Tag Archives: Belknap Crater

Mount Washington Meadows

One week after returning from our Northern California trip we found ourselves headed to Bend to drop off some furniture to our Son who had recently moved.  It wasn’t going to be a long visit due to his having to work so after a quick tour of his new apartment we were back on our way home.

Our plan was to stop for a hike on the way home along the Pacific Crest Trail near Santiam Pass south to Mount Washington Meadows. We had left Salem at 5am so it would still be fairly early when we hiked. Just after 8:30 we pulled into the PCT trailhead near Big Lake.

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We headed south on the PCT which quickly entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness amid trees burned in the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire.

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The first two or so miles passed through the burn where despite most of the trees being dead, there was plenty of green and other colors present.

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The lack of living trees did allow for some views of both Mt. Washington ahead and Three Fingered Jack to the north beyond Big Lake, the Hoodoo Ski Area and the flat topped Hayrick Butte.

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We could also see two small buttes just to the SW of Big Lake which we had hiked around in 2012 when we visited the Patjens Lakes.

That hike was also done during the first week of August, but less than a year removed from the Shadow Lake Fire. It was interesting to see how the forest was recovering with the passing of several more years.

Patjens Lake TrailPatjens Lake Trail – August 2012

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A wider variety of plants including various berries were present now.

We left the burn area where we were able to see what the forest will look like again eventually.

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We passed several small meadows and lots of wildflowers as we went.

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We had been gradually climbing and when a break in the trees allowed us a view to the north where we spotted Mt. Jefferson over the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack.

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It was a bittersweet view as it reminded us that the Whitewater Fire was burning on the west side of Mt. Jefferson and had already burned over portions of several trails leading to Jefferson Park.

There was no real visible smoke but we knew that it was there and those trails would look a lot like what we’d passed through earlier in the Shadow Fire area.

When the PCT began to curve around a ridge to the left the Spire of Mt. Washington came into view.

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An open hillside then opened up views to the south were several other familiar peaks were visible.

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These included the North and Middle Sister, Belknap Crater, the Husband, Diamond Peak, and Scott Mountain.

IMG_6783North & Middle Sister with Belknap Crater

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As we continued we passed through some increasingly impressive meadows until reaching a large lupine filled meadow below Mt. Washington.

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Mt. Washington rose above the meadow where we were able to get a great look at the eroded volcano.

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Lupine wasn’t the only thing in abundance in the meadow. There was also a large number of tortoiseshell butterflies who seemed to be overly attracted to me.

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We continued through the meadow where we found a nice display of cat’s ear lilies still in bloom amid the lupine.

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At this point we’d gone a little over 5.5 miles, but the level grade of the PCT and the great scenery so far enticed us to continue a little further to see what else the area had to offer. We decided to follow the PCT until it began to lose elevation as it crossed a valley between Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater. We soon found ourselves in another area affected by fire.

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We ended our hike as the PCT bent around a ridge end where it would begin the 400′ elevation loss before climbing up to the shoulder of Belknap Crater which was visible across the valley.

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From this vantage point we could also make out Little Belknap Crater.

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After a short break we headed back through the meadows and returned to our car.

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The 12.4 mile round trip had proved to be a lot more entertaining than we’d expected. We hadn’t really known what to expect having selected the hike from the back of our guidebook in the additional hikes section, but it had been a thoroughly enjoyable outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Washington Meadows

Scott Mountain Loop Day 1 – Mt. Washington Wilderness

With our hiking season starting to wind down we took advantage of a decent weather forecast for one final overnight trip. Our plan was to begin at the Robinson Lake Trailhead and take the Deer Butte Trail to the Benson Trail then follow that trail up into the Mt. Washington Wilderness where we would set up camp in the Tenas Lakes area. After setting up camp we’d visit the summit of Scott Mountain and Benson Lake to fill out the afternoon/evening. This would be our third attempt at getting a decent view on Scott Mountain. We never made it to Scott Mountain on our first attempt in 2012 due to not being prepared for the amount of snow covering the trail, and although we reached the summit on our second attempt in October 2014 we found ourselves in a cloud with no views whatsoever.

We began both of our previous visits to the area from the Benson/Tenas Trailhead near Scott Lake off of the McKenzie Highway (242). In order to do something a little different and see some new lakes we started on the other side of the wilderness at the Robinson Lake Trailhead. This trailhead is located at the end of Robinson Lake Road (2664) off of Highway 126 4.7 miles south of the Clear Lake Resort.

Robinson Lake Trailhead

The short half mile hike to Robinson Lake is included in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades guide books as a non-featured hike in the more hikes section in the back of the books. The hike is also included in another of our guide books, Bend, Overall 2nd Edition (Hiking and Exploring Central Oregon)written by Scott Cook. The Robinson Lake Trail actually begins .4 miles from the trailhead where it splits from the Deer Butte Trail which is the trail that leaves from the trailhead.

Deer Butte Trail junction with the Robinson Lake Trail

The Robinson Lake Trail leads a tenth of a mile to a campsite near the little lake.

Robinson Lake

Robinson Lake

After visiting Robinson Lake we returned to the Deer Butte Trail and continued another 1.2 forested miles to an unsigned junction with an unofficial trail to Kuitan Lake.

Deer Butte Trail

Deer Butte Trail

Unofficial trail to Kuitan Lake to the left:

Side trail off of the Deer Butte Trail to Kuitan Lake

Kuitan Lake

Kuitan Lake

From Kuitan Lake we followed the Deer Butte Trail another .8 miles to a junction with the Hand Lake Trail.

Deer Butte Trail junction with the Hand Lake Trail (our return route)

Originally we were going to take this trail and do our loop around Scott Mountain clockwise but after doing some distance calculations it appeared that doing the loop counter-clockwise would leave us with a slightly shorter hike out on the second day so we stuck to the Deer Butte Trail and continued south skirting the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

Deer Butte Trail

Mt. Washington Wilderness boundary

Just under 1.5 miles from the Hand Lake Trail junction the Deer Butte Trail passed a small unnamed lake.

Deer Butte Trail

Unnamed lake along the Deer Butte Trail

Unnamed lake along the Deer Butte Trail

Another 2.5 fairly level miles beyond the unnamed lake we a arrived at a 4-way junction with the Benson Trail.

Benson Trail junction with the Deer Butte Trail

Here we turned left and began climbing into the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

Benson Trail

This section of the Benson Trail was in pretty good shape but it was a bit overgrown and the recent wet weather made it a wet 2.6 mile, 1200′ climb to our next junction. The forest was nice but there were no views or wow scenery along the way, but we did startle a grouse out of the underbrush.

Grouse

When we arrived at the junction with the Scott Mountain Trail we stayed on the Benson Trail and headed for the Tenas Lakes area.

Benson Trail junction with the Scott Mountain Trail

The Tenas Lakes area is home to a number of lakes and smaller ponds filling glacier carved bowls. We headed cross country past one of the smaller lakes/ponds to find a campsite near the largest of the Tenas Lakes.

One of the many bodies of water in the Tenas Lakes area

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

We didn’t see any other tents set up anywhere in the area and chose a spot following Leave No Trace Principles.

Our initial campsite

After setting up camp we had a choice between heading north to Scott Mountain or south to Benson Lake. We had decided to base the timing of our visit to Scott Mountain on the weather conditions. The sky seemed fairly clear so we decided to go to Scott Mountain first and then to Benson Lake later in the day in case more clouds moved in. We took the Tenas Lakes Trail .1 miles from the largest lake to the Benson Trail and turned left for .2 more miles back to the Scott Mountain Trail junction.

Tenas Lakes Trail junction with the Benson Trail

We followed the Scott Mountain trail for a mile to yet another trail junction getting a nice view of the cloud free summit along the way.

