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Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Crystal Lake (Mount Adams Wilderness) -08/13/2022

For our day trips we try and keep our driving time time to trailheads under 3 hours (preferably two and a half or less). The one exception to that is Mount Adams which sits right around that 3 hour mark from Salem. Due to the distance we don’t get there as much as we’d like but we’d put it on this years schedule. We’ve been turning more to Matt Reeder’s guidebooks and hike #16 his “Off the Beaten Trail (2nd edition) was the hike that we’d originally planned on. While doing some research on the Riley Camp Trail I learned of a use trail not far from the that trail’s junction with the Pacific Crest Trail that led to Crystal Lake so we decided to extend his suggested hike a bit.

A very favorable forecast, sunny skies with a high in the low 50s, provided a green light for our plans and we made the long drive to the Riley Camp Trailhead.
IMG_9133The Riley Camp Trail (Trail 64) on the opposite side of FR 23.

A short distance up the trail we stopped to fill out a day use permit (free) and review the wilderness map on the signboard.
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Trail 64 led gradually uphill through a nice forest.
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A little over one and a quarter mile from the trailhead we came to a signed junction with the Riley South Trail (Trail 64A).
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We stayed left on the Riley Camp Trail which almost immediately entered the Mount Adams Wilderness.
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IMG_9155We weren’t aware that the Forest Service was employing wilderness greeters.

IMG_9157May I see your self-issued permit?

We had started to notice a fair number of mosquitos near the junction and were forced to turn to the Deet. We’d been pretty luck so far this year at avoiding the little blood suckers but not on this day. While they weren’t anywhere near as bad as we’ve had them before they were persistent between the Riley South junction and the end of the Riley Camp Trail at the PCT. With the bugs after us we kept a decent pace as the trail continued it’s gradual climb through the forest.
IMG_9161The trail was in pretty good shape with just a few downed trees to step over/under.

IMG_9163First look at Mt. Adams through the trees.

Near the 2.7 mile mark the trail briefly entered a 2015 fire scar.
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IMG_9184Luna Lake

IMG_9188Aster

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We left the fire scar behind as the trail turned north passing by a series of ponds/lakes (mosquito breeding grounds).
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IMG_9214More Mt. Adams.

IMG_9220Paintbrush and lupine

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Beyond the mosquito birthing centers the trail began to curve back to the east and entered Riley Creek Meadows.
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IMG_9232Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_9242Riley Creek along the trail.

Just over 4.5 miles from the trailhead we crossed Riley Creek.
IMG_9248Riley Creek at the crossing.

Beyond the crossing the trail made a final 0.3 mile climb to the PCT.
IMG_9253A trail sign up ahead at the junction.

We turned right on the PCT which brought us back to Riley Creek after 0.2 miles.
IMG_9256PCT marker on the tree.

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IMG_9263Riley Creek below the PCT crossing.

We detoured briefly upstream to revisit our dinner spot during an overnight trip in 2017 (post).
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IMG_9269White mountain heather

IMG_9271A nice paintbrush

After the short detour we continued south on the PCT to Burnt Rock (just under half a mile from Riley Creek).
IMG_9274Mt. Adams behind us as we headed south.

IMG_9276Sheep Lake

IMG_9282Mt. Rainier behind a line of clouds.

IMG_9290Burnt Rock behind the snags left over from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire.

Alpine false dandelionAlpine false dandelion

IMG_9295Grouse

Near Burnt Rock we looked for a user trail heading toward the mountain and took a left onto it once we spotted it.
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It was another half mile to Crystal Lake. The use trail was fairly easy to follow. It did steepen just before the lake.
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IMG_9303Hummingbird visiting paint.

IMG_9307Mountain heather

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IMG_9316On the final pitch.

IMG_9315Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_9321Phlox

IMG_9320Almost there.

IMG_9322Not Crystal Lake, just a pretty little tarn nearby.

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Fortunately mosquitos weren’t an issue up here so we were able to relax and spend a good deal of time exploring around the lake and a little beyond.
IMG_9327_stitchMt. Rainier

IMG_9326Just a bit of snow left around 6300′.

IMG_9332The little tarn we’d passed.

IMG_9334While not big Crystal Lake was deep.

IMG_9341View down from the rocky ridge on the south side of the lake.

IMG_9344The rocky ridge along the south side of the lake.

IMG_9357We continued a tenth of a mile beyond the lake for a dramatic view of Mt. Adams.

IMG_9354We could hear a waterfall below on Riley Creek.

IMG_9353Zoomed in on the waterfall below.

IMG_9347Crystal Lake from above.

IMG_9359Mt. Rainier with Goat Rocks to the right.

IMG_9364Mt. Rainier

IMG_9362Some of Goat Rocks.

IMG_9367Golden-mantled grounds squirrel

After a good break we headed back down past the lake and back to the PCT.
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IMG_9385

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IMG_9392Getting ready to drop down.

IMG_9398Clark’s nutcrackers

IMG_9401Butterfly on mountain heather.

IMG_9409Saxifrage

IMG_9410Violet

Alpine speedwellAlpine speedwell

IMG_9414A checkerspot

IMG_9418A crescent

IMG_9422Mountain bluebird

IMG_9425Northern flicker

IMG_9429I’m guessing a warbler of some sort. We saw quite a few of these little yellow birds but had a hard time actually getting a photo.

We turned right on the PCT and followed it back to the Riley Camp Trail and then followed that trail back to our car.
IMG_9431Mt. Adams from the PCT.

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IMG_9435Adams Glacier

IMG_9441Riley Creek at the PCT crossing.

IMG_9445Wildflowers along the PCT.

IMG_9449Bee on valerian

IMG_9451Butterfly on valerian

IMG_9454Another butterfly on valerian

IMG_9456Looking back at Mt. Adams from the Riley Camp Trail.

IMG_9462Passing through Riley Creek Meadows.

IMG_9469Gentian

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IMG_9480We only saw a couple of beargrass blooms.

IMG_9485Pollinators on fleabane.

IMG_9503False hellebore

IMG_9506Luna Lake and Mt. Adams from the trail.

The mosquitos remained a nuisance as we made our way back to the car so we kept a brisk pace. When we arrived back at the car there was a family preparing to set off for an overnight stay. They had an extra half of a pizza due to getting a free pie after the pizzeria initially made the wrong one. They offered us the extra since they couldn’t take it with them and we gladly accepted. Lunch was solved and dinner wound up also being solved when my parents took us and our Son (who was visiting for our Nephew Tyler’s 4th birthday party) out to Gilgamesh Brewing’s The Woods. It was a great ending to the day.

Our hike to Crystal Lake came in at 12.6 miles with approximately 2900′ in cumulative elevation gain. While I typically don’t share tracks for off trail hikes this one is listed on several prominent hiking websites so am including it below. If you do visit please be respectful, tread lightly, and Leave No Trace. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Crystal Lake

Categories
Hiking Oregon Roseburg Area Trip report

Fall Creek and Wolf Creek Falls – 08/07/2022

For the second set of hikes during our weekend near Glide, OR we had a pair of short waterfall hikes planned which we hoped would be less eventful than our hikes had been the day before. We started our morning by heading east on Highway 138 to the recently reopened (following the 2020 Archie Creek Fire) Fall Creek Falls Trailhead. This is one of three stops that make up Sullivan’s featured hike #2, Fall Creek Falls edition 4.2 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California”. We had visited Susan Creek Falls in June this year before this trail reopened (post). The third hike to Fern Falls is still inaccessible due to still being under a closure order from the fire.

From the small parking area the trail immediately crosses the creek on a footbridge.
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The trail passed between some interesting rock formation in the first third of a mile.
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IMG_9035Scarlet monkeyflower

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The terrain opened up a bit as we neared the waterfall.
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The trail first passes near the splash pool of the lower tier before switchbacking uphill to a viewpoint of the upper tier.
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IMG_9064Heading for the viewpoint.

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IMG_9070The upper tier from the viewpoint.

Our 6am start allowed us to have the trail and falls to ourselves which was nice because it is a popular trail. (There was a couple sleeping on the pavement in the parking lot surrounded by empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles. To their credit they did pack everything into their car when they left.)

After returning to the car we drove to the Wolf Creek Falls Trailhead along Little River Road. The 1.2 mile trail here is part of featured hike #3 – Little River Waterfalls in Sullivan’s book and is overseen by the BLM and begins with a crossing of the Little River on an arched footbridge.
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The forest along the trail combined with Wolf Creek made this our favorite scenery of the weekend. It was a perfect mix of forest, creek, and rock formations.
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Wolf Creek Falls solidified this as our favorite hike of the weekend. The trail first passes above a lower fall then leads to a viewpoint above that cascade and of the larger 70′ fall at trails end.
IMG_9107First good view of the lower fall from the trail. The upper fall was visible but somewhat blocked by trees.

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IMG_9116We really liked how the water curved and narrowed as it cascaded down.

IMG_9120The pool appeared to be extremely deep.

After a nice break admiring the upper fall we headed back and I detoured downhill on a use trail to get a closer look at the lower falls.
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Even though it was still early (we were at the falls a little after 8am) we were surprised no one had been on the trail. There hadn’t been any cars at the trailhead either time we’d driven by the day before either which we found a bit odd considering how nice the trail and waterfall were. We did finally encounter a couple of other hikers as we made our way back to the car. This had been a perfect hike to end our trip on. The two hikes combined for just 4.5 miles and 630′ of elevation gain, which was about all my feet could take, and we were able to make it home before noon giving us plenty of time to unpack and get ready for the work week ahead. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fall Creek and Wolf Creek Falls

Categories
Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Yasko, Hemlock, and Grotto Falls with Hemlock Lake – 08/06/2022

We’ve unfortunately entered fire season which means we are keeping a close eye on current and new fires as well as any associated closures. At the time of writing the Cedar Creek Fire has closed the Waldo Lake Wilderness, part of the Three Sisters Wilderness as well as some of the surrounding forest and other fires have closed part of the Diamond Peak Wilderness. We had reservations at the Ideyld Lodge for August 6th and luckily our planned hikes for the weekend were not impacted by any of the current wildfires so we left Salem a little before 5am and headed south on I-5.

Like our earlier trips south this year we were continuing to work on checking off featured hikes from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook (post). This time we planned on completing hike #3 – Little River Waterfalls (edition 4.2) as well as another waterfall from hike #2 – Fall Creek Falls. Due to those hikes combining for just 8 miles of hiking we had also planned to add Hemlock Lake (hike #103) onto Saturday’s outing. Sullivan’s Little River Waterfalls hike includes three stops to visit four waterfalls: Wolf Creek, Grotto, Yasko, and Hemlock Falls. The last two both starting from the Lake in the Woods Campground. The Hemlock Creek Trail also begins at this campground and climbs up to the Yellow Jacket Loop Trail which is the trail that Sullivan has you take for his Hemlock Lake hike. We planned on parking at the campground and taking all three of the trails and then time permitting stopping at Grotto Falls on our way to the lodge.

We arrived at the campground and couldn’t tell exactly where the day use area was (we missed the small sign) and wound up driving around the lake through the campground. Instead of trying to figure out where the day use area was (It was immediately to the right as you start counter-clockwise around the loop.) we exited the campground and turned right (east) on FR 27 for a tenth of a mile to FR 421 where we turned right for another tenth of a mile to a pull out where the Hemlock Creek Trail crossed the road.
IMG_8724Hemlock Creek Trail heading uphill toward Hemlock Lake.

IMG_8725Trail sign for the Hemlock Creek Trail heading down to Lake in the Woods from FR 421.

We opted to do the two short trails to the waterfalls first hoping for less crowds (spoiler alert we saw no one) and hiked a tenth of a mile down to the campground round where we turned right.
IMG_8727Hemlock Creek Trail at Lake in the Woods Campground.

IMG_8729Lake in the Woods (a 4 acre man made lake).

We exited the campground and crossed FR 27 to a hiker symbol marking the start of the Yasko Falls Trail.
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The trail led gradually down hill for three quarters of a mile to Yasko Falls.
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IMG_8735Ghost plant

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We had heard this particular waterfall was one that was best viewed when the water flow wasn’t too strong which is one reason that we’d chosen August for a waterfall trip. The other reason was mosquitos are reportedly bad here and fierce at Hemlock Lake earlier in the year, in particular July. The 50′ waterfall did not disappoint and we spent some time admiring the cascade before returning to the campground.
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20220806_082432A rare photo of me for scale.

At the campground we turned right following the path we’d driven earlier and now spotting the day use sign.
IMG_8757We mistook this for another campsite having not noticed the small sign on the tree.

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A tenth of a mile from the day use area we left the road and turned onto the Hemlock Falls Trail.
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This half mile trail descended 300′ to Hemlock Falls.
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We again returned to the campground and completed the loop around Lake in the Woods then took the Hemlock Creek Trail back up to FR 421 and continued on uphill.
IMG_8780We both noticed that the sign said Hemlock Lake was 4 miles away. Sullivan’s map showed that it was 3 miles from Lake in the Woods to the Yellow Jacket Loop which raised the question was the hike going to be 2 miles longer than we’d expected or did the 4 miles include some of the Yellow Jacket Loop? Based on the mileage in Sullivan’s book I had come up with 16.6 miles so an extra two miles would be pushing us close to 19 (we always find reasons to wander).

IMG_8781Sleepy bee

IMG_8782Same mileage on the sign on the other side of FR 421. The fact that Road 2759 showed 2 miles when Sullivan had 1.5 on his map was a pretty good indicator that we were in for more than 16.6 miles.

The Hemlock Creek Trail climbed at a reasonable grade through a nice forest and passed several waterfalls. While the falls were partly visible from the trail, use trails led steeply downhill to better views. Gluttons for punishment that we are we took advantage of these trails to visit the falls.
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IMG_8790Tributary Falls (unofficial name) was just below a footbridge approximately a half mile from FR 421.

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20220806_095817Middle Hemlock Falls was just two tenths of a mile further along.

IMG_8808Small cascade below Middle Hemlock Falls.

IMG_8797Leopard lily

IMG_8809Another drop with no way to get a view of the fall from above.

IMG_8810Typical use trail.

IMG_8811A small slide that was fully visible from the trail.

IMG_8820Clover Falls was a quarter mile above Middle Hemlock Falls.

IMG_8816Clover Falls

20220806_104434More leopard lilies

IMG_8828Moth hanging out around the falls.

IMG_8829Use trail to Clover Falls.

IMG_8831Heather coming up from the falls through a huckleberry bush that I may have been using for snacks.

All of these falls were before the trail reached Road 2759. Beyond Clover Falls the hillside steepened and the trail veered away from the creek as it climbed via a series of switchbacks to the road crossing.
IMG_8833Skunk cabbage leaves in a wet area.

IMG_8835Curious stellar’s jay.

IMG_8838FR 2759.

The trail leveled out quite a bit on the other side of the road crossing Hemlock Creek a couple of times on footbridges.
IMG_8840Again with the 2 miles.

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IMG_8843A much more reserved Hemlock Creek.

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IMG_8845More snacks

IMG_8852Frog

We started to encounter some open meadows as we neared the junction with the Yellow Jacket Loop Trail.
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IMG_8856Coneflower and paintbrush

IMG_8857Fleabane

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IMG_8861The wildflowers were already on the way out but on the positive side we didn’t have much trouble at all with mosquitos.

At the junction, which was only marked by a post we turned right.
IMG_8863Hemlock Lake was to the left but Sullivan’s hike description called for doing the loop counter-clockwise. He typically has a reason for the direction he suggests so we’ve learned to stick with his recommendations.

The trail passed through a couple of meadows where pollinators were busy visiting the remaining flowers.
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IMG_8867Busy bee

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IMG_8869A lone columbine

IMG_8871Dragonfly

IMG_8874Mountain owl’s clover

IMG_8876Damselfly

IMG_8879Bee on rainiera

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IMG_8887Butterfly on hyssop

IMG_8891Oregon checkermallow

IMG_8893Coneflower

IMG_8895Fleabane and paintbrush

IMG_8897Brief forested section.

IMG_8899Hedgenettle

IMG_8900Northern phlox

IMG_8904Flat Rock beyond a meadow.

IMG_8905Large boykina

From the junction it was a mile to the Flat Rock Trail where a three quarter mile detour led up to a viewpoint atop Flat Rock. Heather had been feeling a little “off” since a little before reaching the Yellow Jacket Loop so as we were climbing up from the meadows she decided to skip the out-and-back and instead would continue on the loop and I could catch up to her after visiting the viewpoint. I went on ahead and turned right at the signed junction.
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After dropping a bit to a saddle the Flat Rock Trail leveled off which meant that the 500 plus foot climb that was needed to reach the top was all going to be packed into the last quarter mile or so.
IMG_8911There was an opening at the saddle where Diamond Peak (post) was visible through a bit of haze.

IMG_8913The all too familiar Summer “smoke” filter on the mountains.

IMG_8934The trail was a bit overgrown in places.

IMG_8915Starting to climb.

The climb was indeed fairly steep and it was probably a good thing Heather decided to skip it, although that decision had other repercussions. While the view from Flat Rock was pretty nice it wasn’t as nice as the view above nearby Twin Lakes had been when we visited in June (post).
IMG_8917Heading out to the viewpoint.

IMG_8920Hemlock Lake from Flat Rock with Mt. Bailey (post) and the spire of Mt. Thielsen (post) in the distance.

IMG_8922Quartz Mountain in the foreground with Hillman Peak and The Watchman (Crater Lake Rim) in the distance.

IMG_8926Diamond Peak in the distance to the right and the smoke plume from the Cedar Creek Fire center-right.

