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Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Junction and Cultus Lakes – Indian Heaven Wilderness – 10/03 & 10/04/2020

With a September backpacking trip to the Sky Lakes Wilderness having been canceled due to the wide spread wildfires on the West Coast it seemed like our Labor Day trip (post) may have been the last nights in our tent. Fortunately the weather and smoke both cooperated over the first weekend in October and we spent one final night in our tent in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It appeared that nearly everyone else had that same idea making this trip by far the busiest over night trip we’ve experienced.

We had visited this wilderness on two previous occasions – a 2015 day hike starting at the Thomas Lake Trailhead, and a 2018 day hike to Indian Racetrack via the Pacific Crest Trail. We began this trip on the eastern side of the wilderness at the East Crater Trailhead.
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Our plan was to take the East Crater Trail 2.5 miles to Junction Lake and set up camp then make a big loop (with a few side trips) around Bird Mountain using the Pacific Crest Trail, Cultus Creek Trail, Indian Heaven Trail, and finally the Lemi Lake Trail. We started up the East Crater Trail through a mountain hemlock forest with splashes of Fall colors.
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The trail climbed gradually entering the Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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A little less than a mile and a half from the trailhead we passed the first of several small ponds and the scar of the 2017 East Crater Fire.
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IMG_6392Still some fireweed blooming in the fire scar.

IMG_6396East Crater beyond a pond.

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Just before the 2.5 miles we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail and the end of the East Crater Trail near Junction Lake.
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IMG_6406Junction Lake

We didn’t want to set up our tent on the vegetation in the meadows around the lake so we looked to the opposite side of the PCT where we found a nice little spot tucked back in the trees.
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IMG_6407This crab spider offered to watch our tent for us while we were away.

After getting everything set up we headed north along the PCT past Junction Lake to a junction with the Lemi Lake Trail.
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We stayed left on the PCT and reentered the trees on a forested hillside.
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A mile from the Lemi Lake Trail junction we came to another junction with the Elk Lake Trail near Bear Lake.
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This was our first detour as we turned left and descended to the shore of Bear Lake where numerous tents were set up.
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The Indian Heaven Wilderness is famous for its huckleberries but this late in the year most of them were well past edible but along the lake shore there were a few left which had caught the attention of the locals.
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We opted not to go the third of a mile further to Elk Lake and after a short break we returned to the PCT and continued north another .4 miles before making another short side trip downhill to Deer Lake.
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We continued past Deer Lake meeting the Indian Heaven Trail on the far side where a right turn onto it would have allowed for a shorter loop. We had done that loop on our first visit to the wilderness though so we stuck to the PCT this time. We could hear pikas “meeping” from a talus slope near the junction so when we got closer to the rocks we started scanning for the little guys. We were quickly rewarded as one darted in and out of the rocks pausing long enough for a couple of photos.
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The PCT continued to climb gradually along the western side of Bird Mountain passing the Placid Lake Trail approximately a mile from the Indian Heaven Trail before arriving at a 4-way junction after another mile.
IMG_6466Placid Lake Trail on the left.

IMG_6481No pikas in these rocks, that we saw.

At the junction the PCT continued straight while the Wood Lake Trail headed downhill to the left.
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IMG_6486PCT at the 4-way junction.

We took the right had path, the Cultus Creek Trail which crossed over a pass.
IMG_6483Cultus Creek Trail heading uphill to the right.

On the far side of the pass we took a use trail out to a rocky viewpoint with a great view of Mt. Adams.
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In front of Mt. Adams we recognized Sleeping Beauty which we had hiked up earlier in the year (post).
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We took another break on some rocks here and soaked in the view. The forecast for the weekend had been for widespread haze so the blue sky and clear view was a nice surprise. After the break we returned to the Cultus Creek Trail which headed steeply downhill. We were starting to see more and more hikers as it seemed a lot of people had the same idea that we’d had as far as it being a good weekend for a visit. As the trail dropped to the east we briefly got a glimpse of the Goat Rocks and Mt. Rainier beyond Sawtooth Mountain.
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IMG_6509Goat Rocks with Mt. Adams hiding behind trees.

IMG_6511Mt. Rainier behind Sawtooth Mountain (and Steamboat Mountain to the right)

IMG_6513Mt. Rainier

After a mile and a half on the Cultus Creek Trail we arrived at the Cultus Creek Forest Camp.
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We walked to the right through the camp following signs to the Indian Heaven Trailhead.
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We followed this relatively steep trail back into the wilderness and up to an even better viewpoint just over a mile from the trailhead.
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Mt. Rainier had swapped sides with Sawtooth Mountain and was fully visible as were the Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams.
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Beyond the viewpoint the trail continued to climb but much more gradually arriving at a junction with the Deep Lake Trail after 1.2 miles.
IMG_6576The Labor Day wind storm had knocked a number of trees down but the trails we took had mostly been cleared already.

