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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Maiden Peak

Labor Day weekend finally brought some cooler temperatures to the Cascades. We had planned an overnight trip for Sat/Sun in the Maiden Peak area. Located to the NE of Willamette Pass Maiden Peak is the tallest point between Mt. Bachelor and Diamond Peak. The 7818′ shield volcano is also Oregon’s 29th most prominent peak(Prominence is how far you must drop before you start going up a higher peak).

Our plan for the visit was to park at the Pacific Crest Trailhead .3 miles east of the Willamette Pass Ski Area and take the PCT past the Rosary Lakes then take the Maiden Lake Trail to Maiden Lake where we would hopefully find a campsite. After setting up camp we’d hike up Maiden Peak before spending the night at the lake. The weather forecast called for a chance of isolated showers and an overnight low of 34 degrees so we had to remember to bring a few extra items that we hadn’t needed yet this year.

We arrived at the trailhead just after 7am.
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From the trailhead a short connector path brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail which slowly climbed for about 2 miles through a nice forest with no clear views of the surrounding area.
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The trail passed a rockslide at the 2.25 mile mark where we had hoped to see a pika but had to settle for hearing their warning “meeps” instead.
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About a half mile from the rockslide we arrived at Lower Rosary Lake. This is the largest of the three lakes and there were a couple of tents in the area. Despite the forecast we had beautiful bluebird skies overhead and no breeze whatsoever leading to some great reflections in the lake.
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To the north Maiden Peak rose above the forest.
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On the opposite side of the trail was a small steaming pond.
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A short climb from Lower Rosary Lake brought us to Middle Rosary Lake where we spotted some mergansers paddling away.
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Pulpit Rock loomed above this lake making for a dramatic scene.
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A narrow strip of land separated Middle Rosary Lake from North Rosary Lake.
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Beyond North Rosary Lake the PCT began to climb up toward Maiden Saddle. Just under 1.5 miles from the first view of Lower Rosary Lake, and .4 miles short of Maiden Saddle, we reached the junction with the Maiden Lake Trail.
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We left the PCT here and headed toward Maiden Lake. This trail traversed the side of Maiden Peak passing a couple of small ponds as it climbed to the lake.
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It was approximately 2.3 miles from the junction to Maiden Lake with an elevation gain of around 500′ which isn’t a lot, but the elevation gains came in short steep chunks. We were starting to get a little tired so we were relieved when we crested a hill and spotted a sign for Maiden Lake.
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We spotted the beautiful green of Maiden Lake from above and quickly made our way down to the lake.
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It was smaller than the Rosary Lakes and lacked the dramatic views that Pulpit Rock had provided those lakes, but it had it’s own peaceful charm. There weren’t any other tents at the lake so we had our pick of spots.  Following Leave No Trace principles we chose a spot back in the trees away from the lake.
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After getting our camp set up we switched to our daypacks and returned to the Maiden Lake Trail.
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A fairly level .6 miles brought us to another trail junction. From here the Maiden Lake Trail continues 2.5 miles to Forest Road 4664-100, but we turned uphill following a pointer for Maiden Peak.
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The trail toward Maiden Peak gained almost 1200′ in 1.7 miles with some very steep sections. Our original plan had been to return from the peak this way and then come back up and around on a loop using the PCT on our way back to the trailhead on the second day. We had already changed our minds and were planning on continuing on the loop after climbing up Maiden Peak and then just hiking straight back out on the second day. As we climbed these steep sections of trail that decision seemed justified.

As we approached a rock outcropping, views finally opened up to the south and we were able to get a good look at Diamond Peak.
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The trail was quite steep as it passed along the rock outcrop but the views continued to open up which sort of made up for the effort.
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Mt. Thielsen beyond Crescent Lake
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Mt. Bailey
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In addition to the steepness of the trail the tread along the upper portion was pretty loose making it even more challenging.
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There was a trail junction a quarter mile from the summit of Maiden Peak marked by several rock cairns.
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The loop we were planning on doing made a hairpin turn around a small stand of trees while the summit trail lay straight ahead. The summit trail passed a small crater as it wound its way up.
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Numerous Clark’s nutcrackers were noisily flying among the whitebark pines gracing the peaks slopes.
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The views from Maiden Peak were great. The weather was cooperating, with the exception of the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, the clouds that were present were adding to views and not obstructing them. The view north included Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor beyond Crane Prairie Reservoir.
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The NW view included little Bobby Lake below the Twins and Waldo Lake.
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To the west was Fuji Mountain, Mt. Ray, and Waldo Lake.
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Fuji Mountain
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SW was the Willamette Pass Ski Area on Eagle Peak, pointy Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak.
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Mt. Yoran
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To the south Lower Rosary Lake and Pulpit Rock were visible along with Odell and Crescent Lakes and a number of Cascade Peaks.
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Mount Scott, Tipsoo Butte & Howlock Mountain, Llao Rock, and Hillman Peak
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Mt. Scott
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To the east Paulina Peak was the highest point on the horizon beyond Wickiup Reservoir, Davis Mountain, and Davis Lake.
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The NE side of Maiden Peak was home to several volcanic features.
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Remains of the former lookout tower could be seen at the summit.
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We spent awhile exploring the broad summit and taking the opportunity to eat a little lunch before continuing on our planned loop. At the unsigned junction we turned right and headed downhill toward the Pacific Crest Trail which was 2.7 miles away. While the hike up had been steep this section of trail had it beat. We passed five mountain bikers headed uphill, the first two had been resigned to walking their bikes up, the second pair was struggling and looking for an inhaler, and the final rider was also struggling greatly.
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Another option I had considered when planning the trip was to come up this way to Maiden Peak with our backpacks before heading down the other side to Maiden Lake. Once again we were glad we had settled on our current plan.

