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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1 – Winchester Ridge and Eddeeleo Lakes Loop

We ended our August hikes with an overnight stay near Waldo Lake. After several days of smokey skies the weather had shifted and most of the smoke had been pushed out of the area. The exception to that was the smoke being produced by the Terwilliger Fire burning east of Eugene along Cougar Reservior and into the Three Sisters Wilderness. 😦

We were hoping that the smoke from that fire wasn’t going to be aimed right at us all weekend.  Things were off to a good start when we arrived at the Jim Weaver Trailhead at the north end of Waldo Lake. The sky was a crisp blue but the sky wasn’t the only thing that was crisp. The temperature gauge in the car had read 36 degrees when we’d parked.
Jim Weaver Loop Trailhead

Diamond Peak from Waldo Lake

From the parking area we walked down to boat ramp and turned right at a Shoreline Trail sign.
Shoreline Trail

Initially the trail passed through green trees with occasional views across the lake to Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain (post).
Shoreline Trail

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo LakeDiamond Peak to the left and Fuji Mountain directly behind the island

Soon the trail entered the fire scar of the 1996 Taylor Burn.
Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Despite the frosty morning the wildlife was out in force.
Frost on the Shoreline Trail

Bluebird

Tree full of birds

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Bald eagle

After 2.3 miles we passed a trail signboard for the Rigdon Lakes Trail. We planned on returning the next day via that trail so for the time being we stuck to the Shoreline Trail for an additional 1.4 miles to another trail signboard, this time marking the Wahanna Trail. Along the way we’d passed Conim Lake on our right just a bit before leaving the Talor Burn fire scar.
Conim Lake near the edge of the 1996 Taylor Burn

Wahanna TrailWahanna Trail

Just beyond the Wahanna Trail junction we came to the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River flowing from Waldo Lake.
Footbridge over the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

A side trail to the left here led passed a small outbuilding to Dam Camp where we had hoped to find a camp site but that area was already spoken for so we settled for a spot further back from lake.
Some sort of monitoring station

Outlet of Waldo LakeDam Camp is to the left in the trees and rhododendron

Campsite near Waldo Lake

This worked out to be a fine spot despite not being close to the lake as it was closer to the Wahanna Trail which we would be taking then next day on our way to the Rigdon Lakes Trail. After getting camp set up we put on our day packs and continued beyond the river crossing just a tenth of a mile to a fork where the Wahanna Trail forked downhill to the right (the Wahanna and Shoreline Trail briefly share tread).
Wahanna Trail splitting to the right from the Shoreline Trail

The trail promptly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
Entering the Waldo Lake Wilderness

Just a quarter mile from the fork the trail forked again. This time the Wahanna Trail forked to the left while the right hand fork was the Six Lakes Trail.
Wahanna Trail to the left and the Six Lakes Trail to the right

Here we faced a choice. If we stayed left we could complete a long loop past Lake Chetlo and along Winchester Ridge and eventually following the Six Lakes Trail from its other end past the Quinn and Eddeeleo Lakes. Alternatively we could go right and after visiting the lakes turn back or decide to complete the loop in the opposite direction. We were feeling ambitious and felt up to the loop so we decided to go left. This way we would be saving the bulk of the lakes for the end of the loop.
Wahanna Trail

The trail remained relatively level for the next mile passing through a forest full of huckleberry bushes and several small meadows.
Wahanna Trail

Meadow along the Wahanna Trail

It was along this section that we encountered the only other people we would see during the loop. After 1.2 miles we spotted Lake Chetlo through the trees on our left.
Lake Chetlo

Lake Chetlo

Expecting to find a side trail down to the lake we continued on but the trail began to climb up and away from the lake. Less than a quarter mile later we were at a junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail and that had been the only look we had at Lake Chetlo.
Wahanna Trail junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right onto the Winchester Ridge Trail which climbed steeply for a little over half a mile to another junction. We had been on this section of trail before in 2012 as we were coming down from the Waldo Mountain Lookout and heading for Elbow Lake (post).
Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right at this junction as well to continue on the Winchester Ridge Trail which now leveled out somewhat as it traveled along the ridge.
Winchester Ridge Trail

The blue skies from the morning were quickly being replaced by smoke from the Terwilliger Fire as we made our way along Winchester Ridge. There aren’t many views from this trail to begin with and the couple that we did get we could just barely make out the Three Sisters to the NE.
South Sister through smoke

Smoke from the Terwilliger Fire obscuring the view of South SisterSouth Sister

Smokey view from the Winchester Ridge Trail

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters

View from the Winchester Ridge TrailRigdon Butte beyond the Eddeeleo Lakes from the Winchester Ridge Trail

Not only does the Winchester Ridge Trail suffer form a lack of views, but there aren’t many distinguishable landmarks along the way. A little over two and a half miles from the fork though the Waldo Meadows Trail came up from the left.
Waldo Meadows Trail to the left and the Winchester Ridge Trail to the right

That trail went downhill for .5 steep miles to Swann and then Gander Lakes, neither of which we could not see from the Winchester Ridge Trail. The trail climbed briefly beyond this junction before descending to yet another junction with a trail on the left. This time with the Winchester Trail, a total of 1.8 miles from the Waldo Meadows Trail.
Winchester Ridge Trail

