Whychus Creek waterfalls and beyond

Greg and I went camping at Three Creek Lake (near Sisters) last weekend. We hoped it would be cloudy enough so that we could visit the waterfalls along Whychus Creek and get some good photos. We almost got more than we bargained for. It rained so much Friday evening that when we arrived at the campground after dark, we had to wait in the car for an hour before the rain stopped enough for us to put up the tent. Sheesh.

Fortunately it did not rain on Saturday, though it was very very overcast. So he headed to the Whychus Creek trailhead. It’s not very far in terms of mileage, but we had to deal with the awful road coming out of Three Creek Lake and the equally awful road to the trailhead. We were in my little Honda Accord, and scraped bottom a few times, but the car seems to have come through okay! We saw a Trip Report describing other waterfalls in this area, so it was our goal to reach most or all of them on Saturday.

The trail to Chush Falls is short and easy. Of course, the “official trail” ends at this totally lame viewpoint of the waterfall.

To get down to the base, you have to scramble down the hill because the Forest Service couldn’t be bothered to build a trail down there. It’s worth the scramble though.

There are two more waterfalls upstream of here, again with no official trail to them. But there is a very nice unofficial trail. Very easy to follow and well-graded. Soon we came to The Cascades, which we photographed from the cliff above. Just below this waterfall is where Park Creek joins Whychus Creek. It’s along Park Creek that several of Bryan’s discovered waterfalls lie.

The unofficial trail ends at the base of a really impressive-looking waterfall: Upper Chush Falls. The rocky cliff area area around here doesn’t look like Oregon. Here is a shot of it with Greg in the frame for perspective.

We ate lunch there and then headed back downstream so we could cross Whychus Creek. The creek was just a tad too wide and deep for us to get across in our boots. There were no rocks sticking up on which to step. So we waded across in our sandals and then headed cross-country to find Park Creek.

We eventually found Park Creek and made our way down to it. Without a GPS, we weren’t sure if we were upstream or downstream of where we needed to be, so Greg did some scouting around. After awhile he spotted a waterfall upstream, came back for me and the gear, and we made our way to it. At first we thought it must be Howlaak Falls, but we compared it to the various Park Creek waterfall pictures from the waterfall website (we had printed out all the information) and realized it wasn’t any of the ones there visited.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a GPS, but we suspect that we were downstream of Howlaak Falls. Since we were running out of time, daylight, and energy, we did not look for any more of the Park Creek waterfalls, so we can’t be sure. But we’re going back again at some point with a GPS so that we can (hopefully) find and map this undiscovered waterfall and find the others too.

We spent a little time photographing the waterfall and then bushwhacked back cross-country to Whychus Creek. At some point, we discovered later, Greg lost one of his water bottles. Somewhere out there in the forest is a bright blue Nalgene that will slowly become a mossy part of the landscape. We waded across the creek and hiked back to the car. We hadn’t seen another soul all day, but saw at least three other sets of tire tracks at the trailhead that hadn’t been there in the morning.

Beautiful waterfalls out here! This was my first time bushwhacking, but with Greg’s help I did okay and I’m eager to go back and see the rest of the waterfalls in the area.

Camping near McKenzie Pass

For Labor Day Weekend, Greg and I had planned on camping at Three Creek Lake near Sisters, but we heard the mosquitoes were too abundant so we changed our plans.

We drove up Saturday morning and after setting up camp at Limberlost Campground, we drove up to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass. Unfortunately, stubborn clouds clung to the summits of the Three Sisters. It was crazy windy up there, but I guess the wind wasn’t enough to budge those clouds.

We stopped and hiked the short Hand Lake Trail on the way back down from McKenzie pass. It’s just a short half mile from the trailhead to the lake. At the lake we saw lots of these cute little toads hopping about.

Hand Lake was pretty. The water level was incredibly low. There was a huge expanse of exposed shoreline that allowed us to easily walk alongside the lake. We walked to the point where we should have had a view of the Three Sisters, but those clouds were still hanging around.

The mosquitoes were definitely out and about at Hand Lake. Our headnets came in handy. But they weren’t nearly as much of a nuisance as I’ve encountered elsewhere this summer.

Even though Greg drove carefully, I got terribly carsick coming back down Highway 242 to Limberlost Campground. That road is very pretty but very curvy. If you’re prone to motion sickness like I am, take some Dramamine before attempting this highway!

Sunday was gray, cold, and wet. We started off by hiking to Linton Lake. The trail was lovely, short, and easy. The exposed vine maple was already starting to turn.

The trail took us through a beautiful Hemlock forest.

And then we arrived at Linton Lake:

The official trail ends at Linton Lake but if you want to keep going there is a use trail that curves around the lake shore. Unfortunately, we somehow got off this trail and ended up on the hill above it for awhile, trying to negotiate all the blowdown by going up and around the rootballs. Then we made our way back down the hill where we picked up the trail again, negotiating the blowdown by crawling over or under it. Whew!

We ate lunch by Linton Creek before climbing up the steep hill to see the waterfalls. Again, another unofficial trail, although pretty easy to follow. Not easy to climb, though, especially after our hill scrambling earlier. My recently sprained ankle and still-recovering stress fracture in my foot started to bother me. Thus, when we got to Lower Linton Falls, I called it a day and could go no further. So I waited for Greg there and admired the falls while he continued up to Linton Falls. It is rather odd that these huge majestic waterfalls, which are so close to popular Linton Lake, don’t have a proper trail going to them.

After Greg returned, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead. All throughout this, it had been raining off and on. The clouds were good for waterfall photography, but not for my spirits. Hiking in bad weather is more difficult for me mentally and physically than hiking in hot weather. The extra layers of clothing and rain gear make movement more difficult. But the worst part is the affect on my psyche. Since I refuse to give up hiking during our long gray winters, I’m doing my best to work on this. But our wet day of hiking was pretty difficult for me mentally.

Before heading back to the campground, we did the short Proxy Falls loop, where it rained some more. Cold, tired, and frustrated with my tripod, I only took a few handheld shots from the base of Lower Proxy Falls.

And I took a few long-distance shots at Upper Proxy Falls.

Amazingly enough, it had not rained at our campground, and it did not rain on us while we made dinner, ate dinner, and sat around the campfire. In fact, it didn’t rain at the campground until right after we went to bed. Finally, the rain had good timing!

The next day before heading back to town, we made one more scenic stop. There’s a waterfall on the property at White Branch Youth Camp. Camp was done for the summer, so we just hiked in along the gated road and then along the short access path to White Branch Falls. It’s a short scramble up a hill to get to the lovely waterfall, which is very much like Fairy Falls.

And then we headed back to town. Despite some cruddy weather, we had a good time. And we’re going back to the area this coming weekend, camping at Three Creek Lake, where we couldn’t go before. Here’s hoping we have better weather!