Maude Mountain (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 29-May-2018

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon

Sometime in the 1930s, Forest Service employee Lee C. Port named three volcanic peaklets along the Cascade Crest north of Sevenmile Marsh after his wife (Maude) and two daughters (Ethel and Ruth). These names became official when they appeared on the 1955 edition of the topographic map for this area. Maude is the tallest peak on the Crest between Crater Lake National Park and Devils Peak, and thus seemed like it could offer some great views. This hike was planned for last year until the Blanket Fire blew-up, closed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and burned south to Maude’s western flank.  So today’s hike was a lonesome (The LovedOne was mulching the garden) twofer: summit Maude for the view and check-out snow conditions along the PCT and the Crest. 

The road to the Sevenmile Marsh Hiker Trailhead was in great condition, as was the Sevenmile Trail. Both had been spared by the Blanket Fire but had still received some post-fire maintenance.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Along the Sevenmile Trail
Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Mushrooms along the Sevenmile Trail

I quickly came to the PCT and started north on it. There are still patches of snow – most small but some quite extensive – from this trail junction up to Maude Mountain. I left the PCT at a point where it was completely covered in snow,

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Snow covers the PCT in spots

and then headed directly up Maude’s south side. This was pretty easy going through open forest but it got progressively steeper, and real steep just before the top, which is a rounded dome of cinders.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Approaching the summit
Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Maude’s benchmark

And, oh, the view. As usual, photos don’t do it justice – you need to experience this directly. Stick the old sensorium out there and let the expanse flow through you!

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
To the south: (1) Pelican Butte, (2) Mount Shasta, (3) Lee Peak, (4) Devils Peak, (5) Mount McLoughlin, (6) Lucifer [in front of McLoughlin], (7) Jupiter, (8) Venus
Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
To the west: The canyon of the Middle Fork of the Rogue River and the gray snags from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire
Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
To the north: (1) Union Peak, (2) Mount Bailey, (3) The Watchman, (4) Llao Rock, (5) Mount Thielsen, (6) Garfield and Applegate Peaks, (7) Crater Peak, (8) Mount Scott

The combined effects of the 2008 Middle Fork Fire (gray snags) and the 2017 Blanket Creek Fire (black trunks/brown crowns) were sadly evident to the northwest.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Fire changes the landscape of the entire upper Middle Fork drainage

The original plan had been to proceed along the ridge from Maude over Ethel and Ruth and then return via the PCT. But the thought of working my way back along a PCT patched with soft snow didn’t appeal, so I opted to leave the ridge between Maude and Ethel.  Turns out that my concern about snow on the PCT further north was unfounded – it had all melted due to lack of a shady canopy.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
On the ridge between Maude and Ethel

This is on the very edge of the burn area and was initially a very steep descent through an area devoid of organic ground cover (just bare dirt), with burned trees to the north and still green ones to the south.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Results of the Blanket Creek Fire
Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
The towering dead

At the bottom of the slope, I passed out of the burn area and reconnected with the PCT in an area that still looks “normal,” while 100 yards north of here it’s all black trunks and sour old campfire smells.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Back on the PCT

As for snow, there were some big patches on the piece of the PCT I was on but, from Maude, it looked like there was no snow lingering in the burn area, probably because there’s no shade there anymore. To the south, along the north side of Devils Peak, there’s still plenty of snow – trying to follow the PCT south would involve a snow climb to the ridge east of Devils. Give it another 2-3 weeks and it should all be melted. On the way out, I stopped to enjoy the view of a patch of water on the west side of the Wood River Valley.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
Wood River Valley

A nice moderate hike (9.6 miles round-trip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain) on an iconic trail, with some steep-in-places cross-country to really great views. Maude’s proximity to good trails and the views from the top make this an excellent choice for a dayhike.

Maude Mountain Sky Lakes Wilderness Oregon
My track to and from Maude Mountain

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2 thoughts on “Maude Mountain (Sky Lakes Wilderness) 29-May-2018

    1. After several years of drought, the winter of 2016-17 was a whopper – well above whatever passes as “normal” these days. Didn’t even try to go to the Sky Lakes last year at this time. This winter (2017-18) was below normal (we didn’t get any real snow until February!) and being able to get into the Sky Lakes now reflects that. The higher area around Devils Peak can collect snow even in a poor year (which is what I saw yesterday) but that will be gone by mid-June.

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