The summit of 7,841-foot Three Fingered Jack lies five miles north of Santiam Pass. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the western flanks of the mountain at the 6,000-foot level. Since I was already visiting Black Butte Ranch, it was a short drive to the 4,840-foot PCT trailhead near the top of Pass. The first three miles meandered through the snags left by a large forest fire. It had been almost 10 years since the burn occurred, allowing beargrass, true grasses and wildflowers to brighten the landscape.
After 3 1/2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain, I entered a healthy forest of hemlocks and sub-alpine firs, deep snowdrifts, and finally an open ridgetop. Clouds had moved in from the west obscuring the top of Three Fingered Jack. The views to the east over Martin and Booth Lakes to Black Butte were hazy due to forest fires in SE Oregon. The melting snow brought out blood-sucking skeets by the thousands. For the first time in 2012 I broke out the insect repellant. For my enjoyment, there were many little frogs hopping about and butterflies by the hundreds.
After an enjoyable brunch of sliced apples and Gatorade, I decided the snow was too deep to continue north on the PCT. I reluctantly turned around and headed back to the trailhead. As it turned out, I made a wise decision. Not long after returning to Black Butte Ranch, thunder and lightning commenced in the higher mountains and lasted the remainder of the day.