Location of Hike: Three Sisters Wilderness
Weather during Hike: Varied from sunny and warm to cold and windy with some rain
Hiking Buddies: Carly, Kirk, Sarah, Jeff
Hike Distance: 68.6 miles Elevation Gain: 16,000 feet
Originally we were thinking about going to Glacier National Park in Montana, but we realized that we needed permits (kind of like when we did the enchantments) and it was too late this year to get them. We decided to do the Three Sisters loop because next year this entire wilderness will be permits only (like the Enchantments and Glacier) and will be more difficult to get into. I knew before even starting that this was going to be a challenging trip (due to the length and elevation). This was the longest backpacking trip I have ever taken, both in duration and mileage. The initial plan was this:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – About 6.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – About 9 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then back out to Park Meadow – About 12 miles
- Day 4 – Park Meadow to Mesa Creek – About 11.5 miles
- Day 5 – Mesa Creek to Minnie Scott Springs – About 12 miles
- Day 6 – Minnie Scott Springs to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 6 miles
- Total Mileage: About 57 miles
What we actually did was significantly different than the plan, and considerably more mileage than estimated. We added a side trip up to Broken top and some of the distances I calculated were a bit off. This is what we actually did, with actual mileages:
- Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek – 7.5 miles
- Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake – 10 miles
- Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake – 12 miles
- Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top – About 13.5 miles
- Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar – just short of Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!) – About 17.5 miles
- Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead – About 7.5 miles
- Total Mileage: About 68 miles
Day 1 – Lava Camp Trailhead to Alder Creek
The “Blue Adventure Bus” (Kirk’s van) came and picked Carly and I up about 8:30 on Saturday morning. Kirk had already picked up Jeff. The plan was to head out, have lunch on the way, and then get on the trail shortly after 1:00 or so which is why day 1 was shorter mileage (same for the last day).
We ended up stopping for lunch in Detroit since that was really the last slice of civilization with a decent restaurant before the trailhead (even though it was like an hour and a half away). We had lunch at a restaurant called Cedars – It was good to have one last “real” meal before heading out into the wilderness. We ate an early lunch and then continued to the trailhead at the Lava Camp Trailhead on highway 242 near McKenzie Pass. We passed the Dee Wright Observatory which would be an interesting place to explore some day. It is in the middle of a HUGE lava field. I had never realized how much lava there is in this area. We would be seeing more of it as the week progressed.
The other really interesting/weird thing that happened on the way to the trailhead was there were TONS of butterflies on the road. There was literally a swarm of them in places – there were so many we kept hearing “splat” when one would hit the windshield or the front of the van. It was really kind of strange to see SO many butterflies.
After the butterfly massacre, we shortly got to the trailhead and got all our gear on for the start of our 6 days in the wilderness.
We headed down the Millican Crater Trail (4066) – originally I thought we were going to go down the PCT for the first part of the trail, but we found this would make the trip a true loop – we wouldn’t be repeating any part of the trail with the exception of the trip in and out of Camp Lake. We headed down the trail and very quickly came into the burn area. This has been the site of at least a couple of rather large fires – I think one of the latest ones was the Pole Creek fire in 2012 and burned about 26,000 acres. The last one was just last year and was over 101,000 acres! We saw lots of this (and worse) all day long (and into the following day too):
When we got to to the Trout Creek Tie Trail (4067) we took a turn south and headed to Trout Creek. We had a snack there and got water and then continued on the Green Lakes Trail (17). Shortly before Alder Creek (our destination for the night), we got this view of Millican Crater in the foreground with Black Crater behind it:
And a little farther we also caught our first glimpse of North Sister:
Soon we made it to Alder creek and started looking for a campsite. We found one just up the hill from the creek. We were expecting to see some other people but didn’t see anyone camped there at all. Here was our campsite for night 1:
After setting up camp, we cooked dinner, cleaned up and then went to bed.
Day 2 – Alder Creek to Camp Lake
We got up and got going about 8:30 on Day 2, heading to Camp Lake. Shortly after leaving camp, we got a much better look at North Sister:
A little farther down the trail, we got a pretty good look at Mt Washington:
A little farther we got our first real look at South Sister thru the burned trees:
We continued down the trail until we got to the Camp Lake Trail junction and headed west. It was somewhere in this vicinity where I started noticing the mosquitoes more – maybe it was where we came out of the burned area into woods, I’m not sure. I just know that at some point, the bugs started becoming quite annoying, especially when you weren’t moving.
