Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge – 05/20/2023

For the second week in a row, we turned to a National Wildlife Refuge System as a hiking destination. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently manages 568 wildlife refuges throughout the United States with the primary statutory purpose being the conservation of native species. Where and when appropriate the refuges offer access to the public for activities such as photography, wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing, paddling, and of course hiking. We have really come to enjoy our visits the various refuges, so we were looking forward to exploring a new one to us, the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Situated just East of Washougal Washington along the Columbia River, Steigerwald Lake is part of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Complex. In addition to Steigerwald Lake the complex also includes the Franz Lake, Pierce, and Ridgefield refuges. Of those Ridgefield (post) is the only one we’d previously visited. We had hoped to visit this refuge a couple of years ago, but the refuge was undergoing an extensive restoration that kept it closed until May of last year. The refuge hosts roughly 5-miles of crushed gravel trails. Two of the trails, the Mountain View and the Refuge River, are open all year. A third trail, the Wildlife Art Trail, is partially closed October 1st through April 30th. The Refuge River Trail is open to pedestrians, bicycles, jogging, horseback riding, and leashed dogs which is rare for a refuge while the other trails are hiker (pedestrian) only. To use the Refuge River Trail joggers, cyclists, equestrians and leashed dogs enter the refuge from the West via the Captain William Clark Park Trail by either starting at Steamboat Landing or Captain William Clark Park.

Our plan was to start at the refuge trailhead and hike the trails then then take the Captain William Clark Park Trail to Steamboat Landing and back. We opted for this approach because online information showed 7am and 8am as the opening times for Captain William Clark Park and Steamboat Landing respectively while the refuge website reported that it’s gate opened at 5:30am and we’d be arriving shortly after six.
IMG_8000The Mountain View Trail is named so because of the view of Mt. Hood, which on this morning was hiding behind the clouds on the left side of the photo.

IMG_8001Map and information at the trailhead.

We followed the wide gravel trail as it climbed atop a levee separating the wetlands to the east from industrial lands to the West.

IMG_8011View to the East.

IMG_8009Looking West toward Washougal.

We followed the trail atop the levee watching on both sides for wildlife.


DSCN3626A duck and a goose sharing a log.

DSCN3611A mallard and an egret in a channel to the West.

DSCN3607Ducks flying over the wetlands casting clear reflections.

DSCN3620Water dripping from a mallards bill.


DSCN3631One of several rabbits we spotted to the West.

DSCN3635Deer across the wetlands. (The young buck may have been sticking his tongue out at us.)

DSCN3643Families of geese.

DSCN3648Wood duck mallard

When the trail split just prior to reaching the Refuge River Trail we stayed left.


IMG_8026Trail sign at the junction with the Refuge River Trail.

We turned left onto the Refuge River Trail following it for 0.3-miles to the Wildlife Art Trail where we again turned left.


DSCN3667Coming in for a landing.


IMG_8034Red Tail Lake to the right of the Wildlife Art Trail.

DSCN3678Pretty sure these are the same three we saw from the Mountain View Trail.

DSCN3685This deer laying along the shore of Red Tail Lake was new though.

DSCN3675Common yellow throat

DSCN3676One of many great blue herons that we watched fly overhead throughout the day.

IMG_8042The Wildlife Art Trail passing around Redtail Lake.

IMG_8045Gibbons Creek is in that grass somewhere with at least one deer.


DSCN3698Killdeer along Redtail Lake.

DSCN3700Turns out the deer laying on the lake shore wasn’t alone.


DSCN3705Purple martins

IMG_8046Just beyond the Cottonwood Bridge the trail forks. To the right is the seasonal section of the loop open May 1st through September 30th. The left-hand fork dead-ends in a tenth of a mile overlooking the wetlands.

IMG_8050We headed left to the overlook before continuing on the loop.

DSCN3713Egret at Scaup Pond.

DSCN3717Egret with a frog meal.



IMG_8054We got a kick out of the “Birds Only Beyond This Sign”.


I had been watching a kingfisher as we arrived at the overlook and after it flew off I turned to my right and thought that there was a bittern standing just a few yards away. Then my eyes adjusted and I realized it was one of the art pieces and I’d been fooled.
IMG_8055We’ve only seen two bitterns on our hikes and both times we only spotted them as they flew off from the grassy cover that they’d been hiding in so I was pretty disappointed when I realized I’d been duped, but kudos to the artist because it looked real at first glance to me.

We returned to the loop and passed through the seasonal gate.

The wetlands were pretty full of water to our left but between the trail and the water was a fair number of bushes and grass which was apparently popular with the deer.

DSCN3740You have something in your teeth.

DSCN3741Spotted towhee

DSCN3742At least two deer in the grass.

DSCN3747Another American goldfinch.

We left the seasonal section of trail near the junction with Refuge River Trail where we again turned left, promptly crossing a creek on Dragonfly Bridge.



DSCN3752Spotted sandpiper

We followed this trail to its end at the refuge boundary.
IMG_8071Oregon sunshine and yarrow

IMG_8072The Columbia River ahead.

IMG_8075Viewpoint along the Columbia River.

IMG_8078Approaching the Lampray Brdige.

IMG_8081Looking back from across the bridge there was a bald eagle in the dead snag along the river.


DSCN3762There were lots of geese along this section of trail.

IMG_8084Red clover in some Oregon sunshine

DSCN3763Another spotted sandpiper

DSCN3767Steigerwald Lake in the distance with a family of geese and crow on a log in the near channel.

IMG_8089End of the trail.

IMG_8090It was about 8:15am when we turned around and it was already feeling fairly warm, but there was relief on the way in the form of some clouds coming in from the Pacific.

DSCN3778Savannah sparrow

IMG_8091Here come the clouds.

DSCN3780Double the eagles.

DSCN3782For the second week in a row we got to watch an American Kestral on the hunt.

IMG_8093Arriving back at the Dragon Fly Bridge and the junction with the Wildlife Art Trail.

We had planned on following the Refuge River Trail all the way to the western end of the refuge but just 500′ beyond the trail junction we rounded a corner to find the trail flooded.

Since neither of us was interested in finding out how deep the water was we turned around and simply took the Wildlife Art Trail back.

DSCN3787Red tailed hawk

DSCN3798Geese nesting atop a snag.

DSCN3796More deer in the grass along Gibbons Creek.

DSCN3803Egret at Redtail Lake.

DSCN3811Great blue heron at Redtail Lake.

We followed the Refuge River Trail back past the junction with the Mountain View Trail and continued West.

DSCN3828Purple martins

DSCN3819When the light catches the feathers right it’s obvious where the purple martin’s name comes from.

DSCN3827Common yellowthroat

DSCN3833House finch

IMG_8106A mile from the Mountain View Trail we arrived at the refuge boundary with Captain William Clark Park.

IMG_8107The trail follows a dike to Steamboat Landing.

The main attraction at Captain William Clark Park is Cottonwood Beach where in 1806 Lewis & Clark established a camp while they secured provisions for the return trip through the Columbia River Gorge. The Provision Camp Trail leads down to the beach and picnic area.

IMG_8109The Provision Camp Trail

While there had been quite a few people on the Captain William Clark Park Trail there were just a few people in this area.


While the beach is extremely popular in the Summer and especially on weekends it became evident why we weren’t seeing folks today when we reached the “beach access”.

DSCN3835Northern flicker

Having the beach be underwater was fine with us, it meant fewer people, but the water level became an issue when the Provision Camp Trail turned back inland toward the dike to complete its loop.
IMG_8117Flooded trail ahead.

With the loop cut off we went back the way we’d come and returned to the dike where we turned left to continue on to Steamboat Landing.
DSCN3844Black headed grosbeak


IMG_8119Back on the dike.

At the other end of the Provision Camp Trail was an interpretive display with replica canoes.



IMG_8123The flooded section of trail from above.

It was another mile from the interpretive display to Steamboat Landing. The trail was pretty busy, and we were now in the city, but we were still managing to see a good deal of wildlife.


DSCN3864Another turtle


DSCN3870Common merganser

DSCN3891Great blue heron

IMG_8140Steamboat Landing

At Steamboat Landing we turned down to a viewpoint along a fishing dock.

After a brief break we headed back.
DSCN3898A family of geese out for a float.

While it had clouded up overhead the morning clouds that had blocked any view of Mt. Hood had given way. Unfortunately, there was enough haze in the air to essentially wash the mountain out.
IMG_8153The large “hump” ahead is Larch Mountain (post). Mt. Hood is a little further to Larch’s right.

IMG_8152Grainy proof of Mt. Hood’s existence.

IMG_8159Silver Star Mountain (post) to the North.

We turned left onto the Mountain View Trail and headed back to the trailhead feeling really good about the amount of wildlife we’d seen although I was still a bit bummed about being fooled by the bittern art. As we neared the end of the wetlands that changed as a pair of bitterns got into a dispute over territory. The victor landed along the water below the levee.

DSCN3915The American bittern in the grass.

I had the chance to take way too many pictures as the bittern posed for the people on the levee.


It was an exciting ending to a great wildlife hike. We made our way down to the now nearly full trailhead. Happy Trails!
IMG_8174We’d been the first car in the lot that morning.

Having to retrace our steps a couple of times due to flooded trails put our hike at 12.4 miles for the day with minimal elevation gain.

Full album (Flickr): Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge

Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, Cooper Mountain, and Graham Oaks – 05/13/2023

While Spring has largely been a no-show so far this year, Summer decided to make an early appearance with a weekend forecast for temperatures topping 90 degrees. We’ve been lucky to hit 60 so we’ve had no time to adjust to that kind of heat. In the past when temperatures have soared, we’ve opted to adjust our planned hike to minimize the impact. That wasn’t necessary this time though as our planned outing was to take three short hikes, each less than an hour North of Salem.

We started our morning by re-visiting the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. We’d stopped here in March of 2019 (post) but could only hike the River Trail at that time of the year. The longer Wetland Trail loop is closed from October 1st through April 30th so we’d scheduled this May visit to check out the loop. We started from the Roy Rogers Trailhead where we found a nice patch of wildflowers to greet us.
IMG_7765The refuge is open from dawn to dusk. We arrived at a quarter to six to get an early start and avoid being out during the hottest parts of the day.


IMG_7771The patch of wildflowers.

IMG_7773A checker-mallow surrounded by golden paintbrush.

DSCN3325Plectritis amid the golden paintbrush.

We decided to go counterclockwise and forked right across Chicken Creek on a bridge.
IMG_7776We had a pretty good view of Mt. Hood.

The Wetland Trail follows a service road around the refuge. We began seeing wildlife almost immediately with a family of geese and a pair of deer hanging out on some private property adjacent to the refuge.



It was approximately 1.5-miles from the Roy Rogers Trailhead to the Refuge Headquarters and Wildlife Center. It was slow going as we kept stopping to watch the wildlife.


DSCN3369Greater yellowlegs

DSCN3372Mourning dove

DSCN3375Great blue heron

DSCN3380An egret and some ducks

DSCN3394More families of geese

IMG_7789Swallows flying above the Wetland Trail.

Northern shoveler, Scaups, and a buffleheadNorthern shoveler, scaups (leaning toward greater), and a bufflehead.


