Mt. Jefferson from Scout Lake · Jefferson Park · Mt. Jefferson Wilderness · Willamette National Forest · Oregon · USA
Cool dusk air and prevailing westerly winds veil the faces of Luna and Mt. Jefferson behind swaths of diaphanous clouds. It was a breathtaking finale to an exceptional day on the Whitewater Trail to Jefferson Park, carrying us first through an enveloping forest of massive old-growth Douglas fir and western hemlock, with trunks routinely five feet across or more set so perfectly into the earth it was if walking between the columns of the Parthenon. From there, the trail then skirts the south side of the Sentinel Hills, their slopes lined with huckleberry bushes determined to slow our progress with distracting darks orbs of sun-ripened sweetness. Beyond this comes what buddy Jeff and I have dubbed the Vertigo Mile, an exposed stretch of trail carved into the flanks of the Hills with nauseatingly steep drop-offs to the south. With them, however, come equally and ever more spectacular views of Mt. Jefferson herself. After running that guantlet and finally crossing Whitewater Creek, a left turn at a junction onto the Pacific Crest Trail sets you on the final leg to the promised land. Beautiful as it was, I found that last mile before Jefferson Park excruciatingly tough to endure, as growing anticipation of the sights to come seemed to add more and more lead to my soles with each passing footfall.
And then finally we were there, amid an expansive subalpine meadow crafted by floods from bygone glacial lakes that breached their sandy dams on Mt. Jefferson's northern flanks. Worn paths weave confusingly this way and that between wind-gnarled stunts of mountain hemlock, with some closed off to rehab trodden fields of pink mountain heather, red Indian paintbrush, purple lupine, and those blasted huckleberries. The wildflowers were well past their prime, which actually was all well and good since it allowed us to focus on Mt. Jefferson and the lakes from a photographic standpoint. It was still quite a rush job (see "Love and Reflection"), but once the really good light had gone, we were able to relax a bit and catch the evening show pitting one drama queen against the other. As you can see here, though, they seemed to get along quite nicely.