Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, & Donner Und Blitzen River – 08/16/2021

Monday was mostly a travel day as we left Bend and headed for the Steens Mountain Resort where we would be staying for the next three nights. We did however manage to get a few short hikes in along the way beginning with a trail that had intrigued us since the first time we’d stopped at the Sagehen Rest Area on Highway 20 eighteen miles west of Burns. A highway rest stop seemed like a bit of an odd place for a trail but that’s part of what piqued our interest. The Sagehen Hill Nature Trial is a short (just over half a mile) interpretive loop with 11 numbered stops.
IMG_1968Trailhead sign at the south end of the rest stop. Brochures were located in the small box under the sign.

IMG_1969Map on the trailhead sign.

Smoke from fires near Lakeview, OR made for a smoke filled horizon and unlike our hike on Mt. Bachelor the previous day (post) here we could smell it in the air.
IMG_1972Red Sun through the smoke.

Despite the lack of views (on a clear day Steens Mountain would have been visible) it was a nice hike and the interpretive stops were interesting. We didn’t see any sage grouse here but we spotted some other wildlife along the route.
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IMG_1991The Harney Valley to the east.

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IMG_1998This stop was for a juniper that was blown apart by a lightning strike.

IMG_2000The rest area from the loop.

IMG_2001The last stop was to discuss the relationship between the junipers and the Idaho fescue that grows underneath.

This was a neat little trail and a nice leg stretcher. After completing the loop we drove into Burns, filled up our gas tank and then headed for our next stop at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. This was the one place we had previously visited (post) but we hadn’t driven the entire auto tour route that time and there were some other trails in the complex that we could check out. We started with a stop at the headquarters where we once again were treated to a variety of wildlife as we toured the complex.
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DSCN0516Deer in the nearly dry Marshall Pond

DSCN0539Yellow headed blackbird

DSCN0557California quail

IMG_2045Owl

DSCN0614Chipmunk

IMG_2065More quail

DSCN0617The early bird

IMG_2077Hummingbird

IMG_2081Little bird on a feeder

We skipped the Overlook Trail this time due to the smoke filled horizon and started the auto tour route. Again there was plenty of wildlife to pause for along the drive and we also stopped at Benson Pond to hike the Benson Pond Trail (a short half mile out and back) where we were treated to a large number of ducks and other birds on the pond.
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DSCN0654Shrike

IMG_2099Hawk and a magpie

DSCN0663Osprey

DSCN0667Turkey vultures

IMG_2125Coyote

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IMG_2138Mourning doves

IMG_2143Egrets and ducks at Benson Pond

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51393871889_968777c132_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2153">American kestral

IMG_2156Old cabin at Benson Pond

IMG_2177Another owl

DSCN0725Another turkey vulture

IMG_2189Grasshopper

DSCN0733White faced ibis

DSCN0736Great blue heron amid the ducks.

IMG_2195A couple types of egrets it appears.

DSCN0763Deer that were in the Blitzen River

DSCN0764Bounding fawn

DSCN0769Ducks and coots at Knox Pond

The auto tour route ends at the Steens Mountain Loop Road just a mile and a half from the Steens Mountain Resort. We were a bit too early to check in though so we drove past the resort another tenth of a mile to the entrance of the Page Springs Campground. We turned into the campground and parked at the day use area at its far end where two trails start. The one mile Wilderness Nature Trail and the 3.7 mile long Donner und Blitzen River Trail.
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We decided to take the Donner und Blitzen Trail since the nature trail looped back into the campground and ended near one of the campsites leaving a short road walk back to the trailhead. The Donner und Blitzen Trail entered the Steens Mountain Wilderness a short distance from the trailhead and followed the river fairly closely for the first 1.2 miles which is as far as we went on this day. It was a little smokey and it was hot and enough time had passed that we would be able to check into the resort by the time we made it back to our car. The trail was a little brushy at times but a nice surprise was finding a loop option not shown on the map but clearly marked starting 0.4 miles from the trailhead and rejoining the river trail at the 0.7 mile mark. We took this route on the way back climbing up through the cliffs above the river providing some nice views despite the haze.
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IMG_2224Bee and a butterfly

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IMG_2235A brushy section.

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IMG_2256A bee and a skipper

20210816_131717Praying mantis

IMG_2261The “other” trail on the hillside at the 0.7 mile mark.

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IMG_2275A wren?

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IMG_2280Fence crossing

IMG_2281Rejoining the Donner und Blitzen Trail at the 0.4 mile mark.

2.9 mile hike on the Donner und Blitzen trail

We got a total of 5.4 miles of hiking in between Sagehen Hill, the refuge headquarters, Benson Pond, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The abundant wildlife was the highlight of the day. We checked into the resort and got settled in our modular unit which had a full kitchen, shower, couch and most importantly A/C. We were hoping that the smoke would move out overnight or at least over the next day or two when the temperature was also set to drop to more reasonable levels. We spent the evening listening to the osprey that had a nest below the resort. Happy Trails!
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Flickr: Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and Donner und Blitzen River

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Fields Peak – 07/23/2021

Our time in John Day had come to an end and it was time to start our journey back to Salem. We were planning on visiting Heather’s parents in Bend for the night but of course we had a hike planned on the way. The hike to Fields Peak and McClellan Mountain in the Aldrich Mountains was another hike that was previously featured in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Easter Oregon” but had been moved to the back of the book in his most recent 3rd edition. We began the hike at the McClellan Mountain Trailhead after a rough final 1.2 miles of driving (high clearance vehicles recommended). The bright spot of the drive was spotting a bobcat in the road.
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While the route to Fields Peak is open to OHVs the McClellan Mountain Trail, which splits off to the east after 1.5 miles is not.
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The trail/OHV track begins through a barbed wire fence and heads steeply uphill, at times, 0.7 miles to a saddle.
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IMG_1110A lone interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail.

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IMG_1118The saddle

Sullivan mentioned that bitterroot bloomed on the ridge to the right but it was too late in the year to see any of them but I wandered out along the ridge a short distance anyway having reached the saddle ahead of Heather.
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IMG_1122Fields Peak from the saddle.

IMG_1123Heather arriving at the saddle.

We had gained a little over 700′ in the first section and now the trail would gain nearly another 600′ in the 0.8 miles to the trail junction.
IMG_1124A rare level section.

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IMG_1129Scarlet gilia in the middle of the OHV track.

IMG_1131Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_1132The McClellan Mountain Trail to the right.

We ignored the McClellan Mountain Trail for now and climbed another 0.8 miles gaining 700 plus more feet to the 7362′ summit of Fields Peak. The meadows along the track were way past bloom but it was evident that earlier in the year there would have been quite the wildflower display.
IMG_1134A peak east to McClellan Mountain and the more distant Strawberry Mountain (post).

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IMG_1137We saw a number of these moths sleeping on the hyssop.

IMG_1139Hyssop and sunflowers

IMG_1142Paintbrush

IMG_1143Looking up Fields Peak.

IMG_1144Mountain coyote mint

IMG_1146Shadow of Fields Peak

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IMG_1152Buckwheat

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IMG_1155A few trees near the top.

IMG_1158Final steep pitch to the summit.

IMG_1160View west, Aldrich Mountain is the high point to the near right.

It was another nice morning with relatively clear skies given the fires that were (and still are) raging in Oregon.
IMG_1162View north

IMG_1165McClellan Mountain and the Strawberry Mountain Range to the east.

IMG_1164Logan Valley to the SE.

