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Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows – 6/21/2020

For the final hike of our vacation we were looking for something relatively close to home that we had not done before. While we had visited the Table Rock Wilderness twice before (post) both of the previous hikes started from the Table Rock Trailhead. Two of our guidebooks contained hikes starting at the Old Bridge Trailhead which would allow us to do a predominately new hike in the BLM managed wilderness.

One author (Sullivan) suggested a 6.4 mile loop utilizing the High Ridge and Bull Creek Trails as well as Rooster Rock Road while the other author’s (Reeder) suggested hike was a 10.8 mile out and back to Rooster Rock on the High Ridge Trail. We decided to combine the two and visit the meadow below Rooster Rock and then return via the Bull Creek Trail/Rooster Rock Road route described by Sullivan. We parked at the Old Bridge Trailhead which had it’s pros and cons.
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Trailhead sign at the Old Bridge Trailhead.

On the pro side the entire drive to the trailhead is on paved roads. On the con side the trailhead is at a gravel pit used for target shooting and there were a lot of empty shell casings as well as litter in the immediate vicinity.

The first few feet of the trail were nearly hidden by thimblerry bushes but after passing through them the trail was obvious and well maintained.
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IMG_7385A second signboard just up the trail from the trailhead.

There was a chance of showers in the forecast that never materialized, but it was foggy and the fog left the vegetation wet which in turn made us increasingly wet as we brushed against the leaves.
IMG_7389Wet leaves around an iris.

One thing that we’ve come to expect from hikes in this wilderness is a good climb and this portion of the High Ridge Trail was no exception. Starting at an elevation just over 1200′ the trail climbed 1800′ in 2.5 miles to a junction with the Image Creek and Bull Creek Trails. The majority of the climb is through a mature forest but at the 2.4 mile mark a small wildflower meadow awaits.
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IMG_7423Rhododendron

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IMG_7448The small wildflower meadow.

We’d timed it fairly well for the flower display but the fog made it a little hard to get the full effect of colors.
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IMG_7452Paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and plectritis

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IMG_7472Blue-eyed Mary

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The trail briefly reentered the forest before coming to a second, larger meadow in .1 miles.
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IMG_7490Balsamroot at the edge of the meadow.

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IMG_7491Larger meadow

This meadow was quite a bit larger with a few additional types of flowers present but it was also disappointingly foggy.
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IMG_7518Possibly a milk-vetch or some sort of vetch.

On the far side of the meadow we arrived at the wide 4-way junction with the Image Creek Trail on the left, the Bull Creek Trail on the right, and the continuation of the High Ridge Trail straight ahead.
IMG_7525Image Creek Trail and the High Ridge Trail.

We stuck to the High Ridge Trail which launched uphill. The trail gained the ridge and leveled out for a bit before another steep climb. There were a few dips along the way as the trail was forced to leave the ridge to drop under rock outcroppings which just increased the amount of climbing needed.
IMG_7535One of the sets of rocks along the way.

IMG_7543In the middle of one of the climbs.

IMG_7552The trail leveling off a bit.

Approximately 2 miles from the junction we came to the first of a series of small meadows, each with a slightly different feel.
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IMG_7591Oregon sunshine

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Olympic onionOlympic onion

IMG_7635Back in the trees.

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IMG_7647The next little meadow.

IMG_7656Larkspur and blue-eyed Mary

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IMG_7661Trees again.

IMG_7662Another meadow

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Just under 3 miles from the junction we arrived at the meadow below Rooster Rock. This was the first part of the hike that was familiar to us having visited Rooster Rock on both our previous trips to the wilderness.
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We were just a week or two early for the full false sunflower display but a few of the blossoms had opened and there were plenty of other flowers blooming.
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We turned left at a “Y” junction with the Saddle Trail and climbed to, wait for it…. a saddle between Rooster Rock and Chicken Rock. With the fog we couldn’t really see either rock formation but we knew they were there. While Rooster Rock is taller there is no trail to it, but there is one up to Chicken Rock and we headed up despite knowing that there would be no views of Mt. Jefferson today. There was a lot of colorful clumps of purple and pink penstemon though.
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The rocks were at least a good spot to take a short rest and have a bit to eat. We were occasionally able to make out the shape of Rooster Rock across the saddle as we sat.
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Mt. Jefferson to the left and the Three Sister to the right of Rooster RockFor comparison.

