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!