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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 2 – Rigdon Lakes

After the 20+ mile hike the previous day we woke up at 5am feeling somewhat refreshed and happy to find that it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been the morning before. A layer of clouds had moved in pushing out most of the smoke and trapping some heat in.
Morning at Waldo Lake5am clouds over Waldo Lake

We ate breakfast, packed up and then briefly hopped onto the Shoreline Trail following it to the signboard for the Wahanna Trail near Dam Camp.
Wahanna Trail

The Wahanna Trail quickly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness and nearly as quickly entered the 1996 Taylor Burn fire scar.
Wahanna Trail entering the Waldo Lake Wilderness

Wahanna Trail

The Wahanna Trail passed around the west side of Rigdon Butte near the edge of a plateau above the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River. Across the river valley was Waldo Mountain with Winchester Ridge extending to the north.
Rigdon Butte

Rigdon Butte

Waldo Mountain and Winchester Ridge

Although the area is still struggling to recover from the fire there was a lot of color and interesting sights along the route. We also spotted three deer as they bounded over a ridge.
Ponds along the Wahanna Trail

Pond along the Wahanna Trail

Meadow along the Wahanna Trail

Wahanna Trail

Buck

A little over a mile along the trail we spotted a larger body of water off to our right which we would later identify as Ernie Lake.
Ernie Lake

After 1.3 miles on the Wahanna Trail we arrived at a junction with the two mile long Rigdon Lakes Trail where we turned right.
Rigdon Lakes Trail

We quickly got our first view of Lake Kiwa which was larger than we’d expected and turned out to be our favorite lake (not named Waldo) of the trip.
Lake Kiwa

Lake Kiwa

The trail followed the lake shore south providing a nice view ahead of Rigdon Butte.
Rigdon Butte from Lake Kiwa

Beyond Lake Kiwa the trail climbed over a small ridge and arrived at Lower Rigdon Lake just a tenth of a mile later.
Lower Rigdon Lake

The trial passed around this lake to the left then climbed up and over another ridge to Upper Rigdon Lake.
Rigdon Lakes Trail along Lower Rigdon Lake

Upper and Lower Rigdon Lake

Upper Rigdon Lake

Upper Rigdon Lake was also quite nice with a couple of small islands adding character.
Upper Rigdon Lake

Beyond Upper Rigdon Lake the trail wound its way over and around small rocky ridges to the Waldo Lake Shoreline Trail.
Rigdon Lakes Trail

Rigdon Lakes Trail junction with the Waldo Lake Shoreline Trail

We turned left onto the Shoreline Trail and stayed left at forks opting to take a different (slightly shorter) route back to the trailhead instead of following the lake shore.
Jim Weaver LoopFirst left fork

Water for horses along the Jim Weaver Loop TrailSecond fork left at a “water for horses” sign

Jim Weaver Loop TrailThird left fork at a junction with the Shoreline Trail

Jim Weaver Loop TrailFourth left fork at another junction with the Shoreline Trail

We should have stopped with the fourth left hand fork when we arrive at a fifth fork, but the topographic map on the GPS showed we weren’t at the correct right hand fork to lead us back to the trailhead.
Jim Weaver Loop TrailFifth left fork which should have been a right.

We realized our mistake but then spotted a faint abandoned trail near the spot the trail was shown on the topographic map so we followed it for just over 100 yards to a picnic table across the parking lot from our car. It had been a nice 5.4 mile hike with scenery that exceeded our expectations. A great way to end our August hikes and get us ready for September. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 2 – Rigdon Lakes

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1 – Winchester Ridge and Eddeeleo Lakes Loop

We ended our August hikes with an overnight stay near Waldo Lake. After several days of smokey skies the weather had shifted and most of the smoke had been pushed out of the area. The exception to that was the smoke being produced by the Terwilliger Fire burning east of Eugene along Cougar Reservior and into the Three Sisters Wilderness. 😦

We were hoping that the smoke from that fire wasn’t going to be aimed right at us all weekend.  Things were off to a good start when we arrived at the Jim Weaver Trailhead at the north end of Waldo Lake. The sky was a crisp blue but the sky wasn’t the only thing that was crisp. The temperature gauge in the car had read 36 degrees when we’d parked.
Jim Weaver Loop Trailhead

Diamond Peak from Waldo Lake

From the parking area we walked down to boat ramp and turned right at a Shoreline Trail sign.
Shoreline Trail

Initially the trail passed through green trees with occasional views across the lake to Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain (post).
Shoreline Trail

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo LakeDiamond Peak to the left and Fuji Mountain directly behind the island

Soon the trail entered the fire scar of the 1996 Taylor Burn.
Waldo Lake

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Despite the frosty morning the wildlife was out in force.
Frost on the Shoreline Trail

