September 3, 2009
This hike was originally scheduled as a 13 mile Rockpile/Minto Lake loop hike. However, during the counter-clockwise exploratory hike, I found that the trail disappeared somewhere East of Minto Lake. Hence, it became an in and out Rockpile Lake Hike. The trailhead is located on the East side of the Cascades off Jack Lake Road, roughly 2½ hours from Eugene. A major fire occurred in this area probably 5-7 years ago (Possibly part of the Cabot Lake fire?). One edge of the fire burned over the trailhead area.The trail immediately begins to climb gradually along a ridge line on the edge of the burn. It continues to climb for about two miles, further into the burn area, to a large meadow. In the meadow, one crosses the Jefferson Wilderness boundary and continues to climb. Excellent views of Three Fingered Jack, Washington, North and Middle Sister and Broken Top appear. At the far end of the meadow one reenters the burned area and the trail levels out through the forest. By this time you have likely gained at least 1000 feet in about 2½ miles. For the next ½ miles the trail has not been cleared so a hiker has to be careful to follow the flagging in order to not lose the trail. Next, one enters an area of a much more recent burn, likely part of the Jefferson burn of two years ago.
Then, at about the point where the trail resumes climbing up to the Pacific Crest Trail, one leaves the burn behind and climbs for about 1½ miles through a beautiful Hemlock forest with very little understory. The trail here is somewhat faint, so you have to watch carefully in order to not wander off of it. The elevation gain in this section is another 1000 feet or so.
Rockpile Lake sits on the edge of the PCT at the point where the trail deadends into the PCT. Rockpile is a small, but very beautiful, high Cascade lake. While we were having our lunch a doe wandered past us, no more than 30 feet away. She hung around until we left, not concerned at all about our presence.
The inbound hike took about 2½ hours and the outbound just over two hours. I would strongly recommend this hike, especially to those who are interested in various stages of post-fire regrowth. It would be best described as a moderately difficult hike.
Hikers were Brad Bennett, Daphne James, Jordan Ray and Dan Christensen, leader.