Tag Archives: PCT

Mount Washington Meadows

One week after returning from our Northern California trip we found ourselves headed to Bend to drop off some furniture to our Son who had recently moved.  It wasn’t going to be a long visit due to his having to work so after a quick tour of his new apartment we were back on our way home.

Our plan was to stop for a hike on the way home along the Pacific Crest Trail near Santiam Pass south to Mount Washington Meadows. We had left Salem at 5am so it would still be fairly early when we hiked. Just after 8:30 we pulled into the PCT trailhead near Big Lake.

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We headed south on the PCT which quickly entered the Mt. Washington Wilderness amid trees burned in the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire.

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The first two or so miles passed through the burn where despite most of the trees being dead, there was plenty of green and other colors present.

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The lack of living trees did allow for some views of both Mt. Washington ahead and Three Fingered Jack to the north beyond Big Lake, the Hoodoo Ski Area and the flat topped Hayrick Butte.

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We could also see two small buttes just to the SW of Big Lake which we had hiked around in 2012 when we visited the Patjens Lakes.

That hike was also done during the first week of August, but less than a year removed from the Shadow Lake Fire. It was interesting to see how the forest was recovering with the passing of several more years.

Patjens Lake TrailPatjens Lake Trail – August 2012

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A wider variety of plants including various berries were present now.

We left the burn area where we were able to see what the forest will look like again eventually.

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We passed several small meadows and lots of wildflowers as we went.

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We had been gradually climbing and when a break in the trees allowed us a view to the north where we spotted Mt. Jefferson over the shoulder of Three Fingered Jack.

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It was a bittersweet view as it reminded us that the Whitewater Fire was burning on the west side of Mt. Jefferson and had already burned over portions of several trails leading to Jefferson Park.

There was no real visible smoke but we knew that it was there and those trails would look a lot like what we’d passed through earlier in the Shadow Fire area.

When the PCT began to curve around a ridge to the left the Spire of Mt. Washington came into view.

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An open hillside then opened up views to the south were several other familiar peaks were visible.

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These included the North and Middle Sister, Belknap Crater, the Husband, Diamond Peak, and Scott Mountain.

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As we continued we passed through some increasingly impressive meadows until reaching a large lupine filled meadow below Mt. Washington.

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Mt. Washington rose above the meadow where we were able to get a great look at the eroded volcano.

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Lupine wasn’t the only thing in abundance in the meadow. There was also a large number of tortoiseshell butterflies who seemed to be overly attracted to me.

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We continued through the meadow where we found a nice display of cat’s ear lilies still in bloom amid the lupine.

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At this point we’d gone a little over 5.5 miles, but the level grade of the PCT and the great scenery so far enticed us to continue a little further to see what else the area had to offer. We decided to follow the PCT until it began to lose elevation as it crossed a valley between Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater. We soon found ourselves in another area affected by fire.

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We ended our hike as the PCT bent around a ridge end where it would begin the 400′ elevation loss before climbing up to the shoulder of Belknap Crater which was visible across the valley.

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From this vantage point we could also make out Little Belknap Crater.

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After a short break we headed back through the meadows and returned to our car.

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The 12.4 mile round trip had proved to be a lot more entertaining than we’d expected. We hadn’t really known what to expect having selected the hike from the back of our guidebook in the additional hikes section, but it had been a thoroughly enjoyable outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Washington Meadows

Pilot Rock

On our way home from Mount Shasta City we stopped for a quick hike to Pilot Rock in Oregon’s Soda Mountain Wilderness. We took exit 1 from Interstate 5 and drove north on Old Highway 99 for 6.9 miles to Pilot Rock Road (Road 40-2E-33) where we turned east. Instead of starting at the Pilot Rock Trailhead which is located 2 miles up the road we parked after a mile at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing. (If you do start here be sure not to block the private driveway.)
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From the road Mt. Ashland to the west and Mt. McLoughlin to the north were visible in the morning light.
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We headed south on the PCT (which ironically meant we were going northbound due to the route the trail takes after crossing I-5).
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Most of the flowers were finished but by the looks of things there had been quite a few. A number of late bloomers remained and along with those were some juicy thimbleberries.
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Aside from a couple of very short uphills the trail seemed fairly level and after about 3/4 of a mile Pilot Rock came into view.
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After another .9 miles we arrived at a junction with the closed road that serves as the trail from the official Pilot Rock Trailhead.
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The two trails joined for .2 miles passing through a nice forest before splitting once again.
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We forked to the right following the Pilot Rock pointer. This trail was much steeper and we climbed about 600′ in .7 miles to the base of Pilot Rock.
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In a perfect world we would have scrambled up to the top of the rock which wasn’t that much higher, but after hiking 80 plus miles and climbing at least 20,000′ over the previous 7 days we weren’t sure that we had the strength and muscle control left to safely climb to and descend from the top.

Rather than risk it we stopped just below the first section where we definitely would have need to use our hands to go any higher.
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We returned the way we’d come. Starting at the PCT put the hike at a little under 5 miles a little less than double what it would have been from the Pilot Rock Trailhead with some nice scenery which would have been even better earlier in the year when the numerous flowers were still in bloom. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pilot Rock

Castle Crags Wilderness

More potential thunderstorms were forecast for the fourth day of our stay in Mount Shasta City, but then it looked like the threat would be past so we decided to stick close by and spend a day hiking in the Castle Crags Wilderness.

We had three hikes lined up for the wilderness starting with a climb to the base of Castle Dome. For that hike we started at the Vista Point Trailhead in Castle Crags State Park. There was an $8 day use fee for the park which turned into a bit of a fiasco because we only had a twenty, a five, and a one on us and there was no one manning the booth yet to make change. I had hoped that there would be a debit/credit card option but there wasn’t so we had to drive back to Dunsmire to break the twenty.

After obtaining the day use permit we drove the narrow, winding 2.1 mile road to the Vista Point parking area.

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A short walk on the Vista Point Trail brought us to a viewpoint where Mt. Shasta, Gray Rocks, and of course the Castle Crags were visible.

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For the first time during the week Mt. Shasta was sporting a bit of a lenticular cloud.

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After checking out the view from Vista Point we returned to the parking area and crossed the road to a sign for the Crags and Root Creek Trails.

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The trail passed through a forest with a bit of poison oak here and there.

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We stuck to the Crag Trail when the Root Creek Trail split off to the right and crossed the Pacific Crest Trail after .4 miles.

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Another .4 miles brought us to a junction with the Bob’s Hat Trail.

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A mile later we passed the .2 mile side trail to Indian Springs.

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The forest began to thin not long after we’d passed the Indian Springs Trail and we soon entered the Castle Crags Wilderness.

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From there it didn’t take long to reach the base of the granite spires of the Castle Crags and climb up the rock.

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The views really opened towards the end of the official trail. Castle Dome and Mt. Shasta lined up nicely as we passed the base of rounded spire.

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It was possible to continue beyond the end of the trail sign a bit and explore the area a little more. The rock formations were spectacular, it was hard to process everything we were seeing.

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A viewpoint below Castle Dome provided a nice view of Mt. Shasta as well as a look up the granite tower.

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Although it’s possible to climb Castle Dome, knowing our limitations, neither of us had any intention of attempting to do so. After a long rest in the cool breeze that provided some nice relief after what had been a warm climb up we headed back down. On the way down we noticed that the cloud above Mt. Shasta had morphed.

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After a mile we turned toward Indian Springs to check them out.

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There were quite a few mosquitoes near the springs so we didn’t stick around long before heading back and returning to our car.

The trailhead for our second hike was a mere 3 miles from the park entrance so after exiting the park we turned right on Castle Creek Road and pulled into a large parking area on the right. The goal for this hike was Burstarse Falls which we hoped might still have a little water flowing over it. We followed the hike described here on Hike Mount Shasta.

The trail was marked by a metal post with an arrow for the PCT.

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The Dog Trail, so named because dogs are not allowed on the PCT in the Castle Crag State Park so hikers on that trail must go around the park and rejoin the PCT on the other side, climbed for just over a half mile to the PCT.

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We turned left on the PCT and followed it for approximately 1.7 miles to Burstarse Creek where a hungry tree was devouring a sign for the creek.

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There had been some poison oak along the trail so we kept our eyes open as we turned onto the use trail on the south side of the creek. The creek did have some flowing water but it wasn’t much.

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The use trail was easy enough to follow especially in conjunction with the information from Hike Mt. Shasta. We arrived at the lower falls to find just a trickle of water running down it. We knew that coming this late in the summer would probably mean little to no water but as long as we were in the area it was worth checking out.

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Heather remained at the lower falls while I continued on scrambling above the falls on the right then crossing and recrossing the creek bed before arriving at the upper falls.

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The sight of the basalt amphitheater gave me a decent idea of how nice the falls must be when the water is freely flowing. I settled for a small spray of water cascading over the lip of the rocks.

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I headed back down to the lower falls to rejoin Heather.

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We headed back to the car once again and were soon on our way to the third and final hike of the day.

For our last hike we returned to I-5 and drove north back almost to Mount Shasta City before turning west and heading for Castle Lake.

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It was an unusually late time for us to start a hike (1:30pm) and it was a hot day. When we arrived at Castle Lake at the end of paved Castle Lake Road we found a whole lot of cars. We parked in the first spot we saw and walked past the mass of cars to the trail.

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We bypassed Castle Lake settling for views along the trail which we were following to Heart Lake.

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After a .7 mile climb we found ourselves at a pass above Castle Lake. A confusion of trails appeared to head in every direction.

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Heart Lake lay to our right so we just picked a path and headed in that direction.

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Mt. Shasta emerged from behind a peak to the east over our shoulders as we made our way to Heart Lake.

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After cresting the lip of a glacially carved cirque we spied the lake.

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There is a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta beyond Heart Lake which can be seen here. We did not get this iconic image due to a group of young bikini clad girls taking turns posing for Instagram photos at the edge of the lake in the gap where Mt. Shasta was visible. They were oblivious to everyone else hoping to get an unobstructed picture of the scene.

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We continued on past Heart Lake (and the Instagrammers) planning on following another route recommended by Bubba Suess at Hike Mt. Shasta. His recommendation was to continue west from the lake and follow a ridge up and around to Castle Peak then return down the far side to complete a small loop with some big views. We continued west past a small tarn then headed up hill on a faint but visible use trail.

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An initial steep climb brought us to the top of the ridge where we were rewarded with a great view.

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We still had a ways to go to reach Castle Peak though.

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The route was pretty brushy and at times we weren’t sure if we were following the correct path, but we kept making our way up the ridge.

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When we arrived at the summit of Castle Peak we found one other gentleman who had seen us coming up behind him. The 360 degree view was impressive with the Castle Crags jutting up to the south.

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Further away through the haze we had our best view of the trip of Mt. Lassen.

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To the north the size disparity between Black Butte and Mt. Shasta was striking.

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When it was time to continue on we headed east down the the other side of Castle Peak. Again the brush made it difficult to tell what was in fact supposed to be the trail and we found ourselves just lumbering through whatever route looked easiest.

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I had been attempting to match our GPS track to the one shown on Hike Mt. Shasta but we wound up turning downhill earlier than we should have which caused us to have an unnecessarily steep descent back to the trail to Heart Lake. Once we were back on that trail we turned right and kept right making our way to the trail down to Little Castle Lake.

This trail dropped down from the pass to a meadow with quite a few wildflowers.

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A short distance from the far end of the meadow was Little Castle Lake.

