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).
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.
We really noticed how much more water there was in the creek here, before reaching the diversion ditches closer to Sisters.
Less than a half mile into the hike we passed a series of rock ledges where native tribes appear to have once camped.
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.
North Sister in the distance.
Just over a mile and a half from the trailhead the Whychus Creek Trail descended back down to the creek passing under some cliffs.
The 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).
Near the two mile mark we arrived at a series of viewpoints of the falls atop rocks.
There was a second smaller cascade a little further upstream.
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.
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.
Mt. Hood sighting.
Mt. Jefferson and Black Butte
White breasted nuthatch
Golden 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.
Broken Top and the Three Sisters (bonus points for spotting the golden mantled ground squirrel)
Lewis flax at the overlook.
Buckwheat and penstemon
Whychus Creek below with the Three Sisters on the horizon.
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.
Interpretive sign along the trail.
Mt. 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!
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.
Kiosk 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.
From the kiosk we followed a pointer for the Rim & Creek Trails onto a dirt path.
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.
Tent caterpillars (and the red gate)
As we followed the Rim Trail west along the canyon we began to get some good mountain views.
Mt. Washington and Black Butte (post)
Broken 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.
Whychus Creek was hidden by trees for the most part.
While there weren’t a lot of wildflowers a number of different types were present.
Sedum leibergii -Leiberg’s Stonecrop
In addition to the various flowers we spotted some varied wildlife as well.
Magpie playing hard to get.
Pair 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.
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.
We turned downhill and switchbacked downhill for 0.2 miles to Whychus Creek.
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.
Star-flower false solomonseal
Trail junction at the 0.8 mile mark.
Spider on a wallflower.
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.
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.
Buckwheat and penstemon
Sign post for the viewpoint.
Heading for the rock outcrop/viewpoint.
Middle 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.
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.
Trail sign in the distance for spur trail to the Santiam Wagon Road.
Sagebrush false dandelions
Mountain bluebird pair
unidentified little songbird.
Second type of lizard
Just before reaching the trailhead the trail joined the Santiam Wagon Road at an interpretive sign.
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.
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”.
Looking back up the dirt access road to the North Sister, Mt. Washington and Black Butte
The 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.
Purple cushion fleabane
Blue mountain prairie clover
Haven’t id this one yet.
The Three Sisters, Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington with some dancing clouds.
Whychus Creek Canyon
Love the different rock formations in the canyon.
Pretty sure this side creek was dry on our previous visit.
Whychus 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.
A clarkia, possibly Lassen
Creek dogwood and a beetle covered in pollen
Rose with crab spider
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.
Confluence of the Deschutes (left) and Whychus Creek (right).
Butterflies and birds were out in force on the hike back.
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.
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.
Trailhead on McGrath Road.
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.
A 300+ year old juniper named an Oregon Heritage Tree
Sagebrush, juniper and lava – my childhood 🙂
Ruts along the wagon road.
Skipper on Showy townsendia.
Post marking the relic fence line and turnaround point.
An old fence post and barbed wire.
Junipers are some interesting trees, they come in all shapes and sizes.
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!
A wet weather system arrived with the weekend dropping some much need rain over the wildfires in Oregon and depositing a decent amount of new snow on the Cascades. This was great news and one of the few times that we were more than happy that our original plan was forced to change due to weather. We were going to be in Bend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Heather’s Dad which provided us an opportunity to hike in the rain shadow of the Cascades before heading home Sunday morning. It was a nice celebration and a rare event for all our calendars to align and be together.
Having finished all 100 featured hikes (post) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) we turned to his 5th edition of the book and decided to check out Wildcat Canyon (Hike #36). Wildcat Canyon is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s Maston Trail System, a 4,000 acre mixed use network of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. It also happens to be located in my old stomping grounds near Tumalo, OR. The Maston Trailhead (see previous link) is less than 10 driving miles from the my parent’s old house between Bend and Redmond and just over 5 miles from my former elementary school. Way back then the Maston Trail System didn’t exist but I had spent time exploring the Deschutes River Canyon near that area, closer to Eagle Crest Resort, so I was excited to check the trail system out.
We were the second car at the Maston Trailhead that morning.