After our break we explored a little more of the meadow along the High Ridge Trail looking for any types of flowers that we might have missed earlier.
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We headed back along the High Ridge Trail to the junction with the Bull Creek Trail. The three miles back to the junction were pretty uneventful except for startling an unexpected hiker who we thought had seen us but hadn’t. He was in the middle of the trail and when he didn’t move we noticed he had ear buds in. I said hi and he about jumped off the trail. He wasn’t expecting to see anyone else on the trail he said. We wished him luck with the view as it was supposed to clear up at some point during the day and continued on our way.

By the time we arrived at the junction the fog had at least lifted so we took a faint user trail out to the edge of the big meadow from the Bull Creek Trail to take another look.
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After returning to the trail we noticed a smaller meadow on the opposite side that was bursting with color.
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It was mostly plectritis and Oregon sunshine but Heather managed to spot a couple of yellow monkeflowers.
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20200621_120104A monkeyflower by some plectritis.

The Bull Creek Trail dropped fairly steeply along an old roadbed to a crossing of a branch of Bull Creek.
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In a cruel twist the trail climbed away from this crossing. We had hoped that we were done climbing for the day but not quite. We then dropped to a second branch of the creek.
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After a brief smaller climb form this crossing the trail dove downhill in a hurry to the Bull Creek Trailhead along Rooster Rock Road.
IMG_7864Iris along the trail.

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It was 1.6 miles from the junction to the trailhead and now we faced a 2.3 mile road walk back to the Old Bridge Trailhead.
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As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad. We could hear (and occasionally got a glimpse of) the Molalla River and there was finally some blue sky overhead.
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The butterflies were coming out to pollinate the flowers so we watched them as we shuffled along.
IMG_7873I didn’t see the beetle until I was uploading this photo.

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We spotted a colorful bird flying back into some trees but couldn’t quite figure out where it had gone of what it was. I took a bunch of pictures of the branches though hoping to at least get an idea of what it was which actually sort of worked. It was a western tanager.
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The highlight of the road walk came as we neared the trailhead. Several cedar waxwings were in the trees nearby.
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Instead of 12.4 miles my GPS showed 13 but that’s to be expected when we wander around exploring things. 🙂 This was a tough hike with nearly 4000′ of elevation gain up some steep climbs but it was a good one. Having already gotten to experience the views from Chicken Rock helped alleviate any disappointment about the foggy conditions and we got to see a very different set of flowers in the meadow on this trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows

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Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Mollala River Recreation Area – 10/19/2016

Our recent hike at the Mollala River Recreation Area almost didn’t happen. Three days prior an ingrown toenail suddenly was making every step I took painful. By the next night I had managed to remove a bit of the nail but it was still pretty tender. Luckily the next morning one of Heather’s running buddies mentioned using floss to get under the nail and help alleviate the pressure. I gave that a try and it worked wonderfully.

I was ready to give it a try, then I checked the weather for the following day. One hundred percent chance of rain, breezy with gusts up to 30mph, and a chance of a thunderstorm after 8am. The rest of the weekend didn’t look much better so we momentarily considered skipping this weeks hike but instead we decided to at least make an attempt

The Mollala River Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area contains over 20 miles of trails open to hikers (all year), equestrians (May 16th – Oct. 14th), and mountain bikes (single track May 16th – Oct. 14th and all year for non-singletrack). We had waited for the seasonal closures to minimize the chances of running into other users and a wet, windy day would likely further reduce the number of people out.

There are multiple potential trailheads and we chose to start our day at Amanda’s Trailhead
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It had been raining in Salem when we left but at the trailhead we were spared, at least for the time being.

One thing that the trails in this area don’t do is visit the Mollala River so before we set off I crossed Upper Mollala Road to get a peak of the river through the trees.
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After checking out the river we started up Amanda’s Trail.
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We stopped at a trail map (we had also downloaded the maps to our phones) to discuss our planned route. There were a number of options with many of the trails looping and intersecting each other so having a map is a good idea (it’s always a good idea). Our plan was to take Amanda’s Trail to Looney’s Trail then turn up the Rim Trail and follow it to Bobcat Road. From Bobcat Road we’d follow the Huckleberry Trail back to Looney’s Trail. Finally instead of just retracing our steps back we would turn off Lonney’s Trail at Clifford’s Crossing Trail and take that trail to Mark’s Trail which would then lead us back to Amanda’s Trail for the final leg back to the trailhead. This was an 11.5 mile route with over 1500′ of elevation gain.
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We followed Amanda’s Trail for 1.5 miles to Looney’s Trail ignoring the marked side trails along the way. This stretch of trail followed an old roadbed through second growth forest. Yellow and golden leaves were mixed with the green conifers.
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IMG_1141Leapfrog Loop

