The Best Hike of Our Lives
By Tim and Kati Case of Case Coffee Co.
I think most people have a dream of leaving the repetitive cycle of everyday life behind. A dream where asphalt and smoggy skies become glistening blue water and the perfect scent of millions of wildflowers. Time dissolves into a lazy rythym where nothing else matters except watching trees sway tall in the warm breeze, just like they have for thousands of years. Crystal clear pools of water melt into the landscape, and you seem to find a new scene of breathtaking beauty around every corner. This place does exist, and it's just a hike away.
The Sky Lakes Wilderness area covers 113,590 acres of beautiful Oregon land, starting in the Cascade Range near Crater Lake and reaching South as far as Hwy 140. It has a wide variety of stunning geographic features from Mt. McLoughlin, to lava fields and glacial valleys, to the 200 hundred pools of water spread across the area. Some of pools are just tiny ponds, while others range in size from 30-900 acres. Many hiking trails wind their way through the Sky Lakes area, including the famous Pacific Crest trail. It's been said by many hikers that this stretch of wilderness is the most beautiful section on the PCT from Mexico to Canada.
We choose the Cold Springs trail, located about 11 miles by dirt road off Hwy. 140. The trails are all clearly marked, but besides the simply marked signs, we did not see one trace of human evidence the entire time we were in Sky Lakes. It was like we were the first people to ever be there, discovering everything for the first time. Our hike took us 4 miles out through peaceful forests and sections of brightly colored wildflowers. We didn't see too much wildlife, just some birds and frogs. The area is said to be mostly free of dangerous animals like cougars and rattlesnakes, just a few timid black bears and rare herds of elk. There are some native fish in the larger lakes, so if you love to fish (we sure do!) bring your pole. After hiking four miles we turned a corner, and around the bend was one of the most beautiful things we had ever seen; a small lake, brilliant blue and smooth as glass sat serenely in the forsest floor. Trees reflected mirror perfect on its surface, and ancient fallen trees glowed up from the lake floor. The water was cool and cleaner than anything we had ever seen, totally untouched, and we swam for awhile. Excited to see more, we kept going and within a mile we saw 6 different small lakes, each one unique and more beautiful than the last. At one point there was a lake on either side of the trail. Amazing! We were 20 miles from the nearest paved road, totally alone in this magical stretch of nature. Our total hike was about 10 miles, and the trails were easy and smooth. At the end of the day, it was hard to leave it all behind.
We are already planning another trip to Sky Lakes, this time overnight. There are a few rules you have to follow when camping, such as no tents within 100 ft of the lakes, no groups larger than 8, and no bikes or mechanized transport allowed. For more detailed information, you can visit wilderness.net and search for Sky Lakes Wilderness. To reach the trail we hiked, go up Dead Indian Memorial Rd, turn right on Hwy 140, then look for the "Cold Springs Trailhead" sign on the left. Give yourself plenty of daylight to hike, because if you want to see the lakes you will have to hike about 10 miles round trip, plus all the time you will want to spend enjoying the lakes. There are many trails to choose from so you can select your own piece of tranquil paradise. If you like to fish, bring your pole. This will probably be one of, if not the best hike of your life.