DSCN3424Northern shoveler

Ruddy duckRuddy duck


DSCN3434Spotted sandpiper

DSCN3439Purple martins


DSCN3456Cinnamon teals

DSCN3446Nutria, one of several of these non-native rodents that we saw.

DSCN3415Nap time (or just a late sleeper).


DSCN3458Song sparrow

DSCN3468Common yellowthroat

IMG_7798Wildlife Center

We took in the view from the overlook next to the Wildlife Center before continuing on with the loop.

DSCN3476Great blue heron watching from a little island.


We followed the Wetland Trail until we came to the River Overlook where we cut over to the River Trail (the trails are less than a yard apart in this area) to check in on the Tualatin River.

DSCN3483Anna’s hummingbird

DSCN3484The same Anna’s hummingbird. When catching light their head/throat is bright pink but appear black when not.

IMG_7810River Overlook

IMG_7812Tualatin River


From the overlook we stuck to the River Trail following it through a short section of forest before rejoining the Wetland Trail.
IMG_7813The Wetland and River Trails running parallel.

DSCN3489Spotted towhee



IMG_7819Pacific waterleaf

IMG_7821Violets and fringecup along the River Trail.

IMG_7823Bleeding heart

IMG_7820We skipped the spur trail to the Ridgetop Overlook since we’d done that on our previous visit.

IMG_7828Chicken Creek

IMG_7829The River Trail meets the Wetland Trail across from the Weland Observation Platform.

We didn’t observe much from the platform on this visit. We continued on with our loop back on the Wetland Trail.

DSCN3506Great white egrets

IMG_7838There were some impressively tall trees along this portion of the loop.

The trail made a 90-degree turn just before another branch of Chicken Creek and headed in a near straight line back toward the Roy Rogers Trailhead.

DSCN3518Another egret

IMG_7842More egrets across Chicken Creek.

DSCN3527Red-winged blackbird

DSCN3530Savannah sparrow


DSCN3537A parsley

While our loop was only 3.6-miles it was packed full of sights, a great start to our morning. From the refuge we made the roughly 10-minute drive to our next stop at the Cooper Mountain Nature Park, yet another park managed by Oregon Metro. The park hosts a little over three miles of trails which start at a nice little playground.

20230513_081204Our planned route was to go right on the Little Prairie Loop to the Cooper Mountain Loop and then stay right on that loop (with a detour to hike the Larkspur Loop) to Blacktail Way. We’d then take Blacktail Way back to the Little Prairie Loop and turn right again to finish that loop and return to the trailhead.

IMG_7856The view from Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

The trail system heads downhill from the trailhead so keep in mind that all hikes here end with on an uphill.

IMG_7849Metro is currently running an odd little trial with very short “photo loops”. Mowed paths just off the main trails for photography. We took the first loop just to check it out and they were not kidding when they said the surface may be uneven.

IMG_7861One of two trial photo loops.

The idea is to limit the negative effects of off trail hiking. It’s an interesting idea but it would be easier if people could follow simple rules. We quickly found ourselves back on the Little Prairie Loop and forking right.

IMG_7864The second trial loop. You can see how short this one is by the signboard just downhill marking its other end.

IMG_7865There were several interpretive signs and benches along the trails.

DSCN3543White-crowned sparrow

DSCN3544Anna’s hummingbird

IMG_7874Star flower

IMG_7878As usual Metro had the trail junctions well marked with little maps on top of the posts. This is the Cooper Mountain Loop junction with the lower end of the Outback Trail.



20230513_083618Tough-leaved iris



IMG_7896Looking back uphill to some wildflowers.


DSCN3555Tomcat clover

DSCN3559Spotted towhee

IMG_7904Bench along a pond filling an old quarry.

IMG_7905The pond. Red-legged frogs apparently breed here. We didn’t see any frogs but there was a mallard hanging out in the brush.

IMG_7907Iris on the hillside above the quarry.

IMG_7911The Larkspur Loop continuing straight from the Cooper Mountain Loop which turns uphill at the junction.

An endangered species of larkspur, pale larkspur (Delphinium leucophaeum), typically blooms in the park in late Spring into June. With everything running late this year we didn’t spot any yet this year as we completed the 0.7-mile lollipop loop.
IMG_7914Prior to the loop the Larkspur Loop dips to cross a creek in the trees.

IMG_7915The little creek.

IMG_7918View from the Larkspur Loop.

IMG_7919While watching for the larkspur I noticed these giant blue-eyed Mary.

We returned to the Cooper Mountain Loop which made a steep climb to its junction with Blacktail Way.

IMG_7921Blacktail Way to the right.

IMG_7922Map at the junction.

Blacktail Way climbed more gradually on its way to the Little Prairie Loop.
IMG_7926The “earphone” next to the bench here was neat. There was also one at the trailhead and they really allowed you to isolate the sounds of the woods.

IMG_7927The Little Prairie Loop.

We turned right onto the loop and then quickly detoured to the Little Prairie Overlook.

IMG_7931The pale larkspur also grows in this area but again we were too early.

IMG_7933These were the only woodland-stars we spotted.

After checking out Little Prairie we finished the loop and returned to our car. This stop came to 3.1 miles with 300′ of elevation gain.

From Cooper Mountain we drove 18 miles south to our final stop of the day at Graham Oaks Nature Park. Another one of Metro’s parks Graham Oaks also hosts approximately three miles of trails. Unlike many of the other Metro parks we’ve visited recently this one allows bikes and dogs (on leash) albeit limited to the Tonquin Trail.


Our planned route here was another counterclockwise loop starting on the Tonquin Trail. We would follow that trail to the hiker only Oak Woodland Walk and then turn onto Coyote Way then take the Legacy Creek Trail returning to Coyote Way just before its end at the Tonquin Trail. Then we would simply follow the Tonquin Trail back to the trailhead.

Despite this being our third stop, the early start had gotten us here shortly after 10am, it was already over 70 degrees when we set off on the Tonquin Trail. Luckily for us there was an occasional breeze that helped cool things off a bit.
IMG_7941Heading toward Acron Plaza on the Tonquin Trail.

IMG_7944Interpretive sign at Acorn Plaza.

There were large amounts of large camas blooming along the trail along with yellow buttercups and some patches of lupine.
IMG_7948Lupine and buttercups


IMG_7953Meadow checker-mallow

We detoured to Elder Plaza at a trail marker.

IMG_7956The “elder” oak is between 150-200 years old.



DSCN3570We watched this American Kestral hover on a near vertical line for what felt like quite a while. It eventually dove and attempted to catch something in the grass. We couldn’t tell if it had been successful.

We continued down the Tonquin Trail and made a second detour to visit the Wetland Overlook.



IMG_7969Mylitta crescent

We made a third detour when we reached a 4-way junction with the Oak Woodland Walk and Arrowhead Creek Trails. We turned right onto the Arrowhead Creek Trail to see what the creek might look like since we could see a little footbridge from the junction.

IMG_7972Footbridge over Arrowhead Creek.

There wasn’t really any water flowing in the creek bed and we turned around after crossing and returned to the 4-way junction where we crossed the Tonquin Trail onto the Oak Woodland Walk.


IMG_7977The Lycaenidae family of butterflies remains a mystery to me. This appears to be an Eastern Tailed Blue based on the ventral spots.

IMG_7981Snow in the Cascade foothills. If you look really closely behind the bigger snow patch to the far-right, you can just barely make out Mt. Jefferson.

We turned onto Coyote Way and quickly spotted several species of birds.

DSCN3572Northern flicker

DSCN3580This scrub jay would not come out from behind the oak leaves.

Coyote Way eventually entered some trees and crossed a boardwalk.

IMG_7986There was a lot of candy flower beneath the trees.


We turned onto the Legacy Creek Trail and found ourselves under a much denser canopy of trees. This extra shade made this feel like the coolest section of trail we’d been on all day which was welcome because it was now over 80 degrees in the Sun.


IMG_7990Mushrooms along the Legacy Creek Trail.

IMG_7992Violets, candy flower and the invasive herb robert (pink).

We left the trees and quickly arrived back at Coyote Way where we took a right followed by another right on the Tonquin Trail after 200′.
IMG_7996Coming up to Coyote Way.

IMG_7999Back on the Tonquin Trail and heading for the trailhead.

This was our shortest stop of the day coming in at just 2.7 miles. For the day we logged 9.4 miles with approximately 400′ of cumulative elevation gain, primarily from our stop at Cooper Mountain. These were all enjoyable stops and each provided a different experience. Happy Trails!

Tualatin River Refuge
Cooper Mountain
Graham Oaks
Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Eight Dollar Mountain and Illinois River Beaches – 05/04/2023

For our fourth day of hikes in the Grants Pass area we had chosen a series of short hikes along the Illinois River which would allow us to check off two more featured hikes (post). Going in we knew that our hikes wouldn’t exactly match Sullivan’s description in the featured hikes because of a closure of the Swinging Bridge which is part of the Fall Creek Trail. Repairs need to be made to fix a hole in the bridge so it is currently under a closure order until 10/31/23 (may be lifted sooner). Several of the hikes we had planned were also in the path of the 2018 Klondike Fire so we weren’t sure what condition the trails might be in.

Our first stop at the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area was not in the fire scar.

From the parking area we crossed 8 Dollar Road and hiked 0.1-miles to a small, two parking spot, ADA Trailhead where a 0.2-mile boardwalk led to a Fen with California darlingtonia.


Halls' violetsWedgeleaf violets

20230504_070151Showy phlox

20230504_070159Oregon rockcress


Many of the flowers were just getting started but there were a few darlingtonia blooming in the fen. This was our second stop this year that involved the Cobra lilies, having visited the Darlingtonia Wayside near Florence in April (post).
IMG_7430Camas and buttercups

IMG_7433Shooting star

IMG_7441Western azalea


IMG_7448The fen at the end of the boardwalk.

IMG_7449A darlingtonia blossom.

The trailhead where we parked also acts as the trailhead for the Jeffrey Pine Loop Trail, so after returning from the boardwalk we started down this trail.

Our plan for this trail was to follow it NW for 1.2-miles to the Little Falls Trail Loop. The Jeffery Pine Trail drops to the Illinois River then follows the route of a former flume to the Little Falls Loop Trail. We were a little apprehensive knowing that we’d be hiking along the Illinois River once again. Our only previous hike along the river was a bit of a nightmare (post). We had stumbled into some sort of tick convention and spent nearly the entire hike brushing the little blood suckers off our clothing. Add in a good amount of poison oak crowding the trail and let’s just say this wasn’t one of our best experiences. That being said the Illinois River itself is beautiful, so we were willing to give it another chance. The scenery was nice and there were a number of wildflowers along the trail as we headed down toward the river.
IMG_7457We stayed right at this junction just below the trailhead. There is a 0.5-mile loop option which we planned on skipping.

IMG_7462Death camas

IMG_7465Mariposa lily

IMG_7466Yellow leaf iris

IMG_7469Coast flat stem onion

IMG_7471Heather picked up a tick passing through the grass on the hillside.

We turned right at a sign for the Little Falls Trail Loop.


Silky balsamrootSilky balsamroot

The trail crossed an old roadbed at the half mile mark which gave us a chance to get down to the river without having to dodge poison oak.

