Friday, September 02, 2005

Marion Lake

While I was home in Oregon I went camping with my dad and 10-year-old brother Brian. We hiked into Marion Lake in the Jefferson Wilderness Area southwest of Portland on Thursday, 18 August and camped there for the night. The next morning we climbed nearby Marion Mountain and hiked back to the trailhead.

It was at least a two-hour drive from Portland to the trailhead, with a stop on the way to clog our arteries at McDonalds. We took I-5 south to state highway 22, which heads east past Detroit Lake. A little over ten miles after we left Detroit, we passed Forest Service road 11 (NDF 11) on our right. After crossing a bridge over Downing Creen, and about 0.8 miles after passing NDF 11, we turned left onto Forest Service road 2261. The trailhead is about five miles down the road.

A Northwest Forest Pass is necessary to park at the trailhead. It costs $5 per calendar day (so you'll need to pay for two days if you're going to stay overnight) or $15 per year. You can purchase a pass a few hundred feet before the trailhead by filling out a form and leaving money in a drop box. No permits are necessary for the wilderness area itself other than a free self-issued permit at the trailhead.

When we arrived there were three or four cars already parked at the trailhead. As we filled out our permit, we saw a poster warning about blue-green algae. It said that the algae produce a toxin that can cause headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and other lovely effects, but that they're present only at certain times of the year. We had brought only two liters of water for the three of us, since we had planned to refill our containers with our water filter in the lake or from a stream, so we hoped that there wouldn't be any algae in the lake.

The hike into the lake is about three miles on a slightly uphill trail. After spending most of this year in Utah, I had forgotten how beautiful Oregon is, with its large Douglas Firs, dirt (instead of rocks), berries, and flowers. We crossed a few small streams on our way in, but they were trickling just enough to keep the trail wet. The trail is mostly shaded, with the exception of a few places where it crosses some rock falls. The trail passes Lake Ann, whose outlet flows under a rock fall that we crossed. Brian thought it was pretty cool that we were walking on top of an underground river. He was also excited to find salmon berries, Oregon grapes, and "wild raspberries" to eat along the way, all of which he washed down with one of our liters of water.

We made it to Marion Lake in about 1.5 hours. We were a little slow because Brian was getting tired. My dad and I were both carring 35-pound packs, and he had his little school backpack with about 5 pounds of food in it, but he still complained, so we moved most of the food to our packs.

We set up camp at the northwest corner of the lake just before dark, apparently the only ones at the lake that night. After putting up our tent, we went down to the lakeside for my dad to take some pictures. It was dusk, and we had a great view of Three-Fingered Jack across the lake to the south, illuminated with the colors of the sunset.

While we were down at the lake we saw that there was quite a bit of blue-green algae along the shore, so our we had to ration our remaining liter of water.

Although conditions were excellent (about 65 degrees with hardly any bugs) I didn't sleep very well on Thursday night. We did get some nice pictures at dusk, though.

The next morning we set out to climb nearby Marion Mountain. We followed trail 3495 south on the west side of the lake, then trail 3443 west, and finally trail 3435, which curves up the mountain. Brian complained and decided that he wanted to go home about 45 minutes into the hike. We told him that we were going to climb the mountain, and that he could sit on a log and wait while we did. He caught up to us 15 minutes later with a much-improved attitude.

The hike up to the mountain was beautiful. Most of it was through thick Douglas Firs, which provided lots of shade. However, parts of the trail crossed through areas that were burned in the B & B fire of 2003. It wasn't as pretty there, and it was a lot hotter because the burned trees didn't have any foliage on them. The trail passed through the burned area for only a short time, soon returning to the thick fir trees.

When we reached the base of the mountain I decided to rush up as quickly as I could, because I wanted to reach the top, but we were running out of time. I ran and made it in about 15 minutes. Of course, that's not much of an acomplishment, since the mountain stands at only 5351 feet.

The summit (if you can call it that) affords an excellent panoramic view. To the south, we could see Three-Fingered Jack and the tip of another mountain, perhaps one of the Sisters or Mt. Bachelor. To the north, we saw Mt. Jefferson's glaciers. Mt. Hood was poking its head up above the horizon. Sitting right below us was Marion Lake.

Our trip back to the car was pretty uneventful, with the exception of trying to get some water. We decided to pump water from a very small stream that we crossed. However, the filter quit pumping after a few seconds. Twenty minutes later we still hadn't fixed it, so we just headed back.

Our round-trip distance, including the trip to the mountain, was an estimated 12 miles. It took about two hours to climb from the lake to the mountain, and about one-and-a-half hours to return to the car.

I enjoyed our trip. Things went well, with the exception of the water shortage, and I got to spend some good time with my dad and brother. I'm looking forward to when my other brother will be back home and we'll all be able to go together.


Guitar Ben said...

I've been planning a trip to Marion Lake for the past couple days and so far your blog is the most helpful piece of information I've found.

Thanks for taking the time. Especially for the maps and descriptions of trailhead locations, aprox hiking times, water conditions, etc. All really helpfull stuff.

Thanks again!

Bruce said...

You're welcome! Have fun!