Backpacking Carl Lake and Smith Rock – A Dirty Dog and a Downpour

Sometimes hikes are fun. Sometimes they’re not. And a lot of the variables that create experiences somewhere in this exhaustively explained spectrum depend on the company you’re in. Fortunately, Trish and I brought some keepers along with us to Carl Lake and, due in part to their company, were able to enjoy an experience that otherwise could have been quite miserable.

Carl Lake is a very scenic spot about 25 miles northwest of Sisters (as the car drives) and right in the middle of the Jefferson Wilderness area. It’s a beautiful lake nestled between Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack, and I’m sure that on a clear day, both would be visible from various vantage points around the lake. Our day was not one of the clear ones.


Getting our packs assembled.


We realized during the hike that we had spousal themed hiking shoes; Vasques for Josh and Krista and Lowas for Trish and me.


Trish filling out our information in case we die on the trail.


Our dog, Bryn, ready to get this show on the road.


And, of course, the obligatory group photo before the hike… with Bryn biting me in the ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ for the sake of decency.


Speaking of fantasy novel references, the introductory mile to the hike had a very Middle Earth feel with the thick fog/heavy mist rolling over the landscape.

We knew we might be in for some rain when a decent bout hit us just outside of Salem, and then continued to hit us almost the entire way to the trailhead. However, the rain had dissipated about thirty minutes before we arrived at our starting point, so we thought that maybe it would burn off with a little help from the afternoon sun.

The rain started around the time our hike did. I guess you wouldn’t call it rain in the initial phases. It began as a heavy mist; one might even call it really thick fog. But the fog became a drizzle and the drizzle became a steady, penetrating rain after about thirty minutes of hiking, and then remained for the remainder of the hike.



One of the few lakes we passed on our way to Carl Lake.


At least someone enjoyed being wet.





By the time we reached the lake, all of us were drenched, had numb hands, and were wondering why we hadn’t taken plan B. What is plan B, you ask? I had kind of jokingly proposed a plan B when the rain started to become consistent based on previous experience with pushing on despite warning signs. Trish and I had a hike from hell a few springs ago in the gorge that included snow, rain, and very high winds, all culminating to a dramatic 3am departure. Remembering this not-so happy memory, I proposed that if the rain continued, we simply hike back to the car, drive to Bend, get some beers, and then do a day-hike in the Bend area the next day. Although mentally plan B seemed more and more reasonable the farther we got, it became a non-negotiable once we all decided that we had come to hike to Carl Lake, so that was what we were going to do.

However, setting up our tents with the rain consistently falling and Bryn, our dog, shivering in a corner, made all of us question our decision-making. Both Trish and I stripped quickly and jumped in our tent. Unfortunately, Bryn thought the tent party was an open invite and pushed her way in as well, smearing a pine-cone and mud tapestry all over the floor of our tent. Trying to clean it up with already wet towels was kind of a lost cause, so we just pushed the dirt into the corners of our tent and called it good.

Once Josh and Krista, and Trish, Bryn, and I had gained feeling in our extremities again, we invited Josh and Krista to join us in our tent for some whisky and card games. Once the festivities began (and they got over the rancid wet dog smell that now permeated our tent) we sort of forgot about the misery being experienced 15 minutes ago. Instead, we enjoyed some games in the cramped quarters of a tent with a dirty dog and a downpour.


Inside the tent, after our extremities had dethawed a bit.


Sleepy dog.


The festivities.


Bryn wanted two things in the tent: everyone’s dirty clothes…


And everyone’s snacks.


But she eventually gave up on both fronts.

Having had a great time, we all decided we didn’t want the party to end, so plan B was reintroduced and quickly agreed upon. As the rain began to subside, we quickly repacked all our gear, and hightailed it out of Carl Lake and into the warmth of our car; Bend was a quick hour long car ride and we were all feeling great about our decision.


Carl Lake.


Final shot before we made our way back to the car.

Once in Bend, we found a relatively cheap dog-friendly motel, flung our dirty garments and packs to the floor, and drove over to Jack-in-the-Box for some feel good food.

The next day, our hiking adventures brought us to Smith Rock, where a busy Labor-Day weekend crowd greeted us. The hike was vastly different from our Carl Lake fiasco, with partly cloudy skies and even some afternoon warmth.


Heading towards Smith Rock.


Beginning of the hike.





Bryn found herself waiting for us a lot.




There were some climbers trying to summit a famous rock-face called Monkeyface.



The Three Sisters, with Broken Top on the far left.



The other side of Monkeyface.


A good leg-dangling spot.



Our descent.

Our final destination was Bend Distillery, where Josh and Krista enjoyed their inaugural Bend Distillery tasting and $3 cocktail. I’m sure there will be more tastings to come in the future.


The taster.



Can I have some Whisky?


Okay, just a little.


Whisky Coma.

The hiking weekend was a success, due mostly to the positive attitudes and willingness to jump ship when the opportunity arose. I think it’s safe to say we’ll all remember this weekend with fondness, despite the messy middle, and on a scale of fun to not fun, this one definitely tips towards fun.


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