Junction Lake via Carl Lake

September 2, 2010

The east side of the Jefferson Wilderness, off of Jack Lake Road, is one of my favorite places to initiate hikes. Typically these hikes head in a westerly direction up the east side of the Middle Cascades toward the PCT. Either Mt. Jefferson and/or Three Fingered Jack is usually visible on the western horizon.

A moderate hike into beautiful Carl Lake has been either a destination or way point on a number of these hikes for me. However, this fall’s hike would be a new experience. The intention was to travel north on the Table Lake Trail from Carl Lake to a small pond called Junction Lake. When I called the Forest Service they informed me that, while the Cabot Lake Trail was well maintained, they had ceased maintaining the Table Lake Trail and were advising hikers to be prepared for adverse conditions. Sounded good to me!

Four brave (or foolish) adventurers joined me for this experience on a beautiful late summer day. “Road Warrior” Scott’s SUV was able to accommodate five of us, providing a nice gas saving. The drive takes about 2½ hours to the trailhead.

The first two miles is a rather flat hike through the Cabot Lake burn to Cabot Lake. This area is covered with thick brush with pine and hemlock trees still very small as the fire was about eight years ago. The trail then climbs 500–700 ft. up a steep, but well switchbacked section onto a relatively flat ridgetop. The trail then proceeds two miles through a thick forest canopy to Carl Lake. Carl is a breathtakingly beautiful, moderate sized alpine lake. It sits in a bowl surrounded by the forest canopy with a rock wall stretching up to the PCT on the west side and a canyon dropping away to the northeast. Mt. Jefferson looms overhead. After lunch we were on our way to explore the Table Lake Trail.

To our surprise and relief, we found this trail to be in excellent condition. There was no blowdown, overgrowth or trail damage in evidence during this two mile stretch. We speculated that the additional four miles to Table Lake would likely be in a similar condition. We experienced about a 500' climb up out of the Carl Lake basin but, again, the excellent switchbacks made the climb seem easy. Junction Lake is really a small pond which would not be much of a hiking destination except that the views towards Jeff. are very rewarding. The reason for choosing this destination was that it happened to be about seven miles from the trailhead. This is about as far as I would venture on a day hike. It was a long day, 13 hours, but our consensus was “worth every minute of it”. Chris thought she would consider leading a two or three night backpack into Carl next year, with a day hike up to Table Lake. For a three night stay, a second day trip up South Cinder Peak, would be feasible.

Hikers were Dan Christensen (leader), Lynda Christiansen, Dick Hildreth, Scott Hovis and Chris Stockdale.

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