Tag Archives: North Sister

Thayer Glacial Lake – 8/13/2019

For the second hike of our vacation we chose the off-trail scramble to Thayer Glacial Lake. The hike is described in the second edition of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall” guidebook. The book is older (ours is updated for 2012) and predates the Pole Creek Fire which happened to take place in 2012. The main change on the hike is that there is a lot of travel through the fire scar so there aren’t a lot of green trees, but there are more views of the mountains.

We had had this hike on our to do list and a recent trip report in a Facebook group prompted us to move it up and do it sooner rather than later. We drove over Santiam Pass to Sisters and took Highway 242 for 1.3 miles to Forest Service Road 15 (Pole Creek Road) where we turned left. We followed FR 15 for 11 bumpy miles to the Pole Creek Trailhead.
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We followed the Pole Creek Trail uphill through the burned forest for 1.5 miles to a junction with the Green Lakes Trail crossing the dry bed of Pole Creek not far from the trailhead.
IMG_5817Middle and North Sister

IMG_5820Dry bed of Pole Creek.

IMG_5822Black Crater, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte to the north.

IMG_5825Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.

IMG_5831A few survivors amid the snags.

IMG_5832Green Lakes Trail junction.

We stayed straight at the junction continuing on what was now the Green Lakes Trail. This trail descended a little before arriving at Soap Creek three quarters of a mile from the junction.
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IMG_5839Broken Top and the South Sister

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IMG_5844Monkeyflower along Soap Creek

On the far side of the creek was a familiar junction, the Camp Lake and Green Lakes Trail junction where we had been on our 2014 loop around the South Sister (post).
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Instead of crossing the creek we left the trail here and headed west. This portion of the hike requires off-trail navigational and route finding skills. There was, at times, what appeared to be a user trail but it was faint and prone to disappearing only to reappear in an unexpected place. In general we followed the directions in the guidebook although our routes there and back were quite different (at least for a 1 mile stretch). The instructions were to follow the climbers trail for 2ish miles then head cross country toward a yellow bulge on North Sister. The lack of green trees allowed for a lot more views of North Sister which assisted in keeping us oriented. We used our topographic maps to help us stick to what appeared to be the gentlest terrain and eventually found ourselves looking at the daunting moraine to the left of the yellow bulge.
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IMG_5863View of the North Sister that would not have been there pre-fire.

IMG_5868Soap Creek and the Middle and North Sister

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IMG_5891Might be a trail in there, might not.

IMG_5894Decent look at the yellow bulge on North Sister.

IMG_5895Broken Top and South Sister

IMG_5896Soap Creek

IMG_5903Meadow where there was no discernible trail apparent.

IMG_5909Typical cross country obstacles.

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IMG_5930Dry creekbed.

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IMG_5946The moraine to the left of the bulge.

We stopped briefly to watch what appeared to be a golden eagle soaring overhead trying to evade a smaller raptor that was annoyed by the larger birds presence.
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We wound up a bit further north than intended and had to veer NW to reach the meadows around the springs feeding Soap Creek.
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IMG_5963A clump of Monkeyflower

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After a little over two hours and approximately three miles from where we’d left the Green Lakes Trail we found ourselves resting in the shade of a large rock near the moraine.
IMG_6001Our shady spot.

While we rested by the rock we discussed our planned route up the moraine. The steep loose rock would not be easy and we wanted to try and find the safest route to what was hopefully the lowest point along the moraine. After agreeing on a route and picking a point to aim for we set off on the final three quarters of a mile climb to the rim above Thayer Glacial Lake.
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IMG_6015Paintbrush growing on the moraine.

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IMG_6021More flowers amid the rocks.

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After a couple (dozen) course corrections I passed between a pair of large cinder rocks I dubbed “Thayer Gate” and a few moments later was looking at the lake.
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While Heather headed down to the lake shore I detoured up along the rim to the south to check out the views.
IMG_6057The yellow bulge, Mt. Hood, Black Crater and Black Butte to the north.

