South Sister Loop – Day 2

We woke up early on day 2 anxious to see what surprises awaited us. It didn’t take long for the first one. We had seemingly been the only ones camped around Linton Meadows but when we awoke we found we were not alone.
DSC05451

The sun was just starting to rise as we packed up and headed to Linton Creek to replenish our water supply before heading back to the Pacific Crest Trail.
DSC05458

After getting water we headed South on the James Creek trail returning to the 5 way trail junction we had passed the day before. At the junction we turned left on the Foley Ridge Trail and climbed a mile to the PCT.
DSC05474

We turned right on the PCT and headed toward Reese Lake where we hoped to pick up a climbers trail that would lead us between the Middle and South Sister. There were still some pretty good flowers lining the PCT.
DSC05476
DSC05478

We turned off the PCT at little Reese Lake. The small lake had crystal clear water and a nice view of the South Sister.
DSC05486
DSC05488

Working our way around the North side of the lake we picked up a trail leading East which we hopped would lead us to Separation Creek and the climbers trail. We chose wisely and arrived at Separation Creek on a clear path. We had seen Separation Creek back in May when we hiked to Separation Lake https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/proxy-falls-separation-lake/. Crossing the creek was very different this close to its source.
DSC05496

Separation Creek below Separation Lake in May.
DSC03721

There was a well worn trail following the creek up toward the saddle between the two mountains.
DSC05500 Stitch

It was an interesting landscape. There were numerous types of rocks, wildflowers, and volcanic formations all around.
DSC05509
DSC05525
DSC05515
DSC05514
DSC05522
DSC05537

After a stiff climb through over a forested ridge we came to the Frazier Upland and the first of the Chambers Lakes.
DSC05549
DSC05559
DSC05566
DSC05568

We passed by the first lake, crossed a snowfield, and climbed another ridge to find the second Chambers Lake.
DSC05584

There are a number of lakes that make up the Chambers Lakes each tucked in a depression surrounded by moraines but these were the only two our route would take us past. There was a good sized snowfield near the second lake which we would either need to cross or drop below. Not wanting to climb any more than we absolutely had to we opted to try crossing the snowfield. It was warm enough that the snow was soft and we easily made it across without needing to break out our Yaktrax.
DSC05594 Stitch

We had one last ridge to climb before dropping down to Camp Lake and an “official” trail. The final ridge was covered in wind bent whitebark pines. They seemed to be making a gateway to Central Oregon and the East side of the mountains.
DSC05599
DSC05609

The scenery at the pass was some of the best we’d seen. The contrast in colors of the various rocks, snow, trees, and even some flowers was otherworldly.
DSC05612
DSC05616
DSC05618

We passed a group of backpackers that had just come up from Camp Lake. They were happy to be finished with the climb and we quickly understood why after seeing what they had come up.
DSC05624

It was a steep descent but we were happy to be going the direction we were instead of having to go up it. The view at the bottom was gorgeous.
DSC05632 Stitch

We arrived at the breathtaking Camp Lake and took our packs off. It was time to soak our feet and give our shoulders a rest.
Camp Lake

While we were resting a couple from Coos Bay, that we had seen earlier going the other direction at the second Chambers Lake, returned and we had a nice conversation before continuing on. Camp Lake offered one last photo op when the wind calmed enough to get a nice reflection of the South Sister.
DSC05657

We were now on the Camp Lake Trail and headed to the Demaris Lake Trail junction on the bank of the North Fork Wychus Creek. As we continued to descend to the East, the Middle and South Sister were joined by the North Sister and Broken Top.
DSC05672
DSC05675

When we reached the Demaris Lake junction we turned right and took the .8 mile trail to the lake. We had chosen Demaris Lake simply because it would mean a slightly shorter hike on day 3 and we like to visit as many places as possible if we are in the area. As it turned out Demaris Lake was much nicer than we had anticipated. It had many camp sites, mountain views, and lot of big dragon flies zooming about.
DSC05697
DSC05702

We were really surprised that there was no one else at this lake. We had seen several groups of people going the other direction on the climbers trail and the couple at Camp Lake, but no one was here except for some wildlife.
DSC05717
DSC05719

We picked out our camp site and then set about exploring the area.
DSC05764

Our afternoon explorations led to some totally unexpected discoveries.
DSC05704
DSC05733
DSC05734
DSC05737
DSC05744
DSC05749
DSC05752
DSC05758

We returned to Demaris Lake re-energized by the discoveries which turned out to be an issue. Neither one of us could fall asleep despite having been awake by 5:30 and hiking 34 miles in two days. Sometime after midnight we finally dozed off but it wouldn’t be for long, Day 3 was coming and it would be full of even more surprises.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646908180516/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204870070898739.1073741904.1448521051&type=1

Advertisements

South Sister Loop – Day 1

After kicking off our vacation with a visit to Broken Tops no name lake we took a day off and got ready for what we originally planned to be a 4 day backpacking trip around the South Sister in the Three Sisters Wilderness. We wound up finishing the loop in 3 days instead of 4 hiking two 20+ mile days, our first ever over that number. Given the mileage and the amount of places we visited we are going to break this report up into three entries instead of trying to fit it all into one.

The route we were going to take would start and end at the Green Lakes/Soda Creek Trailhead. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=38870&actid=50
We decided to take a less direct route around the mountain in order to visit some of the places we had yet to see in the wilderness. Below is our GPS track from the trip (The hike to the no name lake is also on the map to the right).

