Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/1/12

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Born2BBrad
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Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/1/12

Post by Born2BBrad » August 5th, 2012, 10:17 am

Opening picture:
Chris At The Viewpoint Looking At Mt. Jefferson
Image

After consecutive backpacking trips of 53 miles in 3 days and 50 miles in 2 days, my body was asking for something easier. So I started doing research for something that would only be difficult and strenuous, rather than brutal.

Once again I turned Douglas Lorain’s guide book, “100 Classic Hikes in Oregon”. I had been thinking about going to Jefferson Park again, but wanted something different. Plus, in speaking with PCT thru-hikers last weekend, it was questionable whether campsites in Jefferson Park would be snow free. My interest was piqued by Lorain’s description of the Table Lake loop. It promised an escape from the crowds, as well as one of the best views in Oregon. And the distance and difficulty level met my criteria. It was in the Goldilocks zone, not too short or long, not too easy or hard… it was just right. It was described as being 23 miles with 3900’ elevation gain.

The Table Lake loop is roughly 5-10 miles S-SW of Mt. Jefferson (10497’) in Central Oregon. The entire loop is within the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. For those familiar with the area, it’s just on the other side of Cathedral Rocks from Hunts Cove. The B&B Complex Fire burned much of the area in the summer of 2003, leaving a scarred landscape, so we were prepared for that.

So on Wednesday, August 1st, Hiker Chris and I set out to find out what the Table Lake loop was all about.

At the Jefferson Lake trailhead (3111’), there were no vehicles at the trailhead – a promising sign. Right at the start, the trail crossed a bridge over Cabot Creek, then reached a junction after only 0.4 mile. Based on the information from the Lorain book, Chris and I took the path to the right, doing the loop on a counter-clockwise direction. The trail at this point is still forested, but soon changed to a lava flow filled with blackened remnants of trees.

Trail Through The Lava Flow
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Trail At The Edge Of Lava Flow
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Around there is where I decided to try out my umbrella hat as a sun protection device. It has already proven to work great to keep me dry while hiking in the rain. You see, hiking for hours in the sun at high elevation can be very draining, and anything I can do to alleviate that is worth trying. I know it looks ridiculous, but I have already proven many times that I don’t care how I look while out in the wilderness. Heck I don’t care what I look like while out working in the yard – just ask my wife. So did it work? As they say in Minnesota, “Ya, you betcha!”

Brad And His Umbrella Hat
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The umbrella hat worked great, that is, until we came to the Bushes From Hell (BFH). The trail became so overgrown that the umbrella hat kept getting caught on the branches. At that point I took it off.

The Beginning Of The Bushes From Hell
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The BFH (Snowbrush) went on for miles. At first they were waist high and intermittent. Then they became higher than our heads and mostly continuous.

To make matters worse, the BFH had spit bugs all over them. Chris and I both ended up getting covered in spit bug spit.

Spit Bugs On The Bushes From Hell
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I was going through the BFH carrying my hiking poles above my head so they wouldn't get caught on the branches. I felt like one of those soldiers you see in movies carrying their rifle above their head as they wade through a marsh.

Going through the Bushes From Hell


Meanwhile, Chris was swimming through the BFH with his arms, cursing the bushes all the way. He reminded me of the Olympic swimmers going for gold.

Chris Emerging from the Bushes From Hell


Every once in a while, flagging would appear to confirm we were on the trail.

Mercifully, the BFH gave way to a less difficult overgrown trail covered with dead burned trees.

Bear Butte (From Afar)
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Bear Butte (Zoomed)
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Finally we reached a point where the fire had not burned the forest, meaning the trail was not overgrown or full of downed trees.

At 6.3 miles we came to the junction with the 0.5 mile side trail to Jefferson Lake (4700’). Jefferson Lake was not our destination so we opted not to check it out. However, at Jefferson Lake, there was supposed to be a good campsite in a pretty meadow. Despite the name, Jefferson Lake has no view of Mt. Jefferson.

Jefferson Lake From Ridge West Of Viewpoint (picture taken on day 2)
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Shortly after the Jefferson Lake junction was Lava Spring. We were thankful for this, as we were both out of water. After filling up and quenching our thirst, we continued on.

At 8.3 miles was the junction at Patsy Lake (5300’). Patsy Lake has a barely adequate campsite, but that was not our destination for that day. At this point, we turned right to go to Table Lake (5470’), rather than left, which is the continuation of the loop.

