Friday, August 19, 2022

Little Cultus Lake to Cultus Lake

We woke up to "Smoke on the Water". No, not the totally awesome rock song by Deep Purple but instead, real smoke wafting across Odell Lake and penetrating the hairy nostrils of unwashed and unshaven hikers eating a rudimentary breakfast at camp. And the same could also be said about the men in our group, too! The acrid air quality could only mean one of two things: Either prevailing air currents had shifted direction, or else nearby Cedar Creek Fire had dramatically increased in size and bellicosity while we slept dreaming of blister-free heels and level trails. Fortunately, the culprit behind the smoky air was the change in air currents and we could deal with that.

Prepare to eat dust for the next 10 miles!

Seeking cleaner air to breathe, we piled into our vehicles and drove out to the Cultus Lake area. We were much pleased to see blue sky at the lake, although the air did have a touch of haze to it. Others were not as pleased, particularly those hikers who had to ride to Little Cultus Lake Trailhead, stuffed tight into the bed of Lane's truck like an open tin of oily sardines when we set up the shuttle for this end-to-end hike.

Little Cultus Lake on a hazy and smoky morning

After that dusty drive on an unpaved forest road where we front-riders made fun of the dust-breathing rear-riders in the pickup bed, we arrived at Little Cultus Lake. While the air was slightly hazy with smoke, as it had been at Cultus Lake, the Cedar Creek Fire was still a quaint little 5,600 acres in size and the Cultus Lake area was not yet under a Level 3 (Get out now!) evacuation order so we were pretty happy with our lot in life. Both of those things would change for the worse a week or so after this hike.

On the trail between lakes

After a brief teasing sideswipe of scenic Little Cultus Lake, the trail ducked into the forest and then stayed there for many a mile, in what would be a pattern for this hike. Our preference would have been more lakes and less forest but then again, we weren't hiking at smoky Odell Lake so we mostly kept our rude comments to ourselves. Mostly.

Deer Lake

After a couple of miles of quality forest time, the trail hit idyllic Deer Lake, which could have been Little Cultus Lake's fraternal twin. Ringed by forest, the little lake reposed under a blue sky with forested hills all around. We didn't see any deer at Deer Lake but I held on tight to my hiking poles anyway.

Lunchtime view at Cultus Lake

In what was now an obvious trend, from Deer Creek it was again another couple of miles through viewless forest before our arrival at West Cultus Lake Campground, which is a campground for the boating crowd. Seeing how it was a nice day and all, the camp was in heavy use but since we didn't have a boat or campsite, we simply commandeered some logs to sit down on while we ate lunch next to large Cultus Lake.

Cultus Mountain loomed at
the west end of Cultus Lake

The lake stretched out for several miles in front of us, the blue waters sparkling in the sun. In the distance, the symmetrical volcanic cone of Mount Bachelor rose beyond the far end of the lake. Closer to our campsite, rose another symmetrical cone, that being forested Cultus Mountain. None of us menfolk noticed the young lady in a bikini sunning in the campsite next to us because the awesome scenery commanded our full and undivided attention.

Nascent thunderclouds form on the eastern skyline

To the northeast, a bank of clouds formed and it sure looked like they were trying really hard to become thunderheads. The clouds were far away and seemed fairly benign but as they became larger and more numerous, it seemed prudent to commence hiking again so as not to get caught out in the middle of a lightning storm. Plus, the lady in the bikini that we did not notice, had retired into her tent.

Much of the eight mile hike was like this

Although the trail followed three miles of Cultus Lake's shoreline, we saw none of the scenic lake as the route spirited us off into three miles of viewless forest. We eventually did see Cultus Lake again when the trail ended next to a campground. Not all of us fit into the shuttle vehicle so Mike, Missy, and myself hiked another mile-plus to the Cultus Lake Resort where Lane picked us up once his vehicle was retrieved. Predictably, even though we were walking on the roadway next to the lake, most of the walk was in viewless forest until we reached the resort. But on the plus side, we get the Golden Boot for hiking farther than everybody else.

Pine-drops prettified the forest

So, this wasn't the most exciting hike we've ever done, consisting as it did of mostly walking in a viewless and not particularly scenic forest. But hey, we'll take it, because it sure beats walking in a veritable smokehouse, breathing in ashy remains of trees, hopes, and dreams. The good news too, was that upon our return to camp at Odell Lake, the winds had once again shifted and blew the smoke elsewhere. I'm sure the residents of Oakridge weren't as happy as we were about the change in wind direction, though.

Mass confusion at Little Cultus Lake

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

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