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

Sky Lakes Basin Day 2 – 09/25/2022

We woke up way too early for the time of year and found ourselves playing Yahtzee on Heather’s phone lest we would be hiking out from our camp at Trapper Lake in the dark. After some less than stellar scores we packed up camp and set off on the Sky Lakes Trail back toward the Cold Springs Trailhead.
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IMG_2682Low-light at Trapper Lake.

IMG_2689Sunrise from the trail.

IMG_2691Sunlight hitting the tops of trees.

Just before reaching the Heavenly Twin Lakes we came to the Isherwood Trail where we turned right.
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The Isherwood Trail passed by the larger of the Heavenly Twin Lakes.
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The trail left the lake and climbed gradually through the forest to a rocky bluff above Isherwood Lake.
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IMG_2701Heading up to the bluff.

IMG_2706Pelican Butte beyond Isherwood Lake.

IMG_2708Fall foliage above Isherwood Lake.

About half way along Isherwood Lake we detoured to the other side of the trail to visit Lake Liza.
IMG_2709Heading for Lake Liza through a dry bed.

IMG_2710Great reflection

After returning to the Isherwood Trail and passing Isherwood Lake we passed Elizabeth Lake on our left.
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Elizabeth Lake was followed by Lake Notasha on the right with another nice reflection.
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IMG_2722_stitchLake Notasha

IMG_2728Depending on the angle the water was a beautiful green.

A short distance beyond Lake Notasha we came to the end of the Isherwood Trail at the Sky Lakes Trail.
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We turned right for a third of a mile to a junction with the Cold Springs Trail.
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We turned left this time following the Cold Springs Trail pointer. This trail climbed a lot more than we’d expected as it passed by Imagination Peak but after nearly two miles we arrived back at the junction with the South Rock Creek Trail which we had taken the day before.
IMG_2746Parts of the latter half of this trail passed through the 2017 fire scar.

IMG_2748Fireweed seeds

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IMG_2753Pelican Butte as we descended toward the junction.

We turned right here for the final 0.6 miles to our car.
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IMG_2757Leaving the Sky Lakes Wilderness

IMG_2758Dark-eyed junco seeing us off.

IMG_2760An as of yet unidentified flower.

20220925_092616Another unidentified flower.

IMG_2761I do know this one – bleeding heart.

IMG_2764Woodpecker (it was a busy final 0.6 miles).

IMG_2765Back at the shelter and trailhead.

Our hike out came to 6.6 miles with just over 1000′ of elevation gain.

Dark track is Day 2 while the light solid line is Day 1.

It had been a great Autumn weekend for a backpacking trip and the hikes were great. The only negative to come out of it was Heather’s knee which had been a lingering but manageable issue for most of the year finally decided it had had enough. She has some PT ahead and no hiking so I’ll be on my own for a bit. The good news her knee should be fine and we didn’t have any more featured hikes on our schedule until mid-Spring next year. It also means we might be welcoming some new kitties into our home sooner than we’d expected since she won’t be joining me on the October hikes. Happy Tails! (or Trails!)

Flickr: Sky Lakes Basin Day 2

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

Sky Lakes Basin Day 1 – 09/24/2022

An excellent weekend forecast allowed us to head back to the Southern Oregon Cascades less than a week from our three night, four day stay in Shady Cove (post). In an attempt to give us the best chance to finish our featured hike goal (post) I’d recently broken a 5-6 day backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness into shorter trips. During our Shady Cove stay we did the Blue Lakes Basin hike (post) and now we were back for an overnight backpack in the Sky Lakes Basin to check off Sullivan’s Sky Lakes via Cold Springs and Sky Lakes via Nannie Creek hikes. (Hikes #43 & #44 respectively in edition 4.2 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California.)

We started at the Cold Springs Trailhead.
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IMG_2395Shelter at the trailhead.

