Devils Peak (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 17-Oct-2017

Devils Peak Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

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 auguries 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.

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Nannie Creek Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 08-Oct-2016

Nannie Creek Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

Last July, I did an out-and-back hike in the Sky Lakes Wilderness from the Nannie Creek trailhead (USFS TH) to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  At the time, it occurred to me that I could use the PCT to loop around Luther Mountain and down past a few of the lakes in the Sky Lakes Basin that we hadn’t visited before.  This wilderness, despite its more than 200 pools of water, good camping, and easy hiking, has a deservedly fearsome reputation for hoards of ravenous mosquitos in July and August.  But on a crisp, sunny, clear day in early October, with all of these winged pests gone to whatever reward awaits them, there is simply no better place to hike in Southern Oregon.  Unfortunately, its also the ideal time for Fall planting and gardening, so my attempts to lure the LovedOne from her botanical tasks failed and I was (once again) left to face the wilderness alone (double sigh).

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Nannie Creek (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 03-Jul-2016

Nannie Creek Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The Sky Lakes Wilderness stretches for 113, 835 acres along the crest of the volcanic Cascade Mountains from the border of Crater Lake National Park on the north to State Highway 140 in the south.  As its name implies, it encompasses a large number of named and unnamed lakes arrayed in three major lake (former glacial) basins, from Seven Lakes Basin in the north, to Sky Lakes Basin (including the Dwarf Lakes) in the center, to Blue Canyon Basin in the south.  Fourmile Lake and Mount McLoughlin lie south of Blue Canyon Basin, on the southern border of the wilderness.  More than 200 pools of water, from mere ponds to lakes of 30 to 40 acres, dot the landscape. Fourmile Lake exceeds 900 acres. Despite its fearsome reputation for hordes of ravenous mosquitos in July and August, we have done more than a few summer hikes here – including scrambles to the summits of Mt. McLoughlin and Devils Peak – since first moving to Southern Oregon.  Our hike last year in via the Nannie Creek trailhead was cut short when The LovedOne’s knee started acting up (post), so we had some unfinished business with exploring the Sky Lakes Basin from that particular entry point.  But, unable to convince her that a hike through mosquitos in hotter than usual temperatures would somehow be FUN, I was left to face the wilderness alone (sigh).

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Luther Mountain Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 23-Aug-2015

Luther Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The Sky Lakes Wilderness is as famous as the Indian Heaven Wilderness for the dense swarms of winged vampires that make hiking and backpacking there in July and August an ordeal. Well, not this year. Probably the only good thing to come from the prolonged drought and dearth of snow here in Southern Oregon is the devastating effect it seems to have had on the mosquito population (oh, boo hoo 😈 ). Except for some pathetic stragglers attempting to get in a bite at the trailheads, mosquitos have been largely absent from the lakes this year. That, combined with most of this wilderness being on the less smoky (but far from smoke-free) side of the Cascades, has prompted several day hike explorations of the area. Yesterday, I used the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to make a loop from the Cold Spring Trailhead up to Luther Mountain and back.

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Lucifer (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 23-May-2015

Lucifer Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

It’s been a somewhat below normal snow year in Oregon, particularly down here in Southern Oregon. “Low” snow does not mean, however, no snow – particularly along the Cascade crest on north- and east-facing slopes at about 6,500 feet or above. Plus, a persistent low centered over Nevada has been sending waves of clouds (and some rain) at us for the past two weeks. So, as the saying goes, maybe summer doesn’t actually start in Oregon until the 4th of July? That said, I nonetheless felt impelled to venture up into the Sky Lakes Wilderness to see conditions for myself.

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