Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Mount Ireland – 07/09/2022

As we continue to work toward our goal of completing the 100 featured hikes (post) in each of the five areas covered by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes” series we headed for Eastern Oregon for a week hoping to check off 6 more hikes from that area. The first hike on our list, Mt. Ireland, had become something of a white whale for us. We had tried to do this hike during a September 2017 to Sumpter, OR but an early round of snow forced us to change that plan (post). We tried again on the way home from backpacking the Elkhorn Crest (post) but a round of severe thunderstorms stymied that plan.

We hoped the third time would be the charm but a little doubt crept in when I checked the forecast Friday night before leaving and saw it called for a slight chance of thunder storms the next day. We left at 5am to make the five and a half hour drive to the trailhead. Our plan was to watch the weather on the way there and if all looked good to try the hike but if it looked like thunder storms were imminent we would drive straight to Baker City where we had reservations for that night and try the hike again on our way home. There were a few clouds in the sky as we approached but none looked threatening so we followed Sullivan’s driving directions to the small, poorly marked, parking area.
IMG_6441A small sign post was all that marked the trailhead.

The trail begins along a closed roadbed which climbs steeply for the first 0.3 miles to a junction with other old roadbeds a view of Mt. Ireland.
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IMG_6445Mt. Ireland from the junction.

IMG_6447Hound’s tongue

There were several old roads/skids in the area but the trail was well flagged (we later learned that flagging had been recently placed by folks manning the lookout).
IMG_6448Flagging on the left marking the “trail”.

After another mile we came to FR 142 where a trail sign marked the continuation of the the trail.
IMG_6450Another flag hanging on the tree to the right.

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IMG_6460Another glimpse of Mt. Ireland.

IMG_6463Small meadow near FR 142 along a tributary of East Fork Boundary Creek.

IMG_6465Trail sign at FR 142.

The trail climbed for nearly another mile from FR 142 to a junction on an open ridge.
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IMG_6472Jacob’s ladder

IMG_6474This was one of three trees across the trail, all of which were easily navigated.

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IMG_6481Ironside Mountain in the distance.

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IMG_6493Nearing the junction.

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The trail to the right led 1.3 miles downhill to Downie Lake a possible side trip but one we decided to skip given our late start, the warm temperature, and we had another six straight days of hikes planned after this. We turned left and headed uphill, steeply at times (most times) toward Mt. Ireland.
IMG_6496Heading uphill.

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IMG_6499Mt. Ireland ahead.

IMG_6503Rock Creek Butte (post) and Elkhorn Peak along the Elkhorn Crest.

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Goosefoot violetGoosefoot violet

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IMG_6522Vinegar Hill in the Greenhorn Mountains (post) with a few snow patches.

It was just over a mile from the junction to the lookout and as we neared the lookout we began noticing signs of mountain goats.
IMG_6526Mountain goat fur on the trail.

I was a little ahead of Heather reaching the tower and when I arrived there were goats at a salt lick placed below the tower to keep the goats from disturbing the tower itself.
IMG_6527Just to the right of the silver stump in the center of the photo is one of the goats.

Mountain goat below the Mt. Ireland LookoutOne of the goats below the lookout tower.

IMG_6530Zoomed in shot of one of the goats leaving upon my arrival.

I rested at the saddle below the lookout tower next to a helipad and took in the view of Baldy Lake below.
IMG_6534Arriving at the saddle.

IMG_6537Baldy Lake below Mt. Ireland.

IMG_6540The tower from the saddle.

IMG_6544The helipad.

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IMG_6542Being watched.

The tower is typically staffed from late-June thru late-September and as I waited for Heather I was waved up to the tower by the current staffer, Warren. Warren and his wife Chris(sp?), who are from Arkansas, welcomed me to the tower where they offered me a chair while I waited for Heather to arrive. Heather soon joined us and we spent almost an hour in the tower visiting. We learned the tower is a bit of an anomaly being steel framed and that the day before 23 goats had been at the summit. Warren also informed us that under the right conditions Mt. Rainier was visible from the tower over 200 miles away. Another interesting tidbit of information was that dietician was the most common occupation of visitors to the tower in 2021 which was Warren’s first year staffing the tower. Apparently they don’t get a lot of visitors which was surprising to us given how great the view was from here.

While we were visiting a nanny and kid came to the salt lick.
20220709_131751The kid was on the other side of mom.

After our visit we returned to the saddle for a few more photos and then headed back down the trail to the car.
IMG_6550The Elkhorns from the tower.

IMG_6558The snowy Wallowa Mountains beyond a gap in the Elkhorns.

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IMG_6559Milbert’s tortoiseshell

IMG_6563Vinegar Hill with Dixie Butte to the left and Strawberry Mountain (post) the high point to the far left in the distance.

IMG_6568Clark’s nutcracker

IMG_6572Butterfly on pussy paws.