Scott Mountain

Scott Mountain Trail junction with the Scotty Way Trail

We would be taking the Scotty Way Trail the next day on our hike out, but for now we stuck to the Scott Mountain Trail and headed up toward the summit. Heather had remembered that .7 mile climb to the summit was on the steeper side, but I hadn’t. She had remembered it correctly (no surprise there). On the way up we passed some small patches of snow presumably left over from the week before when we had been hiking in snow on Black Crater.

Snow along the Scott Mountain Trail

Near the summit the trail began passing through open meadows where the snow gave way to butterflies and few left over flowers.

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Fritillary butterfly on some leftover aster

As the trail wound its way up to the former lookout site atop the mountain The Husband come into view.

The Husband from the Scott Mountain Trail

The Husband

Just a bit further the snow covered lower portions of the Three Sisters joined the view.

The Three Sisters and The Husband

At the summit the view to the north opened up.

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater

It was interesting watching the clouds. There were two lines of clouds that seemed to be headed for one another in the gap between Mt. Washington to the north and the Three Sisters to the south. We had brought our Alite Mayfly chairs with us and set them up on the summit watching the clouds move, yet not appear to get anywhere. Occasionally more of a mountain would appear but every time we thought we might get a clear view of one of the major cascade peaks more clouds would arrive.
Double, Belknap, Little Belknap, and Black Craters

Double Craters, Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater, and Black Crater

Mt. Jefferson and the lower portion of Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson and the lower portion of Three Fingered Jack beyond Hayrick Butte

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters

View from the summit of Scott Mountain

The clearest major cascade peak was actually the furthest away – Diamond Peak to the south.

Diamond Peak

Despite the pesky clouds the view was infinitely better than it had been in 2014.

No view from Scott Mountain

After making good use of our chairs we packed them up and headed back to our campsite where we grabbed a couple of extra clothing items and then began exploring the Tenas Lakes area passing a half dozen lakes and ponds.

Pond near the Tenas Lakes

North Sister beyond a Tenas Lake

Scott Mountain from one of the Tenas Lakes

One of the Tenas Lakes

Looking south from the Tenas Lakes area

Pond/lakelet in the Tenas Lakes area

One of the lakes in the Tenas Lakes area

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

We had seen a number of empty campsites as we looped around, but when we arrived back at the Tenas Lakes Trail we noticed that a small group of people were setting up tents along the big lake not 20 yards from our site. We prefer to have as much privacy as possible when we’re out, but more disappointing was they were setting up right between our site and its view of the lake. We discussed whether or not to move our campsite as we returned to the Benson Trail and headed toward Benson Lake.

It was just under a mile from the Tenas Lakes Trail to Benson Lake. We hoped to be able to hike around the lake, something we had not tried to do on either of our previous visits. We had followed a fisherman’s path a short distance along the southern end of the lake and seen people camped on the far side in 2014 so we knew that we should at least be able to get part way around the west side of the lake. The issue with going all the way around appeared to be a rocky outcrop jutting out into the water on the NW side.

Benson Lake

We started around the lake clockwise crossing the dry outlet creek then climbing up onto glacially scarred rocks with a nice view down to the lake.

Scott Mountain from Benson Lake

Benson Lake

We climbed up to the top of the rocks which provided some great views but not a path around the lake.
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Scott Mountain from the rocks above Benson Lake<

The Three Sisters and The Husband

View from the rocks above Benson Lake

North Sister

North Sister

Middle Sister

Middle Sister

South Sister

South Sister

Mt. Washington, Belknap and Little Belknap Craters

Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater from the rocks above Benson Lake

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

Heather had seen another possible route as we were heading up the rocks so we backtracked a bit and found the trail she’d seen which did indeed lead us further around the lake.

Benson Lake

The trail petered out at a rock slide near the outcrop that we had seen from the far side of the lake. We rock hopped across the slide then picked up a faint trail before coming to a very short but steep section where we were forced to scramble along a rock face. We both wondered if it would have been better to have tried to get up on top of the outcrop which it turns out is a sacred prayer site for Native Americans. Statesman Journal article

On the other side of the outcrop we picked up the user trail again and followed it back to complete our loop.

