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Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast

Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake & Honeyman State Park – 12/08/18

The first week of December greeted us with some beautiful weather. Unfortunately the forecast called for the arrival of rain Friday evening and we were unable to get time off of work during the week to take advantage of the sunny conditions.  We kept our eyes on the forecast though and by Friday there was a window of time Saturday morning where it looked like it might be dry along the coast south of Florence so we made a last minute call to take our final outing of the year.

Our plan was to end the year much as it started (post), with a three stop day along the Oregon Coast.  For this trip we’d picked three hikes just south of Florence, OR in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  Our first stop was at the Stagecoach Trailhead, eight miles south of Florence, in the Siltcoos Area.

Stagecoach Trailhead

Map at the Stagecoach Trailhead

From the trailhead we followed signs for the Waxmyrtle Trail which led us across the Siltcoos River on bridge on the entrance road to the Waxmyrtle Campground.
Waxmyrtle Trail sign

Siltcoos River

Once across the bridge we turned right along the river bank on the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Siltcoos River

It was a mostly cloudy morning, but it was dry and there was a least some breaks which gave us hope that it would turn out to be a nice day after all.
Siltcoos River

Our guidebook had mentioned that this area was one of the best areas for bird watching in the State. Although we didn’t see a large number of birds on this morning we did spot a few along the estuary here.
EgretEgret

Great blue heronGreat blue heron

Common mergansersCommon mergansers

BuffleheadBufflehead

A little under a half mile from the bridge we came to an old fork in the trail. The right hand fork had been a seasonal trail sticking closer to the river, but it has been closed due to erosion.
Closed portion of trail along the Siltcoos River

We stayed left and shortly arrived at a sandy road leading between the campground and the beach. A sign here pointed right for the continuation of the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Sign for the Waxmyrtle Trail

Waxmyrtle Trail

We followed this sandy track 3/4 of a mile to Waxmyrtle Beach. Along the way we passed through Waxmyrtle Marsh where the morning colors reflected off the still waters on either side of the trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Interpretive sign for the Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Beach

For a longer hike here we could have walked along the beach, but with two other stops ahead of us we simply stopped for a moment to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect morning for a visit, the temperature was in the upper 40’s, there was no breeze at all, and the sky above seemed to compliment the waves below.
Waxmyrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean at Wax Myrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean

Sanderlings

After enjoying a peaceful moment on the beach we headed back the way we’d come, careful to not step on any of the numerous rough skinned newts that were out and about.
Tiny rough skinned newt

After recrossing the Siltcoos River and before returning to the Stagecoach Trailhead we crossed the main road to take the .7 mile Lagoon Trail.
Lagoon Trail

On the far side of a boardwalk the Lagoon Trail began a .7 mile loop around a campground in the middle of the Siltcoos Lagoon.
Lagoon Trail map

Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Interpretive sign along the Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Squirrel

Sparrow

After finishing the loop we returned to our car. The hike here had only been 3.3 miles but had offered a nice variety of scenery and wildlife. We drove back to Highway 101 from the trailhead and crossed directly over it to reach the Siltcoos Lake Trailhead.
Siltcoos Lake Trailhead

The Siltcoos Lake Trail with a .9 mile climb inland through a second growth forest to the start of a loop.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siuslaw forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

A wide variety of mushrooms grew along the forest floor where there were also more newts to watch out for.
Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Rough skinned newt next to an upturned mushroom

We turned right at the start of the loop and followed the trail a little over three quarters of a mile to another junction.
Sunbeams in the forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

We had lost nearly all the elevation we had gained and the trail to right continued downhill for another quarter mile to South Camp, a tent site along the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake

Siltcoos Lake

The lake was very pretty and full of birds but the nearly constant sound of gunfire took a little away from the enjoyment.
Birds on Siltcoos Lake

Birds on Siltcoos Lake

We climbed back up to the Sitlcoos Lake Trail and continued a half mile on the loop which dropped to a small creek crossing before arriving at a sign for the tent sites at North Camp where we again turned right and visited the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake

American coot

Birds taking flight from Siltcoos Lake

Following paths north along the shore led us past all the sites and back to the Siltcoos Lake Trail.
Sunbeams in the Siuslaw National Forest

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Just under a mile and a quarter from North Camp we finished the loop and then returned the .9 miles to the trailhead to complete the 4.4 mile hike.

