Green Lakes/Sisters Mirror Lake Car Camp
September 27-28, 2003
The Fall Creek trail up to Green Lakes has to be one of the most beautiful trails in the Central Oregon Cascades area. On a spectacular fall day, the three hikers signed up for the car camping trip were treated to crystal-clear views of South Sister, Broken Top and the lakes. The trail climbs gently through the forest, following the creek with its many rapids and waterfalls before emerging into the open. Still following the now more placid creek, bordered on one side by lava flows from South Sister, the trail then leads into a vast Alpine meadow surrounding the Green Lakes.
After a brief break at the biggest Green Lake and taking in the views, we hiked around it (takes about an hour) before returning to the trailhead via the Soda Creek trail. This trail is a complete contrast to the Fall Creek area as it goes through a much drier area. It follows a ridgeline with wonderful views of Sparks Lake and the mountains to the south (we could see Thielsen, Diamond Peak, Maiden Peak among others), before dropping down through the woods for the last mile or so. We estimated we had hiked close to 15 miles that day.
After a clear and chilly night at the Soda Creek campground (although Jane drove to Sun River to stay in her brother’s house instead of roughing it with Jim and Chris), we set off early to hike into Sisters Mirror Lake. The first part of this trail—the Elk Lake trail—which leaves from the Devil’s Lake trailhead, is rather dusty from many horses, but is a relatively easy walk. The area is extremely dry, so arrival at the lake is a welcome relief. Although small, Sisters Mirror Lake is a worthy destination. You need to hike to the far end to witness the “mirror” effect—which actually shows only the tip of South Sister. After a short backtrack, we followed the PCT until it led into the Wickiup Plain. Here we had in-your-face views of South Sister, North Sister and Broken Top. (We could see the climbers’ trail up South Sister and thought about Buzz Blumm’s group that was climbing at the same time). The PCT winds to the south of the mountains, while our trail veered off and headed east. Jim and Chris took a diversion and climbed Le Conte crater, a steep but short climb. An easy stroll right around the crater offers magnificent views of the Rock Mesa at the foot of South Sister. We then followed the loop trail back to the Elk Lake Trail and arrived back at Devils Lake in time to have lunch on its shore. We calculated we had covered about 25 miles in the two days. Participants were Jane Bartell, Jim Fritz and leader Chris Stockdale.
—photos by Chris Stockdale