September 5, 2012

A walk into Eight Lakes Basin, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Jorn Lake, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
Many moons ago and after hiking and backpacking for some time, I finally convinced my bride to join me on a weekend backpack trip to Duffy Lake, located in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The plan was to hike 3.5 miles into the lake and set up a base camp. From there, we could set out and explore nearby lakes such as Mowich and Santiam.

When we arrived at the lake (including Calvin the Wonder Dog) its waters were barely visible. Ghostly grey clouds whisped across its surface, carried in the arms of winds that blow daily throughout the high Cascades. For a moment we heard voices that sounded as if they came from only a few feet away, adding to the eeriness of the situation. Soon, we discovered that the voices came from across the lake, a result of water's ability to transmit a little sound across a great distance.

Mowich Lake
Mowich Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Believing another 300 feet of elevation might get us out of the fog, we decided to hike the extra mile into Mowich Lake, where we ended up establishing camp along the forest rimmed, 49 acre lake. The fog (more likely clouds) remained, but not as thick as at Duffy Lake.
The bevy of mountain lakes in this area is similar to other lake basins throughout Oregon's Cascade Range. Ice in the form of glaciers, sometimes thousands of feet thick, scoured out these basins during several ice ages. Subsequently, the depressions left filled with water from snow melt and rainwater from nearby drainage areas. The same process generated the lakes in other basins such as the Olallie Lake Scenic Area, Jefferson Park, Waldo Lake Wilderness, Mink Lake area of the Three Sisters Wilderness and Sky Lakes Wilderness, to name just a few.

Mowich Lake
Mowich is the Chinook Jargon word for deer, and from my visits to these waters and surrounding lakes, I have concluded the name is appropriate. Evening hikes have produced up close views of many of these shy critters. Unfortunately, the trout in the lake have never been quite as cooperative. That afternoon I fished the lake and after 2 hours returned to camp without even a nibble.
Red Butte above Jorn Lake
The next morning I rousted Calvin and we hiked further into Eight Lakes Basin, past Red Butte and on to Jorn Lake. This scenic body of water, along with the sun rising into the blue sky over the lodge pole pine forest, was an absolutely spectacular view. It was so inspiring that a few years later I was once again drawn to the lake via Marion Lake. That time I pulled a nice sized, brightly colored brook trout from Jorn Lake's waters.
Jorn Lake Brookie
After a short walk from Jorn Lake to Blue Lake, another mountain gem, Calvin and I headed back to camp, viewing Three Finger Jack and Mt. Jefferson along the way.

That afternoon, my bride and I packed up camp and, after trudging back down the trail, saw what we were unable to see the day before - Duffy Lake. We stopped and took a little time to enjoy the lake's sights and sounds before continuing to the trailhead and home.
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