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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Lodgepole Loop – 10/12/2019

We’re entering the time of year where the weather can be a real wildcard. A week earlier there was snow down to the mountain passes. There wasn’t any snow in the forecast but a continuously changing threat of cloudy conditions and rain showers kept us from deciding exactly where we’d be heading until the night before. A mostly cloudy but precipitation free forecast led us to our third hike of the year in the Olallie Lake Scenic Area for a lake filled hike where the presence of clouds would have minimal affect on the scenery.

Our plan was to follow a route suggested by Matt Reeder in his “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” starting at the Olallie Meadows Campground and taking the Lodgepole Trail to the Red Lake Trail which we would then take east to the Pacific Crest Trail. Heading north on the PCT would bring us to the Russ Lake Trail. After a side trip to Russ and Jude Lakes we would take the Russ Lake Trail west to the Lodgepole Trail and return to Olallie Meadows. That was our plan anyway but it isn’t quite how things played out.

We parked at a trail sign at the end of the Olallie Meadows Campground and checked out the meadows while we waited for a little more light. The sky was fairly cloud free which was encouraging but it also meant that the overnight low of 35 that had been in the forecast was actually 27 (according to the car).
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We didn’t have to wait long and soon we were crunching along the trail. There was a lot of frozen moisture so every step sounded like we were crushing a bag of potato chips, it wasn’t a good sign for seeing any morning wildlife. A quarter mile from the trailhead we passed the Russ Lake Trail junction where we would be coming from on our return.
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For now we stayed straight enjoying the fall colors and traces of snow along the trail while we tried to keep some feeling in our fingers.
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After a short climb the view ahead opened up to Olallie Butte which we’d climbed earlier in the year.(post)
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Three quarters of a mile from the Russ Lake Trail we arrived at another signed junction.
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We turned right here onto what turned out to be the Pacific Crest Trail (we didn’t notice the marker on a nearby tree on this first pass) following a pointer for Olallie Lake.
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Shortly afterward we began to realize something was amiss. Prior to setting off we had taken a last look at Reeder’s map and remembered that there was a short section of trail that we would not be hiking on if we did the loop the way we’d planned. What we didn’t remember was where that section was, but if we were already on the PCT it didn’t seem possible for there to be such a section so we differed to the book and realized that somewhere between the Russ Lake Trail and the PCT the Lodgepole Trail should have forked to the right and crossed Skyline Road near the Triangle Lake Horsecamp. Neither one of us remembered seeing anything that looked like a trail. We contemplated going back to look for it, but decided to just continue on in the opposite direction as planned.

We followed the PCT south passing a large dry lake then a small frozen one before crossing under a set of power lines and passing the Olallie Butte Trail in just under a mile.
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Another 2.2 miles on the PCT brought us more colorful foliage, another frozen pond, and a glimpse of Mt. Jefferson before arriving at Skyline Road just north of Olallie Lake (post).
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We crossed the road sticking to the PCT and stopped to take a look at Head Lake.
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Beyond Head Lake the PCT climbs for approximately a mile and a half to the Red Lake Trail junction. We had been on this section of the trail before (post) but on that day the clouds had restricted the views to the forest and ponds along the trail. In addition to the great fall colors on this trip we had some excellent views of Mt. Jefferson.
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IMG_0536Olallie Butte

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IMG_0559Mt. Jefferson

IMG_0562Olallie Lake

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We even had a rather obscured view of Mt. Hood for a moment.
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At the junction with the Red Lake Trail we turned right onto that trail.
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This trail was also familiar to us as including the unnamed lake below Twin Peaks.
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Beyond the lake the trail began a rocky descent to a junction with the Lodgepole Trail just over a mile from the PCT.
IMG_0594Potato Butte ahead.

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IMG_0597Lodgepole Trail junction.

Here we turned right back onto the Lodgepole Trail. We were back on new-to-us trail and in less than a quarter mile came to an unnamed lake on the left.
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IMG_0603One of the causes of the noisy steps.

