Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tam McArthur Rim Weekend

Emily and I had a wonderful time this past weekend camping and hiking with Tim & Lindsay and their friend Brad, his dog Winston and his girlfriend Stacey. For two weeks now I've wanted to go on a climb to test out my knee after I thought I twisted it rafting the Deschutes River and the weather looked great (and cooler) in the Sisters area of Oregon so we decided to try a scramble up 8,376' Broken Hand after camping overnight in the Three Creeks Lake area. Apparently Brad and Stacey had just been there a few weeks ago and also suggested to Tim and Lindsay that it would be cool to fish in Little Three Creeks Lake. So, we had a great overnight followed by an absolutely beautiful hike on Sunday and bbq dinner in Sisters. Click the link to read more about our wonderful weekend in Eastern Oregon.

Emily and I slept in after a night of drinking margaritas and didn't get out of town until around 2pm. I was tempted to stop at Peaks 40th Anniversary sale to see if there were any bikes 40% off but decided I couldn't spend the money anyway. After a short 2hr drive we found Brad's truck on the side of the access road and headed in the short 1 mile to Little Three Creeks Lake where Brad and Tim were fishing in portable inflatable rafts. The hike in was tiring though because I had packed a Jimmy Dean breakfast, eggs, water, heavy DSLR and a box of wine along with carrying the tent and other stuff for the night. It felt great to get the pack off when we met Lindsay at the lake.

We were introduced to Stacey and Winston the hyper-active dog and I decided it would be prudent with dark clouds approaching that we set up the tent. It's a good thing we did because about 20 minutes later it started to thunder and the sky opened up on us drenching the area but also dispersing some of the haze in the air from nearby forest fires. Emily and I crawled into the tent (thankfully I brought the rain fly) and read for a short half an hour until the storm passed. When we emerged the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees so I was happy to put on my puffy outfit while the others layered up also. We were camped at the shore of Little Three Creeks Lake with the Tam McArthur rim wall towering above us. Tim and Brad went out on the lake again to try their luck at catching a fish for dinner but it was not to be. Instead we all just cooked up our separate food we brought with Em and I eating spaghetti and sausage. Everyone had brought their own wine to drink so getting through our 3 liter box was not going to happen although I put in a good effort. I had packed in Jason's tripod to get some night star-trail photographs but in the state of mind I was in it just didn't happen which was disappointing as it was a new moon and it would have been perfect. Amazingly we were able to get a pretty good sized fire going despite all the wet wood after the rain and I was able to get some pretty neat long exposures of that. We had a good time sitting around the fire until it was time for bed and I passed out.

We had a pretty leisurely morning on Sunday taking our time getting up and eating breakfast down by the lake. I was super angry when, in my light hangover state, I spilled all the eggs out of the pan I was cooking them in onto the ground. Pissed at myself we just at the Jimmy Dean warmed up instead. Brad and Tim again tried to catch a fish with Brad actually hooking a big one but it broke his line before he could get it in. Thankfully my pack was a lot lighter on the hike out even though there was about 1/2 a liter of wine left that we couldn't finish. On the quick hike out we had a minor "incident" where Winston encountered a horseback rider on the trail ahead of us and playfully was nipping at the horses ankles when we rounded the corner. Unfortunately, the woman on the horse jumped off thinking Winston was attacking her and her horse Princess (my assumption of what she named it). She was very pretentious and as usual furthered my negative opinion about horse people as she complained about Winston being off leash (although she also had a dog off leash)... After apologizing and me almost commenting on the horse shit all over the trail but ultimately holding my tongue, we kept going.

We started our hike from Three Creeks Lake up Tam McArthur Rim around noon. After getting home and checking the GPS we hiked 9.7 miles with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in about 5 hours and 45 minutes. My knee was sore walking out with the heavy overnight bag from our camp spot but once I had dropped that in the Prius and grabbed the much lighter camera day pack it felt better. There was a ton of smoke in the air from the forest fires and I debated carrying the heavy DSLR up the trail but later I was glad that I did as a light breeze kept the smoke and a huge thunderstorm away from us throughout the afternoon.