The trail jogged away from the river at the road, presumably to reach the old flume. We started up the hill but the trail condition got a little rougher here and poison oak began crowding the trail to the point where we became uncomfortable. We had already had it brushing against our pant legs, but it was now tall enough that our hands were at risk and in order to avoid it we would need to move off trail into the brush on the opposite side. Having already seen a tick we didn’t really want to go through any vegetation.
IMG_7489The trail as we started up the hillside.

We quickly devised a Plan B which was to follow the old roadbed up to 8 Dollar Road (Forest Road 4201) and walk that road to the Little Falls Trailhead where we could attempt the 0.9-mile Little Falls Loop.
IMG_7492Checker lily

IMG_7493Silky balsamroot and buttercups

IMG_7495Paintbrush and silky balsamroot with the Illinois River below.

IMG_7497Eight Dollar Mountain from the roadbed.

IMG_7498We saw a lot of these getting ready to bloom but none actually blooming. Really curious as to what they are.

The roadbed bent back toward the trailhead where we’d parked and we wound up just a tenth of a mile away from our car but instead of just walking back to it and driving to the Little Falls Trailhead we turned left and road walked the mile.

As road walks go this one was fine, and we passed another bunch of darlingtonia along the way.
IMG_7504Western azalea


IMG_7507A closer look at a darlingtonia blossom.


At the trailhead we walked through the small campground to the signed Little Falls Trail Loop.

At a 4-way junction we turned right briefly following the flume before turning downhill toward the river.

Serpentine arnicaSerpentine arnica


California gromwellCalifornia gromwell

IMG_7524Wedgeleaf violet

IMG_7527Spotted towhee


IMG_7532Paintbrush and violets


IMG_7538Narrowleaf blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7541Deltoid balsamroot

IMG_7542Illinois River

IMG_7547Field chickweed

IMG_7548Spreading phlox

We took use paths down to the rocks near Little Falls to explore along the river a bit.

IMG_7551Mallard drakes




After exploring the rocks we continued on the loop trail.
IMG_7573Pool above the falls.

IMG_7570Wildflowers above the trail.



IMG_7581Interesting colors on this iris.

Pine violetPine violets

The trail eventually veered uphill away from the river to complete the loop.

After completing the loop we returned to FR 4201 and walked back to our car at the Eight Dollar Mountain Trailhead and headed for our next stop, the Kerby Flat Trailhead.


The view from the trailhead was great and wound up being the best part of our attempted hike here.
IMG_7601Pearsoll Peak and Gold Basin Butte in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The trail begins at the railed viewpoint and heads downhill.


IMG_7610The Illinois River below.



At first the trail followed what may have been a fire road and was nice and wide but as it began to follow a ridge downhill it quickly became crowded by poison oak.

We managed to find a way around the first bad section but then we were stymied. With no desire to come in contact with poison oak we turned back after just a third of a mile and headed back to the car.
IMG_7623This section was great.


This stop was supposed to have been a 4.3-mile lollipop loop visiting both Kerby and Star Flats, but it wound up being a 0.6-mile out-and-back. The good news was we had three other stops that were part of Sullivan’s featured Illinois River Beaches hike. The second stop was for Snailback Beach, just a 1.1-mile drive from the Kerby Flat Trailhead. We parked in a small pullout on the left side of the road at a small signboard.

Here a half mile trail follows an old roadbed down to Snailback Beach. This hike started encouragingly as the wide roadbed helped keep the poison oak to the sides.

IMG_7630Female black-headed grosbeak


IMG_7634Paintbrush next to some yet-to-bloom lupine.

IMG_7635The Illinois River below.

Our optimism about reaching the beach here took a hit when we arrived at Snailback Creek. The creek was flowing pretty good and would have required fording in calf deep water to continue. Normally that wouldn’t stop us, but it also looked like the trail on the far side was in need of maintenance which made us question if we would be able to reach the beach even if we did ford the creek. At the time the chance of reaching the beach wasn’t worth the assuredly wet feet that would result from the ford, so we once again turned back after just a third of a mile.

IMG_7639Snailback Creek

We hiked back up to the car and drove another 1.6-miles west on Illinois River Road to the signed Horn Bend Trailhead.
IMG_7643The “trail” is immediately to the left of the sign here. You can make out some of it further back through the bushes.

This trail supposedly follows the road for 0.4-miles before turning downhill on a cat road that leads to the beach. The 2018 fire (this area also burned in 2002) damage was most evident on what was left of this trail. Heather decided not to even bother opting to wait at the car while I attempted to make the 0.7-mile hike down to the river.
IMG_7644After crashing through the initial brush the trail cleared for a moment.

IMG_7645The clear trail didn’t last long.

IMG_7648Fawn lilies

IMG_7650The road sign in the distance was easier to see than the trail here.

Poison oak and downed trees forced me off the tread and after just 0.2-miles I’d lost any sign of it.

I’d also picked up one tick as I wandered through the brush so enough was enough and I found a break in the poison oak where I could hop onto the road and followed the shoulder back to Heather and the car.

We had one stop left from the featured hike description, the Swinging Bridge which we knew was closed. While the bridge was closed Forest Road 087 was not and it led down to the river past the bridge so we had decided to road walk down and at least see the bridge. From the Horn Bend Trailhead we drove another 4.2-miles and parked at a pullout at Road 087.

We hiked down the gravel road a half mile, passing the Fall Creek Trailhead along the way, to the bridge.

IMG_7658Dogwood blossoms

IMG_7660The Fall Creek Trailhead to the left.

IMG_7661The car bridge across the Illinois River to McCaleb Ranch. Technically we could have continued down to that bridge and crossed on it then turned left onto the Fall Creek Trail for a half mile to Illinois River Falls, but the closure order posted at the Fall Creek Trailhead was unclear. It stated that it was illegal to be “on a trail” not just on the suspension bridge itself. The Forest Service webpage seems to indicate that it is only the bridge that is closed until repaired. Either way we were just happy to see the bridge as that was the turnaround in Sullivan’s description.


IMG_7666Assuming these are some of the needed repairs.


We climbed back up to our car and started back toward Highway 199. At some point earlier between trailheads I had come up with an idea to try an alternate way to reach Star and Kerby Flats. Sullivan’s map showed a roadbed off of Illinois River Road 0.7-miles east of the Kerby Flat Trailhead that led past Star Flat to a ford of Deer Creek. I remembered seeing the road on the way to the Kerby Flat Trailhead so we decided to try parking on the shoulder and seeing if the road was a better option. When we arrived there was another vehicle parked there which gave us some hope.
IMG_7673The start of the road which the map lists as Forest Road 011.

As we started down this dirt road we passed the group from the other vehicle on their way back. They were locals who apparently hike this road regularly. They had been to the ford and said that the flowers were good and they also mentioned that there was a car in Deer Creek at the ford. They said it hadn’t been there the week before but that there had been a different car there in the past that had finally washed away. Now a new one had taken its place. We thanked them for the information and continued downhill.


IMG_7679Oregon rockcress and buttercups


IMG_7683Balsamroot and Oregon rockcress

IMG_7684Alpine? pennycress. There was a lot of this along the road, the first we’d seen of it this trip.

IMG_7689Star Flat. It was obvious from the tire marks which extended into the vegetation in places that yahoos like to come here and tear things up (sigh).


IMG_7693There was a fence around the bog at Star Flat which hosts more California darlingtonia.




IMG_7710Deer Creek

IMG_7714Showy phlox and paintbrush

Just over a mile on the road we passed the rocky trail that we would have taken back up to the Kerby Flat Trailhead had we made it down from there.

IMG_7719Checker lily

Just before the ford we passed an old car with kids toys on it. Not pictured is the tower of Coors Light cans that was just off to the left.

Just as advertised there was indeed a car abandoned in the ford.

We assume it was a stolen vehicle (or someone was really drunk/high). From the amount of garbage and fire pits in the area it was clear that people drive down here to party and do stupid stuff. Truly unfortunate because the beach at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Illinois River could have been really nice but the general feeling all the trash gave off made it uncomfortable.


We continued past the beach following the trail toward Kerby Flat.

IMG_7725Hairy pink


IMG_7737Plectritis along the trail.

IMG_7740Illinois River

After 0.2-miles the trail ahead appeared to begin to get overgrown and we’d had enough of that for the day so we declared victory and turned around.

We returned the way we’d come half expecting to encounter some ne’er-do-wells heading down to party. Thankfully that didn’t happen although we did come across a suspicious group of butterflies.

IMG_7759Star flower

IMG_7762Shooting stars along the creek leading to the bog in Star Flat.

IMG_7763Fawn lily

It started to sprinkle as we neared the car which was the opposite of how the weather had been all week. Monday through Wednesday it had been cloudy in the morning and cleared up in the afternoon but today the clouds moved in later.

We were back to the car a little before 2pm but it had felt like a much longer day. We’d managed to get 10.2-miles of hiking and road walking in over the course of our six stops. The cumulative elevation gain was just over 1300′ so it was a pretty solid day of hiking even though none of the stops went as originally planned. Sometimes you just have to get creative, and we seem to be getting more and more practice at that.

Eight Dollar Mountain and Little Falls
Our stops along Illinois River Road

Back in Grants Pass we picked up dinner from the Tacos Don Goyo food truck on K Street (excellent food) and started packing up for our drive home the next day. We decided not to try and replace the Rogue River hike that we didn’t do on Wednesday (post) opting instead to get home to Merry and Pippin. This was the first time we’d been away from them since adopting the kittens in October and we missed the little guys. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Eight Dollar Mountain and Illinois River Beaches

Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Dollar Mountain, Limpy Creek, and Waters Creek – 05/03/2023

When I’d first planned our vacation to Grants Pass the plan had included seven of Sullivan’s featured hikes, six of which we needed to check off our to-do list, and one to tie up loose ends (post). One of those planned hikes had been Babyfoot Lake but with a trailhead elevation of 4340′ that hike had been postponed due to this years above average snowpack. Before leaving I had checked all our hikes including using a couple of snow-depth maps. At the time they showed 10-20 inches of snow at Babyfoot Lake but nothing for any of our other planned hikes including along the driving route to Marial which was our planned destination for day three. I had been concerned because the BLM roads to the Lower Rogue River-Mule Creek Trailhead spends a fair amount of time between 3400 and 3800′ in elevation before dropping to the trailhead at an elevation under 500′. There was no snow showing up online and neither the BLM nor Forest Service websites mentioned impassable roads. Sullivan lists this hike as open April to December but that is “normal” and this year’s snowpack is not that.

We started Wednesday morning by attempting the roughly 70-mile, nearly 2:30 hour drive. We managed to get within 17 miles of the trailhead before encountering large snow drifts still covering the roads, primarily on the North facing slopes. With no way to reach the trailhead (we couldn’t have even hiked the trail from Grave Creek due to a washout at trail mile 21) we pivoted to plan B. Plan B was to do some or all of the hikes that we’d planned for Friday before driving home. So after a little over 4 hours of driving we wound up at the Dollar Mountain Trailhead less than 2 miles from where we’d started at our cabin.

This was an odd little hike as the trail had no signage apart from the trailhead sign and it basically went straight uphill. There were some narrower trails off what appeared to be the main trail which may have been gentler switchbacks, but they just as easily could have been use trails leading to the surrounding neighborhoods or to nowhere in particular. We opted to go straight up on the wider rutted path.
IMG_7141Larkspur along the trail.