Just over a quarter mile from the junction was Middle Lake on the right.
IMG_0612Twin Peaks on the other side of Middle Lake.

IMG_0616Colors along Middle Lake.

Next up was supposed to be a short out and back to Gifford Lakes on a trail located somewhere between Middle and Lower Lakes. We missed the unmarked trail on our first pass, but realized it fairly quickly when a GPS check showed we were closer to Lower Lake than we should have been. (For the record it’s about a quarter mile from Middle Lake.) We turned around and headed back the way we’d come looking for yet another trail we’d missed. I had an idea of where we’d missed it having noticed some logs and branches that looked like it could have been over an old trail. Sure enough that turned out to be the spot, but between the wood and snow it had been really easy to miss.
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A .2 mile detour brought us to the larger of the two Gifford Lakes. We had heard that this was probably the prettiest lake in the area and we wouldn’t argue that.
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IMG_0630Olallie Butte

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IMG_0648Twin Peaks from Gifford Lake.

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A trail to the left around the lake led to a ridge between the two Gifford Lakes. The smaller lake didn’t have the views that its larger neighbor enjoyed but it was scenic nonetheless.
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After exploring the lakes and a snack break we returned to the Lodgepole Trail and turned right to continue on our loop. We came to another junction about .4 miles from the trail to Gifford Lakes.
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Here the Lodgepole Trail continued straight crossing the Fish Lake Trail. We turned briefly down the Fish Lake Trail to take a quick look at Lower Lake before continuing on.
IMG_0704Sign for the Fish Lake Trail.

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IMG_0713Sign for the Lodgepole Trail.

The trail dropped to a meadow then reentered the forest and climbed to a ridge top .8 miles from the junction.
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IMG_0731The trail was actually the fainter track to the left leading to the bridge, but that wasn’t obvious until we reached the trees.

IMG_0733A lone yarrow.

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After cresting the ridge the trail dropped to a dry crossing of the Clackamas River.
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Approximately two miles from the Fish Lake Trail we found ourselves passing back under the power lines.
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Another mile of fairly level trail brought us to Triangle Lake.
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After passing the lake and horse camp we quickly found ourselves crossing Skyline Road again.
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We were really interested in seeing where we were going to meet up with the trail from that morning. Our answer came in less than 100 yards when the clear trail we were on arrived at a junction. A small tree was lying across the trail but the tread was rather obvious. We decided we must have been focused on the hill that was just beyond the junction and not looking at that side of the trail because it was hard to miss.
IMG_0766Approaching the junction.

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We turned right climbing the little hill, for the second time that day, and in a tenth of a mile were back at the Pacific Crest Trail. This time we turned left following the Jude Lake pointer.
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The PCT entered the Warm Springs Reservation before arriving at the Russ Lake Trail in a third of a mile.
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Here we turned right on the Russ Lake Trail (which was not signed).
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The trail passed a small pond after a tenth of a mile and the southern end of Jude Lake after two tenths before arriving at Russ Lake a little of a third of a mile from the junction. (Please note that fishing is not allowed on the Reservation without a permit.)
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We watched the ducks on Russ Lake for a bit before heading back. It wasn’t until we were passing Jude Lake again that we actually realized that it was Jude Lake which allowed us to skip a short out and back north on the PCT to see the other side of that lake. Having seen Jude Lake we stayed on the Russ Lake Trail when we got back to the PCT junction and in a tenth of a mile turned right on a short unsiged spur trail to Brook Lake.
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From Book Lake it was another .2 miles to the Lodgepole Trail and about the same back to Olallie Meadows.
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We were anticipating a 13.2 mile loop (per Reeder) but a little extra exploring, missing the Gifford Lakes Trail, and screwing up the route to begin with we ended our day just over 14 miles. It turned out to be a really nice day (after our hands warmed up) with a lot of nice scenery. We only ran into a single pair of backpackers during the hike although there were a number of vehicles on Skyline Road both in the morning and on our drive out. The Olallie Lake Scenic Area is definately a great place for late Summer/Fall hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lodgepole Loop