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After visiting this final lake we headed back down to Castle Lake. On the way we passed a group of naked hikers which was not something we had expected to see. They were a friendly group that was on their way up to Heart Lake. It made for an unexpected end to an interesting day in the Castle Crags Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Castle Crags Wilderness

Mount Eddy and the Deadfall Lakes

The chance of thunderstorms didn’t seem to be going away anytime soon so we decided to take a chance on our third day of vacation and try Mount Eddy, the highest point in the Klamath Mountains.  We set off early in the morning and drove to the Parks Creek Trailhead located at the Pacific Crest Trail crossing of Forest Road 42N17.

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We headed south on the PCT toward the Deadfall Lakes.

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We could see our goal as we hiked the PCT.

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Further to the south were the snowy Trinity Alps.

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Below were meadows surrounding Deadfall Creek.

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As we neared the Deadfall Lakes Basin we began passing some good wildflower displays.

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A little under 3 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Deadfall Lakes Trail.

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We turned left heading for Mount Eddy. The weather was looking good and we wanted to get up to the summit before any thunderstorms might develop. As we passed by we made a brief stop at Middle Deadfall Lake before continuing on.

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The trail climbed gradually past a series of meadows where we spotted some California pitcher plants.

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The trail steepened as it climbed toward Upper Deadfall Lake.

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As we crested the rim of this upper portion of the basin we arrived at a small lake with a big view of Mount Eddy.

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Due to the time the sun wasn’t in the best position to appreciate the view but as we passed by the lake it had a nice reflection.

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Just a little further along the trail (and a mile from the junction) we came to Upper Deadfall Lake.

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The trail then climbed .4 miles to a pass where the Mount Eddy Summit Trail forked to the left from the Siskiyou-Callahan Trail.

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A quick glance at the map showed us that we had about a mile and a half left to the 9025′ summit and another 1000′ to climb. Up we went.

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As we climbed the views of the Deadfall Lakes gradually improved.

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The views and the presence of a number of wildflowers helped keep our minds off the climb. So did the numerous golden-mantled ground squirrels scurrying about.

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Rockfringe willowherb

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Mt. Shasta greeted us as we crested the summit of Mount Eddy.

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Looking north we could see that there was definitely some active weather happening but the sky was cloudless above us.

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We explored the broad summit and took a seat overlooking the Deadfall Lakes where we enjoyed a much needed break.

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We eventually pulled ourselves away and headed back down toward the lakes.

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By the time we made it back down to the small lake a few clouds had moved in overhead.

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We stopped at Middle Deadfall Lake and walked along its shore toward Lower Deadfall Lake.

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We followed the outlet creek down to the lower lake.

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The lower lake was lovely so we took another break here. As we ate another snack, Heather spotted a doe grazing along the shore.

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She took a seat under a tree and we wondered how many times we’ve missed deer or other animals, if we hadn’t been watching her we probably would have never seen her sitting there.

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We left the lake and returned to the junction with the PCT and followed it back to our car. Our GPS showed an 11.9 mile trip in all with a little over 2000′ of elevation gain. It had been another exceptional hike in the Klamath Mountains. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Eddy

Paynes Lake – Russian Wilderness

We were watching the weather closely during our stay in Mount Shasta City. Scattered thunderstorms were being forecasted for the first half of the week and we didn’t want to be up on some peak during a lightning storm. We’d also added an extra day at the last minute in hopes that the Everitt Memorial Highway would be opened by the end of our stay so we could make it to Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta. To fill the extra day we chose the hike to Paynes Lake in the Russian Wilderness based in part on a recent trip report posted on vanmarmot.org. While his hike didn’t take him to Paynes Lake it was in the same area and provided some good information on a side trip we could take from the Pacific Crest Trail down to Taylor Lake.

We started our hike at the Etna Summit Trailhead by taking the Pacific Crest Trail south.

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The PCT passed through a couple of nice meadows with wildflowers and great views in the first 1.7 miles.

