We decided to do something a little different this week and visited Boca Cave in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. We started at the Cheat Creek Trailhead along Whitewater Rd http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=4266&actid=50 as opposed to beginning at the closer Triangulation Trail Trailhead http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=4274&actid=50. The later would leave us with a mere 4 mile hike which would mean our driving time would likely be more than our hiking time which is something we try and avoid.
The Cheat Creek Trail is approximately 2.9 miles long gaining 1700′ in elevation and ending at the Triangulation Trail. We arrived at the trailhead a little early but with just enough light to set off.
Around the 2.5 mile mark we arrived at Wild Cheat Meadows. I was hoping we might find deer or elk in the meadows but no luck. There was some nice Fall colors beginning to show along the edge of the meadows though.
From the junction it is just over 2.5 miles to the .6 mile Triangulation Peak Trail. This section of the Triangulation Trail was fairly level but it was also narrow and overgrown in spots. We were now basically heading back the direction we’d come up but were now hiking along the ridge high above the Cheat Creek valley. As we continued on the views started to open up to the South and East.
Three Fingered Jack, Middle & South Sister, and Mt. Washington:
It wasn’t until we were on this final .6 mile climb that we ran into our first other people, a pair of hikers that were on their way down after spending the night. Near the top we passed a rock cairn marking a trail to the left, the unofficial path to Boca Cave. Before checking out the cave we headed up to the summit to take in the views and have a short break. There was a little smoke in the air due to a series of fires near Oakridge, OR but we still had a pretty decent view.
We headed back down to the cairn and started our descent down to the cave. The scramble trail was steep, narrow and required caution. Boca Cave was impressive though. The cave is about 60′ back and 80′ wide with a high ceiling. There is a constant drip of water in the back of the cave and the opening frames Mt. Jefferson.
After thoroughly inspecting the cave we returned to the trail and began our return trip. We passed several more hikers on the way down the Triangulation Peak Trail but once we turned right on the Triangulation Trail we were alone again. We were headed straight toward Mt. Jefferson for awhile on the way back. The Sun had passed overhead and the smoke had lifted some giving us some of the clearest views of the day.
It certainly would have been easier to have started at the Triangulation Trailhead, but there is something to be said for logging miles alone in the forest. Either way Boca Cave is worth the trip and the views from Triangulation Peak are just the cherry on top. Happy Trails!