Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jefferson Park

After a great hike to Marion Lake with my hubby, I was hoping for a repeat the following day.  But poor Roger woke up the next morning with a sore shoulder.  No hiking for him!  Time to change plans.

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.


  1. Great photos. It's that time of year when theres lots of flowers in bloom.

  2. Wow, what the Jefferson park! all the beauty of the park looking delightful and pleasant such as amazing lake, colorful sweet flowers and mount with snow. such a great place to visit.
    really, thanking for sharing your experience through this informative post and beautiful pictures.

  3. Sighhhh....I'm so jealous! What beautiful hikes and adventures you get to go on. We don't do hiking around here. I absolutely love beautiful scenery and you always find the best places. Thank goodness I found you.....at least I can go hiking through your lens....:))))) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow what a beautiful hidden gem. Bear is such a trooper. Love the pictures. I am glad you took pictures despite not having the right light

  5. I would be in heaven if I had such a beautiful place to walk at - those flowers are just amazing :-)

  6. If you take a tent next time you can cut the miles per day in half and be in place for the great light!

  7. Wow -- so beautiful in every shot and I love the inclusion of your buddy. :)

  8. Stunning scenery! Some great dog shots there as well :)

  9. Wow, those lake shots are fantastic! Such serene beauty. I love the ones with Bear in them, too :) All the flowers are gorgeous but I especially love the Cascade Lilies.

  10. Such beauty I always find here Linda.I so appreciate that you include us on your outings !

  11. Another amazing hike and beautiful photos. I'm ready to move to your part of the world!

  12. Oh, my stars!
    Paradise, I tell you. Oregon is my idea of paradise. :)
    The portrait of Bear & the Butte is a framer. :)
    Jefferson Park is going on my lists of someday places. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome hike & photos of this beautiful place!!
    (hope your husband's shoulder is feeling better.)

  13. You so impress me with all the hikes you do solo.

  14. What a gorgeous hike---and all those wildflowers are so, so beautiful! LOVED too the photos of Bear:)

  15. I like your flowers and also your dog among the flowers

  16. Wow, I'm not a backpacker, but this post sure made me want to go with you when you go back. Gorgeous!

  17. Amazing! The wildflowers are so vibrant. I would love to see them in real life.

  18. Awesome, awesome, awesome!
    Always envious of your wildflower shots but over the last three days I've been oohing and aahing over the WA
    blooms. It is supposedly not wild flower season yet but my camera is as busy as yours!!!!

  19. So beautiful...what a wonderful place to explore with so many flowers in bloom

  20. Oh my!! Breathtaking views and I feel as though you brought it all to me!! Thank you-it all looks so cool, refreshing and green!!
    Sitting in Texas-100 degrees(:

    Cool Hugs!


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