Tag Archives: Snowshoe Lake

Winopee Lake Trail

Our year of rearranging hikes continued with what was to have been our final overnight trip of the year. Similar to our last planned vacation a cold, moist weather system coming in from British Columbia caused us to rethink the backpacking plans. The forecast for the first day was for rain showers off and on all day and night with temperature dropping to near freezing then turning to snow and rain showers the next day.

In “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” long distance hiker Andrew Skurka writes “Raining and 35 degrees Fahrenheit is the most challenging combination of conditions that most backpackers ever experience.” We have yet to have the privilege of experiencing those conditions first hand and weren’t about to put that statement to the test now so we decided to do a couple of day hikes instead so we could dry off and warm up each day after hiking.

Since our original plans had included a visit with our Son in Bend after the overnighter we simply headed to Bend a day early where we could stay at Heather’s parents house. On our way over to Bend we stopped at the Winopee Lake Trailhead near Cultus Lake Campground.

Winopee Lake Trailhead

With much of the Three Sisters Wilderness still closed due to this year’s wildfires this trail had remained open and offered a chance for us to visit several different lakes which is one of our favorite destinations in the Fall and on rainy days. We didn’t exactly have a plan going into this hike, we knew it was a 10 mile round trip to Muskrat Lake based on an abbreviated description in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” but more lakes lay a little further from the trailhead and the trail ended at the Pacific Crest Trail which made a lollipop loop possible. We weren’t certain how far that lollipop would be so we decided to set a turn around time if we had not yet reached the PCT. It was 8am when we arrived at the trailhead so we set a turn around time of Noon and off we went.

Winopee Lake Trail

Not far from the trailhead we came to Cultus Lake where we could see everything but the top of Cultus Mountain across the water.

Cultus Lake

The trail then passed along Cultus Lake but back in the trees away from the lake shore. After almost a mile a side trail led down to a nice beach at the Little Cove Campground, one of three boat-in (or hike-in) sites along the north side of the lake.

Beach along Cultus Lake

Little Cove Campground at Cultus Lake

Cultus Lake from Little Cove Campground

Beyond the camp site the trail again veered just a bit away from the lake. Near the far end of the lake the trail climbed slightly to a junction at approximately the 2.5 mile mark.

Winopee Lake Trail

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Corral Lakes Trail

We stayed to the left on the Winopee Lake Trail and came to a second junction in another quarter of a mile.

Trail sign along the Winopee Lake Trail

Again we followed the pointer for the Winopee Lakes trail, this time forking to the right past a wilderness signboard and permit box and into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Winopee Lake Trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

Less than 3/4 mile after entering the wilderness we passed the short side trail to Teddy Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Teddy Lake Trail

We skipped this half mile side trail and continued on the relatively flat Winopee Trail for another mile to Muskrat Lake.

Muskrat Lake

Muskrat Lake

A unique feature at this lake is an old cabin ruin. The cabin was reportedly built in the 1920’s by a man who attempted to raise muskrats there. The last few years have not been kind to the cabin which as recently as 2012 still looked relatively intact.

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Old cabin at Muskrat Lake

Cabin ruins at Muskrat Lake

The trail followed an unnamed creek beyond Muskrat Lake. This creek flows from Winopee Lake to Muskrat Lake.

Creek between Winopee and Muskrat Lakes

Soon we came to another body of water with a bunch of snags.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

According to the map on the GPS we were still hiking along the creek but this seemed more like a lake or pond and may have been attached to the irregularly shaped Winopee Lake.

On the map this was a creek but it seemed to be an arm of Winopee Lake

The trail left the water for a bit then passed a small pond that was clearly not part of Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Unnamed lake/pond near Winopee Lake

At the 7 mile mark we arrived at a trail junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail having never really gotten a look at Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail jct with the Snowshoe Lake Trail

It was just before 10:30 so we had another hour and a half before our turn around time. We turned up the Snowshoe Lake Trail in case we had to turn back prior to reaching the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail passed several lakes before ending at the PCT  while the Winopee Lake Trail was lake-less for the remainer of its length.

In just a quarter of a mile we arrived at the first of these lakes, the trails namesake, Snowshoe Lake.

Snowshoe Lake

Snowshoe Lake

This was a nice little lake with a couple of campsites. We sat on some rocks above the lake and took a short break before continuing on. Another half mile through the forest brought us to Upper Snowshoe Lake on the left.

Snowshoe Lake Trail

Upper Snowshoe Lake

Upper Snowshoe Lake

The trail spent about half a mile making its way by this lake then passed by the mostly hidden Long Lake. We kept expecting to see a side trail down to that lake but never did. The forest was open enough that it looked like it would have been a fairly straight forward cross country jaunt to the lake if one really wanted to visit it.

Just under a mile beyond Upper Snowshoe Lake we came to Puppy Lake.

Puppy Lake

This time the trail was close enough to the lake to get some good looks of this pretty little lake.

