Tag Archives: Cowhorn Mountain

Throwback Thursday – Miller and Maidu Lakes

This week’s throwback hike is an example of us being slow learners in our early hiking days. From 2011 to 2013 we took the first full week of August as vacation and headed over to Central Oregon for some hiking. We took that week because it that was the one week when we could be sure Dominique would not have any sports commitments. One of the drawbacks to taking the first week of August off, as we’d learned in 2011 at both Benson and Horse Lake, was the presence of mosquitoes in many areas.   So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that on 8/1/2012 when we picked Miller and Maidu Lakes for our hike that we would wind up losing another round to the little bloodsuckers.

They apparently knew we were coming as they were waiting eagerly for us when we arrived at the Miller Lake Trailhead near Chemult, OR.  We parked at the day-use area near the Digit Point Campground and set off along the large lake on the Miller Lake Trail.
Miller Lake Trailhead

Miller Lake

We were covered in Deet and wearing extra layers of clothes including gloves but nothing would keep the mosquitoes from their feast. The trail passed along the SW side of Miller Lake crossing Tipsoo Creek near the trailhead and Evening Creek at the .9 mile mark. Wildflowers including columbine and lupine bloomed along the trail while gray jays ate breakfast and a merganser floated on the water.
Tipsoo Creek

Lupine and columbine

Miller Lake

Gray jays

Merganser on Miller Lake

Sign for Evening Creek

Evening Creek

On the far side of Evening Creek was the Maidu Lake Trail which would lead us uphill for 2 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Trail sign along the Maidu Lake Trail

We turned left onto the Maidu Lake Trail and soon entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.
Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

The trail climbed approximately 550′ to the Cascade Crest where it crossed the Pacific Crest Trail and continued another three quarters of a mile to green Maidu Lake.
Maidu Lake

At the lake the trail split with the Maidu Lake Loop leaving to the left while the North Umpqua Trail was to the right.
Trail signs at Maidu Lake

We went left passing along the west side of Maidu Lake for a half mile before rejoining the North Umpqua Trail on the north end. The mosquito situation was better up on the crest and we decided to visit one more lake before heading back. We followed the North Umpqua Trail along the forested ridge for .7 miles to a viewpoint. To the NW the Diamond Peak rose between to lesser peaks. Sawtooth Mountain rose to the left and the spire of Cowhorn Mountain rose to the right of the larger snow covered peak.
Sawtooth Mountain, Diamond Peak and Cowhorn Mountain

Sawtooth Mountain, Diamond Peak, and Cowhorn Mountain

A half mile beyond the viewpoint we came to Lucille Lake which we hiked around on a .7 mile path.
Lake Lucile

Ducks on Lake Lucile

We returned to Maidu Lake and this time stuck to the North Umpqua Trail on the east side of the lake. The view was better on that end of the lake with Tipsoo Peak rising above the forest.
Tipsoo Peak from Maidu Lake

We made one side trip on the way back hiking north along the PCT for just under 3/4 of a mile to a viewpoint above Miller Lake’s glacial valley.
Miller Lake from the PCT

The mosquito situation had not gotten any better in this section and we hurried down from the PCT to the point of jogging. That turned out to be a poor choice. After running a 5k the prior Saturday, hiking 11.5 miles on Sunday, 5.8 on Monday, 12.4 on Tuesday the 10+ we’d done this day was just too much for my right leg. Something popped as I was running downhill and although it wasn’t too painful I knew something was wrong. For the next month my right knee/leg would stiffen up shortly after any running and it wasn’t too excited about going downhill for the better part of the next year. Although it didn’t stop us from hiking it did sideline my running after suffering through the Sunriver Half Marathon in September.

A little research revealed that driving can put additional strain on your IT Band which is what we believe I had irritated and I had done almost all the driving to and from the trailheads that week. We’ve since instituted a one-way driving rule where I get us to the trailheads and Heather drives us home.

