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Searching for Sonya

“I see water,” Bill VanMoorhem announced, peering through the brush and trees to the partially opal blue lake.

Bill was leading the way as we ambled cross country toward what we hoped was Lake Sonya, a little-visited lake in the Sky Lakes Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area. It’s seldom seen because it’s not alongside the well traveled Sky Lakes, Cherry Creek, Donna Lake or Divide trails that offer easy, trailside access to beautiful lakes like Margurette, Dee, Donna and Trapper.

Trapper had been our original destination, a five-mile hike from the Cold Springs Trailhead. It had been a pleasant hike, one that took us from a junction near the trailhead along the South Rock Creek Trail through the badly scarred, blackened remains of forestlands. The skeletal remains from a previous forest fire persist most of the way to Upper and Lower Heavenly Twins. From the Twins, where the ghostly trees transformed to a lush forest of white and lodgepole pines and mountain hemlock, we aimed north along the Sky Lakes Trail past the tip of Isherwood Lake and a series of small lakes to Trapper.

Trapper is one of Sky Lakes’ most beautiful lakes, one that’s often overlooked because of its proximity to Margurette, sometimes dubbed the “Queen of Sky Lakes.” Because it was a bluebird sunny day, we ate lunch like kings along Trapper’s shore. Some shrubs were showing glimpses of fall colors but more devilishly delightful were the lake’s shimmering reflections of Lucifer Mountain, a 7,163-foot peak that provided a scenic backdrop.

The Sky Lakes Basin is one of the wilderness area’s three basins. Like Blue Canyon and Seven Lakes basins, the Sky Lakes Basin is a former glacial basin that’s liberally sprinkled with numerous lakes. Ironically, and sadly, the three basins are seldom seen by backpackers making their way along the Pacific Crest Trail, which mostly parallels the three scenic basins.

After enjoying Trapper’s trappings, we had gone about a mile back toward the Cold Springs Trailhead when Bill, who had been studying his GPS map, wondered aloud if we should search for Sonya. It was just the two of us. We were invigorated. It was early afternoon, so we had ample time. And, delightfully, it was a perfect fall day, sunny and warm enough that we’d much earlier jammed our jackets in our daypacks. So sure, why not.

His GPS showed Sonya was about three-quarters of a mile back toward Trapper. We doubled back, eventually leaving the trail at a place where his GPS showed it was another third-of-a-mile to Sonya. What could go wrong? Happily, nothing did. We hiked cross country, meandering through a tangle of trees, fallen limbs, occasional rock mounds and thick brush, gradually working our way northeast as we descended a ridge, eventually reaching the place where Bill first glimpsed Sonya’s waters through the trees.

We paused at Sonya’s shore, satisfied to simply be there. Even though it was only early afternoon, fish were jumping. It wasn’t until later that I found an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife website that lists Sonya, along with Margurette and Isherwood, as being among the Sky Lakes Basin’s best lakes for catching brook and rainbow trout.

Fishing wasn’t part of the plan. So, after just enjoying being there, we doubled back through the woods, eventually re-finding the trail to the Heavenly Twins then trooping back through the haunted, fire-devastated forest to the Cold Springs Trailhead parking lot.

We hadn’t planned to go searching for Sonya, but we were delighted to find her.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

Luther Mountain provides the backdrop as Bill VanMoorhem has lunch at Trapper Lake. Photo by Lee Juillerat
Lower Heavenly Twin Lake shows its fall colors. Photo by Lee Juillerat