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Monon Lake-Ruddy Hill Loop – 9/12/2019

A series of wet storms passed through Oregon just in time for an extended weekend of hiking. With a sunny forecast for Thursday we headed back up to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area to check off another one of Sullivan’s featured hikes (Monon Lake) and to revisit Ruddy Hill since our first time up this peak was viewless (post). With the addition of Ruddy Hill to the Monon Lake hike we used Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region” for additional inspiration and came up with our own hike mashup.

In addition to Monon Lake and the view from Ruddy Hill we also wanted to see Timber and Horseshoe Lakes for the first time. Our plan was to start our hike at Monon Lake and do a clockwise loop with side trips up Ruddy Hill and to Timber Lake. This meant driving past the Olallie Lake Resort on the infamous Skyline Road to the northern Monon Lake Trailhead. The road was passable in our Outback and the recent rains helped clearly identify the numerous potholes along the way.
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There was a nearly immediate view across part of the lake to Olallie Butte which we had recently climbed (post).
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The trail began to curve around the northern end of the lake passing through a section of forest before reaching some boardwalks and bridges in a meadow between Monon Lake and a smaller unnamed lake to the north.
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IMG_8681Fading gentians

IMG_8677A few gentians still holding their blue color.

IMG_8683Olallie Butte and the unnamed lake.

There were plenty of views across Monon Lake as the trail entered a fire scar. More and more of Mt. Jefferson was revealed as we continued east.
IMG_8684The tip of Mt. Jefferson sticking up above the high point on the ridge.

IMG_8687More of the mountain (Ruddy Hill is the round butte to the right.)

IMG_8689Dusting of new snow on Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8692Duck on the lake.

IMG_8697A little more of Mt. Jefferson showing.

The trail climbed atop a small rocky hill above the lake which happened to be where a trial junction was hidden.
IMG_8704View from atop the rocks.

The Monon Lake Trail continues to the right around the lake while the Mon-Olallie Trail forked left for .3 miles to the Olallie Lake Trail. We completely missed the Monon Trail and the small rock cairn marking the junction.
IMG_8970The small rock cairn coming from the opposite direction on the Monon Lake Trail later in the day.

Having missed the junction where we had planned to go right we wound up on the Mon-Olallie Trail which passed Mangriff Lake on the left.
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Just beyond Mangriff Lake was Nep-te-pa Lake on the right.
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Nep-te-pa Lake

By the time we realized that we had missed our junction we were nearing Olallie Lake so we decided that we would just do our loop in the opposite direction of what we had planned. The Mon-Olallie Trail ended at an obvious and signed junction near Olallie Lake.
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We turned right and after a nice view of the lake entered a stand of green trees.
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Approximately .4 miles from the Mon-Olallie Trail junction we arrived at another junction with the Long Lake Trail at the border of the Warm Springs Reservation. Unlike the trail up Olallie Butte this trail was clearly marked as closed to the public.
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We continued around Olallie Lake passing numerous spectacular views of Mt. Jefferson.
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Three quarters of a mile from the Long Lake Trail junction we came Paul Dennis Campground.
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A brief road walk brought us to the Olallie Lake Resort where we followed a trail between the lake and some cabins.
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The views of Mt. Jefferson from the resort were great and we stopped at the dock and the picnic area for photos.
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We passed through the picnic area and popped onto Skyline Road where we turned left for three tenths of a mile to the Red Lake Trail.
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We had come down this trail to visit Olallie Lake during our previous Ruddy Hill hike. That had been a 17.9 mile day so we had skipped the side trail to Timber Lake. After a .7 mile gradual climb past several small ponds we arrived at the junction with the Timber Lake Trail.
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We turned down this trail and followed it .6 mostly level miles (there were two short but steep climbs over ridges) to Timber Lake.
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We followed a path along the northern shore of the lake until we had a decent view of the top section of Mt. Jefferson.
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After getting our view of the mountain we returned to the Red Lake Trail. We turned left and continued the gradual climb to the Pacific Crest Trail. In a little over a quarter mile we arrived at Top Lake.
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At the NW end of the lake the Red Lake Trail forked right but we turned left passing a nice view of Olallie Butte.
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This connector trail climbed steeply via a series of switchbacks to an unsigned junction with the Pacific Crest Trail near Cigar Lake where we turned left (south).
IMG_8799Rock cairn along the PCT marking the connector trail.

