Lightweight Backpacking After 60 in the Rogue Valley

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Reverse Traverse, Aug 21-27

Trip Report and Photos from Tysen M., Elisabeth Z., Denise F. [.doc; 15.3Mb]


Three Sisters Traverse Backpack Trip: Sep 2013

After four years of trying to backpack through a stretch of the Three Sisters Wilderness, west of Bend, OR, we were finally going to succeed in September 2013. To accommodate Maria’s schedule, we shortened the trip to 5 days and 30 miles.

Three Sisters 5 Day TraverseFigure 1 Planned 5 Day, 30 Mile Sisters Traverse

Alan P., Maria G. & Tysen M. started from Obsidian Trailhead (TH) after spending the night before at nearby Scott Lake Campground. Our trails passed through forest, lava flows and meadows. After we left the forest, we got our first view of North & Middle Sisters. It was sunny but became overcast toward the end of the day.

Since, we did not have a reservation, we could not camp above Obsidian Falls in Sunrise Meadow. Instead, we camped near Obsidian creek having climbed 1700 ft and covered 7.8 miles on the first day in the Wilderness.

The next morning it was foggy as we continued heading south on the Pacific Crest Trail, passing through beautiful alpine meadows. The sun eventually burned off most of the fog but left the Sisters peaks hidden from us.

We had lunch past Reese Lake and then continued on south with a goal of spending the night at Mesa Creek meadows. Around 1:30, we heard a distant thunder clap as we were passing a small sheltered pond. We took advantage of the level area at the north end of the pond to hurriedly set up our tents. Just as we finished , the thunder storm passed over us. While the thunder storm lasted only an hour. the rain would last for 17 hours with heavy rain throughout the night. We had covered 6 miles while maintaining nearly the same elevation today.

The next morning we had a cold breakfast, folded up our wet tents and continued on south in a light rain. Shortly thereafter we reached Mesa Creek meadows and took a break, enjoying a cup of hot coffee & tea. Then we continued on south passing through Wikkiup Plain.

Around noon, we reached a trail fork. One fork led to Moraine Lake, our planned destination that night, while the other led to Devils Lake TH. The latter trail would allow us to abort the rest of our trip. It would also place us within 2 miles of where Alan’s car was parked at the Green Lakes TH near Sparks Lake.

While it had stopped raining and a hazy sun had come out, it was still windy and we still could not see any of the Sister peaks. Hence, we aborted the trip and headed out to the Devils Lake TH. We had hiked 7 miles that day and lost 1000 ft in elevation.

Alan managed to get a ride to his car with a couple of ladies heading back to Bend. After he returned and picked up Maria and Tysen, we drove on to the nearby Elk Lake Resort for a warm snack and warm running water in the bathroom.

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig7Figure 2 Scott Lake Campground

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig11Figure 3 Tysen, Maria & Alan at TH

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig12Figure 4 Obsidian TH

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig16Figure 5 Alan on trail to Obsidian Falls

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig23Figure 6 Maria & Alan posing in front of North & Middle Sister

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig24Figure 7 Tysen with North Sister behind him

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig26Figure 8 Passing through lava field

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig27Figure 9 Leaving lava field

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig31Figure 10 Hiking on trail surrounded by flowers

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig41Figure 11 Creek winding through meadow

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig45Figure 12 Crossing Obsidian Creek (Falls not in view)

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig49PAMFigure 13 Obsidian Falls

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig51Figure 14 Creek above Obsidian Falls

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig52Figure 15 Sunrise Meadow with 3 tents in reserved area

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig54Figure 16 Sunset above valley where we camped outside of reserved area, 0.5 mile south of Obsidian Creek trail crossing

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig56Figure 17 Maria checking maps before continuing on next day

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig58Figure 18 Chatting with northbound PCT through hiker in hazy alpine meadow

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig62Figure 19 Finally, the fog has burned off in alpine meadow

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig67Figure 20 Reese Lake around noon with fog returning

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig69Figure 21 Maria munching on sandwich while checking topo map on iPad

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig70Figure 22 Alan relying on old paper topo maps

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig72Figure 23 One of many unique large mushrooms near trail

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig73Figure 24 Continuing on south on PCT through alpine meadow

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig75Figure 25 Another alpine meadow

Satellite Picture of Small Lake north of Mesa Creek MeadowFigure 26 Satellite view of pond where we took cover from thunder storm & spend the night with heavy rain

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig77Figure 27 Mesa Creek meadow

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig83Figure 28 Approaching Wikkiup Plain on PCT

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig86Figure 29 Trail through Wikkiup Plain heading southeast

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig91Figure 30 Lunch stop near trail fork to Moraine Lake or to Devils Lake TH

Sisters Traverse 2013 Fig93Figure 31 Devils Lake TH

Three Sisters Wilderness Short Traverse Actual Topo EditFigure 32 Topo Map: Actual (GPS) track (blue) & planned track (red)

Three Sisters Wilderness Short Traverse Actual Profile EditFigure 33 Actual (GPS) Elevation profile for 3 day, 21 mile trip