Bluebird

Tree full of birds

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Bald eagle

After 2.3 miles we passed a trail signboard for the Rigdon Lakes Trail. We planned on returning the next day via that trail so for the time being we stuck to the Shoreline Trail for an additional 1.4 miles to another trail signboard, this time marking the Wahanna Trail. Along the way we’d passed Conim Lake on our right just a bit before leaving the Talor Burn fire scar.
Conim Lake near the edge of the 1996 Taylor Burn

Wahanna TrailWahanna Trail

Just beyond the Wahanna Trail junction we came to the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River flowing from Waldo Lake.
Footbridge over the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River

A side trail to the left here led passed a small outbuilding to Dam Camp where we had hoped to find a camp site but that area was already spoken for so we settled for a spot further back from lake.
Some sort of monitoring station

Outlet of Waldo LakeDam Camp is to the left in the trees and rhododendron

Campsite near Waldo Lake

This worked out to be a fine spot despite not being close to the lake as it was closer to the Wahanna Trail which we would be taking then next day on our way to the Rigdon Lakes Trail. After getting camp set up we put on our day packs and continued beyond the river crossing just a tenth of a mile to a fork where the Wahanna Trail forked downhill to the right (the Wahanna and Shoreline Trail briefly share tread).
Wahanna Trail splitting to the right from the Shoreline Trail

The trail promptly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
Entering the Waldo Lake Wilderness

Just a quarter mile from the fork the trail forked again. This time the Wahanna Trail forked to the left while the right hand fork was the Six Lakes Trail.
Wahanna Trail to the left and the Six Lakes Trail to the right

Here we faced a choice. If we stayed left we could complete a long loop past Lake Chetlo and along Winchester Ridge and eventually following the Six Lakes Trail from its other end past the Quinn and Eddeeleo Lakes. Alternatively we could go right and after visiting the lakes turn back or decide to complete the loop in the opposite direction. We were feeling ambitious and felt up to the loop so we decided to go left. This way we would be saving the bulk of the lakes for the end of the loop.
Wahanna Trail

The trail remained relatively level for the next mile passing through a forest full of huckleberry bushes and several small meadows.
Wahanna Trail

Meadow along the Wahanna Trail

It was along this section that we encountered the only other people we would see during the loop. After 1.2 miles we spotted Lake Chetlo through the trees on our left.
Lake Chetlo

Lake Chetlo

Expecting to find a side trail down to the lake we continued on but the trail began to climb up and away from the lake. Less than a quarter mile later we were at a junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail and that had been the only look we had at Lake Chetlo.
Wahanna Trail junction with the Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right onto the Winchester Ridge Trail which climbed steeply for a little over half a mile to another junction. We had been on this section of trail before in 2012 as we were coming down from the Waldo Mountain Lookout and heading for Elbow Lake (post).
Winchester Ridge Trail

We turned right at this junction as well to continue on the Winchester Ridge Trail which now leveled out somewhat as it traveled along the ridge.
Winchester Ridge Trail

The blue skies from the morning were quickly being replaced by smoke from the Terwilliger Fire as we made our way along Winchester Ridge. There aren’t many views from this trail to begin with and the couple that we did get we could just barely make out the Three Sisters to the NE.
South Sister through smoke

Smoke from the Terwilliger Fire obscuring the view of South SisterSouth Sister

Smokey view from the Winchester Ridge Trail

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters

View from the Winchester Ridge TrailRigdon Butte beyond the Eddeeleo Lakes from the Winchester Ridge Trail

Not only does the Winchester Ridge Trail suffer form a lack of views, but there aren’t many distinguishable landmarks along the way. A little over two and a half miles from the fork though the Waldo Meadows Trail came up from the left.
Waldo Meadows Trail to the left and the Winchester Ridge Trail to the right

That trail went downhill for .5 steep miles to Swann and then Gander Lakes, neither of which we could not see from the Winchester Ridge Trail. The trail climbed briefly beyond this junction before descending to yet another junction with a trail on the left. This time with the Winchester Trail, a total of 1.8 miles from the Waldo Meadows Trail.
Winchester Ridge Trail

Winchester Ridge Trail junction with the Winchester Trail

The Winchester Ridge Trail ends at the Winchester Trail. We stayed straight at the junction and followed the Winchester Trail for a half mile to its end at the Blair Lake Trail.
Winchester Trail

Blair Lake Trail sign

We turned right onto the Blair Lake Trail.
Blair Lake Trail

We had hiked the western end of this trail in 2015 on what remains to this day as the best beargrass hike ever. (post)

The Blair Lake Trail descended for a mile to Lower Quinn Lake which was unfortunately suffering from the increased smoke.
Lower Quinn Lake

After a brief stop at the lake we continued on the Blair Lake Trial for another quarter mile before reaching the signed junction with the Six Lakes Trail.
Blair Lake Trail junction with the Six Lakes Trail

