A Goose Too Far (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 06-Aug-2020

Stretching south from Crater Lake, into the Sky Lakes Wilderness, are a line of small peaks. They were generated by the same volcanic forces that eventually exploded ancient Mount Mazama to create Crater Lake. A couple of years ago, I got to the summit of one of them – Mount Maude – from the south via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The tallest one – Goose Nest (not to be confused with the Goosenest near Mount Shasta) – sits just east of the Cascade Crest near the wilderness / park boundary. The shortest approach to Goose Nest is from the east on old logging roads. But I had always wanted to see if it could be reached from the west via the PCT, as had Maude. Map gazing and trip planning ensued…

Today’s arrival of a dry (emphasis on dry) cold front (which dropped the air temperature by 20°F (6.6°C)) presented an opportunity to explore the Goose Nest in August without succumbing to heat stroke. The LovedOne was occupied with figuring out how to let volunteers safely resume their work at the county library. So it was on me to drive solo to the Pumice Flat Trailhead in Crater Lake National Park [Note that this trailhead has been moved from along Highway 62 to the center of the Lodgepole Picnic Area]. I stepped out of the truck into the coldest, most refreshing air I’d experienced in weeks! And it was sunny too! Brilliant! Then it was west on the easy and obvious Pumice Flat Trail to its junction with the PCT.

Along the Pumice Flat Trail
Pussypaws
Continuing on the Pumice Flat Trail
The register at the Pumice Flat / PCT junction

The Pumice Flat Trail ends at its junction with the PCT. It hasn’t been a good year for PCT thru-hikers – maybe a tenth this year of the many who trod the trail in years past. But the trail is not deserted this year; maybe just a little lonelier.There was one signature in the register when I passed by in the morning and a dozen more when I returned in the afternoon. I passed a half dozen or so thru and section hikers as I went south on the PCT, into the footprint of the devastating 2017 Blanket Creek Fire. It’s impact extends along the PCT from Pumice Flat all the way to Maude Mountain.

Looking southwest over the burn toward Tom and Jerry Mountains
Union Peak peaks through the burn
On the PCT through the burn

As I came abreast of Goose Nest, I began to realize that neither the map nor the aerial imagery quite conveyed the chaotic nature of the terrain now between me and the summit. There was burned forest to contend with, rock bands not visible from the air, a descent followed by 1,000 feet of climbing, followed by a climb back to the PCT. Too much for me today. So I climbed to the top of nearby Point 6718 for a better view, particularly to the west.

A view of Mount Scott from the meadow on Point 6718
Even in all this devastation, life persists
Goose Nest from Point 6718 – a goose too far (this time)
Looking southwest from Point 6718 toward Devils Peak
Fungus busy recycling a burned tree

The dry front that was providing this wonderfully cool hiking weather was, in fact, dry but it was not cloudless. Turning to the west from atop Point 6718, I saw a solid line of clouds advancing toward me. Soon, too soon, they had turned a brilliant blue sky into a dull, reflective, photo-hating overcast. 😥 Thoughts on salvaging the day by hiking a little farther on the PCT to the summit of Goose Egg evaporated. It was time to retreat and plan a counter-offensive for later.

Clouds barrel up the valley of the Middle Fork of the Rogue River
Clouds build around Union Peak
Clouds gather over Mount Scott

On the way back, I passed a park ranger heading in to check thru-hiker permits. It was good to see a ranger in the backcountry, outside a visitor center. I wish the Park Service had the funding to allow this to happen more often. Despite the cloud cover, this was a good hike (10.6 miles round-trip; only 860 feet of gain) to a part of the Sky Lakes that I hadn’t visited before. This stretch of the PCT is pretty mellow and I think The LovedOne would enjoy a hike to the Goose Egg, maybe on a crisp, sunny day in the fall. We’ll come equipped with an omelet pan. 🙄 As for the Goose Nest, I can see hiking in from the east after some artful driving on old logging roads. 😉

My track through the burn to Point 6718
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4 comments

  1. Thanks! We’ll look for the old Goose Nest Trail when/if we get up there. Glad you enjoyed the Wickiup Trail. It seemed to me that it wasn’t a “built” trail (one with a defined prism, switchbacks, retaining rocks, etc.) as much as just one that the old packers knew how to follow. I was told (but haven’t seen it myself) that the Wickiup on the west side of the divide was a built trail. I have not been up the Moss Creek Trail but understand that, while it’s been abandoned by the Forest Service, it is still in use by locals. Access to it is across private land and the trail itself is reported to be a route-finding obstacle course. That said, it’s not on our “to do” list.

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  2. That is the correct location and trail. Once you cross the Wilderness boundary you can find the old trail via blazes, cut logs and overgrown trail bed. Also, I recently went up the Wickiup Trail you recently wrote a article about thanks! Have you ever been up the abandoned Moss Creek Trail in Mountain Lakes Wilderness?
    I love your blog and adventures, keep up the work thanks!

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  3. Thanks for letting me know that this approach goes. From the east seems easier than what I was facing trying to come in from the west. This area wasn’t mapped at a small scale by the USGS until 1955. But I found what might be the old Goose Nest Trail on a 1947 Rogue National Forest map (from before this area was shifted to the Fremont-Winema NF), starting from Cedar Spring and coming up and past the southeast side of Goose Nest. We’re looking forward to exploring more of this area.

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  4. The old Goose Nest Trail comes in from the east on a old logging road and it is approximately a 2 mile hike on it to the summit of Goose Nest Mountain. I have been on it many times throughout the years. The south flank is full of loose scree, but very doable. It has been documented that Native Americans considered it a spiritual place, and there are some old rocks positioned by them on the north edge.

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