Three-Fingered Jack 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 3307
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Three-Fingered Jack 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by adamschneider » July 12th, 2013, 1:55 pm

Yesterday, I wanted to go hiking somewhere that was totally new to me. At first I considered Opal Creek, but then I thought, "no, Opal Creek can wait until autumn... it's July, dammit, and the alpine summer doesn't last long, so it's volcano time." I looked at a map and decided on Three-Fingered Jack, because it's accessible from good roads and it's less than a 3-hour drive away.

William Sullivan's "green book" mentions a long loop that involves some bushwhacking, and I found basically the same loop described in a Sisters newspaper article. Both sources said that you should do it clockwise, but I'm stubborn, and I have a GPS (two of them if you count my phone), and I don't like back-lit mountains in my photos, so I decided to do it in reverse so that I was starting on the east side in the morning.
tfj_loop.jpg
(Click here for an interactive Google Map)

So I woke up at oh-dark-thirty and got on the road by 5:45am. I stopped in Salem to pick up lunch (FYI, the deli section at Winco has excellent croissant sandwiches for $2.48), and got to the Santiam Pass trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail at about 8:30. This is right in the middle of the burned area from the huge 2003 B&B Complex fire, so the first 4 or 5 miles (as well as the last 4) looked pretty much like this:
Square Lake Trail.jpg
I headed east to Square Lake, then north to Booth Lake. In places, the trail was almost invisible because of the out-of-control snowbrush shrubs (Ceanothus velutinus) growing on either side. Both lakes were pretty unremarkable, but I finally started getting some views of TFJ near Booth Lake.
Booth Lake.jpg
Scarlet gilia was EVERYWHERE in the burned area; at first I thought all the red must be paintbrush, but nope.
scarlet gilia.jpg
Of course there were lupines and beargrass all over the place too, but the beargrass is pretty much done. Thistles and cat's-ear lilies were common, as well as a couple kinds of penstemon. And butterflies.... holy crap, I've never seen so many butterflies in one day. And of course the usual assortment of bumblebees, flies, and beetles:
insects.jpg
When I got to the bottom of a little draw east of Martin Lake, I headed off-trail and uphill to the west (first blue section on my map). There was no water flowing anymore, but you could tell where it had been a little wetter, based on the vegetation. I had to step over a lot of fallen burned trees, but it was easy going. Martin Lake was very picturesque, partly because it was half-surrounded by — get this — UN-burned trees! It would have been a great place for skinny-dipping, except I didn't want to give the mosquitoes any more of a target.
Martin Lake.jpg
I considered bushwhacking up the ridge on the north side of Martin Lake and trying to reach Summit Lake, but I was afraid it might be hairier than it looked on the map, so I just took the "easy" route (first purple segment) and found my way up to the PCT. It would've been a piece of cake if I'd bothered taking my trekking poles off my pack.

From the ridge, there were awesome views to the east and south. This photo is actually from when I came back this way in the afternoon (better light):
Black Butte.jpg
I went north on the PCT for about a half a mile, and finally ran into a couple of patches of snow. I was looking to see if there was a good place I could leave the trail and go up the ridge that forms the south side of TFJ. At a switchback, I found a good spot, and battled my way uphill through this sort of stuff:
ridge bushwhack.jpg
But most of it wasn't quite that rough, and this time I did get my poles out. Check out the view to the south from that ridge; the two lakes in the foreground are Booth Lake and Square Lake, which I'd passed earlier.
view to the south.jpg
Oh, and the view of Three-Fingered Jack from up there wasn't bad either. :)
Three-Fingered Jack west.jpg
I kept going north on the ridge, figuring that eventually I'd either see a good path down or eventually just run into the climber's trail that leads to the crumbly nasty summit. I found this cool snow arch:
snow arch.jpg
And it just wouldn't be a proper hike if at some point I didn't cling precariously to a rock wall with one hand to get a photo of a flower I'd never seen in Oregon:
Drummond's anemone.jpg
Eventually I got to the "end" of the ridge I was on — sort of a saddle, really — where continuing forward would have meant going up up up toward the summit. This shot of the east side of TFJ is actually from a little further back, but you get the idea:
Three-Fingered Jack east.jpg
And then I thought I found an obvious trail heading down. Well, it started out obvious, anyway. After a few false starts, I found something that resembled a trail; it wasn't the main climber's trail, but it worked. As I got close to the PCT, I turned around to see what I thought would be another awesome view of Jack. Honestly, I was NOT impressed.
climber's trail.jpg
Seriously, at this point I was REALLY glad I'd done that big ridge bushwhack, because the views from up on top had been far better than anything the PCT had to offer.

The rest of the hike was uneventful: a five-mile descent through a bit of healthy alpine forest and then a whole lot of 10-year-old fire damage. I was glad I'd brought my iPod. I did find some water lilies in a cute little pond near the end, though. (I'd post a photo, but apparently I've reached my forum attachment limit!)

Overall, it was about 13.6 miles (not counting wanderings to chase butterflies or interesting wildflowers), with between 2000 and 2500 feet of elevation gain. There were quite a few mosquitoes — both near the lakes and on the PCT where the snow was melting — but they had a healthy respect for DEET.

Here's a 3-D Google Earth view of the interesting parts:
tfj_3d.jpg
And more photos: http://adamschneider.net/photos/2013-07-tfj/
Last edited by adamschneider on May 12th, 2015, 3:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
BigBear
Posts: 1666
Joined: October 1st, 2009, 11:54 am

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by BigBear » July 12th, 2013, 2:09 pm

Nice pictures of the lakes and mountain.

Can you really call it "bush" whacking when you're going through a burn area? I've seen more ferocious grass in an un-mowed field. :)

User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 3307
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by adamschneider » July 12th, 2013, 2:14 pm

BigBear wrote:Can you really call it "bush" whacking when you're going through a burn area? I've seen more ferocious grass in an un-mowed field. :)
Well, the off-trail parts were mostly in the un-burned area, and the top of the ridge involved a little bit of scrambling and some genuine whacking of bushes.

But here's what the crazy snowbrush looked like on trail #4014 between Square Lake and Booth Lake:
snowbrush.jpg
(Yes, that's a "trail.")

User avatar
kelkev
Posts: 795
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: McMinnville, OR

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by kelkev » July 12th, 2013, 3:16 pm

Awesome trip report and photos, Adam. That snowbrush......ugh. I had my fill of it a few years ago hiking into Carl Lake on the east side of the Jeff Wilderness, it was so thick in places I had a hard time discerning the trail.

Kevin
"Going to the mountains is going home."
— John Muir

User avatar
backcountryhunter
Posts: 915
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: hiking the backcountry
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by backcountryhunter » July 12th, 2013, 7:14 pm

See any deer? The last time we were up that way we seen some monster buck tracks in the burn. The forage should be excellent for deer, elk, and bear. I have bush whacked thru the burn in the Biscuit area down south. After a few years of growth it can be tough.

User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 3307
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by adamschneider » July 12th, 2013, 9:13 pm

backcountryhunter wrote:See any deer? The last time we were up that way we seen some monster buck tracks in the burn.
I didn't personally see any mammals larger than a chipmunk, but I saw plenty of relatively fresh hoofprints on every path that wasn't the PCT. I wondered whether they were from elk, because they seemed awfully big for deer... but I'm no expert.
hoofprints.jpg

User avatar
Born2BBrad
Posts: 994
Joined: May 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
Location: The Dalles

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by Born2BBrad » July 14th, 2013, 4:22 pm

I don't know if this is helpful, but there is a TFJ loop hike described in the Douglas Lorain book "One Night Wilderness: Portland". The route is different than the one you took and the ones described in the links. Lorain describes it as 20.5 miles with 3300' EG. It's on my to-do list for someday.

Image

BTW, I love your website with the pictures.

- Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 3307
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by adamschneider » July 14th, 2013, 8:14 pm

Scott Cook also has a TFJ loop in Bend, Overall that starts at Jack Lake, goes through Canyon Creek Meadows, then bushwhacks over that 6500' pass and goes down along First Creek (similar to the northeast part of Lorain's loop). I considered the Jack Lake/Canyon Creek/First Creek loop, but the drive would have been 45 minutes longer from Portland. It'd be a nice option if you were staying in Sisters or Bend though.

User avatar
adamschneider
Posts: 3307
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: SE Portland
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by adamschneider » July 19th, 2013, 9:56 am

I let Photoshop stitch together a panorama from my hike:
20130711-142149-500px.jpg
Three-Fingered Jack panorama

justpeachy
Posts: 2923
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Contact:

Re: Three-Fingered Jack epic 13-mile hike/bushwhack, 7/11/13

Post by justpeachy » July 19th, 2013, 12:23 pm

Nice report! I love the photos, especially the butterfly collage. Butterflies can be hard to photograph; I'm impressed. :D

Nice to know that Greg and I are not the only ones who modify hikes when possible to get good light on a mountain!

Post Reply