I started this hike with big dreams of hiking both Broken Top and South Sister. Sadly, I didn’t make it to South Sister, due to poor planning--lesson learned. Though a bit short, this hike was one of personal growth, adversity, and pure excitement!
Starting at Crater Ditch Creek Trailhead I made my way along a manmade ditch flowing from the lake at the bottom of the ancient volcanic crater. The trails gentle slope and beautiful open fields provide plenty of views of Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor. The early morning air was cool, even for August. A few miles in, the trails wiggles its way north as you round the ridges on the southwest face.
After crossing several small creeks formed by natural springs fueled by Broken Top’s run off, you arrive at the crystal waters of Green Lakes that lies between Broken Top and South Sister. There sits 20 or so campsites spread out over two loops around the lakes. To be sure I had a place to sleep, I quickly set up my hammock and began making my way to the summit.
This is where shit got real. The trail out of Green Lakes quickly turns into a steep rising b-line for a saddle to the north west of the ancient volcano. Soon after patches of snow started to dot the sides of the trail! Weee!
By the time I reached the top of the saddle to the left of the peak, I was really feeling the burden of my pack. It was here that the site of the peak and remaining trail seemed to loom and doom over me--instilling a fear of heights I thought I had conquered long ago. The broken slabby and loose rocks on the ridge didn’t inspire much confidence either. It was as if I was in Mordor viewing the vanishing trail dotted with only few small twisted trees amongst the otherwise barren, rocky, and hellish landscape. There I decided to jettison my pack for some snacks, water, and light pack.
From the saddle the trail quickly turns into several scrambling paths following the spine of the ridge to the peak. The fear of falling to one side or another never really subsided as plenty of the paths came to abrupt ends--causing me to backtrack in search of an alternate routes. Despite my fear, and constant struggle to find the correct path, I continued to ascend the steep slope of the sleeping beast.
Just before the summit I found this small reminder why we should never underestimate mother nature. It is crazy how something so small and seemingly delicate can survive in such an inhospitable environment.
I was the first to the top, and got to rest in solitude as I ate my snacks and took in the incredible views of Three Sisters had to offer! Look at those sexy ladies!
The trip back to safe ground was better than expected once I realized I could just jam my feet into the loose rubble to create easy footing. However,the way down still came with a knot in my stomach, as I now had to face the far off landscape below.
Once planted firmly on safe ground, I decided to spend the rest of my day basking in triumph and getting high while soaking in the lake. It was then that I realized the importance of my decision to set my hammock up to reserve my site. The lakeside trails were crawling with people looking for a site.
The next morning I hiked back to my moto. It was there I realized my mistake by not taking the direct trail to South Sister. I was pretty heart-broken when I reviewed trailhead map. It was there I decided to give up my dream--instead heading back to Bend for beers and a lazy day in the park. This did wonders for my soul, and put my mistake into perspective. While I didn’t end up achieving my goal of hiking South Sister, I still had an amazing and tough hike on a volcano… nuff said!