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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Bingham Ridge (Mt. Jefferson Wilderness) – 8/24/2019

After a week back at work it was time to hit the trails again. We once again turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” for inspiration choosing the Bingham Ridge Trail as our destination.

The Bingham Ridge Trailhead is located 5 miles up Forest Road 2253 aka Minto Road. That road is just 17 miles east of Detroit, OR and was in great shape except for some water damage in the first quarter of a mile. Beyond that short stretch it was a good gravel road all the way to the parking area just before the road was gated.

The trail began opposite the little parking area where we had parked along side two other vehicles.
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The trail climbed through a green forest along the dry bed of Willis Creek before briefly passing through the edge of a clear-cut.
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IMG_7381Huckleberry bushes and beargrass in the clear-cut.

20190824_065018Sleeping bees on some thistle.

The trail soon reentered the trees and then passed into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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IMG_7395The bees on the thistle may have been asleep but a western toad was out and about.

After entering the wilderness the trail continued to climb very gradually as it passed through alternating sections of green trees and forest scarred by the 2006 Puzzle Creek Fire.
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IMG_7400Mt. Jefferson through the burned trees.

IMG_7402Back in the green.

IMG_7404Three Fingered Jack through the burned trees.

IMG_7408Aster

IMG_7409Pearly everlasting

IMG_7410Fireweed

The longest stretch through burned forest occurred as the trail passed to the right of a rocky rise along the ridge.
IMG_7412Three Fingered Jack

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IMG_7417The rock covered rise.

IMG_7418South Cinder Peak (post) to the left and Three Fingered Jack to the right.

IMG_7422Still passing the rocks.

We heard a couple of “meeps” from pikas in the rocks but we only managed to spot a golden-mantled ground squirrel.
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As the trail passed around the rocky rise we reentered green forest and quickly came to the end of the Bingham Ridge Trail at a junction with the Lake of the Woods Trail 3.7 miles from the trailhead.
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The Lake of the Woods Trail runs north-south between the Pamelia Limited Entry Area and Marion Lake (post). We turned left (north) onto this trail which promptly crossed over the ridge at a low saddle and began to traverse a forested hillside.
IMG_7429The low saddle.

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The trail wound around the basin arriving at a ridge end viewpoint where we had hoped to get a view of Mt. Jefferson but soon realized that we hadn’t come far enough around yet and we were looking west not north.
IMG_7432Coffin and Bachelor Mountains (post).

We continued along the hillside finally coming far enough around to get a look at Mt. Jefferson.
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Just a little further along we arrived at Reeder’s turn around point for the 8.8 mile hike described in his book. A cinder viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson across the Bingham Basin.
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There was a strange group of clouds hanging out on the top of the mountain. We could see them moving in what appeared to be a SE direction but despite seeing the movement it never really appeared that they were going anywhere.
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As we stood at this rocky viewpoint we could hear more pikas and then Heather spotted one sitting on top of some rocks, maybe enjoying the same view we were.
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Even though Reeder calls this viewpoint “the most logical stopping point for dayhikers” he does provide information for those wishing to continue. Since logic sometimes goes out the window with regards to hiking we continued on. The trail dropped just a bit to a fairly level bench where it passed through a couple of meadows before arriving at an unnamed lake with a view of Mt. Jefferson on the left.
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IMG_7461Spirea with a beetle.

IMG_7464Unnamed lake with Mt. Jefferson (and those pesky clouds).

IMG_7469From the opposite side of the lake.

A half mile later (or just under 2 miles from the Bingham Ridge Trail junction) we arrived a Papoose Lake.
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The mountain was mostly hidden by trees from this lake but there were several frogs to watch and a short scramble up a rockpile on the east side of the lake did provide another look at Mt. Jefferson.
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It was actually a really impressive amount of boulders here and although we didn’t spot any, we could hear a number of resident pikas.
IMG_7483Looking south over the rock field.

Turning back here would have put the hike in the 11.5 mile range, but we had our sights set on a further goal – the Pacific Crest Trail. Beyond Papoose Lake the Lake of the Woods Trail passed several seasonal ponds which were now meadows where we had to watch out for tiny frogs.
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IMG_7496One of the frogs.

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IMG_7663Frog in the trail.

