Saturday, August 8 – Sunday, August 9, 2020
Greg and I don’t get down to the Three Sisters Wilderness very much. The northern part is closest and is also busy and crowded and burned (the area has been plagued by huge wildfires in recent years). But this weekend we decided to make the long drive from Portland to do a one-nighter at Camp Lake.
After staying in Sisters Friday night we drove to the Pole Creek Trailhead first thing Saturday morning. I knew this was a busy and popular trailhead, but I was still surprised to count 64 cars at 8:15am!
The first half of this hike was through an area burned in the 2012 Pole Creek Fire. When it started in September that year there was a delay in responding to the lightning-caused fire (read more here) and it ended up burning some 26,000 acres, including a huge chunk of forest in the northeast section of the Three Sisters Wilderness. I was on Mt. Hood the day the fire started on September 9 and got this photo. You can see the smoke plume just left of center:
Anyway, off we set through the burn:
After 1.4 miles on the Pole Creek Trail we turned south onto the Green Lakes Trail. The only good thing about hiking through this hot burned landscape was getting views of the peaks:
We reached Soap Creek at 2.1 miles and crossed on a little log bridge:
The monkeyflower like it here:
There hadn’t been much fireweed up to this point, surprisingly, but there was a lot at the creek:
At this point was a junction. The Green Lakes Trail continued to the left and the Camp Lake Trail headed to the right:
Finally after 3.7 miles of hiking we reached the edge of the burn and entered the forest:
We crossed this little unnamed creek:
At 4.7 miles we reached North Fork Whychus Creek (still called “Squaw” on some maps, even though “Whychus” replaced that name some years ago):
We found some logs to use for crossing:
We passed the side trail to Demaris Lake and kept going. We got glimpses of the mountains through the trees. Middle Sister:
There were a few fluffy clouds rolling in:
And then we were more or less above the tree line and there were views in many directions around every corner. Broken Top:
South and Middle Sister:
We hiked on, gawking at the views:
There were some nice wildflowers here:
Shortly before reaching Camp Lake we passed a “no campfires” sign:
But as we discovered later, some people are pyromaniacs and had a fire anyway:
There’s another sign at the lake:
After 7.1 miles we made it to the lake.
We crossed the outlet stream to look for a campsite. There was a big snowbank here:
We found a small site up in the trees on the hill above the lake:
There was no lake view from our site, but from elsewhere on the hill this was the view:
And this view of Middle and North Sister:
Then we went down to the water to soak our weary feet and filter water:
We had thought about going and exploring the Chambers Lakes after setting up camp, but decided to relax by the lake instead. We could see people going up the slope on the other side of the lake on their way to those lakes. See the people heading up between the two snow patches? Also, that bottom snow patch looks like a dog with his feet stretched out in front of him with his nose pointing up in the air:
While Greg relaxed by the lake I walked around to the other side to explore. Looking back across from the other side:
There were quite a few tents set up right next to the water at the east end of the lake:
Here is where water flows into Camp Lake:
This is the unofficial user trail that goes up and over to Chambers Lakes:
The wind was relentless all afternoon and finally we left our spot by the lake and retreated to our more protected campsite in the trees. We ate dinner, read in the tent for awhile, then went to bed.
We set the alarm to get up and see the stars, and I’m glad we did. The wind had calmed and it was a beautiful clear night:
There was no wind when we got up in the morning and lake reflections were quite nice:
We enjoyed a leisurely morning by the lake eating our breakfast:
It took awhile for Greg to get his stuff together, so we didn’t leave camp until 10:30. Then we began the seven mile hike back to the car:
We reached the trailhead at 1:50. I was dragging the last little bit on the hot dusty trail and was very glad to reach the car!
Gaia stats: 14.8 miles, 2,000′ elevation gain