Sign at Patsy Lake warning that the Jefferson Lake trail was not maintained. The warning was warranted.
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After 1 more mile we were at Table Lake, where we would make camp that night. Table Lake is a narrow, scenic lake in a beautiful meadow, and has several nice campsites. There is also a large creek-size spring flowing right out of the ground draining into the lake.

Spring flowing into Table Lake. I always find it fascinating when water flows right out of the ground.



Table Lake
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Inlet Creek To Table Lake
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We had gone only 10.5 miles, but many of those were through the BFH and over downed trees. Because of that, we didn't have much time to do anything but set up camp, clean up and go to bed

The next day, our plan was to have an exploration day and come back to the same campsite. Possibilities included taking a side trip to a viewpoint next to Bear Butte (6312’), scrambling down to a meadow-filled depression called Hole-in-the-Wall, and maybe try to clamber up to Bear Butte and a flat plateau called The Table (6100’). So off we went.

We followed the 1.5 mile trail going to the viewpoint that was described in the Lorain book as being sometimes sketchy. The trail seemed fine for a quarter of a mile, then we lost it, relying on Chris' GPS to stay as close to the trail as possible.

After bushwhacking for almost an hour, Chris looked down the side of the hill and exclaimed, "There's the trail!" It was in plain sight, so I don't know how we could have missed it.

We stayed on the trail all the way to the viewpoint. Amazing is all I can say, so I'll let the pictures say the rest.

Chris At The Viewpoint Looking At Mt. Jefferson
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Brad At Viewpoint/Mt. Jefferson
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Mt. Jefferson From Viewpoint
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Mt. Jefferson From Viewpoint (Pano)
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Sugar Pine Ridge/Three Sisters/Forked Butte From Viewpoint
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Looking up at Bear Butte, it looked like too difficult of a rock scramble to get to the top, so that was out. Looking down at Hole-in-the-Wall meadow, we decided we didn't want to go all the way down there and come back up, so that was out.

Looking over at the ridge to the west of the viewpoint, Chris said, "Let's go up that ridge and follow it." That sounded good to me, as alpine and subalpine off-trail exploration is one of my favorite things to do.

Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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Once we went up the initial slope of the ridge, there was a big, open plain. To the right was a mostly continuous view of Mt. Jefferson. I had found one of my favorite secret places. Chris and I agreed we would come back again someday.

Plain On Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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Mt. Jefferson/Snowfield From Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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Continuing on the ridge, we came to a point where, to continue further meant climbing down a boulder field and then back up a steep slope of unknown terrain. It was there we turned back.

Mt. Jefferson From End Of Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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At least the point we turned around had a good view of The Table. There we could make as assessment of how feasible it would be to try and scramble up there from Table Lake. It was definitely doable, but not in the cards for this trip.

The Table From End Of Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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On our way back down the ridge, we stayed on the southern side in order to get a different view. While not as awesome as the view of Mt. Jefferson on the other side of the ridge, the view was still good.

Forked Butte/North Cinder Peak From Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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Broken Top/Forked Butte From Ridge West Of Viewpoint
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Following the trail back to Table Lake, we couldn't figure out how we could have missed the trail on the way up. Then we found out how. We completely missed where we should have crossed a creek. Oh well, now we know.

Back at camp, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the day. I took a nap and started writing this trip report on my i-Pod.

With the forecast of hot weather on the third day, we got up early to get as much hiking done before the heat of the day. We were up at 5 AM and were on the trail by 5:30 AM.

Back at Patsy Lake trail junction, we took the turn to Junction Lake (5900'). This part of the trail goes 1.8 miles through the pass between Forked Butte (6483') and North Cinder Peak (6722'), before dropping down to tiny Junction Lake. The area on the north slope of the pass still had quite a bit of snow, but we made it through just fine. The views at the pass were some of my favorites of the trip.

North Cinder Peak From The Pass
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Mt. Jefferson From The Pass
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Ridge/Snowfield From The Pass
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Chris Climbing Snowfield From The Pass
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Looking Down At The Snowfield From The Pass (can you find Chris in the picture?)
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At Junction Lake, the Sugar Pine Ridge trail turn-off had a sign that we had seen before. We should have heeded its warning.

Sign Leading To Sugar Pine Ridge Trail At Junction Lake
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At Junction Lake we turned off at the Sugar Pine Ridge trail. At first the trail goes downhill through meadows and a lava flow before reaching a wide, flat saddle.

Sugar Pine Ridge Trail Going Through Lava Flow
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Forked Butte From Sugar Pine Ridge Trail
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The trail was supposed to follow Sugar Pine Ridge 5 more mile through mostly shadeless burn areas, but after less than a quarter of a mile after the saddle, the trail disappeared into the bushes. Chris had the trail on his GPS, but we still couldn't find it anywhere. We were already committed to going that direction, since turning around to go back the way we came on the first day would take much longer. Or so we thought. The bushes couldn't be any worse that the first day. Or so we thought.