IMG_7143A pollinator in a Tolmie’s mariposa lily.

IMG_7152Shooting star

IMG_7156Grants Pass below Dollar Mountain.


IMG_7164Hooker’s Indian pink

IMG_7168Silver crown

IMG_7171Naked broomrape


IMG_7176Too cloudy for a good view.


IMG_7183Scarlet fritillary

Sullivan had it as 1.2 miles from the trailhead to the summit but going straight up got us to the cell towers on top in exactly 1 mile (regardless of the route the climb is over 750′ of elevation gain).

IMG_7187View from the summit.

The view from the summit isn’t as good as those just below. From the summit we had the choice of heading back the way we’d come or following a rough roadbed down and around to Crescent Street 0.2 miles NW of the trailhead. We opted for the loop option and headed down the road.
IMG_7191We stuck to the road ignoring any side paths like this one since we had no idea where they might lead.

IMG_7197There were dozens of California groundcones along the roadbed.

IMG_7201California groundcones

IMG_7203Approaching Crescent Street.

It was a mile and a half from the summit to Crescent Street which we followed back to the car. From there we made the 16-mile drive to the Limpy Botanical Interpretive Loop Trailhead

Here we planned to do a mile long loop. We started clockwise from the trailhead signboard following Sullivan’s directions to stay left at all junctions.


Dwarf ceanothusDwarf ceanothus



IMG_7229Camas and shooting stars

IMG_7232Siskiyou fritillary


We got into a little trouble when we came to what we thought was another trail junction with a path leading to the right to a bench.

Since the directions we were following said to stay left at all junctions we stayed left following an increasingly rocky path uphill. We wound up just below a roadbed when the “trail” completely petered out. We headed back down to the trail with the bench and tried that one which turned out to be the correct route. This path led us across a pair of boardwalks then to a scenic little waterfall.
IMG_7240Passing the bench.


IMG_7250Fairy slippers

IMG_7252Boardwalk #1

IMG_7256Second boardwalk


IMG_7267Waterfall on Limpy Creek.

Beyond the falls the trail crossed Limpy Creek then began to descend to another nice little creek.

IMG_7279Limpy Creek

IMG_7285Arriving at the second creek.

IMG_7286Unnamed creek


The path turned along the unnamed creek and recrossed Limpy Creek before arriving back at the trailhead.
IMG_7304Final crossing of Limpy Creek.

With our wrong turn we managed to turn the 1-mile loop into a 1.3-mile hike and nearly doubled the 120′ of elevation gain that it should have been. From Limpy Creek we headed for our final stop of the day at the nearby Waters Creek Interpretive Trailhead. (The trailheads are just over 2.5 miles apart as the crow flies but the drive between them is close to 15 miles.)

This was another interpretive trail offering two loops, a 1-mile barrier free option or a nearly 3-mile longer, hiker only, loop. Both loops begin by following Waters Creek for a tenth of a mile then crossing it and passing by a grassy meadow.


IMG_7315Waters Creek

IMG_7319A phacelia


At the end of the meadow when the trail enters the forest it splits. We stayed left at all junctions again on this loop.
IMG_7327The start/end of the loops with the bridge being our return route.

IMG_7330Staying left.

IMG_7332This was the barrier free loop splitting off and heading back across an unnamed creek.

IMG_7334Sign announcing the hiker only extended loop.


IMG_7341The first vanilla leaf we’ve seen blooming this year.

20230503_134825There were a bunch of fawn lilies blooming along this trail.

IMG_7352One of several little footbridges across side streams.


IMG_7360Bench where the trail turned to head back on the opposite side of the unnamed creek.

IMG_7361The view from the bench.

The trail climbed above the creek on the way back before descending via switchback to rejoin the barrier free loop.

IMG_7369The barrier free trail below in the trees.

IMG_7372Back on the barrier free trail.

IMG_7375Biscuitroot and larkspur

IMG_7379Giant white wakerobin

IMG_7387The Sun was starting to shine a bit as we passed back by the meadow which brought out some butterflies and lots of lizards.




Our three hikes of the day added up to 7 miles and 1480′ of elevation gain. (2.8mi & 830′, 1.3mi & 250′, and 2.96mi & 400′ respectively.)

Dollar Mountain Track
Limpy and Waters Tracks

Despite the rocky start it had turned out to be a pleasant enough day and we were still back to our cabin around 3pm which gave us time to clean up and head to the Bohemian Bar & Bistro for an excellent dinner. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dollar Mountain, Limpy Botanical Loop, and Waters Creek

Grants Pass Area Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Cathedral Hills and Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel – 05/02/2023

The second day of our Grants Pass vacation had the highest chance of rain showers with a forecast of 40% chance. We had a pair of hikes planned for the day. The first was a tour of the Cathedral Hills trails system just South of Grants Pass.

We made the roughly 10-minute drive from our cabin in Grants Pass to the Espey Trailhead arriving just before 7am.

We had seen one of the two wildflower species that were on our bucket list for this trip the day before. Red larkspur and been blooming in good numbers along the Rogue River Trail (post) and today we were hoping to check of the other, Indian Warrior.
IMG_6763The area is home to a good number of wildflowers that bloom throughout Spring and Summer.

Sullivan’s featured hike here is one of four short hikes that make up hike #83 – Grants Pass Nature Trails (“100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Norther California” edition 4.2). He describes the 3.4-mile Outback Loop. We were hoping to add more of the trails to our hike and decided on modifying the featured hike by adding on the Skycrest Loop and Ponderosa Pine Trail.

As was the case on our hike the day before we spotted our bucket list flower at the trailhead.
IMG_6764There are a couple of the red Indian warrior behind and to the right of the trail marker.

IMG_6776Indian warrior lousewort

We started the Outback Loop in a counter-clockwise direction climbing 1.1-miles to a junction at a saddle. The Indian warrior was blooming in mass along with many other wildflowers.
IMG_6773Scarlet fritillary along with poison oak. There was a lot of poison oak in the area but the trails were wide enough to keep users away from it.

20230502_072354A blue-eyed Mary

20230502_072112Shooting star

IMG_6781Indian warrior



IMG_6800Cryptantha, shooting stars, and plectritis



IMG_6818Pacific houndstongue

IMG_6828A picnic table at the junction with the Hogback Trail.

IMG_6829Most of the junctions had markers.


IMG_6835Giant white wakerobin

IMG_6840Blue dicks behind more poison oak.


IMG_6847Tolmie’s mariposa lily

At the saddle we turned right onto the Timber Riders Trail then veered right after approximately a tenth of a mile following pointers for the Skycrest Loop.


IMG_6853Henderson’s fawn lily

IMG_6855Pointer for the Skycrest Loop.

We hiked the Skycrest Loop counterclockwise. There were a few different flowers along the loop.
IMG_6857The start of the loop.


20230502_075637Skullcap (possibly Danny’s)

IMG_6867Hooker’s Indian pink

IMG_6875A cloudy view from the Skycrest Loop.


IMG_6881Indian warrior beneath white-leaf manzanita.

IMG_6884Last of the gold stars.

IMG_6888A few yellow Indian warriors.

20230502_082830California groundcone

When we got back to the saddle and junction with the Outback Loop we got confused and wound up sticking to the Timber Riders Trail which was the furthest to the right.
IMG_6900Even though it didn’t look familiar we both thought we’d come from the trail to the left earlier when in fact that was the continuation of the Outback Loop.

We followed the Timber Riders Trail for 0.9-miles thinking we were on the Outback Loop then we came to a junction with said loop and realized our mistake (after looking at the map). It had started raining at some point along this stretch and as a bonus a thunderstorm was heading our way.

IMG_6904Rain clouds in the sky.


IMG_6911Trail marker along the Outback Loop.

We turned right back onto the Outback Loop and picked up our pace a bit. We did decide to stick with the plan of detouring onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail in hopes of seeing a 117′ tall knobcone pine that is registered as the largest in the U.S. We turned right onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail but a combination of heavy rain, increasingly close lightning, and no signage for the tree caused us to miss it entirely.
IMG_6914Turning onto the Ponderosa Pine Trail


IMG_6921Ponderosa Pine Trail

IMG_6922Back onto the Outback Loop.

Once we’d turned right onto the Outback Loop it was just over three quarters of a mile back to the Espey Trailhead. We were pretty well drenched by this point (we hadn’t put our rain gear on, just our pack covers) and hustled our way back to the car.
IMG_6925Quite a bit more water on the trail as we finished up.

In the end our hike here came to 5.4 miles with about 450′ of cumulative elevation gain.

We decided to retreat back to our cabin and wait out the weather. We put our wet clothes in the dryer and relaxed for a bit until things began to clear up. A little after 11:30 that happened, and we headed back out with dry clothing and shoes. For our second hike of the day we were tying up a bit of a loose end on a featured hike that we’d already checked off as done, the Sterling Ditch Tunnel. In June 2017 we had done an 11.8-mile loop starting from the Deming Gulch Trailhead. (post) We had counted that toward the featured hike, but it was actually part of the “Other Options” for the entry. In most cases the other options include part of the main hike and so we count those but, in this case, none of that previous loop was part of the 4.8-mile loop that is featured.

The featured loop Sullivan describes begins at the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead, passes by the Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel, and ends with a 0.6-mile road walk between the Bear Gulch and Tunnel Ridge Trailheads. When road walks are involved, Sullivan tends to end the hike with them, but we prefer to start with the less exciting road walk so we opted to start at the Bear Gulch Trailhead instead. (There is less parking available at Bear Gulch so on busier days parking here might not be an option.)

The road walk was pleasant as road walks go and we soon found ourselves at the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead.
IMG_6928View from the Bear Gulch Trailhead of Little Applegate Road.


IMG_6933The Little Applegate River


The trail climbed gradually for a mile gaining a little over 500′ to a junction on a saddle.

IMG_6976Scarlet fritillary

IMG_6982Houdnstongue and a pacific waterleaf (white flower under a big leaf to the left of the houndstongue).


IMG_6997A snowy Wagner Butte (post).

Wagner ButteBased on the trees it looked like the thunderstorm provided some fresh snow at higher elevations.

IMG_7007Couldn’t really get a good picture but this might be a bushtit.

IMG_7009There were a couple of nice benches along the trails here.

IMG_7011Some of the view from the bench.





IMG_7021There is a hummingbird in the center on a branch.

IMG_7024At the saddle a faint trail continued straight ahead toward the Little Applegate Trailhead. It didn’t appear to get much use.

IMG_7025Trail sign at the junction.

We followed the pointer for Bear Gulch and quickly found ourselves at the tunnel. Built in 1877 the tunnel is part of a 26-mile long ditch used to divert water from the Little Applegate River to the Sterling Gold Mine.


20230502_133619I had to get a closer look.

IMG_7031I didn’t go all the way through so as not to disturb this napping bat.

From the tunnel the trail follows the ditch and sometimes uses it as it traverses the hillside toward Bear Gulch.

IMG_7035Fiddleneck along the trail.

IMG_7038Another bench

IMG_7043Emerging from the ditch.

IMG_7045Scarlet fritillaries lining the trail.




