July 6, 2012

Is there any such thing as "the perfect vacation?" (Part 1)

Oregon's Waldo Lake from the South shoreline

I should have known before I left the house at the end of June my vacation was probably doomed. Making my final preparations to head out into the wilds of the Oregon Cascades, I locked my office door (a studio office located in my backyard) from the inside without knowing where the key was hiding. I searched high and low for that key inside my house, but it was nowhere to be found. Figuring it was locked in my desk drawer inside the office, I loaded my backpack and suit and a few other items and headed down the road. I knew a locksmith would have to visit my office before I would get in again.

A few hours later I was parked in front of Waldo Lake, high in Oregon's Cascade Mountains. This is one of the most extraorinarily pristine and crystal clear lakes in Oregon. According to Atlas of Oregon Lakes, it is one of the purest lakes in the world. Its surface area is 9.8 square miles and it is 420 feet deep at its deepest point.  The large, natural lake sits at an elevation of 5,414'.

After shouldering my backpack near the lake's Shadow Bay boat launch, I began what was planned as a week long backpack trip around the lake. From the Waldo's shoreline trail, my intentions were to take several of the side trails entering the Waldo Lake Wilderness, which surrounds most of Waldo Lake. These trails lead to a variety of mountain lakes and viewpoints such as 6,357 foot Waldo Mountain

English: Waldo Lake in Oregon.
Waldo Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After trapsing along the trail for about 1 1/2 miles, mounds of snow not yet melted from winter's deluge began appearing across the trail. By the time I reached the South Waldo Shelter the leftover mounds of snow were a few feet deep. This shelter was very welcoming, with wood stacked high and a wood stove to keep warm; however, a large family had already made themselves comfortable with the shelter, so I moved on. By the time I had traveled 2 miles the snow drifts were 3-4 feet deep. While walking across one of thse drifts, I suddenly fell through it, with my feet landing in a small stream of snowmelt trickling beneath it. Up to my waist in packed snow, I was forced to take off my backpack and climb out of the hole, boots soaked through to my stockings. I dropped through the snow three more times within the next 20 yards.
The beginning of snow drifts on Waldo Lake's Shoreline Trail
Wanting to enjoy a week of hiking through the woods, I realized this was not what I came for. I figured the snow would likely get deeper as I progressed along the lake's West shoreline, and having no snowshoes, knew any hiking would have to take place in the early morning when the snows might freeze for s short time. So I turned around and headed back to my truck.  Plan B would have to be used, only, I didn't have one.
Tree down on Shoreline Trail bridge
Looking at some maps stuffed inside my truck and realizing the western side of the Cascade crest had too much snow to hike at the elevations I wanted, I drove east past Charlton Lake over gravel road 4290 to the Century Lakes Hiway. There, on the eastern side of the Cascade crest and near Crane Prairie Reservoir, the snows at upper elevations were not as evident. Heading north toward Bend and before reaching Lava Lake, I noticed a small lake on the map not too far off the higway. So, after some sightseeing, I pulled off the highway and into a small parking lot for the trailhead to Senoj Lake. Before Senoj Lake, however, I made camp at Lucky Lake, a nice sized body of water with decent depth relative to other mountain lakes.

Above the lake and a considerable distance from the trail, I set up camp with a view of the lake, with South Sister and Broken Top rising beyond it. Almost July, the mosquitoes were already thick and looking for a meal. At least the females were looking to suck blood, having to do so for reproductive reasons (males do not attack).

I spent the night, having the entire lake to myself; tossed and turned all night. Must have slept one out of the eight hours I remained in my sleeping bag. The first night always seems the hardest to catch some shut-eye.
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