IMG_1169The view south.

We had a nice break and then headed back down. On the way several grouse startled us when they flew out of the trees as a group of raucous Clark’s nutcracker watched from the tree tops.
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20210723_075245More moths

When we reached the junction with the McClellan Mountain Trail we turned left.
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Aside from being a little crowded with brush the trail was in relatively good condition with just a couple of downed trees that were easily navigated.
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Over the next 2.2 miles the trail slowly lost elevation as it alternated between south and north facing hillsides via four saddles, the first of which we arrived at after 0.5 miles.
IMG_1191Hillside above the trail.

IMG_1193Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1194Approaching the saddle where we would cross the the north side of the hill ahead.

IMG_1195The first saddle with Moon Mountain behind.

IMG_1197Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1199Looking back from the saddle.

IMG_1200The north side had a few more trees.

IMG_1203Looking back toward Fields Peak

IMG_1209We passed through a rocky section near the second saddle.

In another half mile we found ourselves passing through the second saddle and back on the south side of the ridge.
IMG_1212McClellan Mountain from the second saddle.

Yet another half mile of trail brought us to the third saddle. Sullivan calls this phlox saddle and there was indeed a lot of phlox present it but had been a long time since it bloomed and all of the plants were now brown and dried.
IMG_1213Approaching the third saddle.

The trail was again on the north facing side as it passed over a ridge leading out to Moon Mountain.
IMG_1215Moon Mountain

IMG_1216Fields Peak (center).

IMG_1219McClellan Mountain as we approached the fourth saddle.

As the trail descended to the fourth saddle it disappeared in the sagebrush meadow.
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The good news was this fourth saddle was where the off trail route to the top of McClellan Mountain started so we simply made our way through the sagebrush to the gentlest looking slope and started up the mountain. Sullivan showed it being 1.2 miles and just under 700′ up to the 7043′ summit.
IMG_1224Looking back you can sort of make out the trail angling down the near hillside.

IMG_1225Looking up McClellan Mountain.

Earlier in the hike I had mentioned to Heather that the only real disappointment of the trip had been the lack of large wildlife (aside from the dozens of deer and lone bobcat we spotted on our drives). As we crested the first hill on our way up McClellan Mountain though we spotted a line of ungulates crossing the hillside far above us. They were far enough away that I couldn’t tell for sure if they were elk or deer but once again the zoom on our camera helped solve the mystery.
IMG_1229In the middle of the center hill to the left of the tree in the foreground is the line of what turned out to be 5 bull elk.

IMG_1226Blurry due to the elk moving and the deep zoom.

IMG_1232Four of the bulls stopped to look back at us.

IMG_1234The fifth and largest bull on top of the ridge waiting for the rest.

After watching the elk disappear over the hillside we continued on. As far as off trail hikes go this was nice and straight forward, not ever too steep, and the vegetation wasn’t too tall or thick.
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IMG_1242An old fence line on the hill.

IMG_1243Fields Peak on the left, an unnamed peak in the center and Moon Mountain on the right.

IMG_1245False summit (there’s always at least one). After some debate we went to the left of the rock outcrop which worked out well.

IMG_1246Passing the rock outcrop.

IMG_1248Almost there.

IMG_1249The Greenhorn Mountains, Elkhorns, Dixie Butte and the Strawberry Mountains from left to right in the distance.

IMG_1251Looking back at Fields Peak

IMG_1250The John Day River Valley.

IMG_1253Logan Valley

IMG_1254Company at the summit.

We took another nice break at the summit before heading back the way we’d come. On the return trip we had an encounter with what we believe was our first ruffed grouse.
IMG_1262Passing back through Phlox Saddle.

IMG_1264A better look at the rocky section of trail.

IMG_1272Mountain coyote mint, one of only a couple with this coloration on the stems.

IMG_1271Butterfly and a beetle.

20210723_114437Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1277Ruffed grouse

IMG_1280A final look at McClellan Mountain.

For the second day in a row our hike came in at 12.3 miles, this time with approximately 3200′ of elevation gain.

Fields Peak Track

In our five days of hiking in the area we passed a single hiker (with dogs), something that is unheard of even on weekdays on the western side of the State. We were a little concerned about ticks but we only saw two, Heather had one on her hand the first night on the Rock Creek Trail and she had a second on her tights at the end of the Canyon Mountain hike but neither had bitten her. It had been an enjoyable trip but it was time to head home. We drove to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before leaving early the next morning for one final short hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fields Peak

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon

Canyon Mountain Trail – 07/22/2021

For our fourth day of vacation we had planned another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, this time the Canyon Mountain Trail in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Sullivan suggests two possible turn around points, for a moderate 6.6 mile hike Dog Creek and a more difficult 11.8 mile hike Dean Creek. We had originally planned on the more difficult option but were having second thoughts after reading the Forest Service information for the the Canyon Mountain Trailhead which noted that the final couple of miles of road were not maintained by the Forest Service and they recommend 4×4 vehicles only during dry months of the year. Sullivan simply described the road as “very steep and bumpy at times!”. We had prepared ourselves to have to park at one of the many dirt (OHV) spurs before reaching the trailhead thus adding a few miles to our hike in which case Dog Creek might need to be our turnaround. The road was indeed steep and bumpy but our Rav4 managed to make it 2.2 miles to a saddle where the road worsened even further. We decided to park along a spur road at the saddle and walk the final 1/4 mile of road to the trailhead.
IMG_0825I had started up to the left at the saddle but it was steep with gullies and some debris so we carefully turned around and parked below.

IMG_0827Little Canyon Mountain from the saddle. A wildfire burned the area in 2015 and the trail up to Dog Creek.

IMG_0828The actual trailhead.

A short distance up the trail we entered the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
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The Canyon Mountain Trail doesn’t climb Canyon Mountain but rather traverses the hillsides below its namesake. There were however views of said mountain as we came around the first ridge end of the hike.
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This was the least hazy morning of our trip so far but we were heading toward the rising Sun so visibility still wasn’t all that great.
IMG_0840Little Pine Creek flowed down this valley below Canyon Mountain.

It looked like the wildflower display was probably pretty good earlier in the year but most of them were past now. We did see a fair number of late bloomers though.
IMG_0846Yarrow along the trail.

IMG_0848Fireweed

IMG_0853Paintbrush

Approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Little Pine Creek at a switchback.
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A tenth of a mile beyond the switchback (and after switching back once more) we crossed Little Pine Creek but not before stopping to sample some raspberries.
IMG_0862Paintbrush and pearly everlasting

IMG_0864Raspberries

IMG_0868We don’t recall seeing a penstemon with leaves like this before.

IMG_0870Twinberry (we did NOT sample)

Sitka burnetSitka burnett (white)

IMG_0873Little Pine Creek at the crossing.

The trail then gradually climbed through the forest to a viewpoint at a ridge end in what was now a dry meadow dotted with sagebrush mariposa lilies.
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IMG_0877Prince’s pine

Mountain death camasMountain death camas

IMG_0886Fringed grass of parnassus

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IMG_0888John Day below.

IMG_0889Little Canyon Mountain behind the ridge we’d come around earlier.

IMG_0896The Aldrich Mountains to the west, our destination for the next day’s hike.

IMG_0897Canyon Mountain

20210722_072943One of the sagebrush mariposa lilies.