IMG_7072Tolmie’s mariposa lily

IMG_7074An impressively large madrone.

20230502_141427Henderson’s fawn lilies

IMG_7094More fresh snow on a ridge.

IMG_7099An upside-down warbler (upper right of the tree).

IMG_7102Shooting stars

We turned left at a sign for the Bear Gulch Trailhead and followed this path a mile downhill back to our car. This trail seemed a bit steeper than the one leading up from the Tunnel Ridge Trailhead so whichever you start at it seems best to do the loop counterclockwise.

IMG_7107Woolly-pod milkvetch

IMG_7108A fritillary, just not sure which one.

IMG_7117It was nice to start seeing some butterflies out and about.

IMG_7120Another butterfly. It blends pretty well with the leaves.


IMG_7124White-breasted nuthatch

IMG_7126There was a decent amount of water running through parts of Bear Gulch as we neared the trailhead.

This loop came in just under five miles with 550′ of cumulative elevation gain giving us a total of 10.3 miles and 1000′ for the day.

After the morning drenching and surprise thunderstorm the day turned out really nice with partly sunny skies and some of the warmest temperatures that we’d have all week. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cathedral Hills and Sterling Ditch Tunnel

Grants Pass Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek – 05/01/2023

For our first week of vacation this year we planned a trip to Grants Pass to continue working toward our goal of finishing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” edition 4.2. (post)

On the way down to Grants Pass we kicked off our week of hikes with a portion of the Rogue River Trail starting at the Grave Creek Boat Ramp.

Sullivan includes three hike options for his Rogue River East featured hike: a 4.2-mile out-and-back to Rainie Falls on the southern side of the Rogue, a 7-mile out-and-back to the Whiskey Creek Cabin on the Rogue River Trail, and a 23.2-mile one way option on the Rogue River Trail to Marial. The Rainie Falls hike was out due to the trail being damaged in the 2022 Rum Creek fire and the longer option wasn’t viable either for various reasons including a slide that currently has the trail closed roughly a mile upstream from Marial. That left the Whiskey Creek Cabin as our goal with an option to extend the hike if we felt like it.

Going into the trip there were two types of wildflowers that we hadn’t yet seen in bloom that we were hoping to find. One was red larkspur which I’d learned grew along the Rogue River Trail. As it turned out this was an easy one. When we climbed from the boat ramp to a set of signboards along the trail we immediately spotted some of the red larkspur blooming below the signs.

IMG_6427Red larkspur with blue dicks in the background.

Wildflowers are running a few weeks behind this year but they were putting on a good display as we set off on the trail.


IMG_6438Red larkspur, madia, blue dicks, and tomcat clover along the trail.

IMG_6441Blue dicks

IMG_6447Tolmie’s mariposa lily and some madia.

IMG_6450Larkspur and a red larkspur




IMG_6471Serpentine phacelia

IMG_6476Naked broomrape

20230501_084500Camas with monkeyflower and plectritis



20230501_084659A darker red larkspur

IMG_6514Some of the damage to the trail to Rainie Falls on the opposite side of the river.


IMG_6519Common whipplea

IMG_6521Silver crown

IMG_6530The wet rock here was sneaky slick.

20230501_090822We spotted a couple of pink larkspur.

IMG_6542Common mergansers

20230501_090733Common cryptantha



Del Norte irisDel Norte iris

IMG_6571Coastal manroot

IMG_6576Canada geese

All of that was over the first mile plus. At the 1.2-mile mark we came to a sign marking the high water mark from a 1964 flood and just beyond were the remnants of the former Sanderson Bridge which was destroyed in a 1927 flood.

IMG_6578Looking back upriver from the high water sign.

IMG_6581Sanderson Bridge site

We continued on continuing to watch for additional wildlife and types of flowers.
IMG_6588Golden-crowned sparrow

IMG_6592Scarlet fritillary

Just over half a mile from the bridge site we came to a fork and a pointer for Rainie Falls. While we were aware that there was little to no view of the falls down this path we followed it down a tenth of a mile to the river.

IMG_6608White campion

IMG_6609The only water we could make out on the far side of the river.

While there was no view of Rainie Falls we did spot a few colorful birds along the bank.
IMG_6619Bullock’s oriole

DSCN3272Yellow warbler

Yellow warblerYellow warbler

IMG_6620Sandy beach along the Rogue River.

After watching the birds for a bit we hiked back up to the Rogue River Trail and continued on reaching China Gulch in another half mile.
IMG_6626Shooting star


IMG_6632California groundcone

IMG_6640Small-flowered woodland-star

IMG_6641Approaching China Gulch


From China Gulch it was approximately 1.2-miles to Whiskey Creek and the side trail to the cabin.




IMG_6656This manzanita was particularly striking in person.

Hairy pinkHairy pink


IMG_6678Rafts at Whiskey Camp.

IMG_6681Whiskey Creek

IMG_6683Footbridge over Whiskey Creek


IMG_6687Sign at the spur trail to the cabin.

We turned up the spur trail and followed it uphill for 500′ to the cabin.






The initial cabin was built sometime around 1880 and improved/expanded over time to include a solar heated shower and insulated pantry. The cabin was lived in until the Bureau of Land Management purchased the deed in 1973.

After exploring the cabin and surrounding structures we decided to continue on the Rogue River Trail a bit further. We were trying to avoid getting to our accommodations in Grants Pass before check-in at 3pm so we decided to continue for another 15 to 20 minutes before heading back. We wound up hiking an additional 0.4-miles to Big Slide Camp.

IMG_6706Del Norte irises

IMG_6710Big Slide Camp to the left.

IMG_6711Outhouse at Big Slide Camp.

DSCN3306Common mergansers

DSCN3308Snow on a ridge above the Rogue River Valley. (This was a sign of issues for us later in the week.)

We lingered a bit at the camp before heading back. As always, we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed on our first pass.
IMG_6717Redwood sorrel along Whiskey Creek.



IMG_6737Passing the high water mark.

IMG_6761Arriving back at the trailhead.

Our hike here ended up being 8.7-miles with 450′ of cumulative elevation gain.

Aside from the rafters at Whiskey Creek Camp the only other people we saw were a pair of backpackers on their way out and a group of 15 on their way in. While we didn’t see any rattlesnakes (it was nice and cool out) we did pick up a couple of ticks along the way which we brushed off when spotted. Poison oak was present but easily avoidable.

We arrived at the Riverside Cabins in Grants Pass a little after 3pm. The six rentals were recently constructed and ours wound up being an excellent base of operations for the rest of the week.



It was a good start to our vacation, and we were looking forward to more great hikes in the days to come. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rogue River East

Hiking Oregon Portland Willamette Valley

Canemah Bluff and Newell Creek Canyon – 04/29/2023

A brief streak of 80+ degree temperatures arrived for the final weekend of April, and we celebrated with a pair of short hikes in Oregon City. We had our sights on two small parks managed by Metro, a regional council covering Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties which includes two dozen cities. The largest of which is Portland.

Our first stop of the day wasn’t at either of the parks though, it was at the Willamette Falls Scenic Viewpoint along McLoughlin Boulevard. The viewpoint was on our way to Canemah Bluff and neither of us had ever actually seen this waterfall in person.




After reading up on some Oregon history we drove on to Canemah Children’s Park which doubles as the trailhead.


We reviewed the map and decided on the following route: From the children’s park we would take the Camas Springs Trail to Cemetery Road and turn right to the Spur Trail. We’d then take the Spur Trail to the Licorice Fern Trail and then turn right on the Old Slide Trail. The Old Slide Trail would bring us back to the Licorice Fern Trail which we would follow to the park boundary before turning around and hiking back to Cemetery Road via the Licorice Fern Trail. Then turning right on the road, we would follow it to the Frog Pond trail where a left would bring us back to the Childrens Park. This whole route was just barely over 2 miles with a little under 190′ of elevation gain.

The delayed Spring was showing here as the wildflower show was just getting underway.
IMG_6211Most of the camas was still working on blooming but a few were open.



DSCN3180Dark eyed junco

DSCN3182Possibly a female yellow-rumped warbler.



IMG_6225Willamette River


IMG_6231Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_6236Camas catching a little sunlight.


This first part of the hike reminded us very much of another nearby hike we’d taken at Camassia Natural Area (post) which is located on the opposite side of the Willamette from Canemah Bluff.

The Camas Springs Trail eventually entered the trees before arriving at the Cemetery Road.

IMG_6241Red flowering currant


IMG_6245Metro’s signage has been top notch in the parks we’ve visited so far.

We followed the Cemetery Road to its end at the privately owned Canemah Pioneer Cemetery where we turned onto the Spur Trail.
IMG_6247Hooker’s fairy bells



IMG_6261Fawn lilies

IMG_6265The cemetery behind the fence.

IMG_6266The Spur Trail.

It was a trillium show along the Spur Trail.




At the junction with the Licorice Fern Trail we spotted a couple of largeleaf sandworts in bloom.

After just 100′ on the Licorice Fern Trail we turned onto the Old Slide Trail which climbed 150′ along a hillside before descending to rejoin the Licorice Fern Trail which we followed to the park boundary near a neighborhod.




IMG_6296The boundary marker. The trail continues a short distance to 5th Place.

We dropped a bit and now had to regain that elevation as we headed back along the Licorice Fern Trail.


We spotted a few more flowers at varying stages of blooming as we made our way back to Cemetery Road.



IMG_6322Back on the road.

We turned onto the Frog Pond Trail which was only about 100 yards long. The trees around the pond were full of little birds that we watched flit about for quite a while before continuing to our car.

IMG_6328The frog pond.

Bewick's wrenBewick’s wren

Nashville warblerNashville warbler?

DSCN3225House finches

DSCN3230Spotted towhee

DSCN3224Bleeding heart near the pond.

IMG_6333Arriving back at the trailhead.

From Canemah Bluff it was only a 2.6-mile drive to Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park. The park opened in December 2021, so it is a relatively new addition to the parks Metro manages. There were just a couple of other cars in the good-sized parking area when we arrived just after 8am.
IMG_6337View from the trailhead.

IMG_6334Trailhead signboard.

There are three types of trails at Newell Creek Canyon: Shared use (bicycle & hiker), hiker only, and bicycle only. Our plan here was to start with the shared use trails and finish with the hiker only Canyon Spring Loop. This way we would finish the shared use trails nice and early in hopes of avoid too much traffic. We made our way around the outside of the grassy picnic area to the start of the trails at a gate.
IMG_6339Please note that pets are not allowed at most Metro parks.

IMG_6341Don’t forget to brush off your shoes when brushes are available.

With the word canyon in the name, it’s not surprising that the Tumble Falls Trail begins by descending into Newell Creek Canyon.

We passed the biker only Shady Lane Trail on our right and further along a second biker only connector to the Shady Lane Trail.
IMG_6342The Shady Lane Trail.

IMG_6346Oregon grape, red flowering currant and Indian plum

IMG_6347One of several benches located throughout the park.

IMG_6349The connector trail.

IMG_6351Candy flower

IMG_6353Trillium with a tiny insect.

IMG_6355Carpet of green.

IMG_6356A rare bluebird day for us this year.

Near the 0.4-mile mark we passed the Canyon Springs Loop which forked off to the left.

We continued on the Tumble Falls Trail which was now somewhat level.