South Sister Loop

We were excited for this hike for a number of reasons. We had tried to visit the Green Lakes on four previous occasions including our first attempted hike together over 20 years earlier. Snow had turned us back that day and again in 2011, in 2012 it was a forest fire, and in 2013 thunderstorms stymied our plans. The forecast was good this time around and there were no fires in the immediate area as we set off from the trailhead. The sky was blue except for above each of the mountains which were each covered in white clouds.
DSC05072
DSC05073
DSC05074

In 1994 we managed to hike up Fall Creek a little over a mile before being turned back. We both remembered being impressed with the creek and the scenery but couldn’t remember exactly what we had seen. We were quickly reminded of why Fall Creek left such an impression on us. In the first two miles Fall Creek lived up to its name with over a half dozen cascades of varying sizes.
DSC05083
DSC05088
DSC05091
DSC05097
DSC05099
DSC05101
DSC05110
DSC05116

At the two mile mark we took the Moraine Lake Trail to the left and veered away from the creek. After crossing a lava flow and climbing over a ridge we arrived at Moraine Lake. We had been at the lake the year before after climbing the South Sister. It was just as pretty this time around nestled beneath a moraine with a front row view of the South Sister.
Moraine Lake
DSC05142

After leaving Moraine Lake we headed toward the Wickiup Plains on our way to the Pacific Crest Trail. The clouds were starting to burn off of the mountains as we passed through the plains. Broken Top was behind us with the South Sister on our right and the Wife ahead.
DSC05152
DSC05160
DSC05163

The plains offered an interesting landscape with open views all around.
DSC05166
DSC05175 Stitch

As we headed North toward the PCT on the Le Conte Trail we were able to see a couple of peaks that are often overlooked due to their proximity to the larger Three Sisters, The Wife at 7054′ and The Husband at 7524′.
DSC05182

We met the PCT and turned right passing the Rock Mesa lava flow and views of the South Sister.
DSC05190

The PCT eventually left the plains and entered more forested terrain crossing several branches of Mesa Creek amid meadows and wildflowers.
DSC05201
DSC05203
DSC05217
DSC05232

We left the PCT when we reached the James Creek Trail. We had planned on camping at Linton Meadows the first night and this trail would eventually lead us there and take us past some other interesting sights. The first of these was the James Creek Shelter which sat at the edge of a meadow made green by James Creek.
DSC05247
DSC05249

Next we passed a small pond where Heather spotted a tadpole.
DSC05255
DSC05260

Flower lined Hinton Creek was next.
DSC05264

Followed by Separation Creek. We may have found some of the tadpoles relatives there.
DSC05267
DSC05270
DSC05271

At a five way trail junction we stayed straight continuing on toward Linton Meadows. The clouds had finally lifted from the mountain tops and here we got our first good look at the Middle Sister.
DSC05279
DSC05280

Another junction awaited just .3 miles later. We had originally planned on staying straight and going directly to Linton Meadows but we were enjoying the scenery so much we decided to take a longer route to the meadows and go past Husband and Eileen Lakes first. The 2.4 mile trail would lead us beneath The Husband, past the two lakes, and back to the far end of Linton Meadows. It was interesting to see The Husband up close. The shape reminded us a lot of Broken Top.
DSC05295

The first lake we reached was Husband Lake. It was a nice lake with views of both the Middle and South Sister.
DSC05297
DSC05299
DSC05311

After a nice break at Husband Lake we continued on toward Eileen Lake. The trail passed a rock slide at the base of The Husband where we were surprised to see some Columbine in bloom.
DSC05328
DSC05331

There was also the cutest little tree attempting to grow out of the side of a boulder.
DSC05336

The North Sister made its first appearance of the day as we continued North.
DSC05337

Eileen Lake was a gem with green shores and great views. There had been several people camped near Husband Lake but for some reason no one was at Eileen Lake. As we made our way around the lake we encountered a large number of tiny frogs. We had to walk very carefully so we didn’t step on any since they were all over on the trail.
DSC05345

We eventually made our way around to the best views from the lake.
Eileen Lake
DSC05358

We left the lake and the frogs behind and in another .8 miles reached the junction with the James Creek Trail at the edge of Linton Meadows.
DSC05376
DSC05377

Several branches of Linton Creek flow through the meadows creating a large swath of green with the Middle & South Sister providing the backdrop. There were not many flowers left but a couple of patches remained and the sound of the streams roaring down hillside on the far side of the meadows completed the experience.
DSC05379
DSC05381
DSC05382
DSC05388

We headed back South here and found a campsite at the edge of the meadows. We seemed to be the only ones camped in the area which suited us just fine.
DSC05435
DSC05436

After getting camp set up we had one more thing to visit – Linton Springs. There is no official trail to the springs but I had a feeling there might be a way up to them so we set off looking for any signs of a trail that might lead us to them. We managed to find some faint trails and picked our way up the main stream being careful to avoid damaging the plants. As we neared the springs we found a more established path and followed it up to an amazing view.
DSC05411

The springs were truly impressive cascading down from all around the rim of a small bowl.
DSC05417

It was a perfect way to cap off our first day. We had already visited so many diverse and beautiful places we couldn’t wait to see what day 2 had in store when we would return to the PCT and head to the Chambers Lakes between the Middle and South Sister and finally past Camp Lake to Demaris Lake for our second night.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646955382382/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204860263453559.1073741903.1448521051&type=1

Broken Top – No Name Lake

We’re a little behind on our trip reports due to spending too much time hiking 🙂 (If that is possible). After being in Washington for our last couple of trips we headed over to Central Oregon to spend some time in the Three Sisters area. We started off with a day hike to a lake we had really been wanting to visit, a lake with no name but a spectacular view located at 8000′ on the east side of Broken Top.

