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Central Oregon Hiking Lakeview Oregon Trip report

Winter Ridge – 07/19/2020

After a night in Bend we continued on our way to Lakeview making a stop along the way to hike the Fremont Trail at Winter Ridge to do the first of seven planned featured hikes from Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” book.

The Fremont Trail traverses the Fremont National Forest at a distance of almost 150 miles. We had hiked a short section of the Fremont Trail on our visits to Hager Mountain (2013, 2014). For this hike we drove Highway 31 south from Highway 97 for 87 miles turning right on Forest Road 29 at milepost 87. FR 29 climbed from Summer Lake 9.5 miles to Government Harvey Pass. Our excitement started when a bobcat ran across the road right in front of the car. This was one of the animals left on our “yet to see” list. Granted it was from the car but it was on the way to a hike so we still sort of count it. When the road leveled out on Winter ridge at the pass we turned right at a “T” junction onto FR 2901. We parked along the shoulder of this road after a tenth of a mile near a sign on the right marking the crossing of the Fremont Trail.
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Some cows up the road were watching us closely as we prepared to set off on the trail.
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There was a bit of blowdown along the early portion of the trail but nothing too difficult to navigate.
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Sullivan indicates that the wildflowers are best here in June but that is also when the mosquitos are at their worst. We were pleasantly surprised to find a number of wildflowers blooming and mosquitos were not an issue.
IMG_0028Prairie smoke (old man’s whiskers)

IMG_0031Yarrow and Oregon sunshine

IMG_0037Pussytoes starting to go to seed.

IMG_0040Paintbrushes

IMG_0049Scarlet gilia

IMG_0059Lupine

IMG_0065Buckwheat

IMG_0077Orange agoseris

IMG_0089Paintbrush

20200719_073911Sticky purple geranium

Sticky sandwortSticky sandwort

IMG_0103Nuttall’s linanthus

IMG_0105Fireweed

IMG_0113Hyssop

The trail spent a good deal of time close enough to the edge of Winter Ridge to allow for short detours to check out the scenery below.
IMG_0052Golden mantled ground squirrel also enjoying the views.

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IMG_0132Looking down at Summer Lake

20200719_115435FR 29 coming up the hillside to the right.

In addition to the views and flowers there was some wildlife, but no bobcats, along the way.
IMG_0117Woodpecker

IMG_0122Swallowtail

IMG_0139Fritillary butterfly

Just under 2.5 miles from FR 2901 we arrived at junction with a side trail to Currier Springs.
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We turned down this sometimes faint trail which led slightly downhill for .3 miles to the Currier Springs Horse Camp Trailhead on FR 3221.
IMG_0150Passing through a grove of quaking aspen.

IMG_0151California corn lily

IMG_0153California corn lily

IMG_0157Chipmunk

IMG_0159More cows at the horse camp.

We walked past the large sign for the horse camp to the spring on the left side of the road.
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IMG_0172Brewer’s blackbird

Near the spring we encountered some musk thistle which as far as thistles go was pretty impressive but unfortunately not native.
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In the meadows nearby were some native wildlfowers though.
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20200719_090205White triteleia

20200719_090226A checkermallow

We returned to the Fremont Trail and continued north past more viewpoints for 1.4 more miles to a sign for another spring, Mud Springs. Here there was no obvious trail and we did not attempt to visit the spring.
IMG_0190A view north along the ridge.

IMG_0194Looking NE from Winter Ridge.

IMG_0198Grand collomia

IMG_0209Hummingbird

IMG_0211Rosy pussytoes

IMG_0212Scouler’s woollyweed (maybe)

IMG_0214Wildflowers along the Fremont Trail

IMG_0222Another viewpoint

IMG_0223Looking south along the ridge.

IMG_0230More musk thistles.

IMG_0233Fremont Trail along Winter Ridge.

IMG_0241Buck watching us through the trees.

IMG_0245The buck heading off.

IMG_0252Sign for Mud Springs.

IMG_0269Western tanager near the junction.

Here Sullivan’s description no longer matched what we were seeing. We had expected the Fremont Trail to continue faintly along the ridge to a point where Sullivan described a “Landside Viewpoint”. Our GPS maps showed the trail following this alignment but not far beyond the Mud Springs sign the trail veered away from the ridge passing through snowbrush that was covering much of the hillside below the point.
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IMG_0274Snowbrush along the trail.

We stayed on the clear trail expecting it to eventually lead us up to the point, but instead after a half mile it turned away from the point heading downhill another quarter mile before reaching the rim of Winter Ridge well below the viewpoint which was to be our turnaround point.
IMG_0279Where we wound up along the rim of the ridge.

IMG_0282Looking up toward the viewpoint.

We decided to bushwhack our way up to the viewpoint and began a hot and tedious .7 mile cross country adventure. I stayed closer to the edge of the ridge which provided some decent views but became nearly impossible to navigate.
IMG_0287I made it to this rock outcrop which wasn’t the viewpoint I was looking for.

IMG_0288A second rocky viewpoint (with the first down the ridge a bit), still not the viewpoint I was looking for.

IMG_0289Looking up the ridge from the second rock outcrop. The number of snags and thicker snowbrush caused me to abandon the ridge here and follow the line that Heather was taking just a bit in from the rim.
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We eventually managed to reach the viewpiont.
20200719_105548Looking north across the landslide to Summer Lake.

IMG_0309Looking south

IMG_0307Balsamroot near the viewpoint.

After taking a break we debated what route to take back. We weren’t keen on going back down the way we’d come up but we also weren’t certain what the conditions would be if we attempted to follow the rim back toward the Mud Springs junction. In the end we decided to use our GPS and aim for the closest point on our track from earlier when we passed below the viewpoint. This worked out well as it was only a little over a quarter of a mile back to the Fremont Trail and there were far less obstacles to navigate. We followed the Fremont Trail back to where it had veered away from the ridge and looked to see if we had missed something. There was no obvious trail tread but there may have been a cairn (or it might have just been rocks).
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Regardless we had made it to the viewpoint so the hike had been a success. We returned the way we’d come, looking as always for wildlife and things we missed on the first pass. In this case we had missed a large number of Orobanche that we hadn’t noticed earlier.
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IMG_0320Becker’s white on subalpine fleabane.

Slender cinquefoilSlender cinquefoil

It was around 90 degrees by the time we got back to the car. This hike turned out to be a little longer and more difficult than we had expected due to the bushwhacking. My GPS read 11.3 miles instead of the 9.6 we had planned on. We drove into Lakeview where the temperature nearly hit triple digits. It promised to be an interesting week of hiking and this first hike let us know that it was going to be a challenging one as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Winter Ridge

2 replies on “Winter Ridge – 07/19/2020”

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