August 6, 2012

Three treks into Green Lakes - all with their own personality

The largest of the Green Lakes with Broken Top
One of the great hikes in Oregon delivers the scenery seeker to an area between Broken Top and South Sister. Here, water melt from snows and glaciers on the surrounding mountains gathers to create what are aptly named Green Lakes.

A roughly four mile hike from near Sparks Lake delivers hikers to the Green Lakes basin. Another trail gets to the basin from Todd Lake. Yet another, longer route begins near Three Creeks Lake and finds Park Meadow prior to the destination. Each of the three hikes to the basin have their own distinct characteristics.

Sparks Lake
 The trail to Green Lakes beginning near Sparks Lake has a bevy of landscapes to view. The first part of the trail follows Fall Creek, where its waters tumble through rocks and over waterfalls. It was along this part of the trail that I spooked a large buck that could not hear me over the rush of the creek's water. When it did see me, it stopped and stared, no more than ten feet away, then bounded off.

Aerial view, the Three Sisters volcanoes in Or...
Aerial view, the Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon, from the south looking north. Left to right -- South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Later, hikers on this trail find themselves walking along the foot of a lava flow. It was here, while hiking the trail early in the morning, I spotted what I thought looked like badgers scurrying along the rocky edge of the flow. If someone else has seen them, let me know what they are.
 Green Lakes area

Another trail that gives hikers greater views is the trail from to Green Lakes from Todd Lake. This route offers ample sightings of Broken Top and Cayuse Crater. The trek actually meanders around the foot of the crater after it meets up with the Crater Ditch Trail before making its way to Green Lakes.

Broken Top via Todd Lake

While hiking this trail one early morning, I arrived at Green Lakes with a lot of energy left in my legs. Eying Broken Top, I decided to see how high I could climb up its west ridge. As I made my way up the mountain, it appeared to me that the true summit was up the southeast ridge, so I traversed the high, rocky slope of the mountain to the second ridge and once again began an ascent. To my surprise, awhile later I was standing at the highest point I could reach from that ridge. The very reason the mountain was given its name made it unclear whether I was standing at the highest point of the mountain, as from that point, the mountain appeared to have several summits. Which is the highest, it was too close for me to call, but it looked as though, from my perch, that I was at the highest point of the 9,175' mountain.
 Opposing summit of Broken Top

The views from the top of the mountain are, of course, awe inspiring, just like any mountain. Green Lakes lie below, with South Sister close by. To the North are many of Oregon's other Cascade peaks, while to the South stands nearby Mt. Bachelor. Looking over the edge of the mountain, I saw where winter snows were still covering a lake I had found a few years earlier in the bowels of the mountain.

Green Lakes and foot of S. Sister
from Broken Top summit

The third hike is the longest, approximately five miles to Park Meadow and what I think is about three miles further to Green Lakes, making it roughly a 16 mile round trip. This hike is tedious compared to the other two, in my view, but well worth it. Much of the hike is through lodge pole pine forests but opens up to grand views at the meadow.

 Broken Top via Park Meadow Trail
It was near Park Meadow that my dog at the time, Cody, and I met up with another dog wandering up the trail. It became readily apparent that the dogs were nervous about the other's presence. Around and around in circles we went, with me trying to keep the pit bull away from my Chow/Lab mix. Some low toned growling was going on, so I picked up a nearby stick and readied for the battle. Suddenly, I heard the hooves of a horse barrelling down the trail, which, when it came into view, was ridden by a man with a cowboy hat on. Don't know if he was a cowboy, but at that time I could have called him any number of things - none of them very nice.
Cody incognito and in the shade

He called off his dog, apologized while I gave him a snotty look, and we headed off in opposite directions. Pet owners that have never heard of a leash - argghhh - but that is for another time and another post.
 South Sister from Green Lakes

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