Melissa and I just recently moved to Bend, Oregon from Seattle, Washington and decided it was time to get out into the wilderness. This was going to be Melissa’s first backpacking trip; I was also hoping it would not be her last. The weekend was both our birthdays so we were celebrating this as well. I always like to go hiking in September, the crowds are normally less, the weather is good still, and the bugs are gone. It turns out we went 2 for 3. We had heard that this weekend was the beginning of hunting season so we stopped by the local sport store and bought some orange flagging so we could be seen by hunters. Since we were new to the area I asked around at work and decided on a trip up to Golden Lake.
Golden Lake it a small alpine lake located in a large meadow of gold grasses, this is where it gets its name. The lake is just off the trail a little up from Park Meadow and situated just north of Broken Top. It is a relatively easy hike in, about 6 miles each way. We woke up Saturday morning to partly cloudy skies and cooler weather. In the month we had lived in Bend so far we noticed that the weather was ever changing. We had had hail storms, and 60 degree swings in temperature just in the month we had lived here. We drove out to the trailhead which is located up Forest Service Road 16 outside of Sisters, Oregon. The trail head is 14 miles up the road, the last quarter mile or so is on gravel. At the trailhead there were several other cars and trucks, some even with horse trailers.
The trail first starts downhill for about a mile to the Snow Creek crossing. It continues for another mile and a half to the Squaw Creek Crossing. Although this section of trail travels through the forest without much to look at, the stream crossings are the highlight. After this crossing the trail begins to climb for about a mile up to Park Meadow. When we reached Park Meadow the wind had picked up a little bit and the skies were clouding up a bit. Not exactly what we were hoping for. In Park Meadow we noticed that a fairly large camp was set up with horses, tarps, tables, and lots of gear. Obviously it is nice to have pack animals to carry gear. Melissa and I were traveling a little lighter than they were. It was obvious that these were a bunch of hunters but we did not see any of them at the time. Occasionally we would here the echo of gunshots though. We continued through Park Meadow and took the left turn toward Green Lakes. From here you begin to climb again and at a ½ mile outside of Park Meadow there s a small rock cairn and side trail up to the left. This trail leads up to Golden Lake. When we arrived at the lake we were the only ones up there. The wind was starting to pick up a bit more so we found a sheltered spot in the rocks to enjoy our lunch then set to finding our campsite for the night. There is a section of trees just to the east of the lake where it was obvious other people had camped. It was slightly sheltered from the wind so we chose that as our camp site.
After setting up camp we went out and wandered around the area. We hiked up the creek to the tarns higher up. They were all basically empty this late in the season. It was really cool to be just below Broken Top and have a view of all Three Sisters when the clouds would let us. When we got back to our camp it started to sprinkle so we started to make our dinner and hunker down for the night. We had some issues with our stove so we were only able to have dinner but not desert. Bummer, mountain food always tastes so much better than it would at home, desert even more so. The night ended up being a rough one. The wind was really howling out and the temperatures had dropped to below freezing. Melissa was so cold she did not sleep much. I found out in the morning that she had not inflated her sleeping pad all the way so she was basically sleeping on the ground. Now she knows for next time. When we woke up the sprinkles we went to bed with had turned into wet snowflakes. Fortunately we had brought all the appropriate gear and thought it was quite funny actually. We ate our breakfast and packed up camp for the hike back to the car. The wind was still blowing quite hard which made for a rather dreary hike back. We just lowered our heads and plugged along. About halfway back to the car the snow tapered off a bit but there were still little flurries here and there. Our car actually had a little dusting when we got back to it. After the cold night and snowy hike out, my only instructions from Melissa was that she wanted a coffee. Hopefully she will also want to go backpacking again; I definitely had a good time.
While the Golden Lake hike is not a very difficult one, it is very scenic and worth doing if you have the time. It works well as both an overnight and day hike destination. For shorter options, Park Meadow is also a great option. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Gregory Denali Pro 105 Pack – A little more than I needed for this hike. It does compress down rather well but still made for a heavy load.