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There was a bit of a traffic jam at the Deep Lake Trail junction and we wound up on that trail even though we had not planned on this side trip.
IMG_6580Cultus Lake from the Deep Lake Trail.

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It was only about a quarter mile to Deep Lake and well worth the trip as it turned out. The top of Mt. Adams was visible across the lake.
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We took another break along the shore of this lake (which was also very busy with hikers and backpackers).
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We returned to the Indian Heaven Trail and followed it to the far side of Cultus Lake where we turned left on the Lemi Trail.
IMG_6598Lemi Rock beyond Cultus Lake

IMG_6601Cultus Lake from the Lemi Trail.

Beyond Cultus Lake the Lemi Trail passed through a series of meadows with bright red and yellow huckleberry leaves.
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After a mile of fairly level hiking the Lemi Trail steepened gaining a little over 200′ in .3 miles.
IMG_6621The climb was up a forested hillside.

The climb offered us the only view of the day of Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_6622Mt. St. Helens

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The trail leveled out again on the east side of Lemi Rock at a junction with what appeared to be possibly be a climbers trail on the right.
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We continued on the Lemi Trail another quarter mile to a viewpoint above Lake Wapiki where we now had a view of Mt. Hood (and a little more haze).
IMG_6642Mt. Adams as we approached the viewpoint.

IMG_6644Lake Wapiki

IMG_6665Mt. Hood

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The Lemi Trail continued another 1.1 miles down to the lake but the climb up to the viewpoint from Cultus Lake was enough to convince us that we weren’t up for the 400′ climb back up from Lake Wapiki so after resting at the viewpoint we started back. Curiosity got the best of us at the trail near Lemi Rock though as it appeared fairly level so we turned left onto it and began following it to see where it might lead.
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We followed this trail past more spectacular Fall colors for .2 miles where it suddenly disappeared in some small trees.
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We maneuvered our way through the trees picking up another mylar balloon (we have come to hate these).

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We popped out at a small meadow where we declared victory at headed back toward Lemi Rock.
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As we passed a small pool with a clear reflection Heather spotted the second pika of the day.
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After watching the pika for a moment returned to the Lemi Trail and took it back to Cultus Lake and the Indian Heaven Trail.
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We turned left onto the Indian Heaven Trail and followed it for another .3 miles to a junction with the Lemi Lake Trail.
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We turned left onto this trail passing through a series of meadows before arriving at Lemi Lake after a little over half a mile.
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IMG_6711Lemi Lake

We had brought our camp stove and dinner and stopped at the lake to get water and eat.
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After dinner we followed the Lemi Lake Trail for another 1.5 miles back to Junction Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail.
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IMG_6721Pearly everlasting

IMG_6737Lemi Rock from the Lemi Lake Trail.

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IMG_6747Junction Lake

IMG_6748Back to the PCT.

IMG_6751Junction Lake from the PCT/Lemi Lake Trail junction.

Things had gotten very crowded at Junction Lake and there were tents all over the grass around the lake shore. We retreated to our little spot in the trees away from the madness and took our camp chairs in the opposite direction and sat for awhile at the edge of a meadow.
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We decided that we’d get up no later than 5am and beat the crowds by hiking out in the dark the next morning. We’ve been spoiled with nearly none of our backpacking trips involving many other people at all so this was a bit of an adjustment for us. We wound up waking up at 4:30am and set off under a full moon toward our car.
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We had only hiked in the dark one other time, when we thought there might be a fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness, but it was actually 40 miles away (post). That had been quite the adventure as it seemed like we were constantly seeing eyes in the forest or toads in the trail. We were hoping we might have a similar experience here but the 2.5 mile hike back to the car was quick and uneventful. We were back home in Salem a little after 9am though which gave us plenty of time to unpack, do laundry and watch the Seahawks game. Aside from not being used to that many people on an overnighter it had been a good trip. The weather was great as were the views and the Fall colors. Somehow we managed to turn what we expected to be a 14.6 mile hike into 18.2 miles (those side trips will get you every time) but it was worth every step. Happy Trails (and Go Hawks)!

