Tag Archives: Three Sisters Wilderness

Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail – 08/29/2020

With our recent backpacking trip around Diamond Peak (post) leaving us with just one more featured hike yet to do from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) the only logical thing to do the following weekend was that last remaining hike. That hike was to the Erma Bell Lakes and as luck would have it late August was a pretty good time to visit, the berries were ripening and the mosquitoes weren’t too much of a nuisance. With a drive time of almost three hours the loop around the 8.5-9 mile loop around the lakes wouldn’t take long enough for us not to break our self imposed rule of the driving time being longer than our time spent hiking so we added a second stop to the day at the Shale Ridge Trail.

We started the morning by driving to the Skookum Creek Campground where the Erma Bell Trail begins.
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The trail crosses Skookum Creek on a footbridge.
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Soon after crossing the creek the trail enters the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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The trail traverses a forested hillside where we found a few ripe thimbleberries to snack on.
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A little over half a mile from the trailhead the Irish Mountain Trail splits off to the left toward Otter Lake allowing for a loop past that and several other lakes.
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We stayed right choosing to follow Sullivan’s suggestion to complete the loop counter-clockwise. The trail continued along the forested hillside for another mile before crossing a small stream on a bridge near Lower Erma Bell Lake.
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Just beyond the bridge we took a short spur trail to the left to visit the lake.
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The lake was a pretty blue color and quite deep.
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Despite the beauty of the lake our attention had been diverted by the familiar “meep” of pikas, our favorite trail critters. We quickly spotted one of the little fur balls collecting greens along the rocky lake shore.
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We watched the pika go back and forth with its greens several times before resuming our hike. We continued on the trail around the lake taking another detour after crossing the lake’s main outlet creek to check out a small cascade.
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Beyond the outlet the trail began a .4 mile climb up toward the Middle Erma Bell Lake.
IMG_5142Lower Erma Bell Lake from the climb.

A short but steep trail to the left just before the high point of the trail led to a viewpoint of a waterfall between the lower and middle lakes.
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IMG_5162Above the falls.

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After checking out the waterfall we continued up to Middle Erma Bell Lake.
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IMG_5175Ouzel

IMG_5178Ducks

We continued beyond Middle Erma Bell Lake passing a small pond on the right before arriving at Upper Erma Bell Lake .7 miles from the waterfall, also on the right.
IMG_5186Pond along the trail.

IMG_5189Spur trail on the right to Upper Erma Bell Lakes.

IMG_5192Paintbrush and aster along the lake shore.

IMG_5193Upper Erma Bell Lake

IMG_5197Lupine and paintrbush

In addition to a few flowers there were lots of ripe berries near the lake which we sampled before continuing. The trail climbed gradually for half a mile to a junction with the Judy Lake Trail which passes Mud and Edna Lakes (but no Judy Lake) before ending at the Taylor Burn Guard Station.
IMG_5202Judy Lake Trail on the right.

We stayed left passing above Mud Lake which was barely visible through the trees below.
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Just under a mile from the Judy Lake Trail junction we arrived at another junction, this time with the Williams Lake Trail.
IMG_5207Williams Lake Trail joining from the right.

Again we stayed left continuing for another .4 miles to Williams Lake. Before reaching the lake we encountered a grouse that was less than pleased with our presence.
IMG_5217Grouse giving us the what for from a tree.

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IMG_5220Williams Lake

IMG_5227Dry creek bed near Williams Lake.

The trail began to descend beyond Williams Lake passing through some damper meadows where berries were plentiful and some flowers remained (and so did some mosquitoes).
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IMG_5234Pearly everlasting

IMG_5237Fleabane

IMG_5243Prince’s pine

IMG_5244Mushroom

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IMG_5254Aster

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IMG_5258Coneflower

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IMG_5272Paintbrush

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A little over two and a quarter miles beyond Williams Lake we arrived at a junction with the Irish Mountain Trail which headed uphill to the right.
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A short distance from the junction we came to Otter Lake.
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IMG_5294Curious dragonfly

The trail descended for another half mile to the Erma Bell Lakes Trail completing the loop.
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We turned right and returned the .6 miles to the now busy trailhead. Sullivan lists the hike at 8.4 miles but we both came up with a little over 9 miles, most likely due to the various side trips tp the waterfalls and along the lake shores. We left the trailhead and headed back toward Oakridge on Forest Road 19 stopping at the Shale Ridge Trailhead on the left (south) near milepost 30.

This trailhead serves as the start of the Shale Ridge Trail and the upper terminus of the North Fork Trail (segment 5). We had spent time on the North Fork Trail earlier in the year hiking segment 1 out of Westfir and another short section to Buffalo Rock in May (post).
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We weren’t here for that trail today and instead headed south on the Shale Ridge Trail, which according to a note written on the signboard had been partially logged out in June.
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The trail quickly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
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We followed the trail through old growth forest. The North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River could be heard at time off to our right but not seen.
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IMG_5317Ghost Pipe aka Indian Pipe

We were below the ridge that we had been on during the Erma Bell Lakes hike and at the 1.8 mile mark we came to Skookum Creek which was flowing through multiple channels through the forest. This area was the highlight of the hike along the Shale Ridge Trail.
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We continued beyond Skookum Creek just over a mile to the North Fork Middle Fork River at Cedar Bog. This was as far as we had planned on going and as far as the trail had been cleared to. In theory the trail continues up to the Blair Lake Trail (post) on the far side of the river but the condition beyond Cedar Bog is mostly likely very rough.
IMG_5349Arriving at Cedar Bog.

