Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

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zippyslug31
Posts: 39
Joined: May 19th, 2010, 1:56 pm
Location: Central Oregon

Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by zippyslug31 » September 2nd, 2020, 3:36 pm

I used to be a much more frequent hiker, but life gets in the way and I’ve only gone on a handful of hikes in recent years. Getting burnt out from life’s other “priorities” and distractions, I’ve decided to dust off the boots more often and make a concerted effort to get back on the trails. Looking through my guide books, I selected a hike that has been my list for a long time - Scott Mountain, just west of McKenzie Pass. This past weekend I completed the loop taking the Benson Lake approach, up Scott Mountain, over to the Hand Lake area via Scotty Way, and then linked back over to Scott Lake.

I arrived at the Benson Lake TH at Scott Lake campground around 8:45. I’ve never been to Scott Lake before so I was in for a shock to find the area PACKED with cars. The TH parking is shared with the walk-in campground parking. Took several minutes to shoe-horn my car onto a parking spot on the shoulder of the gravel road as best I could. There were plenty of other cars using the same creative parking solution. I quickly booted up, threw on the pack, and got out of there as quick as I could. I didn’t bother with any pictures of the parking situation, but you can just use your imagination... I'll stick this here as reference.
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Once on the trail I tried to settle into my old trail rhythm. A short half hour later and I was at Benson Lake. I would have loved to check out the lake a bit more, but I found more people there than I would have thought humanly possible for a “backcountry” lake. I got some quick peeks at Benson Lake, but trying to keep socially distant, I decided to just keep moving.

Soon, I arrived at the Tenas Lakes area, some of which are little more than muddy sinkholes or ponds at this point in late summer. At one of the “ponds” I was also able to get my first decent sighting of Scott Mountain up ahead.
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From Tenas Lakes, it’s another 20 mins or so before you come to the junction with the Scotty Way trail.
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After the junction, you have less than a mile to the summit. The final “push” isn’t extremely difficult, but I did find the steepest grades during the entire day. I crested out onto the summit after about 20 mins on this last stretch. Coming out of the trees for the last time and onto the summit meadow, I was greeted with the views I was hoping for.
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It’s been a fairly late fire season in Central Oregon, but we have been experiencing smoke over the last couple of weeks. I had been paying attention to the prevailing winds and was hoping that the skies would be clear when I was up there. Luckily things were crystal clear and the views didn’t disappoint. From the top, it’s classic “Central Oregon Cascades” in all their glory.
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I had the top to myself for several minutes, but soon was joined by no less than 5 separate parties that I had passed during my climb up. The summit meadow has plenty of space, but I still had the rest of the loop to complete, so I headed back down.
Got back to the Scotty Way junction and took it east, toward the Hand Lake area. Found an older burn scar in the forest that opened the door for huckleberries! Quite the mixed bag between delicious and Sourpatch Kids, but they all went down pretty easy; I left the burn scar with purple fingers.

Soon, I was at the junction with the Hand Lake trail which makes its way along an old lava flow.
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A few weeks earlier, I was in this same place doing the easy Hand Lake loop, so this part was already familiar to me. (It’s a very interesting location where I was able to link up with the old, abandoned wagon road that goes across the lava flow. I couldn’t find the cairns promised in the Sullivan trail description, so I spent a few minutes rebuilding a couple cairns for folks in the future. It’s an easy hike, but an interesting one all the same!)

After the lava flow, you come to small Hand Lake with a cut-off trail down to the Hand Lake Shelter.
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From the Hand Lake cutoff trail, it was another 30-45 mins making my way back over to Scott Lake and the camping hoards. Partly due to my lack of breaks, and party due to my crappy shape, but by this time I was starting to feel it. Feet were starting to complain and I was looking forward to being back at the car for the drive home.

Even with the crowds, it was still a great day out on the trail.

Final thought: During my time away from serious hiking, based on the crowds I saw, I think there has been a MASSIVE uptick in the popularity of hiking. Between the crowds at the campground, and the numbers on the trail, this is far from a 'wilderness experience'.

