Lunar Eclipse at Serene Lake
30Aug07, Wes Hayward
The month was almost over and I had not been out in the mountains since
my trek in the Olympics with Ron's family. I was anxious to get out
while the weather was good. Ron and I are talking about a hike in
September, so I wanted to grab whatever conditioning I could from another
walk. True or not, I have always believed that the only way
to get ready for backpacking is to go backpacking.
I had looked at a number of possible trips, and had decided to go somewhere
that I had never visited. Serene Lake fit the criterion. Indeed,
I have done very little hiking in this part of Oregon known as the Clackamas
Foothills. The driving distance is about the same as that to
the Mt. Hood area, but over less familiar and slightly less crowded highways.
There was another reason to go the hills: A total lunar eclipse
was to occur in the early hours on Tuesday morning, and the weather was
clear with no hint of clouds predicted. What better place to go than
to the mountains, well away from the lights of civilization?
So I headed out on Monday morning, reaching the trailhead near Hideaway Lake
around noon. (There is another trailhead that is closer, but
involves travel on a road generally limited to back country vehicles more
robust than my little Honda Civic.) A short walk
through an old clear-cut brought me to Shellrock Lake, which was both scenic
and devoid of visitors. This was such an easy destination that I made a mental
note of it for later trips, such as easy trips with the grand kids.
I spent some time exploring all sides before continuing the uphill
The trail beyond the lake was now in the woods, a hint of what most of
the rest of the hike would be like. After about a mile and a
few hundred feet of elevation gain, I ended up on the perimeter of the loop
with two choices. A turn to the right would take me downhill for
just over a mile to the Rock Lakes chain and a comfortable camping spot.
If I wanted to continue to Serene Lake, that would require another
couple of miles. The turn to the left would take me along a ridge for
a while, and then a descent to Cache Meadow, at about the same elevation as
where I started the day. Another climb would then be required
to reach a ridge with good viewpoints, followed by another descent to Serene
Lake. The total would be about 5 miles. I figured
that there would be more people at the closer Rock Lakes, and my interest
was in the Serene Lake and the views, so I turned left.
Cache Meadow is so named because there was, at
one time, a cache of supplies left in an abandoned Forest Service structure.
I saw none of this.
The walk down to Cache Meadow had the character of east facing slopes
in the Oregon Cascades with open forests and bunch grass. The grass became
more varied and longer down in the meadow. There were virtually
no flowers left. Also, there were thankfully few misquotes left.
I stopped in the meadow for a late lunch and then headed up
the hill. This eventually yielded a clearing with views down
to Serene Lake. The mountains to the north could be seen, including
Mt. Hood, plus St. Helens, Rainier, and Adams in Washington.
Serene Lake with Mt. Hood.
Serene Lake. My camp was in the trees at
the spot marked with red. I picked this place on the eastern
shore, for it provided night time access to a clearing for moon photos.
Mt. Hood as seen from the ridge above Serene Lake
After taking in the views, I continued around the ridge and then down
the trail, eventually reaching the lake. The country now changed
to a damper ground cover. The rain of a week earlier was evident.
Looking across Serene Lake at the ridge where
the earlier photos were taken. The clearing at the top is the photo
Upon reaching the lake and picking a camp site that would provide me with
good views of the eclipse, I did what I usually do after a day of hiking:
I made lemonade. It's always amazing how something as
simple as a mix from a foil pouch can taste so good.
Wanting the best possible view in the night, I elected to sleep out in
the open using a "bivy sack," short for bivouac sack. This
is essentially a sleeping bag cover made predominantly with Gortex (tm, WL
Gore and Associates) to be breathable, but largely water proof. In
inclement weather, I often supplement this with a tarp. The bivy has
mosquito netting to keep the bugs out, if needed. I didn't even zip
it up on this trip. I met some other hikers (Mary and two
delightful teenage daughters) who were camped not far from me; they couldn't
seem to adjust to the idea of an old geezer sleeping out in the open.
I awoke a little after 2 AM after several hours of bright moonlight.
By 2:30 I could see the lunar disc beginning to be nibbled away by the earth's
shadow. I got up and went over to the adjacent clearing to take a
couple of quick photos. I was pleasantly surprised to find it warm
enough that I could walk about in my underwear without feeling cold.
That's unusual, at least for me.
Moon as it appeared at 2:36 AM .
Alas, the photo quality suffers a great deal. This is a place
where a higher end camera would produce much better photos than my little
digital "point and shoot" model (Canon Powershot S110). I should have
taken a lightweight tripod. I'm generally happy with the small size
and ease of use of my little 2 Megapixel camera.
I crawled back in the sleeping bag and continued to watch the eclipse
until it reached totality. By then, the stars were present
in full force, having been overwhelmed by the earlier bright moon.
I slept-in until nearly 9 AM the next morning after having lost some
My kitchen at Serene Lake. This was a breakfast
shot, much later than I normally arise when in the mountains.
Serene Lake was such a delightful place to camp that I decided to stay
there rather than to move to one of the Rock lakes. But I didn't want
to stay in camp for the day. (I might have been tempted to stick around
had I brought some fishing gear.) So after breakfast, I headed
out with a light pack to explore the next few miles in the loop including
the Rock Lake chain.
Middle Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake
Lower Rock Lake
The middle lake was the largest and the one with several camping places.
The upper lake was the smallest, but perhaps the most interesting.
The lower lake was the least distinctive, but still attractive.
I saw fish rising in the top two, but none in the lower lake.
Fish seemed more abundant at Serene Lake.
Although the lakes were interesting, the best part of the day was the
trail between Serene and the Rock lakes. It was lush with occasional
views across to adjacent ridges, frequent small meadow areas, and long sweeping
scree slopes. The bushes next to the trail contained huckleberries.
I returned to Serene for dinner and a second night, now with a full moon.
There were times when I pulled the flap up on my bivy sack to
get more darkness. I arose early on Wednesday morning, cooked a quick
breakfast, packed, and headed down the trail with the goal of beating
the heat of the day. I had seen most of the trail to be
hiked the previous day, so didn't linger. A brief lemonade
stop at Shellrock Lake still got me to the car just after noon.
The trail just before reaching the car. I
noted that the vine maple is just starting to turn red.
All in all, this was a good trip. It was a nice introduction to
a neglected area; it was also fun to see a lunar eclipse from the mountains.
I didn't see many people, and those I met were most enjoyable. Total
hiking with the loop and the extra trip to explore the Rock lakes was 20
miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain. Trail conditions were