Tag Archives: South Sister

Sisters Mirror Lake

Thursday had been the wettest day of our vacation week but the clouds began clearing overnight and Friday promised to be mostly sunny. We wanted to get some views of the fresh snow on the Cascades so we headed up the Cascade Lakes Highway past Mt. Bachelor and Devils Lake to the Sisters Mirror Lake Trailhead. We stopped for quick pictures of the mountains along the way.
Three Sisters and Broken Top
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Broken Top
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Mt. Bachelor
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It was damp and a little chilly as we set off on the Mirror Lakes Trail and entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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At the .4 mile mark we came to a signed trail. Our plan was to do a clockwise loop hike and return to this junction form the north.
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Beyond the junction the trail passed ponds, lava flows, and Junco Lake before arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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Junco Lake
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We turned left on the PCT then right toward Sisters Mirror Lake after .2 miles.
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We followed trails around the lake to the SW side where the snowy white peak of South Sister was visible.
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After enjoying the view at Sisters Mirror Lake we began to wander off trail visiting the numerous other lakes and ponds in the area and getting better views of South Sister.
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We eventually made our way to Denude Lake where we picked up a clear trail again.
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We followed the path to the next lake which was Bounty Lake.
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After Bounty Lake we came to Lancelot Lake.
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We spent some time at Lancelot Lake. First we explored the area just west of the lake where some ducks were enjoying a cold swim in a small lake/pond.
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Then we wandered out to the rock wall that damned the lake and took a relaxing break in the sun.
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After our break we continued around the lake marveling at the clear yet colorful water of Lancelot Lake.
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We then made our way back to Sisters Mirror Lake and back to the PCT where we turned left for .4 miles passing the trail junction we had arrived at earlier and then leaving the PCT at a sign for Moraine Lake.
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We had expected to have some nice views of the South Sister on this portion of the hike. It looked like we would be passing along the edge of the Wickiup Plain, a pumice flat that we had passed by on our South Sister Loop the year before. As we hiked it became increasingly apparent that the trail would be staying in the forest and not reaching the pumice plain offering only brief glimpses of the tops of the South Sister and Broken Top.
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We could tell we were close to the plain so we made the decision to head cross country through the trees in order to reach the better views of the Wickiup Plain.
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We wound up finding a path which led across the plain so we followed it toward Kaleetan Butte.
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Mt. Bachelor Joined the view along the way.
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We wound up arriving at a familiar trail junction on the far end of the plain. It was the trail we had taken from Moraine Lake during our South Sister Loop. We also noticed a small sign at this end of the path we were following stating it was closed. Had we known we wouldn’t have followed it, but there were no signs at the other end. We turned right at the junction following an old road bed that predated the wilderness designation.
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After a half mile we arrived at the trail junction where we would have come out if we had stayed on the trail instead of heading for the plain.
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We headed toward Devils Lake descending around Kaleetan Butte for a mile where we arrived at another junction.
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We followed the pointer for Elk Lake which would lead us back to the Mirror Lakes Trail in 1.6 miles passing Blacktail Spring and Sink Creek along the way.
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It was really nice to see the mountains with some fresh snow on them after the dry Summer we’d had. The weather that had forced us to change our vacation plans had provided some great scenery for our final hike. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658876331925

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

South Waldo Lake

South Waldo Lake is a hike that had been bumped for the schedule the past two years for various reasons. Last year it was due to the nearby Deception Creek Fire which caused the area to be rather smokey at times. Smokey conditions were exactly what prompted us to move this hike up two weeks on our schedule and finally do it. We had originally planned on making our first visit to the Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington but scrapped those plans when the forecast called for a shift in wind direction that would flood that area with smoke from the Cougar Creek Fire near Mt. Adams. The forecast for the Waldo Lake Wilderness looked quite a bit more appealing. It called for hazy skies but it didn’t appear that smoke from any of the numerous fires would be heading directly for that area.