IMG_8927Smoke from the Cedar Creek Fire 😦

I returned to the Yellow Jacket Loop Trail and turned right and started to play catch-up with Heather. Beyond the Flat Rock Trail the loop passed through more meadows and some forest that had been impacted by the 2021 Smith Fire.
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IMG_8937Parnassian on hyssop

IMG_8949Grand collomia

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IMG_8953Swallowtail on hyssop.

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Just over three quarters of a mile from the Flat Rock Trail I came to a sign for the Cavitt Mountain Tie Trail which didn’t show up on the GPS map or on Sullivan’s map.
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Heather had placed an arrow using sticks to show that she had turned left here sticking to the Yellow Jacket Loop and I followed. A tenth of a mile later the trail came to a viewpoint at an old roadbed.
IMG_8958Mt. Bailey and Quartz Mountain.

IMG_8959Quartz Mountain

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If Sullivan’s map hadn’t indicated that the trail followed a roadbed for a short distance I might not have known that this had once been a road.

IMG_8963Union Peak. To the left is Highrock Mountain and to the right of Highrock Mountain are the Rabbit Ears (post), a rock outcrop sticking up over a ridge.

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IMG_8969The end of the old road section.

IMG_8970The only blooming lupine I saw all day.

I still hadn’t caught up with Heather when I came to a lone post which caused me to stop and ponder our decision to split up. I had realized we’d made the mistake of not setting a meet point where she would stop and wait for me, or I her if I somehow wound up in front of her. At this unsigned post the trail appeared to go straight but the maps showed the trail veering to the left. I looked for an arrow or even footprints to indicate which way Heather had gone. She also carries a GPS and had Sullivan’s map and hike description so I thought there was a good chance she went the right way, but it was a confusing enough junction that going straight wasn’t out of the question.
IMG_8971The actual trail to the left was very overgrown here and hard to pick out at first glance.

The map showed FR 625 in the direction of the right hand fork and it also showed the trail nearly touching that road two time further along the ridge it was on so I decided that even if she had taken a wrong turn here she would hop back onto the trail at one of those other two points so I went left and kept my eyes out for her.
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IMG_8974The first convergence with FR 625.

IMG_8978Signpost at the second meeting.

The further I went the more concerned I became because I knew she hadn’t been feeling great when we split up and I had been moving at a crisp pace and had expected to catch up to her by now. I talked myself into think she might have started feeling better and with the trail being more level and starting to go downhill she may have been moving faster than I’d expected and I wasn’t sure quite how long my detour up to Flat Rock had taken. I continued on passing a sign for the Snowbird Shelter Trail and coming to Dead Cow Lake where I optimistically thought she might be waiting.
IMG_8980There were a lot of different types of signs along the loop.

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Dead Cow Lake turned out to be a bust, not only was Heather not there but the lake was more of a slime filled pool. At least from what could be seen from the trail, there wasn’t any visible way to the lake itself.
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IMG_8987Monkshood

It was a little under a mile from Dead Cow Lake to the next trail junction where I thought I might find her. This end of the loop was steeper than the other which made doing the loop counter-clockwise the better option.
IMG_8991I was moving rather quickly now and not stopping for much but I did pause for these sugar sticks.

When I didn’t find Heather at the next junction another possible scenario popped into my head. The right fork led 0.8 mile to a picnic area near the Hemlock Lake boat ramp and I suddenly wondered if Heather thought I had planned to loop around Hemlock Lake that way.
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That hadn’t been the plan but now I couldn’t remember if we had really discussed that part. The left fork led back to the Hemlock Creek Trail in 0.7 miles and had been my intended route. I decided to go that way hoping that Heather hadn’t gone to the picnic area and was waiting there for me (if only we had agreed on a meet point).
IMG_8999The trail never got very close to the lake.

I passed the day use parking area looking for any sign of Heather but didn’t see her and then didn’t find her at the junction with the Hemlock Creek Trail.
IMG_9001Signboard at the Hemlock Lake Day Use Area.

IMG_9006Loop complete, no Heather.

Again not having set a meeting spot meant that I didn’t know for sure if she was somehow still ahead of me or if she was at the picnic area or if I had somehow passed her without knowing it. I decided my only choice was to double time it down the Hemlock Creek Trail and if she wasn’t at the car I would leave a note and drive up to Hemlock Lake to search the picnic area and campground for her. I half jogged half double timed it down to FR 2759 and was pretty sure she wasn’t in front of me as I crossed that road. My suspicion was confirmed when I ran into a trail crew near Clover Falls and asked if they’d seen a woman go by. (These were the only other people I’d seen on trail all day.) That cinched it so I jogged the majority of the way down to the car. I wrote two notes letting her know that I was driving up to look for her and to stay there if she happened to come down behind me as I would come back if I didn’t find her at Hemlock Lake. I stuck the notes on a tree limb near the trail sign and under a rock in the fire pit near where we’d parked and drove up to the boat ramp. No one there had seen her so I drove through the campground to the day use parking area. As I stepped out of the car I spotted her coming up from the trailhead signboard where she had just left a note for me.

It turned out that she had indeed gone right at the unmarked post and gotten on FR 625. She realized her mistake pretty quickly and turned around but we’d timed it just right and I had passed her during that time. Fortunately she took several breaks thinking that there was a chance I might still be behind her so she was just getting ready to head down the Hemlock Creek Trail when I pulled up, prayers answered. The whole debacle was a good reminder of how important it is to make clear plans before splitting up.

Despite the anxious ending it had been a nice hike but it was too long, especially if you’re jogging a good portion of the final 3.5 miles. My hike wound up being 18.2 miles with over 3700′ of elevation gain. Heather’s was a bit shorter having skipped Flat Rock and the return trip on the Hemlock Creek Trail.

Deryl’s track

So how do you follow something like that up? With another hike of course. It was just after 4pm and since Grotto Falls was on the way and only about half a mile round trip we detoured to that trailhead. We were mostly motivated by the thought of not making the drive the next day so we could get home a little earlier.

There were two other cars at this trailhead and we set off behind a family with a couple of youngsters.
IMG_9009The trailhead is right after crossing Emile Creek.

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The setting for Grotto Falls was impressive. There wasn’t a lot of water flowing in the creek this time of year but there was enough and we were treated to a pair of small rainbows which added to the beauty.
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The trail lead behind the falls giving us a chance to cool off in the water.
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IMG_9025Cave behind the falls.

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This was a perfect short hike to end the day on allowing us to relax a bit. We returned to the car and drove to the Idleyld Lodge and checked in. Then Heather ran across the street Idleyld Trading Post where she picked up some tasty post hike burritos. The historic lodge narrowly escaped the 2020 Archie Creek Fire and recently changed owners. It was obvious that the new owners had been putting a lot of work into the lodge and the room was quite comfy. What wasn’t were all the blisters on my feet, apparently jogging downhill at the end of an 18 mile hike isn’t something that they appreciated. In any event the day had ended on a high note. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Yakso, Hemlock, and Grotto Falls with Hemlock Lake

Categories
Coastal Range Corvallis Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Alsea Falls and E.E. Wilson Interpretive Trail

The Central Cascade Wilderness Permit system has been in place for 2 years now and for the second year in a row we gambled early and secured permits in April for a weekend backpacking trip. For the second year in a row weather prompted us to leave the purchased permits unused. Last September it was an early snow storm and this year it was a heat wave accompanied by the threat of thunderstorms. We had planned on hiking around Three Fingered Jack but after checking the forecast the morning of our departure we went to Plan B. The combination of nearly 90 degree temperatures (with an overnight low pushing 70) on trails that are 95% exposed due to passing through the 2008 B & B fire scar and the possibility of thunderstorms throughout the entire weekend just didn’t sound appealing.

We had gotten up at 4am and most of our packing already done but we needed somewhere to go. It needed to be nearby so we could get onto the trail early and short enough that we wouldn’t be out as the day warmed up. As I was trying to come up with ideas Alsea Falls came to mind. We had hiked to the falls in December 2011 (post) and had wanted to see them again when there was less water as the volume in December had been too much to see. With 3.5 miles round trip to visit both Alsea and Green Peak Falls this fit the criteria nicely and it would give us time to make a quick stop at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area if we felt like it on the way back home.

We were the first car at the Alsea Falls Day-Use/Picnic Area and after paying the $5 fee (In 2012 we avoided this fee by parking along Miller Road which lengthened the hike.) we set off following pointers for Alsea Falls.
IMG_8541

IMG_8543

IMG_8544

IMG_8545We stayed left here following the pointer. We later crossed the bridge on the way to Green Peak Falls.

A quarter mile from the trailhead we came to the top of Alsea Falls. The trail continued downhill providing a few different vantage points of the falls.
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IMG_8551

IMG_8553

IMG_8559Heather in front of the falls.

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Alsea FallsDecember 2012

After checking out the falls from several spots we headed back up to the bridge and crossed the river.
IMG_8575Looking down river from the bridge.