IMG_5350One of a couple dry channels.

IMG_5353North Fork Middle Fork

IMG_5358Flagging on a downed tree marking the continuation of the Shale Ridge Trail.

IMG_5360North Fork Middle Fork at Cedar Bog

IMG_5363Orange flagging on the far side of the river.

20200829_132354Monkeyflower at Cedar Bog

IMG_5366Candy flower

We turned back here and returned to our car completing a 5.8 mile out and back. While this hike was short on views there were some impressively large trees along the way and it was fairly level with only a 400′ cumulative elevation gain. The two hikes combined for nearly 15 miles of hiking which ensured that our hiking time was indeed longer than our driving time. More importantly we’d seen some nice lakes, all of which had their own distinct differences and had been gotten to watch a pika doing its thing. On top of it all we could finally say that we had done at least part of all 100 featured hikes in one of Sullivan’s guidebooks. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail

Olallie and Lowder Mountains – 09/01/2019

For our final outing of Labor Day Weekend we set our sights on a pair of peaks in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Both the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and Pat’s Saddle Trailhead (for Olallie Mountain) are located just 2 miles apart along Forest Road 1993. These were two more featured hikes from Sullivan’s 4th edition Central Cascades guidebook that we had yet to do. (Olallie Mountain was removed from the featured hikes in the 5th edition due to a 2017 fire that burned much of the route.) On their own the hike to driving time ratios didn’t pan out, but doing them both on the same day would, and as it turns out FR 1993 was in excellent shape allowing for a driving time closer to 2 1/2 hours versus the nearly 3 hours that Google predicted.

We drove south to Eugene and took Highway 126 four miles east of Blue River where we turned right on FR 19 to Cougar Dam. After turning left on FR 1993 and crossing the dam we followed the road 11.2 miles to the Pat’s Saddle Trailhead.
We chose to start with Olallie Mountain for a couple of reasons, first we thought that the lack of tree cover due to the fire might make this a warmer hike later in the day and second it was the longer of the two hikes. There are a couple of trails that leave from this trailhead. The French Pete Creek Trail is the first trail on the right. The upper section of this trail is not maintained (according the Forest Service webpage) and the forest around the lower section was impacted by fires in both 2017 and 2018. We hiked the first 5 miles of the trail from the lower trailhead prior to the fires in 2015 (post)
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The trail we were taking on this trip was the second one on the right, the Olallie Trail.
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This trail promptly enters the Three Sisters Wilderness amid old growth that escaped the fire.
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The signs of the fire could be seen after about a third of a mile.
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At the half mile mark we arrived at a small stream flowing from Wolverine Lake which was about a quarter mile uphill on our right. The forest on the right hand side of the trail had burned pretty good while the left hand side had fared much better. There was already plenty of green vegetation growing amid the snags on the hillside though.
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20190901_073350Cone flower

Sullivan had mentioned visiting Wolverine Lake by heading uphill cross country after crossing over the stream but the vegetation here looked pretty thick so we waited until we had climbed a bit beyond the stream and angled back toward the lake.
IMG_8191Cross country to Wolverine Lake.

There were a fair number of trees down from the fire so it wasn’t too difficult to reach the lake, but it was tricky trying to get a good look at it due to the brushy shore.
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It looked like there might have been a better vantage point around the lake to our right, but it wasn’t worth fighting through the brush and fallen trees to try and reach it so we settled for the view we had and headed back to the Olallie Trail. From above, the route down along the creek looked much more appealing and we wound up taking a track much closer to what Sullivan had shown on his map to arrive back on trail. Once we were back on trail we turned right and passed through a patch of thimbleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
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We emerged from the thimbleberries and rounded a ridge end where the forest became a bit more open and many of the trees had survived the fire.
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A sooty grouse caught our attention as it crossed the trail ahead of us.
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The trail climbed gradually along the hillside and we marveled at the varying effects of the fire and how the forest was in different stages of recovery already.
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IMG_8215Baneberry

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There were also some views that might not have been there if some of the trees hadn’t burned.
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IMG_8201South Sister

IMG_8220Middle and North Sister

IMG_8223Mt. Washington

IMG_8226Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

The line of clouds obstructing the view of the mountains wasn’t exactly a welcome sight, but we could at least see some of them and it was early so maybe they would eventually burn off.

A little over 2 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction in a grassy saddle.
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The Olallie Trail continued straight passing an old guard station site at Olallie Meadows in .9 miles then continuing deeper (and fainter) into the Three Sisters Wilderness eventually ending at Horse Lake (post). We turned right though, onto the Olallie Mountain Trail.
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This trail began with a reasonably gradual climb past a series of meadows where a few late blooming flowers remained.
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IMG_8240Aster and pearly everlasting

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IMG_8252Columbine

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The trail briefly leveled out on top of ridge where the fire had burned intensely in some areas while sparing trees in others.
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After the brief respite from climbing the trail steepened below the summit of Olallie Mountain and began to wrap up and around its rocky western face.
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The tread along the steep hillside here was a little sketchy in part due to the fire but we made our way up to the summit. The remains of the Olallie Mountain lookout tower still stand on the summit having been covered by firefighters to protect it from the blaze.
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The three hundred and sixty degree view was impressive and would have been more so if not for the presence of clouds to the north and in front of many of the cascade peaks. On top of that our early ascent left the Sun in a less than ideal overhead position for lighting.
IMG_8306_stitchParts of the Cascades from Mt. Jefferson to the NE to Mt. Bachelor to the SE.

