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Photo by Michael Dotson/KS WildA Lone Brewer's Spruce graces the edge of Devil's Punchbowl in the Siskiyou Wilderness.

Wild Side: Time to soothe the soul by a mountain lake

Thinking of summertime fun? Most people will conjure up images of lakeside barbecues and camping. Favorites are often giant reservoirs like Emigrant or Lost Creek Lake. There might be a Jet Ski whizzing by. Maybe a big truck will be blasting some classic rock on shore. This can be fun. You might see me there too.

But, if you’re looking for something truly relaxing — a sort of transformative experience — I suggest looking further afield ... to a high mountain lake away from the hustle and bustle of motorized water sports and radios. You can reset by spending some time at a mountain lake.

All bodies of water have a tranquil affect on people, but none are more relaxing than a tranquil lake. The placid water, the slow pace of camping in one spot, and calming sounds of nature make for one of the most soothing experiences in life.

If you’re wanting to experience the calming effect of spending time next to one of these crystal-clear, elevated lakes, we have so many great options all around us. In the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains there are literally hundreds of lakes to choose from. There are some that you can drive right up to the shore. Others you need to hike in at least a day and you will likely not see a soul. Here are a few of my go-to lakes:

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake in the Klamath National Forest has it all. You can drive to the campground at the edge of the lake, but you are also next to the Pacific Crest Trail, a beautiful botanical area with Darlingtonia pitcher plants, and wildlands in every direction.

The campground has 18 sites (13 drive-in and five walk-in) and provides wheelchair accessible facilities. The lake is

25 acres, and is over 100-feet deep. Only motorless boats are permitted, which translates to an extremely tranquil setting.

Getting there: Take I-5 south to the Grenada exit. Follow Old Highway 99 South, Gazelle Callahan Road and Rail Creek Road to the destination.

Squaw(k) Lakes

These lakes are easy to get to, and so they can be crowded on a summer weekend. While there is no boat ramp, you can walk your canoe or other watercraft down the quarter-mile trail to the lake. This is a great place for kids and families to enjoy lake time on public lands in the Siskiyou Mountains. We were there last weekend and saw a whole family of pond turtles sunbathing and an osprey dive down to the water and grab a fish — a huge treat for the kids!

(NOTE: Nearly 20 years ago the Oregon legislature called to eliminate the place name for this lake, which is an ethnic slur for Native Americans. There were 172 other references to the slur in Oregon, many of which have been changed. But these lakes in the upper Applegate still use the derogatory term. Since the Oregon Geographic Names Board has been slow to act, my good friends that do an annual group camping trip there have taken it upon themselves to change the name a bit. Hence, Squawk!)

Getting there: Take Highway 238 to Upper Applegate Road and 959 to the lakes.

Devil’s Punchbowl

This might be my favorite lake of all time. The sheer granite cliffs that surround the cirque lake are stunning, and the steep hike up to the lake makes you feel like you have arrived at somewhere special – because you have!

Devil’s Punchbowl is about the journey as much as the destination. The old growth forests you hike through along the way are beautiful, and the Siskiyou Wilderness Area is simply perfect. There are places to camp nearby, such as Trout Camp, or you could stay a few days and check out Raspberry Lake at the base of Preston Peak. If you do camp at the lake, go light and use no-trace practices. Please don’t build a campfire.

Getting there: Take Highway 199 South from Grants Pass, Little Jones Creek Road for 10 miles and take FS 16N02 to the trailhead.

If you decide to check out one of these lakes, make sure you get the right maps, bring the right gear if you are backpacking or getting on the water, and take it leisurely.

Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.

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