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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.

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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.
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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)

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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
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 4 – Eagle Cap

The fourth day of our backpacking trip began with a nice sunrise over Moccasin Lake.
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Our plan for the day was to take our day packs and hike to the summit of Eagle Cap, then pack up camp and move to Horseshoe Lake for the final night of our trip.

It had been rather breezy the day before and we were hoping that wouldn’t be the case today so that we could get catch some reflections of Eagle Cap in the lakes. A gentle breeze kept that from happening.
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We hiked to the west end of Mirror Lake and followed signs toward Horton Pass at a 4-way trail junction.
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The trail took us past Upper Lake set in an alpine bowl surrounded by wildflowers and backed by a scenic waterfall on the far side of the valley.
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The trail climbed up from Upper Lake toward Eagle Cap.
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We knew we would be encountering some patches of snow based on recent trip reports from Van Marmot and Born2BBrad over on Oregonhikers.org. We also knew that it would be fairly easy to avoid the snow which was good given our early start because the snow was still iced from the night before.
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From the sign in the snow we had the choice of going right to Horton Pass and following the ridge from there or going left and making a steeper climb to a higher point on the same ridge. Looking at the trail up to Horton Pass it seemed to have not only more snow but it was on a steeper slope than staying left so we chose that route and climbed to the ridge where views opened up to the west.
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To the NE lay the Lakes Basin and the Matterhorn.
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The west side of the ridge was covered in short trees and we passed through this forest of miniature trees to a saddle below Eagle Cap.
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From the saddle we had a nice view down the East Lostine River valley to the east and across to Blue Lake to the west.
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Beyond the saddle the trail climbed Eagle Cap in a series of long switchbacks. A few alpine flowers dotted the landscape.
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After passing through some whitebark pines we arrived at the broad summit of Eagle Cap.
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Although Eagle Cap is a few hundred feet shorter than the Matterhorn the sky was clearer than it had been two days earlier when we had been atop the other peak. The view was so huge it was hard to take everything in.
East Lostine River, the Matterhorn, and the Lakes Basin
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Glacier Lake
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Looking SW
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Seven Devils in Idaho
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The Elkhorns
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After having second breakfast on Eagle Cap we headed back down. On the way we ran into a couple from Portland who had camped near Upper Lake. They had seen a mountain goat run by their camp the day before and spotted a pair of wolves crossing a snowfield on the ridge above the lake as well. We passed several other hikers making their way up toward Eagle Cap making us glad we had started so early.

We stopped at Upper Lake to refill our water supply and decided to follow the trail around the lake thinking it would take us over to another trail that ran between Minam Pass and the 4-way junction at Mirror Lake.
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The trail petered out at the far end of the lake near it’s inlet stream. Instead of backtracking we decided to rock hop up the creek to the other trail.
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When we arrived at the other trail we found our first western pasque flower seed-heads.
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We were also near the waterfall we had seen from across Upper Lake.
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We followed the trail back down through some lovely wildflower meadows to the 4-way junction and then returned to our campsite to pack up.
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From Mirror Lake we had the choice of going back past Moccasin Lake or taking a different trail past little Sunshine and Crescent Lake. The two routes rejoined at the NE end of Douglas Lake. Since we had already seen Moccasin Lake we decided to go by Sunshine Lake where we wound up getting our best reflection of Eagle Cap.
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We passed a junction with the Hurricane Creek Trail after 1.1 miles and arrived at Crescent Lake after approximately another three quarter miles.
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Douglas Lake was just on the other side of the trail from Crescent Lake.
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We followed a pointer for the West Fork Wallowa River when we reached the trail junction at the end of Douglas Lake.
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Shortly thereafter we came to another trail junction.
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Here we faced another choice. Both forks would bring us to Horseshoe Lake, the left in 1.3 miles and the right in 1.5 miles passing Lee and Lily Lakes. We chose the longer route past the other two lakes and began descending toward Lee Lake.
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After a brief stop at Lee Lake we continued past the aptly named Lily Lake.
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The trail passed by large Horseshoe Lake along the northern shore.
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We were hoping to find a campsite at east end of Horseshoe Lake which would would leave us with a shorter hike on our final day but we were unable to find a suitable site at that end of the lake. After reaching the junction with the other fork of the Lakes Basin Trail and failing to have found a good campsite we decided to head back up the other fork to see if there were any decent sites along that trail.
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We had been planning on visiting nearby Unit Lake after setting up camp and knew there was a campsite there, but the trail to that lake was no longer maintained and camping there would require hauling our packs down to the lake over a lot of blowdown which we preferred not to do. As luck would have it we found a suitable spot for our tent below the trail just opposite of the unmaintained trail to Unit Lake.
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After getting settled we decided to take our chairs, dinner, and water filter with us to Unit Lake and spend our evening there. The trail had definitely not been maintained from quite some time and we were glad we had chosen not to try and do the trail with our full packs.
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That being said we were glad we made the side trip down to the lake.
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We were a little surprised when a Dad and four kids came crashing down the trail to fish for a little while but they soon departed and we had a little more solitude before returning to our tent and watching the sunset on Eagle Cap for the final time.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671183919842

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