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IMG_6590Beetle on arnica.

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After returning to the car we drove into Sumpter and stopped for hand dipped corn dogs at a small stand that is only there typically between July 4th and Labor Day. The owner of the stand had stayed later in September of 2017 and we’d had several of the corn dogs (and cheese sticks) then which were delicious. The next year the stand wasn’t there but it was this year to our delight.
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After a couple of corn dogs (w/jalapeno mustard) and a cheese stick each we continued to Baker City and checked into our room for the night. The hike came in at a little over 7 miles with just over 2300′ of elevation gain.

We really enjoyed this hike and getting to visit with the staffers made it even more enjoyable. It’s really hard to understand why this hike isn’t more popular except that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there about it. It felt good to finally be able to check this one off our to-do list but we would happily do it again if the opportunity arose. Happy trails!

Flickr: Mt. Ireland

Categories
Hiking Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2018 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s time for another year end wrap up. This will be our 6th such post since we started this blog in 2013. It’s even harder to believe that we still have so many hikes yet to do before we are finished with our long term hiking goal of completing at least some portion of all 500 of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s five “100 Hikes…” guidebooks.

A goal we are closing in on is visiting all 45 of the accessible designated wilderness areas in Oregon. (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands, both off the Oregon Coast, are off limits to visitors,) We now have just seven wilderness areas left to visit after spending time in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (post), Steens Mountain (post), Strawberry Mountain (post), and Copper-Salmon (post) wildernesses this year.

With so many different hikes available we were once again able to spend most of our year exploring new trails and areas. We took hikes on 61 different days, 51 of those days were spent on trails (or sections of trails) that were new to us this year. Six additional days were partially on new sections of trail while just four days were repeated hikes.

Many of our hiking days consisted of multiple stops this year which resulted in a nice round 100 separate “hikes” varying in length from a quarter mile at the Pillars of Rome (post) to 20.3 miles in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post).

Of those 100 hikes 89 were brand new, 6 were partially new, and 5 were repeated. The number of repeated hikes is 5 and not 4 because Saddle Mountain was done on the same day as three new hikes (post). Below is a map showing all of our stops.

2018 Trailheads
Hikers=Trailheads, Houses=Tent Sites, Binoculars=Short Walk/Viewpoint

Although the majority of our hikes were done in Oregon we did manage to spend one day each in Washington (Falls Creek Falls), California (Lava Beds National Monument), and for the first time Idaho (Jump Creek Falls).Falls Creek Falls

Falls Creek Falls

View from the Schonchin Butte Trail

Lava Beds National Monument

Jump Creek Falls

Jump Creek Falls

We did spend more time east of the Cascade Crest this year compared to years past including trips to SE Oregon in June (amazing scenery/horrible roads), the Strawberry Mountains in July (beautiful but HOT), the Elkhorns in August (mountain goats galore), and Klamath Falls in October (lots of wildlife). Our other vacation was a trip to the Oregon Coast in September (Bandon = new favorite coast town). Hiking in so many different areas once again provided us with a wide variety of scenery.Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Footbridge along the Old Growth Trail

McDonald-Dunn Forest

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls – Silver Falls State Park

Balsamroot

Balsamroot at Memaloose Hills

Lone Wolf Meadow

Perham Creek

Perham Creek – Columbia River Gorge

White River Falls

White River Falls

Deschutes River

Deschutes River near Macks Canyon

Upper meadow of Buck Canyon

Buck Canyon – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Cupola lookout on Black Butte

Cascade Mountains from Black Butte

Salmon River

Salmon River

Frustration Falls

Frustration Falls – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Peter French Round Barn

Peter French Round Barn

Coffee Pot Crater

Coffee Pot Crater – Jordan Craters

Timber Gulch

Timber Gulch

Waterfall at Three Forks Hot Springs

Owyhee River

Pillars of Rome

Pillars of Rome – Rome, Oregon

Chalk Basin

Chalk Basin

Borax Lake

Borax Lake

Borax Hot Springs

Borax Hot Springs

Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain

Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert

The Island and Lake Billy Chinook

The Island and Lake Billy Chinook

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Horsepasture Mountain Trail

Horsepasture Mountain Trail

Footbridge over the Hot Springs Fork

Bagby Springs Trail

Boyd Cave

Boyd Cave

Pine Creek Trail

Pine Creek Trail – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Volcanic ash along the Pine Creek Traii

Volcanic ash – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Strawberry Mountain

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Slide Lake

Slide Lake – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson and the Pacific Crest Trail

Jefferson Park – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Elkhorn Crest Trail

Elkhorn Crest Trail

Summit Lake

Summit Lake – Elkhorns

Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake – Elkhorns

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake

Rigdon Butte from Lake Kiwa

Rigdon Butte

Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack

Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from South Pyramid Peak in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Carl Lake at sunrise

Carl Lake – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Hole-in-the-Wall Park and Mt. Jefferson

