The Central Cascade Wilderness Permit system has been in place for 2 years now and for the second year in a row we gambled early and secured permits in April for a weekend backpacking trip. For the second year in a row weather prompted us to leave the purchased permits unused. Last September it was an early snow storm and this year it was a heat wave accompanied by the threat of thunderstorms. We had planned on hiking around Three Fingered Jack but after checking the forecast the morning of our departure we went to Plan B. The combination of nearly 90 degree temperatures (with an overnight low pushing 70) on trails that are 95% exposed due to passing through the 2008 B & B fire scar and the possibility of thunderstorms throughout the entire weekend just didn’t sound appealing.
We had gotten up at 4am and most of our packing already done but we needed somewhere to go. It needed to be nearby so we could get onto the trail early and short enough that we wouldn’t be out as the day warmed up. As I was trying to come up with ideas Alsea Falls came to mind. We had hiked to the falls in December 2011 (post) and had wanted to see them again when there was less water as the volume in December had been too much to see. With 3.5 miles round trip to visit both Alsea and Green Peak Falls this fit the criteria nicely and it would give us time to make a quick stop at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area if we felt like it on the way back home.
We were the first car at the Alsea Falls Day-Use/Picnic Area and after paying the $5 fee (In 2012 we avoided this fee by parking along Miller Road which lengthened the hike.) we set off following pointers for Alsea Falls.
We stayed left here following the pointer. We later crossed the bridge on the way to Green Peak Falls.
A quarter mile from the trailhead we came to the top of Alsea Falls. The trail continued downhill providing a few different vantage points of the falls.
Heather in front of the falls.
After checking out the falls from several spots we headed back up to the bridge and crossed the river.
Looking down river from the bridge.
On the far side of the bridge we turned left following the pointer for McBee Park and Green Peak Falls.
We followed trail pointers to stay on the correct path which brought us to a road near McBee Park (Privately owned by Hull-Oaks Lumber Company).
We turned off the main gravel road at another sign for Green Peak Falls. Here a spur road led through a large campsite to a trail.
Green Peak Falls
Green Peak falls in December 2012.
It was interesting to see how differently the lower water levels affected the visuals of the two falls. For Alsea Falls less water allowed us to see more of the bedrock and gave the falls a little more definition and character. Green Peak on the other hand just had less water, it was still a nice waterfall but it wasn’t the thundering cascade that we’d experienced in 2012.
On the way back we crossed the river at McBee Park and explored one of the empty sites there.
Covered picnic table.
The table is one solid plank.
Instead of back tracking through the park to the trail and returning the way we’d come we decided to road walk back to the Alsea Falls Picnic Area.
Sign for McBee Park along South Fork Road.
Trail down to the picnic area along South Fork Road.
This wound up being a 3.3 mile hike which was just what we were looking for. It had been warm when we started at 6:15am and it was already noticeably warmer when we got back to the car at 8am. It was still early enough though that we did decide to stop on our way home and finally check out the E. E. Wilson Wildlife Area.
The area, located just north of Corvallis, is one of several Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife managed areas that requires a $10/day parking perming ($30 for an annual permit). Hiking options are limited here with just a 1.5 mile Interpretive Trail to a fishing pond and a 1.7 mile out-and-back to Coffin Butte. The $10 price tag for such sort hikes had kept us away but we had come into possession of an annual permit (They come with certain hunting and/or fishing licenses.) which eliminated that obstacle.
We parked at the Camp Adair Trailhead and promptly forgot to put the permit on the dashboard. Instead we got out, threw our packs on (we looked crazy for a 1.5 interpretive loop but we wanted the water that was in them), and started checking out the pheasants being raised in nearby cages.
After looking at the birds we walked through the Camp Adair Memorial Garden. Camp Adair was established approximately 6 months after Pearl Harbor and housed up to 40,000 personnel at a time comprising four infantry divisions.
Parking for the fishing pond is located on the opposite side of the memorial and at that parking lot we turned left on a road passing through a gate to a signboard.
We followed this road 0.2 miles to a “T” where we turned left.
Less than 100 yards later we came to a sign for the Fishing Pond on our right at another road junction.
We made it about a tenth of a mile up this road before I thought to ask Heather if she had put the permit on the dashboard since I’d completely forgotten about it. She had forgotten too so I left my pack with her at a bench and jogged back to the car, put the permit in the window, and (mostly) jogged back to her. We then continued on to the Fishing Pond.
Bunnies in the grass near one of the benches.
Coffin Butte on the other side of Highway 99.
Wetlands on the other side of the pond.
Great blue heron
After walking a little way up along the western side of the pond we backtracked and started around the southern end where we picked up the continuation of the Interpretive Loop.
The loop trail to the right.
The loop passed through some wetlands before entering a series of fields and finally arriving back at the road.
We stayed left at any junction like this.
Arriving back at the road.
We took a left on the road and retraced our steps to the memorial and then back to our car. Between our wandering and my return trip to the car to put the permit out I managed to turn this into a 2.8 mile outing but it should have been closer to 1.5. We still managed to be done just after 10am which was a good thing because it was already pushing 80 degrees. These two short hikes turned out to be a great option given the circumstances. Unfortunately as I write this several fires are burning in Northern California and the Oregon Cascades with more red flag warnings for lighting through Monday. Hopefully things won’t get too bad and we pray for the firefighters as they do their best to keep things in check. Happy Trails!
The weather finally cooperated enough for us to get back to our originally planned 2022 hikes. For this outing we were heading back to one of our earliest hikes, Elk & Kings Mountains (post) to see how much we remembered from that first visit. When we made the conscious choice to take up hiking in 2010 the loop over Elk and Kings Mountains was our eighth hike. One of only a handful of hikes rated “Very Difficult” in all five of Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks, and the only one in the Oregon Coast book, this had been quite the challenge for us. We were curious how nearly 12 years of additional hikes, and age, might change our experience this time around. We were also hiking the trail at a better time of the year having tackled it in the heat of mid-August the first time around. Our hope was that the earlier visit would provide a different experience with wildflowers and with the streams and creeks along the route.
Before we started the difficult loop though we stopped at Killin Wetlands Nature Park just outside of Banks, OR for a short warmup hike on the 0.7 mile loop. An unintended result of having altered the plan for our two previous outings was that this stop would mark our third straight outing visiting an Oregon Metro managed park. (Orenco Woods)(Chehalem Ridge)
We set off on a clockwise loop on the Peat Swamp Trail then stayed left at its junction with the Waterfowl Way Trail.
Peat Swamp Trail.
Our 6am start time paid off as we were not only the only ones at the park but we spotted a deer (too quick for a photo), two otters, several families of Canada geese, and a gadwall and a mallard.
One of the two otters that were swimming in the wetlands.
The gadwall amid a family of Canada geese. When we got home and looked closer at the picture we realized that one of the round shapes we took for a clump of mud was actually an animal. We can’t make out the tail to know for sure whether it was a beaver or a nutria but we’d like to think it was another beaver.
The beaver? turned a bit in this photo but we still couldn’t make out the tail. It does appear relatively large when compared to the adult goose though.
Waterfowl Way made a 180 turn and headed uphill through some small trees to return to the Peat Swamp Trail.
We stayed left again and completed the short but eventful loop.
We set off on the Wilson River Trail which began a 0.2 mile climb to a junction with the Elk Mountain Trail.
Fairy bells and bleeding heart.
Elk Creek below the trail.
Junction with the Elk Mountain Trail
While it had been sunny at the wetlands we had dropped under some clouds as we descended to the Wilson River Valley and found ourselves hiking steeply up into fog.
Viewpoint along the Elk Mountain Trail.
The blue sky is up there.
The trail was as steep and rough as we’d remembered.
We did climb out of the cloud to find that blue sky again.
White service berry blossoms and a huckleberry plant.
The trail made a series of ups and downs along a ridge crossing four saddles before climbing to the 2788′ summit of Elk Mountain.
One of the saddles.
Elk Mountain summit.
We spent a little time resting at the summit where we found a lone blooming beargrass with more to come.
Kings Mountain from Elk Mountain.
The blooming beargrass below some red-flowering currant.
While the 1.5 mile climb to this summit had been hard the next mile of trail beyond the summit took it up a notch. The trail dropped nearly straight down the rocky west face of Elk Mountain requiring us to use our hands as we climbed down the damp rocks.
Looking down the trail.
Heather on her way down.
After navigating the rocky descent the trail passed along some cliffs then climbed atop a narrow rocky ridge which it followed to an old roadbed where the hiking became temporarily much easier.
On the ridge.
Dropping down to a saddle along the ridge.
Near the start of the road bed we spotted a hermit warbler eating something off of some huckleberry bushes.
This was the first time we’d seen one of these pretty little birds, at least that we are aware of. Who knows how many we’ve seen fly by and not been able to identify them.
Mercifully on the old roadbed.
We followed the old roadbed for about a mile as it climbed to a junction at a saddle.
A clump of trillium.
Getting closer to Kings Mountain.
Coming up to the junction.
We turned left onto the Kings Mountain Trail which according to the pointer was 1.3 miles away.
The trail continued to follow an old road bed for a little over half a mile before dropping steeply to a ridge and switchbacking around an outcrop and finally crossing over a saddle.
Phlox, paintbrush, and chickweed.
Still on the old road.
At the ridge end above the saddle, the trail dropped down to the left then through the saddle.
Below the outcrop headed to the saddle.
Probably the most memorable part of our first hike here was needing to use a rope that had been affixed to a stump to descend a steep chute. While we both remembered that we had forgotten at what point we’d encountered the rope and after the steep drop off of Elk Mountain we convinced ourselves that the rope had been there. As we passed over the saddle we realized our mistake as the stump and rope were here and the 12 years had not been kind to the trail here.
Heather getting ready to start down.
The chute in 2010.
The rope was quite a bit longer this time, out of necessity, but we made it down and continued on. From here the trail passed below some sheer cliffs which had been a very nerve wracking experience in 2010. Apparently somewhere during the 549 outings that we’d done between visits I’d gotten much more comfortable with narrow trails with steep drop offs because this time there were no nerves but there were a couple of spots that required the use of hands to get up.
The trail is down there somewhere.
The trail then climbed to a high point along the ridge which Heather initially mistook for the summit of Kings Mountain. She was less than thrilled when I pointed out the actual summit a short distance, and one saddle, away.
Coming up to the high point.
View SE from the high point.
We dropped down to the saddle then made the final climb to Kings Mountain. We had seen a small number of other hikers up to this point but found several others here having come up from the Kings Mountain Trailhead.
Dropping to the last saddle.
Summit register at Kings Mountain.
Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Other hikers at the summit.
Saxifrage, possibly Saddle Mountain saxifrage.
Phlox, paintbrush, parsley, blue-eyed Mary, and chickweed.
From Kings Mountain the Kings Mountain Trail dropped steeply downhill for 2.5 miles to a 4-way junction with the Wilson River Trail. While the trail is steep and rough in a couple of spots it’s nowhere near as gnarly as the Elk Mountain Trail. We had remembered the descent as having given us trouble but in those days we hadn’t used hiking poles. Armed with proper poles this time the descent went much smoother.
One of the rougher sections.
Woodland buttercup and candy flower.
The 4-way junction.
We turned left on the Wilson River Trail to make the 3.5 mile hike back to the Elk Mountain Trailhead. While the hike had been challenging we’d been doing pretty well but we’d forgotten to bring any electrolytes with us and while we had plenty of water we both started feeling a bit off. We paused at Dog Creek which is right near the junction for a bit of a break before continuing on the final stretch.
The Wilson River Trail passed a wetland fed by several small streams before making a long gradual climb up to the junction with the Elk Mountain Trail.
One of the smaller streams.
Lily that will bloom in a few weeks.
Coming up on a footbridge across Big Creek.
A pea or vetch.
Unnamed stream crossing.
Rosy Birdsfoot Trefoil
The third type of monkey flower we saw on the day.
The junction is on the saddle ahead.
From the junction we dropped down to the trailhead where we thankfully had some meat sticks waiting that provided some much need salt and protein.
Cars to the left through the trees, we made it.
So what did we learn revisiting this challenging hike after 12 years? One is that we are more comfortable with sketchy trails and exposure after having experienced both many times since then. Secondly our bodies are 12 years older and they reminded us of that toward the end of the hike. Finally we were reminded that as much as we have learned about hiking such as the advantage that trekking poles can provide we are still prone to making mistakes and underestimating what we might need such as the electrolytes. It will likely be quite a while before you find us on a hike without some handy.
Aside from both stops being loops our two hikes for the day couldn’t have been much different from one another. The 0.7 mile loop at Killin Wetlands was short with a well graded trail that gained a total of 60′ of elevation while the Elk and Kings Mountain Loop and been over 11 miles (It’s just under 11 if you don’t wander around with over 4000′ of elevation gain. The gains were often steep, as were the losses, requiring the use of hands at times and included steep exposed drop offs. It was obvious from the number of other trail users that we encountered that most people stick to the out and back up to Kings Mountain but if you’re an experience hiker looking for a challenge or an early season training hike this is a great option. Happy Trails!
May continues to be wet this year despite being in the midst of a drought. Hopefully these rainy days will help with that to some extent but in the meantime for the second week in a row we found ourselves looking for a “Plan B” hike that was more inclement weather friendly. We decided on the recently opened (December 2021) Chehalem Ridge Nature Park. Located in the Chehalem Mountains this 1260 acre park is managed by Metro which also manages Orenco Woods where we had started last week’s hike (post). Chehalem Ridge offers a network of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails but does not allow pets/dogs. The park website states that the park is open from sunrise to sunset which I mention because Google seemed to think it opened at 6:30am and entries in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide (Iowa Hill & Chehalem Ridge) give the hours as 8am to 7pm. With sunrise being a little before 6am this time of year we gambled on the Metro website hours and arrived at the large Chehalem Ridge Trailhead at 6am to find that the gate to the trailhead was indeed open.
We had spent most of the hour drive passing through rain showers but there was no precipitation falling as we prepared to set off. We stopped at the signboard to read up on the park and to study the map to confirm out plan for the hike.
Simply put the plan was to stay right at all junctions. This meant taking the Timber Road to the Ammefu (mountain in Atfalti (Northern Kalapuya)) Trail back to the Timber Road then to the Ayeekwa (bobcat in Atfalti) Trail to Witches Butter to the Chehalem (outside place in Atfalati) Ridge Trail. We would then follow the Chehalem Ridge Trail (detouring on a small partial loop) to the Madrona Trail and follow it to it’s end at a loop near some madrone trees. Our return would be back along the Madrona Trail to the Chehalem Ridge Trail (skipping the partial loop this time) to the Mampaꞎ (lake in Atfalati) Trail then right on the Zorzal (Spanish for thrush) Trail back to the Mampaꞎ Trail to Iowa Hill where the Mampaꞎ Trail ends in a loop around the hill. From Iowa Hill we would return to the Timber Road via the Mampaꞎ Trail and follow the road downhill to the Woodland Trail which we would follow back to the trailhead. The route could have been confusing but Metro has done an excellent job with not only placing posts identifying the trails at all of the junctions but also including maps on top of the posts.
The other nice touch is that the maps on these posts were oriented differently to align with the direction of the trail with north identified in the legend which made them quicker to read.
We set off down the Timber Road past the first of three figures located throughout the park representing the traditional storytelling of the Atfalti.
The Castor (Spanish for beaver) Trail on the left, this was the only trail in the park that we didn’t hike on during our visit. It was always a left turn.
Our first right turn (left was a short connector to the Woodland Trail).
Again the posts and accompanying maps were some of the best trail identifiers we’ve run across.
Bench at the viewpoint along the Ammefu Trail.
We had to imagine the view today.
The second figure.
