A Walk to Matthieu Lakes and Yapoah Crater – Hiking in Wildfire Season

The wildfire season here in Oregon presents some unique challenges for hiking.   Exactly where and when to go present constantly changing equations, dependent on where the fires are and which way the winds are blowing the smoke on any given day.  The status of CONC leader Roz O’Donoghue’s September 2nd CONC hike to Matthieu Lakes and Yapoah Crater remained tentative up until the morning of the hike because of these changing  conditions.   Three CONC members waited out the uncertainty and were rewarded with a classic Central Oregon Cascades walk.    

The route began at the PCT trailhead at Lava Camp Lake Road and lead through the remains of a forest burnt by a 2017 wildfire.   There is now a mosaic of new tree growth and fireweed among charred stumps and some older, unburnt trees.   The route continued up past the small but scenic South Matthieu Lake into a wonderland of lava flows.   This area of contorted rock formations, tenacious trees, the magnificent Yapoah Crater, and panoramic views of the Cascade Peaks, is a highlight for any hiker.   The group reached a ridge overlooking a meadow where the PCT and Scott Trails intersect for their turnaround and lunch spot.  

On the return, the group passed forested and serene North Matthieu Lake, then continued down onto the PCT to the trailhead.  The total distance hiked was eleven miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain.  There were some areas of patchy smoke, mostly in the morning, but the sky cleared as the day progressed.   All in all, yet another a hike well enjoyed. 

Here is a note about place names.  Oregon Geographic Names (6th Ed., 1992), page 931, has this to say about Yapoah Crater:  It “lies on the summit of the Cascade Range halfway between McKenzie Pass and the North Sister.  Yapoah, signifying an isolated hill, was the Indian name for Skinner Butte near Eugene.  Professor Edwih T. Hodge of the University of Oregon applied the name to this isolated crater in 1924 when he was studying the Three Sisters area.”  In the same year, Professor Hodge also named the two Matthieu Lakes in honor of a long-lived Oregon pioneer, Francis Xavier Matthieu (1818, Montreal – 1919, Oregon).  Id., page 542.