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Hiking Uncategorized

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend was the only day of the four where the forecast in the Cascade Mountains looked promising so on that morning we headed west from Klamath Falls on Highway 140 to visit a pair of lakes near Mt. McLoughlin.

The skies over Klamtah were pretty much clear as was the case for most of the drive, but as we crossed over the Cascade Crest we found ourselves in a fog bank. We turned off the highway at sign for the North Fork Campground between mileposts 28 and 29. We parked at a small trailhead parking area a half mile down this road on the left.

It was a chilly morning in the fog as we set off on the Fish Lake Trail, but it wasn’t raining.
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The trail began by passing through a nice fir forest with occasional views of North Fork Little Butte Creek.
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After .6 miles we came to a signed spur trail which we followed 100 yards to the Fish Lake Dam.
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For the better part of the next mile the Fish Lake Trail veered away from the water as it curved around some private summer homes.
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When the trail did make it to the lake there wasn’t much to see due to the fog.
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The trail stuck closer to the lake shore for the next .8 miles before arriving at Doe Point and the Doe Point Campground. As we made our way around Doe Point the fog began to lift revealing some of the blue sky we had seen on our morning drive.
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A quarter mile after rounding Doe Point we arrived at the Fish Lake Campground and boat ramp where a variety of woodland animals were busy harvesting chinkapin.
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Our guidebook suggested turning around at the Fish Lake Resort, but we wound up losing the trail near the picnic shelter and decided not to try and walk through the campground to find the continuation of the trail and turned around.
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It was a different hike on the way back as the fog had entirely lifted from the lake and was breaking up overhead.
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By the time we were hiking back along the creek the sky was a beautiful blue.
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Typically having a hike only clear up near the end is a bit of a bummer, but we had another hike to go and with the clear skies we knew we should have a good view of Mt. McLoughlin from Lake of the Woods.

From the Fish Lake Trailhead we drove back east on Highway 140 to a sign for Fish Lake. We turned right at the sign and followed this road for a mile and a half to the Dead Indian Memorial Highway where we turned right again. The suggested starting point for this hike in our guidebook was at the Sunset Campground which was a mile down this highway. When we arrived at the entrance road we found it was gated so we turned around and wound up parking at the Rainbow Bay Picnic Area near the Lake of the Woods Resort after obtaining a $6 parking pass.
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From the parking lot we headed SE along the lake shore around Rainbow Bay where some ducks were enjoying the wonderful weather.
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The first mountain to come into view was Brown Mountain across the lake.
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Shortly after rounding the bay we arrived at the Sunset Campground where we did indeed have a nice view of Mt. McLoughlin. The mountain was sporting a dusting of new snow at its summit.
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We could picture the route up to the summit that we’d taken a couple of years before (post).
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Satisfied with our view we turned around and headed back toward the Rainbow Bay parking area. We weren’t done hiking though and we veered behind the parking lot on the Sunset Trail toward the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a three way junction we turned right onto the Family Trail Loop.
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The Family Trail Loop crossed the paved road we’d been on earlier after a tenth of a mile.
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Just after crossing the road the Mountain Lakes Trail split off to the right while we stayed left.
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Several interpretive signs were set up along this trail.
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We stayed left ignoring a tie trail that would have looped us back to the Mountian Lakes Trail junction and arrived at the Great Meadow .6 miles from the road crossing.
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At a junction with the High Lakes Trail at the Great Meadow we turned left skirting the meadow in the forest for .7 miles to another road crossing across from the Aspen Point Campground.
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At a junction on the other side of the road we went right keeping on the High Lakes Trail which led around Lake of the Woods to the NW. This section of trail passed some golden aspen trees and a leaf covered slough where ducks, geese, and a heron were spending their Sunday.
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We followed this trail past an old Forest Service complex and planned on turning around at the guidebooks suggested location, a small canoe launch.
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The canoe launch wasn’t much, but there was a nice view of some of the peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness (post) across the water.
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A solitary duck was swimming around in the launch and it apparently expected us to have some food because she came right up to us.
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We did our best to explain that we don’t feed the wild animals and she waddled back to the water. At that point Heather asked about something on a plank in the water that I had originally thought was another duck but then decided it was just a rock set on the wood. She had taken it for something inanimate as well but then thought she saw it move. Upon closer inspection we discovered that it was a muskrat (initially we thought nutria but it was cuter than that invasive species).
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It wasn’t particularly concerned by us but eventually it disappeared into the water. Then a dragon fly showed up and hovered over the water just below me.
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After our unique little interaction with nature it was time to start back. We returned to the Aspen Point Campground and followed paths near the lake shore back to the Lake of The Woods Resort.
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Our hike here was 6.3 miles long while the hike at Fish Lake had been 7 miles giving us a nice 13.3 mile day. After the cold, foggy start the day had turned out beautiful. We would be heading home the next morning (with a stop along the way of course) and this was a perfect way to end our time in the Klamath Falls area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods

Categories
Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2016 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to recap our 2016 hiking year, and what a great year for hiking it turned out to be! I spent our off-season (Nov-Apr) putting together a 7 year plan (yes I have an issue) to help us achieve two of the goals we’ve set for ourselves. One is to hike each of the featured hikes in each of William L. Sullivan’s five “100 Hikes/Travel Guide” books and the second is to visit each of Oregon’s 45 designated wilderness areas. (There are 47 but the Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks Wilderness Areas are off-limits.) In previous years I had only put together a schedule for the upcoming year, but by looking further ahead I was able to make sure we weren’t going to miss any hikes and they were scheduled at what should be good times to visit. We also now had a handy list of options, laid out by the best times to visit, to pick from if we needed to change plans for any reason. The schedule remains a work in process but as it stands today we will finish visiting all the wilderness areas with Grassy Knob in 2022 and 460 of the 500 featured hikes in Sullivan’s books by the end of 2023. The remaining 40 hikes are too far away for day trips so they are incorporated into vacations that will need to happen further down the road.

The first draft of our 2016 hikes was completed on 12/18/15 and consisted of 57 days worth of hikes totaling 624.4 miles. History had shown that those numbers (and the hikes themselves) would change as the year played out, but it was a solid starting point. That again proved to be the case as 10 of the original hikes were swapped out for others and 4 additional hikes were added, and the total mileage rose by over 150 miles to end at 792.8. We visited 8 wilderness areas for the first time knocking 7 more off the Oregon list. They were the Oregon Badlands, Kalmiopsis, Menagerie, Eagle Cap, Mountain Lakes, Sky Lakes, and Lower White River Wildernesses in Oregon and the Marble Mountain Wilderness in California. In addition to the new areas we hiked in the Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mark O. Hatfield Wildernesses as well as the the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument.

Our travels took us on hikes further to the west (Cape Sebastian State Park), east (West Fork Wallowa Trail – Eagle Cap Wilderness), and south (Cliff Lake – Marble Mountain Wilderness) than ever before. Our trips to the Marble Mountain and Eagle Cap Wilderness areas were our first 5 day/4 night backpacking trips which proved to be just about the limit on how long we can stay out given our current gear.

The weather was exceptional for nearly all of our hikes. Early winter storms left a more normal snow pack which helped make 2016 a pretty good wildflower year and we only ran into two weather related issues. The first was a slight chance of rain for our vacation week in May during which we’d planned on visiting the desert in SE Oregon. Any precipitation in that area would have made it impossible to reach our planned trailheads so we put that vacation off and headed to the Southern Oregon Coast instead which wound up being a great plan B. The second was a July hike on Scar Ridge in the Old Cascades which was swapped for Fifteenmile Creek on the east side of the Mt. Hood National Forest due to probable thunderstorms.

Although the weather conditions were almost always great the same couldn’t be said for the condition of a few of the trails. During our May vacation we encountered a host of ticks along the Illinois River Trail. Later in the year it was blowdown that proved to be the biggest obstacle. In the Sky Lakes Wilderness a section of the Badger Lake Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail was a mess.
Blowdown over the Badger Lake Trail

This was also the case along much of the Bowerman Lake Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
Bowerman Lake Trail

As well as the Hand Lake Trail in the Mt. Washington Wilderness.
More blowdown over the Hand Lake Trail

The one consistent regardless of the location, weather, or trail conditions was the beauty and diversity that makes the Pacific Northwest so special. From west to east starting with the Oregon Coast:
Tillamook Head to the South of the Fort-To-Sea Trail
Tillamook Head from the Fort-to-Sea Trail

Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo
Lone Ranch Beach from Cape Ferrelo

View from the Oregon Coast Trail near Secret Beach
View from the Oregon Coast Trail in Samuel H. Boardman State Park

Past the Klamath Mountains in Southern Oregon and Northern California:
Little Vulcan and Vulcan Lake below Vulcan Peak
Little Vulcan and Vulcan Lake below Vulcan Peak

Kalmiopsis Wilderness
Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Black Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain Wilderness

and the Coast Range to the north:
Old Growth Ridge Trail
Old Growth Ridge Trail in the Siuslaw National Forest

Sweet Creek Falls
Sweet Creek Falls

across the Willamette Valley:Trail in Minto-Brown Island Park
Minto-Brown Island Park

Bald Hill
Bald Hill

into the Old Cascade Mountains:
Coffin Mountain
Coffin Mountain from Bachelor Mountain

Rooster Rock
Rooster Rock in the Menagerie Wilderness

over the Cascade Mountains:
Mt. McLoughlin
Mt. McLoughlin

Diamond Peak from the Pacific Crest Trail
Diamond Peak

The Three Sisters from a meaow along the Rebel Rock Trail
The Three Sisters

Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington

Three Fingered Jack beyond the Eight Lakes Basin
Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park
Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Hood and the Eliot Glacier
Mt. Hood

Coldwater Peak and Snow Lake
Coldwater Peak and Snow Lake – Mt. Margaret Backcountry, Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument

into the High Desert of Central Oregon:
Badlands Rock
Badlands Rock – Oregon Badlands Wilderness

Deschutes River
Deschutes River

Painted HIlls
Painted Hills – John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

NE to the Wallowa Mountains:
Ice Lake
Ice Lake and the Matterhorn

Glacier Lake
Glacier Peak and Eagle Cap from Glacier Lake

Eagle Cap Wilderness
Eagle Cap Wilderness

Here is a look at the locations of our hikes. The hiker symbols are the trailheads and the yellow house icon denotes the approximate location of our campsites.
2016 Hikes
An interactive version can been accessed here and includes all of our previous hikes.

In addition to the spectacular views the areas provided a wonderful variety of wildlife and vegetation.

Elk
Elk

Nutria
Nutria

Bald eagle
Bald Eagle

Chukars
Chukar

Coyote
Coyote

Pronghorn
Pronghorn

Deer
Deer

Rabbits
Rabbit

Snowshoe hare

Mountain Goats
Mountain goat along the Lakes Trail

Mountain goat along the Boundary Trail

Bear
Black bear in a wildflower meadow

Grouse
Sooty grouse

Sooty Grouse

Grouse

Dragonflies
Dragonfly

Dragon Fly

Dragon fly

We encountered a number of flowers for the first time this year.
Sea fig
Sea fig

Cows clover
Cows clover

Bigelow's sneezeweed
Bigelow’s Sneezeweed

Cut-leaf anemone
Cut-leaf anemone

Western blue clematis
Western blue clematis

Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine

Pretty Face
Pretty Face

Farewell-to-Spring
Farewell-to-Spring

Mountain coyote mint
Mountain coyote mint

Yellow coralroot
Yellow coralroot

Sea fig
Sea fig

California Lady Slippers
California Lady Slippers

California Yerba Santa
California Yerba Santa

Grass widows
Grass widows

sticky monkey-flower
sticky monkey-flower

Catchfly
Some sort of catchfly

Sea thrift
Sea thrift

beach morning-glory
beach morning-glory

Yellow sand-verbena
Yellow sand-verbena

California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica)
California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica)

Scarlet pimpernel
Scarlet pimpernel

Dutchman's breech
Dutchman’s breech

Hedgehog cactus
Hedgehog cactus

Golden Bee Plant
Golden Bee Plant

White mariposa lily
White mariposa lily

Siskiyou lewisia
Siskiyou lewisia

kalmiopsis leachiana
kalmiopsis leachiana

Muhlenberg's centaury
Muhlenberg’s centaury

Bridges' brodiaea
Bridge’s brodiaea

There were just too many sights to fit into a year end wrap up so to see a sample from each of our hikes this album contains a few photos from each hike which attempt to show the beauty of each trail. There are a lot of photos (793 – One for each mile hiked) but then again there is a lot of beauty in God’s creation.

Happy Trails in 2017 and beyond!

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Mt. McLoughlin

Our plan for the second day in the Sky Lakes Wilderness was to hike to the summit of 9495′ Mt. McLoughlin, the sixth highest peak in the Oregon Cascades. We were going to hike the 2.5 miles back to our car from Badger Lake then drive the approximately 3 miles to the Mt. McLoughlin Trailhead. It would have been possible to hike the whole way by going back to Fourmile Campground and taking the Twin Ponds Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail and then turning up the Mt. McLoughlin Trail, but that would have been a nearly 25 mile hike.

Before setting off we ate breakfast watching the sunrise from Badger Lake.

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As we passed Fourmile Lake we got a nice view of our goal for the day.

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At the campground we took advantage of the water pump near the trailhead and filled our CamelBak bladders as well as our Hydroflasks. It was going to be another warm day and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of water for the nearly 4000′ climb. Heather also loaded her pack with little bags of Cool Ranch Doritos just in case we ran into any thru-hikers on the short section of the Pacific Crest Trail that the Mt. McLoughlin Trail shares. From the campground we drove back along Fourmile Lake Road and turned right near milepost 3. The Mt. McLoughlin Trailhead is located at the end of the maintained portion of this road.

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It was around 8:30am when we arrived and the parking lot was already packed with cars. It was so full in fact that we had to loop around and park on the shoulder near the lot entrance. There is a large sign at the trailhead and, an identical sign near the wilderness boundary, warning of the dangers of Mt. McLoughlin. The main issue hikers run into is getting lost during their descent if they veer too far south in an attempt to take a short-cut.

The second sign near the wilderness boundary.

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Sullivan has the same warning in his “100 Hikes in Southern Oregon” guidebook so we were already aware of the issue, but the sign added a tip to always keep Fourmile Lake in view on the way down.

The trail set off through a forest of Mountain Hemlock and almost immediately crossed Cascade Canal which looked more like a creek here than it had near Fourmile Lake.

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In the first mile the trail entered the Sky Lakes Wilderness and climbed gradually to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.

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For a short distance the PCT and Mt. McLoughlin Trail were one and the same. Heather was on the lookout for thru-hikers to offer her Doritos to and I was looking for a side trail shown in our guidebook as well as on our maps that led down to Freye Lake. We were planning on visiting that lake on the way back down but I always like to make sure I am familiar with where I am going to be turning. According to the information we had the side trail was approximately .2 miles from the PCT junction. Then it would be another .2 miles to where the PCT and Mt. McLoughlin Trial parted ways. I never spotted the side trail and Heather hadn’t seen any thru-hikers when we reached the split.

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I happened to look at the GPS which showed our location as being at the side trail down to Freye Lake and not the PCT split which on the GPS map was further ahead. We continued one wondering if the PCT had been rerouted at some point and was now sharing at least the first part of the trail down to Freye Lake. We kept an eye out for signs of a former trail in the area where the GPS showed the PCT splitting off but all we saw was blowdown.

We hadn’t seen the side trail or any thru-hikers but on the PCT but we did see something we hadn’t seen on either of the previous two days – a deer.

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We’d been a little surprised that we hadn’t seen any on the trails yet, just a pair bounding off from near a horse corral in the Fourmile Lake Campground when we drove in the day before. After sizing one another up for a bit we went our separate ways. We were on a 1.5 mile section of the trail that climbed slowly away from the PCT toward Mt. McLoughlin. At times we were able to see the summit rising above the trees.

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The easier 1.5 mile section ended when the trail finally realized that we had to go up to reach the summit. The trail steepened drastically as it began climbing up increasingly rocky terrain amid an ever thinning forest.

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The thinning forest did allow for some views of the surrounding area.
Pelican Butte and Fourmile Lake

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Lake of the Woods and the Mountain Lakes Wilderness

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Mt. Thielsen beyond the Rim of Crater Lake and the Sky Lakes Wilderness

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Brown Mountain and Mt. Shasta

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It was a little hazier than it had been two days earlier when we had climbed Aspen Butte in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness, but one improvement was the view of Mt. Shasta as sunlight reflected off the snow.

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As we trudged uphill the locals kept a close eye on us.

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As we gained elevation most of the trees gave way leaving Whitebark pines and some manzanita bushes.

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There were occasional glimpses of the summit which always seemed to be the same distance away – far.

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About one and a quarter miles from the summit we reached a saddle where much of the remaining route was visible.

