On October 2, Bob F. and I drove to the Woodpecker Trailhead in the Willamette National Forest. From there we hiked the Woodpecker Ridge and Pacific Crest Trails to Jefferson Park, below the north face of Mount Jefferson. This was my first visit to Jefferson Park in 18 years. I wanted to visit it again and to see how the Lionshead Fire of 2020 had impacted the trails and the park, itself.
The Woodpecker Trailhead was still officially closed. But it was a quirk of the regulations that one could park a few hundred feet below the trailhead and hike around it to reach the trails. So we did that. Bob had a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for the Pamelia Lake Trailhead. So we were legal and prepared for any forest rangers we might encounter.
The Pacific Crest Trail passes through forest destroyed by the fire. Most of the fire damage we saw was on the western slopes of Mount Jefferson and down the Whitewater and Russell Creek drainages. The trails were otherwise in good shape and the weather was ideal.
As we approached Jefferson Park we left the Pacific Crest Trail and climbed onto a ridge to our left. Following use trails we found a nice lunch spot overlooking Bayes Lake and facing Park Butte. We admired the familiar north face of Mount Jefferson. The park was quiet and sparsely occupied.
After lunch we hiked on use trails across meadows and creeks and beside lakes. Most wildflowers were well past their prime. Bob led us to where he found Cascades Frogs on an earlier visit, but we found none this day.
Bob and I took different routes around Scott Lake and rejoined on the far side. Three friends and I camped beside Scott Lake in 1970, and that experience changed my life.
As we started our return hike we passed beside milky Whitewater Creek. It was early autumn and the old glacial ice was melting out from under the diminished Jefferson Park and Russell Glaciers. This meltwater carried pulverized rock, called “glacial flour”, down the slopes. The silty water is called “glacial milk”, mixing metaphors.
I paused for several photos on our hike out. I admired the view of Mount Jefferson from above milky Russell Creek. We passed through burned forest and autumn colors. Our last stop was at the junction of the Woodpecker and Pacific Crest Trails where I again admired Mount Jefferson’s rugged and steep western slopes.
We saw a few campers in the park and encountered a few hikers and backpackers on the trail. But most of the time we experienced the trails and the park to ourselves. From what I saw of Jefferson Park the area seems to have survived the fire rather well. Perhaps other parts were more damaged. I might return with Bob earlier next year to explore the wildflowers, look for Cascades Frogs, and hike nearby Park Butte.