We continued down the Camp Lake trail and we originally thought this creek was Squaw/Whychus creek, but it turned out to be an un-named creek crossing – but it was a great source of cool, clear water:
Shortly after the un-named creek crossing we came to the actual North Fork of Squaw/Whychus creek – here is our group starting to cross it:
A little bit down the trail we got our first really good look at North Sister as well:
Shortly after that view, we started to hit significant snow, which obscured the trail in many spots. We were able to find our way thru (there were little to no footprints to guide us), and soon made it to Camp Lake – which still had quite a bit of snow and was rather un-inviting, windy and cold:
We looked around and set up our tents about the only place we could find to camp – and turned out to be probably the worst place since the wind came from the south across the lake and funneled thru the small opening on the north end of the lake:
We also got a good look at Middle sister above Camp Lake, which would be our objective for the following morning:
We setup camp but as we were setting up camp, one of the poles on Carly’s tent broke. We made a “fix” using some duct tape and were hoping it would hold up in the wind (more on that in a minute). After getting our tents setup we made dinner crouched behind the hills next to our tents – we found enough space to cook out of most of the wind.
We also noticed the huge slabs of snow that were calving off into the lake on the south side of the lake. We would regularly hear one of them crash into the water.
The most significant thing that happened on Day 2 was probably at night. After we cleaned up after dinner we went to bed. It had started to mist a bit and the wind had picked up. We were also planning to get up at 5 to get going up to Middle Sister early – so we would still have enough time to make it to Park Meadow. Shortly after we went to bed, the wind REALLY picked up and was blowing our tent in about a foot when it gusted hard. Some of the gusts were REALLY strong (like 40 MPH+ I think) and we were worried that our cheap tent pole fix would collapse during the night. Fortunately, it held up just fine, but no one got a lot of sleep that night due to the wind. It was the stormiest night I’ve ever spent in a tent.
Day 3 – Camp Lake to the summit of Middle Sister and then to an un-named lake
We got up early (5am), made breakfast and headed out to summit middle sister. There isn’t a trail up to the summit, but Kirk had climbed this peak at least a couple of times before. We kind of picked our path up the hill, choosing what looked like the easiest route. Here is a shot looking back at Camp Lake after we had climbed a bit:
A little bit further up the mountain we started to get into real snow (and the clouds) – we would mostly be in the clouds the rest of the climb – that hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture:
We kept climbing and when we got about half way up this was our view – it didn’t look like we had too far to go, but it got harder as we got higher – it was very deceiving:
As we were ascending, someone noticed that South Sister briefly peeked thru the clouds:
After a long, slow climb, we finally made it to the top of Middle Sister, but we were entirely in the clouds. Amazingly it wasn’t very windy when we were up there. We had no views whatsoever:
We spent a few minutes sheltered behind a big rock up on top and looked around a bit and then headed down. As we headed down, it started to really rain. Prior to that it was just misty due to the clouds. The rain was coming down sideways and was really cold. I was kind of expecting some snow, but we didn’t see any.
As we got farther down the hill, I got to experience a new skill – Glissading – this makes it really fast to come down the hill! (this picture was Kirk, but we all did it 3 or 4 times as we hit different snow fields):
We made it back down to camp a little after noon I think. We ate lunch and then packed up and headed out. Just before heading out, I decided to go look at the outlet to Camp Lake. I found this cool little snow tunnel made by the outlet – notice how much snow there is still on the hill:
And then there was this rock with some weird inscriptions at the outlet – I have no idea what it means:
I think we started our journey out about 2pm – we had a ways to go. We weren’t sure if we would be able to make it to Park Meadow, but we figured we would see how the day went.
As we were hiking out, I noticed some neat cliffs that I had not noticed on the way in:
The trip out was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the Green Lakes trail and then headed south. We got back into burned areas and kept hiking south. We were all getting tired and were ready to find a place to camp. We came across a pair of small, un-named lakes, and decided this would be a good spot to camp for the night – it was at least partially unburned, which was nice:
When we first arrived it seemed like there weren’t many bugs, but I think it was just that they hadn’t noticed us yet, as they arrived after we had been there for a bit. The bugs on this trip were pretty much unavoidable – the only things that mitigated them was having a breeze, keeping moving or bug spray.
We setup camp, cooked dinner and went to bed. We were planning on getting another early start as we added a summit of Broken top to our itinerary for the following day.
Day 4 – Un-Named Lake to Moraine Lake with a side trip to the top of Broken Top
We got up early again to get an early start. The plan was to hike to the junction with the climbers trail to the top of Broken Top, drop our packs and then head up. Once we summitted Broken Top, we would come back down and then head south to camp for the night. We were thinking maybe Moraine Lake would be a good spot because the next water was quite a ways from Moraine Lake and we didn’t think we would be able to do an additional 4 miles to get to the next water source.
We got going a little after 7am and continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We finally got to Park Meadow (glad we didn’t try and make it here the night before). The maps were conflicting about trails. Apparently there has been some re-routes and some trails are no longer active, so it made for some confusion about where to go. Park Meadow was a nice place, though (even though the bugs were pretty bad):
We didn’t stay there long – we continued south on the Green Lakes trail. A little further down the trail, we got a good view of Broken Top – our objective for later in the day:
We continued south and soon saw the big Green Lake (there are at least 3 of them):
We stopped here for some water and a rest – we saw a few more people here than we had the rest of the trip. Green Lakes is one of the more popular places it seems.
We got a different view of South Sister from Green Lakes – a perspective you don’t see from the south:
We got to where we thought the climbers trail was (near campsite 10) and dropped our packs in the woods up the hill a bit and then headed up the trail about 10:30. This was the beginning of the trail – it was VERY steep – but it only got worse as we got up higher:
After what seemed like forever (at least for me) climbing up some VERY steep grades (some were literally straight uphill), we got to the saddle, where the trail transitioned to climbing the ridge on the northwest side of the mountain all the way to the top:
On the way up the ridge, we started seeing wave after wave of thousands of butterflies. Here is a video where you can get an idea – the butterflies are hard to see, but you can see some of them. (they are the black spots in the video) It was pretty amazing:
A little further up the hill there was a view to the northeast of this amazing hillside. I wish this picture had turned out better – the colors were VERY vibrant – I still don’t know what it is:
After a LOT of breaks, and huffing and puffing (at least by me) we finally made it to a small ledge near the top of Broken Top. There really wasn’t a safe way to go any farther without ropes – it was steep and narrow ledges with cliffs with small cracks you’d have to climb to get higher. Some cool views from the ledge – The big lava flow south of Green Lakes:
And a reasonably un-obscured view of the three sisters:
Here is a 360 photo from the top of Broken Top.
While the rest of us rested on the ledge and enjoyed the view, Kirk poked around and found a rather dangerous way to the top of the mountain:
Although he required some spotting assistance on the way back down – he couldn’t see his feet to climb back down the crack he went up on. I’m very glad he made it back down safely.
We stayed on the ledge for a half hour or so (waiting for Kirk to come down) and then headed back down the way we came. On the way down, I took a photo of this interesting rock we had noticed on the way up. Kirk thought it looked like a Chineese cat – I think it kind of looks like Garfield the cat:
As usual, the trip down was quite a bit faster than the trip up. We got back down about 3:30 (about a 5 hour trip up and down the mountain) and rested at the bottom for a few minutes before loading up our packs and heading south. We continued south on the Green Lakes trail. We started following one of the lava flows along Fall Creek (I think one is called the Newberry Lava Flow):
We continued south to the junction with another trail which then took us west over to Moraine Lake. This trail gained a few hundred feet of elevation and after the ascent of Broken Top, and all the other hiking, I was pretty tired. It took me longer than everyone else to get to the lake.
We finally got there and looked for a campsite (a post) to use. We ended up finding two since the sites were small. This was our site we shared with Jeff:
It was somewhat windy at Moraine Lake, but nothing like it had been at Camp Lake. Kirk decided to go for a quick swim, although he could only stand it for like 3 minutes it was so cold. He had to try and warm up once back at camp and there were no campfires allowed.
We made dinner and went to bed early again, as the next day was going to be a long one. We needed to make up some time that we had lost due to the extra side trip up Broken Top. We had 25 miles to get back to the van and we figured we would need to do 17 or 18 miles in order to make the last day reasonable enough to get home by dinner time. We had another very full day planned.
