9/27/15 We started out from the Lava Camp trailhead on a 29 degree morning in late September, covering almost 15 miles past the Matthieu Lakes, through the Pole Creek burn area, and on to a small lake for the night.
1 Dr. Rock at the start of our adventure from the Lava Camp trailhead. It's 29 degrees as we get started, with lots of frost.
2 Fantastic single track right from the beginning. I can definitely see why trail runners love living in this area.
3 Some fall color admist the green. And lots of hanging moss, reminiscent of the Olympic Pennisula in Washington.
4 Just about anywhere there was heavy shade, there was frost on the ground.
5 Perfect, spongy trail. Dr. Rock started the morning at an amazingly fast pace. I struggled to keep-up at times.
6 North Matthieu Lake. Clearly low water level in this severe drought year, but beautiful nonetheless. A popular stop for 1-night backpackers starting from Lava Camp.
7 South Matthieu Lake with North Sister in the background. I actually wasn't expecting to see the snow-capped peaks so late in the year, but the glaciers are still holding strong.
8 Another view of North Sister behind the lake. One of my favorite views around the loop. Definitely a different look, and different color palette, than the Sierras.
9 Not too far beyond South Matthieu Lake, we enter the Pole Creek Burn Area. Drought conditions fueled a huge lightning strike fire in 2012 that left much of the eastern side of the Three Sisters Loop in ruins. Though the burn area is fascinating in its own way, I would have loved to have done the loop before 2012.
10 The burn zone really shows how volcanic this area is under the vegetation.
11 Although most of the creeks are dry this late in the year, they still offer some welcome green admidst the gray of the burn area.
12 Continuing to make great time on beautiful half-green, half-burned single track.
13 We start to get glimpses of the Middle Sister through the trees.
14 Finally we break through for a clear view of the peak.
15 A group of four college-aged backpackers started the loop just after us, and we leap-frogged back and forth with them for most of the first day. They snapped a picture for us here in front of the Middle Sister. They were the only people we saw past North Matthieu Lake that day.
16 Back into a heavy burn area with interesting colors.
17 Soap Creek.
18 Dr. Rock crossing Soap Creek. He doesn't exactly love creek crossings.
19 A nice stream further South along the trail with the Middle Sister in the background.
20 And another stream crossing.
21 Sorry Dr. Rock, I just had to add a video version :)
For best performance, you can watch the video on YouTube.
22 A good view of what I believe is the Diller Glacier on the eastern side of the Middle Sister. There are something like 15 glaciers surrounding the three peaks. I can only imagine what they look like in a really wet year.
23 Our first view of the South Sister as we start to think about where to stop for the night. I was really hoping to make it out of the burn area to setup camp. It would mean pushing to almost 15 miles for the day, but the trail had been fairly flat thus far. There was a small lake on the map (that we hoped still had water) just on the border of the burn that looked like a good target.
24 Made it to the lake almost exactly at our 5:00pm cutoff time. It was a small lake but perfect for refilling water and for giving us a scenic view from the tent. You can see how the burn area stopped right here at the lake.
25 Two big geese taking off from the lake just as we arrived.
26 Home for the night and a successful end to Day 1. You can tell from the shoreline that our tentsite would be underwater in a wet year.