It was the last weekend in October. I awoke to rain and cold, gusty winds.
Leaving the warm and dry room at the Lodge at Detroit Lake, I drove to the Whitewater Trailhead on the western boundary of Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. On a hot summer day the parking lot would have been full of vehicles. Today, I was the sole visitor.
For the first 1 1/2 miles the Trail climbed through an old-growth forest before reaching a ridge, passing Douglas fir trees five and six feet in diameter. In another mile the Trail passed through a saddle and some sun breaks began to occurr.
For a short while I was granted some grand views of Mt. Jefferson, Pamelia Lake and Grizzly Peak.
At four miles the Pacific Crest Trail was met. Heading north on the PCT, Jefferson Park arrived in less than one additional mile. (“Park” means a large, sub-alpine meadow.)
Jefferson Park lies at the 6,000-foot level and covers a large area west of the mountain with many lakes.
Storm clouds returned and I was subjected to a continuing deluge with heavy gusts of wind. Nonetheless, I continued to hike north through the meadows to Russell Lake, passing Scout Lake on the way.
The summit of Mt. Jefferson was only 2 1/4 miles in the distance as the crow flies, but with a torturous 4,500 feet of additional elevation to be conquered to reach the top.
No one else was in Jefferson Park – – – amazing!
As I began the return hike, the temperatures had dropped enough for the rain to turn to a rain/snow mix.
By the next morning, a foot of snow had arrived in the high country and will continue building throughout the late fall and winter seasons.
No one else will visit Jefferson Park by foot for many months (unless an unseasonal warm spell occurs), although a few folks on snowshoes will make the difficult trek.
What a nice gift to be likely the last hiker of the year to visit such a spectacular location.