Day 5 – Moraine Lake to Sawyer Bar
We started day 5 very early like many of our other days. This day would be all about racking up mileage – no big highlights on this day, but a few interesting things did happen.
We got going about 8:00 and headed west on the confusing array of trails around Moraine Lake. On the way, we noticed this cool Lenticular cloud over South Sister:
It was a bit chilly to hike, but that just makes you sweat less. We continued west, trying to figure out all the confusing trail junctions (we were successful and didn’t have to turn around or anything) About a mile or so from the junction with the PCT, there was this bug that just buried himself half way in the trail – have no idea what kind of bug or why – it was just weird:
We continued on the trail and it starts looping north. Soon, it joins the PCT. As the trails were getting closer, we saw 3 hikers on the PCT. We met them almost exactly where the two trails joined. They stopped and we chatted for a bit. There were two guys and a woman. One man was from New Zealand, the other from Alabama, and we never did quite get where the woman was from. They were thru hiking the PCT and taking their time. They had been out for I think 115 days and he said they were expecting to be out another 115 days. He made it quite clear they were there for the experience. It was an interesting conversation.
After chatting with the PCTers for a bit, we continued on while they rested some more at the junction. We would see them one more time and then we passed them up. A little further up the trail, we hiked along side the Rock Mesa (Lava flow) to our right – it was another HUGE lava flow:
A little further north we came to a neat Meadow near Mesa Springs. This was our original campsite on the 4th night. It is too bad the flowers don’t pop in this photo, they were really gorgeous and colorful:
We stopped at this meadow and filled up with water and rested a bit. The PCT hikers we met earlier passed us as this point. After a little while, we headed out, continuing our journey north. A little further down the trail, we passed them again – that was the last time we saw them.
Nothing terribly exciting happened for a while – we were just trying to rack up some mileage (I kind of felt like a “real” PCT hiker who has to keep moving in order to complete the trail).
We stopped for lunch at Hinton Creek – at first, we were the only ones there, but soon, 3 new PCT hikers showed up. Two women and an older man. One woman was from Germany, one was from Austraiia and the man was from Tampa. Interesting mix. We chatted a bit. They were expecting to be complete with the trail in about a month. Much faster than the other 3 we met. We had lunch, got some more water and then headed out.
A few miles up the trail we got a great view of The Husband (I don’t think we could see The Wife from the trail):
We continued north and soon found ourselves entering the Obsidian Limited use area (Kirk had a permit for us). We didn’t see anyone else there, however and no one checked our permit. About a mile or so into the area, we came to Obsidian Falls, which was really interesting. The waterfall was all set on layers of black obsidian:
Here is a video of the falls in action:
We didn’t stay there too long as the bugs were especially bad. We quickly headed up over the falls into a flat area that had some really neat cliffs:
We continued north and in about a mile, we saw one of the special memorial Plaques up on a hillside:
I believe this is the one for Harley H. Prouty – there are 3 of them and all appear to be related to the Mazamas somehow. We couldn’t read this one – it was too far away and we didn’t want to stop to try and read it.
We continued heading north thinking we would stop somewhere before Opie Dildock pass – we thought we would camp in the first place after the Obsidian Limited use area we could find. The first place that was really anywhere we could camp was called Sawyer Bar, which is just Below Opie Dildock Pass – this was our campsite:
Soon after we got the tents setup, the clouds moved in and it started lightly misting. We made dinner and went to bed early again. We wanted to get another early start to make sure we got out on time. This would be our last night in the wilderness.
Day 6 – Sawyer Bar to Lava Camp Trailhead
We woke up early again on day 6 to get an early start. The last morning was a lot tougher than the prior ones. Overnight it went from a light mist to real rain. It rained rather hard at times but by morning, it was mostly just misting (mostly). But our tents were all soaking wet and had to be packed up wet. The good news was that we wouldn’t need them again, so other than some additional weight it wasn’t too bad. Well, that and eating in the rain.
