July 8, 2013

From Round Lake to Square Lake – Views between the silver poles

Three Fingered Jack standing above Round Lake
From the Northwest corner of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, where I had hiked into Crown Lake, I headed toward its Southeast section, where forest fires have dramatically changed the landscape. Clearly, new vegetation has established itself among the silver poles, which were once thriving conifers, standing above the fresh greenery.

Round lake through the silver poles

I expected a full campground at Round Lake when I arrived there in the evening. However, no one else was there, except for some fishermen parked near the lake. This was surprising, considering it was the beginning of July, the weather was spectacular and there is only about three (I didn’t count) campsites at Round Lake.

Sun setting over Round Lake
Having planned to hike into Square Lake the next morning, I set up camp and watched the sun drop behind the West side of the high Cascades. The lake has a great view of Three Fingered Jack, which I’m not sure would be as brilliant if the forest was fully foliated, as it was prior to the fires.

Trailhead sign to Square Lake
Knowing it would be hot and shade would be scarce, I hit the trail early the next day. The trail climbs from the West end of Round Lake up over a ridge before flattening out. Here is where, with a little imagination, one can see that views are much more expansive without the foliage from pine trees blocking one’s sight. Although the silver poles left standing are somewhat unsightly, they allow views of the area that one might never have seen had it not been for the devastation. “Unsightly” might even be too strong. “Unusual,” perhaps, is more appropriate.

Square Lake
Although it was only about 8:00 am when I arrived at Square Lake - about 2 miles from the trailhead - the bare forest had warmed quickly. Continuing to the West end of the lake, I chose to go left at a trail junction, which took me South toward the Santiam Pass. After a short and gradual uphill hike, I stopped at a small saddle, where views of Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters appeared. From there, a short scramble to the top of a rock outcropping provided a grand view of Square Lake below and Three Fingered Jack to the North.
Mt. Washington and Three Sisters through the silver poles
My map showed a “Long Lake” near the trail between Round Lake and Square Lake, but I didn’t see it on the hike into Square Lake. So, on my way back, I made it a point to look closely for Long Lake or any side trails that might lead to it. None were found and no lake was seen.

Three Fingered Jack from rock outcropping above Square Lake
One thing I did notice, though, was the number of trees growing to replace those that had burned. The numbers of these small pines in some areas are prolific, roughly four feet tall and seemingly growing like weeds. In other areas, there are none.

Black Butte from road 1210
On my way back down out of the mountains from Round Lake, I continued along road 1210 along its southern-most stretch. This section of road provides outstanding views of the Cascades stretching from Three Finger Jack to the Three Sisters.
Three Fingered Jack from road 1210