For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.
We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.
After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.
orange agoseris beginning to open.
Cat’s ear lily
At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
The Three Sisters and Broken Top
Larkspur along the trail.
The Three Sisters and Broken Top
The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor
Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.
The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
View from the SW facing hillside.
The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.
After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
Diamond Peak through the trees.
After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
Valerian in the saddle.
Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey
Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak
View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)
The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)
Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington
From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
Giant blue-eyed Mary
Giant blue-eyed Mary
Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia
Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia
Tall mountain bluebell
More of the blue flowers
An aster or fleabane
Columbine and valerian
Not sure what type of flower this one is.
Valerian filled meadow below the trail.
White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells
Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
Looking back at our route so far.
The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.
The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.
Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak
We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.
This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
A few orange agoseris were scattered about.
More scarlet gilia
At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.
Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
Owl’s head clover
Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia
Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris
Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily
Wait that’s not a butterfly.
As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.
We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
Heather at the rock outcrop.
I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain
I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)
Back in the valerian meadows
Not sure what this is going to be either.
We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge