Tag Archives: Three Fingered Jack

Maxwell Butte – 8/12/2019

We spent another vacation doing day hikes from home as we continue to take care of our elderly cats. It has created a delay in our plans to visit all of the designated wilderness areas in Oregon, but it also has given us a chance to redo some hikes that didn’t go as planned the first time around and hit a few other hikes sooner than planned.

The first hike of the week was a repeat of a cloudy September 2015 climb to the summit of Maxwell Butte (post). We’d had no views whatsoever that day so a sunny forecast gave us the green light to try again. Once again we parked in the paved Maxwell Butte Sno-Park lot instead of driving the additional .4 miles of gravel road to the actual Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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From the official trailhead the Maxwell Butte Trail climbed gradually through a nice forest entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after 1.75 miles. It was sad to find that the unique wilderness sign was missing.
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First wilderness sign we'd seen that looked like thisThe wilderness sign in 2015.

A little more than two and a quarter miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Lava Lakes Trail near Twin Lakes.
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There was significantly more water in the lakes this time around (and better visibility too).
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Low water levels at Twin Lakes2015

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Low water at Twin Lakes2015

Our presence raised a ruckus from a Stellar’s jay.
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Twin Lakes2015

One the way back by later (after the Sun had moved out of the way) we stopped at the lakes to get a photo of Maxwell Butte.
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We followed the Maxwell Butte Trail past the lakes as it began to climb up and around the butte. Closer to the lakes we passed a few remaining flowers and some ripe huckleberries.
IMG_5619Penstemon

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IMG_5626Lousewort

IMG_5631Scarlet gilia

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IMG_5625A couple of short (and late) beargrass plumes.

As the trail got closer to the butte we passed through some meadows and open rocky areas where we kept on the lookout for pikas.
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IMG_5647This looked like prime pika habitat to us.

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The trail made its way to the south side of Maxwell Butte where our first good mountain view was of Diamond Peak beyond Sand Mountain which we had visited earlier in the year (post).
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The trail steepened a bit as it made its way up the south side of Maxwell Butte via a series of switchbacks.
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Butterflies and increasingly better views helped keep our minds off the climb.
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IMG_5665Hogg Rock (near left), flat topped Hayrick Butte next to Hoodoo Butte, Mt. Washington with Broken Top behind left and the Three Sisters behind right.

Five and a quarter miles from the sno-park we arrived at the summit of Maxwell Butte where a fire lookout once stood.
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The view now included Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the north.
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IMG_5676Mt. Hood in the distance to the left of Mt. Jefferson.

Less than three miles away as the crow flies Three Fingered Jack dominated the view east.
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IMG_5699Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Santiam Lake in the forest below.

IMG_5706The view south.

IMG_5728Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters with Hayrick Butte in the forefront.IMG_5701Santiam Lake

IMG_5702Duffy Lake (post)

IMG_5703Mowich Lake

After a nice long break taking in the views and naming as many of the lakes dotting the forest below as we could we headed back down. We took a quick detour to check out Maxwell Butte’s crater.
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IMG_5742Paintbrush in the crater.

There were quite a few more butterflies out as we made our way back and we managed to spot a pika gathering greens in the rocky area we had thought looked like a good spot for one.
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IMG_5767Golden-mantled ground squirrel in the same rocky area as the pika.

It had been a successful do-over getting the views we’d missed out on before. Round trip the hike was 10.6 miles with a little over 2500′ of elevation gain. It was a solid start to what we hoped would be six straight days of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Maxwell Butte 2019

Temple Lake and Marion Mountain – 7/25/19

A day after taking my brother and his family to Opal Creek (post) we were back on the trails with a visit to Temple Lake and Marion Mountain. This is another hike take from Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region”. The hike starts from the Pine Ridge Trailhead
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There were a few mosquitoes waiting for us a the trailhead so we applied a bit of deet and set off through the forest for .2 miles to a 4-way junction.
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From the junction the Pine Ridge Trail continued straight while the Turpentine Trail departed on the right and to the left was a trail to the Boy Scout owned Camp Pioneer (the camp is private so do not take this trail or any others heading left between the trailhead and the junction).
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We continued on the Pine Ridge Trail past a unique Mt. Jefferson Wilderness sign.
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The trail dropped from the junction to cross a dry creek bed before climbing around a ridge and dropping again.
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We took a brief off-trail detour to visit one of several lakes in the area.
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We returned to the trail and continued on to the junction with the Temple Lake Trail which was approximately 2 miles from the trailhead.
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We decided to save the lake for later in the day in hopes that the mosquitoes would be less active. Continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we passed through some sections of forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Complex.
IMG_4387Turpentine Peak

IMG_4394Washington lily

IMG_4395Unburned forest

IMG_4397Mt. Jefferson from the Pine Ridge Trail.

At the four mile mark we arrived at the signed Marion Mountain Trail.
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We turned right here and began to climb up a ridge to Marion Mountain. A little less than three quarters of a mile up we came to a cinder viewpoint.
IMG_4408Mt. Jefferson and Marion Lake (post)

IMG_4415Three Fingered Jack

The view here was good but just a tenth of a mile further the trail led out to the former site of the Marion Mountain Lookout where the view was even better.
IMG_4427The cinder viewpoint from Marion Mountain.

IMG_4426Mt. Hood in the distance with Mt. Jefferson, and Marion Lake.IMG_4426

IMG_4430Mt. Hood and Dynah-Mo Peak

IMG_4435Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4443Tops of the Three Sisters.

IMG_4456Coffin Mountain (post)

We had a nice view of the crest between Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack where we could make out North and South Pyramid Peaks (post).
IMG_4437South Cinder Peak is the high point along the ridge.

We sat on the rocks enjoying the breeze which was keeping us cool and mosquito free. When we finally did leave we decided to follow a faint path the continued out along the ridge to the south of Marion Mountain. The open forest made cross country travel fairly easy.
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We continued along the ridge entering the B&B scar again where there were more obstacles.
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We wound up going a little under a mile along the narrowing ridge until it dipped to a saddle under forested Marion Peak. We didn’t see any reason to lose any elevation and have to gain it back so we declared victory. The view here was better yet with more of the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington visible.
IMG_4479The saddle that we didn’t want to drop down to.

IMG_4485Three Fingered Jack with the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington in the gap.

IMG_4481The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington beyond Red Butte (post)

IMG_4488Jenny and Melis Lake

IMG_4489Marion Mountain at the end of the ridge.

IMG_4496Bear Point (post) and Dynah-Mo Peak with Mt. Hood in the background.

IMG_4492Turpentine Peak along the ridge.

IMG_4510Black Butte (post) on the far opposite side of the crest.

In addition to the views there were a few flowers along the ridge and Heather spotted a Northern Alligator Lizard but it ran off before we could get a photo.
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IMG_4517Prince’s Pine

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We headed back down the ridge to Marion Mountain and then returned to the Pine Ridge Trail where we turned left. When we got back to the Temple Lake Trail we turned right and headed downhill.
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The half mile trail crossed a dry creek before reaching the lake.
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It wasn’t overly buggy which allowed us to admire the view of Mt. Jefferson from the lake and check out the campsites.
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IMG_4542Dragon fly

While Heather was looking at one of the sites a western toad popped its head out of a hole.
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I’m not sure who was watching who as the toad wound up coming all the way out while we stood there.
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We kept our distance (thanks 30x zoom) and headed back up to the Pine Ridge Trail. Aside from a garter snake sighting there was no excitement on the return trip, just a nice forest walk.
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With our off-trail exploring the hike came in at 11.6 miles and a little under 2000′ of elevation gain. The off-trail was just the right balance of challenging but not frustratingly difficult. It was a lot easier than what we had done the day we visited Bear Point earlier in the week for sure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Temple Lake and Marion Mountain

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 – Duffy Lake

We’re going all the way back to July 28, 2010 for this weeks throwback hike. This was our first visit to the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness as well as the first time we attempted an off-trail scramble. We started at the Duffy Lake Trailhead taking the Duffy Lake Trail toward Duffy Lake.

Duffy Lake Trail

The trail followed along the North Santiam River which was running real low but not yet dry for the season.

Wildflowers along the North Santiam River

North Santiam River

We passed the a junction with the Turpentine Trail at the 1.5 mile mark and crossed the river just over a mile later before reaching another junction in a meadow near Duffy Lake. Although we couldn’t see the lake from there Duffy Butte rose above the trees.