Flickr: Junction and Cultus Lakes

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Bear Point – 7/22/2019

We had passed the Bear Point Trail twice when hiking into Jefferson Park on the South Breitenbush Trail, most recently last August. (post) It was finally time to tackle that trail which gains almost 1700′ in just over one and three quarters of a mile to the site of a former fire lookout.

We set off from the South Breitenbush Trailhead a little after 6am hoping to get the climb over before the day heated up too much.
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We followed the familiar South Breitenbush Trail for 2.2 miles to a signed junction.
IMG_3870Lots of spent beargrass along the trail.

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At the junction we went left on the Bear Point Trail.
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At first this trail continued the gradual climb that we’d been making on the South Breitenbush Trail as we passed around a spring set in a green forest.
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IMG_3886Thimbleberry bushes near the spring.

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IMG_4179Spring near the trail.

Shortly after passing the spring the trail began to climb in earnest via a series of swithbacks. The hillside below Bear Point was covered in talus slopes, the perfect spot to see a pika.
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IMG_3901Spotted the first pika of the day at this switchback (it’s on one of the red rocks)
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The hillside was pretty dry and the trees began to give way to manzanita, chinquapin and snowbush which allowed for some excellent views of Mt. Jefferson and the surrounding area as we trudged up the switchbacks.
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IMG_3921The Three Pyramids, Bachelor Mountain, and Coffin Mountain in the distance with Triangulation Peak in a cloud shadow along the near ridge to the right.

IMG_3928Mt. Jefferson with Three Fingered Jack now fully visible.

IMG_3935Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4169Grouse in the brush to the left of the trail.

IMG_4171Grouse

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As we neared the top the trees began to reappear in larger numbers and the beargrass was still blooming.
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We spotted the second pika of the day in a talus slope just below the summit.
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Despite the 3000′ of elevation gain to reach the summit the climb wasn’t particularly steep until the final 100 yards or so.
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IMG_3981Almost to the top.

IMG_3989Bear Point summit.

The views from the summit were amazing and there were a few wildflowers scattered about. We would have loved to have spent quite a bit of time relaxing there but the mosquitoes were a nuisance and there was no breeze to keep them at bay.
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IMG_4018The Three Sisters and Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4009Mt.Jefferson

IMG_4013Park Ridge (post)

IMG_3991Bear Lake, Dinah-Mo Peak, and Park Ridge

IMG_4146Triangulation Peak and Devils Peak

IMG_4148Boca Cave below Triangulation Peak (post)

IMG_4147Devils Peak (high point to the right of the ridge), which we had just hiked to a couple of weeks earlier (post)

IMG_4152Mt. Hood and Olallie Butte (The Breitenbush Cascades are also out there amid the trees.)

IMG_4137Mt. Hood with Slideout and Mildred Lakes in the forest below.

IMG_3986Fleabane

IMG_3996Columbine and fleabane with Bear Lake in the background.

IMG_4022Snow patch near the summit.

The round trip to Bear Point is just 7.6 miles so we had some energy left and with the early start coupled with not stopping for very long due to the bugs we also had some time so we decided to tackle another challenge and visit an off trail lake. Due to the lake being off-trail I’m not going to go into much detail although it probably wouldn’t take a lot of detective work to figure it out. This was a challenge to reach and required route finding and navigational skills.
IMG_4031Typical terrain, it’s hard to tell here but this was a steep hillside.

IMG_4023There were tons of these butterflies around.

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IMG_4045Crossing a talus slope.

IMG_4050More typical conditions.

IMG_4053Pond near the lake.

IMG_4055Bird at the pond.

IMG_4058The lake

IMG_4076Spirea and shooting stars

20190722_094856Crab spider with a bee

IMG_4080The lake

IMG_4102Aster

IMG_4104Lupine and beargrass

There were of course mosquitoes here too, being July and near water, so we didn’t linger and were soon attempting to follow our route back. It was slow going but we managed to get back just fine. It was a fun and challenging day and it felt good to be able to practice our off-trail skills a bit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Point

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Defiance

This week’s hike took place on 7/15/2012 when we tackled the challenging Mt. Defiance Trail in the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately the area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire making it’s current status uncertain.

