Cooper Spur

We have had the hike up Cooper Spur on Mt. Hood in our plans for the last several years but for one reason or another it has wound up getting bumped from the schedule.  It was on our schedule again this year with an October date set.  Not wanting to miss out on this hike again we decided to take advantage of what appeared to be an excellent weather forecast and move it up.

Our plan was to start out at the Tilly Jane Ski Trail along Forest Road 3512 and explore the Cloud Cap/Tilly Jane Historic District as well as hiking up Cooper Spur. This starting point adds nearly 2000′ of elevation gain and approximately 5.5 miles to the hike vs starting at either the Tilly Jane or Cloud Cap Saddle Campgrounds but we decided we’d rather spend time hiking up to those areas than driving an additional 30 minutes each way.

The trailhead is located just beyond the Cooper Spur Ski Area on Forest Road 3512. To reach it turn off of Highway 35 onto Cooper Spur Road then turn left onto Cloud Cap Road (Forest Road 3512) at the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. The trailhead is 1.5 miles along this road with parking on the right.
IMG_6569

Informational signs at the trailhead told a little about the historic district.
IMG_6567

IMG_6568

The trail headed uphill through the forest, reaching a junction after a half mile with the Polallie Ridge Trail which we would be taking as part of our return route.
IMG_6572

IMG_6574

The trail climbed very steadily and soon entered forest burned in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire.
IMG_6579

The burnt trees allowed for some nice views of not only Mt. Hood but also Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens in Washington.
IMG_6587

IMG_6590

It was very apparent that earlier in the year there had been a nice display of wildflowers along the trail but most of them had long since passed although a few holdouts did remain.
IMG_6606

The dead trees seemed to host plenty of life in the form of a variety of birds flying from tree to tree.
IMG_6601

IMG_6619

IMG_6627

After nearly 3 miles of climbing we neared the Tilly Jane A Frame which was hidden in non-burnt trees.
IMG_6628

Despite being threatened by the 2011 fire, firefighters had been able to save all the structures in the historic district.

Heather and I were busy talking as we approached the A-Frame and I suddenly noticed there was a deer in the trail about 20 yards away. It walked into the trees as I was grabbing the camera, but then a second deer appeared.
IMG_6629

She sized us up for a moment then proceeded to take a few bites of the plants as she followed the other one into the trees.
IMG_6631

IMG_6633

As we continued up the trail we spotted the first deer and saw that it was a young buck.
IMG_6634

After watching the deer for a moment we proceeded to the A-Frame to have a look.
IMG_6638

IMG_6639

IMG_6640

IMG_6642

The A-Frame was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 and can sleep up to 20. It originally had a kitchen and dining hall on the ground floor with the sleeping area above in the loft.

West of the A-Frame is the Legion Cookhouse (built in 1924) which is not in the best of shape.
IMG_6644

IMG_6645

Just beyond the cookhouse a trail sign announced the Tilly Jane Trail.
IMG_6649

We turned left on the trail after taking a quick look at the American Legion Amphitheater which was also constructed in the 1920s.
IMG_6651

The Tilly Jane Trail enters the Mt. Hood Wilderness about a quarter mile from the cookhouse.
IMG_6654

The trail then proceeds uphill along the Polallie Creek Canyon just over three quarters of a mile to the Timberline Trail. A 1980 flash flood sent an 80′ deep wall of water and debris down the canyon. Viewpoints along the way offered a look at the origin of the flood at the headwall of the canyon.
IMG_6656

IMG_6659

Beyond the viewpoint of the headwall the forest began thinning out providing nice views ahead of Mt. Hood.
IMG_6666

We also had a great view of Mt. Adams which is something we seem to rarely get.
IMG_6676

Just over a mile from the cookhouse and 4 miles from the trailhead on FR 3512 we arrived at the Timberline Trail.
IMG_6681

We followed the pointer for Cooper Spur a tenth of a mile to the Cooper Spur Shelter.
IMG_6688

Cloud Cap Inn was visible from the shelter which we planned to visit on our way down.
IMG_6690

IMG_6691

We continued up from the shelter following a clear trail.
IMG_6701

The official trail shown on maps switchbacks uphill but we wound up off the trail after visiting a viewpoint of the Eliot Glacier near a memorial plaque for Robert Edling, a mountain rescue pilot that died in a crop duster accident near The Dalles.
IMG_6703

IMG_6708

From the memorial plaque we headed straight up the ridge following a confusion of faint paths up through the rocks.
IMG_6713

This was much steeper than the switchbacks would have been and when the official trail came close enough for us to see it we hopped back on. We left it again though when it headed straight for a snowfield. It was a cold morning (the expected high for the day in the area was 48) and we knew that the snow would be covered in ice so we wouldn’t be able to cross it. We returned to the edge of the ridge and headed straight up again. In addition to making the distance a little shorter, the main advantage to this route were the views. The views of the Eliot Glacier were really interesting.
IMG_6718

IMG_6719

IMG_6720

IMG_6721

IMG_6722

IMG_6723

IMG_6717

The route steepened quite a bit as it veered to the east to climb to the top of a moraine.
IMG_6725

A stone windbreak at the top wasn’t housing any hikers but there were a few ladybugs taking shelter.
IMG_6736

IMG_6768

The official trail ends here where the views were spectacular. To the south Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Jefferson were all visible.
IMG_6738

To the north Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams were all virtually cloud free.
IMG_6740

IMG_6746

IMG_6741

IMG_6743

To the NE the Columbia River snaked from the dry brown landscape of eastern WA and OR into the forested cliffs of the Columbia Gorge.
IMG_6755

Further to the east the Newton Clark Glacier drained into the Newton Creek Canyon.
IMG_6756

Mt. Hood provided the most dramatic view though.
IMG_6750

One of the features on Mt. Hood that we had a good view of was Pulpit Rock.
IMG_6760

Another unique feature in the area is Hiroshima Rock. A boulder inscribed by a group of Japanese climbers in 1910.
IMG_6751

For more information on the Hiroshima Rock check out this post by WyEast Blog.

Even though the official trail ended at roughly 8500′ on top of the moraine, a climbers trail continued along the ridge past Tie-in Rock, a large boulder not far beyond the start of the ridge. The ridge was snow free so we continued on passing Tie-in Rock and continuing to an elevation just over 8900′ where the trail dropped slightly to a saddle between the Eliot and Newton Clark Glaciers.

