Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Getting Away - Canyon Creek Meadows Hike by Three Fingered Jack

My husband Curt is a gem.  I'm pretty sure it's obvious how smitten I am with him. Once we started having kids, we had to create time to be together - alone - to remember all over again the thousands of reasons why we love each other.

We try to get away at least once a year for a weekend just to be together.  No friends.  Limited agenda.  Just us - alone - to reconnect emotionally, mentally and romantically. If you are married, can I encourage you to get away with your spouse?  You will NEVER regret it.

This summer we set aside a weekend to go backpacking, but digging out from our epic family road trip took its toll and we couldn't pull it together. Our weekend away was approaching and we were still discombobulated. To top it all off, Curt was battling a nasty virus.  It ended up turning into a sinus infection and pneumonia, knocking him out of commission for almost a month.  Backpacking got set on the back burner.

We moved our trip back by a month and secured childcare. We were two days away from leaving and Curt was still not feeling good.  With great reluctance we shelved backpacking for another year.

Plan C was to rent a condo in Bend and choose day hikes from our Central Oregon hiking book based on how Curt was feeling each day.  It was a compromise we both felt peace about and another way God answered our prayers.  It's not often a condo is available to rent with one day notice!

The morning we left was the first time in four weeks that Curt woke up feeling like himself again.  Isn't that just like the Lord to give us an unexpected treat?  We were so excited to actually be going that our ability to think rationally flew right out the window.  We both packed big duffle bags full of stuff but pretty much none of it was what we needed for a hiking weekend.

It was until we were on the road that we began to realize how much we forgot to bring.  The most obvious faux pax was our backpacks.  We BOTH forgot to bring our hiking backpacks stocked full of hiking essentials, including our water filter.  Seriously?  Who does that?  We forgot shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and pajamas.  We packed snacks, but forgot to pack a picnic lunch for the hike we planned to take on the way to Bend. We laughed about our forgetfulness all weekend.

Our first hike was Canyon Creek Meadows (hike number 27 in our Central Oregon hiking book - 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan).  Curt and Grant did this hike two years ago as part of a backpacking loop around Three Fingered Jack and came home raving about how awesome it was.  The road to the trailhead was right off Highway 20, the route we were taking to get to Bend, so it was a logical choice for Curt to show me this trail.

We pulled into the parking lot by the trailhead and dug around for any kind of bag we could use on the hike to replace our backpack.  The only containing device (aside from our giant duffle bags) was my Sea To Summit waterproof bag that I carry in my camera bag.  We crammed it full of granola bars - in lieu of lunch - and extra layers to put on at the summit.  I grabbed my giant 48 ounce water bottle, filled out our wilderness permit, and we hit the trail.

We were the only hikers in a very remote area that didn't have backpacks.  It was embarrassingly funny and made for an easy conversation starter with other hikers on the trail who were no doubt wondering if these City Slickers knew what they were getting themselves into.

The Canyon Creek Meadows hike rates in the top five hikes I've done thus far.  It truly was an experience to remember for a lifetime.  7.8 miles round trip, this hike was rated Moderate overall.  (The first part and the end were easy and the middle part was strenuous.) The trailhead starts at Jack Lake - a quaint and tiny lake in the middle of a burnout from a 2003 forest fire.  The first several miles of the loop were a relatively easy, gradual climb to the meadows.
burnout from 2003 fire, but the forest is already regenerating beautifully.
We hiked through the burnout, into the forest, and finally emerged in a beautiful mountain meadow with a creek running through it. Three Fingered Jack loomed ominously in the background.
first meadow
oh the sound of a mountain creek rolling down the hillside
The trail from the meadow got much steeper, gaining elevation quickly over a short distance.  We hiked out of the first meadow, back into the woods, and emerged at another mountain meadow much higher up and closer to the summit of Three Fingered Jack.
second meadow selfie
pretty amazing right?
handsome guy carrying our stuff in a waterproof sack!
The trail at this point became less defined with loose, rocky soil under our feet.  We picked our way through the terrain - called a glacial moraine -  up to an obvious view point.  It was worth the effort.  Sitting in a bowl at the base of Three Fingered Jack's spires was a beautiful, green glacial lake called Cirque Lake.
Cirque Lake with the Three Fingered Jack spires in the backdrop - that's my big water bottle hiding behind my leg!
Grazing on the steep bank of the spire was a mountain goat!  The mountain goats have recently been reintroduced to this terrain and seeing one in the wild was an unusual and giant privilege.  It was first for both Curt and I and we watched the goat for a long time, even though he was just a tiny speck of white on a canvas of dark brown.
Can you find the mountain goat? I circled it with a ring of added exposure.
The next .8 miles were TOUGH.  We picked our way along the spine of the mountain.  It was slow going - steep and slippery without an obvious trail.  We took breaks as needed and eventually hiked all the way to the top of the spine.
Curt picking his way up the spine of the ridge.  All of that terrain was loose and slippery, sliding around under our feet.
We stood on top of the world and soaked in the view.  Mt. Jefferson - which wasn't visible from the second mountain meadow - loomed large and in charge.
Mt. Jefferson
GAH!!!!!  Mighty Creator God - WOW!
The Three Sisters towered in the other direction.  We seriously couldn't believe how awe inspiring it was.
Three Sisters and other Cascade Mountains.  WINDY!
It was REALLY windy at the top.  We added our jackets, hats and gloves quickly and found a picnic spot behind a rock that was tucked out of the way of non-stop winds.
I'm in this picture.  This is the summit of the trail.  The only thing left of Three Fingered Jack are the spires and we'd need to be rock climbers to get to the top.
Curt exploring at our lunch spot.  It was such a beautiful day.
I love the majesty and power of the mountains. Being in the mountains revives me and I especially love the sound of the wind in the trees.  The higher we climbed the more constant the wind was.  It made a beautiful summer day cold, but I loved the power, unpredictably and musicality of the whipping winds at the summit.  I don't know that I've loved a mountain summit-lunch spot more, other than the South Sister summit.
The hike back down the glacial moraine was almost as tricky as the climb up.  The rocky shale slipped under our feet and we did a controlled fall back to the second mountain meadow.  Once we got off the moraine, hiking was easy.  We booked it back to our car, making up a ton of time on the return trip.

The Canyon Creek Meadows hike felt like an epic adventure - one I'd pay a ton of money to experience - and all it cost us was a park pass and gas to get to the trailhead.  If you live locally, put this hike on your Bucket List.  It's only open from mid-July through October so plan accordingly.   Oh- and remember your backpack!

Happy hiking!

No comments:

Post a Comment