We made breakfast as best we could and got packed up. We then headed up the trail in the rain and wind thru the lava up to Opie Dildock Pass (what a name!? I wonder who it was named after?):
It is a very steep trail that zigs and zags thru the lava flow up to the pass where the trail flattens out for a bit and then starts heading down the other side. It isn’t too far before you get to Minnie Scott Springs (our original target for night 5):
It was wet – really wet but it looked like there were nice campsites there. But I’m glad we camped where we did. After hiking almost 18 miles the day before, doing this pass would have been very difficult. It was a lot easier to do it in the morning after a good nights sleep. We made it thru the pass and then started our slow downhill (mostly) to the van. We had a very steep uphill section near the Yapoah Crater, but we couldn’t see much. I thought the trail routing was really weird. We went up just to come right back down. Anyway, there was lots and lots of this stuff that we went thru – but this was where the weather finally started clearing up a bit:
And shortly after exiting all the lava, we came to South Matthieu Lake (we also passed North Matthiew Lake but we only saw it from high above):
Kirk decided to take the “low road” going down to North Matthiew Lake while we took the PCT (the “high road”). We had thought we might have to gain back a bunch of elevation if we went down to the lake, but apparently not. That route was slightly shorter and Kirk was there waiting for us when we got to the junction. Apparently the downhill was just mostly all at the start.
Shortly after that junction, we got to the last short connector trail to the Lava Creek trailhead and back to the van. We got to the van about 10:30am, so we made good time. It took us just under 3 hours to do about 7.5 miles. After cleaning up a bit and packing up all of our stuff, we headed to Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters for a well deserved post trip meal before our drive home.
A truly epic adventure!
Location of Hike: Memaloose Lake Trail
Trail Number: 515
Weather during Hike: Sunny and warm
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:05 AM End Time: 3:30 PM
Hike Distance: 3.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We decided to see if we could get up to Memaloose Lake, which is a little bit lower in elevation. Fortunately, we ran into almost no snow, and the few short spots we encountered were easily passable. We got to the trailhead and started getting ready, when another car pulled up. I was a bit surprised to see another car this far up this early in the season, but I knew we would have company. We shortly headed up the trail, which was littered with branches and detritus from the winter – it didn’t look like anyone had cleared anything yet this year, so we threw a bunch of branches off the trail as we headed up. We stopped at one of the switchbacks where the creek is near the trail and the folks from the car we saw passed up – they were a couple of trail runners, so were moving pretty quickly. We soon made it up to Memaloose Lake that still had lots of snow:
We stopped at the campsite next to the lake and had lunch. We decided to try and head up the trail up to South Fork Mountain to see how far we could get. There was patchy snow on the unmaintained trail:
When this trail finally hits the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, an old abandoned trail joined it – the South Fork Mountain trail headed west and the trail to Wanderers Peak went east. We decided to explore a bit of this abandoned trail – initially we were just going to go a little ways and then return and go up to the top of South Fork Mountain, but as we proceeded down the ridge, we finally realized we didn’t really want to go back the way we came, so we decided to continue down the ridge looking for blazes and tread and eventually come out on the 45 road and then walk back to the trailhead.
As we proceeded down the ridge, the side hill got steeper and steeper – we got concerned we were going to get cliffed out, but we continued to make progress, although it was pretty slow. Here is an example of some of the SERIOUS side hill action going out the ridge on the old Wanderers Peak trail:
At the end of one of the somewhat flat ridge lines, there was a bit of a knob. We climbed over to it and didn’t get as good of a view as we were hoping. This was a cool rock formation looking back at Memaloose Lake (hidden behind trees) from that little knob:
A little farther down the ridge, we came to this cool ridge top meadow:
And a little farther we came across a knob (it actually shows as a small knob on the map). We climbed to the top of it and found great views. Mt Hood and Mt Adams to the north:
Hard to see peak of Mt Jefferson and Olallie Butte to the south:
We climbed back down and continued traversing the steep side hill, which got slightly better as we got closer to the road. We ended up following a second ridge down to the road, which was a little easier. We finally made it back to the road and walked back to the trailhead. Unfortunately, there was almost no trail left that we could find. A few blazes here and there and a few short sections of tread were found, but large sections were without any blazes and many of the sections where there would have been tread are so steep we figured that the tread has probably slipped down the hill.