It was a beautiful morning as we began our hike from the Shadow Bay Boat Launch on Waldo Lake.
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There was a little haze on the horizon but the skies were blue overhead. There was a good bit of wind blowing which made for a cold morning as we headed along the Shore Trail.
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Occasional glimpses of Waldo Lake revealed the clear blue waters of the second largest natural lake in Oregon.
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At the 1.7 mile mark we arrived at the South Waldo Shelter. It was one of the nicest and well stocked shelters we’d visited.
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Just beyond the shelter after crossing a footbridge we arrived at a junction with the South Waldo Trail. Here we left the Shore Trail and entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
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We followed this trail through the wilderness for 1.6 miles passing small meadows and a pond to a four way trail junction.
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The trail left the wilderness just before reaching the junction. At the junction there were signs and flagging up for a trail run that was happening that morning. We had seen the runners preparing for the race when we were driving to the trailhead and had wondered where their course was. A runner was just passing the junction as we arrived and we cheered him on before continuing. We were a little distracted by the signs and runners and wound up taking the wrong trail. We had meant to take the first trail on the right but had not seen the correct one as the race organizers had laid some branches down across it so the runners wouldn’t take a wrong turn. We were on the race course now heading in the opposite direction of the runners. We moved and offered support as they passed by. We hadn’t gone too far before we both began to get the feeling we had taken the wrong path at the junction. A quick check of the GPS confirmed our suspicions and we hustled back to the junction.
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This time we saw the partly obscured path and headed toward Black Meadows. We reentered the wilderness and climbed up and over a ridge.
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The trail led down to Black Meadows at the base of Fuji Mountain (A hike we did in October of 2013 https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/fuji-mountain/).
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On the far end of the meadows we arrived at the High Divide Trail. This trail starts at Road 381 and leads to the Shore Trail along Waldo Lake.
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We turned right on the High Divide Trail toward Waldo Lake and began to climb up toward Bingo Lake. The trail had quite a few downed trees across it but none were too difficult to go over or around.
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As we climbed we could see Fuji Mountain behind us.
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In front of us was a forest that showed signs of an old burn and was now filled with berry bushes.
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We stopped at Bingo Lake which was a peaceful little lake and a great place for a break.
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The High Divide Trail headed downhill from Bingo Lake to its junction with the Shore Trail along Waldo Lake.
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We turned right on the Shore Trail passing the shelter in .6 miles and arriving back at the trailhead after another 1.7 miles. Along the way we stopped along the lake shore to take in a view of Twin Peaks and the Middle and South Sister across the lake.
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It had turned out to be a really nice day with only a slight amount of haze on the horizon and we were really glad that we had decided on this hike. We were even happier with our choice when we arrived back in the Willamette Valley to find it inundated with smoke. Eastern winds had funneled smoke from fires as far east as Idaho down the Columbia Gorge and then into the valley. It was a stark contrast to the blue skies above the Waldo Lake Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157655297413233

The Hikes of 2014 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that it is time for our year end entry, but the calendar doesn’t lie. It was a busy year for us in which Dominique graduated from high school, we trained for and ran several races including the Vernonia Marathon, and of course we did some hiking.

We were able to get 52 days’ worth of hiking in this year. We stared off slow while we trained for the marathon having completed only 5 hikes before the end of April. We did however take a map reading and route finding class through the Chemeketans, a local hiking/climbing club which was extremely helpful and a lot of fun. We cranked up the hiking in May and only slowed down at the end of October when the weather began to turn ugly. We managed to expand the area we’ve hiked in by taking hikes further to the North (Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA), South (Mt. Scott), and East (Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco Mountains) than we had before. Below is a map showing all the locations for the trailheads we visited as well as a link to an interactive version.
2014 Trailheads

http://www.mapquest.com/embed?icid=mqdist_mb_tools&c=wfXA&maptype=hyb&zm=7&cr=44.53663017410884,-120.11096309346236&projection=sm&showScale=false

Here is a quick look at some of the statistics for the year:
Total Miles – 617.8
Shortest Hike – 2.2 miles (tie McDowell Creek Falls & Ankeny Wildlife Refuge)
Longest Hike – 21.4 miles (Fall Creek trailhead to Linton Meadows with a lot of extra exploring)
Average Moving Speed – 2.171 mph
Lowest Elevation – Sea level (Short Sand Beach, Neahkahnie Mt. Hike)
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Highest Elevation – 8926′ (Mt. Scott summit)
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My favorite statistic though has to be that 65% of our hikes (15 out of 23) during summer involved us either walking on or next to snow. The rest of the year only 10% (3 out of 29) of our hikes involved a close encounter with snow.

