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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Days 2 & 3 – 5/24 & 5/25/2020

After the 14.5 mile hike to find our campsite the day before (post) we woke up a little before 6am and ate breakfast by the river. We were excited to spend a day without our full packs. Based on my calculations we were anticipating the mileage for the day to be close to 14 miles (it was more but we’ll get to that later) so a lighter weight pack was welcome.

We set off just after 7am and the trail began to climb away from the river not far from where we’d camped.Middle Fork Trail

There was still a bit of that pesky poison oak present when the conditions were just right but we could tell we were gaining elevation by the change in the forest and some of the flowers we were starting to see.Vanilla leaf along the Middle Fork Trail

Vanilla leaf

Arnica

Arnica

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River from the Middle Fork Trail

Viewpoint above the river.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Closer look at some stonecrop.

Just under 2.5 miles from camp we arrived at the lovely Rigdon Meadows near Sacandaga Campground (which I had begun referring to as Scandinavia because I couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to be pronounced).Rigdon Meadows

Western buttercup and camasCamas and buttercups at Rigdon Meadows.

The campground remained closed due to COVID-19 and the road was gated but there were several campers parked near the meadows.Middle Fork Trail

Gate at the closed entrance to Sacandaga Campground.

We picked up the trail on the other side of the gate where it joined the route of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road.Middle Fork Trail at the start of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The wagon road was planned to stretch from Eugene, OR to Fort Boise in Idaho but much of it was nothing more than a rudimentary trail (Wikipedia) that allowed private companies to acquire public lands along the stretches of road that they “completed”.

This 1.2 mile section of the wagon road passed a small unnamed lake near its crest.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Unnamed lake along the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

The other end of this portion of the wagon road was located near a meadow where some idiot had driven onto the grass from a nearby forest road.Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

Middle Fork Trail

About a half mile after crossing the road the trail crossed Noisy Creek.Unnamed Creek

A short distance later we crossed another muddy forest road and then came to a decent sized creek that wasn’t on either our paper or GPS maps.Middle Fork Trail

Noisy Creek

After the mystery creek we came to the signed Swift Creek which was the widest creek we’d crossed on the trip.Footbridge over Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Swift Creek

Former bridge over Swift Creek.

The scenery really began changing beyond Swift Creek. We hadn’t seen any poison oak since the wagon road and now we were in a drier forest with huge ponderosa pines and cedars. We were also high enough now to see some blooming rhododendrons. I did manage to pick up my second tick of the trip somewhere in this area.Dogwood along the Middle Fork Trail

Ponderosa behind a dogwood tree.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron near the dogwood tree.

Tall cedars along the Middle Fork Trail

Cedar

The trail dropped down towards the river to a wetter area between Skunk and Found Creeks.Skunk Creek

Skunk Creek

Tall bluebells

Tall bluebells

Middle Fork Trail

Slug

The Middle Fork Willamette River was a narrower here and doing it’s best to erode the riverbank.Erosion along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

The narrower Middle Fork Willamette River

The trail soon began to climb above the river along some basalt cliffs where several springs flowed out from the rocks earning the moniker of Cliff Springs.Cliff Springs

Cliff Springs

Middle Fork Trail near Cliff Springs

On the far side of the springs the trail dropped again to a crossing of Indigo Creek.Middle Fork Trail

Before reaching the creek we stopped to listen to a wren signing.Wren

Bridge over Indigo Creek

Bridge over Indigo Creek.

Indigo Creek flowing into the Middle Fork Willamette River

Indigo Creek empyting into the Middle Fork Willamette River.

About a tenth of a mile from Indigo Creek we arrived at a junction where a trail to the left had a pointer for Indigo Springs.Trail to Indigo Springs

We turned up this short trail and climbed to FR 21 where we again turned left and followed the paved road a short distance to the entrance of Indigo Springs Campground.Heading toward Indigo Springs

Coming to FR 21.

The status of this particular area was a bit hazy. The 3 site campground was closed as well as the restrooms, but the Willamette National Forest had opened all day-use trailheads (not the restrooms at those with toilets). We walked up the access road to the 1 parking spot trailhead (which was occupied with a second car nearby). We were proceeding under the understanding that trails and trailheads were open and it was only using the campsites, restrooms, and picnic tables that was still prohibited so we followed the 0.2 mile loop clockwise around Indigo Springs.Indigo Sprngs Trail

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Creek

There were several springs feeding the creek amid mossy green rocks.Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Sprngs

Indigo Springs

Apparently the route of the wagon road passed here too.Another portion of the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road

After admiring the springs we returned to the Middle Fork Trail and continued up river toward Chuckle Springs.Middle Fork Trail

The trail dropped down to the river and spent a good deal of time right along it with a few easy access points, something that there hadn’t been many of thus far during our trip.Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Fariy slippers

Fairy slippers

There was a bit of an up and down though and we encountered the one significant tree down of the entire trip along one of the ups.Blowdown over the Middle Fork Trail

Large tree down

Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to get around and we were soon headed back down to the riverbank.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Red rocks in the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Trail

After just over a mile we began to enter the scar of a 2010 fire.Middle Fork Trail entering the scar of a 2010 fire

Just after entering the fire scar a butterfly landed on the Garmin followed by a second landing on my right shoe.Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

Butterfly hitching a ride

These were much nicer insects to have on me than the ticks.

The trail had split here at one time but the right hand fork along the river was now blocked by a small log and appeared possibly abandoned although a footbridge remained in place.Closed alternate route of the Middle Fork Trail

The way to Chuckle Springs was to the left though so we headed left and soon began climbing up a narrow ridge above Chuckle Creek.Chuckle Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and continued up the ridge alongside the creek.Chuckle Creek

Cascade along Chuckle Creek

Middle Fork Trail

A quarter mile from the fork we arrived at another fork where the Chuckle Springs Trail joined from the left.Middle Fork Trail junction with the Chuckle Springs Trail

A very short trail led down to a picnic table where there were two groups of people talking. We had encountered two of them before reaching Cliff Springs and the other 3 were new to us. Given social distancing guidance we took a seat on some logs near the junction and waited for them to depart before heading down to the springs.Picnic table near Chuckle Springs

Sign for Chuckle Creek

Chuckle Springs

Not quite as impressive as Indigo Springs these were still a nice green oasis amid the burn area. We didn’t stay long just in case others were on their way and sure enough we ran into another couple on their way to the springs at the junction. We left the spring to them and headed back to camp.

The return trip was livened up by a couple of snakes. Heather is not the biggest snake person but she does pretty well with them all things considered. The first snake was a garter snake stretched across the trail in one of the ponderosa pine areas.Snake in the trail

Garter snake

This snake had no intention of moving to the point that we thought it might have been dead (it wasn’t).

