Camp Lake

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. Continue reading

Tumalo Mountain

December 31, 2018

On New Year’s Even Greg and I snowshoed up Tumalo Mountain and were treated to some nice views!

Tumalo Mountain

Once again we started off the morning with breakfast at Sparrow Bakery:

Sparrow Bakery

Dutchman Flat Sno-Park doesn’t have anywhere near enough parking available. Even though we arrived at 8:20am we got one of the last parking spots:

Dutchman Flat Sno-Park

Mt. Bachelor was hiding in the clouds:

Mt. Bachelor

So was South Sister:

South Sister

The trail heads straight up the mountain from the sno-park:

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

The temps were in the teens, so the snow and ice on the trees stayed where it was instead of melting off and it was quite beautiful:

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Frosty

Tumalo Mountain

We had some blue sky at the start:

Tumalo Mountain

But as we got higher, we encountered a lot more clouds:

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Mt. Bachelor barely visible:

Tumalo Mountain

Now Mt. Bachelor is totally obscured:

Cloudy day

The clouds swirled around us and occasionally we got glimpses beyond our mountain:

We can see!

Tumalo Mountain

But when we got to the top of Tumalo Mountain we had no views. The snow was sculpted by the wind that blasted the summit area:

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Due to the lack of views and the cold wind we didn’t linger up there and started heading back down:

Tumalo Mountain

Fortunately, the clouds started clearing out while we were still in the open area up top and we did end up getting some views. Mt. Bachelor:

Mt. Bachelor

South Sister showed itself:

South Sister

We went off-trail a short ways to get a better view north into the Three Sisters Wilderness where we could see the Three Sisters and Broken Top. Nice!

Three Sisters

The clearing continued and I enjoyed seeing the icy snowy trees set against the deep blue sky as we snowshoed down:

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

Tumalo Mountain

It was 21 degrees when we got back to the car at 12:30. What a perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve day!

Tumalo Falls

December 30, 2018

Greg and I spent a long New Year’s weekend in Bend. On Sunday we showshoed to Tumalo Falls.

Tumalo Falls

Our first stop was breakfast at Sparrow Bakery. YUM!

We parked at Skyliners Sno-Park and were one of the first cars there:

Skyliners Sno-Park

From there we set off down the Tumalo Creek Trail:

Tumalo Creek Trail

Tumalo Creek Trail

There wasn’t much to see, but we got occasional glimpses of the cliffs to the right:

Cliffs

Cliffs

We crossed the South Fork on a little bridge:

Tumalo Creek Trail

Better views of Tumalo Creek:

Tumalo Creek Trail

And then we reached the lower viewpoint for Tumalo Falls:

Tumalo Falls

We also visited the upper viewpoint, and we could see downstream along the canyon we just hiked up:

View from Tumalo Falls

Top of Tumalo Falls

We hiked back on the road (which is closed to vehicles in winter) rather than the trail:

Hiking back from Tumalo Falls

Hiking back from Tumalo Falls

We passed at least 60 people hiking in as we hiked out and we were glad that we had gotten an early start. When we reached the gate at the end of the road we discovered that there was parking there. Good to know for next time:

Tumalo Falls parking

We enjoyed lunch at Crux afterward:

Lunch at Crux

Carl and Table Lakes

Labor Day Weekend 2018

I spent the long weekend exploring some of the east side of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, which I’ve never visited before. I started at the Cabot Lake Trailhead, hiked into Carl Lake and stayed there the first night, then hiked to Table Lake for the second night and hiked an abandoned trail up to a viewpoint above Hole-in-the-Wall Park. Then I hiked back to Carl Lake for the third night and did a side trip up to South Cinder Peak. It was great!

