Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
sparklehorse
Posts: 824
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: over the hill
Contact:

Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by sparklehorse » September 12th, 2021, 2:13 pm

84760F42-281F-4E16-B204-06149D66E81E.jpeg
(opening shot)

It’s been 30 years since I last visited the Canyon Creek Meadows near Three Fingered Jack. I remember being quite impressed with the area, so a return trip has been on my list for quite a long time. It also happens to be one of the few places on that list that hasn’t burned in the last 20 years, so it sort of moved to the top of the list by default. And so my dog Kola and I set off from the Jack Lake trailhead on Sunday morning, September 5th. I had secured overnight permits for 4 nights, but had no set plans on exactly where I’d go in this area or if I would even stay out that long.

Kola soon found a stick to play with in Canyon Creek…

Image


Before long we arrived in the lower meadows and got a first good look at a very smoky 3FJ…

Image

‘Well, this sucks’, I thought to myself. All I could do is hope the smoke might clear a bit in the coming days.

The National Weather Service was forecasting a good chance of thunderstorms by Tuesday, so I made camp in a sheltered spot at the edge of one of the lower meadows. I remembered the upper meadow being more scenic, but reasoned it would also be more exposed to bad weather. So the lower meadows became base camp for now.

We saw very few people on day one. In fact I think we saw more deer than people. That was surprising considering this was a holiday weekend. The new permit system seems to be unnecessarily restrictive in my humble opinion. But I digress.

That first night was breezy but not too cold. Happily by the next morning most of the smoke had cleared…

Image


After breakfast we headed out to explore the upper meadow area…

Image


It turns out there’s several trails in this area, but I just followed my nose and soon enough we had scrambled up to a viewpoint above the small, unnamed lake at the very base of 3FJ…

Image


Looking north toward the upper meadow below us with Mt. Jefferson in the distance…

Image


We scrambled down from our high perch and found a boot path to the upper meadow. Way too late for the flower show unfortunately, but the meadow was spectacular nonetheless…

Image

We wandered out into the meadow looking for a nice spot to have lunch. As we hiked along I looked up at one point and saw a large white shape on the hillside at the north edge of the meadow.

Mountain goat!!

Image


He (she?) was just munching on grass, enjoying lunch on a perfectly nice day. It seemed relatively unconcerned about our presence, so we quietly inched closer, eventually getting within about 75 feet…

Image

Image

Image

At one point the goat shook itself vigorously, probably to chase off flies. What I noticed though was the big cloud of dust that was launched into the breeze…

Image

After a few minutes the goat seemed to tire of us and ambled away up the hill.

I’d seen mountain goats several times before, but only in Washington state. This is the only goat I’ve ever seen in the Oregon Cascades. It was an awesome treat and a major highlight of the trip.

That evening three deer wandered right through our camp as though we weren’t even there. They came within about 25 feet of us & looked right at us. I yelled out ‘hello’, but they just ignored me. Later something very big went crashing through the woods right behind our tent. Probably just another deer, but it gave us both a good startle. After that the night was calm & very quiet.


Tuesday dawned smoky but clearer than day one. I decided to return to the upper meadow to see if I could get more photos of the goat.

Image

Image


We spent a couple hours in the meadow, watching and waiting. Lunch was eaten. A nice nap was had. Many chipmunks and butterflies were seen or heard. But alas our goat friend did not show.

While loitering here though I noticed some interesting layers of color in 3FJ’s north face…

Image


Back at camp I checked my little radio for an updated weather forecast. The thunderstorms that had been predicted earlier never came to pass, and the forecast for the coming days was for smoky but otherwise good weather. It was mid afternoon. Rather than stay another day I decided to break camp and move over to Wasco Lake.

It’s true that Canyon Creek Meadows hadn’t burned in recent years, but it is a small island of green forest that had somehow been spared by the huge B&B fire that ravaged this entire area nearly 20 years ago. Young trees are now pushing their way up through the dense underbrush and jackstrawed deadfall, but it will be many years still before this area returns to something resembling its former grand self.


