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Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain – 7/26/2019

Sticking with our Matt Reeder inspired vacation, on Thursday we selected a hike featured in both his “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and “Off the Beaten Trail” second edition. In the latter he doesn’t describe the extended hike to Baty Butte. We started our hike at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead where, just as at the Pine Ridge Trailhead, we were greeted by mosquitoes.
IMG_4576Spur road leading to the trail from the pullout.

IMG_4580Signage at the end of the closed spur.

The trail began climbing almost immediately via a switchback that passed us through a thimbleberry and devil’s club covered hillside.
IMG_4581Thimbleberry crowding the trail.

IMG_4582Devil’s club along the trail. We each had our hands brush against some and it doesn’t feel pleasant.

IMG_4587Lupine and paintbrush in the thimbleberries as the trail enters the forest.

After the initial battle with the brush the trail entered the forest where some old growth was present and the trail much clearer.
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IMG_4600It looked like these two trees fell out of the same hole but in different directions.

IMG_4609Anemone and queen’s cup

IMG_4612Beargrass and huckleberry bushes.

After climbing for a mile we reached a viewpoint at a switchback with a view of Mt. Jefferson.
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IMG_4618Schreiner Peak in front of Mt. Jefferson.

Another .2 miles of climbing along a wildflower dotted ridge brought us to a junction just below the summit of Thunder Mountain.
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IMG_4626Small sign on the tree marking the trail to Thunder Mountain’s summit.

We decided to save Thunder Mountain for the return trip due to the position of the Sun and the presence of quite a bit of haze. We followed the pointers on a temporary sign for Skookum Lake and Baty Butte.
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The Skookum Lake Trail began to descend along a steep hillside that looked to have had an excellent wildflower display just a week or two earlier. As it was there were still a decent number of flowers in bloom.
IMG_4631Columbine

IMG_4635Washington lilies

IMG_4647Penstemon

IMG_4648Assorted flowers

20190726_075502Washington lilies

IMG_4650Oregon sunshine

20190726_075546Scouler’s bluebells

IMG_4653Columbine and a couple different types of penstemon.

IMG_4663Cat’s ear lily

IMG_4666Lupine

20190726_080627Pyrola

The trail left the wildflowers as it made a horseshoe shaped turn into thicker trees.
IMG_4671Skookum Lake Trail below coming out of the horseshoe turn.

Approximately a mile from the Thunder Mountain junction we passed a rocky viewpoint where large basalt boulders were jumbled along the hillside.
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We didn’t stop to check out the view until our way back by, but there was a decent view of Mt. Hood and through the trees we could make out Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_4933Mt. Hood

IMG_4938Mt. Rainier

The trail descended another half mile beyond the rocks before leveling out along a meadow.
IMG_4675The trail skirts a talus slope above the meadow.

IMG_4681Finally leveling out by the meadow after losing approximately 700′.

The meadow is also the site of the junction with the abandoned Baty Butte Trail which was marked by a sad little rock cairn and tattered flagging along with an easy to miss temporary sign.
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IMG_4889I missed the sign until we had come back and started down the Skookum Lake Trail.

There were a few mosquitoes patrolling the meadow so we didn’t linger long but we did stick around long enough to notice several types of flowers still blooming.
IMG_4686Tall bluebells

IMG_4687The yellow might be a groundsel.

IMG_4689Aster

The tread of the trail was difficult to make out but there was some flagging on the far side and a faint path to it.
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Beyond the meadow the trail became a bit more obvious as it passed through the trees. Occasional flagging assisted in keeping us on track.
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The trail climbed a bit before arriving at an old roadbed .4 miles from the meadow.
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The road was a casualty of the 1996 storms that caused flooding in Oregon and washed out much of the Fish Creek road network. The roadbed is now more of a wildflower garden. We turned right onto the road following a faint path through the flowers.
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Shortly after setting off on the road there was a nice view of Mt. Hood to the north.
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This was by far the most enjoyable stretch of old roadbed we’ve been on. The wildflowers were profuse and there were dozens of butterflies flying about. It was the tail end of the flowers but they were still very impressive.
IMG_4705Paintbrush, penstemon and lupine

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IMG_4721Mostly past lupine

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IMG_4732Several butterflies on Oregon sunshine.

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IMG_4742Scarlet gilia

IMG_4745Fireweed

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At about the .4 mile mark another old road joined from the right which wasn’t a problem on the way to Baty Butte but it is worth noting because coming from the other direction it looked like it might be easy to continue straight on the wrong roadbed.
IMG_4840Left is the wrong way on the return, the correct route is to the right through the brush.

IMG_4841Flagging marking the correct path.

Near the three quarter mile mark on the road we passed some rock out crops and a talus slope where we spotted a pika and some golden-mantled ground squirrels.
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Shortly after passing along a narrow ridge the road arrived at the base of Baty Butte.
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The road continued around the butte to the left but the Baty Butte Trail headed uphill amid some small trees.
IMG_4790Baty Butte Trail to the right.

The trail climbed around the side of the butte and showed some signs of recent trail maintenance.
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After .4 miles on the trail, as it began to curve around a ridge, we turned uphill on a scramble trail.
IMG_4797Baty Butte Trail starting to curve around the ridge.

IMG_4798Scramble route up the ridge.

It was a steep quarter mile climb up the ridge which devolved into a narrow rocky spine toward the top.
IMG_4800Looking down from the start of the spine.

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It required the use of our hands to navigate this and we stopped at a wide (for the ridge) spot. From here it appeared that the number of trees increased to a point that would make continuing even more difficult.
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From this viewpoint we had a view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
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IMG_4820Mt. Jefferson

IMG_4821Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

There was also an excellent view of Table Rock and Rooster Rock in the Table Rock Wilderness (post).
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IMG_4813Rooster Rock is the formation to the far left.

IMG_4823Looking down from Baty Butte.

After a brief rest we headed back eager to see more of the butterflies and flowers along the road.
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20190726_105330Orange agoseris

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IMG_4860Pearly everlasting

IMG_4861Penstemon

We also got to sample a few ripe strawberries.
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The trail heading off of the road was easier to spot than it had been at the meadow.
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Back through the meadow we went to the Skookum Lake Trail.
IMG_4877Monkeyflower along the trail.

IMG_4887Crab spider on aster.

We turned left following the pointer for Skookum Lake.
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The Skookum Lake Trail descended for three tenths of a mile to Skookum Lake.
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IMG_4893Rhododendron along the Skookum Lake Trail.

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The little lake was full of activity with butterflies flying along the shore and rough skinned newts floating lazily in the water. Trout were also visible swimming in the shallows.
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We followed the trail along the lake shore to the Skookum Lake Campground.
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A forest road used to provide access to the primitive campground. It still sees some use though as the litter left in a bucket near the picnic table showed.
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As we headed back along the lake Heather spotted a crawdad on a log.
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After watching the crawdad for a bit we climbed back up to the junction with the Baty Butte Trail and then made the steep climb back up to the Thunder Mountain spur trail where we turend left.
IMG_4939Small sign on a tree marking the trail to the summit of Thunder Mountain.

It was just a tenth of a mile climb to the site of the former lookout tower at the summit.
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From the summit we could again see Mt. Jefferson but now we also had a view north to Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.
IMG_4945The view north.

IMG_4947Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4949Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams beyond Fish Creek Mountain (post).

IMG_4967Mt. Hood

IMG_4966Mt. Jefferson

From the summit we headed back down to the car stopping at the lower viewpoint which had a better view of Mt. Jefferson.
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Shortly before reaching the brushy section we passed a group of backpackers headed up the trail, the only people we saw all day. This was a really nice hike with a variety of scenery. Even if the scramble up Baty Butte is a little too much for some with the exposure the road walk to the butte was well worth a visit during wildflower season. The hike came in at just over 10 miles with a little over 3000′ of elevation gain making it a bit of a challenge but nothing too crazy. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baty Butte, Skookum Lake, and Thunder Mountain

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