Stats:
I think Sullivan calls this loop “strenuous”, but I’d call it more “an honest day’s moderate hike”... and this, coming from my out-of-shape self.
Just under 10 miles total.
4.5-ish hours.
1300 of gain; the only thing resembling “steep” was a couple of short switchbacks heading up the final summit trail.
2 small blisters, and 2 barking dogs over the last mile; 2 stiff legs a day later.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by BurnsideBob » September 2nd, 2020, 8:18 pm

Dear Zippyslug:

I think we were one of the parties you passed on the way up to Scott Mountain. If so you were the gentleman who, as he was leaving, pointed out that the Scott Mountain benchmark and a great view were just a few steps away from the defunct lookout's concrete footings behind a couple shrubby trees.

The great view from Scott Mountain rivals that from Maxwell Butte for the same reason--it is an isolated high point west of the Cascade crest and east of the Old Cascade crest. This was the highlight and the high point of our trip--sounds like it was the same for you.

Thanks for sharing your trip.

BurnsideBob

PS Yeah, the Scott Lake TH parking was a zoo. Was last year, too.

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Scotty Mountain VABM
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

zippyslug31
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Joined: May 19th, 2010, 1:56 pm
Location: Central Oregon

Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by zippyslug31 » September 3rd, 2020, 6:45 am

Hi Bob, yep that was me; small world.
Were you the one I was specifically addressing... I think you folks had a poodle?
Or, were you the one with heeler-looking dog and who were moving super fast (passing me up) on the Scotty Way trail?

I recall seeing Maxwell Butte in the books, but didn't give it much attention; looks like I'll need to add it to my list! Thanks for the tip.

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jessbee
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Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by jessbee » September 3rd, 2020, 8:24 am

That's a great loop.

Any weekend summer day in Central Oregon is going to be mobbed with people, especially if you're hiking on trails described online and in guidebooks. That's just the way it is.

I just got back from a week in Idaho, where it is super easy to get away from humans. I don't know why anyone who lives in Idaho would ever come to Oregon to hike. I'd move there in a heartbeat if I could.
Will break trail for beer.

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justpeachy
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Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by justpeachy » September 3rd, 2020, 8:30 am

zippyslug31 wrote:
September 2nd, 2020, 3:36 pm
Final thought: During my time away from serious hiking, based on the crowds I saw, I think there has been a MASSIVE uptick in the popularity of hiking. Between the crowds at the campground, and the numbers on the trail, this is far from a 'wilderness experience'.
I got into hiking in 2007 and it's been truly shocking how different the hiking experience has become in the past 13 years.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by BurnsideBob » September 3rd, 2020, 9:11 am

zippyslug31 wrote:
September 3rd, 2020, 6:45 am
Hi Bob, yep that was me; small world.
Were you the one I was specifically addressing... I think you folks had a poodle?
I recall seeing Maxwell Butte in the books, but didn't give it much attention; looks like I'll need to add it to my list! Thanks for the tip.
Yes Zippyslug, that was us with little poodle/bichon mix. Thanks for telling me about the benchmark. Probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

Maxwell Butte is an under-appreciated hike. The trail, which had been severely obstructed by downfall, was cleared late 2018. While more trees have probably gone down the past two winters, it should be relatively clear thanks to the Scorpamanders, who did the work clearing it.

We saw no-one when we hiked Maxwell August 2018. Evenly graded the whole way since the old lookout must have been served by pack stock. No water except out of Twin Lakes, which are a bit stagnant looking. Trip report here: viewtopic.php?t=27730

If you walk a few feet west from the old lookout's footings you can find parts of the wood stove behind some trees.

BurnsideBob
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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Chip Down
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Re: Benson Lk, Scott Mt, Hand Lk loop 8-29-2020

Post by Chip Down » September 4th, 2020, 10:13 am

Love the parking lot pic :lol:
Most days, I don't see other hikers, except maybe near the trailhead. Start early, return late, avoid trails as much as possible.

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