Then as we were passing Rigdon Meadows I walked right by a good sized gopher snake laying in the middle of the road bed. Heather spied it though and stopped in her tracks.Gopher snake

Gopher snake

Gopher snake

This snake also seemed intent to stay put until Heather started to go around it. Every time she took a step it would move just a bit closer to her. After about 3 rounds of this game I moved forward and the snake took its cue to head off into the grass and let Heather pass.

We stopped about one and a quarter miles from camp along the river to cook dinner and refill our water supply which had gotten fairly low. I had managed to miscalculate the distance for the day which we had clued into on the way back. For some reason, I apparently was unable to double the first portion of our hike from camp to Sacandaga Campground. I had estimated that we were roughly 2 miles from the campground and by not doubling those 2 miles I was coming up with 13.8 miles instead of 15.8. We were actually closer to 2.5 miles from the campground which would have boosted the mileage to 16.8. Add in a little extra wandering and we wound up just over 17 miles for the day.

The spot we’d found by the river had a nice view and we were joined by a caterpillar and had a brief visit from an ouzel.Middle Fork Willamette River

Caterpillar

Ouzel

We were pooped by the time we made it back to camp and we both had developed some impressive blisters. My best was on my right pinky toe and Heather’s was on one of her big toes. It was clear that we’d be spending some time applying moleskin and bandages in the morning before heading back to the car.

We turned in for the night thinking about the long hike out. I was thinking about the way we were feeling, the extra distance due to the reroute, and the ford of Indian Creek and worrying that by the time we got to that ford the combination of the sore feet and tired legs would make it even more difficult than it had been on Saturday. Additionally coming from the opposite direction might also be trickier. On Saturday getting into the creek was fairly easy and the trickiest part was just after passing the center (and strongest current) there were several large rocks which we had to step up onto. Coming from the other direction we would need to drop off of those rocks into the strongest current. I wasn’t loving that idea so Heather and I started talking about options. Both the reroute and the fords were along the same section of trail between FR 2134 and FR 2127. We got the idea to see if it looked like road walking FR 21 between the two bridges would be any shorter and from the look of it on the maps it would be so we decided that was our plan for the hike out.

We woke up at first light and packed up our little campsite and then ate breakfast along the river before throwing our packs on and heading back.Leaving our breakfast site on the last day of our trip

Our little meal site along the river.

We stuck to the plan and when we arrived at FR 2134 we hopped up onto the shoulder of FR 21 and started pounding the pavement.FR 21 at FR 2134

The road walk was pretty brutal on our already sore feet, but there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we got to see some different things this way. It was also close to 2 miles shorter than if we had stuck to the trail.Youngs Rock Trail at FR 21

Youngs Rock Trail – A hike for another time.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Oregon geranium

Oregon geraniums

Oregon sunshine

Oregon sunshine

Plectritis and larkspur

Plectritis and the only larkspur we spotted all trip.

Boulder Creek Falls

Boulder Creek Falls

When we finally arrived at FR 2127 we took a break on the bridge.Road signs along FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

The highlight of the final leg of our hike was spotting a pair of harlequin ducks floating on the river. It’s only the second time we’ve seen these colorful ducks.Harlequin ducks

Harlequin ducks

Our distance for this final day was 12.1 miles giving us a total of 43.7 miles over the three days. I said to Heather “Leave it to me to turn a 4.4 mile easy hike into a nearly 44 mile hike.” I’m not sure if she found that as funny as I did. 😄

If I were to do it over (and the bridge over Indian Creek was replaced) I would have started at FR 2127 instead of 2120. That first 5+ miles didn’t have quite the scenery of the other sections, and it had the most poison oak. It also would have allowed us to camp closer to the springs making that day more reasonable. The view at Little Pine Openings sure was nice though.Middle Fork Willamette River

Overall though it was a good trip and it was just nice to be out again. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Day 2 & Day 3

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Day 1 – 5/23/2020

We continued to adjust our hiking plans to allow us our best chances of social distancing and visiting areas that are actually open. In January our plans for the three day weekend had been to stay in Roseburg and take day hikes along Highway 138. With staying in motels not the greatest way to socially distance, those plans were a no-go so we looked next to our 2021 plans. Those plans were a three day backpacking trip along the 30+ mile Middle Fork Trail SE of Oakridge to complete one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in his Central Cascades book, Indigo and Chuckle Springs (hike #83 in the 5th edition). This would be our first backpacking trip together since early September 2018 having skipped 2019 so that we could take care of our ill cat Buddy. (Heather did an overnight trip with some friends to Elk Lake Creek so she had been out once in 2019.)

The hike he describes is an easy 4.4 miles starting at the trailhead by Indigo Springs Campground. Doing the hike that he describes would have violated a couple of our self imposed rules. First the driving time to that trailhead for us would have been over 3 hours and secondly the amount of time spent hiking would have been less than the driving time (by a lot). My solution was to turn it into a backpacking trip by starting just south of the Sand Prairie Campground near milepost 12 of Rigdon Road (Forest Road 21). The plan was to hike around 13 miles on Saturday and then set up a base camp. Sunday we would hike the remaining distance to Indigo and Chuckle Springs and the return to camp and hike back out Monday morning. Our itinerary remained the same for the trip, but for reasons I’ll get to later the distances were not quite what we had planned on.

The Middle Fork National Recreation Trail stretches from Sand Prairie Campground to Timpanogas Lake (post).
There are a number of trailheads and access points for the Middle Fork Trail and we chose to start at the FR 2120 Trailhead.
Middle Fork Trail south of Sand Prairie Campground

A short distance from the trailhead we crossed Buck Creek on a nice bridge.
Buck Creek

For the first 5 miles the trail was relatively flat with a few ups and downs. This section was to the east of the Middle Fork Willamette River and to the west of Rigdon Road (FR 21). There were occasional glimpses of the river as well as some time spent along and on FR 21.
Middle Fork TrailMiddle Fork Trail along FR 21.

Middle Fork Willamette RiverOne of only a couple of spots where we were able to get to the river.

Where the trail crossed roads either signs or flagging were present to identify the continuation of the trail.
Middle Fork TrailOrange flagging on the left after crossing a gravel road.

The scenery was mostly green forest with a few meadows and a couple of creek crossings along the way. There were a few woodland flowers present as well as some patches of poison oak.
Middle Fork Trail

ThimbleberryThimbleberry

Cone CreekCone Creek

AnemonesAnemones

Bills CreekFootbridge over Bills Creek

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Columbine along the Middle Fork TrailColumbine

Middle Fork TrailYellowleaf iris along the Middle Fork Trail.

Pine CreekPine Creek – At first it looked like they put the bridge in the wrong spot, but there was another branch to the creek.

View from the Middle Fork TrailSmall meadow along the trail.

At the 4.4 mile mark the trail popped us onto FR 21 for a little over a quarter mile before resuming along the river.
Middle Fork Trail popping onto FR 21 for a bit

Middle Fork Trail leaving FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River

This was short lived though as we quickly found ourselves back on FR 21 near its junction with FR 2127.
Middle Fork Trail at FR 2127

Here the trail crossed the river on the bridge.
FR 2127 crossing the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

Common merganserCommon merganser on the river below the bridge.