We set off through a 2017 fire scar following the Cold Springs Trail into the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
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IMG_2399Aster

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IMG_2407Fireweed

After 0.6 miles we came to a junction with the South Rock Creek Trail.
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Both forks would lead to the Heavenly Twin Lakes but the South Rock Creek Trail would do it in a shorter distance (1.8 vs 2.4 miles) so we stayed to the right and followed that trail through more burned forest.
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IMG_2417Comma butterfly

We left the fire scar after about a mile and continued another 0.8 miles to the first Heavenly Twin Lake.
IMG_2419Exiting the fire scar.

IMG_2420Doe watching us through the trees.

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The larger lake lay just beyond the smaller and provided a view of Luther Mountain.
IMG_2431Luther Mountain on the left and Lee Peak on the right.

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After checking out the view we continued on the Sky Lakes Trail which led along the East side of the large lake arriving at the junction with the Isherwood Trail at the far end.
IMG_2436Sign for the Sky Lakes Trail.

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IMG_2443Isherwood Trail junction.

We would be taking the Isherwood Trail the next day on our way back to the car but for now we continued straight for 1.9 miles to Trapper Lake where we looked for and found a campsite for the weekend. Along the way we passed several small ponds and unnamed lakes and one named one. It was clear why the area is notorious for mosquitos until late Summer (we only noticed two the whole weekend).
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IMG_2448Lake Land

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IMG_2457Luther Mountain from Trapper Lake.

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After setting up camp we returned to the Sky Lakes Trail and continued North along the lake passing the Cherry Creek Trail coming up from the right before arriving at a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
IMG_2467View along the trail.

IMG_2468Sign for the Cherry Creek Trail.

IMG_2469Sky Lakes Trail sign.

IMG_2470Donna Lake Trail to the right.

This was the start of an approximately 8.8 mile loop around Luther Mountain. We had decided to do the loop counter-clockwise so we took the left hand trail which kept us on the Sky Lakes Trail. This trail led around the North end of Trapper Lake for 0.2 miles where it met the Divide Trail.
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IMG_2473Divide Trail junction.

We stayed left here and started following the Divide Trail which would lead us to the Pacific Crest Trail in 2.8 miles. Shortly after starting up this trail we detoured right to check out Margurette Lake.
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The trail passed close to this lake offering several views of Luther Mountain along the way.
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Beyond Margurette Lake the trail began to wind it’s way uphill passing several smaller bodies of water including Lake No-SE-Um where several mergansers had congregated.
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The trail turned back to the North passing above Margurette and Trapper Lakes along a shelf before turning West and climbing more steeply via switchbacks.
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IMG_2507Saddle Mountain is in the distance with pointy Cherry Peak in the foreground. I believe that is Agency Lake visible in the Valley.

IMG_2514Pelican Butte to the right.

IMG_2515Mt. McLoughlin (post) to the South.

IMG_2517Eagle flyby.

IMG_2522Lather Peak with several more lakes below.

IMG_2524In the distance to the left is Aspen Butte (post) in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness.

IMG_2530Fall is in the air.

IMG_2531On of several small bodies of water along the shelf.

IMG_2533We know there were pikas out there because we heard their “meeps” off and on all day but with so many rocks we were never able to spot one.

IMG_2535Heading toward Luther Mountain.

IMG_2539Pelican Butte on the left and Mt. McLoughlin on the right. The peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness are behind and to the right of Pelican Butte then the small, closer hump is Imagination Peak. To the right of Imagination Peak and slightly further back is Lost Peak and then further to the right (left of Mt. McLoughlin) is Brown Mountain (post). Interestingly according to Peak Finder Mt. Shasta should be visible in between Imagination and Lost Peaks but apparently there was enough smoke/haze in the sky that it was camouflaged.

After passing through the switchbacks the trail straightened out and headed almost due West as it climbed through a rock field on the southern flank of Luther Mountain.
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We left the rock field and made a final climb to a saddle where we arrived at the PCT.
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IMG_2551Luther Mountain from the saddle.

IMG_2553The Pacific Crest Trail.

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After catching our breath we turned right on the PCT which descended slightly to a ridge to the West of Luther Mountain. We followed this ridge, which had been burned in 2014, for a little over a mile to a junction with the Snow Lakes Trail.
IMG_2556Lucifer Peak directly behind Shale Butte.

IMG_2557Lucifer Peak, Shale Butte, Devil’s Peak and Lee Peak.

IMG_2562Blowdown on the PCT.

IMG_2566Luther Mountain

IMG_2573Luther Mountain and Mt. McLoughlin behind us.

IMG_2575Lots of little birds along the ridge but most didn’t stop long enough for even a poor picture.

IMG_2580Sign at the Snow Lakes Trail junction.

We turned right onto the Snow Lakes Trail which passed along another shelf full of small lakes.
IMG_2581Martin, Wind and a Snow Lake from the Snow Lakes Trail.

IMG_2583Hawk circling overhead.

IMG_2585While I was trying to keep track of the hawk this Bald Eagle flew over.

IMG_2588Nearing the end of the 2014 fire scar.

IMG_2591Luther Mountain from one of the Snow Lakes.

IMG_2592Another of the lakes.

IMG_2593Tree on the edge of the shelf.

IMG_2595View from the shelf.

IMG_2601There were many cool rock features along the trail.

IMG_2603Devil’s Peak

IMG_2605Lee Peak and another of the Snow Lakes.

After approximately three quarters of a mile on the Snow Lakes Trail we dropped to one of the larger lakes where we briefly lost the trail.
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IMG_2610A tree had fallen over the Snow Lakes Trail hiding it right where a use trail veered off to the lake. Only seeing the use trail we followed it along the lake until it petered out. A quick look at the map showed we were off-trail so we made our way back finding the downed tree covering the actual trail.

After regaining the trail we followed it downhill via a series of switchbacks past another lake.
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The trail then began to turn ESE as it continued to descend toward Martin Lake and the Lower Snow Lakes. A total of 2.3 miles from the PCT we came to the Nannie Creek Trail junction.
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IMG_2624The worst obstacle for the day.

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IMG_2629Pelican Butte from the trail.

IMG_2630Sign at the Nannie Creek Trail junction.

We stayed right on the Snow Lakes Trail at the junction. After 0.4 miles we passed Martin Lake on our right.
IMG_2634Luther Mountain as we neared Martin Lake.

IMG_2635Dragon fly blending in with the huckleberry leaves.

IMG_2641Martin Lake with a view of the shelf that we’d been on.

Two tenths of a mile beyond Martin Lake we came to what was labeled Lower Snow Lakes on our map which was partly in Luther Mountain’s shadow.
IMG_2643Red huckleberry leaves

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We found a log in the shade along the shore where we took a nice break.
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After our break we continued on the Snow Lakes Trail another three quarters of a mile to a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
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It was another 0.7 miles back to Trapper Lake either way but the Donna Lake Trail led past Deep and then Donna Lakes so we veered left and took that trail.
IMG_2659Deep Lake was up first, just a tenth of a mile down the trail.

IMG_2665Donna Lake was only two tenths further.

IMG_2670Donna Lake Trail

We arrived back at the Sky Lakes Trail at Trapper Lake and headed back to our campsite for dinner.
IMG_2674Back at Trapper Lake.

Dinner didn’t go as planned as we realized when we pulled our water filter out that we’d left all the hoses at home. Fortunately we carry Iodine tablets for just such an occurrence so we had a way to treat water but by the time it was all said and done we decided to skip a warm meal and opted to eat some of the extra food we’d brought. At least we’d have water for the hike out the next day though. It cooled off quickly once the Sun had vanished and for the first time in a while we got to test the warmth of our sleeping systems.
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Today’s hike came in at 14.5 miles with approximately 2300′ of elevation gain.

Day one is the dark track with the light solid line being part of day 2.

