Outing

Canoeing at Hosmer Lake

On the first Friday of June, Map Guy and I made the first of what this reporter hopes will be many canoe outings this summer.

OK, so it wasn't technically summer yet, and it won't be for two more days. But it sure felt like summer that day at Hosmer Lake. It was one of those warm, late-spring days in mercurial Central Oregon.

You know how as we age, sometimes we repeat ourselves sometimes? I think it's just inevitable. And not because we're forgetful, but because the longer we live, the more over-the-top claims we make, and hence the higher the odds that, at some point, we'll repeat our hyperbolic selves.

I say this because, at some point or another, I'm guessing I've referred to about seven lakes in the Cascades — by which I mean the portion of that range conveniently located near Central Oregon — as the “crown jewel of the Cascades lakes.”

Sample sentence: “Last Sunday, my wife and I ran and hiked the three miles to Doris Lake, the crown jewel of the Cascades lakes.”

See how easy it is? I'm pretty sure I've called Sparks Lake the crown jewel once or twice before. Crowns can have a lot of jewels, right? Either way, Hosmer should be considered worthy of the title.

That Friday, Map Guy and I drove right on by Sparks Lake, remembering all too well the madhouse that was the boat ramp when we paddled there last year. I'm fond of people, but not that fond.

Hosmer is located a stone's throw from the beaches and sailboats at Elk Lake — talk about another candidate for crown jewel! — but it has a very different feel. Deschutes National Forest calls it “a hidden jewel of green and blue surrounded by dark green forest.”

Map Guy and I arrived pretty late in the morning, but there were just six or so vehicles parked at the boat ramp. I made sure to hang my Northwest Forest Pass in a visible place because the last time I went for a hike at Dillon Falls, I came back to the parking area and saw a forest ranger tucking warnings beneath the windshield wipers.

I took the front seat of my canoe, and Map Guy attempted to shove us off the boat ramp without getting damp the precious jeans he always wears. (“The sun never hits these legs” is actually his motto.) There we sat, aluminum canoe resting atop the concrete boat ramp for a few beats, just long enough for a person pulling out in his or her truck to laugh at us.

Eventually, the ramp kindly released the boat and we were off. Once you put in and get out of the wide, southern portion of the lake, Hosmer is all about negotiating reed-lined narrows and watching for fish zipping across its shallows.

We were determined to make it to the headwaters of the lake. I'd been to Hosmer two or three times before, all of them with my kids, and I'm embarrassed to say we'd never gotten as far as where Quinn Creek empties into this clear lake. I was also embarrassed when one of my daughters had a meltdown four years ago, an incident that may have been as traumatic for the fly fishermen who come here for Atlantic salmon, brook and rainbow trout as it was for the rest of us in the canoe.

This time, Map Guy and I did make it, threading our way around the fishermen. We also had to retrace some of our steps, navigating back from a wrong turn that took us to a nice little bay where we intruded upon a couple of stand-up paddlers who seemed surprised to find a pair of dudes in a beat-up canoe paddling up and interrupting their presumed date.

A friendly kayaker pointed out the proper way to Quinn Creek. Where the lake widens toward its northern end, paddle west, hang a right, and paddle north to the part that looks like a creek.

Near the headwaters, we stopped, ate our lunches and explored the little footbridge above the small waterfall that marked the end of the journey. We swatted away mosquitoes — as usual, we forgot to bring repellent — and made small talk with members of the Ditz family's party, who'd also headed up to see the waterfall.

Aside from Map Guy using a paddle to spray water on my back, the return trip to the boat ramp was uneventful. Just the way we like it.

Sure enough, we arrived to find a forest ranger putting fee warnings on windshields. So if you're heading to Hosmer, don't forget the bug repellent and trail fees.

Oh, and sunscreen. Turns out the carefully dressed Map Guy was sunburned on the inch of exposed ankle flesh between his jeans and his water socks.