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Just under three quarters of a mile from Papoose Lake (6.3ish from the trailhead) we arrived at the northern end of the Lake of the Woods Trail where it met the Hunts Creek Trail (post).
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A left on this trail would lead us into the Pamelia Limited Entry Area for which we did not have a permit, but to the right the trail remained out of the limited area as it headed to the Pacific Crest Trail.
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In his book Reeder describes this section of trail as “spectacular” which is what prompted us to abandon logic in the first place. We turned right and continued the theme of gradual climbs as the trail passed a hillside dotted with a few asters.
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After little over a quarter of a mile we found ourselves beneath a large talus slope (by the sound of it filled with a pika army).
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Here we embarked on possibly the most significant climb of the day as the trail switchbacked up through the rocks to a saddle.
IMG_7510Apparently the trail was rerouted at some point because we could see tread that we never used.

IMG_7511The Three Pyramids beyond Bingham Ridge.

As we neared the saddle we spotted what must have been the pika lookout.
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There was more talus on the opposite side of the saddle, and more pikas too!
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We spotted at least 4 pikas (it’s hard to keep track when they are running in and out of the rocks) and heard many more. The only thing that could tear us away from our favorite wildlife critters was the view of Mt. Jefferson looming over Hunts Cove.
IMG_7534 (the clouds had finally vanished)

Continuing away from the saddle just a bit provided an excellent view of the mountain and Hanks Lake with a bit of Hunts Lake visible as well.
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IMG_7551Hanks Lake

IMG_7552Hunts Lake

IMG_7553Rock fin above Hunts Cove.

Reeder hadn’t exaggerated by using spectacular to describe this section of trail. The views of Mt. Jefferson were amazing and a variety of wildflowers (past peak) lined the trail.
IMG_7560Penstemon and a western pasque flower.

IMG_7563Western pasque flower seed heads.

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20190824_101714Hippie-on-a-stick

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IMG_7576Paintbrush and lupine

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20190824_102625Patridge foot

IMG_7584Mt. Jefferson, Goat Peak (behind the tree) and the Cathedral Rocks.

As the trail crossed a cinder field glimpses to the south between trees reveled the Three Sisters (among others).
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IMG_7588South Cinder Peak

IMG_7591The Three Sisters

IMG_7594Three Fingered Jack

The trail briefly lost sight of Mt. Jefferson as it passed around a butte, losing a little elevation as it did so.
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IMG_7597Paintbrush in a meadow behind the butte.

Although the view of Mt. Jefferson was temporarily gone the view was still good. There was a large basin full of meadows just below the trail and occasional views of South Cinder Peak and Three Fingered Jack.
IMG_7602South Cinder Peak

IMG_7603Three Fingered Jack

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The trail gained a little of the elevation back as it came around the butte regaining a view of Mt. Jefferson in the process.
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After passing another sign for the Pamelia Limited Entry Area at a now abandoned (but still used) portion of the Hunts Creek Trail we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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We sat on some rocks here and rested. We were now at least 8 miles (that is the mileage Reeder assigns but with some extra exploring we’d done a bit more) from the Bingham Ridge Trailhead and needed a good break. Up until this point we’d only run into one other person, a bow hunter along the Bingham Ridge Trail. As we rested in the shade a pair of backpackers heading south on the PCT stopped briefly to talk. After they continued on we did little bit of exploring in the immediate area since there were a few flowers about and at least one tree frog.
IMG_7619Mostly past lupine

20190824_110312Paintbrush

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We returned the way we’d come enjoying the views just as much on the way back as we had the first time by. We didn’t see anyone else the rest of the day and we didn’t see anymore pikas, but as always there were a few things we spotted on the way back that we hadn’t seen or noticed earlier.
IMG_7632Butterfly on an aster.

IMG_7636Never seen one of these looks so clean and smooth, it almost looked fake.

IMG_7660We don’t know if this was just a stunted wallflower or something we’d never seen before.