We set off from Todd Lake as the Sun was rising hoping to beat the crowds up to this increasingly popular spot.
DSC04655

The trail from Todd Lake entered the Three Sisters Wilderness shortly after leaving the lake.
DSC04666

Then Broken Top made an appearance.
DSC04667

It wasn’t the only Cascade Peak visible from the trail.
Mt. Bachelor:
DSC04669
South Sister:
DSC04673

The trail climbed gently as it left the forest and gained better and better views as it passed by and through open meadows.
DSC04690
DSC04695
DSC04694

And across wildflower lined streams.
DSC04710
DSC04707
DSC04701
DSC04702

We spotted several deer grazing in the meadows near the junction with the Green Lakes Trail.
DSC04722
DSC04727
DSC04735

As we gained elevation the views to the south opened up and we could see Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey beyond Mt. Bachelor.
DSC04744
DSC04743
DSC04746

As we worked our way around Broken Top we passed several springs which were the sources of many of the green meadows we’d passed.
DSC04758
DSC04759

It was interesting to note a small section of land that was not included in the Three Sisters Wilderness surrounding Crater Ditch. The ditch channels water from glacial melt-off down into Central Oregon for irrigation purposes and predates the wilderness designation thus remaining outside of the boundary.
DSC04764
DSC04776

After crossing Crater Ditch the trail headed toward Ball Butte and the end of the Green Lakes Trail at road 380.
DSC04779

Shortly after crossing a creek an unofficial trail forked to the left heading between Ball Butte and Broken Top with Broken Hand dead ahead.
DSC04784

We then recrossed the monkeyflower lined creek and followed it up toward the no name lake passing several small but scenic falls.
DSC04786
DSC04797
DSC04803

The trail turned toward Broken Top and continued to climb toward the east side of the mountain. An increasing variety of wildflowers could be seen as we got closer to the lake and many birds were flying about chirping happily.
DSC04809
DSC04820
DSC04825
DSC04834
DSC04835

Finally the path reached a snowfield between two moraines. We climbed the snowfield to find no name lake waiting at the base of Broken Top.
DSC04851
DSC04854
DSC04853
DSC04856

The lake was as beautiful as advertised. The colors of the water and of Broken Top were spectacular.
DSC04880 Stitch
DSC04869
DSC04912
DSC04902 Stitch

We were surprised by several things. The lake was larger than we had expected and there was a surprising number of flowers growing on the moraines surrounding the lake.
DSC04940
DSC04926
DSC04898
DSC04908

A path around the right side of the lake led to yet more amazing views. Climbing to a viewpoint revealed mountains from Broken Top to a faint Mt. Hood on the horizon with the lake below behind us.
DSC04961 Stitch
DSC04944

There was a single tent high up on the rim overlooking the lake but we didn’t see the owner and had had the lake all to ourselves for awhile before another pair of hikers arrived. On our hike out we passed a number of people heading up the trail and were once again glad we chose to get an early start. There is a shorter route to the lake but it involves what has been described as a terrible access road and it would have meant missing out on some great scenery. When we got back to Todd Lake the parking lot was full but the lake and Broken Top remained a peaceful sight and a great way to kick off a vacation.
DSC05068

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646779105332/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204792879248996.1073741902.1448521051&type=1

Mt. Adams – Bird Creek Meadows

After staring at Mt. Adams for the better part of four days during our Goat Rocks trip we were off to that very mountain for the very first time. Our plans included visits to Crooked Creek Falls, Bird Creek Meadows, and Iceberg Lake on the SE flank of Mt. Adams. We had a couple of possible starting points but based on the description given of the access roads we chose to begin on the South Climb Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31934
DSC04207

Although the parking lot was crowded we didn’t see anyone on the trail as we climbed up toward the Round-the-Mountain Trail which we would follow to Bird Creek Meadows. The South Climb Trail passes through a forest burned in 2008. We had occasional views of Mt. Adams ahead and Mt. St. Helens to the west.
DSC04210
DSC04215

When we reached the junction with the Round-the-Mountain Trail we turned right and began seeing more green trees.
DSC04221

This section of the trail was fairly dry with scattered flowers here and there before crossing the Aiken Lava Flow.
DSC04244
DSC04237
DSC04643

The wildflowers started to increase as we approached the wilderness boundary with the Yakima Indian Reservation. Green meadows also replaced the sandy dirt that had covered much of the ground on the earlier section.
DSC04257
DSC04266

Things got really colorful as soon as we were on the Reservation.
DSC04272
DSC04281
DSC04277
DSC04278

In the next half mile the trail crossed several streams including Crooked Creek and through a number of widflower meadows before reaching a trail junction.
DSC04290
DSC04307
DSC04318
DSC04322
DSC04323
DSC04334
DSC04616
DSC04620

At the trail junction was the Bird Lake Trail and a pointer for Crooked Creek Falls.
DSC04341

We followed the trail down a short distance to find the falls. The falls were very pretty with paintbrush filled meadows on either side as they spilled over a rocky shelf.
DSC04345
DSC04346
DSC04347

After viewing the falls we returned to the Round-the-Mountain Trail and continued another scenic .8 miles to the beginning of the Bird Creek Meadows Loop.
DSC04362
DSC04368
DSC04370
DSC04372

We turned up the Trail of Flowers and began to climb. There were some flowers along the trail but it was wildlife that stole the show as we spotted a variety of creatures including several grouse which made us jump when they took flight from the undergrowth.

