Growing up in Central Oregon, my parents and I did a lot of hiking in the Cascades, and one of my favorite places to hike was the Green Lakes Trail. When Justin and I were deciding on where to go backpacking and camping for the night, we decided that Green Lakes would suit us just fine. Although it can be a heavy use area, there are still plenty of areas to camp that are quiet and secluded, and the views of the lakes, South Sister, and Mt. Bachelor are spectacular.
After Justin completed an early morning 2,400 yard swim, and I finished running the 10K leg of a relay team at the Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon (I’ll save that for another post but it was a PR in the 10k distance for me!), we packed up our gear and headed out to the mountains. The trailhead is only a 30 minute drive from our house, so we were there by 1pm ready to rock and roll.
Justin and I both had very large backpacks filled with our sleeping bags, tent, roll pads, food, drinks, and clothes for the evening and following day. My pack must have weighed 40lbs and looks enormous on my petite upper body.
The 5.5 mile hike to our destination was absolutely breathtaking, as it follows along a roaring creek and small fields full of wildflowers. The trail itself weaves through huge groves of mountain hemlock trees, and crosses over several creeks via logs and natural rock paths. There were a couple of creek crossings that were a bit sketchy, as the weight of my pack threw off my balance and made me quite clumsy, but no injuries or falls occurred. If this hike doesn’t take one’s breath away, I don’t know one that will.
Once the trail approaches Green Lakes, it becomes bordered by obsidian fields on one side and endless hills of trees and wildflowers on the other.
We reached the first of the Green Lakes and decided to venture on a little further to find a beautiful and isolated area to camp. We circled the largest of the three lakes and found the perfect spot nestled away in some trees with a creek below, the lake in sight, and South Sister as our backdrop.
It felt SO GOOD to rid my back and upper body of the weight of my pack. I thought I was going to fly away I felt so relieved and light. We immediately made camp, set up the tent, and got everything organized for the evening.
Once we were settled, Justin and I headed down to the creek and lake that were flowing with water that had literally been snow the day before.
It was ice cold and probably the best ice bath my legs have ever had. We waded around in the creek and lake, entertained by the tadpoles, frogs, and small brook trout. There is no way to describe the views – you would have to see them to believe them.
After our legs and feet were nice and numb, we headed back to camp, traded our flip flops for shoes, and went out for a little exploring sans backpacks. We found the third and smallest of the Green Lakes, Justin gave me a little geography lesson in things like glaciation, terminal moraines, and lateral moraines (because he is smart like that), and then we decided that our stomachs were screaming for food, forcing us to turn around and head back to camp for a little cheese, salami, and crackers. We like to be super fancy when we camp. 😉
The rest of the evening was pretty low key as we were rather exhausted and ready to kick back and relax. We watched the sun drop behind South Sister, enjoyed a warm bowl of soup, and crawled into our sleeping bags at the late hour of 9pm for a few games of Yahtzee on the iPad. The earliest I have gone to bed in, well, forever.
On Sunday morning our sleep was interrupted just before 5am by a noisy flock of geese that decided to repeatedly circle overhead and nearby, ‘honking’ as loud as possible. Mother nature’s alarm clock, I guess. Justin was up and out of the tent taking pictures of the sunrise first, as I slowly crawled my way out unsure of the cold air. It actually wasn’t that bad.
We decided to take an early morning hike in the opposite direction from where we had originated the day before, and climbed to an area where we were able to see Broken Top, North Sister, Middle Sister, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, Black Butte, and a few other mountains in the distance.
After we got back to camp, we packed up and got an early start out to increase our chances of having the trail to ourselves. Putting my backpack on for the first time on Sunday was brutal. I was incredibly sore and could feel my muscles squealing in my shoulders and lower back. After a few minutes, my body adjusted and was able to handle the weight of the pack once again.
The hike back to the car was just as beautiful and I was able to capture a few moments and views that were behind me on the way up. One thing I love about hiking is that you can journey the same trail but have a different experience each time.
Having visited Green Lakes many times as a child, it was fun to visit once again as an adult and to view everything from a completely different perspective. I doubt my pack weighed 40 pounds when I was a kid (heck, I probably didn’t even weigh 40 pounds back then!), and I am certain my appreciation for the scenery, the isolation, and the effort back then were not what they were this weekend.
Where is your favorite area to hike? What is your “style” of camping?