We have had a couple of pretty hot days here in Eugene, with temperatures in the 90’s. Thursday August 26th was predicted to cool down into the low 80’s, so I took advantage of the weather and did a hike into Divide Lakes, Mt Yoran and Divide Peak. This is located on the northwest portion of the Diamond Peak Wilderness area.
As usual, I left the house while it was still dark so I could be at the trailhead at the first crack of dawn. I’ve never regreted getting someplace too early but have gotten pretty wet by being late. I drove east from Eugene, up highway 58 just past Oakridge then took the road to Hills Creek Reservoir, then left on Kitson Springs County Road at the first fork. It was about another 20 miles, with about 14 of that paved, to the trailhead parking area. There is a nice view of Diamond Peak just past Hemlock Butte and only a few yards from the trailhead parking area. Here is a USFS map and description of the trail: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/willamette/recreation/tripplanning/trails/diamondpk/mtyoran3683.html
There was a van with a trailer in the parking area with Youth Job Corp on it, so I was very glad to see the tail was getting some maintenance. The trail was also getting some good use as the check-in box was out of the permit forms and people had been leaving names and numbers on scraps of paper. I added a scrap myself indicating I was day hiking and climbing Mt Yoran.
The trailhead is a little over 5,000 feet in elevation and I could see early signs of fall. I started up the trail and didn’t get far before I was sidetracked by an over-abundance of ripe wild huckleberries. Yum! The tart, sweet, rich, blueberry like flavor was outstanding and many of them were the size of small blueberries. The succulent sweetness brought back memories of my youth with camping trips that included huckleberry pancakes covered with rich huckleberry syrup, muffins, or a big slice of huckleberry pie, made in a cast iron skillet, over a camp fire. Yum!
After gorging myself a bit, I headed up the trail again. About a half mile later I came to Notch Lake and a few smaller puddles, and there I saw a nice Youth Corp encampment. There was not a soul around so they must have gotten an early start in the day. Notch Lake is a pretty little lake and, as it’s so close to the parking lot, a favorite place for backpackers to base camp.
A couple hundred yards further up the trail, I came to the fork with the left going to Vivian Lake and the right to Divide Lake and a connection to the Pacific Crest Trail. It was obvious that the Youth Corp had gone to Vivian Lake and I did not see any fresh tracks on the Divide Lake Trail.
This trail climbs steadily along an east-west ridge and reaches a rocky high point at about 3 miles from the trailhead. There were a few places where you could get a good look at Diamond Peak and it wasn’t long before I could see Mt Yoran looming through the trees.
Just before you get to Divide Lake the north side, the trail opens up to the bottom of a rock slide on the south side of Mt Yoran. From here you get your first close up view of this ancient shield volcano. It looks so steep that only serious climbers could attempt it. I went on to Divide lake ( about elevation 6,000 feet or a little more) and didn’t see anyone camping
. There are several nice camping spots people often use but it looked like it must have been last weekend since anyone was there.
Now it was time for the climb up Mt Yoran. From my experience a few years ago with Mark West, I skirted the edge of the tree line and stayed away from the rock slide area. This is still a steep climb but is easier and less dangerous that the loose rocks. I climbed to the ridge between Mt Yoran and Divide Peak (this is the divide between western and eastern Oregon) and followed it up to the back of the southeasterly gendarme (rock spire).
I remembered from my previous trip with Mark, when we had climbed the loose talus-scree slope to a chute on the south side of the mountain. Then we climbed the chute until it got too steep and we finally found a route around the east side. Not wanting to repeat that one, I opted to skirt the gendarme on the east side and look for another chute that Mark and I had come down. Again I was in the wrong place and soon found myself on a very steep face with no good route to the easterly chute. I gave up the idea of getting to the easterly chute and climbed around the bottom of east side of the gendarme to a small saddle.
This was much better, but I still could not see the top or much in the way of the route ahead. I just chose the easiest place I could see and started up. Soon I broke around the steep ridge and followed the southerly side of it to the east chute and then on to the top. There are two main tops to this mountain and I first visited the southerly “false” summit to take a good look at Diamond peak, all the Divide Lakes and the divide ridge that runs from Yoran to Diamond Peak. Wow, what a view!
After a few minutes I moved on via a narrow hogs-back ridge to the true summit of this 7,100 foot moutain. This was a great view to the north and even though the Mt Scott fire left the horizon a bit hazy I could easily see the Three Sister and Mt Jefferson. The north side of Mt Yoran is near vertical and it’s a breathtaking view.
After a snack and shooting a bunch of pictures, it was time to head back down to the lake. I knew I needed to find a better way down than the way I had come. I chose to follow about the same route back down to the gendarme saddle and that went well. From there I dropped into the southerly chute but stayed high on the toe of the gendarme and followed it back around to the ridge. That wasn’t bad at all and I did tie a few ribbons along the way to remind myself and others of the better route.
Once down at the lake, I had plenty of time, so decided to follow the trail on up the divide ridge and climb Divide Peak. This peak is slightly higher than Mt Yoran at elevation 7,138. From the ridge, there is evidence of a climbers trail going up the ridge and the first quarter mile or so is pretty easy. The last couple hundred yards, it climbs steeply up a loose shale slope and you have to be careful as some of this is jagged and razor-sharp. The sumit is just a narrow rocky ridge and there are a couple of other “false summits” too.
At the sumit I took another break to take in the exceptional views. Now the sky was getting hazier from the Mt Scott fire to the north. I kept looking south at Diamond Peak, only a couple miles away. I really wanted to just go ahead and follow the ridge on up and do it too but I just didn’t have the energy for that. Darn, so close but so far away.
By now there was a brisk wind picking up and the temperature was only about 45 degrees and I was getting cold. Time to head back down to the warm sunny lakes again. I stopped at one of the smaller lakes that had a nice sunny flat rock and enjoyed the mid-70’s sunshine. As this lake wasn’t all that deep, it must have warmed up a bit, so I decided to take a swim. I dove off
a rock and when I hit that blue-green water it was a shock. Wow, that was much colder than I thought! I did swim about 80 yards or so across the lake and back and by the time I crawled up on the rock I was feeling as blue as the water. Ahhh the warm sunshine slowly began to melt the goose bumps and stop the teeth chattering.
By now it was 1:30pm and about time to start back to the car some 4 miles or more away. I did run into a couple other people day hiking into the lakes. On the way back from the rocky top of the ridge, I could see clouds coming in and feel the temperature beginning to drop just a bit. By the time I got to the parking lot, Diamond Peak was lost in the clouds that were moving in fast.
The trail to Divide Lake was really pretty good but it did have a few trees over it in places. Here are a few that caught my eye.
I did stop of for a few quick shots at Notch lake. As the clouds were coming in, I didn’t stay long.
Summer in the high Cascades is so short and I was very glad to have had the day to enjoy the mountains. It was a good hike, some great climbs and a lot of delicious huckleberries too!
Enjoy all the good in your life!