Backpacking Green Lakes and South Sister

On July 19-21 I headed off into the Three Sisters Wilderness for three days and two nights.

Day 1 – Hike to Green Lakes

Starting from my neighborhood, I hiked to Tumalo Falls and took the Bridge Creek Trail to the Brokentop area.

I took the Crater Ditch trail to Brokentop and across to Green Lakes. Crater Ditch is a lesser known trail but I always enjoy it. It follows a Bend city water collection ditch. I know, I’m making it sound great.

The Green Lakes area was beautiful as always. There were a bunch of tadpoles and a frog. I found a campsite and set up base camp.

This is the first year of the Central Cascades wilderness permit system, and I’m a believer. There were noticeably fewer people at Green Lakes than I used to see. Green Lakes is highly impacted from years of overuse, and it’ll take quite a few more years for the area to recover. Fortunately we’re giving it a chance now.

Day 2 – Run South Sister Circumnavigation

Time to wake up early for the big day! Today’s plan was to run a circumnavigation of the South Sister with a possible summit. Spoiler, the idea of tagging the summit turned into a definite “no thanks” pretty soon into this run.

That said, I took things pretty easy and stopped often for breaks and to look at the scenery. I ran into stomach issues toward the end – I was feeling generally nauseated – but I managed this better than I have in the past by hydrating and taking in electrolytes.

I prepared my running pack, left my main pack and base camp behind, and took off. I started off along Green Lakes and went up to the saddle between Brokentop and South Sister.

I ran (mostly) downhill to the Camp Lake trail junction, turned left, and ran five miles uphill to Camp Lake. This is a beautiful area right near the treeline between South and Middle Sisters. Following this was a mostly-hiking area above treeline through a lava-blasted area. Along the way I passed two high lakes – the Chambers Lakes – then started heading downhill toward the PCT.

I’m not a big PCT guy – only because it gets more attention than some other awesome trails in our area – but once I turned south on the PCT I was in a beautiful area of meadows, wildflowers, old growth forest, older burn areas, and open views.

I proceeded to the LeConte Crater Trail, which starts to loop you around to the south side of the South Sister. From here I went uphill to Moraine Lake (and definitely did not tag the South Sister summit). A little down to the Green Lakes Trail, and more up to return to my campsite at Green Lakes finished off the day.

It was fun (looking back) and I generally felt OK. If not for the stomach I could have done it faster, but I enjoyed the pace of the day. Running helps move me through the less interesting (but still beautiful) sections, and I enjoyed stopping for breaks at scenic locations. It was a good way to take this loop.

I carried a single trekking pole on this run (actually the entire trip) and I think that’s my go-to now. A pole is helpful when I want to keep moving, but less hassle than two poles. I can stow it away if I need both hands while moving, but can also have a water bottle in one hand while using the pole.

Day 3 – Hike back to Tumalo Falls

I didn’t feel great during the evening on day 2, though I was able to get some salty food which helped. By the following morning I was doing OK but not sure that I wanted to hike all the way home. So I decided to text my wife and ask for a pick-up at Tumalo Falls to save a few miles.

I woke up early and got everything packed up and set off down the trail. After about a mile I stopped and cooked a little breakfast, then continued at a leisurely pace. The view to the south was beautiful and hardly anyone was out. I continued out the same way I entered the wilderness on day 1, and felt better as I went along.

It was a fun trip, a big effort on day 2, and a cool experience.


Todd Lake / Tumalo Mountain Backpacking

On July 3-4 I took off on a short, fast backpacking trip, aiming to see some views and explore a few new (to me) trails.

Day 1

Starting from my neighborhood, I hiked to Tumalo Falls and up to the Metolius-Windigo Trail, which I took toward Todd Lake. I had several miles of constant mosquitos which would bombard me if I ever took a rest.

Todd Lake was open, sunny, and breezy enough that I was able to sit next to the lake without being bothered by the mosquitos. Wildflower season is gearing up and the meadows near the lake are beautiful.

I then followed the Water Tower Trail from Todd Lake to the base of Tumalo Mountain, at Dutchman Flat. This is not a summer-maintained trail, and there are logs down all over, but it’s marked with blue blazes for skiing. The mosquitos finally relented as I made my way into drier forest areas.

Tumalo Mountain has a fairly accessible summit with truly great views. I dropped my pack at the bottom and did a quick out-and-back to the top.

I chose to push quite a bit further this day. I had picked up 4 liters of water after leaving Todd Lake, but was in the middle of a 15-mile dry stretch – and I decided to dry camp only a few miles from the next water source so I could hit it first thing in the morning, but I was definitely stretching my water a bit in the July heat.

Day 2

I woke up and packed early with that next water stop on my mind. I hiked down to the Swampy Lakes trails and through a nice flat stretch toward the South Fork trail. Once there, I grabbed water from South Fork Tumalo Creek about 3 miles into my walk, then took my time the rest of the way down, avoiding insane downhill cyclists and the occasional mosquito.

Overall this was a fun short trip, but I pushed the first day a bit too hard and too long and cut my water supply pretty close on the long carry. Food and water intake are difficult for me to get right, and more discipline to stop, eat, and drink (even in the middle of mosquito sections) would have been helpful. Todd Lake and Tumalo Mountain were the big hits for this trip. Even as a Bend resident for 7 years, I haven’t been to either until now! They are both well worth the trip.


Crater Lake

Yesterday we went to Crater Lake National Park. It was something of a last-minute getaway, since the park’s north entrance road and the Rim Road will be closing this coming weekend for the winter.

However, the weather for now was amazing and we had beautiful clear views of the lake all day with only a little haze. While driving around the rim, we had views of Mt. Thielson, Diamond Peak, Mt. McLaughlin, Mt. Shasta, and Klamath Lake.