August 2007. Some friends and I had the opportunity to backpack a 22 mile loop in the Mt Jefferson wilderness area, including areas burned in the 2003 B&B Complex fire that impacted 90,769 acres in Oregon between 19 August and 26 September. “B&B Complex”, to the best of my knowledge, refers to the combined Booth and Bear Butte fires. Details can be found here.
First, I hadn’t hiked in a forest recovering from a fire before. As you might imagine, without tree canopy in many areas, there was increased sun exposure. With decreased trail maintenance – we also encountered more route finding than we had anticipated. In fact, when hiking to Jefferson Lake on the second day – the trail just simply disappeared after a small, brushy stream crossing. With some GPS coordinates (thanks, Jim) – we soon had camp ready.
The recovering forest made for some striking photography in addition to the rich visuals already in the Central Oregon Cascades. As I tend to hike pretty light (except for food – somehow I always pack way too much food), I only had the 20D, a 24mm f/2.8, a polarizer, and the super cool Joby Gorillapod for SLR’s.
About the hike: Day 1 was long and hot with little water on the trail after the first half mile. Our destination was Carl or Shirley Lake from the trailhead on Road 1292- but we made it as far as the top of Sugar Pine Ridge after finding a spring just below the top of the ridge on the descent.
Day 2 was just to Jefferson Lake with some stunning views of Mt. Jefferson along the way. This route took us from Sugar Pine Ridge to Junction Lake to Patsy Lake over to Jefferson Lake. I say “just” – but as I mentioned above – we “lost” the lake and had to find it.
Day 3 from Jefferson Lake to the trailhead – more burned forest and some serious brush on the way out. How serious? Ever pack through a hedge 20 ft deep and 7 ft high? Multiple times? Yeah. Sometimes it wasn’t quite 20 ft – and sometimes it just might have been longer.
Great weekend trip. But, the conversation I had with the ranger’s station after the hike mentioned the high probability that parts of the loop were (are) scheduled to be de-commissioned (if they haven’t been already).
In fact, I’m not recommending this loop at all as the trails may not be currently maintained – regardless of skill level. However, the west section of this trail is accessible via other trailheads and offers some great views of Mt Jefferson.