The number of lakes/ponds was almost hard to believe and the scenery was really nice. The timing was great with almost no bugs and the trails were in relatively good shape, just a few downed trees here and there but nothing too difficult to get past. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sky Lakes Basin Day 1

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

Blue Lake Basin – 09/18/2022

The second day of our Southern Oregon trip was forecast to be the wettest so we headed for the Sky Lakes Wilderness where the cloudy conditions wouldn’t hinder our views too much. Our goal for the day was to hike to Island Lake via Blue Lake Basin then possibly return via Cat Hill Way. The out-and-back to Island Lake is featured hike #40 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook (edition 4.2). We had visited Island Lake in 2016 (post) but from the other direction. Since that visit only covered 0.1 miles of the featured hike and the hike is titled “Blue Lake Basin” not Island Lake we had not considered it done.

We began at the Blue Canyon Trailhead.
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A crisp wind blew through the small meadow near the trailhead encouraging us to hustle downhill on the trail into the trees which provided some relief.
IMG_1712An old fence in the meadow.

IMG_1714Entering the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

IMG_1715Into the trees we go.

It had been a while since we’d actually been cold starting out on a hike and it was kind of nice. We hoped that the wet weather was also present over the Cedar Creek Fire to the north near Waldo Lake. Here there was no sign of smoke as we hiked through the damp forest.
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Just over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at our first lake of the day, Round Lake.
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We continued on the Blue Canyon Trail another 1.2 miles to Blue Lake where a bald eagle startled me when it took off from a tree directly over my head.
IMG_1727The cliff face above Blue Lake ahead from the trail.

IMG_1733Hiking along Blue Lake.

20220918_085604Blue Lake

IMG_1739The bald eagle across the lake after startling me.

The combination of cool temperatures, wet ground and light rain kept us from lingering too long at the lake and we were soon on our way to the next one. Just beyond Blue Lake we veered right at a trail junction to stay on the Blue Canyon Trail.
IMG_1743The South Fork Trail went to the left past Meadow Lake and the Mud Lake before following the South Fork Rogue River to Road 720.

The Blue Canyon Trail passed to the right of Meadow Lake before arriving at a junction with the Meadow Lake Trail in a quarter mile.
IMG_1747Meadow Lake

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IMG_1751Meadow Lake Trail junction.

For now we stuck to the Blue Canyon Trail which brought us to Horseshoe Lake in another half mile.
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IMG_1754Just beyond this small pond south of the trail we turned right on a use trail which led out onto Horseshoe Lake’s peninsula.

IMG_1759Camping is prohibited on the peninsula which is signed in multiple places.

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After exploring the peninsula we returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and followed it to the next lake, Pear Lake, which was just over a half mile away. We took another use trail down to the shore of this lake which is not at all shaped like a pear. (Unless it’s named after the core then maybe but it would still be a stretch.)
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IMG_1773Ducks flying further down the lake.

From Pear Lake it was just over 1.75 miles to Island Lake. The trail climbed up and over a ridge passing above Dee Lake before dropping into Island Lake’s basin.
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IMG_1783Grouse

IMG_1784The only flowing water we’d encounter on this day after not crossing any streams the day before at Union Peak (post) either.

IMG_1815Dee Lake barely visible through the trees.

IMG_1790Bigelow’s sneezeweed

IMG_1794Meadow near Island Lake.

IMG_1795A Horse Camp sign.

IMG_1796Island Lake through the trees.

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We couldn’t remember exactly where we’d gone down to the lake on our previous visit, just that it had been a short trail to the Judge Waldo Tree. We turned left on a clear use trail which brought us down to the lake but not to the tree we were looking for.
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IMG_1806There were a lot of mushrooms down by the water though.

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We returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and continued around the lake to another use trail and again turned left. This one looked familiar and indeed brought us to the Judge Waldo Tree.
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IMG_1812For those interested the 1888 inscription reads:

Judge J.B. Waldo
William Taylor
H.P. Minto
E. J. Humason
F. W. Isherwood
September 13, 1888

Judge Waldo was an early voice for conservation of the Cascade forests (today he most likely would not have carved his name into the tree like that).