Table Lake
Table Lake

I got off work at 1pm on Friday and went straight to the trailhead. I started hiking at 4:30. This area was burned in the 2003 B&B fire, so I was surrounded by a stark burnt landscape. The fact that the wind was blowing so hard that it whistled made everything all the more eerie. Most of these photos are from my hike out on Monday when the light was better:

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

To the north I had a good view of Sugar Pine Ridge. Before the fire there was a trail up there, but it’s totally impassible now:

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Lava:

Cabot Lake Trail

Fall is well underway up here:

Cabot Lake Trail

At the 1.5-mile mark I left the burn zone and entered the trees:

Cabot Lake Trail

The trail passed this huge dry pond:

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Then I passed some other ponds:

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Below is a shot from Monday of the pond above, with Mt. Jefferson peeking up through the trees:

Pond

I reached the east end of Table Lake at 6:50. The wind was coming from the west and blasted off the lake with such force that it nearly knocked me over:

Carl Lake

Normally I pick campsites based on how scenic they are. This time I was looking for one that was protected from the wind. Success:

Carl Lake campsite

The wind blew all night long. My tent was protected so it wasn’t flapping, but the wind still made a racket. Thank goodness I brought I earplugs! While getting ready Saturday morning I saw two deer pass through near my campsite. Got a photo of one of them:

Deer

Carl Lake in the morning. Still pretty windy:

Carl Lake

Carl Lake

Carl Lake

I packed up and headed off for Table Lake. The trail climbs up above Carl Lake:

Carl Lake

Passed through a small burn area:

Cabot Lake Trail

Huge rockslide:

Cabot Lake Trail

The low-to-theground Newberry polygonum was turning fall color and it made the ground look pink:

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

This little pond is known as Junction Lake. By no stretch of the imagination is this a lake, and I think the only reason it got a name at all is because the junction with the Sugar Pine Ridge Trail used to be here until that trail was abandoned:

Junction Lake

This is the only indication that a trail once started here:

Sugar Pine Ridge Trail

When my friend Brad hiked here in 2012 that signboard held a “trail not maintained” sign, but it’s gone now:


Photo by Brad Rasmussen

By the way, Brad’s report is worth reading, if for no other reason than to see what happens when a trail is abandoned after a fire.

From here I could see the tip of Mt. Jefferson. I didn’t know it yet, but better views were soon to come:

Cabot Lake Trail

The trail continued passed Junction Lake through some pretty lovely scenery:

Cabot Lake Trail

This is some pretty cool terrain. Here the trail is squeezed between two different kinds of rock (that’s North Cinder Peak in the second photo):

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

Mt. Jefferson views improving:

Cabot Lake Trail

Forked Butte in the background. Notice the mixture of rocks in the foreground:

Cabot Lake Trail

I was surprised to see western pasque flower so late in the season:

Cabot Lake Trail

This stretch was so cool! That’s Forked Butte in the background:

Cabot Lake Trail

The trail reaches a pass before descending down to Patsy Lake. Here’s North Cinder Peak:

Cabot Lake Trail

The view of Mt. Jefferson from the pass is partially blocked by trees:

Cabot Lake Trail

But just down the trail there is a full-on view of the mountain. WOW!

Cabot Lake Trail

Cabot Lake Trail

North Cinder Peak and Mt. Jefferson

Bear Butte is the distant pointy peak; Forked Butte on the right:

Cabot Lake Trail

A closer look at Bear Butte:

Bear Butte

From the pass the trail descends through the forest down to Patsy Lake:

Patsy Lake

Patsy Lake is also the junction with the Jefferson Lake Trail. Sadly after the fire the Deschutes National Forest abandoned that trail to its fate, just as they did the Sugar Pine Ridge Trail. Its super brushy, being very overgrown with snowbrush. You used to be able to do a nice loop involving those two trails, but it’s impossible now that they’ve been taken back by Mother Nature.

