area was empty when we arrived as it would be when we left. While we were preparing to set off a State Police Truck pulled up asking if we’d seen any other vehicles and what our planned route was. It was the first day of buck season but the trooper didn’t think we’d likely see anyone out on the trails. He was close, on the trail near Waldo Lake we passed a group of three hikers and a little later a single mountain biker and that was it. He wished us a good hike then drove off and as he passed by we noticed the decoy in the bed of the truck presumably to catch illegal road hunters.
The trail quickly entered the wilderness and climbed up Waldo Mountain through a quiet forest. After 3 miles of climbing we suddenly were at the top of the mountain right at the former lookout tower.
The forest had limited views to a couple of brief glimpses of Diamond Peak which made the view at the lookout even more satisfying. Mountains and lakes lined the horizon from the NE to the SE starting with Mt. Hood and ending with the summit spire of Mt. Thielsen. Waldo Lake stretched below us to the east with many smaller lakes dotting the forest around it.
It looked as though some of the higher peaks to the north had received some recent snow including the South Sister which we had climbed about a week before.
From the lookout tower we headed down the SE side of Waldo Mountain toward Waldo Lake. More peaceful forest hiking ensued. We spotted dozens of frogs sharing the trail and also ran into some less welcome mosquitoes. After 1.4 downhill miles we came to a junction with the Waldo Meadows trail which we would take to complete the loop, but first we had a lake to visit. We took a right on the Waldo Meadows trail and after 300yds turned left on a trail with a sign pointing toward Waldo Lake. This trail passed by several small ponds and lakes on its way to the Waldo Lake trail, the prettiest being Elbow Lake.
The Waldo Lake trail circles the 10 square mile lake, but at the junction the water was nowhere to be seen. We turned left and continued around Elbow Lake until we spotted a fairly well-worn side trail heading down toward the lake. This path led down to a secluded cove and nice campsite. We sat on the rocky shore of the lake and had lunch while enjoying the gentle lapping sound of the lake.
After lunch we returned to the Waldo Meadows trail and continued our loop. Waldo Meadows was full of tall plants but most of the flowers time had come and gone. There were a few coneflowers and a handful of paint and aster on its last legs but it gave us an idea of what it might have looked like earlier in the year.
In the middle of the meadow was another trail junction. To the left just .5 miles away was Upper Salmon Lake and nearby Salmon Creek Falls. True to form we turned left and headed in that direction. 🙂
Upper Salmon Lake turned out to be a gem. A half-dozen tortoise-shell butterflies greeted us at a lakeside campsite while several ducks patrolled the green lake.
Heather and I headed to the grassy shore where she spotted a good-sized toad that just wouldn’t come into the open for a good picture.
We then headed to the lake’s outlet, Salmon Creek, and followed it down to Salmon Creek Falls.
From the falls we knew we were close to Lower Salmon Lake but hadn’t seen a trail for it so we decided to test our “off trail” skills. Let’s just say they are a work in process, but after some unnecessary travel we managed to find the lake but not much of a view.
We returned to Upper Salmon Lake and collected Dominique who had chosen to stay with the butterflies and headed back to the meadow junction. The return loop passed through several more sections of the meadows before returning to the forest on the side of Waldo Mountain. This nearly 2 mile section had once burned and was now home to thimbleberry patches and deciduous trees. For the first time it really felt like Fall on the trail to me. Leaves slowly drifted down around us and the trail rustled as we walked on the leaves that already covered the path.
It was a bittersweet ending for me as I began to come to terms with the realization that the seasons were changing. It had been a beautiful day and a peaceful hike but we were now entering the home stretch of our hiking season. We’ve had a great year so far and hope to end it the same way. Until next time – Happy Trails!
After a great hike along Tam McArthur Rim it was finally time to tackle the South Sister. At 10,358′ the South Sister is the third highest peak in Oregon behind only Mt. Hood (11,235′) & Mt. Jefferson (10,497′) and the only one of the three that doesn’t require technical climbing skills. We had tried to do this hike a couple of times in 2012, but the Pole Creek fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness kept us from being able to do it. We had been looking forward to this hike all year and most of our earlier hikes were chosen in part to help us prepare for the demands of the climb.
We knew this was a popular weekend for a popular hike so we expected a large crowd would be joining us so we got to the trial head at Devils Lake early and were ready to go just as the Sun began to rise.
There was just enough light for us to not need to use our headlamps as we set off across Tyee Creek and the Cascade Lakes highway and entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
The first mile and a half of the trail climbs through the forest in a narrow valley before cresting on a large plateau. Brief views behind us revealed Diamond Peak, Mt. Bachelor and distant Mt. Thielsen but it wasn’t until we reached the plateau that we could see our target, the South Sister.
Travelling along the plateau was an easy walk with gentle rolling hills and mountains on three sides. The South Sister loomed ahead while Mt. Bachelor sat behind and Broken Top welcomed the rising Sun to our right.