Benson Lake

We returned to camp having decided that we would indeed change our campsite. We had our pick since there still wasn’t anyone else camped in the area save us and the group that had set up next door. We chose a spot about 100 yards away near a smaller lake. We were able to carry our tent there without having to take it down making the move pretty simple.

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Huckleberry leaves near the small lake

We ate dinner by the lake, went to one of the larger lakes to pump water, and watched the sunset before turning in for the night.

Sunset from the little lake

With all the side trips and exploring our distance for the day wound up being a little over 18 miles which was more than planned but we’d gotten to see a lot and finally gotten some views from Scott Mountain. Happy Trails!

Flickr (both days): https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674905089576

The Hikes of 2015 – A Look Back

Another year of wandering the trails of the Pacific Northwest has come to an end. Since 2010 we have been on over 200 hikes covering over 2200 miles and we continually find ourselves in awe of God’s creation.

We managed to hit the trails at least once every month ending with 56 hikes for myself and 55 for Heather. I was able to sneak an extra one in by meeting my parents at Columbia Hills State Park in April while Heather was still running. These were the most hikes we’d done in a single year which also led to our highest mileage totals – 660.4 for myself and 652.6 for Heather. The hikes ranged from 2.9 miles (Butte Creek & Abiqua Falls) to 19.1 miles (Green Lakes Loop). Below is a link to a Google map showing the various trailheads and campsites (denoted by picnic tables).
2015

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In addition to my Columbia State park hike we met my parents for hikes at McNeil Point and Jefferson Park. We also met a couple of regular contributors to Oregonhikers.org out on the trails, miah66 on Silver Star Mountain and justpeachy in Jefferson Park. In December we attended the Trail Keepers of Oregon/Oregon Hikers annual Winter Meet-n-Deet in Portland where we were able to put a few more faces to the names we’ve gotten to know on the hiking forums.  It was a blast and we’re hoping to continue attending the event in future years.

As in previous years our primary focus was to visit new places and spend time on trails we had not previously hiked.  We continued to expand the area in which we’ve hiked by spending 4 days hiking the Northern Loop Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park and spending some time hiking in California around Crescent City and in the Red Buttes Wilderness.  Other areas which were brand new to us included the area around Ashland, OR, Indian Heaven Wilderness, and The Oregon caves National Monument.  In all 43 of our 56 days of hiking were spent on sections of trails we had never been on before. The remaining 13 days were spent on trails that we had visited in prior years, but we managed to do something different this time around on each trip allowing us to see something new every time out.

This year just reinforced what has become one of our favorite aspects of hiking, the variety.  In visiting so many new trails we were able to see flowers, trees, animals, and even mountains that we had not previously encountered on our hikes.  Even in the familiar areas there always seems to be something new to experience.  It’s not just the sights that provide the variety though, the smells, sounds, and even the feeling of the air and the forest can change multiple times on any given hike.

Although the camera cannot adequately capture the beauty of nature a look back at some of this year’s pictures will hopefully give some indication of the many different sights we were blessed with.

Views:
Oregon Dunes Overlook
View from Oregon Dunes day use area

Rowena Crest
Rowena Crest from the Tom McCall Point trail.

Mt. Hebo Trail
Sunlight penetrating the clouds in the Siuslaw National Forest

View from Boccard Point
Looking west from Boccard Point

French Pete Creek
French Pete Creek

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park from the summit above Burma Road

Mt. Hood from the McNeil Point Trail
McNeil Point Trail

Middle & South Sister from Eileen Lake
Middle and South Sister from Eileen Lake

Middle & South Sister from Linton Meadows
Middle and South Sister from Linton Meadows

Pacific Ocean from Salishan Spit
Low tide heading toward Salishan Spit

Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake

Sluiskin Mountain
Sluiskin Mountain in the morning

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier

Olallie Lake Scenic Area
View from Double Peaks

Indian Heaven Wilderness
Lemi Rock

Mt. Washington Wilderness
Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from Belknap Crater