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We ended the day nearly out of water (luckily for us the temperatures stayed below 70 so it wasn’t too warm) and with some sore feet. Our GPS devices both showed us having traveled nearly 17 miles which was further than we’d planned but all the little side trips and exploring can really add up. Depsite the distance this was a great hike with varied scenery, good wildlife, and a reasonable elevation gain made better by the trails having such gradual grades. Of course any trail where we see multiple pikas is going to be aces in our minds. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bingham Ridge

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon

Pamelia Lake Overnighter

As I mentioned in our recent Table Lake Loop Trip Report (post)we had plans to visit Goat Peak, a 7159′ peak just south of Mt. Jefferson. We had obtained a Pamelia Limited Area Entry Permit in May when they became available for September 8th and 9th. It was a roll of the dice not knowing what the wildfire or weather situations would be four months down the road but it ensured that we would be able to go if conditions permitted it. Aside from a slight chance of showers the morning of the 8th the forecast looked good so that morning we drove to the Pamelia Lake Trailhead and set off.IMG_1945

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We had been here once before in 2013 on a long loop to Hunts Cove (post).

From the trailhead the Pamelia Lake Trail travels just under two and a quarter miles to the lake. Along the way the trail passes through some very nice forest scenery with several views of Pamelia Creek.IMG_1948

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Just prior to arriving at the Pamelia Lake the trail veers left at a junction with the Grizzly Peak Trail which heads to the right.

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Our original plan for this trip had been to take the Pamelia Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail via the Hunts Creek Trail and follow the PCT up to Coyote (aka Mud) and Shale Lakes where we would set up camp before attempting to reach Goat Peak. After some additional consideration though we decided that setting up camp at Pamelia Lake might be a better option. Setting up camp there would eliminate the need to haul our heavy backpacks up the PCT while also leaving us with a hike out the next day of less than two and a half miles. It did mean we would be adding nearly 4.5 miles to Saturdays hike, but on paper it would still only be around 15 miles. The designated campsites at the lake were all along its left (north) side so we followed a use trail straight ahead from the junction and started looking for an open site.

We wound up choosing site #3 which kept us relatively close to the Grizzly Peak Trail junction as well as the Hunts Creek Trail junction.IMG_1966

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After setting up camp we briefly visited the shore of Pamelia Lake then we headed up to the Hunts Creek Trail.IMG_1967

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We turned left onto the Hunts Creek Trail and followed it around a ridge for nearly three quarters of a mile to its end at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail gaining a view of Mt. Jefferson along the way.IMG_1975

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On our loop to Hunts Cove I had taken the short side trip north on the PCT to see Milk Creek but Heather had not so we turned left at the junction and followed the PCT for a tenth of a mile through vine maple donning its fall colors to a viewpoint above the creek of Mt. Jefferson.IMG_1983

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After checking off the viewpoint we turned around and headed south on the PCT which climbed gradually through a varied forest.IMG_1990

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Along the way some movement in a fir tree caught our attention. At first we thought it might be a medium sized mammal of some kind but it turned out to be a squirrel harvesting cones that were crashing down through the limbs after being detached.IMG_1995

Approximately four and a quarter miles from the junction we arrived at Mud Hole Lake. (On some maps it is identified as Coyote Lake but on the USGS Topographic Map the name Coyote Lake is assigned to another lake on the west side of the PCT.)IMG_2010

We turned off the PCT just before the lake on an unsigned but clear trail leading NE through a meadow.IMG_2014

We were using “75 Scrambles in Oregon: Best Non-Technical Ascents” by Barbara I. Bond as our reference for the hike. This was our first time using this particular guidebook but so far everything was going smoothly. The book did not mention that there was a clear trail to follow but we were headed straight for Goat Peak and we’d turned off the PCT at the right spot so we figured we were good to go.IMG_2016

Our intended route would lead us up above a talus slope to the north (left) of Goat Peak where we would then bend to the south at about 6800′.IMG_2020

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It was a lovely area with red huckleberry leaves and a few butterflies still flying about.IMG_2027

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The tread petered out for a bit in one meadow in particular but small cairns helped lead the way.IMG_2030

The unexpected presence of the well marked trail got us off our guard and we weren’t paying enough attention to the fact that our heading was drifting further north than we’d intended. In the meadow where the trail grew faint the cairns led to the left of a rocky ridge end. In order to reach Goat Peak we should have veered to the right here to find the correct gully uphill.IMG_2031

Instead we continued to follow the trail as we now were hearing other voices ahead. The trail began to climb away from the meadow passing more rock covered hillsides.IMG_2035

Three Fingered Jack

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It started seeming really odd that we seemed to be heading directly at Mt. Jefferson but kept thinking that maybe the trail would bend right around some geologic feature.IMG_2042

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I really started to question things when we caught up to the group of gentleman who were ahead of us. They asked how high we were planning on going which is when I became fairly certain we were on a climbers route and not the scramble route to Goat Peak. I replied “as high as our legs will take us”, knowing that if this wasn’t the right way to Goat Peak we’d gone to far to correct it by then. Shortly after we crested a rise and left the tress. We were now at the bottom of a boulder filled gully.IMG_2046

There wasn’t much we could do at that point other than go back or continue on so up we went.IMG_2048

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Cliffs on the right side of the gully.

As we gained elevation the views to the south opened up and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack on the horizon.IMG_2049

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We were well above the summit of Goat Peak by the time we reached the lip of the gully where stunted white bark pines clung to the steep slope.IMG_2057

Anxious to see what spectacular view awaited I charged up the final pitch only to find a second albeit smaller gully.IMG_2059

At least it had a view of Mt. Jefferson. There were a couple of bivouacs here and I waited for Heather to decide our next course of action. When she reached the second gully I decided to continue on and told her I would wave her up if I thought there was something that she just had to see. From where we were I could already see the top of Goat Peak below to the south as well as The Table and Cathedral Rocks.IMG_2060

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Goat Peak

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The Table

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Cathedral Rocks

Getting out of the second gully was much easier than the first and I soon found myself walking along a snowfield.IMG_2066

Later research would reveal that we were indeed following a climbers trail to the South Ridge Route up Mt. Jefferson. I ended my climb at the top of the snowfield but did a little exploring to the high points on either side of the gully.IMG_2069

Climbers trail continuing up Mt. Jefferson

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View south from the ridge to the north of the gully.

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Looking out along the ridge.

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Where we had intended to be.

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View from below the snowfield.

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Paintbrush below the snow.

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Looking south from the opposite ridge top.

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Wildflower atop the ridge.

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Bear Butte along the nearest ridge.

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Looking back at Mt. Jefferson

The views were nice but I didn’t think they warranted waving Heather up so I headed back down to where she was waiting. After a short break and a snack we began the half mile decent down the lower gully.IMG_2114

We passed the other group, who were still on their way up the lower gully, just after starting our descent. When we’d finally gotten back to level ground in the meadow we decided to check out the other side of the ridge to see if we find any sign of a trail we’d missed.IMG_2128_stitch

There wasn’t anything we could see, but based on all the information in the book including the map and GPS coordinates we definitely had wanted to be on this side of the ridge. Once we had gotten into the area we noticed that there were several ponds/lakes showing on the map to the south. The terrain appeared to be level enough to make a cross country jaunt inviting.IMG_2137

We used the map and GPS to locate several of the ponds but they were all dry save one unnamed lake. We did get some really nice views of Goat Peak though.IMG_2139

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We took another break at the lake.IMG_2162

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There were some tents set up nearby in the trees so we thought that there might be a trail somewhere nearby and set off looking for it when we left the lake. It didn’t take us long to spot the clear tread.IMG_2182

This path led us west between Mud Hole and Shale Lakes and back to the PCT.IMG_2186

Mud Hole Lake

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Shale Lake

We turned right on the PCT and continued a short distance until we spotted another use trail heading further west. We followed this path past more dry (or nearly dry) ponds to Coyote Lake.IMG_2190

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Our urge to explore was now satisfied and we returned to the PCT and headed back to Pamelia Lake, which looked like it was way, way down below us.IMG_2206

It was closing in on 6pm when we finally made it back to camp. We went down to the lake to get water then cooked dinner and relaxed in our camp chairs.IMG_2223

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Ouzel

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Marty, a wilderness ranger, stopped by to check our permit and make sure we were aware of the campfire ban. She seemed relieved that we had a permit and knew about the ban. We got the feeling that a fair number of folks aren’t as friendly as we were which is a shame.

Even though we hadn’t made it to Goat Peak and we’d hiked much further than originally intended (19.4 miles) it had been a great day. It helped knowing that we only need to hike 2.5 miles the next day to reach our car.

The next morning we were up before 5am and on the trail by 6:30.IMG_2265

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We made it home just after 9am which gave us plenty of time to unpack, clean up, and do some laundry. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pamelia Lake Overnighter