Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rosary Lakes

Lane brought a new toy to this hike. It was a brand new GPS with a screen large enough for a Super Bowl party in a Las Vegas sports bar. Suddenly, my own humble GPS seemed woefully inadequate and while I congratulated Lane, deep down inside I may have been envious. However, Lane made the mistake of showing Edwin the new GPS and that in turn, wound up interjecting three bushwhack side-trips into this otherwise staid hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

The Rosary Beads

A bunch of us were camping at nearby Odell Lake and our original plan was to hike in the Waldo Lake area. However, the Cedar Creek Fire had rendered the Waldo Lake Wilderness trail system off limits, and wisely so. The nearby Diamond Peak Wilderness was off limits too, due to a different fire, and the two closures didn't really leave a lot of open trails to choose from. But lucky us, a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail between the two wilderness areas remained open and was just minutes away from Odell Lake and that's the story of how we wound up hiking to the Rosary Lakes.

The first several miles were well forested

A light rain fell off and on during the entire hike and the forest was filled with the hissing sound of rainfall to go along with the noisy chattering of our little group. We may have numbered few, but our voices were mighty. The PCT gently climbed through a forest comprised of uniformly sized trees, which were also uniformly fuzzy with a light green coat of lichen and moss. 

Lower Rosary Lakes is the epitome of stillness

In short order, the trail crested and then dropped into the basin of Lower Rosary Lake. The rain had temporarily abated and the lake was like polished onyx, the dark waters reflecting the surrounding forest, mountains, and gray sky above. The craggy spire of Pulpit Rock dominated the view here, as it did at all three Rosary Lakes. The stillness of the water was preternatural and we spoke in hushed reverential tones for fear the sound waves from our voices would rend the serenity asunder. As we gazed in wonder at the idyllic scene, the spell was broken by a brazen doe coming to join us. Clearly, she was quite habituated to the presence of humans.

Edwin Lake

Our next stop would have been Middle Rosary Lake but Edwin espied a marshy pond off-trail and before you could say "no, Edwin, no!" we were all following the madman as he tromped through a mild tangle of woods and vegetation to reach the body of water. The pond was somewhat inaccessible in that a shallow marsh of water, mud, grass, and maybe a bog orchid or two kept us away from the main body, not that we wanted to swim on this semi-rainy day anyway.

Pulpit Rock is nearest to Middle Rosary Lake

Once we were able to pry Edwin away from his discovery of a small lake (we'll have to petition the Oregon Geographic Names Board to name it Edwin Lake) we resumed hiking on the PCT up to Middle Rosary Lake. The craggy spire of Pulpit Rock again dominated the view, being closest to the trail at Middle Rosary Lake. Accordingly, we stopped for a bit to gawk at the sight of the imposing pinnacle reflecting upon a quiet and serene lake.

Penny excels at the balance beam

At Upper Rosary Lake, the last bead in the rosary, so to speak, we decided to leave the PCT and take a use-path around the back side of the lake. After crossing a grassy marsh on fallen logs, we followed a faint track which didn't take long to go sketchy and disappear altogether. However, navigation was simple, all we had to do was keep the lake on the right, and eventually we'd rejoin the PCT, which is exactly what happened.

Backpacker's digs at Lower Rosary Lake

"What's that?" Lane was consulting his new GPS and sharp-eyed Edwin spotted another small lake on the GPS screen. And before you could say "oh no, not again!" we were all following Edwin to a backpacker's campsite. Here PCT through-hikers had fashioned a living room set out of rocks from Pulpit Rock's avalanche basin but Edwin had his eyes set on the small pond in back of the campsite.

A nameless pond full of ripples from the rain

We hatched a plan to walk around the pond, expecting to find another sketchy path going round. Nope, the faint track we had set out on soon "dissipated" (quoting Terry, here) and we were soon fighting the brush, which was in turn doing a fine job of fighting back. It was much easier to head downhill away from the pond through a forest, where presumably we'd eventually run into Lower Rosary Lake and that is exactly what happened. 

Literally can't see the forest for the trees

Edwin wasn't done though, he again studied the screen on Lane's GPS and figured out the first pond we had bushwhacked to, was the source of Rosary Creek. That creek then plunged steeply down the mountainside before emptying into Odell Lake, right near our campground. Before you could say "bushwhack thrice", Edwin and Terry were off into the forest to shortcut the route home. The remainder of our group, being averse to getting lost, nifty widescreen hi-def GPS notwithstanding, returned to the trailhead. I'm both happy and sad to report Edwin and Terry beat us back to camp. In the meantime we have a new rule: don't let Edwin look at your GPS!

Late summer is the season for pinesap

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

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