Two of the grouse flying low along the trail ahead.
DSC04386

DSC04389
DSC04381
DSC04376
DSC04388

At the crest of the loop was a sign for the Hellroaring Viewpoint. We turned off the loop here and headed uphill toward the viewpoint. Clouds had begun to gather over the mountain but we could still see most of it.
DSC04395

Wildflowers grew along the trail before giving way to the viewpoint.
DSC04399
DSC04404

The Hellroaring Viewpoint looks out across a valley where Hellroaring Creek comes crashing down from the Mazama Glacier to the Ridge of Wonders.
DSC04407
DSC04409

To reach Iceberg Lake we continued on a path leading up the ridge from the viewpoint. Sometimes it was easy to see while at other times we followed rock cairns and orange paint across rock and snowfields.
DSC04423
DSC04446
DSC04476

The path eventually climbed up the moraine that held back Iceberg Lake.
DSC04482
DSC04524

The scenery at the lake was vastly different than that of the meadows below. The color of the water was beautiful and we could hear the ice cracking above on the mountain as we rested from the climb.
DSC04528
DSC04529
DSC04544

After a brief break we headed back down to the Trail of Flowers and continued on the loop. This section of loop had better wildflowers than the earlier one.
DSC04577
DSC04578
DSC04588

Once we had completed the loop we retraced our steps along the Round-the-Mountain Trail back to the South Climb Trail. Several groups of climbers were now descending that trail. One final look at Mt. Adams showed the clouds had remained mostly on the SE side of the mountain.
DSC04647

It had been a long day but well worth the time to visit a new wilderness. It is now another place we will need to explore more in the future. Happy Trails.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646167148139/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204732405377187.1073741901.1448521051&type=1

Goat Rocks Wilderness

We just returned from our longest backpacking trip to date, a three night, four day stay in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington. What an amazing place. Located between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier the Goat Rocks Wilderness sports spectacular views, vast meadows of wildflowers, and plenty of wildlife. A number of trails including the Pacific Crest Trail provide 120 miles of hiking opportunities to explore this special place. Our plan was to establish a base camp at Alpine and then explore in all directions from there.

We started our trip at the popular Snowgrass Trailhead and quickly entered the wilderness.

DSC02449

DSC02450

A little over 1.5 miles we crossed Goat Creek on a footbridge.

DSC02466

DSC02469

In another 2 miles we came to a trail junction where Bypass Trail 97 split off on its way up to the Pacific Crest Trail. Staying left on the Snowgrass Trail we climbed .7 miles to a trail junction.

DSC02534

DSC02535

DSC02550

DSC02557

The Lily Basin Trail meets the Snowgrass Trail at this junction amid a wildflower meadow. Just a short distance away was Alpine where we began searching for a tent site. The views and wildflowers at Alpine were simply amazing. We ended up deciding on a small site with a view of Old Snowy Mountain.

DSC02582

DSC02575

DSC02578

DSC02928

After setting up camp we loaded up our daypacks and headed back to the Snowgrass Trail and climbed to the Pacific Crest Trail. The scenery just kept getting better as we approached the PCT. Mt. Adams was standing tall to the SE, Mt. St. Helens sat in the distance to the SW and Old Snowy Mountain & Ives Peak lay dead ahead.

DSC02641

DSC02664

DSC02642

DSC02647

DSC02668

We turned right (south) on the PCT and headed toward the Cispus Basin planning to go as far as Cispus Pass before turning around. After a mile the Bypass Trail 97 joined the PCT which we would take on the way back. After crossing a large rock slide we got our first view across the Cispus Basin to Mt. Adams peaking over the far ridge.

DSC02722

DSC02729

The Cispus River begins at the top of the basin underneath more jagged peaks of the Goat Rocks.

DSC02728

DSC02750

There had been wildflowers all along the trail but as we entered the basin they increased. Adding to the scenery was a waterfall that the PCT passed below.

DSC02740

DSC02757

DSC02786

The trail continued around the basin crossing the Cispus River and then heading up the eastern side of the basin.

DSC02789

DSC02804

At the top of the ridge was Cispus Pass and the border of the Yakima Indian Reservation. The Klickitat River flowed below and Mt. Adams was again visible to the SE.

DSC02825

DSC02828

DSC02835

We returned to Alpine via the Bypass Trail 97 and took a short rest before heading back out to catch the sunset. We decided to try heading further out on the Lily Basin Trail since the Sun would be setting over the ridges in that direction. We passed a small pond with a big reflection before finding an unoccupied camp site where we settled in.

DSC02935

DSC02968

DSC02964

Clouds started to move in and cover some of the higher points though so we headed back toward Alpine to check on Mt. Adams. The Moon had risen over the ridges to the North of Mt. Adams making for a perfect ending to our first day.