IMG_8302Mt. Jefferson was still tangled up in the clouds.

IMG_8300Just a peak at Mt. Washington (which was more than we could see of Three Fingered Jack)

IMG_8297Middle and North Sister behind The Husband

IMG_8296South Sister

IMG_8295Broken Top

Things were a little less cloudy to the south where Cowhorn Mountain (post) and Mt. Thielsen (post) seemed to be cloud free while Diamond Peak wasn’t so lucky.
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IMG_8282Cowhorn Mountain and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_8291Diamond Peak

We were able to identify the cliffs of flat topped Lowder Mountain, our next stop, to the NW.
IMG_8312Lowder Mountain to the left of the tree in the foreground.

IMG_8317Lowder Mountain

After watching the clouds pass by (but not leave) for awhile we headed back down. We had passed a single backpacker on the way up and on the way down we encountered a trio of hikers making their way up. When we got back to the stream below Wolverine Lake we spotted a frog (no wolverines though).
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We completed our 8 mile hike here and drove back the two miles to the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and parked at a pullout near the trailhead signboard. The signboard announced three trails: the Quaking Aspen, Lowder Mountain, and Walker Creek Trails.
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We weren’t paying close attention as we set off on a trail heading for a wilderness to the left of the signboard.
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Our first clue that we were on the wrong trail should have been the location of the trail signs on the signboard but away we went following the Quaking Aspen Trail downhill parallel to FR 1993. We had a feeling something might be off but a quick glance at the GPS showed that we were almost to some switchbacks which matched up with Sullivan’s map but we were surprised that they were headed downhill and not up (the one complaint we have about Sullivan’s maps are that they are not topographic so we can’t always tell when a trail is climbing or dropping). We were zoomed in too far to see the other trail behind us that switchbacked uphill. Just after turning on the first of the switchbacks Heather figured it out and got us turned in the right direction but not until we’d covered a third of a mile.

We hiked back uphill to the trailhead and looked at the signboard and area more closely. Sure enough there was another trail and wilderness to the right of the signboard (the side listing the Lowder Mountain and Walker Creek Trails).
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We now set off on the Lowder Trail and began switchbacking uphill through an old growth forest.
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After a quarter mile of serious climbing the trail leveled out a bit (and straightened out) as it traversed along a hillside. We soon got a quick glimpse of Olallie Mountain across the valley.
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For the next 1 3/4 miles the trail alternated between meadows and forest before arriving at a junction in one of the meadows.
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IMG_8364Skipper

IMG_8365This reminded us of a torture device.

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IMG_8372This meadow had a lot of buckwheat.

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IMG_8377Olallie Mountain again.

IMG_8380The lookout tower on Olallie Mountain

IMG_8381Diamond Peak had shed its cloud cover momentarily.

IMG_8384Diamond Peak

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IMG_8386Pollinators got to pollinate.

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This junction marked the start of the Walker Creek Trail which climbed up through the meadow to the right. This was actually the trail to take in order to reach the viewpoint atop Lowder Mountain.
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The Lowder Mountain Trail continued on straight but beyond the junction is no longer maintained due to “lack of use”.
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A series of 12 switchbacks led steeply up through the meadow and forest to a large meadow atop Lowder Mountain.
IMG_8394The trail heading up through some thimbleberry.

IMG_8397Butterfly

IMG_8405Another skipper

IMG_8412This guy was the size of my pinky.

IMG_8399A few scarlet gilia still in bloom.

IMG_8415Pearly everlasting at the edge of the large meadow.

We followed a well worn path across the broad summit to the edge of the large meadow where it turned right passing along the tree line.
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Like the Lowder Mountain Trail the Walker Creek Trail is no longer maintained beyond the meadow. The clear path along the impressively large meadow is a user trail to the viewpoint above Karl and Ruth Lakes.
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IMG_8427Karl & Ruth Lakes

The clouds were still a bit of an issue but it was now late enough in the day for the lighting to be much better.
IMG_8433Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Horsepasture Mountain (post) in the foreground.

IMG_8431Mt. Washington

IMG_8440North and Middle Sister

IMG_8438South Sister and Broken Top

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We made our way south along the cliffs to reach a view of Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_8456Mt. Bachelor

In addition to the great views there was an interesting little rock feature that looked a lot like a head of some kind.
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We took a good break here before heading back. On the return trip we discovered that we had actually spent a decent amount of time losing elevation traversing along the hillside on the way to the Walker Creek Trail junction. It had been so gradual that we hadn’t noticed but it was evident that we were going uphill a lot more than we’d expected once we were back on the Lowder Mountain Trail. There were quite a few butterflies out searching for the remaining flowers which gave us something to focus on (in addition to eating quite a few ripe thimbleberries).
IMG_8496Butterfly with a small crab spider on the next flower head to the right.

Between taking the wrong trail from the trailhead and wandering around at the viewpoint we managed to turn a 5.6 mile hike into 6.8 miles making our total for the day 14.8 miles. The elevation gains were roughly 1400′ for Olallie Mountain and 900′ for Lowder Mountain. The views were great from both peaks and we were already talking about a return trip earlier in the Summer to see what all the meadows might look like earlier in the year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Olallie and Lowder Mountains

Four-In-One Cone – 8/14/2019

The third hike of our vacation was another repeat (this time only partially) of a viewless outing. In 2012 we had embarked on “the hike that shall not be named” (post) It was an ambitious hike that went wrong in a couple of ways. First I misunderstood the guidebook and turned a 15 mile loop into an 18.6 trudge and second the persistent low cloud layer denied us of virtually any views. Our plan to hike to Four-In-One Cone would cover part of that hike.