We got back to the truck about 3:30, so we decided to head farther up 45 to see what conditions looked like. When we got to the 4550 junction, it was obvious that someone had spend some serious time brushing out the road:
We decided to head down it to see how far we could get, wondering if we could make it to the waterfall at Music creek. We made it there, but just past the first campsite, the road was impassible due to snow on the road again. We walked down to the creek, and got a great view of Music Creek falls running loud and fast:
Here is a short Video – it was rather LOUD:
After watching the waterfall for a little while, we headed back up. I walked up the road a bit to see if the brushing continued – it appeared to have stopped at Music creek, but it was hard to tell. Once the road re-opens, it will be interesting to see what it looks like. We walked back to the truck and headed out. On the way home, we took a short detour so that I could show Kirk the remains of the Silvicultural research area – I’d investigated this area several years ago – it is an interesting area where they studied ways to make trees grow better/taller/faster, but it has been closed for at least 10 years I think. There isn’t much left except for some remnants of the buildings and all the fences and trees they planted.
We stopped at Fearless in Estacada for a burger and a beer. What a great way to cap off a great day of exploring!
Location of Hike: Fish Creek
Weather during Hike: Foggy and Rainy
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:55 AM End Time: 2:15 PM
Hike Distance: 6.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
We were going to meet on the trail about 11, so I headed up and go there a bit before 11. No one was there, so I figured I would just head up and they might catch me – or at least they would meet me at the first bridge (that was about as far as you could go due to the high water). We headed up the Calico road and then down to Fish Creek after the Rimrock creek crossing. Until that point, it was dry, but shortly after heading down to Fish Creek it started drizzling. As we headed south, the rain got stronger – never too strong, but it became a real rain rather than drizzle.
Shortly after heading down the Fish Creek, we found this bone on the trail:
Thor was REALLY interested in it, but I got him to leave it along and we continued down the trail. A bit further, someone had built a cairn right in the middle of the trail:
Thor didn’t like it – when he saw it he barked at it and went WAY around it. Funny thing was, on the way back, he didn’t even bark at it once, he just sniffed it when we passed it.
It wasn’t a very eventful hike. The route is relatively easy – easy grade, not much elevation. We soon made it to the first bridge, where we were going to turn around. It was lunch time, so we stopped there and had lunch. We ate in the little campsite near the bridge, since it was somewhat protected (we didn’t get quite as wet). After eating lunch, we headed back to the bridge and I took some pictures and videos of the raging river:
Here are a couple of videos from the bridge – looking south and north:
We watched the raging river for a while, and I was hoping that the scouts would have caught up to us, but after about 45 minutes there, we were getting really wet (and starting to get a little chilly), so we headed back. I figured either plans had changed or we would meet them on the way back. About 3/4 mile from the bridge, we met them. Apparently they got a later start than planned. We talked for a bit and then Thor and I headed north while they continued south.
It wasn’t too long and we were back at the car. By the time we got back to the car, the rain had let up again, but we were pretty wet. The heater in the car felt good on the way home. Thor was tired – he wanted to lie down, but he couldn’t fit lying down in the seat. If I had my truck, he would have laid down in the back, but I sold it last week in anticipation of my new truck, which I will be picking up tomorrow.
It was a nice day out. Very different due to the fog and rain. It is always interesting to see rivers running high and fast. Fish Creek was certainly loud today and I’m glad I got to experience it.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:0 AM End Time: 1:00 PM
Hike Distance: 4 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
We headed up the trail from the pipeline road about 10:00 – there were only a few small patches of snow on the road – I think they were remnants from plowing. There was no snow on the trail at all when we started. At the first rockslide, I got these views looking south. I’ve been wondering/trying to figure out what the peaks to the left were. Kirk (and I) thought they might be Oak Grove Butte, but looking at the map, I think Oak Grove Butte is to the left (east) farther – out of view. I think these peaks are Granite peaks:
Looking to the west, there is Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead (I love this function on my PeakFinder app – where you can take photos and it labels the peaks):
After enjoying the sunshine and the view for a bit, we continued up the hill. This trail is pretty relentless in its uphill. Never terribly steep, but just constant uphill. The trail was completely clear of snow until about 2700′, where we saw our first real snow, shortly before the clearcut:
We cleaned up some downed branches and continued up. Interestingly enough, the beginning of the clearcut was mostly clear of snow, but soon became more consistent and deeper. By the time we got to the first of the 130 spur road crossings, it was close to a foot deep. After that crossing, we got to one of my favorite spots on the trail – the spot between the two crossings:
Just a really neat grove of beautiful trees. One interesting thing – I noticed that none of the maps show the little “butte” to the west of the trail. It isn’t huge, but it does seem like it should be large enough to show up on the contour lines.
