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Hiking

Diamond Peak Loop Day 2 – 08/23/2020

We woke up early on the second day of our loop around Diamond Peak and as the Sun was coming up we realized that it had gotten a little hazy overnight.
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IMG_4404Diamond Peak in the morning.

Our plan for the day was to leave camp and hike to the summit of Diamond Peak then come back, pack up, and continue on our loop. We hoped to make it as far as Blue Lake but were also ready to stop at Corrigan Lake if necessary. We took breakfast with us as we set off to the north on the Pacific Crest Trail.
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We followed the PCT for approximately 1.2 miles to a rocky viewpoint where we stopped to cook breakfast.
IMG_4410The viewpoint from below on the PCT.

We should have been able to see Summit Lake and Mt. Thielsen to the south from the viewpoint but after a smoke free hike the day before our luck ran out.
IMG_4412Summit Lake and a lot of smoke.

At least the sky above Diamond Peak was still fairly blue.
IMG_4420The north flank and route up Diamond Peak.

After eating we continued 50 feet up the trail to a bunch of cairns marking the summit path.
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IMG_4419Fireweed catching the morning sunlight.

IMG_4422Cairns on the left side of the trail marking the route.

IMG_4427Chipmunk inspecting some bleeding heart.

We turned up the well worn path and began to climb steeply through the trees and then onto rocks.
IMG_4431Summit Lake and the route up through the trees.

IMG_4433Here come the rocks.

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The path soon split into multiple user routes with cairns, flagging, and green paint marking the way.
IMG_4444Cairn on top of the big rock on the right.

IMG_4446A carin and paint on a rock along the route and some pink flagging on the tree down to the left.

It was approximately a mile between the PCT and the false summit of Diamond Peak and over 1800′ of elevation gain. After leaving the trees the climb got even steeper. Through the loose rocks a few flowers could be found.
IMG_4452Looking up at the false summit.

IMG_4447Paintbrush

IMG_4449Buckwheat

IMG_4455Patches of penstemon.

IMG_4459Seed heads of Drummond’s anemone

As we climbed we passed a couple of small snow patches and gained more views which were all dominated by smoke.
IMG_4461Dark smoke to the SW

IMG_4462A snow patch below the false summit.

IMG_4467Final pitch to the false summit, still pretty blue.

At the false summit we were at 8421′ and could finally see Mt. Thielsen, at least the very top of it’s spire at least.
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We had been backpacking there just two weeks prior (post) and were thankful that it hadn’t been this weekend. Looking around, it wasn’t just smoky to the south.
IMG_4487Looking west to a wall of smoke.

IMG_4477Smoke to the east.

IMG_4478Smoke to the NE too.

IMG_4479NW also equals smoke.

20200823_090207Smoke starting to drift in from the east.

We were still .4 miles and 350′ from the 8777′ true summit of the mountain and to reach it we would need to pass three gendarmes that block the ridge between the summit and false summit. Sullivan describes having to use your hands and “lots of caution” to work around them to the clear path on the other side. We started out and got to the first gendarme where I got up too high following a path. I had to back track and work my way down to Heather who had taken a different track but we still seemed too high. By this point the uncertainty of the best line to take had given us time to really think about where we were and the nerves kicked in. We wound up listening to them and headed back to the false summit deciding that it wasn’t worth the risk on such a smoky day where we wouldn’t get much in the way of views. We expected the view north that we would have had from the summit to be just as smoky given the fact that from the false summit we could see the top of the South Sister which was also appeared to be surrounded by wildfire smoke.
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After making the decision to turn back we were able to relax and enjoy the jaunt back down to the PCT focusing on flowers and critters along the way.
IMG_4492One of several Clark’s nutcrackers.

IMG_4496Buckwheat

IMG_4499Paintbrush

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IMG_4502Basin with a number of flowers.

IMG_4503Mountain heather

IMG_4510Partridge foot

IMG_4509Another paintbrush

It was slow going but we made it back to the PCT where we noticed the smoke a little more than we had earlier that morning.
IMG_4511A little smoke in the trees.

When we got back to camp we packed up and realized that we’d consumed quite a bit of our water already so we decided to stop by Rockpile Lake again to refill our reservoirs before continuing on our loop.
IMG_4521Slightly smokier Rockpile Lake.

