We’d only taken a few steps on the trail when I had to stop. An armada of unseen mosquitoes had found me, congregating on my exposed arms to begin drilling for blood.
The four others making the hike from Fourmile Lake to Squaw Lake and the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail likewise pulled out cans of repellent and sprayed or scrubbed exposed areas — heads, necks, arms and, for good measure, clothes. ‘Tis the season in the Southern Oregon Cascades.
Mosquitoes didn’t bug us over the next several hours as we followed the well-defined trail northwest from the Fourmile Lake Campground Trailhead — where the parking is free for hikers — out to the PCT and back. The gently rolling route through forests dominated by lodgepole pines and mountain hemlocks and fields of not-yet ripe huckleberries took us past a couple of water bodies, the cleverly named Orris and Norris ponds, before reaching the southeast corner of Squaw Lake.
According to a Forest Service brochure, the trail follows the route of the 1864 Fort Klamath-Jacksonville Military Wagon Road.
Bill Van Moorhem and Bernice Kero, who have followed the trail before — but not when it was a military road — have also camped at Squaw Lake. Keeping close watch, they found an unmarked trail that leads to a choice campsite, one set far enough from the lake to be legal. (Several other campsites are along the trail, some legal, others so close to the lake that only day use is legally permitted.) Because water levels remain relatively high, reaching the lake edge required some easy detours around wet meadows and across long-fallen logs. Art Knight’s frisky dog, Scout, did just as his name implies, scouting out and finding the most direct route to splash in the lake’s cooling waters.
My hoped-for swim didn’t happen. Stripping down and imitating Scout would have been reckless with mobs of swarming mosquitoes looking for fresh, repellent-free skin. July and early August are mosquito months in the Sky Lakes Wilderness and neighboring Cascades.
It was less than mile from Squaw Lake, which is less than two miles from the official trailhead, to the PCT junction.
It’s possible to follow the PCT north toward the Sky Lakes Wilderness’s Blue Canyon Basin as part of a 14-mile loop around Fourmile Lake. Before reaching Island Lake on the PCT, the Badger Lake Trail turns south, passing Long, Badger and Woodpecker lakes before returning to Fourmile Lake.
Other longer hikes are also possible, such as following the signed Twin Ponds Trail about a half-mile to Summit Lake or another three-plus miles to the Twin Ponds. Less appealing from the Squaw Lake/PCT junction is taking the southbound PCT past Freye Lake and a junction with the Mount McLoughlin Trail before eventually reaching Highway 140.
Because these are Nat “King” Cole’s lazy, hazy days of summer, with sultry afternoon temperatures rising into the high 80s even at higher elevations, we stopped at the junction, where Gary Vequist talked about the varieties of flowers we’d seen along the trail. Then, like hungry mosquitoes we devoured our prey — for me a peanut butter and wild plum jam sandwich, peach, mandarin orange and Clif bar.
We at our fill. But, thanks to the repellent, the bloody mosquitoes will have to wait for less prepared victims.