Our hike that day began at the Starvation Creek Trailhead.
Starvation Creek State Park sign

Prior to setting off on the Mt. Defiance Trail we made the short walk to Starvation Creek Falls.
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Starvation Creek Falls

After visiting the falls we followed pointers for the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Trail sign at the parking area

At the time a path followed the shoulder of the freeway for a short distance before veering away into the woods. In 2016 changes were made to the first mile plus of this hike making it wider and putting up a nicer barrier along the freeway section.
Columbia River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead we passed our return route, the Starvation Cutoff Trail, and just a bit beyond that we came to a small sign for Cabin Creek Falls.
Sign for Cabin Creek Falls

That small fall was mostly hidden.
Cabin Creek Falls

A little under a half mile further though was a less obscured waterfall – Hole in the Wall Falls.
Hole in the Wall Falls

This waterfall is not a natural occurrence, it was created in 1938 when the Oregon Highway Department rerouted Warren Creek due to Warren Creek Falls being too close to the old Columbia River Highway. The falls name comes from the waters emergence from the cliff via a man made hole.
Hole in the Wall Falls

A tenth of a mile beyond Hole in the Wall Falls we passed a junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail. A left turn here would have brought us to the upper end of the Starvation Cutoff Trail in a mile allowing for a short two and a half mile loop.
Junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail

Having loftier goals we continued straight passing below the lower portion of Lancaster Falls after .2 miles.
Lancaster Falls

It seemed like a nice “little” waterfall but interestingly this lower portion was only a small part of a much taller fall as we would discover in 2014 when we spotted the waterfall from across the Columbia River on the Dog Mountain Trail (post).
Lancaster Falls from Dog Mountain

Another half a mile of fairly level trail brought us to the start of the 4700′ climb to the summit of Mt. Defiance. The trail passed under some powerlines up a fairly open hillside where low clouds only provided a limited view of Wind Mountain across the river.
Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The trail then entered the trees as it gained 4000′ over approximately three nearly unrelenting miles.
Columbia River

Mt. Defiance Trail

Mt. Defiance Trail

Along the way we passed a Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness sign.
Mt. Defiance Trail entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness

A little further on was a viewpoint along a rocky hillside. Low clouds limited much of the view but a nice rainbow was visible in the valley below.
View along the Mt. Defiance Trail

Rainbow seen from the Mt. Defiance Trail

After gaining those 4000′ we arrived at a junction with the Mitchell Point Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

We would be taking that trail on our way back, but first more climbing.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Two tenths of a mile from the Mitchell Point Trail junction a new (at that time) trail led off to the right. The trail was unmarked except for two small rock cairns.
Mt. Defiance Trail

This mile long segment of trail traversed a talus covered hillside above Bear Lake up and around Mt. Defiance to a microwave building at its summit.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Bear Lake

Towers on Mt. Defiance

Unfortunately for us the clouds had not burned off and Mt. Hood was completely hidden.
View from Mt. Defiance

The only view we had from the summit was to the SE.
View from Mt. Defiance

After a nice rest at the summit we opted to head back down to the Mitchell Point Trail via the older summit route which shaved off .2 miles.
Sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

When we reached the junction we turned onto the Mitchell Point Trail and headed east toward Warren Lake. The clouds to the east had been breaking up revealing some nice blue skies as we reached a viewpoint above Warren Lake.
View from Mt. Defiance

View from the Mt. Defiance Trail

We arrived at the lake .8 miles from the junction.
Warren Lake

Warren Lake

We followed the Mitchell Point Trail another half mile from Warren Lake before turning left onto the unsigned Starvation Ridge Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

Mitchell Point Trail

The Starvation Ridge Trail began heading downhill offering a view back to Mt. Defiance.
Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance

It was still a bit cloudy for views in other directions though.
View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

The view of Wind Mountain had greatly improved.
Columbia River

As the ridge narrowed the decent steepened and we were soon barreling downhill. The trail ahead would occasionally vanish as is dropped leaving us wondering if it just dropped off a cliff.
Starvation Ridge Trail

For over three miles the trail dove and yet the Columbia River didn’t seem to be getting all that closer. Then the trail came to an opening at the end of the ridge across from Dog Mountain.
Dog Mountain

Wind Mountain on the Columbia River

The view was nice except for the one down to the Starvation Creek Trailhead where our car looked smaller than a Hot Wheels.
Trailhead from the Starvation Ridge Trail

From the ridge end the trail headed downhill away from the trailhead. We turned right onto the Starvation Cutoff Trail at a signed junction and switchbacked down .3 miles to the Mt. Defiance Trail and followed the freeway back to our car.
Trial sign along the Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance had lived up to it’s reputation as a challenge and it would have been nice to have had a view at the top but it was rewarding to know that we could accomplish it. It was a boost to our confidence going forward. We look forward to heading back someday when the skies are clearer. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Defiance

Categories
Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Panther Creek Falls and Indian Heaven Wilderness

What a difference a week makes. On our previous hike to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area we spent our time in a chilly damp fog and then dealt with the occasional rain shower. Our most recent hike to the Indian Heaven Wilderness was the exact opposite with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s. This was a hike that had been pushed back a couple of weeks first due to smoke and next the weather conditions of the previous week.

