Tag Archives: Broken Top

Backpacking out to Green Lakes!

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Saturday and Sunday, 22 & 23-Sept-2018

 

BACKPACKING!

 

We went backpacking again!

 

I’m really excited about how much we’ve been camping recently – we’re taking our gear out, we’re getting mud on our boots, and we’re getting stronger and stronger each time.

 

This weekend was our annual backpacking trip to the Green Lakes Wilderness, nestled in the basin between South Sister and Broken Top. It wasn’t planned to be an annual trip the first time we went on it… but that was one of the fun things that we realized as we were walking in on Saturday – we’ve backpacked into this area every year for the last three years, every time with a different level of success.

The first year? Pouring rain, hiked out the next day in soaked gear.

Second year? Summitted Broken Top.

 

This year? Had a beautiful day, perfect weather, and amazing skies.

I mean, seriously… We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was cool, crisp, clear and beautiful. It was that perfect temperature where you can walk with a pack for hours, but barely sweat at all. It did mean we had to put on jackets when we stopped for rests and snacks… But hey. Small price to pay, right?

We drove out on Saturday. We could have driven out Friday night… But hey. We worked all week. We deserve an evening to relax, right? Right. So we took one, packed at our own pace, and had a good dinner to prepare ourselves for the adventure to come.

Saturday morning, we tossed the gear in the Mustang and drove out, southbound toward Sisters. It’s a long drive though, so we clearly needed snacks, which meant Starbucks. Side note: sausage egg and cheese sandwiches are MIA all over Oregon. Dono why, but we had the chicken sausage and bacon ones instead, which were amazing and so much better. Especially when paired with Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Because I’m a college girl who loves her some fall spice. Other side note: we nearly got eaten by the lady behind us in line. No joke. She kept walking closer and closer behind us while we’re all in line, finally ending within a foot of Sarah before asking, “are you in line?”. Ma’am. No. We’ve just been standing here, walking forward as people are served, for no reason. Ugh.

Anyways it was tasty and then we drove and parked and started hiking ohh my god why did I write so much about Starbucks?

The hike started well – a pretty packed parking place, but we were presently plodding, packs perched politely upon our backs. There were a fair number of people on the trail, even at the beginning, but that was honestly to be expected – it’s a super popular place, so we weren’t surprised by the crowds.

The people thinned out as we moseyed onward, and we really started to enjoy the solitude of each other’s company… And the crashing of Ollie running through the underbrush, of course. In all honesty, we did really well on the trail to Green Lakes! We walked quickly, talked the whole way, and had a really great time.

We did run into some… Adventure… once we got to Green Lakes itself though.

See, green lakes is popular. And we’d seen a lot of folks hiking in with packs. And, for one reason or another, the first route that we took through the campground was the single combination of paths that took us past exactly zero campgrounds. And then, when we realized that, we retraced our steps instead of continuing on toward the camp site 50 yards away. And then, once we retraced, we walked the long way around toward the far end of the campground.

No idea why we did that. Don’t know who chose those routes. No idea. All I do know was that our 4mile day turned into an 8mile day, and that I got cranky enough for Sarah to literally tell me to “shut up, stop complaining, and eat a Snickers”.

It helped. It helped so much.

And then, at the far end of the Wilderness Area, at the edge of the world, we found the ideal campsite.

I can’t even begin to describe how happy we were when we saw the site marker, and realized that it was open for us. This place was covered by huge trees, had a nice little log to sit on and make dinner, and overlooked the meadow that drained into the lake nearby. There was a small steam gurgling nearby, and the trail was far off to the side. Like I said – ideal.

After we put down our bags and set up the tent, we kept walking a bit, curious as to what was down the path. We went a ways down, and ended up meeting a pair of backpackers who were also looking for a spot… they’d checked almost all the other ones, and were on their way out of the wilderness area planning on looking for a back-country spot outside of the camping restriction zone.

Being the good samaritans we are, we offered to share our site, and ended up having camping buddies for the evening!

They were friends from San Francisco and New York City, if I remember correctly, exploring Oregon for the week. They were fine – we honestly didn’t really chat that much; we had dinner together, but then sort of went back to our own sections of the campsite to relax for the evening.

