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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Bingham Ridge (Mt. Jefferson Wilderness) – 8/24/2019

After a week back at work it was time to hit the trails again. We once again turned to Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” for inspiration choosing the Bingham Ridge Trail as our destination.

The Bingham Ridge Trailhead is located 5 miles up Forest Road 2253 aka Minto Road. That road is just 17 miles east of Detroit, OR and was in great shape except for some water damage in the first quarter of a mile. Beyond that short stretch it was a good gravel road all the way to the parking area just before the road was gated.

The trail began opposite the little parking area where we had parked along side two other vehicles.
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The trail climbed through a green forest along the dry bed of Willis Creek before briefly passing through the edge of a clear-cut.
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IMG_7381Huckleberry bushes and beargrass in the clear-cut.

20190824_065018Sleeping bees on some thistle.

The trail soon reentered the trees and then passed into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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IMG_7395The bees on the thistle may have been asleep but a western toad was out and about.

After entering the wilderness the trail continued to climb very gradually as it passed through alternating sections of green trees and forest scarred by the 2006 Puzzle Creek Fire.
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IMG_7400Mt. Jefferson through the burned trees.

IMG_7402Back in the green.

IMG_7404Three Fingered Jack through the burned trees.

IMG_7408Aster

IMG_7409Pearly everlasting

IMG_7410Fireweed

The longest stretch through burned forest occurred as the trail passed to the right of a rocky rise along the ridge.
IMG_7412Three Fingered Jack

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IMG_7417The rock covered rise.

IMG_7418South Cinder Peak (post) to the left and Three Fingered Jack to the right.

IMG_7422Still passing the rocks.

We heard a couple of “meeps” from pikas in the rocks but we only managed to spot a golden-mantled ground squirrel.
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As the trail passed around the rocky rise we reentered green forest and quickly came to the end of the Bingham Ridge Trail at a junction with the Lake of the Woods Trail 3.7 miles from the trailhead.
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The Lake of the Woods Trail runs north-south between the Pamelia Limited Entry Area and Marion Lake (post). We turned left (north) onto this trail which promptly crossed over the ridge at a low saddle and began to traverse a forested hillside.
IMG_7429The low saddle.

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The trail wound around the basin arriving at a ridge end viewpoint where we had hoped to get a view of Mt. Jefferson but soon realized that we hadn’t come far enough around yet and we were looking west not north.
IMG_7432Coffin and Bachelor Mountains (post).

We continued along the hillside finally coming far enough around to get a look at Mt. Jefferson.
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Just a little further along we arrived at Reeder’s turn around point for the 8.8 mile hike described in his book. A cinder viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson across the Bingham Basin.
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There was a strange group of clouds hanging out on the top of the mountain. We could see them moving in what appeared to be a SE direction but despite seeing the movement it never really appeared that they were going anywhere.
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As we stood at this rocky viewpoint we could hear more pikas and then Heather spotted one sitting on top of some rocks, maybe enjoying the same view we were.
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Even though Reeder calls this viewpoint “the most logical stopping point for dayhikers” he does provide information for those wishing to continue. Since logic sometimes goes out the window with regards to hiking we continued on. The trail dropped just a bit to a fairly level bench where it passed through a couple of meadows before arriving at an unnamed lake with a view of Mt. Jefferson on the left.
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IMG_7461Spirea with a beetle.

IMG_7464Unnamed lake with Mt. Jefferson (and those pesky clouds).

IMG_7469From the opposite side of the lake.

A half mile later (or just under 2 miles from the Bingham Ridge Trail junction) we arrived a Papoose Lake.
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The mountain was mostly hidden by trees from this lake but there were several frogs to watch and a short scramble up a rockpile on the east side of the lake did provide another look at Mt. Jefferson.
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It was actually a really impressive amount of boulders here and although we didn’t spot any, we could hear a number of resident pikas.
IMG_7483Looking south over the rock field.

Turning back here would have put the hike in the 11.5 mile range, but we had our sights set on a further goal – the Pacific Crest Trail. Beyond Papoose Lake the Lake of the Woods Trail passed several seasonal ponds which were now meadows where we had to watch out for tiny frogs.
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IMG_7496One of the frogs.

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IMG_7663Frog in the trail.

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Just under three quarters of a mile from Papoose Lake (6.3ish from the trailhead) we arrived at the northern end of the Lake of the Woods Trail where it met the Hunts Creek Trail (post).
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A left on this trail would lead us into the Pamelia Limited Entry Area for which we did not have a permit, but to the right the trail remained out of the limited area as it headed to the Pacific Crest Trail.
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In his book Reeder describes this section of trail as “spectacular” which is what prompted us to abandon logic in the first place. We turned right and continued the theme of gradual climbs as the trail passed a hillside dotted with a few asters.
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After little over a quarter of a mile we found ourselves beneath a large talus slope (by the sound of it filled with a pika army).
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Here we embarked on possibly the most significant climb of the day as the trail switchbacked up through the rocks to a saddle.
IMG_7510Apparently the trail was rerouted at some point because we could see tread that we never used.

IMG_7511The Three Pyramids beyond Bingham Ridge.

As we neared the saddle we spotted what must have been the pika lookout.
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There was more talus on the opposite side of the saddle, and more pikas too!
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We spotted at least 4 pikas (it’s hard to keep track when they are running in and out of the rocks) and heard many more. The only thing that could tear us away from our favorite wildlife critters was the view of Mt. Jefferson looming over Hunts Cove.
IMG_7534 (the clouds had finally vanished)

Continuing away from the saddle just a bit provided an excellent view of the mountain and Hanks Lake with a bit of Hunts Lake visible as well.
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IMG_7551Hanks Lake

IMG_7552Hunts Lake

IMG_7553Rock fin above Hunts Cove.

Reeder hadn’t exaggerated by using spectacular to describe this section of trail. The views of Mt. Jefferson were amazing and a variety of wildflowers (past peak) lined the trail.
IMG_7560Penstemon and a western pasque flower.

IMG_7563Western pasque flower seed heads.

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20190824_101714Hippie-on-a-stick

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IMG_7576Paintbrush and lupine

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20190824_102625Patridge foot

IMG_7584Mt. Jefferson, Goat Peak (behind the tree) and the Cathedral Rocks.

As the trail crossed a cinder field glimpses to the south between trees reveled the Three Sisters (among others).
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IMG_7588South Cinder Peak

IMG_7591The Three Sisters

IMG_7594Three Fingered Jack

The trail briefly lost sight of Mt. Jefferson as it passed around a butte, losing a little elevation as it did so.
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IMG_7597Paintbrush in a meadow behind the butte.

Although the view of Mt. Jefferson was temporarily gone the view was still good. There was a large basin full of meadows just below the trail and occasional views of South Cinder Peak and Three Fingered Jack.
IMG_7602South Cinder Peak

IMG_7603Three Fingered Jack

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The trail gained a little of the elevation back as it came around the butte regaining a view of Mt. Jefferson in the process.
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After passing another sign for the Pamelia Limited Entry Area at a now abandoned (but still used) portion of the Hunts Creek Trail we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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We sat on some rocks here and rested. We were now at least 8 miles (that is the mileage Reeder assigns but with some extra exploring we’d done a bit more) from the Bingham Ridge Trailhead and needed a good break. Up until this point we’d only run into one other person, a bow hunter along the Bingham Ridge Trail. As we rested in the shade a pair of backpackers heading south on the PCT stopped briefly to talk. After they continued on we did little bit of exploring in the immediate area since there were a few flowers about and at least one tree frog.
IMG_7619Mostly past lupine

20190824_110312Paintbrush

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We returned the way we’d come enjoying the views just as much on the way back as we had the first time by. We didn’t see anyone else the rest of the day and we didn’t see anymore pikas, but as always there were a few things we spotted on the way back that we hadn’t seen or noticed earlier.
IMG_7632Butterfly on an aster.

IMG_7636Never seen one of these looks so clean and smooth, it almost looked fake.

IMG_7660We don’t know if this was just a stunted wallflower or something we’d never seen before.