After refilling our water supply we continued to the junction with the spur trail to Marie Lake (.5 miles from the PCT) where we turned left to stay on the Rockpile Trail (at a pointer for the Diamond Peak Trail) and climbed steeply up the side of Diamond Rockpile.
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It wasn’t as much of a rockpile as the named implied as it was mostly forested with a single viewpoint near the high point along this portion of trail.
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IMG_4526Summit Lake out there in the smoke.

The trail then dropped a bit on the west side of Diamond Rockpile to a 4-way junction with the Diamond Peak Trail 1.2 miles from the Marie Lake junction.
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While there were plenty of signs along the trails they often didn’t identify the trail itself but rather pointed you in the direction of other trails or features. This junction was a good example as one sign identified the Rockpile Trail while another directed you to Rockpile Lake and Road 2160.
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There were no signs naming the Diamond Peak Trail but there was a pointer to the south for Ruth Lake and a pointer to the north for the Pioneer Gulch Trail (which we thought was the name of this trail at first).
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We need to go north so we followed the pointer for the Pioneer Gulch Trail and headed north.
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The Diamond Peak Trail rolled up an down for nearly 1.5 miles before arriving at a junction with the actual Pioneer Gulch Trail on the left.
IMG_4542One of the uphill sections.

IMG_4546Note again that the sign is letting you know what is in the different directions but not identifying the trail name.

We stayed on the Diamond Peak Trail heading for the Corrigan Lake Trail which was just over 2 miles further along. These two miles had not been maintained so there were a few obstacles to get around but nothing too difficult. We also regained a view of Diamond Peak along this stretch which was now behind a thin layer of smoke.
IMG_4548Typical obstacle for this stretch.

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We turned left down the Corrigan Lake Trail when we arrived at the junction.
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It was a little over half a mile and 300′ down to the lake which had a nice view of Diamond Peak.
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IMG_4565Lots of insect husks on the plants along the lake.

We took a nice long break at the lake where another couple of groups of backpackers appeared to be planning to spend the night. Our plan was to push on and try and find a spot for our tent near the Diamond Peak Trail junction with the Blue Lake Trail. We were hoping to get down to that lake in the evening but didn’t want to haul our full packs up and down the steep 400′ of elevation change.

We left Corrigan Lake to the other backpackers and climbed back up to the Diamond Peak Trail and continued on our clockwise loop around the mountain. This next section of trail was clearer and in just under a mile we came to the Bear Mountain Trail junction.
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IMG_4575Bear Mountain Trail junction.

IMG_4576Look a named trail!

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From the junction the Diamond Peak Trail climbed a ridge before leveling off above Blue Lake which was hidden in the trees.
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The Blue Lake Trail was .8 miles from the Bear Mountain junction and just before reaching it we spotted what we had been hoping for, an open flat spot for our tent. We set up camp between the Diamond Peak and Blue Lake Trails and then headed down to the lake for dinner and to get more water.
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There was a decent amount of blowdown along the upper portion of the .9 mile stretch to the lake which followed a ridge crest (with a view NW down to Happy Lake) before dropping steeply down the opposite side of the ridge via a series of switchbacks. The hillsides had quite a few wet areas and several flowers were still in bloom.
IMG_4590Starting to drop off the ridge.

IMG_4598Arnica

IMG_4600Fleabane

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IMG_4612Pearly everlasting and fringed grass of parnassus

IMG_4613Aster and fringed grass of parnassus

IMG_4659Scouler’s bluebells

The trail brought us to an open hillside on the east side of Blue Lake where a landslide left a large meadow.
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IMG_4621Lots of coneflower

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IMG_4626Fireweed and coneflower

IMG_4622Owl’s clover

We appeared to be the only humans at this lake but we were greatly outnumbered by a legion of little frogs.
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IMG_4649Dragon fly and a bunch of frogs

IMG_4637Chatty squirrel

We spent most the evening at the lake before heading back to the tent when the Sun started dropping.
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Despite not making it up to the summit of Diamond Peak, and it being too smoky to get any views even lower, it had been a good day. It had also been a long day. We had been planning on it being somewhere in the 14.5 to 15 mile range assuming that we made it all the way to the summit but our GPS units put us just over 16 miles for the day without the extra .8 out and back between the false summit and summit. We slept well apart from me waking up for a moment when I heard some coyotes followed by a couple of hoots from owls. They weren’t bothering me I just stayed up to listen to them for a bit until they stopped. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Diamond Peak Loop Day 2

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Trip report

Blue Lake

On Father’s Day we were joined by our Son, Dominique, on a jaunt to Blue Lake before heading home. Blue Lake is located south of Highway 20, just east of Santiam Pass. Much of the lake is privately owned but the Elliott Corbett Memorial State Park occupies the western end of the lake.

