Forum Index > Trip Reports > 8/30-9/1'08 Obsidian Trail-Three Sisters Wilderness
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fettster
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Location: Hillsboro, OR
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PostFri Sep 05, 2008 8:59 pm 
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This trip was special for me for a couple reasons.  One, it was my first time visiting the Three Sisters Wilderness, and two, it was the first time I’ve ever gone solo backpacking  (well, not quite truly solo, with my dog Kodi too).  I secured Obsidian permits in early August for Labor Day weekend gambling that the highway 242 work would be complete in time.  Indeed, by mid-August it was open.

Saturday morning I set off on the Obsidian trail in cool and damp conditions courtesy of the clouds socking in the mountains.  I pushed myself a bit harder than usual to ensure lots of time to find an admirable camp site.  As I pushed along it was very intriguing to break out to a winding lava flow snaking down the landscape, a tumult of gritty rock rising several stories above the trees.  I apparently missed out on some expansive views of the Cascade Mountains, but I still marveled at this natural scarring and how the trail was routed through it.

The Obsidian Trail
The Obsidian Trail
Jerry Lava Flow
Jerry Lava Flow

Crossing back down into forest I found the trail I planned to take in to the Obsidian area was “closed” for the day due to clearing of a downed tree.  So, I veered onto the alternative route which I found to be quite steep, but fortunately was under a mile in duration in reach the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is abundantly clear how the Obsidian area was named as there are pieces of black obsidian everywhere along this plateau skirting the edge treeline.  I wished then the lighting was better than the flat highlights the overcast sky provided, but it was still unique from any other area I’d visited before.

White Branch Creek
White Branch Creek
You shall not pass.
You shall not pass.
Obsidian plateau
Obsidian plateau

I wound up finding the perfect camp site for my first solo backpack just past Obsidian Falls: close to running water for some evening white noise and well, yeah…water; a flat patch to pitch a tent; sheltered from the wind (and sun if it ever came out) by some tall trees; not too rocky to get some stakes down; and finally a top-rate branch for hanging food.  The one thing it didn’t have to top it all off was an expansive alpine view, nestled as it was down in a meadow.  However, with my site chosen I quickly got to work setting up camp.

Camp
Camp

I had a few hours to kill before preparing dinner so Kodi and I took a short walk to the south where I planned to further explore the next day.  I was fortunate enough for the clouds to part and offer my only full glimpse of South Sister, but closer-by Middle Sister would not shake the puffy blanket buffeting its flanks.

Paintbrush and Middle Sister
Paintbrush and Middle Sister
The Husband
The Husband
South Sister
South Sister
PCT and Belknap Crater
PCT and Belknap Crater
Old Cascade Crest
Old Cascade Crest

That night I slept quite well and didn’t seem to have any issues with mind games.  The white noise from the creek stellar job keeping my imagination from running away with the random noises of the forest.

Sunday I kept to a laid back agenda leaving my camp set up and day hiking south on the PCT on a loop to Linton Meadows.  Soon after departing I heard a bird cry out a loud piercing chirp.  Ten seconds later my mind finally came to the realization that could not possibly be a bird and I looked up to immediately uncover the culprit, an ever vigilant marmot.  This was a personal highlight because it is the first time I’ve seen one of these mammals in the state of Oregon.  As I hung around trying to snap some pictures a youngster popped its head up to see what the alarm was about.  It was a fun few minutes checking each other out before I got too close and they both were gone.

"Camp" creek
"Camp" creek
Sup!
Sup!
On guard
On guard

The clouds hung around nearly all day except for a couple hours that teased out some sun breaks.  With the Sister summits out of sight the meadows did a fine job keeping me entertained with all the greenery and meandering creeks.

Nearing Linton Meadows
Nearing Linton Meadows
Corridor
Corridor
Linton Meadows crossing
Linton Meadows crossing
Linton Meadows overlook
Linton Meadows overlook

By the time I reached the apogee of my loop the weather had upped the day’s thrill factor dishing out a mix of small pellets and snow.  Even with the cooler temperatures the rocky terrain had absorbed enough solar energy to steam off the sprinklings of white as I traversed north alongside Middle Sister.

Oww!
Oww!
Steamy
Steamy
How to excite a dog, guaranteed
How to excite a dog, guaranteed

Monday I figured I would probably head directly out if the views were socked in but a morning peep out the tent revealed a canvas of blue I sorely missed the day before.  The obsidian scattered across the land shimmered as I trekked north again across the plateau.  To the west I spied a bank of clouds trying to encroach up the Cascade Crest, but only rarely was it able to extend a finger of fog up my way.

Release
Release
Plateau lake, clouds at bay
Plateau lake, clouds at bay
Obsidian Trail namesake
Obsidian Trail namesake
Little Brother
Little Brother
Middle Sister
Middle Sister

My motivation to explore fully restored I opted to take the longer loop back to the car; up around North Sister, traversing the base of Collier Cone, and west with a detour to Four-in-One Cone with another pass of the lava flow.  It was quite a smorgasbord of sights and something I’d love to check out again.

Lava flow
Lava flow
Kodi finds the shortcut up Opie Dildock Pass
Kodi finds the shortcut up Opie Dildock Pass
Collier Cone
Collier Cone
Middle Sister
Middle Sister
Yapoah Crater
Yapoah Crater
Four-in-One Cone
Four-in-One Cone
Black Crater and lava plain
Black Crater and lava plain
Scott Trail
Scott Trail
Lava flow traverse
Lava flow traverse

After about an eleven mile hike out my dog Kodi was worn out, falling asleep before I could even get his pack off.  Lucky for him he could sleep on the ride; I still had to endure the three and a half hours of driving, but I at least had some irreplaceable memories and a new confidence from a successful first solo backpack to spur me along the way.

Wiped
Wiped

-Fettster
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Magellan
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PostFri Sep 05, 2008 9:07 pm 
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Wow, what a great TR David.  Thanks for sharing this unique area.  I love the black obsidian, and the new snow added that little something extra to the pictures.  Why is the ground so red in some pictures?  I mean red!

You one up on me in the solo overnight department.  Good for you.
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Trail Angel
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Location: Wallowas!!
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PostSat Sep 06, 2008 7:27 am 
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Oh good~ you got to 4 in 1 cone. When I started reading your report I was hoping you opted for the longer and tackled the 4in1!!!

I grew up in those woods~ it's rare to get the weather you did~ but nonetheless~ beautiful!!!!!!

I've never seen the Marmots either...

The pic of your pup is soo sweet. Did the lava bother his/her feets?
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The Guy From Bend
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PostSat Sep 06, 2008 9:00 am 
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Magellan wrote:
Why is the ground so red in some pictures?  I mean red!

That's red cinder rock!

--------------
http://www.flickr.com/photos/theguyfrombend/
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fettster
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PostSun Sep 07, 2008 7:33 am 
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Trail Angel wrote:
Did the lava bother his/her feets?

I started to think and worry a bit about that while we passed through some of the lava flow, but he came out just fine.  I think he has tougher pads than other dogs, perhaps more calloused? On a prior trip to a different area we had Kodi and my friend's dog along as we took an off trail route through a tallus field.  Their dog wound up injuring a pad with some bleeding while Kodi didn't show any issues at all.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > 8/30-9/1'08 Obsidian Trail-Three Sisters Wilderness
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