The bridge crossing marked the start of what Sullivan’s map showed to be a 5.2 mile section along the western side of the Middle Fork Willamette River before recrossing on bridge at FR 2134 (our Adventure Maps, Inc. Oakridge Oregon Trial Map showed the section as 5.4 miles).
Middle Fork Trail Sign at the Road 2127 Trailhead.

With FR 21 now on the opposite side of the river this section was a little quieter and more scenic. There was still occasional poison oak to keep an eye out for and somewhere along this stretch a tick hitched a momentary ride on my pant leg before being flicked off.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork TrailMossy stump along the trail.

Middle Fork TrailLots of grass along portions of the trail, one of these areas was probably where the tick hopped on.

A highlight of the section was a series of rocky seeps long the river where patches of wildflowers were blooming.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Ookow along the Middle Fork TrailThe ookow wasn’t quite blooming yet.

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

MonkeyflowerMonkeyflower and tomcat clover

StonecropStonecrop

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed MaryPlectritis and giant blue-eyed Mary

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Western buttercupsButtercups

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

The trail reentered the forest where we spotted a couple of different coralroots.
Middle Fork Trail

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot (with a caterpillar)

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Two miles into this section we came to our first real obstacle of our trip. I had watched a series of Youtube videos from Hike Oregon of the trail including this section (video and in her video from a few years ago there was a footbridge over Indian Creek. No such bridge existed now. The water was flowing pretty quickly and although it looked doable it didn’t look like the easiest ford we’d done. We went ahead and gave it a go.
Fording Indian Creek

We managed to get across and continued on to find a second ford a short distance later. This one was just through some very slow moving water though.
Water covering the Middle Fork Trail

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next two miles but then we came to a sign announcing a trail closure and reroute.
Middle Fork Trail

Clear water along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Chocolate liliesChocolate lilies

Sign for a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail

The reroute sent us away from the river to FR 201 where we crossed Coal Creek on a bridge to FR 2133. The Forest Service map for the reroute showed that the trail will eventually continue on the other side of FR 2133 extending to FR 2134 but for now the reroute followed FR 2133 for one and a quarter miles to FR 2134.
Middle Fork TrailCompleted section of the reroute.

Signage for the Middle Fork TrailMore signs at FR 201

Sign for the Middle Fork TrailFR 201 crossing Coal Creek.

Coal CreekCoal Creek

FR 2133Road walking on FR 2133

Once we made it to FR 2134 we were back on the original route of the Middle Fork Trail as it once again crossed the river, this time using FR 2134’s bridge.
Bridge over the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River

The reroute had added a mile to our hike for the day and we weren’t done yet. The next section of trail between FR 2134 and Sacandaga Campground was listed as just under 5 miles and we were hoping to find a camp site close to the middle of the section.

The trail picked up at the north end of the bridge (the river had turned and was now flowing east to west as opposed to the first section when it was flowing to the north).
Middle Fork Trail

Simpson CreekSimpson Creek

Northern phloxNorthern phlox

Folded fungusDon’t know what type of fungus this is but it looked neat.

We were once again between the river and FR 21 and crossed several primitive forest roads.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Trail

After 2 miles it began to veer away from the road a bit to what appeared on the topographical map as a wide relatively flat area where we were hoping to find our camp site. We hadn’t passed many established (or even semi-established sites). We had seen one near Indian Creek and we had also seen one tent set up on an rocky island separated from the trail by a small channel of the river.

We passed up a couple of possible sites along decommissioned road beds hoping to be a bit closer to the river than they had been so when we did get back along the river we started looking.
Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Willamette River

There wasn’t much, the trees and underbrush was thick enough that there weren’t many areas with enough room for a tent. Heather spotted a more open area in the trees about 2.8 miles from FR 2134 that looked promising but I stubbornly continued for another quarter of a mile before turning back because her spot appeared to be the best choice. We set up camp amid the trees on the opposite side of the trail from the river.
Campsite along the Middle Fork Trail

There was a nice little opening along the river nearby where we were able to cook our meals and watch the river flow by.
Middle Fork Willamette River from our dinner/breakfast spot

Our plan for a 13 mile first day turned into 14.5 miles due to the extra mile added by the reroute and my continuing past our eventual campsite a quarter mile and having to come back to it. The lower portions of the trail had been a bit of a mixed bag. We hadn’t expected as much poison oak as we’d seen along the way and the reroute had been a bit of a bummer since road walking, even if it’s dirt/gravel is a lot harder on us than a nice trail. The scenery was nice and there had been quite a few wildflowers but being so close to paved FR 21 for much of the hike and having a large number of other road crossings where car campers were present didn’t allow for much of a remote feeling. The middle section (prior to the reroute) was probably the nicest, but having to ford Indian Creek probably isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side we only encountered one other hiker on the trail and our campsite turned out to be pretty comfortable with a nice thick layer of cushy duff to sleep on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Middle Fork Trail Day 1

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

North Fork and Buffalo Rock – 05/09/2020

As we continue to deal with the ever changing situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic we are looking for ways to hike responsibly. That means doing our best to follow social distancing guidelines and honoring any closures in place. The situation with closures has been especially confusing requiring a fair amount of digging to get a clear picture of just what is allowed and what isn’t. With these things in mind we have been looking for hikes that are open and lightly used to limit our interaction with other people.

After looking through our to-do hike list we decided that the best option for an acceptable outing at this point was a pair of hikes along the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River. In regards to closures, the Willamatte National Forest (as of this writing) has closed all developed recreation sites. Reviewing the March 27, 2020 announcement on their website goes on to say that those sites include “campgrounds, day-use sites, trailheads with bathrooms, Sno-parks, snow shelters, fire lookouts, hot springs, boat launch facilities, and OHV trailhead facilities.” Trails themselves are not on the list and remain open assuming proper social distancing and group size/make up is within acceptable limits.

Our first stop was to hike Segment 1 of the North Fork Trail. Since trailheads with bathrooms are part of the temporary closure the traditional trailhead for this hike was out. Our plan was to park at a small pullout along Forest Road 1910 three miles NE of Westfir along Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Scenic Byway). A decommissioned road just after crossing the river provided the perfect spot to park and happened to be right where the North Fork Trail crossed FR 1910.
North Fork Trail at FR 1910

We headed SW into the forest where a number of different wildflowers were currently blooming.
North Fork Trail

Star-flowered solomonsealStar-flowered solomonseal

AnemoneAnemone

TrilliumTrillium

Oregon grapeOregon grape

StarflowerStarflower

Yellowleaf irisYellowleaf iris

After .2 miles we followed a path down to the riverbank.
North Fork Willamette RiverLooking back at FR 1910’s bridge over the River.