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IMG_1145Mark’s Trail (our return route)

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In addition to the Fall colors there were plenty of mushrooms along the trail.
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This section also had the only view of the day across the Mollala River Valley.
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Amanda’s Trail simply turned into Looney’s Trail at a sign at the end of the 1.5 miles.
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The mile long Looney’s Trail descended via a series of switchbacks to a bridge over scenic Hardy Creek, then climbed a bit before arriving at a junction with the Huckleberry and Rim Trails.
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IMG_1186Rim Trail

We followed the Rim Trail for approximately 3 miles. The trail gained over 600′ following old roadbeds at times. The trail skirted a farm and a clearcut along the way.
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IMG_1236Huge anthills could be seen throughout the hike.

IMG_1245Skirting the clear cut.

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There were a number of trail junctions but the signage was good and we just kept following pointers for the Rim Trail.
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IMG_1273Unnamed creek.

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The Rim Trail ended at a fork with the Red Vole Trail to the right and Bobcat Road to the left. In the second edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” Matt Reeder mentions preferring Bobcat Road over the Red Vole Trail so we went left.
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We followed Bobcat Road downhill for a little over three quarters of a mile where we met the Huckleberry Trail (another roadbed).
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IMG_1295Varied thrush

We turned left onto the Huckleberry Trail which forked left uphill after 100 yards.
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IMG_1300One of the few unsigned junctions we came to.

The trail was fairly level as it contoured along the hillside arriving at Annie’s Cabin, a still functioning shelter, after .6 miles.
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Up until this point the weather had held up very well. Aside from a couple of very brief periods of sprinkles it hadn’t rained and the wind was mostly non-existent. That ended shortly after leaving the cabin when the clouds opened up and a heavy rain shower passed overhead.
IMG_1323Huckleberry Trail just before the shower.

IMG_1334Near the tail end of the shower.

Luckily the rain didn’t last long and we were back to mostly cloudy skies with a few sun breaks.
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IMG_1335The Hardy Creek Trail coming up from the Hardy Creek Trailhead on the right.

Two miles from Annie’s Cabin we arrived back at the Rim-Looney’s-Huckleberry Trails junction where we went straight onto Looney’s Trail.
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We recrossed Hardy Creek and followed Looney’s Trail until we arrived at a junction with Clifford’s Crossing Trail a total of .8 miles from the Huckleberry Trail.
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We turned right onto Clifford’s Crossing Trail. Our reasoning was simply to see some different trail rather than simply retracing our steps. This half mile trail descended fairly steeply only to immediately regain some of that elevation before making a more gradual descent to it’s end at Mark’s Trail.
IMG_1344Going down.

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IMG_1348Going back up.

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Mark’s Trail was another half mile that wound its way up through the forest to Amanda’s Trail. These two trails would probably have been more fun on mountain bikes as they were clearly designed for that and not to get from point A to point B. With nothing of note to see there really wasn’t a need to hike this unless you’re looking for some extra climbing or are like us and like to take different routes when possible.
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IMG_1357Back at Amanda’s Trail.

We turned right onto Amanda’s Trail and followed it back down to the trailhead which was just under a mile away. We had been watching for rough skinned newts all day but hadn’t seen any until this section where a loan newt was sitting in the middle of the trail.
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The only other people we saw all day was a family coming up from Amanda’s Trailhead to take what appeared to be some senior pictures. The rest of the hike was full of solitude.
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We were glad that we hadn’t let the forecast deter us. It hadn’t rained enough to really affect the hike and both the wind and thunderstorm had never materialized. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mollala River Recreation Area

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Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Table Rock to Pechuck Lookout

We have two lists of “To Do” day hikes within a reasonable driving distance. One list is the hikes we have yet to do, and the second list is hikes we want to try again for one reason or another. Table Rock was one of the hikes on the later list having first visited in October of 2012. During that hike smoke from the Pole Creek fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness had limited the views and being fall it was too late for many flowers. We had seen enough on that visit to think it would be worth a second visit in early summer to see if we could catch the views and see what flowers there might be. I put it down on our schedule as our annual 4th of July hike thinking the timing might be good for wildflowers plus the drive avoided much time on freeways or busy highways.

The Table Rock Wilderness consists of 6028 acres designated in 1984 as wilderness and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Several trailheads access the 16 miles of trails in the area. For our hike we started at the Table Rock Trailhead which happens to be the shortest route to the summit of Table Rock, the highest point in the wilderness.
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When we redo a trail I try to find some way to differentiate the hike from the earlier visit. Only 13 of our 172 hikes so far had been “re-hikes” and only 3 of those had we done the same exact trails. Three other times we added other short hikes on different trails, and on the remaining 7 we extended the hike visiting new places further along the trail. The plan to make this visit unique was to continue on past Rooster Rock, where we had turned around on our first visit, and continue on to Pechuck Lookout.

We set off on an old roadbed that is now the Table Rock Trail after rocks slides closed the road, the first at the current trailhead. We reached the second slide after .3 miles where the trail briefly entered the forest to bypass the slide.
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Beyond the second slide the old road again becomes the trail for nearly another mile. Small trees and flowers now line the gravel road making it a pleasant walk.
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Rabbit along the road.
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At the 1.3 mile mark the trail leaves the road for good at the site of the former trailhead. Shortly after reentering the forest the Image Creek Trail joins from the right. A nice sign that had not been there in 2012 pointed to the Table Rock Trail.
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From this junction the trail passes below a large rock field that extends from the base of Table Rock then swings out and around a rocky ridge before turning back toward Table Rock and entering the rock field going the opposite direction of the earlier pass below.
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The rock field offers a close up look at Table Rocks columnar basalt cliffs. Numerous pikas were calling out from the rocks all around us but we weren’t able to spot any.
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There were also a few flowers managing to bloom in the rocks.
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The trail then reenters the forest and climbs to a trail junction in a saddle. We turned left and followed the Table Rock Summit trail .4 miles to the tilted plateau of Table Rock.
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The view was indeed better than it had been on our previous visit despite a fire that had broken out on Mt. Adams the day before. We could just make out Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along with Mt. Adams in Washington and had good views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters in Oregon.

Mt. Jefferson to the Three Sisters
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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Three Fingered Jack
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Three Sisters
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Mt. Adams
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After exploring the plateau we returned to the junction and took the unsigned Saddle Trail toward Rooster Rock. Two things stand out about this trail. First is the ants which were everywhere. They were all over the trail and there were several large anthills right next to it.
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The second thing that made an impression is the steepness of this trail as it dips down and then back out of a thimbleberry meadow at the head of Image Creek. The trail all but disappeared in the thimbleberry bushes but it wasn’t too hard to follow. The nice thing about thimbleberry is that the plants do not have thorns so they are not bad to walk through. We did have to maneuver around a couple of devil’s club plants though.
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The steep climb up from Image Creek ends at a saddle below Rooster Rock. Trees here block the view of Rooster Rock but a short path to the right goes up through a small meadow to a rocky viewpoint.
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I had thought this small meadow might be a good wildflower spot, and there were some but not in any large amounts.
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The view toward Rooster Rock was better this time too.
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After a short rest we were ready to head for Pechuck Lookout. From the saddle we needed to drop down on the other side of the ridge to the High Ridge Trail. We were now starting the portion of the hike that we had not done before and we were in for a surprise. Just on the other side of the saddle was a meadow full of wildflowers.
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Many of the flowers were past their prime succumbing to the heat, but there were still enough to make it an impressive sight. In most years our timing would likely have been spot on but the hot dry weather we’d been having has all the flowers at least two weeks ahead of schedule. On the far side of the meadow the trail again entered the trees.
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The High Ridge Trail was far more gentle with its ups and downs than the Saddle Trail had been. After .7 miles the Rooster Rock Trail joined from the right coming up from the trailhead on Rooster Rock Rd.
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We continued going up and down along the ridge leaving the wilderness and arriving at another former trailhead along the gated road near Pechuck Lookout.
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The trail continued on the far side of the road passing a nice view of Table Rock along the way.
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This short section of trail was another steep one before ending at the lookout.
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Pechuck Lookout was staffed from 1918/19 until 1964 with the current structure having been built in 1932. It is now available for overnight stays on a first come first serve basis. There was no one staying there so we went inside to take a look around and sign the log book.
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It was too warm to stay inside for long so we headed back out into the shade and had anther bite to eat while watching the many butterflies flitting about.
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Aside from the view of Table Rock only Mt. Jefferson was visible and that mountain could only be seen in a couple of spots between some trees so it wouldn’t be a good place to stay if you’re hoping for mountain views.

We returned the way we’d come, skipping the side trips to the rocky viewpoint and the summit of Table Rock. The views to the south had become increasingly hazy, but Mt. Hood looked much clearer now that the sun had passed over.
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The only other hikers we saw all day were between the summit trail junction and the old road on the way back to our car and that was only two other couples. The final stretch along the old road felt really long after all the climbing we’d done. I spent part of the final 1.3 miles chasing an orange butterfly that wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to get a picture. It took awhile but Warren (as I named him) finally gave me some shots.
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It wound up being a longer hike than we expected. Everything we looked at indicated we’d be doing 14.8 miles but the final GPS reading was 15.7. With the various trailheads available this could have easily been split up into several shorter hikes for more sensible hikers. The Table Rock Wilderness is certainly a place worth visiting, and there should be plenty of ripe thimbleberries come August. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157655417439836

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Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Butte Creek & Abiqua Falls

While much of the country is dealing with a winter that just doesn’t seem to want to end the Pacific Northwests never really started. Another beautiful weekend was being forecast and we decided we just couldn’t miss another one so we headed out to check out a couple of short waterfall hikes. The trailheads for Butte Creek Falls and Abiqua Falls are less than 5 miles apart a short distance outside of Scotts Mills, Oregon. Both trailheads are located on roads accessed by taking Crooked Finger Road from Scotts Mills.

We started at the Butte Creek Falls Trailhead in the Santiam State Forest.
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The trail set off from a small parking area (with an outhouse) passing to the left of the trail sign and descending .2 miles to a signed junction.
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The right hand fork would lead us past Upper Butte Creek Falls on a loop back up to the parking area so we turned left first and headed toward Lower Butte Creek Falls. In just another .2 miles we arrived at a rocky ridge and the end of the maintained trail.
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A well worn trail led out onto the ridge which provided a front row view of the falls high above Butte Creek.
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After enjoying the lower fall we headed back to the junction and started the return loop. Upper Butte Creek Falls had been visible through the trees from the junction and we were quickly on our way down to its base.
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Shorter and wider than its counterpart Upper Butte Creek Falls offers close up views and a path behind the falls into a good sized cavern.
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While we were exploring around the splash pool we noticed that the salmonberries were beginning to bloom.
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From the upper falls it was a short .3 mile climb back up to the parking area. The hike to these two waterfalls had been less than 1.5 miles so why not visit another nearby waterfall – The .5mile trail to Abiqua Falls. To get to Butte Creek Falls we had traveled 11.4 miles on Crooked Finger Road to CF 400, took a left and followed signs to the trailhead. Now we returned to Crooked Finger Road and headed back toward Scotts Mills for .7 miles to CF 300 marked by signs for an ATV staging area on the left. Despite the trailheads only being about 5 miles apart the drive was not quick. The 2.5 miles on CF 300 were slow due to the presence of many good sized rocks and ruts. High clearance, good tires, and 4wd were all helpful.

The Abby Foundation of Oregon owns the land where the trailhead, trail and, Abiqua Falls are, but allow the public to use it. A yellow gate marked the end of the tedious drive and the start of the short trail where we were greeted by a lone daffodil.
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To find the correct path down to the falls we needed to walk back up the road a short way passing a first clear path that leads to a grassy clearing to a second worn trail marked by a white sign.
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The trail down to Abiqua Creek was fairly steep in places but there were several sections of rope secured along the trail to assist with the climb.
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The trail then heads up the creek in a narrow canyon toward the unseen falls.
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Just as the trail began to curve out and around a rocky outcrop we got our first views of Abiqua Falls.
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The canyon walls opened up to reveal a large circular bowl lined with columnar basalt colored with mosses and lichens with the falls as its centerpiece.
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We spent some time exploring the rocky beach looking at the various rock cairns stacked about.
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There was also a path around to the left side of the falls which I followed to see how far I could go.
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We could have stayed there for hours if it had been warmer but it wasn’t so we headed out just as sunlight began to arrive inside the canyon walls.
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Other than the Ouzels and a few other birds we had had the area all to ourselves.
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We made it back up to the car (with some assistance from the ropes) just as another group of hikers arrived having survived the drive down. It was their turn to visit this special place. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651119420415/