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We ended the day nearly out of water (luckily for us the temperatures stayed below 70 so it wasn’t too warm) and with some sore feet. Our GPS devices both showed us having traveled nearly 17 miles which was further than we’d planned but all the little side trips and exploring can really add up. Depsite the distance this was a great hike with varied scenery, good wildlife, and a reasonable elevation gain made better by the trails having such gradual grades. Of course any trail where we see multiple pikas is going to be aces in our minds. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bingham Ridge

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Four-In-One Cone – 8/14/2019

The third hike of our vacation was another repeat (this time only partially) of a viewless outing. In 2012 we had embarked on “the hike that shall not be named” (post) It was an ambitious hike that went wrong in a couple of ways. First I misunderstood the guidebook and turned a 15 mile loop into an 18.6 trudge and second the persistent low cloud layer denied us of virtually any views. Our plan to hike to Four-In-One Cone would cover part of that hike.

We chose the Four-In-One Cone portion of that hike for two reasons. First Four-In-One Cone is a really cool volcanic feature and second much of the remainder of that loop passes through the Obsidian Limited Entry Area for which we didn’t have a permit nor were any available. We started the hike at the Scott Trailhead located along Highway 242 (17 miles from Highway 126 or 20.3 miles from Highway 20).
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The Scott Trail briefly follows along the highway before crossing it and entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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A third of a mile from trailhead we came to a somewhat familiar junction.
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Neither of us quite remembered it looking like it did now (for one thing the trail sign was missing) but the right hand fork led to the Obsidian Trailhead and had marked the final .6 miles of THAT hike. We forked left and began to climb via several switchbacks which we had no recollection of. We also passed a viewpoint at one of the switchbacks.
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After the viewpoint the trail continued to climb but more gradually as it passed through a mixed forest.
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IMG_6249Pinesap

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IMG_6252A very blurry deer spotted through the trees.

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Three miles from the trailhead we arrived at the first of two short lava flow crossings. A large western toad was in the trail here and there was also a squirrel nearby which seemed like a suspicious combination.
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The lava crossings are separated by an island of forest that escaped the flow.
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IMG_6284North Sister

IMG_6290Middle Sister

IMG_6288More spies watching us.

Beyond the second lava crossing we spent a little time back in the forest before once again entering a volcanic landscape as we came around the south side of Four-In-One Cone.
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Unlike our previous visit the Cascade Mountains were visible.
IMG_6301North and Middle Sister behind the Little Brother.

IMG_6312Mt. Jefferson beyond Four-In-One Cone

IMG_6317Mt. Hood over the right shoulder of Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_6319Mt. Washington’s spire behind the cone with Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson.

The route up Four-In-One Cone is just under 1.5 miles from the first lava crossing and is marked by a signpost.
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Before going up the cone we decided to continue another .8 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail in Scott Meadow. We had of course been to that junction during our loop in 2012 but we’d also visited it in 2013 from the north on the PCT from South Matthieu Lake (post). Lupine is said to bloom profusely from mid-July through August but we hadn’t seen much in 2013 (2012 was late September) so we thought we’d give it another try. Prior to reaching Scott Meadow we did pass a couple of hillsides with a decent amount of lupine but I don’t know that we considered it profuse
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IMG_6343Scott Meadow

There wasn’t any lupine at all around the PCT junction but the view of Little Brother next to the North and Middle Sisters is nice.
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After a short break and pointing a group of trail runners toward Opie Dilldock along the PCT we turned around and headed back for Four-In-One Cone.
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Four-In-One Cone is just that, four cinder cones which erupted at different times but are joined together creating a .4 mile long ridge.
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To the SE the North and Middle Sister are closer than the Cascades to the NW the position of the Sun made the view of the further peaks a little clearer.
IMG_6398North Sister, Middle Sisters behind Little Brother and The Husband.

IMG_6392North Sister with Collier Cone in front and South Sister behind Little Brother.

IMG_6411The Husband

IMG_6443Scott Mountain (post) beyond the lava flows of Four-In-One Cone.

IMG_6404One of the craters.

After visiting the southern end of the cones we made our way to the northern end.
IMG_6434Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Black Crater (post)

IMG_6444Looking back south.

