Olallie Lake Region Exploration, 2009

For the past dozen or so years I have been eyeing a group of lakes in north central Oregon.   They are to the west of large Olallie Lake, but are isolated from the motoring public by trails.   As such, they offer the lure of some back country camping and, perhaps, fishing, but without the crowds of folks bound to the road.  These lakes are all at elevations from about 4700 to 5400 ft, suggesting that they can be reached without excess hiking difficulty.   I'm getting old enough that this is a consideration.   This was the year that I would finally explore these mountain gems.   I decided not to fish this year.   The north half of the lakes are on the following map.
north map Map-1.

I drove to a trailhead at "Lower Lake Campground" on Sunday and got started hiking at about lunch time.     Lower Lake was reached in the first few minutes of walking.   This was one of the larger and deeper of the lakes I would visit.
Lower Lake Lower Lake

The only camping related to Lower Lake was at the roadside campground, which was of no interest.    I continued to a trail junction and followed it toward Fish Lake, which sits in at a much lower elevation.   I had no desire to loose 500 ft of elevation, only to gain it back, so I stopped at an overlooking cliff that offered good views.
Fish Lake Looking down on Fish Lake.

After a bite of lunch, I returned to the trail junction near Lower Lake and headed SW, shortly encountering a way trail to the left.   Although unmarked, it was clear on the map that this led down to Gifford Lakes.    A quarter of a mile through the woods put me at the larger of the Gifford Lakes.
Arriving at Gifford Lake Gifford Lake.  Note the folks floating on the lake.

Gifford Another shot of Gifford Lake from the land between the main lake and the smaller Gifford Lake.

My initial, albeit casual plan had been to camp at Gifford Lake.   I had not appreciated just how close it was to the trailhead.   I had also not appreciated just how crowded the place would be.   There was a group of 8 or 10 there.  Some were leaving to hike out while others were arriving in the few minutes I was there.    I quickly decided that this would not offer much solitude and pulled out after snapping a few photos.   It might be fun to return to the place, perhaps to try my luck at some mountain fishing, something I've not done for more than 40 years.

I hoofed it back to the trail and continued to the SW.    I saw nobody else that day, so the crowds were lured by the easy hike to Gifford.   Eventually I came to Fork and then Sheep Lake, shown below.   I must have passed Middle Lake, but it must have been uninspiring enough to keep my camera in my pocket.  
Sheep Lake Sheep Lake.   I carried a single trekking pole on this junket, which turned out to be a reasonable compromise.   I have not really adjusted to the athletic game of dual trekking poles except in the winter when snowshoeing.  

Wall Lake was within a couple of hundred feet of Sheep, and Averill Lake was just a bit further.
Wall Lake Wall Lake

Averill Lake.   This seemed like a good place to camp, for it was completely secluded.    By now it was about 5 in the afternoon, which was a reasonable time to stop.    I cooked dinner that evening and got the rest of my camp established.   This included rigging a bear line for my food, although this really seemed redundant.   I was not even seeing deer, much less any remote sign of bear.    If there had been bear in the area, they should have been in heaven in this country, for the blue berries (or are the huckleberries?) were abundant and tasty.  

After all of the chores were done, I stuck my camera and a headlamp in my pocket and continued west on the trail to visit Red Lake.
Red Lake Red Lake.   This one was essentially a carbon copy of the earlier ones.   The tip of Mt. Jefferson could be seen above the trees.

That evening was delightful, for the sky was completely clear and moonless.    There is so much light in my neighborhood in Beaverton that it is almost impossible to see stars.   So going to the mountains on a clear night is always a treat.

I arose on Monday morning, ate some breakfast, packed up, returned to Sheep Lake, and then stashed my pack.   I took a small water bottle and some GORP and headed up a side trail toward Potato Butte.   The trail was flat until reaching a meadow at the base of the Butte, shown below.
"Potato Meadow"  The meadow at the base of Potato Butte was probably a lake as recently as 100 or 200 years ago.   Mt. Jefferson can be seen at the far end.

The hike up the Butte was generally easy, but well worth the effort.   Reaching the top produced a sign with an elevation mark of "5280 Feet."    Sounds familiar.  
Potato Butte summit.  The summit of Potato Butte.   Mt. Hood can be seen in the distance to the north.