Next we drove north on Highway 101 just over 4.5 miles to signs for Jessie M. Honeyman State Park where we turned east on Canary Road. We followed this road for a half mile before turning right into the East Woahink Day Use Area.

After parking in the large parking area we walked back toward the entrance to a large sign for Cleawox Lake Day Use Areas.
Trail from the East Woahink Lake picnic area

This path led briefly through a forest before joining Canary Road to cross a portion of the lake.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Woahink Lake

After passing over the water along the road the trail dipped back into the forest and immediately forked. The right hand fork led directly into the West Woahink Day Use Area while the left fork (which we took) looped around the day use area along the lake shore passing picnic tables and a small beach.
Beach along Woahink Lake

Woahink Lake

On the far side of the West Woahink Day Use Area we once again found ourselves on the shoulder of Canary Road passing over more of the lake. The trail again veered away from the somewhat busy road and we followed pointers for Cleawox Lake to a paved bike path leading over Highway 101.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Path over Highway 101 in Jesse M. Honeyman State Park

Rough skinned newts had become the theme for the day and even the bike path was not free of them.
Rough skinned newt

Shortly after crossing over the highway we turned right off the bike path at a trail sign.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

This path led downhill past a small stone structure and across a couple of paved roads before reaching Cleawox Lake.
Stone structer in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

On the far side of lake was the day use area complete with a very nice bathhouse. We turned right at the lake and made our way around the water to the bathhouse and swimming area.
Cleawox Lake

Bathhouse at Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

We could imagine that this would be a very busy place at other times of the year but on the second weekend in December there were only a few other people that we could even see and they were all across the water in other areas. We found a dry bench and sat a for a bit listening to a sparrow sing.
Sparrow

As we started to head back an Anna’s hummingbird zoomed by and landed in a nearby tree.
Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

We passed by the trail that we had come down to the lake on and continued along the water to a large parking area on the opposite side of the bathhouse.
Cleawox Lake

At the end of the parking lot a path led to a dune along the lake, but before we headed out onto the sand we took a very short side trip on the signed Nature Trail to visit Lily Lake.
Nature Trail

Lily LakeLily Lake

After seeing the small lake we headed up the sand dune overlooking Cleawox Lake.
Dunes Trail

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

We climbed to the top of the dune and surveyed the surrounding area.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

Pacific Ocean from a dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State ParkThe Pacific Ocean from the dune.

To the south we could see our goal, the largest sand dune (at least in that area) in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park.

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

It was a half mile of sandy up and down walking between the two dunes.
Trail through the dunes at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Dune Trail

After a nearly 150′ climb we arrived at the top of the dune and its 360 degree view.
View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Although off road vehicles are allowed in much of the park this dune (and our route to and from it) are off limits. After soaking in the view (and watching a couple of motorcycles in the distance) we followed footprints steeply downhill to the east.
Path down the dune

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

After a short stint through trees we followed tracks around a sandy bowl reentering the trees just above the park’s campground.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Once in the campground we headed north following the paved roads to Loop “B”.
Campground in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

We turned east along the northern end of Loop B which brought us to the bike path that we had crossed Highway 101 on earlier.
Trail to East Woahink Lake Day Use Area

We followed path back up and over Highway 101 and returned to the East Woahink Lake Day Use Area. The path was full of birds now, mostly robins but we also spotted a nice spotted towhee.
Robins

Spotted towhee

The only thing we did differently on the way back was that we went through the West Woahink Day Use Area instead of around it which allowed us to use the facilities there before our drive home. This was our longest hike of the day at 5.2 miles bringing the days total to 12.9.

