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Diamond Peak Area Hiking Trip report

Diamond Peak Loop Day 1 – 08/22/2020

Four of the five remaining featured hikes from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Cascades” (4th edition) were scattered around Diamond Peak in the Diamond Peak Wilderness. To check these off our to-do list we decided to hike a four day loop around the mountain visiting most of the highlights of those four hikes. We started our trip at the Trapper Creek Trailhead, a trailhead that we were familiar with having started our Yoran Lake hike there in 2014 (post). After crossing some railroad tracks we arrived at the actual trail and set off into the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
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IMG_4155The writing on the sign made us chuckle, it says “If you need a map you should stay home”. All kidding aside you should always carry a map and refer to it as often as necessary.

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Two tenths of a mile from the railroad tracks we arrived at the Yoran Lake/Whitefish Trail junction where we had turned right in 2014. Posted on this sign (as well as before the railroad tracks and on the signboards at the start of the trail) was a notice that the Trapper Creek Bridge was closed due to damage. That was our return route for the final day but we knew there was an established ford so we weren’t too concerned about it.
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We stayed left on the Whitefish Creek Trail which climbed gradually following Trapper Creek.
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IMG_4190Breakfast time.

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While several lakes including Yoran, Karen, and Diamond View drain into Trapper Creek they are seasonal flows yet Trapper Creek was flowing nicely. The main source of water for the creek is a spring between those lakes. As we continued up the Whitefish Trail the sound of running water faded and the forest shifted to dustier lodgepole pine.
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IMG_4203Unnamed lake along the Whitefish Trail

Just under 5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Diamond View Lake. It had been overcast when we began our hike but the clouds were burning off fast and as we sat at the lake taking a break the clouds lifted and gave us a full view of the east side of Diamond Peak.
IMG_4209Arriving at Diamond View Lake

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IMG_4221Diamond Peak with Mt. Yoran to the right.

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IMG_4240Sharing our break spot with a butterfly

IMG_4252Crossbill near Diamond View Lake

We continued past Diamond View Lake passing a couple small lakes and ponds before arriving at a 4-way junction with the Crater Butte Trail a total of 5.7 miles from the trailhead.
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From the junction the Whitefish Trail continues for 3.9 miles to Crescent Lake. The 13.7 mile Crater Butte Trail starts at the Crater Butte Trailhead on the east side of Odell Lake and passes Fawn and Saddle Lake (post) prior to the junction and then continues on to the Pacific Crest Trail. That was where we were headed so we turned right on the Crater Butte Trail which promptly crossed a mostly dry bed of Whitefish Creek.
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There were some markers along the trail, possibly mile markers and after two miles on this trail we passed the signed junction for the Snell Lake Trail.
IMG_4273Mile marker?

IMG_4277A lone lupine

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IMG_4285It didn’t look like the Snell Lake Trail sees much use, at least at this end.

Beyond the Snell Lake Trail junction the scenery became a little more green with heather filled alpine meadows and an unnamed lake with a great view of Diamond Peak.
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IMG_4294The heather was all done blooming but there was a lot of dried blossoms.

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IMG_4307The summit of Diamond Peak.

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One and a quarter miles from the Snell Lake junction we crossed the small but pretty Mountain Creek before a short steep climb.
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After the climb the trail returned to its gradual grade with a few ups and downs.
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Just over 5 miles after turning onto the Crater Butte Trail we arrived at the PCT.
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Our plan was to set up camp near the junction as we hoped to summit Diamond Peak the next morning from the PCT before continuing on our loop. With COVID-19 significantly lowering the number of thru hikers we weren’t too concerned about taking spots from them so we picked one a bit off the trail and set up our tent.
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As it wasn’t quite 1:00 yet we could do some exploring after getting camp situated. We briefly contemplated attempting to summit that afternoon but decided against it due to heat and needing water so instead we headed for Rockpile and Marie Lakes by taking the Rockpile Trail which continued across the PCT from the Crater Butte Trail.
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We would be going this way when we continued on our loop but both of the lakes are a bit off the trail and visiting them now gave us the opportunity to relax by the water before turning in for the night. A half mile down the Rockpile Trail on the left we found the signed .1 mile spur trail to Rockpile Lake.
IMG_4350Diamond Peak from the Rockpile Trail

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There were a few camps set up along the south side of the little lake. We decided not to stay long here as kids throwing rocks into the lake might be fun but it isn’t exactly relaxing so after checking it out we returned to the Rockpile Trail and turned left toward Marie Lake. After 110 yards we came to a junction with the Rockpile Trail continuing to the left while a spur trail continued .2 miles to Marie Lake.
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We followed a trail along the south side of the lake to a view of Diamond Peak. While there were people camped here too the lake was bigger and we found a spot along the lake shore to sit and relax.
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From our spot we could see the false summit of Diamond Peak and the route that we would be taking the next morning.
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IMG_4383Hikers on the trail to the right coming down from the false summit.

As the afternoon turned to evening more people showed up including some bathers, some floaters and a couple of skinny dippers. We kept the photos to the non-humans at the lake though.
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We had dinner by the lake then pumped water before heading back to our tent. We spent a little time exploring the area around camp and picked some huckleberries before turning in for the night. We had planned on hiking somewhere in the area of 12 miles but we wound up showing 14.3 on our GPS units (they actually agreed this time). It had been a beautiful day, not too warm and pleasantly smokeless given the number of wildfires in California and Oregon. We were hoping that the rest of the trip would be equally nice and turned in looking forward to the next days adventures. Happy trails!

Flickr: Diamond Peak Loop Day 1

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon

Fawn Lake – Diamond Peak Wilderness

A week after scrapping a planned four day backpacking trip in the Diamond Peak Wilderness due to weather we found ourselves heading to that same wilderness because of weather. Our one available day for hiking this week coincided with the one wet day in the forecast. When that happens we usually look at several different areas to find the one with the best chance to stay dry. This time that appeared to be Fawn Lake in the Diamond Peak Wilderness with just a 30% chance of showers. With our plans set we drove to the Fawn Lake Trailhead near Crescent Lake. To reach the trailhead we turned SW onto NF 60 at a sign for Crescent Lake between mileposts 69 and 70 along Highway 58 (in Crescent Junction). After 2.2 miles we continued on NF 60 where it made a right turn at a sno-park. After an additional .3 miles we turned left at a sign for the Crescent Lake Campground/Fawn Lake Trailhead.

It is an interesting trailhead, the parking area is a day use lot located next to the Crescent Lake Campground. A trail sign at the far end of the parking lot pointed to the Fawn Lake Trailhead.
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We followed this path and in a tenth of a mile came to a crossing of NF 60.
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Another pointer for the Fawn Lake Trailhead lay on the far side of the road.
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A short distance later we arrived at a sign for the actual Fawn Lake Trail and a signboard with self-issued wilderness permits.
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The Fawn Lake Trail set off in a mostly lodgepole pine forest and just after a 4-way junction with the Metolious-Windigo Trail entered the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
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After entering the wilderness the trail climbed gradually for approximately three quarters of a mile through a mix of lodgepole and fir forest to a fork.
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This was the start of a loop past Fawn and Pretty Lakes.
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We went right heading for Fawn Lake which was just over 2.5 miles away. The trail contoured around a ridge end climbing gradually through a nice forest.
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The trail split again at Fawn Lake.
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The left fork was the upper end of the loop, but before we started on the loop we had plans to visit a couple of other lakes in the wilderness so we went right stopping briefly to visit the shore of Fawn Lake. We had driven through a number of showers on the way to the trail but so far the hike had been dry. From the lake Redtop Mountain to the SE was cloud free while Lakeview Mountain to the SW was not.
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IMG_3048Lakeview Mountain (to the right behind clouds)

We continued on around the north end of the lake to the end of the Fawn Lake Trail at a junction with the Crater Butte Trail.
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Here we stayed left and climbed above Fawn Lake.
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A mile from Fawn Lake we came to the Stag Lake Trail.
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It was clouding up at this point and a light mist was falling. We decided to wait on the side trip to Stag Lake which lay at the base of Lakeview Mountain hoping that it would be a little clearer on the way back.
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We followed the pointer for Saddle Lake and continued uphill through the forest.
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After .6 miles the trail steepened as it climbed out of a gully to a saddle.
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After .3 miles of switchbacks we arrived at the saddle where the trail leveled out for a tenth of a mile to Saddle Lake.
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A steady light rain was now falling but not enough for us to need to break out the rain gear.
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The weather and the scenery really let us know that Fall had arrived.
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After a break at Saddle Lake we headed back to the junction with the Stag Lake Trail and turned left onto it.
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This fairly level .4 mile trail passed a small pond before arriving at Stag Lake.
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The clouds had not lifted so our view of Lakeview Mountain was fairly obscured.
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We would get a much better look at the mountain from the car as we were trying to leave (more on that later).

After visiting Stag Lake we returned to the Crater Butte Trail and headed back toward Fawn Lake. Shortly before reaching the lake we turned right on a path we had noticed earlier hoping to pass around the west side of the lake and hooking up with the Pretty Lake Trail to the SW of the lake.
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The open forest made cross country travel relatively easy.
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Using our GPS we made our way to the SW shore of Fawn Lake where the Pretty Lake Trail was just a few feet away in the forest.
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Once we were on the Pretty Lake Trail we turned right for a fairly level .4 miles to the start of a short .3 mile climb.
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The trial then crested a low pass and descended slightly for another .3 miles to Pretty Lake.
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It was a little under 2 miles from Pretty Lake back to the Fawn Lake Trail junction. The trail descended a ridge with a bit of a view of Odell Butte to the north.
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We completed the loop then followed the Fawn Lake Trail back .8 miles to our car. With the side trips to Saddle and Stag Lakes this was a 12.7 mile hike with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It would have been nice to have had better views of Lakeview Mountain, but it was still a nice hike and we have a good excuse to go back and redo this hike someday.

The only real negative to the day was as we were headed home. A train was stopped blocking NF 60 and we were informed that it could be a couple of hours before it was able to move. We didn’t have a sufficient road map to figure out which forest roads might bypass the train and after a failed attempt to find an alternate route we returned to the stopped train and waited. As we were driving around though we noticed that Lakeview Mountain was now entirely free of clouds. After sitting at the tracks for a little over an hour the train was finally on its way and so were we. Happy (train free) Trails!

Flickr: Fawn Lake

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Windy Lakes and Beyond

The third, and what turned out to be final day, of our trip around Cowhorn Mountain was originally going to be a 10 mile hike moving our camp near Indigo Lake on the west side of the Cascade Crest to the Windy Lakes on the east side. That would have left us about 11 miles from our car for the final day’s hike out. I had already begun rethinking that in the days before we started out because we’d likely be at the Windy Lakes before 1pm which would mean we’d be hanging around that group of lakes for half of the day when we could have been shortening the distance for our final day.

After going over our maps the night before and discussing it we had decided that we would continue past the Windy Lakes and set up camp at one of several other lakes along our route. We would let our bodies and the time of day decide when it was time to stop. Our options were Suzanne and Darlene Lakes which were a mile beyond the Windy Lakes, Oldenburg Lake which was another 4 miles along, or go another 2+ miles to Nip & Tuck Lakes.

Before we could decide where to camp for the night though we had to get to these lakes. We said goodbye to the little lake we had been staying at and set off a little before 7am.
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We took the Indigo Extension Trail down to Indigo Lake then followed the Indigo Lake Trail nearly 2 miles to the trailhead near the Timpanogas Lake Campground. A short road walk into the campground brought us to the Lake Shore Trail along Timpanogas Lake.
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We followed the Lake Shore Trail for .4 miles to the Timpanogas Shelter.
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Just beyond the shelter were signs for the Start O’Willamette Trail.
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We turned uphill on this trail and climbed nearly 600′ in just over a mile to the Windy Pass Trail.
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There were several unnamed lakes shown on the map near the junction and we quickly passed on after turning right onto the Windy Pass Trail.
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From the junction we needed to follow the Windy Pass Trail for 2.7 miles to the Cowhorn Traverse Trail where we had come down from the Pacific Crest Trail two days before. This section of trail gained almost 900′ but it was never steep making it a fairly easy climb. The trail was forested but there were occasional views of Sawtooth Mountain across the valley we were circling.
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We were in a zone and making good time when a pair of grouse startled us.
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After stopping to watch the grouse we continued on to the junction with the Cowhorn Traverse Trail where we turned left and followed it .3 miles to the PCT.
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If we turned right (south) on the Pacific Crest Trail it would be about than 5 miles to our car, but we turned left and headed north. The PCT traveled along the Cascade Crest offering some big views in all directions as the trial occasionally switched sides along the ridge.

Diamond Peak to the north
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Maiden Peak, Mt. Bachelor and Crescent Lake to the NE
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Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Bailey, and Sawtooth Mountain to the south
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Mt. Thielsen, peaks around Crater Lake, Union Peak, and Mt. McLoughlin
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The trail began a series of sections where it would switchback down through the forest on the west side of the crest before popping out at a viewpoint along the ridge. The Windy Lakes were below the ridge to the east and we were gaining better views of them each time we reached the ridge.
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Our plan to visit the Windy Lakes included some off-trail hiking because there was no direct route from the PCT to the Windy Lakes Trail. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the topographic map determining where we thought the best spot to head cross country would be. We identified a switchback due west of Middle Windy Lake as the best option. We used the GPS to make sure we were in the right area when we finally decided to leave the PCT just under 3 miles from the Cowhorn Traverse Trail.
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The cross country route was much easier than we could have ever hoped for with very little blowdown and no underbrush to speak of.
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We used the GPS to make sure we were staying on the right heading and were quickly approaching a lake. For all the good the GPS does it occasionally messes with us. The lake we were approaching was the furthest lake shown on the display to the south. We had expected to be headed toward Middle Windy Lake but the furthest Windy Lake to the south is South Windy Lake. We would have preferred reaching South Windy Lake first because we planned on visiting it in any event and it would have been out of the way to head there from Middle Windy Lake. As we approached the lake shown on the GPS the Windy Lake Trail was shown on the map on the opposite side.
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We decided to go around the southern end of the lake to meet up with the trail closer to its end. I should have realized something was amiss when I noticed that the GPS showed the trail continuing even further south even though there was no lake shown at its end. I was too busy enjoying the scenery of the lake though to pay much attention to a trail to nowhere though.
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We located the Windy Lakes Trail near a campsite at the SE end of the lake and turned left hiking along the lake.
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We decided to take a break and sat on a log along the sandy beach watching some birds hunting for food.
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From there we continued north on the Windy Lakes Trail passing briefly through forest before arriving at the next lake.
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We thought this must be Middle Windy Lake and it had a bit of a view of Diamond Peak.
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It also had a nice looking peninsula which was a little odd because we remembered from the maps that East Windy Lake had peninsula.
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The peninsula prompted me to look at the GPS again and I noticed that we were getting pretty close to our next trail junction and we’d only passed two lakes not the three we were expecting. I scrolled the display back up to the where it showed the end of the Windy Lakes Trail and zoomed in to find that instead of showing a lake the map had the area labeled as a marsh. We don’t know why the map (Google is the same) didn’t show the actual lake but we knew it was there having seen it from the PCT. We briefly considered skipping it, but that just didn’t sound like us so we turned around and headed back up the Windy Lakes Trail. After passing East Windy Lake and the correctly identified Middle Windy Lake we came to the campsite where we had first stepped onto the Windy Lakes Trail and continued into the forest.
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It was just under a half mile to South Windy Lake from the campsite.
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The lake was in a bowl at the head of the valley and the shore was heavily forested with a lot of brush making it a little less inviting than the other two lakes we had visited. We both thought it was prettier to look at from above through the trees where it was a little more colorful.
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In any event we’d seen it and now had our lakes properly identified so now we could continue our loop. We passed Middle and East Windy Lakes once again and then turned right following a pointer for Oldenburg Lake at a 3-way junction.
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After passing an unnamed lake we arrived at a second 3-way junction where we once again turned right ignoring the pointer for the Spring Trail.
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The next lakes up were Suzanne and Darlene. Suzanne Lake was a quick, level mile from first 3-way junction.
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There were a couple of established tent sites here but it was still too early in the day for us to want to stop so we continued to Darlene Lake which was only a quarter mile away.
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The summit of Cowhorn Mountain was visible over the forest on the far side of the lake.
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We took a short break on a log at Darlene Lake but it was only just now after 1:00pm and Oldenburg Lake was less than 4 miles away so we sallied forth.
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It had been growing increasingly cloudy which was something we had been keeping our eyes on. We had come prepared for rain, but we hadn’t really expected any based on the forecast the morning we had left. We had noticed though that the forecast for some of the rest of Oregon had suddenly been calling for rain over the final days of our trip so we knew there was a possibility that the forecast might change while we were out. Not far from Darlene Lake a light rain began to fall. Heather was the first to suggest what we had both been considering, hiking all the way to the trailhead instead of stopping at one of the lakes for the night. We discussed it briefly and decided that we’d both prefer not to mess with the rain gear and since we would still be getting to visit everything we’d planned on we wouldn’t be missing out on anything. With that settled we picked up our pace and really started moving.

The forest began to change as we got closer to Oldenburg Lake and we were soon hiking through lodgepole pines on a dusty trail.
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We arrived at Oldenburg Lake just after 2:30 having traveled the final 3 miles in about an hour.
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We took another short break at Oldenburg Lake before continuing on toward Nip & Tuck Lakes. This next section of trail was a little slower due to a gentle but steady uphill. Just over 2 miles from Oldenburg Lake our GPS showed that Nip & Tuck Lakes were off the trail to the east. They were hidden by trees so we were watching for any sign of a side trail down to the lakes. According to the maps we had there was no official trail leading to them. When it looked as though we were about to pass them completely we decided to attempt a cross country route but were quickly stymied by closely knit lodgepole stands. We decided to skip these lakes after all and returned to the Oldenburg Lake Trail. About a hundred yards from where we had left the trail to go cross country we came to a junction with a signpost for the lakes.
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It was less than a tenth of a mile to this pair of little lakes. They were unlike any of the other lakes we’d visited during our trip. They were smaller, shallower, and ringed mostly with grasses and reeds.
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When full it is actually one continuous lake but this late in the year the two parts were separated by a grassy meadow.
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We took one final break at the larger of the two bodies of water before setting of on the final stretch. We were a little under 2 miles from the Oldenburg Lake Trailhead and it was just about 3:45pm. The final section of trail was only sightly uphill so we made decent time and managed to arrive at the trailhead along Forest Road 60 just after 4:20pm.
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We were soon on our way home. The GPS put us at 22 miles even for the day which was the most we’d ever done with our full backpacks and our feet knew it. πŸ™‚ We don’t know how much it rained or if it even did where we would have camped, but we drove through plenty of it on the way back home. It had been a great three days with some amazing views and above all it had been another great adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672911107731

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Sawtooth Mountain and June Lake

Our second day in the Oregon Cascades Recreation Area was a day hike from our base camp at the little green lake above Indigo Lake. Our plan was to do a loop around Sawtooth Mountain (with a side trip up to the summit). Before completing the loop we also planned to to take another side trip to visit nearby June Lake.
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We chose to go around Sawtooth Mountain in a clockwise direction. Heather had pointed out that this was a shorter route to the summit from where we were camped which would mean we’d be climbing in cooler temperatures and it also would allow us to visit June Lake later in the day when we would likely be welcoming a nice break.

We left the lake and returned to the Indigo Extension Trail which we took uphill to the junction with the Windy Pass Trail.
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Here we turned right onto the Windy Pass Trail and began a downhill traverse behind Sawtooth Mountain.
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The downhill meant more climbing to get to the 7301′ summit so we weren’t overly thrilled as we continued to lose elevation. The trail eventually began to climb after descending to an elevation of approximately 6350′. The climb was quite a bit steeper than the descent had been. We did have occasional views up through the forest to various rock formations on Sawtooth Mountain but not of the summit itself.
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We also saw the only deer we’d encounter on the entire trip along this section when a doe and her fawn ran down a gully toward seasonal Bradley Creek.

The trail really steepened in very loose dirt below an interesting pillar, where we also got a good look our goal, which we had now worked our way around.
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We found the .4 mile scramble trail to the summit a very short distance after climbing past the pillar. The trail was marked with rock cairns.
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From the beginning of the scramble trail we could get a little idea of our route but the view turned out to be pretty deceiving.
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Beyond Sawtooth Mountain was Cowhorn Mountain which we had climbed the previous day.
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The climb up Sawtooth Mountain was not as steep as the climb up Cowhorn Mountain had been but it had it’s own challenges. The first tenth of a mile or so was an easy to follow dirt path along a ridge. The dirt gave way to rock and we were soon climbing more steeply up a scree slope to a dark rock outcrop.
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A second outcrop lay a couple hundred feet further along the ridge.

Looking back to the first outcrop from the second.
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Hidden behind the second outcrop the ridge continued on but it was much narrower.
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It was narrow enough that there was a moment of hesitation before stepping out and heading across. To make things just a little more challenging there was a small rock spire toward the end of the narrow section to navigate around.
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At the far end of the ridge was a patch of western pasque flowers.
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The route headed to the left along a scree field below the mountains craggy summit.
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After passing a narrow chute filled with loose rock we scrambled up to the summit from the NW side.
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Despite this peak being 350′ shorter than Cowhorn Mountain we felt the views were a bit better. Indigo Lake lay almost directly below and several mountains that we had not been able to see from Cowhorn Mountain were visible from this summit.

Looking north
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Indigo Lake
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Diamond Peak and Summit Lake
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor behind Maiden Peak
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To the east was Cowhorn Mountain
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View south
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Mt. Scott behind Mt. Thielsen
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Union Peak and Mt. McLouglin
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Mt. Bailey
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There also didn’t seem to be as many yellow jackets flying around (just a bunch of flies)which allowed me to be a little more relaxed as we took a break and ate some food. On the way back to the Windy Pass Trail we spotted a marmot foraging in the dirt. We’d seen it on the way up but it had run off as we approached but now it didn’t seem to be too worried about us.
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Approximately 1.2 miles after starting back on the Windy Pass Trail we came to a junction with the Sawtooth Mountain Trail.
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The Windy Pass Trail continues 2 more miles to Forest Road 770 but according to the forest service that section of trail is no longer maintained. Our route took us onto the Sawtooth Mountain Trail though. We followed this path downhill through the forest for approximately 2.25 miles. At times the trail was rather steep and it was evident why it appeared to be popular with mountain bikers.
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After the 2.25 miles we arrived at a trail junction with the Indigo Lake and June/Indigo Tie Trails.
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To get back to our camp we would need to head toward Indigo Lake but first we wanted to visit June Lake so we made a sharp left turn onto the tie trail.
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After about half a mile the tie trail met the June Lake Trail coming up from a trailhead near the Timpanogs Lake Campground.
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The hike to June Lake was nearly flat, especially in relation to what we’d just come down. Sections of the trail were also lined with colorful huckleberry bushes.
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June Lake was a little bigger than we expected and, like the other lakes in the area, very colorful. The only thing it seemed to lack was a mountain view.
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We walked around the lake stopping on the far side to sit on some rocks along the shore. We had to watch where we sat because we weren’t the only ones enjoying the rocks.
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As we rested we watched busy birds and butterflies along the lakes sandy shore.
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We had gone around the lake clockwise and near the end of the loop we came to the lakes now dry outlet creek.
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We stopped for a moment to ponder what might have once been on a small signboard that was nearby.
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After completing the loop we followed the June Lake Trail back to the junction with the tie trail where we decided not to turn onto the tie trail but instead take the .7 mile trail down to the trailhead.
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This section of trail lost about 200′ of elevation as it descended to a junction with the Middle Fork Trail.
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The 33.1 mile Middle Fork Trail follows the Middle Fork Willamette River from the Sand Prairie Campgound near Hills Creek Reservoir near Oakridge up to the trailhead near Timpanogas Lake. Just before the trailhead it passes Lower Timpanogas Lake. In order to get a decent look at that lake we had to hike 100′ down the Middle Fork Trail.
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To be honest it was the least impressive of the lakes we’d visited on the trip so far but Heather did see some good sized fish swimming in the water. We walked back up to the junction and turned left onto what was now an old roadbed leading to the trailhead. At the trailhead we headed up the Indigo Lake Trail.
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We climbed for .7 miles back to the junction where we had taken the June/Indigo Tie Trail then continued on the Indigo Lake Trail an additional 1.2 miles uphill to Indigo Lake.
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After a brief stop at one of the picnic tables along Indigo Lake we made our way back up to our campsite where we had dinner and watched the sky change colors as the sunset.
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We would be packing up in the morning and saying goodbye to the little unnamed lake, but for one more night it was home. Happy Trails!