Looking south from Potato Butte The view to the south from a ridge on Potato Butte.   The lakes seen here are probably Sheep and Wall.    Mt. Jefferson is prominent to the south, although obscured in this photo from the poor lighting.  The closer high feature is Double Peaks.

After dropping down from Potato Butte, I continued hiking past Fork Lake and to the southeast.   Eventually, I left the map shown at the beginning, emerging onto the following:
map2 Map-2

My route south climbed a few hundred feet, taking me above the top of the morning's Butte.   The vegetation was never dense, but it became less so as I gained elevation.   I soon came to Cigar Lake.   Although shallow, it was extremely scenic.
Cigar Lake Cigar Lake .
Cigar Lake Another view of Cigar Lake.

By now I had changed to a different trail and was now on the Pacific Crest Trail.
PCT marker A PCT marker on a tree along the trail.

Looking at the map suggested that Upper Lake might be interesting, so I continued south on the PCT.  Upper Lake, shown below, is less than a mile from Cigar Lake.
Upper Lake Upper Lake with one of the Double Peaks in the background.

I decided to camp at Upper Lake.   It was cool and scenic, but there were no good camp places further to the immediate south.    After visiting with some interesting through hikers, I cooked an early dinner and again rigged a bear line, again redundant.   I then took my camera and continued south.    This was quite interesting, for I encountered some burned country, the northern fringes of the massive 2003 "B and B Complex" forest fire.    The trees were black and there was minimal brush.   Otherwise, the devastation was not nearly as bad as I had imagined.   Perhaps this is the best single lesson from this trip.
Mt. Jefferson in the evening. One of the cool views was of Mt. Jefferson in the evening alpine glow as sunset approached.  

While on the PCT, I reached the high point of my trip, about 5700 ft at a viewpoint overlooking the large lakes to the east.   The dominant Lake was Olallie Lake with Monon a close second.    Unfortunately, the light was poor and the photos were compromised.

That evening brought a couple of more through hikers.   These two fellows had adopted the practice of others, using names of their own choice that had nothing to do with their given names.    I was told that this was done to symbolize the personal rebirth that comes from a hike of 2600 miles.    The folks heading south to north (starting in Mexico) had just hit the 2000 mile mark, so they were well accustomed to their new tags.     One of the fellow who blew in just after dark that day had just done a personal best of 34 miles in a single day.    Also a veteran of the Appalachian Trail, he was well accustomed to long hard days.   I wish that I remembered their trail names.

My camp was minimal, although not in the extreme.   I used a bivouac bag instead of a tent.    But I did carry a 3/4 length sleeping pad that provides insulation as well as a modicum of comfort.   The down sleeping bag then sits on that.   I slept well.   I had a very small shelter tarp available, should it be needed.   I'm glad that it was not, for I would not want to miss the star show.
The bedroom My sleeping quarters.
kitchen This view shows the kitchen.   My pack is the green job while the brown sack is the food bag that goes up the bear line.   My stove and some water bottles are included in the stuff.

After breakfast, I broke camp and headed north again on the PCT.  
The PCT The trail between Upper Lake and Cigar Lake is very scenic with open woods and small tarns.
PCT More of the PCT.
tarn A small tarn on the trail, perhaps half an acre in area.

Eventually I returned to Cigar Lake.
Cigar Lk  After a final glance and morning photo of Cigar Lake, I left the PCT to take another trail that would provide a couple of addition lakes in my grand tour.
Top Lk Top Lake is only a mile or less below Cigar Lake.
Timber Lk A worthwhile side trip was required to visit Timber Lake.   The place was deserted on this Tuesday morning, but one could tell that it was more civilized than the others, for one camp area included an outhouse.  
Timber Lake  A final glimpse of Timber Lake.

The hike out from Timber Lake was only about a mile or two before I reached the road along side Olallie Lake.    I hiked up the road for another mile and a half until I came to my car.

All in all, it was a great trip.   I'll have to study the map to figure out the total trail mileage, but it can't be more than 15 or so.   The country is scenic and fairly secluded.    I was disappointed that one of the more interesting Lakes, Gifford, was crowded.    In many ways, this country is like that at the south end of the Three Sisters Wilderness with lakes almost too numerous to count.    I visited that area, also in late August, and also found a lot of people at some selected lakes, but none at most.    There were almost no flowers and no flowing water in any streams between the lakes.   It would be very interesting to visit this area earlier in the season when there are flowers, some flowing water, and even some snow patches.