Saturday, September 8, 2018

Lemolo Lake Loop

Last year, the Forest Service installed a brand new trail around Lemolo Lake and I wasted no time hiking on the trail to see what it was like. On that August day, there were two fires burning nearby: the Spruce Lake and Red Blanket Fires. Smoke from the two conflagrations hazed up what could have been a magnificent day for hiking. This year, I led a group on this same hike and of course, there was a fire burning nearby: the Miles Fire. Smoke from that fire hazed up what could have been a magnificent day for hiking. See a trend? Sheesh, finding a clear day is beginning to be like finding a snipe on a snipe hunt. If this keeps up, when I'm older I'll be telling my awestruck great-grandchildren "When I was a boy, the sky was blue..." However, in both renditions of the Lemolo hikes, my complaining about the haze is somewhat tempered by the fact it was nowhere as bad as it had been before and after each hike.

At the start of the hike

Eight of us saddled up, so to speak, at the Lemolo Lake Dam and we headed off on a dusty but well-defined trail that perfunctorily wandered through the lodgepole pines before spitting us onto the asphalt parking lot at the boat ramp. A brief walk on the resumption of the trail took us past busy Poole Creek Campground and up the campground roadway, where a trailhead marked the commencement of the "real' hike. 

Nobody fell, darn it
The trail gets a fair amount of use from the mountain biking crowd and to a lesser extent, a smaller number of hikers. But the path had that real trail feel as it meandered through the forests surrounding the lake. There were several intersections with trails that bypassed the numerous arms of Lemolo Lake, making for a shorter and more concise route around the scenic body of water. It also made for a less scenic route around the lake, too. Accordingly, every time we hit an intersection (which were all unsigned, seeing as how this is a new trail) we took the left turn that kept us closest to the lake but also made our hike longer.

The narrow Lake Creek arm of Lemolo Lake

Lemolo Lake has more arms than North Korea and we hiked around the Poole Creek arm and two lesser arms, proving hiking distance is always more than the proverbial straight line between two points. The Lake Creek arm is what makes the loop a long hike, adding about three miles to the total distance. Although the arm is fairly narrow, there is no way to shortcut across without a boat, airplane, rocket launcher, or catapult. 

...and the crowd went wild!
The arm is probably the most remote section of trail on this hike and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There was a couple fishing from a boat in the middle of the bay, happily plying their avocation, totally unaware they were being watched by hikers hidden in the forest. The lady hooked a fish and we observed the epic contest between fisherwoman and fish. The fish put up a valiant but losing fight and the triumphant fisherwoman was startled when a round of applause emanated from deep within the forest! She was a good sport though, and proudly posed with her catch; the fish did not share equally in the joy of the moment.

Julie and Chelsea pick their way carefully past a landslide
The trail crossed over Lake Creek right next to paved Forest Road 2614 before ducking back into the forest and following the creek's marshes back to Lemolo Lake. In a couple of places, the lapping waters of the lake had eaten into the soft volcanic soils surrounding the blue body of water, and our trail was either completely eroded or one more storm away from permanently disappearing into the lake. But hey, what's a hike without a scramble or bushwhack or two or three? Despite the precarious position we were in, perched high above the lake on loose and shifting earth, nobody made a gravitational detour down to the lake.

Why we hike
The south side of Lemolo Lake sports some awesome campsites and beaches for backpacking and we visited several before stopping for a lunch and view-soak. Across the lake, forested Bunker Hill reposed under a blue sky and yes, the smoke was clearing up a little bit.

The club hikes through a dead forest
Continuing on, we entered a "forest" comprised of dead lodgepole trees that had met their collective demise in a forest fire from several years ago. No doubt, the East Lemolo Campground had been empty when that fire was ongoing but on this day, it was fairly busy with campers enjoying the lake in spite of the haze. A short section of trail took us from the campground to paved Forest Road 2614 again. 

The clear waters of the North Umpqua River
A road bridge took us over and across the North Umpqua River, which feeds Lemolo Lake, and we stopped to gawk and take photos of the peaceful and photogenic river. From there, it was an uphill walk on a tie-in trail which connected to the venerable North Umpqua Trail and the final leg of our loop hike. 

Why you should always use sunscreen
This section of the North Umpqua Trail is not really my favorite section of the NUT as the road circumnavigating the lake is nearby and you never really get away from the sight and sound of of cars whizzing by below the trail. However, on this day, the road was fairly quiet and as we walked through shady forest, it was easy to pretend we were far away from the uncivilized world. 

Fireweed, going all fiery on us

Shadows lengthened in the afternoon sunlight as we walked through the trees, and as the miles continued to add up, it seemed like there was less and less happy chatter between us. There were a few hints of autumn here and there in the form of bright red fireweed leaves and other small plants going red and yellow. Near the end of the hike, Edwin and his group left the trail and bushwhacked down to the road leading to the dam. Judy, Chelsea, and I continued on the trail because we are good hikers that follow the rules about shortcutting and we wound up right behind the slackers anyway.  

Hazy view of Lemolo Lake
At the dam, we could barely see Mount Thielsen in the haze. I'm going to have to snowshoe around the lake to catch Lemolo Lake on a clear day, apparently. For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

It's just not a hike if no one bleeds


  1. Thanks for another enjoyable hike recap. Yes, you will have to plan a winter snowshoe trip and post pictures!

  2. We will have to make our way up to Lemolo Lake and hike this is on our "to do" list. Maybe we will find that elusive blue sky...and pot of gold.