Jefferson Park via Whitewater Trail - August 2019

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OregonBorne
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Joined: February 17th, 2019, 3:54 pm

Jefferson Park via Whitewater Trail - August 2019

Post by OregonBorne » August 28th, 2019, 5:23 am

This was our first time to Jefferson Park, and we had only recently learned about the 2017 fire and subsequent trail closure. So it was just dumb luck that we hiked it only a few weeks after it reopened. But (while planning for this trip) I searched OregonHikers for recent trip reports (since the trail reopening) and found none. So here's our "Post-Burn-And-Closure Whitewater Trail Report". Hope you find it helpful.

We arrived at the Whitewater Trailhead on a Sunday afternoon around 230pm. Several groups were returning to their cars and departing after a weekend trip -- so parking spaces were easy to find at this time. Not having an annual Northwest Forest Pass, we used the daily fee option for parking -- the payment station was at the trailhead. We also needed a backcountry camping permit. This was free and available at the trailhead, as well. (Did I hear that this will change soon?)

Hiking through the burned area was surprisingly pleasant. Yes, it's hotter and more exposed, and the big trees are dead. But it also affords better views of the surrounding hills and valleys -- and of course, Mt. Jefferson looming over everything. There is a unique beauty in this naturally burned forest -- sunshine dried and lightning ignited... death and rebirth. We were able to find shade when we needed it, and drank about the same amount of water as we normally would on an uphill hike in August. But be aware that water was not much available until we left the burn.

And then, about 4 miles in, we left the burn, crossed a creek (first good opportunity to fill a water bottle), and joined up with the PCT. Another mile and we were entering Wonderland. The wildflowers were mostly gone, but still vibrant in several places. The mosquitoes were minimally present, and only mildly bothersome. No snow. We had clear weather, summer breezes, and even steady wind. Temperatures were very comfortable. Campsites were available (we brought the handy little map from the trailhead, showing where to find campsites). And all the people we encountered were just as bright and smiley as we were -- everyone high on the alpine magic of the place. Oh, and the blueberries (aka huckleberries) were ripe and plentiful.

Some hikers we met at the trailhead had given us a tip: take a left at the first trail junction once you get up on the flats in Jeff Park. There is a trail sign there indicating that Scout and Bays Lakes are off to the left, while PCT carries on. I'm glad we did. We found the beauty of Bays lake to be the most splendid. And walking around its far (western) shore was sublime.

I'd love to tell you all about our adventures (climbing the butte, swimming in the lake, etc.) but this is a trail report, not a novel. So I'll skip to the trip out: We hit the trail by 9am, and made it to the car at 1230pm (with considerable dilly-dallying along the way). This was an exceptionally hot summer day, and we could feel the heat by the time we got to the trailhead. But again, hiking through the burned area was not so bad. Perhaps we would have felt differently if we had been there before it burned -- and experienced that loss.
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markesc
Posts: 1443
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Jefferson Park via Whitewater Trail - August 2019

Post by markesc » August 28th, 2019, 5:40 am

Seems like it's going to be a grand huckleberry season! saw some getting going on Hood this past weekend as well!
OregonBorne wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 5:23 am
This was our first time to Jefferson Park, and we had only recently learned about the 2017 fire and subsequent trail closure. So it was just dumb luck that we hiked it only a few weeks after it reopened. But (while planning for this trip) I searched OregonHikers for recent trip reports (since the trail reopening) and found none. So here's our "Post-Burn-And-Closure Whitewater Trail Report". Hope you find it helpful.

We arrived at the Whitewater Trailhead on a Sunday afternoon around 230pm. Several groups were returning to their cars and departing after a weekend trip -- so parking spaces were easy to find at this time. Not having an annual Northwest Forest Pass, we used the daily fee option for parking -- the payment station was at the trailhead. We also needed a backcountry camping permit. This was free and available at the trailhead, as well. (Did I hear that this will change soon?)

Hiking through the burned area was surprisingly pleasant. Yes, it's hotter and more exposed, and the big trees are dead. But it also affords better views of the surrounding hills and valleys -- and of course, Mt. Jefferson looming over everything. There is a unique beauty in this naturally burned forest -- sunshine dried and lightning ignited... death and rebirth. We were able to find shade when we needed it, and drank about the same amount of water as we normally would on an uphill hike in August. But be aware that water was not much available until we left the burn.

And then, about 4 miles in, we left the burn, crossed a creek (first good opportunity to fill a water bottle), and joined up with the PCT. Another mile and we were entering Wonderland. The wildflowers were mostly gone, but still vibrant in several places. The mosquitoes were minimally present, and only mildly bothersome. No snow. We had clear weather, summer breezes, and even steady wind. Temperatures were very comfortable. Campsites were available (we brought the handy little map from the trailhead, showing where to find campsites). And all the people we encountered were just as bright and smiley as we were -- everyone high on the alpine magic of the place. Oh, and the blueberries (aka huckleberries) were ripe and plentiful.

Some hikers we met at the trailhead had given us a tip: take a left at the first trail junction once you get up on the flats in Jeff Park. There is a trail sign there indicating that Scout and Bays Lakes are off to the left, while PCT carries on. I'm glad we did. We found the beauty of Bays lake to be the most splendid. And walking around its far (western) shore was sublime.

I'd love to tell you all about our adventures (climbing the butte, swimming in the lake, etc.) but this is a trail report, not a novel. So I'll skip to the trip out: We hit the trail by 9am, and made it to the car at 1230pm (with considerable dilly-dallying along the way). This was an exceptionally hot summer day, and we could feel the heat by the time we got to the trailhead. But again, hiking through the burned area was not so bad. Perhaps we would have felt differently if we had been there before it burned -- and experienced that loss.

justpeachy
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Re: Jefferson Park via Whitewater Trail - August 2019

Post by justpeachy » August 28th, 2019, 6:57 am

OregonBorne wrote:
August 28th, 2019, 5:23 am
We also needed a backcountry camping permit. This was free and available at the trailhead, as well. (Did I hear that this will change soon?)
It's actually wilderness permit, not a camping permit. The Forest Service wants everyone to fill one out whether you're day hiking or backpacking. And yes, this is scheduled to change next year where only a certain number of permits will be available per day for each trailhead.

We backpacked here about ten days after the trail reopened and it was, as expected, very very different. Having hiked it many times pre-fire it was sad to see all the trees burnt to a crisp. On the plus side, there are a lot more views now. You can see Mt. Jefferson through the trees for much of the hike, whereas before you had to hike in a few miles before you could see the mountain. And thank goodness Jefferson Park itself didn't burn!

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