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Cowhorn Mountain and Indigo Lake

For our final multi-night backpacking trip this year we planned on hiking up a pair of lesser known Cascade peaks located between the Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen Wilderness Areas. At the center of our plans was 7669′ Cowhorn Mountain which we would ultimately make a loop around. Our first trail would be the Pacific Crest Trail which passes within .4 miles of Cowhorn Mountain’s summit. We planned on accessing the PCT from the Windigo Pass Trailhead located along Forest Road 60 at Windigo Pass. Forest Road 60 runs between Crescent Lake along Highway 58 and Highway 138 north of Diamond Lake. We came from Crescent Lake and decided to park 3/4 of a mile from the Windigo Pass Trailhead at the Oldenburg Lake Trailhead instead since this would be the trail we used to return on the final day of our trip and we prefer starting with a road walk over ending with one.
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We hadn’t been on the PCT long before we took our first off-trail detour of the day. We wanted to check out one of the Windigo Lakes which are located off the PCT to the east. Using topographic maps and our GPS we found our way to the first of the two Windigo Lakes where we had a nice view of Cowhorn Mountain.
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We left the lake and headed back uphill toward the PCT. We were aiming for a switchback about a mile from where we had left the PCT. The climb up to the switchback was a good deal steeper than the slope we had originally come down to reach the lake and as we neared the PCT we encountered some tightly packed young trees which dictated where we were able to go. We managed to regain the PCT maybe a hundred yards from where we had been shooting for.
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When we reached the switchback that we had been aiming for we could see the lake below.
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It was approximately 3.3 miles from the switchback viewpoint to the summit trail. The PCT stayed near the top of the ridge offering several views to both the north and south as well as our next goal.
Cowhorn Mountain
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Sawtooth Mountain
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Mt. Thielsen
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Diamond Peak
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The unofficial trail to the summit was marked by rock cairns on the shoulder of Cowhorn Mountain.
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The trail was worn enough to be fairly easy to follow as it crossed a cinder ridge.
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Halfway along the ridge was an outcrop made of black rock followed by another cinder covered section of ridge. We had our full backpacks on up until this point but we decided to ditch them before crossing the final cinder ridge and left them by a stunted pine tree. The climb to the summit is a class 2/3 scramble to the current high point. The mountain lost it’s spire top in a 1911 storm.
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We had a great 360 degree view from the summit. To the west was Sawtooth Mountain which we were planning on hiking up the next day.
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To the north the view included nearby Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.
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Maiden Peak was in front of the Three Sisters and it was interesting to see how close they looked to that peak from our current location. We had just recently been onΒ Maiden Peak and even though those mountains had been mostly hidden by clouds they seemed further away from that peak than they did now.
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To the south Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey rose above several other Cascade peaks.
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Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Bailey
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We had brought a snack with us up to the summit and had hoped to take a nice long break up there but we wound up not staying as long as we planned due to there being quite a few yellow jackets flying around. Heather (and the rest of my family) can tell you I am not a bee person and I am especially uncomfortable around yellow jackets and wasps. I have been doing better the last couple of years with honey bees and bumble bees but I have no use for yellow jackets and can only handle their buzzing around me for a short time before I start to go crazy, and I really didn’t want to do something stupid on the top of a mountain, so we headed back down, retrieved our backpacks, and returned to the PCT.