After nearly 3/4 of a mile we spotted Moraine Lake in a sandy bowl below us to the right. A trail joined here and we decided that we would head down there on the way back if we felt up to it. To our left a large lava flow covered a portion of the plateau.
The first 1.8 miles along the plateau had only gained 500′ of elevation putting us at 7200′ when the trail began to climb with a purpose. We were 2.2 miles from the summit and still over 3000′ below it. Not only did that mean a steep trail but the trail consisted of sand and loose rocks making footing challenging. To add to the challenge was the clear view to the top reminding us of just how much further we had to go :).
The first section of steep climbing was amid larger gray rocks. There seemed to be an endless number of possible routes braided among these rocks, but sticks and rock cairns marked the correct path. A ridge blocked the view to the east, but to the south the Cascade range was unfolding and lakes dotted the forest. To the west the Willamette Forest stretched beyond the lava mesa.
The first section ended atop a sandy saddle at the base of the Lewis Glacier. Below the saddle was Lewis Tarn, a pretty glacier melt lake. I had arrived at the saddle before Heather so I headed down to the lake to get a couple of pictures and feel the water (yes it was cold).
Broken Top was now visible to the east as we sat at the saddle to take a break and get some food before the final ascent.
The rock composition changed here and now we were traveling along a red cinder ridge between the Lewis & Clark Glaciers. The Lewis Glacier had some interesting crevasses.
The trail was just a little steep here, but the footing was better making this section a little easier than below the saddle. The views were also even more spectacular as we were now looking down across the Lewis Glacier all the way to the peaks surrounding Crater Lake to the south.
Upon reaching the lop of South Sister’s rim a vast snowfield filled the crater on top of the mountain.
Across the snowfield was the high point and actual summit of the South Sister. Even though it wasn’t a perfectly clear day, where a view of Mt. Shasta would have been possible, we could see all the way to the tip of Mt. McLoughlin in southern Oregon. In addition to the over half dozen mountain peaks to the south many lakes were clearly visible dotting the forest.
The trail continued around the rim to the right on it’s way to the summit. Along the way views to the east improved revealing the Green Lakes below the Prouty Glacier between Broken Top and the South Sister, Paulina Peak to the SE, and Tam McArthur Rim where we had hiked the day before. The best views still lay ahead though.
As we continued around the rim we toward the north side of the mountain the most dramatic views began to unfold. Lined up was a parade of Cascade peaks, the Middle & North Sister, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams. Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams were only barely visible even with binoculars due to haze but they were there like ghosts on the horizon. Below the South Sister lay the Chambers Lakes in a multitude of colors, from brown Carver Lake to blue Camp Lake like an artists palette.
We’d finally reached the summit!
We decided to try and continue around on the rim loop after noticing what appeared to be a well worn path. Mt. Washington was hiding behind the Middle Sister and I thought we might be able to find the missing mountain from the western edge of the rim. The path turned out to be much less of a trail and more of a scramble as we climbed over rock piles along the edge of the mountain. A strong wind was blowing across the snowfield making us feel like we could be blown right off the edge. We did manage to get a glimpse of Mt. Washington’s spire over the shoulder of the Middle Sister and got views of of the Lost Creek and Eugene Glaciers as well as several creeks and lakes below the Husband, but I don’t know that I would take that portion of trail again.
After a short stint on the snowfield below we managed to complete the rim loop and arrived back at the climber trail which had become much more crowded. A line of hikers could be seen making their way up as some of the early hikers were making their way back down.
Surprisingly the descent was much easier than we had anticipated. Despite the numbers heading up there was plenty of room on the braided paths and the deep loose sand helped keep the descent under control. The views were just as impressive going this direction. In fact Broken Top looked even better now that the Sun had risen over head bringing out the colors of the old volcano. On the way down we got a little separated. Heather ended up falling in with two young ladies that shared a similar pace. They quickly formed a trail bond looking out for each other. In her shyness, Heather failed to introduce herself or get their names, but she was very thankful for their company and the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice for her to enjoy the company of women on the trail for a change, even if it was only for a short time.
When we reached the junction for the trail down to Moraine Lake we decided to head down. I blame the lack of oxygen for that decision. Actually the lake was lovely and only added about 3/4 of a mile and 500′ of additional elevation gain. We sat at the edge of the lake across from the South Sister and had another snack. I think we both would have been happy to stay there, but we would have gotten a little cold that night.
We pulled ourselves away from the peaceful lake shore and returned to the climber trail via a trail that had come to the lake from Green Lakes and continued on to Wickiup Plain. The intersection was very close to where the climbers trail first crested the plateau so we were quickly back in the forest heading down the final 1.5 miles back to the trail head. Now that it was light we could see this portion of the trail much better. A nice creek ran beside the lower portion of the trail and we spotted some aster blooming in a meadow along side it. After crossing the highway we reached the bridge over Tyee Creek which was lovely.
Then we were back at the large parking area where we had started. It had been a beautiful day, and we really couldn’t have asked for any more out of this hike. We got one last look at the South Sister before loading up the car and heading back into Bend.