Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Green Lakes Loop via Broken Top and Soda Creek Trail Hike Review

Our picnic spot - Green Lake with South Sister 
The second hike Curt and I took when we were in Bend was the Green Lakes hike.  It's an out-and-back, 8.4 mile hike and is rated Moderate.  The nice thing about Green Lakes is that it is part of a giant trail system through the Three Sisters Wilderness.  We easily made this hike a loop by returning via the Broken Top and Soda Creek Trails.
I still get excited every time I see a Wilderness sign.  It's like my whole body starts to relax and the stress melts away.
We rectified our forgetfulness by buying a hydration backpack on clearance before we headed out.  It was way too small for Curt and we packed it out so it was bulging, but it was better than lugging our picnic and supplies in the waterproof sack.
bulging backpack and cute footbridge across Fall Creek
The Green Lakes trailhead is located right off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway just past Sparks Lake.  This is a popular hike and since we didn't get up at the crack of dawn, the parking lot at the trailhead was full.  We parked across the highway in overflow parking.

A Northwest Forest Park Pass is required to park in the official lot, but not the overflow parking.  There are outhouses at the trailhead, but not potable water anywhere on the trail so bring a lot of water or bring a filtration system in your pack.  It gets hot on the trail.

Selfie starting out
Right out of the gate, the trail was beautiful.  We crossed Fall Creek on a wooden footbridge and then followed a wide trail through the forest.  We climbed gradually through the forest on a trail that paralleled the creek.  The creek moved from docile to one waterfall after another.  Our hiking book put it this way:  "The creek puts on a trailside performance for the next 1.5 miles, tumbling through chutes, juggling over boulders, and falling headlong into pools."  Doesn't that sound inviting?  It was as awesome as it sounds.

Curt taking a picture of one of the many waterfalls that Falls Creek treated us to.
The trail, for being a single track through the woods, was pretty smooth and would have made for an incredible running route.  We saw several runners on the trail and I was salivating at the thought of coming back to run this loop.  Carissa?  Devon?  Dawn?  Ruth?  Tanya?  I think we need a girls running weekend soon.

Eventually the trail cut back into the woods, climbed for a while and then leveled out along Falls Creek again.  A massive lava flow makes a canyon wall on the other side of the creek, with South Sister peeking out the closer we got to Green Lakes.
Falls Creek, South Sister, and the obsidian lava flow
Tidbit of helpful info from our hiking book:  "This wall of blocky obsidian created the Green Lakes Basin thousands of years ago by damming Fall Creek.  Since then, sediment has washed down from the mountains on either side, filling most of the basin and splitting the original single lake into three parts." It was really cool to read about this stuff and then see it emerge as we hiked.

I'm always surprised at how dry and barren mountains are the higher you climb.  And look how little snow South Sister has on it!
The Green Lakes were so picturesque.  We picnicked on the bank of the lake with South Sister looming over us to one side and Broken Top presiding on the other bank.  Middle Sister peeked out from behind South.

Broken Top in the back
Selfie with South Sister 
Selfie with Broken Top
The lake water was (wait for it...) really green.  Imagine that.  We enjoyed watching a family of ducks play just off the shore.  I couldn't help but think they had the sweetest spot ever to live.
Both sides of our picnic spot  

After lunch we headed back to our car via the Broken Top Trail instead of going back the way we came.  It added four miles to our hike, but was well worth it.  We got to see the other side of Green Lake and get up close and personal with Broken Top mountain.  This trail was part of the 23 mile backpack loop we had originally planned to do.  It whet our appetite to do the whole loop next summer.

views as we set out on the Broken Top Trail portion of our hike
We hiked back into the woods and started climbing up, skirting the perimeter of a big black mound.  It would have been a mountain anywhere else, but in the heart of the Cascade Range, it looked like a little toddler.  The trail dipped back down into a vast, desolate prairie and we were treated to views of Mt. Bachelor, more layers of mountains in the horizons, and a great view of Sparks Lake.
Mt. Bachelor and Sparks Lakes in the backdrop
After 3.1 miles on Broken Top Trail, we took the junction for the Soda Creek Trail.  It looped us back to our car through more pretty views of Bachelor, open prairies with wildflowers, and dense woods.
sparse meadow on Soda Creek Trail with South Sister
Mt. Bachelor, Sparks Lakes, and layers of mountains.
The Soda Creek trail was pretty interesting for the first three miles (of the 5.2 miles we were on it), but then it got kind of boring and desolate.  The terrain totally changed and it was dry, colorless, and the trail was lava-sand.  The creek bed was low or dried up and our legs were starting to get a little tired.  (I don't have a picture of this because it was not pretty.)
This was the last good view on the Soda Creek trail before we descended into thick forest.
We made this part of the hike interesting by seeing how fast we could hike without running.   I let the Garmin run non-stop when we are hiking (with the exception of our lunch break) so we can get an accurate gauge of how long it actually takes us to hike with stop for pictures and water breaks.  Our goal was to get our average pace down to 20 minute miles.  We booked it the last few miles of this hike since the mountain views and jaw-dropping scenery had already passed.  Plus we were trying to make it back in time for the Ducks game.  We were motivated.  We got our average down to 20 minute miles and made it back in time for the game.  Win-Win!
Only a few miles left.
We packed in over 100 ounces of water and still ran out a half mile before we finished the hike.  I recommend bringing a water filtration system with you so you can refill your water bottles along the trail.  This hike was totally kid friendly - nothing dangerous about it - and it had lots of fun things to see and do along the trail.

Overall we clocked just under 13 miles of really fun, moderately easy, super scenic hiking.  We will definitely be taking our kids back to do the Green Lakes portion of this hike.

Happy hiking!

No comments:

Post a Comment