This area burned in the 2003 B & B Complex Fire and we began our hike at a fire interpretive kiosk in a large paved sno-park lot.
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Starting here meant a road walk of 2.5 miles before reaching an actual trail but the description in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Reagion” (we highly recommend this guidebook) called the final stretch of road “narrow, brushy, steep, rocky and subject to occasional washouts that turn the road into a series of deep gullies”. Given that the hike would still only be between 7 and 8 miles (and an extra 700′ of elevation gain) by starting here we felt it was worth avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend.

We walked through the parking area, which had a nice view of Mt. Washington, to FR 2076.
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We followed this road downhill. It was a beautiful morning and the view of Mt. Washington was spectacular.
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The summits of the North and Middle Sister also made a brief appearance.
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After .7 miles we came to a junction with Road 200 which had a sign warning it wasn’t suitable for trailers. We got ourselves confused here due to not re-reading Matt’s description but instead looking at the topographic image in the entry that showed the lake and trail but not the entire road walk. We should have taken Road 200 here but where the map picked up in the book the track was no longer on Road 200 so we mistakenly thought we needed to stay on FR 2076.

FR 2076 was in fairly good shape and was certainly not steep. It was traversing a hillside south toward Mt. Washington.
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After almost a half mile we knew something was amiss. Looking at the GPS showed we were indeed heading for a lake but it was Island Lake dead ahead not Blue Lake. We pulled the book out and read the directions and realized our mistake. We backtracked to Road 200 and once again headed downhill.

Road 200 was not great, and maybe the previous days short but horrific section of Forest Road 2630 in the Ochocos unduly influenced us, but most high clearance vehicles would probably be fine. Although, meeting a vehicle going the other way would be tricky as there weren’t many wide spots.

Walking the road had its advantages though. In addition to the mountain views were wildflowers including a surprising group of rhododendron.
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The rhododendron were upstaged by a nice buck with velvet antlers which Dominique spotted.
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We took our second wrong turn 1.5 miles down Road 200 when we forked right on Road 200 when we should have stayed straight at what appeared to be a pile of rocks. We’d only gone a tenth of a mile when we caught this one and headed back to the rocks to find a road continuing on the other side. Another .4 miles brought us to a parking turnaround. Here we ignored an obvious trail straight up a hill and took a faint path to the left.
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This path began to climb up a ridge to a sign announcing the end of the Blue Lake Nordic Trail.
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Once we gained the ridge we had a view of Blue Lake below and Suttle Lake a little further to the east.
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Blue Lake fills a collapsed cladera to a depth over 300 feet. The trail followed the ridge along the western end of the lake. We followed it around to a knoll described in the guidebook as the start of private land.
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Opposite the lake, on the other side of the ridge, lay a meadow with Mt. Washington looming behind.
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In addition, the seasonal Cache Falls could be seen flowing down the hillside below hidden Cache Lake.
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After visiting the knoll we backtracked a tenth of a mile along the ridge then headed downhill on a faint path heading toward what appeared to be an old road bed. There was a bit of maneuvering around blowdown to get to the road bed where we discovered a clearer path coming down from a point further along the ridge. Here was also the memorial plaque for the Elliott R. Corbett II Memorial State Park.
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The trail led into and through the meadow before arriving back at the turnaround at the end of the road walk.
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On the way back up we spotted a toad and a frog along the roads.
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As we neared the sno-park Three Fingered Jack came into view through the trees.
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Remember my comment earlier about avoiding any more ugly roads for the weekend? Well Google got us again. We had originally planned on visiting the nearby Skylight Cave after the hike. In June between the hours of 9 and 11 am sunbeams come through an opening in the roof a short lava tube. The driving directions in our “Bend, Overall” guidebook were from Highway 242 but a look at Google Maps had shown what appeared to be a pretty straight forward 5 mile(ish) drive from Highway 20. We had written directions for that route but about 4 miles into our attempt we came to a 4-way junction with no road signs. Our written directions indicated we should go straight but we were on a gravel road crossing a gravel road and the road ahead was a narrow dirt track. We tried using the Garmin to figure out where we were, but the Garmin showed far more roads than Google had and it seemed to agree that the dirt road was the one we were looking for. After some indecision Heather decided to give it a go. It was quickly obvious that that was a bad choice as the road was narrow, overgrown, and rocky in places. When we spotted a wide enough spot to turn around we did so retreating once again to the 4-way junction. It was after 10am and now we had no confidence that we were even where we had meant to be. So we threw up the white flag and decided to try again some other time when we can follow the guidebook directions.