IMG_6460Belknap Crater (post)

IMG_6459Mt. Washington beyond Little Belknap Crater with Three Fingered Jack behind.

IMG_6462Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood

After fully exploring the cones we returned the way we’d come capping off a 12.3 mile, 1750′ elevation gain hike. We were happy to have finally gotten to see what we’d missed back in 2012. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Four-In-One Cone

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Temple Lake and Marion Mountain – 7/25/19

A day after taking my brother and his family to Opal Creek (post) we were back on the trails with a visit to Temple Lake and Marion Mountain. This is another hike take from Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region”. The hike starts from the Pine Ridge Trailhead
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There were a few mosquitoes waiting for us a the trailhead so we applied a bit of deet and set off through the forest for .2 miles to a 4-way junction.
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From the junction the Pine Ridge Trail continued straight while the Turpentine Trail departed on the right and to the left was a trail to the Boy Scout owned Camp Pioneer (the camp is private so do not take this trail or any others heading left between the trailhead and the junction).
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We continued on the Pine Ridge Trail past a unique Mt. Jefferson Wilderness sign.
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The trail dropped from the junction to cross a dry creek bed before climbing around a ridge and dropping again.
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We took a brief off-trail detour to visit one of several lakes in the area.
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We returned to the trail and continued on to the junction with the Temple Lake Trail which was approximately 2 miles from the trailhead.
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We decided to save the lake for later in the day in hopes that the mosquitoes would be less active. Continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we passed through some sections of forest burned in the massive 2003 B&B Complex.
IMG_4387Turpentine Peak

IMG_4394Washington lily

IMG_4395Unburned forest

IMG_4397Mt. Jefferson from the Pine Ridge Trail.

At the four mile mark we arrived at the signed Marion Mountain Trail.
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We turned right here and began to climb up a ridge to Marion Mountain. A little less than three quarters of a mile up we came to a cinder viewpoint.
IMG_4408Mt. Jefferson and Marion Lake (post)

IMG_4415Three Fingered Jack

The view here was good but just a tenth of a mile further the trail led out to the former site of the Marion Mountain Lookout where the view was even better.
IMG_4427The cinder viewpoint from Marion Mountain.

IMG_4426Mt. Hood in the distance with Mt. Jefferson, and Marion Lake.IMG_4426

IMG_4430Mt. Hood and Dynah-Mo Peak

IMG_4435Three Fingered Jack

IMG_4443Tops of the Three Sisters.

IMG_4456Coffin Mountain (post)

We had a nice view of the crest between Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack where we could make out North and South Pyramid Peaks (post).
IMG_4437South Cinder Peak is the high point along the ridge.

We sat on the rocks enjoying the breeze which was keeping us cool and mosquito free. When we finally did leave we decided to follow a faint path the continued out along the ridge to the south of Marion Mountain. The open forest made cross country travel fairly easy.
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We continued along the ridge entering the B&B scar again where there were more obstacles.
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We wound up going a little under a mile along the narrowing ridge until it dipped to a saddle under forested Marion Peak. We didn’t see any reason to lose any elevation and have to gain it back so we declared victory. The view here was better yet with more of the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington visible.
IMG_4479The saddle that we didn’t want to drop down to.

IMG_4485Three Fingered Jack with the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington in the gap.

IMG_4481The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington beyond Red Butte (post)

IMG_4488Jenny and Melis Lake

IMG_4489Marion Mountain at the end of the ridge.

IMG_4496Bear Point (post) and Dynah-Mo Peak with Mt. Hood in the background.

IMG_4492Turpentine Peak along the ridge.

IMG_4510Black Butte (post) on the far opposite side of the crest.

