Tag Archives: Central Oregon

Central Oregon Oddities

On Sunday of Memorial Day weekend we headed south of Bend on a tour of oddities, most of which were geologic in nature.ย  In addition to our usual Sullivan guide books (Central and Eastern Oregon for these hikes) we had the 2012 updated “Bend, Overall” by Scott Cook with us.

Our first stop was the only hike that was solely covered by Cook, South Ice Cave.ย  From Bend we drove south on Highway 97 to LaPine where we turned left on Finley Butte Rd which became NF-22. After 25 miles we turned left at a sign into a parking area.
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A short path descended into a depression where numerous small birds were busy singing in the pine trees.
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We followed the path to the right which led to the entrance to South Ice Cave, a .25 mile long lava tube.
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Armed with headlamps and warm clothing we headed down into the cave. Cook suggests that May is the best month to visit to see the ice but noted that each year is different as far as how much ice is present. We may have been just a bit late this year but there was indeed ice on the floor of the cave near the entrance.
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We climbed over a pile of rocks and went deeper into the cave where the amount of ice increased.
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We continued to scramble over the lava trying to avoid the ice as much as possible since it made the rocks very slick, on the other hand the lava was sort of sharp and both our pants came away with battle scars. A little further into the cave we came to the best of the ice display where icicles hung overhead and ice nubs rose from the rocks.
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Near the back of the cave the ice pretty much disappeared and the cave ended unceremoniously.
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I had reached the end first and as I turned to see if I could see where Heather was a bat flew through my headlamp’s light. It had apparently passed by Heather as well because when I told her there were bats she said she knew. ๐Ÿ™‚

Despite the ice it wasn’t as cold in the cave as we’d anticipated and we were both a little warm from all the scrambling by the time we emerged from the cave.
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The half mile round trip took us about an hour which is what Cook had said to expect in the guidebook. After taking off our extra clothing we headed offย to our next stop – Fort Rock State Park.

We turned left out of the parking area back onto NF-22 and followed it for a mile to a stop sign at NF-18 where we turned right. We stayed on NF-18 for 15 miles to the entrance of Fort Rock State Park. We had stopped here in 2014 after a hike up Hager Mountain and toured the inside of Fort Rock so this time we decided to hike around the outside.

From the parking area we followed a path to some plaques on rocks.
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From these rocks we turned right and passed through a barbed wire fence heading around the outside of Fort Rock.
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Although there is no official trail around the outside there was almost always a clear path through the sagebrush. Much like our visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park the previous day we kept our eyes peeled for wildflowers and wildlife amid the sagebrush and on the cliffs above.
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After approximately a mile and a half we rounded the west cliff of Fort Rock where we could now see into Fort Rock.
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We turned left onto an old road bed and followed it around the inside of Fort Rocks cliffs.
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We skipped the .2 mile trail up to a viewpoint which we had visited on our previous trip and stuck to the road bed which climbed up next to an explorable rock shelf where there were several lizards and a lot of bright red paintbrush.
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The trail then passed by a rock pillar before returning to the parking area.
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For our next stop we headed toward Christmas Valley by heading south from the park to the town of Fort Rock where we turned left and followed signs for Christmas Valley a total of 27 miles. After passing through the town we turned left at a sign for Crack in the Ground and followed this dirt/gravel road for 7.2 miles to a small parking area with a toilet. The trail started on the far side of the road at a signboard.
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A level .2 mile path passed through sagebrush dotted with white phlox to a picnic table near the entrance to Crack in the Ground.
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A path led down into the lava slot which reaches a depth of 70′.
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There were some interesting textures along the canyon walls.
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It was nice and cool inside the crack and there was still some left over snow managing to hide from the sun at the bottom.
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We emerged from the crack at a saddle after a little less than a quarter of a mile. We had made the mistake of not bringing the guidebook with us and were really confused because even though we both remembered something different neither of us had expected to be out of the crack yet (we’d both remembered it wrong).

Another section of the crack continued on the other side of the saddle but it was impassable after just a couple hundred feet.
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We did remember that Sullivan had said the canyon did become impassable at some point but that it was possible to follow the rim for another mile so we continued on a clear path on the west side of the crack. Views extended across the desert to some distant buttes.
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Lizards and butterfly covered flowers were common along the rim.
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We came to another a saddle and remained on the rim to yet another saddle where we decided to drop back into the crack.
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We figured that if we found this section impassable we would just turn around and call it good. It wasn’t quite as deep or dramatic as the first section but it was still interesting and better yet, passable.
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We passed another small saddle before coming to what appeared to be the end of the crack where it split into three slots.
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We turned back after emerging from this section and followed an old dirt track on the east side of the crack.
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The road brought us back to the saddle between the first section and the impassable section. We crossed over to the west side of the rim here and followed a clear trail back to the picnic table and then returned to our car. We pulled out the book which showed us we had basically done the hike as described although Sullivan didn’t mention being able to pass through the later sections of the crack. We had hiked roughly two and three quarters of a mile which agreed with the distances on his map.

