Tag Archives: pole creek fire

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.
IMG_5859Soap Creek

IMG_5863View of the North Sister that would not have been there pre-fire.

IMG_5868Soap Creek and the Middle and North Sister

IMG_5870Monkshood

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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IMG_5986Penstemon

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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 – Three Fingered Jack

This week’s Throwback Thursday hike is a 13.5 mile loop taken on 10/13/12 partly along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started our hike at the Pacific Crest Trailhead near Santiam Pass along Highway 22. Our plan for the day was to follow the PCT to the SW flank of Three Fingered Jack then return on a loop by leaving the PCT on the way back above Martin Lake and hiking cross country past that lake to the Summit Lake Trail.

We arrived just before daylight and were rewarded with some amazing sights as we waited for enough light to start hiking.Three Fingered Jack/PCT trailhead

Morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington in the morning from the trailhead

Mt. Washington

The trailhead is located in the fire scar of the 2003 B & B Fire. One of those B’s is for Booth Lake which we planned on visiting as we returned on the Summit Trail.Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

A short distance after passing the junction with the Summit Trail the PCT entered the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail

From the wilderness boundary Three Fingered Jack was only about 3 miles away but was hidden behind the rise of the land. There were plenty of views to be had to the south though.Hayrick Butte and Hoodoo

Hayrick Butte and the Hoodo Ski Area

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Washington and the North and Middle Sisters

We spent a lot of time looking over our shoulders as the views only got better as we made the gradual climb toward Three Fingered Jack.Black Crater, Broken Top, the North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

North and Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister

Broken Top

Broken Top

Three Fingered Jack finally came into view when the trail leveled out on a plateau.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

At the 1.25 mile mark we arrived at a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail.Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Santiam Lake Trail

We continued on the PCT through the silver snags of the B & B Fire which were a surprisingly nice contrast to the bright red Fall huckleberry leaves.Pacific Crest Trail

Contrasting colors in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Another impressive view came two miles from the Santiam Trail junction.Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack

View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking south

The PCT had steepened a bit as it climbed to this view on a ridge which it now followed into green trees.Three Fingered Jack

Pacific Crest Trail

The ridge passed above Booth and Martin Lakes which lay to the east.Martin and Booth Lakes and Black Butte

Black Butte (post) beyond Martin and Booth Lakes

Just under a half mile from the viewpoint we passed a spot along the ridge where we would head cross-country on the way back. We were still gaining elevation which gave us a view of Diamond Peak even further south.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

Diamond Peak

We also noticed that the stubborn Pole Creek Fire was still putting up a smoke column from the Three Sisters Wilderness.Black Crater, Broken Top, smoke from the Pole Creek Fire, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, The Husband, Big Lake, Hayrick Butte, Scott Mountain, and Diamond Peak

Broken Top and the Pole Creek Fire

To the west we spotted Lower Berley Lake.Lower Berley Lake

Three Fingered Jack disappeared again for a bit but not long after crossing a rocky section of the ridge the PCT rounded a corner and Three Fingered Jack came back into view.Three Fingered Jack

Continuing on just a couple tenths of a mile more brought us to even better views of the volcano’s western face.Three Fingered Jack

A climbers trail was clearly visible heading up toward the summit.Three Fingered Jack

We followed the PCT to the junction with the climbers trail which was approximately 5.5 miles from the trailhead.Three Fingered Jack

It was tempting to head up the path but apparently only for me. Heather and Dominique were good turning around here so they took a short break as I went up a very short distance. The trail was fairly steep and the loose rock made it more effort than I was willing to expend so I quickly returned and we began our hike back.

On the way back along the PCT we spotted a trail heading off to the right (SW) just over half a mile from the climbers trail. This short spur led to a rock outcrop with spectacular view.View from the Pacific Crest Trail

From here we could see at least a part of 7 Cascade Peaks: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, All three of the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Diamond Peak.Black Crater, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington

From left to right: Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, North Sister, the summit of South Sister, Middle Sister, and Mt. Washington.

Scott Mountain and Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

After a nice long break soaking in the view we continued south on the PCT past the rock section along the ridge.Pacific Crest Trail

Shortly after the rocks we headed downhill at a low point along the ridge into the least steep looking gully we had seen on the way by earlier.Off-trail route to Martin Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail

The route was fairly steep but the good news was that the lake was at the bottom of a bowl so we basically just needed to stay heading downhill and we would by default find Martin Lake. The trees were sparse enough to make travel easy and we soon found ourselves along a fern covered hillside.Cross country route from the Pacific  Crest Trail to Martin Lake

Fern covered hillside near Martin Lake

This was our first real foray into off-trail travel but between the map, GPS and knowing that the lake was at the bottom of the bowl we had no trouble finding the water after traveling approximately .4 miles.Martin Lake

Several deer had been on the far side of Martin Lake but ran as we emerged from the trees. They had been in the area of an old trail that ran from the Summit Trail to Martin Lake but had not been maintained since the B & B Fire.Martin Lake

Martin Lake

We made our way around the south shore of the lake to its east end hoping to pick up the trail we had seen from the west end.Martin Lake