We had been all prepared for wet and rainy weather, but instead we had a nearly perfect day for hiking at the coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake, & Honeyman State Park

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Baker Beach and Rock Creek Wilderness

Since 2013 our first hike of the year has been somewhere along the Oregon Coast.  Often the weather at the coast during January is nicer than other parts of the State making it a great time to visit.  This was certainly the case this year as the first part of January saw near record snows and freezing temperatures over much of the State.  The coast had not escaped the weather entirely but by the time we headed out for our first hike of the year, things were much nicer there than at home in the Willamette Valley.

Our destination was Baker Beach Camp just north of Florence, OR. This was a change (already) to our plans for 2017 but the forecast for the area was just too good to pass up. Mostly sunny skies and a high of 48 degrees was what was being called for so we left 23 degree Salem early in the morning and headed down to Eugene then west to Florence on Highway 126.

Baker Beach Camp is located at the end of Baker Beach Road, 7 miles north of Florence along Highway 101.  The only signage along the highway was a small green street sign which I noticed just as we passed by it. After quickly turning around we turned onto the gravel road and followed it .5 miles to the camps parking area.

Baker Beach Camp

Baker Beach Camp sign

To start our hike we walked a short distance back along the road and turned left at a trail sign for the Lily Lake Loop.

Start of the Lily Lake Loop

A short sandy climb brought us to a trail junction at the top of a sandy ridge.

Pacific Ocean from the Lily Lake Loop Trail in the morning

The Pacific Ocean was visible beyond Baker Beach and the sand dunes.

Trail signs along the Lily Lake Loop

The Berry Creek Loop would have kept us up on the sandy ridge while the Lily Lake Loop dropped down and passed near Lily Lake before climbing back up to the ridge top and rejoining the Berry Creek Loop Trail. We wanted to see the lake so we followed the Lily Lake pointer passing through a salal filled forest before things opened up along the lake.

Lily Lake Loop Trail

Trail along Lily Lake

We stayed on the paths closest to the lake thinking that one would bring us right to it but instead the lake remained mostly hidden behind first a row of trees then by a reed filled marsh near it’s outlet.

Lily Lake

We could see that there was quite a bit of activity on the lake with several types of ducks and some Canada geese floating on the water, but it was hard to get any clear photos with the vegetation in the way.

Canada geese on Lily Lake

Bufflehead

Bufflehead on Lily Lake

From the lake we climbed back up to the top of the Sandy Ridge which overlooked a small pond and Berry Creek flowing out toward the Pacific.

Moon over the Pacific Ocean

Berry Creek flowing toward the Pacific

There was no sign here and we could have followed the sandy ridge back to the junction we’d been at earlier, but instead we followed a path down to the base of the ridge which led us back to the start of the Baker Beach Trail at Baker Beach Camp. This little loop was just under 1.5 miles.

Baker Beach Trail

Here we turned right following the pointer for Baker Beach. (The Lily Lake/Berry Creek Loop continued from this junction creating an additional 1.7 mile loop to the north of the camp.)

The trail passes through a deflation plain behind the beaches foredune for .4 miles.

Foredune at Baker Beach

Looking north along the Baker Beach Trail

The deflation plain is the result of the dunes no longer expanding due to the loss of additional sand being blown from the beach. European bunchgrass which was introduced in the early 1900’s to help stabilize jetties but spread along the beaches and began stopping the blowing sand from leaving the beach which created the foredunes denying the dunes further inland any additional sand.

Baker Beach

Pacific Ocean from the foredune at Baker Beach

Cape Mountain from the foredune at Baker Beach

When we reached the beach we turned south heading toward Sutton Creek which was 3 miles away. Aside from a few birds we had the beach to ourselves.