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At the 1.7 mile mark we arrived at a 4-way junction where the PCT crossed a on old roadbed now acting as a trail to Ruffey Lake.

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Beyond the junction the trail traversed a sagebrush covered hillside with a good view of the peaks rising from the Russian Wilderness.

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Behind us the Marble Mountains were visible despite a couple of wildfires burning in that wilderness.

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The trail followed a ridge toward a peak where we could see a large snow drift that we appeared to be heading straight for.

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We spotted a group of hikers just finishing their crossing of the snow so we waited for them to finish taking the opportunity to admire Mt. Shasta looming to the east.

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From below the snow we couldn’t tell just how far we were going to travel on it so we decided to use it as an excuse to finally try out our Kahtoola MICROspikes. After putting them on we stepped out on the snow and fell in love. Unfortunately (or not) our need for them was short lived. After just a few steps up we discovered a clear path in the snow covered with debris to assist with traction.

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Off came the spikes and onward we went. The PCT traversed a hillside above Smith Lake passing through a section of granite rocks.

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A total of 3.5 miles from the trailhead we passed Smith Lake and began a fairly substantial descent to a saddle above Taylor Lake. The open rocky hillside was sporting a good variety of blooming flowers.

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We arrived at the saddle .3 miles after passing Smith Lake where we took note of the user path from Vanmarmot’s trip report.

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Our plan was to take the path down to Taylor Lake on our way back using the old roadbed to Ruffey Lake to return to the PCT. For the time being though Paynes Lake was our goal so we continued on the PCT which continued to traverse the hillside below some impressive rock formations.

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We made a 90 degree turn around a ridge end and reentered the trees.

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Shortly after making the turn we entered the Russian Wilderness. One of the things that I try and do is get pictures of wilderness signs from the the wilderness areas we visit. We hadn’t noticed a sign by the time we reached an unnamed creak that we knew to be well within the wilderness boundary.

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We’d keep a watch for a sign on the way back and would also be crossing the wilderness boundary near Taylor Lake giving us another possible location for a sign.

Beyond the creek the PCT rounded another ridge end bringing into view the granite peak above Paynes Lake.

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A total of 2.2 miles from the pass above Taylor Lake we arrived at a signed junction with the Paynes Lake Trail.

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We turned right here and arrived at the lake after a hundred feet.

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After admiring the lake for a few minutes we continued on a path along the north side of the lake. We were hoping to follow this path up to the Albert Lakes. We followed the trail to a meadow where we turned uphill a little too soon.

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We were following what at times looked like a possible trail or several game trails through a boggy, brushy meadow.

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After several consultations with the GPS we managed to find the actual faint trail which was actually on the other side of the meadow. It climbed steeply uphill for about half a mile to a basin above Paynes Lake.

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An amazing display of tiger lilies greeted us to the basin.

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The visible trail ended at Lower Albert Lake.

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In looking at the surrounding terrain the best route to Upper Albert Lake would likely be around the south side of the lower lake but the water level was high enough that crossing the outlet creek didn’t look particularly appealing nor did the climb up to the other lake. If we had been set on completing a loop to Taylor Lake via Big Blue and Hogan Lakes that would have been the way to go, but that was more than we were willing to take on so we returned to Paynes Lake and headed back along the PCT.

When we arrived back at the saddle above Taylor Lake we had a better view of Mt. Shasta than we’d had that morning.

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We headed downhill on the steep user trail which switchbacked past some nice wildflowers.

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We arrived at Taylor Lake without incident and took another short snack break along the shore before hiking to the right around the lake to the Taylor Lake Trailhead.

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My hopes for a Russian Wilderness sign ended when just before we arrived at the Taylor Lake Trailhead we finally spotted a small generic metal sign marking the wilderness boundary.

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From the trailhead parking area we followed a paved road uphill to the right which quickly turned to dirt.

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The road was still open up to a green metal gate where it deteriorated to a wide trail.