When we got home we looked again on Google and discovered that the dirt track had been the correct route and we’d only been about 3/4 of a mile from the cave. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Lake

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Eight Lakes Basin

After three straight overnight trips it was time for a day hike. Our destination was the Eight Lakes Basin in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The two most common routes to the area are from either the Duffy Lake Trailhead to the SW or the Marion Lake Trailhead to the north. The basin is a little closer to the Marion Lake Trailhead so this was where we decided to begin our hike.
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We were surprised at the number of cars already parked at the trailhead when we arrived at 6:15am. Later we realized much of it was due to it being the opening weekend of hunting season. We had visited Marion Lake once before in October of 2014 on our way home from Central Oregon, but this time we would be continuing past the lake 4 miles to reach the Eight Lakes Basin and returning on a wide loop.

The first 1.8 miles of trail was familiar but some things had changed since our previous visit including the condition of the wilderness sign.
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About a half mile prior to reaching Marion Lake the trail passes smaller Lake Ann.
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On the far side of a lake a Great Blue Heron landed on a log along with some ducks while numerous other ducks could be seen on the water.
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Shortly after Lake Ann we came to a split in the trail where the Marion Lake Trail headed left and the Marion Outlet Trail went right. Both trails lead to Marion Lake but the the Outlet Trail is .5 miles longer. They also lead to different portions of the lake, the Marion Lake Trail arrives at the northern end of the lake while the Marion Outlet Trail meets the Blue Lake Trail at the lake’s northwestern tip.
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The main reason to take the Marion Outlet Trail though is to take a short unsigned side trail and visit Marion and Gatch Falls.
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The trail down to the falls is somewhat steep in places but the views are wonderful. After visiting the falls we hiked to the Blue Lake Trail junction and crossed Marion Creek on the footbridge. Just beyond the footbridge the trail crosses a rock slide where the vine maple was starting to show its Fall colors.
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After entering the trees again we took a trail down to the lake to get a view of Mt. Jefferson across the water.
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We continued on the Blue Lake Trail which soon entered the forest burned by the 2003 B & B Fire.
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The B & B Fire burned over 90,000 acres of forest and we would be spending a large portion of the day hiking through the burn. Some areas though were spared and one of those areas was a mile up the Blue Lake Trail at a junction with the Pine Ridge Trail.
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By taking the Pine Ridge Trail we could have climbed up Marion Mountain, but we were leaving that for another time. Just beyond the junction a small pond reflected the rocky summit of that peak.
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It was three miles from the Pine Ridge Trail junction to the next trail junction at Jorn Lake in the Eight Lakes Basin. A little over a mile from the pond was Jenny Lake.
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Beyond Jenny Lake the forest around the Blue Lake Trail had all been burnt by the 2003 fire. The lack of live trees allowed for some big views through the silver snags and it was interesting to see how the forest was at work recovering. Small trees were working on replacing those lost and white pearly everlasting flowers made a nice contrast to the red huckleberry leaves dotting the ground.
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The lack of trees also caused the trail to be exposed to the Sun which had come back with a vengeance after the previous weekends cooler temperatures. A short way from Jenny Lake the trail began a series of switchbacks as it climbed up and over a ridge before dropping down into the Eight Lakes Basin. The full exposure made this a really warm climb, but when we reached a saddle on the ridge the view of Three Fingered Jack with the basin below was worth it.
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From this direction the first lake in the basin that we reached was Blue Lake.
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We headed down to the lake where we were able to find a little shade on a rock along the shore.
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After having a snack and cooling down we continued on following the Blue Lake Trail further downhill toward Jorn Lake.
