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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Alder Springs

This week we’re going to throwback to a hike that had a profound impact on how we hike. In 2011 the snow melt was unusually late and wound up impacting us on our vacation in Central Oregon during the first week of August. On 8/3/2011 we had planned on hiking the Benson Lake Loop. We took the McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) from Sisters and headed for the trailhead.  It was a beautiful morning and we stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory to take in the spectacular views.

Dee Wright Observatory

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Black Butte

Black Butte

Black Crater

Black Crater

North & Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister with the Little Brother

We continued on to the trailhead near Scott Lake and set off on the Benson Lake Trail.

Benson Lake Trailhead

In the mile and a half to Benson Lake we encountered a few snow patches and lots of mosquitoes.
Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

From Benson Lake we could see our next planned stop,Scott Mountain which appeared relatively snow free.

Benson Lake

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly beyond Benson Lake as the mosquitoes were thick and relentless and the trail was covered in snow.

Snowmelt pond near Benson Lake

Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

We were still quite inexperienced hikers with raw map skills, no GPS, and we hadn’t learned to look for blazes yet so we were relegated to following a lone set of footprints which worked until they disappeared. While we struggled to locate the trail Heather had a mosquito fly directly into her eye where it stuck. It remains the most disgusting hiking moment ever for us.

After extracting the kamikaze mosquito we surrendered and turned back while we knew we could still find the trail back.

We had only hiked around 4 miles by the time we were driving back toward Sisters and began looking for another hike that we might be able to do. We landed on the Alder Springs trail which would be snow free being in the high desert and at an elevation of only 2600′. Even better the trailhead was less than 20 miles from Sisters.

From the trailhead parking area Mt. Washington and the North Sister were visible. It was odd to think we’d just been forced by snow to turn back from a hike on the other side of those two mountains and now we were standing amid the sagebrush and juniper in the high desert. Not only was it a drastic change in scenery but it was also a lot warmer.

Alder Springs Trailhead

Mt. Washington

Middle and North Sister

The view here also included a look down the Wychus Creek Canyon which is where the trail would be leading us.

Wychus Creek Canyon

The Alder Springs Trail descended .2 miles to a fork where the Old Bridge Trail split to the left.

Old Bridge Trail sign

We took this .4 mile path down to the site of a former bridge and then down to the bank of Wychus Creek.

Site of a former bridge over Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Wychus Creek

We then returned to the Alder Springs Trail and followed it 1.2 miles to Alder Springs. This section of trail provided some nice views of the canyon before descending to the creek.

Wychus Creek Canyon

Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek Canyon

Rock formations along the Whychus Creek Canyon

A short narrow slot in the canyon wall was a neat little detour along the way.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Dry waterfall

The scenery became a little greener as the trail dropped to creek level and neared Alder Springs.

Alder Springs Trail

Alder Springs Trail

Interpretive sign at Alder Springs

We faced a choice here, turn back or ford the creek and continue a little over a mile and a half to the Deschutes River at its confluence with Wychus Creek. It was too nice a day and the scenery was too good to turn back so we forded the shin deep creek. Downstream the creek seemed to flow right into the canyon wall.

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Springs bubbled up in several spots joining the waters of Wychus Creek along the far bank.

Alder Springs

Alder Springs

Beyond the springs the trail stuck fairly close to the creek as it met the canyon wall and turned north.

Whychus Creek

Soon we were once again traversing the hillside a bit above the creek due to the thick vegetation along the creeks banks.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Whychus Creek

At one point the trail split with the right hand fork dropping down near to the creek in a thistle filled meadow. We took this path thinking it would be fun to be in the thistle and closer to the creek but as we made our way into the meadow the a distinctive sound of a rattle rose up.

Thistle meadow along the Alder Springs Trail

We slowed up and realized that there were at least two maybe three alarms being raised from different sides. We proceeded slowly making plenty of noise ourselves keeping our trekking poles ahead to give any snakes plenty of time to leave the area. We never saw any but they made plenty of noise. On the way back we skipped the meadow and stayed on the path that passed higher up the hillside.

We continued on, now on high alert, to the confluence of the river and creek. On the far side of the water rose a spectacular striped rock fin.

Rock fin near the Wychus Creek and Deschutes River confluence

Rock fin

A sign on a ponderosa announced the end of the maintained trail.

End of the Alder Springs Trail

A rock ledge along the Deschutes River provided a perfect lunch spot across from the fin where we could watch the river as it headed further down the canyon.

