In our last post I said we had completed our final planned hike with less than 1000ft or elevation gain for the year. I chose the word “planned” because I knew I needed to leave open the possibility of an unplanned hike. It only took a week for that to prove wise. We had a hike free weekend but wound up with the opportunity to go on a hike in Central Oregon with my parents and assist them with trying out their new Garmin GPS unit. We had planned on meeting them last weekend after our hike in Detroit, but a deer had different ideas and they were unable to make it.
This was our first chance to take a hike together and we decided on hiking to Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville Oregon. This was a new trail to all of us, but we had seen the pillar last year when we hiked to the Twin Pillars in the Mill Creek Wilderness. The trail clocks in at 4 miles round trip with just under 700ft of elevation gain. The trail head is near a small meadow surrounding a little spring. A number of bright yellow flowers as well as large solomonseal and wild strawberries were present. While we were getting ready to begin the hike I spotted a fritillary which was the first of that type of flower we’ve encountered.
We were all pleasantly surprised by the diversity that the trail had to offer. The forest seemed to shift constantly from firs to ponderosa pine to juniper and back. The collection of wildflowers was even more diverse with white death camas, yellow balsamroot and arnica, purple larkspur and phlox, and various shades of paintbrush.
A number of others were present as well including desert parsley, giant-head clover, penstemon, and naked broomrape (an unfortunate name for a cute little flower). In addition a large number of lupine leaves promised a good show within a couple of weeks.
A nice opening offered a view toward the the Three Sisters but on this day low clouds ensured that the Cascade peaks were mostly hidden. It mattered little though as the wildflower show more than made up for the missed view. After 1.8 miles the trail finally offers the first glimpse of its goal -Steins Pillar.
From the viewpoint the trail descends for 0.2 miles to the base of the pillar. The pillar is made of rhyolite ash that has been compacted. The area at the base makes for a nice lunch spot with views across Mill Creek to the Twin Pillars. Much of the elevation gain is due to the climb back up to the viewpoint up several sets of stairs.
As usual most of the wildlife we spotted was from the car on the way to and from the trail head. We saw several deer from the road but the trail offered a Northern Pacific Treefrog and a few Golden Mantled Squirrels. In all this was a very nice hike and a great time of year for it. Until the next time, Happy Trials.