North Fork Willamette River

A few steps after returning to the trail we left the trail again and crossed the decommissioned FR 685 near Short Creek to check out a small slide.
Short Creek

We followed the relatively level trail for another 3 miles turning around at an old road about a tenth of a mile from the parking area of the closed trailhead. Like most river trails the North Fork trail spent some time along the river, above the river, and others back in the forest. There were a few changes to the scenery along the way and plenty of flowers (along with a fair amount of poison oak). Three miles from FR 1910 we passed the concrete remains of a 1930s mill pond.
North Fork Trail

ValerianValerian

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot

Inside-out flowerInside-out flower

North Fork Trail

Hookedspur violetHookedspur violet

Fairy slipperFairy slipper

Dogwood blossomDogwood blossom

Buck Brush - redstem ceanothusBuck brush

Yellow leaf iris along the North Fork Trail

North Fork Willamette River

Shed skin from a Cicada on a yellow leaf irisShed cicada skin

Wood roseWood rose

FairybellsFairy bells

Showy phloxNorthern phlox

Snail on the North Fork TrailTrail snail

North Fork Trail

HoneysuckleHoneysuckle

ColumbineColumbine

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Lupine along the North Fork TrailLupine

Youth-on-ageYouth-on-age

North Fork Willamette RiverRock ledge along the river.

North Fork Willamette RiverView from the rock ledge.

Monkey flowerMonkey flower

CamasCamas

North Fork Trail along the North Fork Willamette River

Dam site along the North Fork TrailConcrete tower

North Fork Trail

Pale flaxPale flax

North Fork TrailheadRoadbed near the trailhead.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes open for anything we missed on our first pass, and of course there were a couple of flowers that we missed.
Vanilla leafVanilla leaf

Wild gingerWild ginger

A garter snake provided a bit of excitment when Heather noticed it coming towards her onto the trail. It eventually slithered to a fern on the other side but not before getting her to jump.
Garter snake

Garter snake

We wound up only encountering 4 people along the trail, a lone hiker and a group of three mountain bikers so this first stop had worked out well from a socially distancing standpoint.

After making it back to our car we returned to FR 19 and turned left (NE) for 18.1 miles to Forest Road 1939 (1.1 miles beyond Kiahania Campground). We turned left onto FR 1939 for 1.2 miles to a hiker symbol on the left marking the start of another segment of the North Fork Trail.
North Fork Trailhead at FR 1939

As best as I can tell from research this 4.5 mile segment of the North Fork Trail appears to have been completed in 2011 or possibly 2010. There is very little information online about it even though it has appeared as a featured hike (along with Segment 1) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” books since his 4th edition was published in 2012. I was unable to find any reference to it all on the Willamette National Forest’s website despite the Forest Service hoping to one day connect all the segements of the North Fork Trail from Westfir to Waldo Lake. In any event there is no parking area for this trailhead and there is just enough room for a couple of cars to park off the road on the shoulder nearby.

From the outset it was obvious that this was a much lighter traveled segment than the Segment 1 as the tread was narrower and there was some large trees across the trail.
North Fork Trail

North Fork Trail

There were some similarities though as we saw many wildflowers (some the same as during our earlier stop and some new for the day) and this trail also provided a few access points to the river.
Trillium

Candy flowerCandy flower growing out of a mossy tree trunk.

Western meadowrueWestern meadowrue

Largeleaf sandwortLargeleaf sandwort

North Fork Willamette River

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Red flowering currantRed flowering currant

There were several creeks to cross, the first was too wide at the trail to hop across requiring a slight detour downstream. The rest all had rocks allowing us to cross dry footed.
North Fork TrailThe second creek crossing.

The trail turned away from the river to drop to the third substantial creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

Creek along the North Fork Trail

It was at this third creek that we realized we’d missed a 10 foot waterfall marked on Sullivan’s map at the 1.1 mile mark. A quick re-reading of the hike description told us it was 150 feet offtrail which explained why we hadn’t seen it. We made a mental note to look for it on the way back.

At the 2.3 mile mark the trail passed close to the river and a cobblestone beach from which the basalt outcrop of Buffalo Rock was visible.
North Fork Willamette River

Buaffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette River

As the trail began to pass under Buffalo Rock it became even wilder than it had been beginning with a large tree blocking the trail just on the other side of a creek crossing.
North Fork Trail

After ducking under the tree the trail passed through a small hillside meadow.
North Fork Willamette River

Coastal manrootCoastal manroot

Sticky cinquefoilSticky cinquefoil

Popcorn flowerPopcorn

Western yellow oxalisWestern yellow oxalis

The dry, rocky hillside below Buffalo Rock provided for some different types of flowers and plants and was the only spot along this trail that we noticed any poison oak.
North Fork Trail

Buffalo Rock

Collomia heterophylla - Variable CollomiaVariable collomia

Western fence lizardWestern fence lizard

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

LarkspurLarkspur

This segment of the trail had originally extended another 2 miles from beneath Buffalo Rock with the next marker on Sullivan’s map being a “mossy pool” a mile from the end of the trail. As we continued on from Buffalo Rock though we found that the trail was quickly deteriorating. It was evident that what little maintenance this segment saw, had all been focused on the section between FR 1939 and Buffalo Rock.
North Fork TrailHad to climb over this on the left side by the standing tree.

North Fork Trail under some blowdownThe only choice here was to use this tree as the trail.

North Fork TrailMinor debris on the trail.

North Fork TrailCuts most likely from the original establishment of the trail.

North Fork TrailThis one required a detour to the right around the end of the tree.

North Fork TrailForest reclaiming the trail tread.

Given the conditions we were experiencing and the distance we were facing for the day we decided to shoot for the mossy pool and turn around there instead of trying to reach the end of the trail. Sullivan himself had suggested turning around at Buffalo Rock and other than noting the pool on his map made no mention of it so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The trail turned away from the river to descend to the creek crossing where we expected to find the mossy pool.
North Fork Trail

The creek had done a good job of erroding the trail which provided one final tricky obstacle to reach the little pool.
Creek along the North Fork Trail

We were pleasantly surprised by how nice this little creek and the pool were. There was a small cascade creating the pool.
Mossy pool

Small cascade

Mossy pool

It was the perfect spot for a nice break. It was the warmest day of the year thus far with temperatures expected in the mid to upper 80s and it felt every bit that hot, but here by the creek the air was cool and refreshing. Between that and the calming sound of the water we both could have easily taken a nap but alas we needed to head back.
North Fork Trail from the mossy pool

We headed back before we had time to stiffen up with a mission to find the off-trail waterfall. From Sullivan’s map it appeared that there was no creek at the trail to follow up to the waterfall and his description said to listen for the sound of water and follow it. When we thought we were in the right general area we started listening. We took one wrong turn up a small stream that we thought was too soon but didn’t want to accidently miss it again. After following this little stream a short distance we determined that there was no sound of a waterfall of any kind so we returned to the trail and continued on. After descending a series of switchbacks we were in another promising area and this time we could hear water on the opposite side of the trail from the river. We bushwacked uphill to find the little waterfall.
Small off-trail waterfall

Small off-trail waterfall

After seeing the waterfall we returned to the car and headed home. We did see one other couple on our way back to the car making it a half-dozen between the two stops for the day. The two hikes totaled 13.9 miles, 6.4 on Segment 1 and 7.5 at Buffalo Rock.

