Fuji Mountain

After a (well timed) scheduled week off we were back on the trails this past weekend. A highly unusual storm had rolled through as September gave way to October. Not only had this storm brought record amounts of precipitation but some of that precipitation fell as snow as low as 4000′. The hike we had planned, Fuji Mountain, topped out at 7144′ so we weren’t sure if it was going to be doable but some warmer weather moved in and we decided to give it a go. If we managed to make it up to the summit we knew the views should be great, and worst case scenario we could just choose a different lower trail in the area.

Fuji Mountain is located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Highway 58. A pair of trail heads lead to the summit. From the SW a 1.5 mile option starts on road 5883 making for a nice short hike. We chose to start from road 5897 (Waldo Lake road) to lengthen the hike a bit and visit some of the areas many lakes.

The trail begins just below 5000′ and started out snow free, but that didn’t last for long. We quickly began seeing snow along the trail and then on the trail itself. We followed a single set of hikers prints as we climbed up toward the first of the lakes.
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They weren’t the only set of prints in the snow. 🙂

Black bear print
Black bear print

It wasn’t long before there was more snow covered trail than not but the snow wasn’t very deep, only on occasion measuring 6″. The trail climbed for about a mile then gently rolled along a plateau dotted with ponds and lakes for another 2.5 miles. Many of these were at least partly frozen making for some pretty scenery.

Half frozen pond
Half frozen pond
Mushrooms under ice
Mushrooms under ice
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake

Shortly after crossing the South Waldo Trail the Fuji Mountain Trail began climbing again. In another mile we met up with the trail coming from road 5883 and began the final 1.2 mile climb to the summit. Here there were more hiker tracks in the snow but we only saw one other couple who were on their way down after spending the night on the summit.

As we climbed we began to have views of snowy Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen to the south, but these views paled in comparison to what awaited at the summit. When we arrived at the summit a 360 degree view awaited with Waldo Lake and a string of snowy peaks to the north and more mountains to the south. To the east lay Wickiup Reservoir and Odell Lake with distant Paulina Peak and nearby Maiden Peak in between. To the west were the foothills leading to the Willamette Valley.

Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain

It was a beautiful day at the summit, sunny and warm with no wind. We took our time eating lunch and enjoying the tranquility before heading back down. On the way out Heather and I decided to take a brief side trip along the South Waldo Trail to the Island Lakes. It was around half a mile to Lower Island Lake with it’s green water and tiny rock island. Just up and across the trail from Lower Island Lake was Upper Island Lake which also had a small rocky island.

Lower Island Lake's island
Lower Island Lake’s island
Lower Island Lake
Lower Island Lake
Upper Island Lake
Upper Island Lake

The warm weather made the return trip pretty slushy as the snow was melting fairly quickly. When we arrived back at the half frozen pond the scene had changed quite a bit.

The no longer half frozen pond
The no longer half frozen pond

We all really enjoyed being able to take a hike through the snow and it made for a nice change of pace. I don’t know if the early snow is a sign of things to come or just a fluke but it was enjoyable. Happy Trails!

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