Sunday, September 11, 2011

Red Lake Trail

Roger and I decided to do a short backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend. I wanted to try a new hike, and found a description for the Red Lake Trail near the back of Sullivan's "100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon" book. This moderate trail wound through the Olallie Lake Scenic area, a lake-dotted wilderness paradise.  It was just what we were looking for - not too long of a hike, and lots of lakes along the way. And since it seemed relatively unknown, we were hoping to avoid the holiday weekend crowds.

Trailhead "before" photo

There were forest fires burning that weekend near Mt. Hood and Warm Springs.  Roger and I were hoping the area we were heading into would be spared the smoke.  Driving to the trailhead, I was a little worried when we passed through an area of smoky haze.  But once we reached our destination, there was nothing but sunny blue skies overhead.

The trail started out through a small clear cut, but quickly left it behind for an outstanding old growth forest with gigantic trees. Roger and I huffed and puffed with our heavy loaded backpacks, climbing 1000' in a mile and a half through some very rocky trails. But then the parade of lakes began.

Roger looks for fish at Averill Lake

We passed Red Lake first, a cute little lake with views of the tip of Mt. Jefferson. Next up was Averill Lake, a larger lake with some nice campsites. But we continued on until we reached Wall Lake. This lake seemed to call out to us, and after finding a beautiful secluded campsite, we decided to make it our home for the weekend.

Mt. Jefferson view from Potato Butte

After setting up camp, I got the bug to explore. Roger was content to stay at the lake and try his hand at fishing.  So I left him at camp and set out for Sheep Lake, only 1/4 mile away. Sheep Lake was also very lovely, and as a bonus had lots of bushes with ripe huckleberries lining its shoreline. I ran into a nice couple who were camping at the lake.  They were on their way to climb Potato Butte, and invited me to join them. We had a nice hike up to the top of the butte and I enjoyed the company and conversation. There was a killer view of Mt. Jefferson on top and hiking around the opposite side gave us smoke-covered views of Hood. We also got an amazing view of the smoke cloud from the fire that was burning near Warm Springs.

Celebration on the top of Potato Butte

Roger and I had a great dinner, complete with cheese and a couple boda boxes of wine I'd hauled up.  The vino coupled with the day's exertions made me drowsy, and I found my sleeping bag early.  It never got very cold that evening, making for pleasant sleeping weather.

Smoke from the Warm Springs fire

After a peaceful night's sleep, we woke up and decided to explore this lake-filled wilderness. From our camp at Wall Lake, I took Roger up Potato Butte so he could see the great views I'd enjoyed the day before. Smoke was hanging low in the valleys near Mt. Hood and it looked very scenic.

Huckleberries galore!

Roger loves huckleberries and - lucky him - bushes with ripe berries lined the trail all the way down Potato Butte.  We went on a picking frenzy.  Both of us ended up with blue fingertips and full tummies.

Smoke hangs around Hood

My agenda for the day was to explore more lakes in the Olallie Scenic area.  From Sheep Lake, the Red Lake Trail continues east until it meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail (or the PCT as we hikers call it).  From the PCT, one is able to access Top Lake, Cigar Lake and Upper Lake.  And I wasn't done climbing up high places for I was also planning a trip up Double Peaks.

Roger finds a frog at Top Lake

We then followed the Red Lake Trail to the PCT and Top Lake. At Top Lake, we took a snack break, and my dear hubby discovered a cute frog hanging out by the shore.

Mr. Froggy

This was a very mellow frog.  He just hung out in the lake waters, letting me snap his photo again and again.  It's like he was posing for me.  Maybe I found a professional froggy model?

Many lake view from the top of Double Peaks

We then headed to Cigar Lake, and from this lake a trail led up to the top of Double Peaks. Sullivan's book describes this as a very steep hike, and he isn't kidding! The trail starts out almost straight up, with no switchbacks whatsoever. You get a small reprieve 2/3 of the way up, but then the trail steepens to an almost vertical pitch for the final summit push. But oh what a view when you arrive!

Another successful peak bag

On one side is an in-your-face view of Mt. Jefferson. On the other summit, is an aerial view of all the lakes in the Olallie area, including Olallie Lake itself. And Mt. Hood rounds out the view to the north. After soaking in the views, we headed back down.

Cigar Lake's inviting waters

Once back at Cigar Lake, the lake looked so inviting, we took a quick dip in its waters. Very refreshing on a hot day!  We continued on the PCT to Upper Lake, but by that time it was late afternoon, and we were ready to head back to our campsite at Wall Lake. A quick 3-mile ramble brought us back to our weekend home.

Huckleberries on my breakfast oatmeal

The next morning I enjoyed some of the huckleberries we'd picked the day before in my oatmeal.

Photo op on the hike out

Then it was time to pack up camp and head back down the trail to our car.  Our return trip was downhill all the way, making for some fast hiking.  Well..... it also helped that our loads were lighter (after eating most of the food and drinking all of the wine we'd lugged up).

Fall colors already!

About a mile from the trailhead Roger and I passed through a clearcut area.  The vine maple leaves were already turning a beautiful orange-red color.  After such a warm summer weekend, it was hard to imagine fall was just around the corner.  I'm glad we were able to get outdoors and enjoy summer while it lasts.



  1. Dan and Kristin FaulknerSeptember 11, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Hi Linda,

    We enjoyed climbing Potato Butte with you last weekend. What a gorgeous place to spend a few days! This is definitely on our "do again" list.

  2. Nice to meet you too! Hope our paths cross again on another trail.

  3. looks like a fun hike and huckleberries YUMMY not everyone can have huckleberries and its always fun to get some for guests that come to the pacific northwest


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