Hiking in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

On September 14, 2008, I hiked 19 miles -- probably 20 including sidetrips -- through the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. I started at the Brush Creek Trailhead on the east side.

Click any photo for a larger version -- most are around 2 MB but the panoramas are as large as 4 mb.

The Brush Creek Trail actually follows a ridge, not a creek, and at one point the ridge becomes very narrow and is steep on both sides. In the upper left is South Cinder Peak.

On the ridge, I had my first good view of Mt. Jefferson; at 10,497 feet, Oregon's second-highest peak. North Cinder Peak is on the left and Forked Butte is on the right.

A bit further up the trail, I found an incredible patch of huckleberries. I picked as many as I could stuff in my mouth in a few minutes. If I had a bucket and an hour, I could easily have picked over a quart. But I had neither -- and besides, I've already picked four gallons this summer.

After hiking a little over 3 miles, the Brush Creek Trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Mexico to Canada. Hiking north I soon pass South Cinder Peak. You can see there is a trail to the top, but I didn't have time today.

I've hiked more than 5 miles without seeing anyone, but finally meet two people on horseback. Later I meet four more people. If I had gone on a weekday, I probably wouldn't have met anyone at all.

Here is another view of South Cinder Peak.

Deep in the subalpine forest, I only catch glimpses of Mt. Jefferson through the trees.

But occasionally the forest breaks open on the side of a cliff to present a grand view, in this case of Carl Lake. Green Ridge is in the distance -- I live near the foot of Green Ridge just to the right of the photo.

Here is an even grander view, with Mt. Jefferson on the left, Forked Butte on the right, and the peak in the middle with the little knob on top is called Bear Butte. At the foot of Forked Butte you can see a recent (last 5,000 years or so) lava flow. I've previously hiked a trail around Forked Butte through this lava flow.

Here is a closer view of Mt. Jefferson. The flat area in the middle of the photo is called The Table. As inviting as it looks there are no trails to it. Behind The Table is Goat Peak. Across the canyon to the left of The Table is Cathedral Rocks.

Soon the trail passed to the west side of Cathedral Rocks. Here is the highest peak in this small chain of volcanic remnants.

Further on, I could look back and see the entire Cathedral Rock chain.

Shimmering below was Hunts Lake, and I could hear the sound of water flowing.

Just a little further on was Shale Lake. In the center of the photo you can barely make out that another lake is beyond and below Shale Lake.

The other lake is called Mud Hole Lake, apparently because it largely dries up in late summer. Above on the right is Goat Peak, which we saw before above The Table.

After several miles of hiking in the forest, I entered a broad valley that had been cleared of trees by past avalanches. While my previous views of Mt. Jefferson were from the south, I was now looking at it from the west, with vine maple -- Oregon's fall color tree -- in the foreground.

This valley is cut by Milk Creek, the only flowing stream I had to cross all day. This must be difficult to ford earlier in the summer.

After hiking 14 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, I went west 1.5 miles down the Woodpecker Ridge Trail. Vickie was nice enough to pick me up there and hiked up to meet me about halfway down the trail. We got back to the car almost exactly 10 hours after I began the hike. On our drive out we got one last glimpse of Mt. Jefferson still in the sunlight. Once home, I still had enough energy to make huckleberry pancakes for dinner.

All photos by Randal O'Toole. Thanks to PhotoShop for stitching together the panoramas.