Huckleberry is always a fun hike with very nice rewards once you get to the saddle. IF you have good weather and clear skies, the views can be quite spectacular with Mt Hood at arm’s length and several other cascade peaks in view. If weather does not cooperate, you still get views of the Salmon River valley below. So without much too loose, Val and I picked this hike for a wet and rainy day. Most of the hike is forested so you are always under the canopy of really tall trees. With all the rain we’ve been having though, the forest floor was a mushroom party and the salamanders were happy about it. AS we hiked up, we had to take care not to step on the little guys as they crossed the trail or walked along it. About half way up the trail, there’s a turn with an outcrop and a pretty decent viewpoint that looks straight to Zigzag mountain across the valley. From thee we could see a thick layer of clouds covering the sky and Mt Hood. WE knew we were not going to get the views this time. But still, we continued up enjoying the green and the forest which we had all to ourselves. We made a short stop at the viewpoint in the saddle to eat a sandwich with no views before heading back down the same way – still trying not to step on the Salamanders.
About a year ago I did this hike combining two trails, the hidden Lake trail and the Paradise Park trail. The loop was fantastic but the reason was to get the view from the overlook without having to retrace back to the parking lot. That time, clouds were hanging very low so we got a very limited view of the Zigzag Canyon and no Mt Hood as a backdrop. So this time, we decided to head up there via the Hidden Lake trail to check it out and then head back down. From the drive there we knew we were in luck and that we were going to get the views. The hike up meanders thru the forest without a lot of views so it went quickly until we reached the Timberline trail. By then, the views expanded around us and we saw a lot of hikers, both PCTers and hikers coming from the shorter path from Timberline Lodge. After a couple of ups and downs we got to the viewpoint where we stopped for lunch and pictures. On our way back, we retraced our steps but made a quick detour to check Hidden Lake. It looked more like a mud pond than a lake and we saw a couple of campsite on the eastern side. Since those didn’t give access or views of the lake, we went around and were able to get a glimpse of it. It’s certainly a lake you can’t seem to be able to get close to. While checking it out, we heard a family heading to one of the campsite on the other side (we had crossed path with them before). At some point the laughter and talking changed to what seemed like screams. Thru the bushes I saw the woman drop her backpack and run so we decided to go around and check what was going on. It seems the sat on a log to have lunch and were attached by yellow jackets. The poor kids were screaming in pain so we all got our first aid kits out and gave them after bite to relieve the pain. WE stayed with the for a little bit and then headed back down. While pulling off from the parking area, we saw them come out of the trail all smiling again and thankful that we were there to help them. I guess it’s part of the adventure.
Val and I went thru different ideas for this three-day weekend that included the Wallowas and some other places in northern California. The weather didn’t look good anywhere so we opted for something closer and maybe more relaxing. Originally the plan was to head to Wall Lake and hike around the area. The hike we had planned for the first day was short so we were not in a hurry to get on the trail. While driving there, we made a call to turn and head to the Olallie Lake Resort to check it out and once there, we changed the plan again.
Day 1: Olallie Lake to Averill Lake
Once parked, right outside the campground entrance, we got on the PCT heading west. The first part gained a bit of elevation and gave us a glimpse of Olallie Lake but not much more due to grey skies. AS we snaked thru the areas, multiple ponds and little lakes appeared on both sides. We followed the PCT for a while until it topped out around Twin Peaks and started descending on the other side. From there, we took our first turn heading to our original destination at Wall Lake. Part of the route was in the forest descending pretty quickly to a small chain of lakes starting with Fork Lake and the Deer Lake. A couple of minutes later, we got to Wall Lake to find the main campsites already taken so we decided to continue on and check the following lake. At this point, the trail was following a small stream that connects all these lakes and at some point we got to Averill Lake with a big, empty site on the north shore right next to the trail. We thought for a minute of staying there but being so close to the trail made us explore a bit. We found a user trail following the north side that lead to an even bigger campsite with a huge fire pit. Several user trail continued from there. One of them headed closer to the lake and on that one, we found a perfect spot for our tent just steps away from the water. By then, the sky had mostly cleared so we had a chance to enjoy the peaceful view of the rocks in the lake.