IMG_6362Salmonberry blossoms

IMG_6365Fringecup and pacific waterleaf that had yet to start blooming.

The Shady Lane Trail joined from the right just before reaching the Tumble Falls Bridge.

IMG_6369The Tumble Falls Bridge.

IMG_6371Tumble Falls

On the far side of the bridge the trail became the shared use Cedar Grove Trail from which the biker only Red Soil Roller Trail quickly split off.

IMG_6374The Red Soil Roller Trail to the right.

We followed the aptly named Cedar Grove Trail downhill to its end at a bench overlooking Newell Creek Canyon. While we couldn’t see the creek itself the sound of flowing water let us know that it was down there.
IMG_6376A small pond along the trail.

Song sparrowSong sparrow

IMG_6379Western red cedars

IMG_6381Nearing the end of the trail.

IMG_6383Map at the end of the Cedar Grove Trail.

IMG_6384Newell Creek is down there somewhere.

We headed back the way we’d come. It was warming up nicely and we spotted our first butterflies of the year as we climbed back toward Tumble Falls.

IMG_6387Male margined white?

IMG_6390Female margined white?

When we reached the Canyon Spring Loop we turned onto it and followed it for 500′ to a junction on the ridge where the actual loop began. We chose to go right and followed the ridge east.
IMG_6401Slender toothwort

IMG_6402The Canyon Spring Trail below in the trees.

The trail lost approximately 100′ before completing a 180 degree turn and leveling out as we headed back West.
DSCN3243Spotted towhee


IMG_6407Heading back beneath the ridge.

Shortly after starting back beneath the ridge, and not long after the subject of owls had come up, we spotted a great horned owl sitting in the undergrowth just off the trail near a tree.


We stopped a ways back to see if it would fly off but aside from some slight head movement and slight eye opening it didn’t move. We made note of where it was and slowly passed giving it as much space as possible. Our plan was to report it when we got back to the car in case it was injured or sick. We finished up the loop and had started up the Tumble Falls Trail when we passed two Metro parks staff. We let them know about the owl, showed them a photo, and pointed out on the map where we’d seen it and they were going to check on it and report it to the appropriate entity if necessary. We hope the owl turned out to be okay. As much fun as it is to see the wild animals it is sad when we come across an injured one.

DSCN3256Trillium and mushrooms



DSCN3267Stellar’s jay

IMG_6416Back at the Tumble Falls Trail.

We felt better knowing that we’d let someone know about the owl and made our way back to the picnic area which we passed through to return to the car.

Our hike here came in at just under 3.5 miles with 570′ of elevation gain giving us approximately 5.5 miles and 760′ of elevation gain on the day. Both parks were nice and really well maintained, kudos again to Metro for the job they do with the public spaces. One thing that became clear as the morning heated up was that we are not at all prepared for warm weather hiking. It’s been so cool (cold) and overcast for so long our bodies aren’t ready for temps in the 70 or 80s. Hopefully there is still time for a reasonable transition to the heat of Summer but that window grows shorter every day and more cool, wet weather appears to be on the way for the coming week. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Canemah Bluff and Newell Creek Canyon

Corvallis Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Albany Parks and Snag Boat Bend – 04/22/2023

The delayed arrival of Spring weather has begun affecting the timing of the hikes that I’d planned for us this year. We had originally planned a wildflower hike for this weekend, but they are running at least two weeks behind so we turned to a pair of wildlife hikes instead. Our first stop was at the Snag Boat Bend unit of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge.

This 341-acre unit is located a across the Willamette River to the East of the 5,325-acre refuge. The unit has several miles of trails although the amount accessible fluctuates due to flooding.
IMG_6048Not sure how “official” the writing is on the map, but it wasn’t wrong about the Turtle Loop being “closed” (high water).

The Snag Boat Bend Loop Trail begins as a boardwalk that passes over the North Beaver Pond. Oddly there wasn’t much, if any, water in this pond despite other areas later being flooded.

After the short boardwalk section the trail became a combination of grass/mud as it followed a swollen Lake Creek toward the Willamtte River.

IMG_6054A swollen Lake Creek

IMG_6056A third of a mile from the trailhead is a picnic table overlooking a former channel of the Willamette River that is now an oxbow lake filled by Lake Creek.

IMG_6058The oxbow lake.

The trail makes a hard left at the picnic table passing along the water.
IMG_6061Lots of water in the lake.

DSCN2912Woodpecker hiding in the trees.

Just under 0.2 miles from the picnic table, during low water, is said to be a path that makes it possible to connect the Snag Boat Band and Turtle Loop Trails.
IMG_6062Note the sign on the far side vs the closer sign barely sticking up out of the water.

A quarter mile from the picnic table the Snag Boat Bend Loop turns left at a junction. We stayed straight and visited the Observation Blind before setting off on the Blue Heron Trail.
IMG_6100Oregon grape

20230422_071830Red flowering currant


IMG_6100Signs at the junction.

IMG_6071The observation blind.

There wasn’t a whole lot to observe from the blind since the morning fog limited visibility.


DSCN2927Spotted towhee

DSCN2928Mallard drake

IMG_6075The Blue Heron Trail followed the boarder of the refuge and some private farmland.

It was approximately another quarter mile from the blind to a 4-way junction. Here the Blue Heron Trail began and finished a theoretical loop using the left most forks and the Turtle Trail split off to the right along a dike.
IMG_6077Blue Heron Trail to the left and Turtle Trail on the right.

We turned right onto the Turtle Trail and as we got onto the dike we could see that the area below, where a loop shown on the Oregonhikers page joined back up, was likely flooded. We followed the dike a quarter of a mile to another junction where the Turtle Trail made a hard right and descended from the dike into an open area where several rabbits were busy having their breakfast.


American widgeonAmerican widgeon




We followed this grassy track for a third of a mile back to the swollen Lake Creek where, during low water, the Turtle Loop would turn right along the creek and loop back around.

IMG_6086Another sign out in the middle of the water.

We turned back and returned to the junction with the Blue Heron Trail.
IMG_6088The start of a possible loop using the Blue Heron Trail. The fainter track on the right heading downhill was flooded just 100 feet or so away.

IMG_6089The flooded area where the loop would end.

I had gone down to the flooded section to see if there was possibly a way across without having to wade but there wasn’t. The good news was that my heading down to this spot had caused a great horned owl to move trees which allowed both Heather (on the other section of the Blue Heron Trail) and myself to spot it.

Since we knew that we would be able to make the Blue Heron Trail into a loop we followed it a half mile from the junction, making a sharp right near the 0.4-mile mark and decided to turn around. The trail had gone from gravel to wet grass and our feet were getting pretty damp which helped make the decision to turn around.
IMG_6095Cottonwood with red flowering currant, Oregon grape, and Indian plum blooming in front.

IMG_6096We were able to keep our feet dry on the gravel surfaces.


DSCN2984Rufous Hummingbird

DSCN2985Hawk preparing for takeoff.

IMG_6097We had started to go past the turn for the Blue Heron Trail so this photo is as we headed back toward the turn. We came from the right-hand side so the path straight ahead would have been the “sharp right”.


IMG_6098Our turn around spot. The trail was beginning to bend back to the East here.

We headed back along the Blue Heron Trail following it to the Snag Boat Bend Loop where we turned right in order to finish that loop.
DSCN2992A chipping sparrow among the golden-crowned sparrows.

IMG_6101On the Snag Boat Bend Loop

IMG_6103The trail turned left to follow this gravel roadbed for the final third of a mile.

IMG_6106The gate in the distance is at the trailhead.

Our hike at Snag Boat Bend came in at 3.9 miles with maybe 50′ of elevation gain. Had some of the loops not been flooded it might have been a bit shorter.

It was a nice first visit though and we are now interested in returning in late Summer/early Fall when some of the flooded trails might be accessible. While the fog made it a bit hard to see we still managed to see a few ducks, a goose, several rabbits, the owl, a hawk, lots of smaller birds, and one bald eagle that flew overhead. From the trailhead we drove North to the city of Albany where we’d plan to visit a series of the city’s parks. The idea was to start at Monteith Riverpark and hike East along the Willamette River to Simpson Park and then continue along the river there past First and Second Lakes if the trail wasn’t flooded. If it was flooded, we could turn inland at Simpson Park and re-visit the Talking Water Gardens (post).

I had two reasons for putting this urban hike on our schedule. First it was close to home and secondly Monteith Riverfront Park sits at the confluence of the Calapooia and Willamette Rivers, and the Calapooia is one of Oregon’s rivers that we had yet to see on a hike. This 80-mile long tributary of the Willamette begins in the Willamette National Forest near Tidbits Mountain (post) and flows Northwest through Brownsville, OR before turning North to the East of Interstate 5. It was disappointing to arrive and find that the entire park was closed for a large waterfront project by the City of Albany. (Normally I would check the status of our destination prior to heading out, but I didn’t expect an entire city park to be closed, and after looking online when I got home, I’m not sure I would have found the information anyway.)
IMG_6107We wound up parking East of the Riverfront Community Center and hoping on the Dave Clark Trail there.

Less than 100 yards from where we’d parked we came to an observation platform that led out over the Willamette River. From this platform we could at least see the mouth of the Calapooia emptying into the Willamette.

IMG_6111The confluence ahead to the left.

IMG_6112Highway 20 passing over the Willamette to the left. Fun fact about U.S. Highway 20 – It runs from Newport, OR to Boston, MA and is the longest road in the USA according to the Federal Highway Administration. Click here for more information and an interesting write up of the drive from Boston to Newport by Boots on the Trail.

We followed the Dave Clark Trail East passing under both bridges of the highway and then later under the Union Pacific Railroad.

IMG_6119Orange crowned warbler. One of many small birds we saw along this trail.

DSCN3009We thought it was a little odd to see two occupied nests atop the railroad so close together until we realized that the occupants weren’t both birds of prey.

DSCN3006Canada geese were using one of the nests.

DSCN3013Might be the mate looking acting as lookout from the bridge.

DSCN3012Osprey occupied the other and appeared to be in the process of renovations.

We also encountered a beautiful male Anna’s hummingbird but for the life of me I couldn’t get either one of the cameras I was carrying to focus on the little guy so the only picture we wound up with was a cropped shot from Heather’s phone.
20230422_095150His bright pink head was more impressive in person.

After ducking under the railroad and passing some apartments the trail passed the Willamette Community Garden and climbed to NE Oak Street.
IMG_6123The community garden (not pictured) was on our right.


IMG_6128Pretty tulips at the sign.

Here the trail follows several blocks of sidewalk before reaching its end at Bowman Park. The official route of the trail turned right on Oak St for a block then left for 5 blocks NE Water Ave to Geary St where it turned left and descended 3 blocks to Bowman Park. We stayed straight on Front Ave NE though and followed it 3 blocks to Harrison St. NE where we turned right for a block to NE Water Ave to rejoin the Dave Clark Trail.
IMG_6129Not a lot to see in the residential neighborhoods but we did cross Pettyjohn Creek along the way.

IMG_6130Sign for Bowman Park at Geary St.

IMG_6133Bowman Park on the left and the paved path we took on the right.

A paved path led East from Bowman Park behind a new apartment complex where it turned to a wood chip surface.


DSCN3018Cormant in the middle of the Willamette.