Now that we’d linked the two hikes together we were content to head back. When we’d made it back to the Meadow Lake Trail junction we turned uphill onto that trail.
IMG_1817Pear Lake from the Blue Canyon Trail.

IMG_1820Back at the Meadow Lake junction.

IMG_1821Heading up the Meadow Lake Trail.

This trail was much steeper than the Blue Canyon Trail had been and if we were to do the hike again we most likely would opt to come down this way.
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IMG_1832The huckleberries don’t lie, Autumn was right around the corner.

IMG_1833Approaching the ridge top.

IMG_1834Not sure what we missed here but imagine it was some of the peaks in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

Just over a mile from the junction the Meadow Lake Trail ended at Cat Hill Way.
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This trail ran between the Pacific Crest Trail (1.5 miles to the left) and The Blue Canyon Trailhead (2.25 miles to the right). We turned right following a very old roadbed that climbed gradually just below the summit of Cat Hill before descending to the meadow at the trailhead. While the other trails had been well maintained this one had a number of downed trees that were fairly easily navigated. This trail did provide a view of Mt. McLoughlin (post) albeit limited on this day due to the cloud cover.
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IMG_1858Colorful fungus

IMG_1856Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_1861A little fresh snow, a welcome sight.

IMG_1863A nice little viewpoint just off the trail.

IMG_1870Passing below Cat Hill.

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IMG_1874Back to the trailhead.

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Our hike came in at 12.2 miles with approximately 1700′ of elevation gain.

We only saw a few other people which was surprising even with the wet weather given how popular this area is in the Summer. It had sprinkled off and on for most of the morning but we didn’t ever feel the need to put our rain gear on. We drove back to Shady Cove and after changing headed to 62’s Burgers and Brews for a late lunch/early dinner. The clouds were once again breaking up which was encouraging as we were heading back to Crater Lake the following day where we would be hoping for some good views. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Lake Basin

Categories
Hiking

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas (Completed)

Several years back we set several hiking goals, one of which being to hike in all of Oregon’s federally designated wilderness areas. At that time there were 47 such areas in the State with two of those being off-limits to visitors (Three Arch Rocks & Oregon Islands are also National Wildlife Refuges that provide nesting habitat for sea birds as well as serving as pupping sites for marine mammals. To prevent disturbances public entry to any of the rocks/islands is prohibited and waters within 500 feet of the refuge are closed to all watercraft from May 1 through September 15.) In 2019 Congress added the Devils Staircase Wilderness to the list giving us a total of 46 designated wilderness areas to visit in order to complete this goal. Staring in 2019 we began posting annual updates on our progress (2020 & 2021) and we are excited to report that, unless any new wilderness areas are established in the future, this will be our last update. We managed to make it to the final four wilderness areas on our list, the North Fork Umatilla, Devils Staircase, Black Canyon, and Monument Rock, in 2021. We have to give credit to Bruce (Van Marmot) over at Boots on the Trail for not only getting to all 46 first but also providing inspiration and a lot of helpful information.

A little over 2.5 million acres are designated as wilderness throughout the State and range in size from 15 acres (Three Arch Rocks) to 355,548 acres (Eagle Cap). Oregon shares a wilderness with three of its bordering states. The Wenaha-Tuccanon is shared with Washington, Hells Canyon with Idaho, and Red Buttes with California. The areas are managed by three different federal agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages the Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks areas while the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages nine and the Forest Service manages forty-one. If you do the math those numbers add up to fifty-two. The reason for that is four of the areas, the Devils Staircase, Lower White River, Hells Canyon, and Wild Rogue are managed jointly by the Forest Service and BLM. Seven of the areas have no official trails, the two off-limit areas, and the Devils Staircase, Rock Creek, Lower White River, Bridge Creek, and Spring Basin wildernesses. Although irregularly shaped (except for the exactly 6 square mile Mountain Lakes Wilderness) the majority of the areas are a single unit. In addition to the Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks the Mount Hood (4), Mark O. Hatfield (2), Badger Creek (2),Salmon-Huckleberry (3), Clackamas (5), Soda Mountain (2), North Fork John Day (4), and Steens Mountain (2) consist of multiple separate areas.