We continued north on the PCT just over a quarter of a mile to a signed junction with the Cowhorn Traverse Trail.
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We left the PCT here and took the Cowhorn Traverse Trail downhill for .3 miles to another junction, this time with the Windy Pass Trail.
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We were now in the Oregon Cascades Recreation area, the largest unprotected roadless area left in the Cascades. We headed left on the Windy Pass Trail which followed a ridge west toward Sawtooth Mountain for approximately two miles to a junction with the Indigo Extension Trail.
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The Windy Pass Trail continued to the left passing behind Sawtooth Mountain. We would be taking that trail the next day when we climbed Sawtooth Mountain but for now we headed right toward Indigo Lake. The trail passed a nice viewpoint of Sawtooth Mountain before beginning a steeper descent toward the lake via a series of switchbacks.
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We decided to take another detour off-trail prior to reaching Indigo Lake to see if we could get to a small unnamed lake shown on the map. We left the trail when we appeared to be at a comparable elevation to the lake and managed to find it without much difficulty. The little lake was a beautiful green and had a nice view of Sawtooth Mountain.
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There was also a nice area for a tent so we called an audible and decided to set up camp here instead of down at Indigo Lake.
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After getting our camp set up we switched to our day packs and headed back to the trail to go see Indigo Lake. After a few more switchbacks we arrived at the lake’s primitive campground.
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We didn’t see anyone else there as we made our way counter-clockwise around the lake.
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At the south end of the lake was a talus slope where we spotted a couple of pikas.
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The southern end of the lake also provided a glimpse of Diamond Peak.
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We finished the loop around the lake and then sat at one of the wooden picnic tables for a bit.
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After our break we climbed back up to the unnamed lake and decided to walk around it as well. There weren’t any other people there either but we were far from alone.
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We spent the rest of the evening at the little lake watching the sunset after having dinner and then turning in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Midnight & Yoran Lakes – Diamond Peak Wilderness

Our final October hike brought us to the Diamond Peak Wilderness for our second ever visit. This 52,611 acre wilderness is home to numerous lakes and 8,744′ Diamond Peak. Our plan for this visit was to start at the Trapper Creek Trailhead and take the Yoran Lake Trail to Yoran Lake then head cross-country to the Pacific Crest Trail returning on a loop past Midnight Lake. It was a rainy drive for most of the morning but we arrived at the West Odell lake Access off Highway 58 under clouds that were beginning to break up. Parking for the trail is located across from the Shelter Cove Resort next to some railroad tracks.
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The actual trail started on the far side of the tacks and quickly entered the wilderness.
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Just a short while after entering the wilderness the trail split. The left fork led to Diamond View Lake and the right to the Yoran Lake Trail.
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We took the right hand fork which briefly followed Trapper Creek passing a small waterfall just before crossing the creek on a footbridge.
Small waterfall on Trapper Creek

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The trail split again at the Yoran Lake Trail which headed uphill to the left while the path on the right led to Pengra Pass and the PCT. We began the steady climb up to Yoran Lake as a little fog rolled through the forest.
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Yoran and Midnight Lakes were only two of several lakes we were going to be visiting on the hike as well as a number of smaller ponds. We came to the first small lake after 3 miles on the Yoran Lake Trail.
Unnamed Lake along the Yoran Lake Trail

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In another mile we arrived at Karen Lake.
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On a clearer day we would have had a great view of Diamond Peak but we had to settle for some briefs peeks of the peak.
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Just to the NW of Karen Lake we found Yoran Lake at the end of the Yoran Lake Trail. Diamond Peak was again hidden by the clouds, but we had a little better view of Mt. Yoran.
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Yoran Lake

We made our way around the lake to the northern end where there was a pair of small islands.
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We left the lake shore when we passed the second island, crossing a pretty little inlet creek, and headed true north toward the PCT.
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At first we were following a faint path but we lost the tread as we passed by a pair of small ponds.
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A couple of quick checks of the GPS showed we were on course to arrive at Liles Lake which lies next to the PCT. Our guidebook said to go around the left side of the lake but we arrived closer to the right side. We picked up a trail going around the lake and decided to just follow it around that side.
Lils Lake

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It looked like the right side might be difficult to go around earlier in the year when the water level would have been higher but we had no problem following the path and hooking up with the PCT on the north side of the lake. We turned right and started downhill passing some small ponds and passing through some interesting forest.
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The next lake we came to was Hidden Lake.
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We passed several more pretty little ponds between Hidden Lake and the next named lake which was Arrowhead Lake. It was pretty clear why this forest is full of mosquitoes most of July and August with ponds and lakes seemingly everywhere.
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We almost passed by Arrowhead Lake waiting for a clear path to it, but when we didn’t find one we made our own. We were glad we did because this lake had some of the prettiest water we had seen that day.
Arrowhead Lake

Continuing down the PCT from Arrowhead Lake we passed a rock that Heather dubbed Gorilla Rock due to it’s interesting shape. She thought it looked like a gorillas head and arm.
Gorrilla Rock - named by Heather

Shortly after passing the rock we spotted movement through the trees further down the trail. I thought we’d seen another person or dog coming up the trail and then we saw a second flash of color which we could tell was an elk. A total of four elk cows had crossed the trail and passed in virtual silence through the forest and over a small ridge. I was snapping pictures every time one appeared through the trees but I never got more than the back half of one.
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The final named lake we visited was Midnight Lake.
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We stopped at one final unnamed lake/pond before arriving at Pengra Pass.
Small lake/pond along the PCT in the Diamond Peak Wilderness

We left the PCT at Pengra Pass and followed an old road right .4 miles where a trail split off from the right hand shoulder.
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It was only another .6 miles back to the Yoran Lake Trail and .7 more back to our car. On our way home we made a pit stop at Salt Creek Falls, the previous hike we’d taken in the Diamond Peak Wilderness. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/salt-creek-falls/
Salt Creek Falls

All the lakes were very nice and we are hoping to do some backpacking in the area sometime. Diamond Peak is a non-technical climb and there are trails all the way around the mountain making for numerous possible destinations. More ideas for future trips πŸ™‚ Happy Trails!

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Salt Creek Falls

It’s July and that means mosquito season in the Cascades. We had our first real run in with the pests on our 4th of July hike at Salt Creek Falls. Through June I had seen only one mosquito which managed to get me on top of Salmon Butte. For the next month or so we will be faced with a dilemma, brave the hoards of bloodsuckers in order to see some of the best wildflower displays of the year, or play it safe and wait them out missing the best of the flowers.

We chose to brave the danger (annoyance at the very least) for this waterfall hike. At 286′ Salt Creek Falls is Oregon’s second tallest and is conviniently close to Hwy 58 making it easy to make a quick stop. We tend to avoid quick and easy but trails leading past Salt Creek Falls head up into the Diamond Peak Wilderness passing a couple of lakes and two additional waterfalls giving us a good excuse for a visit.

We were the first car in the parking lot and apparently the mosquitoes were waiting because I had one land on me almost immediately after I got out of the car. Luckily we had come prepared. We were all wearing long pants/sleeves and sported less than fashionable bug net hats. After a good dousing in DEET (a necessary evil) we headed down the short path to the Salt Creek Falls viewpoint.
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After viewing the falls we headed for the Vivian Lake which was 4 3/4mi away and our turnaround point. Shortly after crossing Salt Creek the trail split making a loop to Diamond Creek Falls possible. We headed right and soon came to Too Much Bear Lake. Despite the name we saw no sign of bears but the pretty lake was lined with blooming rhododendrons and reflecting the surrounding trees.
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As we continued toward Diamond Creek Falls several signs announced viewpoints. Perhaps we had been spoiled by the views on our last few hikes, but the view from these viewpoints was a bit of a let down. Diamond Creek Falls on the other hand was lovely. A short side path led down into a narrow canyon and across Diamond Creek on a footbridge. Not long after the crossing Diamond Creek Falls came into view through the trees. It was an impressively sized 100′ cascade that fanned out over the rocks as it fell into a cozy grotto.
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We returned to the main trail and continued past an upper viewpoint of Diamond Creek Falls to a second fork in the trail. The left fork would take us back to the parking area while the right continued on toward the wilderness and Vivian Lake. Before we made it to the wilderness we crossed Diamond Creek on a road bridge and passed over the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. When we reached the sign board announcing the start of the Diamond Peak Wilderness we found that there were no self-serve entry permits left in the box, but there were plenty of mosquitoes buzzing around. The forest was full of white flowers, bunchberry, anemone, and queens-cup with an occasional beargrass thrown in. Many of the rhododendron were in bloom as well. The trail followed Fall Creek up to a viewpoint of Fall Creek Falls, a smaller 40′ cascade lined at the top with pink rhododendron blooms. The viewpoint proved a good place for a brief rest as it was an exposed rocky outcrop and almost devoid of mosquitoes.

Another mile of climbing brought us to Vivian Lake but before we would reach the lake shore we had to cross a “meadow”. The meadow was still quite damp from recent snow melt but we did our best to stay on the driest part of the trail. Shooting star and heather blooms dotted the green meadow while frogs hopped toward the water where they joined tadpoles that had not yet emerged. Unfortunately it was also a perfect spot for mosquitoes and a large number of them swarmed the air just waiting for us to stop so we quickly made our way across to drier ground and followed the trail to the shore of Vivian Lake. We worked our way around the shore until we got a good view of the top of Mt. Yoran which reflected in the water. This would have been a wonderful spot for lunch if we hadn’t been on the menu. We stayed long enough to snap a couple pictures then headed back to the viewpoint above Fall Creek Falls where we had a better chance of a mosquito free lunch.
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We made great time on the way back to the car as we tried to stave off the skeeters but we did stop when we spotted a golden mantled squirrel and later a cascade frog. We saw only one other hiker on the trail but the parking area was full of people and cars when we got back. Heather got the worst of the bites but still only about a half dozen, Dominique had a couple and I miraculously escaped with only one. Hopefully our next few hikes will have less mosquito activity, but we’ll be ready for the little buggers if need be. Happy Trails

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