Duffy Butte

A number of trails were present in the Duffy Lake area. The first junction after crossing the river was with the Maxwell Butte Trail which forked to the right. Before reaching Duffy Lakes outlet creek we took the next fork to thw right which was a short connector trail to the Santiam Lake Trail which we then turned right on following it for about 3/4 of a mile through wildflower meadows to Santiam Lake and a great view of Three Fingered Jack.

Santiam Lake Trail

Three Fingered Jack and Santiam Lake

Three Fingered Jack from Santiam Lake

After visiting the lake shore we headed back the way we had come for .6 miles then turning right on the Dixie Lakes Trail at a pointer for the Eight Lakes Basin.

Trail sign at the Dixie Lakes Trail

This 1.8 mile trail would lead us pass the small Dixie Lakes before joining the Blue Lake Trail. Much of the trail passed through forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Fire.

A Dixie Lake

South Dixie Lake

A Dixie Lake

North Dixie Lake

Beargrass

Junction with the Blue Lake Trail

The trail junction was near Alice Lake which was where our off-trail scramble up Red Butte would start.

Red Butte

Red Butte

Alice Lake

Alice Lake

Being our first off-trail experience we weren’t exactly sure what we were supposed to be looking for but we knew that the route started on the west side of the lake and headed up the butte. It was quite the adventure. Just when we thought we might be following a use trail we’d lose it. Some of the butte had been burned in the fire so there was plenty of downed trees and limbs to navigate. The good news with that was we knew we could follow the edge of the burn downhill and we’d wind up back on the trail near Alice Lake so we weren’t too concerned with getting lost. As we neared the summit of Red Butte the vegetation began to give way to more and more cinder where it was much easier to pick out the use trail.

Snow on Red Butte

Looking down from the summit we could see little Alice Lake below.

Alice Lake from Red Butte

To the south we had a great view of Three Fingered Jack and beyond that loomed Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, and The Husband.

Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters and The Husband

The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington in front of the North & Middle Sister (with the summit of South Sister behind them all)

Around to the north was Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Jefferson

Just to the SW of Red Butte was Duffy Butte and Mowich Lake.

Mowich Lake and Duffy Butte

Mowich Lake

We had a much easier time following the use path on the way down and successfully completed our first scramble. We turned right when we arrived back at the Blue Lake Trail and followed it for a mile to the southern end of Mowich Lake where we could look back across the water to Red Butte.

Mowich Lake

Another 3/4 miles along the trail brought us a junction with the Santiam Lake and Duffy Lake Trails.

Trail junction near Duffy Lake

We took a moment to visit Duffy Lake and Duffy Butte.

Duffy Butte from Duffy Lake

We walked along the lake to its outlet where we picked up the Duffy Lake Trail and headed back toward the trailhead. A nice lollipop loop with a couple of side trips to Santiam Lake and up Red Butte the total distance was a little over 13 miles with approx 2000′ elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157632953676368

Belknap Crater

We had originally planned on backpacking around Mt. Hood on the Timberline Trail on our recent vacation but the weather had a different idea. The forecast called for rain and snow showers for most of the week so we started searching for a Plan B. Between active fires and less than encouraging weather forecasts we decided that a backpacking trip wasn’t in the cards. My parents provided a solution though and we were able to pay them a visit in Central Oregon and do some day hikes from there. We stopped on our way over to Bend to take our first hike visiting Little Belknap and Belknap Crater in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.

The hike started off at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing of the McKenzie Pass Highway.
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We followed the PCT through a forest on a small hill surrounded by a lava flow produced by Little Belknap.
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Black Crater rose above the lava flow to the NE.
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The trail left the forested hill and briefly entered the lava flow before reaching a second forested hill.
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Belknap Crater and Little Belknap were visible ahead while the North and Middle Sister loomed on the horizon behind.
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The closer we got to Little Belknap the more detail we could make out of the colors and textures of this geologic feature.
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The lava flow offered many interesting features and it was interesting to see the few plants that had managed to find a foothold in the rocky landscape.
Lichen on the lava
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Turtle
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Little tree
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Ewok waving
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Rock hill
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Just under 2.5 miles from the highway we reached the Little Belknap Trail with a view of Mt. Washington and distant Mt. Jefferson.
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The Little Belknap Trail climbed to the summit of Little Belknap.
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Along the way the trail passes three caves.

Lower cave
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Middle & Upper caves
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Middle cave
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Upper cave (beware it drops about 40′ right near the opening.
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The final pitch to the summit is on a dark red cinder path.
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The 360 degree view includes several Cascade Mountains as well as some lower peaks.
Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson
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Belknap Crater
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North and Middle Sister
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Broken Top
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Diamond Peak
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Black Butte & Black Crater
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The Husband
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Scott Mountain
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After visiting Little Belknap we continued on the PCT until it left the lava flow. Shortly thereafter the trail split at an unsigned junction.
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The PCT continued straight but we forked left on the unofficial trail toward Belknap Crater. The trail climbed gradually through a sparse forest to the base of the crater. The views here were great. The blue sky was dotted with white clouds high above the summit.
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We were surprised by the various colors and different features on Belknap Crater now that we had gotten close.
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The trail skirted up around the north side of the crater before launching more steeply up toward the summit.
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The views were excellent from the long summit ridge, especially of Mt. Washington.
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There was a large crater on the SE side of the summit which consisted of various colored rocks.
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After checking out the summit and crater we began descending down the west side of Belknap Crater toward a smaller crater on the NW flank.
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This crater wasn’t as colorful as it was made up of darker lava rocks. At the bottom we could see lots of tracks in the sand.
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There was an interesting line going up along the east side of Belknap Crater. We couldn’t tell if it was a game trail or just some odd feature but it didn’t appear to be a trail used by people.
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We took a final break on a downed tree near the PCT junction with a great view of Belknap Crater.
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The sky was becoming increasingly cloudy as we headed back to the car. It was a sign of things to come. On this day though the weather had been nearly perfect, and we were looking forward to the rest of the weeks hikes.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658844385675

Table Rock to Pechuck Lookout

We have two lists of “To Do” day hikes within a reasonable driving distance. One list is the hikes we have yet to do, and the second list is hikes we want to try again for one reason or another. Table Rock was one of the hikes on the later list having first visited in October of 2012. During that hike smoke from the Pole Creek fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness had limited the views and being fall it was too late for many flowers. We had seen enough on that visit to think it would be worth a second visit in early summer to see if we could catch the views and see what flowers there might be. I put it down on our schedule as our annual 4th of July hike thinking the timing might be good for wildflowers plus the drive avoided much time on freeways or busy highways.

The Table Rock Wilderness consists of 6028 acres designated in 1984 as wilderness and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Several trailheads access the 16 miles of trails in the area. For our hike we started at the Table Rock Trailhead which happens to be the shortest route to the summit of Table Rock, the highest point in the wilderness.
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When we redo a trail I try to find some way to differentiate the hike from the earlier visit. Only 13 of our 172 hikes so far had been “re-hikes” and only 3 of those had we done the same exact trails. Three other times we added other short hikes on different trails, and on the remaining 7 we extended the hike visiting new places further along the trail. The plan to make this visit unique was to continue on past Rooster Rock, where we had turned around on our first visit, and continue on to Pechuck Lookout.

We set off on an old roadbed that is now the Table Rock Trail after rocks slides closed the road, the first at the current trailhead. We reached the second slide after .3 miles where the trail briefly entered the forest to bypass the slide.
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Beyond the second slide the old road again becomes the trail for nearly another mile. Small trees and flowers now line the gravel road making it a pleasant walk.
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Rabbit along the road.
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At the 1.3 mile mark the trail leaves the road for good at the site of the former trailhead. Shortly after reentering the forest the Image Creek Trail joins from the right. A nice sign that had not been there in 2012 pointed to the Table Rock Trail.
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From this junction the trail passes below a large rock field that extends from the base of Table Rock then swings out and around a rocky ridge before turning back toward Table Rock and entering the rock field going the opposite direction of the earlier pass below.
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The rock field offers a close up look at Table Rocks columnar basalt cliffs. Numerous pikas were calling out from the rocks all around us but we weren’t able to spot any.
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There were also a few flowers managing to bloom in the rocks.
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The trail then reenters the forest and climbs to a trail junction in a saddle. We turned left and followed the Table Rock Summit trail .4 miles to the tilted plateau of Table Rock.
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The view was indeed better than it had been on our previous visit despite a fire that had broken out on Mt. Adams the day before. We could just make out Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along with Mt. Adams in Washington and had good views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters in Oregon.

