Monday, August 1, 2016

Three Sisters Wilderness: Green Lakes

Fall Creek
 Oregon. That is where I now reside. I've traded in saguaros and century plants for pine and spruce and fur. I'll miss the desert, but Oregon is a homecoming for me of sorts. If you've followed my blog long enough, you know that Spokane, Washington was where I began this journey. Now, I'm in Bend. The final destination... Hopefully. 

The boundary for Three Sisters Wilderness is literally a 20 minute drive from Bend, and the road is paved. With such easy access you can guess that Three Sisters is one busy wilderness. Green Lakes is supposed to be a primo locale in the wilderness, and late June is supposed to be the best time to go... Before the snow melts and the hiking hordes arrive. We were on the trail by 9 am, and the humongous parking lot was mostly empty. I had been warned about the crowds, but it didn't look too bad. 

Three Sisters Wilderness


Green Lakes is roughly a ten mile round trip hike over nicely maintained trail. Early in the year however, the trail is easy to lose in the snow. It's been awhile since I've hiked over hard packed snow, and almost immediately I wished I would have brought some microspikes. As a result, I was slipping and sliding all over the place, but at least I wasn't postholing. Shade from the trees, and the constant sound of running water from Fall Creek were a welcome change from the desert. Another key item I didn't bring was a pair of sunglasses. I remember walking out the door thinking, "I don't need my sunglasses, I'm not in the desert anymore," Boy was that a mistake. Walking over snowfields on the approach, my eyes ached from the glare of the sun off the snow. My eyes hurt so bad that I was worried about going snowblind. To eliminate the glare I had to walk with my hands cupped around my eyes, which drastically reduced my peripheral vision and caused me to constantly lose my footing. I felt like a complete rookie up there.

Three Sisters Wilderness
South Sister
 We found the lakes still frozen over, but the mountain view was awesome. Craggy "Broken Top" and the solitary "South Sister" overlook Green Lake from the right and left. I thought that Green Lake would be an excellent basecamp if I ever felt the need to climb either of them. I had brought fishing gear, but the lake was still frozen over. 

Three Sisters Wilderness
Broken Top
 We didn't see barely anyone on the hike in, but the hike back we passed probably 50 people. One group of backpackers had lost the trail under the snow, and didn't seem to know where they were. Another group of mountaineers were heading for Green Lake to make a basecamp for a summit bid on South Sister the next morning. Most were day hikers like us.

Return trip along Fall Creek
 The giant parking lot was completely full when we returned to the trailhead. I was beginning to realize just how popular this area was. Since the trip I've learned that Three Sisters Wilderness is the most visited wilderness in Oregon, and Green Lakes is its most popular trail. I think I'll skip that trail for the rest of the summer and find something a little more out of the way.

Creek crossing with the puppies.