Our lack of rain unfortunately continued for another week allowing the numerous fires in Oregon and Washington to remain active. To top it off a warm, dry East wind arrived in time for the weekend creating a red flag warning for high fire danger and blowing the smoke from the current fires into Western Oregon. The combination of the smoke and unseasonably high temperatures had me searching for a suitable hike. My Plan A, B, and C hikes were all forecast to be in the smoke (and warmer than I’d prefer in October) then I remembered seeing that Hike Oregon had gone up Mount Washington’s North Ridge back in August using a climbers trail off of the Pacific Crest Trail. I had been interested in that trail ever since hearing about it during the Chemeketans Route Finding course we’d taken and then later passing it on our hike to Mount Washington Meadows in 2017 (post). A quick of check of the forecast there showed clear (but breezy) skies and a high below 60 at the mountain, I was sold.
Just as we had done in 2017 I parked at the Pacific Crest Trailhead at Big Lake which at this time does not require a Cascade Wilderness Permit for day-use (one is required for overnight stays).
I set off South on the PCT shortly before sunrise and followed it for three miles to a cairn marking the obvious climbers trail.
Mount Washington from the Mt. Washington Wilderness boundary just a few hundred feet from the trailhead.
Three Fingered Jack to the North from the PCT.
From left to right – Sand Mountain (post), Hoodoo Butte, and Hayrick Butte.
Sunrise on Hoodoo Butte.
Sunlight hitting the spire of Mount Washington.
Hayrick Butte and Three Fingered Jack at sunrise.
Big Lake, Hoodoo, Hayrick Butte, and Three Fingered Jack.
Just over two miles from the trailhead I passed a sign for the non-maintained use trail from the private Big Lake Youth Camp.
Shortly before reaching the climbers trail the PCT left the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire scar.
The cairn and climbers trail from the PCT.
I turned left onto this trail which was fairly easy to follow through the trees.
Huckleberry leaves turning color.
There were a few logs to navigate and keeping an eye on the tread was helpful.
The trail climbed moderately at first then steepened as it went, with occasional flatter sections before reaching the ridge.
Maxwell Butte (post) behind Hoodoo and Hayrick Butte.
I stopped here for a moment to admire a raptor that was hovering high above the ridge (small black dot in the middle of the photo).
The only movement that I could see was when it tilted its tail feathers which would catch the sunlight.
First view of Mt. Jefferson behind Three Fingered Jack.
Coming up on the ridge.
Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and a lot of smoke to the North.
Approximately 1.5 miles from the PCT the climbers trail turned North along the ridge toward Mount Washington.
View along the ridge to Mount Washington.
That East wind was really noticeable as I made my way along the open ridge crest.
I didn’t have much trouble following the trail for the first three-quarters of mile up the ridge. It was typical Cascade volcanic rock which isn’t the most fun rock to hike through but the views were great.
Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson to the left. Green Ridge (post) across the center, and Cache Mountain & Black Butte to the right.
Big Lake came into view as I climbed.
One of the steeper sections I went up. The spire is poking up on the right.
Mount Washington’s shadow.
View back down the ridge.
I was hoping to get up and over these rocks where the map showed a more level bench but I wound up reaching a chute where I was unsure of the correct route. The further up I’d gone the more braided the trail became and I may have been too far left. A climber had passed me way back on the PCT but if I had been able to watch him go up here I may have found a better route.
The chute that turned me back. It’s a bit hidden by the rocks in the foreground but there was no way across that I would have been comfortable with and scrambling up looked way too sketchy for my taste (especially w/o a helmet).
I sat down here and took a brief break to catch my breath and have a snack. I was just over 7100′ in elevation and had been feeling that on the climb up.
My shadow on the left from my break spot.
This was the place I’d come up.
Zoom of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson
With all the smoke I hadn’t noticed Coffin (flat top) and Bachelor Mountains (post) beyond Hoodoo, Hayrick, and Maxwell Buttes.
After catching my breath I started carefully down, pausing often to admire the view.
The Moon overhead to the West.
Unfortunate that my timing once again put the Sun directly in line with my view.
I passed three more hikers heading up the ridge on my way down and at one point wound up following a wrong trail too low on the ridge and had to scramble back up to the correct one.
Using a tree to try and get a better view.
A framed Mt. Jefferson.
Sometimes it’s the little things, like these bent trees that I really appreciate on a hike.
This mushroom casting a shadow was another one.
When I got back to the PCT I turned right and hiked the three miles back to the trailhead.
Looking back at Mount Washington from the PCT.
Three Fingered Jack
Hoodoo and Hayrick Buttes behind Big Lake.
Huckleberry bushes and ferns adding some Fall colors.
The best Fall colors were near the trailhead.
The trailhead from the wilderness boundary sign.
This hike came to 10.7 miles with a little over 2700′ of elevation gain. In total I saw 7 hunters, 4 climbers, and two fellow hikers, not bad for a sunny Saturday. It might not be one for those uncomfortable with heights or climbing/descending loose volcanic rock (for those reasons it was a good choice since Heather is still sidelined) but if you don’t mind those things this would be a worthwhile outing.
When I got back to Salem around 2pm it was 90 degrees, in mid-October! The good news is that the high pressure system causing the warm, dry weather is supposed to break up this week with rain to follow. Hopefully it will be enough to put an end to the fires. Happy Trails!
We woke up way too early for the time of year and found ourselves playing Yahtzee on Heather’s phone lest we would be hiking out from our camp at Trapper Lake in the dark. After some less than stellar scores we packed up camp and set off on the Sky Lakes Trail back toward the Cold Springs Trailhead.
Low-light at Trapper Lake.
Sunrise from the trail.
Sunlight hitting the tops of trees.
Just before reaching the Heavenly Twin Lakes we came to the Isherwood Trail where we turned right.
The Isherwood Trail passed by the larger of the Heavenly Twin Lakes.
The trail left the lake and climbed gradually through the forest to a rocky bluff above Isherwood Lake.
Heading up to the bluff.
Pelican Butte beyond Isherwood Lake.
Fall foliage above Isherwood Lake.
About half way along Isherwood Lake we detoured to the other side of the trail to visit Lake Liza.
Heading for Lake Liza through a dry bed.
After returning to the Isherwood Trail and passing Isherwood Lake we passed Elizabeth Lake on our left.
Elizabeth Lake was followed by Lake Notasha on the right with another nice reflection.
Depending on the angle the water was a beautiful green.
A short distance beyond Lake Notasha we came to the end of the Isherwood Trail at the Sky Lakes Trail.
We turned right for a third of a mile to a junction with the Cold Springs Trail.
We turned left this time following the Cold Springs Trail pointer. This trail climbed a lot more than we’d expected as it passed by Imagination Peak but after nearly two miles we arrived back at the junction with the South Rock Creek Trail which we had taken the day before.
Parts of the latter half of this trail passed through the 2017 fire scar.
Pelican Butte as we descended toward the junction.
We turned right here for the final 0.6 miles to our car.
Our hike out came to 6.6 miles with just over 1000′ of elevation gain.
It had been a great Autumn weekend for a backpacking trip and the hikes were great. The only negative to come out of it was Heather’s knee which had been a lingering but manageable issue for most of the year finally decided it had had enough. She has some PT ahead and no hiking so I’ll be on my own for a bit. The good news her knee should be fine and we didn’t have any more featured hikes on our schedule until mid-Spring next year. It also means we might be welcoming some new kitties into our home sooner than we’d expected since she won’t be joining me on the October hikes. Happy Tails! (or Trails!)
An excellent weekend forecast allowed us to head back to the Southern Oregon Cascades less than a week from our three night, four day stay in Shady Cove (post). In an attempt to give us the best chance to finish our featured hike goal (post) I’d recently broken a 5-6 day backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness into shorter trips. During our Shady Cove stay we did the Blue Lakes Basin hike (post) and now we were back for an overnight backpack in the Sky Lakes Basin to check off Sullivan’s Sky Lakes via Cold Springs and Sky Lakes via Nannie Creek hikes. (Hikes #43 & #44 respectively in edition 4.2 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California.)
We set off through a 2017 fire scar following the Cold Springs Trail into the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
After 0.6 miles we came to a junction with the South Rock Creek Trail.
Both forks would lead to the Heavenly Twin Lakes but the South Rock Creek Trail would do it in a shorter distance (1.8 vs 2.4 miles) so we stayed to the right and followed that trail through more burned forest.
We left the fire scar after about a mile and continued another 0.8 miles to the first Heavenly Twin Lake.
Exiting the fire scar.
Doe watching us through the trees.
The larger lake lay just beyond the smaller and provided a view of Luther Mountain.
Luther Mountain on the left and Lee Peak on the right.
After checking out the view we continued on the Sky Lakes Trail which led along the East side of the large lake arriving at the junction with the Isherwood Trail at the far end.
Sign for the Sky Lakes Trail.
Isherwood Trail junction.
We would be taking the Isherwood Trail the next day on our way back to the car but for now we continued straight for 1.9 miles to Trapper Lake where we looked for and found a campsite for the weekend. Along the way we passed several small ponds and unnamed lakes and one named one. It was clear why the area is notorious for mosquitos until late Summer (we only noticed two the whole weekend).
Luther Mountain from Trapper Lake.
After setting up camp we returned to the Sky Lakes Trail and continued North along the lake passing the Cherry Creek Trail coming up from the right before arriving at a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
View along the trail.
Sign for the Cherry Creek Trail.
Sky Lakes Trail sign.
Donna Lake Trail to the right.
This was the start of an approximately 8.8 mile loop around Luther Mountain. We had decided to do the loop counter-clockwise so we took the left hand trail which kept us on the Sky Lakes Trail. This trail led around the North end of Trapper Lake for 0.2 miles where it met the Divide Trail.
Divide Trail junction.
We stayed left here and started following the Divide Trail which would lead us to the Pacific Crest Trail in 2.8 miles. Shortly after starting up this trail we detoured right to check out Margurette Lake.
The trail passed close to this lake offering several views of Luther Mountain along the way.
Beyond Margurette Lake the trail began to wind it’s way uphill passing several smaller bodies of water including Lake No-SE-Um where several mergansers had congregated.
The trail turned back to the North passing above Margurette and Trapper Lakes along a shelf before turning West and climbing more steeply via switchbacks.
Saddle Mountain is in the distance with pointy Cherry Peak in the foreground. I believe that is Agency Lake visible in the Valley.
On of several small bodies of water along the shelf.
We know there were pikas out there because we heard their “meeps” off and on all day but with so many rocks we were never able to spot one.
Heading toward Luther Mountain.
Pelican Butte on the left and Mt. McLoughlin on the right. The peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness are behind and to the right of Pelican Butte then the small, closer hump is Imagination Peak. To the right of Imagination Peak and slightly further back is Lost Peak and then further to the right (left of Mt. McLoughlin) is Brown Mountain (post). Interestingly according to Peak Finder Mt. Shasta should be visible in between Imagination and Lost Peaks but apparently there was enough smoke/haze in the sky that it was camouflaged.
After passing through the switchbacks the trail straightened out and headed almost due West as it climbed through a rock field on the southern flank of Luther Mountain.
We left the rock field and made a final climb to a saddle where we arrived at the PCT.
Luther Mountain from the saddle.
The Pacific Crest Trail.
After catching our breath we turned right on the PCT which descended slightly to a ridge to the West of Luther Mountain. We followed this ridge, which had been burned in 2014, for a little over a mile to a junction with the Snow Lakes Trail.
Lucifer Peak directly behind Shale Butte.
Lucifer Peak, Shale Butte, Devil’s Peak and Lee Peak.
Blowdown on the PCT.
Luther Mountain and Mt. McLoughlin behind us.
Lots of little birds along the ridge but most didn’t stop long enough for even a poor picture.
Sign at the Snow Lakes Trail junction.
We turned right onto the Snow Lakes Trail which passed along another shelf full of small lakes.
Martin, Wind and a Snow Lake from the Snow Lakes Trail.
Hawk circling overhead.
While I was trying to keep track of the hawk this Bald Eagle flew over.
Nearing the end of the 2014 fire scar.
Luther Mountain from one of the Snow Lakes.
Another of the lakes.
Tree on the edge of the shelf.
View from the shelf.
There were many cool rock features along the trail.
Lee Peak and another of the Snow Lakes.
After approximately three quarters of a mile on the Snow Lakes Trail we dropped to one of the larger lakes where we briefly lost the trail.
A tree had fallen over the Snow Lakes Trail hiding it right where a use trail veered off to the lake. Only seeing the use trail we followed it along the lake until it petered out. A quick look at the map showed we were off-trail so we made our way back finding the downed tree covering the actual trail.
After regaining the trail we followed it downhill via a series of switchbacks past another lake.
The trail then began to turn ESE as it continued to descend toward Martin Lake and the Lower Snow Lakes. A total of 2.3 miles from the PCT we came to the Nannie Creek Trail junction.
The worst obstacle for the day.
Pelican Butte from the trail.
Sign at the Nannie Creek Trail junction.
We stayed right on the Snow Lakes Trail at the junction. After 0.4 miles we passed Martin Lake on our right.
Luther Mountain as we neared Martin Lake.
Dragon fly blending in with the huckleberry leaves.
Martin Lake with a view of the shelf that we’d been on.
Two tenths of a mile beyond Martin Lake we came to what was labeled Lower Snow Lakes on our map which was partly in Luther Mountain’s shadow.
Red huckleberry leaves
We found a log in the shade along the shore where we took a nice break.
After our break we continued on the Snow Lakes Trail another three quarters of a mile to a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
It was another 0.7 miles back to Trapper Lake either way but the Donna Lake Trail led past Deep and then Donna Lakes so we veered left and took that trail.
Deep Lake was up first, just a tenth of a mile down the trail.
Donna Lake was only two tenths further.
Donna Lake Trail
We arrived back at the Sky Lakes Trail at Trapper Lake and headed back to our campsite for dinner.
Back at Trapper Lake.
Dinner didn’t go as planned as we realized when we pulled our water filter out that we’d left all the hoses at home. Fortunately we carry Iodine tablets for just such an occurrence so we had a way to treat water but by the time it was all said and done we decided to skip a warm meal and opted to eat some of the extra food we’d brought. At least we’d have water for the hike out the next day though. It cooled off quickly once the Sun had vanished and for the first time in a while we got to test the warmth of our sleeping systems.
Today’s hike came in at 14.5 miles with approximately 2300′ of elevation gain.
The number of lakes/ponds was almost hard to believe and the scenery was really nice. The timing was great with almost no bugs and the trails were in relatively good shape, just a few downed trees here and there but nothing too difficult to get past. Happy Trails!
For the final hike of our Southern Oregon trip we had pegged the Union Creek Trail, the only featured hike that only I had done. Heather had been forced to skip this one after hurting herself at Abbott Butte in 2020 (post). Sullivan has been working on an update to his Southern Oregon book and it will be interesting to see if the Union Creek hike remains a featured hike. A 2015 storm downed many trees along the trail, the middle portion of which had not yet been cleared in 2020 when I’d attempted the hike. A quick look online led us to believe that two years later the conditions were the same so instead of attempting to reach Union Creek Falls from the Union Creek Resort we drove to the Upper Trailhead. To reach this trailhead we followed Highway 62 two miles east of its junction with Highway 230 turning right on Road 600 at a small Union Creek Trailhead sign. After 0.2 miles we veered left at another pointer for 0.1 miles to the parking area at roads end.
An OHV Trail continues on the old road bed from the parking area.
The Union Creek Trail is located at the SW corner of the parking area.
The upper portion of the trail was in great shape and we quickly found ourselves at Union Creek Falls just 0.3 miles from the trailhead.
We continued another 0.7 miles before encountering the first real obstacle and began to wonder if by some miracle someone had finally shown this trail a little love.
We had to get creative to see some of the many cool water features along the creek.
The first mess on the trail.
The trail conditions deteriorated quickly over the next half mile before we completely lost the trail at a large downed tree. Overnight rain had left the vegetation wet and we didn’t see any point in trying to force our way through the brush in an attempt to relocate the tread so we turned around and headed back.
This mess was just before the bigger tree that turned us back.
On the way back we hopped a side channel onto an island to find a pretty impressive feature that had been hidden from the trail.
Where I crossed the channel.
To get a good view I had to carefully follow a narrow ledge to an overlook of a thundering hole where water plunged in from all sides.
We returned to the car having come up a just over a quarter mile short of where I’d given up and turned around in 2020 resulting in a 3.7 mile hike with just over 400′ of elevation gain.
It is a shame that this trail doesn’t seem to warrant any attention from the Forest Service. The creek is beautiful and the trail isn’t that long so there isn’t that much to clear. It also isn’t in a wilderness area so they could use chainsaws where needed. Ironically this sign is posted at the trailhead along with a box that was full of spiderwebs.
It was just after 9:15am when we got back to the car and after changing we did what any sane people would do and drove back into Union Creek to Beckie’s Cafe for breakfast, a cinnamon roll, and a blackberry pie to go. Happy Trails!
The longest planned hike of our Southern Oregon trip also promised to be the most scenic with nearly two and a half miles being along the rim of Crater Lake. After a couple of days of rain showers (and one night of thunderstorms) Monday was forecast to be partly sunny albeit with a 40% chance of showers. We were hoping for clear views of the lake with just enough clouds to make the sky interesting. We had picked up a 7-day pass on Saturday when we’d driven through Crater Lake National Park and now reentered the Park from Highway 62 to the south and parked near the Rim Village Gift Shop and Cafe.
Our plan was to hike the Discovery Point and Lightning Spring loop described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” (edition 4.2 hike #21). He describes hiking the route counter-clockwise hiking along the rim of the caldera to Discovery Point first but we opted instead for a clockwise loop for two reasons. First was that we wanted to be hiking the rim later in the day when the Sun would hopefully be directly overhead instead of across the lake to the east. The second reason was because Sullivan described the final section of the Dutton Creek Trail as “climbing more seriously…to your car”. Our thought was that it might be more enjoyable to be going down that stretch rather than up.
Before starting the loop we passed by the Gift Shop to check out the morning view of the lake.
Mt. Scott (post) with a bit of a lenticular cloud.
Raven making a landing atop a mountain hemlock.
The Watchman (post), Hillman Peak, and Llao Rock along the western side of the rim.
The view was amazing and aside from the ravens we were about the only people around this early. We got distracted enough by the views that we didn’t catch that the Dutton Creek Trail was located a bit downhill along the West Rim Road and we set off on the Rim Trail toward the Discovery Point Trailhead.
In our defense the topo map on our GPS showed a connector trail further along the Rim Trail (that trail no longer exists) but we didn’t catch our mistake until we’d gone nearly a quarter mile. We turned around and hiked back to the entrance road to Rim Village and hiked downhill to the signed Dutton Creek Trail.
It was by far the most scenic mistake we’ve made while hiking.
Wizard Island and Llao Rock
We joked that views had been so good maybe we should just end the hike now.
A short distance down the Dutton Creek Trail we came face to face with a pair of bucks.
It was quite the start to the hike and we wondered how anything during the remainder of the hike could top the beginning. We followed the Dutton Creek trail a total of 2.4 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. The upper portion had indeed been fairly steep before leveling out quite a bit. The forest along the trail was very nice and the trail was in excellent shape.
Dutton Creek was dry.
Blue sky ahead.
Not much left for flowers, this could be a Crater Lake collomia although it’s a little late in the season.
Castle Creek still had some water flowing.
We spotted several piles of hail, possibly from the severe thunderstorms that had been forecast for Saturday night?
Arriving at the PCT.
We turned right on the PCT and followed it for 4.4 fairly level miles to the Lightning Springs Trail. Sullivan described this section of trail as relatively dull but there was enough variety in the scenery to make it enjoyable if not remarkable.
The campsite at the junction was closed due to hazard trees.
Recrossing Castle Creek.
The PCT appeared to be following an old road bed through the park.
Dropping down to Trapper Creek.
PCT crossing of Trapper Creek.
We saw one other deer, a doe in the trail, and otherwise it was a lot of chipmunks and squirrels along with numerous birds.
A red-breasted nuthatch that was toying with me as I tried to get a photo.
Canada jay (grey jay)
Blue sky to the north ahead.
Some blue sky south too with a glimpse of Union Peak (post).
Entering the 2006 Bybee Complex fire scar.
The Watchman. The lookout tower on top was in a cloud after having been clearly visible from rim earlier. We wondered what that might mean for our views when we finally made it back to the rim.
Chipmunk checking us out.
Another creek crossing.
Red crossbills at the creek crossing.
There were some pretty ominous looking clouds behind us but no showers yet.
Several white crowned sparrows and at least one junco. We could also hear chickadee calls but I couldn’t find one in this capture.
Despite the ugly clouds behind us there was almost always blue sky ahead.
North Fork Castle Creek
Approaching the junction with the Lightning Springs Trail.
We turned onto the Lightning Springs Trail and headed for the clouds above The Watchman.
This trail climbed gradually along a ridge at the edge of a 2016 fire scar.
Union Peak had been swallowed by clouds.
The Watchman with a cloud still hanging on.
The base of Union Peak with lots of blue sky around.
A brief stint in full sunlight.
We were supposed to pass below a small waterfall after 2.4 miles along Lightning Creek but this late in the Summer it was dry.
The trail continued to climb beyond the dry fall arriving at Lightning Springs after another 0.8 miles.
Union Peak nearly free of clouds.
The Watchman still not free.
We detoured a short distance down the trail to Lightning Springs Camp to check out the springs which were not dry.
After visiting the springs we continued another 0.8 miles to West Rim Drive and crossed over to the Rim Trail.
Full view of Union Peak.
And finally a full view of The Watchman.
Conditions were changing quickly and now there was blue sky above The Watchman.
West Rim Drive ahead with the lower portion of Mt. McLoughlin (post) in between the trees to the right.
This squirrel put its cone down in case I had something better for it, but we don’t feed the wild animals per Park rules (and Leave No Trace Principles).
We followed the Rim Trail for 2.4 miles back to Rim Village passing Discovery Point at the 1.1 mile mark. The views were spectacular resulting in many, many photos for which we don’t feel the least bit sorry about.
Wizard Island’s cone
Dock along Wizard Island
The Watchman and Hillman Peak
Garfield Peak to the left with Union Peak to the far right.
That blue though!
Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Back to where we’d been that morning.
Including our wandering around Rim Village and going the wrong way to start our hike came to 14.4 miles with 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain.
I don’t think we could have asked for better conditions. It only sprinkled for one brief moment and the amount as well as type of clouds added to the beauty instead of hiding it. Add in temperatures that didn’t get much over 50 degrees if that and it was about a perfect day for a hike. We changed our shoes and socks then grabbed lunch in the cafe and did some shopping in the gift shop before heading back to Shady Cove. Happy Trails!
The second day of our Southern Oregon trip was forecast to be the wettest so we headed for the Sky Lakes Wilderness where the cloudy conditions wouldn’t hinder our views too much. Our goal for the day was to hike to Island Lake via Blue Lake Basin then possibly return via Cat Hill Way. The out-and-back to Island Lake is featured hike #40 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook (edition 4.2). We had visited Island Lake in 2016 (post) but from the other direction. Since that visit only covered 0.1 miles of the featured hike and the hike is titled “Blue Lake Basin” not Island Lake we had not considered it done.
A crisp wind blew through the small meadow near the trailhead encouraging us to hustle downhill on the trail into the trees which provided some relief.
An old fence in the meadow.
Entering the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
Into the trees we go.
It had been a while since we’d actually been cold starting out on a hike and it was kind of nice. We hoped that the wet weather was also present over the Cedar Creek Fire to the north near Waldo Lake. Here there was no sign of smoke as we hiked through the damp forest.
Just over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at our first lake of the day, Round Lake.
We continued on the Blue Canyon Trail another 1.2 miles to Blue Lake where a bald eagle startled me when it took off from a tree directly over my head.
The cliff face above Blue Lake ahead from the trail.
Hiking along Blue Lake.
The bald eagle across the lake after startling me.
The combination of cool temperatures, wet ground and light rain kept us from lingering too long at the lake and we were soon on our way to the next one. Just beyond Blue Lake we veered right at a trail junction to stay on the Blue Canyon Trail.
The South Fork Trail went to the left past Meadow Lake and the Mud Lake before following the South Fork Rogue River to Road 720.
The Blue Canyon Trail passed to the right of Meadow Lake before arriving at a junction with the Meadow Lake Trail in a quarter mile.
Meadow Lake Trail junction.
For now we stuck to the Blue Canyon Trail which brought us to Horseshoe Lake in another half mile.
Just beyond this small pond south of the trail we turned right on a use trail which led out onto Horseshoe Lake’s peninsula.
Camping is prohibited on the peninsula which is signed in multiple places.
After exploring the peninsula we returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and followed it to the next lake, Pear Lake, which was just over a half mile away. We took another use trail down to the shore of this lake which is not at all shaped like a pear. (Unless it’s named after the core then maybe but it would still be a stretch.)
Ducks flying further down the lake.
From Pear Lake it was just over 1.75 miles to Island Lake. The trail climbed up and over a ridge passing above Dee Lake before dropping into Island Lake’s basin.
The only flowing water we’d encounter on this day after not crossing any streams the day before at Union Peak (post) either.
Dee Lake barely visible through the trees.
Meadow near Island Lake.
A Horse Camp sign.
Island Lake through the trees.
We couldn’t remember exactly where we’d gone down to the lake on our previous visit, just that it had been a short trail to the Judge Waldo Tree. We turned left on a clear use trail which brought us down to the lake but not to the tree we were looking for.
There were a lot of mushrooms down by the water though.
We returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and continued around the lake to another use trail and again turned left. This one looked familiar and indeed brought us to the Judge Waldo Tree.
For those interested the 1888 inscription reads:
Judge J.B. Waldo
E. J. Humason
F. W. Isherwood
September 13, 1888
Judge Waldo was an early voice for conservation of the Cascade forests (today he most likely would not have carved his name into the tree like that).
Now that we’d linked the two hikes together we were content to head back. When we’d made it back to the Meadow Lake Trail junction we turned uphill onto that trail.
Pear Lake from the Blue Canyon Trail.
Back at the Meadow Lake junction.
Heading up the Meadow Lake Trail.
This trail was much steeper than the Blue Canyon Trail had been and if we were to do the hike again we most likely would opt to come down this way.
The huckleberries don’t lie, Autumn was right around the corner.
Approaching the ridge top.
Not sure what we missed here but imagine it was some of the peaks in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
Just over a mile from the junction the Meadow Lake Trail ended at Cat Hill Way.
This trail ran between the Pacific Crest Trail (1.5 miles to the left) and The Blue Canyon Trailhead (2.25 miles to the right). We turned right following a very old roadbed that climbed gradually just below the summit of Cat Hill before descending to the meadow at the trailhead. While the other trails had been well maintained this one had a number of downed trees that were fairly easily navigated. This trail did provide a view of Mt. McLoughlin (post) albeit limited on this day due to the cloud cover.
A little fresh snow, a welcome sight.
A nice little viewpoint just off the trail.
Passing below Cat Hill.
Back to the trailhead.
Our hike came in at 12.2 miles with approximately 1700′ of elevation gain.
We only saw a few other people which was surprising even with the wet weather given how popular this area is in the Summer. It had sprinkled off and on for most of the morning but we didn’t ever feel the need to put our rain gear on. We drove back to Shady Cove and after changing headed to 62’s Burgers and Brews for a late lunch/early dinner. The clouds were once again breaking up which was encouraging as we were heading back to Crater Lake the following day where we would be hoping for some good views. Happy Trails!
Our hiking focus this year has been primarily on the Southern Oregon and Northern California area. This was due in large part to that being the area where the majority of the remaining hikes were located for us to reach our goal of hiking Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). Over the last couple of years we’ve canceled several trips down to this area due to wildfires (and associated smoke) as well as inclement weather. In fact we were starting to wonder if we might ever get the chance to finish the featured hikes from the area. This year things have been different, in fact we switched our August vacation from the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon to Northern California because the conditions, for once, were more favorable.
One of the trips we’d canceled in recent years was a four day stay in Union Creek. (Dangerous air quality due to wildfire smoke.) We had placed that trip back on our schedule for this year hoping for better luck. There were no fires in the immediate area but a number of fires were burning elsewhere in Oregon and Northern California which could still send enough smoke into the area to affect air quality. We kept a close eye on the weather and air quality forecasts and while the latter looked good the weather forecast was a little iffy. There was potential for showers including snow at higher elevations (7500′) as well as a slight chance of thunderstorms on a couple of days. The forecast was good enough for us to give it a try. Of the four hikes we had planned, two were not view dependent so we could rearrange the order depending on the forecast.
The forecast for Saturday was for partly cloudy skies with a chance of showers all day and a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We decided to attempt Union Peak despite the possible thunderstorms counting on summiting the 7709′ peak well before the arrival of potential thunderstorms. The most direct route from Salem to the Union Peak Trailhead is to take the West Rim Drive through Crater Lake National Park requiring the purchase of a $30.00, 7-day park pass. (Please note that both the Union Peak Trailhead and Union Peak itself are inside the park but do not require a park pass.) Since one of our other planned hikes started along West Rim Drive we would have needed a pass anyway so we entered the Park from the north entrance, purchased a pass, and then stopped at the Watchman Lookout Trailhead for a view of Crater Lake.
We continued through the Park past the south entrance to Highway 62 where we turned right toward Medford for a mile to the Union Peak Trailhead.
It was a little before 9am which gave us plenty of time to complete the hike based on the weather forecast. Both Sullivan and the trailhead signboard indicated that it was an 11 mile out-and-back.
The sign calls this the “steepest” hike in Southern Oregon. We wondered what criteria that was based on?
The hike begins on the Pacific Crest Trail following it south for 2.5 fairly level miles to a signed junction with the Union Peak Trail.
There were a large number of big mushrooms along this section of trail as seen to the lower right.
One of the big shrooms.
A Stellar’s jay.
More of the big mushrooms.
Another Stellar’s jay.
Nearing the trail junction.
We veered right onto the Union Peak Trail which began with a gradual climb following a ridge toward Union Peak.
First glimpse of Union Peak through the trees.
Gardner Peak behind Goose Egg (center) to the SE.
It was cloudy but no showers so far and the clouds appeared to be well above the summit.
I was so focused on Union Peak I failed to notice the deer to the right below until it and a nearby fawn bounded off.
Approximately 1.7 miles from the junction the trail passed an colorful rock outcrop on the right.
Mount Bailey in the distance to the right of the outcrop.
I missed more deer below the trail here, only noticing them when they started to run off.
The last doe keeping watch as the rest of the deer disappeared into the forest.
Beyond the colorful outcrop the trail dipped to a saddle then turned left at the base of Union Peak passing through a boulder field then onto a cinder hillside.
Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Western pasque flower seed-heads along the trail.
Looking up at Union Peak and wondering how the trail got up there.
Nearing the cinder field.
The trail switchbacked in the cinders providing a nice view of Crater Lake’s Rim.
Mount Scott (post) was the only peak covered by clouds.
The trail climbed back through the rock field and then came the steep part.
It’s always interesting to see the various rock that make up these volcanic peaks.
The Watchman and Llao Rock with Mt. Thielsen in between in the background.
That’s the trail on the right side of the photo.
Looking down at the trail below.
The trail was fairly easy to follow as it switchbacked up through the rocks. It was narrow in places which might be hard for those with a fear of heights.
The final pitch was more of a scramble than a hike though.
While there were no people at the summit the brush had attracted a fairly large number of yellow jackets.
I had reached the summit before Heather so I wandered back and forth along the top since every time I tried to sit down the yellow jackets took an interest in me, and I don’t do yellow jackets.
Looking west toward the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.
Mount Bailey, Diamond Peak (post), and Mt. Thielsen behind the rim of Crater Lake.
The rim of Crater Lake.
The combination of clouds, smoke, and the position of the Sun impacted the view to the south which on a clear day would have included both Mt. McLoughlin (post) and Mt. Shasta.
Mt. McLoughlin is to the far right with some clouds over the top. Starting from the left is Goose Nest, Goose Egg (with Gardner Peak behind), Maude Mountain (with a faint Pelican Butte behind to the right), Lee, Devil’s, & Lucifur Peaks (Mt. Shasta is behind those three.) followed by Mt. McLoughlin.
Heather joined me at the summit. Her dislike of heights had kicked in on her way up so she was ready for a nice break but after having been stung two weeks earlier the presence of the yellow jackets did not help her relax. We did however stay long enough for the clouds to start breaking up a little.
The Watchman and Hillman Peak directly behind with Mt. Thielsen further in the distance.
When Heather was ready we headed down. She was a little nervous but managed fine and we soon found ourselves crossing the boulder field again.
Looking back up from the rock field.
Mount Shasta arnica
By the time we were recrossing the ridge near the colorful outcrop a bit of blue sky had appeared behind Union Peak.
That trend continued and we imagined that the two hikers we’d passed on the way down were enjoying even better views than we’d had.
We had no complaints though. The smoke hadn’t been bad, we didn’t smell any at all until we were nearly back to the trailhead, and the clouds had kept the temperature down without raining at all. The Sun even made an appearance along the way.
One of several mountain bluebirds we spotted.
Bumblebees on a few remaining aster.
A sulphur butterfly.
Arriving back at the trailhead.
While Sullivan and the signboard listed this as an 11 mile hike our GPS came in at only 10 miles round trip. Either way there was 1600′ of elevation gain, much of which came in the final, steep, half mile.
From the trailhead we continued west on Highway 62 to the Edgewater Inn in Shady Cove, OR where we would be spending the next three nights. A quick check of the forecast for Sunday before bed revealed that “severe” thunderstorms were now forecast for Crater Lake overnight and Sunday called for clouds and a 50% chance of showers everywhere we’d planned on hiking. The good news was that our planned hike for Sunday was a visit to several lakes in the Sky Lakes Wilderness so showers wouldn’t really affect any views and getting some much needed precipitation was a lot more important than whether or not we would be getting wet on our hike. Happy Trails!
While we completed our goal of hiking portions of all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 4th edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Cascades” in 2020 (post) there remain a few “loose ends” that we’d like to take care of. We have established some guidelines for considering a featured hike “done” allowing us some wiggle room. For instance we might start at a different trailhead than Sullivan’s description but still visit the main attraction(s) he describes. It might also mean starting at the trailhead described but due to closures might cut the hike short. The two most common dilemmas we faced though were featured hikes with a short and long option and featured hikes that included multiple stops/destinations. Regarding the short vs long options we’ve tended to opt for the longer option assuming the distance is reasonable, under 16 miles (maybe not reasonable to all), but when the longer options are close to or more than 20 miles we’ve settled for the shorter.
For the featured hikes where there are multiple stops/destinations we allow the hike to be checked off once we have completed either the longest option, and/or visited the hike’s namesake. A perfect example is Featured Hike 23 in the Central Cascades book (4th edition). The hike is titled “Pamelia Lake & Hunts Cove” with three options given, all beginning at the Pamelia Lake Trailhead. The shortest is a 4.4 mile out-and-back to Pamelia Lake while the longest is a 12.4 out-and-back to Hunts Cove. Sandwiched in between is a 10 mile out-and-back hike up Grizzly Peak. We had been to Hunts Cove once (post) and Pamelia Lake twice (once on the way to Hunts Cove and the other on an attempt to reach Goat Peak (post)) so going by our self-imposed rules we checked the hike off, but we had yet to visit Grizzly Peak. To put a ribbon on the featured hike we obtained a pair of Central Cascade Wilderness Permits (required at this trailhead) and once again set off for Pamelia Lake.
This was at least the third posted notice so there is no claiming you weren’t aware that a permit is needed.
The roughly two mile hike to Pamelia Lake never disappoints.
Fireweed along the creek.
We turned right onto the Grizzly Peak Trail at its junction a short distance from the lake.
The trail crossed the dry outlet creek and then began the nearly 2000′ climb to Grizzly Peak.
Pamelia Creek only flows underground here much of the year.
The trail climbs for two and three quarters of a mile to a former lookout site through a nice forest with limited view for the first two miles.
A glimpse of Mt. Jefferson.
That might be Woodpecker Hill, it was hard to tell exactly which ridge we could see with nothing else visible to help orient.
This looked like it might be a nice little waterfall with enough water.
That’s not enough water.
Heather below one of several switchbacks.
Just over two miles from the junction the Grizzly Peak Trail we came to a viewpoint on a ridge. Here the trail made a sharp right and followed the ridge SE. There were multiple views along this ridge, the one issue we had though was it was still fairly early and the angle of the Sun was catching all the haze in the air.
Turning up the ridge.
The haze was probably a combination of morning cloud/fog and smoke from the Cedar Creek Fire near Waldo Lake.
We were too late for most of the flowers but there were a few pearly everlasting going.
There’s that pesky Sun again.
After following the ridge for 0.4 miles the trail veered to the right leaving it and traversing up a forested hillside with views north towards the Bull of The Woods Wilderness where we got our first good look at the fire scars from the 2020 Labor Day fires.
A quarter mile after leaving the ridge the trail came to another ridge and made a hard right following this ridge up to the summit. This section provided views south to Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top.
Broken Top to the far left blending into the haze and Three Fingered Jack to the right with the Three Sisters in between.
Just below the summit.
Pamelia Lake below Mt. Jefferson.
We spent a little over half an hour at the summit checking out different views and watching several butterflies and some large black flying insects.
Hunts Creek flowing into Pamelia Lake.
Had to hunt for a view of Three Fingered Jack.
A hard to make out Mt. Hood beyond the far ridge which consists of Bear Point to the left (post) and Dinah-mo Peak to the right.
A fritillary butterfly.
We returned the way we’d come opting not to visit the lake on this trip since we have permits to return next month for a second attempt at Goat Peak.
Goat Peak is to the right of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Jefferson and Pamelia Lake from one of the viewpoints along the ridge.
One more of Pamelia Creek.
One other hiker had arrived at the summit a bit before we headed down and that was the only other person we saw until we were headed back down. We encountered one couple coming up the Grizzly Peak Trail and a number more on the Pamelia Lake Trail. It was a little surprising because the trailhead parking lot had looked nearly full when we had arrived that morning. The hike was nice and the well graded trail kept the 2700′ of elevation gain from ever feeling steep. It also allowed us to be home before 2pm which gave us time to unpack and clean up before heading of to a friends house for their annual margarita (and dinner) party. Happy Trails!
The last two years have created a bit of urgency to our goal of completing the 100 featured hikes in all five areas covered by William L. Sullivan in his 100 hikes guidebook series (post). Between the pandemic and 2020 wildfire season it became clear that taking our time could create issues down the road so starting last year we refocused our efforts on finishing the 500 hikes as soon possible. As we started 2022 we were down to just the Eastern and Southern Oregon (and Northern CA) areas to complete (post). The majority of the remaining hikes were from the southern book where a number of planned trips had been canceled in recent years due to weather and/or the effects of wildfires. We spent a week in Medford earlier in June checking off Roxy Ann Peak (post) and the Jack-Ash Trail (post) and we headed back south a couple of weeks later to hopefully check off more.
A cool and wet Spring has left parts of Oregon, in particular the northern and central Cascade Mountains with a lot of lingering snow. Many trails and trailheads in those areas that in recent years would be open are still snowed in but Southern Oregon had been dealing with an extreme drought, so the recent weather has not had as much of an impact leaving trails accessible. While accessibility wasn’t an issue the weather forecast was a bit of one. More wet weather was forecast for the start and end of our six-day trip with the possibility of snow at higher elevations. After some substituting and rearranging of hikes we settled on a tentative plan that gave us some flexibility in case the forecast tried to pull a fast one on us. Since Monday was supposed to be mostly cloudy with a chance of showers off and on all day we decided to combine a number of stops east of Roseburg along Highway 138 to check out seven different waterfalls.
We started our morning off at Susan Creek Falls. This waterfall is one of three stops listed in featured hike #2, Fall Creek Falls (4th edition). This area was burned in the 2020 Archie Creek Fire and to date the other two stops at Fall Creek Falls and the Tioga Segment of the North Umpqua Trail remain closed. The BLM has managed to get the 0.7 mile Susan Creek Trail open although the trailhead on the north side of the highway was full of logs forcing us to park across the street at the Susan Creek Picnic Area.
After dashing across the highway we set off on the trail through the burned forest.
A slug and a bug on a flower.
Approaching the falls.
Susan Creek Falls
This short trail only gained about 150′ and was a nice leg stretcher after the drive down from Salem. After admiring the falls we returned to the car and continued east on 138 to milepost 59 and turned left onto Forest Road 34 to the Toketee Falls Trailhead. One of two stops that make up featured hike #9 (edition 4.2) a 0.4 mile trail leads to a platform above the falls which spill out of gap in basalt cliffs.
Evidence of overnight rains on the trail.
A very faint rainbow over the North Umpqua River.
Stairs down to the viewpoint platform.
We spent some time admiring this waterfall which is one of Oregon’s more recognizable falls before returning to the car and continuing on FR 34 to FR 3401 and following it to the Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead.
The hike starting here is not the second part of featured hike #9 but rather its own entry (featured hike #8, edition 4.2). Sullivan gives two 0.6 mile round trip options starting from this trailhead. The first is a 120′ climb to Umpqua Hot Springs overlooking the North Umpqua River. To reach the hot springs we crossed the river on a footbridge and turned right to make the climb up to the springs.
Candy sticks along the trail.
Just before the hot springs I veered downhill on a side trail to visit the river.
During lower flow there is another hot spring along the river bank in the area.
I climbed back up to find Heather sitting near the springs. There were a number of people enjoying a soak and with clothing being optional pictures were very limited.
We climbed down from the hot springs and returned to the trailhead where we took a short trail up to FR 3401 and turned left following a short distance to the resumption of the North Umpqua Trail.
Heading up to the road.
The North Umpqua Trail on the left leaving the FR 3401.
Approximately a quarter mile along this segment we arrived at Surprise Falls, a cascade created by cold springs bursting from the hillside below the trail.
The mossy cascade was beautiful and we spent quite a while enjoying the lush green surroundings. A very short distance further we arrived at our turn around point at another spring fed waterfall, Columnar Falls.
This fall gets its name due to the columnar basalt that the water both cascades down and spouts right out of.
The hot springs across the river from Columnar Falls.
We returned the way we’d come and hoped back into our car and drove back to Highway 138 where we again turned east. Our next stop was the second waterfall in featured hike #9, Watson Falls. Another short (0.4 mile) trail leads from the Watson Falls Trailhead to Southern Oregon’s tallest waterfall.
The top of Watson Falls from the trailhead signboard.
This trail gains 300′ as it climbs to a viewpoint part way up the 272′ waterfall.
Watson Falls from below.
Footbridge over Watson Creek.
Heather at the viewpoint.
The splash pool.
On the way back down we took the loop back trail which splits off just before the creek crossing.
This trail follows Watson Creek down to FR 37 where a right turn and short road walk completes the loop.
Watson Creek at FR 37.
A little bit of blue sky and sunlight along FR 37.
Once again we returned to Highway 138 and continued east. Our next three stops were in the Lemolo Lake Recreation Area so we turned off of the Highway onto FR 2610 at a pointer for the Recreation Area. Our first stop was at the Warm Springs Trail.
Yet another short trail (0.3 miles) that led to a scenic waterfall.
Viewing platform above the falls.
We both really liked the angled basalt cliff on the far side of these falls.
This waterfall surprised us a bit with how much we both liked it. We headed back to the car and drove back the way we’d come until reaching a canal bridge along FR 2610 where we turned across it to the North Umpqua Trail.
The canal bridge is 5.6 miles from Highway 138 on FR 2610.
Sign near the canal bridge.
The North Umpqua Trail.
The section between Lemolo Lake and the Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead is called the “Dread and Terror Segment” but both sections we hiked were beautiful.
This would be our longest hike of the day at 3.5 miles round trip. The trail followed the North Umpqua River providing numerous views while losing 400′ to a viewpoint above Lemolo Falls.
Numerous seasonal streams and seeps flowed across the trail.
Unnamed fall along the river.
We took a short break at the viewpoint then headed back. We had one final stop to make on the other side of the river to visit a better viewpoint below Lemolo Falls.
Red flowering currant along the trail.
From the canal bridge we drove back toward Lemolo Lake crossing the dam then in half a mile turned right on FR 3401 for another half mile to FR 800 where we again turned right. We followed FR 800 for 1.6 miles to a spur road (FR 3401-840). The trailhead is located approximately a quarter-mile down this road but we parked as soon as we had a chance due to this road being in the worst condition we’d experienced this day.
Approaching the trailhead.
This old trail/trailhead was recently reopened and aside from the poor access road the trail was in good shape. The first 0.6 miles follows an old roadbed to a former picnic area where the Lemolo Falls Trail used to begin. Three quarters of a mile later the trail arrives at the North Umpqua River below Lemolo Falls.
The former picnic area (Note the picnic table in the trees to the right.)
Valerian along the trail.
One of many brief appearances of blue sky during the day.
This was by far the superior view and a great way to end the day. We climbed back up the 500′ that we’d descended to the falls and called it a day. Our seven stops was a new personal record (previously six on a trip down the Oregon Coast). With most of the hikes being rather short our mileage for the day was just a smidge over 11 miles with a little over 1800′ of cumulative elevation gain. It was a long day made longer by a couple of delays due to road construction so it was later than we’d planned when we pulled into our motel in Roseburg but we had managed to finish three more featured hikes (and one third of a fourth) and although it had sprinkled off and on all day we’d also had a few sun breaks which made it a perfect day for chasing waterfalls. Happy Trails!
We ended our hiking season with a bang, a pair of stops along the Barlow Wagon Road with an off-trail adventure, great views and beautiful weather. Created in 1846 the “Barlow Road” provided an alternate route along the Oregon Trail which previously ended at The Dalles where emigrates were forced to find passage down the Columbia River. The 80 mile road led from The Dalles to Oregon City crossing several rivers and the Cascade crest along the way. The wagons also had to navigate Laurel Hill’s steep descent and our first stop of the day was to visit the Laurel Hill Wagon Chute, the steepest drop along the road.
We parked at the small pullout along Highway 26 that serves as the Laurel Hill Trailhead.
Mt. Hood from the trailhead.
We followed the trail uphill on stairs to an abandoned section of the Mt. Hood Highway then turned right to find the bottom of the rocky chute.
The wagon chute.
A trail to the right of the chute led uphill to a 4-way junction where we turned left and followed this path a short distance to the top of the chute.
The left at the 4-way junction.
Looking down the chute.
After reading the sign near the chute and trying to picture actually lowering a wagon down the chute we returned to the old highway walking a short distance past the chute to a viewpoint above Highway 26.
Sunlight starting to hit the SE side of Mt. Hood.
Ravens photo bombing a close up of the mountain.
We backtracked from the viewpoint and descended down the stairs to our car.
We then drove east through Government Camp to Highway 35 before turning right onto FR 3531 at a pointer for Barlow Road and the Pacific Crest Trail. After 0.2 miles we parked at the Barlow Pass Trailhead/Sno-Park. Both the Barlow Wagon Road and the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the trailhead. After parking we headed to a picnic table and sign boards on the south side of the parking area.
The PCT was on our right heading south toward Twin Lakes (post) while the Barlow Wagon Road lay straight ahead.
We followed the wagon road for approximately a tenth of a mile before it joined FR 3530 (Barlow Road).
A portion of the original Barlow Wagon Road.
Barlow Road (FR 3530)
Just 40 yards after joining FR 3530 the Barlow Butte Trail veered downhill at a signpost.
The trail was still following the route of the wagon road as it passed through a forest that was hit hard by last Winter’s storms.
At the half mile mark we came to a junction with the Barlow Creek/Devil’s Half Acre Trail in a small meadow.
Following pointers for the Barlow Butte Trail and Mineral Springs Ski Trail we turned left here.
The trail began a gradual 0.4 mile climb to another junction where the Barlow Butte and Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways.
We made a hard right here sticking to the Barlow Butte Trail which quickly entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Wilderness sign along the Barlow Butte Trail.
It was a mile from the junction where the Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways to the next junction. The trail climbed gradually at first but soon steepened as it began a series of switchbacks.
This was the worst of the blow down we had to navigate on this section.
Nearing the junction.
A small rock cairn marked the junction where a spur trail led left up to the old lookout site on Barlow Butte.
We turned left on the spur trail which began with a great view to the NE of the Badger Creek Wilderness including Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte (post)
It was a little chilly with temps in the mid 30’s combined with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill.
On the right of the far ridge is Bonney Butte (post).
The summit of Barlow Butte is overgrown now with trees but just downhill from the former lookout site was a small rock outcrop with a view of Mt. Hood.
Remains from the lookout.
The Oregon Hikers Field Guide mentions a better viewpoint on yet another rock outcrop below this one but we didn’t scramble down to it. Instead we planned on visiting a couple of other viewpoints on the Barlow Butte Trail further along Barlow Ridge. So after a short break trying to use the trees to block the wind we headed back down to the Barlow Butte Trail and turned left (downhill) at the small rock cairn. The trail passed through a stand of trees before popping out on a rocky spine.
Barlow Butte and the top of Mt. Hood.
Frog Lake Buttes (post) is the hump in the center.
Mt. Jefferson behind some clouds.
Sisi Butte (double humps) and Bachelor Mountain (post).
The rocks were a little frosty in spots so we had to watch our footing, especially dropping off the rocks back into the forest.
This is a good point to mention that the Oregon Hikers Field Guide has you turn back here for their Barlow Butte Hike but there is a second hike in the guide, the Barlow Ridge Loop which describes a possible 10.5 mile loop. This hike is listed as a “lost” hike due to the Forest Service having abandoned the trail along the remainder of Barlow Ridge. The Barlow Butte Trail at one time followed the ridge to its end and descended to Klingers Camp. We were keeping the loop option open but were planning on turning back possibly at the high point of the trail.
The next marker along Barlow Ridge was Lambert Rock which we reached a half mile from the small rock cairn on Barlow Butte.
It’s possible to carefully scramble up this rock past a memorial plaque for Dr. Richard Carlyle Lambert who perished while hiking in Utah.
The view of Mt. Hood was spectacular from the rock but the stiff breeze and cold air made for a short stay.
Barlow Butte to the left of Mt. Hood.
If not for the clouds to the south the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson would have also been visible from the rock.
Mt. Jefferson still behind some clouds.
Beyond Lambert Rock the trail dropped a bit into a saddle where another small rock cairn marked an unofficial cutoff trail to the left that leads downhill to FR 3560.
We continued to the right on the Barlow Butte Trail and 0.4 miles from Lambert Rock detoured to the right to what we hoped might be another viewpoint. Trees blocked the view north to Mt. Hood and east to Lookout Mountain. Again there would have been a decent view of Mt. Jefferson from this spot but we did have a good view west to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain above Mirror Lake (post)
Parts of Mt. Jefferson peaking through the clouds.
Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (with the rock fields near the top).
We continued on following the increasingly faint trail another third of a mile to it’s high point and another great view of Mt. Hood. While the trail was faint there were often cairns, blazes or diamonds marking the correct path.
Small cairns in a meadow.
One of the aforementioned diamonds.
Approaching the high point.
Clouds were starting to pass over Lookout Mountain at this point.
Mt. Hood from the high point of Barlow Ridge.
Up to this point the trail had been fairly easy to follow and there hadn’t been much blow down over it so we decided to continue along the ridge at least to the point where it started to steepen on it’s way down to Klingers Camp. For the next three quarters of a mile the trail was still visible at times and the occasional marker let us know we were still on the right course.
Carin in the trees ahead.
Elk or deer tracks leading the way.
Another section of frost.
We took this as a blaze.
That blaze led to this large cairn.
Things were starting to get interesting here.
Stopped here to listen for pikas, no luck though.
This could be trail.
Still on the right track, note the folded trail sign on the tree at center.
We lost the trail for good in a small beargrass meadow which was my fault. While I had brought a topographic map that showed where the trail was supposed to be I was navigating primarily based off of what I remembered reading from the Oregon Hikers field guide. I had remembered most of it well but had forgotten the part where “the trail swings off the ridge to the right….”. All I remembered was that the route eventually dropped steeply down the nose of a ridge. Not realizing it was the nose of a different ridge I kept us following Barlow Ridge for another 0.2 miles.
The small meadow.
Officially off-trail now.
This looked like a place the trail would go.
A final look at Mt. Hood from Barlow Ridge.
Not realizing that we were off the trail alignment we decided that the hiking had been easy enough up until now that we would go ahead and try for the loop. Down we headed looking in vain for any sign of trail. Several times we convinced ourselves that we’d found it, but it turns out if it was anything it was game trails.
This doesn’t look so bad.
One of several big trees we encountered.
Little orange mushrooms, how appropriate for Halloween.
Starting to encounter more debris.
If there had been a trail good luck finding it.
Heather coming down behind me.
We lost over 600′ of elevation in three quarters of a mile and things were only getting steeper. It was at this point that I turned my brain on and pulled the map out of Heather’s pack. I quickly saw what I’d done wrong, we were following the wrong ridge line down and should have been one ridge to the SW. The problem now was there was a stream bed between us. We backtracked up hill a bit and followed a game trail across the trickling stream and attempted to traverse over to the correct ridge.
Pretty decent game trail here.
This section was fun.
A bigger orange mushroom.
We struggled down and across, occasionally having to backtrack or veer uphill to find safer passage.
Uphill on this game trail.
Thickets of brush kept us from getting all the way over to the ridge we needed so we just kept going downhill knowing that we would eventually run into one of the forest roads at the bottom.
More steep fun.
We eventually made it to flat ground in a forest of young trees and ferns.
We could tell using our GPS that despite all of that we were only about two tenths of a mile from Klingers Camp. We were even closer to FR 240 and being tired of off-trail travel we headed straight for the road.
Look Ma a road!
We turned right on this road and followed it to a junction with Barlow Road.
It doesn’t look that steep from down here.
We turned right onto Barlow Road and followed it 150 yards to Klingers Camp.
After visiting the camp we continued on Barlow Road for five miles back to the Barlow Pass Trailhead. Along the way two pickups drove past us in the other direction. At the 1.6 mile mark we passed the Grindstone Campground and near the 4 mile mark the entrance to the Devil’s Half Acre Campground.
Western larches above Barlow Road.
Crossing Barlow Creek near Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.
Clouds on top of Mt. Hood towering over the trees.
Barlow Road at the campground.
Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.
We could have taken the Devil’s Half Acre Trail from the campground to the Barlow Butte Trail but we weren’t sure what the condition was and the Field Guide didn’t mention taking it so we played it safe and trudged up the road.
Finally back to where we’d left the road in the morning.
Arriving back at the Barlow Pass Trailhead
Before we attempted the crazy loop we had planned on also making the 2.2 mile round trip hike to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave on the other side of Barlow Pass and then stopping at the Castle Canyon Trail for a final short hike. Neither of us had any interest in making another stop at this point but we were interested in the grave site. Unfortunately Heather’s plantar was acting up. Surprisingly, given the lack of good ideas we’d displayed so far, we came up with a alternate plan. Heather would drive to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave Trailhead while I hiked the Barlow Wagon Road to it. The trailhead is located right next to the grave site so Heather didn’t have to worry about her plantar and now I only needed to hike a little over a mile downhill.
The first other people (not counting the two drivers in the pickups) that we’d seen all day.
I hustled down the wagon road stopping along the way at another nice Mt. Hood viewpoint.
I did take the time to walk down the road 60 yards to the East Fork Salmon River to check out some stonework and wagon ruts left by the emigrants.
East Fork Salmon River
The 10.5 mile loop hike turned into 12 miles due to our being off course and wandering around trying to figure out where we were going so my day wound up being just under 14 miles total with approximately 3100′ of elevation gain. Heather got all the elevation gain with 1.2 miles less traveled. I probably wouldn’t try that loop again but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of curious what it would be like to actually follow the field guide correctly. Happy Trails!
For reference here is where the trail is shown on the map we were carrying and here is a link to the map in the field guide.