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

Puppy Lake

A quick time checked showed it was still before 11:30 so we kept going arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail, a half mile from Puppy Lake, at 11:40.

Snowshoe Lake Trail jct with the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Despite off and on drizzle we had stayed relatively dry up to this point. That all changed on the PCT. After turning left on the PCT it took less than 10 minutes for our feet to become soaked. It wasn’t because it started raining harder but rather the presence of huckleberry bushes lining the trail. The colorful leaves made for some great fall color but they were also loaded with moisture.

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

We traveled south on the PCT for just over a mile to a four-way junction. Here the Elk Creek Trail headed west into the Willamette National Forest. That portion of the Three Sisters Wilderness was still closed due to fire.

Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Winopee Lake Trail

Closed Elk Creek Trail

We turned west (left) back onto the Winopee Lake Trail.

Winopee Lake Trail

This section of trail through a drier, more open forest as it gradually descended back to Winopee Lake.

Winopee Lake Trail

Our first and only real view of the marshy Winopee Lake came after approximately 1.75 miles.

Winopee Lake

Another quarter of a mile brought us back to the junction with the Snowshoe Lake Trail completing our little loop. We returned the way we’d come that morning. As we passed by Muskrat Lake we spotted a lone paintbrush standing defiantly against the changing seasons.

Paintbrush

The cool weather and lack of any significant elevation changes had allowed us to hike at a quicker pace than normal allowing us to complete what wound up being a 20 mile hike in 7 hours and 15 minutes. For a day hike that’s a bit long for many but with the various lakes and access to the Pacific Crest Trail this would be a good backpacking option after mosquito season.

It wound up being a fun day despite the drizzle but we were thankful to get to Heather’s parents house to warm up and dry off before our next outing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Winopee Lake Trail

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Caribou Lakes – Trinity Alps Wilderness

On the fifth day of our vacation the forecast was finally free of the threat of thunderstorms. We’d been saving our visit to the Trinity Alps Wilderness for just such a day since it was the longest drive to a trailhead that we had planned. From Mount Shasta City the quickest drive would have been to take Forest Road 42N17 which we had been on for our hike to Mt. Eddy to Highway 3. After being delayed by an ongoing chip and seal project on the drive home we opted for a slightly longer drive by taking the Gazelle Callahan Road to the highway. We followed Highway 3 south for 23.5 miles to Coffee Creek where we turned right onto Coffee Creek Road which we followed to its end at Big Flat Campground.

We parked at the signed Caribou Lake Trailhead and set off on the trail which quickly entered the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
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The trail descended for .2 miles to the South Fork Salmon River where we had expected to have to get our feet wet but a downed tree provided a dry crossing.

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On the far side of the river we faced the choice of taking the shorter, steeper Old Trail or the the longer but gentler New Trail. Our planned route was to go up to the lakes on the New Trail and return via the Old Trail which would result in a figure 8 as the trails crossed paths at Caribou Meadows. We wound up not even noticing the Old Trail splitting off to the right as we passed by and were soon climbing along a fairly open hillside.

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The wildlife was out that morning and we spotted several quail and a snake before reentering the trees.

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We then spotted a bear cub about 200 feet off the trail, downhill in the trees. We both stopped and immediately looked uphill to make sure we weren’t between it and mama bear. We weren’t, she popped her head up from behind a bush near where the cub had been (it ran off downhill). Mama looked at us long enough for me to pull out the camera, turn it on, and then press the power button again instead of taking a picture as she followed her cub deeper into the forest.

We continued the gradual climb to Caribou Meadows arriving in just under three miles from the trailhead.

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There was a sign here for the Old Trail as it crossed the New Trail and headed off uphill.

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We stuck to the New Trail as it continued its slow climb winding around hillsides towards the lakes.

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After passing through an area of burnt trees the trail emerged onto a granite hillside. More wildlife and various wildflowers greeted us along this section.

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We passed through another stand of burned trees (where we found a couple of ripe berries) before arriving at Browns Meadow, 1.6 miles beyond Caribou Meadows.

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We took a seat on a rock near the edge of the meadow and just enjoyed the sound of a flowing creek amid the peacefulness of the wilderness. As we started to get up I looked behind us and noticed a doe walking through the meadow. She disappeared behind some vegetation heading in the same direction as the trail. Thinking we might get a chance to see her again we resumed our hike but were quickly distracted by a plethora of butterflies.

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The trail crossed the creek we’d been listening to.

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As we began to climb away from the meadow I looked back and spotted the deer in the meadow after all.

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We passed another small stream giving life to quite a few colorful flowers.

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2017-07-27 10.31.06Orange agoseris

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We got our first good look at Mt. Shasta just before rounding a hillside covered in pink fireweed.

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As we came around the hillside snowy Caesar Peak came into view with the slightly taller Thompson Peak behind.

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We were on a 2 mile stretch of trail between Browns Meadow and another junction with the Old Trail. This section of trail had some spectacular views across the valley where Caribou Creek was roaring down over the granite.