In addition to the views there were a few flowers along the ridge and Heather spotted a Northern Alligator Lizard but it ran off before we could get a photo.
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IMG_4517Prince’s Pine

IMG_4518Penstemon

IMG_4520Washington lily

We headed back down the ridge to Marion Mountain and then returned to the Pine Ridge Trail where we turned left. When we got back to the Temple Lake Trail we turned right and headed downhill.
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The half mile trail crossed a dry creek before reaching the lake.
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It wasn’t overly buggy which allowed us to admire the view of Mt. Jefferson from the lake and check out the campsites.
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IMG_4542Dragon fly

While Heather was looking at one of the sites a western toad popped its head out of a hole.
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I’m not sure who was watching who as the toad wound up coming all the way out while we stood there.
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We kept our distance (thanks 30x zoom) and headed back up to the Pine Ridge Trail. Aside from a garter snake sighting there was no excitement on the return trip, just a nice forest walk.
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With our off-trail exploring the hike came in at 11.6 miles and a little under 2000′ of elevation gain. The off-trail was just the right balance of challenging but not frustratingly difficult. It was a lot easier than what we had done the day we visited Bear Point earlier in the week for sure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Temple Lake and Marion Mountain

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Trip report

Sand Mountain – 6/23/2019

For our second trip this year we had planned on heading to the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness and then to the John Day area for a couple of days but the week before our trip our 16 year old cat Buddy wasn’t doing well. After a couple of visits to the vets (and having nearly a pound of fluid removed from his lungs) he was placed on several medications. He’s doing much better now (he is currently on my lap helping me write this entry) but we didn’t want to leave him so soon so we decided to stay home and do a series of day hikes instead.
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Not only was this a fairly last minute change of plans but the forecast for the week was all over the place concerning chances of precipitation and the amount of clouds vs sun. We decided on a handful of potential hikes then checked the forecast for each one trying to come up with an optimal schedule. The process led us to choosing Sand Mountain for our second hike (Vista Ridge and Owl Point (post) being the first).

Sand Mountain is located near Santiam Pass in the Cascade Mountain and is a geologic study area. The U.S. Forest Service and the Sand Mountain Society seasonally staff the Sand Mountain Lookout in part to keep off highway vehicles from damaging the fragile area. Off trail travel off any kind is banned in the study area, but as we were shown by one of the Rangers in the lookout all the signs and barriers in the world can’t stop some morons from doing whatever it is they want to do as there were several tracks visible in the volcanic soil where OHVs or snow moblies had torn things up but I digress.

We chose to follow William L. Sullivan’s suggestion in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (hike #129 in the 4th edition) by parking at the intersection of FR 810 and Big Lake Road.
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To get here turn south off of Highway 20 toward the Hoodoo Ski Area and follow Big Lake Road for 3.1 miles. FR 810 is open to vehicles which allows one to park 2.9 miles closer to Sand Mountain, but why drive on a rough 15mph dirt road if you don’t have to? Additionally FR 810 follows the route of the Santiam Wagon Road which connected the Willamette Valley to Central Oregon and was used from 1865 to 1939. The 400 mile long route is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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It was a pleasant walk with a few scattered flowers along the way.
IMG_9971Lupine

IMG_9968Beargrass plumes amid the trees

IMG_9979Pussypaws

At the two and a half mile mark we came to a somewhat confusing junction.
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There were snow mobile signs here, one of which had a pointer for Sand Mountain.
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We turned left here following the pointer.
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After about a third of a mile we realized that we were on the wrong side of Sand Mountain so we pulled up the map and compared it with GPS to confirm our suspicions of being on the wrong track. We were indeed so we turned around, but not before getting a decent view of the Sand Mountain Lookout which appeared to be in a bit of a cloud.
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We turned left after getting back to the junction and continued on the Santiam Wagon Road another .4 miles to a sign for the Sand Mountain Special Interest Area. This would be the starting point for the shorter hike option.
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Here we turned left again passing a gate and several notices regarding the prohibited activities in the area.
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The road bed passed by a dark bed of ash as it began climbing up Sand Mountain.
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We were seeing a bit of blue sky overhead as we climbed around and up the west side of the cinder cone but the only cloud free mountain we could make out was Iron Mountain (post).
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IMG_0011Iron Mountain

After a mile and a half we arrived at the old trailhead, now a large parking area for the Forest Service and volunteers who staff the lookout.
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We headed up the trail which again had several notices stating foot traffic only and reminders to stay on the marked trail.
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From this trail we could see Hoodoo, Hayrick Butte, and Black Butte (post)along with the blue waters of Big Lake.
IMG_0029From left to right – Hoodoo, flat topped Hayrick Butte, and Black Butte (behind Cache Mountain).