Six Lakes Trail

We turned right onto this trail which climbed gradually for the next half mile to a fork where we went right to visit Upper Quinn Lake.
Upper Quinn Lake

Although the smoke wasn’t bad enough to cause us any issues with breathing or our eyes it was putting a damper on the views of the lakes. At Upper Quinn Lake we found a few empty campsites and lots of little frogs.
Frog at Upper Quinn Lake

Frog

Somewhere along the way we wound up losing the trail (most likely in one of the campsites) and had to bushwack back to the Six Lakes Trail. Once we had regained the trial we turned right and in just a tenth of a mile spotted the northern end of Long Lake beyond a grassy meadow.
Long Lake

Again we erroneously assumed there would be obvious side trails leading to the lake but the Six Lakes Trail passed on the opposite side of a rocky ridge for nearly a mile which hid the lake from sight.
Six Lakes Trail

When the GPS showed that we were nearly past the lake we decided to try and bushwack through the rhododendron to the southern end of the lake. We had managed to make it most of the way there when we spotted a tent set up near the shore. Not wanting to stumble into someones camp we settled for an obstructed view through the trees.
Long Lake

Long Lake

We left Long Lake and continued for another half mile toward Lower Eddeeleo Lake. Shortly before reaching the lake there was an obvious side trail to the left.
Side trail at Lower Eddeeleo Lake

This side trail led across a dry outlet creek to an open area along the lake shore. We took a longer break here. We could just make out the old Waldo Mountain Lookout through the smoke.
Waldo Mountain from Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Waldo Mountain

Waldo Mountain Lookout

We might have taken an even longer break if not for the yellow jackets who were just a little too interested in us for my liking. We left the lower lake and returned to the Six Lakes Trail which climbed a short way above the lower lake which was barely visible through the trees.
Six Lakes Trail

Lower Eddeeleo Lake

Just under one and three quarter miles from the side trail to Lower Eddeeleo Lake we came to a short side trail to Upper Eddeeleo Lake on our right. We stopped again briefly at this lake which had a little sunlight glinting off the water.
Waldo Mountain from Upper Eddeeleo Lake

The next lake on the map was Round Lake which lay below and to the east of Upper Eddeeleo Lake. The Six Lakes Trail wound around the lake but never got very close to it and the one side trail we spotted heading to the lake would have required a steeper climb back up than either of us were willing to do at that point so we once again settled for a very limited view through the trees.
Round Lake through the trees

The Six Lakes Trail climbed up a ridge away from Round Lake for the final mile of its 6.6 mile length before dumping us back out on the Wahanna Trail.
Six Lakes Trail

According to our GPS we had hiked a total of 19.4 miles at that point and still had the quarter mile climb back up to the Waldo Lake Shoreline Trail. We had known that this was going to be a long day but by our calculations we were expecting closer to a 17 mile day. We had also brought our dinner with us thinking we could eat it at one of the lakes, but between the smoke, yellow jackets, and a few hardy mosquitoes we hadn’t found a spot where we really wanted to sit for an extended time.

When we got back to the Shoreline Trail we turned right (away from camp) hoping to find a spot along Waldo Lake to eat. Fortunately we only had to go about 100 yards where we found a trail down to the rocky sore across from Dam Camp.
Waldo Lake with some smoke

Even better was the fact that the smoke was starting to move out of the immediate area bringing back some of the blue sky from the morning.
Waldo Lake

We tried a new meal, three cheese chicken pasta, which wound up being underwhelming. It sort of fit with much of the day. The hike was nice but nothing really stood out and the smokey conditions at the lakes didn’t help. It also seemed like most of the lakes were very similar in that they were surrounded by forested hillsides but nothing dramatic.

We sat out on the rocks for quite a while watching a paddle boarder and a canoe float around on the lake as well as having some mergansers swim by.
Merganser

It was quite a bit busier at the lake than where we normally camp and after getting a little chilly and returning to our tent to put on some extra clothing we noticed that a family? that had set up camp near where we had eaten had lit a campfire. Just a couple of days earlier the Willamette National Forest had announced a ban on all campfires and we had seen numerous posted signs that morning. On top of the illegal campfire we were also being treated to the melodious (NOT) sounds of someones portable music player. Thankfully the music died down and at one point we heard someone yell to the family that they needed to put the fire out. We went to bed hoping that the next day would be just a bit better. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Waldo Lake Wilderness Day 1

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
Deception Butte Trail

Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Waldo Mountain Lookout

There are still several designated wilderness areas close enough for a day hike that we have not yet visited. Wilderness areas by definition are areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” In his book Listening for Coyote William Sullivan says of wilderness; “We need a place where we do not belong, just as children delight in sneaking into forbidden rooms and attics, for a glimpse of the unknown.” My hope is to eventually visit as many of Oregon’s 46 wilderness areas as possible and our latest hike checked one more off our list.

