hiking and trails, nature, photography, travel

Pamelia Lake Trail // Mt. Jefferson Wilderness


We spent two days backpacking Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, taking the Pamelia Creek Loop Trail to Hunt’s Cove Trail. It was just after the storms went through, so we caught the last of the thick fog on the first day. The streams and waterways were powerful, rushing with fresh rain water from the previous days.


We approached Pamela Lake after a two-and-a-half mile hike in. It made for a perfect place to rest our fresh feet. We also took a much needed snack break and made time to re-arrange our packs. Pamelia Lake is such a beautiful setting. No one was on the lake at the time, so it seemed quite secluded and was very serene.  The trail to the lake follows along Pamelia Creek, which was beautiful and mossy, and rushing with water! With all the glacial waterways, we got to hear the sounds of multiple falls from all sides of the trail. It was definitely overwhelming to the senses, in a good way.


I didn’t take very many mushroom photos, but there were more varieties of mushrooms than I have ever seen. So many fungi were popping up all around the trail. (We decided that it would be in our best interest to take along a mushroom hunter with us next time!)


The first day we had a nice, six mile hike in. We were able to set up our tent before sunset (unlike our last hiking experience at Opal Wilderness…) and we enjoyed a relaxing evening on the edge of Hank’s lake. The mist was thick across the lake, creating a beautifully eerie atmosphere.


We didn’t come across any “fires not allowed” signage, as we have in other parts of the Willamette Wilderness this season, but I am still unsure whether it was “okay”… There was a really nice fire pit at our camp spot, so Sylvan spent quite a bit of time trying to gather and light the driest kindle he could find. It took quite a bit of time, and lots of patience, but we were successful! We were also soaked from the wet ground and brush from the day so we thoroughly enjoyed the nice, warming fire on a cool night.


It dropped to the low 40s overnight, and during the night,  Sylvan slowly but surely ended up with a sleeping pad leak (what??!!), so his night didn’t go over so well, especially so close to the cold ground. I had a dream that a dog kept coming up to our tent, sniffing it, and circling it…hmmm. Maybe it happened maybe it didn’t… My true-to-life dreams mixed with my waking life reality definitely makes for a vivid, and sometimes confused memory space. My Momma can attest to that one. 😀

But, we woke to sunshine the following morning! So much sunshine! I think once we were able to soak up some warm sun and drink some tea, back aches began to settle.


“When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.”

― D.H. Lawrence


And so our second day began. This time, rather than a nice, six-mile hike in, we took on a twelve-mile hike out. It probably could have been ten or so, but we got lost once or twice…


Before we searched out the unmaintained trail to the PCT, we went to visit Hunt’s Lake, which was a half mile or so north of our camp site. And what a sparkling clear beauty it was.


Huckleberries were currently fruiting, which made for a delicious pick-me-up sugar kick along the way. The only guide book we remembered to bring along was a broad North American wildflowers guide, which left most of the edibles out of the text. This left us wondering about some of the other plants we came across. We did however get to snatch a few remaining thimbleberries that hadn’t yet been snagged by forest critters.

The alternative Hunt’s Creek route that we took provided us with a full morning of exploring the two lakes, a handful of wildflowers, and some and wonderful vistas. It was however a really steep elevation grade back up to the Pacific Crest Trail/Pamelia Loop meet-up. Around a 2000+ climb in a relatively short distance. If we decide to go on this particular Mt. Jefferson section again, it would be neat to take the other route, which follows the Pamelia Creek trail and skips over Hunt’s Cove, or even take it clock-wise rather than counter-clockwise. I bet there are some amazing views, and possibly some good views of Three Fingered Jack along the extended route.


And finally a view of Mt. Jefferson, just on the other side of the lake from where we camped! We didn’t see it until the morning morning due to the fog — but by golly it was bright and gorgeous!

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While we climbed the steep elevation on Hunt’s Creek Trail to the PCT connection, the landscape quickly changed, it showed off large meadows, dry, rocky terrain, and beautiful flora.

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And this is where we took a wrong turn. Right after taking the above photo, we kept following the trail — the PCT connection however was just beyond our reach. It would have taken us on a quick left (on a switch back), which we both failed to see. I’ll give the excuse that we were busy packing our bags and what not — but either way — we still missed the trail we needed to get back on the main loop. The arrow below shows the trail meet up. Hunt’s Trail however isn’t on the map since it isn’t well maintained. We were in the 3430 trail marker, heading south. We saw the trail that headed back up Pamelia Creek (red dash on the map)…but not the other trail. There is actually a third trail that continues going straight (towards the blue box that has been chopped off the map at the bottom.) This is the trail we continued on….


And the picture below shows you where we found ourselves — in a ghostly forest of bare fir trees. We soon discovered that this trail led us to a large horse camp, not quite a mile past the junction we needed. It was amazing to be amongst the tall, bare trees, but it was definitely a bit spooky. The forest was nearly silent, yet I didn’t feel that we were the only ones in the room.


Luckily, we figured out our path mistake rather quickly, walked back up to the junction, and instantly saw the PCT trail. It’s sort of embarrassing that neither of us saw it…but not really. I’m actually glad we were able to experience the burnt forest and the abandoned horse camp, which I’m guessing don’t really get too much traffic.


Our view from the tip top of the trail loop. I was completely taken aback by the beauty of the scene laid out below us. The colors were so rich and vivid. We stood and stared and stared and stared into that amazing valley, which looked over Hank and Hunt’s Lakes.


One of the last set of lakes we came across before our descent to Pamelia Lake were Shale Lake and Coyote Lake. Shale offered a beautiful view of the mountain and had some great spots to camp. It would definitely for a perfect place to stop if you wanted to make the hike with a two night stay. With Sylvan’s pad completely deflated and being low on food, we found it in our best interest to just keep trekking.


And back down to the mossy forest we went. It was a super long day of hiking, and I was left with really sore knees and shoulders for the following days. But it was definitely worth it and I can’t wait to go back for more!

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hiking and trails nature photography travel
  1. Found you through Ken McMillan – what a hike! That was about 10 times longer than I could do, but I see it was well worth it! once saw a twisted old tree exactly like the one in the second to last photo, up here in WA. (And I agree, the burnt-out forest was interesting to see).

    • Oh, wonderful! I love Ken’s blog — and now I must add yours to my reader.:) A six mile day was just about perfect. Any more than nine and I’m toast. And the twisted tree! I remember learning about trees that are lacking in nutrients (due to fire, volcano/lava, something else…) tend to twist to allow for better distribution of barely-there nutrients/poor soil. I’ve usually come across this when visiting an old lava forest and what remains — so seeing it in a mossy forest had me wondering. Do you happen to know what the cause is from?

      Thanks again for visiting!

  2. Pingback: Late Summer Wildflowers // Mt. Jefferson’s North Slope | The Brightness of Being

  3. Kettie Adams

    Hi Jess, Someone you and I both know has some passes to this area so I wanted to look into it. This is the first item that came up when I searched Pamelia Lake. You took some great pictures. I would love to adventure with the two of you sometime. Have you ever been to the Wallowas?

    • Jessica

      Hey Kettie! So glad you came across my post! Pamelia is one of my favorite spots for a weekend backpack trip — I hope you were able to go! We have been to the Wallowas — it’s gorgeous! Have you been on a trip there as well? I hope you are doing wonderful!

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