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Before checking out Jorn Lake more closely we wanted to continue past our planned loop a short distance to visit Red Butte Lake. We had scrambled up Red Butte in 2010 when we had taken a hike from the Duffy Lake Trailhead. We had turned around after climbing up the butte and not made it as far as Red Butte Lake so we figured this time we’d check it out. We wound up following a series of unofficial trails between Jorn and Red Butte Lakes which passed several nice looking campsites before finally bringing us to the shallow little lake.
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We found a log to sit on and tried to watch some ducks enjoying the lake but it was just too hot to sit out in the sunlight so we decided to head back to Jorn Lake where some of the trees had been spared from the fire.
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We took the official Blue Lake Trail back down to a junction with the Bowerman Lake Trail near Jorn Lake.
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Before we turned onto the Bowerman Lake Trail we went down to Jorn Lakes shore.
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While we were sitting by the lake a doe came down to the eastern end of the lake.
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After she disappeared behind some trees we began to walk along the shore toward where she was since that was the direction we would be heading on the Bowerman Lake Trail. On the way a frog and a garter snake went from the shore into the water.
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The best view of Mt. Jefferson came at the SE end of the lake.
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We left the lake and briefly returned to the Bowerman Lake Trail but then quickly left it to check out a series of ponds between Jorn Lake and Bowerman Lake.
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It was at Bowerman Lake that we realized it was opening weekend of hunting season when we ran into a gentleman who was resting by the lake.
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Bowerman Lake was the last lake in the Basin that the trail passed and we were soon back into the snags.
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The trails up until this point had been well maintained but the next 2+ miles on the Bowerman Lake Trail became increasingly difficult as numerous snags covered the path.
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We spent quite a bit of time going over, under, around logs. Often times it was just easier to walk on top of them. Conditions improved after we reached the Minto Pass Trail where someone else had apparently encountered the obstacles over the Bowerman Lake Trail.
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We were now following the Minto Pass Trail two miles to Marion Lake. Many of the vine maples along this trail were in full Autumn mode.
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The trail crossed several springs and creeks as it neared the lake including the very pretty Mist Creek.
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When the trail approached Marion Lake we walked down to the lake shore for one final rest stop. Three Fingered Jack rose above the lake on the horizon and we were joined by a number of tortoiseshell butterflies and a friendly Stellar’s blue jay.
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The Minto Pass Trail had been recently rerouted, adding a couple of switchbacks, just before arriving at a three-way junction with the Lake of the Woods and Marion Lake Trails.
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Back on the Marion Lake Trail we followed it for a half mile passing a trail to the lake’s day use area and continuing another .3 miles to the Marion Outlet Trail junction where we had begun our loop. We retraced our path from the morning spotting a garter snake and a large western toad along the way.
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Unfortunately not all of the wildlife encounters were so nice. Between spotting the snake and the toad we had paused at Lake Ann for a moment and Heather was almost immediately stung by a yellow jacket. Several more were buzzing around and we ran to the end of the lake to avoid any additional stings.

What was supposed to be a sort of “easier” hike than what we’d been doing lately turned out to be a little more taxing than planned. Between the warm temperatures and exposure in the burn area and the stretch of trail covered in downed snags we were feeling pretty tired by the time we made it back to the trailhead. We had also managed to turn the 15.2 miles we had planned on into 17.9 miles by visiting the falls, Red Butte Lake, and doing some other off-trail exploring. It had been worth it though. The colors were amazing, we’d seen a lot of wildlife, and despite the full parking lot hadn’t seen very many other people along the way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157673717910585

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 4 – Eagle Cap

The fourth day of our backpacking trip began with a nice sunrise over Moccasin Lake.
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Our plan for the day was to take our day packs and hike to the summit of Eagle Cap, then pack up camp and move to Horseshoe Lake for the final night of our trip.