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There were a few views and some wildflowers along the 1.2 miles from Taylor Lake to the PCT.

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From there it was just 1.7 miles back to the Etna Summit Trailhead where one of the thru-hikers we’d passed on the trail was in need of a ride into Etna, a hiker friendly town along Highway 3. We offered him a ride and had a nice talk during the 10.2 mile drive to town. He introduced himself as Octane from Oakland, CA. He, like many of the thru-hikers this year, had skipped the Sierras due to snow and was having to do sections out of order.

We dropped Octane off in Etna and returned to Mount Shasta City to check the weather forecast to see where we’d be going next. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Paynes Lake

Kangaroo Lake

We recently spent a week in Mount Shasta City to do some day hiking in Northern California. We drove down on 7/23/17 and on the way stopped at Kangaroo Lake.

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We walked down to the picnic area to eat lunch and look at the lake before walking a short distance back up the entrance road to pick up the Fen Trail.

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The Fen Trail climbed a hillside along a fen which was home to many wildflowers including Darlingtonia California, California pitcher plants.

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In a half mile the trail came to a viewpoint overlooking Kangaroo Lake.

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The trail continued for another .9 miles passing more wildflowers before ending at the Pacific Crest Trail.

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We turned left (south) on the PCT and headed for Bull Lake. The trail here passed through ponderosa pines with wide open views.

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The ground along this stretch was covered with balloon pods.

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We passed several thru-hikers including a couple resting at a damp hillside which housed more pitcher plants.

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Beyond the pitcher plants the trail entered a drier meadow where we noticed a collapsed structure amid the wildflowers.

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As we passed through this area I spotted the final few inches of a rattlesnake slowly leaving the trail and disappearing into a manzanita bush. It was the first we’d seen while hiking and just from the small portion we saw it was a lot bigger than the garter snakes and rubber boas we usually see. We made a wide arc around the bush and continued on, now on high alert.

Just under a mile after turning onto the PCT we stayed left at a fork in the trail which would have taken us down to Robbers Meadow. We did the same in another 1.7 miles when that trail returned to the PCT at a four-way junction at a pass.

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From the pass we could see Bull Lake below and Mt. Shasta on the horizon.

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We stayed on the PCT until we had nearly passed Bull Lake where we struck off downhill on a faint user trail to the lake shore.

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After a relaxing break at the lake it was time to head back. For our return trip we chose to follow a route suggested by Bubba Suess from Hike Mt. Shasta. Our plan was to follow his directions from Bull Lake up and over Cory Peak and back down to the PCT. We returned to the PCT from the lake and when we spotted what appeared to be a fairly open route so we left the PCT and headed uphill.

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The brush soon gave way to a rocky slope which made the cross country route fairly easy, just a bit steep.

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Using the track provided on the website we were able to compare our route shown on our GPS to make sure we were staying on the right track. It’s always interesting to see what is hiding back off the trails. We came to a small green bowl were a doe was grazing.

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She headed uphill on nearly the same route we were on so we saw here a couple more times before our route veered to the right at a saddle to climb up an even higher ridge.

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We arrived at the ridge top just to the SE of a snow melt lake below Cory Peak.

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To the SW the snowy Trinity Alps lined the horizon.

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Mt. Shasta and Mt. Eddy rose to the east.

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They were all locations we had plans to visit during the week. After catching our breath we followed the ridge along the lake and scrambled up to the top of some rocks which looked from the lake like the summit of Cory Peak. Once on top we could see that the summit of Cory Peak was actually further along a broad ridge.

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We made our way along the ridge to another set of rocks with an old sign protruding from the top.

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Here we found a geologic survey marker and a summit register.

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After another short break we continued west dropping down to a saddle along the ridge where we had a nice view of Rock Fence Lake below to the north.

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We followed the ridge down picking up a mylar balloon along the way. Our route passed a nice bunch of wildflowers and below some melting snow before we bailed off the ridge and hooked back up with the PCT about a quarter mile from the junction with the Fen Trail.