IMG_0899Dixie Butte and the Greenhorn Mountains to the NE

After wrapping around the ridge the trail reentered the forest once again and descend gradually to Dog Creek, 1.7 miles from the Little Pine Creek crossing. Berries were the highlight at Dog Creek with three different types of ripe blue/huckleberries to pick from.
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20210722_080022Columbine

20210722_080031Swamp onion

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IMG_0918Flowers at Dog Creek

IMG_0920Twinflower

Since we’d manage to drive almost to the trailhead we decide to continue on to Dean Creek which was another 2.2 miles away. The distance was mostly due to having to swing out and around the rocky ridge separating the two creek drainage’s.
IMG_0930There was a lot of elk sign along this section of the trail.

IMG_0931A lot of sign.

IMG_0937Looking back toward Canyon Mountain.

IMG_0939The trail crossed over the ridge in a saddle with quite a bit of mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0941Mountain coyote mint

IMG_0944Strawberry Mountain (post) from the saddle.

IMG_0948Heading toward Dean Creek now.

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IMG_0953Green Mountain on the left and Canyon Mountain on the right.

IMG_0955A smaller raptor, it wouldn’t look at us so I’m not sure what type it was.

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Butterflies on western snakerootButterflies on western snakeroot. Side note we didn’t see a single snake or lizard all week which was really surprising to us.

IMG_0975We did however see quite a few grouse.

IMG_0977The trail got a little brushy nearing Dean Creek.

20210722_092454_HDRThere wasn’t much water in Dean Creek but there was enough for a small cascade.

IMG_0993Wildflowers next to a small pool.

20210722_093953Dean Creek

IMG_1008Butterfly near the pool.

We sat in a nearby campsite to soak in the views as we took a short break.
IMG_0983Canyon Mountain

IMG_0984Dixie Butte with the Greenhorns on the left and the Elkhorns (post) on the right.

After our break we returned the way we’d come, watching as always for wildlife and any flowers we’d missed on our fist pass (also ripe berries).
IMG_1013Cones

IMG_1014Lousewort

IMG_1018Pearly everlasting, yellow flowers, and fireweed.

IMG_1020An eagle?

IMG_1032More cones

IMG_1036Dragon fly

IMG_1038A sulphur butterfly

IMG_1040California tortoiseshell

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IMG_1060Grouse

IMG_1063Maiden fly

IMG_1071Skipper

IMG_1082Woodpecker

IMG_1085Northern flicker

IMG_1095Mountain bluebird

We put the car in low and drove back down the steep road until we made it to pavement then returned to John Day for one final night. This was probably our favorite hike of the trip because it felt the most like being in the mountains even though we were at higher elevations on Spanish Peak, in the Monument Rock Wilderness and the next day in the Aldrich Mountains. With the little extra road walk we came in at 12.3 miles and about 1850′ of elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Our Canyon Mountain Track

Flickr: Canyon Mountain Trail

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Rock Creek to Spanish Peak – 07/20/2021

After spending the night camped near First Creek along the Rock Creek/Ochoco Mountain Trail we got an early (6:30am) start to hopefully climb up the 2000 plus feet to the summit of Spanish Peak before the day got too hot. According to Sullivan’s map (which matched the Forest Service’s map) it was 5.3 miles to the summit.

Forest Service Map

Just 0.2 miles from where we had made our makeshift campsite we came to an established campsite in a saddle near where the Ochoco Mountain Trail supposedly turned uphill to start the climb.
IMG_0375Continuing along the Waterman Ditch.

IMG_0376If this trail sign was marking a junction it wasn’t clear where the other trail was.

IMG_0380Campsite at the saddle.

There was no clear tread other than the continuation of the Rock Creek Trail to the north where it ends at the National Forest Boundary in another mile. There was however a sign for the “Rim Trail” on a tree uphill from the trail.
IMG_0378The Rim Trail sign on a tree trunk.

We headed uphill to the sign and picked up what appeared to be a rough trail but it also looked like it could have been an elk trail.
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We tried our best to follow it uphill but there were no blazes, flagging, or cut logs to indicate that it really was an actual trail and in less than a half mile we lost it in brush.
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The hike had suddenly become an off-trail adventure. Between the Sullivan’s and the Forest Service map we knew the general route that the trail supposedly took so we did our best to recreate it at first. That meant a series of switchbacks up a steep hillside through a sagebrush meadow above First Creek.
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The trail then supposedly wrapped around the ridge between First and Second Creeks arriving at a rock cairn along a rim 2.5 miles from the saddle. We thought that we might rediscover the tread as we switchbacked up, but we did not. As we compared the maps with our GPS we noticed that we weren’t that far below the top of the ridge and that it might be possible to simply climb over the ridge taking a more direct route to the rim cairn. We decided that was our safest bet as we weren’t sure if we would find the trail wrapping around the ridge and even if we did a large downed tree in the wrong spot could make it impassable. We followed game trails through a small stand of trees into more sagebrush on top of the ridge.
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IMG_0402Rock Creek Lake

IMG_0403Gaining the ridge.

We found the trail again on top of the ridge and were soon following rock cairns to the rim.
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IMG_0407View from the rim.

IMG_0408Spanish Peak

IMG_0419A local

The trail was easy to follow along the rim but soon it came into some trees (and past a few wildflowers) where it appeared maintenance hadn’t been performed for a bit.
IMG_0430Astter

IMG_0431Some sort of delphinium I think.

IMG_0433Downed trees across the trail ahead.

IMG_0434Interestingly camouflaged beetle on the upper onion.

IMG_0438Lupine

20210720_084339A checkermallow

IMG_0439Some more downed trees that we had to go around.

We briefly left the trees and were back to cairns in the sagebrush but soon reentered the trees and encountered more obstacles.
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After passing through a couple of meadows we came to a rocky hillside below Spanish Peak where we left the trail and headed uphill following a few scattered cairns along what was shown on the GPS as the “Mascall Jeep Track”.
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IMG_0456We left the trail here, note the small cairn on the left.

IMG_0457Heading uphill.

IMG_0453Scarlet gilia

IMG_0458Paintbrush

After a third of a mile we came to Spanish Peak Road, a dirt track to the radio tower and former lookout site atop Spanish Peak.
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We turned left on the road and followed it another 0.3 miles up to the summit.
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IMG_0467The site of the former lookout.

The view was impacted by the “widespread haze” that had been forecasted but we could still make out quite a bit (and at least it didn’t smell smokey).
IMG_0469 Looking out toward the John Day River valley.

IMG_0470SE to Windy Point.

IMG_0472West to Rock Creek Lake and on the horizon the flat topped Lookout Mountain (post) and pointier Round Mountain (post) in the Ochocos.

IMG_0474NE to the John Day River Valley.

IMG_0477Lookout and Round Mountain and the rim that we had hiked up below Spanish Peak.

IMG_0480The Pisgah Lookout on the far side of the Bridge Creek Wilderness (post).

IMG_0484A hazy Mount Hood to the NW.

After taking a break at the summit we returned down the road to the jeep track and followed it back down to the Ochoco Mountain Trail where we turned left into some trees.
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We passed through a meadow filled with fritiallry butterflies who were loving the remaining hyssop blossoms.
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After 0.3 miles back on the Ochoco Mountain Trail we came to a signed junction with the Mascall Corral Trail.
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Here we made a hard right and headed steeply downhill along the Baldy Creek drainage.
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This trail was in a little better shape having seen some maintenance.
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IMG_0504Baldy Creek was on our left.