It had been rather breezy the day before and we were hoping that wouldn’t be the case today so that we could get catch some reflections of Eagle Cap in the lakes. A gentle breeze kept that from happening.
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We hiked to the west end of Mirror Lake and followed signs toward Horton Pass at a 4-way trail junction.
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The trail took us past Upper Lake set in an alpine bowl surrounded by wildflowers and backed by a scenic waterfall on the far side of the valley.
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The trail climbed up from Upper Lake toward Eagle Cap.
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We knew we would be encountering some patches of snow based on recent trip reports from Van Marmot and Born2BBrad over on Oregonhikers.org. We also knew that it would be fairly easy to avoid the snow which was good given our early start because the snow was still iced from the night before.
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From the sign in the snow we had the choice of going right to Horton Pass and following the ridge from there or going left and making a steeper climb to a higher point on the same ridge. Looking at the trail up to Horton Pass it seemed to have not only more snow but it was on a steeper slope than staying left so we chose that route and climbed to the ridge where views opened up to the west.
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To the NE lay the Lakes Basin and the Matterhorn.
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The west side of the ridge was covered in short trees and we passed through this forest of miniature trees to a saddle below Eagle Cap.
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From the saddle we had a nice view down the East Lostine River valley to the east and across to Blue Lake to the west.
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Beyond the saddle the trail climbed Eagle Cap in a series of long switchbacks. A few alpine flowers dotted the landscape.
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After passing through some whitebark pines we arrived at the broad summit of Eagle Cap.
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Although Eagle Cap is a few hundred feet shorter than the Matterhorn the sky was clearer than it had been two days earlier when we had been atop the other peak. The view was so huge it was hard to take everything in.
East Lostine River, the Matterhorn, and the Lakes Basin
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Glacier Lake
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Looking SW
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Seven Devils in Idaho
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The Elkhorns
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After having second breakfast on Eagle Cap we headed back down. On the way we ran into a couple from Portland who had camped near Upper Lake. They had seen a mountain goat run by their camp the day before and spotted a pair of wolves crossing a snowfield on the ridge above the lake as well. We passed several other hikers making their way up toward Eagle Cap making us glad we had started so early.

We stopped at Upper Lake to refill our water supply and decided to follow the trail around the lake thinking it would take us over to another trail that ran between Minam Pass and the 4-way junction at Mirror Lake.
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The trail petered out at the far end of the lake near it’s inlet stream. Instead of backtracking we decided to rock hop up the creek to the other trail.
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When we arrived at the other trail we found our first western pasque flower seed-heads.
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We were also near the waterfall we had seen from across Upper Lake.
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We followed the trail back down through some lovely wildflower meadows to the 4-way junction and then returned to our campsite to pack up.
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From Mirror Lake we had the choice of going back past Moccasin Lake or taking a different trail past little Sunshine and Crescent Lake. The two routes rejoined at the NE end of Douglas Lake. Since we had already seen Moccasin Lake we decided to go by Sunshine Lake where we wound up getting our best reflection of Eagle Cap.
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We passed a junction with the Hurricane Creek Trail after 1.1 miles and arrived at Crescent Lake after approximately another three quarter miles.
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Douglas Lake was just on the other side of the trail from Crescent Lake.
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We followed a pointer for the West Fork Wallowa River when we reached the trail junction at the end of Douglas Lake.
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Shortly thereafter we came to another trail junction.
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Here we faced another choice. Both forks would bring us to Horseshoe Lake, the left in 1.3 miles and the right in 1.5 miles passing Lee and Lily Lakes. We chose the longer route past the other two lakes and began descending toward Lee Lake.
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After a brief stop at Lee Lake we continued past the aptly named Lily Lake.
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The trail passed by large Horseshoe Lake along the northern shore.
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We were hoping to find a campsite at east end of Horseshoe Lake which would would leave us with a shorter hike on our final day but we were unable to find a suitable site at that end of the lake. After reaching the junction with the other fork of the Lakes Basin Trail and failing to have found a good campsite we decided to head back up the other fork to see if there were any decent sites along that trail.
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We had been planning on visiting nearby Unit Lake after setting up camp and knew there was a campsite there, but the trail to that lake was no longer maintained and camping there would require hauling our packs down to the lake over a lot of blowdown which we preferred not to do. As luck would have it we found a suitable spot for our tent below the trail just opposite of the unmaintained trail to Unit Lake.
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After getting settled we decided to take our chairs, dinner, and water filter with us to Unit Lake and spend our evening there. The trail had definitely not been maintained from quite some time and we were glad we had chosen not to try and do the trail with our full packs.
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That being said we were glad we made the side trip down to the lake.
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We were a little surprised when a Dad and four kids came crashing down the trail to fish for a little while but they soon departed and we had a little more solitude before returning to our tent and watching the sunset on Eagle Cap for the final time.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671183919842

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