IMG_8807PCT lookout.

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IMG_8811Golden-mantled ground squirrels at Cigar Lake.

The southern end of Cigar Lake is the location of the Double Peaks Trail. We had taken this trail twice hoping for nice views to no avail. (One was the 17.9mi hike including Ruddy Hill, the other was in 2013.) It would have likely been a great view now, but the .7 mile trail is frustratingly steep and we just didn’t feel like tackling it again. On the other hand the PCT remained fairly level over the next mile as it passed Upper Lake then a meadow with a view of Mt. Jefferson.
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IMG_8822Double Peaks from Upper Lake

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At the meadow the PCT turned left and began a brief climb up a butte. A third of a mile into the climb we passed the Many Lake Viewpoint. Here we had a nice view of Mt. Hood (and many lakes).
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IMG_8841Company at the viewpoint.

We continued south from the viewpoint and were soon descending along a forested hillside when we heard an elk bugle. We guessed that it was a bow hunter but hoped it was an actual elk. Our guess was right though and we stopped to briefly talk to the hunter before continuing on.
IMG_8844Approximate location when we heard the “elk” bugle.

Just over a mile from the Many Lakes Viewpoint we arrived at the Ruddy Hill Trail where we turned right leaving the PCT.
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The nearly half mile trail was quite a bit steeper than we’d remembered but we soon found ourselves on the red topped summit looking at the view of Mt. Jefferson that we had missed on our previous visit.
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Although there was no view north, the view to the west was good with the peaks of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness.
IMG_8869 Flat topped Battle Ax Mountain to the left to the fire scarred summit of Schreiner Peak to the right.

IMG_8875Battle Ax (post)

IMG_8877Bull of the Woods (post)

After resting at the summit we headed back down the PCT and continued south another .2 miles where we turned left on the “Rondy Trail”.
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This trail descended a drainage before leveling out and arriving at Horseshoe Lake in three quarters of a mile. There was a nice variety of mushrooms along the way.
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We followed the trail along the lake shore to the Horseshoe Lake Campground located right on Skyline Road.
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For second time on this hike we went the wrong way and turned right on Skyline Road thinking it was an entrance road to the campground. We had only gone a tenth of a mile before realizing our mistake and turning around. We followed Skyline Road north for a mile. We were eager to get a firsthand look at what many consider one of the worst trailhead roads in NW Oregon. It was certainly a bad looking road but the section we hiked wasn’t quite as bad as some we’d seen in eastern and southeastern Oregon. It may well be worse beyond Horseshoe Lake though.
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When we arrived at the southern end of Monon Lake we were just .3 miles from our car, but we turned onto the Monon Lake Trail to finish that trail. The views of Olallie Butte from this end of the lake were spectacular.
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More boardwalks were present as we passed through the forest along this end of the lake.
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We soon found ourselves back in the fire scar which just provided more views of the lake and Olallie Butte.
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A little over a mile from the road the trail began to curve around to the west where we once again had views of Mt. Jefferson across the lake.
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One and a quarter miles from the road we were back on top the rocks above the lake and heading for the junction we’d missed that morning.
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We then followed our route from the morning back to our car. We had hopped that the Sun would have coaxed some of the gentians to open, but it appeared to be too late in their life cycle for that to happen.
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Our loop with side trips came in at 13.6 miles with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It was a beautiful day and so nice to have been able to get that view from Ruddy Hill. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monon Lake- Ruddy Hill Loop

