Mount McLoughlin (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 19-Jun-2016

Mount McLoughlin Oregon

Mount McLoughlin, at 9,495 feet, is the lowest in Oregon’s chain of six major Cascade Range volcanic peaks (the others are Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and the Three Sisters, all above 10,000 feet). Viewed from the northwest (i.e., from Interstate-5), Mount McLoughlin’s strikingly symmetrical shape is the dominant landmark of the Rogue River Valley. After waiting out this year’s truculent El Niño-driven weather, I got myself back up there yesterday.  Thanks to the heavy snowfall we had this winter, today’s climb was on dirt to about 8,000 feet and then on Spring snow from there to the top. An interesting mix of summer and winter conditions,  all on a near perfect bluebird day.

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Red Lake Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 12-Jun-2016

Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The 113,849 acre Sky Lakes Wilderness stretches south along the crest of the Cascades from the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park to State Highway 140 (details, USFS).  The numerous lakes in this wilderness divide somewhat in to three basins – the Seven Lakes Basin north of Devils Peak (accessible via the Seven Lakes trailhead), the Sky Lakes Area (accessible from the east via the Nannie Creek trailhead and from the south via the Cold Springs trailhead), and the Blue Lake Basin just north of Fourmile Lake (accessible from the south via the Fourmile Lake trailhead and from the west via the Blue Lakes trailhead). Basically, if you like lakes, good trails, easy backpacking, the option of dayhikes, overnight or longer trips, and a choice of campsites, along with ready access to water, then this is the wilderness for you.

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New Year’s Eve in the Sky Lakes 31-Dec-2015

Summit Sno-Park Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

After waiting out a freezing fog (again), we had time for a short end-of-the-year snowshoe hike into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The LovedOne had gotten new snowshoes and poles – once we were sure there would actually be snow this winter. 😀 We also wanted to scout the winter route to Mount McLoughlin from the Summit Sno-Park. Some climbing guides suggest parking right along Highway 140 at Mile Post 31 and heading north toward McLoughlin from there – presumably just to save the $5 use fee. Maybe.  But we couldn’t see how you could park on the highway since the snowplows leave almost (or no) shoulder. Plus the Fremont-Winema National Forest now has no parking signs on its part of the highway…

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Cherry Creek (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 13-Sep-2015

Cherry Creek Trail Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

Thanks to the drought 😦 , the mosquitos that usually make the Sky Lakes Wilderness a forbidding place in July and August didn’t materialize this year in their usual great numbers. 🙂 We’ve been taking advantage of their absence to explore most of the trailheads that allow one to access different parts of this long, linear wilderness – which stretches along the Cascade Crest from Crater Lake National Park to Mount. McLoughlin. Today we we checked out the Cherry Creek Trail (USFS #3708), which is the one just south of the Nannie Creek Trail. This one is lower (about 4,800 feet) and the hike in to the lakes is longer (about 6 miles) than via Nannie Creek, so it was not surprising to find it much less used. Because of erosion damage, it’s currently closed to stock, which only adds to its less used aspect. It is also entirely in the forest, with no real views until you reach the lakes. This is Hike #139 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition).

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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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King Spruce Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 19-Aug-2015

King Spruce Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

This is a short hike to a neat lake and a big tree – but not one with much in the way of views. Hence it had fallen down on the to do list. But smoke coming from large wildfires to the north (near Canyonville, Oregon) and the south (in California) was severely limiting visibility. So a lake and a tree seemed like a fair trade for views. The Seven Lakes Trail (USFS #981) is probably the most popular and most used western approach into the Seven Lakes Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness. It’s a little rocky but has recently received maintenance that removed this year’s crop of fallen trees, making it an easy cruise.

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Nannie Creek (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 13-Aug-2015

Nannie Creek Trail Puck Lakes Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

Thanks to the drought 😦 , the mosquitos that usually make the Sky Lakes Wilderness a forbidding place in July and August didn’t materialize 🙂 this year in their usual great numbers. We’ve been taking advantage of their absence to explore most of the trailheads that allow one to access different parts of this long, linear wilderness – which stretches along the Cascade Crest from Crater Lake National Park to Mount. McLoughlin. Today we explored the Nannie Creek Trail (USFS #3707), which provides access to the lakes on the east side of Luther Mountain. This trail is popular because it starts higher (about 6,000 feet), is well maintained, and has views. But it comes in above the lakes, so there’s a 400 foot climb on your return. This is Hike #50 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (3rd Edition).

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Heavenly Twin Lakes (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 06-Aug-2015

Heavenly Twin Lakes Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

First it got real hot down here. Then we got heavily smoked by wildfires to the north and in California to the south. Then The LovedOne’s knee went blooey. While we were waiting for the doc to say she could put some weight on it, the air temperatures dropped (only 90F today!) and the winds started shifting the smoke around (still plenty of it though). To escape some of the smoke and work the knee a bit, we decided to hike in to the Sky Lakes Wilderness from the Cold Spring Trailhead via an excellent, almost level trail, that passes by some neat lakes.

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Judge Waldo Tree (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 22-Jul-2015

Judge Waldo Tree Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

About three weeks ago, I did a long loop in the southern Sky Lakes Wilderness involving Fourmile Lake and managed to miss the famous Judge Waldo Tree. I’d vowed to return in the Fall to rectify this miss but dropping temperatures and a freakish absence of mosquitos in this wilderness (which is/was infamous for its biting hoards in July and August) encouraged us to look for this tree sooner. Although the hike in from Fourmile Lake to the south has its charms, we decided instead to try using the Blue Canyon Trailhead coming from the west side (Hike #46 in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon guide (3rd Edition)).

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Fourmile Lake Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 03-Jul-2015

Fourmile Lake Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

The Sky Lakes Wilderness (not to be confused with the Mountain Lakes Wilderness further south) stretches from Crater Lake National Park south to Highway 140. The numerous lakes in this wilderness divide somewhat in to three sections – the Seven Lakes Basin northwest of Devils Peak, the Dwarf Lakes Area accessible from the Nannie Creek and Cold Springs Trailheads, and the Blue Lake Basin just north of Fourmile Lake. Owing to all of this open water, this wilderness is infamous for hoards of mosquitos in July and August. Still, I’d wanted to check out the Blue Lake Basin for some time and it was hot enough in the valley (100+º F for days) to make desanguination by flying syringes seem acceptable. Note: This is a loop for folks who like lakes – lots of lakes – because 95% of it is through forest (the famous Oregon “green tunnel”) and views are minimal at best.

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Devils Peak Loop (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 10-Jun-2015

Devils Peak Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

Three weeks ago, I attempted to hike to Devils Peak in the northern Sky Lakes Wilderness. This is the wilderness immediately south of Crater Lake National Park and not to be confused with the Mountain Lakes Wilderness further south. At that time, conditions were less than optimal as the trail going out to Devils Peak was still covered in snow. I had to settle for a snowy scramble up nearby Lucifer. Family visiting from the East gave me the chance to reprise this hike under ideal conditions – cool, clear, sunny weather, with no bugs to speak of once we were away from the trailhead. Surprisingly, all the snow clogging the trails had melted completely away in just three weeks!

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