We are in the midst of a horrible wildfire season which only seems to be getting worse. Our original Labor Day plans literately went up in smoke due to the Separation and Nash Fires burning in the Three Sisters Wilderness among others. Our next plan was to spend the weekend in the Olallie Lake Scenic Area but the air quality in that area due to the aforementioned fires as well as the Whitewater, Scorpion, and Devil’s Fires (and so many more) made attempting to camp in that area unappealing so we kept looking.
After consulting several fire maps we determined that either the Indian Heaven Wilderness or the Mt. Adams Wilderness were our best chances for relatively smoke free hiking. The closest fires to those areas were the Indian Creek Fire burning along Eagle Creek in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness to the south and the Norse Peak Fire in the Norse Peak Wilderness to the north.
We settled on the Mt. Adams Wilderness. Our plan was to hike north on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Williams Mine Trailhead to Horseshoe Meadow where we hoped to set up camp. From there we would take the Round-the-Mountain Trail SE to the South Climb Trail and also visit Lookingglass Lake at some point along the way.
We set off on the PCT a little before 8 o’clock on Saturday morning.
After crossing Swampy Creek on a footbridge the PCT entered the Mt. Adams Wilderness.
It was a warm morning but more importantly it was smoke free. We were greeted by blue sky as the trail entered the fire scar from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire.
A few wildflowers remained and lots of ripe huckleberries were available for picking as we went.
It was just about six miles from the trailhead to Horseshoe Meadow most of which was in the burnt area. Along the way we passed a some nice meadows, a few green trees and had views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and a smokey Mt. Hood.
At the junction with the Round-the-Mountain Trail we turned and promptly arrived at Horseshoe Meadow.
Cascade Creek flows through the meadow but was a little too silty filter so we debated on weather to set up camp there or continue on, possibly as far as Lookingglass Lake. After a little more consideration though we decided the location and view from Horseshoe Meadow was too good to pass up so we selected a tent site in some trees.
We had each started the day with 3 liters of water in our Osprey reservoirs and had brought full 18oz. Hydro Flasks. We also had an extra 96oz. Naglene Canteen and another small collapsible container that we decided to take with us on our afternoon excursion and fill them up on the way back to camp.
After getting camp situated we headed toward the South Climb Trail on the Round-the-Mountain Trail.
We’d made the South Climb Trail our turnaround point because our first and only other visit to the Mt. Adams Wilderness was a 2014 hike to Iceberg Lake via the South Climb and Round-the-Mountain Trails.
The trail continued through the Cascade Creek burn with views south to Mt. Hood which remained mostly hidden by smoke.
Before long we began to find some forest that had been spared from the fire.
About a mile from Horseshoe Meadow we came to a small stream with some little pools just big enough to filter water from.
Just beyond the stream we passed the Lookingglass Lake Trail.
We decided to make that side trip on the way back and then we could fill our extra canteens on the way back to camp from the little stream.
There were a number of creeks and streams with flowing water beyond the Lookingglass Lake Trail junction. The first set all eventually flowed into Cascade Creek further down the mountain.
Much of the area we were now passing through contained debris flows from massive avalanches from the Avalanche Glacier. In fact there had been a warning at the trailhead that a crack in the glacier could trigger an avalanche at any time. The Round-the-Mountain Trail was shown as just outside the danger area but it was obvious from our surroundings that the location of the trail had been in the danger zone in the past.
The next set of creeks were all tributaries of Salt Creek, most of which flowed from large glacial moraines.
Others came from springs, one of them just below the trail.
Two and a half miles from the Lookingglass Trail we came to a junction with the Shorthorn Trail.
We passed more creeks including one with a nice little waterfall surrounded by lush green vegetation.
It was just over another 2.5 miles to the South Climb Trail from the Shorthorn Trail which made it about 6 miles from Horseshoe Meadow, a little longer than my initial calculation had been.
After a break at the junction we headed back and turned down the Lookingglass Lake Trail.
It was about a mile downhill to the lake. The trail passed through more forest affected by fire and crossed several creeks including one with a number of frogs.
We made our way around the lake and sat on a little hill facing Mt. Adams where we ate dinner.
It was a little after 6pm when we finally left the lake and headed back up to the Round-the-Mountain Trail. As we climbed we were looking back at the lake when we noticed a smoke plume that we had not seen on the way down to the lake.
Based on its location in relation to Mt. Hood we wondered if the Indian Creek Fire had exploded or if this was some new fire in the Columbia River Gorge.
On Monday we learned from a northbound PCT hiker who had been evacuated from Cascade Locks that what we had seen was the new Eagle Creek Fire apparently started by teenager playing with illegal fireworks. What an idiot. As I write this trip report much of the gorge west of the Ruckle Creek Trail including Multnomah Falls has been affected.
We were still planning on getting water on the way back to Horseshoe Meadow at the little stream but we had forgotten how close it was to the Lookingglass Lake Trail and walked right past it. We didn’t realize our mistake until we’d reached the edge of Horseshoe Meadow. We decided that we would make due for the night with what we had left over in our packs (which wasn’t much) and our Hydro Flasks which we’d left at camp. In the morning we’d get water at either Sheep Lake or Riley Creek if no other sources could be found before then along the PCT.
The shadows were growing long back at Horseshoe Meadow.
We were pretty tired and ready to crash but then we spotted a waterfall across the meadow and just had to check it out. We also thought there might be another water source that wasn’t so silty around. There wasn’t. The waterfall was nice though but it was the color of chocolate milk.
We wound up moving our camp further from the trail due to a large group that had arrived and were a little louder than we preferred. After reestablishing camp we watched the last light hit Mt. Adams and turned in for the night.
Flickr: Mt. Adams Day 1