Divide Lake Backpacking Trip

Posted: August 11, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in backpacking, family
Tags: , , , ,

August 1-3, 2009

(If you want to follow along, this is a link to a map of our GPS track: http://www.mapmyhike.com/hike/united-states/or/-oakridge/698124945046186711 )

For an entire year, I had been looking forward to the return, with my son, to the Willamette National Forest and to backpack to Divide Lake for the first time. I had first heard of Divide Lake from another hiker on the trail when we were coming back from Vivian Lake (our backpacking trip last year). As the days got closer, Grant and I got more excited until the day finally came and I was up before 0600, too antsy to sleep. The morning sky was painted a beautiful red due to a big forest fire down south near Roseburg, OR and I enjoyed the sunrise with a cuppa joe on the front porch, quietly, by myself.

Our drive was filled with conversations about hiking, pooping in the forest, how it takes one minute to drive one mile when we are driving 60 MPH and other handy guy stuff.Soon enough, we were turning onto Kitson Springs Road, aka Road 23, for the roughly 30 miles to the trailhead.

We arrived at the trailhead, ready to hike at about 0930. Our packs were both about 1/3 of our body weight but the anticipation of our hike helped to alleviate some of the weight. It struck me again that two years ago, before I had lost weight, that I would have been carrying more weight in fat all day, every day than I had in my backpack. For whatever reason, this blows my mind every time I go backpacking now. I think because it puts something tangible to the weight that it brings it more in focus. There were a couple of other cars in the lot, but no people around. As we loaded up, we found a couple of huckleberries on bushes and munched on them and as we began down the trail, we came across a bunch more huckleberries. We picked a couple of cups worth and stored them in an empty Nalgene for the next day’s breakfast.

The first site that we came across, just like last year, was Notch Lake. It is a pretty flat mile with only a couple of easy climbs. I had intended to take a break and explore around the lake, but the mosquitoes were so thick that I just wanted to get as much distance as possible from the lake. It is too bad, because it is such a scenic lake with large boulders surrounding it. In my mind, it would fit in nicely next to “Grizzly Mountain” in Disney’s California Adventure because the rocks and lake are so evenly mated. We continued up the trail, however, another few hundred yards to the cutoff to the Mt. Yoran trail before stopping to rest (this is the first “i” icon on the map). Since we were being eaten alive still, we sprayed on some mosquito repellent. The smell brought me back immediately to fishing with my dad when I was a kid and I hoped that Grant would someday have a similar recollection to the smell of Off. Grant also decided to don his mosquito head net, which is basically like a giant mesh sock with elastic at the opening to keep snug around the neck.

The trail, from this point on, was mostly uphill and we gained 1000 feet in the next mile before hitting the ridgeline to Mt. Yoran for the last two miles. Again, the conversation about arriving at a destination in one minute came up when Grant exclaimed that he wished we could run to Divide Lake at 60 MPH. It was now about 1230, the sun was beating down and I wasn’t opposed to being at the destination in one minute, either… truth be told. Around mile three, we got our first good glimpses of Diamond Peak and took our packs off to rest, eat some trail mix and enjoy the sights for a moment. The forested ridgeline was probably the nicest part of the hike because of the spectacular views to the left and right and also because there were no ponds around to harbor the mosquitoes. The last quarter of a mile down to the base of Mt. Yoran was a most welcome relief to know the end was close. It took us about four hours to make it to Divide Lake.

As we came down into the Divide Lake basin, I was surprised by the crystal blue clarity of the lake. I was expecting a murky pond like the others we had passed and like Vivian Lake where we camped last year. We stood transfixed for a moment pondering the lake’s depths before searching for the best site for our camp. We found a site on a little peninsula on the south west corner of the lake that had great views of the lake and of Mt. Yoran. We pitched the tent in the one flat spot and got our things lined out. Once camp was set and we snacked on some summer sausage, Grant and I trekked around the lake. In another abandoned campsite, sitting on a log, I came across a “Light My Fire” spork that I scavenged to add to a future mess kit. This is a $3 spork that I got for free… yes, that’s how I roll. When we got back to camp, I noticed that the sky had changed and it was beginning to look like rain. Soon enough, there was no doubt as it began to absolutely pour, then hail and finally came the thunder and lightning! Grant and I hunkered down under some trees and enjoyed the peal of thunder. It was so close that we could hear the electricity crackling and the thunder literally shook the ground! The storm lasted nearly three hours and during this time two more groups joined us around the lake. Eventually, Grant and I retreated to the tent where we played card games and read from our books. The storm broke in time for dinner preparation (I was beginning to wonder) and we were treated to a beautiful sunset shining burnt red on Mt. Yoran and reflecting on the lake. Grant and I were able to talk and cuddle until bedtime.

The next morning was overcast, but not raining, as I boiled water for our breakfast. We watched as a couple of our fellow campers tried to summit Yoran only to be turned back as they caused a rock avalanche about 100 feet shy of the top. When we were ready, we hit the trail again for a day hike, first south and then east one mile to the top of the spine separating Lane County from Klammath County (about 400 feet elevation gain). We continued south another two miles on the world famous, Pacific Crest Trail, to the base of Diamond Peak where we stopped for a snack. I was pretty stoked to be on the PCT as it was my first time and I have been wanting to hike it for a few years. Along the way, we visited a number of little “lakelets” that I believe to be named the Summit Lakes. They reminded me of the infinity pools at resorts that are situated on cliffs with incredible views because they were set near cliffs with incredible views. The problem, again, was the mosquitoes… dang. On our return, we were passed by some through-hikers on the PCT and we were amazed at how fast they walked, but not so sure they enjoyed their surroundings as much as we were. We had a light lunch when we got back to camp and then found a trail up to the saddle between Mt. Yoran and its neighboring monolith. The view was pretty nice from that vantage point, but we also noticed another storm blowing our way. We hurried back to camp and spent the rest of the day watching the fish from our stump bench and talking.

We slept well our final night and woke up refreshed and ready to head for home. The hike back went much quicker and it only took us a bit over two hours! We dropped our packs at the car and revisited the huckleberry bushes to pick some berries to share with Mommy. We still had some energy left, so we hiked up Hemlock Butte, across the road from our trailhead, to find a Geocache. It was about 600 feet in elevation gain and maybe a mile up and back. The last push to the top required a bit more climbing skills than I was comfortable letting Grant try, so I went up to grab the cache while Grant waited. We were both pretty wiped out and the drive home was pretty quiet. Nobody cared to do the math for how long it would take to get home at 60MPH. We did make a detour before home to cap off our trip with a “Thin Mint” Blizzard at Dairy Queen which gave us one last chance to reflect on all of the fun we had just had… until next year!

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