Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Henline Falls and Henline Mountain – 06/14/2020

While 2010 is the year we consider the year we started hiking there were a few outings prior to 2009 that prompted our desire to become hikers. It took us a while to find our groove and 2009 was a good example of this. We were interested in hiking but didn’t really know what we were doing. We had a single guidebook (printed in 2004) that contained 280 hikes throughout the state but was light on the details of each hike. The book did have a very helpful 10 page section on hiking tips though that we took to heart. We had hoped to hike more regularly in 2009 but had a hard time deciding on where to go, often leaving it up to the day before of even the day we were thinking of hiking to decide where to go. That often resulted in a deferral to “next weekend” leaving us with only a couple of outings.

The only 2009 outing that we have photos from was our hike to Henline Falls in the Opal Creek Wilderness. Ironically this hike wasn’t in our guidebook but was suggested by a co-worker. At 2 miles round trip this was a hike we knew we could do, but being new to hiking it didn’t occur to us at the time that a July 27th outing was a little late in the year to see Henline Falls with anywhere near peak water volume.
Henline Falls

We were less than impressed with the waterfall that day and decided to also try the nearby Henline Mountain Trail which was also mentioned by my co-worker. We didn’t get far up that trail at all before the climb took it’s toll on certain members of our group (I won’t name names but you know who you are. :)) balked at the difficulty and we turned around.

Ten years and 10 1/2 months later it was finally time go back and finish the Henline Mountain Trail and revisit Henline Falls when there would be more water. The forecast called for a 30% chance of showers early, but later in the day for mostly sunny skies. Since starting early is what we do we were ready for some potentially wet conditions but it didn’t seem too bad as we drove through Elkhorn and to the junction of FR 2209 & 2207. The trailheads for Henline Falls and Henline Mountain are on FR 2209 but we had planned on making a quick stop at Sullivan Creek Falls along FR 2207 before starting our hikes.

We turned onto FR 2207 and followed it for 3.8 rough and wet miles to a pullout opposite Sullivan Creek Falls.

There were scramble trails on either side of the cascade with the one on the right hand side leading to a view part way up the falls.


IMG_5468The scramble trail.

It may have been possible to continue higher but it was really wet and slick so back down to the car I went. Heather was putting on her rain gear which I also did before driving back to FR 2209 and continuing to the Henline Falls Trailhead.

We set off on the Henline Falls Trails which quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness.

We were watching for the Ogle Mountain Trail which was approximately a half mile along the Henline Falls Trail. We were thinking of exploring this trail a bit after visiting the falls so we wanted to make sure we knew where it was. After passing a small trail that led into the brush we spotted the obvious Ogle Mountain Trail marked by an orange-red sign with an “X” on it.
IMG_5487Not the Ogle Mountain Trail.

IMG_5488The Ogle Mountain Trail on the right.

For now we kept left and continued another relatively level half mile to Henline Falls.



This time we could see why the falls were popular. The water was blasting down into the splash pool generating a lot of wind and mist. We skipped visiting the old mine shaft that is near the fall this time due to the slick rocks.
Abandoned mine shaft

After enjoying the falls we started back, briefly turning uphill on a steep trail that we thought might connect the Henline Falls and Ogle Mountain Trails, but we quickly turned around after consulting our GPS and seeing how much higher up the Ogle Mountain Trail was from where we were. We went back down to the Henline Falls Trail and followed it back to the junction with the Ogle Mountain Trail which we then turned up.

The Ogle Mountain Trail used to extend all the way to the Ogle Mountain, but the mine is on private property and the trail now effectively ends at the forest boundary. We were wanting to scout it out for a possible hike some other time to attempt to visit some of the “Family of Falls” located above Henline Falls on Henline Creek. The trail climbed much more steeply than we had anticipated but we seemed to be starting to level out a bit after .2 miles which is when I spotted a fair amount of poison oak encroaching on the trail. That combined with the climb convinced us to let the Ogle Mountain Trail remain a mystery, at least for now. We retreated to the Henline Falls Trail and returned to our car which we then drove to the Henline Mountain Trailhead.

It was still foggy but the rain had pretty much stopped as we started our climb up the Henline Mountain Trail. While there was some poison oak along the lower half of this trail it wasn’t crowding the trail like it had been on the Ogle Mountain Trial.
IMG_5559Penstemon with poison oak in the background along the trail near the trailhead.

This trail also quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness as it climbed relentlessly for 3 miles to the site of a former lookout.

At the lower elevations we spotted a couple of flowers that we had yet to see this year.
IMG_5563Little prince’s pine


After a little over three quarters of a mile we came to short spur trail that led to a viewpoint above a talus slope which we had crossed earlier.
IMG_5584Looking up at the viewpoint from the talus slope.

IMG_5606Spur trail to the viewpoint.

We still weren’t anywhere near the mostly sunny segment of the day so there was a very limited view from the rocky outcrop.

IMG_5611The trail passing through the talus slope below.

A quarter mile later we came to a second, larger viewpoint.

IMG_5624Penstemon at the viewpoint.