What ensued was the worst kind of bushwhacking I have ever had the misfortune to experience. It made the Bushes From Hell on day 1 seem like a walk in the park. It's like the BFH called their big brothers to join them, and their friends, the Hedges From Hell. At certain points the brush was literally impenetrable, forcing us to backtrack to find another way through.

For some reason, I began thinking of the scene from the movie "Young Frankenstein", where Igor and Victor Frankenstein are digging a casket out of a graveyard and Victor exclaims, "What a filthy job!" Igor replies, "It could be worse. It could be raining." As soon as Igor says this, the rain comes pouring down.

I made the mistake of tempting fate by stating to Chris that our situation could be worse. Guess what happened. It got worse. We got into an area that also included blackberry vines that tangled up our feet and legs even more. At least they were the native blackberry vines and not the Himalayan blackberry vines you see along the roadside.

Bushwhacking Down Sugar Pine Ridge/Bushes From Hell Again
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Going through the Bushes from Hell on day 3


It took us 10 hours to go 4 miles. I don't ever want to go bushwhacking like that again. What started out as an adventure turned into (insert many negative adjectives and cuss words here).

Back at the trailhead, I stopped to read the signs on the message board. There was one notice that would have proved useful had we read it. Note to self: Read all messages at trailheads, even if you think you know everything.

Warning Notice At Trailhead About Difficult Hiking Conditions
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When I got home, after taking a shower, I assessed my physical damage. I had scratches all over my arms and legs, as well as bruises on my shins from pushing through the brush. It could have been worse. A sprained ankle while bushwhacking would have been a serious problem.

Bruising From Pushing Through Bushes From Hell
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Scratches From Bushes From Hell (arm)
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Scratches From Bushes From Hell (hand)
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Other notes:
X. We saw no one else on the trail the whole time. Probably because very few people are crazy enough to attempt the route we went.
X. Table Lake can be accessed via the maintained Cabot Lake trail.
X. I tried putting in some links in my TR. Let me know if you like it.
X. Final stats: 8700' elevation gain, 27.5 miles, but it felt like more.
X. Jelly beans in the pocket make for good nibbling while hiking on the trail.
X. The weather was almost perfect. No clouds, not too hot during the day and not too cold at night.
X. I decided to buy a pair of Vasque trail runner shoes to try out while backpacking. My Gore-tex hiking boots had been stiflingly hot in the summer, causing moisture buildup. That may have been part of the reason for my foot problems. The verdict? I love them! They are extremely light, very breathable, comfortable and have great traction.
X. Lost part of one of my hiking poles while slogging through the Bushes From Hell. I really missed the use of it, as I was relying on both poles for footing on the extremely difficult terrain.
X. Badly ripped both legs of my cargo pants. I will bury them with honors. They have served me well for many years.
X. I sent a note to the publisher of the guide book strongly advising them to take the Table Lake loop out of the next publishing of the book. Less prepared people who might not be in as good shape as Chris and I might not make it out without ending up on the news.

Link to all the pics on Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] ... 902901784/

Good hiking,
Brad
Last edited by Born2BBrad on August 5th, 2012, 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
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kelkev
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by kelkev » August 5th, 2012, 10:59 am

Wow. Awesome trip report and photos. I've been to both trailheads, but never on the trails. I've read that the Sisters Ranger District is considering decommissioning both trails, as well as a couple of others that have been pretty much obscured by the snowbrush since the B&B fire.
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Eric Peterson
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by Eric Peterson » August 5th, 2012, 11:20 am

I see your back to your hat antics again! :)

I know what you mean about leg scratches too -
legs.jpg
Just wish I had gotten a fresh picture of mine. :D

You guys sure been killing the backpacking this year it seems.

Great TR as usual but I didn't click on any links, hehe.

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Crusak
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by Crusak » August 5th, 2012, 12:50 pm

Adventurous trip, Brad and Chris! Your umbrella hat is a great idea for managing sun exposure - great coverage and ventilation (some hats are too hot to wear when it's really hot).

I'd be curious to see the route you guys did on a map - did you GPS the trip?

Seems like the Jefferson Wilderness is the place to be this week! Lots of us went out to play in that part of the state. :)
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by mattisnotfrench » August 5th, 2012, 5:13 pm

Nice report! It's great to see one from here even despite your misfortunes.