We visited our first Oregon Wilderness in 2009 when we visited Henline Falls in the Opal Creek Wilderness. Since then we have spent parts of 215 days in these special places. For sixteen of the areas it was only a single day while we’ve spent part of 30 days in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Below are some of our best memories from each of the wilderness areas. We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed visiting them.

Badger Creek: 28,915 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-6
Divide Trail entering the Badger Creek Wilderness

Badger Creek

Mt. Hood from the helispot

Black Canyon: 13.088 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Black Canyon Wilderness sign

Black Canyon Trail

Black Canyon Trail crossing Black Canyon Creek

Boulder Creek: 19,911 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Boulder Creek Wilderness sign

View from the Boulder Creek Trail</a

Boulder Creek

Bridge Creek: 5,337 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Bridge Creek Wilderness sign

Bridge Creek Wilderness

View to the north from the Bridge Creek Wilderness

Bull of the Woods: 36,869 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-6
Bull of the Woods Wilderness sign

Lake Lenore

Emerald Pool

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Hood and Big Slide Lake from the Bull of the Woods Lookout

Clackamas: 9.465 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Clackamas Wilderness sign

Memaloose Lake

Big Bottom

Copper-Salmon: 13,724 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Barklow Mountain Trail entering the Copper-Salmon Wilderness

View from the summit of Barklow Mountain

Cummins Creek: 9,026 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Wilderness sign at the upper trailhead

Cummins Ridge Trail

Devils Staircase: 30,787 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Informational sign for the Devil's Staircase Wilderness

Devil's Staircase Wilderness

Devil's Staircase Wilderness

Devil's Staircase

Diamond Peak: 52,477 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-7
Trapper Creek Trail entering the Diamond Peak Wilderness

Small waterfall on Trapper Creek

Diamond Peak from Karen Lake at sunset

Diamond Lake from an unnamed lake along the Crater Butte Trail

Climbers trail to Diamond Peak

Drift Creek: 5,792 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Drift Creek Wilderness sign

Drift Creek

Eagle Cap: 355,548 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-5
Eagle Cap Wilderness sign

Ice Falls

Ice Lake

Basin between the Matterhorn and Sacajawea

Mountain goats

Eagle Cap from the Matterhorn

Glacier Lake

Eagle Cap from Mirror Lake

The Matterhorn and Moccasin Lake from Eagle Cap

Horseshoe Lake

Gearhart Mountain: 22,587 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Gearhart Mountain Wilderness sign

The Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness

Gearhart Mountain Wilderness

View from Gearhart Mountain

Grassy Knob: 17,176 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Grassy Knob Wilderness sign

View from Grassy Knob

Hells Canyon: 131,337 acres in OR (217,613 in ID) Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Trail sign at a junction with Marks Cabin Trail along the Summit Ridge Trail at the Hells Canyon Wilderness Boundary

Looking into Hells Canyon from Freezeout Saddle

Kalmiopsis: 179,550 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Kalmiopsis Wilderness sign

Ridge to the south of the Vulcan Peak Trail

Vulcan Lake

California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica) at Little Vulcan Lake

Lower White River: 2,871 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Lower White River Wilderness Sign

White River

Mark O. Hatfield: 65,420 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-12
Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness sign

Triple Falls

View from Chindrie Mountain

Twister Falls

Mt. Hood from Green Point Mountain

Menagerie: 4,952 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Menagerie Wilderness sign

Rooster Rock from the Trout Creek Trail

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie Wilderness

Middle Santiam: 8,845 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Middle Santiam Wilderness sign

Overgrown trail

Donaca Lake

Mill Creek: 17,173 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Mill Creek Wilderness sign

Twin Pillars Trail

Monument Rock: 20,210 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Wilderness sign for the Monument Rock Wilderness