The trail was steep at first but well maintained with many switchbacks. Once on top of the rim the walking was super easy and the trail was well worn into almost a highway. In some spots of the trail it felt like we were hiking up sand dunes as the volcanic pumice was so soft. We quickly found ourselves at the top of Tam McArthur Rim above a huge cliff overlooking both Little and Big Three Creeks Lakes below. We could easily see our camping spot the night before as well as many different fishing boats on the bigger, more populated lake. We ate lunch on top of the cliffs with spectacular views of the rim cliff face as well as all three Sisters, Broken Top, our destination Broken Hand and other peaks to the north including Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson in the far distance partially obscured by smoke and haze. The weather was perfect and the light breeze felt great as we relaxed on the rocks for a little while. Winston seemed to be really enjoying the hike and thankfully there weren't any horses for him to "attack" that high up on the ridge.

By the time we ate lunch it was around 1:30 in the afternoon and I took a poll of who might want to go on towards Broken Hand in the distance. Everyone seemed up for it so we continued on with the views getting better with every step it seemed. Soon we found ourselves deep in the Sisters Wilderness quickly approaching the east face of Broken Top and starting to encounter snow fields. Brad didn't have waterproof footwear so near the last snowfield before the Broken Hand ascent he stopped with Stacey and Winston. Tim, Lindsay, Emily and I continued upward towards Broken Hand on the trail. Unfortunately, the trail disappeared at the base of the small peak. We looked around and started to traverse to the south around the top. After a short ways I found a very steep scrambling route to the top. I started up but Emily didn't feel comfortable and decided to wait down below with Lindsay graciously waiting with her while Tim and I climbed up to the top.

From the top of Broken Hand we had fantastic views towards the east wall of Broken Top with a turquoise glacial pool in the cirque. We both took a bunch of great photos and I practiced a trick of vertical photographs that I would later stitch together into a massive panorama. We then very carefully climbed back down the way we had come up, met up with Lindsay and Emily and returned to Brad, Stacey and Winston down the trail.

From there it was a simple walk out on an easy trail back to Three Creeks Lake. Check out the photo on the bottom right as we were walking out. Look to the far upper left to se the huge forest fire around Mt. Washington that was choking the sky black with smoke. Although the terrain was super easy the nearly 10 mile length of the trip and ascent had been tiring on my knee so I was a little slow on the exit but made it. In fact, although tired, the pain in my knee was far less than it was the day before or even the hike in to Broken Hand. I think the walking, climbing and scrambling worked a bunch of scar tissue loose or something which made my knee feel a lot better. On the way out I tried to take a few more photos of the beautiful volcanic rock colors as well as the mountains in the distance. Walking back towards the lakes we got a real sense of the dark smoke and thunderstorm that had just missed us as the sky in the direction of Bend was literally turning black and we had seen lightning from the top of Broken Hand.

Back at the lake I quickly jumped into my swimsuit and reluctantly took a dunk in the cool water. Emily stuck her feet in but decided it was too cold. Having washed up a bit in the cool lake (I forgot deodorant) we followed the group back to Sisters where we ate a great BBQ dinner at Slick's which was fantastic. Having stuffed ourselves we said goodbye to everyone and headed back to Corvallis. Unfortunately, even though I've driven the road 20+ times, I took a wrong turn and ended up heading down past Detroit Lake towards Salem and was forced to take a short cut from Mill City back to Albany adding about 30 minutes onto our drive home. It wasn't too bad though as it was a change of scenery and I always enjoy driving around Detroit Lake and the dams there. It was a great weekend and I think everyone was happy they had come and taken the trek all the way out to Broken Hand. Maybe next time we'll get lucky and catch a fish for dinner! Make sure to click the panoramas below to see them in all their glory.

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