Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hiking the Central Oregon Cascades

Now that my season has ended, the bike has not seen much action the past few weeks.  In fact, it hasn't seen any except a few miles while leading a youth cycling clinic a couple weeks in September.  I needed a break from the bike and with all the outdoor activities available in Central Oregon it's pretty easy to find alternatives.

September and October are the perfect months for venturing into the Cascades to either camp, run or in my case hike.  No crowds, hardpack dirt, temperatures in the 60's, and beautiful scenery make for the perfect recipe.  The past 4 weekends I have spent my time in the Cascades hiking Jefferson Park, Obsidian Trail, Broken top and Mattheau Lakes.  By far my favorite of these hikes was the Broken Top hike.

Jefferson Park is roughly 10 miles and begins off the North Santiam Hwy (approx 60 min. from Bend).  The hike ascends 1800 feet through old growth Douglas fir and offers views of Mt Jefferson (Oregon's 2nd tallest peak).  However, the day I hiked this trail there was lots of low clouds and I wasn't able to soak in any views.  I only saw one other couple hiking even though the parking lot was packed with cars.  I was able to get in a solid 3 hours of hiking, and not without eating lots of huckleberries, bonus!

Next weekend I joined Jenny and some friends who had a permit to access Obsidian Trail (there is a limit as to how many people can enter this area at a certain time).  Jenny and the others ran while I chose to hike the 8.5 mile loop.  The weather was much better this trip so I was able to catch a view views of the peaks looming nearby.

Mt Washington

The trail was in great condition and the temps were in the 60's.  Again I only saw one other group of hikers during the 3 hour hike.  Lots of steep sections, (both up and down) combined with rocks and roots, and a few shallow creek crossings kept things interesting.  There was even a waterfall to add the the scenery; which is always a pleasant site to see.

Obsidian Falls

I missed one of the turns and ended up logging an extra 2 miles (mostly on lava fields, ugghh).  With so many trails interesting each other, I was having the group mark an arrow on the ground in the direction of the loop we were doing.  I wasn't carrying a map (mistake).  Nothing wrong with getting an extra 2 miles in, however, the party I went with began to get a little worried after waiting nearly 40 min before I returned.   Wildflowers were abundant and there were more huckleberries to be eaten.


Next was the trip to Broken Top.  This is the quintessential hike in Central Oregon due to its up close views of Broken top and varied terrain (thick pine forest and wide open high country). The hike begins at the Todd Lake and heads west for a total of 8 miles. 

Todd Lake with Broken Top in the background

You can even make an all-day hike out of this by including the nearby Green Lakes hike.  I decided to stay on theBroken top trail and soak in the amazing views.  The temperature felt like 70 degrees and there was nothing but blue skies.  Upon reaching the high country, Broken Top mountain never looked so damn good.  It's too bad I didn't bring along the camping ear and make an overnight camp out of it.

Broken Top

Broken Top

Mt Bachelor
Rounding out the month of hiking was the Mattheau Lakes hike.  I have done this hike once before but it was a very cloudy day and there were no views of nearby Three Sisters mountains.  I was hoping I would be able to view them during this trip.  This is an easy 6.8 mile hike with very gradual climbs and a smooth trail. 

There are two (2) lakes to visit along this route (North and South Mattheau Lakes).  The south lake is a very small lake that offers some prestine camping sites, while the upper north lake is a bit larger and offers up some views (not sure which mtn.).  The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is part of this hike and goes past both lakes, so there is the chance to run into some "thru-hikers".

South Mattheau Lake

North Mattheau Lake

I decided to add a few extra miles and hike part of the PCT and Scott Pass trails.  The temperatures were in the upper 50's and lower 60's but there was just enough clouds to prevent me from seeing the Three Sisters again.  I started the hike around 8am with hopes to catch a good view of the Three Sisters with the sun just coming up, no such luck.  As with the other hikes, I only saw 2 other hikers the entire time. 

I'm hoping the weather cooperates the next couple of weeks as I am planning on tackling more great local trails.  In the meantime, my bikes will continue to be stored away and collect a little extra dust.


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