We continued up to the second crossing, where there was probably 18″ of snow on the road. This is one of MANY deer prints we saw on the way up:
Thor played on the road for a bit and for some reason, he was REALLY interested in this one deer print:
He kept shoving his nose in it and then digging and rubbing on it. It was really interesting to watch.
After a while, we headed back down to the little grove and found a spot in the sun on a log. We stopped and had some lunch. Then we headed back downhill.
As we were passing thru the clearcut on the way down, We came across something that was VERY fresh and I’m very sure it was not there on the way up:
I’m guessing it was from a bobcat or a lnyx – it seemed too small for a cougar. Those kitties are out there….
We continued down the hill, making really good time – soon we were out of the snow again. It was a pretty uneventful and short trip down (except for the scat sighting). We got back to the truck about 1:00 and then headed home.
A great day in the woods – the only thing that could have made it better would have been to have shared it with friends.
Location of Hike: Cripple Creek Trail
Trail Number: 703
Weather during Hike: overcast with sunbreaks
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 10:35 AM End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 4.1 miles Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
This is what the Trailhead looked like – more snow that I was expecting:
We headed up the hill, and the trail was covered with snow right from the beginning. There were a couple spots where it was bare, but not many. It didn’t take too long before the snow got pretty deep. I really should have brought my snowshoes. It was tough going. We made it to the hillside meadow:
Thor played around in the snow a bit – it was probably a foot deep up the hill. We then continued up the hill. The snow kept getting deeper. I was about to turn around, but I really wanted to get to the area below the 4635-120 spur road – it is one of my favorites on this trail. Although it was hard, I kept going – taking frequent breaks. There was lots of snow up higher:
At one point, the sun came out and broke thru the trees. It was really beautiful (the picture doesn’t do it justice):
We then slowly continued up the trail and finally made it to the spot between the two spur roads. We stopped and had lunch there and rested a bit and then headed up to the 4635-120 crossing, which had over 2′ of fluffy snow on it. Thor at one point just sat down on the road:
He was running thru the snow a lot but I didn’t get a good video of him in the snow this time. But I know he had a lot of fun! He made lots of tracks in the snow.
We then headed back down. The trip down was a LOT faster than the trip up! It was easier to step down thru the steps that had already been made, plus you were going downhill. We made GREAT time back to the truck and then headed home. Both Thor and I were pretty tired after the trip- but it was REALLY nice to get out in the woods and see the forest in its blanket of snow.
Location of Hike: Alder Flat Trail
Trail Number: 574
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 1:15 PM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles Elevation Gain: 500 feet
We headed out late, after lunch (since I knew it was going to be a short trip). We got to the trailhead a little after 1:00 and headed down. It only took us about 30 minutes to get to the river. This is the view looking downstream from the campsites:
Once at the river, we looked for a sunny spot since it was a little cool. We walked upstream until we found a sunny spot. I sat down and just enjoyed the view and had some water. Thor was restless, so we continued walking upstream as far as we could easily walk. On the way, Thor had to play in the river:
A little farther upstream there was some pretty fast whitewater rapids:
We continued upstream until we couldn’t easily go farther – it was a nice view – one I had never seen before:
We walked back to where I’d left my backpack and then headed back up the trail. On the way back, we made the side trip over to the “lake” (it is kind of swampy) – we walked around the south side of the lake to where the beaver dam is (it is under the big log):
While we were heading over to the side trail, Thor perked up and I wasn’t sure if he sensed some animals or what. A little farther up the trail I thought I heard voices and a little farther I saw two guys up on a rock outcropping just off the trail. Thor sensed/heard them long before I did!
Anyway, it was a pretty uneventful trip back to the truck. Just a nice quiet walk in the beautiful old growth down near the river. Even though it was a short trip, it seemed to be enough to tire Thor out. He slept all the way home.
This trip was just what the doctor ordered – a beautiful day out in the woods. Hopefully my next trip this year will be more adventurous!