Back at the Timber Road and another short connector to the Woodland Trail.
Fog on Timber Road
Passing the Woodland Trail on the left which would be our right turn on the way back.
Right turn for the Ayeekwa and Witches Butter Trails.
Witchs Butter on the left and Ayeekwa on the right.
Some of the trails were gravel which helped keep mud from being an issue given the damp conditions. In fact there was only one spot (along the Madrona Trail) where mud was an issue at all.
Another bench, this one overlooked Christensen Creek.
Common blue violet
Pioneer violets and a strawberry blossom.
Mushrooms under a fern.
Popping out on the Witches Butter Trail.
Witches Butter Trail
Witches Butter Trail winding through Douglas firs.
Turning right onto the Chehalem Ridge Trail.
There was a little more mud on the Chehalem Ridge Trail.
Spring green carpet.
A good example of the differently oriented maps, on this one north is down.
Another fir plantation. The land had been owned by a timber company prior to being purchased by Metro in 2010.
Start of the Chehalem Ridge Loop. We went right which simply swung out along the hillside before dropping down to the Madrona Trail in 0.4 miles.
The loop continued to the left but we turned right onto the Madrona Trail.
The one thing that was hard to distinguish on the maps was the topography so we were a little surprised when the Madrona Trail continued to descend the hillside. (Had we read the Oregon Hikers Field Guide more closely we would have been prepared.) The trail switchbacked a total of 11 times before arriving at an old roadbed which it continued along to the right.
Still cloudy and gray but we’d experience very little if any precipitation yet.
Lots of tough-leaved iris along this trail.
One of several blooming dogwood trees.
View on the way down.
Madrone trees began to be a common sight as we descended.
One of the 11 switchbacks.
We hadn’t seen a lot of mushrooms recently but this hike had plenty.
Following the roadbed.
The trail left the roadbed at a post and dropped down to the 0.1 mile loop at the end of the Madrona Trail.
Aside from one other very small (3 in diameter) tree this was the only obstacle we encountered all day.
The start of the loop along with several madrones.
As we started back from the loop Heather mentioned that there should be a deer in the brush nearby and I jokingly said that there probably was and pointed out a game trail heading down to a small stream. As soon as I had finished my remark Heather spotted a doe that emerged from the bushes along the game trail. The doe made her way to the far hillside before we could get a good look at her.
After watching the deer for a while we began the climb back up to the Chehalem Ridge Loop. It had felt like we’d come a long ways down but the climb back wasn’t any where near as bad as we expected it to be (In reality we’d only lost about 400′). It was as we were hiking back up that the first vestiges of blue sky appeared.
The Tualatin Valley and Coast Range.
We stayed right at the Chehalem Ridge Loop to finish that loop and then retraced our steps on the Chehalem Ridge Trail back to Witches Butter Trail junction where we stayed right on the Chehalem Ridge Trail to its end at a three way junction. We had only seen 3 other people all morning, a trail runner on our way to the Madrona Trail and two hikers as we were coming back. We did however need to keep our eyes out for other trail users.
Either these worms were racing or it was a bird buffet. The rain had brought a lot of earthworms onto the trails.
Another trail user a rough skinned newt.
A closer look at the rough skinned newt.
We also spotted a pileated woodpecker at the top of a dead tree. Between the distance and other trees in between I couldn’t get a good picture.
It had been so foggy when we had come up the Witches Butter Trail that we hadn’t realized that there was a giant green field nearby.
The end of the Chehalem Ridge Trail with the Mampaꞎ Trail to the right and a very short connector to the Timber Road to the left.
We briefly followed the Mampaꞎ Trail then turned right onto the Zorzal Trail.
Sunlight hitting the Mampaꞎ Trail.
The Zorzal Trail to the right.
Toothwort along the Zorzal Trail.
The Zorzal Trail swung out and then rejoined the Mampaꞎ Trail near the Timber Road. We yet again turned right, crossed the Timber Road near a gate and continued on the Mampaꞎ Trail.
The Mampaꞎ Trail passed along Iowa Hill before turning uphill and entering a wildflower meadow on the hilltop where a loop began.
There was a large amount of lupine in the meadow but we were several weeks early and only a few plants had any blossoms. There were a few other flowers blooming and many more to come over the next few weeks.
An assortment of smaller flowers.
One of the few lupines with blossoms.
Oak tree on Iowa Hill. Most of the larger green clumps are lupine.
On the western side of the loop was a horse hitch, bike rack and stone circle where we sat and took a break.
The third and final figure was also located near the stone circle.
As we sat and enjoyed the sun breaks and views we began spotting a few other wildflowers hiding in the lupine.
More lupine starting to blossom.
Believe this is a checker mallow.
White crowned sparrow
Buttercups in the lupine.
After a nice rest we finished the loop and headed back to the Timber Road which we followed downhill for six tenths of a mile to the Woodland Trail.
Turning down the Timber Road.
I’m not good with these little yellowish birds. It could be an orange-crowned warbler.
Black capped chickadee
Approaching the Woodland Trail on the right.
We followed this trail for 1.4 winding miles back to the trailhead.
Coming to a switchback.
We ignored a couple of shortcuts that would have led back to the Timber Road.
We also skipped the Castor Trail which would have slightly lengthened the hike.
Lupine along the Woodland Trail as we neared the trailhead.
Much nicer conditions than we’d had that morning and way nicer than anything we had expected.
Our hike came to 12.1 miles with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain utilizing portions of all but one of the parks trails.
Again we had been fortunate enough to avoid any significant precipitation. The weather forecast had kept the crowds away though and we only encountered about 15 other hikers all day, the majority of which had been during the final hour of our hike. We were very impressed by the park and have put it on our list of nearby go to destinations when weather or other factors keep us from going someplace new. The number of different trails provide for hikes of various lengths with none of the trails being too challenging. There was also a decent variety of scenery in the park and it looks like the wildflower display on Iowa Hill toward the end of May will be amazing. Happy Trails!
A wet weather system along with a small chance of thunderstorms led us to look for a plan “B” for our second outing in May. Looking ahead to the hikes on our 2023 list for April/May gave us a suitable alternative so we moved a 2022 hike to next year and moved up an outing to visit four parks, two in Hillsboro and two SE of McMinville. These hikes were all located within an hour of Salem allowing to stay relatively close to home and we figured that the less than ideal weather might make for less crowded trails. We decided to start at the northern most trailhead and work our way south.
We arrived at the Orenco Woods Trailhead (open dawn to dusk) just before 6am and headed past the restrooms to an interpretive sign in front of the McDonald House.
Beyond the house the path forked with the right hand fork leading to the Rock Creek Trail while the left fork led to the Habitat Trail which is the way we went.
After a third of a mile we arrived at the Rock Creek Trail near NW Cornelius Pass Road where we made our first wrong turn of the morning. We initially turned right which would have led us back into Orenco Woods.
We’ll blame our inability to read this sign on it still being early in the morning. We started down the path ahead before quickly questioning the direction and correcting course.
He probably knew which way he was going.
Heading the right way now.
From Orenco Woods the Rock Creek Trail follows the sidewalk along NW Cornelius Pass Road north 150 yards to a crosswalk where it crosses the road and follows NW Wilkins Street west another third of a mile.
The trail crosses NW Wilkins St below some power lines at a crosswalk and resumes as a paved path.
While there are no more sidewalk stretches of the trail until the Rock Creek Trailhead at NE Rock Creek Boulevard there are three other road crossing; NE Walker, NE Cornell, and NE Evergreen Parkway. Fortunately all of these road crossings are at signaled crosswalks.
A little over a half mile from Wilkins Street we arrived at the start of a loop in Orchard Park
We stayed left planning on completing the loop on our return.
Another trail user
Two tenths of a mile from the start of the loop the trail split. We didn’t see a sign/map here and didn’t consult the maps we had on our phones and mistook the left hand fork as simply a spur trail to a parking lot in the park and we stayed right. This was our second wrong turn of the morning.
This path led downhill and crossed crossed Rock Creek without realizing that we had curved a full 180 degrees.
The trail split again two tenths of a mile later and here we veered left thinking it was the continuation of the Rock Creek Trail.
After a short distance the pavement ended at a circle of stone benches.
A well worn dirt path picked up here along a fence line behind some apartements
This dirt path ended after a tenth of a mile at what turned out to be NW John Olson Avenue but we didn’t figure that our right away. We didn’t see any signs for the trail here so we finally consulted the maps we had in our phones but even then didn’t realize our mistake. On the map there was a slight jog right coming out of Orchard Park before crossing NE Walker so we headed right to the next street corner where we read the street sign realized this was NE Walker. The full extent of our mistake still wasn’t clear though as we followed the dirt path back past the stone benches to the fork where we’d veered left. It was here that we made our third and final wrong turn of the morning. We were actually on the Orchard Park Loop and not on the Rock Creek Trail which had veered left up to the parking lot while we had gone downhill to the right. Not realizing this we took the right hand fork which recrossed Rock Creek and then climbed back up to the Rock Creek Trail at the start of the loop
We almost made our fourth mistake here as we didn’t initially realize that we had made the full loop. It wasn’t until we spotted some familiar looking camas nearby that the light bulb went off.
Second time staring at this sign.
Having finally figured it out we headed north through Orchard Park again but this time hiked uphill through the parking lot to NE Walker.
Not sure exactly how to interpret this scene – mourning, a murder, or breakfast?
The slight jog right along NE Walker.
We crossed NE Walker and a tenth of a mile later crossed NE Cornelius Pass.
The next three quarters of a mile proved to be the most active for wildlife even though portions of it were between the creek and residences.
Bridge of Rock Creek
Look a pointer for John Olsen Avenue (just a lot further north).
Mallards (A pair of wood ducks flew off at the same time the mallards headed downstream.)
We had stopped while I attempted to get a photo of a small yellow bird that was bouncing around in a tree when we heard a branch/tree crack nearby. While I continued to try and get a picture Heather went over to the creek to investigate. It turned out to be a beaver which had been one of the animals left on our list that we hadn’t yet seen on a hike (or drive to one). Before she could get my attention (or a photo) it disappeared underwater so I still haven’t seen one in the wild.
Here is the only photo that I could even get with the little yellow bird visible at all.
NE Evergreen Parkway
Two tenths of a mile beyond NE Evergreen the trail passed under Highway 26 and in another 400′ arrived at the Rock Creek Trailhead.
This was our turn around point so we headed back the way we’d come. We checked again for the beaver but it was no where to be found. Since we had inadvertently completed the Orchard Park Loop earlier we went straight back through the park and made our way back to Orenco Woods. At the entrance to the park we forked left staying on the Rock Creek Trail. (Retracing the short distance that we had hiked in the morning when we had made our first wrong turn.)
Two tenths of a mile into the park we came to a footbridge over Rock Creek.
After crossing the bridge we forked left and then took another left back on the Habitat Trail.
The trail looped around and downhill to pass under the footbridge before arriving at small pond with a viewing platform.
Beyond the pond the trail climbed back uphill near the McDonald House. We turned left here and made our way back to the trailhead.
While it had remained cloudy all morning there had not been any noticeable precipitation during our 7.5 mile hike here.
Our plan here was to make a counterclockwise loop using the outer most trails.
From the trailhead we headed downhill to the right behind the rest rooms.
Even though we were less than a mile from Orenco Woods we spotted a few flowers that we hadn’t seen during that hike.
The trail leveled out to cross Rock Creek.
A short spur trail on the other side of the creek theoretically led to Rock Creek but the recent rains had swollen it enough that the trail ended before the actual creek.
We continued on the loop climbing toward Borwick Road Trailhead but before reaching the grassy park at that trailhead we turned right leaving the paved path for a compacted gravel/dirt trail
This trail swung to the west before making a 180 degree turn and leading to the Borwick Road Trailhead. Near a viewpoint and bench Heather spotted a barred owl being harassed by a robin.
Rock Creek from the viewpoint.
The back of the owl (middle tree 2/3 of the way up)
The viewpoint was near the turn of the trail so we got some more glimpses of the owl through the trees after the turn. A second owl began hooting and this one wound up flying off to have a conversation. We hiked past the parking area at the Borwick Road Trailhead and hopped on a the trail the map called a “wood-chip” trail. In truth it was mostly mud at this point.
We stuck to the outer trail when this trail forked.
We arrived back at the paved loop near Rock Creek. We turned right onto it, crossed Rock Creek, and then climbed back up to the Baseline Road Trailhead.
Nearing the trailhead.
The loop here was just over a mile.
We had once again been sparred any precipitation and as we drove to our next stop at Miller Woods found ourselves under blue skies and bright sunshine. Miller Woods however was under cloud cover but we were feeling pretty confident and put all our rain gear into our packs before setting off from the trailhead. While it had been our first visit to Orenco and Noble Woods we had hiked here in March, 2020 (post).
On our previous visit we had taken the yellow Outer Loop and had considered taking one of the other trails this time but a portion of the Discovery Loop was closed due to hazardous conditions (appeared to be a slide/washout) and the Oak Summit Trail didn’t look as interesting as the Outer Loop so we followed our route from 2020 except for a short section that had been rerouted.
From the kiosk we followed the yellow pointers downhill through the grass passing camas and birds along the way down.
A wren and a white-crowned sparrow
As we neared the tree line the precipitation finally arrived and a light rain began to fall.
We stopped in the trees to put our rain jackets on and then began descending through the forest to an unnamed stream.
Bleeding heart near the stream.
The trail then turned NNW leveling out a bit above Berry Creek as it traversed the hillside.
Berry Creek down to the right.
There was a lot of wild ginger on the hillside.
Not long after donning our rain jackets the rain stopped and sunlight began to break through again.
The trail climbed as it came around the hill and we spotted a deer in the distance.
It was a young one that was munching on plants along a service road. As we made our way by on the trail Heather noticed the mother bedded down on the road.
After leaving the deer the trail soon began to descend and leave the trees.
It was here that the trail had been rerouted since our 2020 visit. In 2020 the trail veered left to a service road and made a right turn along the road back to the tree line before reaching a bridge across a creek. Now the trail simply headed downhill sticking to the treeline.
One of the neat features at Miller Woods is the wildlife survey covers which are liftable metal covers that could house wildlife. We had yet to lift one and see anything more than ants though until the cover near the creek. Lifting this cover revealed a small snake.
Small garter snake
We gently replaced the cover and continued on the loop which reentered the trees after crossing the creek.
Approaching the bridge and creek.
It was shortly after crossing the bridge that we discovered the trail closure which ended the question of whether we would do the different, shorter loop this time or repeat our previous hike.
Doing the longer 4.5 mile loop turned out to be great as the weather stayed dry and we spotted several more deer and some birds along the way.
Doe just hanging out in a patch of poison oak. (It doesn’t bother deer.)
Nearing the high point of the trail at K.T. Summit
A very cool madrone tree.
Two more deer with a third off camera.
Another neat feature that was new for us this visit were a number of signs along the trail identifying different evergreen trees in the Miller Woods Diversity Area.
There was at least one identifier for each tree listed on this sign. The signs were particularly nice because many were next to younger trees which made it easier to see the needles and bark instead of just look at a trunk and having to look up to try and see other details of the trees.
A couple of examples.
Western white pine
The trail passes above the entrance road and swings out before dropping down to what you expect to be the parking area (there is a signed short cut to it along the way) but the Outer Loop actually loops back behind the parking area and pops out of the trees near a the pond that the Discovery Loop goes around.
Frog near the pond.
Another new feature was a platform over the pond.
After taking a break on the platform we hiked uphill to the parking area and headed for our last stop.
The Erratic Rock State Natural Site is located just off Highway 18 between McMinville and Sheridan. There are no amenities at the site, just a quarter mile paved trail uphill to the rock from a small pullout along Oldsville Road. While it is less than 30 miles from our house that is a stretch of highway that we never find ourselves on. I realized when I was planning this outing that it would only add about 10 minutes to our drive home from Miller Woods to detour to the site so I added it to the plans.
We missed the little pullout but found a wide section of shoulder to pull off on and walk back to the signed trail.
The Erratic Rock is a 90 ton rock from the Northern Rocky Mountains that wound up over 500 hundred miles away on a hill in Oregon after being deposited here after one of Lake Missoula’s floods.
Interpretive sign at the start of the trail.
We were in a pocket of mostly blue sky as we headed up the trail.
Vineyard along the trail.
Although short the trail gains over 100′ in the quarter mile to the rock and we had already hiked over 13 miles, we were relieved when we saw the trail begin to crest.
Seeing the rock there and knowing how far it had to travel to wind up there made it an impressive sight. The views from the hill were also quite nice making it a worthwhile detour.
Our total for the day came to 13.8 miles with only 920′ of cumulative elevation gain. Individually each of these hikes are worth a stop and they all have things to offer young hikers. It turned out to be a fun combination with a unexpected amount of wildlife sightings and aside from the 10-15 minutes of light rain had been a surprisingly dry day. Happy Trails!
So far in 2022 the first Saturday of every month has come with a dry and at least partially sunny forecast which meant for the third month in a row we took our hike on the first weekend. We tend to take for granted the opportunities we have to get out and enjoy nature but this outing was different. For more than a week we’ve watched as the Ukrainian people have been forced to fight for their freedom and country. We continue to pray for their safety and an end to Russian aggression.
For our March hike we decided to check out the Crown Z Linear Trail, also known as the CZ Trail or Crown Zellerbach Trail. The 24.8 mile long CZ Trail runs between the cities of Vernonia and Scappoose following former (and sometimes active) logging roads open to hikers, bicycles and horses. Multiple trailheads make it possible to hike shorter segments as either out-and-backs or between trailheads using a second car. For our first visit we used the Oregon Hikers field guide which breaks the trail up into five sections. We picked section four, the East Fork Nehalem River Section, which runs between the Nehalem Divide and Wilark Trailheads.
We began at the Nehalem Divide Trailhead which provided the shorter drive of the two and also allowed us to begin the day with a downhill.
A 100′ path leads downhill from the trailhead to the CZ Trail which passes under the Scapoose-Vernonia Highway (if you’re heading toward Vernonia).
Heading down the connector trail.
Trial sign at the jct with the CZ Trail.
CZ Trail passing under the highway.
We followed the road downhill for approximately 3/4 of a mile to an interpretive wildlife sign where a path behind led downhill to the East Fork Nehalem River. The river isn’t much as it isn’t far from the headwaters, but a short distance up river is a pair of small waterfalls with the western end of the Nehalem Divide Railroad Tunnel.
Light from the eastern portal is visible at the other end but the tunnel is not safe to enter without at least a hard hat.
After checking out the old tunnel we returned to the CZ Trail and resumed our hike toward the Wilark Trailhead.
The East Fork Nehalem River next to the trail.
We detoured again briefly to check out a small seasonal fall just off the trail.
It was a little muddy in places.
Another of several interpretive signs along the trail.
Not much in the way of flowers yet but there were a few indian plum starting to blossom.
A little under four miles from the Nehalem Divide Trailhead we arrived at the Floeter Trailhead.
Beyond this trailhead the CZ Trail immediately crossed an unnamed creek on a bridge.
After crossing the bridge we detoured here yet again passing over the highway to a small trail sign for Scaponia Park.
This short path dropped us into the 7 acre park which has 12 campsites and a short network of trails. We turned right on the park entrance road then crossed the East Fork Nehalem River on a footbridge to do a short 0.4 mile loop utilizing a second footbridge to return to the road near the campground.
East Fork Nehalem River
After our little loop we returned to the CZ Trail and continued west.
Pointer for the CZ Trail in Scaponia Park
For the next three quarters of a mile the trail parralled the highway.
The trail veered away from the highway again after the highway crossed the river putting it between the road and the trail.
Just over two miles from the Floeter Trailhead we arrived at the former site of Camp 8, a logging camp established in the 1920’s.
Robin in the meadow that once was Camp 8.
Beyond the Camp 8 site the trail crossed the East Fork Nehalem River then climbed to the highway passing mile marker 19 along the way.
The orange mile marker 19 ahead.
This short section was full of birds.
Another not great picture of a varied thrush.
We turned around at the highway and headed back.
The clouds finally began to break up after we passed Camp 8 and soon we found ourselves under a bright blue sky.
A grey jay enjoying the emerging sunlight.
Blue sky near the Floeter Trailhead.
Surprisingly until the final tenth of a mile we hadn’t seen a single other trail user when a lone mountain biker zoomed past us heading downhill. Including our three detours our hike came in at 12.7 miles with a little over 650′ of elevation gain. A good early season workout with some nice scenery and interesting history.
At some point down the road we will return to do another section of the trail but for now this was a fun introduction to CZ Trail. Happy Trails and Slava Ukraini.
A dry forecast on my birthday provided a great excuse to head out on our November hike. We had an unusually loose plan for this outing which consisted of a stop at the Clay Creek Trail followed by a visit to the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area with a third possible stop at Meadowlark Prairie. While the 2 mile hike on the Clay Creek Trail was covered in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” we had very little information on the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. There was enough information available on line to know that it was open to hiking but it was unclear just how long of a hike was possible which is why we were keeping the option of Meadowlark Prairie on the table. The mostly paved 14 mile long Fern Ridge Path passes along Meadowlark Prairie on its way into Eugene, OR which would have provided some extra hiking time if we’d felt that we needed it.
We started our morning by driving to the BLM managed Clay Creek Recreation Site. The hike here is one of two hike Sullivan lists under his Siuslaw Ridge Trails entry (featured hike #65, 4th edition). We had done the other hike at nearby Whittaker Creek in 2016 (post) and while we considered that earlier hike enough to check off the featured hike from our list completed this second short hike would complete it. We parked at a small pullout on the south side of the Siuslaw River.
The trailhead sign for the Clay Creek Trail is ahead on the opposite side of the road.
It was a foggy morning, much like it had been on our earlier visit to the Wittaker Creek Recreation Area.
Clay Creek on the left emptying into the Siuslaw.
A short use trail led down to Clay Creek and a small gravel bench.
Stairs at the Clay Creek Recreation Area across the river.
After checking out the creek we walked the short distance up the road to the start of the trail. Sullivan described the hike as a 2 mile out and back but the map on the sign at the trailhead showed a lollipop loop. (Sullivan does mention the loop in his “Trail Updates” on oregonhiking.com.)
The existence of the loop at the top was a pleasant surprise. We crossed Clay Creek on a footbridge and began the 600′ climb to the ridge top.
The Clay Creek Trail climbing above Clay Creek.
We passed a bench at the second swtichback and continued climbing to a junction 0.6 miles from the parking area.
It’s hard to tell size here but the diameter of this tree was well over 5′.
The junction for the loop.
We turned right and continued to climb through the fog to the ridge top where the trail turned left.
One of several reroutes we encountered.
On the ridge top.
The trail passed several madrone trees before arriving at a bench at the high point of the ridge.
Madrone trunk and bark, always fascinating.
Lots of mushrooms pushing up through the forest floor.
Good sized trees near the high point.
No idea what you might see on a clear day.
The trail then began to descend to another bench at a switchback where the map indicated there was a view.
The trail continued switchbacking downhill while it wound back to the junction.
Just before reaching the junction I nearly went head over heals trying to avoid stepping on a rough skinned newt that I spotted at the last minute.
After having a one sided conversation with said newt we continued downhill to the car.
Nearing the footbridge.
The fog had lifted off the river at least.
While Sullivan indicates in his update that the loop makes this a 3.6 mile hike others still list it as 2 miles and both Heather and my GPS units logged 2 miles for the hike. Despite the fog not allowing for any view it was a pleasant little hike. Sullivan does also mention that the BLM is considering a $5 parking fee for the area in the future so be sure to check the BLM site before heading out.