Winchester Ridge Trail junction with the Winchester Trail

The Winchester Ridge Trail ends at the Winchester Trail. We stayed straight at the junction and followed the Winchester Trail for a half mile to its end at the Blair Lake Trail.
Winchester Trail

Blair Lake Trail sign

We turned right onto the Blair Lake Trail.
Blair Lake Trail

We had hiked the western end of this trail in 2015 on what remains to this day as the best beargrass hike ever. (post)

The Blair Lake Trail descended for a mile to Lower Quinn Lake which was unfortunately suffering from the increased smoke.
Lower Quinn Lake

After a brief stop at the lake we continued on the Blair Lake Trial for another quarter mile before reaching the signed junction with the Six Lakes Trail.
Blair Lake Trail junction with the Six Lakes Trail

Six Lakes Trail

We turned right onto this trail which climbed gradually for the next half mile to a fork where we went right to visit Upper Quinn Lake.
Upper Quinn Lake

Although the smoke wasn’t bad enough to cause us any issues with breathing or our eyes it was putting a damper on the views of the lakes. At Upper Quinn Lake we found a few empty campsites and lots of little frogs.
Frog at Upper Quinn Lake

Frog

Somewhere along the way we wound up losing the trail (most likely in one of the campsites) and had to bushwack back to the Six Lakes Trail. Once we had regained the trial we turned right and in just a tenth of a mile spotted the northern end of Long Lake beyond a grassy meadow.
Long Lake

Again we erroneously assumed there would be obvious side trails leading to the lake but the Six Lakes Trail passed on the opposite side of a rocky ridge for nearly a mile which hid the lake from sight.
Six Lakes Trail

When the GPS showed that we were nearly past the lake we decided to try and bushwack through the rhododendron to the southern end of the lake. We had managed to make it most of the way there when we spotted a tent set up near the shore. Not wanting to stumble into someones camp we settled for an obstructed view through the trees.
Long Lake

Long Lake

We left Long Lake and continued for another half mile toward Lower Eddeeleo Lake. Shortly before reaching the lake there was an obvious side trail to the left.
Side trail at Lower Eddeeleo Lake

This side trail led across a dry outlet creek to an open area along the lake shore. We took a longer break here. We could just make out the old Waldo Mountain Lookout through the smoke.
Waldo Mountain from Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Waldo Mountain

Waldo Mountain Lookout

We might have taken an even longer break if not for the yellow jackets who were just a little too interested in us for my liking. We left the lower lake and returned to the Six Lakes Trail which climbed a short way above the lower lake which was barely visible through the trees.
Six Lakes Trail

Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Just under one and three quarter miles from the side trail to Lower Eddeeleo Lake we came to a short side trail to Upper Eddeeleo Lake on our right. We stopped again briefly at this lake which had a little sunlight glinting off the water.
Waldo Mountain from Upper Eddeeleo Lake

The next lake on the map was Round Lake which lay below and to the east of Upper Eddeeleo Lake. The Six Lakes Trail wound around the lake but never got very close to it and the one side trail we spotted heading to the lake would have required a steeper climb back up than either of us were willing to do at that point so we once again settled for a very limited view through the trees.
Round Lake through the trees

The Six Lakes Trail climbed up a ridge away from Round Lake for the final mile of its 6.6 mile length before dumping us back out on the Wahanna Trail.
Six Lakes Trail

According to our GPS we had hiked a total of 19.4 miles at that point and still had the quarter mile climb back up to the Waldo Lake Shoreline Trail. We had known that this was going to be a long day but by our calculations we were expecting closer to a 17 mile day. We had also brought our dinner with us thinking we could eat it at one of the lakes, but between the smoke, yellow jackets, and a few hardy mosquitoes we hadn’t found a spot where we really wanted to sit for an extended time.

When we got back to the Shoreline Trail we turned right (away from camp) hoping to find a spot along Waldo Lake to eat. Fortunately we only had to go about 100 yards where we found a trail down to the rocky sore across from Dam Camp.
Waldo Lake with some smoke

Even better was the fact that the smoke was starting to move out of the immediate area bringing back some of the blue sky from the morning.
Waldo Lake

We tried a new meal, three cheese chicken pasta, which wound up being underwhelming. It sort of fit with much of the day. The hike was nice but nothing really stood out and the smokey conditions at the lakes didn’t help. It also seemed like most of the lakes were very similar in that they were surrounded by forested hillsides but nothing dramatic.

We sat out on the rocks for quite a while watching a paddle boarder and a canoe float around on the lake as well as having some mergansers swim by.
Merganser

It was quite a bit busier at the lake than where we normally camp and after getting a little chilly and returning to our tent to put on some extra clothing we noticed that a family? that had set up camp near where we had eaten had lit a campfire. Just a couple of days earlier the Willamette National Forest had announced a ban on all campfires and we had seen numerous posted signs that morning. On top of the illegal campfire we were also being treated to the melodious (NOT) sounds of someones portable music player. Thankfully the music died down and at one point we heard someone yell to the family that they needed to put the fire out. We went to bed hoping that the next day would be just a bit better. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Blair Lake Trail

On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.

We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.
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The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.
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Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.
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After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.
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Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.
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We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.
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After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.
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The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Washington
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Three Fingered Jack
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Mt. Jefferson
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There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.
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Northwestern Alligator Lizard

We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.
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We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.
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When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.
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We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.
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On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.
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We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!