We will continue to look for responsible options to allow us to keep hiking during these unprecedented times. Please be smart and safe and as always Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork and Buffalo Rock

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Bunchgrass Ridge – 7/04/2019

For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.

We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.

After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
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In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
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A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
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The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
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IMG_2117The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.

20190704_072419orange agoseris beginning to open.

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IMG_2120Pussytoes

At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
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It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
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We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
IMG_2132The Three Sisters and Broken Top

IMG_2136Larkspur along the trail.

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IMG_2138Bunchberry

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IMG_2149Another meadow

IMG_2159The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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IMG_2170Queen’s cup

IMG_2181The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_2208Rhododendron

IMG_2210Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.

The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
IMG_2214View from the SW facing hillside.

IMG_2215Looking SE

The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
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IMG_2221Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.

After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
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IMG_2229Diamond Peak through the trees.

After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
IMG_2241Valerian in the saddle.

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IMG_2270Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey

IMG_2276Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2272Mt. Bailey

IMG_2656View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2658The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2281Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
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Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
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In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
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There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
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After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
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From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
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Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
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From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
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We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
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Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
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IMG_2332Giant blue-eyed Mary

20190704_091315Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_2328Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia

IMG_2334Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia

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IMG_2342Cow parsnip

IMG_2345Tall mountain bluebell

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20190704_092346An aster or fleabane

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IMG_2370Not sure what type of flower this one is.

IMG_2364Valerian filled meadow below the trail.

IMG_2373White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells

Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
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The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
IMG_2381Looking back at our route so far.

IMG_2383The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.

The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
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The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
IMG_2414Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.

IMG_2403Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2401Mt. Bailey

We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.

This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
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20190704_101615A few orange agoseris were scattered about.

IMG_2425Scarlet gilia

IMG_2432More scarlet gilia

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At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
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The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
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IMG_2452A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.

IMG_2456Wallflower

Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
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We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
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Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
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The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
IMG_2479Owl’s head clover

IMG_2488Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia

IMG_2491Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris

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IMG_2510Hyssop

IMG_2514Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily

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20190704_105633Wait that’s not a butterfly.

As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
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IMG_2499Fuji Mountain

Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
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As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
IMG_2513The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.

We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
IMG_2552Heather at the rock outcrop.

I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
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IMG_2543Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain

IMG_2544Diamond Peak

I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
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After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
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IMG_2567Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)

IMG_2585Turkey vulture

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IMG_2594Back in the valerian meadows

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IMG_2683Not sure what this is going to be either.

We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Oregon Trip report

South Willamette Trail

A dry forecast and a day off for Presidents Day seemed like a perfect excuse to get our February hike in.  For this outing we’d picked the South Willamette Trail. This was yet another trail we had yet to hike and this seemed like a good time of the year to do so because the trail lacks any highlights or views that would be impacted by inclement weather.

The South Willamette Trail is basically a five mile long connector trail between the Hardesty Trailhead and the Eula Ridge Trailhead. We began our hike at the Hardesty Trailhead which had also been the starting point for our Goodman Creek hike (post).

A single trail leaves the trailhead to the left of a large signboard.
Hardesty Trailhead

The trail is actually the Hardesty Trail which gains over 3000′ in five miles to the old lookout site atop Hardesty Mountain. Unless you’re looking for a training hike the old lookout site is now view less. For a slightly shorter and more scenic hike to that location start at the Mount June Trailhead instead as we did in 2013 (post).

Back to our current hike now. We followed the Hardesty Trail for .2 miles to the Goodman Creek Trail junction.
Hardesty Trail

Junction with the Goodman Creek Trail

We stayed left continuing on the Hardesty Trail for another four tenths of a mile to the start of the South Willamette Trail.
Hardesty Trail

Hardesty Trail junction with the South Willamette Trail

We stayed left again leaving the wider tread of the Hardesty Trail behind for the narrower but not overgrown South Willamette Trail.
South Willamette Trail

This trail runs parallel to Highway 58 but due to the presence of some private land holdings it bends back away from the highway which kept the noise down for much of the hike. There are not any views to speak of along the trail and although it crossed several creeks there are no waterfalls either. The trail simply passes through some different types of forest on its way from one end to the other. A half mile from the Hardesty Trail a nice footbridge brought us over an unnamed seasonal creek.
South Willamette Trail

A half mile later we were crossing another unnamed creek.
South Willamette Trail

This was followed by a footbridge over Crale Creek just a tenth of a mile later and a log crossing of another stream just beyond that.
South Willamette Trail

Crossing Crale Creek

The trail then made a slight climb to cross Crale Creek Road.
South Willamette Trail crossing Crale Creek Road

The trail climbed steadily for the next 1.75 miles gaining approximately 400′ to reach its high point at an elevation just over 1400′. There was just a little left over snow scattered about along the way.
A bit of snow along the South Willamette Trail

The Sun was shining overhead as we began to descend to a footbridge over Harper Creek.
Sun behind trees in the Willamette National Forest

Footbridge over Harper Creek

From there we climbed up and around a ridge gaining 280′ in half a mile before dropping again, this time to a bridge less crossing of North Creek.
North Creek

There was just enough water to prevent a dry rock hop across the creek and a pair of logs downstream were too slick and angled to be worth risking so we decided to make North Creek our impromptu turn around. We were only about a tenth of a mile from the Eula Ridge Trailhead so we had covered most of the trail and I had especially been struggling all morning.

We returned the way we’d come listening to the birds and watching for the small purple blossoms of snow queen.
WrenWren signing along the trail

Snow queen

I had had a sore throat when I’d woken up and by the time we made it back to the car I was chilled. I spent the rest of the day and the next in bed ill which actually made me feel a little better about having struggled so much on a 10.8 mile 1600′ elevation gain hike.

The South Willamette Trail is definitely not a big reward hike, there are no views to speak of and aside from the few small creeks no real attractions along the way other than a nice green forest. That being said it was a good moderate winter hike and it’s open all year save for the worst storms. Happy Trails!

Flickr: South Willamette Trail

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon

Salmon Creek Falls

On Columbus Day morning we left Klamath Falls and headed home to Salem. We were planning on hiking on the way home, but we weren’t sure what hike we would be doing. If the weather was decent we were hoping to hike up The Twins near Waldo Lake and if it wasn’t we’d try the Salmon Creek Trail to Salmon Creek Falls near Oakridge.