Our evening activities? Stargazing, and celebrating the equinox! Summer had passed, and Fall was in; we burned some sage, talked about how far we’d come so far this year, and slept in the beautifully crisp night.

———–

The next morning we got up slowly – our campmates were up and gone by the time we started packing up, heading to summit South Sister, I believe.

We didn’t have remotely such lofty goals. Instead, we relaxed. We made some breakfast and a lot of coffee, and enjoyed the quiet as the day warmed up. I had brought a book, but it honestly took me a while to get into the swing of it… instead I just dozed and wandered a little, while Sarah explored the marsh by our campsite looking for an ideal place to paint.

Once she found it, I joined her and we lazed in the sun, her painting and me reading. It was a very good day.

But unfortunately home was calling. Not loudly, mind you, but it was calling. After a while we packed up camp, and started the hike back out.

Thankfully, hiking out always seems to go quicker than hiking in, and there honestly isn’t really much to report from the walk back. It was lovely, slightly quicker thanks to us going direct instead of circuitously, but extremely lovely. Good weather, happy excited Ollie running next to us, clear skies… Yes. It was absolutely a good day.

Backpacking up Broken Top

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10-Oct, 11-Oct-2015

Saturday, 10-October-2015

As we drove down the highway toward the trailhead, it was foggy.  Or… I think it was foggy.  It may have been raining, or it may have been a cloud (which is technically the same as fog but hush).  Either way, it was a bit worrying, and Dave, Sarah and I started talking about weather and concerns.

But that quitter talk didn’t last long.  It was lightly drizzling when we put our packs on our backs, and the rain stayed with us while we walked past the trail marker and across the wooden bridge onto the main trail.

We had rain gear.  We had good camping gear, food, and energy.  And we’d already bailed off one hike due to rain (Ed Note: see weekend of ____), so we weren’t going to give up without a fight this time.

The rain kept at the pace of a light drizzle for the whole hike, right up until when we got to the main campsite where we’d be setting our basecamp for the summit bid.

Then, it started pouring.  Seriously – the campsite itself seemed to be a locus of power for the storm, and it was just hanging over the whole area.  Sarah had started burning out on the hike in, thanks to me infecting her with the plague, and none of us were feeling particularly dry… so we made moves to find the closest, most tree-covered campsite that we could.

And we found one, after a good while of searching and finding campsite after campsite occupied.  Even found one group with a nice cheery fire going… blatantly against the “dear lord no outdoor fires, Oregon is a damn tinderbox!” rules.  Though seeing as it was pouring rain out, I can’t really see a wildfire starting.  You know, if we’re being honest.  Since this is, in fact, my blog.

We did find a campsite finally, though.  And it was basically ideal – under some heavy trees, but not the kind of tree that we’d be worried would come crashing down on our heads over night.  It was almost a little fort; a bare campsite in the middle of a stand of connifers.

So camp got set up.  Snacks were had.  We pulled off rain layers, warmed up in new dry layers, and slowly got camp set up… as much as we could, thanks to the ever worsening storm.

Most of our gear was soaked through by this point – which would turn into a much bigger issue as the night went on.  While setting up camp though, the main issue was my rain jacket… over time my Cloudsplitter (Ed note: See Ben’s fancy gear review on the Cloudsplitter… and maybe somehow get EMS to sponsor him?) had become less waterproof… it wasn’t quick to soak through, mind you.  It had kept me dry for almost the whole hike, and was still keeping me very warm even when wet.

Four hours in the rain had been enough though, and my poor jacket was saturated.  Thankfully I’d put my pack cover on while we were still at the car, so almost everything else was dry… and let me tell you; dry sleeping bags and pads and socks are basically the greatest thing ever.

So Sarah and I all stuffed ourselves into the two-person tent that she’d brought while Dave set up his bivy sack, and we started heating up a bit of mountain house, along with our random snacks that hadn’t gotten eaten on the trail, as a nice little dinner.  Dave joined us in the tent, then we all spent most of the evening playing a little dice-based hiking game that my folks had bought me a few years back, as a random Hannukah present.  It was fun!