Deschutes River

Deschutes River

Rock fin from the Deschutes River

Having arrived at this spot from the Alder Springs Trailhead gave this spot a real feeling of remoteness. The fact that we hadn’t seen any other hikers since the parking area and having to ford the creek added to the sensation of solitude. In actuality the homes of Crooked River Ranch were not far away on the other side of the river and the Scout Camp Trail loops around the fin that seems so remote.

The Alder Springs Hike was a little over 6 miles round trip with about 650′ of elevation gain.

The experience at Benson Lake was a key motivating factor in our decision to make getting a GPS unit before the 2012 hiking season a top priority. It also reminded us that we needed to improve our map and navigational skills which we began to focus more on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Benson Lake & Alder Springs

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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail

We had stayed in Central Oregon after visiting the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain on Saturday. Before heading home we took the opportunity to do a pair of short hikes in the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area near Crooked River Ranch. The first of the hikes started at the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.
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The falls are only a half mile from the trailhead and can get very busy, but we were there early and had the trail to ourselves. We followed the path down into the Deschutes River Canyon.
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Flowers included sand lilies, balsamroot, and thread-leaf phacelia.
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Colorful rocks formations lined the canyon walls.
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Steelhead Falls is only about 20′ tall but the width and setting of the falls makes it an impressive sight.
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Beyond the falls the Deschutes calmed and various ducks and geese were enjoying the morning.
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We continued past the falls for .6 miles planning on visiting the Gray Tower, a 70′ rock formation. Our guidebook instructed us to turn right at a dry wash and then “stay right at junctions” up to the tower. We turned at the wash with the Gray Tower visible up the hillside.
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We apparently did too good a job at staying right and wound up following a path up a ridge with the wash on our left. We began to suspect that we were too far right when were getting further away from the Gray Tower and there was no sign of the ridge we were on bending back towards it. We spotted a trail on the opposite side of the wash and realized that it was the trail we should be on and headed back down. The detour had not been without its charms though, as it provided a nice view across the wash to the Gray Tower and to Mt. Jefferson (covered in clouds this morning).
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We’d also seen some nice wildflowers.
Paintbrush
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Rough eyelashweed
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Desert yellow fleabane
desert yellow fleabane

White-daisy tidytips
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Once we had returned to the dry wash we headed up the left-hand side on a horse path keeping the wash on our right while we stayed right at the junctions. This trail did indeed lead us to the tower.
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We followed the horse path past the tower veering right heading for the start a .9 mile loop described in our guide book. At some point we lost the trail as it turned uphill and we were once again forced to backtrack. We decided to head cross country to try and pick up the trail, which we managed to do. When we reached a split to the trail on top of the rim we went right to start the loop. There was a small rocky knoll a short distance to the left with some small junipers on it at this junction.
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Several deer were watching us as we began the loop.
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We passed around a small hill through juniper and sagebrush keeping left at junctions marked by rock cairns.
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It was a beautiful sunny day which would have normally meant some nice mountain views but all the Cascade peaks were draped in clouds making for an interesting sight.
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Heather spotted a coyote that ran off too quickly for a photo, but several birds stayed put long enough for pictures.
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We completed the loop and managed to follow the horse path all the way back down to the river without losing it this time. The sun was now on the river and ducks paddled about as red-winged blackbirds filled the canyon with their songs.
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After returning to the trailhead we drove further into Crooked River Ranch to the Scout Camp Trailhead.
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This trail descends over 600′ to the Deschutes River and its confluence with Wychus Creek. The path starts out level passing through juniper and sage before dropping down into the canyon.
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Turkey vultures soared overhead and occasionally landed on the cliffs.
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At the .4 mile mark the trail splits marking the start of a 2 mile loop. We went left following a trail pointer and headed downhill through fields of balsamroot and other wildflowers.
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The further into the canyon we got the thicker the balsamroot became.
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A couple of different types of lizards were sunning themselves.
Side bloctched lizards
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Western fence lizard
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After a fairly steep .7 mile descent the trail leveled off passing along a cliff face with the river on the left.
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A family of canada geese paddled about on the water.
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The cliff face gave way to a hillside of flowers.
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we then passed through a grassy area before the trail appeared to end at a rock wall below a rock fin where a fish monitoring station was set up.
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We climbed up and over the rocks which brought us to the continuation of the loop. From here we could see the spot on the opposite side of the river where we had eaten lunch during a 2012 hike on the Alder Springs Trail.
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The trail then climbed up the canyon switching back once to a view above the rock fin.
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We continued to climb passing another set of cliffs with small caves and rocks that appeared ready to come crashing down at any moment.
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Some of the brightest paintbrush we’d seen was along the hillside below these cliffs as well as some tiny but spectacular Cusick’s monkey flowers.
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We finished the loop and climbed back out of the canyon. As the views opened up we could see that the mountains had finally managed to shed most of their cloud cover.
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We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flowers along the Scout Camp Trail and fortunate to have had the Steelhead Falls trail all to ourselves. It was a great end to a weekend of wonderful hikes in Central Oregon. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667267583520

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Chush Falls and Beyond

Our third hike while in Bend took us back to the Three Sisters Wilderness for a mostly off trail waterfall loop that had been reported on by a member of Portland Hikers in November 2013. The plan was to start at the Chush Falls Trailhead and continue past the falls up Wychus Creek passing two more waterfalls then crossing that creek and Park Creek visiting six more waterfalls on three different creeks before recrossing Wychus Creek and returning to the trail.

We were greeted at the trailhead by some chilly air. We could see parts of the tops of the Three Sisters which were mostly engulfed in clouds. What we could see though showed that a little fresh snow had fallen sometime in the previous couple of days.
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South Sister
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Frosty ground
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The beginning of the trail is on an abandoned road which we followed for about a mile and a half before reaching the former trailhead which was now only marked by a homemade sign.
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The 2012 Pole Creek Fire burned through the forest here creating interesting color contrasts where water was present.
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A mile from the old trailhead we came to a wide flat area with a Trail Ends Here sign. Beyond the sign the top of Chush Falls was visible.
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To the right was a clear path down a steep slope to the base of Chush Falls.
Chush Falls

After returning to the trail ends here sign we picked up another clear trail continuing up Wychus Creek. The second waterfall was just .3 miles up this use trail.

Middle Chush Falls
Middle Chush Falls

We found Upper Chush Falls another .3 miles from the middle falls. This was by far the most interesting of the falls on Wychus Creek. It was also the most difficult to get a good view of because of its location in a rocky bowl and 230′ height.
Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

Upper Chush Falls

My parents, who had started the hike at the same time we had, caught up with us here. They had not spotted the trail down to the base of Chush Falls so we were able to give them that information before we set off cross-country in search of the next fall – Phoenix Falls.

In order to reach Phoenix Falls we needed to be up above Upper Chush Falls and over to the next creek which was East Fork Park Creek. We had unfortunately neglected to bring the maps we had planned on having with us, but we still had our Garmin (and tons of batteries). I had also spent a lot of time pouring over the maps and Google imagery of the area and making notes so we felt fairly confident in the resources we did have. We crossed Wychus Creek below the upper falls and began to skirt around a ridge end in search of a draw that I hopped would be the easiest way up to the plateau above the ridge. We picked our way around the ridge following game trails as best we could until we could see the draw below in between two ridge ends. The draw did indeed look like it would have been a good option but we had crossed the creek and headed around the ridge way above the draw so continued up and around the ridge finally reaching the draw near the edge of the plateau. Travel became much easier once we emerged from the draw. We continued SW toward the location on the creek where we expected to find Phoenix Falls. The South Sister loomed ahead on our right as we went.
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We reached the edge of the canyon in which the East Fork Park Creek was flowing and began following it up toward the sound of a waterfall. Soon we could see the falls we were in search of with the added bonus of Broken Top rising over the shoulder of Phoenix Falls.
Phoenix Falls

To the right of Phoenix Falls were the Three Sisters. The 110′ falls roared down into the canyon creating a good amount of wind up on the rim.
Phoenix Falls

Phoenix Falls

Phoenix Falls

From Phoenix Falls we headed back downstream below the confluence of the East & West Forks of Park Creek and crossed what had become Park Creek. We then made our way along the West side of Park Creek to Middle Park Creek Falls. This was the most difficult to get a clear view of due to the angles of the canyon and a couple of downed trees laying between the canyon walls.
Middle Park Creek Falls

Just down the creek was the next fall – Howlaak Falls.
Howlaak Falls

We left Park Creek at Howlaak Falls and headed cross-country again toward yet another creek – South Fork Wychus Creek. The final three falls we hopped to visit were on this creek. We had to traverse along another ridge end to find the creek and this time Heather took the lead picking up a good game trail which wound up leading us almost directly to Columnar Canyon Falls, the first of the three falls we were looking for. A short steep trail led down to a rocky overhang which allowed for a good view of the falls. Not a spot I’d recommend for anyone nervous around heights.
Columnar Canyon Falls

