|Broken Top Mountain|
Dale loves hiking just as much as I do. But, with a job and school-age kids, he doesn't log many outdoor miles. That all changes when his big sis comes to town!
|Horrible road to the trailhead|
After reading multiple online trip reports of hikes into Broken Top Mountain's crater, I was itching to get up there. Lucky for me, Dale was an easy sell.
|This sign has a "broken top"|
Many trails lead into Broken Top, but the shortest most direct route is to depart from the Broken Top Trailhead. The hike may be easier, but the drive is anything but. Reaching this trailhead requires a slow slog on a terrible, rocky dirt road. My brother happens to have an old 4-wheel drive pickup, and loves driving these kind of roads. With Dale at the helm, we bounced along on the rutted access road. Although the going was tough, the fantastic mountain views made it bearable.
|Fantastic mountain views all along the trail|
Reaching road's end, Dale parked his truck amongst the various other large pickups and SUVs. Hitting the trail, it didn't take long for Broken Top's craggy crater to show it's face. See the patch of snow in the middle? That was our destination.
|Crossing the canal|
Dale and I followed a well-worn path through a bleak field of pumice. Occasional clumps of stunted trees provided a little break in the open plains. After a mile, we crossed an irrigation ditch that diverts water from Crater Creek for irrigation far below. Dale remarked that it was unusual to have such man-made structures in a designated wilderness area. We both surmised the ditch must've been established first.
|Off-trail through the rocks|
Because there is no official path to the crater, Dale and I decided to leave the trail here at the irrigation ditch, and follow the creek upstream. So cross country we went, following this cute little brook flowing from Broken Top's crater.
|Broken Top beckons us on|
Broken Top's craggy crater walls rose up from the plain like huge castle spires. It was an impressive sight. Everything was brown, except for a tiny patch of green surrounding the flowing creek. I could hardly believe there was still enough snow in the crater to keep it flowing.
|Colorful rock bands on the crater wall|
I zoomed my camera lens in on the colorful crater walls. Broken Top is considered a composite volcano, formed from many layers of lava flows over time. The multicolored stripes indicate different flows - red cinders, yellow ash, and black lava, all having a hand in building this peak.
|Peek-a-boo through the trees|
Geologists say that Broken Top, like many of the adjacent Cascade peaks, used to be a smooth-sided typical volcanic cone. But violent eruptions destroyed the mountaintop, hurling 8-foot lava bombs across the area, and burying what is now Bend city limits under 20 to 50 feet of volcanic debris. Erosion by glaciers added the finishing touch, further defining Broken Top's jagged profile.
|Lunch break selfie|
Dale and I continued across the rocky, barren plain, still following our little creeklet. The crater didn't seem to get any closer. It was nearing noon, and my tummy began to rumble. We took a short lunch break alongside the flowing water.
|More rock climbing...|
Then it was up, up, up again. The terrain got rougher. We stuck to the creek bank, which was a little bit less rocky. We could see up ahead a steeper slope that looked to made be entirely of fine sand and rocks. Our little creek tumbled through the middle, cutting a jagged slash.
|Following the glacial melt stream|
Reaching the foot of this steeper slope, the going really got tough. Although it looked like fine sand and ash from afar, up close we discovered the slope was really composed of large rocks. We had to be careful where we stepped, as many of the rocks were loose and wobbly. Slogging up this extremely steep slope, our pace ground to a crawl.
|Inside the crater|
Dale discovered the footing was a bit more stable adjacent to the water. So we started climbing in the creek bed itself. We had to watch for slippery rocks, but at least most of them stayed put. Slowly we pulled ourselves up through the rocky dam. And the very top kept getting closer...
|Woo-hoo! We made it!|
And then finally - hooray - we climbed the final steps over the top pitch, and there before us was Broken Top's snow-filled crater. A wonderful sight indeed! The crater walls rose above us, like lofty towers, while below the plains and mountains spread out in a glorious panorama.
|Tremendous view from the crater|
Dale and I enjoyed a quick water and snack break. Then Dale climbed up through the snow, exploring a bit more of the crater. I was amazed to see such a large snowfield still lingering into mid-September (especially after such a hot summer). I struck up a conversation with a friendly father-son team, who'd followed our route, and arrived several minutes after us.
|Heading back down|
After soaking in the marvelous views we'd worked so hard for, it was time to work our way back down the rocky creekbed. Descending was muck trickier than climbing. It was very easy to lose footing and slide in the loose, rocky soil. I was thankful for my trusty trekking poles.
|Lovely Central Oregon scenery|
After successfully downclimbing the steep portion of our route, Dale and I decided to strike out directly across the trailless plain. We could see ahead to our destination, and knew as long we continued downhill, we'd eventually reach our original trail. Besides, I had my gps, and if all else failed, I could point us toward the trailhead.
We ended up following an old jeep track through the scrubby pumice plain. A nearly snowless Mt. Bachelor anchored the horizon. It was our beacon, guiding us back to the trail, and Dale's truck.
|Mt. Bachelor looms big on the horizon|
Upon completion of a successful hike, there was just one thing left to do. After bumping back down that dusty, terrible road (we actually saw someone pulling a camping trailer up it!), Dale and I rewarded ourselves with a cold beer at one of Bend's fabulous breweries.
The area around Broken Top is wonderfully scenic. It's definitely going on my "must explore further" list for next summer. And hopefully Dale will join me again.
Stats for the day: 5 miles round-trip, about 1000' of elevation gain.
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday.