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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Pamelia Lake Overnighter

As I mentioned in our recent Table Lake Loop Trip Report (post)we had plans to visit Goat Peak, a 7159′ peak just south of Mt. Jefferson. We had obtained a Pamelia Limited Area Entry Permit in May when they became available for September 8th and 9th. It was a roll of the dice not knowing what the wildfire or weather situations would be four months down the road but it ensured that we would be able to go if conditions permitted it. Aside from a slight chance of showers the morning of the 8th the forecast looked good so that morning we drove to the Pamelia Lake Trailhead and set off.IMG_1945

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We had been here once before in 2013 on a long loop to Hunts Cove (post).

From the trailhead the Pamelia Lake Trail travels just under two and a quarter miles to the lake. Along the way the trail passes through some very nice forest scenery with several views of Pamelia Creek.IMG_1948

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Just prior to arriving at the Pamelia Lake the trail veers left at a junction with the Grizzly Peak Trail which heads to the right.

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Our original plan for this trip had been to take the Pamelia Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail via the Hunts Creek Trail and follow the PCT up to Coyote (aka Mud) and Shale Lakes where we would set up camp before attempting to reach Goat Peak. After some additional consideration though we decided that setting up camp at Pamelia Lake might be a better option. Setting up camp there would eliminate the need to haul our heavy backpacks up the PCT while also leaving us with a hike out the next day of less than two and a half miles. It did mean we would be adding nearly 4.5 miles to Saturdays hike, but on paper it would still only be around 15 miles. The designated campsites at the lake were all along its left (north) side so we followed a use trail straight ahead from the junction and started looking for an open site.

We wound up choosing site #3 which kept us relatively close to the Grizzly Peak Trail junction as well as the Hunts Creek Trail junction.IMG_1966

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After setting up camp we briefly visited the shore of Pamelia Lake then we headed up to the Hunts Creek Trail.IMG_1967

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We turned left onto the Hunts Creek Trail and followed it around a ridge for nearly three quarters of a mile to its end at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail gaining a view of Mt. Jefferson along the way.IMG_1975

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On our loop to Hunts Cove I had taken the short side trip north on the PCT to see Milk Creek but Heather had not so we turned left at the junction and followed the PCT for a tenth of a mile through vine maple donning its fall colors to a viewpoint above the creek of Mt. Jefferson.IMG_1983

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After checking off the viewpoint we turned around and headed south on the PCT which climbed gradually through a varied forest.IMG_1990

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Along the way some movement in a fir tree caught our attention. At first we thought it might be a medium sized mammal of some kind but it turned out to be a squirrel harvesting cones that were crashing down through the limbs after being detached.IMG_1995

Approximately four and a quarter miles from the junction we arrived at Mud Hole Lake. (On some maps it is identified as Coyote Lake but on the USGS Topographic Map the name Coyote Lake is assigned to another lake on the west side of the PCT.)IMG_2010

We turned off the PCT just before the lake on an unsigned but clear trail leading NE through a meadow.IMG_2014

We were using “75 Scrambles in Oregon: Best Non-Technical Ascents” by Barbara I. Bond as our reference for the hike. This was our first time using this particular guidebook but so far everything was going smoothly. The book did not mention that there was a clear trail to follow but we were headed straight for Goat Peak and we’d turned off the PCT at the right spot so we figured we were good to go.IMG_2016

Our intended route would lead us up above a talus slope to the north (left) of Goat Peak where we would then bend to the south at about 6800′.IMG_2020

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It was a lovely area with red huckleberry leaves and a few butterflies still flying about.IMG_2027

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The tread petered out for a bit in one meadow in particular but small cairns helped lead the way.IMG_2030

The unexpected presence of the well marked trail got us off our guard and we weren’t paying enough attention to the fact that our heading was drifting further north than we’d intended. In the meadow where the trail grew faint the cairns led to the left of a rocky ridge end. In order to reach Goat Peak we should have veered to the right here to find the correct gully uphill.IMG_2031

Instead we continued to follow the trail as we now were hearing other voices ahead. The trail began to climb away from the meadow passing more rock covered hillsides.IMG_2035

Three Fingered Jack

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It started seeming really odd that we seemed to be heading directly at Mt. Jefferson but kept thinking that maybe the trail would bend right around some geologic feature.IMG_2042

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I really started to question things when we caught up to the group of gentleman who were ahead of us. They asked how high we were planning on going which is when I became fairly certain we were on a climbers route and not the scramble route to Goat Peak. I replied “as high as our legs will take us”, knowing that if this wasn’t the right way to Goat Peak we’d gone to far to correct it by then. Shortly after we crested a rise and left the tress. We were now at the bottom of a boulder filled gully.IMG_2046

There wasn’t much we could do at that point other than go back or continue on so up we went.IMG_2048

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Cliffs on the right side of the gully.

As we gained elevation the views to the south opened up and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack on the horizon.IMG_2049

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We were well above the summit of Goat Peak by the time we reached the lip of the gully where stunted white bark pines clung to the steep slope.IMG_2057

Anxious to see what spectacular view awaited I charged up the final pitch only to find a second albeit smaller gully.IMG_2059

At least it had a view of Mt. Jefferson. There were a couple of bivouacs here and I waited for Heather to decide our next course of action. When she reached the second gully I decided to continue on and told her I would wave her up if I thought there was something that she just had to see. From where we were I could already see the top of Goat Peak below to the south as well as The Table and Cathedral Rocks.IMG_2060

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Goat Peak

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The Table

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Cathedral Rocks

Getting out of the second gully was much easier than the first and I soon found myself walking along a snowfield.IMG_2066

Later research would reveal that we were indeed following a climbers trail to the South Ridge Route up Mt. Jefferson. I ended my climb at the top of the snowfield but did a little exploring to the high points on either side of the gully.IMG_2069

Climbers trail continuing up Mt. Jefferson

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View south from the ridge to the north of the gully.

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Looking out along the ridge.

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Where we had intended to be.

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View from below the snowfield.

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Paintbrush below the snow.

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Looking south from the opposite ridge top.

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Wildflower atop the ridge.

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Bear Butte along the nearest ridge.

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Looking back at Mt. Jefferson

The views were nice but I didn’t think they warranted waving Heather up so I headed back down to where she was waiting. After a short break and a snack we began the half mile decent down the lower gully.IMG_2114

We passed the other group, who were still on their way up the lower gully, just after starting our descent. When we’d finally gotten back to level ground in the meadow we decided to check out the other side of the ridge to see if we find any sign of a trail we’d missed.IMG_2128_stitch

There wasn’t anything we could see, but based on all the information in the book including the map and GPS coordinates we definitely had wanted to be on this side of the ridge. Once we had gotten into the area we noticed that there were several ponds/lakes showing on the map to the south. The terrain appeared to be level enough to make a cross country jaunt inviting.IMG_2137

We used the map and GPS to locate several of the ponds but they were all dry save one unnamed lake. We did get some really nice views of Goat Peak though.IMG_2139

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We took another break at the lake.IMG_2162

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There were some tents set up nearby in the trees so we thought that there might be a trail somewhere nearby and set off looking for it when we left the lake. It didn’t take us long to spot the clear tread.IMG_2182

This path led us west between Mud Hole and Shale Lakes and back to the PCT.IMG_2186

Mud Hole Lake

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Shale Lake

We turned right on the PCT and continued a short distance until we spotted another use trail heading further west. We followed this path past more dry (or nearly dry) ponds to Coyote Lake.IMG_2190

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Our urge to explore was now satisfied and we returned to the PCT and headed back to Pamelia Lake, which looked like it was way, way down below us.IMG_2206

It was closing in on 6pm when we finally made it back to camp. We went down to the lake to get water then cooked dinner and relaxed in our camp chairs.IMG_2223

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Ouzel

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Marty, a wilderness ranger, stopped by to check our permit and make sure we were aware of the campfire ban. She seemed relieved that we had a permit and knew about the ban. We got the feeling that a fair number of folks aren’t as friendly as we were which is a shame.

Even though we hadn’t made it to Goat Peak and we’d hiked much further than originally intended (19.4 miles) it had been a great day. It helped knowing that we only need to hike 2.5 miles the next day to reach our car.

The next morning we were up before 5am and on the trail by 6:30.IMG_2265

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We made it home just after 9am which gave us plenty of time to unpack, clean up, and do some laundry. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pamelia Lake Overnighter

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Days 2 & 3 – Table Lake Loop

After turning in early the night before we were up before the Sun which wasn’t such a bad thing.
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IMG_1511_stitchCarl Lake

For the second day of our trip we planned on taking the Cabot Lake Trail to Table Lake and then on to a viewpoint above Hole-in-the-Wall Park before returning to Carl Lake. We were still debating our return route though. We could simply follow the Cabot Lake Trail back, or we could complete a loop described in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region”. The loop option would require using what is believed to have been an old Native American trail, not shown on any of our maps, to reach the Pacific Crest Trail. We could then follow the PCT south to the Shirley Lake Trail which would take us back down to Carl Lake. One of the things we really like about Reeder’s book is that most of the suggested hikes have an accompanying GPS track overlaid on a topographic map which can be really helpful.

We decided to wait and see how the day was going before making a final decision about our return route. One thing we did know was that we didn’t want to try and walk around the north side of Carl Lake to hook up with the Cabot Lake Trail after having come back on that side the day before (post). It would have been shorter than taking the Cabot Lake Trail around the southern and western ends of the lake but certainly not easier so we proceeded as we had the day before only this time we went right when we arrived at the junction with the Shirley Lake Trail.
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As we followed the trail around the west end of the lake we noticed that the water at this end was completely calm. It was the only time during the entire weekend that any of the water in the lake was still.
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When we made our way around to the point where we had left the trail to cross the rock outcrop the day before we found the most of the campsites were now occupied which was another good reason for us to not have tried coming from that way.

The trail veered away from the lake and began a half mile climb via a series of short switchbacks. As we made our way up the hillside we spotted a doe and her two fawns coming down the trail.
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Near the top of the climb we had a decent view of Carl Lake below.
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The trail then leveled out in a forest accentuated with small ponds and rock formations.
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Approximately 1.75 miles after turning away from Carl Lake we arrived at tiny Junction Lake.
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There was a small wooden sign here marking the now lost Sugar Pine Ridge Trail which was abandoned after the 2003 B & B Fire.
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What had already been a scenic hike got even better over the next mile and a half as the Cabot Lake Trail passed through an increasing volcanic landscape.
IMG_1573Mt. Jefferson and Forked Butte poking up over the trees.

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Our favorite part of this section was when the trail passed between a jumble of white rocks on the left and the dark lava from the Forked Butte Lava Flow.
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The contrasting colors and textures made for some excellent scenery.
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IMG_1596Moraine below the Waldo Glacier on Mt. Jefferson.

The trail wound around the lava flow where we found a small patch of western pasque flowers that had gone to seed and the remains of a lone clump of aster.
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The trail crested a cinder hillside with spectacular views of North Cinder Peak and Mt. Jefferson and began to descend toward a green forest.
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As we came down and around we got a good look at pointy Bear Butte poking up from a ridge to the right of Mt. Jefferson. Our turn around point for the day was at a viewpoint below and to the left of that butte.
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At the end of this 1.5 mile stretch the Cabot Lake Trail reentered the forest and began a 350′ drop down to Patsy Lake. This .4 mile section was fairly steep as it dove down via one long switchback.
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A signed junction at Patsy Lake announced the location of another abandoned trail – the Jefferson Lake Trail.
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Patsy Lake was forested except for on the northern side where a rock field dipped down into the water.
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We got ourselves a little confused here about where the trail was and wound up following a use trail clockwise around the little lake. By the time we realized our mistake we were at the NW end of the lake at an inlet creek.
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We decided to finish the loop and passed through a couple of decent campsites where we stopped for a short break before having to cross the rock field.
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After picking our way across the rocks we arrived at the lakes dry outlet creek. It was here that we could see where we’d made our mistake. The Cabot Lake Trail continued on the other side of a downed tree after sharing tread briefly with the Jefferson Lake Trail. It also didn’t follow the lake shore but instead veered away from the lake on the opposite side of a ridge. The trail then began to regain much of the elevation it had lost on its way down to Patsy Lake.
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IMG_1652The Jefferson Lake Trail used to come up this valley.

The trail leveled out again this time passing through a series of alpine meadows and over dry creek beds.
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We were keeping our eyes open for the unofficial trail in case we decided on returning via the loop option which was what we were leaning towards. Approximately .6 miles from the trail junction at Patsy Lake we spotted what appeared to be a trail leading off into a meadow to the west.
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I marked that spot on our GPS so that we wouldn’t miss it on the way back. A short distance later Heather spotted a second possible trail heading off toward that same area. We had forgotten to bring a copy of Reeder’s GPS track with us so we couldn’t be sure which one was correct, but we had memorized his route description so we knew if we aimed between a cinder cone and The Table we should be okay. The Table is an unmistakable large plateaued feature south of Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_1661The end of The Table to the left of the trail.

The trail descended a bit as it passed by The Table on its way down to Table Lake.
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Our first look at Table Lake confirmed that this was going to be another nice one.
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We passed a backpacker who had stayed at the lake the night before and was now heading to Carl Lake. She told us where to find a view of Mt. Jefferson from the lake so we made our way to the spot she had suggested.
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After checking out the viewpoint we continued along the Cabot Lake Trail crossing above a spring feeding into the lake and then an inlet creek where we had to watch our step due to the presence of hundreds of little frogs.
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After crossing over the creek we decided to try to make our way back to a smaller unnamed lake shown on the map which the creek flowed out of.
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We followed a clear path past a large campsite and along the creek for a bit (Watch out for frogs!) then came to a wall of small pine trees. It took a little effort to get through the thicket of trees but the reward was worth it.
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With no where to sit along this lake we headed back toward Table Lake and picked up the Cabot Lake Trail which we followed to a sign apparently marking the current “end” of the trail.
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If the Forest Service has indeed abandoned the remainder of the trail it would be shame. The final portion of the trail down to Hole-in-the-Wall Park has been lost for years since the B & B Fire but we hadn’t heard that they had given up on the section between Table Lake and the viewpoint below Bear Butte.

In any case we continued on to a rock outcrop above Table Lake where we took a snack break.
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From Table Lake the trail climbed gradually save for about 100 yards of switchbacks after three quarters of mile. The trail was a little crowded with brush and had a few downed trees over it but nothing too challenging as it passed through a mix of meadows, trees, and huckleberry bushes.
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Shortly before the switchbacks the trail passed a large boulder leaning up against a pair of trees. It looked like the rock was going to be flat and thin from the direction we were coming but it turned out to not be flat on the other side at all.
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Beyond the switchbacks the trail leveled out again for about a quarter mile with a view south of the Three Sisters in a gap between Sugar Pine Ridge and Forked Butte.
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After the quarter mile of more level trail the Cabot Lake Trail headed steeply up a gully arriving at a saddle with a view of Mt. Jefferson after another quarter mile.
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The viewpoint that we were aiming for was to the right of the saddle visible atop the ridge below pointy Bear Butte.
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A straight forward cross country walk brought us to the top of the rocky outcrop.
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The view of Mt. Jefferson was spectacular. In the valley below was green Hole-in-the-Wall Park with Mt. Jefferson on the other side. Along the ridge to the left of Mt. Jefferson was Goat Peak, a feature we are hoping to visit someday in the future.
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The view south wasn’t too bad either despite the presence of a little haze.
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To the east was Bear Butte.
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To top it off the sound of crashing water filled the air. Heather spotted the series of cascades creating all the noise well before I did.
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After soaking in the view we returned down to the saddle and sat in the shade of some trees while we had another bite to eat. We then hiked the 1.5 miles back down to Table Lake and refilled our water supply from the inlet creek where there was clearly a frog convention occurring.
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With our water replenished we left Table Lake and hiked back along the Cabot Lake Trail approximately a quarter mile to the side trail we had marked earlier.
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As I previously mentioned there was another side trail that probably would have been the better option about 30 yards north of where we turned. The trail we chose started clearly enough but soon was lost in a meadow.
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We knew from the description in the guidebook that the trail passed between a cinder cone and The Table so we just headed in that direction and were able to once again locate an obvious path.
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As we neared the cinder cone the trail climbed up along its side as it squeezed between the cone and the rocky hillside of The Table.
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This area looked like it should be full of pikas and although we heard a few “meeps” that let us know they were there, all we spotted were golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks.
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As the trail passed by the cinder cone views ahead opened up to a large valley below the Cathedral Rocks.
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All the climbing along the side of the cinder cone was now lost as we dove downhill into the valley.
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The GPS track we’d seen showed the trail passing to the left of two ponds then to the right of a third in this area. The tread was fairly easy to follow here and there was at least one recent set of shoe prints leading the way.
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IMG_1809First pond on the right.

The traverse around the second pond was a little tricky. The cinder hillside was loose and sharply angled and there was no clear trail around to the left save for at the far end.
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It may have been a better option to have gone around on the other side but we managed to make it around the second pond and then the trail dropped into a dry creek bed where the tread disappeared. Fortunately someone had placed a small cairn on the other side though so we knew where to exit.
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The trail was now passing along the left hand side of an enormous rock field.
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Keeping track of the actual route here was near impossible but we kept our eyes out for cairns and footprints which were just frequent enough to keep us on track until we found the clear path again entering a hillside of huckleberry bushes.
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It wasn’t until we had climbed a bit above the rock field that we were able to spot the third pond that had been on our left.
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The climb out of the valley and up the Pacific Crest Trail only lasted a half mile but it was steep through the huckleberry bushes gaining 400′ in a little under .4 miles.
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Things began to level out a bit once we were back into the trees though.
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One item of note here was that the location of the Pacific Crest Trail shown on the topographic map, the Garmin, and the one in our guidebook is incorrect in this area. Thankfully we had noticed that the GPS track on the map in the guidebook crossed over the supposed location of the PCT before turning south and eventually rejoining the trail shown on the map as the PCT rounded a ridge end. If we hadn’t noticed that we might have wasted some time searching for it amid the small pines that were growing where the Garmin showed the PCT should be.
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The actual location of the PCT was about a tenth of a mile to the west of its location on the maps near some much larger trees.
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We turned left (south) on the PCT and began the 4.3 mile stretch to the Shirley Lake Trail.
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After about a quarter mile on the PCT we arrived at the first of several excellent viewpoints of Mt. Jefferson and some of the areas we hiked through earlier.
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IMG_1880North Cinder Peak and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1886Cabot Lake Trail along the Forked Butte Lava Flow

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We were surprised by the amount of climbing the PCT did along this stretch gaining over 750 unexpected feet in all as it passed a wide variety of scenery.
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A little under 3 miles along this stretch we got a look at Carl Lake below to the east.
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Not long after we got a good look at South Cinder Peak to the south with Mt. Washington peaking up over a ridge.
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When we finally arrived at the Shirley Lake Trail junction we turned left and headed back down to Carl Lake just as we had done the day before.
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We headed down to the lake shore again and this time went counter-clockwise around the shore to complete the loop we had started the previous day.
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Much like the day before our time at the lake was plagued by a chilly breeze (The only place that we experienced any significant breeze the whole weekend.) and glare from the sun.
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We spent most of the evening sitting near our tent behind the trees facing east until it was time to turn in for the night. The mileage for our hike came in at 17.4 miles for the day which included the unintended loop around Patsy Lake and the side trip to the unnamed lake near Table Lake.

Another early bed time led to another predawn wake up on Labor Day.
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We used the light of the moon and our Luci inflatable lantern to work on packing up and cooking breakfast while we waited for enough light to begin our hike out of the wilderness.
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We were on our way a little after 6:30am, saying our goodbyes to Carl Lake and beginning our descent to Cabot Lake.
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IMG_1936Cabot Lake in the trees below and Mt. Jefferson in the distance.

As we reentered the snowbrush covered landscape of the B & B Fire we noticed quite a bit of smoke in the Metolius River Valley.
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It gave us a little cause for concern as we wondered if some new fire had started nearby but it was smoke from some more distant wildfire that had settled in the valley. We completed the 4.9 mile hike back to the car in about 2 hours and were headed back home before 9am, but not before one last look at the mountain.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: Table Lake Loop and Carl Lake to the Cabot Lake THTable Lake Loop and Carl Lake to the Cabot Lake TH