DSC03004

I was up early on day 2 and was able to catch the sunrise which lit up the clouds over Ives Peak and Mt. Adams.

DSC03037

DSC03029

Several elk were passing through the trees on the far side of Alpine but the low amount of light left me with a single picture worthy of a bigfoot sighting. 🙂

DSC03068

We set off early on the Lily Basin Trail planning on passing Goat Lake then continuing on the trail to Heart Lake with a possible side trip up Hawkeye Point. As we headed in that direction the view of Hawkeye Point and Goat Creek falling from the rocky ledge below Goat Lake was another stunner.

DSC03075

The trail passed through some large wildflower meadows where marmots could be seen scurrying about in the lupine.

DSC03080

DSC03085

We also passed several waterfalls. The first just disappeared into a rock slide while the second slid down the rocks.

DSC03090

DSC03514

DSC03490

DSC03493

Everything was so impressive but most of all were the wildflowers. The variety and amounts of them were unbelievable. Entire hillsides were covered in colors.

DSC03124

DSC03152

DSC03144

And to top it off Mt. Adams loomed behind us.

DSC03130

When we arrived at Goat Lake it was mostly frozen as we had expected. The lake rarely ever thaws out completely sitting in a bowl beneath Hawkeyepoint.

DSC03168

DSC03191

From the lake the trail climbed to a ridge crest junction with the Goat Ridge Trail. Again the wildflowers were profuse.

DSC03232

DSC03227

DSC03230

When we reached the junction Mt. St. Helens came into view beyond the Jordan Basin.

DSC03244

We left the Lily Basin Trail to attempt to climb Hawkeye Point. As we climbed the tip of Mt. Hood could be seen over the shoulder of Mt. Adams.

DSC03266

Then came Mt. Rainier beyond Johnson Peak.

DSC03268

We followed a clear path to a rocky knob where we discovered a large snowfield lying between us and the visible trail up to the summit of Hawkeye Point.

DSC03282

There was a steep drop part way out on the snowfield and no visible tracks so we decided to declare victory where we were and see if there was a different route to the trail we could see on the far side so we climbed back down to the Lily Basin Trail and started to head toward Heart Lake. We didn’t get far though before we were stymied by another snowfield.

DSC03301

We decided to take a short break before heading back to search for a different route to Hawkeye Point. While we were resting Heather spotted the one thing I was really hoping to see on the trip – Mountain Goats! There was a pair of them near the top of the ridge across the basin.

DSC03318

Mountain Goats were on top of my list of animals we hadn’t seen yet while hiking so even though they were a long way away it was exciting.

After they disappeared over the ridge we started our search for a path around the snowfield to Hawkeye Point. We managed to find what turned out to be a goat path that got us around the snowfield, but we were too far down a steep hill with no visible route up to reach the continuation of the real trail. Instead we followed the goat trail passing some beds complete with goat fur to a view of Goat Lake below.

DSC03335

DSC03336

DSC03342

Satisfied with the view we began our return trip to camp. It was such a pretty trail that was just as spectacular the second time through.

DSC03383

DSC03407

DSC03411

DSC03488

When we got back to camp we noticed that the family who had been camped further back in the same area as us had left. We took the opportunity to switch sites and moved to a spot with a view of Mt. Adams.

DSC03525

After getting our new site set up we decided to go up to the PCT junction to catch the sunset. When we reached the junction with the Snowgrass Trail in Snowgrass Flat Heather noticed a large animal emerging from the trees on our right. We could see dark brown and my first thought was Elk but then it stepped out into the sunlight on the trial.

DSC03539

It was a llama and it looked mighty proud of itself.

DSC03545

We didn’t see anyone around but someone must have been using it as a pack animal. It rolled in the dirt for a moment then got up and then disappeared into another camp site. It was so unexpected all we could do was laugh all the way up to the PCT.

Meanwhile the setting Sun was bringing out the best in the wildflowers on the PCT.

DSC03556

DSC03555

DSC03553

We found an open site and watched the Sun disappear behind a bank of clouds that was hanging over Goat Ridge before returning to our tent and putting day 2 to bed.

DSC03568

DSC03579

Goat Rocks - Mt. Adams sunset

The third day started much like the previous day with a pretty Mt. Adams sunrise.

DSC03593

The animals were up early too.

DSC03595

DSC03601

DSC03606

After a yummy breakfast of Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy we headed up to the PCT once again but this time headed left (North) toward Old Snowy Mountain. As we approached the mountain we left the meadows behind for more rocky terrain dotted with lingering snowfields. The flowers were not completely left behind though.

DSC03632

DSC03636

DSC03637

We spotted a ground squirrel that appeared to be sitting on a ledge enjoying the view along with its breakfast. The ledge it was on looked out over Goat Lake to Hawkeye Point with Mt. Rainier towering behind.

DSC03639

DSC03642

The trail crossed several snowfields but unlike those we encountered the day before the trail was easy to follow and none were too steep.

DSC03655

The views were great in every direction and we were able to spot a new mountain to the North – Mt. Stuart.

DSC03659

DSC03669

The PCT eventually splits with a hiker bypass climbing up higher on the side of Old Snowy to avoid lingering snowfields on a steep, exposed hillside. We took the bypass having seen the snow fields from our exploration of Hawkeye Point the day before, plus we had considered climbing Old Snowy Mountain and the bypass would lead past that trail. When we reached the junction for the summit of Old Snowy we could only make out the lower portion of trail. After the previous days exploits we decided against trying to climb it then and figured we could always try it on the way back past.