Location of Hike: Fanton and Old Baldy Trails
Trail Number: 505 and 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny and cold
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 2:30 PM
Hike Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1900 feet
We tried to do this same trip in 2016, but the snow was much deeper and we had to turn around about 3/4 mile from the top so that we had enough time to get back before it got dark. Since the snow was much deeper it was a lot rougher going too. Having to break trail thru the deep snow was very tiring. For this trip, the plan was to drive up 4614 as far as we could, since the Fanton trail mostly follows it for a few miles. Then we would park and head up the trail to the old Lookout spot.
We decided to stop near the 167 spur – about a mile farther than we were able to get to in 2016 – I was hoping that would be enough to get us to the top:
We parked, and then headed up the road looking for where the trail crosses the spur road. At this point in the day, it was all untouched snow – this is the Fanton trail continuing south from the 167 spur:
We took off to the north, heading up towards the Old Baldy trail. The snow was probably 4-6″ deep here, but we really didn’t need snowshoes while we were in the woods. At this point, we really only needed them in open areas where the snow was deeper.
Not too far down the trail, Kirk saw this cool shadow of a cross, I thought I’d take a picture:
Very quickly we arrived at the landing just off the 4614 road – the last point where you can hit the Fanton trail from 4614. After seeing what we saw, we probably could have driven up this far with little effort – but we were confident we had enough time to make it to the top. The landing was beautiful in the morning light – with all the fresh snow:
Kirk took this picture of Ollie being a goof in the snow:
After enjoying the view from that landing for a bit we headed back to the trail and continued up. It didn’t take too long to get up to the junction with the Old Baldy trail. The sign that used to mark the junction is gone – not sure if it is laying on the ground or what – you can see where it used to be though:
Anyway, we continued up towards the lookout, with the snow continuing to get deeper. It wasn’t long before we got to the road up to the lookout and finally popped out on top. It is hard to know where the lookout was – the snow had to be a couple feet deep at least. We stopped here and pulled out our stoves and made some hot beverages and ate some lunch. We tried to get a good view of Mt Jefferson, but it seemed to be hiding in the clouds. We did get a great shot of Mt Hood:
While Kirk and I were eating, Thor and Ollie were playing around:
After we ate lunch, we explored the peak a bit. Kirk found these cool designs in the snow:
And you could see part of Squaw Meadows to the east (it wraps around the back of the ridge to the south – this was just the north end of it):
After exploring the peak a bit we went down to where the old garage used to be but we couldn’t quite figure out where the foundation was – I think there was too much snow. We started our descent back down. I think the dogs were glad we were headed down – they were both having some issues with their feet and ice getting between their pads on their feet. As we got down farther and the snow wasn’t as deep, the problem seemed to go away. I could tell Thor was getting tired – between the foot thing and just being tired, he stopped a bunch of times on the way down.
We made good time on the way down – nothing much of note happened until we got almost back to the 167 spur – maybe 100 yards or so from the spur road, there were tracks on the trail – we weren’t sure if it was a jeep or what – but it was a 4 wheeled vehicle for sure. As we got back to the spur road, you could see they just drove up the spur road and then headed up the trail. I think there was a large enough log that they turned around.
Once we got back to the truck, we saw lots of new tracks – there was snowmobile tracks – not exactly sure where they went – and new tracks farther up 4614. As we were getting ready to leave, a side by side came up 4614 and went down the spur – I think that is the vehicle we saw tracks for – I hope they weren’t going to try and head farther up the trail…
We headed out and got stuck behind a caravan of 3 trucks – not sure if they were together or not, but the lead truck just stopped and talked to someone for like 5 minutes – we couldn’t really go around them due to the snow on the road, so we had to wait. This part of the forest seems to get very busy in the wintertime…. There were LOTS of people up here now with families.
An absolutely beautiful bluebird day in the snow – a perfect way to start 2019.
Post Hike note: While doing this hike I had a bit of a runny nose. I thought I was just getting a cold, but after I got back home, it really hit me. I got hit with a pretty severe flu bug. That is why this posting is so late – I was so tired I didn’t even look at my computer for like 3 days. Had I known what was coming, I definitely would not have gone on this hike, however I’m very glad I went. These are the kinds of hikes that are special. You don’t get too many beautiful winter days like this with undisturbed snow.