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Along this final section a few alpine flowers added some color to the area while a couple of patches of snow attempted to make it through the year.

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It was about noon when we arrived at the summit to find a decent sized crowd gathered.

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There was plenty of room though and we took a seat near the summit register.

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In addition to there being quite a few hikers at the summit there were numerous butterflies and bees who seemed to really like me.

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There was a heavy band of smoke possibly coming from the Trail wildfire that was visible from the north beyond Mt. Thielsen all the way south into California. Despite the haze on the horizon the skies above the mountain were bright blue and beautiful and there was still a decent view in all directions.
Pelican Butte, Fourmile Lake and Squaw Lake

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Aspen Butte in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness

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Mt. Shasta beyond Fish Lake

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Mt. Ashland

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Union Peak, Hillman Peak and Mt. Thielsen

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The Sky Lakes Wilderness with the peaks around Crater Lake and Mt. Thielsen beyond

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We broke out our snacks including a couple of the bags of Doritos which we had forgotten would expand at that altitude. Luckily none of the bags exploded but they did look like little balloons. After sitting awhile we began to get a little warm. There had been a nice gentle breeze on the way up but oddly there was none whatsoever on top. We began our descent remembering not to drift too far south.

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On the way down we took some time to study some of the volcanic rock formation in the mountains glacier carved north face.

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The loose volcanic rock was kind of nice to descend in. It was soft on the knees and kept us from picking up any unwanted speed. On the climb up though it was a different story as every step up came with a small slide backward. One way to eliminate having to deal with that issue is to climb the mountain while there is still some snow (post).

We still wanted to visit Freye Lake on the way back to the car so when we reached the Pacific Crest Trail we pursued our earlier theory of a possible reroute that used the existing trail to the lake. We kept an eye on the GPS and we could see we were quickly beginning to move away from the lake so our theory was blown. At that point there was only one sensible solution -off-trail bushwack. We left the PCT and followed a little gully down to the lake.

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There was a use trail going around the lake so we followed it clockwise around to east side of the lake where there were a number of campsites and a view of Mt. McLoughlin.

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After taking another break at the lake we continued around hoping to find the missing trail from this end. We weren’t able to locate it but we did find something. A large blue tarp was spread out on the ground surrounded by arraigned logs and rocks. Next to the tarp was a stone fire pit surrounded by a short log fence. Around the fire pit were several items including a gas can, pair of gloves, and several old looking tin cans.

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It all seemed very out of place for a wilderness area. I did send a message to the Forest Service about it, but have not gotten a response yet.

We tried to use the GPS to locate the trail as we climbed uphill from the lake to the PCT. If the GPS was right we crossed over it a couple of times but we never saw anything that was identifiable as a trail, just a couple of spots where tents had been sent up, probably by thru-hikers.

Speaking of thru-hikers when we were back on the PCT we spotted one approaching. Heather had her Doritos in her pack and then kind of froze and didn’t say anything as she passed. For whatever reason she suddenly had become shy about asking if they would like a snack. Luckily she got a second chance as another hiker was coming up the trail. She asked this one if he’d like some Doritos and his face lit up. He introduced himself as “Sobo”. It turned out that it had been his girlfriend who had passed us just before so Heather gave him a second bag for her. Another pair of thru-hikers followed and more chips were handed out and then we were off the PCT.

When we got back to the trailhead we found even more cars than there had been that morning. We freed up a spot by heading back to Fourmile Lake Campground where we refilled our water.(We had both emptied our CamelBaks and were glad we’d brought the additional water in the Hydro Flasks) We had brought our dinner for the night with us (Mountain House chicken and dumplings) and decided to cook it at the day use area near the Fourmile Lake boat ramp. We followed the Badger Lake Trail from the trailhead to the crossing of Fourmile Lake Road then turned down the road to walk to the day use area. At the campground entrance on a signboard was a trail conditions report.

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We thought it was kind of strange not to have a copy on the signboard at the trailhead as well, but at least it explained the blowdown beyond Badger Lake on the Badger Lake Trail. We ate dinner at the day use area and watched people doing whatever it was they were doing down by the lake.

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After dinner we returned to the Badger Lake Trail by hiking past a gated road at the end of the parking area near the boat ramp.

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This time as we passed the little side trail .9 miles from the canal we turned down toward the lake to a rocky beach with a view of Mt. McLoughlin.