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Eventually Caribou and Lower Caribou Lake could bee seen in the basin below Caribou Mountain and Sawtooth Ridge.

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We arrived at the junction with the Old Trail and took a look up at our return route for later.

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From the junction it was a about a half mile downhill to Snowshoe Lake which was now visible along with the two Caribou Lakes.

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IMG_6149Caribou Lake

IMG_6153Snowshoe Lake

The views from above were simply amazing. We began switchbacking down towards the lakes passing mossy runoff streams and meadows filled with wildflowers.

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We arrived at Snowshoe Lake and found a spot along the shore to soak our feet in the cool water as we listened to the sound of water cascading into and out of the lake.

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IMG_6183Snowshoe Lake’s outlet creek

If Snowshoe Lake had been it the hike would have been well worth the effort but there was more to see so after a thoroughly relaxing break we sallied forth following cairns to a small unnamed lake in a meadow.

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This little lake was fed by creeks flowing from both Snowshoe and Caribou Lake down to Little Caribou Lake. We crossed the creek from Snowshoe Lake on some downed logs and found ourselves on a granite landscape above beautiful Lower Caribou Lake.

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Water from snow melt pools flowed over the white rocks in some places.

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We made our way along the rocks to the inlet creek which proved to be another breathtaking sight.

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We followed the stream up to the small lake in the meadow where we hopped across it.

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We continued to climb up along the creek until Caribou Lake came into view.

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Snowshoe Lake was also visible once again below Caribou Mountain.

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We passed several small pools of water on the way to the large lake.

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Snow heavy enough to keep small trees down still lingered along the shore.

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The scene was too big to fit into a single picture making a panorama necessary to even attempt to capture the grand scale of this place.

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It is possible (and recommended by those in the know) to hike around the left side of the lake and follow a faint path a little over a mile to a viewpoint along Sawtooth Ridge.

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We had contemplated attempting it but that would have made a long day even longer and we still had two more days of hiking ahead of us so we decided to leave that side trip as an excuse to come back to this amazing place someday.

We intended to return to Snowshoe Lake by staying up on the granite above the small lake in the meadow. We started back wandering between even more snow melt pools.

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Along the way a snake caught our attention. It had captured a small frog and was in the process of swallowing it. We felt bad for the frog but it was interesting to see nature at work.

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We did a poor job of sticking to our planned route and found ourselves back down at the small lake after all. We had a little trouble remembering where we had crossed the creek between Snowshoe Lake and this lake but eventually spotted the logs again which jogged our memories. We made it back to Snowshoe Lake and started the warm climb up to the junction with the Old Trail.

Taking the Old Trail would cut approximately 1.2 miles off our return trip but it also gained about 1000′ of elevation in the first .8 miles as it climbed up and over the shoulder of Caribou Mountain. The shorter distance coupled with a different trail and the promised view from the top was too tempting to pass up despite it being rather warm out.

The Old Trail started up through the trees on a mission to seemingly go straight to the top of the ridge as quickly as possible.

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The picture taking ended quickly as I became focused on simply trying to keep moving uphill. Eventually I looked back during a couple of breaks to check our progress and admire the lakes. The extra elevation revealed many more of the peaks of the Trinity Alps.

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By the time we made it to the top of the ridge we were really wondering what kind of maniac devised this trail. The result of it though was an amazing view. Mt. Shasta loomed to the NE.

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Mt. Lassen lay to the SE barely visible through the haze.

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Closer by the ridge ran SE to the summit of Caribou Mountain, a route that will be very tempting when we return with more time someday.

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To the SW was the heart of the Trinity Alps.

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We had been a little concerned with the possibility of encountering snowfields near the top but we did have our MICROspikes handy just in case. As it turned out there was only one small patch of snow left as we started down the other side, and it posed no problem.

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The descent was twice as long as the climb but it was no less steep losing nearly 2000′ in 1.6 miles to Caribou Meadows.

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Along the way we passed a partly obscured view of Little Caribou Lake which lay in its own glacial cirque to the SW of Browns Meadow.

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The trail did level out a bit for a short stretch where we could look back at Caribou Mountain and the forested slope we’d just descended.

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A final drop brought us back to Caribou Meadows.

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We decided to complete the figure 8 and continue following the Old Trail down to its other junction near the river. After passing through the meadow the trail once again dove seemingly straight down along a small stream crossing it twice.

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Beyond the second crossing the trail leveled out traversing along an open, hot, hillside. The GPS track shows that this final 1.5 miles to the junction resulted in a net loss of elevation but it sure felt like we were going uphill a lot.

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We were pretty hot and tired as we trudged along and began getting funny looks from the locals.

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Things cooled off a bit when we finally reached some trees along the river near the junction.

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When we arrived at the junction with the New Trail we wondered how we’d missed the split that morning, we didn’t see any signs but the tread was clear. A good example of how easy it is to miss things even when you think you’re paying attention. We recrossed the river on the log and returned to our car a bit tired, a little sore, and completely satisfied with our first visit to the Trinity Alps. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Caribou Lakes