Cline Buttes from the Maston Trailhead.
It was a crisp morning with a bit of frost on the ground, the kind of morning that reminded me of a high school job I had moving irrigation pipes at a nearby farm. We set off through the equestrian parking area and passed through an open fence by a trail map.
This was the Settlement Trail (an equestrian/hiker only trail), named for the settlers who had cleared the land and began constructing farms in the early 1900’s in preparation of the arrival of irrigation water. The water never came and by the 1930’s the farms had been abandoned.
Interpretive sign at the Maston Trailhead telling the story of the settlers.
Stone foundation of one of the abandoned buildings along the Settlement Trail.
We followed the Settlement Trail by staying right at junctions for the first 1.5 miles.
Typical sign at a junction. Not all of the junctions had signs and not all of the signs identified which trail/junction it was so having a copy of the trail system map is a really good idea.
There were a lot of different birds about but most wouldn’t stay still long enough for a picture and those that did perched at the top of junipers distant enough to make identifying them even with a 30x zoom a bit difficult.
This one may be a sparrow of some sort, it was signing quite a bit.
Possibly another sparrow or a finch or something else.
Maybe a bluebird?
We took a wrong turn at a junction just over a half mile from the trailhead. We had been expecting to see the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead to our right which our guidebook indicated we should go down to, so when we spotted a signboard along a road less then a tenth of a mile to our right we headed for it. When we got to the little pullout at the road we double checked the map and realized that we had turned right too early so we turned around and returned to the junction. We turned right again and continued on the Settlement Trail another quarter of a mile to the actual Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.
Wildcat Canyon Trailhead off to the right.
We spotted the only non-bird wildlife of the day near this trailhead when a rabbit raced out of the sagebrush and paused briefly on the other side of a juniper.
I managed to snap one photo and of course the camera focused on said juniper instead of the rabbit beyond.
We stayed straight at the trailhead on the Settlement Trail which was now almost directly next to the Rockbar Trail (a mountain bike trail). The Settlement Trail quickly arrived on the basalt cliffs above the Deschutes River Canyon.
Wildcat Canyon on the right joining the Deschutes River Canyon
The Deschutes River near where the canyons meet.
Grizzly Mountain in the distance beyond the Deschutes River.
The trail turned north along the canyon rim which we followed for half a mile, switching to the Rockbar Trail when the equestrian trail crossed over it.
Another of several viewpoints along the rim.
Some Fall color along the Deschutes River.
A viewpoint along the Rockbar Trail.
Looking south up the river canyon.
A calm pool along the Deschutes.
I could see this one, a Stellar’s jay.
Shortly after the Rockbar Trail turned away from the canyon it crossed a private road.
Coming up to the road.
We followed Sullivan’s instructions and jogged left 100′ picking up the equestrian trail again.
We turned uphill on the equestrian trail to a junction with the Headgate Trail, another mountain bike trail, in just 100 yards.
We turned left following this single track through the juniper and sagebrush for approximately 2 miles ignoring side trails along the way.
This was Junction 2 (one of the junctions with an identifying sign). We stayed right on the Headgate Trail here.
At a slightly higher elevation than the Settlement Trail the Headgate Trail would have provided a fairly nice view of the Cascades but on this day they were mostly shrouded in clouds although we could see fresh snow on Tam McArthur Rim (post) and on the lowest portion of the South and North Sisters.
Tam McArthur Rim is left center with South Sister in the center and North Sister to the right center.
We turned down what we believe on the map to be the Maston Tie Trail (it was unmarked) and followed it for a quarter of mile back to the beginning of the Settlement Trail at the Maston Trailhead.
Heather and Dominique on the Maston Trail.
Coming up on the Settlement Trail.
This wound up being a nice loop, just under 5 miles, with minimal elevation gain (200′ or so). The network of trails provides options for both shorter and longer loops too with multiple starting points available. We hope to come back again in the Spring some year to check out more of the area and see what it looks like during a different season. Until then this was a great introduction to the area. Happy Trails!
As an epilogue to our Strawberry Mountain Wilderness backpacking trip (Day 1, Day 2, Days 3 &4) we visited the head of the Metolius River on our way home after spending a night in Bend.
Our original plan had been an overnight trip in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness but neither of us were left with the energy to tackle such an outing, but the quarter mile paved path the the headwaters of the Metolius sounded doable.
We arrived at the trailhead along Forest Road 14 just after 8am and started down the short paved path.
It was a gloriously crisp 55 degrees which felt much cooler than it had at any time during our backpacking trip. Golden-mantled ground squirrels scurried about as we made our way to the viewing area.
The Metolius emerges from the springs as a fully formed river flowing north toward the Cove Palisades State Park (post).
Mt. Jefferson rising above the Metolius River
It may have only been a half mile hike but it was just what we’d needed before we headed home. Happy Trails!
Our hike along French Creek Ridge (post) officially kicked off our July vacation it was the following day that we left home and headed for Central Oregon. We were ultimately heading to the Strawberry Mountains but we stopped in Bend to visit Heather’s parents and also to check out a few of the caves off China Hat Road. (Whenever visiting caves please be aware of White-Nose Syndrome and help protect bats.)
A short dirt path from the day use area led to the railed entrance of the lava tube.
There was a rockfall warning at the entrance dated 5/26/18.
We proceeded with caution down into the cave.
The cave was spacious with varying terrain on the cave floor.
The cave extends for about half a mile to the left from the entrance and a very short distance to the right.
We explored as quickly as the terrain allowed given the warning at the entrance and then headed for our next stop at Arnold Ice Cave. To reach the parking area from Boyd Cave we continued east on China Hat Rd. an additional 3.1 miles and turned right onto FR 300 for half a mile to a parking area at a signboard.
The entrance to Arnold Ice Cave is located just beyond and to the left of the parking area.
A path led down to the entrance where a semi-steep scramble past the remains of a staircase led down to the cave floor.
In the early half of the 1900’s ice from the cave was harvested for use by locals but that ended with the advent of refrigeration and since then at least a half-mile of the cave has become inaccessible as the ice has reclaimed that portion. It was too warm for any ice in the accessible part of the cave during our visit but there were some interestingly colored rocks along the ceiling.
The cave extended just far enough to lose the light of the entrance before forcing us to turn around and climb back out.
A more interesting cave (at least nowadays) was our next goal. Hidden Forest Cave is approximately a quarter mile from Arnold Ice Cave. To reach the cave we followed a dirt track south from Arnold Ice Cave.
This path quickly passed to the left of a pit where we kept straight on what became a narrower footpath after crossing another old roadbed. Soon we passed a second pit on our right.
We kept close to the rim of this pit on the left then shortly after passing the second pit we crossed a second sandy roadbed and arrived alonside a third pit.
The entrance to Hidden Forest Cave lay at the NE end of the pit but the way down into the pit lay at the opposite end. We walked along the rim past a really colorful tree trunk and met a few of the locals.
We followed a path down into the pit where we found a few wildflowers blooming.
At the far end of the pit was the entrance to the cave.
The cave was a fairly short scramble to a small opening.
Climbing out of this opening brought us to the floor of the second pit we had passed.
After exploring this “hidden forest” we returned through the passage and headed back to our car.
Our final stop for the day was along the closed Wind Cave entrance road. The small parking area is located along FR 200 which was just over a half-mile back along China Hat Road from FR 300 (2.5 miles east of the Boyd Cave entrance road). A stop sign on the north side of China Hat Road marks the correct road.
Wind Cave is closed year round to the public for bats but we hoped to visit Pictograph Cave which according to our guidebook and everything we could find online was only closed from October 15th – May 1st. In order to reach Pictograph Cave we followed the closed road for half a mile to the Wind Cave Parking area. Along the road we spotted some really bright Indian Paintbrush amid the sagebrush.
We also found the Bat Cave but there was no sign of Batman.
There was also a nice view of the snowy Cascades across the sagebrush of the high desert.
We arrived at the gated Wind Cave where our guidebook directed us to “..continue NE on the sandy double track road..”.
This is where our day began to get really interesting. The correct sandy double track was blocked by the log where the Wind Cave closure sign was attached as well as several boulders. A second sandy double track led directly north from Wind Cave past the covered entrance to its skylight.
We hadn’t seen the correct track and hadn’t paid enough attention to the N versus NE direction this track was heading in and we just kept walking. We were supposed to follow the double track for approximately .7 miles to a gate with a railroad tie. After passing through the gate we were supposed to veer left and quickly pass through another barbwired fence before passing between two signed caves. The guidebook also said that if we crested a rise and could see the Cascade Mountains we’d gone too far. That last part had us really confused because we had been able to see the mountains the whole time as we followed the track we’d chosen. There was another set of footprints in the sand though so we followed them as the track became fainter. The scenery was nice and we spotted several birds including a few hawks and Heather noticed a pygmy short horned lizard.
After about fifteen minutes we’d completely lost the track and footprints and realized we’d done something wrong. I should have set up a waypoint on our GPS marking the cave location but hadn’t so using it was no real help. Luckily Heather had signal just long enough to pull it up on Google Maps on her phone. We used her phone to navigate towards the caves location but it wasn’t ideal. First off it was a lot harder to see exactly where we were in relation to the cave location using the phone vs the Garmin and secondly locations on Google Maps are not always correct (sometimes they are way off). We had already gone a little over half a mile and we wandered for another .9 miles in a wide arc in the direction shown on the phone before seeing what looked like it might be a cave near a barb wired fence.
It didn’t seem to match the description in the book but it was near the point shown on Google so we headed over to check it out.
It turned out to be a very shallow overhang.
At some point Heather’s phone ran out of power so we were once again left with only the Garmin which was still no help in this case. The immediate area we were in had several promising looking features and we wandered to the NE a bit checking possibilities. I finally spotted what appeared to be two sets of short sign posts amid the sagebrush way off in the distance. We headed over to check them out since the book had mentioned such signs. As we approached the nearest pair we spotted a large pit.
That was the SW opening with no way down. Just across from it was the NE pit which is the explore-able one only the restrictive sign indicated that the cave was now closed year round to protect bat habitat.
We stopped at the pits edge honoring the closure sign and were not able to pick out the pictographs near the right hand tunnel. At the time we weren’t entirely certain that these were indeed Pictograph Cave due to year round closure and not having followed the directions to get there.
We were hot and dusty and had hiked two and a half miles on what was supposed to be a 2.4 mile hike. At least from the cave we were able follow the guidebook directions backwards. We followed a dirt track SSE for .4 miles where we arrived at a railroad tie gate. Before passing through the fence we followed another track east now not being able to remember if after passing through the gate the guidebook had said veer left or right (we had left the book in the car opting to rely on pictures taken with the now dead cell phone). After a short distance we decided that we were on a wild goose chase and the pits we had seen must have been Pictograph Cave. We hiked back to the gate and passed through continuing on the sandy track. We soon ran into a family who asked us if this was the way to Pictograph Cave. We said we thought so explaining that we’d taken a wrong turn and come in form another direction, but there were two signed pits along the track. We continued on eventually arriving back at the Wind Cave turnaround where we discovered how we’d missed the correct sandy track.
We walked back along the road to our car and began to head back toward Bend. We had been hoping to go to the High Desert Museum after the hikes. Despite having spent a lot more time hiking to Pictograph Cave we still would have had 4 plus hours to spend there but two things happened on the drive back, a fire broke out near Bessie Butte along China Hat Road and our battery warning light came on. The fire was far enough off the road that it wasn’t closed yet as we passed by the first firetrucks on scene. Luckily the fire was controlled quickly and didn’t become a major incident.
The battery light was more of an issue. It was Sunday so many places weren’t open and all our user manual said was to stop driving immediately and call a dealer. That wasn’t an option on a forest service road with a fire nearby so we drove into Bend and stopped at the Toyota dealer but they didn’t have any mechanics on duty and couldn’t help. Next we tried a Valvoline Instant Oil but their battery tester was dead. From there we stopped at Baxter Auto where the store clerk was able to test the battery which was low, but that wasn’t necessarily the problem. It could be any number of things related to the electrical system but without a mechanic to check we couldn’t be sure. We then drove to a second Valvoline where, even though it was a long shot, we replaced the battery in hopes that it might work. It didn’t which meant it was likely the alternator. Our vacation plans were suddenly in flux.
We decided to rent a car Monday morning and go ahead with our planned backpacking trip and then we would try and get the car fixed at the end of the week when we returned. Thankfully Heather’s parents offered to take the car in Monday morning for us though and have any necessary repairs done while we were away.
With the plan set we reserved a rental to be picked up at 7:30 from Enterprise and then we realized that we hadn’t remembered our water filter. It was getting close to closing time for the few stores that were still open on a Sunday evening and Heather ran out to Big 5 in hopes of picking up a spare filter. They didn’t have any in stock so she wound up with Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets. We hadn’t used the tablets before so this was going to be interesting. It was starting out to be quite the memorable vacation. Happy Trails!
After spending the night in Bend it was finally time to head home. We had one final hike planned before we drove back to Salem though. For the final hike of our vacation we headed north of Bend to the Cove Palisades State Park.
The park is home to the man made Lake Billy Chinook which fills a canyon behind the Round Butte Dam. Three rivers converge here, the Crooked, Metolius, and the Deschutes. We didn’t do it on purpose but by hiking here we wound up starting and ending our vacation with hikes near the Deschutes.
We started our hike from the Lower Deschutes Day Use Area which according to a signboard didn’t open until 7am. I hadn’t been able to find that information on the park website so we had arrived just before 6am. Luckily the gate was open and the automated permit booth was operating. There was also a second sign stating that parking was prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 5am so we went ahead and parked in the large, empty lot.
We were going to hike the Tam-A-Lau Trail which actually officially starts at a trailhead near the campground but a half mile connector trail started at the eastern end of the day use area.
The connector trail crossed over the day use entrance road then a short while later it crossed the main road through the park before arriving at the trailhead.
From this trailhead the Tam-A-Lau Trail climbed just over a mile to the rim of the canyon and the start of a loop atop the plateau.
As we climbed the views got better, both of the Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook and of Mt. Jefferson which appeared above the far side of the canyon.
The trail also passed some nice rock formations revealing the various layers of the canyon.
Near the top of the rim Mt. Jefferson was entirely visible and several other Cascade peaks could be seen.
The Three Sisters
At the start of the loop we took the left hand fork which followed the rim of the canyon north.
As we continued north more mountains emerged to the SW. Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Three Fingered Jack.
The only major Cascade missing was Mt. Washington which was hidden behind Black Butte and Green Ridge.
After 1.25 miles of the loop we reached the tip of the plateau which looked out to “The Island”. Despite it’s name The Island isn’t surrounded by water but it is a separated portion of the plateau.
To the right of The Island the Crooked River arm flows in to merge with the Deschutes. From the tip of the plateau the trail followed the rim above the Crooked River arm for another 1.1 miles before turning inland across the plateau to complete the loop. From this section we had a good view of the bridge over the Crooked River arm.
Shortly after turning inland we spotted a group of deer on the far side of a fence.
(the camera deciding the fence was more interesting than the deer)
It was 1.3 miles across the plateau where we headed back down to the campground and then on to the day use area where the number of cars had double to two including ours. (A third arrived while we were loading up.) The relatively short hike was a good way to end the vacation and put a cap on 8 days of hiking. We’re not done with SE Oregon yet and we’re looking forward to our next visit. Happy Trails!
With this Throwback Thursday post we will have covered all the trails that we hiked prior to starting this blog and have not been part of a subsequent hike that was featured here. We are combining several hikes in one for a couple of reasons. The remaining hikes were all relatively short, some we have few if any pictures, and one was done on the same day that we did another hike that we did again after we started the blog.
Many of our earliest hikes were centered around Bend, OR and were part of vacations prior to 2010 when we first started to be serious about hiking. These were hikes of opportunity more than conscious efforts to go on a hike.
One such was the 3 mile loop around Suttle Lake. We were staying at one of the cabins at the Suttle Lake Resort and decided to take the trail around the lake. The level hike offered views of the lake and of bald eagles and osprey as they soared over the lake watching for fish. On that hike we didn’t even carry a camera.
Another camera-less but worthwhile hike was the Lava River Cave. This mile long lava tube south of Bend is a great stop for kids and adults and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lava Lands or the High Desert Museum.
In 2007, while in Bend on vacation in July, we hiked up Pilot Butte. A mile long trail in the middle of town leads up to the top of the 4148′ summit which offers view on a clear day north to Mt. Adams in Washington.
It was a bit hazy during this visit but the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Mt. Bachelor to the Three Sisters were still visible.
The hikes weren’t all in Central Oregon. On 7/27/2009 we completed the 1.8 mile round trip to Henline Falls from the Henline Falls Trailhead. The trail is approximately 45 minutes east of Salem and features an old mine shaft near the waterfall.
We also started up the nearby Henline Mountain Trail (trailhead) that day but were not in decent enough shape to make it very far.
The final short hike along Lava Canyon near Mt. St. Helens was done after our first hike to Ape Canyon on 9/17/2012. We went back to Ape Canyon in 2015 (post) but that time we did Ape Cave for the other hike.
A .4 mile trail leads down to the start of a short half mile loop.
We stayed left at the start of the loop staying on the west side of the Muddy River. A footbridge led across the river above Lava Canyon Falls which was below the trail but mostly obscured.
Just .2 miles from the first bridge the loop crosses the river on a suspension bridge.
Upstream from the suspension bridge the Muddy River careens down Triple Falls.
A .3 mile trail returns to the footbridge along the river along the eastern bank.
Henline Falls, Henline Mountain, and Lava Canyon are all in our future plans and reliving these and all our other Throwback Thursday hikes has been a lot of fun. Even though the information is dated hopefully they have provided some additional ideas for places to visit here in the Pacific Northwest. As always check with the managing agencies for current trail conditions before heading out. Happy Trails!
On Memorial Day we headed home from Bend and stopped to revisit a hike that we first did on October 14, 2013 (post). We covered the trailhead and route in that trip report. This entry will focus on what we saw this time around. On our previous visit the forecast had been for clear, sunny skies but what we got was a sheet of grey clouds that obscured most of the mountain views we’d hoped for. This time around things were much different.
We set off a little after 6am from the lower trailhead and headed through the forest which was a little greener in May than it had been in October.
There was some yellow clumps of balsamroot blooming along the lower trail and we also saw a little red paintbrush.
Caterpillars were busy munching on leaves but they weren’t the only insects on the plants.
We spotted a few ticks on the ends of plants and I had to flick a couple off my pants along the way.
There had been one other vehicle at the lower trailhead that morning and we found two more at the upper trailhead when we arrived there just after 7:30am.
From the upper trailhead the trail was significantly wider and we had no tick issues along this 2 mile stretch. There were however a fair number of flowers blooming including quite a bit of larkspur that for some reason I was unable to take a clear photo of. Several others proved a little more photogenic.
When I was going through the photos on the computer I noticed a little spider that had posed near a violet.
It was a beautifully sunny day and the birds were out in force singing their morning songs.
We had left the upper trailhead before the hikers in one of the two cars and we passed the owners of the other car as well as the car that had been parked at the lower trailhead on their way back down from the summit so we had the top part of Black Butte to ourselves as we finished our climb.
Our whole reason for redoing this hike had been for the missed mountain view and we were not disappointed. We had been seeing them for much of the hike but the view is never better than from the top.
The old lookout tower with Broken Top and the Three Sisters
Belknap Crater & Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington & Three Fingered Jack with the old cupola lookout
Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams
It was definitely a stark contrast from the previous visit.
We had the summit to ourselves for just a bit before the next hiker arrived. We took that as our queue to begin our descent and headed back down. We had not seen more than two people during any of our other hikes that weekend but on our way down we passed a steady stream of folks heading up to the summit. Most had started at the upper trailhead but there were a surprising number of hikers tackling the over 3000′ climb from the lower trailhead as well. Either way the views were more than worth it. Happy Trails!
We headed over to Bend for Memorial Day weekend to visit Heather’s parents and get a few more hikes checked off our to do list. On our drive over to Bend we hit three different locations starting with White River Falls.
In order to visit White River Falls we took what we call the long way around to Bend. From Salem we headed north through Portland to I84 then east to Highway 197 in The Dalles which we followed south to Tygh Valley. Our plan was to take Highway 216 four miles east from Tygh Valley to White River Falls State Park then continue on Hwy 216 to Sherars Bridge where we would turn for our second hike. We had about a quarter of a tank of gas left so we tried to stop in Tygh Valley to fill up not knowing for sure when we would see another gas station but the one in Tygh Valley was still closed so we decided to go to the falls then come back for gas before continuing to our second stop.
We parked at the good sized day use area and passed a large signboard warning of the dangers of the river (and also the presence of rattlesnakes).
A short paved path led to a railed overlook above White River Falls.
An interpretive sign at the viewpoint told about the 1901 hydroelectric plant that was built here.
From the viewpoint we could see the remains of the powerhouse in the canyon downstream.
From the viewpoint a path led downhill across a bridge along the settling pond damn and down into the canyon for a view upstream to the falls.
The trail continued downhill past the powerhouse where the view of the falls included a nice rainbow.
There were a few flowers blooming in the canyon.
We continued to follow the path downstream a short distance past Celestial Falls.
Beyond Celestial Falls the trail brought us to several rocky viewpoints where we could look back upstream to those falls and also further downstream.
A couple of mergansers were enjoying a beach along the river downstream.
We had gone about half a mile from the viewpoint when we decided to call it good and head back. The path had split where we turned around, one trail stayed up on the canyon hillside above the rocks and the other appeared to be a scramble down to the river. We had seen what we had come for in the falls though and had other hikes to get to, so back we went.
Once we were back at the viewpoint we followed the fence upstream through the grassy day use area to a different view of White River Falls.
We then cut through the day use area as I had seen a bullock’s oriole after getting out of the car but couldn’t get a picture and was hoping to see it again. We didn’t spot the oriole but there was a nice view of Mt. Hood where the White River originates.
We drove back to Tygh Valley to see if the gas station was open (it was now after 8am) and it was, so we filled up and then drove out Highway 216 again, past White River Falls State Park four miles to Sherars Bridge where we continued across the Deschutes River an additional three quarters of a mile to a left had turn at a Deschutes River Access sign. We followed this mostly gravel, sometimes paved, always 20mph road 17 miles to its end at Macks Canyon Campground. We parked at a small pullout at a hairpin turn just before the road dropped down to the campground.
From the road we took an unsigned trail following an old railroad grade into the Deschutes River Canyon.
Just a short distance from the pullout we arrived at Macks Canyon where a trestle once spanned the opening.
Looking up Macks Canyon
The trail scrambled downhill then crossed the canyon before scrambling steeply back up the other side to the railroad grade.
We couldn’t have asked for much better weather, the sky was mostly sunny and although it was warm a fairly steady breeze kept it from feeling to hot. We continued following the trail for nearly another mile to a second long gone trestle. The views along this section were great with some really interesting rock formations along the canyon wall and several different types of wildflowers in bloom.
The second missing trestle crossing was quickly followed a third, each of which involved a short scramble into and back out of small canyons.
The trail then continued along the railroad grade along a fence where we found some interesting wildflowers.
A little under a mile from the third missing trestle we arrived at a fourth at Sixteen Canyon.
Before heading down into the canyon we watched some of the many rafters float by.
Sixteen Canyon by far had the most vegetation. Some of it was nice like the mock orange which was blooming profusely. The blackberries weren’t so pleasant with their sharp thorns.
We climbed out of Sixteen Canyon and continued on another mile and a half.
At one point we found ourselves on the opposite side of a fence than the river.
Over this next stretch we did a lot of insect watching. We were seeing quite a variety of beetles and other flying insects, many of which were busying themselves on large thistle blossoms.
We turned around at a bend in the river where the trail passed above a campsite.
I had seen two snakes earlier on the trail and on the way back a third darted off the trail in front of us. None of them were rattlers though. We hadn’t seen any snakes at White River Falls that morning either but we were keeping our eyes out (or so I thought). I heard Heather gasp behind me only to turn around and see that I had somehow managed to step right over a snake in the middle of the trail and never noticed it. Luckily it was just a harmless gopher snake.