IMG_6059Mt. Hood

IMG_6037Broken Top to the north.

IMG_6043The rim above Thayer Lake.

IMG_6045North Sister and the Thayer Glacier

IMG_6061Heather near some large boulders in the lake.

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We explored along the lake looking at the remaining ice, one piece resembled a listing boat, and admiring the textures and colors of the volcano.
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The water was frigid but the temperature by the lake was pleasantly cool and we would have liked to have stayed there for hours but we still had to get back so we eventually pulled ourselves away and headed back down the moraine.
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We headed toward the springs feeding Soap Creek and kept working our way north trying to stay to the left of the wildflower lined streams.
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This proved to be a little trickier than expected as we kept coming upon more springs as we went.
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We followed Soap Creek into a narrow canyon which turned out to be a bit of a mistake and had to climb steeply over the north ridge when it became to steep and narrow.
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IMG_6173Starting to get too narrow and the topographic map showed it getting more so further downstream.

IMG_6174Climbing out of the gully.

IMG_6176Broken Top and South Sister from the ridge.

We descended the ridge heading NE using our GPS to hook up with our earlier route up. After a couple of ups and downs over smaller ridges we found ourselves in the general area through which we’d come up. We roughly followed our route back to the Green Lakes Trail without much excitement. The one thing that was different was the creeping wire lettuce blossoms which had opened up to the Sun and dotted the ground in places.
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We then followed the trails back to the Pole Creek Trailhead which was full of cars. It surprised us a bit being a Tuesday, but it’s one of the stated reasons by the Forest Service for the permit requirements that go into effect in 2020 for many of the trailheads in the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness areas.

Cook lists the hike as 5 miles one way, but we wound up with 11.5 miles round trip with nearly 3000′ of cumulative elevation gain. The off-trail travel makes it an even harder hike than those state would indicate. All that being said it was worth the effort and we were glad we’d made the trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Thayer Glacial Lake

Throwback Thursday – Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One-Cone

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike was given the name “The hike that shall not be named” by our Son, Dominique. What was supposed to be a 15 mile loop with spectacular mountain views in the Three Sisters Wilderness wound up being an 18.6 mile, mostly view-less loop, through fog and drizzle.

On 10/14/2012 we set off from the large Obsidian Trailhead into the Obsidian Limited Entry Area. The trailhead is located on Forest Road 250 off of Highway 242. A number of wildfires burned through the Three Sisters Wilderness in 2017 most likely affecting some of the forest in this area. As always, check with the Forest Service for current conditions before heading out.

A limited number of permits are available each day for entry into the Obsidian area and we had purchased ours months in advance. Due to having to purchase the permit early we were at the mercy of weather. We arrived before day light which would be delayed a bit due to the damp fog covering the area.
Signboard at the Obsidian Trailhead

Trail sign along the Obsidian Trail

When we had enough light we set off on the Obsidian Trail which quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Obsidian Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Obsidian Trail

Just under 3.5 miles from the trailhead the trail passed through the Jerry lava flow. According to our guidebook there is a view of several Cascade peaks from the flow but all we could see were clouds.
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Cloudy day in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Jerry Lava Flow

The trail descended on the far side of the lava to a crossing of the White Branch Creek which was practically dry at the time.
Obsidian Trail approaching the White Branch

White Branch

The trail split just on the other side of the creek which is where our 15 mile hike turned into something longer. I had misunderstood the description of the loop option in the guidebook. The entry in the book was for a 12 lollipop hike for which it had you take the right hand fork 1.7 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail then turn left on that trail for 1.4 miles to another junction in the Sunshine Meadow. Here a left turn would lead .7 miles back to the junction near the White Branch. The loop option that we were trying to follow simply said that from Sunshine continue on the PCT for 2.2 miles to Collier Cone then another 1.8 miles to the Scott Trail, turn left for 4.9 miles, and turn left again on a .6 mile connector trail back to the Obsidian Trailhead. I failed to notice that the entire route was only 15 miles if we took the left fork to the PCT which was .7 vs 3.1 miles (The other additional mileage was due to side trips up the Collier and Four-in-One Cones).
Trail sign near White Branch

We went right. The scenery along the trail was nice but would have been even better without the clouds and with some flowers still in bloom. That being said the South Fork White Branch still had water flowing and there was plenty of obsidian along the trail making it pretty obvious how this trail got its name.
Obsidian Trail

Obsidian on the hillside

Obsidian

South Fork White Branch

South Fork White Branch

We reached the junction with the PCT where signs were posted about the stubborn Pole Creek Fire which was still smoldering in the eastern portion of the wilderness.
Obsidian Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Dominique spotted a small group of deer near the junction but they scampered off before I could get a clear picture due to the camera lens continually fogging up.
Deer near the Pacific Crest Trail

A short time after turning north onto the PCT we came to Obsidian Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
Obsidian Falls

Obsidian Falls

After visiting the base of the falls we continued north crossing Obsidian Creek and passing its source at Sister Spring.
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Sister SpringSister Spring

At this point we were very near to the Middle and North Sisters but there was no way we were going to see anything above us through the clouds.
Talus above Sister Spring

The PCT then passed the small Arrowhead Lakes and more obsidian.
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One of the Arrowhead Lakes

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We continued on the PCT which was now approaching the 7810′ Little Brother which was beyond Sunshine. We could see the meadow and Glacier Creek below but the Little Brother was for the most part hidden from sight.
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Snow from the Pacific Crest Trail

On the way down to Sunshine we spotted the Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque.
Harley H. Prouty Memorial Plaque

Sunshine

At Glacier Creek we found the junction with the Glacier Way Trail which was the left hand fork we should have taken at the White Branch.
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Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Glacier Way Trail

Still thinking we were on a 15 mile hike we continued north on the PCT instead of opting for the 12 mile hike and turning down Glacier Way. The trail passed through many small meadows that were probably home to plenty of summer wildflowers based on the amount of lupine leaves we saw. There was no lupine blooming anymore but we did spot a lone western pasque flower gone to seed.
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Drops of water on lupine leaves

Western pasque flower

A little under 2 miles from Sunshine the PCT arrived at the Jerry Lava flow.
Pacific Crest Trail

Above the lava in the fog we could see the Collier Cone.
Jerry Lava Flow

A .3 mile side trip would lead to a viewpoint along the rim of the cinder cone but first we had to pass through the lava flow to Opie Dildock Pass. Along the way there we spotted some lupine still in bloom, patches of snow, a tree with a rather unique top, and some real life blue sky.
Pacific Crest Trail

Lupine

Snow patch in the Jerry Lava Flow

Sculpted tree top

A little blue sky

We almost thought we’d lost the trail below the pass but the PCT simply scrambled up a gully in the lava.
Pacific Crest Trail heading up to Opie Dildock Pass

Pacific Crest Trail

A small cairn marked the side trail into the fog filled cone.
Heading into Collier Cone

We followed a use path up to the rim.
Inside Collier Cone

But for the fog we would have had an up close view of the Collier Glacier and the North and Middle Sister.
Collier Glacier

We took an extended break on the rim and in that time the fog lifted just a bit. We could at least see back down into the cone and every once in a while we got a glimpse of the northern flank of the North Sister.
Collier Cone

Light coming from the NE side of the North Sister

North Sister

We finally headed down resigning ourselves to the fact that the views weren’t going to get any better on this trip. We returned to the PCT and headed north once again. We did get a little more blue sky overhead and the fog continued to lift allowing us to at least see a little more of our surroundings.
Blue sky for a brief moment

Pacific Crest TrailYapoah Crater in the distance.

We were now heading away from the North Sister toward Scott Meadow and the Scott Meadow Trail. We arrived at the meadow and trail junction 1.8 miles from the side trail into Collier Cone.
Scott Meadow

Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow

The Pole Creek Fire had forced the closure of the PCT at the junction.
Pacific Crest Trail closed due to the Pole Creek Fire at the Scott Trail junction

The meadow looked like it would be an impressive wildflower meadow in summer and provide some good mountain views. On this day the meadow was mostly brown and the mountains nearly hidden although we did get our best glimpse of a mountain looking back at the North Sister from the junction.
North Sister and Collier Cone

North Sister and Collier ConeNorth Sister and the Collier Cone

We vowed to come back to that spot to try again some summer which we did in 2013.
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We turned down the Scott Trail which followed a dry creek bed for a bit before entering a vast pumice plain.
Dry creek along the Scott Trail

Scott Trail

Just over 3/4 of a mile from the Scott Meadow jct we turned right onto a side trail which led up another cinder cone – Four-in-One Cone.
Four-in-One Cone

Climbing Four-in-One Cone

As the name indicates this geologic feature is not a single cinder cone but four connected cones. A path follows the length of the ridge providing plenty of opportunity for views, but not necessarily for us.
Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

I arrived at the top of the cone first and Dominique soon joined me as I gazed toward the cloud covered Three Sisters. We were about 13 miles into the hike now (we had also done a 13.5 mile hike the previous day) and we were all getting a little tired. The lack of views wasn’t helping raise spirits either. When Dominique reached me he looked around and then asked where the trail went from there. When I informed him it didn’t go anywhere and that it was just another spur trail to a viewpoint he gave me what could only be described as a death stare. His only response was “You mean we didn’t have to climb up here?”. I left him fuming at the southern end of the cone while I headed north along the rim. There I stared into the clouds where Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington should have been.
Four-in-One Cone

We were all dragging a bit as we made our way back to the Scott Trail and headed west. It wasn’t long before we were all suffering from what I’d call “trail madness”. We were moving but only because we had to in order to get back.

A little under a mile from the cone we crossed another lava flow.
Scott Trail

We spent the next 2.7 miles in the forest wondering why a 15 mile hike was seeming so hard and taking so long.
Scott Trail

When we finally arrived at the junction with the .6 mile connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead Heather gave it a kiss.
Scott Trail junction with the connector trail to the Obsidian Trailhead

We managed to will ourselves through the final stretch and back to our car eager to get back to Bend and find some substantial food. The lack of views had been really disappointing given just how spectacular they should have been, but the real kick in the teeth came after we’d made it back to the east side of the mountains. Beyond the farms near Sisters we had a clear view of all Three Sisters as well as the bank of clouds that had plagued us all day on their western flanks.
The Three Sisters from Sisters, OR

Middle and North Sister

It appeared that we’d been on the wrong side of the mountains all day. Some day we’ll get back to the area which hopefully wasn’t too damaged by last years fires. Until then we have the memories of the “Hike that shall not be named”. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One Cone

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.
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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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The plains offered an interesting landscape with open views all around.
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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′.
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We met the PCT and turned right passing the Rock Mesa lava flow and views of the South Sister.
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The PCT eventually left the plains and entered more forested terrain crossing several branches of Mesa Creek amid meadows and wildflowers.
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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.
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Next we passed a small pond where Heather spotted a tadpole.
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Flower lined Hinton Creek was next.
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Followed by Separation Creek. We may have found some of the tadpoles relatives there.
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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.
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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.
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The first lake we reached was Husband Lake. It was a nice lake with views of both the Middle and South Sister.
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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.
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There was also the cutest little tree attempting to grow out of the side of a boulder.
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The North Sister made its first appearance of the day as we continued North.
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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.
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We eventually made our way around to the best views from the lake.
Eileen Lake
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The springs were truly impressive cascading down from all around the rim of a small bowl.
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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!

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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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