As much as I am a numbers junkie they are just quantitative data without a story, and the story is the reason we head out. We tried really hard this year to time our hikes to maximize the sights each area had to offer. Having learned from our past experiences and keeping an eye on trip reports from other hikers (A big thank you to the folks at Portlandhikers.org) we were better able to plan when to go where. We visited a wildlife refuge, 2 county parks, 3 state parks, 1 memorial forest, 1 state forest, and 11 different national forests. In the national forests were 14 different designated wilderness areas, a national volcanic monument, a national scenic area, and a national park.

We started and ended our year at the Oregon Coast as has become our tradition. Rivers, creeks, and waterfalls dominated the early part of the year followed by wildflowers and mountains and finally lakes. The variety of vegetation, terrain and natural features we were lucky enough to visit was amazing.
We passed over rock fields
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pumice plains
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lava flows
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and snowfields
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We hiked through high desert sagebrush
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alpine meadows filled with wildflowers
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and a variety of forest types

Whetstone Mountain Trail
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Forest on Mary's Peak East Ridge Trail
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Balsamroot in the Freemont National Forest
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We visited waterfalls

Marion & Gatch Falls
Chush Falls
Phoenix Falls

caves
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springs
Springs
Linton Springs

frozen lakes

Goat Lake
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and a steaming volcano
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One of the new things we did this year was backpacking. We took five overnight trips. The first few were single night excursions to get used to our packs and equipment followed by two longer trips. The first of which was a 4 day/3 night stay in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It quickly became the favorite place that we have visited.
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Mt. Adams from the PCT
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Camp site for the first night
Mt. Adams at sunrise
Wildflowers along the PCT
Old Snowy
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The second extended trip was a 3 day/2 night loop around the South Sister. We had originally planned on an extra day/night but wound up cutting it short when smoke suddenly filled the area. It turned out to be from a fire over 40 miles away but not knowing that at the time we packed up camp and experienced our first night hike.
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Eileen Lake
South Sister and the climbers trail
South Sister from Camp Lake
South Fork Wychus Creek
Central Oregon before sunrise
Small fall on the North Fork Wychus Creek
Golden Lake and the Three Sisters
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Broken Top and the tarn
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Hands down the most exciting thing that happened this year was our first bear encounter on our way down the Zig Zag Mountain trail. It sure got the adrenaline pumping even though it didn’t threaten us at all and in fact turned and ran as fast as it could in the other direction. I failed to get a picture of it but here are some of the other critters I did manage to get photos of.
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
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Rabbit near Swale Creek
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Deer coming up from Swale Creek
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Harlequin Duck
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Woodpeckers
Barrow's Goldeneye
Newt in Donaca Lake
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Grouse
Sentinel standing guard
Grey Jay
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Hawk
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Hummingird in the meadow near Harts Cove
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Sagebrush lizard

Looking ahead to next year we hope to continue to add to the areas we’ve visited. There are still a number of destinations we have yet to make it to including the Wallowas, Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Peninsula, Steens Mountain and the Indian Heaven Wilderness. Someday we’ll also get down to northern California. One thing is for sure, we won’t run out of new options any time soon. Happy Trails!

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!

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Chush Falls and Beyond

Our third hike while in Bend took us back to the Three Sisters Wilderness for a mostly off trail waterfall loop that had been reported on by a member of Portland Hikers in November 2013. The plan was to start at the Chush Falls Trailhead and continue past the falls up Wychus Creek passing two more waterfalls then crossing that creek and Park Creek visiting six more waterfalls on three different creeks before recrossing Wychus Creek and returning to the trail.

We were greeted at the trailhead by some chilly air. We could see parts of the tops of the Three Sisters which were mostly engulfed in clouds. What we could see though showed that a little fresh snow had fallen sometime in the previous couple of days.
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South Sister
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Frosty ground
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The beginning of the trail is on an abandoned road which we followed for about a mile and a half before reaching the former trailhead which was now only marked by a homemade sign.
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The 2012 Pole Creek Fire burned through the forest here creating interesting color contrasts where water was present.
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A mile from the old trailhead we came to a wide flat area with a Trail Ends Here sign. Beyond the sign the top of Chush Falls was visible.
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To the right was a clear path down a steep slope to the base of Chush Falls.
Chush Falls

After returning to the trail ends here sign we picked up another clear trail continuing up Wychus Creek. The second waterfall was just .3 miles up this use trail.