There was just a bit of snow left over on the trail and a few western pasque flowers were starting to bloom and a western toad was out and about.
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We arrived at the base of the lookout tower after climbing for about a third of a mile.
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A Forest Service Ranger came out to greet us and give us an informative lesson on Sand Mountain and the surrounding geologic area. Sand Mountain is the largest in a series of 23 cinder cones formed along a N-S fissure which also includes 42 distinctive vents and over three quarters of a cubic mile of lava. She informed us that the snow melt from Sand Mountain seeps through the cinder and ash into a large aquifer where after approximately 2 years it makes its way into Clear Lake via the Great Springs and then down the McKenzie River. (post)

We were also informed that Sand Mountain is home to pygmy short-horned lizards but the ranger wasn’t sure that we would see any given the cloudy conditions and chilly breeze. She let us know that we could follow a path down to a viewpoint on the rim of the northern crater and that we were also allowed to hike around the rim if we wanted but she did mention that the climb up the northern end was somewhat steep. We thanked her for the information and headed down to the viewpoint.
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20190623_085411Dwarf lupine at the viewpoint.

The clouds appeared to be breaking up to the west over the Old Cascades.
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The same didn’t appear to be true to the SE though where the snowy Cascade Mountains were still squarely behind the clouds.
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We opted to go around the rim in a counter-clockwise rotation. That way we would be hiking directly toward the Cascades as we looped around in hopes that they might yet clear up.
IMG_0057Starting the loop from the viewpoint.

There really wasn’t any visible tread to speak of on the side of the rim below the lookout and we briefly wondered if we had done something wrong. We stepped as lightly as possible and avoided the patches of vegetation along the way.
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IMG_0060Penstemon and snowbrush

We eventually made it to what appeared to be an old road bed where the path became a bit clearer.
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The hike around the crater was very interesting. A surprising amount of wildflowers were blooming in the rocks and the views down into the crater were impressive.
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As we rounded the crater there was a nice view across to the lookout.
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About this time the Old Cascades had finally shaken off their cloud cover allowing us to identify some additional features.
IMG_0089The Three Pyramids with Scar Mountain (post) to the far right.

IMG_0090Crescent Mountain (post)

IMG_0091Browder Ridge (post)

As we continued toward the Cascades things began looking up that way as well.
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We paused when we were directly across the crater from the lookout to watch the Three Sisters become nearly cloud free.
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IMG_0120Belknap Crater (post), the Three Sisters, and the Husband.

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I pushed on heading steeply uphill now hoping to get a view of Mt. Washington as well. As I was climbing I thought I saw another toad, but it turned out to be on of the pygmy short-horned lizards the ranger had told us about.
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IMG_0143Mt. Washington joining the show.

Another short but steep section of climbing brought me up to an even better view which now also included Big Lake and to a second lizard.
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I waited with the lizard for Heather who had stopped at the first lizard.
IMG_0152Can you see Heather’s hat?

We hung out with our new lizard friend while we watched the mountains uncover further.
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IMG_0171The Husband

IMG_0178Mt. Washington

IMG_0182Scott Mountain (post) and a snowy Maiden Peak (post) in the distance.

The only one that wasn’t playing nice was Three Fingered Jack to the NE.
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Near the viewpoint area below the lookout we spotted our third lizard.
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Interestingly they all seemed to have slightly different coloration but each blended very well with their surroundings.

From the viewpoint we could now also see part of Mt. Jefferson, but like Three Fingered Jack it was still partly obscured by clouds.
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IMG_0190Maxwell Butte (post) in front of Mt. Jefferson.

We headed back down Sand Mountain hoping that as we did so the other peaks might come out.
IMG_0197Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a quarter to ten.

IMG_0215Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a quarter after ten.

IMG_0224Looking toward Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack at a 10:23am.