IMG_5044Looking back up at Cory Peak.

IMG_5045Mylar balloon.

IMG_5054Looking back along the ridge to Cory Peak.

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IMG_5075More of the ridge we descended.

IMG_5081Final stretch down to the PCT.

Once we were back on the PCT we returned to Kangaroo Lake on the Fen Trail and headed for Mount Shasta City. It had been a good start to the vacation and getting to see many of the areas we were going to be visiting was a great motivator. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Kangaroo Lake

Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain

What do we do when the temperatures are going to be nearing triple digits in the Willamette Valley? Take a 23.9 mile hike of course! Okay so that wasn’t our original plan, but due to some navigational errors that’s exactly what happened.

We were headed to Three Corner Rock and then hopefully onto Table Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail. We’d visited Table Mountain in 2013 starting from the currently closed trailhead near the privately owned Bonneville Hot Springs. Our plan for this hike was to start at the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead where the PCT crosses CG-2090.

After purchasing a Washington Department of Natural Resources Discover Pass online we headed to the Columbia Gorge and crossed into Washington on the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, OR. From there we followed the directions from the Oregonhikers.org field guide to the trailhead.

Our first (and biggest) error of the day happened as we set off on the PCT. Not only does the trail cross CG-2090 but it also crosses CG-2000, which we took to reach the trailhead, further to the north. On the map below the black “x” is the Rock Creek Pass TH and the red “x” marks the PCT crossing of CG-2000.

Rock Creek Pass TH

We hadn’t noticed the PCT crossing of CG-2000 on the drive to the TH and for some reason I had it stuck in my head that our starting point was the red “x”. So based on the direction we had driven to the spot from, we needed to take the PCT to the left to be heading south toward Three Corner Rock. Had we stopped to question why the Sun was nearly straight ahead as we started on the PCT we may have realized our mistake.

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We also hadn’t paid enough attention to the guidebook stating to go right on the PCT from the trailhead so off we went blissfully going the wrong way. From the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead it should have been 1.5 miles to the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail which meant we had expected to reach it between 45 minutes to an hour into the hike. Instead about an hour into the hike we crossed CG-2000. That didn’t tip us off because based on where we thought we had started and the direction we thought we were heading our route would have included a crossing of CG-2090 which we mistook this crossing for.

Heather had been questioning things for a while but it would have been impossible to be going north by following the PCT in the direction we had from where we thought we started, and we figured if we somehow failed to spot the Three Corner Rock Trail we’d just do it on the way back from Table Mountain instead. The forest along the trail was nice and we eventually came to a footbridge across what we soon realized was Rock Creek.

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Soon after crossing Rock Creek we came to a junction with the Snag Creek Trail quickly followed by Snag Creek itself.

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Neither of us remembered anything about having to ford a creek on our planned route but across we went. We were just over an hour and a half into the hike and now we were both having serious doubts about our direction. We pulled the map out again and this time I also zoomed out on the GPS far enough to see the Columbia River on the display which we had clearly been moving away from. It still took me a few minutes to realize what we’d done. I just kept thinking it was impossible to have gone left at the trailhead and be heading north until it finally sunk in that the trailhead wasn’t where I thought it was. Back we went having to retrace three plus miles and regain nearly 1000′ of elevation.

It was 10am when we made it back to the trailhead, nearly 3 hours after we’d set off in the wrong direction. This time we headed south.

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The funny thing was even though by that point I knew we’d gone the wrong way for at least the next hour I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were headed north. The PCT climbed away from Rock Creek Pass gaining views of Mt. Adams through the trees.

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Near the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail many avalanche lilies were still in bloom.

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We turned right onto the Three Corner Rock Trail which popped out onto an old road bed after approximately .4 miles.

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We followed the road uphill just under a quarter mile to Three Corner Rock.

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It was really windy on the open ridge and on Three Corner Rock which was once home to a lookout tower.

