|Mt. Jefferson rises above the meadow|
Now unable to join me, Roger decided he'd go fishing at Detroit Lake. But he was willing to drop me off at a nearby trailhead.
|My path to paradise|
I was planning a hike close to Three Fingered Jack. But that trailhead was a long drive from our campsite. I perused my Sullivan book, searching for a closer trail. The Whitewater Trail to Jefferson Park caught my eye.
|The last of the Cascade Lilies|
Although never having visited Jefferson Park, I'd heard lots about it. This lake-dotted high meadow is extremely popular with hikers and backpackers. Wildflowers bloom in abundance, and the view of Mt. Jefferson is second to none. This place had long been on my "hiking bucket list." Now was my chance to check it out.
|The wonderful meadow|
So Roger drove me down a long, dusty gravel road and left Bear and I at the Whitewater trailhead. We both agreed to return by 4:30. I had a little over seven hours to travel the 10 miles to Jefferson Park and back.
|More lovely magenta paintbrush|
The first mile and a half, the trail climbed steadily through a wonderful forest of huge Douglas Fir trees. I appreciated their cool shade. Though only mid-morning, temps were already heating up.
|Bear resting in the flower field|
After a long, sweaty climb, I reached a trail junction. My path leveled out, and began to follow a ridge. The forest gradually transitioned to a less dense mix of smaller firs, and soon I began to see remnants of flowers past their bloom. I met a Boy Scout troop heading back to the parking area. One of their leaders told me the group had just finished a four-day camping trip in Jefferson Park. The boys still looked happy, but one of the adults admitted he was ready for a burger and a shower.
|There was also some orange paintbrush|
After another mile and a half, the forest really opened up. And I got my first breathtaking view of Mt. Jefferson. It rose like a wall and filled the horizon. Although I tried to capture it with my camera, the sun was in a bad place, shining directly behind the peak. Photos would have to wait for my return trip.
|Amazing Mt. Jefferson view from Scout Lake|
Although the sun wasn't cooperating, I trekked along, enjoying the magnificent scenery. Not only the mountain, but the views down to the valleys far below were wonderful. I spotted a teal-blue glacial lake in the midst of a dense green forest.
|Bear cools his paws|
Then the trail wound down to a crossing of Whitewater Creek. A short distance further brought another trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Bear and I turned onto the PCT for our final mile to the first lake.
|Mt. Jefferson extreme close-up|
But before we reached the lake, I came upon the most beautiful meadow. It was chock-full of wildflowers. As you can imagine, my camera came out, and I spent the next half hour roaming the area capturing all the beauty my memory card would hold. Purple lupine and paintbrush of both colors (orange and magenta) dominated the area, with some small yellow flowers thrown in. The field was full of bees, flying from one blossom to the next. The cumulative sound of all those bees buzzing was so loud, I don't think I've ever heard such a noise.
|Still some beargrass blooming on the lake shore|
But with a time limit on my hike, I finally tore myself away, and resumed forward motion. Another half mile, the terrain leveled out, and the trees gave way to a large alpine meadow. Following a well-rutted trail, I came upon Scout Lake, the first of many tiny lakes in Jefferson Park.
|Magenta paintbrush was everywhere!|
Hovering above Scout Lake, like a massive monolith, was none other than Mt. Jefferson. Oh, what a sight! I walked along the brushy shoreline until I came to a place that boasted a dead-on view of the mountain. Perfect spot for lunch!
|Scout Lake with Park Butte in the distance|
I sat and ate my lunch, while Bear cooled his paws in the lake's crystal clear waters. The shore was lined with campsites, most already taken by backpacking parties. Several people were swimming, and many more sat on shore, dangling their feet in the lake.
|More pretty lakeside flowers|
Although the light still wasn't great for photos, I took tons of the lake and mountain anyway. It was such great scenery, I had to try. I could see why this area was so popular - it was amazingly beautiful. I told myself I should've brought a tent and camping gear. Jefferson Park was so wonderful, I didn't want to leave.
|Scout Lake shoreline|
Finally, I packed up and continued following Scout Lake's shoreline. Flowers bloomed in some areas, mostly magenta paintbrush and pink heather. Sunlight reflected on the lake's surface, making the water incredibly blue. I passed some of the sweetest campsites, with killer mountain views. More than a little jealous, I again wished I could stay the night.
|Beautiful blue waters|
Completing my circuit of Scout Lake, Bear and I returned to the main trail. I really wanted to do some more exploring. Russell Lake was another 0.7 mile further down the PCT, and there were three other small lakes in the immediate area. But a check on my watch revealed if I wanted to be back by 4:30, I needed to turn around soon. These lakes would have to wait for another day. So, reluctantly, I began to retrace my steps back to the trailhead.
|PCT through Jefferson Park|
I did make time for another quick photo session at the flowerful meadow. In the short time I spent there, at least a dozen people walked through, all heading for the lakes. It was a Saturday, the flowers were in bloom, and the weather was good. Prime time for the masses to visit.
|PCT trail sign|
Then, in order to get back in time, I had to put the pedal to the metal. I marched steadily through the dusty trail in the afternoon's heat. Poor Bear was tiring by now, and the hot weather didn't help. I offered him water several times, but he hardly drank a drop. I began to realize that maybe 10 miles was now too much for my old dog.
|Another romp through the flowery meadow|
As I traversed the ridge, I made sure to look behind and admire the picture-postcard views of Mt. Jefferson. Afternoon light was now illuminating the mountain perfectly. Much better for photography than the morning, I made sure to capture plenty of images.
|Magnificent Jefferson views from the trail|
Other than that, the trip back was uneventful. I ran into several parties of backpackers, all heading for Jefferson Park. Yes, this truly was a popular place. But after today's visit, I understood why.
Bear and I emerged from the dusty forest at exactly 4:35. Roger, waiting at the trailhead sign, was impressed by my punctuality. Poor Bear made it all the way to the shade of Roger's truck before collapsing in the dirt. My doggy was so tired, he couldn't even muster the strength to jump into the truck, and Roger had to lift him.
|One final glimpse of this grand mountain|
An interesting side note, the following week I received my September issue of Backpacker magazine. One of the feature articles listed a hike with the best view for each state. Guess which one was chosen for Oregon? Yep - Jefferson Park! Not only that, on the list of top 10 best views, Oregon's Jefferson Park came in at number 3 (it even beat out Colorado). And I was just there!
A change in plans turned out to be a good thing. I finally got to visit Jefferson Park - a delightful alpine paradise that I'd heard so much about. It totally lived up to the hype! Next time, I'm bringing my tent and staying awhile.
Linking with: Tuesday Muse and Weekly Top Shot.