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 Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Red Lake Trail – Olallie Lake Scenic Area

We hadn’t been out on a single night backpacking trip yet this year so when a somewhat favorable forecast for the Labor Day weekend presented itself we decided to take advantage and make return trip to the Red Lake Trail. Our first visit had been in October 2013 when an early snowfall resulted in a winter wonderland. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/red-lake-trail/
On that hike we had not gotten the views of Mt. Hood and especially Mt. Jefferson that we had hoped for. Were hoping that either the partly sunny skies on Saturday or the mostly sunny skies on Sunday that were called for would offer up those views this time around.

The plan this time around was to start at the west end of the Red Lake Trail along Road 380 and hike to the Pacific Crest Trail. We were hoping we would find a suitable camp site near Neknoberts Lake a little off of the PCT then take the rest of our day to explore the area. We planned on doing a small loop using the Red Lake Trail and PCT to visit Olallie Lake then take the PCT south to the Ruddy Hill Trail where we hoped to climb to the former lookout site for a grand view of Mt. Jefferson. We also planned on climbing Double Peaks, which we had done the last trip, on our way back to camp. The second day we would pack up and revisit Potato Butte on the way back to the trailhead.

Our first inkling that the forecast may have been a bit off came when we arrived at the trailhead where a low sheet of clouds hung above the forest.
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We began climbing up toward Red Lake and quickly entered a misty fog which did a wonderful job of soaking our shoes, socks, and pant legs. By the time we had reached the short side trail to Red Lake the fog was so thick the lake wasn’t really visible. We passed by Averll Lake next which was a little less foggy.
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The lakes were proving difficult to see but the fall colors showing along the trail weren’t as we passed Wall Lake.
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We were finally able to get a good look at one of the lakes when we reached Fork Lake. It was a lot lower than it had been in 2013 giving a good indication of the drought conditions we experienced this year.
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Fork Lake October 2013
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We arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail after 4.3 miles at a four way junction.
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Here we turned right (south) on the PCT. We were looking for a low spot where we could turn off the trail and head cross-country to nearby Neknoberts Lake. With the help of our GPS unit we were able to make our way to the lake where we found an old sign.
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There were a few suitable camp sites so we picked one out and set up our tent.
Campsite (after the fog had lifted)
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The fog seemed to be lifting by the time we finished getting situated. We threw on our day packs and headed back to the trail. The original plan had been to take the PCT north from the 4-way junction to Olallie Lake then return to the junction on the Red Lake Trail. When we got back to the 4-way junction though I forgot the plan and we turned right down the Red Lake Trail toward Top Lake. In the end it didn’t matter which way we went but it did manage to confuse me a bit when I realized that we would have to go north briefly instead of south from Olallie Lake to complete the loop. We had taken this portion of trail down to Top Lake on our previous visit and it was interesting to see the differences along the way.
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From Top Lake we continued downhill on the Red Lake Trail passing several ponds lined with color.
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Just over a mile from Top Lake we arrived at the eastern end of the Red Lake Trail on Skyline Rd. A .3 mile road walk brought us to the Olallie Lake Picnic Area.
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There wasn’t much of a view form the lake due to the low clouds but we wandered along the shore for a bit hoping that things would improve before we headed for Ruddy Hill.
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From Olallie Lake we went north on Skyline Rd for about a tenth of a mile where we connected back up with the Pacific Crest Trail at Head Lake. Swimming is banned in Olallie Lake but this lake had a little platform in the water for warmer days.
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It was 1.4 miles from Head Lake back to the junction. Along the way we passed another small lake/pond, more fall colors, and some views back down of Olallie Lake.
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We passed the 4-way junction for the third time that day staying on the PCT and making for Cigar Lake, just a half mile away.
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We passed the trail to Double Peaks here and continued south. We were headed for the Ruddy Hill Trail which was another 2.3 miles down the PCT. The scenery along this section was an interesting mix. There were ponds, meadows, forested sections, and large Upper Lake.
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We also passed the signed “Many Lakes Viewpoint”.
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Most of the lakes were hidden by the clouds but we were able to make out a few.
