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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Maxwell Butte – 8/12/2019

We spent another vacation doing day hikes from home as we continue to take care of our elderly cats. It has created a delay in our plans to visit all of the designated wilderness areas in Oregon, but it also has given us a chance to redo some hikes that didn’t go as planned the first time around and hit a few other hikes sooner than planned.

The first hike of the week was a repeat of a cloudy September 2015 climb to the summit of Maxwell Butte (post). We’d had no views whatsoever that day so a sunny forecast gave us the green light to try again. Once again we parked in the paved Maxwell Butte Sno-Park lot instead of driving the additional .4 miles of gravel road to the actual Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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From the official trailhead the Maxwell Butte Trail climbed gradually through a nice forest entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after 1.75 miles. It was sad to find that the unique wilderness sign was missing.
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First wilderness sign we'd seen that looked like thisThe wilderness sign in 2015.

A little more than two and a quarter miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Lava Lakes Trail near Twin Lakes.
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There was significantly more water in the lakes this time around (and better visibility too).
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Low water levels at Twin Lakes2015

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Low water at Twin Lakes2015

Our presence raised a ruckus from a Stellar’s jay.
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Twin Lakes2015

One the way back by later (after the Sun had moved out of the way) we stopped at the lakes to get a photo of Maxwell Butte.
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We followed the Maxwell Butte Trail past the lakes as it began to climb up and around the butte. Closer to the lakes we passed a few remaining flowers and some ripe huckleberries.
IMG_5619Penstemon

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IMG_5626Lousewort

IMG_5631Scarlet gilia

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IMG_5625A couple of short (and late) beargrass plumes.

As the trail got closer to the butte we passed through some meadows and open rocky areas where we kept on the lookout for pikas.
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IMG_5647This looked like prime pika habitat to us.

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The trail made its way to the south side of Maxwell Butte where our first good mountain view was of Diamond Peak beyond Sand Mountain which we had visited earlier in the year (post).
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The trail steepened a bit as it made its way up the south side of Maxwell Butte via a series of switchbacks.
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Butterflies and increasingly better views helped keep our minds off the climb.
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IMG_5665Hogg Rock (near left), flat topped Hayrick Butte next to Hoodoo Butte, Mt. Washington with Broken Top behind left and the Three Sisters behind right.

Five and a quarter miles from the sno-park we arrived at the summit of Maxwell Butte where a fire lookout once stood.
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The view now included Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the north.
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IMG_5676Mt. Hood in the distance to the left of Mt. Jefferson.

Less than three miles away as the crow flies Three Fingered Jack dominated the view east.
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IMG_5699Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Santiam Lake in the forest below.

IMG_5706The view south.

IMG_5728Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters with Hayrick Butte in the forefront.IMG_5701Santiam Lake

IMG_5702Duffy Lake (post)

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After a nice long break taking in the views and naming as many of the lakes dotting the forest below as we could we headed back down. We took a quick detour to check out Maxwell Butte’s crater.
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IMG_5742Paintbrush in the crater.

There were quite a few more butterflies out as we made our way back and we managed to spot a pika gathering greens in the rocky area we had thought looked like a good spot for one.
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IMG_5767Golden-mantled ground squirrel in the same rocky area as the pika.

It had been a successful do-over getting the views we’d missed out on before. Round trip the hike was 10.6 miles with a little over 2500′ of elevation gain. It was a solid start to what we hoped would be six straight days of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Maxwell Butte 2019

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Maxwell Butte

We were once again heading to Central Oregon this past weekend and wanted to get a hike in on our way there. After checking the weather forecast we chose Maxwell Butte hoping to get a close up look at Three Fingered Jack as well as views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. I had checked the forecast Friday morning and it called for mostly sunny skies which sounded promising, but I made the mistake of not rechecking one final time before leaving home Saturday morning.

We had already driven through a good deal of rain and were hoping that we might get above the clouds by the time we reached the Maxwell Butte Sno-park near milepost 79 on Highway 20. We were staring up at a very grey sky when we did finally arrive at the park which left us with holding out hope that the 6229′ summit might be enough higher to break above the clouds.
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We had parked close to the entrance of the sno-park near the restrooms and walked east across the paved parking lot to a gravel road which led to the official Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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Low clouds and light rain persisted as we followed the trail into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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After traveling just under 3 miles we arrived at a trail junction near Twin Lakes.
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Before turning right onto the continuation of the Maxwell Butte Trail we took a look at Twin Lakes. The map on our GPS unit showed a single body of water instead of a pair of lakes as the name would suggest so we were interested to see what we would find. The first thing we came to was a dried up area which looked as though it was often connected to a larger area of water we saw did still contain some water.
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There was a second smaller body of water nearby which looked as though it might be its own lake most of the time. We decided this must be the reason for the Twin Lakes moniker.
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We were still holding out hope that we would either climb above the clouds or they would start to break up as we began to follow the trail up Maxwell Butte. Colorful rocks told of the volcanic history of this butte and we passed numerous meadows along its slopes.
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We were on the lookout for deer in the meadows as we were seeing many tracks along the trail but we never spotted any. We did startle a pair of grouse who in turn startled us as the flew off down the hillside. We arrived at the summit to find only the site of the former lookout firmly in the clouds. This hike was going to be put on the redo list, but in the meantime we took a nice peaceful break at the summit.
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It turned out to be a nice hike despite not getting the views we had hoped for. The forest was peaceful and full of fall colors.
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The highlight of the hike wound up being a varied thrush that actually stayed put in the open long enough for me to get a few decent pictures.
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We see them fairly often on our hikes but they are shy birds who usually retreat deeper into the forest or underbrush as we approach. On top of that they are darkly colored making it that much harder to get a clear picture when they tend to stick to darker forest settings.

After returning to the car we continued over Santiam Pass and down into Central Oregon where we finally found our mostly sunny skies and mountain views. Maybe next time we’ll get them from the trail. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658753707059