AT HOME IN THE MOUNTAINS

Above Chambers Lakes, looking north toward Middle Sister. Three Sisters Wilderness.

Above Chambers Lakes, looking north toward Middle Sister. Three Sisters Wilderness.

There’s never a dull moment in the Three Sisters Wilderness. It’s a volcanically-rich landscape that is beyond beautiful. It’s bewitching.

The drive to any number of inviting trailheads sits a mere thirty minutes from downtown Bend. We are spoiled, yes. And after parking my truck, good ol’ Rosie, at Green Lakes Trailhead, I ran a bicycle shuttle to Devils Lake, a few miles to the east and only a few miles from my beloved PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). Itching to get some miles in, I left after work on Saturday, driven to the allure of the scenic Wickiup Plains.

The following morning, I made a decision. Did I want to circumnavigate the Three Sisters, a route of 50 miles and one that I’ve hiked before, or was I interested in something more adventurous? Adventurous it was.

I veered from the trodden trail up a drainage toward Chambers Lakes. Lo and behold, I was greeted by an unmapped trail and one, when not under snow, was a pure joy to coast along. For the whole day I didn’t see a soul, but instead deer, hummingbirds and wildflowers—shooting star, mountain heather, larkspur and penstemon to name a few. And then of course there’s the stunning beauty of this backpacker’s paradise. The topography is at times gentle and inviting, and other times harsh and intimidating. Bands of rust and mahogany volcanic rock pierce out from ancient old glaciers while alpine lakes thaw and glisten in the sunlight below.

Looking back up-mountain after the boot-ski down. That's the Holden Crest and South Sister up top.

Looking back up-mountain after the boot-ski down. That’s the Holden Crest and South Sister up top.

And then, I made another decision. Leave it to my nomadic itch to take me far off a beaten path toward more lakes, these ones just beginning to thaw: a ring of glacier blue lining their perimeters. Rising even further, it was late morning when I couldn’t hold back the desire to make the adventure even more interesting. Higher and higher I climbed, until I stood beneath thew northeastern flanks of South Sister. Why not?

With my pace steady, I climbed along the defining edges of moraines, and headed further up-mountain via snowbound slopes. I couldn’t help but turn around and laugh with joy. I was in the middle of a great, big beautiful playground.

Somewhere amongst the Prouty Glacier, I decided to turn downhill, this time letting time slide by as I boot-skied my way down back to tree-line. I only wear trail runners out here, FYI. With the just-shy-of-summer snowpack firm, it was easy hiking.

No doubt this has been a unique adventure where few wander. 48-hours of solitude a mere 30-minute drive from downtown Bend is unheard of. Pretty awesome.

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