DAY 5: Lava Bed Camp to Junction Lake
I slept in this morning which meant I waited until the sun hit the tent before getting up, just a little past 7 a.m. I decided not to bother with making breakfast, knowing that there were bonafide picnic tables about 3 miles away at Crest Camp.
I hit the trail just after 8. In the first couple miles I hiked through a section of the lava bed that I’d been circumnavigating. It was strange walking among the stunted trees and on hollow sounding rocks.
I made it to Crest Camp just after 9. This national forest campground is located along an unpaved forest road. I had assumed it would have a handful of basic amenities, however I was rather sorely disappointed. Unfortunately there was no running water and it was also completely deserted. I decided that I didn’t have quite enough water to make an oatmeal breakfast and to get me up the trail to the next water source.
After a short break I strapped on my pack and started my climb for the day. The trail switch backed very gradually uphill, crossing a handful of streams and passing by some small shallow lakes. A couple miles from the road I entered the Indian Heaven Wilderness. This area gained wilderness protection in 1984 and is home to many lakes, ponds, tarns, and meadows.
Eventually I broke out of the thick forest and switchbacked up the side of a lava rock ridge, offering me great views south to Mt. Hood. I was also climbing alongside Red Mountain, home of Washington’s very first fire lookout.
Around my ninth mile of the day I dropped back into the forest and found it choked with snow. I was grateful to have my GPS to help me navigate and stay mostly on the trail. It was a bit slower going though as I had to watch my footing on the slippery snow.
Thankfully the snow eased just as I reached Blue Lake, my initial destination for the day. The plan was to take a good long break there and then push on another 2-3 miles.
As I was filling my water I noticed a couple people sitting across the lake. I went over to make introductions. They were day hikers in from the Thomas Lake trail and one of them was a thru-hiker herself. We swapped trail stories and they offered up some fresh cheese to me. Heavenly!
After nearly two hours it was time to push on. Again the forest was filled with snow but I was buoyed by some caffeine and the well wishes of the hikers I’d met. I took my time and made it to Junction Lake in a little over an hour. I scouted for a snow-free campsite and found the most amazing site in the middle of a peninsula on the lake.
Junction Lake was quite shallow which meant it was warm enough for me to rinse off. I had a handful of chores to do and then settled in for a late dinner. Dinner lakeside is a pretty glamorous thing. Tonight’s dinner location was made even more amazing for the fact that I had the lake to myself and I had certainly worked to get there. The rest of my evening included some well-earned dessert and watching the sunset over the forest and lake.
What a treat to be in such a beautiful place.