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As we wound our way down we ended up heading directly toward Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters. Each of the Three Sisters seemed to be working on small lenticular clouds.
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We returned the Santiam Wagon Road and headed back. On the return trip we spotted a few butterflies, a golden-mantled ground squirrel and some orange agoseris which we had somehow missed on our way in.
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I also briefly detoured to check out a beargrass patch along some of the official OHV trails.
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With our .6 mile detour up the snowmobile track we wound up with an 11.3 mile hike, another 5.8 of which could have been removed by driving up FR 810.

We took the long way back to Salem opting to follow Highway 20 over Tombstone Pass to stop at the Rooster Rock Trailhead.
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This was less of a hike and more of a quest for a picture of a Menagerie Wilderness sign. We had hiked to Rooster Rock in 2016 (post) from a different trailhead but there had been no wilderness sign on that route. The shorter but steeper Rooster Rock Trail enters the Menagerie Wilderness less than a quarter mile from the trailhead and before the trail starts its climb so I hopped out of the car and hustled up the trail to see if there was a sign along this path.
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There was part of a sign at least at the wilderness boundary which was better than nothing.
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I did do a quick search in the immediate vicinity hoping to locate the other half but was unable to. Satisfied with the outcome I returned to Heather and the car and we headed home to Buddy (and Hazel our other kitty). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sand Mountainm

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Eight Lakes Basin

After three straight overnight trips it was time for a day hike. Our destination was the Eight Lakes Basin in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The two most common routes to the area are from either the Duffy Lake Trailhead to the SW or theĀ Marion Lake Trailhead to the north. The basin is a little closer to the Marion Lake Trailhead so this was where we decided to begin our hike.
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We were surprised at the number of cars already parked at the trailhead when we arrived at 6:15am. Later we realized much of it was due to it being the opening weekend of hunting season. We had visitedĀ Marion Lake once before in October of 2014 on our way home from Central Oregon, but this time we would be continuing past the lake 4 miles to reach the Eight Lakes Basin and returning on a wide loop.

