Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

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justpeachy
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Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by justpeachy » September 8th, 2018, 3:42 pm

I spent the long weekend exploring some of the east side of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, which I've never visited before. I started at the Cabot Lake Trailhead, hiked into Carl Lake and stayed there the first night, then hiked to Table Lake for the second night and hiked an abandoned trail up to a viewpoint above Hole-in-the-Wall Park. Then I hiked back to Carl Lake for the third night and did a side trip up to South Cinder Peak. It was great!

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Table Lake

Highlights:

* It was VERY windy for part of this trip, but fortunately it was calm at Table Lake.
* I talked to a family at Table Lake that had hiked in via the abandoned and overgrown Jefferson Lake Trail. WOW.
* The Forest Service has abandoned (and even tried to partially decommission) the trail beyond Table Lake, but you can still follow it to an amazing viewpoint above Hole-in-the-Wall Park near Bear Butte, which I highly recommend doing.
* The stars were awesome!
* I left my spoon somewhere at Table Lake, which made eating dinner the final night a challenge. My next backpacking spoon will be hot pink so I won't make that mistake again!
* I did not see the otters at Table Lake that Aimless saw in July. How cool would that have been?
* South Cinder Peak has incredible views but you also see thousands of acres of burned trees from the 2003 B&B fire, which is pretty sad.
* Except for some distant Terwilliger Fire smoke seen from South Cinder Butte, there was no smoke or haze! After this smoky summer I had forgotten how far you can see when the sky is clear.

This trip report is the highlight reel. You can see the full report here.

I got off work at 1pm on Friday and went straight to the trailhead. I started hiking at 4:30.

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To the north I had a good view of Sugar Pine Ridge. Before the fire there was a trail up there, but it's totally impassible now:

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I reached the east end of Table Lake at 6:50. The wind was coming from the west and blasted off the lake with such force that it nearly knocked me over:

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Normally I pick campsites based on how scenic they are. This time I was looking for one that was protected from the wind. The wind blew all night long. My tent was protected so it wasn't flapping, but the wind still made a racket. Thank goodness I brought I earplugs! While getting ready Saturday morning I saw two deer pass through near my campsite. Got a photo of one of them:

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Carl Lake in the morning. Still pretty windy:

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I packed up and headed off for Table Lake. The trail climbs up above Carl Lake:

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The vegetation was turning fall color and it made the ground look pink:

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This little pond is known as Junction Lake. By no stretch of the imagination is this a lake, and I think the only reason it got a name at all is because the junction with the Sugar Pine Ridge Trail used to be here until that trail was abandoned:

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This is the only indication that a trail once started here:

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When Brad hiked here in 2012 that signboard held a "trail not maintained" sign, but it's gone now. Here is his photo:

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By the way, Brad's report is worth reading, if for no other reason than to see what happens when a trail is abandoned after a fire.

The trail continued passed Junction Lake through some pretty lovely scenery:

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This is some pretty cool terrain. Here the trail is squeezed between two different kinds of rock:

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Mt. Jefferson views improving:

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This stretch was so cool! That's Forked Butte in the background:

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Mt. Jefferson:

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Bear Butte is the distant pointy peak; Forked Butte on the right:

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The trail descends through the forest down to Patsy Lake:

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Patsy Lake is also the junction with the Jefferson Lake Trail. Sadly after the fire the Deschutes National Forest abandoned that trail to its fate, just as they did the Sugar Pine Ridge Trail. Its super brushy, being very overgrown with snowbrush.

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The trail climbs again. Looking down on Patsy Lake:

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Looking east from a spot above Patsy Lake. The abandoned Jefferson Lake Trail is somewhere down there:

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First look at Table Lake:

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The trail crosses the inflow stream:

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There were hundreds (heck, probably thousands) of these little frogs all around the stream:

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I picked a campsite, then I went off to find Upper Table Lake. This little lake is GORGEOUS!