The trail began to level out near the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.
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Mountain bikes are banned on the PCT so they come up using the Maiden Peak Trail. We however turned left on PCT and continued downhill toward Maiden Saddle.
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The PCT was a more gradual descent and it was a fairly easy walk for the next .7 miles where we took a side trail to the Maiden Peak Shelter.
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The shelter was only about a hundred yards off the PCT and it was by far the nicest shelter we’ve visited while on a trail. Solar powered, the shelter can sleep up to 15 and includes a wood stove, tables, and chairs.
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We were the only hikers at the shelter although entries in the guest book showed that other hikers had visited earlier in the morning. Several of the locals were out, possibly part of the neighborhood watch.
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From the shelter it was just under two miles to Maiden Saddle and another .4 miles back to the Maiden Lake Trail. Heather had brought the bags of Doritos that she had left over from handing them out to thru-hikers on the PCT in the Sky Lakes Wilderness since we would be spending more time on trail during this trip. We ran into our first thru-hiker between the shelter and Maiden Saddle. His name was Horse Whistler (a.k.a. James) and this was his first time in Oregon. It was nice to hear he was really enjoying the state so far and he couldn’t believe how much trail magic he’d encountered since entering Oregon. He was really looking forward to getting to the Three Sisters area and spending a day in Bend. After a nice conversation he was off to check out the shelter and we were on the look out for a view of the Rosary Lakes that he had good things to say about.

The viewpoint was above but not far from Maiden Saddle and exactly as Forest Whistler had described. The Rosary Lakes were lined up with Odell and Crescent Lakes.
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One of the locals was already there enjoying the view when we arrived.
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From the viewpoint the trail descended to Maiden Saddle via a couple of switchbacks.
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Another couple of switchbacks brought us down to the Maiden Lake Trail where we turned left and retraced our steps from earlier in the day.
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Heather handed out one final bag of chips to a gracious hiker who said they were going to go perfectly with his dinner before we’d turned onto the Maiden Lake Trail. The lake was just as pretty this time around.
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Instead of heading down to the lake on the trail we had taken earlier we stayed on the trail above the lake where there was a nice view of Maiden Peak with the lake below.
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This time we just headed down to our campsite where we grabbed our dinner, stove, and camp chairs before making our way to the lake. Where we once again were the only ones at the lake and we set up our chairs on a little sandy beach.
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It was already getting a little chilly, especially whenever a passing cloud would block the Sun and/or the breeze kicked up.
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When the Sun was out and the wind calm it was just about as perfect as it gets though. After a nice break at the lake we had dinner then decided to see if we could hike around the lake while we looked for a good place to filter water. We headed around counter-clockwise following a faint path to another campsite that was closer to the lake than it probably should have been. The lake was deeper along the shore here and we refilled our water supply before continuing on. The hillside grew steeper along the north side of the lake and we were forced to sidehill over and around some blowdown before being able to drop down to the sandy lakeshore on the southern end of the lake. Along the way we had a nice view back across the lake to our dinner spot.
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It was a little after 6:15 when we completed our loop and we tried sitting by the lake a little longer, but between the breeze and the vanishing sunlight it was a little too chilly without pulling out some of our warmer gear. Instead of retrieving some of our warmer clothing and going back down to the lake we decided to turn in for the evening. We had had a long day, waking up at 3:30am and then hiking a total of 19.4 (according to the GPS). I was asleep by eight and Heather thought she nodded off shortly after, about 8:30.

