Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/2012

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kelkev
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Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/2012

Post by kelkev » September 3rd, 2012, 8:09 am

I have always been curious about the un-maintained and reportedly scenic access route to the PCT from the east side of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The Brush Creek Trail #4004 is a 3.5 mile long trail that is just south of the Cabot Lake Trail, and just north of the Rockpile Lake Trail. I have been following the USFS debate over decommissioning the Brush Creek, Jefferson Lake, Sugarpine Ridge, and Minto Pass Trails, and as a result, met a fellow hiker (and Sisters resident) who has hiked all of these trails many times. We meshed our schedules and met up Sunday morning to hike the Brush Creek Trail. We used a car shuttle to make a loop via the Cabot Lake Trail, which gave us a total mileage for the day of around 12 miles. The lower part of the Brush Creek Trail is pretty much obliterated by snowbrush and fallen logs from the B&B fire. Not horrible like the Jefferson Lake or Sugarpine Ridge trails, but GPS and topo made route finding much easier. Once you reach the ridgetop and find the tread, it's very obvious all the way to the PCT. It's just the first part of the hike that has no obvious trail. Very scenic, rugged, remote, and worthy of saving from decommissioning. Lupine, paintbrush, and no mosquitoes all day. Perfecto!!

This is the view from the trailhead...where's the trail?
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We headed for the ridgetop, and views opened up. This is looking back at Abbot Butte with Green Ridge in the background.
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We stayed to the south side of the ridge, negotiating over a few down logs, working our way to the ridgetop, when suddenly a blaze appeared. We were on the old trail!
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The trail stays on the ridgeline for a mile or so, with great views to the south (3FJ) and west to the ridge that the PCT follows. Me taking a break and soaking in the rugged scenery!
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The trail narrows and comes to an incredibly scenic, narrow, and dangerously exposed (both sides) rocky saddle. Really spectacular. A highlight of the hike, photos don't do it justice. It then switchbacks steeply down the south side before skirting some large rockslides. We met a pair of archery hunters below this area.
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A great view of Mt. Jefferson from the saddle pass of the Brush Creek Trail.
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My hiking partner, Tom, knew the area well and showed me a tree that used to mark the junction of the Brush Creek Trail with the old Summit Trail before it was re-rerouted many years ago. Multiple blazes and memories of old lost routes through the mountains. I love old trail history, and this area has a lot of it.
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A couple of signs on a pile of rocks at the PCT intersection. About 1/2 mile north of Rockpile Lake.
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Lunch break at Rockpile Lake. Met several PCT through hikers here refilling water containers.
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Headed north on the PCT. Wide open pumice flats abound.
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Tom at the junction down to Shirley Lake, Carl Lake, and our car shuttle back at the Cabot Lake trailhead. The Swallow Lake trail also heads west from here, working its way eventually to Marion Lake.
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A last look at Mt. Jefferson from the Shirley Lake Trail. Did I mention I enjoyed the views?
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Trail junction at Carl Lake.
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Carl Lake. One of the most scenic lakes anywhere. Deep blue and surrounded by cliffs. 5 dusty miles downhill from here, we were back at the cars. Tired but happy hikers! Thanks to Tom for the history, the hike, and good company.
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"Going to the mountains is going home."
— John Muir

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mattisnotfrench
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Re: Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/201

Post by mattisnotfrench » September 3rd, 2012, 2:31 pm

Beautiful Kevin, just beautiful. I've always wanted to hike that trail. I'm glad to hear it's still navigable with some effort.

Nice photos too.
Author of 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region.

Also available: Off the Beaten Trail: Fifty Fantastic Unknown Hikes in NW Oregon and SW Washington

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ewbadz
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Re: Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/201

Post by ewbadz » September 3rd, 2012, 2:36 pm

Great pics Kelkev! It's nice to see ya exploring the east side! I agree with you that area should be saved and not decommisioned.

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kelkev
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Re: Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/201

Post by kelkev » September 3rd, 2012, 2:44 pm

Thanks Matt & ewbadz! The trail is really in pretty fair shape once you find it as you gain the ridgetop. A few cairns here and there in the trickier spots, but my Magellan with the pre-loaded topo map was a nice aid when I was questioning our placement. You wouldn't really need one, though. Pretty hard to get lost as the trail basically follows the edge of the ridge until the awesome saddle pass. Piece of cake to the PCT from there. Apparently there had been some livestock deaths at the pass in years gone by, can't imagine anyone trying to negotiate the trail there with a horse or pack animal. One slip and ...... Hence the sign "unsafe for livestock".

Lots of country that has that look of "wonder if anybody has ever been there?'

Kevin
"Going to the mountains is going home."
— John Muir

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ewbadz
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Re: Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/201

Post by ewbadz » September 3rd, 2012, 3:11 pm

I tend to visit the east side alot since I live in Bend. I am no expert in trail maintaining or building but it seems like it wouldnt take too much to put these trails back into good condition.
The Jefferson Lake Trail would need a path cut thru snowbrush for the first 3 or 4 miles but after that the trail is easy to follow.

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Crusak
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Re: Brush Creek Trail loop, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness 9/2/201

Post by Crusak » September 3rd, 2012, 3:57 pm

Nice TR Kelkev. I hate to hear that they're considering decomissioning those trails, especially Minto Pass.

Looks like you had some decent views and the smoke from forest fires must've been blowing some other direction. Very nice.
Jim's Hikes

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