Mt. Jefferson to the Three Sisters
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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Three Fingered Jack
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Three Sisters
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Mt. Adams
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After exploring the plateau we returned to the junction and took the unsigned Saddle Trail toward Rooster Rock. Two things stand out about this trail. First is the ants which were everywhere. They were all over the trail and there were several large anthills right next to it.
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The second thing that made an impression is the steepness of this trail as it dips down and then back out of a thimbleberry meadow at the head of Image Creek. The trail all but disappeared in the thimbleberry bushes but it wasn’t too hard to follow. The nice thing about thimbleberry is that the plants do not have thorns so they are not bad to walk through. We did have to maneuver around a couple of devil’s club plants though.
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The steep climb up from Image Creek ends at a saddle below Rooster Rock. Trees here block the view of Rooster Rock but a short path to the right goes up through a small meadow to a rocky viewpoint.
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I had thought this small meadow might be a good wildflower spot, and there were some but not in any large amounts.
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The view toward Rooster Rock was better this time too.
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After a short rest we were ready to head for Pechuck Lookout. From the saddle we needed to drop down on the other side of the ridge to the High Ridge Trail. We were now starting the portion of the hike that we had not done before and we were in for a surprise. Just on the other side of the saddle was a meadow full of wildflowers.
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Many of the flowers were past their prime succumbing to the heat, but there were still enough to make it an impressive sight. In most years our timing would likely have been spot on but the hot dry weather we’d been having has all the flowers at least two weeks ahead of schedule. On the far side of the meadow the trail again entered the trees.
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The High Ridge Trail was far more gentle with its ups and downs than the Saddle Trail had been. After .7 miles the Rooster Rock Trail joined from the right coming up from the trailhead on Rooster Rock Rd.
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We continued going up and down along the ridge leaving the wilderness and arriving at another former trailhead along the gated road near Pechuck Lookout.
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The trail continued on the far side of the road passing a nice view of Table Rock along the way.
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This short section of trail was another steep one before ending at the lookout.
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Pechuck Lookout was staffed from 1918/19 until 1964 with the current structure having been built in 1932. It is now available for overnight stays on a first come first serve basis. There was no one staying there so we went inside to take a look around and sign the log book.
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It was too warm to stay inside for long so we headed back out into the shade and had anther bite to eat while watching the many butterflies flitting about.
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Aside from the view of Table Rock only Mt. Jefferson was visible and that mountain could only be seen in a couple of spots between some trees so it wouldn’t be a good place to stay if you’re hoping for mountain views.

We returned the way we’d come, skipping the side trips to the rocky viewpoint and the summit of Table Rock. The views to the south had become increasingly hazy, but Mt. Hood looked much clearer now that the sun had passed over.
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The only other hikers we saw all day were between the summit trail junction and the old road on the way back to our car and that was only two other couples. The final stretch along the old road felt really long after all the climbing we’d done. I spent part of the final 1.3 miles chasing an orange butterfly that wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to get a picture. It took awhile but Warren (as I named him) finally gave me some shots.
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It wound up being a longer hike than we expected. Everything we looked at indicated we’d be doing 14.8 miles but the final GPS reading was 15.7. With the various trailheads available this could have easily been split up into several shorter hikes for more sensible hikers. The Table Rock Wilderness is certainly a place worth visiting, and there should be plenty of ripe thimbleberries come August. Happy Trails!

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Marion Lake and Marion Falls

When it was time to say goodbye to Central Oregon we packed up and headed for one final hike. We chose Marion Lake as the destination hoping for some good fall colors along the way. We passed over the crest of the Cascade Mountains returning to the west side and the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The Marion Lake Trail set off through a green forest before entering the wilderness area.
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We soon found the fall colors we were looking for as we reached Lake Ann.
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Lake Ann

A half mile from Lake Ann we took the Marion Outlet Trail in search of the unmarked side trail to Marion and Gatch Falls.
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The side trail was about 200yds from the junction and we followed toward Marion Creek and the falls. Someone had put a sign up indicating a yellow jacket nest along the trail so we bypassed that section rejoining the path a bit beyond an overlook of the falls. The path continued steeply down to the base of Marion Falls.
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From Marion Falls it was just a short distance down to a view that included Gatch Falls (which some have argued is really a lower tier of Marion Falls).
Marion & Gatch Falls