Belknap Crater
Belknap Crater

South Sister from the Green Lakes
South Sister from the first Green Lake

South Sister from Denude Lake
South Sister from Denude Lake

Wind and Dog Mountain from Indian Point
Wind and Dog Mountains from Indian Point

Bull of the Woods Wilderness
Lake Lenore and Mt. Hood from Big Slide Mountain

Pacific Ocean near Damnation Creek
Sunsetting over the Pacific Ocean from the mouth of Damnation Creek

Redwoods in Jedediah Redwoods State Park
Redwoods along the Boy Scout Tree Trail

Red Buttes Wilderness
Red Buttes and Kangaroo Mountain

Kangaroo Mountain
Marble outcrop below Kangaroo Mountain

Paradise Lost, Oregon Caves National Monument
Looking up in the Paradise Lost room of the Oregon Cave

Waterfalls:

University Falls
University Falls

Lower Butte Creek Falls
Lower Butte Creek Falls Upper Butte Creek Falls Upper Butte Creek Falls

Abiqua Falls
Abiqua Falls Upper McCord Falls Upper McCord Falls

Wahclella Falls
Wahclella Falls Elowah Falls Elowah Falls

The Potholes
The Potholes Woodburn Falls Trillium at Woodburn Falls

Rodney Falls
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Lower Kentucky Falls
Lower Kentucky Falls North Fork Falls North Fork Falls

Munson Falls
Munson Falls

Unnamed waterfalls along Linton Creek Waterfalls along Linton Creek

Waterfall on Linton Creek

Waterfall on Linton Creek

Waterfall along Linton Creek

Duncan Falls Duncan Falls

Upper Portion of Linton Falls
Upper portion of Upper Linton Falls

Some of Upper Linton Falls

Indian Holes Falls
Indian Holes Falls Unnamed waterfall – Mt. Rainier National Park IMG_7614

Garda Falls
Garda Falls Another unnamed fall in Mt. Rainier National Park IMG_7972

Van Horn Falls
Van Horn Falls

Waterfalls along Fall Creek IMG_9592

Fall Creek

Fall Creek

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Falls along Crater Creek
Falls along Crater Creek

Falls along Crater Creek

Waterfall on Crater Creek

Corner Falls Corner Falls

Fall River Falls
Fall River Falls

Waterfalls along Paulina Creek Small waterfall on Paulina Creek

Falls on Paulina Creek

Small waterfall on Paulina Creek

Small waterfall on Paulina Creek

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Waterfall on Paulina Creek

McKay Falls

Waterfall on Paulina Creek

Waterfall on Paulina Creek

Waterfall on Paulina Creek below Ten-mile snopark bridge

Wildlife
Mallard at Lacamas Lake

Bullfrogs in pond near Lacamas Lake

Turtles at Lacamas Lake

Greater Yellowlegs

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Douglas Squirrel

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Frog

Northern Pacific Treefrog

Western Bluebird

Wood duck

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Owl

Rabbit

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Green-tailed Towhee

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Hummingbird

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Butterfly along the Crooked River

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Butterfly along the Blair Lake Trail

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Butterfly along the Bluff Mountain Trail

Mountain Parnassian

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Deer visting a meadow behind our campsite

Small fish in a little stream near Linton Meadows

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Grasshopper invasion

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Harbor Seals

Seagull

Pika

Black Bear

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Mountain Goats on Burroughs Mountain

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Chipmunk enjoying a berry

Deer in the meadow below Yellowstone Cliffs

Lounging marmot

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Rough Skinned Newt

Sea Lions

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Cormorant

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Anenomes

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Ouzel

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Great Blue Heron

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Buck

Last butterfly of the year

Hawk

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Barred Owl

Americn Kestrel

Acorn Woodpecker

Wildflowers
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Bachelor Button

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California Poppy

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Columbine

Wild Iris

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Henderson's Stars

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Elegant Brodiaea

Popcorn Flower

Common Madia

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mariposa lily

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Scarlet gilia

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Monument Plant aka Elkweed

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Striped Coralroot

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smoothstem blazing-star Mentzelia laevicaulis