Heather crossing the ridge. (Tie-in Rock is the large boulder in the distance just to the right of the trail.)
IMG_6770

The first section of the ridge was somewhat level before a final rocky climb to our turnaround point.
IMG_6773

We passed a final memorial plaque along the way remembering the victims of a 1981 climbing accident.
IMG_6774

IMG_6775

Other than a bow hunter, who had been at the trailhead when we arrived that morning, we hadn’t seen anyone other people and were alone on the ridge.
IMG_6785

From this highest point one final Cascade Peak came into view to the south – Diamond Peak.
IMG_6804

After enjoying the views we headed back down the way we’d come. As we were descending some high clouds passed overhead changing the scenery a bit.
IMG_6817

We decided to follow the official trail on the way down from the moraine which turned out not to be the best decision. The snowfield was still impassible and it was a lot bigger than we had anticipated which caused us to have to swing out wide and make our way down along the snow in loose rocks and sand.
IMG_6821

After passing below the snowfield we contoured back toward the official trail eventually picking it up about a mile and a half from the Timberline Trail. We then followed it back down to the junction and turned left on the Timberline Trail and headed toward Cloud Cap.
IMG_6824

IMG_6825

The trail descended to a crossing of the upper (and dry) portion of Tilly Jane Creek where it split. With no signs it was difficult to tell if we should turn downhill along the creek or climb to the ridge along the Eliot Moraine. We chose to go up where we found a nice path with great views along the ridge.
IMG_6832

IMG_6828

IMG_6830

Near the end of the moraine the trail dropped down to the right into the forest.
IMG_6835

After 1.2 miles we came to a sign for the Cloud Cap Trailhead.
IMG_6836

We followed that trail for 100 yards to the Cloud Cap Saddle Campground where a road led up and around a hill to the Cloud Cap Inn.
IMG_6837

IMG_6838

Snowshoe Cabin
IMG_6839

Cloud Cap Inn
IMG_6846

IMG_6848

IMG_6849

The inn was opened in 1889 and is currently maintained by the Hood River Crag Rats who use the inn as a base for snow surveys and mountain rescues. Click  here for more on the inn’s history.

After visiting Cloud Cap we passed back through the campground where we turned left on the Tilly Jane Trail.
IMG_6852

This section of the trail passed through a mix of burnt and unburnt forest and still had a few flowers along it.
Aster
IMG_6854

Pearly everlasting
IMG_6855

Goldenrod
IMG_6857

IMG_6859

We followed signs to the Tilly Jane Campground and the 1924 Tilly Jane Guard Station.
IMG_6860

IMG_6863

IMG_6864

The trail crossed Tilly Jane Creek on a footbridge between the Guard Station and the amphitheater.
IMG_6866

IMG_6868

Instead of returning on the Tilly Jane Ski Trail which led past the A-Frame we turned back uphill on the Tilly Jane Trail for a couple hundred feet to a trail sign for the Polallie Ridge Trail.
IMG_6871

The Polallie Ridge Trail quickly entered the Dollar Fire burn area. The trail stuck closely to the top of the ridge as it headed straight downhill.
IMG_6876

IMG_6882

There was a nice view back to Mt. Hood as well as the headwall of the Polallie Creek Canyon.
IMG_6878

The trail was faint and appeared to get more use by deer than hikers. Manzanita and chinkapin covered sections of the trail but it was passable.
IMG_6883

IMG_6888

chinkapin
IMG_6885

The trail eventually reentered forest unaffected by the fire and just over 2 miles from the Tilly Jane Trail junction we turned left following a blue arrow for the Polallie Ridge Trail.
IMG_6889

IMG_6890

IMG_6891

Another quarter mile brought us back to the Tilly Jane Ski Trail just .5 miles from our car.
IMG_6892

IMG_6894

The total distance for the hike was 13.9 miles with a little over 5000′ of elevation gain. It had been a near perfect day for the hike with the cool temperatures and lack of troublesome clouds. Having had Cooper Spur all to ourselves was just a bonus. We had begun seeing other hikers when we began descending from the moraine at 8500′ and there were plenty of cars at Cloud Cap and the Tilly Jane Campground as well as the trailhead when we got back. It was another good reminder why we get ourselves up so early on hiking days.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674245738906

Windy Lakes and Beyond

The third, and what turned out to be final day, of our trip around Cowhorn Mountain was originally going to be a 10 mile hike moving our camp near Indigo Lake on the west side of the Cascade Crest to the Windy Lakes on the east side. That would have left us about 11 miles from our car for the final day’s hike out. I had already begun rethinking that in the days before we started out because we’d likely be at the Windy Lakes before 1pm which would mean we’d be hanging around that group of lakes for half of the day when we could have been shortening the distance for our final day.

After going over our maps the night before and discussing it we had decided that we would continue past the Windy Lakes and set up camp at one of several other lakes along our route. We would let our bodies and the time of day decide when it was time to stop. Our options were Suzanne and Darlene Lakes which were a mile beyond the Windy Lakes, Oldenburg Lake which was another 4 miles along, or go another 2+ miles to Nip & Tuck Lakes.

Before we could decide where to camp for the night though we had to get to these lakes. We said goodbye to the little lake we had been staying at and set off a little before 7am.
IMG_6379

We took the Indigo Extension Trail down to Indigo Lake then followed the Indigo Lake Trail nearly 2 miles to the trailhead near the Timpanogas Lake Campground. A short road walk into the campground brought us to the Lake Shore Trail along Timpanogas Lake.
IMG_6383

IMG_6384

IMG_6385

IMG_6387

We followed the Lake Shore Trail for .4 miles to the Timpanogas Shelter.
IMG_6389

IMG_6392

IMG_6394

IMG_6395

IMG_6396

IMG_6397

Just beyond the shelter were signs for the Start O’Willamette Trail.
IMG_6403

We turned uphill on this trail and climbed nearly 600′ in just over a mile to the Windy Pass Trail.
IMG_6408

IMG_6412

There were several unnamed lakes shown on the map near the junction and we quickly passed on after turning right onto the Windy Pass Trail.
IMG_6413

From the junction we needed to follow the Windy Pass Trail for 2.7 miles to the Cowhorn Traverse Trail where we had come down from the Pacific Crest Trail two days before. This section of trail gained almost 900′ but it was never steep making it a fairly easy climb. The trail was forested but there were occasional views of Sawtooth Mountain across the valley we were circling.
IMG_6415

IMG_6420

We were in a zone and making good time when a pair of grouse startled us.
IMG_6424

IMG_6426

After stopping to watch the grouse we continued on to the junction with the Cowhorn Traverse Trail where we turned left and followed it .3 miles to the PCT.
IMG_6429

IMG_6431

IMG_6432

If we turned right (south) on the Pacific Crest Trail it would be about than 5 miles to our car, but we turned left and headed north. The PCT traveled along the Cascade Crest offering some big views in all directions as the trial occasionally switched sides along the ridge.

