Maxwell Butte

We were once again heading to Central Oregon this past weekend and wanted to get a hike in on our way there. After checking the weather forecast we chose Maxwell Butte hoping to get a close up look at Three Fingered Jack as well as views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. I had checked the forecast Friday morning and it called for mostly sunny skies which sounded promising, but I made the mistake of not rechecking one final time before leaving home Saturday morning.

We had already driven through a good deal of rain and were hoping that we might get above the clouds by the time we reached the Maxwell Butte Sno-park near milepost 79 on Highway 20. We were staring up at a very grey sky when we did finally arrive at the park which left us with holding out hope that the 6229′ summit might be enough higher to break above the clouds.
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We had parked close to the entrance of the sno-park near the restrooms and walked east across the paved parking lot to a gravel road which led to the official Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
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Low clouds and light rain persisted as we followed the trail into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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After traveling just under 3 miles we arrived at a trail junction near Twin Lakes.
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Before turning right onto the continuation of the Maxwell Butte Trail we took a look at Twin Lakes. The map on our GPS unit showed a single body of water instead of a pair of lakes as the name would suggest so we were interested to see what we would find. The first thing we came to was a dried up area which looked as though it was often connected to a larger area of water we saw did still contain some water.
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There was a second smaller body of water nearby which looked as though it might be its own lake most of the time. We decided this must be the reason for the Twin Lakes moniker.
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We were still holding out hope that we would either climb above the clouds or they would start to break up as we began to follow the trail up Maxwell Butte. Colorful rocks told of the volcanic history of this butte and we passed numerous meadows along its slopes.
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We were on the lookout for deer in the meadows as we were seeing many tracks along the trail but we never spotted any. We did startle a pair of grouse who in turn startled us as the flew off down the hillside. We arrived at the summit to find only the site of the former lookout firmly in the clouds. This hike was going to be put on the redo list, but in the meantime we took a nice peaceful break at the summit.
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It turned out to be a nice hike despite not getting the views we had hoped for. The forest was peaceful and full of fall colors.
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The highlight of the hike wound up being a varied thrush that actually stayed put in the open long enough for me to get a few decent pictures.
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We see them fairly often on our hikes but they are shy birds who usually retreat deeper into the forest or underbrush as we approach. On top of that they are darkly colored making it that much harder to get a clear picture when they tend to stick to darker forest settings.

After returning to the car we continued over Santiam Pass and down into Central Oregon where we finally found our mostly sunny skies and mountain views. Maybe next time we’ll get them from the trail. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658753707059

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