Jefferson Lake Trail

The trail climbs again. Looking down on Patsy Lake:

Patsy Lake

Looking east from a spot above Patsy Lake. The abandoned Jefferson Lake Trail is somewhere down there:

Lava

The trail continues

Cabot Lake Trail

One last view of the mountain before reaching Table Lake:

Mt. Jefferson

First look at Table Lake:

Table Lake

Table Lake

The trail crosses the inflow stream:

Little stream

There were hundreds (heck, probably thousands) of these little frogs all around the stream:

Frogs

The water here is a beautiful color:

Table Lake

Table Lake

I picked a campsite:

Table Lake campsite

Then I went off to find Upper Table Lake. This little lake is GORGEOUS!

Upper Table Lake

Upper Table Lake

I saw two deer across the way and got a photo of one of them:

Deer

I set off for a viewpoint beyond Table Lake. The topo map shows the trail continuing, but the Forest Service has put up a sign at Table Lake that says “end of trail.” As you can see beyond the sign, they’ve covered the trail with rocks and logs:

End of trail

Rocks on trail

The trail DOES keep going beyond that sign. Then it heads off into the trees away from the lake. Here also the Forest Service has covered the trail with debris:

Rocks on the trail

Once you get past those annoying obstacles the going is pretty easy. The trail is obviously abandoned and not maintained anymore, but it was pretty easy to follow, even though it was overgrown in many spots:

Faint trail

You can see the old trail blazes on the trees, which is how they used to mark trail routes:

Old trail blaze

As the trail approaches a pass before descending down into Hole-in-the-Wall Park, it gets pretty faint. With some good route-finding and the help of my GPS I stayed on course. The last stretch to the pass enters the edge of the burn zone and there are downed trees and branches covering the trail:

Faint trail

And then I reached the pass where this old “viewpoint” sign somehow miraculously escaped the flames 15 years ago:

Viewpoint sign

I turned right off the trail towards the viewpoint, seen here on the left (Bear Butte is the pointy peak on the right):

Viewpoint

Any semblance of a side trail that once led up here is totally gone in the wake of the fire, but the distance is short and it’s easy to make your own path to the rocky viewpoint, where a few gnarled dead trees stand:

Mt. Jefferson

The views up here are AMAZING. That’s Goat Peak and Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Jefferson

That meadow down there is Hole-in-the-Wall Park. You won’t find much about this place online (I found just one online report from someone who had hiked down there) so here’s what I’ve learned. This is from The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Guidebook (1983), by Tony George:

Hole-in-the-Wall Park is over 10 miles from the nearest trail head, and few people take the time to see it. Tucked in a very deep steep-sided glacially carved canyon, the “Park” is an intricate network of wet meadow, ponds and streams. There is a very good viewpoint overlooking the Park on the ridge west of Bear Point. From here, it is easy to see how Hole-in-the-Wall Park got its name.

This is from Northern Oregon Wilderness Areas (1992), by Donna Aitkenhead:

The Forest Service wishes to keep HITW pristine and plans on stopping al maintenance of the trail leading down to this unique region in the near future. one hiker said she through the area looked “like Shan-ri-la” from the saddle and rushed to enjoy its many splendors. We through the same, but instead found lots of mosquitoes and other insects. She found the same. Hiking in mid-September, we wondered what the place was like in July or August when the pesky critters are “supposed” to be bad.

I could understand why the Forest Service might abandon the trail down to the park, but it doesn’t make sense why they have abandoned the trail to this magnificent viewpoint. In any case, both of  those descriptions are of course pre-fire. Here is what Matt Reeder has to say in 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region (2016):

The Cabot Lake Trail does indeed continue down into Hole-in-the-Wall Park but the trail has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it’s not worth even attempting. Hole-in-the-Wall Park itself is a boggy marsh without a view of Mount Jefferson – so again, it’s not worth it.

Not wishing to lose elevation that I would have to regain, and also lacking a desire to deal with an unmaintained trail through a burn area, I admired the meadow from above and did not venture down there.