DSC03683

We found out later that the crest of the bypass trail is the highest point of the Pacific Crest Trail in the state of Washington at 7230′.

From the crest the PCT descends to “The Knife” before reaching Elk Pass where we had planned to turn around. As we began to descend though we got a good look at the trail ahead.

DSC03691

It was the freakiest looking trail we had encountered and for the first time I wasn’t sure I could do it, but after having a couple of thru-hikers pass by and survive we decided to go for it.

DSC03692

It was nerve racking at first but the trail was good and the views better. We spotted flowers and wildlife all around including a large group of mountain goats in the valley to our right.

DSC03698

DSC03705

DSC03725

DSC03709

Soon we could see Packwood Lake in the valley to our left.

DSC03758

Also in that valley was another herd of goats.

DSC03769

DSC03772

We decided to turn around prior to reaching Elk Pass when we reached a crest and realized that we’d have to climb back up several hundred feet if we continued on and we already had a good climb ahead of us to get back up to the PCT high point.

PCT down to Elk Pass

DSC03830

PCT up to the crest

DSC03906

As we were returning the first group of goats we had seen suddenly started to dash across the snow. A second group came racing down from a higher meadow joining the first group.

DSC03887

DSC03895

DSC03900

We don’t know what spooked them but it was fun to watch them run.

When we finally got back up to the crest the trail up Old Snowy was easy to see. There was a line of people hiking up and down. Between the crowds and our tired legs we decided we’d done enough climbing for the day and headed back to Alpine. Things had gotten crowded in the wilderness as it was the weekend and a lot of people had shown up. Most of the camp sites were now taken so we stuck close to ours until we turned in for the night after the Moon had risen.

DSC04013

We set our phones to wake us at 5am on our last day so we could get a nice early start. Another amazing sunrise greeted us as we packed up our gear.

DSC04018

We took the Lily Basin Trail toward Goat Lake and were greeted by a friendly little Pika near Slide Falls.

DSC04026

DSC04030

The marmots were also out to send us off.

DSC04036

DSC04037

We stopped at the lake to get some water out of Goat Creek and were paid a visit by a pair of Ouzels.

DSC04057

DSC04053

Goat Lake had refrozen a little overnight.

DSC04058

DSC04059

At the junction with the Goat Ridge Trail we took it and dropped down into the Jordan Basin. The best views we’d had of Mt. St. Helens were had as we descended into the basin.

DSC04075

Of course there were wildflowers.

DSC04081

And a lot of crickets or grasshoppers.

DSC04082

There were flowers in this basin that we hadn’t seen at all in the other parts of Goat Rocks.

DSC04105

Soon we were far enough down to no longer be able to see the mountains. It was a bittersweet hike as we hated to leave this beautiful place but after four days a shower was sounding real nice. We got one last glimpse of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Goat Rocks before entering the trees for good.

DSC04158

DSC04172

DSC04170

The Goat Ridge Trail would take us to the Berrypatch Trailhead and from there a .6 mile connector trail would bring us back to the Snowgrass Trail just .1 miles from our car. We were moving quickly along the connector trail when the wilderness gave us one last surprise. A small tree frog sitting on a huckleberry bush next to the trail.

DSC04199

Our time was up but we were already thinking of our next visit. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the wilderness. The only negative to the entire trip was witnessing the disregard for the area that some of the people showed. There were people traipsing through the meadows and setting up tents on the vegetation. Such a beautiful place to visit will only stay that way if people take care of it so please go and visit but stay on the trails and camp on the brown ground not the green. Happy Trails.

UPDATE on the llama.  The llama had indeed either been left or escaped and was seen multiple times throughout the summer.  She was finally rescued this fall and is safe and doing well according to this report: http://www.rattlesnakeridgeranch.com/documents/Rescue_in_the_Goat_Rocks_Wilderness.pdf

 

Flickr albums: Day 1-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646295294436/

Day 2-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646295758026/

Day 3-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645936565989/

Day 4-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645937647578/

Pinnacle Ridge to Elk Cove – Mt. Hood

One of the trails on our backpacking to-do list is the 39.3 Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood. Until we get around to that trip though we settle for small sections at a time. We have managed to cover approximately 25 of those miles now with the most recent mile coming on our visit to Elk Cove and the Coe Branch.

There are a number of trails that lead to the Timberline Trail and for this hike we decided to try the Pinnacle Ridge Trail. This trail climbs just over 2000′ in 3.4 miles to the Timberline Trail between Wy’East Basin and Dollar Lake. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mthood/recarea/?recid=53270

The trail passes through forest burned in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire. Vegetation is starting to return in some areas but the first section of the trail was still pretty barren.
DSC02056
DSC02058
DSC02066
DSC02063

A pleasant surprise was a small stream with a picturesque crossing.
DSC02067
DSC02068

We noticed a possible little waterfall downstream and left the trail to see what we could find. It turned out to be a lovely pair of little falls.
DSC02072

The trail enters the Mt. Hood Wilderness just after passing a small rock slide and shortly after we got our glimpse of The Pinnacle, the rock formation the trail is named after.
DSC02075
DSC02076
DSC02081

The forest began to get greener as we passed The Pinnacle. The trees had still been burned in the fire but a series of springs and bogs created a green undergrowth.
DSC02088
DSC02089
DSC02090
DSC02098