From Crack in the Ground we drove back to the town of Fort Rock and continued west 6.5 miles to Highway 31. Here we turned north toward LaPine and drove just over 7 miles to a sign for Hole in the Ground near milepost 22. We followed signs for 4.4 miles to a small parking area on the rim of the 425′ deep volcanic maar created when a volcanic gas bubble exploded. A similar occurrence formed Fort Rock only the lava at Fort Rock formed under the water of an ancient lake. Over time the currents and waves of the lake removed all but the hardest rock leaving the fortress like ring.
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A steep dirt trail headed straight down into the crater.
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We were surprised to find some blue lewis flax among the flowers blooming at the bottom.
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After a half mile we arrived at the small playa at the center of Hole in the Ground.
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To get an idea of the size of the crater a couple of other hikers had come down behind us and are on the trail in the following picture.
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An old dirt track extended from the playa to the far side of the crater and eventually wound its way up to the rim after 1.2 miles.
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Along the way it passed a nice stand of ponderosa pines.
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Once we obtained the rim Paulina Peak was visible to the north across the crater.
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Mt. Bachelor and the South Sister were also visible to the NW.
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We followed the road along the rim just over a half mile back to our waiting car then headed for our next stop – Big Tree. We returned to Highway 31 and continued north to Highway 97 then through LaPine. Seven miles north of LaPine we turned left at a sign for LaPine State Park.

We had visited this park before in 2015, but had not made it to Big Tree – Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine.

A half mile after entering the park we turned right at a four way junction following a Big Tree pointer. A .7 mile gravel road brought us to the trailhead parking area.
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A paved .2 mile path led to the tree.
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We continued on the Big Pine Loop passing near the Deschutes River before looping back to the trailhead.
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It was a quick half mile hike but after visiting the redwoods, Oregon’s largest Myrtle Tree and several large port orford cedars and douglas firs on the Big Tree Trail on our southern Oregon vacation earlier in the month it was fitting to add this behemoth to the list.

We returned to Highway 97 and drove north another 10 miles to exit 153 for our final hike of the day. At the exit we followed pointers for the Lava Cast Forest. After 9 miles of gravel road we arrived at the trailhead in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
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A paved 1 mile interpretive loop here led through a lava flow where the molds of trees remain from when the lava cooled around their burning trunks.
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Other sights along the trail included a few wildflowers, the rim of Newberry Crater, and a view of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters.
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When it was all said and done we hiked a total of right around 9 miles on the day and saw some amazingly diverse and unique scenery all within a relatively small area. It had been one of the most interesting days of hiking to date. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Central Oregon Oddities

Green Lakes (Finally!)

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

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

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

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

Gray Butte Trail to Smith Rock State Park

We were in Central Oregon to pick Dominique up from college and took the opportunity to hike in the Smith Rock area. We had hiked in the state park twice before, both times taking the Misery Ridge Trail up and over the summit and completing a loop via the River Trail. For this visit we decided to access the park via the Gray Butte Trail which passed through the Forest Service administered Crooked River Grassland and BLM managed lands before reaching the park trails. We parked at a trail junction along Gray Butte Saddle where the Cole Loop Trail (854) meets the Gray Butte Trail (852).
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The trail was marked by a lone unsigned post.
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The trail traversed a hillside amid scattered juniper trees and sagebrush. Despite being a little late in the year for the best flower displays there were still clumps of color scattered along the trail.
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We also spotted a couple of deer above us on the hill.
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One of the nice things about the trail was, as it passed through the sagebrush filled grassland, the snowy peaks of the Cascades lined up on the horizon.
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The views were spectacular and as we continued around the trail more of the mountains came into view as well as many nearby rock formations.
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At the 1.4 mile mark we arrived at Bitterroot Pass where the trail crossed a dirt road.
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Shortly after crossing the road the trail and road intersected again. This second junction proved confusing and after several minutes reviewing our maps we decided to head up a hillside along another old road.
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This wound up being incorrect. At the second junction we should have taken a clear trail that veered down and slightly to the right along the side of the ridge. There was also a trail further to the right that just ended atop a little crest. The route we took led almost 400′ up to the summit of an unnamed butte. We climbed steeply for over half a mile before arriving at the rocky summit. It was only after reaching the top that we knew we had taken a wrong turn. Actually Dominique had been fairly certain we should have taken the right hand fork but that didn’t seem to jive with the map we were looking at. In any event the views from the top were amazing including a good look at Mt. Hood far to the NW.
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We could see Smith Rock below us as well as the trail we were trying to get too at a junction with Burma Road.
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On the way back down we passed a western fence lizard sunning on the rocks and a hummingbird busy collecting nectar from paintbrush.
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We got back on the correct trail and continued to head toward Smith Rock.
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We passed along the side of the butte we had detoured up before arriving at the trail junction we had seen from above.
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Even though the grassland doesn’t put on the kind of flower show that alpine meadows or the Columbia Gorge can we continued to see various flowers all throughout the hike.
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We were now on the Summit Trail in Smith Rock State Park and heading for the Mesa Verde Trail. At a viewpoint along the way we could see the Crooked River as it was winding through the park as well as a section of the Misery Ridge Trail that we would be descending later on.
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We could also see Gray Butte and the hillsides we had traversed earlier.
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We had already passed through Forest Service, BLM, and Oregon State Park lands when the Summit Trail entered a short section of privately owned lands.
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The Crooked River and Smith Rock’s most famous feature, Monkey Face, came into view as we reentered the park.
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We were greeted by number of locals.
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As we passed by a rockfield we noticed a group of rather large very interesting flowers. They turned out to be smoothstem blazing-star.
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smoothstem blazing-star Mentzelia laevicaulis

The colors and textures of the rocks in the park never ceases to impress.
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We turned up the Mesa Verde Trail and climbed to a junction with the Misery Ridge Trail below Monkey Face.
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As mentioned before this was our third time on the Misery Ridge Trail but the first time we had gone up from this side. We all agreed it was actually easier to go up this side than down it due to the loose dirt and rocks that make the trail slick. We followed the switchbacks up along Monkey Face to the busy summit where the view is worthy of a long look.
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We could once again see Mt. Hood and Gray Butte.
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Climbers were busy making their way up Monkey Face.
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We could also see our return route along Burma Road which ran along the hillside below our earlier unscheduled summit.
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We crossed the summit and got ready for our descent down Misery Ridge to the Crooked River below.
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Unlike the other end of the trail we had many steps to use.
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We passed under a number of rock climbers before reaching another trail junction near the only footbridge over the river in the park.
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We turned left along the Wolf Tree Trail which traveled along the Crooked River.
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Butterflies were flitting along the banks while geese enjoyed the water.
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After almost a mile we reached a sign for Burma Road.
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We had a .9 mile climb up Burma Road to get back to the Gray Butte Trail junction. The road passed by a canal and reentered BLM lands. It was another fairly steep climb with the sun beating down on us, but we managed to make it up to the junction.
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Our backs were to the park and mountains for most of the return trip on the Gray Butte Trail, so we focused on spotting additional wildflowers as we went.
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What should have been a 10.5 mile hike had turned into 12.1 miles thanks to our little detour but it had been well worth it. This was a tough hike and probably best during the month of May, but it was packed with big views, plenty of wildlife, various wildflowers, and lots interesting scenery. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652211766433

Sparks Lake

During our stay in Bend Dominique had his birthday and we planned on spending as much time with him as possible that day so we needed a nice short hike for the morning. We picked the 2.5 mile Ray Atkeson Memorial Loop at Sparks Lake which was only about 30 minutes from where we were staying.
Sparks Lake Trailhead

The weather had cleared up nicely from earlier in the week but that came with a cold front which left the temperature in the upper 20’s as we set off on the trail. The first views of the lake and the South Sister were amazing.
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South Sister and Broken Top from Sparks Lake

There weren’t any people to be seen but there were plenty of ducks, geese and herons present.
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The trail left the lake shore and passed through a lava flow and the Davis Canyon. A narrow lava slot which was an interesting feature.
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Davis Canyon

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A short climb on the back side of the loop produced views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the South Sister.
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South Sister

After completing the loop we headed down to the boat dock and peninsula to get a closer look at the lake. The sky was blue and the Sun shining but there was still a bit of ice water as the mountains reflected in the still water.
South Sister from Sparks Lake

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A beautifully cold Central Oregon morning. It’s hard to start a day much better than that and ending with a family dinner celebrating Dominique’s 19th birthday was perfect ending. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157648195609306/
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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We turned off the PCT at little Reese Lake. The small lake had crystal clear water and a nice view of the South Sister.
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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.
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Separation Creek below Separation Lake in May.
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There was a well worn trail following the creek up toward the saddle between the two mountains.
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It was an interesting landscape. There were numerous types of rocks, wildflowers, and volcanic formations all around.
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After a stiff climb through over a forested ridge we came to the Frazier Upland and the first of the Chambers Lakes.
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We passed by the first lake, crossed a snowfield, and climbed another ridge to find the second Chambers Lake.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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We picked out our camp site and then set about exploring the area.
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Our afternoon explorations led to some totally unexpected discoveries.
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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!

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Broken Top – No Name Lake

We’re a little behind on our trip reports due to spending too much time hiking ๐Ÿ™‚ (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.
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The trail from Todd Lake entered the Three Sisters Wilderness shortly after leaving the lake.
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Then Broken Top made an appearance.
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It wasn’t the only Cascade Peak visible from the trail.
Mt. Bachelor:
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South Sister:
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The trail climbed gently as it left the forest and gained better and better views as it passed by and through open meadows.
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And across wildflower lined streams.
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We spotted several deer grazing in the meadows near the junction with the Green Lakes Trail.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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After crossing Crater Ditch the trail headed toward Ball Butte and the end of the Green Lakes Trail at road 380.
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Shortly after crossing a creek an unofficial trail forked to the left heading between Ball Butte and Broken Top with Broken Hand dead ahead.
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We then recrossed the monkeyflower lined creek and followed it up toward the no name lake passing several small but scenic falls.
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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.
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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.
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The lake was as beautiful as advertised. The colors of the water and of Broken Top were spectacular.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Happy Trails!

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Tam McArthur Rim

An extra long weekend brought us to Central Oregon for a pair of Labor Day weekend hikes. We had planned the coup de gras of our hiking season for September 1st when we were set to climb the South Sister, but first we decided to take a “warm up” hike on the 31st on our way to Bend, OR. We chose Tam McArthur Rim which is located about 16 miles south of Sisters, OR at Three Creek Lake. The trail offered an up close look at Broken Top and a view of the Three Sisters to help us get excited for the next days climb. We also had the option of making this a short hike of just 5 miles by turning around at the rim viewpoint, but of course we opted to lengthen the trip. ๐Ÿ™‚

The trail offered views from the beginning with Tam McArthur Rim and the North & Middle Sister looming over Three Creek Lake.
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The trail climbed for the first 3/4 of a mile up a ridge to the rim’s plateau. Along the way views opened up across the lake to the north revealing several Cascade peaks. When we reached the plateau the mountains were temporarily lost as we traveled south across a semi-barren landscape. After a half mile the trail bent right and began gradually climbing along the sloped plateau. Mountains once again were visible, this time to the south. Mt. Bachelor rose above the plateau with Tumalo Mountain to it’s left.
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As we gained elevation along the plateau the tops of Broken Top and the South Sister began to peek over the rims edge. The plateau itself was an interesting mix of rocks and sand dotted with clumps of trees. The plants were limited to those capable of surviving windy conditions on little water. Just prior to the final climb to the viewpoint the trail approached the cliff edge where we got our first good look at Little Three Creeks Lake.
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Upon reaching the viewpoint we found that it was a nice wide area with a 360 degree view. At an elevation of 7730′ it was high enough to see a good distance. It was a wonderful spot to take a break and have a bite to eat and would have been an acceptable place to declare victory and turn around. While we sat at the viewpoint we were joined by a Red Crossbill who apparently thought it was a good place for a break as well. Although the view here was good enough to call it a day the trail continued on so we would too.

North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.
North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.

Continuing on from the viewpoint the trail stayed fairly level as it followed the edge of the rim toward Broken Top. The open landscape of the plateau meant constant views with Mt. Bachelor to the south, a string of Cascade peaks to the NW and Central Oregon to the east. Between the trail and Central Oregon the plateau was dotted with patches of snow that were still melting feeding silver creeks that flowed down toward the Deschutes River far below. The most prominent of these was the North Fork of Tumalo Creek.

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North Fork of Tumalo Creek

The trail skirted around one of these snow fields and climbed a cinder slope where we could see the final mile of our path before us.
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The final mile climbed a cinder ridge to the base of Broken Hand. From this ridge the views became even grander. To the south beyond Mt. Bachelor was Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen and eventually Mt. Scott which resides on the rim of Crater Lake.
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To the north we could see all the way to Mt. Adams in Washington although haze made it difficult to see it well.
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We ate lunch at the base of Broken Hand admiring the colors and shapes of the volcanic rocks of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. We spotted a fellow hiker sitting on the rim of the moraine containing Broken Top Lake, a destination we hope to see next year.
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We spent quite awhile surveying the landscape around us, and I was especially intrigued by what appeared to be a good sized waterfall to the SE of the Middle Sister. It may have been along the outlet creek of one of the Chambers Lakes (possibly Camp Lake).
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We also tried to spot climbers on top of the South Sister since we planned on being up there the next day but couldn’t make anyone out.

On our way back we began running into more hikers and other wildlife too. A silent group of ravens glided by apparently searching for something along the plateau.
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We also spotted an impressive spider which had bright red legs and was just a bit larger than a quarter.
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This was a great way to start a weekend of hiking and really got us excited about our hike up the South Sister. Happy Trails.

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