We chose the Four-In-One Cone portion of that hike for two reasons. First Four-In-One Cone is a really cool volcanic feature and second much of the remainder of that loop passes through the Obsidian Limited Entry Area for which we didn’t have a permit nor were any available. We started the hike at the Scott Trailhead located along Highway 242 (17 miles from Highway 126 or 20.3 miles from Highway 20).
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The Scott Trail briefly follows along the highway before crossing it and entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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A third of a mile from trailhead we came to a somewhat familiar junction.
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Neither of us quite remembered it looking like it did now (for one thing the trail sign was missing) but the right hand fork led to the Obsidian Trailhead and had marked the final .6 miles of THAT hike. We forked left and began to climb via several switchbacks which we had no recollection of. We also passed a viewpoint at one of the switchbacks.
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After the viewpoint the trail continued to climb but more gradually as it passed through a mixed forest.
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IMG_6249Pinesap

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IMG_6252A very blurry deer spotted through the trees.

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Three miles from the trailhead we arrived at the first of two short lava flow crossings. A large western toad was in the trail here and there was also a squirrel nearby which seemed like a suspicious combination.
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The lava crossings are separated by an island of forest that escaped the flow.
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IMG_6284North Sister

IMG_6290Middle Sister

IMG_6288More spies watching us.

Beyond the second lava crossing we spent a little time back in the forest before once again entering a volcanic landscape as we came around the south side of Four-In-One Cone.
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Unlike our previous visit the Cascade Mountains were visible.
IMG_6301North and Middle Sister behind the Little Brother.

IMG_6312Mt. Jefferson beyond Four-In-One Cone

IMG_6317Mt. Hood over the right shoulder of Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_6319Mt. Washington’s spire behind the cone with Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson.

The route up Four-In-One Cone is just under 1.5 miles from the first lava crossing and is marked by a signpost.
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Before going up the cone we decided to continue another .8 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow. We had of course been to that junction during our loop in 2012 but we’d also visited it in 2013 from the north on the PCT from South Matthieu Lake (post). Lupine is said to bloom profusely from mid-July through August but we hadn’t seen much in 2013 (2012 was late September) so we thought we’d give it another try. Prior to reaching Scott Meadow we did pass a couple of hillsides with a decent amount of lupine but I don’t know that we considered it profuse
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IMG_6343Scott Meadow

There wasn’t any lupine at all around the PCT junction but the view of Little Brother next to the North and Middle Sisters is nice.
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After a short break and pointing a group of trail runners toward Opie Dilldock along the PCT we turned around and headed back for Four-In-One Cone.
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Four-In-One Cone is just that, four cinder cones which erupted at different times but are joined together creating a .4 mile long ridge.
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To the SE the North and Middle Sister are closer than the Cascades to the NW the position of the Sun made the view of the further peaks a little clearer.
IMG_6398North Sister, Middle Sisters behind Little Brother and The Husband.

IMG_6392North Sister with Collier Cone in front and South Sister behind Little Brother.

IMG_6411The Husband

IMG_6443Scott Mountain (post) beyond the lava flows of Four-In-One Cone.

IMG_6404One of the craters.

After visiting the southern end of the cones we made our way to the northern end.
IMG_6434Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Black Crater (post)

IMG_6444Looking back south.

IMG_6460Belknap Crater (post)

IMG_6459Mt. Washington beyond Little Belknap Crater with Three Fingered Jack behind.

IMG_6462Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood

After fully exploring the cones we returned the way we’d come capping off a 12.3 mile, 1750′ elevation gain hike. We were happy to have finally gotten to see what we’d missed back in 2012. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Four-In-One Cone

Thayer Glacial Lake – 8/13/2019

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

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

IMG_5820Dry bed of Pole Creek.

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

IMG_5825Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.

IMG_5831A few survivors amid the snags.

IMG_5832Green Lakes Trail junction.

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

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IMG_5844Monkeyflower along Soap Creek

On the far side of the creek was a familiar junction, the Camp Lake and Green Lakes Trail junction where we had been on our 2014 loop around the South Sister (post).
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Instead of crossing the creek we left the trail here and headed west. This portion of the hike requires off-trail navigational and route finding skills. There was, at times, what appeared to be a user trail but it was faint and prone to disappearing only to reappear in an unexpected place. In general we followed the directions in the guidebook although our routes there and back were quite different (at least for a 1 mile stretch). The instructions were to follow the climbers trail for 2ish miles then head cross country toward a yellow bulge on North Sister. The lack of green trees allowed for a lot more views of North Sister which assisted in keeping us oriented. We used our topographic maps to help us stick to what appeared to be the gentlest terrain and eventually found ourselves looking at the daunting moraine to the left of the yellow bulge.
IMG_5859Soap Creek

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

IMG_5868Soap Creek and the Middle and North Sister

IMG_5870Monkshood

IMG_5891Might be a trail in there, might not.

IMG_5894Decent look at the yellow bulge on North Sister.

IMG_5895Broken Top and South Sister

IMG_5896Soap Creek

IMG_5903Meadow where there was no discernible trail apparent.

IMG_5909Typical cross country obstacles.

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IMG_5930Dry creekbed.

20190813_093156Elephants head

IMG_5946The moraine to the left of the bulge.

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

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IMG_5986Penstemon

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

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

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IMG_6021More flowers amid the rocks.

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

IMG_6059Mt. Hood

IMG_6037Broken Top to the north.

IMG_6043The rim above Thayer Lake.

IMG_6045North Sister and the Thayer Glacier

IMG_6061Heather near some large boulders in the lake.

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

IMG_6174Climbing out of the gully.

IMG_6176Broken Top and South Sister from the ridge.

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

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

Flickr: Thayer Glacial Lake

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

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

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

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

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

Trail sign along the Obsidian Trail

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

Obsidian Trail

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

Cloudy day in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Jerry Lava Flow

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

White Branch

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

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

Obsidian on the hillside

Obsidian

South Fork White Branch

South Fork White Branch

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

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

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

Obsidian Falls

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

Sister SpringSister Spring

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

The PCT then passed the small Arrowhead Lakes and more obsidian.
Pacific Crest Trail

One of the Arrowhead Lakes

Obsidian

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

Snow from the Pacific Crest Trail

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

Sunshine

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

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Glacier Way Trail

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

Drops of water on lupine leaves

Western pasque flower

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

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

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

Lupine

Snow patch in the Jerry Lava Flow

Sculpted tree top

A little blue sky

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

Pacific Crest Trail

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

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

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

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

Light coming from the NE side of the North Sister

North Sister

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

Pacific Crest TrailYapoah Crater in the distance.

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

Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow

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

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

North Sister and Collier ConeNorth Sister and the Collier Cone

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

Scott Trail

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

Climbing Four-in-One Cone

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

View from Four-in-One Cone

View from Four-in-One Cone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle and North Sister

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

Flickr: Obsidian Trail & Four-in-One Cone

Senoj Lake Trail

The day after a long but enjoyable hike on the Winopee Lake Trail we returned to the Cascade Lakes Highway for another lake hike. Our plan was to follow the Senoj Lake Trail past Lucky Lake and to Senoj Lake. We had made a short detour to Senoj Lake in 2014 during a hike to Cliff Lake along the Six Lakes Trail (post). This time we would be arriving at Senoj Lake from the other direction completing the Senoj Lake Trail.

We left Bend around 6:15am and headed south on Highway 97 to exit 153 where we headed west on South Century Drive. After 21.5 miles, at a stop sign we turned right onto the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for 5.9 miles to the signed Lucky Lake Trailhead on the left. We would discover later that the hiker trailhead is along a short paved spur to the right after turning into the trailhead area. We stayed left and wound up at the equestrian trailhead which was already wrapped up for the winter.

Senoj Lake Trail - Equestrian Trailhead

We had passed through a brief snow flurry on the drive to the trailhead but it was just a little damp as we set off into the forest.

Senoj Lake Trail

It was about a tenth of a mile into the hike when we came to a hikers/horses sign at a junction that we discovered that there was more than one trailhead and we’d parked at the equestrian trailhead.

Hikers and Horses versions of the Senoj Lake Trail

We decided that on the way back we’d take the hiker trail just to see where we’d gone wrong. For now though we continued on. It wasn’t long before we began seeing a little snow here and there along the trail.

Senoj Lake Trail entering the Three Sisters WildernessEntering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Dusting of snow along the Senoj Lake Trail

We arrived at Lucky Lake after 1.4 miles.

Lucky Lake

We could see that there was quite a bit more snow in the forest on the other side of the lake.

Snowy buttes across Lucky Lake

We followed the Senoj Lake Trail along the western side of Lucky Lake for almost half a mile to the far end.

Senoj Lake Trail along Lucky Lake

Lucky Lake

Lucky Lake

There was indeed more snow on the northern end of the lake.

Snow near the north end of Lucky Lake

Senoj Lake Trail

Beyond Lucky Lake the Senoj Lake Trail climbed nearly 750 feet in the next 1.5 miles as it passed over the eastern side of 6304′ Williamson Mountain. The trail itself topped out just over 6000′ in elevation. The extra elevation led to increased amounts of snow which maxed out at about an inch in the deepest spots.

Senoj Lake Trail

Snowy trees along the Senoj Lake Trail

Senoj Lake Trail

A series of small meadows dotted Williamson Mountain and seemed to be popular with various animals based on the number and variety of prints in the snow.

Senoj Lake Trail

Tracks along the Senoj Lake Trail

Paw prints along the Senoj Lake Trail

Deer print along the Senoj Lake Trail

After reaching the high point the trail dropped down off the mountain into a basin where the snow lessened only a bit.

Senoj Lake Trail

Three and a half miles from the high point the trail dropped to Senoj Lake.

Senoj Lake Trail

Senoj Lake

The lake looked a little different than it had in 2014 with the snow.

Senoj Lake

Senoj Lake

Senoj Lake

Senoj Lake

While not the most exciting lake in the forest there is something to be said for the lakes simplicity. On both visits it has just felt peaceful there. It was also cold. A crisp breeze was blowing off the lake so it was a quick visit and we were soon heading back.

Senoj Lake Trail

It was around 10:30 when we were passing back over Williamson Mountain and could already see the change in the amount of snow. More and more blue sky and sunlight had been making it through the clouds.

Three Sisters Wilderness

Snow melting along the Senoj Lake Trail

View from the Senoj Lake Trail

Although we never saw any of the critters that had left the prints in the snow we did see quite a few birds along the way.

