Park Meadows & Gold Lake Hike

July 28, 2009

 

Park Meadows & Gold Lake Hike

It was 8:30 in the morning when we arrived at the Three Creeks Meadows trail head, about 15 miles south of the town of Sisters. Bill Wyncoop and Clay DeForge had joined me for a hike into Park Meadows and Gold Lake. This trail runs about two or three mile north of the Tam McArthur rim and Broken Top to a saddle between Broken Top and the South Sister into Green Lakes. The plan was to follow this trail until it started up the saddle then go cross country, a half a mile to a mile along the toe of the mountains to a small lake called Gold Lake. The Lake was named for a gold colored moss that grows along its shore.

Broken Top seen from Park Meadow

Broken Top seen from Park Meadow

The tail started off in a lodgepole pine forest and for the first mile it follows a dirt road that is now closed. We discovered the mosquitoes were out so we stopped to apply a good amount or repellant. Past that point it turned into a well used trail. We were headed west-southwest and there is not a lot of elevation gain or loss. The trail dropped into small valleys where we would cross a creek then over a slight ridge and into the next one. There were three main creek crossings and each did have some makeshift logs or rocks to get across. Going in the water was low as the snow didn’t melt much over night. At the first crossing some fellows horse packing passed us and stopping just long enough for the horses to drink.

Time for a Drink

Time for a Drink

We finally began breaking out of the lodgepole and soon came to Park Meadows. This is about 4 miles or so from the trail head. Park Meadows was beautiful, lush green with wildflower in peak bloom. They won’t last long if it warms up much. You could get some nice view of Broken Top and the Three Sisters in places.

Park Meadows

Park Meadows

Park Meadows

Park Meadows

From there the trail started up a low ridge slowly gaining elevation. We were now heading due south. We reached a point where Clay’s GPS said it was time to leave the trail.

It's That Way!

It's That Way!

The forest were pretty open at this point so we had no problem keep a bearing of due west. We dropped into one valley then climbed another ridge before finding what we suspected to be Gold Creek.

Gold Creek

Gold Creek

 

 The creek was very pretty with wildflowers blooming along its banks as we worked our way upstream. At one point we found a snow bridge that was very cool and it wasn’t far from the we found the valley and Gold Lake.

Gold Creek Ice Bridge

Gold Creek Ice Bridge

Gold lake is an exceptionally beautiful place. We had come at the perfect moment when the meadow was in bloom and Broken Top and the Three Sisters loomed around us. We took a lunch break and waded in the cool water. Clay’s watch said it was 54 degrees but my feet thought it was more like 34 degrees. There was a party of four camped on one side of the lake and a couple of them actually went swimming. They didn’t stay in very long but I’m sure it was very refreshing…. Brrrrrr!

Gold Lake Valley & Three Sisters

Gold Lake Valley & Three Sisters

Gold Lake Valley Wildflower 1

Gold Lake Reflections

Gold Lake Reflections

 Gold Lake Valley Wildflower 2

Gold Lake Valley - South Sister

Gold Lake Valley - South Sister

 Gold Lake Valley Wildflower 4

Gold Lake Valley Wildflower 6

Gold Lake Valley Wildflower 5

We did see the famous Gold Lake Moss and it wasn’t near as impressive as one might think. Oh well the lake’s beauty made up for it and then some.

Gold Lake Gold Moss

Gold Lake Gold Moss

Bill looked at his map and said there were two more little lake a mile or so up stream to the east. After lunch we decided to go check them out. We followed the cascading creek the fed from the east and as we climbed we got wonderful view of the lake and the mountains.

Upper Gold Creek Above the Lake

Upper Gold Creek Above the Lake

There were still large patches of snow along the edge of the creek in places reminding me of how cold that water really was.

Upper Gold Creek - Path Along Icy Creek

Upper Gold Creek - Path Along Icy Creek

Upper Gold Creek Wild Flowers & Broken Top
Upper Gold Creek Wild Flowers & Broken Top

Upper Gold Creek Wild Flowers & Broken Top

This was a glacier carved valley and a half a mile or a little more we came to a large wall of glacieral till that formed a dam creating the lake. Water oozed from the dam and there was little spilling over the top. Upper Gold lake was an emerald beauty that still had a large patch of snow on one side. The reflections of the mountains on the emerald green water were spectacular.

Upper Gold Lake - Broken Top

Upper Gold Lake - Broken Top

Upper Gold Lake - Broken Top and Snow Field

Upper Gold Lake - Broken Top and Snow Field

After a short break we continued upstream. Wide views of the mountains became better as trees at this elevation are very sparse.

Upper Gold Lake - Three Sisters

Upper Gold Lake - Three Sisters

Above Upper Gold Lake - Three Sisters

Above Upper Gold Lake - Three Sisters

We continued  until we found the small upper lake in a small depression. It had a large chuck of ice on a portion of it and it was the same clear emerald green water too. With the stark landscape and surrounding peaks this is a very beautiful environment.

Upper - Upper Gold Lake

Upper - Upper Gold Lake

Now it was decision time. We had come a rather round about path into this place and we were about 8 miles out. After looking at the map we discovered that if we would go a little more east and break over the next ridge we could follow Park Creek back down to Park Meadows. This could save a mile or two so we decided to try it.

Park Creek Valley from the top

Park Creek Valley from the top

The upper section of this watershed is steep loose morain. There were still large patches of snow in the shaded bottom of the canyon so it made our decent a little more challenging. At one point Clay decided to try sitting down and sliding down the snow instead of skiing on your shoes.

Sliding Down Snow Fields

Sliding Down Snow Fields

Park Creek Canyon - Three Sisters

Park Creek Canyon - Three Sisters

This is a very beautiful place to visit. The creek becomes a succession of cascades an the canyon in places became so narrow and deep we had to stay up on the ridge a ways. In some places there were small valleys full of wildflowers.

Park Creek Wildflowers

Park Creek Wildflowers

 

Park Creek Falls

Park Creek Falls

At one point we came to a place were water oozed out the ground at the top of a steep slope and the trickles of water fed one of the best wildflower displays we saw all day. It was almost magical and the pictures don’t come close to capturing what it was really like. Wow, is all we could say.

Park Creek - Wildflowers and Cascades

Park Creek - Wildflowers and Cascades

Park Creek - Wildflowers - Wow

Park Creek - Wildflowers - Wow

 

After a couple miles the creek leveled off and we soon came some of the meadow near Park Meadows. The creek snaked across the valley switch backing on itself.

Park Creek in Park Meadows

Park Creek in Park Meadows

The walk along the creek was very pretty and it wasn’t long before we spotted someone on the trail in the distance. We took a short break and check the time and it was now 4:30 and we still had 4 more miles to go to get back to the car. Another good application of mosquito repellant and we were ready to go. On the way out we discovered that the warm temperatures had melted a lot of snow so now the creek were up. Bill and Clay gave up on the rocks and logs at the largest creek and just slogged across. Squish, squash, squish, squash up the trail. Oh well at least their feet were cool.

How deep is the water

How deep is the water

This Looks Easy

This Looks Easy

By the time we reached the car we had hike about 14miles. It was a perfect day and a beautiful hike. This was one of the prettiest hikes we have done in a while and just happened to catch it at a perfect time. Enjoy the pictures even though they don’t come close to the beauty that is there.

Dennis

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July 28, 2009

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