Saturday, September 27, 2014

Waldo Lake (south end)

Waldo Lake sprawls over Oregon's Cascade Range like a watery blue diva draped across a forested chaise lounge, but without the shrill and intemperate demands for fruit and a masseuse. The lake is obviously quite large, as naturally befits Oregon's second largest natural lake. The waters are as clear as algebra's quadratic formula and motors are not allowed on the lake in order to preserve the lake's famed clarity. Circumnavigating the lake, the 22 mile Waldo Lake Trail offers hikers a chance to see a natural wonder pretty much as it was and hopefully, as it always will be.

Man, the mosquitoes are huge!

We had backpacked around the lake several years ago and we four participants will always remember that ill-fated trek for the incredible amount of mosquitoes pestering us for all 22 miles. However, in early October the vicious bloodsuckers had long since departed, and it was a much more pleasant hike than that infamous backpack trip.  I was leading a Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club venture and most of the attendees had never hiked before in the Waldo Lake area, it was an opportunity to spread the word of Waldo, so to speak.

Big fish in a small pond
As we started, there was a crispness in the air: not cold enough to be uncomfortable, but cool enough to remind us winter is coming and coming soon. It had rained the day before and the forest around the lake was damp as a result. As we started out at Shadow Bay, Waldo Lake immediately made an appearance and the club was generally underwhelmed as Waldo looked pretty much like your garden-variety small pond.

Irish Mountain, across Waldo Lake
The "small pond" was just a secluded cove on the lake though, and once we rounded the cove, the lake opened up and I heard a chorus of appreciative oh-wows or some variation thereof. The lake stretched out in its second-largest lake glory, ringed by mountains all around. There was a cloud cover hovering overhead so we could not quite see the Three Sisters, though.

We found Waldo!
The trail basically followed the southern shore of Waldo Lake and offered fantastic views at several openings in the forest. At one point the trail peeled away from the lake a bit and we stopped for a regroup at the South Waldo Shelter, where we had camped on that famed mosquito backpack trip. It was here that John and I got our signals crossed.

I followed this leader
I was leading from the rear while John was hiking at the front with the faster hikers. I carried my camera and the faster hikers did not carry any cameras at all in what amounts to your basic cause and effect. John had survived that infamous backpack trip so I told him to stop at a scenic beach on the southwest corner of the lake. The problem was I said "beach", he heard "beach" but we each pictured a different beach. He had recalled a swimming area further up the trail while I had in mind a nearer beach. So, he took everybody past the Black Meadow Trail junction and my intended loop hike will have to wait for another day.

A wild rose displays its autumn plumage
No complaints, though, because there's nothing wrong with hiking on the Waldo Lake Trail. The trail went up and down through forest carpeted with wild rose and huckleberry bushes, all beginning to show their autumn colors. And after 3.5 miles or so, we laggards came across John's group lunching next to his swimming spot. The only swimmer in the lake, though, was Kevin's four-legged hiking buddy Talon.

Lunchtime view of The Twins
Storm clouds had come in and the scene was moody and dramatic across the lake. The Twins, a great hike in its own right, loomed over the other side of the lake with Maiden Peak also making an appearance further south. It was a beautiful scene despite the angry buzzing of wasps from a nest we had inadvertently sat next to. Some of us enjoyed lunch more than others, the deciding factor being whether one got stung or not.

Mushrooms pose for a family portrait
From there, it was a perfunctory walk back to the trailhead while stepping out of the way for passing mountain bikers. Kevin and I lagged way behind, we both carried cameras and for us, the hike had degenerated into a mycological photo shoot as mushrooms of all kinds were sprouting everywhere in the forest. It was a nice and slow return back to the lake, especially since the threatening storm clouds never rained on us.

Sunset at Waldo Lake
After the hike, Kevin and I both camped at the lake (in separate tents, just to clarify), the temperature dropped and dang, it got cold. Winter is most definitely around the corner. However, the clouds parted here and there as the sun set and we enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the lake. Once the sun ducked behind the mountains, it became all about seeking warmth in a sleeping bag (separate bags, just like tents!) because dang, it was cold.

Mushrooms, packed tighter than sardines
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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