Middle Chush Falls
Middle Chush Falls

We found Upper Chush Falls another .3 miles from the middle falls. This was by far the most interesting of the falls on Wychus Creek. It was also the most difficult to get a good view of because of its location in a rocky bowl and 230′ height.
Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

My parents, who had started the hike at the same time we had, caught up with us here. They had not spotted the trail down to the base of Chush Falls so we were able to give them that information before we set off cross-country in search of the next fall – Phoenix Falls.

In order to reach Phoenix Falls we needed to be up above Upper Chush Falls and over to the next creek which was East Fork Park Creek. We had unfortunately neglected to bring the maps we had planned on having with us, but we still had our Garmin (and tons of batteries). I had also spent a lot of time pouring over the maps and Google imagery of the area and making notes so we felt fairly confident in the resources we did have. We crossed Wychus Creek below the upper falls and began to skirt around a ridge end in search of a draw that I hopped would be the easiest way up to the plateau above the ridge. We picked our way around the ridge following game trails as best we could until we could see the draw below in between two ridge ends. The draw did indeed look like it would have been a good option but we had crossed the creek and headed around the ridge way above the draw so continued up and around the ridge finally reaching the draw near the edge of the plateau. Travel became much easier once we emerged from the draw. We continued SW toward the location on the creek where we expected to find Phoenix Falls. The South Sister loomed ahead on our right as we went.
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We reached the edge of the canyon in which the East Fork Park Creek was flowing and began following it up toward the sound of a waterfall. Soon we could see the falls we were in search of with the added bonus of Broken Top rising over the shoulder of Phoenix Falls.
Phoenix Falls

To the right of Phoenix Falls were the Three Sisters. The 110′ falls roared down into the canyon creating a good amount of wind up on the rim.
Phoenix Falls

Phoenix Falls

Phoenix Falls

From Phoenix Falls we headed back downstream below the confluence of the East & West Forks of Park Creek and crossed what had become Park Creek. We then made our way along the West side of Park Creek to Middle Park Creek Falls. This was the most difficult to get a clear view of due to the angles of the canyon and a couple of downed trees laying between the canyon walls.
Middle Park Creek Falls

Just down the creek was the next fall – Howlaak Falls.
Howlaak Falls

We left Park Creek at Howlaak Falls and headed cross-country again toward yet another creek – South Fork Wychus Creek. The final three falls we hopped to visit were on this creek. We had to traverse along another ridge end to find the creek and this time Heather took the lead picking up a good game trail which wound up leading us almost directly to Columnar Canyon Falls, the first of the three falls we were looking for. A short steep trail led down to a rocky overhang which allowed for a good view of the falls. Not a spot I’d recommend for anyone nervous around heights.
Columnar Canyon Falls

We then began following the creek down a ridge listening for the next fall. We heard Mosaic Falls before we spotted it. In fact getting a decent view of this fall proved to be as frustrating as I had read it was in the earlier trip report. It wasn’t too difficult getting down to the creek below the falls but there was no view of the falls from where you were able to get to the creek.
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In order to see the falls I made my way along the edge of the creek shown above. It was slick and full of thorny gooseberry bushes and complicated by a large boulder that was in the way once the falls came into view.
Mosaic Falls

I managed to get around the boulder just enough to get a fairly clear view of the falls but even then the spray from the falls made getting a picture difficult.
Mosaic Falls

I rejoined Heather who had smartly stayed behind and then we headed for our final fall – Shelter Falls. We had to hop back over the ridge away from the creek in order to continue downhill. The ridge at this point was quite narrow though so we were never far from the creek. When we could we angled back toward the creek and were able to find the site of an old shelter.
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Just a little further on we found Shelter Falls.
Shelter Falls

Having successfully found all the falls we were looking for (there are others out there) it was time to make our way back to the trail. This proved to be the most difficult part of the hike in terms of route finding. Wychus Creek was close by and the confluence with the South Fork was nearby. We crossed over to Wychus Creek to look for a decent crossing but the opposite side looked too steep to climb. Not wanting to hike back up the creek we headed down stream. Near the South Fork the ground on the opposite side of Wychus Creek leveled out giving us our best option for reaching the trail on the other side. We had managed to stay dry up to this point but now there was no getting around the need to wade across the creek. We found a good crossing where the water was only mid-calf deep and crossed the creek. From there it was a short climb up out of the canyon. We re-found the trail about 10′ from where we popped up over the hillside. It had been a successful hike despite the forgotten maps. We relied on the GPS, my notes, and the research done beforehand which was a good reminder to always be prepared. Happy Trails!

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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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