After making our way around a particularly muddy area we started encountering some unburnt forest. Mountain heather and avalanche lilies greeted us along with some hungry mosquitoes.
DSC02109

The bugs were pretty bad for a short stretch but when we met the Timberline Trail they relented. We had been on this portion of the trail on our trip to Barret Spur last year. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/barrett-spur-via-the-mazama-trail/ We retraced our steps from that visit passing the side trail to Dollar Lake and continuing around a ridge end to one of the more impressive views we’ve seen from the Timberline Trail. One minute the mountain is hidden and the next you are staring straight at it.
DSC02138

The flower display along this portion of the trail was very impressive.
DSC02148
DSC02155
DSC02169
DSC02158

Melting snow feeds several streams that help keep Elk Cove full of color. The contrast of Mt. Hood looming over the green meadows is breathtaking.
DSC02175
DSC02179

We followed a small trail along the largest creek up through the wildflower filled meadows toward the mountain. The flowers along the creek were especially colorful.
DSC02190
DSC02207
DSC02211
I managed to get up to the snowfield that was feeding the stream. Where the view back down at the meadow was filled with western pasque flowers and paintbrush.
DSC02215
DSC02219
DSC02222

We returned to the Timberline Trail and began to make our way through the rest of Elk Cove. There were several meadows, each with it’s own variety of flowers and view of Mt. Hood.
DSC02243
DSC02245

DSC02249
DSC02253

Our original plan was to continue on the Timberline crossing over the Coe Branch and continuing on to Compass Creek Falls where we would turn around. On the far side of Elk Cove we reentered the trees where there was still an impressive amount of flowers.
DSC02265
DSC02276
DSC02272

As we came around a ridge end we got our first glimpse of the Coe Branch as it flowed down from the Coe Glacier.
DSC02291

Even from up above we could tell by the sound that the Coe Branch was flowing very swiftly. When we arrived at the water we discovered it was already swollen due to the rapid snow melt caused by a very hot morning. We scanned for a good crossing point and found a couple of possibilities but in the end decided to call it good and make this our turn around point.
DSC02306
DSC02307
DSC02320

Since we hadn’t made it to Compass Creek we did a little exploring down the Elk Cove Trail, another possible route to the Timberline Trail. Camping is prohibited in the meadows of Elk Cove but there were several nice campsites a short distance down this trail that had views and surroundings like this:
DSC02343
DSC02340

After checking out several campsites we headed back up the Timberline Trail and out of Elk Cove. We decided to take the quick .2 mile side trip to visit Dollar Lake at the last minute as we passed by the hard to spot trail.
DSC02386

The return trip from Dollar Lake was pretty uneventful. The mosquitoes had apparently had enough of the heat and left us alone for the most part. We did spot a very focused swallowtail butterfly that didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with it’s picture being taken.
DSC02417
DSC02424
DSC02427
DSC02431

When we arrived back at the parking area we got one last look at Mt. Hood.
DSC02448
Another day hiking on the Timberline Trail had only reenforced our desire to tackle the whole loop someday. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645744404417/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204606593031957.1073741896.1448521051&type=1

Donaca Lake – Middle Santiam Wilderness

We recently returned from our final overnight backpacking “test run”. Our destination for this round was Donaca Lake in the Middle Santiam Wilderness. The wilderness, established in 1984, consists of 8900 acres in the Willamette National Forest. There were several potential trailheads that we could have started at and we chose to park at the Pyramids Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/null/recarea/?recid=4334&actid=64

DSC01797

This trailhead left us with the least amount of driving time, but it was by no means the shortest hike to Donaca Lake. That was okay with us since we were wanting the extra distance to get used to hiking with our packs over 12 miles at a time, and coming from this trail we would be able to do the majority of the Middle Santiam River hike described in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades. After crossing a little footbridge we turned left on the South Pyramid Creek Trail which traversed the SE flank of the South Pyramid for 1.5 miles where it briefly joined road 572 at a trail junction. On the opposite side of the road was the Crescent Mountain Trail. This was the opposite end of the trail we had taken up to the top of Crescent Mountain earlier in the month. The South Pyramid Creek Trail picked up about 10 yards down the road reentering the trees on the same side that we had just exited.

DSC01822

The trail soon began following an unnamed stream downhill toward South Pyramid Creek. We crossed over this stream a couple of times, sometimes on a bridge and other times not.
DSC01828
DSC01833

As we neared South Pyramid Creek the forest showed signs of logging activity on our left. This meant a lack of trees and shade, but it also meant there were tons of berries that had taken advantage of the sunlight and disturbed soil. We noticed several different varieties of huckleberries/blueberries, trailing blackberries, and what turned out to be Gooseberries.
DSC01834
DSC01844
DSC02030
DSC01847
Gooseberry

Since we didn’t know what they were for sure we didn’t sample the gooseberries, but the rest of the berries were thoroughly tested. 🙂