Monument Rock Wilderness

Cairn on Monument Rock

Little Malheur River

Monument Rock Wilderness

Mountain Lakes: 23,036 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Mountain Lakes Wilderness sign

Eb Lake

Aspen Butte

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

Mount Hood: 64,742 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-22
Mt. Hood Wilderness sign

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Timberline Trail

Mt. Hood from the Timberline Trail near Elk Cove

Mt. Hood and Burnt Lake from East Zig Zag Mountain

Mt. Hood from Paradise Park

Morning from Paradise Park

Mt. Hood from Yocum Ridge

Mt. Hood from the Newton Creek crossing of the Timberline Trail

Hawk flying over the wildflowers in Paradise Park below Mt. Hood

Langille Crags, Compass Creek, Mt. Hood and Barret Spur

Ramona Falls

Mt. Hood and Barret Spur from Elk Cove

Mt. Hood

Cooper Spur Shelter

Mount Jefferson: 108,909 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-27
Enterng the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson, Russel Lake, and Sprauge Lake from Park Ridge

The trail ahead

You can still see the purple lupine in the upper meadow

Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake

Mt. Jefferson from Boca Cave

Marion and Gatch Falls

Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park

Park Butte from Bays Lake

Mt. Jefferson and Hunts Cove from the Hunts Creek Trail

Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson beyond the Eight Lakes Basin

Mt. Jefferson from Bear Point

Mt. Jefferson and Goat Peak

North Cinder Peak from the Cabot Lake Trail

Mt. Jefferson from Table Lake

Goat Peak and Mt. Jefferson

Carl Lake

Three Fingered Jack from Lower Berley Lake

Three Fingered Jack and Square Lake

Mount Thielsen: 55,151 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-5
Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen

Tipsoo Peak from Maidu Lake

Mt. Thielsen

Thielsen Creek

Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen from Howlock Meadows

Mt. Thielsen and Cottonwood Creek Falls

Mt. Thielsen from a spring feeding Cottonwood Creek

Mount Washington: 54,410 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-7
Wt. Washington Wilderness sign

Belknap Crater

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest Trail

The largest of the Tenas Lakes

Benson Lake

Patjens Lake Trail

Mt. Washington from Mt. Washington Meadows

North Fork John Day: acres Days Spent in Wilderness-8
North Fork John Day River

North Fork John Day River Trail

Blue Mountain Trail

Elk on the Baldy Creek Trail

Mt. Ireland from Baldy Lake

Tower Mountain Trail

North Fork Umatilla: 20,225 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-3
North Fork Umatilla wilderness sign

Ninemile Ridge

Ninemile Ridge

North Fork Umatilla River

Opal Creek: 20,774 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-6
Whetstone Mountain Trail

Opal Lake

Larkspur and paintbrush

Battle Ax Creek

One of the Marten Buttes

Henline Falls

Bull-of-the Woods and Whetstone Mountain from the lookout site

Oregon Badlands: 28,182 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Oregon Badlands Wilderness sign
Ancient Juniper Trail - Oregon Badlands Wilderness

View from Flatiron Rock

Badlands Rock

Another canyon in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness

Oregon Islands: 925 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-0
Signboard for the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Bandon Islands

Simpson Reef

Sea lions on Shell Island

Gull Rock

Red Buttes: 3,777 acres in OR (20,133 in CA) Days Spent in Wilderness-2 in OR, (4 in CA)
Red Buttes Wilderness sign

Swan Mountain

Figurehead Mountain and Red ButtesThis photo is from CA but it actually shows the namesake Red Buttes

Roaring River: 36,548 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Entering the Roaring River Wilderness

Middle Rock Lake

Unnamed pond

Serene Lake

Rock Creek: 7,273 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Rock Creek Campground sign along Highway 101Closest thing to a “wilderness sign” we saw for this one.