Diamond Peak to the north
IMG_6441

IMG_6451

Maiden Peak, Mt. Bachelor and Crescent Lake to the NE
IMG_6444

Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Bailey, and Sawtooth Mountain to the south
IMG_6456

Mt. Thielsen, peaks around Crater Lake, Union Peak, and Mt. McLoughlin
IMG_6459

The trail began a series of sections where it would switchback down through the forest on the west side of the crest before popping out at a viewpoint along the ridge. The Windy Lakes were below the ridge to the east and we were gaining better views of them each time we reached the ridge.
IMG_6463

Our plan to visit the Windy Lakes included some off-trail hiking because there was no direct route from the PCT to the Windy Lakes Trail. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the topographic map determining where we thought the best spot to head cross country would be. We identified a switchback due west of Middle Windy Lake as the best option. We used the GPS to make sure we were in the right area when we finally decided to leave the PCT just under 3 miles from the Cowhorn Traverse Trail.
IMG_6464

The cross country route was much easier than we could have ever hoped for with very little blowdown and no underbrush to speak of.
IMG_6465

IMG_6466

We used the GPS to make sure we were staying on the right heading and were quickly approaching a lake. For all the good the GPS does it occasionally messes with us. The lake we were approaching was the furthest lake shown on the display to the south. We had expected to be headed toward Middle Windy Lake but the furthest Windy Lake to the south is South Windy Lake. We would have preferred reaching South Windy Lake first because we planned on visiting it in any event and it would have been out of the way to head there from Middle Windy Lake. As we approached the lake shown on the GPS the Windy Lake Trail was shown on the map on the opposite side.
IMG_6468

We decided to go around the southern end of the lake to meet up with the trail closer to its end. I should have realized something was amiss when I noticed that the GPS showed the trail continuing even further south even though there was no lake shown at its end. I was too busy enjoying the scenery of the lake though to pay much attention to a trail to nowhere though.
IMG_6470

IMG_6472

We located the Windy Lakes Trail near a campsite at the SE end of the lake and turned left hiking along the lake.
IMG_6474

We decided to take a break and sat on a log along the sandy beach watching some birds hunting for food.
IMG_6477

From there we continued north on the Windy Lakes Trail passing briefly through forest before arriving at the next lake.
IMG_6483

IMG_6484

We thought this must be Middle Windy Lake and it had a bit of a view of Diamond Peak.
IMG_6486

It also had a nice looking peninsula which was a little odd because we remembered from the maps that East Windy Lake had peninsula.
IMG_6487

The peninsula prompted me to look at the GPS again and I noticed that we were getting pretty close to our next trail junction and we’d only passed two lakes not the three we were expecting. I scrolled the display back up to the where it showed the end of the Windy Lakes Trail and zoomed in to find that instead of showing a lake the map had the area labeled as a marsh. We don’t know why the map (Google is the same) didn’t show the actual lake but we knew it was there having seen it from the PCT. We briefly considered skipping it, but that just didn’t sound like us so we turned around and headed back up the Windy Lakes Trail. After passing East Windy Lake and the correctly identified Middle Windy Lake we came to the campsite where we had first stepped onto the Windy Lakes Trail and continued into the forest.
IMG_6490

It was just under a half mile to South Windy Lake from the campsite.
IMG_6491

The lake was in a bowl at the head of the valley and the shore was heavily forested with a lot of brush making it a little less inviting than the other two lakes we had visited. We both thought it was prettier to look at from above through the trees where it was a little more colorful.
IMG_6498

In any event we’d seen it and now had our lakes properly identified so now we could continue our loop. We passed Middle and East Windy Lakes once again and then turned right following a pointer for Oldenburg Lake at a 3-way junction.
IMG_6499

After passing an unnamed lake we arrived at a second 3-way junction where we once again turned right ignoring the pointer for the Spring Trail.
IMG_6503

IMG_6507

The next lakes up were Suzanne and Darlene. Suzanne Lake was a quick, level mile from first 3-way junction.
IMG_6510

IMG_6511

IMG_6513

IMG_6517

There were a couple of established tent sites here but it was still too early in the day for us to want to stop so we continued to Darlene Lake which was only a quarter mile away.
IMG_6527

The summit of Cowhorn Mountain was visible over the forest on the far side of the lake.
IMG_6519

We took a short break on a log at Darlene Lake but it was only just now after 1:00pm and Oldenburg Lake was less than 4 miles away so we sallied forth.
IMG_6530

It had been growing increasingly cloudy which was something we had been keeping our eyes on. We had come prepared for rain, but we hadn’t really expected any based on the forecast the morning we had left. We had noticed though that the forecast for some of the rest of Oregon had suddenly been calling for rain over the final days of our trip so we knew there was a possibility that the forecast might change while we were out. Not far from Darlene Lake a light rain began to fall. Heather was the first to suggest what we had both been considering, hiking all the way to the trailhead instead of stopping at one of the lakes for the night. We discussed it briefly and decided that we’d both prefer not to mess with the rain gear and since we would still be getting to visit everything we’d planned on we wouldn’t be missing out on anything. With that settled we picked up our pace and really started moving.

The forest began to change as we got closer to Oldenburg Lake and we were soon hiking through lodgepole pines on a dusty trail.
IMG_6535

We arrived at Oldenburg Lake just after 2:30 having traveled the final 3 miles in about an hour.
IMG_6538

IMG_6541

We took another short break at Oldenburg Lake before continuing on toward Nip & Tuck Lakes. This next section of trail was a little slower due to a gentle but steady uphill. Just over 2 miles from Oldenburg Lake our GPS showed that Nip & Tuck Lakes were off the trail to the east. They were hidden by trees so we were watching for any sign of a side trail down to the lakes. According to the maps we had there was no official trail leading to them. When it looked as though we were about to pass them completely we decided to attempt a cross country route but were quickly stymied by closely knit lodgepole stands. We decided to skip these lakes after all and returned to the Oldenburg Lake Trail. About a hundred yards from where we had left the trail to go cross country we came to a junction with a signpost for the lakes.
IMG_6547

It was less than a tenth of a mile to this pair of little lakes. They were unlike any of the other lakes we’d visited during our trip. They were smaller, shallower, and ringed mostly with grasses and reeds.
IMG_6549

IMG_6550

When full it is actually one continuous lake but this late in the year the two parts were separated by a grassy meadow.
IMG_6552