Our destination was the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Willamette Pass in the central Cascades. Waldo Lake is the second largest natural lake in Oregon and oddly enough is not actually inside the Waldo Lake Wilderness boundary. There are a number of hiking trails to choose from in the area but for our trip we decided on a loop up and over Waldo Mountain with stops at Waldo Lake and the Salmon Lakes. This route would give us a good sample of what this wilderness had to offer.

The trail head parking area was empty when we arrived as it would be when we left. While we were preparing to set off a State Police Truck pulled up asking if we’d seen any other vehicles and what our planned route was. It was the first day of buck season but the trooper didn’t think we’d likely see anyone out on the trails. He was close, on the trail near Waldo Lake we passed a group of three hikers and a little later a single mountain biker and that was it. He wished us a good hike then drove off and as he passed by we noticed the decoy in the bed of the truck presumably to catch illegal road hunters.

The trail quickly entered the wilderness and climbed up Waldo Mountain through a quiet forest. After 3 miles of climbing we suddenly were at the top of the mountain right at the former lookout tower.
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The forest had limited views to a couple of brief glimpses of Diamond Peak which made the view at the lookout even more satisfying. Mountains and lakes lined the horizon from the NE to the SE starting with Mt. Hood and ending with the summit spire of Mt. Thielsen. Waldo Lake stretched below us to the east with many smaller lakes dotting the forest around it.

The Cascades from Mt. Hood to Mt. Bachelor and Lower Eddeeleo Lake
The Cascades from Mt. Hood to Mt. Bachelor and Lower Eddeeleo Lake
Waldo Lake
Waldo Lake
Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

It looked as though some of the higher peaks to the north had received some recent snow including the South Sister which we had climbed about a week before.
Dusting of snow at the top of the South Sister
Dusting of snow at the top of the South Sister

From the lookout tower we headed down the SE side of Waldo Mountain toward Waldo Lake. More peaceful forest hiking ensued. We spotted dozens of frogs sharing the trail and also ran into some less welcome mosquitoes. After 1.4 downhill miles we came to a junction with the Waldo Meadows trail which we would take to complete the loop, but first we had a lake to visit. We took a right on the Waldo Meadows trail and after 300yds turned left on a trail with a sign pointing toward Waldo Lake. This trail passed by several small ponds and lakes on its way to the Waldo Lake trail, the prettiest being Elbow Lake.

Elbow Lake
Elbow Lake

The Waldo Lake trail circles the 10 square mile lake, but at the junction the water was nowhere to be seen. We turned left and continued around Elbow Lake until we spotted a fairly well-worn side trail heading down toward the lake. This path led down to a secluded cove and nice campsite. We sat on the rocky shore of the lake and had lunch while enjoying the gentle lapping sound of the lake.

Waldo Lake and Maiden Peak
Waldo Lake and Maiden Peak

After lunch we returned to the Waldo Meadows trail and continued our loop. Waldo Meadows was full of tall plants but most of the flowers time had come and gone. There were a few coneflowers and a handful of paint and aster on its last legs but it gave us an idea of what it might have looked like earlier in the year.

Some of the few remaining flowers in the meadows.
Some of the few remaining flowers in the meadows.

In the middle of the meadow was another trail junction. To the left just .5 miles away was Upper Salmon Lake and nearby Salmon Creek Falls. True to form we turned left and headed in that direction. 🙂

Upper Salmon Lake turned out to be a gem. A half-dozen tortoise-shell butterflies greeted us at a lakeside campsite while several ducks patrolled the green lake.

Butterfly greeters.
Butterfly greeters.
Ducks on Upper Salmon Lake
Ducks on Upper Salmon Lake

Heather and I headed to the grassy shore where she spotted a good-sized toad that just wouldn’t come into the open for a good picture.

We then headed to the lake’s outlet, Salmon Creek, and followed it down to Salmon Creek Falls.

Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Creek Falls

From the falls we knew we were close to Lower Salmon Lake but hadn’t seen a trail for it so we decided to test our “off trail” skills. Let’s just say they are a work in process, but after some unnecessary travel we managed to find the lake but not much of a view.

We returned to Upper Salmon Lake and collected Dominique who had chosen to stay with the butterflies and headed back to the meadow junction. The return loop passed through several more sections of the meadows before returning to the forest on the side of Waldo Mountain. This nearly 2 mile section had once burned and was now home to thimbleberry patches and deciduous trees. For the first time it really felt like Fall on the trail to me. Leaves slowly drifted down around us and the trail rustled as we walked on the leaves that already covered the path.
171

It was a bittersweet ending for me as I began to come to terms with the realization that the seasons were changing. It had been a beautiful day and a peaceful hike but we were now entering the home stretch of our hiking season. We’ve had a great year so far and hope to end it the same way. Until next time – Happy Trails!