Day 2: Averill Lake to Timber Lake
On day two we woke up to a cold and foggy morning. The view of the lake was completely different from the view we had the night before. After a warm breakfast and coffee, we packet our gear and got on the trail to retrace our steps back to the PCT. All the lakes in the way had the same eerie look with fog flying slowly over the water. It almost looked like they were haunted. The trail itself looked quite different on the way up. We then took the PCT heading south to the junction with the Top Lake trail. On that short section we crossed several PCTers fast pacing north. We took the Top Lake trail for a short distance until we veered off on a less used trail towards Timber Lake. The trail itself was not very picturesque as it went thru a section of dead forest but soon it descended to the North Shore of Timber Lake. When we got there, we found nobody so we had the lake entirely to ourselves. We continued counterclockwise on the lake and found a large, exposed campsite with a fire pit. We were not very excited about the site and the little excitement we had diminished even more when we saw an abandoned outhouse. We continued on but didn’t see a trail around the lake. Later we found out we had just missed it. Still, since we had most of the day still ahead of us, we retraced our steps and decided to go look for other options around the lake going clockwise. Towards the eastern shore we found a small grass meadow that extended to a small pond with multiple deer and elk tracks. We thought for a minute of setting up there but didn’t find any firm ground so we continued on. The southern shore of the lake got rough pretty quick with a rocky shore and lots of underbrush. We thought about returning but kept pushing on and it seemed like there was a possibility ahead. We did pass several places that looked promising from the distance but ended up being not usable. Finally, we found the user trail and continue towards the north side and finally found a little promontory with a perfect spot right in front of the lake. There was space for more tents so we set up right next to where the fire ring was giving us views and access to the water. After lunch, I hung the hammock between two trees right in front of the water so we spent the rest of the day just swinging in there, reading a book and just enjoying the views.
Day 3: Timber Lake to Olallie Lake
Day three started almost with no clouds and the sun coming sideways and illuminating the other side of the lake. As we made breakfast, we saw the forest turn intense yellow and the fog start to lift from the lake surface. At one point, it seemed like a ball of fire was going to roll into the lake. It was quite spectacular. Not rushing, we packed our gear and got on the trail retracing the Timber Lake trail back to the Top Lake trail. We had the choice to head back on the PCT or a different, shorter trail, straight into Olallie Lake. Not wanting to repeat, we opted for the shorter version which took us pretty fast back down to the lakeshore. This time, we clear blue skies, we did enjoy the views of the lake, Olallie Butte and the rare appearance of Mt Jefferson behind a ridge. It was indeed a very relaxing trip were we stretched something we could have hiked in one day and made it a three-day backpack!
I’ve got to admit, this hike was not even in my radar and I ended up doing it because I hadn’t planned anything and Steve, one of the hike leader in the group, had posted it. From the description it looked interesting so why not. And I think I have to disclose that they only bad thing about this hike is that is far. The drive from Portland is about three hours. In the end, you are hiking in the south side of Mt Rainier. Getting there is easy even though we did pass some shady campsites – read hunters, but once at the trailhead we felt a bit more secure. The hike gets in the forest right away and it’s pretty covered. Not only that, but it also takes very little time until you hit the first of a series of switchbacks that will make you gain some good elevation. But then, between the trees you get a glimpse of what’s coming ahead. The trail follows the northern side of a valley without getting all the way to the ridge. Looking at the map you can see many small creeks that start below the trail which made me think that the trail was build thee just to avoid the creeks. The climbing goes pretty steady until you get close to a saddle where a side trail would take you to Tatoosh Lake. We did see several backpackers heading that way for the weekend and our original plan was, depending on the group and time, to check the lakes out on our way down. We didn’t have that chance so there’s something to explore next time. After passing the junction though the trail opened up and was very exposed. We had to lather up with sun screen several times so we wouldn’t fry under the sun. The entire side of the mountain was covered in grasses and low plants that must have looked amazing earlier in the season when they were in full bloom. AS you continue to gain elevation, rolling hills appear to the west. At one particular point I stopped and turned around and almost fell back with the view. In most hikes we concentrate on the views ahead of us. This hike, the views are behind you (at least when you are going up). From different point of the trail you could see the entire path and Mt Rainier peeking above the ridgeline. The trail then turns east again to traverse another small valley with some impressive rock formation and some pretty steep cliffs. Below you could see the streams and creeks that have probably eroded the land forming the valleys. After a third valley we finally found the junction to the viewpoint that climbs quickly to the ridge line and leaves the tree line behind. Once you reach the ridgeline, Mt Rainier disappears for a moment but you get the valley of the Muddy Fork drainage and all the hills and mountains to the east and south. Way in the distance, almost hiding in plain sight, was Mt Hood. At this point, unless you were looking close down, you could not see the trail as it was obscured by grasses and pasqueflowers. Finally, you reach the summit and wow, what a view. The mountain just drops off in front of you with a rocky valley below and a seasonal tarn. Beyond that a mountain ridge and the towering Mt Rainier. Simply spectacular views. WE stopped there for lunch and pictures and then headed back down following the same path. When we reached the junction to the lake, the consensus vote was not to go there so we just continued down to the cars. The lakes remain to be seen.
Sometimes plans change and the result is spectacular – I believe this would be the best way to describe it. Our original plan was to climb Mt Adams with a small group of friends, but then we started monitoring the weather as the closer we got, the uglier it seemed it was going to be. Finally, we decided to pull the plug on that idea. Val then suggested South Sister which, as it happens, was also on my to-do list. So we quickly came out with a plan and a small group and headed down Saturday morning for a two-day adventure.
Day 1: Green Lakes trailhead to Moraine Lake.
I had read that a lot of people that climb South Sister, camp at Devil’s Lake and then start early in the morning and go up just for the day. Those same reports talk about being very crowded making it even difficult to find an available campsite. Reading multiple reports and ideas, we decided to start from the Green Lakes trailhead but, instead of heading to Green Lakes, which can also get very crowded head to Moraine Lake. Not only the hike is shorter but it also puts you much closer to the climbing trail so it was a far better choice. Considering all that, we drove early in the morning and met the rest of the group at around noon to start hiking. The first half of the trail follows the beautiful Fall Creek as it makes its turns in the forest. The views here are limited to the creek itself and numerous short waterfalls. This is pretty much constant until you reach the junction with the Moraine Lake and leave the Green Lakes trail. At that point, the creek is left behind and you start gaining elevation. Pretty soon there’s a dramatic change in scenery but not because you start seeing the top of the mountains over the horizon. It’s because the trial passes a small saddle in the lava fields. As you get closer, the vegetation thins out and then you find yourself in front of big pile of rocks. Some of them look to be in a pretty precarious position as if almost a gust of wind could take them down.
On the other side, a couple of ups and downs separate you from the destination which appears as surprise after a turn on the trail. From that point you start seeing campsites already occupied so it’s time to start looking. Right when we got to the lake, to a junction that splits the trail to go on either side of the lake we met with the forest ranger. Talking to him we learned that the sites were limited and the we needed to stay in a designated site – unless we wanted to be asked to move and even fined. But, he was kind enough to point out that taking the trail on the other side and following the closed canyon trail, we would find the last three campsites probably empty as not too many people know about those. So with this recommendation, we headed that way. We did pass two or three already occupied campsites but after that, we found the remaining three, all empty. After waling back and forth two or three times, we picked the one we liked most and set up camp. Being early in the afternoon, we took our time to get water, relax and have dinner while admiring the limited views we had of South Sister.
Day 2: South Sister summit and out
On Sunday, we made a point to wake up early and hit the trail no later than 7:00 AM. With Val we woke up before 6 and had breakfast while we packed everything we didn’t need to leave in the tent. Then we hit the trail towards the lake. Behind us the sun was starting to come up illuminating the side of the mountain. It was looking like it was going to be a good day.
On the other side of the lake we took the Moraine Lake trail that steeply climbed over the ridge and met with the climber’s trail. Turning around at that point gave us a pretty spectacular view of the lake below us and Broken Top in the distance.
The trail itself was wide and easy to follow, in fact, it almost looked like a highway, but after passing a large flat area the fun began. Slowly at first but faster later, the trail got steeper, narrower and rockier. The views ahead of us were limited to the false summit but behind us the expanded to lava fields and other peaks. We huffed and puffed until we reached the false summit which comes as a surprise. From it, the true summit, or the south side of it shows up, but you also get a view of Lewis Glacier and a small seasonal tarn in a small valley.
Pretty much everyone stops there to catch their breaths and eat something so it was prey crowded when we got there. As everyone else, we took a very short break to grab a bar and then continue on the ridge to the final push to the summit. At that point the trail changed colors from the normal grey to red. Several switch backs later finally got us to the top. And I say the top because again, is not the actual summit. But, at this point things get just magical. When you reach this point, you are at the south end of the snow covered lake in the mountains crater. A trail goes around it and you can see the rock outcrop that is the actual summit on the east side of the rim. We started walking around the rim passing several wind shelters and then, just before you reach the rock outcrop, the views to the north start to open up in front of you. At that point it’s one of those instances that you can see almost everything but know it will get even better if you just walk a bit more. And it does. WE skipped the summit and continued to the very north end of the rim to a small rock shelter. From the point the views to the north are just incredible as you can’t even count how many peaks become clearly visible. Just looking at Middle Sister and North Sister at an arm’s reach and Chambers Lakes in the valet below is incredible enough, but when you add Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood and Mt Adams to the north it becomes just incredible.
We stayed there for a while having lunch and enjoying the views until the wind started taking a toll on our core temperature. On the way back we made a quick stop at the summit you to make sure we stood there or at least touched it. AS we hiked down, the clouds started moving in and the sky turned from blue to grey. The views were still pretty spectacular and once we got down to the lake, most of the clouds were already gone. That gave us one last good view of Moraine Lake and South Sister. From there we just went to camp, packed everything and hiked the short path back to the trailhead to head back home. WE spent most of the drive back in silence just re-living the scenery.