After visiting the falls we continued toward Marion Lake. At a junction with the Blue Lake Trail we crossed Marion Creek hoping to get a view of Mt. Jefferson from across Marion Lake.
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At the edge of a rock field that was ablaze in Fall colors we followed a path down to the lake shore where there was a nice view of Mt. Jefferson to the North.
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There was an Osprey circling the lake apparently looking for breakfast.
Osprey over Marion Lake

We then recrossed the lake’s outlet and headed toward Marion Lake’s day use peninsula. As we made our way around the lake Three Fingered Jack came into view.
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From the peninsula both Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack were visible but never at the same time.
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After leaving the peninsula the trail crossed over another rock field with even more colorful leaves and many small birds.
Fall colors along Marion Lake

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Looking back we could see the peninsula and Three Fingered Jack.
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After leaving the lake shore we came to another trail junction which was unsigned. We turned left to complete the small loop back to the earlier junction just prior to the Marion Falls side trail. There was more rocky hillsides and orange leaves along this portion.
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We returned to Lake Ann where we found a good number of ducks floating on the far side of the lake.
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From there we finished off the final 1.8 miles of our vacation hiking. It was time to go back and get ready for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party the next day. Happy Trails (and happy birthday Grandma!)

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Twin Lakes & Battle Ax Mountain – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

As we transition into Fall our hiking destinations begin to shift away from alpine views and wildflowers in favor of lower elevation viewpoints and lakes. It is a great time for these hikes since the mosquitoes that plague many of the lakes have thinned out and the vine maple and huckleberry leaves have begun to change color. Our most recent hike combined both of these features.

We made our first trip to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for a 15.4 mile hike visiting Twin Lakes and the summit of Battle Ax Mountain. Before we could set off on the hike though we had to make the drive to Elk Lake which meant enduring five and a half miles of awful gravel roads. We parked at the Elk Lake Campground and once I managed to pry my hands from the steering wheel we made a quick trip down to the lake to have a look.
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From the campground we had to walk back up the entrance road .4 miles and then continue another .4 miles on road 4697 to the start of the Bagby Trail #544.
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The Bagby Trail wound beneath Battle Ax Mountain passing several ponds and crossing a number of rock fields in the first two miles.
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Battle Ax Mountain

At the two mile mark the Battle Ax Mountain Trail joined from the left (our return route). Views of Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters began to materialize as we continued along the Bagby Trail.
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We traveled on a ridge for another 1.5 miles to a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail 573. The Bagby Trail was closed here due to a small fire smoldering in the wilderness between Bagby Hot Springs and this junction. We were headed toward Twin Lakes though so we turned down trail 573 and began the 1.9 mile section to Upper Twin Lake.
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The colors and reflections of Upper Twin Lake were impressive.
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Upper Twin Lake

We passed around the lake and headed toward the former trail 573A that used to go to Lower Twin Lake. The trail was overrun by the Mother Lode Fire in 2011 and was subsequently left unmaintained by the Forest Service. We located the old trail and began following it the best we could. As we approached the lake the fireweed was profuse and although most of it was finished blooming it still made for an interesting sight.
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Although the side of the lake we were on had burned in the fire the far side had been spared.
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Lower Twin Lake

We noticed some flagging tape when we were ready to leave and hoped it would lead us to a better path back to trail 573. Instead we found an old toilet.
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We then came to a dry creek bed which the map showed leading back to almost the same point we left trail 573 so we decided to try following it back up to the trail.
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As we made our way up the creek bed we began to encounter some water and some of the local residents.
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The water increased just as the creek was squeezing between two hillsides which forced us to abandon that route and head cross country up the hill on our left. We managed to relocate the abandoned trail and follow it back to 573. We then headed back the way we’d come until we reached the Battle Ax Mountain Trail. At that point we forked up hill to the right and began the fairly steep climb to the former lookout site.
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One of the reasons we saved Battle Ax for the return trip was to allow the Sun to move overhead which would hopefully give us better views of the mountains to our east. That plan paid off and as we climbed we added more and more mountains to the view.
Mt. Jefferson:
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Mt. Hood behind the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods:
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Mt. Rainier behind Silver King Mountain:
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Mt. Adams behind Pansy Mountain and South Dicky Peak:
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Eventually we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood with the Washington Cascades in the background.
Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier from Battle Ax Mountain

To the SE was Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack.
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The ridge began to flatten out as we neared the summit with views all around. From below it hadn’t looked as long and flat on top.
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Working our way south along the ridge Elk Lake became visible far below.
View from Battle Ax Mountain

Finally Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack in the view to the South.
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We could also see smoke from the 36 Pit fire near Estacada, OR but the wind was blowing it to the East and there hadn’t been much of a plume until a little after 1:00 when it suddenly picked up.