IMG_5628Oregon sunshine


IMG_5634I believe that is Rocky Top behind the clouds.

IMG_5639Blue sky to the west.

We continued climbing from this second viewpoint trading the occasional poison oak in for the more enjoyable beargrass and rhododendron blooms.


Despite the Sun making an occasional appearance we remained mostly in fog as we climbed. We kept our eyes out for different flowers along the way.
Neottia banksiana - Northwestern twaybladeNorthwestern twayblade








IMG_5705Penstemon (cliff beardtongue)

IMG_5708Oregon sunshine

At a switchback at the three mile mark we took a spur trail to the right to the former lookout site.

Instead of sitting at the summit of Henline Mountain the lookout was near a ridge end a mile from the summit and over 400′ lower.
IMG_5730The ridge end beyond where the lookout was.

IMG_5731Looking back toward the summit of Henline Mountain (it is beyond and above the visible trees).

There had been increasing breaks in the clouds, enough to give us some good looks at the seasonal Elkhorn Mountain Falls across the valley.
IMG_5734The falls are obsucred here by the clouds to the lower left.

Elkhorn Mountain FallsElkhorn Mountain Falls

IMG_5738Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_5740Mountain Ash

With no immediate end to the clouds in sight we returned to the Henline Mountain Trail. The official trail ends at the lookout but a volunteer maintained trail continues 1.1 mile to the actual summit so we turned right onto this trail and continued on. This section of trail finally had some downhill sections, which only meant uphill on the way back but we welcomed the change.

The reason for the ups and downs was that the trail followed a narrow ridge for a half mile. A section of the ridge was open offering views although we were still dealing with the clouds.

IMG_5749Oregon sunshine and cat’s ear lilies



raceme pussytoesRaceme pussytoes



The trail crossed from the east side of the ridge to the forested west side before crossing again to the east into a little meadow with a fair amount of phlox.





The trail steepened again for a bit before dropping one final time to a saddle before making its final ascent to the summit.
IMG_5802Heading uphill after the little meadow.

IMG_5806Snow in a basin below the trail.

IMG_5810Fawn lily

IMG_5814Jelly fungus

IMG_5816Heading down to the saddle below the summit.

The actual summit of Henline Mountain was a little rocky opening with lots of huckleberry bushes.

The trail continued an additional two hundred feet before petering out.
IMG_5824The end of the trail.

IMG_5822Bleeding heart near the end of the trail.

We took a decent break at the summit and had a snack. As we were just starting to leave a bit of a view broke out. It wasn’t much but it was something.

The cloud situation began to improve quite a bit as we headed back to the lookout site. By the time we arrived at the open section of ridge there was a good deal of blue sky overhead.


IMG_5847Looking west down the Little North Santiam River.

IMG_5852The high point to the left is Whetstone Mountain (post), the flat topped mountain straight ahead is Battle Ax Mountian (post), and to the right the double humps are the Marten Buttes (post)

IMG_5854Closer look at Battle Ax Mountain.

We stopped at the lookout site again and took another short break now that we could see a little more of the surroundings.

IMG_5861Rocky Top still with a little cloud and Elkhorn Mountain in the foreground.

IMG_5865Looking back at Henline Mountain’s summit.

IMG_5868Whetstone Mountain (center high point) with Bull-of-the Woods (post), Schreiner Peak, and North and South Dickey Peaks over its shoulder to the left.

IMG_5871Looking west

IMG_5875Yellow rumped warbler at the lookout site.

We continued down under increasingly blue skies.
IMG_5883Looking up at the ridge end of the former lookout site from below.

IMG_5889Chipmunk drying out on the rocks.

We also stopped again briefly at the larger viewpoint to see the difference there now.
IMG_5896Looking east

IMG_5902Looking south

IMG_5899Looking west

Rusty saxifrageRusty saxifrage at the viewpoint.

We had encountered three people between the Henline Falls Hike and the summit of Henline Mountain. It was a different story on our way down as we passed a number of hikers coming up. When we got back to the trailhead we noticed several cars illegally parked outside of the designated area along FR 2209 and it was the same at Henline Falls despite the presence of posted signs. It’s disappointing to see how many people are willing to ignore the rules. Please don’t be one of those people, either arrive at your hikes early or have backup plans if things don’t work out at your first choice. Disregarding the rules (even if you think they’re dumb) sets a bad example. Let’s do better. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Henline Falls and Henline Mountain

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Bull of the Woods Lookout & Pansy Lake – 8/16/2019

For the 5th hike of our vacation we finally got around to one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we hadn’t done yet, Pansy Lake.  Pansy Lake is located in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in a basin below the Bull of the Woods Lookout.  In his guidebook Sullivan has you start the hike from the Pansy Lake Trailhead which is just over a mile from the lake. He gives two options, a 2.4 mile out-and-back to Pansy Lake or a 7.1 mile loop past the lake up to the lookout and then back down passing Dickey Lake along the way. Either of these options would have caused us to break our self-imposed rule against driving for more time than we spend hiking due to the driving time to the Pansy Lake Trailhead being roughly 2:45 for us. Fortunately Sullivan also mentions the option of starting at the Bull of the Woods Trailhead for an easier hike to the lookout. The Bull of the Woods Trailhead was about a 15 minute closer drive and it added almost 3 miles to the round trip which provided an acceptable drive/hike ratio.

With our plan in place we set off on the drive which proved to be a bit of an anomaly. The trailhead is located at the end of Forest Road 6340. Where the road was good it was an excellent gravel road but there were a couple of ugly obstacles along the way. The first was a slide that covered the road, half of which was impassable while the spot that could be driven over required a very slow, bumpy crossing (high clearance is probably necessary until it gets cleaned up). This was prior to a fork where the right hand fork (FR 6341) continued to the Pansy Lake Trailhead. After this fork sections of FR 6340 were deeply rutted by channels created by runoff again requiring careful placement of tires. We arrived at the trailhead no worse for wear though and set off on the signed trail.


The first few hundred yards were a little brushy but soon the vegetation gave way to a huckleberry filled forest.




There were ripe berries everywhere and they were big juicy berries too. In fact for most of the day there were ripe berries available and we ate quite a few. We weren’t the only ones feasting on berries though as we counted no less than 13 piles of berry filled bear scat along the trails.

Although we kept our eyes open for a bear all we ran into on the trail was a rough skinned newt.


The Bull of the Woods Trail climbed gradually as it passed below North and South Dickey Peaks.

A little over 2.25 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Dickey Lake Trail. We would be coming back up that trail later after visiting Pansy and Dickey Lakes.

As the trail continued to climb we were treated to a couple of different views. First was to the west across the Pansy Lake Basin.

A little further along, when the trail crested the ridge, we got a look a Mt. Hood which was rising above some clouds.

The trail left the ridge for a bit and then regained it where the view also included Mt. Jefferson to the SE.
IMG_6763Mt. Hood

IMG_6772Mt. Jefferson

The trail then followed a narrow rocky ridge passing below the lookout and coming up to it from the other side, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.




A lizard scurried into the rocks beneath the lookout as we approached. Aside from a bit of morning haze the view was great. The clouds to the north hid the Washington volcanoes from sight but Mt. Hood stood out just fine.


To the south Mt. Jefferson was cloud free and so was Three Fingered Jack for a bit. Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters played peek-a-boo through the clouds though.

IMG_6796Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6846Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

In the basin to the NE Big Slide Lake (post) was visible.


To the SW the flat topped Battle Ax Mountain (post) rose up above the surrounding peaks.

We sat below the lookout for awhile enjoying the cool morning air as we watched the procession of clouds around us. After our break we headed steeply downhill via switchbacks for just over half a mile to the Mother Lode Trail.

IMG_6855Bull of the Woods Trail ending at the Mother Lode Trail.

We turned right onto the Mother Lode Trail.

We continued to descend as we followed this trail for approximately 1.25 miles, passing a viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson shortly before arriving at another junction.



We turned right again, this time onto the Pansy Lake Trail.

More downhill hiking ensued as we dropped into the basin. The trail was a bit rockier than the others and passed over a couple of talus fields.

We’re always on the lookout for pikas and have had quite a bit of luck in spotting them this year, enough so that we have started calling it “the year of the pika”. As we came to the second section of talus Heather spotted one of the little “rock rabbits” scurrying along the hillside.


After talking to the pika (I don’t know why but we tend to have a lot of one sided conversations with the wildlife) we continued on. Shortly before reaching the lake we found a couple of ripe thimbleberries, they were delicious.

IMG_6885First look at Pansy Lake.


We passed by the lake and reached a junction .8 miles from the Mother Lode Trail. We turned left and quickly arrived at the lake where we were a bit surprised that we were the only people there.


We wandered around the lake passing through numerous empty campsites before finding a little log to sit on by the lake where we could watch the dragonflies and ducks.




After a short break we returned to the trail junction and turned left continuing on the Pansy Lake Trail for another .2 miles to the Dickey Lake Trail junction.

It was time to climb now and we headed up the Dickey Lake Trail which climbed relatively steeply at times. After .6 miles we came to a spur trail on the right which led down to Dickey Lake.


The lake was quite a bit smaller than Pansy Lake and a lot brushier. After getting a look we returned to the Dickey Lake Trail and continued the climb back up to the Bull of the Woods Trail. A bit beyond the lake the trail passed through a little meadow with some remaining wildflowers and a few more thimbleberries.




We gained approximately 800′ over the next .8 miles before reaching the junction. There was a few more downed trees along this trail than we had encountered on any of the others but none of them were too troublesome.

We turned left onto the Bull of the Woods Trail and followed back to the car getting one last look at Mt. Hood along the way.

With the extra exploring around the lakes we wound up doing 10.6 miles (for the third time in the week). We both thought that the elevation gain doing the loop from the Pansy Lake Trailhead would have been quite a bit worse so the extra miles were worth it in our minds, plus it gave us that much more time to eat berries. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pansy Lake and Bull of the Woods Lookout

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Opal Pool – 7/24/19

As luck would have it one of our weeks of vacation coincided with a visit from my brother and his family from Missouri. We offered to take them on a hike and they accepted so we tried to come up with a worthy “Oregon” hike. We decided on the hike to Jawbone Flats and the Opal Pool. We had been to Jawbone Flats three other times, twice on the Whetstone Mountain Loop (post) and in 2012 (prior to starting this blog) using the route we planned on taking this time.

We picked them up at my parents house and headed for the Opal Creek Trailhead. My parents were also going to do at least part of the hike at their own pace so they drove separately.

We hiked the gated road to Jawbone Flats for a little over two miles to the site of the former Merten Mill. Equipment from the 1943 lumber mill can still be seen including the old boiler but the mill itself is now gone. Along the way we passed over Gold Creek at the .4 mile mark, crossed over wooden half-bridges along cliffs, and entered the areas famous Douglas fir forest.
IMG_4192Gold Creek

IMG_4201Fireweed along one of the half-bridges.

20190724_090256Beetle on a half-bridge.

IMG_4209Creek in the forest.

IMG_4211Boiler at the Merten Mill site.

Old building along the trailMerten Mill in 2012

A day-use trail leads down to Sawmill Falls from the old mill site.

Being a weekday and still relatively early (we left at 7am instead of our usual 5am because I’m a nice big brother ;)) there was no one else at the falls. We spent some time watching fish swim in the pools and admiring the clear water of the Little North Santiam River. At one point an ouzel stopped by to take a dip.
IMG_4213Fish in the pool below the falls.

IMG_4215Little North Santiam River

IMG_4220Sawmill Falls


After carefully exploring the rocks around the falls we returned to the trail and continued nearly a quarter mile to a signed fork. Here we turned right on the Opal Creek/Kopetski Trail and crossed the river on a footbridge.



Having left the road we were now on an actual trail which made a series of ups and downs along the hillside. When the trail was close to the river we took the opportunity to visit the water where after a little searching we found a couple of rough skinned newts.


IMG_4240Ridiculously clear water.

IMG_4245Newt floating in a small pool.

IMG_4249Cascade along the river.


When the trail was away from the water there was a lot of berry picking going on. We had managed to find a few ripe thimble and salmon berries along with a variety of huckleberries while hiking the road but it was all huckleberries along the Opal Creek Trail.

IMG_4266Red huckleberries

After 1.3 miles on the Opal Creek Trail we arrived at Opal Pool. There were a few other people here including to our surprise my parents who had apparently passed us at some point while we were down along the river.




IMG_4286Bridge over the river above Opal Pool

IMG_4293Little North Santiam River below Opal Pool

IMG_4297Opal Pool Falls

My parents had missed Sawmill Falls so we let them know where to turn off on their way back. We stayed at the pool for awhile watching some cliff jumpers before crossing the footbridge and heading for Jawbone Flats.
IMG_4302Cliff jumpers sitting down by the pool.

IMG_4305Opal Pool Falls from the bridge.

Approximately a quarter mile from the Opal Pool we arrived at Jawbone Flats, a 1930s mining town that is now a non-profit educational center.





IMG_4323Pelton Shed provides power to Jawbone Flats.

Battle Ax Creek flows through town.


From Jawbone Flats it was a 1.2 mile road walk back to the junction with the Opal Creek/Kopetski Trail and then the 2.1 miles back to the trailhead. Many more berries were consumed along the way. Our niece, Rebekkah, spotted two garter snakes on the hike out.
IMG_4349One of the garter snakes.

IMG_4352A millipede

We were fortunate to have had a lot of trail and river time to ourselves as a steady stream of people were headed in as we exited. My brother said he could see why we go as early as we do.

With the combination of old growth forest, crystal clear water, a couple of waterfalls, and lots of ripe berries it had been a good choice for a hike. Without any wandering around it would be a 7.1 mile hike, but with several explorations along the river my GPS had me at 9.1 miles. Everyone survived though and seemed to have a good time and my parents did make it to Sawmill Falls before heading home themselves. It was a lot of fun to be able share this hike with Jason and his family and we are already preparing for a “next time”. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Opal Creek

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

French Creek Ridge

After visiting the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on our previous hike we paid a visit to the neighboring Opal Creek Wilderness. Our choice of trail was the French Creek Ridge Trail staring at the west trailhead. We had been to this trailhead before when we headed east from the trailhead to Phantom Bridge in 2011. (post) The road to the trailhead was in worse shape than we’d remembered including a short section of narrow road along a steep drop off with some trenching and potholes. It was only a couple hundred feet but it didn’t look like it would take much for that section of FR 2207 to become impassible.

Road 2207 was worse for the ware but that wasn’t the case at the trailhead where the sign board was in better shape than the one that had been present in 2011.

French Creek Ridge Trailhead

We headed down the trail following an old roadbed into the Opal Creek Wilderness.

The lightly used trail suffers a bit from a lack of maintenance but there were some signs that the first bit of trail had seen some recent brush removal.

The trail passes the Marten Buttes on the north side of the ridge beneath some impressive basalt cliffs. Along this stretch were some open views across the Opal Creek Wilderness.




When the trail was crossing over talus slopes it passed through a mixed forest with a few remaining wildflowers.

IMG_8611Washington lilies


IMG_8782False hellebore

After a mile and a half we crossed over a saddle to the south side of the ridge. Looking back to the west we could see one of the Marten Buttes.

Views from this side of the ridge also included several Cascade peaks.

IMG_8644Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8635Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters with Coffin Mountain in the foreground.

The brushing out of the trail only covered a bit of the trail at the beginning and now it was a bit more overgrown when it wasn’t passing through the rockier sections.

Luckily much of the trail did pass through rocky sections as it bounced from the south to north side of the ridge then back to the south again.



After approximately 2.75 miles we arrived at a signed junction with the Beachie Trail.


We took the left fork and followed the Beachie Trail steeply downhill for a little over a quarter mile before climbing an additional quarter mile back to the ridge top. This section was extremely overgrown but well marked by pink flagging.


We then followed the trail uphill along the ridge for another .7 miles. The official trail bypasses the summit of Mount Beachie but not by much and a short bushwack led us to the small flat summit.

Smoke from wildfires made for a hazy view but with the naked eye peaks from Mt. Adams south to Diamond Peak were visible except for Mt. Hood which was hidden behind Battle Ax Mountain in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (post)
IMG_8730Mt. Adams


IMG_8728Battle Ax Mountain

We sat at the summit for a bit before heading back. On the return trip the butterflies were out and so was a friendly wren who posed for a bit before disappearing into the forest.




The round trip was approximately 8 miles with just under 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain. Most of the flowers were past so an early July visit would likely be better timing for those. There were a few mosquitoes present making stopping in the trees a bad idea but they were less of a bother along the open rocky slopes. A nice trail and one that you’re likely to have all to yourself. Happy Trails!

Flickr: French Creek Ridge

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon

Bagby Trail to Silver King Lake

There are a number of trailheads that have earned bad reputations due to the frequency of car break-ins and for years the Bagby Hot Springs Trailhead has been near the top of the list. In 2012 the Mt. Hood National Forest contracted with a private company to manage the hot springs which came with a $5 per person fee to soak in the hot springs (parking at the TH is free if you’re just hiking along the Bagby Trail), but it also allowed for someone to keep an eye on the trailhead parking lot from May through October. Even with someone patrolling the parking area we made sure to leave nothing of value in our car as we set off toward Bagby Hot Springs.

The trail almost immediately crossed Nohom Creek on a nice footbridge.



The wide trail then passes though a nice old growth forest.



Unfortunately the beauty of the scenery was somewhat lessened by the presence of glitter (why), graffiti, tree carvings, and toilet paper along this section. It was quite obvious that a portion of the people drawn to the hot springs had no regard or respect for the forest itself. Luckily the hot springs were only 1.5 miles up the trail and beyond them we didn’t see these types of issues.

Shortly before the hot springs the trail crossed the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River on another long footbridge.



Less than a quarter mile from the bridge the trail arrived at the Bagby Hot Springs Forest Camp. Several buildings remain from the forest camp with the bathhouse, picnic area, and hot tub on the eastern side of the trail.



Beyond the forest camp the trail entered the Bull of the Woods Wilderness.

The trail remained fairly wide as it made it’s way to Shower Creek Falls near the two mile mark.



The trail traversed the hillside above the Hot Springs Fork passing several campsites closer to the river below. Views were limited by the presence of the old growth forest which is a fine trade-off.


IMG_8506Whetstone Mountain (post)

We did pass through a couple of areas where there had been fire activity at some point. In these areas the huckleberries were abundant.



The trail crossed many side creeks, some dry, others not, before arriving at a crossing of the Hot Springs Fork near the six mile mark.

The water level was low enough that we were able to rock hop across keeping our feet dry.

Not long after the crossing we spotted a waterfall through the trees. We decided to attempt to bushawack over to it to get a closer look and were rewarded with what wound up being the highlight of the hike.


The trail had been gradually climbing with a few ups and downs prior to crossing the Hot Springs Fork. The gradual climb continued for approximately another half mile and then the Bagby Trail decided it needed to gain some elevation. Over the next mile the trail gained nearly 550′. At the 7.5 mile mark we arrived a junction with the Silver King Lake Trail.

We followed this .2 mile trail uphill to Silver King Lake.


The campsite at the lake was unoccupied but the lake itself was full of rough skinned newts.


There wasn’t much of a view from the lake but from the NE side there was a good view of Sliver King Mountain across the water.

We rested on some logs at the campsite since there wasn’t really anywhere to sit along the brushy lake and there were a few more mosquitoes closer to the water. After a snack and some stretching we headed back the way we’d come. It was a fairly uneventful return trip. We had expected to see quite a few more people on the way out after only seeing a couple of people at the bathhouse and two backpackers at campsites further along that morning. We did pass a couple of hikers prior to reaching Shower Creek Falls where we encountered a small group cooling off in the falls. There were several more people at Bagby Hot Springs but it didn’t seem crowded which we attributed to the heat thinking that hot springs didn’t seem as appealing on such a hot day. We passed a handful of people between the hot springs and the trailhead where there were still plenty of parking spaces left and our car had been untouched.

Our hike was a little over 16 miles round trip due to some of the off trail activity making for a long hike but it was a nice one. The Bagby Trail beyond the hot springs was at times overgrown and had some blowdown along it, but it offered a feeling of solitude which is always a plus to us. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bagby Trail to Silver King Lake

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Elk Lake Creek – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

While we continue to work on completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks we occasionally take a break from that pursuit and take a hike recommended from another source. Our recent hike along the Elk Lake Creek Trail was one such outing.

Using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” we drove to the northern end of the Elk Lake Creek Trail.
Elk Lake Creek Trailhead

After a short forested section the trail traversed a burnt hillside above Elk Lake Creek.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington Lilies above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington lilies

Elk Lake Creek

As the gap between the creek and trail narrowed we passed a pair of small waterfalls leading into green pools. A small amount of bushwhacking was required to get the best views.
Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek

The burned section ended just before entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness near Pine Cone Creek at the 1.1 mile mark.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek Trail entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Pine Cone Creek

Beyond Pine Cone Creek the trail entered a fir forest with rhododendron and ripening huckleberries.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Just before the two mile mark we arrived at a crossing of Knob Rock Creek.
Sign for Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Just around a ridge end from Knob Rock Creek was Welcome Creek which had a couple of nice little waterfalls.
Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

A short climb from Welcome Creek brought us to a junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail.
Welcome Lakes Trail

Welcome Lakes Trail sign

That trail climbs 2000′ in three miles through mostly burned forest to Welcome Lakes, a trip for another time. We stayed straight on the Elk Lake Creek Trail (Trail 559).
Elk Lake Creek Trail

From the junction the trail descended for two tenths of a mile to a ford of Elk Lake Creek. We had originally planned to do this hike last June but the high snow pack had left creek running high well into June making the fords of Elk Lake Creek dangerous. With a much lower snow pack this year the ford was only knee deep and not swift.
Elk Lake Creek ford

Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek ford

On the far side of the creek I nearly stepped on a rough skinned newt. He high tailed it off the trail and tried to disguise himself as a piece of bark.
Rough skinned newt

Rough skinned newt

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through old-growth forest just a bit away from the creek but it was always within earshot and often eye sight.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek

Just over 3.25 miles from the trailhead the trail arrived at a viewpoint above an emerald pool.
Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

We spent a good deal of time marveling at the colors here on the creek before continuing on. Beyond the emerald pool a small section of trail had been claimed by a stream.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We reached the second knee deep ford of Elk Lake Creek 0.4 miles from the pool.
Elk Lake Creek

On the far side, the trail became a bit brushy as it continued near the creek skirting a hillside of rocks.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Hillside above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

As soon as we were past the rock fields the trail reentered the forest.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We faced another ford near the 5 mile mark, this time of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

Battle Creek

Just two tenths of a mile later we had reached our original goal – the junction with the Mother Lode Trail (Trail 558).
Elk Lake Creek Trail junction with the Mother Lode Trail

Mother Lode Trail

The Elk Lake Creek Trail continued from the junction and would have eventually brought us to Elk Lake after nearly another 4 miles but continuing from the junction meant climbing up a ridge. Instead of turning back here though we decided to hike a short distance up the Mother Lode Trail to visit Mother Lode Creek. This looked to involve much less climbing so off we went to yet another ford of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

We soon entered forest burned in the 2010 View Lake Fire Complex and after a half mile on this trail came to a junction with the now abandoned Geronimo Trail.
Mother Lode Trail junction with the abandoned Geronimo Trail

What appeared to be a homemade sign marked that trail and its tread was still visible heading uphill into the burn.
Old Geronimo Trail

Mother Lode Creek was just a short distance away and we hiked down to it before turning back.
Sign for Mother Lode Creek

Mother Lode Creek

We returned the way we’d come stopping again at the emerald pool which was now in the sunlight. We watched fish swimming in the clear water for a bit before continuing on.
Emerald pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek


The hike was a little over 11.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of total elevation gain and 5 fords (I forded Mother Lode Creek to get a picture of its sign). One of the things we really enjoyed about the hike was that there were several “attractions” along the way with the small waterfalls, the emerald pool, and the old-growth forest in general. There were a few mosquitoes around but one spraying of DEET seemed to keep most of them at bay. This makes for a great early summer hike as long as the water levels make the fords possible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk Lake Creek

Bend/Redmond Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Central Oregon Hiking Mt. St. Helens Newberry Crater Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Throwback Thursday – Odds and Ends

With this Throwback Thursday post we will have covered all the trails that we hiked prior to starting this blog and have not been part of a subsequent hike that was featured here. We are combining several hikes in one for a couple of reasons. The remaining hikes were all relatively short, some we have few if any pictures, and one was done on the same day that we did another hike that we did again after we started the blog.

Many of our earliest hikes were centered around Bend, OR and were part of vacations prior to 2010 when we first started to be serious about hiking. These were hikes of opportunity more than conscious efforts to go on a hike.

One such was the 3 mile loop around Suttle Lake. We were staying at one of the cabins at the Suttle Lake Resort and decided to take the trail around the lake. The level hike offered views of the lake and of bald eagles and osprey as they soared over the lake watching for fish. On that hike we didn’t even carry a camera.

Another camera-less but worthwhile hike was the Lava River Cave. This mile long lava tube south of Bend is a great stop for kids and adults and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lava Lands or the High Desert Museum.

In 2007, while in Bend on vacation in July, we hiked up Pilot Butte. A mile long trail in the middle of town leads up to the top of the 4148′ summit which offers view on a clear day north to Mt. Adams in Washington.
Mountain locator on Pilot Butte

It was a bit hazy during this visit but the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Mt. Bachelor to the Three Sisters were still visible.
Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mt., Ball Butte, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters

On that same trip we took a stroll along the Deschutes River Trail from the Mt. Bachelor Village upriver to a footbridge and returned on a loop via Reed Market Road.
Deschutes River

Geese on the Deschutes River

Scarlet gilia

Deer along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, OR

Deschutes River

Grand Collomia

The hikes weren’t all in Central Oregon. On 7/27/2009 we completed the 1.8 mile round trip to Henline Falls from the Henline Falls Trailhead. The trail is approximately 45 minutes east of Salem and features an old mine shaft near the waterfall.
Henline Falls

Abandoned mine shaft

Abandonded mine shaft

We also started up the nearby Henline Mountain Trail (trailhead) that day but were not in decent enough shape to make it very far.

The final short hike along Lava Canyon near Mt. St. Helens was done after our first hike to Ape Canyon on 9/17/2012. We went back to Ape Canyon in 2015 (post) but that time we did Ape Cave for the other hike.

After finishing our Ape Canyon hike in 2012 we walked from the Ape Canyon Trailhead .25 miles to the Lava Canyon Trailhead.
Trail map near Lava Canyon

A .4 mile trail leads down to the start of a short half mile loop.
Lava Canyon Trail sign

We stayed left at the start of the loop staying on the west side of the Muddy River. A footbridge led across the river above Lava Canyon Falls which was below the trail but mostly obscured.
Lava Canyon Trail sign at the start of the loop

Lava Canyon Falls

Just .2 miles from the first bridge the loop crosses the river on a suspension bridge.
Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Upstream from the suspension bridge the Muddy River careens down Triple Falls.
Triple Falls

A .3 mile trail returns to the footbridge along the river along the eastern bank.
Muddy River

Muddy River

Upper Lava Canyon Falls

Henline Falls, Henline Mountain, and Lava Canyon are all in our future plans and reliving these and all our other Throwback Thursday hikes has been a lot of fun. Even though the information is dated hopefully they have provided some additional ideas for places to visit here in the Pacific Northwest. As always check with the managing agencies for current trail conditions before heading out. Happy Trails!

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Little North Santiam River

Our Throwback Thursday hike this week was the first time that we experienced snowfall while on a trail. In early April of 2012 we headed to the Little North Santiam, West Trailhead for what we hoped would be a 9 mile out-and-back hike along the Little North Santiam River.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

The area has become so popular on summer weekends that in June 2017 the Forest Service put several restrictions in place (information). Most of the issues have been north bank of the river which is easily accessed by car. Even in 2012 we knew to avoid the warm days of summer so we were there on a cold, wet Spring morning ready to go.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

Little North Santaim Trail

The Little North Santiam Trail led through a green forest along the Little North Santiam River.
Winter Creek

Little North Santaim River

Several side paths led down to the clear water.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Low clouds provided a light drizzle but we could see high enough up the hillside to see that snow level wasn’t all that much more above us.
Snowy trees not too much higher up

After crossing Winter Creek the trail climbed away from the river as it passed through a narrow canyon.
Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

After passing the canyon the trail descended back down to the river through a mossy green forest.
Little North Santaim Trail

Forest along the Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

At the 3.3 mile mark we passed above the Three Pools which are emerald pools in the river separated by small falls.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

A little beyond the Three Pools the trail crosses Little Cedar Creek on a footbridge only the footbridge had been washed out over the winter and the creek was flowing high enough and fast enough to make the thought of fording unattractive. We were only about half a mile from the eastern trailhead but had to turn back.

As we headed back it began to snow.
Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

It was coming down steadily and beginning to stick.
Snow along the Little North Santiam Trail

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Things looked quite a bit different at the high point of the trail when we passed over on the way back.
Little North Santaim Trail

Fresh snow on the Little North Santiam Trail

As we descended the amount of snow lessened but it still made for some beautiful scenery.
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

There was even a bit of snow at the trailhead when we got back.
Fresh snow at the Little North Santiam Trailhead

The snow had surprised us and we were a little nervous at first about being able to see the trail, which was unfounded but we hadn’t hiked in snow like that before. It wound up being an exceptionally beautiful hike though and so much nicer than it would have been with hundreds of people swimming in the river. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little North Santiam River

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Dome Rock

In July of 2010 we made our first attempt to hike to Phantom Bridge (we finally made it in 2011 on our third try). A washout had closed access to the most popular trailheads and the trailheads shown in our guidebook, the Phantom Bridge Trailhead and the French Creek Trailhead – West. This left us looking for an alternate route to the natural arch and while I was doing some research on the Willamette National Forest website I came across the French Creek Trailhead – East. I was able to find a photo at the time online of a sign at this trailhead along Forest Road 458.

It was going to make the hike quite a bit longer than necessary but we were obsessed with seeing the Phantom Bridge. From Detroit, OR we followed the directions from the Forest Service website to FR 480. The road was narrow and exposed with steep drop-offs which made it one of the more nerve wracking drives to date. The road conditions weren’t as bad as some we’ve driven but the scare factor was high. We watched the odometer but when we had gone the correct distance we saw no sign of the trailhead. After finding a place where we could turn around (the road was blocked by a small rockslide beyond) we slowly backtracked looking for any signs of a trail.

Instead of continuing to search for a trailhead that we now weren’t even sure existed anymore we decided to get down off the scary road and try something else. When we were back down to safer roads we consulted our guidebook and discovered that just 2.3 miles west of Detroit along Highway 22 was the Tumble Creek South Trailhead. A 10.3 mile hike from this trailhead would take us to the former lookout site atop Dome Rock and back.

The thought of a trailhead that didn’t require any more driving on Forest Roads was too tempting to pass up so we drove west of Detroit on Highway 22 and parked on the north shoulder at a gated road bed nest to Tumble Creek. The actual trail started .4 miles up the closed road at a small trail sign.
Tumble Ridge Trail

The trail climbed steeply uphill making several switchbacks. Occasional views could be of Detroit Lake and several Cascade peaks.
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Detroit LakeDetroit Lake

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Mt. Washington and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

Park Ridge and Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The trail passed through a brushy area at an old road bed near the Margie Dunham Spring approximately 3 1/4 miles from the old road bed along Tumble Creek.
Tumble Ridge Trail

From there the climb became more gradual as it passed a couple of interesting rock formation including one dubbed “Toilet Rock”.
Toilet Rock

About a mile from the Margie Dunham Spring we came to the junction with the trail up to Dome Rock. Here we turned right climbing a final .5 miles to the old lookout site. The view was great from the summit and included the top of Mt. Hood to the north and Tumble Lake below to the NW. It was also our first good look at the distinctively flat topped Coffin Mountain (post).
View from Dome Rock Coffin and Bachelor Mountains in front of Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and The Three Sisters

Tumble LakeTumble Lake

Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonClose up of Mt. Jefferson

After admiring the view we returned to the Tumble Lake Trail. We briefly considered continuing to Tumble Lake but it was another 1.7 miles just to get to the lake meaning 3.4 additional miles in all plus we would lose around 800′ of elevation going down to the lake and we had already climbed over 3250′. Maybe next time. Instead we retraced our steps down to Highway 22 and headed back to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dome Rock

Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon

Throwback Thursday – Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike is the last of the hikes we did prior to starting this blog that are currently not on our schedule of future hikes. On July 10, 2011 we made our second attempt to visit Phanton Bridge (post).

This hike wasn’t included in any of our guide books (we would discover why) and only came to our attention as I was researching possible routes to reach Phantom Bridge. On the Willamette National Forest website I noticed that it appeared possible to follow the Elkhorn Ridge Trail east to the natural bridge. The route appeared a bit longer than the others I knew of but the road to the trailhead was open unlike Forest Service Road 2223 which was closed by a washout at the time.

The shot up remains of a trail sign marked the beginning of the trail as it set off along a forested ridge line with views of Rocky Top and Henline Mountain.
Elkhorn Ridge Trailhead

Rocky TopRocky Top

Henline MountainHenline Mountain

The trail was a bit faint with occasional patches of snow remaining from an unusually late melting snowpak that year.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Snow along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail

As we continued to make our way along the ridge we spotted Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson through the trees.
Mt. HoodMt. Hood

Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

The further along we went the fainter the trail got and we found ourselves relying on pink flagging to mark the way. We had a map but it wasn’t an adequate map and even if we’d had a proper topographic map we were not yet experienced enough to have been able to use it properly. We also didn’t have a GPS unit yet. Shortly after the trail emerged from the trees and began to drop along the north side of the ridge we wound up losing it.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

After a couple of minutes searching from the next flagging we decided to call it and turned around. This was one of several outings in 2011 that really helped hammer home just how important having the proper tools and knowledge of how to use them was going to be if we were serious about this hiking thing.

We estimate that we only went a little over a mile of the approximate 3 miles to Phantom Bridge before turning back. I have no doubt that if we were to attempt this hike with the experience we have now we’d have no trouble reaching Phantom Bridge, but turning around that day was the right call. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Ridge Trail