We spent just over an hour on the Clay Creek Trail after driving over 2 hours to get there so a second stop was a must in order to not break our rule against spending more time driving than hiking. That’s where the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area came in. Located just west of Eugene the area consists of a dozen units broken up around Fern Ridge Reservoir. We had driven by the reservoir numerous times on the way to hike in the Coast Range and around Florence and seen signs for the wildlife area which had piqued at least my curiosity. After some online research it appeared that parking at the end of Royal Avenue between the Royal Amazon and Fisher Butte units was our best bet. The ODFW website mentions possible seasonal closures but finding detailed information on them wasn’t easy. I was eventually able to determine that these two units were open to the public from 10/16 thru 1/30 from until 2pm each day (presumably starting at sunrise). Even with the earlier hike we had arrived before 9:30am so we had plenty of time to explore. There is a $10 daily fee to park in the lots which is typical for ODFW wildlife areas (although it appeared most people simply parked along the shoulder of Royal Ave to avoid the fee).
Note that Royal Ave and the trail to the viewing platform are open year around with the other restrictions listed below.
We took a picture of this map to assist us with our route.
From the signboard we continued on the gated extension of Royal Avenue. It was a lot foggier than we had expected so the visibility wasn’t good and it was in the mid 30’s so it was chilly too.
We passed a grassy path leading to the viewing platform at the 0.4 mile mark.
We opted to pass on the platform for now hoping that visibility would improve as the morning wore on and we could stop by on our way back. We continued on the old road bed watching for birds and any other animals that might be about.
White crowned sparrow
Northern harrier on the hunt.
Wetlands in the Royal Amazon unit.
As we neared sub-impoundment one a large bird flew up from the reeds. It was our first encounter with an American bittern which was on my bucket list of animals we’d yet to see.
The bittern taking off.
Not the greatest photo but enough to identify it.
We turned right on a levy/old roadbed on the other side of the sub-impoundment and followed it for 0.7 miles to Gibson Island. The highlight of this stretch was a pair of bald eagles hanging out in a snag.
A hawk on a stump.
Gibson Island (with the eagles in the snag to the far left)
A short trail at the end of the levy led onto the island before petering out.
We turned around and headed back to Royal Avenue where we turned right and continued west just to see how far we could go.
A flock of geese above the coots.
There were a number of these small birds pecking around in the mud which, with some help from Molly in the comments, are American pipits.
We used the stones to the right to cross the water here.
Great blue heron (with Highway 126 in the background).
Sandpiper in the roadway.
End of the line.
We imagined that much of this stretch would be under water by late Winter/early Spring but we had managed to make make it 1.7 miles from the trailhead before being turned back. We headed back past sub-impound one to the grassy path near the viewing platform where we left the road bed.
Perhaps the same northern harrier.
The harrier taking a break.
The path to the platform.
Dunlins (thanks again to Molly)
From the platform dikes led west and south. Since we had just come from the west we decided to go south along a body of water in Field 5.
The first signs that the fog/clouds might be breaking up.
Looking back at a little blue sky and a visible Gibson Island
We watched a group of shore birds as the alternate between foraging in the mud and performing areal acrobatics.
A little over three quarters of a mile from the viewing platform we arrived at a 4-way junction.
We turned left continuing around Field 5 for a third of a mile before arriving at a “T” junction just beyond a ditch.
Fisher Butte is the low hill ahead to the right.
According to the map we’d taken a picture of at the trailhead continuing straight at the junction would lead us to the area’s boundary near Fisher Butte while the right hand path led past Field 2 to Field 1 and then to a parking area off Highway 126. We turned left walking between the ditch and Field 3.
Gibson Island was now lit by direct sunlight.
In another third of a mile we faced another choice. Another dike headed to the right (east) between Field 3 and Field 4.
The dike running between Fields 3 & 4.
Looking back over the ditch.
We opted to turn right having misread the map for the first time. For some reason we ignored the difference between the symbols for the dikes and boundary lines (although some online sights showed paths along the boundary lines). At first everything was fine as the dike gave way to a cut mowed track wrapping around Field 4 along the boundary. There was a pond in Field 4 where several species of ducks were gathered as well as a great blue heron and a kingfisher.
California scrub jay
Northern shovelers and a bufflehead.
Buffleheads and two hooded merganser females.
After wrapping around the pond for half a mile the track we were following became increasingly muddy with standing water in areas. We were very close to a gravel road so we hopped onto it for a tenth of a mile where we were able to get back onto a grassy track at a signpost.
The gravel road and another small portion of the wildlife area on the other side.
Back on the mowed track.
We went straight here looking for a trail on the right that would leave us back to the parking area. The clouds were really breaking up now and lots of little birds were out enjoying the warmer weather.
Spotted towhee and friend.
As of yet unidentified little bird.
We found what we were looking for, at least what we thought we were looking for and turned right on a clear trail that dropped down into a mowed field then mostly disappeared. We skirted along the edge of the field toward the parking area and as we neared the trailhead a clear trail emerged, or more like submerged. We followed the wet trail almost to the signboards near the trailhead where a ditch of standing water stood in our way. Our only choice (aside from backtracking) was to get wet so get wet (or wetter) we did. Luckily our hike was over and we had a change of socks and shoes waiting in the car. We finished hiking just before 1pm and managed to get a full 7 miles in while leaving parts of the area unexplored. It was nice to find another option in the valley that offered a potential destination when getting up into the mountains is possible. While we did hear occasional gun shots from hunters we only saw two duck hunters, but we also saw some families and bird watchers.
This path headed north from the trailhead, something to explore on our next visit.
It was a good birthday hike and we were done early enough for my parents to treat us to a great birthday dinner at The Manilla Fiesta, a restaurant I’d been dying to try. Happy Trails!
In 2019 Congress designated the 31,107 acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness adding another Oregon wilderness area for us to visit in order for us to reach our goal of visiting each of the State’s wilderness areas open to the general public (post). (The Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands wilderness areas managed by the Fish & Wildlife service are closed to the general public.) The Devil’s Staircase Wilderness is managed jointly by the Bureau of Land Management (east side) and the Siuslaw National Forest. The area is named after a cascade/waterfall on Wassen Creek known as The Devil’s Staircase.
There are no official trails in this wilderness area and everything we’d read from the Forest Service, BLM, Oregon Wild, Oregonhikers.org and William L. Sullivan’s “Atlas of Oregon Wilderness” described the area as having steep terrain, dense vegetation and unstable soils. Because of this we are not going to go into much detail of our visit, these descriptions are accurate and our outing was one of the most difficult we’ve undertaken to date. If you do decide to visit bring a map and compass (and the skills to use them) and be prepared to crawl, scoot and probably swear at least once. Also make sure you give yourself plenty of time or plan on spending the night. We came out muddy, bruised and a little bloodied. Our dream was to actually reach the Devil’s Staircase but realistically we didn’t expect to be able too.
Blackberries, we found a couple of ripe ones later as well as ripe salmonberries, thimbleberries, and red huckleberries.
There was a lot of Himalayan blackberry to get through which caused many a scratch.
Salamander, possibly a Dunn’s.
Snail on a fern.
A few rhododendron were still blooming.
This was the only open spot the whole day. There were some thistle and yarrow blooming here along with a bit of poison oak.
Bees sleeping on thistle.
The rhododendron was often so tall we could walk through them.
The morning fog burned off by 9:30am.
Wild cucumber (coastal manroot)
Although this picture doesn’t really convey it this section of exposed wet rock was at a fairly steep angle and was quite the challenging both coming and going.
A lot of planning and a little luck allowed us to actually reach Wassen Creek at the staircase (Bruce you had the right idea) but we didn’t wind up seeing it from the bottom. We reached it at it’s upper end and were unsure if we’d be able to get back up if we climbed all the way down to the bottom. After watching a video on YouTube and seeing them go down where we had been thinking we still weren’t convinced that we wouldn’t have been stuck on a ledge.
This was the ledge that we decided to not drop down off of.
That pool is said to be approximately 20′ deep!
We checked the little pools for rough skinned newts and this one had four and a crawdad.
The other factor for not attempting to go down was the presence of a couple who had backpacked in and were camped on the gravel below the staircase. We think they came in from the same place we did but aren’t 100% sure. In any case neither of us could imagine hauling full packs in and out of this area. After a nice long break we began the arduous hike back.
A chickadee came to check on me as I was catching my breath under a rhododendron.
We didn’t see any large animals but signs of their presence abounded.
Swallowtail on a blackberry blossom.
The hike took us almost 8 hours and according to my GPS was 7.7 miles long although Heather’s only showed 6.7 miles. (Might be the first time ever where hers was less for essentially the same hike.) With the dense trees and deep canyon I’m sure they are both a bit off but around 7 miles is probably accurate. On a typical hike we average around 2mph with a moving speed between 2 1/4 and 3mph. This was about half of those speeds. The elevation gain, which was mostly on the way back, was in the neighborhood of 2000′.
We now have just 2 remaining wilderness areas in Oregon to visit, Black Canyon and Monument Rock. If our plans aren’t derailed by wildfires we should be done by the end of Summer. Happy Trails!
After a week of 90 degree temperatures much needed rain arrived just in time for the weekend. Most of the west is in the midst of a drought so the the rain is welcome but it meant looking for a plan B for our hike. We decided to stick relatively close to home and revisit Mary’s Peak (previous post), this time via the North Ridge Trail. In addition to only being about an hour away the forecast for the area was better than any of the other alternatives that I had looked at with NOAA calling for a 30% chance of showers and partly sunny skies over the Woods Creek Trailhead. We figured that gave us the best chance for a dry hike (lol) and if the weather wasn’t great at least we had been there before when it was better.
While we were encouraged by a good sized patch of blue sky between Monmouth and Philomath the trailhead was under the cover of low clouds.
A couple of trails led into the trees from the parking area on Woods Creek Road. The trails led to what was the Old Peak Trail which was abandoned for a time but appeared to be in good shape now. The Siuslaw National Forest page for the trailhead indicates that this is now part of the North Ridge Trail extending downhill (northeast) 2.2 miles to Peak Road although they do not show said trail on their map.
We took this trail from the parking area to the North Ridge Trail where we turned right at a signboard.
We followed the trail for approximately 100 yards before popping out onto Woods Creek Road just uphill of the gate near the parking area (on our return we simply followed the road down to the car).
The North Ridge Trail continued on the other side of the road and began a 3.5 mile climb to a junction with a tie trail connecting the North and East Ridge Trails. On our last visit in 2014 we had come down the North Ridge Trail to the junction and taken the tie trail to get back to the East Ridge Trail and our car at Conner’s Camp. The North Ridge Trail gained 1400′ over the 3.5 miles using a number of switchbacks to keep the grade from ever being very steep. The green forest was filled with fog which was depositing moisture on the trees that was then falling to the forest floor so even though it wasn’t “raining” it may as well have been.
Signboard along the North Ridge Trail at Woods Creek Road.
Near the half mile mark we ignored this pointer to the left. Looking at the map there are roads looping back to Woods Creek Road and also to Conner’s Camp but what their conditions are we don’t know.
Vanilla leaf along the trail.
Lots of vanilla leaf.
The higher we went the foggier it got.
Bench at the junction with the tie trail.
We stayed right at the junction continuing uphill on the North Ridge Trail for another 0.7 miles to the Mary’s Peak Overlook parking area. We were starting to get pretty wet, and so was the trail, by this point.
Some of the trillium still had petals.
Signboard for the overlook on the hillside to the right.
When we exited the trees below the overlook we were able to confirm that it wasn’t raining despite all the water falling from the trees. It was however windy and that wind combined with damp skin/clothes and upper 40 degree temperatures made it cold at the overlook.
We quickly dropped downhill on the East Ridge Trail, which also ended at the overlook and were going to then head uphill on Summit Trail but we forgot what that junction looked like and when we came to a set of old steps after just 500′ we got confused. The steps led uphill into a jumble of downed trees. This was apparently an older route and the actual Summit Trail junction was just another 100 feet or so away.
The junction from later in the morning with the Summit Trail heading uphill to the right and the East Ridge Trail down to the left.
Since we were unsure we headed back to the overlook and took the gated road uphill.
Going to be a beargrass year.
Larkspur in the wet grass.
After 0.3 miles on the road we came to the Summit Trail/Summit Loop Trail junction. We stuck to the road opting to do the loop clockwise.
The road cut between the junction and the summit host a nice display of flowers including large patches of paintbrush, larkspur, phlox, and penstemon. Lupine, parsley, field chickweed, blue eyed mary, buttercups and ragwort were also present.
Ragwort in front of lupine that had yet to bloom.
Buttercups and larkspur
The wind was once again an issue at the summit (the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range at 4097′).
Heather hiding behind the summit signboard to try and keep out of the wind.
Needless to say there was no break taken at the picnic table here and instead we headed downhill on the Summit Loop Trail.
Lots of lupine yet to bloom.
At an unsigned fork we went left descending further through the meadows then reentering the forest before coming to a junction with the Meadows Edge Trail after 0.2 miles.
We turned left here to take the Meadows Edge Trail which we had not been on before. The 1.6 mile trail makes a loop around a grove of old growth noble fir losing and regaining 450′ in elevation along the way.
As the name implies the Meadows Edge Trail occasionally entered the meadows before returning to the forest.
For a brief moment a bit of sunlight hit the forest and we thought maybe the sky would clear up.
Salmonberry bushes near Parker Creek.
Spur trail to the Mary’s Peak Campground.
Fairybells and star flower solomonseal
The sky was in fact not clearing up.
Bleeding heart and sourgrass.
Fawn lilies in the meadow.
When we had finished this lovely loop we returned to the Summit Trail and followed it for 100 yards to the 4-way junction on the gated road.
Signs at the road junction.
We could have crossed the road and followed the Summit Trail down to the East Ridge Trail but we still were under the mistaken impression that the trail might be impassable so we returned to the Overlook via the road and picked up the East Ridge Trail there. Shortly after having turned onto that trail we passed the actual Summit Trail junction and realized that we could have indeed taken it from the road. We followed the East Ridge Trail beyond the Summit Trail junction for 1.2 miles where signs and a bench marked the junction with the tie trail.
The wet conditions were starting to really hinder picture taking at this point.
We turned left onto the tie trail and followed it another 1.2 miles to the North Ridge Trail junction.
North Ridge Trail junction
It was 3.5 miles back downhill to the car and the gentle grade made for a pleasant return trip. The clouds also began to finally lift and we finally did see some patches of blue sky.
Heather descending in the fog.
Is that some blue sky out there?
Not much but it is blue.
Our hike came in at 13.1 miles with around 2500′ of elevation gain. We could have shaved a tenth of a mile or two off by taking the Summit Trail down to the East Ridge Trail and skipping the Meadows Edge Loop would have saved another 1.6 (but that was a really nice loop).
Despite the wet conditions and lack of “partly sunny skies” it was a nice hike and the conditions kept the popular trails from being too busy, although we did see a couple dozen other users. Hopefully we won’t have to do too much more shuffling of our planned hikes but if we do I always have a few options standing by. Happy Trails!
Our trip home from the southern Oregon coast was very different than our six stop drive that started our long weekend (post). We had only one stop planned at Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Only 24 miles from Highway 101 in Coos Bay the park felt further removed due to the winding back country roads to the trailhead.
We started our morning off by heading for Golden Falls first. The trail led to a footbridge across Silver Creek and then forked.
We took the right hand Lower Trail first which followed Glenn Creek to the base of 254′ Golden Falls.
Rough skinned newt
Wren below Golden Falls
After exploring the area below Golden Falls we returned to the fork and turned onto the Upper Trail. This trail climbed for .4 miles to a switchback below 259′ Silver Falls.
Inside out flower
Beyond the switchback the trail continued to climb along an long abandoned road over half a mile to cliffs at the top of Golden Falls.
Upper portion of Golden Falls.
Glenn Creek above Golden Falls.
The trail petered out after a short distance so we turned back. As we began our hike back down blue skies emerged overhead.
Despite a cloudy morning they stayed high enough to not obstruct the view of the falls.
We returned to the trailhead where another car had joined ours and walked to the west end of the parking area to the Silver Falls Viewpoint Trail.
This .3 mile trail led to the base of Silver Falls across from the switchback.
Epic battle between a rock and a tree.
I was treated to a single ripe salmonberry along this stretch of trail. It didn’t survive long enough for a photo but I found another that was almost ripe.
Ouzel (might be the same one as earlier)
We did some more exploring around the base of the falls before saying goodbye and heading back to our car.
At 4 miles this was a perfect hike to end our trip on, even with 4 more hours of driving we made it home around 1:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and get ready for the work week ahead. Happy Trails!
Our first big trip of the year was an extended weekend visit to the southern Oregon coast area to finish the remaining featured hikes from Sullivan’s “100 Hikes Oregon Coast & Coast Range” (3rd ed.) as well as a couple from his additional hikes section. For the first day of the trip we had set an ambitious goal of stopping at five different trailheads on the way to our motel in Gold Beach and after checking in continuing almost to the California border for a sixth hike on the Oregon Redwoods Trail. We got our typical early start driving from Salem to Eugene to take Highway 126 toward the coast and our first stop at the Mapleton Hill Pioneer Trailhead .
The short loop (0.6 miles) on the Pioneer Trail here follows portions of the historic North Fork Trail and Mapleton Hill Road which were early routes connecting Florence and Eugene.
The trail was in good shape and there were a some wildflowers in bloom to go along with the numerous interpretive signs along the loop.
One of the sharp turns.
Star flower solomonseal
Wren – We heard lots of birds but didn’t see many of them.
After completing the loop we drove west from the trailhead on Road 5070/North Fork Siuslaw Road to Road 5084 which we followed 5 miles to the Pawn Trailhead.
This was another short loop hike (0.8 miles) which combined with the Pioneer Trail make up featured hike #57 in the 3rd edition (they were moved to the additional hikes section in the 4th edition). This trail suffered some storm damage over the Winter and as of our hike had only been 80% cleared. It is also an interpretive trail but instead of signs there are markers which correspond to information on a brochure that can be downloaded from the Forest Service here. The name “Pawn” was derived from the last names of four families that settled in the area in the early 1900’s – the Pooles, Akerleys, Worthingtons, and Nolans.
While this trail was relatively close to the Pioneer Trail the presence of the old growth trees gave the hike a different feel.
Marker for a fire scarred Douglas fir. According to the brochure the last major fire in the area was in the 1860s.
The storm damage proved to be a bit tricky but it appeared the Forest Service had started a reroute of the trail which we were able to follow.
We had to climb over this big tree.
We lost the reroute after climbing over the big trunk and had to bushwack our way through some debris before climbing up on a second downed trunk and walking along it to the resumption of the trail. At one point Heather bumped a limb and pine needles exploded over her head like confetti giving us both a good laugh.
The loop ended shortly beyond the damage and we were soon back at the trailhead. From there we drove west on North Fork Siuslaw Road into Florence. From Florence we took Highway 101 south toward Coos Bay. We turned off a little north of North Bend at a sign for Horsefall Dune and Beach. Our next stop was yet another short loop trail, this time at Bluebill Lake. We parked at the Bluebill Trailhead and set off on the wide trail.
We went clockwise around the loop. The water level of the lake varies throughout the year but there was a good amount of water now but no flooding which can be an issue in late Winter/early Spring.
Looking at the bridge at the north end of the lake.
Cormorants flying above the lake.
Ring necked ducks
Boardwalk at the south end of the lake.
Coming up on the bridge at the north end.
Yellow rumped warbler
After completing the 1.5 mile hike here we returned to Highway 101 and continued south into Coos Bay where we detoured to our fourth stop of the day at Millicoma Marsh. This was an interesting trailhead given that it was right next to a middle school track and field.
The trail on the far side of the track.
We followed the posted directions and kept to the outside of the grass as we walked around the track to the trail.
One of three panels on a signboard at the start of the trails.
Two tenths of a mile from the signboard the grassy track came to a junction. The loop continued to the left but a quarter mile spur trail to the right led to an observation bench. We hiked out to the end of the spur trail before continuing on the loop.
This bench is at the junction.
Sparrow near the junction.
Heading to the observation structure.
Looking toward Coos Bay along the Coos River.
McCullough Memorial Bridge spanning Coos Bay.
Wetlands from the end of the spur.
We returned to the loop and continued counterclockwise around. There wasn’t much wildlife activity which was probably a matter of timing as it looked like an area where we might see quite a bit. In any case the hike was pleasant with nice scenery.
Canada goose with goslings
Arriving back at the field.
Up to this point we had only passed one other hiker all day (at Bluebill Lake) but this area was popular and we ran into over a half dozen other users on this 1.8 mile jaunt.
From Coos Bay we continued south on Hwy 101 for 14.6 miles before turning right onto West Beaver Hill Road at a sign for the Seven Devils Wayside, our next stop. We parked in the large lot where only one other vehicle sat and promptly headed down to the beach.
Ground squirrel enjoying the view.
Our plan here was to hike south along the beach at least as far as Fivemile Point to complete another of Sullivan’s featured hikes. We hopped across the creek using rocks and logs and set off on what is considered possibly the windiest beach along the Oregon coast (it was windy).
Shore bird in the creek.
The occupant of the other vehicle had headed north so we had this stretch of beach to ourselves, and a few feathered friends.
The hillside was covered with yellow gorse, an invasive but colorful shrub.
The gorse wasn’t the only yellow flowers present though.
Brass buttons (another non-native)
We were looking for a side trail up to a viewpoint bench that Sullivan showed as .7 miles from the trailhead just beyond a brown outcrop.
The brown outcrop a little way ahead with Fivemile Point further on.
We couldn’t pick out any trail just several stream beds and seeps so we kept going coming next to a rock spire a short distance from Fivemile Point.
We passed the spire and continued to Fivemile Point where the ocean was coming up to the rocks effectively creating our turn around point.
Whiskey Run Beach lay on the other side of the rocks with another parking area 0.8 further south.
A cormorant off Fivemile Point
We turned back and headed north past the spire.
We were now walking into the stiff wind but from this direction Heather was able to spot some stairs in the vegetation marking the side trail to the bench.
We followed a good trail .2 miles to said bench.
View from the bench.
After a short break at the viewpoint we descended to the beach and returned to our car.
We returned to Highway 101 and drove south into Gold Beach where we checked into our motel and dropped our stuff off before hitting the road again. Our final stop of the day had us driving south of Brookings to the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead.
A 1.2 mile barrier free lollipop loop trail starts at the trailhead.
We were once again the only people on this trail which was especially nice given the setting amid the giant trees. Although the trees here aren’t as big as those found in California we were once again awestruck by them. We stayed right where the barrier free loop started which brought us to a hollowed out trunk with room for several people.
Coming up on the hollow trunk straight ahead.
Approximately a half mile into the loop portion of the trail the Oregon Redwoods Trail split off allowing for a longer (2.5 miles total) hike.
We set off on the Pioneer Trail at 7:19am and stepped off the Oregon Redwood Trail at 5:51pm. We logged 9.8 miles of hiking but nearly 147 miles (as the crow flies) separated the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead from the Pawn Trailhead (and another 70 miles home) making for a long but great day. We had gotten to see a great variety of scenery all in one day. To top it off we could now check three more featured hikes off our yet-to-do list. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been an actual knob on the cold water handle in the motel shower. Happy Trails!