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Bog Orchid and Elephants Head

Tiger Lily

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Beargrass Meadow

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Orange Agoseris

Elegant Brodiaea

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Cat's ear lily

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Aster

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We are already looking forward to next year’s hikes. I freely admit that I already have a preliminary schedule laid out (I will not admit to how far out it extends though 😉 ).  As it currently stands we will be visiting 6 new wilderness areas, another national monument, and summiting three peaks over 9000′ tall.  If history is any guide the list of completed hikes at this time next year will look vastly different from this preliminary one, but then that’s just part of the adventure.  One thing is for sure though, we are sure to see some amazing sights along whatever trails we wander.  Happy Trails!

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

Matthieu Lakes

After finally successfully hiking Canyon Creek Meadows the next day we headed to McKeznie Pass to visit the Matthieu Lakes. We had been in this part of the Three Sisters Wilderness the previous October on a dreary day that left us without any views of the mountains and too late in the year for flowers. We arrived at the trail head at about 6:30am and were quickly reminded of how cold it is in the Cascades early in the morning. Looking behind us from the parking area we could see the spire of Mt. Washington as the morning sunlight reflected off the volcanic rock. We had already seen one more mountain than we had the previous year and we hadn’t even started hiking yet.

A short path led to the Pacific Crest Trail which we turned left on and started a gradual climb up to the start of the Matthieu Lakes loop. At the loop junction we kept on the PCT and headed toward South Matthieu Lake. As we climbed the tress began thinning out giving us glimpses to the north and west. The further we went the more we could see and soon a string of volcanoes was lined up on the horizon.

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood from L to R
Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood from L to R

When we reached South Matthieu Lake North and Middle Sister had joined the visible volcanoes to the south. They rose above the small lake making for a pretty scene.
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At the north end of the lake was a trail junction for the return loop, but first we continued on the PCT heading for the meadow at the Scott Trail junction. In October we had come from the other direction on the PCT and then taken the Scott Trail back to our car and we could see the potential for the meadow to be a beaut at the right time.
This section of the PCT started along side a lava flow where we spotted a Pika who seemed to be as interested in us as we in it.
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The trail then passed over the lava flow and headed for Yapoah Crater, one of many cinder cones that helped create the volcanic landscape. The Sisters got larger as we neared and to the north the view became even better as we gained elevation. As we contoured around Yapoah Crater we could even see the top of Mt. Adams in Washington join the volcanic line beyond Mt. Hood. Here the crater hid the Sisters, but as we came around they came into view joined by The Little Brother.
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A short while later we reached a ridge looking down into the meadow. The purple patches of lupine were visible from above and as we descended other flowers became evident. Pink heather, red paintbrush and several different yellow flowers were joined by a single western pasque flower at the meadows edge. Here we also ran into our first mosquitoes of the day but they were not too bad. The meadow itself was filled with flowers and a view ahead to the Sisters.
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Here is the same meadow from our visit last October:
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We crossed through the meadow on the PCT enjoying the display of wildflowers. Had the mosquitoes been less it would have been a perfect lunch spot, but as it was we just turned around and passed back through.
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When we reached South Matthieu Lake we took the North Matthieu Lake trail to visit that lake and complete our loop. North Matthieu Lake was much larger than South Matthieu, but being lower in elevation meant almost no view of The Sisters save at the very north end and then only just the tip of the North Sister was visible. What it lacked in mountain view it made up for in color. The water went from blue to green depending on where you looked.
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Past North Matthieu Lake we encountered a number of small ponds. The last of which was teeming with birds. We spotted a variety of birds in the trees around the pond and sometimes in it.
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Finally we passed through a small meadow beside a lava flow that was home to a number of butterflies. Here we saw our first California Tortoiseshell.
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It was a great hike and really nice to be able to visit a place we had been before at a different time. It’s amazing how much timing can change the experience. It was a good reminder that it can be worth going back to a previous hike at a different time of year to see how things have changed. Happy Trails.

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