Then sleep – which became a bit more of an issue than we’d expected, when Dave went outside to find that his bivy sack had soaked through, and was completely unsuitable for sleeping in.

And it was getting a bit cold out… we were looking at 34 degree rain, from what Sarah’s mountaineering watch was telling us.

And that, kids, is exactly the kind of weather where people go hypothermic.

But remember – we’re all good at what we do.  While Dave and Sarah are undoubtedly more experienced mountaineers than I, my experience in the back country isn’t anything to sneeze at either.  So we took a few simple, yet super important, precautions…

  • We organized where we slept.
    Dave and Sarah both had extremely nice mountaineering sleeping bags – down-filled, which make them very warm and very light.  However!  Down looses most of its insulating ability when wet; their bags were water resistant, but that would never stand up to the rain we were dealing with.
    I, on the other hand, had a heavier sleeping bag made of synthetic fibers.  Just as warm, but over twice as heavy… But with the bonus that synthetics stay quite warm even when soaked.
    So, making use of this, I took the wet side of the tent.  It wasn’t leaking, per se, but the wind had been whipping rain up under the rainfly on one side.  So we positioned my sleeping bag (and myself) as a shield to catch any rain coming in.
  • We layered sleeping pads.
    Dave’s pad had been soaked through, which meant that anyone sleeping on it would effectively be sleeping in water… So we layered it below Sarah’s and my pads, minimizing the surface that anyone would be in contact with it.
    To further protect ourselves, we also layered my emergency bivy sack (basically a rolled up heat blanket) on top of the sleeping pads, to make sure that any water that leaked under the pads would be kept away from us as we slept.
  • We had plans.
    Always be ready for a worst-case… and camping is no exception.  We had some spare body warmers stashed, along with two full meals and a full fuel tank for my little Jetboil stove.  Everyone knew to keep a wary eye on their body temperature – if anyone started shivering during the night, the plan was to wake up, and heat themselves a warm meal to bring the temperature back to where it should be.
    As an absolute backup, we kept most of our gear safely packed up and ready to go.  That way, if it came to it, we could quickly and easily pack up camp and head back to the car if the weather took a major turn for the worst.

Sunday, 11-October-2015

By the time we all woke up and detangled the mess of having three people stuffed into a two person tent, the rain had stopped and the sun had started to peek out from the clouds.

The night hadn’t been bad – my only annoyance had been the baguette that we’d put in a side pocket had been smacking me in the face all night as the wind pushed the tent walls around.  I’d stayed warm, partially due to the sleeping bag, partially due to three people’s worth of body heat, but mostly due to Sarah basically perching herself (and her sleeping bag) on top of me to make room for everyone in the tent.

And when I looked around, once we’d all extricated ourselves?

The views are a major reason why I love the Pacific Northwest so much.  When I did a 360 degree turn outside the campsite, I saw some of the best views yet.  The rain had turned to snow halfway up the peaks surrounding us, covering Broken Top and the Three Sisters in a blanket of white.  It was gorgeous.

Of course, the snow and ice on the trail that we had planned on taking ruined our plans.  We had good gear, but hadn’t packed equipment for ice travel… and the steepness of the slopes I was looking at made it abundantly clear that ice equipment would be 100% necessary where we were going.

So instead, we put all our gear out in the sun to dry, and took a short walk around the lakes that we’d camped by.

We walked, explored, and nearly got jumped by a dog that was a little too zealous with guarding its owners campsite (which was maybe 1/4 mile away… keep your dogs under control, people).  We met more than a few groups of people, but overall the vibe in the area was quiet and relaxed, a nice post-storm feeling.

Then we packed our assorted (some of it even dry!) gear into our packs, and descended back toward the car and civilization.  We did take one nice stop to explore an obsidian moraine (a huge wall of obsidian rock, pushed down the slope by a glacier eons ago), which was pretty amazing.  I found what I’m pretty sure is the entrance to a boss dungeon… a huge spire of dark black stone.  I didn’t know the correct incantation though, so no sweet boss-loot for me, I’m afraid.

Then we just trucked – hiked back with nary a rest to be had.  Packed the car, and headed into Bend for coffee and nachos.

Because after bailing off an ascent, again, is depressing.  And the cure for that is nachos.