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We sat on the beach and soaked our feet before continuing on toward our tent at Badger Lake. We took one final detour to look around the south side of Woodpecker Lake.

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It was just us again at Badger Lake that night, well us and a couple ducks and some frogs actually.

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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157673125210295

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Sky Lakes Wilderness – Badger Lake Trail

After spending the night camped by Zeb Lake in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness we packed up our tent and headed back down the Varney Creek Trail to the trailhead and our waiting car. Our plan was to spend the next two nights in the nearby Sky Lakes Wilderness and do some exploring in that area. We drove back to Highway 140 and headed east toward Medford for 12 miles and turned right onto Fourmile Lake Road (a.k.a. Forest Road 3661) and drove another 5.7 miles to the Fourmile Lake Campground where we parked at the Badger Lake Trailhead.

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When I was penciling this trip out I had originally considered staying at the campground but the thought of being in such a popular car campground wasn’t very appealing so the plan I settled on was hiking into to one of the other lakes along the Badger Lake Trail. We threw our packs back on and set off on the trail hoping to find a quieter, more private place to set up camp. The trail led away from the campground to a junction with the Twin Ponds Trail which connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail near Squaw Lake.

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We turned left following the Badger Lake Trail as it passed through a forest of lodgepole pine.

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The trail veered back toward the campground to a crossing of Fourmile Lake Road near the campground entrance then swung away again into the forest and meeting up with the Rye Spur Trail which travels to Lake of the Woods.

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We crossed Cascade Canal .8 miles from the trailhead. The canal was built and Fourmile Lake dammed to drain the lake west toward Medford instead of to its original eastward route to Klamath Lake. At the canal there was a post with no signs attached and a road running perpendicular to the trail. There was no obvious continuation of the trail on the far side of the road so I checked the GPS map which showed the road making a small loop and the trail picking up on the far side of that loop. We decided to go around clockwise since that direction led us toward Fourmile Lake and we hadn’t had a good look at it yet. After climbing up on some of the boulders along the dam we were able to get a glimpse of the large lake.

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The road made the loop just as the GPS had shown and we picked up a clear trail heading to the left into the forest. There was also a clear trail coming from the right which we decided we would follow when we were headed back to the trailhead. For now we headed left and soon entered the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

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Fourmile Lake was once again hidden by trees until we were about three quarters of a mile from the canal. Finally a couple of side trails led to driftwood piles along the shore and views across the lake to Mt. McLoughlin.

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The best viewpoint was down a short path about .9 miles from the canal but we didn’t go down that trail until the following day. We were focused on finding a campsite and getting out from under our backpacks. The first lake after Fourmile Lake we came to was Woodpecker Lake. Located about one and three quarter miles from the canal this little lake was on the right hand side of the trail.

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We stopped briefly to see if there were any campsites that were too good to pass up but we didn’t see anything obvious and we were starting to notice a few mosquitoes so we continued on to nearby Badger Lake.

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Badger Lake was less than a quarter mile from Woodpecker Lake and it was a little larger than it’s neighbor. We weren’t seeing any campsites along the southern end of the lake nor did there appear to be the usual use trail going around the lake anywhere. We continued on the trail along the lake for a few hundred feet without seeing anything. Looking back across the lake we thought the terrain on the SW side looked like it might be suitable for campsites so we decided to head back and check out that area. We headed cross country through the forest near the lake and did manage to find a few spots that clearly had been used as campsites at one time but they all looked like it had been awhile. We set our packs down in the best looking spot and did a little further exploration before deciding that we had identified the most suitable one.

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After getting camp set up we strapped on our daypacks and continued on the Badger Lake Trail. We planned on going at least another 1.9 miles to Long Lake and then possibly continuing an additional 1.6 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail where we would only be .6 more miles from Island Lake and the Judge Waldo Tree.

When we reached the northern end of Badger Lake we discovered a couple of established campsites but we were happy with the spot we’d picked. Just beyond these sites the trail crossed a small stream connecting that connected Badger Lake to a long meadow with a lily pad pond.

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As we passed along the meadow we began seeing some wildflowers including several bigelow’s sneezeweeds.
Arnica

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Columbine

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Aster

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Yarrow

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Bolander’s madia

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Bigelow’s sneezeweed

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The trail had been skirting the meadow, but some large piles of blowdown had forced a reroute through the meadow where we had to carefully watch our step due to the presence of frogs. Having to go slow through the meadow made us easier targets for the small number of mosquitoes that were still present.

