|Ollalie Butte with Mt. Hood in the distance and Olallie and Monon lakes behind trees to the left|
Named after the area's largest and most popular body of water, the Olallie Lake Scenic Area is located about 80 miles southeast of Portland. Eight developed campgrounds, each with its own individual characteristics, lie within the area, allowing campers to choose from lakeside, meadow, or forested campsites. And for those folks wishing to find a more secluded campsite, a network of hiking trails lead into the area's backcountry.
|Fishing on Olallie Lake|
Three campgrounds - Paul Dennis, Camp Ten, and Peninsula - are located along Olallie Lake's scenic shoreline, making this body of water the area's most accessible. At the lake's northwestern end, several rustic cabins await those who wish to rent them. There, a small outpost stocks camping supplies and tempts the fisherman with several photos of large trout pulled from the lake. And if those pictures of Olallie Lake trout give you the itch, plenty of open shoreline is available for you to cast your line from, or you can even rent a rowboat (motors are prohibited on all the area's lakes) from the outpost's small marina.
|Olallie Lake Resort boat dock in Oregon, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
While your at this end of the lake, a stroll out onto the boat dock with a camera will present you with a great photo opportunity - Olallie Lake with Mt. Jefferson in the background.
|Olalie Lake and Mt. Jefferson|
Osprey often circle high above the lake in search of a meal. You may even see a bald eagle. While hiking the Monan Lake Trail one morning, I suddenly heard the whooshing of air directly overhead. When I looked up, there was a bald eagle, flapping its enormous wings no more than 50 feet above me.
Breitenbush Lake's campground borders the southern, most shallow section of the lake, where sediment from the lake's inlet has slowly filled in part of its basin. This end of the lake is especially scenic. A small inlet stream winds its way through a lush green meadow before emptying into Breitenbush Lake. A canoe or raft can take you to the deeper section of the lake where good fishing is found in crystal clear waters up to 25 feet deep.
A short, yet scenic hike is along the Gibson Lake Trail. It graciously offers sweeping vistas and a potpourri of trail side settings. After a short uphill meander, beginning near the north end of Breitenbush Lake, you'll find yourself standing along side Gibson Lake, viewing both Breitenbush Lake and Mt. Jefferson. The trail ventures further along a ridge separating Breitenbush and Horseshoe Lakes. A look down the ridge's steep slope will give you a bird's eye view of Horseshoe Lake, with Monan and Olallie Lakes beyond.
|Summit of Olallie Butte|
For a spectacular 360 degree vista, the nearly 4 mile climb to the summit of 7,215 foot Olallie Butte is the area's most strenuous hike-but well worth the trip. A sweeping view of several glacier clad Cascade peaks - from Mt. Rainier to the Three Sisters - is in store for those who make the ascent on a clear day. After exploring the remnants of an old fire lookout, a walk toward the summit's south eastern side provides vistas of central Oregon and many of the watery blue gems lying at the butte's base.
A much less demanding hike is the short, downhill jaunt from Lower Lake Campground to Lower Lake, both located only about one mile north of Olallie Lake. Lower Lake's forested shoreline is reached after a downhill hike of only about a quarter mile. Continuing past Lower Lake, the trail leads to the top of a large bowl looking down on larger Fish Lake - one of ten lakes in Oregon with the same name.
|Calvin at Lower Lake|
|Scene near the Red Lake Trail|
For those backpackers who really want to get away from it all, a short bushwhack through the forest can deliver them to the lake of their choice. There are no maintained trails leading to Gifford Lake or View Lake, two of the area's largest, but you still may have to share these lakes with someone else. The best bet for complete solitude alongside a body of water is just north of Double Peak. Here, if you find someone else already at one of the numerous lakes, just continue over the next rise or down the next draw to find a lake to your liking.
There is one very small drawback to all this sitting water. It makes a splendid breeding ground for those blood thirsty creatures called mosquitoes. During the summer months, these creatures are so thick that their millions of flitting wings actually make an audible, low-toned hum. Be sure to carry mosquito repellent inside your vehicle and apply it before, or as soon as you step outside.
Several years ago, while returning to Breitenbush Lake from a hike into Jefferson Park (located in the nearby Mt. Jefferson Wilderness), I watched from a distance as my wife, clad only in her swimsuit, dove into our tent, trying to flee the marauders. After only a few minutes of exposure to the tiny critters, her body had been covered with welts. I don't know what she was thinking.
A breeze strong enough to propel the mosquitoes toward cover will give the camper who has forgotten mosquito repellent some respite - and fortunately, the wind blows quite often in the high Cascades. Those who have a boat can paddle out toward the middle of a lake. Mosquitoes tend to stay away from areas where there is no nearby protection, which is most often trees.
And like mosquitoes to water, black bears love the area's huckleberries. Occasionally, a curious bear may wander into one of the campgrounds, smelling a meal inside a garbage can or campsite. Its best to keep all food locked up in vehicles or hung above the ground so these critters can't get to it.
The Cascade Mountains are dynamic, ever changing as the months pass. Winter snows keep the area inaccessible (except for cross-country skiers) from October or November until usually sometime in June. As the snow melts, trails become soggy. Basins brim with excess water, saturating the rocky landscape. But if you have some water proof hiking boots, this is the best time to see water and earth's contrasting landscape. In some areas, only narrow land bridges separate dozens of newly formed tarns. Small streams that will exist only a month or so flow only a few feet from pond to pond. Later, as the mid-summer begins to dry the land, these heather rimmed tarns will begin to shrink and eventually disappear, leaving behind a dry, shallow basin. And in autumn, the air becomes crisp and the huckleberries bushes turn scarlet. Soon the winter snows will again cover the area, ensuring the Olallie Lake Scenic Area will remain the watery backcountry it has been for centuries.