Sparrow

By the time we’d arrived back at Lucky Lake it almost felt like it could have been a Summer day.

Lucky Lake

We ran into a few other hikers at the southern end of the lake where we followed a pointer for Corral Lakes around the lake a bit hoping for a view of the South Sister. There were some pesky clouds lingering between the lake and the mountain but there was just enough of an opening to see the mountains summit.

South Sister from Lucky Lake

South Sister from Lucky Lake

South Sister from Lucky Lake

We sat for a bit on the lake shore before heading back. On the way down to the car I managed to find one semi unobstructed view of Broken Top.

Broken Top from the Senoj Lake Trail

We took the hiker trail down to the parking area and discovered that the signboards there had not been wrapped for the winter yet.

Senoj Lake Trail - Hiker Trailhead

The hike wound up being 12 miles round trip with approximately 1750′ of cumulative elevation gain. The hike to Lucky Lake was short and easy enough for most kids. The trail to Senoj Lake might not have had a lot of wow factor but it was in good shape, never too steep, and passed through a nice peaceful forest. The snow only added to the peaceful feeling making this a really enjoyable hike for us.

Afterwards we drove back to Bend completing a loop by driving past Mt. Bachelor where there was still a little slush on the road in places. We were glad we’d chosen to drive to the trailhead the way we had since we figured there had probably been a fair amount of it on the road that morning and as much as we enjoyed hiking in the white stuff we’re not ready to drive it yet this year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Senoj Lake Trail

Winopee Lake Trail

Our year of rearranging hikes continued with what was to have been our final overnight trip of the year. Similar to our last planned vacation a cold, moist weather system coming in from British Columbia caused us to rethink the backpacking plans. The forecast for the first day was for rain showers off and on all day and night with temperature dropping to near freezing then turning to snow and rain showers the next day.

In “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” long distance hiker Andrew Skurka writes “Raining and 35 degrees Fahrenheit is the most challenging combination of conditions that most backpackers ever experience.” We have yet to have the privilege of experiencing those conditions first hand and weren’t about to put that statement to the test now so we decided to do a couple of day hikes instead so we could dry off and warm up each day after hiking.

Since our original plans had included a visit with our Son in Bend after the overnighter we simply headed to Bend a day early where we could stay at Heather’s parents house. On our way over to Bend we stopped at the Winopee Lake Trailhead near Cultus Lake Campground.

Winopee Lake Trailhead

With much of the Three Sisters Wilderness still closed due to this year’s wildfires this trail had remained open and offered a chance for us to visit several different lakes which is one of our favorite destinations in the Fall and on rainy days. We didn’t exactly have a plan going into this hike, we knew it was a 10 mile round trip to Muskrat Lake based on an abbreviated description in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” but more lakes lay a little further from the trailhead and the trail ended at the Pacific Crest Trail which made a lollipop loop possible. We weren’t certain how far that lollipop would be so we decided to set a turn around time if we had not yet reached the PCT. It was 8am when we arrived at the trailhead so we set a turn around time of Noon and off we went.

Winopee Lake Trail

Not far from the trailhead we came to Cultus Lake where we could see everything but the top of Cultus Mountain across the water.

Cultus Lake

The trail then passed along Cultus Lake but back in the trees away from the lake shore. After almost a mile a side trail led down to a nice beach at the Little Cove Campground, one of three boat-in (or hike-in) sites along the north side of the lake.

Beach along Cultus Lake

Little Cove Campground at Cultus Lake

Cultus Lake from Little Cove Campground

Beyond the camp site the trail again veered just a bit away from the lake. Near the far end of the lake the trail climbed slightly to a junction at approximately the 2.5 mile mark.

Winopee Lake Trail

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Corral Lakes Trail

We stayed to the left on the Winopee Lake Trail and came to a second junction in another quarter of a mile.

Trail sign along the Winopee Lake Trail

Again we followed the pointer for the Winopee Lakes trail, this time forking to the right past a wilderness signboard and permit box and into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Winopee Lake Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Less than 3/4 mile after entering the wilderness we passed the short side trail to Teddy Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Teddy Lake Trail

We skipped this half mile side trail and continued on the relatively flat Winopee Trail for another mile to Muskrat Lake.

Muskrat Lake

Muskrat Lake

A unique feature at this lake is an old cabin ruin. The cabin was reportedly built in the 1920’s by a man who attempted to raise muskrats there. The last few years have not been kind to the cabin which as recently as 2012 still looked relatively intact.

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Cabin ruins at Muskrat Lake

The trail followed an unnamed creek beyond Muskrat Lake. This creek flows from Winopee Lake to Muskrat Lake.

Creek between Winopee and Muskrat Lakes

Soon we came to another body of water with a bunch of snags.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

According to the map on the GPS we were still hiking along the creek but this seemed more like a lake or pond and may have been attached to the irregularly shaped Winopee Lake.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

The trail left the water for a bit then passed a small pond that was clearly not part of Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Unnamed lake/pond near Winopee Lake

At the 7 mile mark we arrived at a trail junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail having never really gotten a look at Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Snowshoe Lake Trail

It was just before 10:30 so we had another hour and a half before our turn around time. We turned up the Snowshoe Lake Trail in case we had to turn back prior to reaching the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail passed several lakes before ending at the PCT  while the Winopee Lake Trail was lake-less for the remainer of its length.

In just a quarter of a mile we arrived at the first of these lakes, the trails namesake, Snowshoe Lake.

