Saturday, September 14, 2019

Square and Booth Lakes

The hike to Booth Lake was like Chapter Two of the Santiam Pass hike I had done a couple of weeks prior. Both routes begin from the Pacific Crest Trailhead, amble through the same fire-scarred scenery of the B&B Fire burn zone, and share many of the same views of the surrounding mountains and landscapes. Incorporating both routes, it is possible to do a 25'ish mile backpack loop by hiking past Square Lake, reclaiming the Pacific Crest Trail at Minto Pass, and then returning by way of the PCT to Santiam Pass. I ran into and spoke with various hiking parties doing the loop trip and it's now on my very lengthy list.

Buttes Hayrick and Hoodoo, to the south of Santiam Pass

I was on the PCT for only a quarter-mile or so before making a right turn onto the Old Summit Trail, which immediately beelined for Square Lake. Obviously, this trail does not get as much love as the PCT for the trail tread was rough and rocky in places, and also severely encroached by brushy vegetation exuberantly reclaiming the burn area. However, the views were predictably awesome with the spire of Mount Washington finger-poking the sky to the south, Beyond, were the Three Sisters and Broken Top while the perfectly symmetrical cone of Black Butte rose up in the haze to the east. Nearby, the flat-topped mesa of Hayrick Butte stood next to the ski resort of Hoodoo Butte.

Sadly and truly, this is a trail shot

Also encroaching the trail was a new forest of young trees as forest begins its unruly return to the Santiam Pass area. Here, the path inclined as it climbed up to a broad pass covered with young trees, chest-high brush, and ghostly white snags. The pass marks entry into the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, and there is a nice view of the rocky tower of Peak 5133 looming on a nearby ridgecrest as the trail began a descent down to Square Lake. By the way, since I also had a long and enjoyable look at Square Lake as I hiked past, I can honestly say Square Lake is indisputably round. There is a Round Lake nearby so maybe Square Lake is so named because Round Lake was already taken.

Square Lake, in the round

Square Lake is fairly large so it was a nice extended walk along the scenic lake, replete with surrounding snags and brush underneath a blue sky full of wispy clouds. There is a backpacking campsite on the north side of the lake and I exchanged friendly waves with a group camping there. But, after passing the lake, the trail began switchbacking to and fro up a rough and rocky slope rising ever upward in the open and exposed burn zone. 

View on the climb out of the Square Lake basin

As I slogged upward for next couple of miles, the tip of Three-Fingered Jack became more and more prominent on the north skyline. The going was slow because of the sustained uphill hiking on a day that was trending from warm to hot, making me wish Three-Fingered Jack would cast some cool shade in my direction. As elevation was gained though, the views improved and behind me, Square Lake became more distant but it was still an impressive big-picture vista of the blue lake pooling in a basin with high Cascades peaks rising beyond. 

Booth Lake sprawls below Three-Fingered Jack

At another pass with a stand of dead trees on top, the first view of Booth Lake presented itself. I called it good with the look at the lake, eschewing the descent down to the actual lake basin. While I admired the view, the camera was entertained by huckleberry bushes going autumnal red and by at least one fat toad surprised by my presence in his neighborhood. 

Attack of the killer orange fleshy caterpillars

Late season flowers such as pearly everlasting, miniature lupine, fleabane, and aster were doing their flowery thing and the asters seemed to be a favorite delicacy for some fleshy orange caterpillars spotted munching on the plant leaves. Some photography ensued, providing rest and temporary relief from an increasingly sore right ankle.

Pearly everlasting was one of the few flowering species still in bloom

I'd like to say I rolled my ankle or kicked away a charging bear or something totally awesome that would explain why my ankle decided to throb so agonizingly. But no, the ankle simply began screaming all of its own accord and for no obvious reason at all with about two miles left to go. So, it was a very slow walk back with lots of stops and ankle massages and some photography of fleshy orange caterpillars. Perseverance won out in the end though, and I did make it out to a two-week involuntary recuperation period filled with ice packs, Advil, and several chiropractic appointments to snap my ankle bones back into place. But, sore ankles aside, this hike was a fun one and almost worth temporarily sacrificing an ankle or two.

The texture of a sun-bleached and weathered snag

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

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