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in Washington State southeast of Mt. Adams. http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/wildView?WID=258 This was our first visit to this particular wilderness and we had chosen the Thomas Lake Trailhead as our starting point. The trailhead is located along Road 65 (Panther Creek Road) approximately 21 miles from the city of Carson, Washington. We planned on taking the Thomas Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs north-south through the entire wilderness) and then following the PCT north to Junction Lake where we could do a 4 mile loop past several lakes before returning to the car. We also had the option of going off-trail and hiking up Gifford Peak before reaching the PCT.

Before we got to any of that though we stopped along Road 65 at the Panther Creek Trailhead to take the short path down to see the falls.
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After checking out the falls we continued on to the Thomas Lake Trailhead.
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The parking area was nearly full at 7:30am which told us we’d be seeing plenty of other people on this hike as we set off on the trail.
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There were occasional views of Mt. St. Helens as we followed the trail up through the huckleberry filled forest toward Thomas Lake.
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We reached the first set of lakes after a half mile.
Thomas Lake
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Dee Lake
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Heather Lake
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Just past the first three lakes was a trail junction with a short path to Eunice Lake.
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After visiting Eunice Lake we returned to the Thomas Lake Trail which climbed steeply up above those lakes before leveling out through meadows ablaze with red huckleberry leaves.
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More lakes and ponds awaited along this stretch of trail.
Brader Lake
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Unnamed lake/pond
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Naha Lake
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About two miles from the trailhead the trail took a sharp right at a trail sign.
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There were a few more trees along this section of trail but also still plenty of berry bushes and lakes/ponds.
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After about a mile when the trail crossed a small creek we needed to decide if we were going to try the 0.8 mile climb of Gifford Peak. We were below a rocky outcropping but it appeared that we could sidehill up steeply to a saddle where we hopped to pick up the ridge and follow it to the top.
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With the help of the topographic map loaded on the GPS unit we gained the ridge and found a path that was fairly easy to follow.
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The first section up to the saddle proved to be the steepest and the rest of the climb was more gradual. Openings near the summit offered views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Hood
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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Rainier
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It wasn’t exactly the clearest of skies as there seemed to be a haze in every direction. Whether it was smoke from fires or just due to the heat/humidity in the area we weren’t sure but it was still a nice view. We reached the summit to find a small summit register and a view of Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks.
Mt. Adams
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Goat Rocks
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After making our way back down to the trail we continued on passing Lake Sahalie Tyee before reaching the impressive Blue Lake below Gifford Peak.
Lake Sahalie Tyee
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Blue Lake
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We arrived at the PCT at the far end of Blue Lake.
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We turned left and headed north toward Junction Lake which was 2 miles away. At Junction Lake we took the Lemi Lake Trail to start our loop.
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Some of the best fall colors were in the meadows between Junction Lake and Lemi Lake.
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As we reached Lemi Lake we were discussing the differences in the lakes on this hike verses in the Olallie Lake area and one of the things we’d noticed was that we hadn’t seen any ducks on this hike. Just as we were discussing that we noticed a lone duck floating on Lemi Lake.
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The Lemi Lake Trail ended just over 2 miles from Junction Lake at the Indian Heaven Trail.
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We turned left continuing on our loop and passing above the busy Clear Lake.
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We arrived back at the PCT after just .3 miles and took another left passing Deer Lake and more ducks.
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Not far from Deer Lake was Bear Lake where we decided to rest for a bit and have a snack. Bear Lake rivaled Blue Lake with it’s impressive colors.
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When we had completed our loop and returned to Junction Lake we decided to take a shortcut back by following an old abandoned trail to the Thomas Lake Trail near Rock Lakes.
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This abandoned trail was still easy to follow and passed through even more scenic meadows and past additional ponds.
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After 1.7 miles we arrived at Rock Lakes.
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We picked up the Thomas Lake Trail at the sign where we had taken the sharp right earlier that day. From there it was just over 2 miles back down to the trailhead.
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The total distance of the hike was 14.9 miles in the wilderness plus .3 miles at Panther Creek Falls which made for a nice full day. It was a great first visit to the wilderness and we look forward to going back to check out some of the other trails in the area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658130857169