Hole-in-the-Wall Park

Looking northeast. The Warm Springs Reservation boundary is at the base of the slope I’m standing on, so none of that is public land out there:

Warm Springs Reservation

Bear Butte to the east. Somewhere around here is where the Bear Butte Fire started in 2003, later joining with the Booth Fire to form the B&B Complex Fires, which ended up burning over 90,000 acres:

Bear Butte

Mt. Jefferson and Bear Butte

Looking southeast:

Meadow

A closer look at that huge meadow down there:

Meadow

Three Sisters to the south:

Three Sisters

Table Lake is out of sight down there. My route up here came out of the trees and up the slope in the foreground:

Viewpoint

A panorama looking west. The trail from Table Lake comes up from the left then drops down the slope at center to Hole-in-the-Wall Park where it ends:

Mt. Jefferson

It was SUPER windy up at that viewpoint, so as much as I would have loved to linger I turned back after spending 25 minutes admiring the view and headed back down. When I got back to Table Lake I made my way over to the west end of the lake to this cool viewpoint. Two guys I had seen earlier said they had camped at this end of the lake, in the trees on the left there, but there’s no trail and I was tired so I didn’t go that far to check it out:

Table Lake

Table Lake

Looking down on Table Lake:

Table Lake

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Where the Crawdads Sing on my Kindle and enjoying the beautiful warm weather:

Table Lake

I discovered a spot near my campsite where I could see the tip of Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Jefferson

The sun disappeared behind The Table at the early hour of 5:30 and the wind started dying down. (By the way, there is no trail up to The Table but next time I come here I want to go up there and explore.) Just when I thought I’d have the whole place to myself that night, a family of four showed up around 6:40. I chatted with them a bit and it turns out that hiked in via the Jefferson Lake Trail. I expressed my surprise since that trail isn’t maintained anymore and the dad said, “Oh yeah, it sucked.” They said it was incredibly brushy and they got pretty scratched up. He said 20 years ago he used to be a wilderness ranger here, but of course that was pre-fire so everything would look a lot different now.

The family went off to find a campsite and shortly after that a couple with a black dog arrived. They had hiked all the way over from the Marion Lake Trailhead, via the Swallow Lake Trail, which resulted in a very long day.

That night when I got up at 11:30 the wind had totally died down (thank goodness) and the stars were out. I had not brought my tripod, so I just put my camera on the ground pointing at the sky and gave it a shot:

Starry sky

The overnight reprieve from the wind lasted into the morning, which was such a relief. The lake looked beautiful on this calm morning:

Table Lake

Table Lake

Table Lake

Mt. Jefferson

Table Lake

Loved this mossy log:

Table Lake

Stream flowing into Table Lake:

Table Lake

Floating frog (there were so many of these guys all around the creek):

Frogs

I definitely loved Table Lake better than Carl Lake. I had one more night and I really wanted to climb South Cinder Peak (which was closer to Carl Lake). Plus I didn’t want a 10-mile hike out on Monday. So I reluctantly packed up and headed out. There is a way to make a loop with the PCT, picking up an east-west connecting user path just a bit south of Table Lake, then heading south on the PCT, then picking up another connecting path just north of Carl Lake. About 0.3 mile from Table Lake I saw this path on the left heading off into the heather (main trail at right) and it seemed like it would be correct, but I decided not to try it today and just head back on the Cabot Lake Trail.

Trail

Got a good view of North Cinder Peak above Patsy Lake as I descended down:

North Cinder Peak

The long climb back up to the pass from Patsy Lake was not fun, but I finally made it. More fall color:

Fall color

Fall color

Descent to Carl Lake:

Carl Lake

Carl Lake

As I feared, since it was Sunday of a holiday weekend, Carl Lake was FULL. I had trouble finding a campsite. I was on my to Shirley Lake to look there when I found a flat spot near a pond on the right side of the Shirley Lake Trail. I made camp and headed south towards South Cinder Peak. I topped to check out Shirley Lake on the way:

Shirley Lake

Someone camped there had llamas!