It was dark at 5am as we headed north on Highway 97 but the stars where visible in the sky above. The stars were still out as we turned onto Highway 58 and began to head NW toward the Cascade Crest. The possibility of The Twins was still on the table, but by the time we had reached Crescent Junction the stars had been replaced by rain clouds. Salmon Creek Falls it was.

Just prior to reaching Oakridge we turned right onto Fish Hatchery Road and drove it’s length to Forest Road 24 where we turned right for .8 miles to the Flat Creek Road. Here we turned right and parked in a large gravel parking lot next to a small gazebo.
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The Salmon Creek Trail began a short distance down the road from the gazebo.
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After just a tenth of a mile we came to an unsigned junction where we turned left.
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A steady light rain was falling from the low clouds overhead as we followed this trail east past the Flat Creek Work Center and along Salmon Creek.
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It was an interesting trail in that it split in several areas only to rejoin a short distance later. A sort of pick your own adventure trail if you will. It also spent some time along the shoulder of FR 24 in areas where Salmon Creek had eroded the bank substantially.
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At other times the trail followed roadbeds.
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This led to a little confusion about the correct route, but it really didn’t matter as long as we kept heading east because the creek and FR 24 acted as rails on either side.

After a little over two and a half miles we arrived at a wide junction.
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A right turn here brought us to the site of a washed out bridge that used to connect to another trail on the south side of Salmon Creek.
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Just under a mile beyond the washed out bridge we arrived at the Salmon Creek Campground.
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We headed through an empty camp site and followed a path down to the creek and 10′ Salmon Creek Falls.
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It was a good day to visit the falls, the autumn colors were nice and there were no crowds around. After spending some time by the water we headed back keeping our eyes open for the small things that are easy to miss in the forest.
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It was a fairly easy 7.8 mile round trip hike and even though it rained almost the entire time we didn’t feel soaked. It was about as nice a hike as one could hope for on that kind of day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon Creek Falls

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Lawler Trail to Patterson Mountain

For our first hike in May we headed east of Eugene, OR on Highway 58 to the Lawler Trail. The 5.5 mile trail gains over 2700′ to the Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trail. Our plan was to start at the Lawler Trailhead.

The forest service website mentioned a slide about .75 miles from the trailhead and that turning around was difficult for passenger cars so we were expecting some interesting driving conditions. We turned off of Highway 58 onto Patterson Mountain Road (Forest Service Road 5840) and then left onto FS Road 531 after a short climb uphill. Not long after turning onto this road we passed a trail and hiker sign on the right. As we passed a second signed trail just east of Duval Creek, there was also space for a couple of vehicles. These were part of the Lawler Extension Trail that extends between the Lawler Trailhead and the Eula Ridge Trailhead. None of these possible starting points were options for us since they would have required over 20 miles of hiking (nearly 25 round trip from the Eula Ridge TH).

Just beyond the trail at Duval Creek we came upon a small tree across Road 531. We carry a small saw and ax with us just in case we need to do some clearing and I thought I was finally going to get to us them, but it turned out that the tree was not stuck in the ground and it was small enough that I was able to drag it off to the side so we could continue. After a little over 2 miles on Road 531 we veered uphill to the right on Road 535. This was the road with the slide and it was narrow. We were driving slowly looking for the slide when we arrived at a small turnaround and a hiker sign.IMG_2845

We still aren’t sure if the slide had been cleared or if the note about the slide was old and this spot was actually the site of it. It clearly wasn’t the original trailhead because we had to walk up the old road bed to reach the start of the actual trail. We came upon some wood that had been laid across the road marking the location of the Lawler Extension Trail coming up from below.IMG_2848

Instead of being .75 miles from the trailhead we arrived at then end of the old road bed and the start of the trail in just over .25 miles.IMG_2852

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We turned onto the trail which quickly began to climb into the forest.IMG_2855

A first series of switchbacks passed beneath some large rock outcroppings.IMG_2864

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After getting past the rocks the trail swung back around climbing above them to another series of switchbacks. Along the way the forest was dotted with white trillium.IMG_2875

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We also spotted a green frog.IMG_2884

After approximately 1.75 miles we gained a ridge. Soon we came to a grassy viewpoint amid manzanita bushes and fawn lilies.IMG_2895

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The trail followed the ridge through shifting forests and past more early wildflowers.IMG_2904

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A quarter mile from the viewpoint the trail dropped to a saddle before climbing back up to another viewpoint .7 miles from the first. The view from the previous viewpoint was to the NE while this one looked west.IMG_2932

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Patterson Mountain in the upper left hand corner and Hardesty Mountain on the right.

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Lookout Point Reservoir

There was a nice madrone tree at the western end of the grassy opening.IMG_2941

After taking in the view we continued along the ridge passing a cool rock pinnacle.IMG_2943

Beyond the pinnacle the trail dropped to another saddle and the first of three road crossings.IMG_2951

Road 213 was clearly no longer in use but there was a nice red flowering current at the junction.IMG_2952

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The Lawler Trail climbed from the saddle into a small section of forest that had experienced a burn at some point. It was either a small forest fire or possibly from a burnout operation during the Deception Fire of 2014.IMG_2956

Beyond the burn area we began to encounter some minor blowdown which was all manageable.IMG_2960

An eighth of a mile after crossing Road 213 we arrived at another decommissioned road, FS 542.IMG_2961

Another .3 miles of climbing brought us to the third road crossing, FS 543, which appeared to still be in use.IMG_2968

Between these two crossing we passed one of the oddest looking trees we’ve seen. As we approached it looked as if its trunk was shaped in a loop.IMG_2965

Looking at if from the other side showed that it wasn’t quite a loop but it had grown in some interesting directions.IMG_2964

The trail continued climbing beyond FS 543 and we began running into small patches of snow and more blowdown.

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A little over a half mile beyond the road we gained another ridge and headed up it. The ridge provided some views of several Cascade snow peaks.IMG_3000

North & Middle Sister

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South Sister

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Broken Top

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Mt. Bachelor

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Diamond Peak

We continued along the ridge which became broader, more forested, and snowy to the signed junction of the Lawler and Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trails.IMG_3010

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We turned right at the junction passing between a large snow patch and the skunk cabbage filled southern end of the Lone Wolf Meadow.IMG_3019

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This trail took us along the Lone Wolf Meadow for half a mile to another junction. The hellebore was just beginning to come up in the meadow which was apparently full of frogs. We never saw any but boy could we hear them.IMG_3027

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At the junction we turned right to visit the Lone Wolf Shelter.IMG_3032

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We took a break at the shelter listening to the chorus of frogs mix with the sounds of stream flowing from the meadow and the various birds calling from the trees.IMG_3044

After our relaxing rest at the shelter we continued on toward the summit of Patterson Mountain. The trail passed above another meadow that was full of more yellow skunk cabbage.IMG_3048

After passing the forested summit of Patterson Mountain the trail dropped slightly to a saddle with a small meadow.IMG_3057

Here a few yellow glacier lilies mixed with purple snow queen and some small white flowers.IMG_3062

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A final quarter mile of hiking brought us to the end of the trail and a bench at a rocky viewpoint.IMG_3065

From here views extended west past Hardesty Mountain and Lookout Point Reservoir to the Willamette Valley.IMG_3081

The Three Sisters and Broken Top could be seen to the NE.IMG_3070

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We sat on the bench for a bit. The only sounds were of the occasional bird and it was wonderfully peaceful. We pulled ourselves away at 11:45 and started back. We had only seen a couple of mountain bikers up to that point but as we made our way back to the shelter we began to see a few more people. We passed a couple of families who had started from the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead which allowed for a kid friendly 5 mile round trip to the bench viewpoint.

Once we were back on the Lawler Trail we passed some equestrians on their way up and were passed by a handful of mountain bikers on their way down. Some of the wildflowers had opened up as the day moved on adding some sights to the decent that we had not seen earlier.20180505_114836

Toothwort

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Sour grass

The insects were a little more active as well.IMG_3120

As we were finishing our hike along the old road bed I spotted a little garter snake curled up by the trail.IMG_3138

We were still the only car parked on Road 535 which was good because we had been slightly concerned about getting penned in if more people parked there. As we drove out it appeared that the equestrians had parked at Duval Creek and the Mountain Bikers had likely either parked at the Eula or Hardesty Trailheads.

The hike was on the longer side coming in a little over 16 miles and had a cumulative elevation gain over 3000′ putting it squarely in the difficult category, but it had been worth the effort. The various viewpoints helped provide breaks along the way and in the end we encountered less than 20 other people. While the shorter option of starting at the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead is surely the choice of most hikers this longer option would be a great training hike for those seeking one. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Patterson Mountain

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
Deception Butte Trail

Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Chucksney Mountain to Grasshopper Meadow – Overnight

After cancelling our first two planned backpacking trips in June we finally got out for an overnight trip. Originally on the schedule for the last week in June, we moved our visit to Grasshopper Meadow back three weeks to let the snow finish melting off, we just hoped we hadn’t waited too long to see the wildflowers.

Our plan for this trip was to start at Box Canyon Horse Camp and hike to Grasshopper Meadow via the Chucksney Mountain and Grasshopper Trails.

Box Canyon Horse Camp is located just off paved Forest Road 19 (Aufderheide Road) and can be reached by driving south from Highway 126 (4 miles east of Blue River) or north from Highway 58 (3 miles west of Oakridge).

After turning at a sign for the Horse Camp we forked right and parked in a large unmarked parking area where a post marked the start of our trail.

Trail from the car parking at Box Canyon Horse Camp

The trail led uphill and left to a signed trail junction just above the corral at the horse camp where we picked up the Grasshopper Trail.

Grasshopper Trail

Mosquitoes were a bit of a nuisance here, and they would be so off and on for the entire trip. We turned uphill passing the Box Canyon Trail which forked to the left before arriving at the signed junction with the Chucksney Mountain Tail. Here we turned right onto the Chucksney Mountain Trail which would lead us to the 5756′ summit in a little under 5 miles. The trail passed through a variety of scenery as it climbed.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Beargrass and a small burn along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail

In the first 3.5 miles from the trailhead we’d climbed about 1500′ reaching an elevation of 5200′ then the trail dropped a bit and leveled out for about a half mile. The level area held a couple of snow melt ponds and some green meadows which gave rise to plenty of mosquitoes so there wasn’t much stopping for photos as we zipped through. When the trail began climbing again we were approximately 600′ below the summit of Chucksney Mountain.

The trail made up the elevation in a half mile by using a long switchback. As we climbed the number of trees lessened and we passed an increasing number of wildflowers.

Lupine along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail crested a ridge below the summit in an old burn area which left plenty of exposure for wildflowers as well as open views.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

Phlox

View from Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor

The Chucksney Mountain Trail didn’t actually reach the summit but an easy .1 mile climb along the ridge brought us to the summits survey marker.

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Survey marker on Chucksney Mountain

A nice variety of wildflowers covered the ridge.

Owl's head clover

Catchfly

Wildflowers on Chucksney Mountain

Scarlet gilia

From the summit we could see eight of the Cascade volcanoes from Mt. Jefferson in the north to Diamond Peak in the south.

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack from Chucksney MountainMt. Jefferson & Three Fingered Jack

The Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor from Chucksney MountainThe Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor

Diamond Peak from Chucksney MountainDiamond Peak

After a short break at the summit we returned to the trail which turned south along a long ridge where the tread became faint as it passed through a meadow.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

We spotted some other types of wildflowers along the ridge as well as some nice ripe strawberries.

Fireweed

Grand collomia

Wallflower

Coneflower

Columbine

Strawberry

The trail reentered the trees as it began a hillside traverse to its end at the Grasshopper Trail.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

The trail passed along another section of burned forest just before reaching the signed junction.

Meadow along the Chucksney Mountain Trail

Chucksney Mountain Trail junction with the Grasshopper Trail

Turning left here would have led us back to the down to the Box Canyon Trailhead in 3.9 miles but we were saving that section of trail for our return the next day. We turned right and headed east along the Grasshopper Trail which promptly began to descend through and then along a meadow with lots of cat’s ear lilies and a view of Diamond Peak.

Meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Cat's ear lilies

Cat's ear lilies

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

The trail lost a little over 500′ of elevation as it followed the forested ridge east. A little over a mile from the junction we finally hit the low point in a saddle just under 5000′ in elevation. We then began regaining nearly all of the elevation we had lost in the next mile. This climb contained the steepest section of the hike and ended in a beargrass filled meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Beargrass

Beargrass meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

A brief exploration of the meadow revealed some blocks in the ground of unknown origin.

Blocks in a meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

We also spotted a fairly good sized and very colorful moth which we later identified as a common sheep moth thanks to some help from the folks at Oregonhikers.org.

Sheep Moth

Sheep Moth

We had thought this meadow might be Grasshopper Point but after consulting the map it was clear we had a way to go yet before we’d reach that feature. We continued on the trail, which for the next quarter mile traveled along some rocky cliffs offering more views of Diamond Peak.

Diamond Peak

Beyond the cliffs the trail turned north as it began to contour around a creek drainage. Up until this point the the trail had been in good shape with signs of recent maintenance where logs had been cut. The Chucksney Mountain Trail had been a bit faint through the meadow along the ridge but it had still been relatively easy to follow. Here we came to a large meadow with signs of another fire but no sign of the trail at first.

The Grasshopper Trail was not visible through this meadow, a few Forest Service flags helped mark the way.

We finally spotted a small orange flag in the middle of the grass and made our way towards it.

Forest Service Flag marking the Grasshopper Trail

It was a Forest Service “Trail” Flag so we looked for a second one. We did spot one, but it was next to a small tree next to the trail we’d just come from. We scanned for any signs of a trail: flagging, cairns, blazes but there was nothing. Time for the maps. The Garmin, Forest Service, and topographic maps all showed the trail swinging around to the NE so we began using the GPS to stick close to where it showed the trail was supposed to be. We spread out a bit in hopes of rediscovering the trail. We both spotted different flags at about the same time.

Forest Service Trail flag

There wound up being three flags at the lower end of the meadow which led us to the continuation of the trail as it reentered the trees. After a short stint in the trees the trail began to climb out of the valley into another meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

The trail was faint at times in this meadow as well, but there were large rock cairns to help guide us this time.

Grasshopper Trail

Looking back from this meadow gave us a good look at another meadow across the valley.

Meadows along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow gave way to a wildflower rock garden as the trail regained the ridge.

Grasshopper Trail

Owl's head clover

Scarlet gilia

Wildflowers along the Grasshopper Trail

Penstemon

In the next half mile the trail passed through two small meadows, the first filled with lupine and the second more beargrass. The trail was once again very faint in the lupine meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Lupine

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

The trail then dipped off the ridge, first on the north side, then after climbing back up to a saddle, to the south side to avoid some rock outcrops.

Grasshopper Trail

Beyond the outcrops was a short forested section of the ridge where some fragrant Washington lilies were in bloom.

Washington lily

Washington lily

A total of 5.2 miles from the Chucksney Mountain Trail junction we arrived at the meadow near Grasshopper Point.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Trail

We spotted a patch of bare ground at the edge of the meadow near the trees where we decided to set up camp.

Lupine meadow

Camp site along the Grasshopper Trail

The meadow was filled with flowers and provided views of Diamond Peak, especially on the rocks of Grasshopper Point.

Wildflower meadow along the Grasshopper Trail

Diamond Peak

After setting up camp and taking a nice break at Grasshopper Point we continued east on the Grasshopper Trail to the large Grasshopper Meadow.

Grasshopper Trail

Grasshopper Meadow

Grasshopper Meadow (and Grasshopper Point for that matter) lived up to their name as dozens of grasshoppers jumped with every step. The number of grasshoppers was impressive but more impressive was the variety of butterflies we were seeing.

Checkerspot butterfly

Swallowtail on tiger liliy

Mountain parnassian

Butterfly in Grasshopper Meadow

Fritillary butterflies

Butterflies in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper

There was even another common sheep moth.

Sheep moth

We were so busy looking at the butterflies and flowers we missed the fork in the trail that would have led down to a spring which is where we had planned on heading. We had brought our dinner with us and had planned on finding a place to eat near the spring so we could refill our water afterward since it was the only source of water around. When we reached a saddle where the trail began to descend to the north of Grasshopper Mountain we realized our mistake. From the saddle the Grasshopper Trail follows Hiyu Ridge for 4 miles to the Grasshopper Trailhead.

The view from the saddle included Diamond Peak to the SE and the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor beyond Chucksney Mountain to the NE.

Diamond Peak from Grasshopper Meadow

The Three Sisters and Broken Top

We momentarily considered attempting to bushwack up to the former lookout site atop Grasshopper Mountain but the brush near the summit looked thick and in the end we decided not to exert the effort.

Grasshopper Mountain

Instead we decided to head cross country downhill and use the GPS to locate the spring.

Grasshopper Meadow

From higher up in the meadow we’d seen something near a boulder below and on our way to the spring we took a closer look.

Some sort of memorial in Grasshopper Meadow

Not sure if it was some sort of memorial or what but after satisfying our curiosity we continued steeply downhill to the SE where we managed to find the spring flowing out of a pipe amid a clump of yellow monkey flower and a swarm of blue copper butterflies.

Spring in Grasshopper Meadow

Blue copper butterflies

We filled all our containers from the spring and then picked up a trail just a few feet east of the spring climbing steeply uphill. This trail starts just .7 miles from the spring along Forest Road 1929 and is the described route in William Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades”.

The terrain was too steep to provide any place for us to fix dinner so we began climbing back up toward the Grasshopper Trail. The trail was faint but visible as we climbed. Along the way we spotted a huge Washington lily blooming in the meadow.

Washington lily in Grasshopper Meadow

Washington lily

Washington lily

We were curious to find out where we’d missed this trail earlier when we passed by. It turned out that the path led over a rocky area where the tread vanished leaving a lone post and small rock cairn as it’s only identifiers.

Grasshopper Trail

We decided to return to Grasshopper Point and set up our stove on the rocks there. We fixed dinner then relaxed as we enjoyed the view and listened to the birds.

Western tanager

White crowned sparrow

We turned in for the night after having put in a little over 15 miles for the day. After a good nights sleep we awoke early and began preparing to depart. The mosquitoes were out in force, (they had been mostly absent in the meadows during the heat of the previous day) and we were dealing with a fair amount of condensation due to setting up next to the meadow.

Lupine in the morning light

After packing up and applying some DEET we headed back. We had talked about the possibility of seeing some sort of animals in the meadows that morning and sure enough we did spot three deer just as we entered one of the meadows, but they quickly retreated into the trees.

While we hadn’t seen anyone else yet on this trip we did spot some fresh mountain bike tracks as we neared the junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail. We reached that junction after a little over five miles. We passed that trail and continued straight on the Grasshopper Trail.

Our shoes were soaked from the dew in the meadows and the mosquitoes were ready to pounce whenever we paused, so even though the next 3.6 miles of the Grasshopper Trail was new for us, we kept a brisk pace. The trail wound it’s way downhill through the forest where there were still many of the typical white flowers found amid the trees; bunchberry, anamone, queen’s cup, twin flower, and we even spotted a pair of trillium still in bloom.

Trillium

After a wide switchback we crossed a stream flowing down Box Canyon and in another quarter mile arrived back at the lower junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail.
Stream in Box Canyon

Grasshopper Trail junction with the Chucksney Mountain Trail

A final .3 miles brought us back to our car which was being patrolled by a squadron of mosquitoes. We quickly tossed our packs in the back of the car and hopped inside to change. We never did wind up seeing anyone else on the trails which made the fourth hike in a row where we didn’t see another person on the trails.

The trails had been amazingly clear of debris, we only stepped over two logs and one young bent tree, but the faint sections through the meadows required some navigational skill. The relative lack of water along the route make it an unlikely backpacking destination but it worked out well for us. That being said the views and the wildflowers make either Chucksney Mountain or Grasshopper Meadow a worthy early summer day hike destination. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157683128711132

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Blair Lake Trail

On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.

We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.
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The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.
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Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.
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After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.
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Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.
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We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.
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After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.
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The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Washington
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Three Fingered Jack
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Mt. Jefferson
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There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.
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Northwestern Alligator Lizard

We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.
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We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.
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When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.
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We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.
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On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.
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We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!