Hole-in-the-Wall Park – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson and Goat Peak

Mt. Jefferson & Goat Peak – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Umpqua Dunes

Umpqua Dunes

Bandon Islands

Bandon Islands

Barklow Mountain Trail entering the Copper-Salmon Wilderness

Copper-Salmon Wilderness

Tahkenitch Creek

Tahkenitch Creek

Huckleberry Bushes

Huckleberry bushes – Diamond Peak Wilderness

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Devil's Garden

Devil’s Garden

Sprague River

Sprague River

Tule Lake

Tule Lake

Petroglyph Point

Petroglyph Point

Mt. McLoughlin from Great Meadow

Mt. McLoughlin

Salmon Creek Falls

Salmon Creek Falls

Footbridge over Falls Creek

Footbridge over Falls Creek

View from the Red Mountain Lookout

Washington Cascades from Red Mountain

Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls on the Link River

Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn – Cape Perpetua

Wildwood Trail

Forest Park – Portland, Oregon

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Sunbeams in the Siuslaw National Forest

Siuslaw National Forest

In addition to the great scenery we saw a wide variety of wildlife and a fair number of wildflowers despite it not being the best year for them. Instead of including some of those pictures here we hope to post a separate 2018 wildlife and wildflower galleries soon.

We’re already looking forward to another year of hiking. If everything works out we will be checking off three more Oregon wilderness areas and a whole bunch of new hikes in 2019. We’ll be doing one or maybe two hikes a month from now until mid-Spring. Since we won’t have a lot of trips to report on during that time we’re hoping to do a few other hiking related posts including a more in depth look at our goals of visiting all the wilderness areas and checking off the 500 “featured hikes”.

We hope everyone has a great New Year and as always – Happy Trails!

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

As far as we know we didn’t have any mountain goat visitors during our night at Lower Twin Lake but I did wake up once and managed to see a streak across the sky which I assume was part of the Perseid meteor shower. Another goat did pass close by in the morning though as we were preparing to leave.
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It wasn’t nearly as chilly as it had been the previous morning and the air had gotten quite a bit hazier overnight.
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The increased smoke made us thankful that we had made our climb up Rock Creek Butte the day before instead of waiting until this morning. We had a fairly straight forward day planned as we would simply be returning the way we’d come the day before minus the side trip up to Rock Creek Butte’s summit. We were still seriously considering not going all the way back to Summit Lake which would be approximately a 13 mile hike. We figured we could shorten that by nearly a mile if we set up camp near one of the streams along the Summit Lake Trail.

As we began the mile climb from Lower Twin Lake back to the Elkhorn Crest Trail we passed the mountain goat who had stop to graze.
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A little further along we spotted three deer doing the same in a patch of yellow wildflowers.
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The hoofed animals weren’t the only ones out this morning.
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As we climbed away from the Twin Lakes Rock Creek Butte came into view.
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When we reached the Elkhorn Crest Trail we turned left and headed toward Rock Creek Butte where we spotted another mountain goat coming down the ridge where we had gone up the day before.
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It turned out to be a mountain goat filled morning. As we were passing around the western side of Rock Creek Butte a herd of goats came up from the valley below. Some of them crossed the trail in front of us while others stayed down in the trees until we passed.
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We had another encounter a short while later as I passed around a rock outcropping and came face to face with a goat heading south on the trail. We were both equally startled and the goat quickly leapt downhill behind more rocks.
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The increased smoke limited the views on the way back so we focused more on the things along the trail.
IMG_0579Mt. Ruth to the north

IMG_0575Rock Creek Butte to the south

IMG_0560Looking east toward the Wallowas

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Curiosity got the best of Heather as we came to a jeep track heading uphill to a ridge 9.3 miles from the Twin Lakes Trail junction and 1.2 miles before the Summit Lake junction.
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Wondering if there might be a view of Summit Lake from the ridge we followed it steeply uphill only to discover that the angle was wrong and we were looking north over Little Summit Lake which was hidden in the trees below.
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We were feeling relatively good all things considered so we had decided to go all the way to Summit Lake and stay there again only this time we would take the first available camp site we came too instead of going half way around the lake. We arrived at the lake to find it a little smokier than we had left it the morning before but it was still a great lake.
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We were the only people there when we arrived and did indeed set up camp in the first available spot.
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We were later joined by a solo backpacker who we had passed along the Summit Lake Trail. We spent the afternoon lounging around camp and hanging out with the locals.
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The total distance for the day was just a bit over 13 miles but there had been a lot less elevation gain making it a fairly mild day. We were dealing with some blisters and Heather was having a little issue with an ankle that was being bruised by her shoe which told her it was time for a new pair. The good news was the next two days were only going to be around 10 miles each, but we were facing some more climbing on day four along the Lost Lake Trail which I had been told was steep and rocky. We turned in after memorizing the route for the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

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