The trail was basically non-existent though.Cross country route to the Summit Trail

The good news was we knew that the Summit Trail was due east from Martin Lake and to make things easier so was Black Butte. We used the 6436′ butte as our guide as we traveled the half mile from Martin Lake to the Summit Lake Trail.Black Butte

We were a little concerned that the Summit Lake Trail might be hard to spot so I occasionally checked the GPS to make sure it wasn’t showing that we’d crossed it. We wound up having no problem identifying the dusty Summit Lake Trail though and turned right onto it. After a quarter mile we took a short spur to the right to Booth Lake.Booth Lake

We were joined by an eagle who landed in the snags on the far side of the lake.Eagle on the far side of Booth Lake

From the shore Three Fingered Jack was visible peaking over a ridge.Three Fingered Jack from Booth Lake

There was a decent breeze which created some eerie sounds as it passed through the dead trees. We left Booth Lake and continued south on the Summit Lake trail which remained in the B & B scar for the rest of the hike.Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness along the Summit Trail

Colorful hillside along the Summit Trail

The trail climbed gradually for 3/4 of a mile to a saddle before descending more steeply for a little over a mile to Square Lake.Square Lake, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister and Mt. Washington

As we began descending the clouds over the North Sister formed into an interesting shape.Cool cloud formation passing over the North Sister

We took another short break at the lake where the only view we had was east to Black Butte.Square Lake

Square Lake

We followed a pointer for the Santiam Pass Trailhead at the junction with the Round Lake Trail.Trail sign for the Santiam Pass Trailhead

It was roughly 2.2 miles back to the PCT from Square Lake. The trail climbed away from the lake gaining a final view of Three Fingered Jack to the north.Three Fingered Jack and Square Lake

We then passed along a hillside covered in golden ferns with decent views of Mt. Washington but an increase in clouds and slight drizzle began obscuring the views of the other mountains.On the way back to the Santaim Pass Trailhead

Mt. Washington

After completing the loop and arriving back at the trailhead we drove to my parents house near Bend. They were away for the weekend but the house was being watched carefully by their guard owl.Owl in Central Oregon after the hike

We had another hike planned for the next day in the Three Sisters Wilderness so we spent the night at their house and set off the next day on what would become known as “The hike that shall not be named“. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Fingered Jack

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.
Obsidian Trail

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.
Obsidian Creek

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.
Pacific Crest Trail

One of the Arrowhead Lakes

Obsidian

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.
Sunshine

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.
Glacier Creek

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.
Pacific Crest Trail

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 3

After not being able to fall asleep in the wake of an amazing second day the third day of our backpacking loop started way to early. I woke up just after 5am needing to empty my bladder. Looking out our tent to the East I could see an orange glow through the trees indicating that the Sun was coming, but not for awhile. I threw my headlamp on, grabbed my camera hoping to get a shot of the horizon, and started to walk toward the edge of the plateau that Demaris Lake sits on. I was scanning the forest with my light when I noticed a pair of glowing eyes about 50yds to the left of our tent. They were fairly low to the ground and I couldn’t tell what it was. Since I didn’t know what kind of animal was staring at me I wasn’t sure if I should get big or slowly back away. Not being fully awake my solution was to take a picture using the flash to see if I could figure out what it was. That may not have been the best idea, but when the flash went off I could see that it was a deer that was bedded down.
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She got up after I took the picture and began walking along the ridge in front of me so I stopped heading that way and thought I would loop around behind to get my horizon picture. Apparently she didn’t like that because when I looked back in the direction she had been headed she had turned around and was now walking toward me with her head down.
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She stopped when she realized I’d spotted her and I backtracked down to the lake shore and tried taking a wider loop around a rocky outcropping to get my picture. I got to good viewpoint and after scanning for the deer I set about trying to get a decent picture.
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After taking a few pictures I suddenly had a strange feeling. Glancing to my right there was that crazy deer again staring at me with those glowing eyes. I headed back down to the lake and hurried back to the tent site to grab my poles and wake Heather up thinking that maybe the presence of a second person would deter the stalker deer. It must have because we didn’t see her again and were able to watch the sunrise light up the mountains and trees above the lake.
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After a deer free breakfast we returned to the Camp Lake Trail at the North Fork Wychus Creek. A nice little waterfall lay just downstream from the creek crossing.
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Soon we entered the area burned during the 2012 Pole Creek Fire.
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The forest is only starting to recover from the fire so there wasn’t much to see as we made our way to the Green Lakes Trail and Soda Creek.
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We turned right on the Green Lakes Trail and headed south toward Park Meadow. The first section of trail remained in the burn area but we were now headed back toward the mountains so we at least had a view.
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After recrossing the North Fork Wychus Creek and then crossing the South Fork Wychus Creek the trail passed between a pair of ponds at the edge of the burn. The large pond on the left was empty while the much smaller pond on the right was filled with ducks.
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After leaving the burn area our next marker was the West Fork Park Creek in Red Meadow.
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There weren’t many flowers in the meadow but a hawk provided some entertainment as it watched us from a nearby tree.
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From there it was just under a mile to our next trail junction located in Park Meadow.
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After taking a quick look at Park Creek we continued on the Green Lakes Trail passing through Park Meadow. The meadow was quite large with a good view of both Broken Top and the South Sister. Although it was fairly dry many gentian flowers dotted the ground along with the occasional aster.
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We were looking for a side trail about a mile from Park Meadow that would take us to Golden Lake. There was no sign marking the .7 mile trail to the lake but as we made our way toward the lake we did see signs announcing the areas restrictions.
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It was easy to see why this was a popular spot.
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Golden Lake2