The trail soon followed old roadbeds, including another section of the Mascall Jeep Track and just under three miles from the junction arrived at the Mascall Corrals Trailhead
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IMG_0506Red-tailed hawk

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IMG_0519Western tanager

IMG_0527Arriving at the trailhead.

IMG_0529Signage at the trailhead.

From this trailhead we turned right and followed Forest Road 3820 one and a quarter miles (some of which was disappointingly uphill) to Arvid Nelson Road where we turned right for another 0.8 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead and our waiting car.
IMG_0532Baldy Creek below FR 3820.

IMG_0535A sulphur butterfly of some sort.

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IMG_0546A watermellon or June bug as we called them growing up.

IMG_0549FR 3820 meeting Arvid Nelson Road.

IMG_0550Spanish Peak from Arvid Nelson Road.

This was an 11.5 mile hike with almost 2500′ of elevation gain. The off-trail scramble above First Creek had made the hike a lot more difficult than planned, made more so by having our full backpacks instead of a lighter day pack, but it had been fun (mostly) and despite the haze we had decent views on the day.

Our track in orange

From the Rock Creek Trailhead we drove to Highway 26 then headed east to John Day where we checked into the Dreamers Lodge then had a nice dinner at the Outpost Pizza Pub & Grill before turning in for the night. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spanish Peak

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Black Canyon Wilderness and Rock Creek – 07/19/2021

Every year we pick our vacation time in January/February (due to work) so we never know what the conditions will be when we choose. We had a week scheduled in July for a trip to the John Day area in hopes to make further headway on the 100 featured hikes in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” (post) and to complete our goal of visiting all of Oregon’s designated wilderness areas (minus the two that are closed to human visitors) (post).

With severe drought conditions present all of the West and multiple wildfires burning in Oregon we kept an eye on the forecast and made daily checks with the relevant National Forests to make sure the hikes that we had planned remained open. While all of the trails were open a red flag warning for possible scattered thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday for the Blue Mountains had us a little concerned. The forecast also called for “wide spread haze” every day but fortunately not for “smoke” which meant we’d probably not have much in the way of views on the trip. We could deal with the haze, it was the possibility of new lightning caused fires that could quickly end our trip and our two days of hiking (Monday & Tuesday) involved our first overnight backpacking trip of the year.

Monday we left Salem and drove to the Boeing Field Trailhead, the first of two stops in the eastern portion of the Ochoco Mountains.
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This trailhead, named in honor of a B-18 bomber that crashed nearby during a WWII training flight killing all four crew members, provides access to the Black Canyon Wilderness via the Owl Creek Trail.
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We headed down the Owl Creek Trail and quickly entered our 45th Oregon wilderness area.
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We descended to the nearly dry bed of Owl Creek in the scar of a 2008 wildfire and in a half mile reached the Black Canyon Trail.
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IMG_0129Aster, paintbrush, and fireweed.

IMG_0134Fireweed, aster, and pearly everlasting.

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IMG_0150Clouds and smoke mixing in the sky made it hard to tell if any thunderstorms might be developing.

IMG_0147We never heard any thunder but we did briefly get sprinkled on.

IMG_0151Ground squirrel.

IMG_0156Columbine

IMG_0158Fritillary butterfly

IMG_0159Black Canyon Trail junction.

We turned left onto the Black Canyon Trail and followed it down into Black Canyon along Owl Creek soon leaving the fire scar behind.
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IMG_0172Owl Creek crossing approximately 1.5 miles from the junction.

In another half mile we arrived at Black Canyon Creek which we easily crossed on small logs.
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IMG_0185Fish in Black Canyon Creek

We were seeing a lot of mountain lady slipper orchids but unfortunately they were all past.
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Three quarters of a mile after crossing Black Canyon Creek we passed the Coffee Pot Trail and soon entered another fire scar, this one from 2002.
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IMG_0201Western Tanager

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Just under 4 miles into the hike we came to the second crossing of Black Canyon Creek and our turnaround point for the day.
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IMG_0214California tortioseshell

Western Jacob's ladderWestern Jacob’s ladder

IMG_0211Black Canyon Creek

After a short break on a log spanning the creek we headed back to the car stopping occasionally along the way to watch pollinators busy at work.
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This was an eight mile out and back with almost 1600′ of elevation gain, mostly on the way back.

Black Canyon Track

From Boeing Field we drove back the way we’d come 4.3 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead.
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Here we threw on our full backpacks as our plan was to camp somewhere along Rock Creek and then return on a loop the next day by hiking up to Spanish Peak the next day following the route of the Ochoco Mountain Trail and Mascall Corral Trail.

Forest Service Map

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From the trailhead the trail descended to Rock Creek crossing it on a nice footbridge.
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IMG_0288The number of insects on the blossoms and their size differences were fascinating.

The trail then followed along Rock Creek for a bit before the creek began descending more steeply than the trail. At the 2.4 mile mark we arrived at a sign announcing the Waterman Ditch.
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IMG_0301Snacks

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IMG_0310Lorquin’s adrmiral

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IMG_0321A little light on the tread in this section.

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The trail then followed the old ditch passing the remains of a cabin next to Fir Tree Creek in 1.4 miles.
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IMG_0348Fir Tree Creek

IMG_0349Butterflies on coneflower

IMG_0351The cabin ruins.

We continued on heading for Second Creek which was just over 1.5 miles beyond Fir Tree Creek where we hoped we might find a spot to camp or at least refill our water supply.
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IMG_0358Coming around a ridge end toward Second Creek.

IMG_0363Monkshood at Second Creek

IMG_0365This little guy oversaw our water pumping.

There wasn’t a lot of water in Second Creek and the crossing where the most obvious spot to get water was had a whole lot of yellow jackets flying around. We had to do a little hunting up and down the creek in thick vegetation to find a pool deep enough for our pump but finally managed to. What we couldn’t find was a place for our tent or a spot to cook dinner away from the yellow jackets and mosquitos so after getting water we reluctantly continued hiking. After nearly 1.5 more miles we arrived at First Creek where there was almost no water but there was a suitable spot for a tent.
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It had been a long day with this hike coming in a little over 7 miles making it a 15+ mile day for us.

Rock Creek Track (orange)

It was also a warm evening and we had the rainfly on due to the slight chance of rain which made it even warmer. It did finally cool off enough overnight to warrant pulling our sleeping bag/quilt over us and we managed to get some sleep. I woke up once when something fairly big cracked it’s way through the trees below our camp and a couple more times when a pair of nearby owls were trading hoots. It was a more difficult start to our trip then we had anticipated but a good day none the less. Happy Trails!

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Walton Lake & Round Mountain – 06/18/2021

After spending three nights in Pendleton and two John Day it was time for us to head back to Salem on Friday. We planned on stopping at Walton Lake in the Ochoco National Forest along the way to visit the man made lake where I had spent some time in my childhood. We also planned to hike from the lake to the summit of Round Mountain which we had done from the opposite side back in 2017 (post). After our hike we were meeting Heather’s parents for a late lunch/early dinner in Redmond at Madeline’s before continuing home to Salem.

We left John Day a little before 5am and arrived at Walton Lake shortly after 6:30am. There were already several folks our fishing and we were met by the camp greeters.
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A paved/gravel 0.8 mile trail encircles the lake with the Walton Lake Trail splitting off on the south side of Walton Lake. We decided to hike around the lake clockwise passing the small dam that created the lake and a number of campsites before arriving at the unsigned Walton Lake Trail after 0.6 miles. Along with the people fishing there were a number of ducks (including ducklings), geese and coots around the lake.
IMG_8625American coot and a duck family.