At the far end of the apartment complex the trail suddenly turned into a slick, muddy single track.


Things got started getting interesting here, and not in the good way. We quickly started passing vacant and/or abandoned homeless camps and the trail surface was just a mess. At this point we were only about a half mile from the Simpson Park Trailhead though so we pressed on.
IMG_6139Seen near a homeless camp which sort of captures the situation. A combination of unaffordable house, drug abuse, and mental illness has created a crisis up and down the West Coast with no simple (or quick) answer.

IMG_6140We initially mistook all the footprints and bike tracks as a sign that the trail saw good recreational use.

According to the Field Guide entry for the Albany Riverfront Hike there is a concrete bridge over Cox Creek near Simpson Park. We never made it that far though as after a quarter mile we came to small pond over the trail. There was no foreseeable way around and we didn’t want to do to much searching for an alternate route for fear of stumbling upon an occupied camp so we turned around.

Prior to reaching the impassible puddle we had already decided to forgo trying to hike further along the Willamtte from Simpson Park and had planned instead of visit Talking Water Gardens and return via roads instead of the muddy trail. Now that we’d been stymied though we trudged back through the mud and past the homeless camps to the apartments where we turned left on a path that led a short distance uphill into Eads Park.


We turned left and passed through this small park then turned right onto Burkhart St NE and began our second stint of neighborhood hiking. After a block on Burkhart we made a left on Willamette Ave NE and followed it 0.2-miles to its end at the Albany/Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility where we turned right onto Davidson St. NE. A block on Davidson brought us back to Front AVE NE and a sign for the Talking Water Gardens.

Front Ave became Waverly Dr NE and we followed it until we finally crossed Cox Creek three tenths of a mile later.

We made our way to the gated entrance to the Talking Water Gardens happy to see that the man-made waterfall in the Beaver Marsh was flowing this time.




We turned right and headed for the main sign board to get a picture of the map and decide on our route.
20230422_105035We decided to loop around the West Beaver Marsh and Central Oak areas before heading back.

There was obviously a lot more water present now then there had been in November and while there were less ducks present there was a larger variety of birds and best of all a bunch of western pond turtles.

IMG_6159View from above the waterfall.

IMG_6160The first set of turtles we spotted.

IMG_6162Western pond turtles.

DSCN3041Female red-winged blackbird

DSCN3055Green-winged teal

DSCN3057Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon’s)

DSCN3060More turtles

DSCN3063Mallard drake

DSCN3064Turkey vulture


DSCN3070Another bale of turtles. (I had to look up “bale” because I had no idea what a group of turtles was called.)

IMG_6165Another man-made waterfall.

IMG_6168This had been full of ducks on our previous visit.

DSCN3076Yet another turtle.

DSCN3081Black phoebe

DSCN3084Acorn woodpecker


Northern shovelerNorthern shoveler


20230422_111554Red-winged blackbird

IMG_6180Bench along the Central Oak area.

DSCN3103The first goslings we’ve spotted this year.

DSCN3108Very zoomed in shot of a hawk seen in the distance.


DSCN3126Marsh wren

DSCN3129Final set of turtles.

DSCN3141Mallard pair


DSCN3152Yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle)

We took about an hour to hike a little over 1.25-miles through the gardens. There was a lot of stopping to watch the wildlife and attempt to get photos. After exiting the gardens we made our way back to Front Ave via Waverly Drive and this time followed signs for the Dave Clark Trail back to it.


We followed the Dave Clark Trail back to our car, but not before spotting a bit more wildlife.
DSCN3157A couple ahead of us on the trail spotted this guy for us.


Our Albany Parks hike wound up being just 6.3 miles with under 100′ of elevation gain bringing our total for the day to 10.2 miles and maybe 100 total feet of elevation gain. All the hiking on paved surfaces in Albany combined with having wet shoes and socks made it feel like more though.

At the end of the day we were glad that we wound up in Talking Water Gardens given how much fun wildlife we spotted there but I probably would not do the rest of this hike over. The Dave Clark Trail along the Willamette was nice enough and if I was in Albany for another reason and had some time it would be a fine place for a stroll but necessary neighborhood walk to reach Simpson Park/Talking Water is not nearly as nice as either simply starting at the Simpson Park Trailhead or hiking along Cox Creek from Waverly Lake as we had done in November. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Snag Boat Bend and Albany Parks

Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Enchanted Valley, Darlingtonia Wayside, and Cape Mountain – 04/15/23

It had been a little over a month since we’d hiked someplace more than 20 miles from Salem and almost six months since we’d been more than 100 miles from home. It was time reset those counters and set our sights on a three stop trip to the area north of Florence, OR. Two of the stops would be brand new to us and the third, Cape Mountain, was a hike we’d done nearly 12 years ago. We were interested in revisiting the trails in that area since it had been so long and it had been a different time of year (September).

We started our morning with the 2-mile Enchanted Valley Trail. The Forest Service warns of seasonal flooding in Winter months and the Field Guide mentioned muddy conditions, so we had brought a backup pair of shoes. The first section of trail lived up to its muddy reputation but the recent rains hadn’t created any impassable flooding.

DSCN2862One of the muddiest sections was just beyond a small footbridge near the trailhead.

The trail spent the first half mile passing through the damp grassy meadow with what the map showed as Bailey Creek on our right.
DSCN2861Skunk cabbage blooming along Bailey Creek.

DSCN2860Skunk cabbage

IMG_5840A second little footbridge.


DSCN2867Closer look at the coltsfoot.

At the half mile mark, near a fence, the trail turned left for a tenth of a mile and crossed an unnamed creek.
IMG_5843Approaching the footbridge over the unnamed creek.

IMG_5845This creek was really deep here although it’s hard to tell from the photo.

The creeks flow into nearby Mercer Lake which at one time actually extended into this valley. Elk are regular visitors but we didn’t see any on this day. Apparently in warmer months snakes are also prevalent along the trail.

On the far side of the second creek the trail entered the edge of the forest and turned right following the valley northward.

There were a lot of small birds including a number of hummingbirds visiting the salmonberry blossoms but none wanted to sit still long enough for a photo. The wildflowers on the other hand were captive subjects.
IMG_5850Wood sorrel

DSCN2872Trillium with a resident spider.

20230415_074901More skunk cabbage, also with a resident spider.


DSCN2879Bleeding heart



DSCN2886Unfurling fern

20230415_080348Me passing under a mossy tree.

DSCN2888Snail on the trail.

The trail crossed several small streams, one of which was flowing down the trail.
IMG_5863This makeshift damn was not stopping the water from flowing down the trail.

DSCN2894Another of the small stream crossings.

For the most part the trail was in good shape, but we did encounter a few downed trees in the final half mile.

We knew the trail ended at a creek but we weren’t sure which one and we also knew that it was theoretically possible to continue on bushwacking to the site of a former dairy. We had not planned to attempt that, but we did want to make sure we reached the end of the official trail. When we arrived at a larger creek with a sign announcing “Marshall Creek” we assumed this must be it and declared victory.
IMG_5872The creek was actually pretty deep here with the recent wet weather we’d had.


We declared victory and headed back to the trailhead. We made a short detour to visit Bailey Creek on a faint use trail along the way.


We were a little disappointed to not have seen any elk but I did spot a coyote near the turn around spot so that was something. Heather’s boots held up well in the wet, muddy conditions so I was the only one who needed to change shoes and socks back at the car. After putting on dry footwear we drove back toward Highway 101 stopping at the Darlingtonia State Natural Site

A 0.2-mile boardwalk here loops through a fen that is home to darlingtonia californica or cobra lily which is the only member of the pitcher plant family in Oregon. The plants bloom in late May or early June so we were a little early for that but the hooded leaves are interesting on their own.




The wayside is just 100 yards from Highway 101 so after our quick stop we made a quick right onto the highway and headed for our final destination of the day at Cape Mountain’s Dry Lake Trailhead

There are a network of trails and old roadbeds here that make it possible to do various loops, but we wound up taking the same route as we had done in 2011 (post) because it was the only route that hit the two main attractions, a replica hitsi and the meadow on Nelson Ridge. We started on the Princess Tasha Trail which set off North from beyond the restrooms.


IMG_5904A trillium unfurling.


IMG_5910Several trails have similar markers with most of them being at or near junctions. This one was just alone along the trail.

The trail climbed a little under half a mile to a junction on a ridge.

We stayed on the right most path which remained the Princess Tasha Trail.

As we neared the one-mile mark we came to a picnic table and bench that neither of us recalled from our first visit.


There wasn’t much of a view from the bench which we’ve found is a fairly common occurrence on coastal trails.

We continued on from the bench on what was now the Scurvy Ridge Trail.

IMG_5930Rough skinned newt


We arrived at the hitsi just over a mile from the bench.



IMG_5938Time has not been kind to the hitsi.

A little over a tenth of a mile beyond the hitsi we came to another junction. We planned on turning left onto the Berry Creek Trail but it turned out that we had options. The left most fork led past a water station for horses while the next fork led a bit more directly downhill. Neither of us remembered going toward the water so we chose that fork.



The two forks rejoined and descended to Berry Creek via a series of switchbacks.

IMG_5955The trail briefly followed an old roadbed.

IMG_5953Mushrooms along the roadbed.

IMG_5956Another bench with a questionable view at the end of the roadbed segment.

IMG_5961Flowers are a few weeks behind this year but there were quite a few trillium along the trails.

IMG_5964Violets were the other abundant flower.

IMG_5965Red flowering currant beginning to bloom.

IMG_5972Wood sorrel

IMG_5970This looked to be a fairly recent uprooting.

IMG_5973A cute fungus

Berry Creek required an easy fording which meant another pair of wet shoes and socks for me.
IMG_5976Looking back after fording.

The trail made a short climb beyond the first crossing of Berry Creek and came to a 4-way junction.


IMG_5984We made a sharp right here onto the Nelson Ridge Trail.

We then dropped to a second crossing of Berry Creek (different fork).

IMG_5991Skunk cabbage at Berry Creek.

Beyond the second crossing the Nelson Ridge Trail gradually climbed for three quarters of a mile before gaining the ridge and making a u-turn and entering the meadow.

IMG_5999A few bleeding-heart blooms.


Although it was a different time of year the meadow looked pretty similar, maybe a touch greener. There were some lupine that didn’t look to be even considering blooming anytime soon though.

IMG_6007At least this bench had a view of the Pacific Ocean.


We followed the trail through the meadow and stayed to the right at junctions to stay on the Nelson Ridge Trail which eventually brought us back to the trailhead.
IMG_6012Passing through a stand of trees along the ridge.

IMG_6014Another bench.

IMG_6015Some easy to walk around blow down.

IMG_6020We couldn’t tell what this road/trail to the left was on the map so we stayed right to be safe at this junction.

IMG_6024I think that is Sutton Lake and beyond the sand is Clear Lake.

IMG_6029The end of another short roadbed section.

IMG_6034I walked on this roadbed for a bit just to do something a little different than on the first visit when I stuck to the trail (on the right).

IMG_6041Starting to descend toward Dry Lake.

The Nelson Ridge Trail passes Dry Lake just before arriving at the trailhead. On our previous visit the lake had lived up to the name Dry. This time however it really was a lake.
IMG_6043Dry Lake

IMG_6045Back at the trailhead.