Llamas

More fall color as I trudged up the Shirley Lake Trail towards the PCT. It was warm and I was tired:

Fall color

I reached the PCT and crossed it, heading west on the Swallow Lake Trail. My first view of South Cinder Peak:

South Cinder Peak

A better view of South Cinder Peak from Swallow Lake Trail, my path up clearly visible now:

South Cinder Peak

View of Mt. Jefferson from the spot where I left the trail to head up the peak:

Swallow Lake Trail

It was a hot trudge up that shadeless peak, but I made it.

South Cinder Peak

The views were amazing. It’s been such a smoky hazy summer that I almost forgot what clear blue skies looked like. This is looking north at Mt. Jefferson and an unnamed lake far below:

Mt. Jefferson

South Cinder Peak view

Looking northwest:

Burn view

Looking west; that’s Marion Lake down there:

Mountains

Looking southwest; that’s Jorn Lake in the Eight Lakes Basin, where I camped a few weeks ago (the distant smoke is from the Terwilliger Fire):

Eight Lakes Basin

Looking south to Black Butte, Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack:

Mountains

It was sobering to be up here looking down on huge swaths of burned forest from the 2003 B&B fire, which burned such a huge chunk of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. It’s one thing to see it from the trail and quite another to see it from above.

I headed back to Carl Lake and filtered water:

Carl Lake

Back at my campsite I cooked up dinner and then discovered my spoon was missing! I turned my pack inside out and searched pockets, but no spoon. I figured I must have set it down somewhere at Table Lake that morning and missed it when I was packing up. (Later my sister said to me “I bet the wilderness is full of people’s lost spoons”.) I had no idea how to improvise eating my pasta. I was not above eating with my hands but that meant burning my fingers on the hot pasta or waiting for it get cold so I could eat it without getting burned. I ended up cutting off the top part of the pouch and folding it into a sort of scoop. It did the job and I was able to eat dinner:

Dinner improv

I slept well. I skipped my hot cereal and just had salmon jerky and tea for breakfast. I saw some deer across the pond. Third day in a row I saw deer! I packed up and hit the trail at 8. I stopped at the east end of the lake for photo a on the way out. Once again, it was quite windy. Was it just my timing, or this just a windier lake than Table Lake? I never experienced a lack of wind at Carl:

Carl Lake

Carl Lake

Despite the campfire ban, I caught the whiff of campfire smoke at Carl Lake before I left. Never saw the fires, just smelled them. On the hike out I took the short side trail to Cabot Lake, which I had skipped on the way in on Friday:

Cabot Lake

I got back to the car at 10:50. My total mileage for the trip was 28 miles, with 4,400′ elevation gain. What a great weekend! It was SO wonderful to have clear blue skies and to see a gorgeous corner of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness that I haven’t seen before.

TableLakeMap

Vista Butte Snowshoeing

Our last hike of 2017 was up Vista Butte near Mt. Bachelor.

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Greg and I spent New Year’s in Bend. On the same weekend last year there was snow all over the place. Snow along the streets of Bend, snow along the drive to Mt. Bachelor, lots of snow on the ground at the sno-parks (last year’s trip report from New Year’s Day). This year was quite different. It was sunny and beautiful, for one thing, and there was a surprising lack of snow. We saw a whole lot of bare ground as we drove up to the Mt. Bachelor area on Sunday, and the driving was smooth sailing unlike last year’s white-knuckle crawl through blowing snow.

When we arrived at the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park at 9:30 there was absolutely no parking left. The lot was totally full and the Forest Service employee who was patrolling the area said there were no more legal parking spaces left if we wanted to snowshoe up Tumalo Mountain (unless we wanted to park further away and make a longer hike for ourselves). It was a beautiful day and we wanted views, so we headed back down the highway to the Vista Butte Sno-Park, which is nothing more than a wide spot on the road and easy to miss.