Rock Creek

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Rogue-Umpqua: 35,749 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-6
Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness sign

Hummingbird Meadows

View from the Buck Canyon Trail

View from the old road to Abbott Butte

Pup Prairie from the Acker Divide Trail

Rattlesnake Mountain from the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail

Salmon-Huckleberry: 62,061 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-11
Entering the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness on the Eagle Creek trail

Rhododendron in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

Eagle Creek Trail in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

Mt. Hood

Plectritis and larkspur

Boulder Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Devil's Peak Lookout

Cliffs along the Salmon River Canyon

Frustration Falls

Hunchback Trail

Sky Lakes: 113,687 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-3
Sky Lakes Wilderness sign

Mt. McLoughlin from Fourmile Lake

Meadow with a lily pad pond across the Badger Lake Trail from Badger Lake

Island Lake

Mt. McLoughlin

Fourmile Lake from Mt. McLoughlin

Soda Mountain: 24,707 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Soda Mountain Wilderness sign

PCT entering the Soda Mountain Wilderness

Boccard Point and Mt. Shasta in the distance

Looking west from Boccard Point

Larkspur

Pilot Rock

Spring Basin: 6,404 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-1
Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

John Day River from the Spring Basin Wilderness

Horse Mountain in the Spring Basin Wilderness

Hedgehog cactus

Steens Mountain: 170,202 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-5
Entering the Steens Mountain Wilderness

Registration box at the Pike Creek Trail

View from the Pike Creek Trail

Big Indian Gorge

Wildhorse Lake

Wildhorse Lake Trail

Kiger Gorge

View from the Little Blitzen Trail

Little Blitzen Gorge

Little Blitzen Trail

Little Blitzen River

Strawberry Mountain: 69,350 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-5
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness sign

Indian Creek Butte

Strawberry Mountain

Volcanic ash along the Pine Creek Traii

Strawberry Basin Trail

Strawberry Mountain

Strawberry Lake

Slide Lake

Skyline Trail

High Lake

Mountain Goats above High Lake

Canyon Mountain Trail

High Lake

Table Rock: 5,784 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-3
Old Table Rock Wilderness signboard

High Ridge Trail

Table Rock

Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters from Table Rock

Trail to the Rooster Rock viewpoint.

Mt. Jefferson and Rooster Rock

Meadow below Rooster Rock

Three Arch Rocks: 15 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-0
Three Arch Rocks Wilderness

Three Sisters: 283,619 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-30
Broken Top near Crater Ditch

Black Crater Trail

Middle and South Sister from Linton Meadows

Middle and South Sister from Eileen Lake

Duncan Falls

Upper portion of Upper Linton Falls

Falls on Fall Creek

The Wife

Linton Springs

Middle Sister and a Chambers Lake

South Sister from Camp Lake

Phoenix Falls

Lower Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

Mt. Washington's spire, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson

Indian Holes Falls

French Pete Creek

Middle and North Sister beyond Golden Lake

Broken Top, a tarn, and some Lupine

Thayer Glacial Lake

Monkeyflower along Soap Creek

No Name Lake

The third Green Lake

North Sister

Pacific Crest Trail

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Meadow along the Olallie Mountain Trail

View from Subsitute Point

The Chambers Lakes and Cascade Peaks from South Sister

Broken Top and Moraine Lake

South Sister from Morraine Lake

South Sister from Denude Lake

Proxy Falls

The Three Sisters from a wildflower meadow along the Rebel Rock Trail

Broken Top

The Three Sisters

Waldo Lake: 36,868 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-6
Waldo Lake Wilderness sign

Rigdon Butte

Lillian Falls

Fuji Mountain from Black Meadows

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, The Husband, Middle & South Sister, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor

Upper Salmon Lake

Wenaha-Tuccanon: 65,266 acres in OR (176,737 in WA) Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness sign

Wenaha River Trail

Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness

Wenaha River Trail

Milk Creek and South Fork Wenaha River confluence

Wild Rogue: 35,221 acres Days Spent in Wilderness-2
Wild Rogue wilderness sign

Hanging Rock

Flora del Falls

Rogue River Trail

Rogue River

Categories
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
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