We’d spent the night in Baker City following our hike to the Mt. Ireland Lookout (post). Our plan for the next six days was to do five more of the “featured hikes” (post) from Sullivan’s 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” then before heading home on Friday do the Wallowa Homeland hike which is featured in Sullivan’s most recent 2022 edition of “100 Hikes Eastern Oregon”. Because the hikes were spread out along the western and northern sides of the Wallowas we would be moving our base of operations a couple of times during the week starting with a move to La Grande for Sunday through Tuesday nights.
Sunday morning we packed everything up and headed for the North Fork Catherine Creek Trailhead. After navigating the pothole filled FR 7785 we pulled into the large trailhead parking area.
A $5 fee is required here and at several other trailheads we visited during the week. (An annual NW Forest Pass can be used instead.)
The trail doesn’t start at the parking area but rather another tenth of a mile up the road so we road walked to the official trailhead.
The trail initially climbs above the creek to an open hillside, that was putting on a pretty good wildflower display, before descending to a bridge a little after 1.5 miles.
Lots of purple venus penstemon.
There were also some white scabland penstemon on the hillside.
Lupine and stonecrop
North Fork Catherine Creek
The trail crossed several side creeks, all of which were we were able to cross dry footed.
A brief stretch along North Fork Catherine Creek.
Another side creek.
One of the more interesting things we’ve witnessed was watching carpenter ants removing sawdust from a dead log and dropping it in a pile below.
They’re a little blurry but you can see the ants in the cracks where they would drop their sawdust. It was fascinating to watch and we paused for quite a while.
Mountain lady slippers
Back above the creek.
The bridge over Catherine Creek.
Bluebells next to the bridge.
The trail climbed gradually for the next three and a half miles before reaching Catherine Creek Meadows.
Another type of penstemon
A side creek running down the trail.
Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Jim Creek, this was one of the trickier crossings.
Nettle-leaf giant hyssop
One of several smaller meadows along the trail.
California corn lily and bluebells.
Boot Hill Creek was also tricky as it had taken over the trail.
A large patch of coralroot.
A few remaining balsamroot blooming above North Fork Catherine Creek.
Arriving at Catherine Creek Meadows.
Up until this point we had been very lucky this year with mosquitos but the meadows were very wet and the recent warm weather had the bugs out in decent numbers so we couldn’t linger in any one spot too long but we did take a short break at a campsite near a side creek.
All the black dots in the blue sky were gnats flying over the stream at the trail crossing.
Our goal for the day lay about a half mile away, an early 1900’s log cabin at the far end of the meadow. After our break we set off across the creek following what became an increasingly wet trail to a junction where we forked left.
Looking back at the sign post in the meadow marking the trail junction.
Another dry section of trail.
It wasn’t dry for long.
Yellow buttercups and pink elephant’s head.
Elephant’s head, one of our favorites.
Nearing the cabin.
Squatter running from the cabin.
We checked out the inside of the cabin before heading back.
It was only 9:45am when we started back so we took our time and kept an eye out for anything we’d missed on our first pass.
Another beetle and Nevada bitterroot.
A comma of some sort.
Something from the Lycaenidae family.
Swallow-tail on red clover.
Fritilary on clover
Mourning cloak perched overhead.
Skullcap, one of the hardest flowers to get a decent picture of for some reason.
Yarrow and other wildflowers up the hillside.
Our hike came in at 11.8 miles with approximately 1450′ of elevation gain.
From the trailhead we drove to La Grande and checked into our Motel, after hanging out at a park for about an hour because we’d arrived a bit too early, and then headed to Side A Brewing for an early dinner. It was going to be a warm week so we turned in early planning on another 4am wake-up the next morning to beat as much of the heat as we could. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Catherine Creek Meadows