Snowshoe Lake

Snowshoe Lake

This was a nice little lake with a couple of campsites. We sat on some rocks above the lake and took a short break before continuing on. Another half mile through the forest brought us to Upper Snowshoe Lake on the left.

Snowshoe Lake Trail

Upper Snowshoe Lake

Upper Snowshoe Lake

The trail spent about half a mile making its way by this lake then passed by the mostly hidden Long Lake. We kept expecting to see a side trail down to that lake but never did. The forest was open enough that it looked like it would have been a fairly straight forward cross country jaunt to the lake if one really wanted to visit it.

Just under a mile beyond Upper Snowshoe Lake we came to Puppy Lake.

Puppy Lake

This time the trail was close enough to the lake to get some good looks of this pretty little lake.

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

A quick time checked showed it was still before 11:30 so we kept going arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail, a half mile from Puppy Lake, at 11:40.

Snowshoe Lake Trail jct with the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Despite off and on drizzle we had stayed relatively dry up to this point. That all changed on the PCT. After turning left on the PCT it took less than 10 minutes for our feet to become soaked. It wasn’t because it started raining harder but rather the presence of huckleberry bushes lining the trail. The colorful leaves made for some great fall color but they were also loaded with moisture.

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

We traveled south on the PCT for just over a mile to a four-way junction. Here the Elk Creek Trail headed west into the Willamette National Forest. That portion of the Three Sisters Wilderness was still closed due to fire.

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Winopee Lake Trail

Closed Elk Creek Trail

We turned west (left) back onto the Winopee Lake Trail.

Winopee Lake Trail

This section of trail through a drier, more open forest as it gradually descended back to Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Our first and only real view of the marshy Winopee Lake came after approximately 1.75 miles.

Winopee Lake

Another quarter of a mile brought us back to the junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail completing our little loop. We returned the way we’d come that morning. As we passed by Muskrat Lake we spotted a lone paintbrush standing defiantly against the changing seasons.

Paintbrush

The cool weather and lack of any significant elevation changes had allowed us to hike at a quicker pace than normal allowing us to complete what wound up being a 20 mile hike in 7 hours and 15 minutes. For a day hike that’s a bit long for many but with the various lakes and access to the Pacific Crest Trail this would be a good backpacking option after mosquito season.

It wound up being a fun day despite the drizzle but we were thankful to get to Heather’s parents house to warm up and dry off before our next outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Winopee Lake Trail

Linton Falls from Linton Lake

In 2015 we did an off trail exploration of Linton Creek from Linton Meadows down toward Linton Lake. That day we cliffed out on the south side of the creek somewhere along Linton Falls. The Northwest Waterfall Survey gives Linton Falls a total height of 615′ consisting of 7 drops. We were unable to reach the final drop which is the tallest and most impressive so we vowed to return someday and try coming up from Linton Lake on the north side of the creek.

That day had finally come. We started at the Linton Lake Trailhead which is located 11 miles east of Highway 126 along Highway 242 near the Alder Springs Campground.
Linton Lake Trailhead

Then we crossed the highway and set off on the Linton Lake Trail which quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness on the Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake is just under 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The trail spends that time passing through the forest before crossing a lava flow and then descending via a series of switchbacks to the lake.
Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake Trail

The trail stays above the lake at first and on this morning there was enough fog to keep us from getting any kind of a decent look. The trail descended to Obsidian Creek after a half mile which marked the end of the official trail.
Obsidian Creek

We crossed the creek and continued on use trails around the lake. We were now able to get down to the shore even though we still couldn’t really see anything.
Linton Lake

Since the use trails are not maintained there was a bit of blowdown to navigate but nothing too daunting.
Downed trees along Linton Lake

Linton Lake Trail

We reached Linton Creek just over a half mile from Obsidian Creek.
Linton Creek

At the creek we headed uphill continuing to follow fairly obvious use trails as we climbed along the creek.
Linton Creek

The climb was fairly steep in places but after approximately .4 miles we arrived at a viewpoint of 85′ Lower Linton Falls.
Lower Linton Falls

Lower Linton Falls

The use trails became increasingly faint as we climbed away from Lower Linton Falls. We stopped at the top of the falls to get a look down before continuing on.
Top of Lower Linton Falls

Lower Linton Falls

Not only did the use paths get fainter but the terrain continued to steepen as we climbed. Four tenths of a mile from the viewpoint of Lower Linton Falls we got our first glimpse of the final drop of Linton Falls.
The lowest portion of Upper Linton Falls

This portion of Linton Falls did not disappoint. The only issue with it was the massive amount of spray from the falls made it nearly impossible to keep the camera lens dry.
Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

After admiring the view we continued uphill. Our goal was to get far enough up the creek to at least be across from where we’d cliffed out in 2015 on the opposite side. To continue we knew from a 2012 trip report by Wild Umpqua that things were going to get even steeper as we continued. We veered away from the creek and followed an old creek bed uphill.
Route to the top of Upper Linton Falls

We knew we were on the right course when we spotted a small cave that was mentioned in that report.
Small cave near Upper Linton Falls

Route up Upper Linton Falls

We cut back over to the creek when the terrain made that a more attractive option than trying to continue up the dry creek bed. As luck would have it that happened to be almost directly across from our GPS track from 2015 and just above the top of a large drop of Linton Falls.
Upper Linton Falls

I was a little confused by the drop we were above because it didn’t look like what I would have expected from anything we’d seen from below. I think the answer is that this was actually the top of a drop that only the very bottom was visible of from below coming from the left around a bend. I was able to follow the ridge down a bit to get a somewhat limited look at the side of this drop.
Upper Linton Falls