I've been wanting to do that loop for a long time but the warnings on the Deschutes National Forest site about those trails have pretty much convinced me not to bother. When I finally get to Table Lake it will be the Carl Lake / Cabot route.

We went up to the Jefferson Lake Trailhead on our vacation in the Metolius last month. Great views!

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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by awildman » August 5th, 2012, 6:52 pm

I've been wanting to get to portions (The Table) of your hike for a few years now. I'm definitely going to craft a different approach! Thanks for doing all the hard work! :)
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by HikerChris » August 5th, 2012, 10:14 pm

Crusak wrote:Adventurous trip, Brad and Chris! Your umbrella hat is a great idea for managing sun exposure - great coverage and ventilation (some hats are too hot to wear when it's really hot). I'd be curious to see the route you guys did on a map - did you GPS the trip? Seems like the Jefferson Wilderness is the place to be this week! Lots of us went out to play in that part of the state. :)
Unfortunately no. It would be quite comical to look at if I had. We basically took the path of least resistance through the brush. Which means we were doing a lot of zigging and zagging. I only had the tracking on for a short while to make sure we were taking the correct trajectory to hook up with the trail. The tracking eats up extra battery so I turned it off when I didn't need it as a precaution.

Basically, on the way back, we paralleled the sugar pine ridge trail in the valley to the south for a mile or two. Then we headed up to the ridge to meet up with the trail. We found it for a while but then lost it again when it descended down the North side of the ridge. We bush wacked East for a while heading in the general direction of where we parked. He got fed up with the thick brush after a while and decided to try and find the trail again so we headed back up to the ridge. We found the trail and it looked promising for a while but then it disappeared again. We followed a creek for a ways. This was also slow going mostly because of the vast amount of downed logs stacked upon each other. We noticed on the GPS that we were right between the two trails, not too far from where they meet up. We knew the other trail was decent for the first 1 to 1.5 miles so we decided to make a direct path to it. We climbed up to the ridge above that trail and we could see the lava fields up ahead. We knew the trail was down there so we went through another section of tall, thick
brush to meet up with it. When we finally did, we both yelled in celebration. At this point we were only about a mile from the truck.

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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by mayhem » August 5th, 2012, 10:19 pm

Brad & Chris. Damn great trip & TR :). Man what an experience!! Way fun though :)

& your hat really is the bomb!!!!!
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by Born2BBrad » August 6th, 2012, 12:30 pm

kelkev wrote:Wow. Awesome trip report and photos. I've been to both trailheads, but never on the trails. I've read that the Sisters Ranger District is considering decommissioning both trails, as well as a couple of others that have been pretty much obscured by the snowbrush since the B&B fire.
I wish I would have known that piece of information, but now I am finding it everywhere.
Eric Peterson wrote:I see your back to your hat antics again! :)

I know what you mean about leg scratches too -
Just wish I had gotten a fresh picture of mine. :D

You guys sure been killing the backpacking this year it seems.
Great TR as usual but I didn't click on any links, hehe.
Ah, sympathy from a fellow bushwhacker.
Yeah, we’ve been on many great trips this year. I have 6 more scheduled. I can’t wait!
mattisnotfrench wrote:Nice report! It's great to see one from here even despite your misfortunes.

I've been wanting to do that loop for a long time but the warnings on the Deschutes National Forest site about those trails have pretty much convinced me not to bother. When I finally get to Table Lake it will be the Carl Lake / Cabot route.

We went up to the Jefferson Lake Trailhead on our vacation in the Metolius last month. Great views!
Seems like many people know about the trail conditions there. When you do go there, be sure to take the side trip from Table Lake to the viewpoint, and if you like off-trail stuff, go up the ridge west of the viewpoint.
awildman wrote:I've been wanting to get to portions (The Table) of your hike for a few years now. I'm definitely going to craft a different approach! Thanks for doing all the hard work! :)
You’ll love it there. Few people, great views. Plus now you know what not to do. The Table might be on my list for next year. It looks like one could camp up there too.
mayhem wrote:Brad & Chris. Damn great trip & TR :). Man what an experience!! Way fun though :)

& your hat really is the bomb!!!!!
Bam!!
Attachments
Bad Trails.jpg
Info from DNF website. Note the comment about people getting lost and needed rescue. Glad that was not me.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
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Re: Table Lake Loop/Mt. Jeff Wilderness/Bushes From Hell: 8/

Post by mayhem » August 6th, 2012, 1:25 pm

So I guess they need to make corrections to the signs!
Impassable to most hikers & livestock! But Impassable means nothing to B2BB & HChris :)

Bammm!
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