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The trail parallels the highway for a bit before turning towards the butte:

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The trail split and we opted to go right on the Lower Loop. After 1.7 miles we met up with the Butte Trail and turned right for the final mile to the summit. A word of warning if you come here. The snowshoe route crosses an old logging road that is used by snowmobilers. You can hear them and smell their foul exhaust when the trail is near that road. Very unpleasant.

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Almost to the summit we were already getting great views. Mt. Bachelor was right there, almost close enough to touch:

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Final push to the top! (By the way, this butte is unnamed on topo maps, so maybe the Forest Service just slapped a name on it because they needed a named destination in the sno-park.)

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It took us a little over an hour and a half to snowshoe the 2.8 miles to the summit. The summit was VERY windy and therefore cold. But the views were pretty awesome. We had to move around to get all the various views, but we ended up being able to see quite a lot. Mt. Thielsen:

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Kwohl Butte and Mt. Bachelor:

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Tumalo Mountain, our original destination for the day (maybe next time):

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Looking north, with Broken Top on the left:

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A better view of Broken Top (on the right) with South Sister on the left:

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Swampy Lakes (and Tumalo Falls is somewhere out of sight down there):

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Diamond Peak and The Twins:

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We could even see Mt. Shasta! (Nope, I was wrong. That peak is Mt. Scott, not Mt. Shasta.)

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Snowshoeing back down:

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5.3 miles with 670 feet elevation gain. This is a great snowshoe for a clear day! It’s not too long or difficult and the views are pretty great. A note to dog-owners, though: dogs are not allowed here, although that didn’t stop a large group of people that we saw on the summit, who had brought their dog along anyway (and it wasn’t even leashed). Here is the sign at the sno-park:

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Here is our track:

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And here is a map of the snowshoe trails in that area.

Video:

Edison Sno-Park

On New Year’s Day Greg and I went snowshoeing at Edison Sno Park, which is a few miles south of the Cascade Lakes Highway on Road 45. It was a bit of a white knuckle drive due to low visibility, questionable road traction, and several cocky drivers, including a giant jacked-up pickup coming at us in the opposite direction in our lane while passing. Going way too fast and driving way too recklessly for the conditions. Good grief.

Anyway, it was a relief to get out of the car and hit the trail.

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It was a winter wonderland out there with all the snow.

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I’ve never snowshoed on the east side of the Cascades before and I was delighted by two things over there: 1) how the beautiful red ponderosa bark looked in the snow and 2) how fluffy the snow is! Snow on the east side is fun snow, not the awful sticky icy junk we get here in Portland.

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The network of trails at Edison is quite a maze. It’s actually quite confusing. Some junctions are signed and some are not.

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We managed to navigate our way to the Edison Shelter, which had an impressive amount of snow on the roof.

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We sat inside enjoying the warmth of the stove and the view out the door to the snowy forest beyond. Don’t let the people-less photos fool you. We saw over a dozen people while we hung out here.

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It was unclear which trail we needed to finish our loop back to the parking lot, so we followed a sign that said 1.5 miles to the sno park. Along the way passed this massively weird snow mound. I’m guessing there’s a pile of lava or boulders under there.

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I think we did about 3.5 miles or so and I couldn’t tell you which trails we took. Next time we’ll bring the GPS. The map on the Forest Service page is only so-so, but there’s a better map here.

We enjoyed some beer in Ben before heading back to our cozy Airbnb cabin.

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BTW, we had an interesting time getting home on Monday. We had considered doing the Tumalo Falls snowshoe before heading home, but Greg had a committment in Portland in the evening and we didn’t think we had enough time. Turns out we were right. It took us just under six hours to drive from Bend to Portland via Highway 20/22. Most of the time we were going about 30 MPH due to the heavy traffic and the snowy conditions. Sure was a beautiful drive, though, with the fresh snow on the trees.