On the far side of the bridge we turned left following the pointer for McBee Park and Green Peak Falls.
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We followed trail pointers to stay on the correct path which brought us to a road near McBee Park (Privately owned by Hull-Oaks Lumber Company).
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IMG_8581

IMG_8588

IMG_8594Fireweed

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We turned off the main gravel road at another sign for Green Peak Falls. Here a spur road led through a large campsite to a trail.
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IMG_8597

IMG_8599

IMG_8600

IMG_8601Green Peak Falls

Green Peak FallsGreen Peak falls in December 2012.

It was interesting to see how differently the lower water levels affected the visuals of the two falls. For Alsea Falls less water allowed us to see more of the bedrock and gave the falls a little more definition and character. Green Peak on the other hand just had less water, it was still a nice waterfall but it wasn’t the thundering cascade that we’d experienced in 2012.

On the way back we crossed the river at McBee Park and explored one of the empty sites there.
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IMG_8615

IMG_8616Covered picnic table.

IMG_8618The table is one solid plank.

Instead of back tracking through the park to the trail and returning the way we’d come we decided to road walk back to the Alsea Falls Picnic Area.
IMG_8619Sign for McBee Park along South Fork Road.

IMG_8621Trail down to the picnic area along South Fork Road.

This wound up being a 3.3 mile hike which was just what we were looking for. It had been warm when we started at 6:15am and it was already noticeably warmer when we got back to the car at 8am. It was still early enough though that we did decide to stop on our way home and finally check out the E. E. Wilson Wildlife Area.

The area, located just north of Corvallis, is one of several Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife managed areas that requires a $10/day parking perming ($30 for an annual permit). Hiking options are limited here with just a 1.5 mile Interpretive Trail to a fishing pond and a 1.7 mile out-and-back to Coffin Butte. The $10 price tag for such sort hikes had kept us away but we had come into possession of an annual permit (They come with certain hunting and/or fishing licenses.) which eliminated that obstacle.

We parked at the Camp Adair Trailhead and promptly forgot to put the permit on the dashboard. Instead we got out, threw our packs on (we looked crazy for a 1.5 interpretive loop but we wanted the water that was in them), and started checking out the pheasants being raised in nearby cages.
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IMG_8634Silver pheasant

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After looking at the birds we walked through the Camp Adair Memorial Garden. Camp Adair was established approximately 6 months after Pearl Harbor and housed up to 40,000 personnel at a time comprising four infantry divisions.
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IMG_8623

IMG_8642

IMG_8655Red-breasted sapsucker

Parking for the fishing pond is located on the opposite side of the memorial and at that parking lot we turned left on a road passing through a gate to a signboard.
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We followed this road 0.2 miles to a “T” where we turned left.
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Less than 100 yards later we came to a sign for the Fishing Pond on our right at another road junction.
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We made it about a tenth of a mile up this road before I thought to ask Heather if she had put the permit on the dashboard since I’d completely forgotten about it. She had forgotten too so I left my pack with her at a bench and jogged back to the car, put the permit in the window, and (mostly) jogged back to her. We then continued on to the Fishing Pond.
IMG_8675Bunnies in the grass near one of the benches.

IMG_8674

IMG_8676Coffin Butte on the other side of Highway 99.

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IMG_8680Turkey vulture

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IMG_8682

IMG_8683

IMG_8684

IMG_8686Wetlands on the other side of the pond.

IMG_8695

IMG_8692Great blue heron

After walking a little way up along the western side of the pond we backtracked and started around the southern end where we picked up the continuation of the Interpretive Loop.
IMG_8699The loop trail to the right.

IMG_8702Skipper

The loop passed through some wetlands before entering a series of fields and finally arriving back at the road.
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IMG_8706

IMG_8711Tadpole

IMG_8713

IMG_8717We stayed left at any junction like this.

IMG_8716Dragon fly

IMG_8719Bindweed

IMG_8721Arriving back at the road.

We took a left on the road and retraced our steps to the memorial and then back to our car. Between our wandering and my return trip to the car to put the permit out I managed to turn this into a 2.8 mile outing but it should have been closer to 1.5. We still managed to be done just after 10am which was a good thing because it was already pushing 80 degrees. These two short hikes turned out to be a great option given the circumstances. Unfortunately as I write this several fires are burning in Northern California and the Oregon Cascades with more red flag warnings for lighting through Monday. Hopefully things won’t get too bad and we pray for the firefighters as they do their best to keep things in check. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alsea Falls and E.E. Wilson Loop

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Starway Trail to Silver Star Mountain

The late snow melt in in SW Washington had prompted us to push a planned hike to Silver Star Mountain at the end of June to next year but when we found ourselves in need of a substitute for another hike we took the opportunity to pull it back into this year. This would be our fourth visit to Silver Star Mountain having previously taken Ed’s Trail in 2013 (post), the Bluff Mountain Trail in 2015 (post), and the Grouse Vista Trail in 2019 (post). Those hikes had taken place on July 1st, June 27th, and June 24th respectively so this was a later visit for us, but we knew that the late snow melt had delayed the wildflower display so we still expected to get to experience that.

Our inspiration for this visit came from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) which was printed in 2019. Reeder calls the hike to Silver Star Mountain via the Starway Trail as “by far the most difficult….”. He also mentions that the last two miles of driving on FR 41 to reach the trailhead are “potholed and rocky” while the Forest Service states “Trailhead is best accessed by high clearance vehicles due to rough road conditions.” The Washington Trail Association also mentions that “…most of the roads accessing the trailhead have been severely degraded…” This last description was probably the most accurate description of what we encountered for the final 3 miles on FR 41. The road didn’t have pot holes, it had craters. Our Outback scrapped the ground twice emerging from said craters and I can’t imagine how a low clearance vehicle could make it given the current condition of the road. In fact there was a sign at the Sunset Falls Campground with slash going through a low clearance vehicle. We parked at a pullout near a gate at the FR 41/FR 4107 junction. Reeder mentions that you can drive 4107 approximately a half mile to the start of the actual Starway Trail at Copper Creek but if the gate gets closed your stuck. Looking at the gate we weren’t sure if it even still closed but we were more than done with driving at that point.
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We headed down this one lane road approximately a half mile to a small parking area near a bridge over Copper Creek.
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It was an overcast morning which was a welcome sight for this hike. Reeder had recommended not attempting this hike on warmer days due to the steepness of the climbs. The forecast for Silver Star was for a high in the low 60’s with partly sunny skies. We hopped that by the time we reached Silver Star we’d be greeted by those partly sunny skies, but the low 60’s temperatures were what we were really after. Beyond Copper Creek the trail followed an old road bed as it gradually climbed for a little over a quarter of a mile to a fork.
IMG_8154Overgrown roadbed that is now the Starway Trail.

IMG_8156The fork with the Starway Trail to the right.

The trail began to steepen here but didn’t really pick up steam until reaching a couple of switchbacks 0.4 miles from the fork.
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IMG_8160Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_8157Beardstongue

IMG_8164Paintbrush

IMG_8166Taken from the first switchback this gives a little reference for how steep the trail was.

The switchbacks only lasted a tenth of a mile and then the trail shot almost directly uphill. The grade varied between steep and really steep for three quarters of a mile where it finally leveled out for a bit on a bench along the ridge we had been following.
IMG_8168Pictures never do justice to just how steep trails are.

IMG_8180Almost to the bench.

IMG_8183Level trail!

A section of trail on the bench passed through a carpet of foam flower. We’d never seen so much of that flower in one area.
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IMG_8192Inside out flower

For about a half mile the trail avoided any overly steep climbing and then it once again headed uphill in earnest.
IMG_8195The trail starting to steepen again.

Every website I checked agreed with Reeder that the Starway Trail didn’t see a lot of use. They all mention the steepness of the trail and that the trail was faint and could be difficult to follow. After having hiked the trail we can confirm the steepness but it appears that someone or some agency has put a good deal of work into improving the trail. We had no trouble following the tread and there were a couple of places where a series of short switchbacks appear to have replaced sections that went straight uphill.
IMG_8197The first set of what appeared to be fairly recently built switchbacks.

At the top of the switchbacks the trail emerged in a small meadow where it once again leveled out.
IMG_8199Approaching the little meadow.

IMG_8203A little bit of blue overhead through the fog.

IMG_8208Tiger lily

IMG_8209Paintbrush

IMG_8210Wood rose

IMG_8211Thimbleberry

I had gotten to this level section first and looked for a place to sit down and wait for Heather but the meadow was too wet so I found a log in the trees at the far end and had a seat.
IMG_8212Into the trees to look for a log.

For a little over a half mile the trail climbed gradually alternating between forest and small meadows before arriving at its high point just below the wildflower covered Point 3977. Along the way we emerged from the clouds and got our first glimpses of Silver Star Mountain and Mt. St. Helens.
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IMG_8220Silver Star Mountain

IMG_8224Bunchberry

IMG_8229Our first view of Mt. St. Helens

IMG_8230Zoomed in on Mt. St. Helens.