We then began following the creek down a ridge listening for the next fall. We heard Mosaic Falls before we spotted it. In fact getting a decent view of this fall proved to be as frustrating as I had read it was in the earlier trip report. It wasn’t too difficult getting down to the creek below the falls but there was no view of the falls from where you were able to get to the creek.
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In order to see the falls I made my way along the edge of the creek shown above. It was slick and full of thorny gooseberry bushes and complicated by a large boulder that was in the way once the falls came into view.
Mosaic Falls

I managed to get around the boulder just enough to get a fairly clear view of the falls but even then the spray from the falls made getting a picture difficult.
Mosaic Falls

I rejoined Heather who had smartly stayed behind and then we headed for our final fall – Shelter Falls. We had to hop back over the ridge away from the creek in order to continue downhill. The ridge at this point was quite narrow though so we were never far from the creek. When we could we angled back toward the creek and were able to find the site of an old shelter.
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Just a little further on we found Shelter Falls.
Shelter Falls

Having successfully found all the falls we were looking for (there are others out there) it was time to make our way back to the trail. This proved to be the most difficult part of the hike in terms of route finding. Wychus Creek was close by and the confluence with the South Fork was nearby. We crossed over to Wychus Creek to look for a decent crossing but the opposite side looked too steep to climb. Not wanting to hike back up the creek we headed down stream. Near the South Fork the ground on the opposite side of Wychus Creek leveled out giving us our best option for reaching the trail on the other side. We had managed to stay dry up to this point but now there was no getting around the need to wade across the creek. We found a good crossing where the water was only mid-calf deep and crossed the creek. From there it was a short climb up out of the canyon. We re-found the trail about 10′ from where we popped up over the hillside. It had been a successful hike despite the forgotten maps. We relied on the GPS, my notes, and the research done beforehand which was a good reminder to always be prepared. Happy Trails!

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

South Sister Loop – Day 3

After not being able to fall asleep in the wake of an amazing second day the third day of our backpacking loop started way to early. I woke up just after 5am needing to empty my bladder. Looking out our tent to the East I could see an orange glow through the trees indicating that the Sun was coming, but not for awhile. I threw my headlamp on, grabbed my camera hoping to get a shot of the horizon, and started to walk toward the edge of the plateau that Demaris Lake sits on. I was scanning the forest with my light when I noticed a pair of glowing eyes about 50yds to the left of our tent. They were fairly low to the ground and I couldn’t tell what it was. Since I didn’t know what kind of animal was staring at me I wasn’t sure if I should get big or slowly back away. Not being fully awake my solution was to take a picture using the flash to see if I could figure out what it was. That may not have been the best idea, but when the flash went off I could see that it was a deer that was bedded down.
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She got up after I took the picture and began walking along the ridge in front of me so I stopped heading that way and thought I would loop around behind to get my horizon picture. Apparently she didn’t like that because when I looked back in the direction she had been headed she had turned around and was now walking toward me with her head down.
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She stopped when she realized I’d spotted her and I backtracked down to the lake shore and tried taking a wider loop around a rocky outcropping to get my picture. I got to good viewpoint and after scanning for the deer I set about trying to get a decent picture.
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After taking a few pictures I suddenly had a strange feeling. Glancing to my right there was that crazy deer again staring at me with those glowing eyes. I headed back down to the lake and hurried back to the tent site to grab my poles and wake Heather up thinking that maybe the presence of a second person would deter the stalker deer. It must have because we didn’t see her again and were able to watch the sunrise light up the mountains and trees above the lake.
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After a deer free breakfast we returned to the Camp Lake Trail at the North Fork Wychus Creek. A nice little waterfall lay just downstream from the creek crossing.
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Soon we entered the area burned during the 2012 Pole Creek Fire.
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The forest is only starting to recover from the fire so there wasn’t much to see as we made our way to the Green Lakes Trail and Soda Creek.
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We turned right on the Green Lakes Trail and headed south toward Park Meadow. The first section of trail remained in the burn area but we were now headed back toward the mountains so we at least had a view.
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After recrossing the North Fork Wychus Creek and then crossing the South Fork Wychus Creek the trail passed between a pair of ponds at the edge of the burn. The large pond on the left was empty while the much smaller pond on the right was filled with ducks.
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After leaving the burn area our next marker was the West Fork Park Creek in Red Meadow.
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There weren’t many flowers in the meadow but a hawk provided some entertainment as it watched us from a nearby tree.
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From there it was just under a mile to our next trail junction located in Park Meadow.
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After taking a quick look at Park Creek we continued on the Green Lakes Trail passing through Park Meadow. The meadow was quite large with a good view of both Broken Top and the South Sister. Although it was fairly dry many gentian flowers dotted the ground along with the occasional aster.
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We were looking for a side trail about a mile from Park Meadow that would take us to Golden Lake. There was no sign marking the .7 mile trail to the lake but as we made our way toward the lake we did see signs announcing the areas restrictions.
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It was easy to see why this was a popular spot.
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Golden Lake2