The trail crossed road 2047 where a sign indicated it’s continuation 800′ to the right.
DSC01846
We turned up the road, passed over the creek and started looking for the continuation. We hadn’t really thought out just how far 800′ was and at first we thought we’d passed by the trail since we felt like we’d gone plenty far. We backtracked looking for an sign of the trail and tried pushing through some trees thinking that we might have seen it. Once we stopped for a minute and really considered that 800′ is nearly three full football fields we realized we hadn’t gone far enough so we headed back up the road. I spotted a sign ahead just around a bend and announced that I’d found it, then looked to my left to see I was standing next to a trail and hiker sign. What I had seen was actually a sign for the South Pyramid Horse Camp and I had completely missed the trail.
DSC01848
The trail was much fainter and overgrown in this section. It appeared that the trail had been rerouted at some point which would explain why my maps and Garmin did not show the 800′ road walk and instead showed the trail continuing directly across the road. It would also explain the trail junction that we came to not far from the road. It wasn’t on the Forest Service Topographical Maps I had nor was it shown on the Garmin (in fact both showed that the South Pyramid Creek Trail ceased to exist before reaching the Chimney Peak Trail which was the one we needed. Sullivan’s map showed the trail connecting and so did the Willamette National Forest trail description, but standing at this junction we became a bit confused. There was only one sign at the junction.
DSC01852
It was on a tree facing away from the direction we’d come. It was a “Y” junction so one trail went up and away to the right and the other headed down to our left. The distances didn’t match up with anything I had seen or read about but I knew we wanted to head toward Shedd Camp. The map in Sullivan’s book showed the South Pyramid Creek Trail intersecting the Chimney Peak Trail .3 miles from the Middle Santiam River and the Shedd Camp Shelter and we had planned to turn left at that point to visit a small waterfall on the river. The 2.4 mile distance listed on this sign just didn’t make any sense though. We headed left wondering if we would magically arrive at the river in .3 miles but after walking for awhile it became apparent that that would not be the case. After approximately 1.5 miles we spotted what I thought was a really random sign pointing back up the trail we’d just come down identifying the trail as the South Pyramid Creek Trail.
DSC02010
After a moment pondering why there would be a sign here we noticed another trail and sign. We had finally arrived at the Chimney Peak Trail.
DSC01867

This time there really was only .3 miles to the Middle Santiam River. We took a break there to look at the falls and enjoy the river.
DSC01870
DSC01873

After the break we headed back up to the trail junction and took the Chimney Peak Trail. We were now following the route described in our 100 Hikes book which put an end to the trail surprises. It was 2 miles from the junction to our next marker, Pyramid Creek. Along the way we spotted a couple of very interesting patches of Indian Pipe.
DSC01881
DSC01882

There was a nice camp site at Pyramid Creek which was my backup plan just in case there were no sites available at the lake. The creek itself was fairly wide with no bridge, and there was no way we were going to get across dry.
DSC01890

After fording the creek we crossed road 2041 which was abandoned years ago due to numerous washouts and entered the Middle Santiam Wilderness.
Road 2041:
DSC01896

Edge of the wilderness:
DSC01899

It was obvious that the trail doesn’t get a lot of use as the vegetation was encroaching on most of it.
DSC01914

The trail was joined by the Gordon Peak Trail 2.3 miles from Pyramid Creek and shortly after we came to Swamp Creek. I had expected a swampy bog here given the name but found a nice little creek that required another fording.
DSC01916

After crossing Swamp Creek we were only about three quarters of a mile from Donaca Lake. I had read somewhere that there was only one camp site at the lake and we had just passed a couple who had been staying at the lake so we were anxious to get there to make sure we could get a tent site. They told us the lake was lovely and it did not disappoint. From the first view through the trees we could see it was a very pretty little lake.
DSC01919
DSC01920

As we were passing along the lake we spotted a trail up to a small camp site away from the lake so we headed up and claimed our spot. After dropping off our gear we headed back down to the trail to explore the rest of the lake. The trail came to an inlet creek where we found another bigger campsite and a nice little gravel beach.
DSC01921
DSC01922

Just a little further up the trail was a third campsite but we decided to stay where we had dropped our packs because we didn’t want to be in the path of the lake access. Before going back and setting up camp though we sat on the gravel beach and watched as Newts and fish swam around in the lake while birds and bugs zoomed over the water.
DSC01941
DSC01942
DSC01952

After watching the wildlife for awhile we headed back to our packs and set up camp.
DSC01968

While we were setting up another group arrived and settled down at the big site so when we were ready to go back down to the lake we took our dinner and headed to the third site we’d found and followed a little path to a different gravel beach. After dinner we hung out for awhile before turning in for the night.
DSC01973
DSC01980

I woke up a little before 5AM and headed down to the lake to see if I could get any sunrise pictures. There wasn’t enough light for my camera to pick up much but there was a colorful stump that Heather had remarked on after dinner. It’s reflection in the water was eye catching.
DSC01994

After Heather woke up and we’d eaten breakfast we packed up and started our return trip. It was going well until we hit the 3.8 mile sign. It was the longest section of trail I can remember hiking. We kept thinking we were going to arrive at road 572 and the Crescent Mtn. Trail junction but instead we just kept climbing. Even when we finally spotted the road it seemed as though we paralleled it for miles. We had a mini celebration when we did finally pop out on the road before tackling the final mile and a half. The final stretch went much quicker as it was primarily downhill and we eventually arrived back at the Pyramids Trailhead.
DSC02053

In 27.7 miles of hiking we had seen only the two groups totaling five people over the two days. If you’re looking for a nice quite forest where you can have the trail to yourself the Middle Santiam Wilderness may just be the place for you. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645981978735/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204556986191817.1073741895.1448521051&type=1

Exploring the Pacific NW one step at a time.