We took one final break at the larger of the two bodies of water before setting of on the final stretch. We were a little under 2 miles from the Oldenburg Lake Trailhead and it was just about 3:45pm. The final section of trail was only sightly uphill so we made decent time and managed to arrive at the trailhead along Forest Road 60 just after 4:20pm.
IMG_6560

IMG_6562

We were soon on our way home. The GPS put us at 22 miles even for the day which was the most we’d ever done with our full backpacks and our feet knew it. 🙂 We don’t know how much it rained or if it even did where we would have camped, but we drove through plenty of it on the way back home. It had been a great three days with some amazing views and above all it had been another great adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672911107731

Sawtooth Mountain and June Lake

Our second day in the Oregon Cascades Recreation Area was a day hike from our base camp at the little green lake above Indigo Lake. Our plan was to do a loop around Sawtooth Mountain (with a side trip up to the summit). Before completing the loop we also planned to to take another side trip to visit nearby June Lake.
IMG_6181

We chose to go around Sawtooth Mountain in a clockwise direction. Heather had pointed out that this was a shorter route to the summit from where we were camped which would mean we’d be climbing in cooler temperatures and it also would allow us to visit June Lake later in the day when we would likely be welcoming a nice break.

We left the lake and returned to the Indigo Extension Trail which we took uphill to the junction with the Windy Pass Trail.
IMG_6184

Here we turned right onto the Windy Pass Trail and began a downhill traverse behind Sawtooth Mountain.
IMG_6185

The downhill meant more climbing to get to the 7301′ summit so we weren’t overly thrilled as we continued to lose elevation. The trail eventually began to climb after descending to an elevation of approximately 6350′. The climb was quite a bit steeper than the descent had been. We did have occasional views up through the forest to various rock formations on Sawtooth Mountain but not of the summit itself.
IMG_6188

IMG_6191

IMG_6194

We also saw the only deer we’d encounter on the entire trip along this section when a doe and her fawn ran down a gully toward seasonal Bradley Creek.

The trail really steepened in very loose dirt below an interesting pillar, where we also got a good look our goal, which we had now worked our way around.
IMG_6195

IMG_6198

We found the .4 mile scramble trail to the summit a very short distance after climbing past the pillar. The trail was marked with rock cairns.
IMG_6202

From the beginning of the scramble trail we could get a little idea of our route but the view turned out to be pretty deceiving.
IMG_6206

Beyond Sawtooth Mountain was Cowhorn Mountain which we had climbed the previous day.
IMG_6208

The climb up Sawtooth Mountain was not as steep as the climb up Cowhorn Mountain had been but it had it’s own challenges. The first tenth of a mile or so was an easy to follow dirt path along a ridge. The dirt gave way to rock and we were soon climbing more steeply up a scree slope to a dark rock outcrop.
IMG_6220

A second outcrop lay a couple hundred feet further along the ridge.

Looking back to the first outcrop from the second.
IMG_6221

Hidden behind the second outcrop the ridge continued on but it was much narrower.
IMG_6222

It was narrow enough that there was a moment of hesitation before stepping out and heading across. To make things just a little more challenging there was a small rock spire toward the end of the narrow section to navigate around.
IMG_6223

At the far end of the ridge was a patch of western pasque flowers.
IMG_6224

The route headed to the left along a scree field below the mountains craggy summit.
IMG_6227

After passing a narrow chute filled with loose rock we scrambled up to the summit from the NW side.
IMG_6228

Despite this peak being 350′ shorter than Cowhorn Mountain we felt the views were a bit better. Indigo Lake lay almost directly below and several mountains that we had not been able to see from Cowhorn Mountain were visible from this summit.

Looking north
IMG_6229

Indigo Lake
IMG_6271

Diamond Peak and Summit Lake
IMG_6244

Mt. Jefferson
IMG_6232

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor behind Maiden Peak
IMG_6233

To the east was Cowhorn Mountain
IMG_6238

View south
IMG_6236

Mt. Scott behind Mt. Thielsen
IMG_6255

Union Peak and Mt. McLouglin
IMG_6257

Mt. Bailey
IMG_6259

There also didn’t seem to be as many yellow jackets flying around (just a bunch of flies)which allowed me to be a little more relaxed as we took a break and ate some food. On the way back to the Windy Pass Trail we spotted a marmot foraging in the dirt. We’d seen it on the way up but it had run off as we approached but now it didn’t seem to be too worried about us.
IMG_6287

IMG_6290

Approximately 1.2 miles after starting back on the Windy Pass Trail we came to a junction with the Sawtooth Mountain Trail.
IMG_6302

The Windy Pass Trail continues 2 more miles to Forest Road 770 but according to the forest service that section of trail is no longer maintained. Our route took us onto the Sawtooth Mountain Trail though. We followed this path downhill through the forest for approximately 2.25 miles. At times the trail was rather steep and it was evident why it appeared to be popular with mountain bikers.
IMG_6304

After the 2.25 miles we arrived at a trail junction with the Indigo Lake and June/Indigo Tie Trails.
IMG_6317

To get back to our camp we would need to head toward Indigo Lake but first we wanted to visit June Lake so we made a sharp left turn onto the tie trail.
IMG_6318

After about half a mile the tie trail met the June Lake Trail coming up from a trailhead near the Timpanogs Lake Campground.
IMG_6321

IMG_6322

The hike to June Lake was nearly flat, especially in relation to what we’d just come down. Sections of the trail were also lined with colorful huckleberry bushes.
IMG_6323

IMG_6325

June Lake was a little bigger than we expected and, like the other lakes in the area, very colorful. The only thing it seemed to lack was a mountain view.
IMG_6332

IMG_6335

We walked around the lake stopping on the far side to sit on some rocks along the shore. We had to watch where we sat because we weren’t the only ones enjoying the rocks.
IMG_6343

IMG_6344

As we rested we watched busy birds and butterflies along the lakes sandy shore.
IMG_6336

IMG_6337

We had gone around the lake clockwise and near the end of the loop we came to the lakes now dry outlet creek.
IMG_6348

IMG_6351

We stopped for a moment to ponder what might have once been on a small signboard that was nearby.
IMG_6349

After completing the loop we followed the June Lake Trail back to the junction with the tie trail where we decided not to turn onto the tie trail but instead take the .7 mile trail down to the trailhead.
IMG_6352

This section of trail lost about 200′ of elevation as it descended to a junction with the Middle Fork Trail.
IMG_6354

The 33.1 mile Middle Fork Trail follows the Middle Fork Willamette River from the Sand Prairie Campgound near Hills Creek Reservoir near Oakridge up to the trailhead near Timpanogas Lake. Just before the trailhead it passes Lower Timpanogas Lake. In order to get a decent look at that lake we had to hike 100′ down the Middle Fork Trail.
IMG_6355

IMG_6356

To be honest it was the least impressive of the lakes we’d visited on the trip so far but Heather did see some good sized fish swimming in the water. We walked back up to the junction and turned left onto what was now an old roadbed leading to the trailhead. At the trailhead we headed up the Indigo Lake Trail.
IMG_6357

We climbed for .7 miles back to the junction where we had taken the June/Indigo Tie Trail then continued on the Indigo Lake Trail an additional 1.2 miles uphill to Indigo Lake.
IMG_6358

IMG_6359

IMG_6361

IMG_6364

After a brief stop at one of the picnic tables along Indigo Lake we made our way back up to our campsite where we had dinner and watched the sky change colors as the sunset.
IMG_6367

IMG_6370

IMG_6371

We would be packing up in the morning and saying goodbye to the little unnamed lake, but for one more night it was home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672828693740

Cowhorn Mountain and Indigo Lake

For our final multi-night backpacking trip this year we planned on hiking up a pair of lesser known Cascade peaks located between the Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen Wilderness Areas. At the center of our plans was 7669′ Cowhorn Mountain which we would ultimately make a loop around. Our first trail would be the Pacific Crest Trail which passes within .4 miles of Cowhorn Mountain’s summit. We planned on accessing the PCT from the Windigo Pass Trailhead located along Forest Road 60 at Windigo Pass. Forest Road 60 runs between Crescent Lake along Highway 58 and Highway 138 north of Diamond Lake. We came from Crescent Lake and decided to park 3/4 of a mile from the Windigo Pass Trailhead at the Oldenburg Lake Trailhead instead since this would be the trail we used to return on the final day of our trip and we prefer starting with a road walk over ending with one.
IMG_5969

IMG_5972

IMG_5974

IMG_5976

IMG_5977

We hadn’t been on the PCT long before we took our first off-trail detour of the day. We wanted to check out one of the Windigo Lakes which are located off the PCT to the east. Using topographic maps and our GPS we found our way to the first of the two Windigo Lakes where we had a nice view of Cowhorn Mountain.
IMG_5981

We left the lake and headed back uphill toward the PCT. We were aiming for a switchback about a mile from where we had left the PCT. The climb up to the switchback was a good deal steeper than the slope we had originally come down to reach the lake and as we neared the PCT we encountered some tightly packed young trees which dictated where we were able to go. We managed to regain the PCT maybe a hundred yards from where we had been shooting for.
IMG_5986

When we reached the switchback that we had been aiming for we could see the lake below.
IMG_5995

It was approximately 3.3 miles from the switchback viewpoint to the summit trail. The PCT stayed near the top of the ridge offering several views to both the north and south as well as our next goal.
Cowhorn Mountain
IMG_6002

Sawtooth Mountain
IMG_6007

Mt. Thielsen
IMG_6020

Diamond Peak
IMG_6023

The unofficial trail to the summit was marked by rock cairns on the shoulder of Cowhorn Mountain.
IMG_6025

IMG_6027

The trail was worn enough to be fairly easy to follow as it crossed a cinder ridge.
IMG_6028

Halfway along the ridge was an outcrop made of black rock followed by another cinder covered section of ridge. We had our full backpacks on up until this point but we decided to ditch them before crossing the final cinder ridge and left them by a stunted pine tree. The climb to the summit is a class 2/3 scramble to the current high point. The mountain lost it’s spire top in a 1911 storm.
IMG_6061

We had a great 360 degree view from the summit. To the west was Sawtooth Mountain which we were planning on hiking up the next day.
IMG_6037

To the north the view included nearby Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.
IMG_6041

Maiden Peak was in front of the Three Sisters and it was interesting to see how close they looked to that peak from our current location. We had just recently been on Maiden Peak and even though those mountains had been mostly hidden by clouds they seemed further away from that peak than they did now.
IMG_6054

IMG_6052

To the south Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey rose above several other Cascade peaks.
IMG_6033

Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen
IMG_6056

Mt. Bailey
IMG_6059

We had brought a snack with us up to the summit and had hoped to take a nice long break up there but we wound up not staying as long as we planned due to there being quite a few yellow jackets flying around. Heather (and the rest of my family) can tell you I am not a bee person and I am especially uncomfortable around yellow jackets and wasps. I have been doing better the last couple of years with honey bees and bumble bees but I have no use for yellow jackets and can only handle their buzzing around me for a short time before I start to go crazy, and I really didn’t want to do something stupid on the top of a mountain, so we headed back down, retrieved our backpacks, and returned to the PCT.

We continued north on the PCT just over a quarter of a mile to a signed junction with the Cowhorn Traverse Trail.
IMG_6083

We left the PCT here and took the Cowhorn Traverse Trail downhill for .3 miles to another junction, this time with the Windy Pass Trail.
IMG_6086

We were now in the Oregon Cascades Recreation area, the largest unprotected roadless area left in the Cascades. We headed left on the Windy Pass Trail which followed a ridge west toward Sawtooth Mountain for approximately two miles to a junction with the Indigo Extension Trail.
IMG_6089

IMG_6090

The Windy Pass Trail continued to the left passing behind Sawtooth Mountain. We would be taking that trail the next day when we climbed Sawtooth Mountain but for now we headed right toward Indigo Lake. The trail passed a nice viewpoint of Sawtooth Mountain before beginning a steeper descent toward the lake via a series of switchbacks.
IMG_6097

We decided to take another detour off-trail prior to reaching Indigo Lake to see if we could get to a small unnamed lake shown on the map. We left the trail when we appeared to be at a comparable elevation to the lake and managed to find it without much difficulty. The little lake was a beautiful green and had a nice view of Sawtooth Mountain.
IMG_6106

IMG_6101

There was also a nice area for a tent so we called an audible and decided to set up camp here instead of down at Indigo Lake.
IMG_6105

After getting our camp set up we switched to our day packs and headed back to the trail to go see Indigo Lake. After a few more switchbacks we arrived at the lake’s primitive campground.
IMG_6117

We didn’t see anyone else there as we made our way counter-clockwise around the lake.
IMG_6119

IMG_6120

IMG_6131

At the south end of the lake was a talus slope where we spotted a couple of pikas.
IMG_6134