We hiked around to the far end of the lake and decided to follow the inlet creek up looking for a place to set up our tent far enough from the lake to fit the 250′ restriction. We knew that there were a pair of tarns about a mile up from Golden Lake which we had originally planned on visiting after we had found our camp site and dropped off our gear. We weren’t having much luck finding a site, but the scenery was once again spectacular. Wildflowers lined the creek and the water was as clear as glass. We were headed straight at Broken Top and the South Sister loomed across the creek to our right.
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We eventually reached the beginning of the creek as it flowed out from the bottom of a rocky hillside.
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We began climbing the hill expecting to find the first tarn at the top.
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We were not disappointed.
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The water in the tarn was crystal clear and the views extended to Mt. Jefferson to the North.
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A path led up another hill to the second tarn. It was quite a bit smaller and there was a hiker with a dog splashing around in it so we headed back down to the first tarn and went about setting up camp. We had found our spot for the night.
Second tarn
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South Sister over the first tarn
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Our campsite back in the trees on the far side of the tarn.
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We had views all around from the site.
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The nice part was we had arrived just after 1pm so we had plenty of time to soak our feet (the water was way too cold for anything else) and watch the wildlife that would occasionally stop by the tarn.
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We decided to try and turn in early (or at least take a nap) since we didn’t get much sleep the night before so we laid down in the tent around 6pm. Heather fell asleep but I wasn’t having any luck so I got back up shortly after 7pm and took a few more pictures. It had been hazy to north all weekend but I could now make out Mt. Hood in that direction, and rays of sunlight shot through the gap between the South and Middle Sister.
The Three Sisters, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood at 7:04pm
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Broken Top at 7:07pm
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I went back to the tent and laid back down after taking the picture of Broken Top hoping to finally get some sleep. About 20 minutes later I smelled smoke. Thinking it was a campfire I lay there for a minute wondering if someone wasn’t able to follow the restriction on campfires. The smell kept getting strong so I sat up and looked around. Smoke was filling the basin below Broken Top and when I turned around I could see a line of smoke passing between the Sisters. The whole valley below us was full of smoke and it looked like it was rising up from somewhere on the other side of the South Sister.
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I woke Heather up and we began discussing what to do. Another hiker came up to the tarn and she was wondering what was going on as well. She had a satellite phone and had managed to talk to a friend in Bend but they didn’t have any knowledge of a fire near the Sisters. There were some fires near Oakridge, OR 40 miles to the South but it didn’t seem possible that this smoke was coming from there. Looking at the smoke column we weren’t sure if we would be able to hike out via Green Lakes since it appeared to be rising from somewhere in that direction so we considered our Plan B evacuation route back through Park Meadow to the Three Creeks Campground. We were also debating on if we should try and stick it out through the night of if we should just pack up and try and get out before it got any worse. We quickly agreed that neither of us would be able to get any sleep under these conditions and if the smoke got any worse it would certainly be unhealthy even if we did manage to fall asleep.

We loaded everything up grabbed our headlamps and started back down toward Golden Lake just after 8:15pm. We were watching the smoke column still unable to decide exactly where it was emanating from when arrived back at Golden Lake. No one had any new news at the lake so we decided to attempt to hike out as originally planned past the Green Lakes as it looked like the smoke was coming from the far side of the South Sister.

This was our first experience with night hiking so we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Our adrenaline was pumping as we began climbing the Green Lakes Trail to its high point above the Green Lakes. To our surprise and relief the smoke lessened as we went. By the time we arrived at the Green Lakes area the sky was full of stars and the smell of smoke had all but vanished.
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I managed one picture of the elusive Green Lakes having once again missed seeing them in the light of day.
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We were now committed to leaving though so we kept hiking. It turned out to be quite a bit of fun. We missed out on seeing a lot but the sky was beautiful and we spotted some things we would not have seen during the day like toads and the glowing eyes of many deer.
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We were fortunate that the Green Lakes Trail is well used and easy to follow. By 11:40pm we had reached the trailhead and our waiting car. There was no sign of fire anywhere around and as it turned out the smoke had come from the Deception Creek Complex of fires near Oakridge. The wind had apparently shifted just right flooding the area with smoke. Although it would have been nice to have spent the night by the tarn and been able to wake up to that view we felt like we made the right choice. Experiencing our first night hike was something to remember and it brought our day 3 total to a nice round 21 miles. It truly was a trip to remember.

Happy (and smoke free) Trails!

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