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We arrived at the Ruddy Hill Trail resigned to the reality that we weren’t likely to have any kind of a view from the top, but we weren’t about to let that stop us so we headed on up.
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The half mile trail to the top was a steep one. As we trudged up the hill we noticed what looked like it might be snow.
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Upon closer inspection though it appeared to be hail that must have recently fallen.
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It must have been a pretty good storm because there was still a fair amount if it left in spots along the way.
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As we neared the top we passed a large group of hikers who were headed down. They confirmed that the summit was socked in and there weren’t any views to be had.
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It was actually pretty nice up on the summit and we took a short break with one of the locals before heading back down.
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As we headed back toward Cigar Lake on the PCT we decided that we would only climb Double Peaks if we could see the summit when we reached that trail. It was hard to tell but things had been improving all day which was evidenced when we passed the Many Lake Viewpoint again.
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When we did reach the Double Peaks Trail we had a tough decision to make. There was just thin bit of cloud hanging on the summit and it appeared to be lifting as we watched.
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It was just under a mile up to the summit via another steep climb. We debated whether or not we should give it a shot and in the end decided that if we didn’t and the clouds did lift then we’d regret it so up we went. Here again the contrast in scenery from our last visit was huge.
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As we climbed we got a good view of Neknoberts Lake where we’d set up camp.
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Once we reached the top of Double Peaks we headed for the western summit first. The clouds were beginning to break up but they just kept coming from that direction.
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We then headed over to the eastern summit where the views were better.
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The view we were really hoping for had eluded us again though as Mt. Jefferson was once again hidden by clouds.
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After watching the clouds go by for quite awhile we returned down to the PCT and headed back to Neknoberts Lake. We stopped briefly at nearby Ring Lake where we had a good view of a cloud free Double Peaks.
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We got a much better look at Neknoberts Lake when we arrived back at camp.
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We fixed ourselves dinner and then turned in for the night having covered 17.9 miles that day. The next morning we woke to much clearer skies.
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We had had the lake to ourselves other than a lone duck that paddled around as we packed up.
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We headed back to the PCT and the 4-way junction and turned left on the Red Lake Trail. We were enjoying some nice sunshine and hoping they were an omen of good views atop Potato Butte. The closer we got to the Potato Butte Trail though the less likely that looked. The blue skies of the morning were already being replaced by another curtain of grey clouds at Fork Lake.
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When we reached Sheep Lake we turned right on the unsigned Potato Butte Trail.
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We stopped briefly to watch a busy Downy Woodpecker searching for breakfast.
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Yet another steep climb awaited us to reach the top of Potato Butte. We took a short side trail near the top to a rocky viewpoint facing Mt. Jefferson. Olallie Butte was cloud free, but alas Mt. Jefferson was not. At least it was a better view than the day before as we could see the lower portion of the mountain including some of the Whitewater and Jefferson Park Glaciers. A dusting of newer snow also showed on the slopes.
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We continued on to the summit even though we knew there was virtually no chance that we’d get a glimpse of Mt. Hood to the north.
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We headed back down to the Red Lake trail stopping at all the lakes to take a final look.
Unnamed lake below Potato Butte
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Double Peaks from Sheep Lake
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Potato Butte from Wall Lake
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Double Peaks from Averill Lake
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Red Lake
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It had started raining off and on while we were on Potato Butte so we didn’t stay long at any of the lakes and we were quickly headed back down the trail from Red Lake for the final 1.6 mile stretch.
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It had been a nice trip and the fall colors were great, but we still hadn’t managed to experience the areas mountain views. I was already thinking of other places we could visit in the area as an excuse to come back and try again for the elusive views. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157657878053358