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I saw two deer across the way and got a photo of one of them:

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I set off for a viewpoint beyond Table Lake. The topo map shows the trail continuing, but the Forest Service has put up a sign at Table Lake that says "end of trail." As you can see beyond the sign, they've covered the trail with rocks and logs:

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The trail DOES keep going beyond that sign. Then it heads off into the trees away from the lake. Here also the Forest Service has covered the trail with debris, but once you get past those annoying obstacles the going is pretty easy. The trail is obviously abandoned and not maintained anymore, but it was pretty easy to follow, even though it was overgrown in many spots:

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As the trail approaches a pass before descending down into Hole-in-the-Wall Park, it gets pretty faint. With some good route-finding and the help of my GPS I stayed on course. And then I reached the pass where this old "viewpoint" sign somehow miraculously escaped the flames 15 years ago:

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I turned right off the trail towards the viewpoint, seen here on the left (Bear Butte is the pointy peak on the right):

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Any semblance of a side trail that once led up here is totally gone in the wake of the fire, but the distance is short and it's easy to make your own path to the rocky viewpoint, where a few gnarled dead trees stand:

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The views up here are AMAZING. That's Goat Peak and Mt. Jefferson:

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That meadow down there is Hole-in-the-Wall Park. Not wishing to lose elevation that I would have to regain, and also lacking a desire to deal with an unmaintained trail through a burn area, I admired the meadow from above and did not venture down there.

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Looking northeast. The Warm Springs Reservation boundary is at the base of the slope I'm standing on, so none of that is public land out there:

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Bear Butte to the east. Somewhere around here is where the Bear Butte Fire started in 2003, later joining with the Booth Fire to form the B&B Complex Fires, which ended up burning over 90,000 acres:

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Looking southeast:

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Three Sisters to the south:

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Table Lake is out of sight down there. My route up here came out of the trees and up the slope in the foreground:

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A panorama looking west. The trail from Table Lake comes up from the left then drops down the slope at center to Hole-in-the-Wall Park where it ends:

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I headed back to the lake and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. The sun disappeared behind The Table at the early hour of 5:30 and the wind started dying down. Just when I thought I'd have the whole place to myself that night, a family of four showed up around 6:40. I chatted with them a bit and it turns out that hike in via the Jefferson Lake Trail. I expressed my surprise since that trail isn't maintained anymore and the dad said, "Oh yeah, it sucked." They said it was incredibly brushy and they got pretty scratched up. He said 20 years ago he used to be a wilderness ranger here, but of course that was pre-fire so everything would look a lot different now.

The family went off to find a campsite and shortly after that a couple with a black dog arrived. They had hiked all the way over from the Marion Lake Trailhead, via the Swallow Lake Trail, which resulted in a very long day.

That night when I got up at 11:30 the wind had totally died down (thank goodness) and the stars were out. I had not brought my tripod, so I just put my camera on the ground pointing at the sky and gave it a shot:

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The overnight reprieve from the wind lasted into the morning, which was such a relief. The lake looked beautiful on this calm morning:

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I packed up and headed back to Carl Lake:

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As I feared, since it was Sunday of a holiday weekend, Carl Lake was FULL. I had trouble finding a campsite. I was on my to Shirley Lake to look there when I found a flat spot near a pond on the right side of the Shirley Lake Trail. I made camp and headed south towards South Cinder Peak. I topped to check out Shirley Lake on the way:

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More fall color as I trudged up the Shirley Lake Trail towards the PCT. It was warm and I was tired:

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About to hike up that:

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It was a hot trudge up that shadeless peak, but I made it. The views were amazing. It's been such a smoky hazy summer that I almost forgot what clear blue skies looked like. This is looking north at Mt. Jefferson and an unnamed lake far below:

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Looking northwest:

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Looking west; that's Marion Lake down there:

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Looking southwest; that's Jorn Lake in the Eight Lakes Basin (the distant smoke is from the Terwilliger Fire):

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Looking south to Black Butte, Broken Top, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack:

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It was sobering to be up here looking down on huge swaths of burned forest from the 2003 B&B fire, which burned such a huge chunk of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. It's one thing to see it from the trail and quite another to see it from above.

That was it for Sunday. I got up Monday morning, packed up, and hit the trail by 8, pausing at the east end of the lake for a few windy photos.

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Despite the campfire ban, I caught the whiff of campfire smoke at Carl Lake before I left. Never saw the fires, just smelled them. On the hike out I took the short side trail to Cabot Lake, which I had skipped on the way in on Friday:

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I got back to the car at 10:50. My total mileage for the trip was 28 miles, with 4,400' elevation gain. What a great weekend! It was SO wonderful to have clear blue skies and to see a gorgeous corner of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness that I haven't seen before.

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Cheryl

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retired jerry
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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by retired jerry » September 8th, 2018, 3:50 pm

That's really nice, great pictures

I like when the trail goes next to an old lava flow. Places on Three Sisters like that, for example south of south mathieu lake

Aimless
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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by Aimless » September 9th, 2018, 11:09 am

East side of Mt. Jefferson is one of my favorite places. Of course, hiking in the PNW means I have at least a couple dozen favorite places, but still it's a great area. I'm amazed at the family who came up via Jefferson Lake trail through all that snowbrush!

I'm always ambivalent about publicizing a magnificent area that is not fully recognized as such, but maybe more interest in the area could raise interest in reopening abandoned trails like the Jefferson Lake trail and Sugar Pine Ridge trail. It's a hope. Of course, the new wilderness management proposals being bruited by the Forest Service for the central Cascades wildernesses seems to be headed in precisely the opposite direction, trying to put hard lids on visitation rather than encourage users to spread over a wider area.

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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by derwoodynck » September 9th, 2018, 3:38 pm

I'm almost surprised we only bumped into you once during the weekend. Our itinerary was very similar except we hiked into Carl on Saturday morning and did South Cinder after setting up camp behind some trees at that eastern end of the lake. Then we did Table Lake and the viewpoint as a day hike from Carl on Sunday which is when we bumped into you. We went back to Carl via the Table Lake Loop route Matt Reeder describes in "101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region".

Did you happen to see any mountain goats from Carl Lake? We spotted on on the cliffs way across the lakes Saturday evening.
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P.S. we didn't see your spoon. :)

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justpeachy
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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by justpeachy » September 9th, 2018, 6:17 pm

Aimless wrote:
September 9th, 2018, 11:09 am
I'm always ambivalent about publicizing a magnificent area that is not fully recognized as such, but maybe more interest in the area could raise interest in reopening abandoned trails like the Jefferson Lake trail and Sugar Pine Ridge trail. It's a hope.
My thoughts exactly. I thought about whether I wanted to publicize this trek, and one of the reasons I decided to go for it was seeing how the Forest Service had tried to abandon/decommission the trail between Table Lake and the Hole-in-the-Wall viewpoint. There seemed to be no good reason for that, and the trail could use some boots on the ground to keep it from becoming a lost trail.

It's interesting to me how many trails on the east side of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness were abandoned after the fire. Yes the fire burned pretty bad there, but it almost seems like the Sisters Ranger District threw up their hands and just gave up on a lot of their trails. There are plenty of trails in burned areas on the Detroit Ranger District that are open and hikeable now.
Cheryl

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retired jerry
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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by retired jerry » September 9th, 2018, 6:32 pm

and then they want to regulate use of heavy use areas like Green Lakes

if they want people to use Green Lakes less they should have other trails for people to use

or do they just want people to use the National Forest less because it's a pain for them

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retired jerry
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Re: Carl and Table Lakes - Labor Day Weekend 2018

Post by retired jerry » September 9th, 2018, 6:33 pm

and I'm the one always defending the Forest Service :)

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