Our three hikes came in at 4.3, 0.2, and 8.1 miles respectively with a little under 1200′ of cumulative elevation gain (1100′ was at Cape Mountain).

It was nice to see some of the Spring flowers blooming and it’s always fun to see darlingtonia. We have several wildflower hikes on our schedule over the next couple of months and it will be interesting to see how the late bloom affects what we wind up seeing. Regardless we know that we’ll enjoy our time on the trails and there will always be something to see. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Enchanted Valley, Darlingtonia Wayside, and Cape Mountain

Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Minto-Brown Island Park Outings Spring 2023

For several years Heather has volunteered with our local running store, Gallagher Fitness Resources, Princess Steps, a Women’s Beginning Walking Running Clinic. They meet on Tuesday nights but have “homework” walks throughout the week which she and I have been doing together. The longer walks are set for Saturdays and for three of the last four weeks we’ve taken those walks at Minto-Brown Island Park. The park has also been part of a couple of urban hikes that we’ve taken in previous years (2017 & 2020).

Despite the numerous visits there were still sections of trails that I hadn’t been on. I decided to use my second day off of work to check a few of those off my to-visit list. Minto-Brown is even closer to our house than Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge which I’d visited the day before (post). In fact, it’s less than a mile away as the crow flies, but it is on the other side of the Willamette River so I had to drive a little over 3.5-miles to Riverfront Park where we’d been starting all of our walks.

Heather’s plan from the walking group had us increasing distance each week starting with 5.3 miles on 3/19 then 6.6 on 3/25 and 9 miles on 4/8. (Heather wanted more hill practice before the hiking season and since Minto-Brown is mostly flat we did a 7.5 mile “hilly” hike through the West Salem neighborhoods on 4/1.) For this visit I was planning on going a little further again by visiting Eola Bend County Park which borders Minto-Brown to the NW along the Willamette River. I wasn’t sure what my actual route would be though. Minto-Brown is full of both pave and dirt trails, some of which parallel one another just feet apart. Numerous loop options are possible, but closure due to flooding or nesting birds can block access to certain trails at times. All of the visits this year started the same as we first passed the Gerry Frank Salem Rotary Amphitheater in Riverfront Park and took the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge over the Willamette Slough and into Minto-Brown Island Park on the Minto-Island Conservation Trail.
Peter Courtney Bridge behind the Gerry Frank AmphitheaterThe amphitheater and bridge on 3/19 23.

DSCN2607The amphitheater and bridge on 4/14/23.

On the first three visits we took the first paved right (one mile from Riverfront Park) and stayed right at the next junction to walk along the Willamette River and eventually arrive at the Lot 3 Trailhead. On this final visit I was unable to access the path along the river due to high water from recent rains so I forked left on a gravel that is often closed during bald eagle nesting season.
Minto-Brown Island ParkWetland near the bridge on 4/8.

DSCN2613The wetland on 4/14.

Entering Bald Eagle Nesting AreaSigns at the 2nd junction – 3/19.

Minto-Brown Island ParkThe path to the Willamette River on 3/19.

DSCN2640The path on 4/14.

Willamette RiverApril 8th along the Willamette.

DSCN2641April 14th on the inland gravel path.

Beyond Lot 3 is where our visits began to differ. On our first (shortest) visit we continued South from the lot and took the second left (Brown Squirrel & Yellow Duck Loop) looped around the South and East ends of the Dog Park to Lot 2 where we crossed the entrance road and followed the 10k path back to the junction where we had taken our first right that morning. From there we retraced our steps back to Riverfront Park.

For the second hike we continued South from Lot 3 then forked right and crossed Oxbow Slough on a footbridge before turning back after another 0.75-miles at a “T” junction with the Blue Heron, Purple Rabbit, and 10k Trails. We retraced our steps, passing the shared Squirrel & Duck Loop section that we’d taken the previous week turning instead at the next right (We were coming from the opposite direction as the previous week. This was also part of the Yellow Duck Loop and took led us along the North side of the dog park to Lot 2 where we turned left and again followed the 10k path back as we had the week before.

On our third outing we followed our route from the week before to the “T” junction but turned left and continued on the shared Purple Rabbit/10k Loop to return to the junction near the bridge over the slough. This time we returned through Lot 3 taking the right fork of the Red Osprey Loop at the North end of the lot. This loop brought us through an open field with an old cherry orchard to the 10k Loop where we took a left and followed the familiar route back to Riverfront.

My route was most similar to our third outing. It varied in that I had to stay inland instead of hiking along the river and I turned onto the dirt Blue Heron Loop path shortly after crossing the bridge over the slough.
DSCN2629The Minto-Island Conservation Trail (Used during all four hikes.)

Oxbow Slough is accessible near Lot 3.
Slough near the gazeboOxbow slough 3/19.

DSCN2676April 14th

DSCN2678Just South of Lot 3 the paved path is shared by the 10k, Purple Rabbit, Blue Heron, Green Deer, Yellow Duck and Brown Squirrel Loops.

DSCN2682The footbridge over Oxbow Slough is part of the 10k, Blue Heron, and Purple Rabbit Loops.

The Blue Heron Loop ran parallel to the paved path and at times nearly touched.
DSCN2691Blue Heron Loop running parallel to the 10k/Purple Rabbit Loops.

DSCN2701Field along the Blue Heron Loop

The biggest difference, and most of the extra mileage came when I continued straight toward the Brown’s Island Demolition Landfill when the Blue Heron Loop turned left. At the landfill I turned right and followed a gravel roadbed around it to the Orange Turtle Loop onto which I turned right following counterclockwise into Eola Bend County Park.
DSCN2704The “T” junction where the 10k/Purple Rabbit Loops turn left from the Blue Heron Loop.

DSCN2711Most of the junctions are well signed with maps which helped keep me on track.

DSCN2719Willamette River from the Orange Turtle Loop.

IMG_5826Orange Turtle Loop

DSCN2729The boarder between Minto-Brown Island Park and Eola Bend County Park.

DSCN2738A bit of the history of Eola Bend County Park.

DSCN2741Nice map of the Willamette River watershed.

IMG_5827Eola Bend County Park

DSCN2757I took advantage of this picnic table to take a short break.

After completing the Orange Turtle Loop I went back along the landfill (Admittedly one of the least exciting things to experience on a hike.) passing the path I’d arrived at the landfill on and continued just over a tenth of a mile on the gravel road which brought me to the end of a paved road at the landfill.
DSCN2764The landfill behind the map.

DSCN2787Arriving at the road.

I turned left here and in less than a tenth of a mile was back on the Purple Rabbit/10k Loop which uses a 0.3-mile section of the road.
DSCN2790The 10k/Purple Rabbit Loop on the left.

I was now back on the route of our third visit and followed the Purple Rabbit/10k Loop just over a half mile to a junction with the Green Deer Loop, with a short detour to a bench along Oxbow Slough.


DSCN2806The Green Deer Loop junction.

I made my one mistake of the day here thinking that I could turn right (we’d gone left the week before) and do this loop. Just over 0.4-miles in though I came upon a small pond in the middle of the trail.

I backtracked to the Purple Rabbit/10k Loop and again followed our third visit route until coming to the Brown Squirrel/Yellow Duck/10k Loop where I turned right. This was the path we’d taken on our first visit to loop around the dog park. I followed the paved path around the South side of the park but then instead of staying on the trail the loops follow I hoped onto a rougher dirt path that paralleled it and followed that to Lot 2 where I hopped back onto the 10k Loop.
DSCN2830The paved 10k/Yellow Duck/Brown Squirrel Loop.

DSCN2834The rougher dirt path.

DSCN2835The dog park (possibly the happiest place in Salem, at least for dogs).

DSCN2836The 10k Loop on the opposite side of the entrance road from Lot 2.

I deviated once more from our earlier visits when I left the 10k Loop just before it joins the Red Osprey Loop. I crossed that paved path and onto a faint dirt path that led past the Old Cherry Orchard. I followed this dirt path just under a half mile to the paved 5k/10k/Red Osprey/Brown Squirrel Loop where I turned right and climbed a small hill to the Minto Island Conservation Trail.
Minto-Brown Island ParkFrom our 3/19 hike on the 10k Loop. The path running from left to right is the Red Osprey Loop. On this last trip I took the path on the left down to the sign below at the junction and continued straight.

DSCN2842At the sign heading toward the old cherry orchard.

DSCN2843The old cherry orchard.

DSCN2849Sign in the distance along the paved path where I turned right.

I turned left onto the Conservation Trail and returned to Riverfront Park to complete my hike.

IMG_5829Cherry blossoms.

One constant throughout all of the hikes was the abundant wildlife.
Deer at Minto-Brown Island ParkDeer – 3/19

Bald eagleBald eagle – 3/19

CormorantCormorant on the Willamette – 3/25

SparrowSparrow – 3/25

Lesser goldfinchLesser goldfinch – 4/8

MallardMallard – 4/8

Several wood ducksWood ducks up in a tree – 4/8

Osprey it their nestOsprey – 4/8

DSCN2623Green-winged teal – 4/14

DSCN2624Mallard – 4/14

DSCN2634Golden-crowned sparrow – 4/14

DSCN2635Robin – 4/14

DSCN2636White-crowned sparrow – 4/14

DSCN2648Squirrel – 4/14

DSCN2653Rabbit – 4/14 (This was one of several dozen bunnies that I encountered on this day.)

DSCN2658Woodpecker – 4/14

Lot 3 also had its share of wildlife.
Scrub jayScrub jay – 3/19

Mourning doveDove – 4/8

DSCN2663Killdeer – 4/14

DSCN2671Red breasted sapsuckers – 4/14 (Males peck the sign to make noise to either attract mates or establish territory.)

Pied billed grebePied billed grebe in Oxbow Slough – 3/19

Ring-necked ducksRing-necked ducks from the bridge over Oxbow Slough – 3/25

BuffleheadsBuffleheads from the bridge over Oxbow Slough – 3/25

DSCN2683Geese from the bridge over Oxbow Slough – 3/25

DSCN2699Hummingbird along the Blue Heron Trail – 4/14

DSCN2707Orange-crowned warbler along the Blue Heron Trail – 4/14

DSCN2744Dark-eyed junco at Eola Bend County Park – 4/14

DSCN2748Northern flicker at Eola Bend County Park – 4/14

DSCN2760Swallows at Eola Bend County Park – 4/14

DSCN2777Red-tailed hawk near the landfill – 4/14

DSCN2795Great blue heron at Oxbow Slough across from the bench viewpoint near Lot 4 (Homestead Road) – 4/14

Wood duck maleWood duck drake in Oxbow Slough – 4/8

Ruby-crowned kingletRuby-crowned kinglet – 4/8

RabbitRabbit – 4/8

EgretEgret between the Red Osprey and 10k Loops – 4/8

DSCN2850Turkey vulture near the old cherry orchard – 4/14

We’re lucky to have this park nearby and it seems crazy that we still haven’t checked out all of the trails yet. It at least gives us a reason, besides the abundant wildlife, to keep going back. That being said we are really looking forward to some more remote hiking in quieter forests. Happy Trails!


Flickr: Minto Brown Walks / Minto Brown and Eola Bend County Park