July 13, 2012 – Camping and Corn Snow in Central Oregon

“Should we head to Mt Hood or just ride Bachelor?” That was the question Todd and I were pondering over early in the week before I headed to Bend on Wednesday to present at a work conference.  The snow would likely be better on Hood, but the camping and fishing on Century Drive in the summer time is as good as anywhere else in the state.  By Tuesday evening, we decided that since I would already be in Bend, it made a more sense to not spend the extra time and money to head north, but to instead maximize camping and fishing time.  Conditions depending, Tumalo mountain might even be worth the hike for some turns.

My work conference went by quickly, and shortly after 1:00 on Thursday I found myself driving west on Century Drive towards Mt Bachelor.  Looking up at Tumalo from the road, it was surprising to see the bowl mostly filled in with the snow looking smooth.  I turned off at the Hosmer Lake road and found a nice campsite at Elk Lake, where I pitched the tent and set to cut some firewood for the evening.  Within an hour or so, Todd pulled in and we enjoyed a cold one.  As afternoon moved into evening, we considered heading out for some turns at Bachelor, but the lure of catching a few fish won out.  Todd paddled around Elk Lake in his float tube, and I went down the road a few miles to fish the upper reaches of the Deschutes below Lava Lake.  The upper Deschutes is one of the prettiest streams in the state, in my opinion…..

The upper Deschutes below Lava Lake

The upper Deschutes below Lava Lake

I was fishing with my ultralight setup, using 1/16 oz panther martin lures, and hooked into a few snags before landing several small rainbows.  Alternating between fishing and shooting photos of the stream and surrounding flowers, I framed some of the lush grass on the stream banks that I thought made an interesting photo….

Grass along the banks of the upper Deschutes

Grass along the banks of the upper Deschutes

Mid-July is always a good time to find the flowers in bloom along the river banks, and this year was no exception.  Purple lupine dominates the landscape, with splashes of red lupine and various other flowers thrown in.  Below is a shot of a purple lupine taken at an aperature of F/4, with the river in the background…

Purple lupine on the riverbank

Purple lupine on the riverbank

Wandering downstream, several small holes presented themselves where a decent Brook trout might be lurking.  The biggest challenge was keeping my lure spinning due to it’s lightweight size.  Eventually, I hooked into a decent fish and was able to land it for a quick picture before throwing it back….

Upper Deschutes Brook Trout

Upper Deschutes Brook Trout

After catching a few more small rainbows, I hooked into what felt like a really large Brookie.  On my ultralight rod, the fish felt like a Steelhead.  I was able to play the fish for a few minutes, but ultimately he snapped my line and I didn’t get to see him.  After a bit more fishing and photo taking, it was time to head back to the car and return to camp, where I found Todd enjoying the fire.  A little bit of beer and BS followed, then it was time to hit the sack in preparation for the morning turns.  After breakfast in the morning, I headed out in front of Todd to snap a few photos in the early morning light on the way to Tumalo.  Driving by Sparks Lake, I was pleasantly surprised to see five mule deer bucks feeding in the open meadow with South Sister looming in the background.  Three of the bucks were four points and the other two were three points.  None of them seemed too concerned that I was there, and they allowed me to snap several photos, including the shot below…

Mule bucks below South Sister

Mule bucks below South Sister

Once the photo shoot of the deer was over, I met Todd at the trail head to Tumalo and we shouldered our relatively light packs for the one and a half mile hike to the top.  The trail was entirely snow free with only a few snow patches on the south side, but once we reached the top it appeared the bowl would ride very well, being filled in completely from top to bottom on the northerly aspects.  The wildflowers were out on the summit, and looking west, it appeared the south side routes of Broken Top and South Sister were mostly done for this season…

Looking west towards the Sisters & Broken Top

Looking west towards the Sisters & Broken Top

A few clouds were in the sky, offering a chance to try out my new polarizing filter.  The shot below of Todd on the summit of Tumalo turned out much better with the polarizer on than with it off….

Todd on top of Tumalo

Todd on top of Tumalo

Looking down the bowl, it looked much smaller than I remember from the last time I was there.  Tumalo was one of my first trips into the backcountry several years ago, and the times I’ve been there since have been in the winter with the bowl not being visible due to inclement weather.  Nevertheless, the snow was in fine shape and Todd and I were able to rip turns top to bottom…

Dropping into the bowl

Dropping into the bowl

I dropped in first and rode down halfway to the bottom while Todd shot some video.  Todd dropped after me, and I was able to snap a few photos of him ripping the corn on the tele skis…

Todd on the tele's

Todd on the tele’s

I turned the camera off right before Todd had one of the best wrecks I’ve seen in awhile, which was unfortunate because catching that on film would have resulted in enough blackmail material for at least a year!  Booting the 500 feet out of the bowl went quickly, and I headed back down for another lap while Todd stayed put on top to shoot a few photos.  Here’s a shot of me riding about halfway down the bowl….

Ripping summer corn on Tumalo's northeast bowl

Ripping summer corn on Tumalo’s northeast bowl

The snow was perfect on the second run, and the steep pitch off the summit provided the best turns.  Halfway down, I traversed under the cliffs and found a really smooth line to the bottom.  Hiking back up the second time it had warmed considerably, but was still good enough that I dropped in for a third lap….

Dropping in for another lap

Dropping in for another lap

By the time I was back to the top after the third lap, it became apparent that riding Bachelor wasn’t going to happen…….it was just getting too hot.  We made the call to head back to camp to enjoy what was left of the day, and started down the trail to the car with nice views of Bachelor along the way near the top….

Mt Bachelor from Tumalo

Mt Bachelor from Tumalo

The mile and a half went by quickly on the downhill, and before long I was at the car happy to be changing into flip flops.  Back at camp by 12:30, we packed up camp and enjoyed a cold beer before hitting the road for the drive back to the valley.  As usual, Central Oregon delivered fun times again, and I hope to head back next weekend with the family for some fishing, hiking and camping!

 

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