Smoke from the 36 Pit fire prior to 1pm:
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Plume around 1:30:
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Smoke plume from the 36 Pit fire and Mt. Hood

We learned later that the fire had jumped across the South Fork Clackamas River due to the strong winds.

After a nice rest at the old lookout site we began our descent down the South side of the mountain.
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The trail switchbacked down through open, rocky terrain, with plenty of views of Mt.Jefferson.
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Mt. Jefferson

After a mile and a half descent we arrived at Beachie Saddle.
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From the saddle trails lead to Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek Wilderness, Mt. Beachie and French Creek Ridge in that same wilderness, and back to Elk Lake on an abandoned road which is the path we took.
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Back at the campground it was hard to imagine the long summit ridge looking back up at Battle Ax Mountain.
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It was a good early start to our Fall hiking season and it put us over 500 miles for the year. Now we just had to make it back out over the horrible gravel roads. Happy Trails!

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Triangulation Peak & Boca Cave via Cheat Creek

We decided to do something a little different this week and visited Boca Cave in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started at the Cheat Creek Trailhead along Whitewater Rd http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=4266&actid=50 as opposed to beginning at the closer Triangulation Trail Trailhead http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=4274&actid=50. The later would leave us with a mere 4 mile hike which would mean our driving time would likely be more than our hiking time which is something we try and avoid.

The Cheat Creek Trail is approximately 2.9 miles long gaining 1700′ in elevation and ending at the Triangulation Trail. We arrived at the trailhead a little early but with just enough light to set off.
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It is not a heavily used trail and that was evident as there were some downed trees and several areas where the trail was somewhat overgrown.
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Around the 2.5 mile mark we arrived at Wild Cheat Meadows. I was hoping we might find deer or elk in the meadows but no luck. There was some nice Fall colors beginning to show along the edge of the meadows though.
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After leaving the meadow we climbed to the junction with the Triangulation Peak Trail and hung a left.
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From the junction it is just over 2.5 miles to the .6 mile Triangulation Peak Trail. This section of the Triangulation Trail was fairly level but it was also narrow and overgrown in spots. We were now basically heading back the direction we’d come up but were now hiking along the ridge high above the Cheat Creek valley. As we continued on the views started to open up to the South and East.
Mt. Jefferson:
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Three Fingered Jack, Middle & South Sister, and Mt. Washington:
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There was also one spot along the trail where we could see Boca Cave.
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The trail eventually crosses over to the North side of the ridge as it wraps around Triangulation Peak. Once on that side we could see Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte.
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A nice newer looking sign announced the Triangulation Peak Trail.
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It wasn’t until we were on this final .6 mile climb that we ran into our first other people, a pair of hikers that were on their way down after spending the night. Near the top we passed a rock cairn marking a trail to the left, the unofficial path to Boca Cave. Before checking out the cave we headed up to the summit to take in the views and have a short break. There was a little smoke in the air due to a series of fires near Oakridge, OR but we still had a pretty decent view.
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View from Triangulation Peak

We headed back down to the cairn and started our descent down to the cave. The scramble trail was steep, narrow and required caution. Boca Cave was impressive though. The cave is about 60′ back and 80′ wide with a high ceiling. There is a constant drip of water in the back of the cave and the opening frames Mt. Jefferson.
Boca Cave
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After thoroughly inspecting the cave we returned to the trail and began our return trip. We passed several more hikers on the way down the Triangulation Peak Trail but once we turned right on the Triangulation Trail we were alone again. We were headed straight toward Mt. Jefferson for awhile on the way back. The Sun had passed overhead and the smoke had lifted some giving us some of the clearest views of the day.
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It was sunny in the meadows on the way back but still no deer or elk.
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It certainly would have been easier to have started at the Triangulation Trailhead, but there is something to be said for logging miles alone in the forest. Either way Boca Cave is worth the trip and the views from Triangulation Peak are just the cherry on top. 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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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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