Snowy landscape

Our AutoSocks did great, although after so many miles (we put them on near Black Butte and took them off just after Detroit Lake) they are starting to show wear. Might only get one or two more uses out of them.

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Broken Top Loop

Once again, our plans to head to Jefferson Park were thwarted. Despite a string of cold wet weather, the wildfire north of Mt. Jefferson had a closure in effect that would have kept us out of the Park Ridge area. So we headed to the Three Sisters area instead. We chose the 23-mile Broken Top loop as described in Doug Loraine’s 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon.

We drove out to Three Creek Lake after work on Friday and set up camp in the dark. The sky was clear and we could see a million stars. If not for the cold (it was about 37 degrees out, according to the thermometer in my car), I could have sat out there for awhile admiring them. They were very very cool.

In the morning we set off on the loop. Loraine recommends going counter-clockwise, but because we wanted good morning light for photography on Tam McArthur Rim – which would have been at the very end of the loop on the second day if we did it counter-clockwise – we decided to go in reverse.

The last time we hiked up Tam McArthur Rim, the weather was wretched. There were no views and it actually snowed on us a bit. This time the sky was clear as a bell and we had fantastic views.


Tam McArthur Rim and Three Creek Lake


The views get better and better! Middle and North Sister, as well as Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack


That really discouraging and steep sandy hill you have to climb. This picture does not do it justice.


From Tam McArthur Rim, looking north over Little Three Creek Lake to Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood


Middle and North Sister, dusted with snow. Apparently they had several inches of snow in this area the week before.


At Tam McArthur Rim, this little chipmunk came right up on the rock which my pack was on, about one foot from me. He was so tame and bold that he didn’t run away when I got out my camera and started taking pictures.


From Tam McArthur, we followed the trail over to Broken Hand. Along the way, we had our first view of all the Sisters together. Stunning!

A little bit before reaching Broken Hand, we encountered Drew, a wilderness ranger. He was cool and friendly, reminded us to only camp in designated sites at Green Lakes, and told us that the area didn’t really have bear problems but that if we could hang our food anyway he’d appreciate it.

Doug Loraine’s counter-clockwise directions for getting around Broken Hand were vague at best: “Head east-northeast around the south side of Broken hand to the sketchy boot path at the top of Tam McCarthur Rim.” Well, the boot path from Tam McArthur Rim takes you up ONTO Broken Hand, where the path dead-ends, but it almost sounds like he’s directing you to go around the base of Broken Hand. Has anyone done this loop (in either direction) that can shed some light on this?

In any case, once the boot path from Tam McArthur dead-ended at Broken Hand, we followed a sketchy “path” around the east side of the hand. Until you’re on it, you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

We got around to the south side and we could see our trail heading south. But we did not see a good way down from Broken Hand to even get TO that trail. So we traversed the sketchy slope on the south side of the hand, then made our down the sloping ridge, and glissaded on the sand the last bit to flat ground (see the third picture below). Um yeah….off-trail cross-country backpacking: SO. NOT. FUN.


Broken Top and the glacier meltwater lake at its base, as seen from Broken Hand.


Looking south from Broken Hand. Mt. Bachelor in the distance, and our path down to the Broken Top Trail barely visible in the valley below us.

We filtered water at the creek flowing out of the lake. By now it was 3:00. What with the wasted hour of geocaching on the way up to Tam McArthur (didn’t find any either, since we didn’t have the GPS) and the time it took to get up/around/down Broken Hand, it had taken us WAY longer to get to this point than we thought it would. We had been hiking since 9:30, but still had nearly six miles to go before reaching Green Lakes. Thank goodness, at least, for the favorable weather. It was sunny and warm, but not boiling hot.

It’s just a faint dotted line on the Three Sisters Wilderness map, and doesn’t show up at all on the topo maps, but we followed a very well-traveled trail alongside the east side of Broken Top until we met up with the east-west Broken Top Trail that heads to Green Lakes. We passed through A LOT of open meadowy areas, but everything is dead and brown and sad-looking this late in the season.


