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.
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.
Intersecting the Loop we turned south and continued climbing to the rim and South Pass.
With reaching the rim, but still below South Pass, I was rewarded with my first views of Lake Harriette.
From the rim looking toward Cater Lake and the PCT in the far distance.
We continued climbing toward South Pass.
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 Lake sits in the distance, the access trail to this lake forks off of the Loop Trail.
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.
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.
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.
The view, looking across the lake, back the way we came in. South Pass is to the right side of the rim as pictured.
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.
The next lake we passed was Lake Como which offers numerous camp sites and beautiful views.
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.
Looking up to the rim, from near camp, gave a hint of the climb that we would enjoy early the next morning.
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.
From North Pass we continued down hill completing the loop at the intersection with Clover Creek Trail.
Now back on Clover Creek Trail it was down hill to the trail head, still in total darkness.
The trail in both directions was made more difficult by numerous down 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.