Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

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.
IMG_5813

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.
IMG_5834

IMG_5839Broken Top and the South Sister

IMG_5842

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).
IMG_5851

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.

IMG_5915

IMG_5922

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.
IMG_5951

IMG_5956

We wound up a bit further north than intended and had to veer NW to reach the meadows around the springs feeding Soap Creek.
IMG_5960

IMG_5963A clump of Monkeyflower

IMG_5968

IMG_5973

IMG_5986Penstemon

IMG_5989_stitch

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.
IMG_6006

IMG_6008

IMG_6015Paintbrush growing on the moraine.

IMG_6017

IMG_6021More flowers amid the rocks.

IMG_6023

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.
IMG_6024

IMG_6026

IMG_6049_stitch

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.

IMG_6063

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.
IMG_6066

IMG_6073

IMG_6080

IMG_6077

IMG_6084

IMG_6085

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.
IMG_6086

IMG_6094

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.
IMG_6095

IMG_6103

IMG_6107

IMG_6111

IMG_6121

IMG_6127

This proved to be a little trickier than expected as we kept coming upon more springs as we went.
IMG_6130

IMG_6140

IMG_6155

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.
IMG_6161

IMG_6168

IMG_6171

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.
IMG_6187

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s