Saturday, August 11, 2018

June Lake

When Issiah and I had hiked to Indigo Lake the weekend before, we passed straight through the junction with the June Lake Trail. A half-hearted attempt was made to persuade Issiah to hike to the lake but that was pretty much a fail. He wasn't having any of that, especially after being told he was going to get ice cream on the way home. In retrospect, I perhaps should have used the ice cream as an enticement before we continued past the trail junction and not just have told him we'd stop for ice cream with no precondtions. Well, I'd never been to June Lake and I still wanted to go, as it is becoming increasingly hard to find a relatively nearby trail that I've never been on before. 

Blue sky on a hazy day
There were a number of wildfires burning south of Roseburg and the smoke had been pretty thick down in the 'burg. I was slated to lead a hike to Sawtooth Peak but when nary a hiker showed up, that freed me up to follow my hiking muse to June Lake instead. Conditions were fairly smoky so I headed up the North Umpqua Highway with low expectations about the quality of air I'd be breathing. However, once up the gravel road climbing away from Lemolo Lake, the air cleared up noticeably and lungs were grateful. While never completely smoke free, at least the sky was blue which it had not been for most of the drive.

First sight of Little Timpanogas Lake
A revisit to Indigo Lake was in order, if only for the extra miles to satisfy those who are mileage addicted like your merry blogster. And for extra extra miles, I parked on Forest Road 2154 and came in on the Middle Fork Trail. Little Timpanogas Lake is the source of the Middle Fork Willamette River and the short hike from the trailhead took longer than it should have, thanks to some amply laden huckleberry bushes growing along the trail. Normally, the huckleberry bushes get picked clean by passing hikers, but on a little-used trail there are millions of unharvested berries to tempt berry hounds.

Twisted stalk fruits dangle in the sun
Above Little Timpanogas Lake, there was a trail junction with the tie-in to the June Lake Trail. I didn't realize there was a tie-in (short-cut) to June Lake from Little Timpanogas Lake and the trail was not on my map so onward to Indigo Lake it was. Best to go with the familiar and the extra miles that come with it.

Indigo Lake, again
Indigo Lake was not as spectacular as the week before, mostly because there was a noticeable smoky haze in the air. But at least the sky was blue, so no complaining allowed, it had been dirty brown in town earlier in the morning. At Indigo Lake, I grabbed the trail that sort of circumnavigated the small and scenic lake. I say sort of, because at the far end of the lake, where it abuts the rocky base of Sawtooth Peak, you have to rock hop across boulders deposited by the rugged mountain over time immemorial. When I arrived at the rockpile, a father and son were there, debating the wisdom of scrambling through the rocks so I had them follow me across.

Autumn's first blush

Once the Indigo Lake circumnavigation was dispensed with, a quick retreat down the path brought me to the junction with the June Lake Trail. From here on in, it would be all new trail for me. Of course, the new trail was miles and miles of viewless forest but on the plus side, there were more huckleberries to graze upon. In a sure sign that summer was coming to an end, the bushes were displaying the first colors of autumn.

Bee all you can bee
After several miles of hiking and grazing, there was another trail junction to figure out. It was my old friend, the tie-in trail from Little Timpanogas Lake, coming in from the right. We (my imaginary friend and I) were going to June Lake and a left turn commenced a long descent to the lake, which was somewhat alarming because all that elevation loss would surely have to be gained on the way back.

June Lake

My preconception of June Lake was that of a small lake bordering on pond status, similar to Little Timpanogas Lake. But no, June Lake is fairly large and would make an ideal weekend backpack destination without the crowds so prevalent at Indigo Lake. A family of five was doing that very thing and Mom and Dad are hereby nominated as Parents of the Year for getting their kids out on a backpack trip.

Uphill, in the warm sun
After a lunch and photo shoot, it was trudge, trudge, trudge uphill back to the Indigo Lake Trail junction. In keeping with the new-trail theme of today's hike, I continued straight on the tie-in trail. The route ran mostly through shaded forest which was greatly appreciated, seeing as how the day had warmed up, and besides which, there were still berries to be eaten. A quad-burning ascent was followed by a knee-straining descent down to Little Timpanogas Lake, followed by the short hike out the Middle Fork Trail. I kind of decided I really liked this hike and I'll be back again, probably with a backpack on and grandchildren in tow. I'll also try to be more strategic about mentioning ice cream.

A berry worthwhile hike
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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