The first 1.8 miles of trail was familiar but some things had changed since our previous visit including the condition of the wilderness sign.
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About a half mile prior to reaching Marion Lake the trail passes smaller Lake Ann.
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On the far side of a lake a Great Blue Heron landed on a log along with some ducks while numerous other ducks could be seen on the water.
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Shortly after Lake Ann we came to a split in the trail where the Marion Lake Trail headed left and the Marion Outlet Trail went right. Both trails lead to Marion Lake but the the Outlet Trail is .5 miles longer. They also lead to different portions of the lake, the Marion Lake Trail arrives at the northern end of the lake while the Marion Outlet Trail meets the Blue Lake Trail at the lake’s northwestern tip.
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The main reason to take the Marion Outlet Trail though is to take a short unsigned side trail and visit Marion and Gatch Falls.
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The trail down to the falls is somewhat steep in places but the views are wonderful. After visiting the falls we hiked to the Blue Lake Trail junction and crossed Marion Creek on the footbridge. Just beyond the footbridge the trail crosses a rock slide where the vine maple was starting to show its Fall colors.
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After entering the trees again we took a trail down to the lake to get a view of Mt. Jefferson across the water.
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We continued on the Blue Lake Trail which soon entered the forest burned by the 2003 B & B Fire.
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The B & B Fire burned over 90,000 acres of forest and we would be spending a large portion of the day hiking through the burn. Some areas though were spared and one of those areas was a mile up the Blue Lake Trail at a junction with the Pine Ridge Trail.
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By taking the Pine Ridge Trail we could have climbed up Marion Mountain, but we were leaving that for another time. Just beyond the junction a small pond reflected the rocky summit of that peak.
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It was three miles from the Pine Ridge Trail junction to the next trail junction at Jorn Lake in the Eight Lakes Basin. A little over a mile from the pond was Jenny Lake.
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Beyond Jenny Lake the forest around the Blue Lake Trail had all been burnt by the 2003 fire. The lack of live trees allowed for some big views through the silver snags and it was interesting to see how the forest was at work recovering. Small trees were working on replacing those lost and white pearly everlasting flowers made a nice contrast to the red huckleberry leaves dotting the ground.
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The lack of trees also caused the trail to be exposed to the Sun which had come back with a vengeance after the previous weekends cooler temperatures. A short way from Jenny Lake the trail began a series of switchbacks as it climbed up and over a ridge before dropping down into the Eight Lakes Basin. The full exposure made this a really warm climb, but when we reached a saddle on the ridge the view of Three Fingered Jack with the basin below was worth it.
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From this direction the first lake in the basin that we reached was Blue Lake.
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We headed down to the lake where we were able to find a little shade on a rock along the shore.
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After having a snack and cooling down we continued on following the Blue Lake Trail further downhill toward Jorn Lake.
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Before checking out Jorn Lake more closely we wanted to continue past our planned loop a short distance to visit Red Butte Lake. We had scrambled up Red Butte in 2010 when we had taken a hike from the Duffy Lake Trailhead. We had turned around after climbing up the butte and not made it as far as Red Butte Lake so we figured this time we’d check it out. We wound up following a series of unofficial trails between Jorn and Red Butte Lakes which passed several nice looking campsites before finally bringing us to the shallow little lake.
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We found a log to sit on and tried to watch some ducks enjoying the lake but it was just too hot to sit out in the sunlight so we decided to head back to Jorn Lake where some of the trees had been spared from the fire.
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We took the official Blue Lake Trail back down to a junction with the Bowerman Lake Trail near Jorn Lake.
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Before we turned onto the Bowerman Lake Trail we went down to Jorn Lakes shore.
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While we were sitting by the lake a doe came down to the eastern end of the lake.
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After she disappeared behind some trees we began to walk along the shore toward where she was since that was the direction we would be heading on the Bowerman Lake Trail. On the way a frog and a garter snake went from the shore into the water.
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The best view of Mt. Jefferson came at the SE end of the lake.
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We left the lake and briefly returned to the Bowerman Lake Trail but then quickly left it to check out a series of ponds between Jorn Lake and Bowerman Lake.
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It was at Bowerman Lake that we realized it was opening weekend of hunting season when we ran into a gentleman who was resting by the lake.
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Bowerman Lake was the last lake in the Basin that the trail passed and we were soon back into the snags.
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The trails up until this point had been well maintained but the next 2+ miles on the Bowerman Lake Trail became increasingly difficult as numerous snags covered the path.
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We spent quite a bit of time going over, under, around logs. Often times it was just easier to walk on top of them. Conditions improved after we reached the Minto Pass Trail where someone else had apparently encountered the obstacles over the Bowerman Lake Trail.
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We were now following the Minto Pass Trail two miles to Marion Lake. Many of the vine maples along this trail were in full Autumn mode.
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The trail crossed several springs and creeks as it neared the lake including the very pretty Mist Creek.
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When the trail approached Marion Lake we walked down to the lake shore for one final rest stop. Three Fingered Jack rose above the lake on the horizon and we were joined by a number of tortoiseshell butterflies and a friendly Stellar’s blue jay.
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The Minto Pass Trail had been recently rerouted, adding a couple of switchbacks, just before arriving at a three-way junction with the Lake of the Woods and Marion Lake Trails.
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Back on the Marion Lake Trail we followed it for a half mile passing a trail to the lake’s day use area and continuing another .3 miles to the Marion Outlet Trail junction where we had begun our loop. We retraced our path from the morning spotting a garter snake and a large western toad along the way.
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Unfortunately not all of the wildlife encounters were so nice. Between spotting the snake and the toad we had paused at Lake Ann for a moment and Heather was almost immediately stung by a yellow jacket. Several more were buzzing around and we ran to the end of the lake to avoid any additional stings.

What was supposed to be a sort of “easier” hike than what we’d been doing lately turned out to be a little more taxing than planned. Between the warm temperatures and exposure in the burn area and the stretch of trail covered in downed snags we were feeling pretty tired by the time we made it back to the trailhead. We had also managed to turn the 15.2 miles we had planned on into 17.9 miles by visiting the falls, Red Butte Lake, and doing some other off-trail exploring. It had been worth it though. The colors were amazing, we’d seen a lot of wildlife, and despite the full parking lot hadn’t seen very many other people along the way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157673717910585