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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tidbits Mountain – 6/29/2019

As we continued to let the weather dictate our vacation plans we couldn’t pass up a “sunny” morning forecast for Tidbits Mountain near Blue River, OR. Another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, the trip to the site of a former lookout tower atop Tidbits Mountain is just 4.4 miles round trip from the Tidbits South Trailhead. This was actually a bit of a problem as the drive from Salem was a little over two and a half hours which meant our hiking time would most likely not be greater than our driving time which would break our rule of not driving longer than hiking. Our original plan to solve this was going to be making a second stop at the Lower McKenzie River Trailhead where we could hike as far as we liked on the McKenzie River Trail, but while researching the Tidbits Mountain hike another option presented itself.

The Gold Hill Trail travels 3.2 miles along a ridge to a junction with the Tidbits Mountain Trail three quarters of a mile from the summit of Tidbits Mountain. Instead of driving to a different trailhead we could spend some time on the Gold Hill Trail which the Forest Service warned sees only periodic maintenance.

We started our hike not at the Tidbits South Trailhead but rather along Forest Road 1509 where FR 877 headed uphill .2 miles to the trailhead on the left.
IMG_1504FR 877 at FR 1509

Both the Forest Service and Sullivan pointed out that FR 877 was steep and Sullivan added that turning around at the trailhead was “awkward”, thus our decision to walk up the road.
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As we hiked up the road there were a couple of views of the rocky pinnacles of Tidbits Mountain on the left.
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A sign marked the start of the Tidbits Mountain Trail.
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The trail climbed gradually for 1.3 miles to a junction on a ridge crest. This section of trail passed through some old growth trees and was full of rhododendron blooms. It was by far the best display of rhododendron that we had seen.
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There were a few other flowers along the way as well but none in anywhere near the numbers as the rhodies.
IMG_1531Penstemon

IMG_1535Showy phlox

IMG_1538<script async src=”//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js” charset=”utf-8″Paintbrush and stonecrop

IMG_1544Anemone

IMG_1546Iris

IMG_1555Arnica

At the junction we turned left following a pointer for the Tidbits Mountain Lookout.
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This section of trail traversed a rocky hillside on the north side of Tidbits Mountain. Being on the north facing slope trillium were still in bloom and a few remnants of glacial lilies remained.
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The talus slopes below Tidbits Mountain allowed for some previews of the views to come at the summit.
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IMG_1605Looking west toward the Green Mountain Lookout.

IMG_1607Green Mountain Lookout

IMG_1603Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1601Three Fingered Jack

The talus is also home to one of our favorite wild animals, the pika! They are not particularly easy to see but once you know what you are looking for with a little luck you’ll spot one of these rabbit relatives. It was a lucky day for us as we spotted two.
IMG_1614There is at least one pika in this picture.

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IMG_1648There is another one in this picture.

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When we weren’t scanning the rocks for pikas we did a lot of looking up at the formations above us.
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IMG_1636Columbine and solomonseal in the talus slope.

IMG_1630Last of the snow along the talus.

At a saddle a half mile from the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we came to a second junction. This one was unsigned. To the right a trail headed downhill to the Tidbits West Trailhead. The Gold Hill Trail used to continue straight here but it was so faint and overgrown that we didn’t even see it on the first pass. We turned uphill to the left and began the steep .2 mile climb to the summit.
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IMG_1684Catchfly on the way up.

IMG_1685Lookout remains below the summit.

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IMG_1693Foundation remains

IMG_1696Wildflowers at the summit.

The 360 degree view from the summit was very good although our timing meant the sun was overhead between us and the Cascades impacting the ability to get clear photos of those mountains.
IMG_1698NE we could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_1703Mt. Hood

IMG_1705Mt. Jefferson behind Iron Mountain and Cone Peak

IMG_1707Three Fingered Jack

The eastern view added Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_1708Mt. Washington

IMG_1750Three Sisters

IMG_1718Mt. Bachelor

We could also just make out the lookout tower atop nearby Carpenter Mountain (post).
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To the SE we could make out Maiden Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Diamond Peak.
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IMG_1719Maiden Peak (post)

IMG_1762Mt. Thielsen (post)

IMG_1722Diamond Peak

We spent a good amount of time on the summit taking in the view before descending to a lower viewpoint with a number of flowers.
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IMG_1802Cat’s ear lilies

IMG_1806Oregon sunshine amid buckwheat

IMG_1807Penstemon and paintbrush

IMG_1816A fleabane or aster

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IMG_1819Looking down from the lower viewpoint.

We then headed back down to the trail junction where we found the faint tread of Historical Gold Hill Trail. We followed it just far enough to get a close up view of a flower garden.
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IMG_1850Western wallflower

IMG_1853Larkspur

20190629_092727Paintbrush

20190629_093003Cinquefoil

We returned to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and recrossed the talus slopes, this time we didn’t spot any pikas. We did stop to admire some of the flowers though.
20190629_093755Baneberry

20190629_093642Current

IMG_1879Bleeding heart, trillium and wood violets

20190629_093952Wood violet

With the Sun starting to pass overhead Mt. Jefferson was a little more photogenic.
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When we arrived back at the junction with the Gold Hill Trail we briefly searched for any sign of a former shelter that was indicated on the map.
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After failing to uncover any sign of it we headed out on the Gold Hill Trail. Given the Forest Service mentioned that this trail only receives periodic maintenance we weren’t sure how far we might go but we were curious to check it out.
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The trail was pretty overgrown, not crowded with brush, but it had a lot of vegetation growing in the middle of it indicating a lack of use.
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We soon passed a rock outcrop where a patch of small monkeyflowers were blooming.
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We followed the trail a total of 2.7 miles losing a total of 800′ through a series of ups and downs as it followed a ridge to the north and east. We passed through some lovely forest filled with more blooming rhododendron and by several rock outcrops. There were occasional views of the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor through the trees and also spotted some deer, at least one doe and fawn, as they dashed away through the trees. Despite the lack of use and periodic maintenance the trail was in pretty good shape with just a few trees to step over.
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IMG_1914North and Middle Sister

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IMG_1927Mt. Bachelor

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20190629_104300Showy phlox

IMG_1939Washington lilies getting ready to bloom

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At the 2.7 mile mark the trail began a final 400′ descent in the remaining half mile to FR 1509. We weren’t overly keen on having to climb back up that just to say we reached the road plus we had set an 11:30 turn around time and it was just after 11:20. We noticed an open knoll just off trail to the right so we decided to check it out and make this be our turn around spot.
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The knoll turned out to be very interesting. In addition to some nice views there were a number of flowers.
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IMG_1975The Two Girls

IMG_1999Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_1986Wolf Rock an Mt. Washington

IMG_2007North Sister

IMG_2008Middle Sister

IMG_2010South Sister

IMG_1990Mt. Jefferson had been overtaken by clouds but Iron Mountain and Cone Peak were still visible.

IMG_1996Buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_2021Wallflower and cat’s ear lilies

IMG_2015Penstemon and paintbrush

After exploring the knoll we headed back looking for anything we missed on our first pass. We did notice a couple of interesting old tree trunks and a grouse crossed the trail in front of us.
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IMG_2040Young tree growing out of an old trunk.

IMG_2049Grouse

We made our way back to the Tidbits Mountain Trail and returned to the trailhead without seeing another person until we ran into a gentleman at the trailhead who seemed to just be out for a drive and looking around. We ended up with a 10.5 mile hike which was perfect. It was a nice way to end our vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tidbits Mountain

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