One other rule that came as a result of this vacation was no more lake hikes in the middle of mosquito season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Miller & Maidu Lake

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.
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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.
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We followed the Lake Shore Trail for .4 miles to the Timpanogas Shelter.
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Just beyond the shelter were signs for the Start O’Willamette Trail.
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We turned uphill on this trail and climbed nearly 600′ in just over a mile to the Windy Pass Trail.
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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.
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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.
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We were in a zone and making good time when a pair of grouse startled us.
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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.
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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
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Maiden Peak, Mt. Bachelor and Crescent Lake to the NE
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Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Bailey, and Sawtooth Mountain to the south
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Mt. Thielsen, peaks around Crater Lake, Union Peak, and Mt. McLoughlin
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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.
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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.
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The cross country route was much easier than we could have ever hoped for with very little blowdown and no underbrush to speak of.
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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.
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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.
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We located the Windy Lakes Trail near a campsite at the SE end of the lake and turned left hiking along the lake.
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We decided to take a break and sat on a log along the sandy beach watching some birds hunting for food.
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From there we continued north on the Windy Lakes Trail passing briefly through forest before arriving at the next lake.
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We thought this must be Middle Windy Lake and it had a bit of a view of Diamond Peak.
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It also had a nice looking peninsula which was a little odd because we remembered from the maps that East Windy Lake had peninsula.
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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.
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It was just under a half mile to South Windy Lake from the campsite.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The next lakes up were Suzanne and Darlene. Suzanne Lake was a quick, level mile from first 3-way junction.
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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.
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The summit of Cowhorn Mountain was visible over the forest on the far side of the lake.
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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.
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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.
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We arrived at Oldenburg Lake just after 2:30 having traveled the final 3 miles in about an hour.
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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.
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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.
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When full it is actually one continuous lake but this late in the year the two parts were separated by a grassy meadow.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Here we turned right onto the Windy Pass Trail and began a downhill traverse behind Sawtooth Mountain.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Beyond Sawtooth Mountain was Cowhorn Mountain which we had climbed the previous day.
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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.
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A second outcrop lay a couple hundred feet further along the ridge.

Looking back to the first outcrop from the second.
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Hidden behind the second outcrop the ridge continued on but it was much narrower.
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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.
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At the far end of the ridge was a patch of western pasque flowers.
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The route headed to the left along a scree field below the mountains craggy summit.
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After passing a narrow chute filled with loose rock we scrambled up to the summit from the NW side.
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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
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Indigo Lake
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Diamond Peak and Summit Lake
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor behind Maiden Peak
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To the east was Cowhorn Mountain
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View south
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Mt. Scott behind Mt. Thielsen
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Union Peak and Mt. McLouglin
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Mt. Bailey
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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.
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Approximately 1.2 miles after starting back on the Windy Pass Trail we came to a junction with the Sawtooth Mountain Trail.
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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.
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After the 2.25 miles we arrived at a trail junction with the Indigo Lake and June/Indigo Tie Trails.
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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.
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After about half a mile the tie trail met the June Lake Trail coming up from a trailhead near the Timpanogs Lake Campground.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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As we rested we watched busy birds and butterflies along the lakes sandy shore.
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We had gone around the lake clockwise and near the end of the loop we came to the lakes now dry outlet creek.
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We stopped for a moment to ponder what might have once been on a small signboard that was nearby.
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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.
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This section of trail lost about 200′ of elevation as it descended to a junction with the Middle Fork Trail.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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When we reached the switchback that we had been aiming for we could see the lake below.
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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
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Sawtooth Mountain
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Mt. Thielsen
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Diamond Peak
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The unofficial trail to the summit was marked by rock cairns on the shoulder of Cowhorn Mountain.
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The trail was worn enough to be fairly easy to follow as it crossed a cinder ridge.
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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.
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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.
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To the north the view included nearby Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor.
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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.
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To the south Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey rose above several other Cascade peaks.
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Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen
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Mt. Bailey
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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We didn’t see anyone else there as we made our way counter-clockwise around the lake.
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At the south end of the lake was a talus slope where we spotted a couple of pikas.
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The southern end of the lake also provided a glimpse of Diamond Peak.
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We finished the loop around the lake and then sat at one of the wooden picnic tables for a bit.
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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.
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We spent the rest of the evening at the little lake watching the sunset after having dinner and then turning in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

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