Getting to the Point (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 11-Jul-2020

Southern Oregon’s Mountain Lakes Wilderness (the U.S.’s only wilderness with a perfectly square boundary) was once believed to be the caldera of one huge collapsed volcano (like Crater Lake to the north). But more recent research suggests it was created from calderas of four overlapping shield volcanoes. Eight prominent peaks – and several lesser ones – remain on the rim of these calderas. Aspen Butte (8,208 ft / 2,501 m) is the highest point in the wilderness but there are several other rocky summits that offer spectacular views of the surrounding area and as far south as Mount Shasta. Today we decided to take advantage of some excellent weather to take in the views from Point 7703 located between Whiteface Peak and Greylock Mountain.

Starting from the Clover Creek Trailhead, we went up the Clover Creek Trail #3722, past Clover Lake, to the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail #3727, followed that one to the rim south of Whiteface Peak, and then around to just below Point 7703. Mosquitoes were a nuisance until we got to the rim.

Leaving the trailhead – we were pleased to see that the Forest Service’s budget allowed for a new wilderness area sign. ๐Ÿ™‚
On the trail above Clover Lake
Reaching the rim
Mount McLoughlin from the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail

Once on the north side of Whiteface, we walked through the forest toward Point 7703 and then picked our way up its loose upper slopes to its summit. Most of the treeless summits around here are composed of a loose talus that sounds (a high pitched tinkling) and feels like you’re walking on a pile of broken porcelain. There’s nothing particularly stable about these rock piles so we had to go carefully less we put our ankles (or other body parts) at risk.

Climbing Point 7703’s loose upper slope with a view of Mount McLoughlin
Climbing Point 7703 with Aspen Butte on the horizon
On the summit, with Mount McLoughlin in the center distance and Greylock Mountain on the right

For whatever reason, people have constructed pits (and piles of rocks from the pits) on the summit. If these were on Silver Star Mountain (near Mount Hood) they’d likely be “vision pits” constructed by Indigenous Peoples. Here, probably not. Someone built a one-tent site (with a flat flagstone floor) and an associated pit for shielding a stove from the wind – which was blowing pretty good during our visit. It looked like a pretty cool place to camp for a night given it’s unobstructed view of the night sky, along with the sunrise and sunset. We too had an unobstructed 360 degree view on this most bluebird of hiking days! ๐Ÿ™‚

The LovedOne on Point 7703 with Klamath Lake in the distance
Looking south: (1) Whiteface Peak, still snowy Mount Shasta, (2) Point 7652, and (3) Crater Mountain
Looking northwest: (1) Brown Mountain, (2) Lake of the Woods, (3) Lake Waban, Mount McLoughlin, and (4) Greylock Mountain
Looking northeast: (1) Greylock Mountain, (2) Pelican Butte, (3) the rim of Crater Lake, and (4) Upper Klamath Lake
Looking east: (1) Mount Harriman, (2) Eb & Zeb Lakes, and (3) Klamath Lake
Looking southeast to Aspen Butte (1)

The summit of Point 7703 had been breezy but cool and mosquitoe-free. But too soon, it was time to head back – which is, fortunately, downhill almost all the way. Things had heated-up some since we’d come up in the cool of the morning. While this lead to some healthy sweating, it also almost completely discouraged the mosquitoes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Going through the little meadow below Clover Lake

We had seen three backpackers at the trailhead, saw three more coming is as we were going out, and also passed two runners and four hikers. When we got back to the trailhead (after 9.6 miles and 1,900 feet of gain), we found it almost full of cars and trucks! Well, it was a very nice day for a hike (or an overnight back pack)! ๐Ÿ˜€

Our track to and from Point 7703

4 thoughts on “Getting to the Point (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 11-Jul-2020

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  1. We were but it seems to have dissipated for the moment. Unlike our local wildfire smoke, this Siberian Smog comes in high and pretty much stays there, creating a faint haze in the process. It doesn’t settle thickly in the valleys like wildfire smoke.


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