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When arrived at Long Lake it was easy to see how it earned its name.

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There were a number of campsites along the lake but no one was occupying any of them. We had passed a pair of hikers earlier that had been camped there and they said they didn’t see anybody while they had been there. It was only 1:45pm and we were feeling pretty good so we elected to continue on to Island Lake despite the increasing blowdown. There had been intermittent blowdown over the trail since the meadow, but beyond Long Lake the amount really increased.

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On the plus side the entire trail was relatively level and we managed to reach the PCT without too much difficulty.

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At the junction the Badger Lake Trail was hidden by blowdown.

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On the opposite side of the PCT the Blue Canyon Trail appeared to be relatively clear.

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A quick downhill .2 miles along that trail brought us to a junction with the Red Lake Trail and in another .4 miles we reached the unmarked side trail that led to some campsites and the Judge Waldo Tree.

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In 1888 a group of 5 horsemen led by conservationist Judge J. B. Waldo camped at Island Lake while riding from Willamette Pass to Mt. Shasta on what would become the route of the Pacific Crest Trail. While at the lake they carved their names in the tree (an act that current day conservationists would never consider doing now).

We took a break at the lake enjoying a snack before filtering some water for the evening. While we were getting the water we received a thorough fishing report from a young man who had been camped at the lake with his family. Apparently the fish had been going nuts over salmon eggs but they wouldn’t actually take the bait. 🙂

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When we were finished filling our water we started back toward Badger Lake. When we got back to Long Lake we stopped to cook dinner and watch a group of ducks that were paddling around the lake.

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In addition to the ducks there were a number of small birds flitting around the trees along the shore as well as a Douglas and a Golden-mantled ground squirrels.

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After dinner we returned to Badger Lake where the very top of Mt. McLoughlin was visible over the trees on the far end of the lake.

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Just like the previous night at Zeb Lake we were the only ones camped at the lake. It was indeed a lot quieter than it would have been at Fourmile Campground. We had managed another long day, 17.6 miles in all, and had big plans for the next day as well – summiting Mt. McLoughlin.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157673108018195

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Mountain Lakes Wilderness

We used a long weekend to take a trip down south to visit a pair of wilderness areas between Medford and Klamath Falls. We started our trip at the Varney Creek Trailhead located at the end of Forest Road 3664. To reach the trailhead we turned off of Highway 140 on Forest Road 3637 near milepost 36 for 1.8 miles before turning left on road 3664 for another 1.9 miles.
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Our plan was to take the Varney Creek Trail to the Mountain Lakes Loop and set up camp at either Eb or Zeb Lake then complete the loop using our daypacks.

The Varney Creek Trail begins in a fairly dense forest as it slowly climbs between Mt. Harriman and Varney Creek (which we could not see or hear).
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A little over a mile along the trail we entered the 36 square mile Mountain Lakes Wilderness. One of the 8 original wilderness areas in Oregon created by the 1964 Wilderness Act.
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At the 1.4 mile mark we came to an wet area that had seen a lot of blowdown. A pair of bridges helped keep us out of the mud created by some trickles of water.
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It was on our way out the next day when we realized that this was actually a crossing of Varney Creek.