We hiked around to the far end of the lake and decided to follow the inlet creek up looking for a place to set up our tent far enough from the lake to fit the 250′ restriction. We knew that there were a pair of tarns about a mile up from Golden Lake which we had originally planned on visiting after we had found our camp site and dropped off our gear. We weren’t having much luck finding a site, but the scenery was once again spectacular. Wildflowers lined the creek and the water was as clear as glass. We were headed straight at Broken Top and the South Sister loomed across the creek to our right.
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We eventually reached the beginning of the creek as it flowed out from the bottom of a rocky hillside.
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We began climbing the hill expecting to find the first tarn at the top.
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We were not disappointed.
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The water in the tarn was crystal clear and the views extended to Mt. Jefferson to the North.
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A path led up another hill to the second tarn. It was quite a bit smaller and there was a hiker with a dog splashing around in it so we headed back down to the first tarn and went about setting up camp. We had found our spot for the night.
Second tarn
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South Sister over the first tarn
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Our campsite back in the trees on the far side of the tarn.
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We had views all around from the site.
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The nice part was we had arrived just after 1pm so we had plenty of time to soak our feet (the water was way too cold for anything else) and watch the wildlife that would occasionally stop by the tarn.
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We decided to try and turn in early (or at least take a nap) since we didn’t get much sleep the night before so we laid down in the tent around 6pm. Heather fell asleep but I wasn’t having any luck so I got back up shortly after 7pm and took a few more pictures. It had been hazy to north all weekend but I could now make out Mt. Hood in that direction, and rays of sunlight shot through the gap between the South and Middle Sister.
The Three Sisters, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood at 7:04pm
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Broken Top at 7:07pm
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I went back to the tent and laid back down after taking the picture of Broken Top hoping to finally get some sleep. About 20 minutes later I smelled smoke. Thinking it was a campfire I lay there for a minute wondering if someone wasn’t able to follow the restriction on campfires. The smell kept getting strong so I sat up and looked around. Smoke was filling the basin below Broken Top and when I turned around I could see a line of smoke passing between the Sisters. The whole valley below us was full of smoke and it looked like it was rising up from somewhere on the other side of the South Sister.
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I woke Heather up and we began discussing what to do. Another hiker came up to the tarn and she was wondering what was going on as well. She had a satellite phone and had managed to talk to a friend in Bend but they didn’t have any knowledge of a fire near the Sisters. There were some fires near Oakridge, OR 40 miles to the South but it didn’t seem possible that this smoke was coming from there. Looking at the smoke column we weren’t sure if we would be able to hike out via Green Lakes since it appeared to be rising from somewhere in that direction so we considered our Plan B evacuation route back through Park Meadow to the Three Creeks Campground. We were also debating on if we should try and stick it out through the night of if we should just pack up and try and get out before it got any worse. We quickly agreed that neither of us would be able to get any sleep under these conditions and if the smoke got any worse it would certainly be unhealthy even if we did manage to fall asleep.

We loaded everything up grabbed our headlamps and started back down toward Golden Lake just after 8:15pm. We were watching the smoke column still unable to decide exactly where it was emanating from when arrived back at Golden Lake. No one had any new news at the lake so we decided to attempt to hike out as originally planned past the Green Lakes as it looked like the smoke was coming from the far side of the South Sister.

This was our first experience with night hiking so we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Our adrenaline was pumping as we began climbing the Green Lakes Trail to its high point above the Green Lakes. To our surprise and relief the smoke lessened as we went. By the time we arrived at the Green Lakes area the sky was full of stars and the smell of smoke had all but vanished.
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I managed one picture of the elusive Green Lakes having once again missed seeing them in the light of day.
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We were now committed to leaving though so we kept hiking. It turned out to be quite a bit of fun. We missed out on seeing a lot but the sky was beautiful and we spotted some things we would not have seen during the day like toads and the glowing eyes of many deer.
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We were fortunate that the Green Lakes Trail is well used and easy to follow. By 11:40pm we had reached the trailhead and our waiting car. There was no sign of fire anywhere around and as it turned out the smoke had come from the Deception Creek Complex of fires near Oakridge. The wind had apparently shifted just right flooding the area with smoke. Although it would have been nice to have spent the night by the tarn and been able to wake up to that view we felt like we made the right choice. Experiencing our first night hike was something to remember and it brought our day 3 total to a nice round 21 miles. It truly was a trip to remember.

