Broken Top Adventures

Some of my favorite Central Oregon hiking areas are the alpine basins that surround Broken Top Mountain, located in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area near Mt. Bachelor.  There are several beautiful hiking trails that give good access to amazing alpine scenery high on the flanks of Broken Top, including the Tam McArthur Rim Trail, Park Meadows Trail, Green Lakes Trail, the Crater Ditch trail, and the Broken Top Crater Trail.  All these trails have their own unique visual attractions and different time frames at which they are at their floral apex.  This of course, means, that, as a backcountry photographer, I’m forced to make several photographic journeys to Broken Top every year.  What Torture!  Tam McArthur Rim is one of the first hikes my wife and I did when we moved to Oregon.  It is beautiful, rugged, not too difficult, and easily accessible from the city of Sisters, Oregon, where we lived at the time.  One of my favorite images of Tam McArthur Rim, which extends eastward from the shoulders of Broken Top and is highly visible from the city of Sisters is found Below.

This shot was taken from Tam McArthur Rim and displays Middle Sister, North Sister, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt Jefferson Wilderness to the far right.  Obviously it was a spectacular sunset, one well worth the hike, and even worth the uneasy feeling that comes with a cold hike out in the dark of night.  Another of my favorite locations on Broken Top is the area covered by Broken Top Trail.  This trail starts at a high elevation and stays there.   The next image is from a couple years ago but I’m still  fond of it.  It was taken in the glacial basin at the southern end of the Broken Top trail.

Finally I’ll include several images from a recent series of explorations on the east side of Broken Top.  I scouted this area several times within the same week and decided the flowers would soon climax.  I then made sunrise outings on consecutive mornings to appropriately capture what I considered an exceptional floral display with a gorgeous back drop of Broken Top’s Crater.  The first morning, the light was poor and it was very hazy due to forest fires in the vicinity.  The next was different.  I awoke at 3:30 AM  grabbed my enormous backpack full of cameras and lenses and drove to Sparks Lake to determine if the conditions warranted a long drive down forest service road 370 with an hour long off trail hike carrying 50 pounds of gear to follow, all before sunrise.  The conditions at Sparks Lake were questionable at best.  Broken Top was completely obscured except for occasional glimpses of its summit.  I envisioned moody light enhancing an already gorgeous foreground backed by the theatre of Broken Top’s pinnacles intertwined with misty morning clouds.  This was one of those mornings where I gambled and won!  Below are several images I’m thrilled with and I feel the best is yet to come.  Only on exceptional occasions like this do I shoot with my 4×5 large format camera with the hope that a beautiful fine art print will be the ultimate reward.  When the light was at its most dramatic, I utilized my 4×5 film camera, and when it was less optimal, I shot with my high end digital SLR.  So, what you see are essentially the second class images from a special morning.  I’ll let everyone know if the prints come out as well as I hope they will.  Regardless, enjoy the next few images and please let me know which you prefer by leaving comments at the end of this article, or e-mailing me.

Pre-dawn light, moody cloud cover and a beautiful floral foreground

Pre-dawn light, moody cloud cover and a beautiful floral foreground

One of the best foregrounds I've ever seen!

One of the best foregrounds I have ever seen!

Warm light, mysterious clouds, exceptional flowers, and Broken Top.

Warm light, mysterious clouds, exceptional flowers, and Broken Top.

Even Mt. Bachelor posed for a few images.

Even Mt. Bachelor posed for a few images.

Eventually, mystic clouds gave way to cheery bluebird skies.

Eventually, mystic clouds gave way to cheery bluebird skies.

Overall it was a beautiful and rewarding morning in one of my favorite backcountry locations, high on the flanks of Broken Top mountain, in the heart of the Central Oregon Cascades.


5 Responses to “Broken Top Adventures”

  1. Mike,
    You have a talent for sure. These are beautiful pictures…I hope you have someone helping you sell them. I think people would also love to hike with you to these beautiful places.

  2. Dave,
    Thanks for the kind words! It is a blessing to be able to explore and enjoy Central Oregon on a regular basis. I checked out your blog. Nice work! Unfortunately I can’t see your work with photosynth, because my Mac’s operating system doesn’t support photosynth. Oh well, my loss. It’s nice to hear from a fellow Central Oregon resident who enjoys our local scenery. I’m working on a private show in Sisters sometime this fall. I’ll let you know the specifics when they are finalized, if you’re interested.

  3. Peter Kotchen Says:

    Putt, I love the photos. My favorite is Tam McArthur Rim at sunset. I’ve never seen anything like it. I vote that we do a GDI hiking/camping trip to central OR. Kotch

  4. Kotch, Thanks a bunch for the kind words! The Tam McArthur sunset was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’d love to have the GDIs out for a backpacking trip. I could set up a beautiful route and of course there’s a phenomenal selection of breweries in Bend for afterward.

  5. Mike,

    We’d love to see your collection when you’re up here in Sisters…just let us know.


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