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Mt. Jefferson

November 2008: A late-season hike to Jefferson Park

Winter Creek
Layers of early winter snow slowly cover this trailside creek. In a normal year, the snow will pile up 8ft or more - completely burying this small creek. At this moment, only 8 inches had accumulated.
A View
As the trail climbs, breaks in the trees become more frequent.
Jefferson Park
Jefferson Park is actually a kind of pass over the Pacific crest. This becomes obvious when you're standing there in winter and the wind whips over the park from the frigid desert of Eastern Oregon. This is an incredibly popular backpacking destination in the summer, making solitude hard to find. But, on a day like this, solitude abounds.
From Here to There
A thick carpet of trees extends from underfoot, across a valley, and up the snowy slopes of Mt. Jefferson.
Nothing But Blue Skies
It's hard not to stare at Mt. Jefferson. It's hard not to feel small while doing so.
Winter is Coming
A thin sheet of ice was slowly growing to cover this creek. Nature avoids straight lines.

December 2004: Day trip to Jefferson Park

Detroit Lake Down
On the way to the Jefferson Park trailhead, I drove along Hwy 22 past the shore of Detroit Lake. This is a man-made lake, and it's not unusual for the lake to be low this time of year, but this was the lowest I've ever seen it. The building at the top of this image is a boat rental concession (their log-boom can be seen laying on the ground). It doesn't look like they're doing a lot of business. The stumps are what's left from the forest that covered this area prior to the installation of the dam. Usually, the stumps are under water.
Jefferson in the Evening
There isn't a lot of snow in the mountains yet this year. I was able to reach the 4000ft elevation trailhead by car. There were only 6-8 inches of snow on the roadway near the trailhead.

This photo was taken from along the trail to Jefferson Park in the late afternoon. Photographing Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park in the winter is a bit of a challenge, since the sun is behind the mountain during much of the day. There is only a short time in the late afternoon with favorable light, and for this trip, I had to leave time to get back to the traihead! I would have spent the night in a tent in Jefferson Park, but the forecast called for a lot of snow the next morning - which would have been pretty... but not much fun.
Bear Tracks
While I was exploring Jefferson Park, I crossed this set of bear tracks many times. Judging from the amount of frost within the tracks, they appeared to be a few days old. But the toe-claw marks were plainly visible. I couldn't be certain what a bear would be doing "wandering around" Jefferson Park this time of year - I followed about a mile's worth of tracks. Perhaps the bear was just admiring the views.
Hello or Goodbye
This small tree was just poking out of the snow. It will probably be completely buried by the approaching storm.
Scout Lake
Scout Lake was almost completely frozen-over, but a small area near the outlet remained thawed. Mt. Jefferson is in the distance.
The snow surface was covered by a layer of giant icy flakes. I believe these are hoar-frost crystals on the snow. Essentially, this is similar to frozen dew, which builds up over a number of days when the weather conditions are right. I've adjusted the contrast so the individual flakes are easier to see. The larger flakes were about the same diameter as a US quarter, and thin as paper.

February 2004: A trip up Whitewater Creek

The road along Whitewater Creek leads to the trailhead with the easiest access to the Jefferson Park area. In winter, the gentle grade of the road makes a great cross-country ski track. It snowed much of the day as I made tracks, 7 miles to the trailhead parking area.
Read it in a Book Somewhere
After I reached the trailhead area, I switched to snowshoes and continued on through the forest. The top layer of snow was fresh and soft, so progress was slower than I'd hoped. I only travelled another mile before I had to stop for the day. I dug a snow cave into the thick snowpack and had a comfortable, quiet and warm night while it continued to snow outside.
The P Word
The clear morning sky revealed a magical forest of phlumf.
Cool Summit
Mt. Jefferson made a brief appearance as I descended back down the road.
End of the Line
I had originally intended to spend the night in Jefferson Park, 3 miles further than I travelled. That plan was a bit ambitious... but it would make a great 2-night trip! I'll have to return sometime.

September 2002: Overnight at Jefferson Park

Autumn Colors
Jefferson Park is an area immediately north of Mt. Jefferson. The "park" is an expanse of rolling alpine / sub-alpine terrain around 6000 feet in elevation. There are a number of lakes of all sizes in the Jefferson Park area.
Sunset in the Park
Jefferson Park is a popular backpacking area. The nearest trailhead is only about 4 miles away, and it's a pretty flat walk. We had decent weather the first night, but a small storm rolled in overnight, and by morning it was lightly snowing.
Jefferson Park
Views of Mt. Jefferson dominate the area.
The North Face
The Pacific Crest Trail heads through Jefferson park and up to a 7000ft ridge a couple miles to the south. The hike up the ridge makes a nice side-hike.

April 2002: A night in a snow shelter on Bingham Ridge

Building a snow-shelter is nice alternative to carrying a tent. It took me a couple hours to build this 1-man shelter... but with a little experience, it could have been done in about 45 minutes.
Mt. Jefferson
This is a view of Mt. Jefferson from the area where I built the snow shelter. There was a snowpack of about 8 feet where I spent the night. The conditions were great - the snow was very compacted & I was able to wander anywhere I wanted without fighting my way through a tangle of underbrush.
The wind picked-up overnight, but I stayed warm and dry inside the snow-shelter. This is a view outside my front door.
Winter Green
The high snowpack meant I was walking among the tree tops... well, at least 8 ft above the ground (still quite a bit below the tree tops!)

Where is it?

Mount Jefferson is in the Oregon Cascades, about 70 miles east of Salem, OR, or about 50 miles south of Mt. Hood. There are a number of hiking trails in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area. The main access point to the area is from forest roads along Hwy 22.

Before you go...
You'll need a NW forest pass to park at trailheads, a sno-park pass to park at sno-parks in the winter.

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