Tom posted some interesting images and information about a possible trail coming out of Laurance Lake dam and a couple of other images giving the trail as #632. I've not been able to locate anything on the MHNF site that describes this trail but I was able to locate a reference from a mountain biking site that mentioned this trail and one going to Red Hill.
The references are in an XLS spreadsheet here. The page this link is found resides here. This page looks dated but I found it interesting as it may explain some things I saw between the end of the #632 trail and Perry Lake.
Here's the two relevant lines from the spread sheet - raises some questions about how all this would work, I wonder what happened to all this proto-planning?
So I decided to do a big loop starting from Laurance Lake up the #632, if it existed, connect to Bear Creek Rd and follow it until it dropped into the canyon then bushwhack along the ridge to get to Perry Lake and the old Vista Ridge TH. From there off on to Tom's recovered trail segment, Owl Point, then up Vista Ridge to return on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail then back to Laurance Lake. At least that was the plan - I cut it short.Red Hill 626 2 Laurance Lake Part of unfinished loop west of Laurance Lake
Laurance Lake Trail 632 2.0 Laurance Lake Bicyclists are working with FS on connecting this to #626.
Directions to Laurance Lake can be easily found by using Google Maps, just punch in "Laurance Lake, OR" as your destination. The Kinnikinnick Campground is the name of the campground - I think it is a fee required place.
To get to the #632, park near the dam (or grab a camp site), don't block the locked gate at the dam, etc. and walk across the dam. The trail starts immediately on the other side. The #632 is Grade A Trail - obviously built to horse travel standards with a 3-4 foot bench and a very easy grade. Has an official looking board at the trailhead.
Here's the view from the dam, the light colored clearcut on the right is where I short-cutted the road walk on my return.
Board at the trail head, not a lot of information posted.
Trail is in excellent condition.
Great views from the side of the ridge:
Once on the ridge, the trail passed through a partial cut full of blooming beargrass.
It ended unceremoniously and unmarked except for a blazed tree at a berm on the Bear Creek Rd. I did not get the feeling this trail sees much use. I proceeded down Bear Creek Rd on the ridge until it dropped into the Clear Branch canyon where it is obviously decomissioned from that point on as it is washed out and covered with brush.
It was here I started to get a little nervous about the amount of brush I was going to have to deal with, it started out with young trees, manzanita, and other brush but about 100 feet into the bushwhack my fears were eliminated by what looks like a trail layout along a fire road that follows the ridge. Not that there is trail, just a ton of flagging and not just the ribbon type, the little flags on a wire - someone is/was planning a trail along the ridge through here (consult map below for details).
Flags and ribbon, people don't use flags for flagging unless they are laying out a trail - I claim.
The flagging rolled on for almost all the way to the 1630 Rd where the guard station was located and Perry Lake. For some reason about .15 of a mile from the road, the flagging stopped - perhaps I missed a segment and I went one way to connect to the road and the trail planners went another.
I reached Perry Lake in time for lunch where I found that I was on the menu, in fact, I was the main course - mosquitoes swarmed and limited my picture taking of the lake to a couple of shots before I had to dash down the road to safety.
In Tom's post on this topic he mentioned the foundations of the guard station and lookout - not sure which is which:
Just a few feet beyond the foundations is the old Vista Ridge Trail Head (I guess, first time there, correct me if I'm wrong). That's the road ending on the left and the trail headed off to the west.
The trail is in great shape, the segment up to Owl Point had no snow and only a couple of small stems across the trail. There are a nice viewpoints along the way, one from a big boulder field opening to the north to a view of Adams and Defiance.
I visited Owl Point and looked back on the ridge I'd just traveled with a bit of the lake in view.
Great views of Hood.
From here I made the cutoff to the Rockpile, but declined as all the picture taking had eaten up my margin of error. I ran into fairly solid snow from there on to just before the connection to the current Vista Ridge Trail. Pretty deep in spots and I had to pay attention to keep on trail. There were a few downed trees in the recovered segment, one that will require a bit of effort to clear but most can be done with a handsaw.
The plan was to go up Vista Ridge then cutover to return on the Pinnacle Ridge trail but from Thomas' recent report, it's all under snow so having never been on either I decided to cut it short by going up Vista Ridge a way then bushwhack down to the 2840 Rd and return. I do at times place a lot of faith in the accuracy of USGS maps and all too often have come away disappointed but this time the road was there but it has long since been abandoned to scrub alder. Yuck, toughest bushwhacking all day was for about a mile on this road.
There were nice views in spots where the brush thinned - originally I thought this was Owl Point but now I think Owl Point is off to the left in this picture.
I made it out of there and followed the road down to where I hopped off into a clearcut to return to the lake. The clearcut was filled with wonderfully fragrant ceanothus.
One last look at the mountain.
So 12-13 miles, 2300' cumulative elevation gain. Great day and I'm going to return to this later this summer when the snow is gone at all elevations to do the loop I originally planned except toss in a bicycle to return to the lake from the Pinnacle Ridge TH. Click on the image for the big print version. Green flags for easy travel, yellow flags for mild bushwhack, red flags mean misery.