We were now on the west side of the creek and for the next couple of miles the trail passed by a series of meadows to the left and dry, open slopes on the right. The majority of the wildflowers were finished but a few stragglers remained.
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Aster
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Fireweed
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Paintbrush
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Scarlet gilia
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Larkspur
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Near the four mile mark the trail began to climb a little more steeply up toward the Mountain Lakes Loop junction which we reached after a total of 4.4 miles.
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At the junction we turned right heading toward Eb and Zeb Lakes which were just under a half mile away. This section of trail climbed a little more steeply at first before leveling out some as it neared the lakes.
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The lakes are across from one another on either side of the trail. We noticed Eb Lake on our right first and headed over to see if we could find a good campsite.
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We hiked all the way around Eb Lake seeing a few possibilities but nothing that we were in a hurry to claim so when we arrived back at the trail we crossed over to check out Zeb Lake.
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We found a decent looking spot at the edge of a small burned area at the SW end of the lake. We set our packs down and decided to go counter-clockwise around the lake to see if there were any better locations. Along the way we encountered a grassy area full of small frogs.
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We swung out wider to avoid accidentally stepping on any of the little guys. After working our way around and passing through the burnt area we arrived back at our packs and decided that this would be our campsite for the night.
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After setting up camp we threw on our daypacks and continued on the loop. Beyond the lakes the trail steepened as it climbed out of the valley to a saddle between Whiteface Peak and an unnamed point.
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From the saddle the view included Klamath Lake to the east and Brown Mountain & Mt. McLoughlin to the NW.
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From the saddle the trail passed around Whiteface Peak through drier forest.
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Almost a mile and a half from the lakes we arrived at trail junction with the Mountain Lakes Trail.
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We headed left to continue the loop arriving at a second junction in another .7 miles.
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The right hand fork headed downhill a mile to Clover Lake and the Clover Creek Trail. We were feeling pretty good and since one of the reasons we take these trips is to explore the area we headed down toward the lake. The relatively small lake was full of activity. Dragonflies darted through the air and fish seemed to constantly be breaking the surface of the lake feeding on insects.
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We sat by the lake enjoying the action while we had a snack. When it was time to continue we took a look at our maps to locate an old trail that was no longer maintained. This abandoned trail would lead us back up to the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail about a mile from where we had left it. We had to continue downhill past Clover Lake for just a bit and almost missed the turn but a small rock cairn and an old blaze in a tree helped us locate it.
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Despite the trail no longer being maintained there weren’t too many obstacles and between the blazes and cairns, following it wasn’t difficult.
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After making it back to the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail we continued on quickly arriving at a viewpoint along the rim above Lake Harriette.
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Approximately a mile from where we had rejoined the loop trail a pair of large rock cairns marked a use trail to the summit of 8208′ Aspen Butte.
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The mile long use trail began up a wooded ridge before views opened up of our goal.
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The trail followed the ridge SE before heading up more steeply up the butte.
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It was in the mid 70’s and we were feeling the heat going up the exposed trail and we welcomed a little shade and breeze at the summit.
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The horizon was hazy in all directions but it was all blue skies above the wilderness. To the south was snowy Mt. Shasta.
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To the north the Sky Lakes Wilderness, the peaks around Crater Lake, and Mt. Thielsen lay beyond the Mountain Lakes Wilderness.
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To the northwest Mt. McLoughlin rose above the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
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Klamath Lake lay to the east.
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After another nice break we returned once again to the Mountain Lakes Loop which almost immediately began descending toward a junction with a trail down to South Pass Lake.
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We actually skipped this one since it would have added another 3.2 miles to what was already going to be a long hike. From this junction the trail gradually descended through open forest toward Lake Harriette.
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We had seen a number of hawks already when a large red-tailed hawk flew into a nearby tree.
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Just under two miles from the South Pass Trail we arrived at large Lake Harriette.
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We were looking for a place to filter some water and have dinner but there were two other groups of hikers at this part of the lake so we decided to check out another nearby lake. Echo Lake was just down a hill on the other side of the trail. We bushwacked down to this smaller lake only to find the shore a bit muddy. It was a pretty little lake but not what we were looking for in dinner spot.
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We headed back up to the trail and continued along Lake Harriette. At the west end of the lake an area had been closed to camping. This proved to be the perfect spot for dinner with a nice view of the lake which at times had a good reflection.
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Next to the lake here was a large rock covered slope with a couple of what appeared to be small caves.
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After having dinner and filtering some water we left Lake Harriette and passed over a low saddle heading toward Lake Como. Along the way we passed a small unnamed lake on the left which I somehow failed to get any photos of. A little over a mile from Lake Harriette we arrived at Lake Como.
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It was another .7 miles from Lake Como back to the junction with the Varney Creek Trail where we had begun the loop earlier that day and another .4 miles back to our campsite at Zeb Lake. We arrived back at our tent just before 7:30pm. The days hike had been approximately 17.4 miles and taken us just under 10 hours but we’d managed to see quite a bit of the area. One thing we noticed was that many of the area was very rocky and a lot of the trail had small to medium sized rocks in them making the ground uneven. Otherwise the official trails were all in good shape with little blowdown to navigate.

We had seen a handful of other hikers during the day but the only other people we had seen camping had been at Lake Harriette so we had Zeb Lake all to ourselves as we turned in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157673010323616