I have always said: the hardest part of a day hike is getting to the trailhead. It was extra difficult today. I spent the morning in town helping a few Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers. They had come into Bend to resupply, clean, rest, and eat before continuing their hike from Mexico to Canada. I hiked about 1,700 miles of the trail myself last season and experienced a lot of trail magic, or unexpected generosity from a non-hiker. This year, I wanted to ‘pass it forward’ and help out those who limped into town after hiking nearly 2,000 miles (and still have about 650 miles to go). The experience of driving around these ultimate pedestrians to the bank, grocery store, post office, and REI was rewarding, but made me feel depressed that I wasn’t out there on the long trail as well.
You’d think that this would get me motivated to take a day hike, right? Unfortunately, no. It’s like seeing all your friends go to Disneyland while you only have the option of a miniature golf course. It’s just not the same thing.
But I gathered my motivation and managed to get out to the Green Lakes Trailhead by 5pm. The parking lot was packed, which was to be expected: Green Lakes Trail is one of the most popular trails in the area, and, from what I saw on the hike, it is no surprise that it is so popular!
The trail gradually climbs into the forested valley separating South Sister from Brokentop. Aptly named Fall Creek, with its multiple waterfalls, hug the trail for most of the trek. Large swaths of lavender lupines grow in large populations. The trail is a cushion of soil – my favorite type of trail – and underneath a canopy of firs and pines.
The trail was indeed crowded. As I head up the 4-5 miles to Green Lakes, I counted 52 hikers and 14 dogs passing me coming down. I had flashbacks of crowded trails in Southern California, where I saw too many loud, obnoxious, and ill-prepared locals traipsing through the woods. However, this was a different kind of crowd. We seemed to share a similar dogma: that these trails were a gift and walking on them should be done with respect and appreciation. There wasn’t any graffiti nor trash to be seen. Some groups kept discussions going as they hiked, but they did it in a low voice, as if to not scare away the nature. Dogs were all on leashes. It was fantastic.
I saw my last hikers of the day a mile or so from Green Lakes. It was nearly 8pm and the sun was setting on this beautiful landscape. I dare say that I was the only human at Green Lakes when I arrived. I spent 20 minutes or so at the lakes before heading back. On the way, I watched my steps carefully: the large fist-sized Western Toads had come out to catch dinner on the trail. They clumsily hopped away as I approached, but it wouldn’t be impossible to accidentally step on the nocturnal amphibians.
Nearly 9:30pm, I arrived back to the trailhead, where most of the vehicles I saw a few hours ago were now gone, leaving only those owned by backpackers out for a night or three in the wilderness. It seems that this is the perfect time for hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I hope to do more of it in the next few weeks, before the temperatures drop and the snow comes back.
- VisitBend.com – Popular Bend Oregon Hikes
- Trails.com: Three Sisters Wilderness: Green Lakes to Soda Creek Trail
- Date of hike: August 19, 2012
- Location: Three Sisters Wilderness, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon
- Duration: 4.5 hours
- Length: 9.6 miles