IMG_6137

IMG_6142

The southern end of the lake also provided a glimpse of Diamond Peak.
IMG_6147

We finished the loop around the lake and then sat at one of the wooden picnic tables for a bit.
IMG_6152

IMG_6122

After our break we climbed back up to the unnamed lake and decided to walk around it as well. There weren’t any other people there either but we were far from alone.
IMG_6153

IMG_6155

IMG_6157

We spent the rest of the evening at the little lake watching the sunset after having dinner and then turning in for the night.
IMG_6171

IMG_6166

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157674041143915

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 the 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.
IMG_5648

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 visited 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.
IMG_5651

About a half mile prior to reaching Marion Lake the trail passes smaller Lake Ann.
IMG_5652

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.
IMG_5659

IMG_5666

IMG_5667

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.
IMG_5690

The main reason to take the Marion Outlet Trail though is to take a short unsigned side trail and visit Marion and Gatch Falls.
IMG_5674

IMG_5680

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.
IMG_5693

IMG_5694

After entering the trees again we took a trail down to the lake to get a view of Mt. Jefferson across the water.
IMG_5697

We continued on the Blue Lake Trail which soon entered the forest burned by the 2003 B & B Fire.
IMG_5705

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.
IMG_5709

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.
IMG_5713

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.
IMG_5728

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.
IMG_5731

IMG_5735

IMG_5737

IMG_5752

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.
IMG_5742

IMG_5748

From this direction the first lake in the basin that we reached was Blue Lake.
IMG_5754

We headed down to the lake where we were able to find a little shade on a rock along the shore.
IMG_5756

IMG_5757

After having a snack and cooling down we continued on following the Blue Lake Trail further downhill toward Jorn Lake.
IMG_5764

IMG_5767

IMG_5776

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.
IMG_5778

IMG_5779

IMG_5788

IMG_5792

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.
IMG_5801

IMG_5804

We took the official Blue Lake Trail back down to a junction with the Bowerman Lake Trail near Jorn Lake.
IMG_5804

Before we turned onto the Bowerman Lake Trail we went down to Jorn Lakes shore.
IMG_5811

While we were sitting by the lake a doe came down to the eastern end of the lake.
IMG_5825

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.
IMG_5831

IMG_5839

The best view of Mt. Jefferson came at the SE end of the lake.
IMG_5842

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.
IMG_5846

IMG_5847

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.
IMG_5850

IMG_5853

Bowerman Lake was the last lake in the Basin that the trail passed and we were soon back into the snags.
IMG_5863

IMG_5869

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.
IMG_5874

IMG_5876

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.
IMG_5889

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.
IMG_5892

IMG_5895

IMG_5897

IMG_5904

The trail crossed several springs and creeks as it neared the lake including the very pretty Mist Creek.
IMG_5908

IMG_5910

IMG_5922

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.
IMG_5926

IMG_5930

IMG_5928

IMG_5946

IMG_5936

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.
IMG_5947

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.
IMG_5954

IMG_5965

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

Maiden Peak

Labor Day weekend finally brought some cooler temperatures to the Cascades. We had planned an overnight trip for Sat/Sun in the Maiden Peak area. Located to the NE of Willamette Pass Maiden Peak is the tallest point between Mt. Bachelor and Diamond Peak. The 7818′ shield volcano is also Oregon’s 29th most prominent peak(Prominence is how far you must drop before you start going up a higher peak).

Our plan for the visit was to park at the Pacific Crest Trailhead .3 miles east of the Willamette Pass Ski Area and take the PCT past the Rosary Lakes then take the Maiden Lake Trail to Maiden Lake where we would hopefully find a campsite. After setting up camp we’d hike up Maiden Peak before spending the night at the lake. The weather forecast called for a chance of isolated showers and an overnight low of 34 degrees so we had to remember to bring a few extra items that we hadn’t needed yet this year.

We arrived at the trailhead just after 7am.
IMG_5389

From the trailhead a short connector path brought us to the Pacific Crest Trail which slowly climbed for about 2 miles through a nice forest with no clear views of the surrounding area.
IMG_5391

The trail passed a rockslide at the 2.25 mile mark where we had hoped to see a pika but had to settle for hearing their warning “meeps” instead.
IMG_5393

About a half mile from the rockslide we arrived at Lower Rosary Lake. This is the largest of the three lakes and there were a couple of tents in the area. Despite the forecast we had beautiful bluebird skies overhead and no breeze whatsoever leading to some great reflections in the lake.
IMG_5399

IMG_5400

To the north Maiden Peak rose above the forest.
IMG_5402

On the opposite side of the trail was a small steaming pond.
IMG_5404

A short climb from Lower Rosary Lake brought us to Middle Rosary Lake where we spotted some mergansers paddling away.
IMG_5411

IMG_5414

Pulpit Rock loomed above this lake making for a dramatic scene.
IMG_5412

A narrow strip of land separated Middle Rosary Lake from North Rosary Lake.
IMG_5417

IMG_5419

Beyond North Rosary Lake the PCT began to climb up toward Maiden Saddle. Just under 1.5 miles from the first view of Lower Rosary Lake, and .4 miles short of Maiden Saddle, we reached the junction with the Maiden Lake Trail.
IMG_5427

We left the PCT here and headed toward Maiden Lake. This trail traversed the side of Maiden Peak passing a couple of small ponds as it climbed to the lake.
IMG_5428

IMG_5430

It was approximately 2.3 miles from the junction to Maiden Lake with an elevation gain of around 500′ which isn’t a lot, but the elevation gains came in short steep chunks. We were starting to get a little tired so we were relieved when we crested a hill and spotted a sign for Maiden Lake.
IMG_5432

We spotted the beautiful green of Maiden Lake from above and quickly made our way down to the lake.
IMG_5434

IMG_5435

IMG_5436

It was smaller than the Rosary Lakes and lacked the dramatic views that Pulpit Rock had provided those lakes, but it had it’s own peaceful charm. There weren’t any other tents at the lake so we had our pick of spots.  Following Leave No Trace principles we chose a spot back in the trees away from the lake.
IMG_5439

After getting our camp set up we switched to our daypacks and returned to the Maiden Lake Trail.
IMG_5441

A fairly level .6 miles brought us to another trail junction. From here the Maiden Lake Trail continues 2.5 miles to Forest Road 4664-100, but we turned uphill following a pointer for Maiden Peak.
IMG_5447

The trail toward Maiden Peak gained almost 1200′ in 1.7 miles with some very steep sections. Our original plan had been to return from the peak this way and then come back up and around on a loop using the PCT on our way back to the trailhead on the second day. We had already changed our minds and were planning on continuing on the loop after climbing up Maiden Peak and then just hiking straight back out on the second day. As we climbed these steep sections of trail that decision seemed justified.