We were even more vigilant after that but the only other reptile we spotted was a lizard.
After returning to the car we headed back toward Highway 216 where we decided to get creative. We could have taken the Hwy 216 back to Hwy 197 and then headed south toward Maupin which was about 18.5 miles away going that route. The Deschutes River Access Road continued south across Hwy 216 though and a sign there indicated that Maupin was only 9 miles that way. We decided to try the access road which lived up to its name offering many access points for the river. The speed limit varied between 20 & 35mph so it was a little slower pace than the Highways would have been but it was more scenic. We ran into trouble though when we reached Maupin. When the access road ended in town, there were no signs that we could see. The road map we had appeared to show the road ending at Highway 197 where we would want to turn left (south). After initially turning right we decided to trust the map and turned around. The road we were on was narrow with tight turns as it climbed up the canyon away from Maupin. That didn’t seem right and neither did the direction we were beginning to head so we turned on our Garmin, that we use hiking, and checked it. Sure enough we were on Bakeoven Road not the highway so we turned around. Looking at the GPS we could see that if we’d have gone just a bit further when we had initially turned right we would have found 197.
After that little adventure we drove south on Hwy 197 to its junction with Highway97 and followed it to Madras. Highways 97 & 26 join in Madras before splitting again at the other end. We turned onto 26 at the southern end of Madras in order to get to our final stop of the day at Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area.
We drove for 9 miles to a rise where a sign pointed to the trailhead turnoff on the left. From the parking area a half mile paved trail began.
The paved portion of the trail led past interpretive signs to a viewing platform and the start of a mile long dirt trail.
The viewing platform overlooked the wetland where all we saw on this day were a couple of ducks and numerous blackbirds.
From the platform we took the Overview Trail uphill through the juniper to a spur trail that led to a second platform.
We didn’t spot anything different from the second platform and continued on the loop.
At the crest of the trail we passed a Mountain Overview sign where rock outcrops offered views across the Crooked River Grassland to the Cascade Mountains.
Broken Top and the Three Sisters
We got a pleasant surprise when Heather spotted a couple of bitterroot flowers blooming in the area.
Beyond the overlook the trail descended to the paved path less than a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Along the final stretch of the Mountain Overlook Trail Mt. Hood could be seen in the distance ending our hikes as we’d begun them looking at the tallest mountain in Oregon. Happy Trails!
Throwback Thursday is dedicated this week to one of the best wildlife hikes we’ve taken. On July 29th, 2012 on the way to Central Oregon we stopped at the Lower Canyon Creek Campground along the Metolius River. We parked at the West Metolius Trailhead at the far end of the campground.
An interesting thing here was the presence of a parking attendant.
The trail begins along the banks of the Metolius River and stick close to it for the first 1.25 miles.
Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead a series of springs gushed from the far bank of the river.
Wildflowers grew along the bank and sometimes out in the river.
Near the 1.25 mile mark the trail climbed away from the river just a bit as it wound through a steep canyon.
Soon we were back down along the riverbank though.
At the 2.7 mile mark we arrived at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Driving here is an option and can be a fun place for kids to watch and even feed the fish.
The hatchery apparently has other fans as well.
For a shorter 5.7 mile hike we could have turned around here and headed back but a 6.4 mile loop could be completed by continuing on from the fish hatchery to a bridge at the Lower Bridge Campground so after looking at all the fish we continued on. In the 3.2 miles to the bridge we spotted a variety of wildlife.
Yellow rumped warbler
Western fence lizard
Mylitta crescent? butterfly
Another western fence lizard
We crossed the Metolius on the bridge and headed back along the eastern bank.
The 3.2 miles back to the bridge at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery also had its share of wildlife.
Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Another ground squirrel
The bridge to the hatchery offers a great view of Wizard Falls. Not exactly a waterfall, Wizard Falls is created by ledges in the lava rock below the river creating a colorful water feature.
After crossing the bridge we returned to the trailhead and headed to Sisters. This was a great hike for not a lot of effort. There was very little elevation gain making the 11.8 miles very manageable. Another nice aspect to this trail is that it is open most of the year (other than during winter storms). Happy Trails!