We were interested in seeing how well we would be able to stay warm overnight in near freezing temperatures. We both slept well and were able to sleep until almost 6am. It had definitely gotten a lot colder overnight than it had on any of our other overnight trips this year. We made good use of our down jackets as we packed up camp and ate breakfast down by the lake.
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We were headed back to our car by 7:15 planning on returning the way we’d come past the Rosary Lakes. One of the things we try and do is familiarize ourselves with the distances of the different sections of trail we’re hiking to break up the distances. As we were headed back to the PCT we stopped to look at our map from William Sullivan’s book to do just that when the idea of returning via the Willamette Pass Ski Area came up. It appeared more direct and I failed to pay attention to the fact that the section from the top of Eagle Peak down to the ski area did not have a distance noted leading me to believe it would be almost 2 miles shorter. Heather caught that but it was too early in the morning for me to comprehend what she was attempting to point out. Either way she was game for taking a different route though so when we got back to the PCT we turned right and climbed back up to Maiden Saddle.
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We followed the pointer for the Taits Loop sticking to the main trail until we could see what looked like a roadbed above and to our right.
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This was actually the Boundary Pass ski run which we began to follow uphill.
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The sky had been blue at Maiden Lake but by the time we had reached the saddle low clouds were passing overhead and now Maiden Peak was completely socked in.
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The Boundary Pass run headed steeply uphill toward Peak 2 which we did not need to climb so we stuck to the cat/road bed which turned into the Kris Kross run.
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This run crossed the Southbound run coming from the Peak 2 Lift and continued on to the summit of Eagle Peak.
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In previous years a gondola has operated from the Willamette Pass Ski Area during the Summer months allowing mountain bikers and hikers to catch a lift to the top of Eagle Peak for a fee, but it apparently never opened in 2016. The only views we had were down to part of Odell Lake across Highway 58 and straight down the Eagle Peak Accelerator Lift to the ski area.
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It looked too steep and brushy for us to attempt to go straight downhill from the lift so we turned down the Kaleidoscope run which headed SE at a more gentle grade.
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It was an easier walk but it was swinging us out wider than we really wanted and the first two ski runs we passed that would have headed us more in the direction we wanted, Good Time Charlie and Eagle’s Flight, both looked too steep. We finally spotted what looked like a good option marked by a sign that simply read “Sport”.
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This path traversed back along the hillside through the trees recrossing Eagle’s Flight and Good Time Charlie below their steeper sections.
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Looking up Eagle’s Flight
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Even though we were headed back in the direction we wanted we weren’t losing much elevation so when we reached Good Time Charlie we turned downhill.
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This run ended when it joined the Perseverance run which led straight to the ski area.
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The trailhead was actually .3 miles east of the ski area so we didn’t need to get all the way there so when we spotted the Sleepy Hollow chair lift to our left we began looking for a path down to it.
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We found a path through the trees and headed for the lift. The ski lodge and the unused gondolas where off to our right.
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From the Sleepy Hollow lift a nordic trail followed an old road bed to the Pacifc Crest Trail near the highway maintenance shed.
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It was just a few hundred feet along the PCT to the junction with the trail from the Willamette Pass Trailhead and an even short distance to our waiting car.
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In the end our route back turned out to be about .3 miles shorter (6.1 vs 6.4) than it would have been if we’d gone back by the Rosary Lakes, but it gained over 500 more feet of elevation. It was worth it though just to check out the ski area and made for a nice variety on the way back to the car. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672347862022

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 Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Crescent Mountain

Our wildflower adventure in the Old Cascades continued on our way home from Bend on July 6th. The hike we’d chosen was Crescent Mountain which is less than five miles from Iron Mountain as the crow flies. A 4.5 mile trail climbs up the SE ridge of this crescent shaped mountain through a series of meadows to another former lookout site.

The first 2.5 miles climbed through a nice forest with a crossing of Maude Creek at the 1.3 mile mark.
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The trail then entered the first meadow which was full of bracken fern and some wildflowers.
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The ferns gave way to more wildflowers as the trail continued to climb. Then we spotted a field of beargrass ahead. It turned out to be the most densely packed we’d ever seen.
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Butterflies and birds could be seen flying about in all directions. Behind us a view of Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters opened up across the open hillside.
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There was a nice variety of flowers in bloom.
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The meadows lasted for about a mile before the trail reentered the forest and climbed a ridge to a trail junction. Taking the uphill fork to the right we quickly popped out on the rocky summit where the former lookout had stood. The view here was better than Iron Mountain with Three Fingered Jack unobstructed and Crescent Lake below nestled in the curve of the mountain.
Mt. Jefferson
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Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters
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Three Fingered Jack and Black Butte
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Hood & Mt. Adams
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Crescent Lake
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There were more flowers, butterflies and birds up at the summit and despite a brief encounter with mosquitoes when we left the meadows we were left alone to enjoy the scenery.
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Hummingbird enjoying the paint
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Coming down we ran into a pair of hikers passing through the meadow who were equally impressed with the flowers. We agreed that we’d probably timed it as well as could be hoped. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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