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IMG_8638Spotted sandpiper

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IMG_8645Pied billed grebe

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IMG_8654Mountain bluebird

IMG_8656The spur of the Walton Lake Trail that leads to the Round Mountain Trail.

We turned up the spur trail which climbed through a meadow where several families of geese were hanging out.
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After 0.2 miles the spur trail crosses the campground road.
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It was about this time that we realized that we hadn’t put our NW Forest Pass out. We headed back down to the lake and completed to the 0.8 mile loop to put our pass out. We later realized that it wasn’t good at Walton Lake anyway and paid the $5 day use fee.
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IMG_8676A saxifrage.

This is also a good time mention that a 0.3 mile segment of the spur trail between Forest Road 2220 and Forest Road 22 is by Forest Order 06-07-01-21-02 closed from 5/18/21 to 10/31/21 (or until rescinded). There were no signs present at the start of the spur trail nor at the crossing of FR 2220, the notice was however posted at the FR 22 crossing (along with a warning about sheep dogs).
IMG_8696The order also states that the closure area will be signed along with pink flagging along all boundaries on the ground (we didn’t see any pink flagging at FR 2220).

Fortunately the Round Mountain North Trailhead is just on the other side of FR 22 from the Walton Lake entrance if you don’t want to road walk around the closure. Assuming you are coming from the FR 22 crossing though the Walton Lake Trail continues 1/2 mile to its end at the Round Mountain Trail (0.2 miles from the North Trailhead).
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IMG_8702Larkspur

Approximately 0.4 miles from FR 22 the trail passes a snow survey site in a small meadow where we spotted several does.
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A short distance beyond the meadow we arrived at the Round Mountain Trail where we turned left. (Ignore the sign, it was the only one present and it was facing the wrong way.)
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The trail climbed to a dry, rocky plateau but not before first passing a nice display of lupine.
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20210618_080749Chocolate lily

IMG_8749The rocky plateau with Round Mountain to the right.

IMG_8750Death camas

IMG_8752A wild onion

IMG_8757Yarrow

The trail dipped off the plateau and lost a little elevation on its way to a saddle below Round Mountain. Just over 2 miles from the Walton Lake Trail we passed Scissors Spring in a meadow on our right.
IMG_8762Paintbrush

IMG_8768Valerian along the trail.

IMG_8767California tortoiseshell on valerian.

IMG_8772Mt. Jefferson from the trail.

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20210618_083047Maybe a miterwort?

IMG_8779Milbert’s tortoiseshell

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IMG_8790Scissors Spring

IMG_8791A fleabane

20210618_085307Geranium

Beyond the spring the trail began to climb through a series of hellebore filled meadows.
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IMG_8813Woodpecker

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IMG_8818Another doe

IMG_8823A comma butterfly of some sort.

IMG_8831Possibly some sort of phlox?

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IMG_8836Another wild onion

IMG_8837Mountain bluebells

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Threeleaf lewisiaThreeleaf lewisia

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IMG_8854Butterfly on Jessica stickseed

IMG_8865A larkspur, Jessica stickseed, and hyssop

IMG_8867Robin

IMG_8863Mountain view from a meadow.

IMG_8862Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8864Mt. Hood

Just over a mile from the spring the trail made a switchback at which point it steepened noticeably. The next 1/3 of a mile consisted of steep switchbacks through a hellebore meadow to Round Mountain Road 0.2 miles from the summit.
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IMG_8882Viewpoint at one of the switchbacks. Cascade Mountains from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_8884Diamond Peak

IMG_8886Mt. Bachelor

IMG_8887Ball Butte and Broken Top

IMG_8888Three Sisters

IMG_8889Mt. Washington

IMG_8890Three Fingered Jack

IMG_8891Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8893The trail sign along Round Mountain Road up the hill.

IMG_8896Fritillary butterfly

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IMG_8901Silky phacelia

IMG_8904Prairie smoke

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IMG_8917Balsamroot

IMG_8924Butterfly on an onion

20210618_100034Ladybug on lupine

IMG_8925Round Mountain summit

We sat on the cool concrete in the shade cast by the radio tower while we watched butterflies swirl through the air.
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IMG_8948And occasionally land.

IMG_8950Big Summit Prairie

IMG_8929Lookout Mountain (post)

IMG_8959Mt. Hood

IMG_8961Mt. Adams

After the break we returned the way we’d come with a slight delay caused by a Sara’s orangetip butterfly that refused to land despite repeatedly looking like it was going to as it flew in the same loop over and over again.
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IMG_8971Not too horrible of a photo of the orangetip on one of its many passes.

We retrieved our car from the now packed Walton Lake but not before checking out some of the wildlife one more time.
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IMG_9005A coot, a spotted sandpiper and ducks.

IMG_9001Osprey with a recently caught fish (we got to see the dive)

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From Walton Lake we drove to Redmond where we were a bit early so we stopped at the Spud Bowl and watched some dogs playing in the sprinklers before meeting up with Heather’s parents at Madelines. We had a great meal then continued home to Salem. When a section of the trail isn’t closed (and you don’t have to go back to your car to after starting your hike) this would be about a 12 mile hike with approximately 1900′ of elevation gain while the 0.8 mile loop around Walton Lake would be great for kids. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Walton Lake and Round Mountian

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Malheur River – 06/17/2021

After a night in John Day we headed south for a day hike on the Malheur River Trail. The trail starts at Malheur Ford Trailhead where Forest Road 1651 actually does ford the river.
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The Malheur, a designated Wild and Scenic River, is fed from the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness (post). The trail is 7.6 miles long running from the ford to another trailhead at Hog Flat. For our hike we planned on hiking around 6.5 miles of the trail at which point the trail would be starting the steep climb away from the river to Hog Flat. It was a pleasantly cool morning as we set off on the trail. Despite the Forest Service indicating that the trail had not been maintained it was in good shape with just a couple of trees to step over/around.
IMG_8357Bench near the trailhead.

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IMG_8363Lupine along the trail.

IMG_8378There was plenty of river access along the way.

20210617_065036Currant

IMG_8388Paintbrush and lupine along the trail.

IMG_8392Geraniums

IMG_8397Ponderosa pines

Mile markers were present (at least to mile 6) although we missed 3 & 5 on the way out. We managed to spot them on the way back though. There did seem to be a bit of a discrepancy regarding the first mile as there were two trees sporting “1”s.
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IMG_8400Second 1

A little past the mile 1 markers the trail descended to Miller Creek where just a little water was present but it was enough to host a number of flowers.
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IMG_8407Camas

IMG_8416Balsamroot, columbine, geraniums and paintbrush.

The trail did several more ups and downs sometimes rising above the river and other times dropping down to flats along it. A rocky viewpoint just before the 2 mile mark was fairly impressive.
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IMG_8601Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8603Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8444Tree marking mile 2.

IMG_8448Typical “obstacles” that were present along the trail.

IMG_8454Columbine

IMG_8461Cusick’s sunflower?

IMG_8463Balsamroot or mule’s ears?

IMG_8472Woodland stars

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IMG_8478Mile 4

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Right around mile five (which we missed the marker for) was a riverside meadow of wildflowers.
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IMG_8498Salsify and geraniums

20210617_092225Sticky cinquefoil

IMG_8505Swallowtail on scarlet gilia

20210617_092314Geranium

IMG_8514Some sort of copper butterfly

IMG_8523A checkerspot

IMG_8533Iris

IMG_8539Balsamroot (or mule’s ears)

20210617_093615A fleabane

20210617_093639A different type of fleabane.