Typical scene along the way to Wasco Lake…

Image


Amongst the all the grey snags were a surprising number of live trees that had somehow survived the inferno…

Image


Approaching Wasco Lake in the smoky late afternoon…

Image

Image


At the north end of the lake is a large grove of trees that had been spared by the blaze. We found a number of good campsites here, none of which were occupied. I picked a spot, made camp and settled in. Around sunset I was making dinner when two young gals arrived. We said our hellos and then they made their way to one of the neighboring campsites. Kola and I finished dinner then bundled up in the tent. It was another quiet evening with little wind.


Wednesday dawned cool and remarkably clear. The lake was simply gorgeous…

Image

Image


I could see Black Butte off in the distance…

Image


After breakfast we headed out for a day hike on the nearby PCT.

A quick climb brought us to an intersection at Minto Pass where we turned south on the big trail…

Image


While taking a break along the PCT the two gals that had camped near us the night before caught up to us. We chatted for a bit. They were from the coast and were circumnavigating 3FJ in just two days starting from Santiam Pass, with another 12 or 13 miles still ahead of them here on day two. I wished them well as they continued their trip.

It wasn’t long before Mt. Jeff made an appearance…

Image

Image


The ghosts of forests past…

Image

This is the most hiking I think I’ve ever done through a burn area. It’s sad in a way, but there is an eerie beauty to be found here as well. That was a pleasant surprise for me.

Image

Image


As we hiked south our views of 3FJ improved…

Image


A look down at the upper meadow where we had seen the goat two days earlier…

Image


Eventually we reach the pass on the PCT near Porcupine Rock at 6500 feet where we get a nice view to the west…

Image

Image

That mesa looking hill in the distance is Coffin Mountain, where there is still a staffed fire lookout tower. It’s actually more of a long ridge at the summit than a table top, but from this angle it sure looks out of place here in the Cascades.


Heading back…

Image


Wasco Lake and 3FJ from the PCT…

Image


Back down at Wasco Lake…

Image

That night as darkness fell, I was getting the tent organized for sleeping when I heard the most blood curdling sound I have ever heard in the woods. It was a very loud crashing sound, followed maybe by a bit of a splash. It was like nothing I had heard before. If I were in the city I would have assumed it was a car crash several blocks away. All I can think of is that it must have been a tree falling, maybe landing partially in the lake. It did not sound like an animal, or a rock slide. What’s weird though is there was not a breath of wind that evening. It was the proverbial “you could hear a pin drop” kind of summer evening. So why a tree would drop at that particular moment is a mystery to me. But then you have to figure there are dozens of dead snags around that lake, and all of them have to fall sooner or later. That thought kept me awake for quite a while that night.

Thursday morning came and thankfully we hadn’t been killed by a tree. We had breakfast, broke camp and somewhat reluctantly headed back to the so-called civilized world.


A look back at smoky 3FJ as Kola goes for a final swim in Jack Lake…

Image


Great trip!

~Gordon
Last edited by sparklehorse on September 12th, 2021, 6:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.
.
You have to milk the cow a lot to make a bit of cheese.
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Smugmug / Facebook

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 13611
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by retired jerry » September 12th, 2021, 3:16 pm

I'll have to check out that area, it looks nice, thanks for report

I've been in Three Sisters and Mt Hood recently. Similar smoke situation, you can see it especially on some days but it's not too bad to breath. It seems like there's less at higher elevation. You can see smoke further away and lower down.

"The new permit system seems to be unnecessarily restrictive in my humble opinion. But I digress."

Yeah!!!

I can see that there are some crowded areas, like Green Lakes, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. Now, it's almost deserted. No reason for this.

Maybe they could double or quadruple the number of permits for trailheads that aren't Green Lakes. Or Devil's Lake maybe. Or Obsidian maybe.

I spent a night at Lava Camp at McKenzie Pass. There was one car parked overnight (Friday), and 4 more drove up by 9AM when I left.

User avatar
MarkInTheDark
Posts: 212
Joined: August 11th, 2008, 3:58 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by MarkInTheDark » September 12th, 2021, 5:42 pm

cool report, excellent photos!

Aimless
Posts: 1742
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: Lake Oswego

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by Aimless » September 12th, 2021, 7:01 pm

sparklehorse wrote:
September 12th, 2021, 2:13 pm
I had secured overnight permits for 4 nights, but had no set plans on exactly where I’d go in this area or if I would even stay out that long.
Reading this, it leads me to think you may misunderstand the permit/quota system. As I understand it, all you need is a single permit to enter a wilderness via a particular trailhead on a particular day. That one permit is then good for a group of up to 12 hikers to engage in unlimited travel within a single wilderness area for up to 14 days, or that group may travel into an adjoining wilderness areas, provided they leave one wilderness area and enter the adjoining area ONLY via the PCT.

Here is a quote from a Forest Service notification about the permit system:

"Overnight permits can include up to 12 people for a trip of up to 14 days."

If you secured a set of four permits for four consecutive days, all you accomplished was to deprive three other groups of the ability to enter the wilderness via that TH on the three excess days you secured.

User avatar
Splintercat
Posts: 8226
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland
Contact:

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by Splintercat » September 12th, 2021, 7:19 pm

Great report and excellent photos, Gordon! My one and only time on that trail was a bit early in the season (seeking flowers, like everyone else that day) and I lost about 2 quarts of blood in the process -- so you made a good call in heading up there when the bugs have faded.

I'm going to guess that your Mountain goat is part of the herd that was established by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs several years ago on the slopes of Mount Jefferson. Not sure if you remember, but one lonely Billy made it all the way up to Yocum Ridge on Mount Hood, and was reported by several folks here on this forum. So, if a determined goat can migrate 45 miles through forest and cross Highway 26, then it would be pretty straightforward to head south to TFJ. Love that they are doing well -- and I do hope to see them on Mount Hood and in the Gorge, someday.

Thanks for posting!

-Tom :-)

User avatar
sparklehorse
Posts: 824
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: over the hill
Contact:

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by sparklehorse » September 12th, 2021, 8:09 pm

Aimless wrote:
September 12th, 2021, 7:01 pm

Reading this, it leads me to think you may misunderstand the permit/quota system. As I understand it, all you need is a single permit to enter a wilderness via a particular trailhead on a particular day. That one permit is then good for a group of up to 12 hikers to engage in unlimited travel within a single wilderness area for up to 14 days, or that group may travel into an adjoining wilderness areas, provided they leave one wilderness area and enter the adjoining area ONLY via the PCT.

Here is a quote from a Forest Service notification about the permit system:

"Overnight permits can include up to 12 people for a trip of up to 14 days."
That may be how the permits work when you reserve far in advance, but those advance permits were all gone for the Jack Lake trailhead for this week of September by the time I tried to reserve back in May. So I had to get my 4 permits using the “7 days in advance” option, each of which are clearly marked as one night only. See photo below of one of my 4 permits. I had to log on to the Recreation.gov site at exactly 7am each day for 4 days a week prior to my trip to grab one of only three permits issued each day for the Jack Lake TH. On some days all three permits for Jack Lake are gone by 7:01am, so you have to be quick. It’s a seriously flawed system and I truly hope they improve it before next season.

Image
Last edited by sparklehorse on September 13th, 2021, 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
.
You have to milk the cow a lot to make a bit of cheese.
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Smugmug / Facebook

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 13611
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by retired jerry » September 13th, 2021, 6:11 am

yeah, when I got 7 day permit I had to specify how many days

since the cost is a fixed $6 (or is it $8?) you can specify as many days as you want for the same fee

except, I assume that would take away allotted slots that would be available for someone else?

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2711
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by Chip Down » September 13th, 2021, 3:07 pm

Goat!
Congrats, that's super cool.

As I've observed before, nice to see that high tarn is turquoise. On my last visit, I was disappointed to find it muddy brown.

I won't comment on the permit system, except to mention a few key phrases: evil, invalid, disgusting.
Kola soon found a stick to play with in Canyon Creek…
I see some bigger sticks in that creek. Maybe next time.
morning came and thankfully we hadn’t been killed by a tree
I googled that phrase, suspecting I'd see no results. I didn't. :D

Webfoot
Posts: 1542
Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by Webfoot » September 13th, 2021, 3:37 pm

Chip Down wrote:
September 13th, 2021, 3:07 pm
I googled that phrase, suspecting I'd see no results. I didn't. :D
I suspect "morning came, and unfortunately we had been killed by a tree" will be even less common.

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2711
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Three Fingered Jack backpack, Sept. 2021

Post by Chip Down » September 13th, 2021, 5:58 pm

"Woke Up This Morning And Found Myself Dead."
- Jimi Hendrix

Post Reply