|Three Fingered Jack over Canyon Creek Meadows|
Perhaps the best part of this hike is its flexibility. One can wander the PCT for about a mile to a lovely, small pond, or turn it into a loop of over 20 miles; for more mileage, take in spectacular Canyon Creek Meadows, as well. Square Lake makes a great first backpacking destination, and even the shortest hike on these trails yields amazing photographs. One caveat: at this writing, there are plans to require permits to enter this area beginning in 2021, so check news for the Jefferson Wilderness before heading out post-2020.
|Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters|
|Black Butte and Green Ridge|
Continue uphill (it seems like most of the loop is uphill, despite the fact that it starts and ends at the same place. This makes no sense to me). You will notice that the higher elevations are further behind on their recovery from the burn; while the new young trees are taller than you are further down, they are few and stunted up here. Black Butte now dominates the eastern horizon, with Green Ridge stretching to the north. A lovely, mostly-treed valley lies below them, and on a clear day you can glimpse the central Oregon high desert beyond. Just when the trail couldn't get any hotter or dustier, the sound of rushing water leads toward First Creek. Be sure to stop and treat some water where this little stream crosses the trail, as it may well be the First and ONLY creek you encounter for several miles!
Time will tell what becomes of this loop trail once the permit system is in. The Old Summit Trail, prone to bushes and deadfall, may become difficult to follow, but hopefully maintenance will continue despite lighter use. This hike offers an outstanding overview of the south part of the Jefferson Wilderness, as well as an up-close look at nature's recovery from a devastating conflagration. Birds sing, flowers bloom, and huckleberries flourish beneath the sturdy evergreen saplings who are steadily becoming tomorrow's forest.
|Approaching Square Lake|
|Looking back over Square Lake towards Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters|
|Black Butte and a glimpse of the central Oregon high desert|
|Pink mimulus (monkeyflower)|
|Creek running through Canyon Creek Meadows|
|Canyon Creek Meadows|
|Finally at the top of the Minto Pass Tie Trail|
|Wasco Lake from the PCT|
|Mt. Jefferson from the PCT|
|Three Fingered Jack and the PCT|
|Small trailside pond, almost back to the parking lot|