20210617_093941Larkspur

20210617_094301Rosy pussytoes

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After hanging out in the meadow watching the butterflies for awhile we continued on.
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IMG_8550Hog Flat is up on top of the hillside.

IMG_8556Mile 6 markers.

IMG_8557Cracked egg in the trail.

IMG_8562We passed this cairn around the 6.5 mile mark.

IMG_8563We turned around here shortly after passing the cairn. It appeared the trail was beginning it’s climb and we took the cairn and downed tree as signs that it was time to turn around. We did just that and headed back keeping our eyes open for the mile 3 and 5 markers.
IMG_8579A fritillary butterfly on an iris.

IMG_8581Found 5

IMG_8593This was a particularly tricky little muddy spot to stay dry crossing.

IMG_8595And there’s “3”.

IMG_8607Immature bald eagle. We saw it on the way out in the same area but couldn’t get a photo. This time it flew right by me, and I think it was giving me the stink eye.

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IMG_8614Back at the trailhead.

This was a 13.5 mile out and back with a few hundred feet of elevation gain spread over the various ups and downs along the way. There were plenty of views of the river and a nice variety of wildflowers and wildlife making this a nice river hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Malheur River Trail

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Whychus Creek Trail and Overlook – 05/31/21

After back to back 14 mile days we had something more reasonable planned for our drive home on Memorial Day. We had started the weekend with two hikes along Whychus Creek east of Sisters (post). On Monday we stopped at the Whychus Creek Trailhead 4.2 miles west on Elm Street (Forest Road 16) of Highway 20 in Sisters. The trailhead doesn’t seem to be listed on the Deschutes National Forest webpage (They do show the Whychus Creek Overlook Trailhead which is an alternate starting point.)

We actually wound up having to park at a temporary trailhead 1000′ past the official trailhead which was closed for construction (not sure what was being constructed).
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The Whychus Creek Trail followed Whychus Creek through a mixed forest with juniper and sagebrush from the high desert, ponderosa pine, and mixed conifers from the Cascades.
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We really noticed how much more water there was in the creek here, before reaching the diversion ditches closer to Sisters.
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Less than a half mile into the hike we passed a series of rock ledges where native tribes appear to have once camped.
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The trail reached the bank of Whychus Creek at the overhang then climbed back above the creek gaining a view of the top of the North Sister. A few wildflowers added color to the landscape and birds added their song to the sound of the creek.
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IMG_6820North Sister in the distance.

IMG_6804Penstemon

IMG_6810Chocolate lily

IMG_6815Sand lily

IMG_6817Paintbrush

IMG_6818Balsamroot

IMG_6838A Penstemon

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IMG_6841Squirrel!

Just over a mile and a half from the trailhead the Whychus Creek Trail descended back down to the creek passing under some cliffs.
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20210531_063851The penstemon really liked the cliff area.

Looking up stream we could see the logjam waterfall which is the goal of Sullivan’s described hike in his 5th edition Central Oregon Cascades guidebook (hike #31).
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Near the two mile mark we arrived at a series of viewpoints of the falls atop rocks.
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There was a second smaller cascade a little further upstream.
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Sullivan suggests turning back here but just over a half mile away was the Whychus Creek Overlook. A 0.9 mile barrier free loop visits the overlook from the Whychus Creek Overlook Trailhead (see link above). We continued past the falls for approximately 0.2 miles to a signed trail junction.
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We turned left onto the Whychus Draw Trail which led briefly up a draw before turning more steeply uphill traversing an open hillside to the overlook.
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IMG_6887Mt. Hood sighting.

IMG_6889Mt. Jefferson and Black Butte

IMG_6892Chipmunk

IMG_6895White breasted nuthatch

IMG_6897Golden mantled ground squirrel

The Whychus Draw Trail connected to the south side of the Whychus Overlook Trail about a hundred feet from the actual overlook.
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IMG_6913Broken Top and the Three Sisters (bonus points for spotting the golden mantled ground squirrel)

IMG_6912Lewis flax at the overlook.

IMG_6915Buckwheat and penstemon

IMG_6918Whychus Creek below with the Three Sisters on the horizon.

IMG_6919Tam McArthur Rim (post) and Broken Top

IMG_6921South Sister

IMG_6922Middle and North Sister

IMG_6923Mt. Washington

IMG_6924Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6928Mt. Jefferson

IMG_6931Chickadee

After admiring the view from the overlook we hiked the loop. One side (north) is one-way traffic coming from the trailhead to the overlook so we followed the south half of the loop 0.4 to the trailhead then followed the north side 0.5 miles back to the overlook. Two benches along the north side offered additional views to the NNW.
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IMG_6947Interpretive sign along the trail.

IMG_6955Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte

From the overlook we returned to the car the way we’d come. It was a pleasant 5.9 mile hike with some great views and scenery, a perfect way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Track for Whychus Creek and Overlook

Flickr: Whychus Creek Trail

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lost Corral Trail – Cottonwood Canyon State Park – 05/30/21

After a 14 mile three stop day on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we had another 14ish mile day planned for Sunday but this time just a single stop at the J.S. Burres Trailhead at Cottonwood Canyon State Park.
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This was our second visit to the park having previously hiked the Hard Stone and Pinnacles Trails in 2017. The John Day River acts as the boundary between Sherman and Gilliam Counties and those trails are located on the north (Sherman Co.) side of the river. The J.S. Burris State Wayside is on the south side of the river which puts it in Gilliam County. This makes it one of the only hikes that I could find in Gilliam County and Gilliam County was one of the two remaining counties in Oregon in which we had yet to hike. (The other is Umatilla which has plenty of trails, we just haven’t gotten around to them yet.)

The main attraction at the wayside is the boat ramp but it also serves as the trailhead for the Lost Corral Trail.
IMG_6771Afternoon photo of the start of the trail.

It was already 68 degrees, according to the car anyway, when we arrived shortly before 7:30am which meant it was going to be a hot hike. We had planned for high temperatures and were each carrying extra water. The Lost Corral Trail follows an old roadbed for 4.3 miles to the start of the 0.9 mile Esau Loop Trail. There is also an option to tack on a 4.3 mile off trail loop that would take us up into the hills above the river. It was an ambitious plan given the expected temperatures but we set off determined to give it a go. Shortly after setting out, and stopping to watch a couple of rabbits, I asked Heather if she remembered if I locked the car. She didn’t and neither did I so I double timed it a quarter mile back to the trailhead to make sure it was locked then rejoined Heather up the trail.
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IMG_6465This section was so nice I did it twice.

We both felt the Lost Corral Trail had better views of the John Day than the other trails had offered.
IMG_6470Cottonwood Canyon State Park main area across the river.

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There were less wildflowers despite being the same time of year but that was likely due to the drought conditions that are plaguing the West this year.
IMG_6473One of the exceptions was mock orange which was blooming profusely along the trail.

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IMG_6476Dalmation toadflax and yarrow.

IMG_6481Beetle on what might be hairy golden aster

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IMG_6497A lupine

This would be a day of missed opportunities where the wildlife was concerned and it started about a mile into the hike when a pheasant waited until we had unknowingly passed him before he flew off never to be seen again. Later as we approached the second bench along the trail (near the 3 mile mark) I spotted the brown back side and tail, of what I believe was an otter, dive into the water and disappear. On our way back a family of Chukars startled us and scattered before I could turn on the camera and finally a snake (not a rattler, possibly a yellow bellied racer) slithered through the vegetation not quite allowing for a clear picture, but I digress.

Back to the hike, just after the pheasant encounter, the trail crossed a wide sandy flat where tracks revealed the presence of a number of critters.
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IMG_6516More mock orange along the trail.

20210530_082907Close up of the mock orange.

IMG_6522Butterfly on western clematis

IMG_6530This red winged blackbird cooperated for a photo op.

20210530_083630Salsify

IMG_6533Wild roses

There had been a large number of cliff swallow nests along the Pinnacles Trail but we only saw a few on this side of the river.
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There might not have been a lot of swallows but there were plenty of butterflies.
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IMG_6751We saw this viceroy on the way back to the car.

There were also a large number of birds but most could only be heard and not seen as they stuck to the thick vegetation along the river.
IMG_6545Magpie dive bombing a hawk.

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IMG_6565Coming up on the second bench.

IMG_6577The otter or whatever it was was right in this area.

We sat at the bench and rested hoping to get another glimpse of the animal but it never rematerialized. We did however spot some big fish in the water below.
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After resigning ourselves to the fact that the otter was not going to make another appearance we continued on.
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IMG_6590Cedar waxwings

IMG_6603The Pinnacles

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IMG_6617Ducks

We turned left when we reached a sign for the Esau Loop Trail.
IMG_6619Esau Loop Trail sign.

IMG_6620Looking back at The Pinnacles from the Esau Loop Trail.

This was a much rougher trail that passed through the sagebrush along the river before looping back over a low rise.
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IMG_6629Unknown flower

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IMG_6636Sagebrush mariposa lilies

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Before completing the this loop we came to a signboard at a roadbed.
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Our planned off trail loop began here. The roadbed that the Lost Corral Trail followed turned up Esau Canyon after passing a rocky ridge end. The Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry described “rounding the corner of the low cliff” then scrambling up to the ridge top to a fence line and following that up the ridge crest. Having turned left on the Esau Loop Trail we were approaching from the opposite direction but it gave us a clear view of the cliffs that we needed to get around in order to scramble up the ridge.
IMG_6640The more open looking hillside to the right of the cliffs was deceptively steep so we followed the road to the left until the the terrain appeared more hospitable.

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IMG_6643We set off from the roadbed here.

The hillside was steep so there was a lot of switch backing and pausing along the way.
IMG_6644Have these gone to seed or blossoms?

IMG_6650Possibly a hawksbeard

20210530_102726Sagebrush mariposa lily

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IMG_6658Found the fence line.

Cattle trails followed the fence line uphill which gave us something to follow although they tended to just go straight uphill.
IMG_6660I took this photo at 10:35, it looks like I’m close to the top.

This one was taken ten minutes later.
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Twenty more minutes later and the high point was in sight.
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IMG_6664These two lizards beat us to the top.

The climb gained approximately 900′ in a little over 3/4 of a mile. From the high point we could see the top of Mt. Adams beyond the John Day River Canyon.
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IMG_6682The very top of Mt. Rainier was also visible (barely)

We followed the ridge south picking up a faint jeep track and gaining better views of Mt. Adams.
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IMG_6690View SE

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The jeep track dropped to the left of the crest and after a little over a half mile it turned sharply downhill into Esau Canyon.
IMG_6698Descending into Esau Canyon on the jeep track.

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Lower on the hillside the track began to switchback passing through a fence(we had to crawl under) before arriving at a creek bed with a little running water.

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After using the steps to get over the fence we followed the road back down Esau Canyon to the Lost Corral Trail.
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IMG_6709Second climb over the fence.

IMG_6714Beetles on thistle.

IMG_6719Yarrow and lupine

IMG_6723Western meadowlark

IMG_6730The Lost Corral Trail where it passes the cliff at the ridge end.

From there we followed the Lost Corral Trail through the Lost Corral (which we had missed earlier due to turning onto the Esau Loop Trail) and returned to the trailhead.
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IMG_6769Cottonwood Canyon State Park in the afternoon.

My GPS read 14.3 miles but factoring my trip back to lock our car it was probably closer to 13.8 miles. On a cooler day that wouldn’t be so bad, even with the steep scramble up the ridge, but it was over 90 degrees by the time our hike was over and the heat had made it a tough hike. Carrying the extra water had been a good call as we were down to our hydro flasks by the end. Despite the challenge of the heat it had been an enjoyable hike with a good amount of wildlife sightings and no ticks or rattlesnakes were seen. Happy Trails!

Our route with the “highlighted” section showing the off-trail loop.

Flickr: Lost Corral Trail

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, & Huntington Wagon Road – 05/29/21

For Memorial Day weekend this year we headed to Bend to visit Heather’s family and of course do some hiking. Having finally reached our goal of completing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” 4th edition last year (post) we kicked off this trip with a stop at a the Whychus Canyon Preserve, which was a new featured hike in his 5th edition.

The 930 acre preserve is owned and managed by the Deschutes Land Trust who have established over 7 miles of hiker only (dogs on leash) trails open to the public. The focus here is conservation so respecting the rules and Leaving No Trace is imperative (as it always should be) in order to keep the access open. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 7am on Saturday morning to find the parking area empty.
IMG_5809Kiosk and bench at the trailhead.

A map at the kiosk shows that there are a number of loops possible here and we decided to deviate slightly from the route described by Sullivan.
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From the kiosk we followed a pointer for the Rim & Creek Trails onto a dirt path.
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The trail led slightly downhill, through a red gate and after just 0.2 miles arrived a “T” shaped junction with the Rim Trail where Sullivan has you turn right. We opted for a slightly longer loop and turned left instead.
IMG_5815Tent caterpillars (and the red gate)

As we followed the Rim Trail west along the canyon we began to get some good mountain views.
IMG_5827Mt. Washington and Black Butte (post)

IMG_5837Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Black Crater (post), Little Belknap & Belknap Crater (post), and Mt. Washington.

After 0.4 miles the trail made a 180 degree turn dropping further into the canyon.
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IMG_5843Whychus Creek was hidden by trees for the most part.

While there weren’t a lot of wildflowers a number of different types were present.
IMG_5847Balsamroot

IMG_5850Lupine

IMG_5855Paintbrush

IMG_5870A Penstemon

IMG_5874Western stoneseed

IMG_5875Sedum leibergii -Leiberg’s Stonecrop

IMG_5848Spreading stickseed

IMG_5853Western wallflower

In addition to the various flowers we spotted some varied wildlife as well.
IMG_5844Magpie playing hard to get.

IMG_5864Spotted towhee

IMG_5895Black-headed grossbeak

IMG_5885Ochre ringlet

IMG_5898Pair of bucks in Whychus Creek

This is a good time to mention how much I appreciate the zoom on my Canon XS740HS. While I often look at other peoples photos and wish mine were as crisp/clear the compact size and low price (compared to even low end DSLR cameras) of the little point and shoot has worked well enough. Those two bucks are a good example as we spotted them from here.
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Approximately 0.6 miles from the big turn we arrived at a signed junction. Uphill led back to the trailhead (where we would have come down following Sullivan’s directions) while the Creek Trail headed downhill to the left.
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We turned downhill and switchbacked downhill for 0.2 miles to Whychus Creek.
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We followed along the creek on this trail for 1.5 miles, ignoring a steep trail to the right at the 0.8 mile mark. The sounds of the creek combined with the songs of birds made for a relaxing stroll through the canyon.
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20210529_081300Chokecherry

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IMG_5941Star-flower false solomonseal

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IMG_5950Trail junction at the 0.8 mile mark.

20210529_082320Spider on a wallflower.

IMG_5953Lewis flax

20210529_084000 Heuchera cylindrica -roundleaf allumroot

At the 1.5 mile mark the trail turned uphill away from the creek and made a turn back toward the trailhead.
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The trail climbed for 0.4 miles before leveling out near a rock outcrop where a side trail to the right led to a viewpoint.
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IMG_5969Oregon sunshine

IMG_5976Buckwheat and penstemon

IMG_5982Sign post for the viewpoint.

IMG_5983Heading for the rock outcrop/viewpoint.

IMG_5990Middle and North Sister with Whychus Creek below.

Two tenths of a mile beyond the viewpoint we passed the upper end of the cutoff trail coming up from the Creek Trail.
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We were now on the Meadow Trail which we followed for 1.5 miles (ignoring a signed trail to the left at the 0.5 mile mark). We were still spotting different flowers and wildlife on this stretch.
IMG_5998A monkeyflower

20210529_092023Sand lilies

IMG_6004Trail sign in the distance for spur trail to the Santiam Wagon Road.

IMG_6008Death camas

IMG_6011Sagebrush false dandelions

IMG_6021Pinion jay

IMG_6034Mountain bluebird pair

IMG_6041Mourning dove

IMG_6047unidentified little songbird.

IMG_6051Lizard

IMG_6058Second type of lizard

IMG_6060Showy townsendia

Just before reaching the trailhead the trail joined the Santiam Wagon Road at an interpretive sign.

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This wasn’t the first time we’d been on this historic 400 mile route between the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon (House Rock, Iron Mountain, Fish Lake, Sand Mountain , ) but it did mark the eastern most portion we’d been on.

We turned right on the Wagon Road for a few steps and were back at the trailhead where there was now a second car. We were surprised there weren’t more considering how nice a hike it had been. We logged just a little over 5 miles on our GPS and were now ready to head to our second stop of the day at the Alder Springs Trailhead.

Whychus Canyon Track

This was another chance to visit Whychus Creek but unlike Whychus Canyon we had done the hike at Alder Springs before (post). That hike had been almost 10 years prior having taken place on 8/3/2011. Two things stand out about that first visit. Most notably we only did the Alder Springs hike because our Plan A, Benson Lake/Scott Mountain Loop, was still under too much snow (also the mosquitos were horrendous). It has been quite some time since there has been that much snow that late in the year, yes climate change is real. Secondly it was a really nice hike but August probably wasn’t the best month for it. It’s been on my list of hikes to revisit at a different (better) time of the year. The road to the trailhead is seasonally closed (typically 12/1-3/31) so April or May seemed the best time to catch wildflowers and cooler temperatures.

Another difference between Whychus Canyon and Alder Springs is the access road. While the former is almost entirely paved with a short stretch of good gravel the latter is not far removed from a 4×4 jeep track. Rocks, washouts, and dried mud holes await for most of the final 4.7 miles to the rather larger parking area which we were surprised to find nearly full at 10:15am. At first we couldn’t figure out why there were so many cars SUVs and trucks here while it was just us and one other car at the preserve then it hit us, you can camp here. That realization came from overhearing a large group saying something about having to make two trips down and “the beer”.
IMG_6066Looking back up the dirt access road to the North Sister, Mt. Washington and Black Butte
IMG_6067The trailhead signboard.

This time we didn’t take the side trip down the 0.4 mile Old Bridge Trail but otherwise it was the same route as we had taken nearly 10 years before. The big difference was the number of wildflowers in bloom and the number of people we encountered, mostly on the way back to the car. The scenery was stunning and the ford at the 1.5 mile mark refreshing.
IMG_6070Buckwheat

20210529_103018Rough eyelashweed

IMG_6094Yarrow

IMG_6103Fiddleneck

20210529_104231Largeflower hawksbeard

IMG_6111Purple cushion fleabane

IMG_6114Oregon sunshine

20210529_104625Blue mountain prairie clover

20210529_104747Lewis flax

IMG_6122Lupine

IMG_6123Bearded hawksbeard

IMG_6134Haven’t id this one yet.

IMG_6118The Three Sisters, Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington with some dancing clouds.

IMG_6126Whychus Creek Canyon

IMG_6136Love the different rock formations in the canyon.

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IMG_6143Catchfly

IMG_6149Balsamroot

IMG_6160Paintbrush

IMG_6161Pretty sure this side creek was dry on our previous visit.

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IMG_6171Whychus Creek at the ford.

We’ll get into a little more of the history of Whychus Creek when we cover our Memorial Day hike but we noted that the water level seemed about the same as it had on our previous crossing and that the water was surprisingly warm given the source of the creek is the glaciers and snowfields of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. After a bit of thinking it dawned on us that higher up near Sisters water is diverted to irrigation ditches and other uses.

IMG_6176Alder Springs

IMG_6181Columbine

20210529_113821A clarkia, possibly Lassen

20210529_113835Threadleaf phacelia

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IMG_6217Unknown

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20210529_121450Creek dogwood and a beetle covered in pollen

20210529_125533Grand Colloma

20210529_124730Deadly nightshade

IMG_6305Rose with crab spider

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Veatch’s blazingstar

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IMG_6255Dragon fly

We took a break at the end of the trail along the Deschutes River before hiking back just as we had done on the previous visit.
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IMG_6300Confluence of the Deschutes (left) and Whychus Creek (right).

Butterflies and birds were out in force on the hike back.
IMG_6311Bald eagle

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IMG_6359Cedar hairstreak

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IMG_6369Turkey vulture

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IMG_6389Mountain chickadee

The hike here came in at 6.4 miles and 650′ of elevation gain giving us a little over 11.5 miles and 1120′ of climbing so far on the day.

Track for Alder Springs

We had one more quick stop planned for the day. Our first hike had been on Deschutes Land Trust land and the second in the Crooked River National Grassland managed by the Ochoco National Forest and our final stop at the Huntington Wagon Road was on BLM land. The hike here was of particular interest to me as the trailhead is only 2 miles from where I lived from 2nd grade until leaving home for college and yet I had no idea it was there. The BLM has created a 1.2 mile long interpretive trail along a section of a route that was built to haul supplies from The Dalles to build Fort Klamath.
IMG_6395Trailhead on McGrath Road.

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There is a lot to see along the trail as far as scenery goes. It’s mostly sagebrush and juniper with some lava formations mixed in. The history is what makes this hike interesting, and the dozens of lizards scurrying about.
IMG_6400A 300+ year old juniper named an Oregon Heritage Tree

IMG_6404Sagebrush, juniper and lava – my childhood 🙂

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IMG_6408Tree blaze

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IMG_6414Buckwheat

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IMG_6423Ruts along the wagon road.

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IMG_6427Skipper on Showy townsendia.

IMG_6433Post marking the relic fence line and turnaround point.

IMG_6434An old fence post and barbed wire.

IMG_6436Junipers are some interesting trees, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Track for the Huntington Wagon Road

In total we hiked 14 miles with 1150′ of elevation gain. We got to see two sections of Whychus Creek and Canyon as well as parts of two historic Wagon Roads. We ended the day by enjoying some homemade lasagna at Heather’s parents place. Not a bad way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, and Huntington Wagon Road