Happy (and smoke free) Trails!

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

South Sister Loop – Day 2

We woke up early on day 2 anxious to see what surprises awaited us. It didn’t take long for the first one. We had seemingly been the only ones camped around Linton Meadows but when we awoke we found we were not alone.
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The sun was just starting to rise as we packed up and headed to Linton Creek to replenish our water supply before heading back to the Pacific Crest Trail.
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After getting water we headed South on the James Creek trail returning to the 5 way trail junction we had passed the day before. At the junction we turned left on the Foley Ridge Trail and climbed a mile to the PCT.
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We turned right on the PCT and headed toward Reese Lake where we hoped to pick up a climbers trail that would lead us between the Middle and South Sister. There were still some pretty good flowers lining the PCT.
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We turned off the PCT at little Reese Lake. The small lake had crystal clear water and a nice view of the South Sister.
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Working our way around the North side of the lake we picked up a trail leading East which we hopped would lead us to Separation Creek and the climbers trail. We chose wisely and arrived at Separation Creek on a clear path. We had seen Separation Creek back in May when we hiked to Separation Lake https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/proxy-falls-separation-lake/. Crossing the creek was very different this close to its source.
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Separation Creek below Separation Lake in May.
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There was a well worn trail following the creek up toward the saddle between the two mountains.
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It was an interesting landscape. There were numerous types of rocks, wildflowers, and volcanic formations all around.
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After a stiff climb through over a forested ridge we came to the Frazier Upland and the first of the Chambers Lakes.
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We passed by the first lake, crossed a snowfield, and climbed another ridge to find the second Chambers Lake.
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There are a number of lakes that make up the Chambers Lakes each tucked in a depression surrounded by moraines but these were the only two our route would take us past. There was a good sized snowfield near the second lake which we would either need to cross or drop below. Not wanting to climb any more than we absolutely had to we opted to try crossing the snowfield. It was warm enough that the snow was soft and we easily made it across without needing to break out our Yaktrax.
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We had one last ridge to climb before dropping down to Camp Lake and an “official” trail. The final ridge was covered in wind bent whitebark pines. They seemed to be making a gateway to Central Oregon and the East side of the mountains.
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The scenery at the pass was some of the best we’d seen. The contrast in colors of the various rocks, snow, trees, and even some flowers was otherworldly.
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We passed a group of backpackers that had just come up from Camp Lake. They were happy to be finished with the climb and we quickly understood why after seeing what they had come up.
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It was a steep descent but we were happy to be going the direction we were instead of having to go up it. The view at the bottom was gorgeous.
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We arrived at the breathtaking Camp Lake and took our packs off. It was time to soak our feet and give our shoulders a rest.
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While we were resting a couple from Coos Bay, that we had seen earlier going the other direction at the second Chambers Lake, returned and we had a nice conversation before continuing on. Camp Lake offered one last photo op when the wind calmed enough to get a nice reflection of the South Sister.
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We were now on the Camp Lake Trail and headed to the Demaris Lake Trail junction on the bank of the North Fork Wychus Creek. As we continued to descend to the East, the Middle and South Sister were joined by the North Sister and Broken Top.
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When we reached the Demaris Lake junction we turned right and took the .8 mile trail to the lake. We had chosen Demaris Lake simply because it would mean a slightly shorter hike on day 3 and we like to visit as many places as possible if we are in the area. As it turned out Demaris Lake was much nicer than we had anticipated. It had many camp sites, mountain views, and lot of big dragon flies zooming about.
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We were really surprised that there was no one else at this lake. We had seen several groups of people going the other direction on the climbers trail and the couple at Camp Lake, but no one was here except for some wildlife.
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We picked out our camp site and then set about exploring the area.
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Our afternoon explorations led to some totally unexpected discoveries.
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We returned to Demaris Lake re-energized by the discoveries which turned out to be an issue. Neither one of us could fall asleep despite having been awake by 5:30 and hiking 34 miles in two days. Sometime after midnight we finally dozed off but it wouldn’t be for long, Day 3 was coming and it would be full of even more surprises.

Happy Trails!

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