Fern Creek to Jumper Lake

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User: Lone_Star - 9/7/2023

Location: Jumper Lake

Rating: 3point5stars
Difficulty: 4stars  Solitude: 5stars
Miles Hiked: 16.79 Miles  Elapsed Time: N/A

Comments:

My wife and I intended to backpack from the Fern Creek Trailhead to Jumper Lake, then to Red Lakes, down past Trout Lake and out to Knife Edge.  We planned to return to Ruby Lake on a different trail once we reached Red Lakes.  Unfortunately, we had an equipment failure (broken water filter) on the first day, so we ended up camping on the rim overlooking Jumper Lake and were forced to return the next day.  Although we never reached Jumper Lake, I did descend down the rim to filter some water out of a stagnant pond about 1/4 mile from Jumper Lake.  There was no maintained trail to follow down so I had to go cross country and fell 3 times due to the steepness.  The hike up the rim was also difficult due to the steep incline.

Overall, the trip was great and provided breathtaking views despite the skies being a little smoky from two wildfires in the region.  One thing to be aware of as far as the trail is concerned - once you hike up from Ruby Lake to the highlands, the trail becomes harder to follow since it is not maintained and doesn't get much traffic due to the remoteness.  At around 11,500 ft or so, there are pole markers placed along the trail, but it is very diffcult to see the next one since they blend into forested surroundings.  On top of that, one pole marker had blown down in an area where the trail became difficult to find.  As a result, on the way up I ended up getting off trail following some animal paths and had to search for a way to get to the point where the cutoff trail theoretically went down the rim to Jumper Lake.  I eventually found it, but by this time it was late in the day and had to set up camp before the sun went down and temps dropped.

This was a difficult hike in that it was all uphill the first day, I was carrying a 45 lb backpack (since my petite wife can't carry much in her pack), and the trail was hard to find/follow up high.  The Forest Service really needs to get off their butts and do a better job of maintaining the trail, put some cairns down (hey, rocks are free!), and add some signs at key points.  I am experienced and am adept and finding a trail and it was challenging for me, so it would be easy for less experienced hikers to get off trail and become lost and be in need or Seach and Rescue.