Looking up the creek from this drop revealed more of Linton Falls.
Linton Creek above Upper Linton Falls

We walked up along the creek a very short distance where we saw a very familiar looking drop with a log in the middle of the creek.
More of the series of cascades that make up Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

We’d seen the same log from the other side in 2015.
Another tier of Upper Linton Falls

We now felt like we had seen most of Linton Falls between the two visits. As far as we can guess it goes something like this.
One of the drops that make up Linton Falls

Upper portion of Upper Linton Falls

More drops of Linton Falls

More of the series of cascades that make up Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls above its final drop

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

This is a complicated fall and it’s quite possible that there is something between the final drops and the big drop we were above that we were never able to see. It’s also difficult to say for certain where the actual start of Linton Falls is, but that is part of what makes this such a spectacular waterfall.

As we began our descent the Sun finally started to make an appearance.
Sun finally penetrating the fog

Coming down was harder than going up but we managed to make the descent without incident stopping back by the viewpoints below Linton Falls and above Lower Linton Falls to see how the emerging Sun had changed the views.
Upper Linton Falls

Rainbow over Linton Creek below Lower Linton Falls

Linton Lake was fog free when we made it back.
Linton Lake

As we made our way around the lake it was possible to see some of Linton Falls on the hillside. The view didn’t do much to clear up the makeup of the falls though.
Linton Lake with part of Linton Falls visible up on the hillside beyond

This was actually our third time encountering Linton Creek, our first was in 2014 on a backpacking trip around the South Sister. which has cemented itself as our favorite creek. From it’s beginnings at Linton Springs and Linton Meadows it puts on one amazing and scenic show on it’s way to Linton Lake.
Linton Springs

South Sister and Linton Creek

With nearly all of the creek being off trail it makes for a challenging goal but the rewards are great. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Linton Falls from Linton Lake

Black Crater

What a difference a week can make this time of year. Our previous hike had been up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood on a beautiful (albeit chilly) day with mountain views in every direction. One week later we found ourselves on a snow covered trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness while hiking to the 7251′ summit of Black Crater.

We were actually in Central Oregon to celebrate our Son’s 21st birthday, but had wanted to fit a hike in as well. As it turned out Dominique really wanted to go on a hike with us which was nice because we hadn’t gotten to hike with him since August 1st, 2015 when we visited Salishan Spit prior to our annual family reunion.

We chose Black Crater due to it’s relatively short distance (a little over 7 mile round trip) and proximity to my parents house. The forecast was for a chance of snow showers which had evidently started the night before because the top portion of Black Crater was white as we headed toward Sisters, OR that morning. The trailhead is located near milepost 80 along the McKenzie Highway 242 just beyond the signed Windy Viewpoint coming from Sisters.
Black Crater Trailhead

A light rain was falling at the trailhead but not enough to make us put on any rain gear. The trail almost immediately entered the Three Sisters Wilderness and began the steady 2500′ climb to the summit.
Black Crater Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

On a clearer day Mt. Washington would have been visible beyond a lava flow at a viewpoint after .3 miles but the clouds were staying low to the NW so we enjoyed the forest scenery instead.
Black Crater Trail

The light rain had quickly turned to a light snow and as we gained elevation we began to see more and more of it along the trail.
Black Crater Trail

Snow along the Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Snow along the Black Crater Trail

One of the nice things about Central Oregon snow is that it is rarely very wet and this was typical Central Oregon snow. The dry snow on the trail squeaked beneath our feet and the flakes falling on our clothing didn’t cause them to feel damp. We were the first hikers on the trail since the snowfall but we weren’t the first to have used the trail.
Grouse
Grouse tracks

Deer
Deer tracks on the Black Crater Trail

Cougar or bobcat
Cougar or bobcat prints on the Black Crater Trail

After 2 miles of climbing the trail traversed a glacially carved valley with some open meadows.
Black Crater Trail

View along the Black Crater Trail

We were now winding around the east side of Black Crater where the clouds were not blocking all the views.
View along the Black Crater Trail

Gray Butte

Black Butte from the Black Crater Trail

After .7 miles we arrived at the far side of the valley and turned uphill on a series of switchbacks toward the cinder cone’s summit.
View along the Black Crater Trail

Black Crater Trail

Shortly before reaching the summit the trail crossed a barren plateau where we found ourselves in the middle of the clouds.
Black Crater Trail

Heather and Dominique crossing the plateau.
Black Crater Trail

The wind was really blowing as we explored the summit’s rocky crag.
Summit of Black Crater

Remnants remained where a former lookout tower sat perched on the rocks.
Black Crater summit

Frozen rocks at the summit of Black Crater

Remanants of the lookout tower on Black Crater

With the wind blowing and snow falling it didn’t take long to start feeling like we might wind up looking like the nearby whitebark pines.
Frozen whitebark pines on Black Crater

We headed back across the plateau and met the first of a half dozen or so hikers on their way up the trail. We saw them all before we’d finished coming down the switchbacks and then never saw another hiker until we were back at the trailhead. The snow continued to fall most of the way back down but it was not accumulating and much of the snow that had been along the lower portions of the trail was gone by the time we passed again.
Snow falling in the Three Sisters Wilderness

We were on our way back to my parent’s house shortly after 11am where Dad had pancakes, bacon, and eggs waiting. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674602749496