Heading south alongside Broken Top, with Mt. Bachelor in the distance


Walking through a patch of autumn-colored leaves


Looking south to Sparks Lake


Walking through yet another dead meadow, with South Sister finally in our sights

We finally arrived at Green Lakes at 6:40, but didn’t find a campsite until about 7:00. Thank God Greg had a brochure/map of the area showing where the campsites are. Some of them are tucked back in the trees and you’d never know to look for the campsite marker back there unless you had the map. I was exhausted, cold, hungry, sore, and grumpy. I hate rolling into camp at dusk in this condition. We filtered water, made dinner, set up the tent, and were in bed by 8:30.


Green Lakes at dusk.

We wanted to catch sunrise the next morning, so we were up at 6:30 for that, heading down to a little point of land that sticks out into the biggest lake. Turns out we didn’t need to be up so early, since it took a LONG TIME for the sun to come up and over the ridge behind us. Until that happened, the lower half of South Sister was in shadow. In any case, it was a GORGEOUS morning. Not freezing cold, no mosquitoes, peaceful and quiet. Just lovely.

We shot pictures until a little after 8:30. Then we had to eat breakfast, filter water, and pack up. So we hit the trail pretty late at 10:30, heading north on the Green Lakes Trail to Park Meadow.

We gained elevation leaving the lakes basin, but after a little while, we were losing it again. We kept our eyes open for the unmarked trail to Golden Lake, and took a side trip to this beautiful little gem, which not only has views of Broken Top, but of Three Sisters as well.

<Broken Top again

Golden Lake

We reached Park Meadow at 2:00 under a blazing sun. The meadows are pitiful-looking right now, sad, brown, and dead. I’d love to see them when they’re flourishing, even if it means coming during mosquito season.

Park Meadow

Presiding over the meadow

We headed east on the Park Meadow Trail and the views we’d had all day long pretty much ceased, with the exception of a nice view of Broken Top from a beautiful little stream.

We were getting pretty tired and sore by this point, but we kept pushing on, although I stopped taking pictures. We reached a four-way junction. Straight ahead to Three Creek Meadow was the fastest way out, but that’s not where we were parked. So we headed south and east on a longer trail that went near Little Three Creek Lake and ended up Three Creek Lake, where the car was. This section of trail, which was 3.5 miles long, was DREADFUL. I don’t think it’s maintained. There was quite a lot of blowdown and pretty much all of it had established trails going around the fallen tree because the Forest Service hadn’t removed it. Much of the trail was rocky and the whole 3.5 miles was very very dusty. My nose and throat hurt for days afterward from inhaling all that dust. As if that weren’t bad enough, this trail had a lot of elevation gain, which was an unpleasant surprise. In hindsight, we should have just hiked out the short way to Three Creek Meadow and walked back to the car along the road.

I forget what time we got back to the car. I think it was about 5:45. We were both pretty exhausted and hastily made our way to Sisters for dinner. We had been envisioning pizza and beer all day long, but to our dismay the pizza place was closed on Sundays. Seems pretty strange for a tourist town, especially during a big festival weekend. So we went to the brew pub and enjoyed a delicious meal with beers before the long drive home to Portland.

Because I had Monday off, we had originally planned to car camp Sunday night and do a day hike on Monday. But we both agreed we were way way too tired and sore. My feet, especially, were very very sore. I wasn’t walking, I was hobbling. It felt like a waste to not utilize that gift of a Monday free from work, but no sense in pushing ourselves and causing some injury.

Despite the difficulties we had near Broken Hand, and the last few miles on the second day, we still had a good time. The scenery was absolutely amazing, and we really lucked out on the weather. This was our last backpacking trip of the year, so it was nice to have such good conditions. I’m already looking forward to next year’s backpacking season. I hope it’s longer than this year!

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.