IMG_8232Arriving below Point 3977.

IMG_8239Point 3977

IMG_8241Pollinator on catchfly

IMG_8242The pink vetch was very bright.

IMG_8243Silver Star Mountain from the trail below Point 3977.

IMG_8244Rose

IMG_8246Wildflowers on Point 3977.

IMG_8249Bluebells of Scotland

IMG_8252Sub alpine mariposa lily

IMG_8257Checkerspot on Oregon sunshine

IMG_8261Lots of purple larkspur amid the other flowers.

IMG_8265A few columbine were hiding in the mix.

IMG_8266Violet

We surprised a fellow hiker as he rounded Point 3977 from the other side. He said he hadn’t expected to run into anyone on the Starway Trail. He’d started at the Ed’s Trail Trailhead and was doing a big loop using the Starway Trail and then road walking FR 41 & 4109 back to his car. He climbed up Point 3977 and we continued on planning to do that same thing on our way back. On the far side (south) of the point the Starway Trail suddenly dropped heading steeply downhill through a meadow.
IMG_8268Starting down.

IMG_8272Looking back up.

For nearly the next three quarters of a mile the trail alternated between steep descents and more gradual downhills losing a little more than 500′ in the process. Then the trail shot back uphill gaining over 300′ in the next 0.3 miles before arriving at a junction with the Bluff Mountain Trail.
IMG_8273Stars on the trees marked the Starway Trail at times.

IMG_8274Pinesap emerging from the ground.

IMG_8276A cairn at the end of this brief level section marked the start of another steep descent. By this time we’d lost enough elevation to be back in the clouds.

IMG_8279Part of the elevation loss was to drop below some interesting rock outcrops.

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IMG_8282Fully back in the fog.

IMG_8284Time to climb again.

IMG_8285Big root balls.

IMG_8287Trail sign near the Bluff Mountain Trail junction.

IMG_8288Final pitch to the Bluff Mountain Trail.

IMG_8291On the Bluff Mountain Trail at the junction.

We turned right on the Bluff Mountain Trail which steadily climbed for nearly three quarters of a mile to a fork.
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IMG_8301

IMG_8302Lots of nice wildflowers along the Bluff Mountain Trail.

IMG_8310Another checkerspot

IMG_8313Paintbrush

IMG_8315Penstemon

IMG_8320We just couldn’t quite shake the fog.

IMG_8331First sighting of Mt. Rainier.

IMG_8333Mt. St. Helens to the left with Mt. Rainier to the right.

IMG_8334Coiled lousewort

IMG_8336Lupine

IMG_8339Getting closer to Silver Star.

IMG_8341Crab spider on fleabane

IMG_8354Spirea along the trail.

IMG_8357Bistort and mountain goldenbanner

IMG_8358First Mt. Adams sighting.

IMG_8364A crescent on bistort.

IMG_8369Penstemon

IMG_8377Wallflower with beetle.

IMG_8378Passing below Silver Star Mountain.

IMG_8379Mt. Hood

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IMG_8388Rock arch below Silver Star’s summit.

At the fork we turned uphill to the left leaving the Bluff Mountain Trail.
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This short connector trail climbed 0.1 miles to an old roadbed.
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20220723_110718Fading avalanche lily.

IMG_8391The old roadbed.

We turned left and followed the roadbed 0.2 miles to a saddle.
IMG_8392The summit to the left with Mt. Adams in the distance.

IMG_8393Mt. Hood to the right at the saddle.

We headed for the summit to start and met a couple with a cute puppy named Hazel, the same name as our cat that we’d lost a year ago nearly to the day (post). The puppy even shared similar colored fur to our Hazel’s.

The view from the summit was a good one on this day. The clouds were low enough that we could see all five of the Cascade volcanoes: St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson.
IMG_8399Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_8410Goat Rocks (between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams)

IMG_8400Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8402Mt. Jefferson. If you enlarge and look closely you can also make out Three Fingered Jack and the North Sister to the far right.

20220723_111756Swallowtail

IMG_8417Sturgeon Rock

IMG_8418Wildflowers at the summit.

IMG_8429Bug at the summit.

After a nice break at the summit we dropped back down to the saddle then climbed to the southern high point just to say we did.
IMG_8438Point 3977 is the the island surrounded by clouds.

There was a lot of butterfly action here.
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After tagging the southern point we headed back the way we’d come.
IMG_8451The only beargrass bloom we saw all day.

As we were passing below Silver Star we kept our eyes out for our favorite trail animals, pikas. We’d heard a few from the summit and we were rewarded with spotting one of the little rock rabbits in a talus slope.
IMG_8463The talus slope.

IMG_8456Pikas are not easy to spot.

IMG_8462On alert.

As always we kept our eyes out for other things we’d missed on the first pass.
20220723_120051Orange agoseris

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IMG_8483Ladybug

IMG_8488Making the steep climb back up to Point 3977.

We did wind up making the short climb to the top of Point 3977 even though the clouds had risen enough to effectively block most of the views.
IMG_8491Looking toward Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

IMG_8495Looking toward Silver Star.

The views weren’t great but the wildflowers were.
IMG_8496Possibly a Native American vision quest pit.

IMG_8498Bluebells of Scotland with at least three visible insects.

IMG_8501Some bright paintbrush.

20220723_130806Larkspur

IMG_8510A brief appearance by Silver Star’s summit.

After a short break on Point 3977 we began the relentless descent to Copper Creek. The long steep descent was not a friend to the knees but we managed to make it down in one piece. Just before reaching the bridge we passed just the second hiker on the Starway Trail for the day.
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IMG_8520Sorry knees.

IMG_8526Mock orange

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IMG_8530A little blue sky in the afternoon.

We walked back up FR 4107 to our car and began the tedious drive back down FR 41 and made our way safely home.
IMG_8534Salmonberries along FR 4107. I may have eaten a few as well as some red huckleberries along the lower portion of the Starway Trail.

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Both of those berry types are too sour for Heather who prefers thimbleberries but alas those were only beginning to show signs of ripening.

IMG_8539Looking back at the hillside the Starway Trail climbs from FR 4107.

In my research I’ve seen several different distances listed for this hike. In Reeder’s book he lists the hike to Silver Star as 10.2 miles. Our GPS units recorded 11 miles though. Some of that may be due to going to both ends of Silver Star and some additional distance may be due to the newer switchbacks (assuming they really are new). Regardless of the actual distance I think everyone agrees that the total elevation gain is right around 4200′.

I’m not sure we could have asked for a better day to do this hike on. We got some big views and lots of wildflowers while the temperature remained mild thanks to the low clouds and we saw our first pika of the year. I don’t know that either one of us would ever want to try that drive again but the hike itself was worth the effort. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Starway Trail to Silver Star

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Bear Creek and Wallowa Homeland – 07/14/2022

Our first night in the small town of Wallowa had been great. Our room at the Mingo Motel was extremely comfortable and we’d gotten ice cream sundaes from the Little Bear Drive-In. We were also conveniently located less than 10 miles from the Bear Creek Trailhead which was our destination for Thursday’s planned hike. This meant we could get an even earlier start in order to avoid as much heat as possible. A quick check of the forecast the night before had shown that it was again going to be in the 90’s in Wallowa and it also showed that there was another slight chance for thunderstorms Friday morning when we were hoping to do our final hike of the trip at the Wallowa Homeland. As we set off from the Bear Creek Trailhead a little after 5:30am we left open the option of doing that last hike when we got back to Wallowa if we felt up to it.
IMG_7757The Bear Creek Trail at the trailhead.

This was a fairly straight forward hike following the Bear Creek Trail 4.6 miles to a junction with the Goat Creek Trail then continuing another three quarters of a mile to the Bear Creek Guard Station. The relatively level trail crosses Bear Creek a quarter mile from the trailhead.
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IMG_7767Footbridge over Bear Creek.

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IMG_7776Milk-vetch

IMG_7786Mountain lady-slippers

IMG_7791Bug on a thimbleberry leaf.

IMG_7802There were a couple of ups and downs where the trail got above Bear Creek.

IMG_7820Baker Gulch

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IMG_7839

IMG_7844Cliffs on the opposite side of Bear Creek.

IMG_7847Trail sign marking the junction with the Goat Creek Trail. By this time we had crossed into the Eagle Cap Wilderness but there hadn’t been any signs
indicating that.

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20220714_080409Prairie smoke a.k.a. old mans whiskers

IMG_7857A fleabane

IMG_7858The Bear Creek Trail crossing Goat Creek.

IMG_7859Footbridge over Goat Creek.

IMG_7861Goat Creek

IMG_7866The unmarked but obvious spur trail to the (locked) Bear Creek Guard Station on the right.

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We took a brief break at the Guard Station and headed back. On the way back we spotted a new to us (at least we think) flower.
Moneses uniflora - one-flowered monesesMoneses uniflora – one-flowered moneses

Moneses uniflora - one-flowered moneses

We also spotted several bugs and insects.
IMG_7886Hairstreak

20220714_094414Crab spider

20220714_094512Moth

IMG_7920Swallowtail on a bog orchid

IMG_7909Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_7923A fritillary butterfly with some sort of spider on the underside of a leaf below to the right.

The 10.8 mile hike here only gained 900′ of elevation, by far the least amount of any of our hikes during the trip. The lack of elevation gain combined with the cool morning temperatures allowed us to move at a quicker pace completing the hike under 5 hours and 15 minutes.

On our way back we had decided that we would indeed do the Wallowa Homeland hike today too instead of risking having to skip it if thunderstorms did develop in the morning. As convenient as our motel had been for the Bear Creek hike it was even more so for the Wallowa Homeland which started just a couple of blocks from the Mingo Motel at the Nez Perce Visitor Center.
IMG_7925First time we’ve started a hike from a motel room.

IMG_8142Passing the Visitor Center on 2nd Street.

From the Visitor Center we turned north on Storie Street and followed it nearly 3 blocks to a dirt path that crossed rail road tracks then crossed the Wallowa River on a bridge with interpretive signs.
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The trail here is on land purchased in 1997 & 2000 but that is also the former site of the Nez Perce’s Winter camp. In one of the more shameful events in U.S. History the Army ordered the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce to leave their home and relocate. This led to a 6 month saga that saw the Nez Perce attempt to flee to safety in Canada with the Army in pursuit for over 1100 miles. Ultimately they were capture or dispersed and their homeland lost. We were visiting a week before the 30th annual Tamkaliks Celebration.
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IMG_7940Dance arbor

After crossing the bridge we turned left on a gravel road heading toward the basalt cliffs of Tick Hill (an unsettling name but we did not actually see any ticks during this hike).
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We followed the road as it bent to the right below the cliffs for half a mile where a trail pointer sent us climbing uphill via a series of switchbacks.
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IMG_7944

IMG_7947Marmot

IMG_7951Approaching the pointer uphill.

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While it was still before noon it was heating up fast and the exposed hillside allowed the Sun to beat down on us. We distracted ourselves by looking at the different wildflowers that were still blooming amid the tall grasses.
IMG_7955Scarlet gilia

IMG_7959Dustymaidens

20220714_120500Skullcap

IMG_7967Heading up Tick Hill

IMG_7968Yarrow

IMG_7971Lupine

IMG_7973Mock orange and wild rose

IMG_7975Dragon fly

20220714_120956Moth mullien

IMG_7981Blanket flower

IMG_7982Checker-mallow and vetch

IMG_7985The Wallowas from the trail.

IMG_7988Sagebrush mariposa lily

After a steep half mile climb the trail leveled out a bit. We turned left at a post and descended slightly to a viewpoint next to a scraggly juniper tree.
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IMG_7994A buckwheat

IMG_7995The Wallowa River and dance arbor from the viewpoint.

IMG_7996The Wallowa Mountians

We returned to the trail which continued to be level for 400 more feet before heading uphill again for a third of a mile to a junction with a spur trail to a gazebo.
IMG_7997Heading back to the post from the viewpoint.

IMG_8000About a quarter mile from the post we crossed this road leading to some radio towers.

IMG_8005Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_8006The gazebo ahead.

IMG_8007Shade!

IMG_8008Plaque near the gazebo.

IMG_8011View from the gazebo.

IMG_8019From left to right: Point Joseph, Hurricane Point, Ruby Peak, and Sawtooth Peak.

We cooled off in the shade of the gazebo before continuing on.
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From the gazebo the trail descended slowly recrossing the road after 0.2 miles and passing by the radio towers.
IMG_8022At the junction with the spur trail to the gazebo. We came up from the left and continued on to the right.

IMG_8024Recrossing the road.

IMG_8025Western meadowlark

IMG_8029Heading toward the radio tower.

IMG_8034A fleabane

IMG_8039There were several plaques along this stretch.

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IMG_8056Various wildflowers

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20220714_130530Cinquefoil

20220714_130533Lots of blanket flower.

20220714_130545Sticky geranium

A little over three quarters of a mile from the gazebo the trail turned steeply downhill descending via another series of switchbacks.
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IMG_8090Grand collomia

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IMG_8098

IMG_8108Scarlet gilia

IMG_8109The last line is great advice.

At the bottom of the switchbacks we turned left on a road bed following the Wallowa River.
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IMG_8116Swallowtail

IMG_8117Dragon fly

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20220714_134116Bachelor buttons

IMG_8127Swallowtail on hyssop.

IMG_8128Wallowa River

IMG_8134Goldenrod

We followed this road half a mile to the gravel road we’d been on earlier.
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We retraced our steps back to the Mingo Motel completing a 4.5 mile lollipop hike with 600′ of elevation gain.

It was now a little after 2pm so after cleaning up and cooling down we headed back to the Little Bear Drive In for burgers, tots, and milkshakes. It was a good ending to what was overall an excellent trip (abdominal pain aside). With all our planned hikes completed we got a really early start on our drive back to Salem on Friday and made it home before Noon giving us plenty of time to unpack and relax. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Creek & Wallowa Homeland

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Minam River via Rock Springs – 07/13/2022

No Summer trip to Eastern Oregon is complete without at least one thunder storm and ours came early Wednesday morning. When we awoke at 4am in La Grande one was passing overhead nearby. I pulled up the weather forecast for the hike we had planned that day and much like the forecast had been for Mt. Ireland on Saturday there was a slight chance of a thunder storm. We packed up and headed for the Rock Springs Trailhead which was between La Grande where we had been staying and Wallowa where we had reservations for the next two nights. We were following the storm as it passed over the Wallowas but it stayed ahead of us and things looked pretty good when we parked along the shoulder of FR 62 where the Rock Springs Trail headed downhill toward the confluence of the Minam and Little Minam Rivers.
IMG_7426We parked about 200′ north of the actual trailhead per a suggestion by Sullivan in his guidebook.

IMG_7431The Rock Springs Trail at FR 62.

The trail loses approximately 2500′ in the first 3.5 miles, sometimes steeply, passing viewpoints at the 0.7 and 2.0 mile marks. There were views along other stretches of trail though as the trail alternated between open wildflower filled hillsides and forest. It was the least maintained trail that we were on all week with quite a bit of grass and brush encroaching on the trail. It was also the only trail on which we encountered multiple ticks, about a half dozen, during the trip. (The only other tick we saw all week was one on my pants at Mt. Ireland on the first day (post).
IMG_7432The trail passed a large rock field just below FR 62 and then entered the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_7437

IMG_7442Lupine

20220713_063707Coralroot

IMG_7445

IMG_7452

IMG_7453The edge of the storm clouds.

IMG_7463Scarlet gilia along the trail.

IMG_7466Oregon sunshine and tapertip onion

IMG_7469Nettle-leaf giant hyssop

20220713_065127View from the trail before the first “viewpoint”.

20220713_065338Oregon checker-mallow

IMG_7480Assorted wildflowers

IMG_7481Blue sky following the storm clouds.

20220713_065503Scabland penstemon

IMG_7487Penstemon near the first “viewpoint”.

IMG_7492Yarrow

20220713_065701Douglas dustymaiden

IMG_7495Looking back from the viewpoint.

IMG_7498Buckwheat

IMG_7500The Point Prominence Lookout atop the high point to the left.

20220713_065912Ballhead sandwort

IMG_7507Heather coming down from the viewpoint.

IMG_7509Blowdown over the trail.

20220713_070820Nookta rose

20220713_070933Wood rose

IMG_7516View to the SE deeper into the Wallowas.

IMG_7519

IMG_7525Mountain parnassian?

IMG_7530Back in the trees.

IMG_7531Some pale columbine. At first we thought it might be yellow columbine but it definitely had a red tint.

IMG_7533Thimbleberry crowding the trail. The storm had left a lot of water on the vegetation which in turn wound up on our legs and shoes.

IMG_7539Heading down into the valley.

IMG_7546Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_7561Approaching the second viewpoint.

IMG_7566Backbone Ridge which separates the Minam and Little Minam Rivers. We had crossed over that ridge further south on Tuesday when we took the Horse Ranch Trail from Moss Springs to the Minam River (post).

IMG_7569Grand collomia

IMG_7572Prairie smoke

IMG_7584Mock orange along the trail.

IMG_7585Twin flower and foam flower

IMG_7597Sign marking the junction of the Rock Springs and Little Minam Trails.

IMG_7600Possibly a wasp of some sort near the junction.

We turned left at the junction and descended another tenth of a mile where we spotted the first of several structures that used to be part of a lodge.
IMG_7601The first cabin ruin.

IMG_7602Almost looks okay from this angle.

IMG_7603Not so good from this angle.

IMG_7605The lodge was at the edge of this meadow.

IMG_7606The lodge

IMG_7609

IMG_7610The fireplace seems to have held up well.

IMG_7615This cabin didn’t hold up.

Beyond the lodge several faint trails led off into the meadow.
IMG_7618

The map in Sullivan’s book appeared to show the main trail turning left after passing the lodge with a spur continuing straight to the Little Minam River and a drinking hole for horses.
IMG_7620

We had intended on taking the left hand fork but we wound up at the watering hole instead.
IMG_7622Wildflowers near the watering hole.

IMG_7623The Little Minam River. We couldn’t quite see the confluence of the two rivers from here despite being very close.

We headed north using our GPS units in an attempt to locate the actual trail which should take us to a dangerous ford three quarters of a mile from the old lodge. After a bit of searching we picked up the faint trail.
IMG_7626

IMG_7627

IMG_7628

IMG_7630The dangerous ford.

According to Sullivan, horses are able to cross later in the Summer but hikers should follow the Little Minam Trail south to the Horse Ranch Trail and cross the Minam on the footbridge that we had crossed on near Red’s Horse Ranch.

We sat on the rocks along the Minam for a bit before heading back.
IMG_7631

On the way back it was a little easier to follow the faint trail which led us to some campsites above the old lodge.
IMG_7639Here we tried looking for horse hoof prints to stick to the trail.

IMG_7644Butterfly on yarrow.

IMG_7646We think this was the trail.

IMG_7651The campsites where we picked up the Rock Springs Trail again.

We made the 2500′ climb back up, watching for things we missed (and ticks) as we went.
IMG_7654Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_7657Looking across the gully we could see the trail cut climbing up the far hillside.

IMG_7658Pincushion plant

IMG_7670Resting moth

IMG_7673A plane taking off from Minam Lodge.

IMG_7674

IMG_7688A popular thistle.

IMG_7703A skipper of some sort.

20220713_115425We both missed this yellow columbine on the way down.

IMG_7731View from the upper viewpoint on the way back up.

IMG_7747A final view from the Rock Springs Trail.

IMG_7748The cloud cover that moved in turned out to be a blessing as it kept the temperature reasonable as we made the long climb back up.

Our hike here came in just a tad over 9 miles to go with the 2500′ of elevation gain.

The ticks had been a bit of a distraction but the views had been good and there were a lot of wildflowers along the way. At the end of the day it was our least favorite hike of the trip but there was still plenty to enjoy. From the trailhead we drove to Wallow and checked into the Mingo Motel which turned out to be a surprisingly nice room. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minam River via Rock Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Burger Pass – 07/12/2022

I’d spent all of Monday hiking with abdominal pain so I was very happy to wake up Tuesday feeling fine. On tap for today was the highest elevation hike in the Wallows for this trip (Mt. Ireland on Saturday (post) was higher but that peak is part of the Elkhorns.) and we weren’t sure how much snow we might encounter. We did have our microspikes with us just in case.

The hike to Burger Pass begins at the Buck Creek Forest Camp and Trailhead.
IMG_7205

The Elk Creek Trail (Trail 1944) leads from this trailhead to 7848′ Burger Pass near the 4.5 mile mark then down to Burger Meadows and eventually on to the Minam River. Sullivan’s featured hike is to Burger Pass which was our goal for the day but we had also left open the possibility of visiting the meadows if conditions were good.
IMG_7206

IMG_7215

IMG_7217At the 0.7 mile mark the trail briefly followed an old road bed to an old clearcut.

IMG_7218

IMG_7221Trail sign in the old clearcut.

IMG_7225Sullivan describes the second mile of this trail as one of the dustiest in Oregon but on this morning there was enough moisture in the ground to keep the dust at a minimum.

IMG_7230Rock Creek Butte (post) in the Elkhorns from the clearcut.

The trail climbed steeply following an old roadbed out of the clearcut following a ridge before leaving the ridge and bending SE near the 2 mile mark.
IMG_7236

IMG_7239Shortly after leaving the ridge we encountered the largest obstacle on the way to the pass.

IMG_7240The Elkhorns in the distance.

The trail made a long switchback and entered the Eagle Cap Wilderness as it rounded the same ridge that we’d been following earlier.
IMG_7243Granite at the switchback.

IMG_7406Entering the wilderness (photo from the way back).

The trail then traversed a granite hillside to a large slide below Burger Butte.
IMG_7252Valerian along the trail.

IMG_7258View from the trail.

IMG_7265Burger Butte

IMG_7269Rosy paintbrush

20220712_075037

IMG_7274Tributary of Middle Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_7275Looking down the creek over the slide.

IMG_7276

IMG_7279Yellow columbine

After reentering the forest we began to encounter the first patches of snow.
IMG_7280The snow began around 7200′.

IMG_7282Snow over the Elk Creek Trail.

IMG_7286China Cap from the trail.

The trail crossed another tributary of Middle Fork Catherine Creek below a beautiful pair of cascades.
IMG_7288

IMG_7290

IMG_7292Small meadow below the trail.

Approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead we came to an unsigned junction with the China Ridge Trail.
IMG_7295The China Ridge Trail joining from the left.

We stayed on the Elk Creek Trail as it climbed for another scenic mile to the pass below Burger Butte.
IMG_7302

IMG_7304

IMG_7305The Elkhorns to the right beyond Burger Butte.

IMG_7309

IMG_7311Lyall’s Rockcress

IMG_7317The few patches of snow were just melted enough to allow us to avoid having to walk over them.

IMG_7318Burger Pass

The view from Burger Pass was great. There was a large snow patch over the trail but it was fairly level and soft so it didn’t require the microspikes.
IMG_7319Burger Butte from the pass.

IMG_7320Looking deeper into the Wallowas.

IMG_7326The snow patch below Burger Butte.

I decided to go ahead and attempt the 350′ descent to Burger Meadows while Heather opted to stay at the pass. From Burger Pass the Elk Creek Trail descends three quarters a mile to a junction with the Sand Pass Trail.
IMG_7329

IMG_7330

IMG_7332There were several patches of snow and some downed trees to navigate but I soon found myself at the junction.

IMG_7333

IMG_7336

I turned right on the Sand Pass Trail to see more of the meadows.
IMG_7340

IMG_7341The Sand Pass Trail can be seen climbing out of the basin in the sandy gap to the center left.

IMG_7344Meadow lookout.

IMG_7345View from the meadow.

IMG_7346Buttercups were about the only flowers blooming in the wet meadow.

IMG_7348The rocks along the ridge were really interesting.

IMG_7349

IMG_7352

IMG_7353Marmot? in the meadow.

I followed the trail about four tenths of a mile before stopping at Elk Creek where a large snow drift lingered on the far side.
IMG_7357

IMG_7360

I climbed back up to Burger Pass and once Heather got my attention we started back down arriving at the car a little before 12:30pm.
IMG_7374Golden mantled ground squirrel watching us from the granite.

20220712_102723Butterfly

IMG_7381Mountain heather

IMG_7393Mushrooms near the Middle Fork Catherine Creek cascades.

IMG_7397Jacob’s ladder

IMG_7405Penstemon

IMG_7415Mushroom

IMG_7424Pacific coralroot

Including my visit to the meadows this was a 11.5 mile, 2800′ elevation gain hike which turned out to be our favorite of the trip (Mt. Ireland (post) being a close second.)

We picked up a late lunch/early dinner from Yia Yia Nikki’s which turned out to be a wonderful choice on what was the hottest day of the week. We packed up as much as possible that night in preparation of moving from La Grande to Wallowa for the next two nights. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Burger Pass

Categories
Hiking Oregon Wallowas

Minam River via Moss Springs – 07/11/2022

Following a great first two days of hikes (Mt. Ireland & Catherine Creek Meadows) on our visit to Eastern Oregon Monday’s hike was set to be the longest in the trip, a visit to the Minam River via the Moss Springs Trailhead. We’d set our alarm for 4am in order to try and get as much hiking done during the cooler morning hours as possible. We’d left our motel at 5am and I started having abdominal pain as we drove to the trailhead. We think it was a side effect of my having preemptively taken some over the counter heartburn medication the previous nights since we had been eating richer foods than we typically do. Whatever the cause the my stomach seemed constantly cramped which was affecting my lower back and hips as well. I hoped that whatever was ailing me would subside soon as we set off on the Horse Ranch Trail (Trail 1908).
IMG_6919

IMG_6921Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_6923

The trail descended from the trailhead 1.4 miles to a bridge over Horseshoe Creek. Going downhill was particularly painful for me as my cramped muscles protested each time I stepped down.
IMG_6932

IMG_6934Scarlet gilia along the trail.

20220711_062416Tapertip onion

20220711_062430Scarlet gilia

20220711_062551Lewis flax, we were hoping to see it opened up on the way back up to the car but somehow we both completely missed it.

20220711_062750Arrowleaf groundsel

IMG_6950

20220711_063552Bog orchid

20220711_063854False sunflowers

IMG_6958Paintbrush

20220711_064029Sticky geranium

IMG_6968Footbridge over Horseshoe Creek.

