Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Duffy and Santiam Lakes

After a successful hike up Crescent Mountain I returned to our campsite to find my hubby had just arrived.  Due to heavy traffic, what is normally a two hour drive took twice as long.  He was more than ready for a beer!  Which, after unloading his truck, is what we both enjoyed.

Our wonderful riverside campsite

Here's our beautiful riverside campsite.  The North Santiam River was just beyond the trees.  We spent a lovely evening sitting around the campfire, listening to the music of its rushing waters.

Someone forgot the Coleman camp stove!

Of course, it seems every camping trip there's something vital we forget, and this trip was no exception.  In his haste to leave, my poor hubby neglected to grab our Coleman camp stove.  So, we had to make do cooking on the campfire coals.  We did a pretty good job with breakfast the following morning.  (Note - this trip took place in mid-July, about a week before all the fires began breaking out in Central Oregon, so campfires were still allowed)

Hubby zipping away down the trail

The following morning, hubby said he'd join me on a hike.  Consulting my trusty hiking book, I found a nearby trail that led to Duffy and Santiam Lakes.  Places I'd yet to visit, it became the day's destination.  We loaded up the truck and drove a few miles down the highway to the trailhead.

Blue sky and lovely pine forest

After yesterday's nearly people-free trek up Crescent Mountain, it was a shock to see dozens of vehicles parked at the Duffy Lake trailhead.  As hubby and started out, we noticed a large group of backpackers had begun assembling by the message board.  Not far down the trail we began meeting more backpackers heading in the opposite direction.  I had no idea this trail was so popular!  (Of course, it was a Saturday)


On the subject of things we forgot, that morning hubby realized he'd also neglected to grab his backpack.  So...I lent him mine and just toted my huge camera bag/fanny pack.  It was funny hiking with just that bag and nothing on my back.  You'd think it would make me hike faster, but that wasn't the case.  Of course, my hubby is an extremely fast walker, so he shot off like a rocket leaving me to meander along the trail, snapping photos when something struck my fancy.

Lupine was plentiful

And there was much to photograph.  At first the path led through a dense forest of tall pines.  But after a mile and a little elevation gain, I began to notice the first patches of purple lupine brightening up the trailside.  The further and higher I went, the more lupine there was.

A few straggler beargrass poofs

And then I began seeing small patches of beargrass.  Beargrass!  I thought it was past season, but apparently some stragglers didn't get the memo.


All the while I was hiking towards Duffy Lake, I saw many groups, mostly backpackers, heading out to the trailhead.  Hubby and I even encountered a large group of people on horseback, leading more pack horses, that said they'd spent an entire week camping in this lovely wilderness area.  Again, I had no idea this place was so popular.

Duffy Lake GoPro pano

It was another hot day, and by late morning, I was sweating profusely, enjoying any and all shade I could find.  Although the trail wasn't too steep, it provided just enough uphill to wear me out quickly (the combo of yesterday's hike and today's toasty temps didn't help either)  And to add even more misery, the mosquitoes woke up and decided my hubby and I would be their breakfast.  I kept my long sleeved shirt on and fumbled to find a small bottle of non-deet skeeter spray in my backpack. 

Duffy Lake east side

Finally we came upon Duffy Lake, a beautiful blue water body nestled between tall foothills.  Many groups were already camping here, some enjoying a swim.  As hot and sweaty as I was, the water looked mighty tempting.

Another Duffy Lake shot

But we'd only traveled about 3.5 miles so far.  Not quite enough for a good day's hike.  My map showed it was a little over a mile further to nearby Santiam Lake.  We were so close - why not check it out?

Beargrass macro

So off through a sometimes-rough trail scattered with blowdown hubby and I traveled, him zooming far ahead, and myself meandering behind.

Lupine on the shores of Santiam Lake

I passed by a spectacular meadow, colored with many different varieties of wildflowers.  But not wanting to squish these fragile plants by wandering into the middle to capture things, I lingered on the edge and tried to zoom as much as my lens allowed.  (Sadly none of my photos did it proper justice)

Three Fingered Jack rises over Santiam Lake

For such a short distance that mile and a bit seemed to take a long time!  Hubby and I traversed a couple of steep uphills, and wandered on a side path that went nowhere before finally locating our destination.  Surrounded by huge patches of vibrant purple lupine, Santiam Lake was worth the extra mileage.

Soaking our feet in Santiam Lake

We walked around to the opposite shore to get away from a group of incredibly loud people (why do folks think they have to turn up the volume when they're in the wilderness?  Spoils everyone else's enjoyment and solitude)  Hubby found a couple of nice rocks at the water's edge.  Perfect places to sit and soak our hot, weary feet!

Three Fingered Jack reflection

The water was cold and refreshing.  We enjoyed a nice lunch with fantastic views of Three Fingered Jack Mountain, which towered over the lake, casting perfect reflections in it's waters.

Lots 'o lupine!

Food, rest, and a soak in cold water does wonders to restore two hot, weary hikers!  After a nice lunch break, hubby and I packed up for our return trek.  By now the day was quite hot.  And we had only one small bottle of water between us.  Hubby carried the water, but I warned him to not race off too far ahead......he agreed to stop and check frequently with me in case I needed a drink

One friendly butterfly

On our trip back towards the trailhead, we met a large number of hikers (mostly backpackers) heading towards Duffy Lake.  I don't know where they were all going to camp, as all the designated sites around this lake appeared to be taken.  Another beautiful wilderness area that was being loved to death.

Moss hanging from a tree

Promises of a cold beer (or three) once we arrived back at our campsite kept hubby and I going through the endless dusty trail and afternoon heat.  We ended up with a total distance traveled of 10 miles and 1100 feet of elevation gain.  Not too shabby!  We definitely earned our beers.

Sadly, the following weekend, lightning sparked a huge forest fire in the Mt Jefferson wilderness not far from here.  It was the beginning of what has been a horrific fire season in Central and Southern Oregon.  And just this weekend the destruction hit home, as my beloved Columbia River Gorge went up in flames. 

I'm glad my hubby and I were able to slip in a midsummer camping and hiking trip before everything went south.  My advice - if you've been waiting to visit some special place, do it now.  Nothing is here forever, and you just never know when something you love might disappear.


  1. Interesting because when I went, hardly anyone was there! Of course it was pretty smoky.

  2. Que maravilha esta caminhada por estas montanhas de grande beleza natural.
    Gostei bastante de ver as fotografias.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  3. ...what a wonderful spot to camp, I spent last weekend up in the woods in the pouring rain.

  4. Sounds like you might be revisiting to see how it looks after the fire. Not sure I'd want to be camping there when it happened

  5. Sounds like a good adventure, just in time before those fires.

  6. Hello, looks like a great camping trip and hike. I love the views of the lake and mountains. The wildflowers are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your trip and photos. Have a great day!

  7. Beautiful pictures. I am just heartbroken at the devastation taking place with the fires.

  8. Beautiful shots of three fingered jack...and I especially love the macro of the bear grass poof!

    Yous said it well, we need to visit these places before they are gone...but the "loved to death" phenom is all too real as well.

  9. What a beautiful place, Linda! Your photos are gorgeous and captivating, and I love the reflections, too!

  10. What a lovely time! Nothing like being outdoors.

  11. I enjoyed the post and loved the photos on such a beautiful day. I then I read about the fires and checked out the news online. An awful event it it must be heartbreaking to see everything you love just go up in flames. I guess natural fires are natures way of renewing itself and hopefully the area will recover in time. Very sad to see the terrible imaages

  12. That's my idea of the perfect campsite... what a find! So glad you had this getaway with your husband, before the world went up in flames. Hope everyone takes your advice: get out there now and see the places you long to visit, because you can't count on some idiot destroying it tomorrow.

  13. It looks beautiful. I've been sorry to read about the wildfires in your part of the country - it's coast-to-coast disasters this summer.

  14. Really nice lakes. Never realized Greater Portland was so extensive at 2.4 million people so not surprising there are traffic jams sometimes. Big city spread over a huge area. Enjoyed the Chelsea Cain book set there.

  15. Nice spot - hard to believe you still have bunchberry blossoms - ours are all berries now

  16. I guess you hit this area on a peak weekend,jeesh. But it's so beautiful that I'm not surprised you encountered a crowd. I wonder if it escaped the flames? I am sick at heart over the fires this year.


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