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Mountain Lakes Loop
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Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/19/2009 14:02:58 MDT Print View

Needing to get out on the trail and hike, but with having numerous work and family obligations, I headed out for a fast overnight trip of the Mountain Lakes Loop located within Oregon's Mountain Lakes Wilderness.

"The Loop" is accessed via three active trail heads and two abandoned trails. I elected to go in via Clover Creek Trail with it being the most lightly used and steepest of the maitained access trails. This spur trail would provide a nice challenge and a great work out for the short amount of time available to me. I had to go in late Saturday and come out very early Sunday (today).

At the trail head and ready to climb.

MLD Prophet-Revelation hybrid pack.

MLD Custom Prophelation Pack (half Prophet and half Revelation)

Trail Start

Trail Sign

Climbing up via the Clover Creek Trail brought me to the Mountain Lakes Loop. My required late start had Moxie (my dog) and I climbing to South Pass in the heat of the day. Starting tempratures were in the upper 80's - low 90's.

Mt. Lakes Loop

Intersecting the Loop we turned south and continued climbing to the rim and South Pass.


Shale Field

Shale Field

Nearing Rim

With reaching the rim, but still below South Pass, I was rewarded with my first views of Lake Harriette.

Lake Harriette - 1

Lake Harriette - 2

From the rim looking toward Cater Lake and the PCT in the far distance.

Crater Lake

We continued climbing toward South Pass.

To South Pass

Moxie, my great trail dog.

Just below South Pass we took a side trail (faint and hard to follow at times) to the summit of Aspen Butte. This was steep and very hot but well worth the effort.

South Pass

South Pass Lake sits in the distance, the access trail to this lake forks off of the Loop Trail.

South Pass Lake

South Pass Lake

From South Pass you have a view of both Aspen Butte and Mount Carmine. After we tagged the summit of Aspen Butte (elev. 8,208') we returned to the Loop Trail and continued onward.

Aspen Butte

Mount Carmine

At South Pass we dropped off the rim heading toward South Pass Lake. My trusty GG poles (LT3's for this trip) were of great use in both the pumice and shale encountered.

My LT3's

South Pass Lake Trail

The Loop Trail - South Pass Lake

We continued past the South Pass Trail, still heading lower, toward Lake Harriette. We finally arrived at the cool waters of this high mountain lake.

Lake Harriette - 1

Lake Harriette in fading light

Lake Harriette

The view, looking across the lake, back the way we came in. South Pass is to the right side of the rim as pictured.

The Rim

The Rim - 2

Moxie needed to cool off after the long and hot climb.



With the afternoon getting late it was time to move on. I tanked up with "untreated" lake water and put Lake Harriette to my back. I will return with hopefully a little more time to do some fly fishing, think tenkara.

Leaving Harriette Lake

Climbing away from Lake Harriette


The next lake we passed was Lake Como which offers numerous camp sites and beautiful views.

Nearing Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como - waters edge

Within a few miles, covering rolling terrian, we arrived at a set of small lakes, Zeb and Eb, located at the base of the climb back up to the rim and the North Pass. We would camp just above the larger of the two lakes and be ready to climb first thing the next morning.

Lake at camp.


My camp - 1.

My camp - 2

My camp - 3

Looking up to the rim, from near camp, gave a hint of the climb that we would enjoy early the next morning.

The rim with North Pass to the far right.

With camp set up at the base of the rim darkness came on fast. Elk were heard throughout the night as they came in for water.


We would be awake at 4:00am and climbing well before 5:00am, fun and adventure in the dark. A long steady climb to North Pass brought us back to the rim in complete darkness.

North Pass

The rim.

From North Pass we continued down hill completing the loop at the intersection with Clover Creek Trail.

End of the loop.

Now back on Clover Creek Trail it was down hill to the trail head, still in total darkness.

The dark trail.

The trail in both directions was made more difficult by numerous down trees.

Trail trees

Back at the trail head, the only rig there is mine.


This area is very dry with unreliable access to water. This makes having the ability to tank up and carry water when required a critical part of trip planning. For tenkara fly fishing UL hikers the word is South Pass Lake provides the greatest fishing opportunities in this area. For Mountain Lakes Wilderness trip information feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Edited by thomdarrah on 07/25/2009 20:56:18 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/20/2009 07:35:55 MDT Print View

Looks like a great quick get away Thom (with a sweet pack)!! Do you need to leash your dog under the tarp at night or does s/he just stay put? I have found with my dog I need to bring along a 8x10 flat tarp and need to pitch it right to the ground to create a full enclosure for him to calm down and sleep.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/20/2009 07:54:57 MDT Print View

It was a short, fast and very fun trip. The custom MLD pack worked great for this kind of adventure. I also used, on this trip, an MLD 1.5 spectralite Grace Solo tarp, Soul bivy and Spirit 50 quilt. Ron's great products performed as expected, fantastic.

My dog, Moxie, stays right beside me all night, either at the head or foot of the tarp. She has always been this way and this is no reflection of training on my part. We heard a lot of elk, coming in for water during the night, and she would go into alert mode but never left my side. I'm going to pick up a gg bug shelter for help in keeping mosquitoes off of her.

Its great having areas, like the Mountains Lakes Wilderness, to have within a short drive for when a short and fast trip is all that the schedule will allow.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/20/2009 08:09:19 MDT Print View

ah well then you are very lucky that she does that then. My dog will stay with me all day when we are hiking but has yet to show me that he will just stay put. That said he has never wandered too far either. He just loves to explore camp and chew on sticks.

My wife and I are doing a similar trip to this next weekend. Driving north Friday night, hiking in 7 miles and then pushing out 15 or so miles on Sat and back to the car for lunch. Great way to get a quick trip in while still having some weekend left for other responsibilities.

b s
(smyth) - F
Mid-Atlantic Jealousy on 07/20/2009 08:10:18 MDT Print View

Nice trip Tom. Thanks for posting the report. Could only dream of a quick overnighter like that. So jealous of your left coast "backyards".

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/20/2009 12:02:30 MDT Print View

Great pics Thom! Beautiful. Good lookin' dog, too. How old is Moxie? Our furry friends are priceless, aren't they?

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Mid-Atlantic Jealousy on 07/21/2009 20:11:44 MDT Print View

I agree. I like hiking along the AT and exploring other areas out here, but there are some really sweet spots elsewhere.

Looks like a great hike. It's nice to have a faithful companion along for the hike. I agree with another poster, that Moxie is a better camper than my Weimaraner.


Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/22/2009 14:04:21 MDT Print View


Thanks for taking the time to post up the great write up on your trip with tons of photos.

Always nice to see where you have been and I think that I saw your custom MLD pack in there with the Dyneema X and cuben fiber, right?

How do you like the hybrid pack?

Enjoyed your trip report/photo essay.


Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Mountain Lakes Loop on 07/22/2009 14:49:28 MDT Print View

Thanks. I'm pleased you enjoyed the trip report. You've set the bar high and I hoped to provide nice report worth reading.

The pack worked very well and I was pleased with the modifications I requested. The custom pack, I feel, takes the best of both the Prophet and the Revelation.