Mystic Lake (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 19-Oct-2021

Last September, Lee Juillerat wrote a piece for our local paper, the Mail Tribune, reminiscing about a trip he’d made to Mystic Lake, which sits at 7,200 feet (2,195 m) in the nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness. I had passed near this little lake when I did the Mountain Lakes Loop in 2015 but didn’t have time to divert then for a visit. So I put Mystic on the seemingly bottomless hikes to do list, intending it for a late summer hike. Then heat, smoke, other hikes, other adventures, and personal business intervened and voilà it was mid-October. And La Niña was back – bringing with it rain and the first snows of winter. Was it now too late to reach Mystic without snowshoes?

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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.

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Lake Waban Loop (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 05-Aug-2019

We caught a break the other day after a wildfire started near Lake Harriette in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness. In previous years it might have been left to burn “naturally” – thus likely spreading across this fuel-rich wilderness area. But after two summers of devastating 100,000+ acre wildfires and thick, choking smoke in the valleys, just letting fires go isn’t the program anymore. Instead, ground crews and helicopters were on the Harriette fire almost immediately. Despite the difficult terrain, they held it to just 8 acres. The pros and cons of this approach to wildfire management are subject to debate. In the mean time, however, I’m glad we still have a wilderness with green trees in it. 🙂

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Mountain Lakes Loop (Mountain Lakes Wilderness) 30-Jul-2015

Varney Creek Mountain Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The Mountain Lakes Wilderness (not to be confused with the Sky Lakes Wilderness just to the north) is an exactly one section square (36 square mile) area that encompasses several lakes within a cluster of old (if they were not, you wouldn’t be reading this) volcanoes. Certainly the “squarest” wilderness area in Oregon. The Mountain Lakes Loop Trail (USFS #3727) circles the biggest lakes within the wilderness. We had previously explored it from the south via the Clover Creek Trailhead, enroute to a climb of the wilderness’ high point – Aspen Butte. The loop trail can also be reached from the north via the Varney Creek Trail (USFS #3718). With The Loved One out of action with a knee injury, I had to explore Varney Creek and hike the Mountain Lakes loop alone. 😥

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