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It was a five volcano day with a bonus view of Goat Rocks thrown in.

IMG_3386Mt. Hood

IMG_3390Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3394Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3395Mt. Rainier

IMG_3399Mt. Adams

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To the SE a small section of the Columbia River was visible between Wind and Dog Mountain in Washington and Mt. Defiance in Oregon.

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Despite the wind the views were great, but it did make it difficult to take pictures of the wildflowers in the area.

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After a short break we headed back to the PCT where we decided to continue south toward Table Mountain. We told ourselves we’d play it by ear and could turn around at any time but we’re both stubborn and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’d wind up making it all the way there.

From the Three Corner Rock Trail junction the PCT gradually descended for 1.25 miles to a road crossing at a saddle with a spectacular display of paintbrush and penstemon. Along the way the trail crossed a rough 4wd track and passed along a ridge still showing evidence of the 1902 Yacolt Burn.

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From the road the PCT traversed along the east side of a ridge through the forest for a mile before arriving at a large clear cut.

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Three Corner Rock was visible behind us.

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The trail climbed through the clear cut for about a half mile before reentering the trees.

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For the next 1.25 miles the PCT passed through a series of wildflower meadows, first on the west side of a ridge with views to the south of Table Mountain and Mt. Hood, then onto the east side of the ridge with a view of Mt. Adams and the Columbia River.

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The views were nice but we spent most of our time focused on the many wildflowers along the trail.

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The variety of colors of penstemon was particularly impressive.

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We had hoped to hop off of the PCT at a sharp right turn just uphill from some power lines and hook up to a dirt road just on the other side of the lines at a saddle. As we came around the ridge end though we couldn’t see any obvious signs of a connector trail so we stuck to the PCT as it began to quickly lose elevation. After looking at the map and realizing that following the PCT all the way to the road would add almost two miles and another 500′ of elevation gain we went back to look again for a connection. After a brief off-trail excursion on a steep slope with thick brush, we bit the bullet and took the PCT down to the road.

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We had to walk back uphill on the road and it was warm. We had benefited from a nice breeze most of the day which helped keep the temperature bearable but there was none along the road. When we arrived at the saddle we spotted a sign near an overgrown roadbed pointing 1.4 miles to Table Mountain.

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We followed the old roadbed for about half a mile to its end where a faint, and at times very brushy, trail continued along the north ridge of Table Mountain.

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When the trail wasn’t overgrown it too was lined with wildflowers.

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Not only was the route a bit of a challenge to follow due to the brush but it was steep at times, especially on two rocky climbs, the last of which brought us to the plateau of Table Mountain.

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Three Corner Rock was visible to the left of the ridges we’d followed to reach the plateau as were the power lines running over the saddle a mile away.

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We picked up the Table Mountain Trail on the plateau and followed it south to the viewpoint above the cliffs overlooking the Columbia River.

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We sat in some shade near the cliffs and took off our shoes and socks to give our feet a bit of a break while we ate a snack. We had no idea how far we’d gone (it was almost 16 miles already) but we knew our feet were sore and we were both developing blisters. We were also getting low on water but thankfully Heather had brought our water filter and we’d passed what I thought would be a sufficient water source in the meadows between the saddle and the clear cut.

We started back at 3:15pm hurrying as quickly as our protesting feet would allow. We both ran out of water shortly before arriving at the seep where the water was just deep enough to use our filter to get some much needed wonderfully cold water. We arrived back at our car at 6:48, almost 11 hours and 45 minutes since we’d set off that morning.

It certainly hadn’t gone as planned but we’d at least come prepared with enough food and water to make it through the day. In addition to some great mountain views and wildflowers meadows we’d learned a valuable lesson about how important it is to make sure you know where your starting point is and to consider everything when determining where you’re at. Had we taken the position of the sun and the description of the hike as beginning uphill to the right of the TH we might have realized much more quickly that we’d misidentified the location of the trailhead on the map. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain