Jul 30, 2012

Scouting in the Three Sisters Wilderness - Fall Creek, Green Lakes, Soda Creek

We spent the weekend scouting out a few creeks that come out of the three sisters wilderness (Bend's backyard), and though we didn't run any stout waterfalls (wood, pointy rocks, snow) it was an amazing weekend of floating, scouting, bushwhacking and basking in the sun.

Fall Creek
The first waterfall was a little intimidating
Parking at Green Lakes trail head, we loaded the boats into the packs. I carried the beer (feeling generous since it was Kirk's birthday weekend). Before long we reached the first waterfall. Too much wood in this one to run, and too shallow. While we could have boated the 1/4 mile from below the waterfall to the car, we stored this small stretch into the "yeah, we could boat out from here, but too much effort right now" file.

The water was running well, but the wood meant certain death to the packrafts (especially shy about wood since Kirk's boat sank into Paulina Creek). Another issue to the many drops we encountered on the way up Fall Creek were the shallow landings. Sometimes 6" was all that buffered a significant drop. Again, not extremely wise in a boat with thin taped seams.

although hard to see a log/root wad block the middle of this drop
We decided to outfit a packraft for whitewater purposes, one should put a bumper on the boat. If we got a length of the floor material, and glued large patches of it from the floor to midway up the side tubes, one would have a better chance of running up against a few stouter sticks and not sinking into the water. Yes, it would add weight, but we would be able to boat more of the creeks around here.

As we hiked further upstream on Fall Creek, we again saw short stretches that were boatable, but not getting out in time would be disaster. So, we kept hiking...all the way up to Green Lakes.  

Green Lakes

Imagine an easy access trail head serving a population of over 200,000 + tourists. For Central Oregon, that easy access trail head with the most rewards is probably Green Lakes Trailhead. A mere 4ish miles has day hikers at the base of South Sister and Broken Top with the satisfying feeling of being a little bit closer to nature.

Kirk and I started mushing through snow as we approach Green Lakes and as soon as I saw the snow fields dropping into the lake water, knew what i had to do. We inflated the boats and sledded them into the water with a splash.


Since we had hiked up a few beers, and there just happened to be a floating ice chunk in the lake, we had the perfect "cooler." I paddled up to the floating ice, plopped down our PBRs and just had to wait a few minutes for our frosty beverages.
Beers chilling in the ice

Packrafts make great floating crafts, and we played all over the lake for the next while.

Next on our agenda was scouting Soda Creek.  

Soda Creek

Making our way to the southern base of Broken Top, we started hiking down the Soda Creek drainage. Again, from the top of the trail, the next 1/4 mile was packraftable, but continuous with no eddies and ending in an 80' waterfall. We passed and kept on hiking.
A little bit of snow walking kept things interesting
Kirk checking out the view
The drainage loses major elevation and we encountered more waterfalls that were not runnable. We made camp above a huge series of drops, (300ish feet) on some rock ledges. Amazing camp location, awful camp site. Our tent was on the only flatish ground we could find (not flat) and we both spent the night sliding down the slight incline.
Coffee on the rocks
Carefully bushwhacking our way down the hundreds of feet of creek-side terrain was tricky, but we noted a fantastic rock slide area that would be good to packraft once water levels dropped a bit. Again, at the current levels, one would easily be swept down some gnarly waterfalls at the end of the boatable sections. The eddies were flushing with no place to stop; at lower water, these would be merely pool drops with eddies.
Finding the best route down
Below where the Soda Creek trail crosses the creek there were also some good prackraftable areas; they could be too rocky at lower water or could be perfect! Will have to come back in a month and see what's what. So, all in all didn't get in a lot of packrafting this weekend, but was able to scout out some possibilities for the future. We ended the trip with a float on Devil's Lake, a crystal clear road-side lake. Absolutely gorgeous.
Ok, this looks good, but may wait for the water to go down a bit so we don't get swept off the 40 ft waterfall below.

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