20220711_065308Horseshoe Creek

Shortly after crossing Horseshoe Creek the trail came close to the Little Minam River.
IMG_6970

The trail gradually descended along the river for approximately three miles to a bridge crossing it.
IMG_6978

20220711_071703Spotted coralroot

IMG_6981

IMG_6987Mountain lady slipper

IMG_6989Little Minam River

IMG_6992Coral fungus

IMG_6995Huckleberry Creek

IMG_6997Bridge across the Little Minam River.

IMG_7000Little Minam River

I had been forced to take a number of breaks due to the abdominal discomfort including several bouts of dry heaves. Other than my core though I felt good and being just a tad stubborn we continued on from the bridge. On the far side of the bridge we stayed left at a junction with the Jim White Ridge Trail.
IMG_7001

The Horse Ranch Trail briefly descended then climbed to a pass a little over 2 miles from the river crossing.
IMG_7005

IMG_7010The only area that we encountered showing signs of having burned in the not too distant past.

20220711_093724Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_7015Junction with the Little Minam Trail (left) just below the pass.

At the pass the trail turned left and began to descend along a ridge.
IMG_7019

Soon the trail left the ridge and began a steep descent to a meadow along the Minam River.
IMG_7022The meadow from the trail.

IMG_7023

IMG_7025Arriving at the meadow.

The U.S.F.S. owned Red’s Horse Ranch is located in the meadow. This historic ranch was acquired by the Forest Service in 1994 and still has a caretaker. Due to how I was feeling we didn’t actually visit the ranch but instead continued past it to the Minam River where we crossed on another bridge and took a long break across the river from the ranch.
IMG_7029

IMG_7033

IMG_7034Horses at Red’s Horse Ranch.

IMG_7035

IMG_7037Minam River

IMG_7041

I was hoping the long break would finally help my stomach relax but alas it wasn’t to be; so after our break we began the 8 mile trek back up to the car. We stopped at a spring on the way up to the pass to top off our water. For whatever reason I felt way better going uphill than I had downhill or even on level trail which was nice.
IMG_7045Landing strip near Red’s Horse Ranch.

IMG_7049

IMG_7057A plane coming in for a landing at the nearby Minam River Lodge.

IMG_7060Lousewort

IMG_7063Diamond clarkia

20220711_115525Grand collomia

IMG_7066Millipede

The pain was back as we descended from the pass but alleviated again every time we climbed. It was the first time I was happy to be climbing on a trail. We missed the flax on the way back up to the car but we did spot several white mariposa lilies which we hadn’t noticed that morning as well as a large patch of broomrape.
IMG_7082Pink pyrola

IMG_7083

IMG_7089Little Minam River

IMG_7090Coral fungus

IMG_7092We saw a bunch of these black moths? but they seldom sat still long enough to get a photo.

IMG_7108

IMG_7130An Orobanche

IMG_7131

IMG_7137Penstemon

IMG_7163Butterfly

IMG_7168

IMG_7183White mariposa lily

20220711_144805

IMG_7192Large-flower triteleia

IMG_7204Arriving back at the trailhead.

We arrived back at the car around 3:15pm after the long hike. It was a nice hike but admittedly my issues were a distraction for both of us which kept us from appreciating it as much as we should have.

Heather drove us back to La Grande where I tried taking a bath and eating half a sandwich was the only thing other than water and Gatorade that I’d had all day. Neither helped immediately so I laid down in bed and soon fell asleep. We kept the alarm set in hopes that I would be feeling better in the morning but if I didn’t we’d have to delay our planned hike to Burger Pass. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minam River via Moss Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Catherine Creek Meadows – 07/10/2022

We’d spent the night in Baker City following our hike to the Mt. Ireland Lookout (post). Our plan for the next six days was to do five more of the “featured hikes” (post) from Sullivan’s 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” then before heading home on Friday do the Wallowa Homeland hike which is featured in Sullivan’s most recent 2022 edition of “100 Hikes Eastern Oregon”. Because the hikes were spread out along the western and northern sides of the Wallowas we would be moving our base of operations a couple of times during the week starting with a move to La Grande for Sunday through Tuesday nights.

Sunday morning we packed everything up and headed for the North Fork Catherine Creek Trailhead. After navigating the pothole filled FR 7785 we pulled into the large trailhead parking area.
IMG_6597

IMG_6598A $5 fee is required here and at several other trailheads we visited during the week. (An annual NW Forest Pass can be used instead.)

The trail doesn’t start at the parking area but rather another tenth of a mile up the road so we road walked to the official trailhead.
IMG_6600

The trail initially climbs above the creek to an open hillside, that was putting on a pretty good wildflower display, before descending to a bridge a little after 1.5 miles.
IMG_6608Lots of purple venus penstemon.

IMG_6613There were also some white scabland penstemon on the hillside.

IMG_6614Buckwheat

20220710_061539Venus penstemon

IMG_6619Lupine and stonecrop

IMG_6624Paintbrush

IMG_6625North Fork Catherine Creek

20220710_062027Douglas dustymaiden

20220710_062112Spreading dogbane

IMG_6634The trail crossed several side creeks, all of which were we were able to cross dry footed.

IMG_6636A brief stretch along North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6637Queen’s cup

IMG_6638Another side creek.

IMG_6640Bog orchid

IMG_6641Spotted coralroot

IMG_6642A fleabane

One of the more interesting things we’ve witnessed was watching carpenter ants removing sawdust from a dead log and dropping it in a pile below.
IMG_6652

IMG_6653They’re a little blurry but you can see the ants in the cracks where they would drop their sawdust. It was fascinating to watch and we paused for quite a while.

IMG_6658Columbine

20220710_064502Mountain lady slippers

20220710_065926Large-flower triteleia

IMG_6685Back above the creek.

IMG_6692The bridge over Catherine Creek.

IMG_6693

IMG_6695Bluebells next to the bridge.

The trail climbed gradually for the next three and a half miles before reaching Catherine Creek Meadows.
IMG_6700

IMG_6704

IMG_6708Crab spider

IMG_6710Another type of penstemon

20220710_073039Rosy pussytoes

IMG_6713A side creek running down the trail.

20220710_073735Yellow columbine

IMG_6720Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_6726Jim Creek, this was one of the trickier crossings.

IMG_6735Hound’s tongue

IMG_6737Nettle-leaf giant hyssop

IMG_6750One of several smaller meadows along the trail.

IMG_6751Jacob’s ladder

IMG_6752California corn lily and bluebells.

20220710_082334Boot Hill Creek was also tricky as it had taken over the trail.

IMG_6765

IMG_6766A large patch of coralroot.

IMG_6772A few remaining balsamroot blooming above North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6777Arriving at Catherine Creek Meadows.

Up until this point we had been very lucky this year with mosquitos but the meadows were very wet and the recent warm weather had the bugs out in decent numbers so we couldn’t linger in any one spot too long but we did take a short break at a campsite near a side creek.
IMG_6778

IMG_6779

IMG_6786All the black dots in the blue sky were gnats flying over the stream at the trail crossing.

heart-leaved bittercressHeart-leaved bittercress

Our goal for the day lay about a half mile away, an early 1900’s log cabin at the far end of the meadow. After our break we set off across the creek following what became an increasingly wet trail to a junction where we forked left.
IMG_6791

IMG_6794

IMG_6799Looking back at the sign post in the meadow marking the trail junction.

IMG_6802Another dry section of trail.

IMG_6803It wasn’t dry for long.

IMG_6806Yellow buttercups and pink elephant’s head.

IMG_6807

IMG_6805Elephant’s head, one of our favorites.

IMG_6810Ladybug

IMG_6814Nearing the cabin.

IMG_6816

IMG_6817Ground squirrel

IMG_6819

IMG_6820Squatter running from the cabin.

We checked out the inside of the cabin before heading back.
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IMG_6822

It was only 9:45am when we started back so we took our time and kept an eye out for anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_6831Beetle

IMG_6836Another beetle and Nevada bitterroot.

IMG_6839Brunch

IMG_6845A comma of some sort.

IMG_6848Big mushroom

IMG_6852Something from the Lycaenidae family.

IMG_6855Coneflower

IMG_6874Swallow-tail on red clover.

IMG_6882Fritilary on clover

IMG_6897Mourning cloak perched overhead.

IMG_6899Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_6900A tortoiseshell

IMG_6903Skullcap, one of the hardest flowers to get a decent picture of for some reason.

IMG_6910Tapertip onion

IMG_6915Yarrow and other wildflowers up the hillside.

Our hike came in at 11.8 miles with approximately 1450′ of elevation gain.

From the trailhead we drove to La Grande and checked into our Motel, after hanging out at a park for about an hour because we’d arrived a bit too early, and then headed to Side A Brewing for an early dinner. It was going to be a warm week so we turned in early planning on another 4am wake-up the next morning to beat as much of the heat as we could. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Catherine Creek Meadows