Humans plan; the gods laugh. I had several new hikes planned in Southern Oregon’s Sky Lakes Wilderness to enjoy it during the usually glorious (and bug-free) Fall weather. But lightning strikes (thank you, Zeus!) ignited the Spruce Lake, Blanket Creek, and North Pelican fires, and these closed this wilderness (and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)) until a week ago. Then we got our first snow (thank Chione for that!), with more coming soon. So, with my Sky Lakes hiking needs unmet, and the weather window about to snap shut, I consulted the augeries and soon visualized Devils Peak. Devils isn’t the highest peak in this wilderness (that would be Mount McLoughlin), but it is the presiding monarch of the Seven Lakes Basin and a summit which, based on previous trips, I knew had one heck (metaphorically speaking) of a great view.
So enthusiasm and caffeine made for an early start,
and arrival at the Seven Lakes Trailhead while the hunters were still out looking for deer. From there it was up the rocky, but otherwise clear, Seven Lakes Trail (USFS #981) toward Frog Lake. I crossed some minor snow patches before reaching the lake,
but just beyond the lake, snow started to completely cover the trail and only got deeper as I climbed. Fortunately, it’s hunting season and hunters (and their horses) had already broken trail for me. I followed the Seven Lakes Trail to its junction with the Devils Peak Trail (USFS #984), where I got my first view of Devils Peak to the east.
I turned on to the #984 and headed east through snow that was everywhere and 12 to 18 inches deep in many places.
The Devils Peak Trail traverses the head of the Seven Lakes Basin and, when the trail finally breaks out of the forest, provides one of the greatest panoramic views of the Crater Lake Rim to be had.
After passing beneath Venus, Jupiter, and Lucifer, the Devils Peak Trail junctions with the PCT. Here, on the southeast side of the ridge, the PCT was virtually snow-free.
The lack of snow, and the use trail that now runs from the PCT over the summit of Devils, greatly facilitated my arrival at the summit. Many scattered chunks of concrete and some rusted metal straps are all that remain of the fire lookout that once stood here: as a cabin from 1917 to 1930, then as an L-4 cab until it was destroyed in 1968. Sad, because it would have made for a popular rental.
The view from the summit, despite some thin clouds overhead and haze on the horizon, was magnificent. Lucifer, Venus (the Roman love goddess (Aphrodite to the Greeks)), and Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus), were arrayed in a line to the west.
Mount McLoughlin, Luther Mountain, and Lucifer were visible to the south through haze from the still burning Miller Complex Fire. The anecdotal tale here is that Luther was named to offset the Devil. But then someone threw in Lucifer and a couple of Greek/Roman gods and goddeses! What’s with that? Some many mythologies, so little clarity.
Turning a little to the southeast brought Mount Shasta into view. This year’s unending wildfires and smoke have made the usually crisp views of Shasta from 85 miles away hard to come by.
This smoke and haze also took its toll on clear views of Klamath Lake to the east.
It was sunny on the summit, with only a light wind – warm enough to allow for a snack eaten in comfort. But cooler air and longer shadows soon suggested that it was time to get moving. The traverse back along the Devils Peak Trail was enlivened by whimsical cloud formations,
and, after 10.6 miles round-trip and 2,300 feet of elevation gain, I was back at the Seven Lakes Trailhead. This is one of the classic hikes in the Sky Lakes; it’s a little tedious up to Frog Lake but gets better and better after that. The view of the Seven Lakes Basin from the Devils Peak Trail is amazing – almost, but not quite – better than those from the summit!