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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Mount Bachelor – 08/15/2021

For our August vacation this year we finally returned to the Steens Mountain area for five days of hiking but along the way we made a stop in the Cascade Mountains to hike up to the summit of Mt. Bachelor. As the 6th largest ski resort in the US, Mt. Bachelor is known more for that winter sport than hiking. Hiking also takes a back seat to mountain biking and even a zip line tour but as part of an agreement between the resort and the Forest Service a trail is maintained to the summit for hiking to the 9068′ summit. Growing up in the Bend area I spent a lot of time skiing the mountain but other than riding the Summit lift to the top one Summer (when that lift still operated in the Summer months) neither of us had spent time on the mountain without snow. It was going to be another warm, hazy day as that seems to be the new norm here in the West but the air quality wasn’t in the danger zone so we left early on Sunday morning and arrived at the West Village Parking lot a little before 8am to find a somewhat blue sky overhead.
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There are currently three routes shown on the resorts web page with the easiest being from the top of the Pine Marten Lift which operates from 10am thru 5 or 7pm depending on the date. The other two routes start at the West Village Lodge near the Pine Marten Lift which allows for a reverse lollipop hike which is what we did. We took the more scenic trail up which was marked by blue signboards for the West Village to Summit Connect Trail.
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IMG_1761A hazy look at the South Sister and Broken Top.

After a short distance on cat roads we came to an actual trail which led into the trees.
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The trail traversed along the mountain crossing several ski runs before turning uphill near the “Marshmallow” run and the Sunrise lift.
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IMG_1771Passing under the Skyliner Express

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IMG_1777The ski runs gave us a good look at the top of the mountain.

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IMG_1792Turning uphill

IMG_1793Spotted a grouse hen and her chicks in this little meadow.

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IMG_1807Two of the chicks.

IMG_1812Passing under the Sunrise lift.

The first 1.4 miles had gained under 350′ but after turning uphill the trail steepened gaining almost 2400′ over the next 2.5 miles.
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IMG_1817Nearing the top of the Sunrise lift.

IMG_1818Another hazy look at the nearby mountains.

IMG_1819South and Middle Sister through the haze.

IMG_1823The top of Sunrise and the bottom of the Summit lifts.

IMG_1824Looking up from the top of Sunrise.

Above the Sunrise lift the trees thinned out leaving a few scattered trees including white bark pines.
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IMG_1832A few saxifrage blossoms still left.

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IMG_1841Alpine buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_1846The first patch of snow we passed.

IMG_1848Golden mantled ground squirrel

IMG_1850Tumalo Mountain (post) in the haze.

Signs gave way to white arrows painted on rocks at the higher elevations.
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IMG_1861Looking down from beneath the Summit Express.

IMG_1863We could really feel the elevation affecting our breathing and by this point we were both sucking wind.

IMG_1864Dwarf alpinegold

I arrived at the summit first and followed the path the the mountain’s high point.
IMG_1869Looking back at the Summit Express.

IMG_1871Heading for the high point.

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IMG_1882A mountain bluebird near the summit.

IMG_1887South Sister and Broken Top with Sparks Lake (post) the brown patch below.

I took my pack off and had a seat and was soon joined by a curious golden mantle.
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IMG_1896It’s our rule not to feed the wildlife but it was obvious that many don’t adhere to that LNT principle. I had to put my pack back on to avoid having a hole chewed through my pocket.

IMG_1901View of the summit.

The surrounding smoke made it impossible to see anything to the east, very little to the south or west and just the closest features to the north, but a cool breeze made it a comfortable spot for a rest while I waited for Heather to join me.
IMG_1899Broken Top, the Pine Marten Lodge halfway up the mountain, the West Village Lodge and parking area below and Tumalo Mountain across the Cascade Lakes Highway.

After Heather had a chance to relax at the summit as well we headed back down taking a short detour to a viewpoint above the Cirque.
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We then hiked back down just above the Sunrise Lift where we turned left on the West Village Getback road which I could picture skiing on all those years ago.
IMG_1931A little better view of Broken Top and Tumalo Mountain on the way down.

IMG_1935Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_1942Left leads up to the Pine Marten Lodge atop the Pine Marten Express, right to the West Village Lodge.

The road walk is not only not as scenic as the trail route we took up it also passes through the mountain bike trails so we had to keep our eyes open at the crossings.
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IMG_1945A decent look at Tumalo Mountain

IMG_1948Warning sign for a bike crossing.

IMG_1949A look at some of the mountain bike trails and some haze moving in overhead.

IMG_1959A tortoiseshell butterfly on the road.

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The trail map showed this route passing under the Pine Marten Express and turning 90 degrees downhill alongside the lift.
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There was a disc golf hole here but no sign of any trail except for a faint line continuing straight ahead through some grass. We followed it briefly before realizing it wasn’t going to get us to the parking lot.
IMG_1965At least we could see the mountains a little better from here.

We turned back to the lift and headed cross country downhill alongside it. We eventually did find some tread which took us to the base of the lift and back to the parking lot. We were glad we’d gotten there as early as we had because it was now quite a bit hazier overhead and a lot warmer.
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We left the mountain and drove to Heather’s parents house where we spent the night before once again heading out early for another adventure. Happy Trails!

Our track for Mt. Bachelor. The GPS said 8.8 miles and 2800′ of elevation but the resort lists the hike as 6.5 miles and 2742′ of elevation gain.

Flickr: Mt. Bachelor

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Pika and Fir Lakes – 07/24/2021

After a week of hiking in the John Day area we had stopped in Bend on our way home Friday to visit Heather’s parents. Saturday morning we headed to Salem but stopped first for a short hike to Pika and Fir Lakes in the Willamette National Forest. The hike starts at the Pika-Fir Trailhead which is currently one of the trailheads in the Central Cascades that does not require any Central Cascades Wilderness Permits as the trail and lakes are outside of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. (You would however need an overnight permit if you were try continue off trail into the wilderness to stay overnight.)
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We picked this trail because it was on our way back to Salem, we hadn’t been here before, and it was nice and short. The trail itself is about a mile long passing Pika Lake and ending at Fir Lake and after averaging just over 12 miles a hike for the previous five days a short hike sounded nice. We were also in a bit of a hurry to get home to see our cat Hazel who we were going to have to say goodbye to soon (post).

The trail passed through a nice green forest with some bigger trees, a very different sight than the hikes we’d taken in Central Oregon that week.
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A little bit of up and down brought us to Pika Lake in just half a mile.
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We walked a short way around the SE side of the little lake before returning to the trail and continuing to Fir Lake which was just 0.4 miles away.
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IMG_1308Unnamed lakelet/pond between Pika and Fir Lakes.

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IMG_1312Fir Lake

IMG_1313Goldeneyes

We again explored a little of the lake shore before turning around and returning to the car.
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This was a quick hike which we managed to make 2.5 miles by exploring some of the lake shores. There were several camp sites at the lakes which would be good options for folks with young kids for some early backpacking trips.

Track for Pika & Fir Lakes

With our hikes now completed we drove home to spend the rest of the weekend with Hazelnut before having to say our final goodbyes. It was a bitter sweet ending to what was otherwise a good vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pika and Fir Lakes

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Rainbow Falls and Substitute Point – 07/04/2021

For the Fourth of July we typically pick a hike in the Old Cascades but this year we aimed higher and headed for the Three Sisters Wilderness in the High Cascades. We had two stops planned, a short hike on the Rainbow Falls Trail to the viewpoint of distant Rainbow Falls and a longer hike on the Foley Ridge Trail to Substitute Point. We stopped first at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead since it is right off Foley Ridge Road (FR 2643) on the way to the Foley Ridge Trailhead. Neither of these trailheads currently require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit for day hikes (you are required to fill out a free self-issued permit at each TH though).
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The first half mile of the trail follows an old road bed to a former trailhead.
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We continued along the trail entering the Three Sisters Wilderness before turning along the edge of the steep hillside high above Separation Creek (post)
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IMG_9632One of two phantom orchids we saw along the trail.

IMG_9633Newish looking wilderness sign.

IMG_9634Maples overhanging the trail.

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IMG_9642Madrone trunks

A little under 1.5 miles from the TH we arrived at a rock fin where a short scramble led to a view of distant Rainbow Falls. It was just after 8am which wasn’t an ideal time due to the falls being to the east with the Sun directly behind and still low in the sky.
IMG_9644It’s a pretty narrow scramble so probably not for kids or those uncomfortable with heights.

IMG_9645A lone madrone at the end of the fin.

IMG_9647Looking toward the falls. (The North Sister is back there too but not visible due to the lighting.)

IMG_9654Rainbow Falls on Rainbow Creek

IMG_9651The best I could do with the lighting.

IMG_9652Looking up Separation Creek.

IMG_9658Looking back up along the rocks.

A use trail continued toward the falls, but as far as I know it’s not possible to reach them or to get a better view so we returned the way we’d come. From the Rainbow Falls Trailhead we then drove another 5 miles up FR 2643 to its end at the Foley Ridge Trailhead.
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The 8 mile long Foley Ridge Trail begins at the trailhead and leads into the Three Sisters Wilderness were it eventually ends at the Pacific Crest Trail. We had been on the upper end of the trail twice, once on a backpacking trip around the South Sister (post) and the other another backpacking trip where we explored some of the areas waterfalls (post). Today’s plan was to hike the first 4.5 or so miles of the trail to the Substitute Point Trail and then follow that 0.7 mile trail to a former lookout site atop Substitute Point. We were looking forward to the view atop the point but also interested to see what the area looked like after being hit hard by wildfires in 2017.

The first mile and half of the trail was unaffected by the fire and hosted a few blooming rhododendron and other woodland flowers.
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IMG_9666Pink pyrola

IMG_9669Crossing of Gold Creek which was nearly dry but it hosted a fair number of mosquitos.

IMG_9671Columbine, bunchberry, and wild roses.

IMG_9672An anemone with some bunchberries

IMG_9674Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness

IMG_9675Queen’s cup

IMG_9680Beargrass

20210704_091724Candy sticks

IMG_9684Rhododendron

IMG_9691Pacific coralroot

We soon found ourselves in the fire scar which at least lessened the number of mosquitos greatly.
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The 2017 Separation Fire was started by lighting in August along with dozens of others. The fire became part of the Horse Creek Complex which burned something in the neighborhood of 30,000 acres. It was the same year as the Eagle Creek and Whitewater fires making 2017 a really bad year for great hiking areas. Nearly four years later signs of the slow recovery could be seen in the form of wildflowers and small trees.
IMG_9693Washington lily

IMG_9695Lupine

IMG_9697Squirrel

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IMG_9702Tiger lily

The trail briefly entered an area of older trees that had fared a little better during the fire.
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IMG_9715Twinflower

IMG_9726Leaving the green trees behind.

The trail climbed gently which allowed us to fully appreciate the wildlife and wildflowers, in particular some really impressive Washington lilies.
IMG_9728Washington lilies

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IMG_9736They smell as good as they look too!

IMG_9743This one was a monster.

20210704_134302_HDRChest high

IMG_9745Crab spider on the lower left petal.

IMG_9749Penstemon

IMG_9756Earlier in the week I had been reading that the blossoms turn pink after being pollinated.

IMG_9760Clodius parnassian

IMG_9765Pretty moth

IMG_9767Penstemon

IMG_9776Woodpecker

IMG_9778Pond along the trail.

IMG_9782Water lilies

The trail began to level off as it passed between Proxy Point on the left and Substitute Point on the right. With the trees being burnt we had a good view of the rocky Proxy Point but the angle of the hillside below Substitute Point kept it hidden. Also visible was The Husband further ahead to the East.
IMG_9791Looking toward Proxy Point

IMG_9790The Husband, South Sister, and the shoulder of Substitute Point.

IMG_9801Frog along the trail.

The trail curved around the base of Substitute Point where we got a view of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_9805Proxy Point, Scott Mountain (post), Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_9808Bleeding heart

We came to the junction with the Substitute Point on its NE side.
IMG_9813The Husband from the junction.

The Substitute Point Trail didn’t appear to have been maintained, possibly since the fire, but it was easy enough to follow as it headed uphill.
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IMG_9825This was sort of a mean trick, the trail entered these green trees then almost immediately switched back into the burn.

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IMG_9828Phlox

The climb wasn’t particularly steep until the end as it approached the rocky spire where a lookout once sat. As we approached it was hard to believe there was a trail to the top.
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There was in fact a nice trail that wound up the west side, although a single downed tree did require a hands and knees crawl along the way.
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IMG_9838Mt. Bachelor from the trail.

IMG_9841Proxy Point

IMG_9843Some unburned forest and a view of Diamond Peak.

IMG_9844Diamond Peak (post)

IMG_9845The Little Brother and North & Middle Sister behind The Husband with South Sister to the right.

IMG_9917The trail leading up.

The view at the top was at the same time spectacular and sad. We could see that much of the area that we’d explored on our previous backpacking trips had been burned badly by the fires.
IMG_9851The summit of Substitute Point

IMG_9855Scott Mountain, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Belknap Crater (post).

IMG_9861Proxy Point and Scott Mountain.

IMG_9869The Three Sisters, Little Brother and The Husband

IMG_9863Mt. Bachelor, The Wife, and Sphinx Butte.

IMG_9865Kidney Lake

img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51292219058_ec3f2f67bc_c.jpg” width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_9866″>South Sister

IMG_9877Mt. Bachelor and The Wife

IMG_9868North and Middle Sister behind The Husband

IMG_9872Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington

We took a nice long break at the top watching butterflies soar around us.
A swallowtail and two whites (maybe clodius parnassians) in flight.

After our break we headed back. We’d had the hike to ourselves but were now passing a handful of hikers heading up the trail. We stopped a few times to watch butterflies (in hopes they would land) and to smell the occasional lily.
IMG_9931Clodius parnassian in a blossom.

IMG_9933Moth and a parnassian.

The hike here came to 10.3 miles with 2000′ of relatively gentle elevation gain. With the 2.8 miles we did at Rainbow Falls it came to a 13.1 mile day and a great way to spend the 4th of July.

Track for Substitute Point

While we were sorry to see how badly much of the area was burned it was encouraging to see the trails were in relatively good shape and that there was new growth coming. We fear that hiking in recently burned forest is only going to become more common in the years to come but hike we will. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Rainbow Falls and Substitute Point

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Berley and Santiam Lakes- 07/03/2021

For the Fourth of July weekend we had originally planned on a trip to Central Oregon but the drought conditions that were exasperated by the recent heat wave had us reconsidering not being home to guard against rogue illegal fireworks (a house in our neighborhood lost a fence and tree last year on the 4th). Our decision was made final when, following the heat wave, mostly dry thunder storms passed over the Ochoco Mountains where some of our hikes were planned. Lighting caused fires have kept firefighters busy since then as the race to contain the fires that are still cropping up from that storm system. We turned to Plan B, which was in part a modified Plan A, and spent the weekend hiking in the Central Cascades. On Saturday we stuck to our originally planned hike to Berley and Santiam Lakes but instead of continuing on to Bend afterward we drove back home.

This hike is covered in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and provided us an opportunity to revisit some places as well as discover some new ones. The hike starts at the Pacific Crest Trailhead along Highway 20 at Santiam Pass.
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For now this is one of the trailheads where a Central Cascade Wilderness Day Use Permit is not required but a NW Forest Pass ($5/day or $30/annual) is, as well as completing a free self-issue permit. Note that for overnight trips a Central Cascade Wilderness Permit is needed for any visits to the Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters or Mt. Washington Wilderness areas.
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We had started another hike here in October of 2012 when we hiked to the base of Three Fingered Jack then returned on a loop past Martin, Booth, and Square Lakes (post). We were interested to not only see the area during a different season but also to see what had changed in nearly 9 years. This was particularly interesting to us due to the area having been burned badly in the 2003 B&B Complex and this would give us an idea of how the forest was recovering. Given the huge swaths that were burned in the September 2020 wildfires this might give us a small frame of reference for what to expect for some of the areas. The first thing that we noticed was that post fire trees seemed larger than we remembered which was confirmed by comparing some pictures of the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Old Summit Trail 0.2 miles from the trailhead.
Pacific Crest TrailTrail sign at the junction on 10/13/2012.

IMG_9248Trail sign at the junction on 07/03/2021.

What we didn’t really notice though was just how many of the snags were now missing.
Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest TrailEntering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness in 2012 (0.3 miles from the TH).

IMG_9255Entering the wilderness in 2021.

We followed the PCT a total of 1.2 miles to a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail. The view to the south was as spectacular as we had remembered with several Cascade Mountains in view along with several distinctive lesser peaks.
IMG_9275Cache Mountain, Black Crater (post), Tam McArthur Rim & Broken Top (post), North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, and Hayrick Butte (flat top on the right).

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To the north the top of Three Fingered Jack was occasionally visible.
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There were a few more flowers in bloom now than there had been in October.
IMG_9258A thistle

IMG_9273Penstemon

IMG_9274Bleeding heart

IMG_9281Pussytoes

IMG_9285California stickseed

IMG_9293Another penstemon

Shortly after passing a small unnamed lake we arrived at the junction.
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IMG_9295Mountain bluebird by the lake.

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We turned left onto the Santiam Lake Trail at the junction striking off on new to us trail. The Santiam Lake Trail headed slightly downhill to the north passing a series of small ponds/lakes before making a sweeping turn to the west then meeting up with the now abandoned Santiam Lodge Trail (coming uphill on the left) one mile from the PCT.
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IMG_9304There was a good amount of scarlet gilia blooming along this section of trail.

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IMG_9310Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9313One of the ponds.

IMG_9315Queen’s cup

IMG_9316Another pond with Maxwell Butte (post) behind to the right.

IMG_9319Unnamed lake along the trail with Maxwell Butte behind.

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IMG_9333Lupine

IMG_9340Dark-eyed junco

20210703_075615Sub-alpine mariposa lilies

IMG_9348Woodpecker

IMG_9357The view south.

IMG_9357Seasonal pond

A half mile beyond the abandoned trail (there was part of a sign still hanging, partially hidden on a tree) we came to an unsigned fork.
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We admittedly hadn’t read Matt’s hike description recently and had conveniently forgotten that there were no maintained trails to the Berley Lakes and this unmarked fork was where he would have had us turn. It wasn’t shown on the GPS map and since we hadn’t bothered to re-familiarize ourselves with the hike we continued on the Santiam Lake Trail but were still looking for the trail to Berley Lakes.
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We crossed the nearly dry bed of Lost Lake Creek (There was enough water around to host a healthy population of mosquitos though.) and continued through a meadow filled with lupine into some unburned forest.
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IMG_9374Beargrass

The combined presence of the trees and more water in Lost Lake Creek (which the trail was now following) was a perfect recipe for even more mosquitos. We hustled along as quickly a possible to try and keep as much of our own blood as possible.
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IMG_9381Recent snow melt is another recipe for mosquitos.

IMG_9382Another creek crossing.

IMG_9383Shooting star

IMG_9386Mountain heather. Typically if we see this blooming we expect there to be mosquitos.

Fortunately the creek soon faded out in an open rocky landscape where the heat of the sun kept the buggers away and we were able to slow down a bit.
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IMG_9396A sulphur

IMG_9397Alpine false dandelion

IMG_9406One of several snow patches at the tree line.

IMG_9401Nearing the end of the opening.

IMG_9412More snow in the trees.

IMG_9415A checkerspot

By the time we’d reached the open area it was obvious we had missed our turn and should have taken the fork we’d seen since we were now past the Berley Lakes. That was fine though as the original plan had been to visit those lakes first and hook up with the Santiam Lake Trail beyond Lower Berley Lake then continue on to Santiam Lake and return via the Santiam Lake Trail. Our new plan was to visit Santiam Lake then find the route to Lower Berley Lake, visit it, then check out Upper Berley Lake and return to the Santiam Lake Trail at the fork. Beyond the open plain the trail began a 250′ descent through more unburned forest to Santiam Lake.
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IMG_9419Trees & melting snow = more mosquitos.

IMG_9422Not Santiam Lake but a very pretty unnamed lake just to the left of the trail approximately 0.4 miles from Santiam Lake.

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IMG_9426Not sure what type this is but the orange on the wing was pretty.

We turned off the Santiam Lake Trail at a “No Campfires” sign and followed a familiar path down to the lake.
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It had been almost 11 years since we visited this lake. On our previous visit we had come up the Santiam Lake Trail from the Duffy Lake Trail (post).

IMG_9430Mt. Jefferson behind Red Butte

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IMG_9438Duffy Butte on the left.

IMG_9440Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9442Paintbrush, shooting stars, and buttercups.

We set off to hike around the west side of the lake but we encountered quite a bit of recent blowdown and decided it was a little more trouble than it was worth.
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IMG_9451Just one of several large uprooted trees along the shore.

Taking a break along the shore and enjoying the view would have been nice but the mosquitos weren’t interested in letting us sit peacefully so when we came to the third bunch of downed trees we called it good and headed back for the Santiam Lake Trail. We followed it back to the open plain where the mosquitos hadn’t been bad and stopped to study the map in Reeder’s book (still weren’t smart enough to take the time to re-read it though) and we could see that from this end his track showed him heading for Lower Berley Lake just before a topographic feature. We made our way across the plain where butterflies were busy flying from plant to plant.
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IMG_9471The “topographic feature” ahead on the right where we planned on turning for Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9473Mountain heather along the trail, it was warm and sunny enough that the mosquitos weren’t as bad this time by.

IMG_9475Threeleaf lewisia

IMG_9478Getting closer to the hill where we planned on turning.

IMG_9479California tortoiseshell butterflies in the bed of Lost Lake Creek.

Later when we finally did read the hike description Reeder mentioned a cairn marking a user trail but we didn’t notice any cairn (and admittedly may have turned too soon) but we spotted what appeared to be faint tread along a hillside above a dry stream bed and took a right onto it.
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The track on the map showed the route on the south side of the lake but this trail was leading to the south side of Lower Berley Lake. It led past a couple of campsites to some rocks above the lake.
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IMG_9484Three Fingered Jack from the rocks.

We picked our way down through the rocks to the lake shore and followed a user trail west until more downed tress forced us to climb back up above the rocks.
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IMG_9493More tortoiseshells

IMG_9495A butterfly photo bomb

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Once we were back above the lake we came across what looked like another user trail leading away from it.
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We thought it might be a side trail to Upper Berley Lake so we turned right on it but soon realized that we were following a dry bed instead of a trail.
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IMG_9505The bed was popular with the butterflies.

A GPS check showed we were heading too much to the NNE and needed to be NNW so we left the bed and used the GPS units to find Upper Berley Lake, but not before startling a doe.
IMG_9508Cross country to Upper Berley Lake, the doe was in this meadow and headed in the direction of the patch of snow at the far end.

IMG_9510Upper Berley Lake

Reeder mentions a view of Three Fingered Jack from this lake as well but we were on the wrong side of it for that. The lake shore where we were was pretty thick with small trees so we would have needed to back track to make our way around for a view but we decided to save that for another time. We took a slightly more direct route back toward Lower Berley Lake and found what seemed to us a bit of a random Day Use Only sign.
IMG_9514We wound up finding the same “user trail” and followed it down to the lower lake.

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What we could see was a clear trail heading south past the lake. We went down to the lake shore to see if we could pick something up since the track in the book showed it at the SW edge of the lake. We couldn’t make out any clear trail but that could have been because it was covered in butterflies.
IMG_9518California tortoiseshell butterflies along Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9520Three Fingered Jack and about a half dozen butterflies.

We did another comparison of the track in the guidebook and the topographic map on our GPS units and came to the conclusion that we were in the right spot and just needed to hike over a saddle between two hillsides. As we made our way up we found an obvious trail.
IMG_9524The hillside on the right was rocky.

IMG_9525The trail dropping down from the saddle with Mt. Washington and the North Sister ahead.

This trail was at times easy to follow and at others non-existent.
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Just under three quarters of a mile from Lower Berley Lake we ran into three hikers heading for the lake which we took as a good sign. Just a short distance later we came to the dry channel of Lost Lake Creek.
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It was hard to tell where the “trail” crossed or where it was on the far side. Reeder’s track showed the alignment converging with the Santiam Lake Trail at an gradual angle but we could see that we were only about a tenth of a mile from that trail as the crow flies so we abandoned all attempts at following the user trail. We headed straight for the Santiam Lake Trail and found it without much difficulty.
IMG_9534Found it!

We were a tenth or two of a mile from the actual junction which wound up working in our favor. We had rejoined the Santiam Lake Trail just north of the seasonal pond where there were now dozens of butterflies hanging out and this time they weren’t all the same types.
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We made our way back to the PCT then followed it south back to the trailhead but not before stopping at a viewpoint for one last look at the mountains.
IMG_9571Yellow beetle on lupine.

IMG_9572Orange agoseris

IMG_9584Back at the PCT.

IMG_9588Bumble bees on penstemon.

IMG_9589Cicada in the grass.

IMG_9594Black Crater, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, Hayrick Butte, and Hoodoo Butte from the viewpoint.

Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.

Track for our 12.9 mile, 1300′ elevation gain hike

After a great day of hiking we spent the evening with my Grandma and parents. It was a great start to the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Berley & Santiam Lakes

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

Whychus Creek Trail and Overlook – 05/31/21

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

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

IMG_6804Penstemon

IMG_6810Chocolate lily

IMG_6815Sand lily

IMG_6817Paintbrush

IMG_6818Balsamroot

IMG_6838A Penstemon

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IMG_6841Squirrel!

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

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

IMG_6889Mt. Jefferson and Black Butte

IMG_6892Chipmunk

IMG_6895White breasted nuthatch

IMG_6897Golden mantled ground squirrel

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

IMG_6912Lewis flax at the overlook.

IMG_6915Buckwheat and penstemon

IMG_6918Whychus Creek below with the Three Sisters on the horizon.

IMG_6919Tam McArthur Rim (post) and Broken Top

IMG_6921South Sister

IMG_6922Middle and North Sister

IMG_6923Mt. Washington

IMG_6924Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6928Mt. Jefferson

IMG_6931Chickadee

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

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

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

Track for Whychus Creek and Overlook

Flickr: Whychus Creek Trail

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Diamond Lake and Wiley Camp – 09/05/2020

As I write up this trip report the Diamond Lake Resort, like many other areas in Oregon, has been evacuated due to a wildfire. The tragic loss of homes and lives happening right now is truly heartbreaking. Right now the Thielsen Fire is moving away from the lake but a shift in the winds could change that in an instant.

We visited Diamond Lake to kick off our Labor Day Weekend hiking the full loop around the 3,015 acre lake. There are numerous possible starting points for the loop and we chose to park at Horse Lake where we could follow the Horse N Teal Trail to the Dellenback Trail which is the paved trail around Diamond Lake. There was quite a bit of smoke from wildfires in California in the air which limited visibility as we set off from Horse Lake on the trail.
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IMG_5373Horse Lake

IMG_5375Lesser yellowlegs

We opted not to make the short loop around Horse Lake and turned right at a junction toward Forest Road 4795 and Teal Lake.
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The trail crossed the road and then descended a short distance to Teal Lake.
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There is also a loop around Teal Lake so we had the choice of going left or right. We had planned on hiking counter-clockwise around Diamond Lake so we went right here and passed around the east side of Teal Lake where there was a hazy view of Mt. Bailey (post).
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At the north end of the lake a very short connector trail led to the paved Dellenback Trail where we again turned right.
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IMG_5398Northern flicker

A large meadow separates the trail from the lake here.
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We followed the path through the forest ignoring side trails for a mile where we arrived at the South Shore Picnic Area.
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IMG_5406Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.

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IMG_5420Mt. Thielsen from the South Shore Picnic Area

IMG_5412Diamond Lake underneath the smoke.

IMG_5414Mt. Bailey

IMG_5425Mt. Thielsen from the boat dock.

We had expected the lake to be busy given it was Labor Day weekend and Diamond Lake is a very popular spot and we were right. We utilized our masks as we passed through the picnic area and continued past an RV park and into the Diamond Lake Campground which stretches along most of the eastern side of the lake.
IMG_5427Picnic tables in the picnic area.

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IMG_5432Short Creek (it really is short)

IMG_5433Resort buildings between the RV park and campground.

IMG_5434Sign instructing users to follow painted bike symbols through the campground.

Despite passing through the busy campground there were a number of good views of Mt. Bailey across the lake. There were also quite a few ducks in the area.
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IMG_5443Common merganser

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IMG_5458Goldeneyes

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The trail left the campground and then in a quarter mile arrived at the Diamond Lake Lodge area.
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IMG_5469Mt. Bailey again.

IMG_5471Arriving at the lodge area.

IMG_5472Seagulls

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We passed by the lodge along the grassy lake shore and then returned to the trail on the far side. We were now far enough around the lake that we could once again see Mt. Thielsen.
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This section of trail was lined with larger and more diverse trees and is also the side closest to the Thielsen Fire as of this writing.
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There were fewer people along this stretch but a steady stream of bicycle riders did pass by. More entertaining though were the birds.
IMG_5492Bald eagle

IMG_5498I’ve been spotted

IMG_5503Chickadee with a seed or nut.

IMG_5510Junco in some fireweed.

IMG_5513The junco with Mt. Bailey in the background.

IMG_5521Looking back at Mt. Thielsen

IMG_5523More goldeneyes

IMG_5526Mergansers

The trail joined FR 4795 again 1.7 miles from the lodge to avoid what appeared to be an old guard station or possibly just a private cabin near Lake Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail continued with the Rodley Butte Trail on the opposite side of the road.
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The trail then passed a nice little sandy beach with a view of Mt. Thielsen.
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IMG_5536Osprey

We were now heading south along the western side of the lake which provided good views of Mt. Thielsen and Howlock Mountain despite the smoke.
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IMG_5546Cormorant

IMG_5548Howlock Mountain to the left and Mt. Thielsen

The mountain views would be interrupted just over a mile from Lake Creek when the Dellenback Trail veered away from the lake to avoid the Thielsen View Campground.
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We again crossed FR 4795 and continued through the trees for nearly three miles before recrossing the road.
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IMG_5554Back on the lake side of FR 4795.

We were now passing by the large meadow at the south end of the lake, only this time it was Mt. Thielsen not Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.
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Just under a mile after recrossing FR 4795 we arrived at a scenic footbridge over Silent Creek.
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A quarter mile beyond Silent Creek we arrived back at the Horse N Teal Trail junction near Teal Lake.
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We turned up this trail and passed by Teal Lake on the opposite side from that morning thus completing that loop.
IMG_5576Canada geese at Teal Lake.

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We arrived back at Horse Lake after 11.6 miles of hiking. This managed to be a somewhat easy yet hard hike at the same time. The lack of elevation change and obstacles along the trail made for easy, quick hiking, but the paved surface is a lot harder on the feet than dirt. We hadn’t stopped much at all along the way either due to the number of other trail users and our attempting to do our best to stay properly socially distanced.

Our day wasn’t done after the lake loop though. We were planning on spending the weekend in the area with Sunday’s hike being to Rattlesnake Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. We left Diamond Lake and took Highway 230 toward Medford to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead which was devoid of other vehicles.
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We had brought our backpacking gear with thoughts of setting up camp somewhere between the trailhead and Wiley Camp.
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We had been to Hummingbrid Meadows before (post) but on that hike we had come in on the Buck Canyon Trail. On that trip we had also not visited Wiley Camp. For this trip we were planning on spending the night in our tent then using the Wiley Camp Trail to hike up to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and complete the Rattlesnake Mountain hike described in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook. The status of Wiley Camp and the Wiley Camp Trail was a little confusing. The Forest Service websites mention the trail but in almost every instance “area not available” followed the reference. A 2018 trip report from vanmarmot.org though showed that just two years before the trail was still there and passable.

We followed the Hummingbird Meadows Trail into the wilderness where we were quickly met with some downed trees.
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The trail then passed through a meadow and dropped to a crossing of the West Fork Muir Creek where we thought we might find a campsite but there really wasn’t anything that caught our eye.
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IMG_5596hedgenettle and aster.

IMG_5597Monkeyflower

The trail climbed away from the creek and in 100 yards arrived at the Buck Canyon Trail junction (approx .4 miles from the trailhead).
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We turned right onto the Buck Canyon Trail which passed through Hummingbird Meadows before arriving at the Wiley Camp Trail junction in 1.6 miles. There were quite a few downed logs as trail maintenance in the area appears to be way down the Forest Service’s list of priorities but nothing was unmanageable. We had been watching for any campsites but nothing stood out so we decided to just go to Wiley Camp since it was only a little over 2 miles from the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead.
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IMG_5605Wiley Camp Trail on the right.

We turned down the Wiley Camp Trail which was in no worse/better shape than the Buck Canyon Trail arriving at Wiley Camp after a quarter of a mile.
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IMG_5611Wiley Camp sign

Unlike the busy Diamond Lake area there was no one else to be seen in this area. We picked a tent site and set up camp on the hillside above the West Fork Muir Creek.
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We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening down at the creek and doing a quick survey of the Wiley Camp Trail for the next day. Clear tread led up from the creek into the meadow on the far side where it quickly vanished. After heading too far left (west) into some trees we located a small cairn and some pink flagging leading the way out of the meadow.
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IMG_5615Grass of parnassus

IMG_5623Frog

IMG_5616Trail leading up from the creek into the meadow.

IMG_5630Big cedar at the edge of the meadow.

IMG_5635Cairn and pink flagging (small tree to the right) marking the Wiley Camp Trail.

IMG_5644Elder berry

IMG_5648Twisted stalk

No one else ever showed up to Wiley Camp, at least no people. A bright Moon helped light the area where we could see many bats darting about.
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Hopefully the forest and features in this trip report will look similar for years to come and this isn’t a memorial of what once was. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Diamond Lake Loop

Categories
Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail – 08/29/2020

With our recent backpacking trip around Diamond Peak (post) leaving us with just one more featured hike yet to do from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) the only logical thing to do the following weekend was that last remaining hike. That hike was to the Erma Bell Lakes and as luck would have it late August was a pretty good time to visit, the berries were ripening and the mosquitoes weren’t too much of a nuisance. With a drive time of almost three hours the loop around the 8.5-9 mile loop around the lakes wouldn’t take long enough for us not to break our self imposed rule of the driving time being longer than our time spent hiking so we added a second stop to the day at the Shale Ridge Trail.

We started the morning by driving to the Skookum Creek Campground where the Erma Bell Trail begins.
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The trail crosses Skookum Creek on a footbridge.
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Soon after crossing the creek the trail enters the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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The trail traverses a forested hillside where we found a few ripe thimbleberries to snack on.
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A little over half a mile from the trailhead the Irish Mountain Trail splits off to the left toward Otter Lake allowing for a loop past that and several other lakes.
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We stayed right choosing to follow Sullivan’s suggestion to complete the loop counter-clockwise. The trail continued along the forested hillside for another mile before crossing a small stream on a bridge near Lower Erma Bell Lake.
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Just beyond the bridge we took a short spur trail to the left to visit the lake.
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The lake was a pretty blue color and quite deep.
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Despite the beauty of the lake our attention had been diverted by the familiar “meep” of pikas, our favorite trail critters. We quickly spotted one of the little fur balls collecting greens along the rocky lake shore.
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We watched the pika go back and forth with its greens several times before resuming our hike. We continued on the trail around the lake taking another detour after crossing the lake’s main outlet creek to check out a small cascade.
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Beyond the outlet the trail began a .4 mile climb up toward the Middle Erma Bell Lake.
IMG_5142Lower Erma Bell Lake from the climb.

A short but steep trail to the left just before the high point of the trail led to a viewpoint of a waterfall between the lower and middle lakes.
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IMG_5162Above the falls.

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After checking out the waterfall we continued up to Middle Erma Bell Lake.
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IMG_5175Ouzel

IMG_5178Ducks

We continued beyond Middle Erma Bell Lake passing a small pond on the right before arriving at Upper Erma Bell Lake .7 miles from the waterfall, also on the right.
IMG_5186Pond along the trail.

IMG_5189Spur trail on the right to Upper Erma Bell Lakes.

IMG_5192Paintbrush and aster along the lake shore.

IMG_5193Upper Erma Bell Lake

IMG_5197Lupine and paintrbush

In addition to a few flowers there were lots of ripe berries near the lake which we sampled before continuing. The trail climbed gradually for half a mile to a junction with the Judy Lake Trail which passes Mud and Edna Lakes (but no Judy Lake) before ending at the Taylor Burn Guard Station.
IMG_5202Judy Lake Trail on the right.

We stayed left passing above Mud Lake which was barely visible through the trees below.
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Just under a mile from the Judy Lake Trail junction we arrived at another junction, this time with the Williams Lake Trail.
IMG_5207Williams Lake Trail joining from the right.

Again we stayed left continuing for another .4 miles to Williams Lake. Before reaching the lake we encountered a grouse that was less than pleased with our presence.
IMG_5217Grouse giving us the what for from a tree.

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IMG_5220Williams Lake

IMG_5227Dry creek bed near Williams Lake.

The trail began to descend beyond Williams Lake passing through some damper meadows where berries were plentiful and some flowers remained (and so did some mosquitoes).
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IMG_5234Pearly everlasting

IMG_5237Fleabane

IMG_5243Prince’s pine

IMG_5244Mushroom

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IMG_5254Aster

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IMG_5258Coneflower

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IMG_5272Paintbrush

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IMG_5277Paintbrush

A little over two and a quarter miles beyond Williams Lake we arrived at a junction with the Irish Mountain Trail which headed uphill to the right.
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A short distance from the junction we came to Otter Lake.
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IMG_5294Curious dragonfly

The trail descended for another half mile to the Erma Bell Lakes Trail completing the loop.
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We turned right and returned the .6 miles to the now busy trailhead. Sullivan lists the hike at 8.4 miles but we both came up with a little over 9 miles, most likely due to the various side trips tp the waterfalls and along the lake shores. We left the trailhead and headed back toward Oakridge on Forest Road 19 stopping at the Shale Ridge Trailhead on the left (south) near milepost 30.

This trailhead serves as the start of the Shale Ridge Trail and the upper terminus of the North Fork Trail (segment 5). We had spent time on the North Fork Trail earlier in the year hiking segment 1 out of Westfir and another short section to Buffalo Rock in May (post).
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We weren’t here for that trail today and instead headed south on the Shale Ridge Trail, which according to a note written on the signboard had been partially logged out in June.
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<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50286349281_6b323abbee_b.jpg&quot; width="768" height="1024" alt="IMG_5304">

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The trail quickly entered the Waldo Lake Wilderness.
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We followed the trail through old growth forest. The North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River could be heard at time off to our right but not seen.
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IMG_5317Ghost Pipe aka Indian Pipe

We were below the ridge that we had been on during the Erma Bell Lakes hike and at the 1.8 mile mark we came to Skookum Creek which was flowing through multiple channels through the forest. This area was the highlight of the hike along the Shale Ridge Trail.
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We continued beyond Skookum Creek just over a mile to the North Fork Middle Fork River at Cedar Bog. This was as far as we had planned on going and as far as the trail had been cleared to. In theory the trail continues up to the Blair Lake Trail (post) on the far side of the river but the condition beyond Cedar Bog is mostly likely very rough.
IMG_5349Arriving at Cedar Bog.

IMG_5350One of a couple dry channels.

IMG_5353North Fork Middle Fork

IMG_5358Flagging on a downed tree marking the continuation of the Shale Ridge Trail.

IMG_5360North Fork Middle Fork at Cedar Bog

IMG_5363Orange flagging on the far side of the river.

20200829_132354Monkeyflower at Cedar Bog

IMG_5366Candy flower

We turned back here and returned to our car completing a 5.8 mile out and back. While this hike was short on views there were some impressively large trees along the way and it was fairly level with only a 400′ cumulative elevation gain. The two hikes combined for nearly 15 miles of hiking which ensured that our hiking time was indeed longer than our driving time. More importantly we’d seen some nice lakes, all of which had their own distinct differences and had been gotten to watch a pika doing its thing. On top of it all we could finally say that we had done at least part of all 100 featured hikes in one of Sullivan’s guidebooks. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Erma Bell Lakes and the Shale Ridge Trail

Categories
Diamond Peak Area Hiking Trip report

Diamond Peak Loop Day 1 – 08/22/2020

Four of the five remaining featured hikes from William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Cascades” (4th edition) were scattered around Diamond Peak in the Diamond Peak Wilderness. To check these off our to-do list we decided to hike a four day loop around the mountain visiting most of the highlights of those four hikes. We started our trip at the Trapper Creek Trailhead, a trailhead that we were familiar with having started our Yoran Lake hike there in 2014 (post). After crossing some railroad tracks we arrived at the actual trail and set off into the Diamond Peak Wilderness.
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IMG_4155The writing on the sign made us chuckle, it says “If you need a map you should stay home”. All kidding aside you should always carry a map and refer to it as often as necessary.

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Two tenths of a mile from the railroad tracks we arrived at the Yoran Lake/Whitefish Trail junction where we had turned right in 2014. Posted on this sign (as well as before the railroad tracks and on the signboards at the start of the trail) was a notice that the Trapper Creek Bridge was closed due to damage. That was our return route for the final day but we knew there was an established ford so we weren’t too concerned about it.
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We stayed left on the Whitefish Creek Trail which climbed gradually following Trapper Creek.
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IMG_4190Breakfast time.

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While several lakes including Yoran, Karen, and Diamond View drain into Trapper Creek they are seasonal flows yet Trapper Creek was flowing nicely. The main source of water for the creek is a spring between those lakes. As we continued up the Whitefish Trail the sound of running water faded and the forest shifted to dustier lodgepole pine.
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IMG_4203Unnamed lake along the Whitefish Trail

Just under 5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Diamond View Lake. It had been overcast when we began our hike but the clouds were burning off fast and as we sat at the lake taking a break the clouds lifted and gave us a full view of the east side of Diamond Peak.
IMG_4209Arriving at Diamond View Lake

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IMG_4221Diamond Peak with Mt. Yoran to the right.

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IMG_4240Sharing our break spot with a butterfly

IMG_4252Crossbill near Diamond View Lake

We continued past Diamond View Lake passing a couple small lakes and ponds before arriving at a 4-way junction with the Crater Butte Trail a total of 5.7 miles from the trailhead.
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From the junction the Whitefish Trail continues for 3.9 miles to Crescent Lake. The 13.7 mile Crater Butte Trail starts at the Crater Butte Trailhead on the east side of Odell Lake and passes Fawn and Saddle Lake (post) prior to the junction and then continues on to the Pacific Crest Trail. That was where we were headed so we turned right on the Crater Butte Trail which promptly crossed a mostly dry bed of Whitefish Creek.
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There were some markers along the trail, possibly mile markers and after two miles on this trail we passed the signed junction for the Snell Lake Trail.
IMG_4273Mile marker?

IMG_4277A lone lupine

IMG_4284Nice looking sign for the Snell Lake Trail.

IMG_4285It didn’t look like the Snell Lake Trail sees much use, at least at this end.

Beyond the Snell Lake Trail junction the scenery became a little more green with heather filled alpine meadows and an unnamed lake with a great view of Diamond Peak.
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IMG_4294The heather was all done blooming but there was a lot of dried blossoms.

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IMG_4307The summit of Diamond Peak.

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One and a quarter miles from the Snell Lake junction we crossed the small but pretty Mountain Creek before a short steep climb.
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After the climb the trail returned to its gradual grade with a few ups and downs.
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Just over 5 miles after turning onto the Crater Butte Trail we arrived at the PCT.
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Our plan was to set up camp near the junction as we hoped to summit Diamond Peak the next morning from the PCT before continuing on our loop. With COVID-19 significantly lowering the number of thru hikers we weren’t too concerned about taking spots from them so we picked one a bit off the trail and set up our tent.
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As it wasn’t quite 1:00 yet we could do some exploring after getting camp situated. We briefly contemplated attempting to summit that afternoon but decided against it due to heat and needing water so instead we headed for Rockpile and Marie Lakes by taking the Rockpile Trail which continued across the PCT from the Crater Butte Trail.
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We would be going this way when we continued on our loop but both of the lakes are a bit off the trail and visiting them now gave us the opportunity to relax by the water before turning in for the night. A half mile down the Rockpile Trail on the left we found the signed .1 mile spur trail to Rockpile Lake.
IMG_4350Diamond Peak from the Rockpile Trail

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IMG_4355Rockpile Lake

There were a few camps set up along the south side of the little lake. We decided not to stay long here as kids throwing rocks into the lake might be fun but it isn’t exactly relaxing so after checking it out we returned to the Rockpile Trail and turned left toward Marie Lake. After 110 yards we came to a junction with the Rockpile Trail continuing to the left while a spur trail continued .2 miles to Marie Lake.
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We followed a trail along the south side of the lake to a view of Diamond Peak. While there were people camped here too the lake was bigger and we found a spot along the lake shore to sit and relax.
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From our spot we could see the false summit of Diamond Peak and the route that we would be taking the next morning.
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IMG_4383Hikers on the trail to the right coming down from the false summit.

As the afternoon turned to evening more people showed up including some bathers, some floaters and a couple of skinny dippers. We kept the photos to the non-humans at the lake though.
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IMG_4391Dragon fly

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We had dinner by the lake then pumped water before heading back to our tent. We spent a little time exploring the area around camp and picked some huckleberries before turning in for the night. We had planned on hiking somewhere in the area of 12 miles but we wound up showing 14.3 on our GPS units (they actually agreed this time). It had been a beautiful day, not too warm and pleasantly smokeless given the number of wildfires in California and Oregon. We were hoping that the rest of the trip would be equally nice and turned in looking forward to the next days adventures. Happy trails!

Flickr: Diamond Peak Loop Day 1

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Oregon

Thielsen Creek and Cottonwood Creek Falls Overnight – 08/08 & 09/2020

For the second weekend in a row we were off to a wilderness area for an overnight trip. The goal this time was an off-trail waterfall in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness which was inspired by a 2016 trip report posted by Bruce at Boots on the Trail. Not only would this trip take us to Cottonwood Creek Falls but it also allowed us to check off one of Sullivan’s featured hikes, Thielsen Creek, from his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook.

As an added bonus we were joined by a couple of Heather’s running buddies, Nan and Peggy, who we apparently had not scared off earlier in the year when they joined us for a pair of hikes to Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park back in June (post).

We began our adventure from the Howlock Mountain Trailhead near Diamond Lake.
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IMG_3247Little bee landing on fireweed at the trailhead.

The trail began at a fork. Following the guidebook we took the left hand fork which arrived at a tunnel passing under Highway 138 after .2 miles.
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There had been a number of logs down along the section and when we saw that the right hand fork also led to the tunnel we decided that we would try that on the way back but for now we hiked through the tunnel.
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The trail was wide and dusty from horse use as we climbed gradually for 1.1 miles, ignoring horse trails to the left, to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail on the right.
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We remained on the Howlock Mountain Trail which was increasingly littered with blowdown. None of it was particularly difficult to navigate but it makes for more work than necessary. A short distance beyond the Spruce Ridge junction we paused to make some adjustments and I took my leave of the group temporarily. Sullivan’s offers two options in the guidebook, an 11.4 mile out and back to Thielsen Meadow or a 15.7 mile “lollipop” loop visiting Howlock Meadows. Since we were backpacking those distances would be less, but the hike to visit Cottonwood Creek Falls promised to add 3 or 4 miles to the days total. I figured that visiting Howlock Meadows would put the day in the 13-15 mile range which I felt up for, but that was pushing it for others. I hiked on passing over, under and around downed logs until I arrived at Thielsen Creek, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
IMG_3288Sample of the blowdown.

Along the way the trail spent some time above Timothy Meadows which Thielsen Creek flowed through and it entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness.
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IMG_3304Fittingly a downed log welcomed us to the wilderness.

IMG_3315Thielsen Creek at the head of Timothy Meadows

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20200808_103506flower at Timothy Meadows

20200808_103846Musk monkeyflower?

On the other side of the creek was a fork. The Howlock Mountain Trail continued on the left with the Thielsen Creek Trail on the right following (at a distance) the creek up to Thielsen Meadow.
IMG_3320Thielsen Creek Trail

IMG_3323Howlock Mountain Trail

I kept on the Howlock Mountain Trail which climbed for 3.5 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail near Howlock Meadows, a pumice barren that had more character than I had expected. Oddly after a few early obstacles this stretch of the trail was virtually clear of downed trees which made for some easy hiking.
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IMG_3339Pinesap

IMG_3350As the trail climbed around a ridge end the forest thinned enough to get some views of both Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey (post)

IMG_3351Mt. Bailey

IMG_3359Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3368After rounding the ridge the trail remained mostly in the trees until it neared Howlock Meadows and then Howlock Mountain started to come into view.

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IMG_3377Orange agoseris

As I mentioned the pumice barren of Howlock Meadows had quite a bit of character. There was more green than I had expected and gentle rolling hills gave it a nice aesthetic. The view of both Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen was also pretty darn nice.
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I turned right (south) on the Pacific Crest Trail following a pointer for the North Crater Trailhead.
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IMG_3408Butterfly on pumice

As is usually the case the PCT was in good shape as it contoured along the hillside in a series of ups and downs.
IMG_3419PCT leaving Howlock Meadows.

IMG_3422Mt. Bailey from the PCT.

IMG_3429Talus slope above the PCT.

IMG_3431Lots of rocks along the hillside.

The trail popped out of the trees after rounding a ridge end where there was a nice view of both Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.
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After 3 miles on the PCT I arrived at the junction with the Thielsen Creek Trail.
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When I had left the group we decided that they would set up camp in the area and I would attempt to find them and if that didn’t work we would meet at the junction at 2:30pm. I was almost 2 hours early, I had given myself a little extra time in case I got slowed down but instead the gradual grade of the climb and the good condition of the trails had allowed me to make excellent time. I walked beyond the junction a few hundred feet to Thielsen Creek.
IMG_3475PCT crossing Thielsen Creek

While there were a couple of tents set up nearby neither was ours. Two use trails led up along the creek on either side and I chose to try the trail on the right (south) side of the creek.
IMG_3478Use trails on the left and right hand side of Thielsen Creek.

This trail led me to a snow patch in a boulder field.
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I continued on though hoping to reach a high point where I could see across the creek. When I finally managed that I could see where my group was so I dropped down and crossed the dry creek bed above where Thielsen Creek began.
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IMG_3487Found our tent.

There was a large area with a number of suitable tent sites on the little hill here. There were several other tents set up off in the trees but no one was really very close to anyone else. After getting my stuff set up in the tent I joined the others in a relaxing break looking across the boulder field at Mt. Thielsen.
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IMG_3488I was also looking at the saddle between Mt. Thielsen and Sawtooth Ridge which we needed to climb over in order to reach the falls.

When it was time to make our attempt at Cottonwood Creek Falls Peggy opted to enjoy the relaxing sound of the creek and great views of the mountain and Heather, Nan, and I set off.
I was doing my best to try and remember which side of the creek Bruce had gone up on his hike but couldn’t exactly recall so we opted to go down to the creek and try the trail that I had started up when I was looking for camp. Whether it was the way Bruce had gone or not didn’t really matter and this way provided a great view over our shoulders of Diamond Peak and an up close look at Mt. Thielsen.
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The drawback to boulders is that the going can be slow, but on the plus side sometimes they hide some pretty surprises.
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With all the flowers we had seen the week before in the Mt. Adams Wilderness (post) the one that we had looked for and not seen had been pink monkey flowers. There hadn’t been much in the way of flowers so far on this trip but the profusion of pink monkey flowers among the boulders was spectacular.
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IMG_3535Pink and white blossoms

IMG_3537Some yellow monkeyflower too.

As we got higher into the boulder field we could see a clear use trail on the opposite hillside heading up to the saddle so we crossed over and picked it up.
IMG_3543Maybe “clear” use trail isn’t exactly the correct term.

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IMG_3551It’s clearer here.

From the saddle we could see the patch of open space in the trees below where camp was and on the horizon were Diamond Peak, Sawtooth Mountain (post), and Cowhorn Mountian (post).
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IMG_3561Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3566Sawtooth Ridge

IMG_3559East side of Mt. Thielsen

IMG_3567Cottonwood Falls was on the far side of the pumice plain.

IMG_3578Paintbrush, penstemon, and buckwheat near the saddle.

Now Bruce had said in his report that the slope was steep but I think the concept of “steep” is a lot like “spicy” food, it is somewhat subjective. His route down had been to traverse northerly along the slope bending down toward the tree line toward the end of a boulder field that lined part of the pumice plain. A use trail (or game trail, it’s hard to say) headed more directly down from the saddle though. I opted to try the northerly traverse while Heather and Nan opted for the faint trail.
IMG_3581I had to drop below this neat rock feature which I got too close to and had a difficult time finding my footing to get around.

IMG_3582Looking up the hillside.

IMG_3584Looking back at the rock formation.

For us this was a really tough descent. The hillside didn’t have a lot of give to it and the loose pumice made it feel like you could easily slip. My route had taken me quite a bit away from Heather and Nan but I am sure I could hear them calling me names. I finally made it down to a tree where I felt like I could take a break.
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I could see Heather and Nan working their way along the tree line now and I headed in their direction before heading steeply downhill through the trees.
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Game trails and elk beds were all over in the trees and I followed these when I could using them to get down to a flatter area. That flatter area was the edge of the boulder field that we had not managed to make it around.
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IMG_3590Impressively large cave on the face of Mt. Thielsen.

We didn’t mind the boulders, at least the ground was relatively level.
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IMG_3598Penstemon

IMG_3606The saddle doesn’t look too bad from this angle.

We crossed the boulder field and walked out onto the pumice plain.
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We then dropped into a dry channel by a large boulder.
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We followed this channel to the spring feeding Cottonwood Creek.
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We were a bit surprised to find a memorial plaque near the spring.
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We followed the creek downstream a few hundred feet to the top of Cottonwood Creek Falls.
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We scrambled down the north side of the falls to get a look at them.
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After taking the in the falls we went back to the spring and refilled our water supply before heading back to camp. On the way back we avoided the boulder field then climbed up through the trees to our earlier route. From there we launched uphill as best we could aiming for the saddle which was now in Mt. Thielsen’s shadow.
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IMG_3712We got onto the use/game trail as soon as we could going back up.

IMG_3713The “trail” leading up to the saddle.

I spotted this spider when I got to the saddle. I think it may be a wolf spider carrying babies?
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The wind was howling now at the saddle but we needed a bit of a breather plus the views were just so good.
IMG_3721Mt. Thielsen with the Sun behind.

IMG_3733Howlock Mountain

IMG_3749Unfortunately the lighting wasn’t all that great due to the position of the Sun so we never really could capture all the colorful rocks on the mountain.

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To get back to camp we avoided the boulders and stuck to the south side of the creek bed which was easier going for the most part.
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Nan who is an experienced rock climber said that the hike over the saddle and back may have been the sketchiest thing she’d ever done. It was right up there for us too and not something that we will probably repeat, but it was beautiful and we were glad to have experienced it. Back at camp we had dinner and just stared at Mt. Thielsen as the Sun went down.
IMG_3785Junco near camp.

20200808_194340Mt. Thielsen

The light turned a crazy purple shade just before dark which we hadn’t remembers experiencing before.
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I woke up the next morning just after 5am and sat out watching Mt. Thielsen as the Sun rose.
IMG_3817Anyone know what the celestial body to the right of the Moon is?

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We had been hearing the distinctive “MEEPS” of pikas the night before and I was hearing them again in the rocks on the other side of the creek while I sat there so after breakfast and packing up I set off to see if I couldn’t locate one. It didn’t take long.
IMG_3839_stitchSearching for pikas in the rocks.

IMG_3850Jackpot

I sat down by the creek until the rest of the group was ready to set off.
IMG_3875Mountain heather

IMG_3868Monkeyflower

IMG_3878Partridge foot

IMG_3883Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_3885Lupine

IMG_3890Merten’s rush

When it was time to go we took the PCT to the Thielsen Creek Trail and followed it 2.2 miles to Timothy Meadows having to go around a massive tree fall along the way.
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IMG_3904Another angle of the tree fall.

It was a fairly unremarkable hike back along the Howlock Mountain Trail. There were a few butterflies out and I missed a picture of a good sized buck near the Spurce Ridge Trail junction.
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IMG_3913Just picture a good sized buck in the trees, I snapped this hoping to get lucky but I don’t see him at all.

After passing through the tunnel we took the other fork back to the trailhead. It was slightly shorter and there were no trees down but it was the horse route so it was dusty, deep, and full of road (trail?) apples. Not sure it was a good trade. Regardless we all made it back in (relatively) one piece. There were a few blisters, some mosquito bites, and perhaps even a little blood shed but we had all survived. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Thielsen Creek Overnight

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Hunchback Mountain – 7/11/2020

We extended our streak of 3000+ feet elevation gains and checked off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes with a visit to the Hunchback Trail in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We started our hike at the trailhead just off Highway 26 at the Zigzag Ranger Station.
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This trailhead is almost directly across Highway 26 from our previous hike, West Zigzag Mountain (post). Based on the forecast there was a really good chance that we’d get to see similar views of Mt. Hood that we’d missed the week before. Similar to that hike the Hunchback Trail began with a steep climb via a series of switchbacks which brought us into a wilderness area.
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Pink pyrolaPink pyrola

Unlike the Zigzag Mountain Trail, which was well graded and rarely felt steep, the Hunchback Trail felt quite steep at times.
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IMG_9022Switchback below a rock outcrop.

IMG_9028Looking down the hillside from the trail.

IMG_9055Trail dropping to a saddle.

After nearly 1.75 miles of switchbacks the trail gained the ridge and turned SE following it for the remainder of the hike. After an up and down we gained our first limited view of the day to the south.
Little Cheney Creek drainage across the Salmon River valleyLooking south across the Salmon River valley. The Bonanza Trail (post) climbs the ridge to the right up to Huckleberry Mountain (hidden behind the first tree on the right).

The ridge was a little more open than the forest below allowing for a wider variety of flowers.
IMG_9066Beardstongue (penstemon)

IMG_9075Washington lily

IMG_9078Tiger lily

IMG_9090Penstemon

IMG_9092Sub-alpine mariposa lily (cat’s ear lily)

IMG_9096Yarrow

The first really good view came after just over two miles when the trail climbed steeply up to a catwalk along rimrock cliffs.
IMG_9103Starting the steep climb.

IMG_9105Coming up to the cliffs.

IMG_9115Cliffs along the trail.

Huckleberry MountainHuckleberry Mountain

Salmon Butte (tallest peak on the left and Tumala Mountain (pointy peak furthest back and right)Salmon Butte (post) (tallest peak on the left and Tumala Mountain (post) (pointy peak furthest back and right)

While Mt. Hood was visible through tree branches to the north there wasn’t enough of a view for photos. There were however plenty of flowers to take pictures of.
IMG_9122Blue-head gilia

IMG_9133Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_9137Oregon sunshine, blue-head gilia, penstemon and yarrow.

There was also quite a bit of clarkia present but it was too early in the day for the blossoms to be open so they would have to wait until we came back by later.

At the end of the cliffs the trail dropped back into the forest then almost immediately climbed steeply again arriving at a sign (on the opposite side of a tree) for the Rockpile Viewpoint.
IMG_9119Trail dropping toward the forest.

IMG_9140Trail starting to climb again.

IMG_9141Sign for the viewpoint.

The side trail headed steeply uphill and quickly devolved into a web of possible paths.
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We followed what appeared to be the “best” route uphill for about 60 yards to the base of the “Rockpile”.
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I scrambled up through the rocks enough to see that while it was a great viewpoint for Mt. Hood it was still a little too early for it as the Sun was right above the mountain.
IMG_9148The top of the rocks.

IMG_9146Washed out view of Mt. Hood

I let Heather know it probably wasn’t worth the effort to scramble up right now and we decided to stop on our way back instead.

After scrambling back down to Heather we returned to the Hunchback Trail and continued SE along the ridge. The next mile was the gentlest section of the trail as it continued to do some ups and downs but they were only little rises and drops with some level trail mixed in.
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The forest here was home to a number of flowers that rely on their relationship to fungi to survive.
IMG_9158Pinesap

IMG_9171Pinedrop

IMG_9175Pacific coralroot

We also got a brief glimpse of Mt. Adams at one point through some trees.
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Approximately 1.1 miles from the side trail to the Rockpile Viewpoint another side trail split off to the right. This one was much fainter and there was no sign where it left the Hunchback Trail but it headed uphill to the right toward some rocks.
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We suspected that this trail led to the Helispot Viewpoint, but we weren’t positive and Sullivan described the view as overgrown so we decided not to follow this path just in case it wasn’t to the viewpoint. A hundred or so feet down the trail we wound up passing a sign (again on the opposite side of a tree) for the Helispot Viewpoint. There didn’t appear to be an actual route from the sign though as it was simply pointing at a hillside covered with rhododendron bushes.
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We decided that on the way back we would take the route we’d seen above and continued on. Over the next mile the trail spent quite a bit of time on the east side of the ridge where the tread was wearing and rhododendron were beginning to encroach on it a bit. There was an short interesting walk on a narrow rocky spine and then there were two steep climbs which brought the trail to a bit over 4000′ in elevation.
IMG_9204Passing a rock outcrop on narrower tread.

IMG_9207Paintbrush

IMG_9218Rocky spine

IMG_9225Columbine

IMG_9228Climbing up the Hunchback Trail.

IMG_9229Heather coming up the trail.

IMG_9234Beargrass near the 4000′ elevation.

After reaching the high point the trail began a steep 400′ drop to another saddle, but luckily our turnaround point was only about 50′ down. That turnaround point was the third signed viewpiont along this stretch of the Hunchback Trail, the Great Pyramid.
IMG_9238Heading down to the viewpoint sign.

IMG_9241Side trail to the Great Pyramid.

The short side path led passed an obscured view SE and some wildflowers along a rock outcrop.
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Unfortunately the whole area was overrun with thatching ants. After a few steps out along the rocks there were numerous ants climbing our legs and although their bites aren’t as painful as the all red harvester ants they aren’t fun either so we left the viewpoint to the insects and retreated back up the trail.

We followed the Hunchback Trail back to where we had planned to take the side trip to the Helispot Viewpoint and headed uphill on the faint path.
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A short distance up we noticed a fairly distinct trail coming up from the left which we assumed was the trail that the sign had originally been pointing too. The viewpoint was just as Sullivan had described it, overgrown. Probably not worth the tenth of a mile side trip but there were a few flowers present.
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We returned to the Hunchback Trail happy to be on the gentler mile section. We detoured back up to the Rockpile Viewpoint just as some other hikers were leaving it which allowed us to take a nice break there all by ourselves with the improved view of Mt. Hood.
IMG_9280The cliffs of West Zigzag Mountain to the left of Mt. Hood where we’d been the week before (post)

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20200711_113107We weren’t entirely alone as Heather was visited by a butterfly.

After a nice break we made our way back to the rimrock cliffs which were now fully in sunlight opening the clarkia and making for even nicer views.
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IMG_9314Looking down into the Salmon River valley

IMG_9317Looking west toward Highway 26

20200711_120439Blue-head gilia

20200711_121116Penstemon

20200711_120700Nevada deervetch

20200711_120246Tiger lilies

20200711_120332Oregon sunshine

IMG_9303Cat’s ear lilies

As we descended the 1500′ from the rimrock viewpoint to the trailhead our knees and feet were letting us know that they were done with three and four thousand elevation gain hikes for awhile. We’ll have to see about that :).

Both Sullivan and the Oregonhikers.org field guide put this hike at 9 miles roundtrip. They vary on elevation with Sullivan showing a 2900′ gain while the field guide showing 3270′. Our Garmin’s came in at 10.1 and 11.2 miles and we never pay attention to the elevation numbers. We were actually running an experiment on this hike regarding the distances shown on the GPS units. We both carry a Garmin GPSmap 62s unit. We’ve looked at the settings and they seem to be the same, but for the majority of hikes Heather’s Garmin reports a noticeable amount more mileage than mine (mine is typically closer to what the information for the hike states). For this hike we swapped units so I was carrying the one she normally does and vice versa. Sure enough the one she carried registered the higher 11.2 mile total. We are at a bit of a loss to explain what causes the discrepancy. On rare occasions the totals have been the same or within a tenth of a mile or two but more often than not the difference is at least a mile and sometimes a couple. Any thoughts out there as to what might cause this? I tend to hike faster, especially uphill but then I spend more time stopped waiting for Heather.

If you couldn’t tell the GPS thing is driving me a bit crazy, so much so that that night as we were going to bed I wondered aloud what would happen if one of us carried both GPS units on a hike? These are the things that keep me up at night :). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hunchback Mountain