As we approached a rock outcropping, views finally opened up to the south and we were able to get a good look at Diamond Peak.
IMG_5460

IMG_5455

IMG_5457

The trail was quite steep as it passed along the rock outcrop but the views continued to open up which sort of made up for the effort.
IMG_5463

Mt. Thielsen beyond Crescent Lake
IMG_5468

Mt. Bailey
IMG_5469

In addition to the steepness of the trail the tread along the upper portion was pretty loose making it even more challenging.
IMG_5472

There was a trail junction a quarter mile from the summit of Maiden Peak marked by several rock cairns.
IMG_5525

The loop we were planning on doing made a hairpin turn around a small stand of trees while the summit trail lay straight ahead. The summit trail passed a small crater as it wound its way up.
IMG_5483

IMG_5484

Numerous Clark’s nutcrackers were noisily flying among the whitebark pines gracing the peaks slopes.
IMG_5488

The views from Maiden Peak were great. The weather was cooperating, with the exception of the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, the clouds that were present were adding to views and not obstructing them. The view north included Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor beyond Crane Prairie Reservoir.
IMG_5489

IMG_5491

IMG_5493

IMG_5492

The NW view included little Bobby Lake below the Twins and Waldo Lake.
IMG_5517

To the west was Fuji Mountain, Mt. Ray, and Waldo Lake.
IMG_5495

Fuji Mountain
IMG_5496

SW was the Willamette Pass Ski Area on Eagle Peak, pointy Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak.
IMG_5511

Mt. Yoran
IMG_5522

To the south Lower Rosary Lake and Pulpit Rock were visible along with Odell and Crescent Lakes and a number of Cascade Peaks.
IMG_5505

Mount Scott, Tipsoo Butte & Howlock Mountain, Llao Rock, and Hillman Peak
IMG_5501

Mt. Scott
IMG_5507

To the east Paulina Peak was the highest point on the horizon beyond Wickiup Reservoir, Davis Mountain, and Davis Lake.
IMG_5494

The NE side of Maiden Peak was home to several volcanic features.
IMG_5514

IMG_5516

IMG_5515

Remains of the former lookout tower could be seen at the summit.
IMG_5519

We spent awhile exploring the broad summit and taking the opportunity to eat a little lunch before continuing on our planned loop. At the unsigned junction we turned right and headed downhill toward the Pacific Crest Trail which was 2.7 miles away. While the hike up had been steep this section of trail had it beat. We passed five mountain bikers headed uphill, the first two had been resigned to walking their bikes up, the second pair was struggling and looking for an inhaler, and the final rider was also struggling greatly.
IMG_5529

Another option I had considered when planning the trip was to come up this way to Maiden Peak with our backpacks before heading down the other side to Maiden Lake. Once again we were glad we had settled on our current plan.

The trail began to level out near the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.
IMG_5534

IMG_5539

Mountain bikes are banned on the PCT so they come up using the Maiden Peak Trail. We however turned left on PCT and continued downhill toward Maiden Saddle.
IMG_5540

IMG_5542

The PCT was a more gradual descent and it was a fairly easy walk for the next .7 miles where we took a side trail to the Maiden Peak Shelter.
IMG_5543

IMG_5546

IMG_5559

The shelter was only about a hundred yards off the PCT and it was by far the nicest shelter we’ve visited while on a trail. Solar powered, the shelter can sleep up to 15 and includes a wood stove, tables, and chairs.
IMG_5547

IMG_5548

IMG_5551

We were the only hikers at the shelter although entries in the guest book showed that other hikers had visited earlier in the morning. Several of the locals were out, possibly part of the neighborhood watch.
IMG_5555

IMG_5561

From the shelter it was just under two miles to Maiden Saddle and another .4 miles back to the Maiden Lake Trail. Heather had brought the bags of Doritos that she had left over from handing them out to thru-hikers on the PCT in the Sky Lakes Wilderness since we would be spending more time on trail during this trip. We ran into our first thru-hiker between the shelter and Maiden Saddle. His name was Horse Whistler (a.k.a. James) and this was his first time in Oregon. It was nice to hear he was really enjoying the state so far and he couldn’t believe how much trail magic he’d encountered since entering Oregon. He was really looking forward to getting to the Three Sisters area and spending a day in Bend. After a nice conversation he was off to check out the shelter and we were on the look out for a view of the Rosary Lakes that he had good things to say about.

The viewpoint was above but not far from Maiden Saddle and exactly as Forest Whistler had described. The Rosary Lakes were lined up with Odell and Crescent Lakes.
IMG_5569

One of the locals was already there enjoying the view when we arrived.
IMG_5568

From the viewpoint the trail descended to Maiden Saddle via a couple of switchbacks.
IMG_5571

Another couple of switchbacks brought us down to the Maiden Lake Trail where we turned left and retraced our steps from earlier in the day.
IMG_5574

Heather handed out one final bag of chips to a gracious hiker who said they were going to go perfectly with his dinner before we’d turned onto the Maiden Lake Trail. The lake was just as pretty this time around.
IMG_5579

Instead of heading down to the lake on the trail we had taken earlier we stayed on the trail above the lake where there was a nice view of Maiden Peak with the lake below.
IMG_5586

This time we just headed down to our campsite where we grabbed our dinner, stove, and camp chairs before making our way to the lake. Where we once again were the only ones at the lake and we set up our chairs on a little sandy beach.
IMG_5588

It was already getting a little chilly, especially whenever a passing cloud would block the Sun and/or the breeze kicked up.
IMG_5590

When the Sun was out and the wind calm it was just about as perfect as it gets though. After a nice break at the lake we had dinner then decided to see if we could hike around the lake while we looked for a good place to filter water. We headed around counter-clockwise following a faint path to another campsite that was closer to the lake than it probably should have been. The lake was deeper along the shore here and we refilled our water supply before continuing on. The hillside grew steeper along the north side of the lake and we were forced to sidehill over and around some blowdown before being able to drop down to the sandy lakeshore on the southern end of the lake. Along the way we had a nice view back across the lake to our dinner spot.
IMG_5591

It was a little after 6:15 when we completed our loop and we tried sitting by the lake a little longer, but between the breeze and the vanishing sunlight it was a little too chilly without pulling out some of our warmer gear. Instead of retrieving some of our warmer clothing and going back down to the lake we decided to turn in for the evening. We had had a long day, waking up at 3:30am and then hiking a total of 19.4 (according to the GPS). I was asleep by eight and Heather thought she nodded off shortly after, about 8:30.

We were interested in seeing how well we would be able to stay warm overnight in near freezing temperatures. We both slept well and were able to sleep until almost 6am. It had definitely gotten a lot colder overnight than it had on any of our other overnight trips this year. We made good use of our down jackets as we packed up camp and ate breakfast down by the lake.
IMG_5592

IMG_5595

We were headed back to our car by 7:15 planning on returning the way we’d come past the Rosary Lakes. One of the things we try and do is familiarize ourselves with the distances of the different sections of trail we’re hiking to break up the distances. As we were headed back to the PCT we stopped to look at our map from William Sullivan’s book to do just that when the idea of returning via the Willamette Pass Ski Area came up. It appeared more direct and I failed to pay attention to the fact that the section from the top of Eagle Peak down to the ski area did not have a distance noted leading me to believe it would be almost 2 miles shorter. Heather caught that but it was too early in the morning for me to comprehend what she was attempting to point out. Either way she was game for taking a different route though so when we got back to the PCT we turned right and climbed back up to Maiden Saddle.
IMG_5599

We followed the pointer for the Taits Loop sticking to the main trail until we could see what looked like a roadbed above and to our right.
IMG_5600

IMG_5601

This was actually the Boundary Pass ski run which we began to follow uphill.
IMG_5603

The sky had been blue at Maiden Lake but by the time we had reached the saddle low clouds were passing overhead and now Maiden Peak was completely socked in.
IMG_5606

The Boundary Pass run headed steeply uphill toward Peak 2 which we did not need to climb so we stuck to the cat/road bed which turned into the Kris Kross run.
IMG_5608

This run crossed the Southbound run coming from the Peak 2 Lift and continued on to the summit of Eagle Peak.
IMG_5609

IMG_5611

In previous years a gondola has operated from the Willamette Pass Ski Area during the Summer months allowing mountain bikers and hikers to catch a lift to the top of Eagle Peak for a fee, but it apparently never opened in 2016. The only views we had were down to part of Odell Lake across Highway 58 and straight down the Eagle Peak Accelerator Lift to the ski area.
IMG_5612

IMG_5613

It looked too steep and brushy for us to attempt to go straight downhill from the lift so we turned down the Kaleidoscope run which headed SE at a more gentle grade.
IMG_5618

It was an easier walk but it was swinging us out wider than we really wanted and the first two ski runs we passed that would have headed us more in the direction we wanted, Good Time Charlie and Eagle’s Flight, both looked too steep. We finally spotted what looked like a good option marked by a sign that simply read “Sport”.
IMG_5620

This path traversed back along the hillside through the trees recrossing Eagle’s Flight and Good Time Charlie below their steeper sections.
IMG_5622

IMG_5625

Looking up Eagle’s Flight
IMG_5626

Even though we were headed back in the direction we wanted we weren’t losing much elevation so when we reached Good Time Charlie we turned downhill.
IMG_5628

This run ended when it joined the Perseverance run which led straight to the ski area.
IMG_5632

IMG_5637

The trailhead was actually .3 miles east of the ski area so we didn’t need to get all the way there so when we spotted the Sleepy Hollow chair lift to our left we began looking for a path down to it.
IMG_5636

We found a path through the trees and headed for the lift. The ski lodge and the unused gondolas where off to our right.
IMG_5639

IMG_5640

IMG_5641

From the Sleepy Hollow lift a nordic trail followed an old road bed to the Pacifc Crest Trail near the highway maintenance shed.
IMG_5643

IMG_5645

It was just a few hundred feet along the PCT to the junction with the trail from the Willamette Pass Trailhead and an even short distance to our waiting car.
IMG_5646

In the end our route back turned out to be about .3 miles shorter (6.1 vs 6.4) than it would have been if we’d gone back by the Rosary Lakes, but it gained over 500 more feet of elevation. It was worth it though just to check out the ski area and made for a nice variety on the way back to the car. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672347862022

Brown Mountain Lava Flow

On our go-home day we try and pick a shorter hike to do on the way home.  For this trip is was a 5.8 mile round trip to visit the Brown Mountain Lava Flow. We began packing up early using our headlamps and our Luci Color Inflatable Solar Light After taking the tent down we made some coffee and had a quick breakfast. We had found a spot along Badger Lake the night before that made for the perfect place to enjoy our final moments there.

IMG_5345

We headed back toward the Badger Lake Trailhead munching on huckleberries as we went. When we were able to get a view of Mt. McLoughlin across Fourmile Lake we were greeted with a nice reflection of the mountain. It was the first time the water was calm enough to allow for one.

IMG_5348

Once we were in the car we drove back to Highway 140 and turned right for 3.2 miles and turned into the Summit Sno-Park. The trail began at the far end of the parking lot.

IMG_5351

In .2 miles we crossed the Cascade Canal on a footbridge.

IMG_5355

IMG_5356

On the far side of the canal was the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.

IMG_5358

We turned left on the PCT and headed toward Highway 140 which was .4 miles away. The canal was nearby and along this section of PCT were a few campsites. Heather had brought more Doritos to pass out and as we neared the highway we met a thru-hiker packing up her camp. One more bag of chips down. 🙂

After making the dash across the highway we cam to a pair of back to back trail junctions lay about a quarter mile from the highway.

IMG_5367

It would have been possible to do an entire loop around Brown Mountain on the trails but we had a long drive ahead of us. Our plan was to follow the PCT for another 2.1 miles before turning around. The forest quickly gave way to fields of lava with occasional views of its source – Brown Mountain.

IMG_5368

IMG_5370

IMG_5372

Most of the trails we’ve been on that passed through lava flows have been rocky and uneven but that was not the case with the PCT here. When the trail was built dynamite was used to blast out the route then red cinder was laid to even out the tread.

IMG_5371

It was a nice easy trail to hike and we made quick time making it to our turnaround point. We were watching for Pikas but never saw any, we just heard a couple of their distinct “meeps”. For views in addition to the lava fields there were a number of great views of Mt. McLoughlin.

IMG_5376

IMG_5380

It was a bit late in the year for flowers but a small number of them were still in bloom along the PCT.
Pearly everlasting

IMG_5384

Common mullein

IMG_5377

Thistle

IMG_5360

On our way back to the car Heather handed out one final bag of chips. It was the perfect distance and difficulty for an “on-the-way home” hike. It had taken us just over two hours and we were back on the road headed home by 10:15am leaving us plenty of time to unpack and cleanup when we got there.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157672098699882