Sanderlings on Baker Beach

Seagull and sanderlings

After about 3/4 of a mile along the beach we climbed back up the foredune to get a look at Sutton Creek which we had visited the previous February.

Sutton Creek behind the foredune

Ducks on Sutton Creek

We traveled along the foredune for a bit before dropping back down to the beach.

Patterns in the sand

Baker Beach

We had been considering crossing Sutton Creek and continuing south along Heceta Beach another 2.5 miles to the Siuslaw River but the creek was wide and it wasn’t that warm out.

Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek

After watching several large chunks of sand fall into the creek we headed back with the Heceta Head Lighthouse blinking in the distance to the north.

Heceta Head Lighthouse from Baker Beach

As we were recrossing the deflation plain we spotted a doe amid the grass and pines.

Heading back toward Baker Beach Camp

Doe

Doe

Since we’d cut our hike short (8.2 miles instead of the 13.2 planned) we had time to do another. We could have hiked Heceta Beach like we had planned by driving back to Florence and parking at the end of South Jetty Road, but we had noticed that that beach was already busy when we were at Sutton Creek earlier. We preferred something a little less crowded which led us to the Rock Creek Wilderness.

This was one of the wilderness areas that we had yet to visit and it was just another 8 miles north on Highway 101 from Baker Beach Road. We hopped in our car and drove to the gated entrance to the Rock Creek Campground.

Rock Creek Campground sign along Highway 101

The campground was closed for the season so we had to walk along the paved entrance road for approximately .4 miles.

Road to Rock Creek Campground

There had been one other vehicle parked at the gate and we passed it’s owner on his way back up from the campground area. The little campground was located right along Rock Creek.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek

The 7,486 Rock Creek Wilderness was designated as such in 1984 and has no Forest Service developed or maintained trials. That being said there is a use trail leading from the end of the Rock Creek Campground that can be followed into the wilderness.

Use trail leading from the Campground into the Rock Creek Wilderness

The path was brushy and narrow but passable as it followed along the creek.

Use trail in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek

Occasional flagging was present but really unnecessary as the brush was so thick that we had to follow the path in order to keep moving forward. The only real obstacle to speak of was a large downed tree that had fallen over the best path, but game trails led around the root ball.

BIg tree down in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Without an official trail there were no signs to mark the beginning of the wilderness area so we just followed the path as long as we could. After awhile the path led into a frosty meadow where the canyon widened.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

It was a muddy in spots but enough of the ground was still frozen to make it passable. Elk and deer sign were everywhere. It was a beautiful spot with the white frost contrasted against the green of a coastal forest while rays of sunlight attempted to penetrate the canopy.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Sunlight through the trees in the Rock Creek Wilderness

The sound of water flowing on every side only added to the ambiance. There was more flagging at the far end of the meadow and some on the far side of Rock Creek but again this wasn’t a day for fording creeks so we declared victory here and turned around.

Our turn around point (too cold to ford the creek today)

When we got home I wanted to make sure we’d actually made it into the wilderness so I pulled up the interactive map on Wilderness.net. The actual wilderness boundary bows away from the Rock Creek Campground making it further up along the creek than I had thought, but comparing our GPS track to that map showed we had managed to get about .4 miles into the Rock Creek Wilderness.

The Wilderness.net map

Rock Creek Wilderness

Our GPS track

Rock Creek Wilderness Track

On a warmer day when you don’t mind spending some time in the creek it’s possible to get further into the wilderness as this trip report indicates.a href=”http://www.cascadiahiking.com/2012/08/rock-creek-wilderness-no-trail-no.html” target=”_blank”>Cascadia Hiking

Our adventure was only 2.2 miles round trip including the road walk to and from the campground but the solitude and remote feeling of the Rock Creek Wilderness made it seem much more removed from civilization.

With that our 2017 hiking year is officially under way. We checked off our 27th Oregon Wilderness Area and still have 18 to go, 4 more of which are planned this year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157679106715756

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