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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Roseburg Area Trip report

Illahee Rock & Twin Lakes – 06/14/2022

Our original plan for this vacation was to do a pair of hikes on the way down to Roseburg on Monday, Illahee Rock and Twin Lakes but the weather hadn’t cooperated with that plan. Monday was cloudy so doing two viewpoint hikes didn’t make sense. Instead, we had spent Monday visiting various waterfalls along Highway 138 (post). The plan for Tuesday had been a hike along Cow Creek on the way south to Ashland but during one of the many drives between trailheads on Monday we had decided instead to do the Illahee Rock and Twin Lakes hikes on Tuesday, weather permitting, and to save Cow Creek for another year. There were two reasons for this change. First Twin Lakes is one of Sullivan’s featured hikes while Cow Creek is not. The second reason was that we were both still dealing with blisters from our 17.5-mile outing at the Columbian White-Tailed Deer Refuge three days earlier (post) and with at least four creek crossings on the Cow Creek Trail the probability of us having to ford the creek and soaking our feet didn’t sound like the best idea. Before going to sleep Monday, we checked the forecast which was “Becoming Sunny”. I don’t think we’d ever come across that particular forecast, but it sounded hopeful so Tuesday morning we packed up the car and headed east once again on Highway 138.

Our first stop was at Illahee Rock, a former featured hike that was hit with fires in both 2017 and 2021. Two lookout towers sit atop Illahee Rock and the Umpqua National Forest website listed the Illahee Lookout Trail as open but gave no update on conditions. We wound up cutting the drive short by three quarters of a mile due to a decent amount of debris in the road due to damage caused by the fires.
IMG_3119We parked in a pullout just before this section.

The “becoming sunny” forecast was obviously not for the morning as we found ourselves in heavy fog as we hiked along FR 100.
IMG_3125The Boulder Creek Wilderness (post) under the slowly rising clouds.

After 0.75 miles on FR 100 we came to FR 104 on the left which led to the Illahee Rock Trailhead. Before heading up to the lookouts though we wanted to make an attempt to reach nearby Wild Rose Point which Sullivan described in his book.
IMG_3135FR 104

We passed FR 104 and continued on FR 100 for another 0.2 miles to a fork.
IMG_3136Rabbit on FR 100

IMG_3140Lots of fawn lilies along the road and trails.

IMG_3147Red flowering currant

IMG_3149Is this an apple tree? Whatever it is it seemed very out of place.

IMG_3148FR 105 on the left and FR 100 on the right.

We could see a post for the trail on the hillside in brush but had a bit of trouble figuring out where the trail began at the fork. We first looked for it right at the fork then a bit down FR 100 but it was actually just up FR 105 next to the post for the road.
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This little path brought us to the post in the brush where it was already obvious this was going to be an adventure.
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The 2021 fire had burned over this area as well and it didn’t appear that any maintenance had been done aside from some occasional flagging and cairns. We decided to give it a go though since it was under 1.5 miles to Wild Rose Point. We picked our way uphill and found some decent tread in some trees that had been spared by the fire.
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Another uphill through a burned area brought us to another short section of better trail before fallen trees began to be a problem. A little over half a mile in near Illahee Spring we decided to turn back. Several larger trees blocked the trail head and looked like more trouble than it was worth to try and navigate around and even if we did manage there wasn’t going to be a view due to the fog.
IMG_3160A cairn on the left.

IMG_3166Damp trillium

IMG_3167Downed trees across the trail near Illahee Spring.

We returned to FR 100 and walked back to FR 104 which we now turned up.
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IMG_3180Gooseberry

Two tenths of a mile up FR 104 we came to the Illahee Rock Trailhead.
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This trail was in much better shape and we had no problem following it the three quarters of a mile up to the lookouts.
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IMG_3183The tread was a little faint but otherwise in good shape.

IMG_3195Lots of cool rock outcrops along the trail.

IMG_3200Fawn lilies

IMG_3201Typical trail condition.

IMG_3221Ragwort and blue-eyed Mary covered hillside.

20220614_083925Blue-eyed Mary

20220614_083942Ragwort

IMG_3224Rocky hillside below the lookouts.

20220614_084842Larkspur

IMG_32311925 Cupola style lookout.

IMG_32361956 L-4 tower lookout

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IMG_3243Paintbrush

We spent some time exploring the summit and checking out the lookouts while we waited for it to become sunny. We eventually gave up on that and headed back down.
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IMG_3247Illahee Rock

IMG_3249A sliver of hope for blue sky at some point.

It wasn’t more than 10 minutes after we started down before the blue sky started appearing.
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IMG_3271Back at the trailhead.

IMG_3275On FR 100

IMG_3278Wallflower

IMG_3286The Boulder Creek Wilderness

We’d missed out on a view from Illahee Rock but we had another opportunity coming up on our hike to Twin Lakes. We drove back down FR 100 to Highway 138 and turned left (east) for 2.25 miles to FR 4770 where we turned right at a sign for the Twin Lakes and North Umpqua Trail. We followed FR 4770 to the Twin Lakes Trailhead . (The east trailhead not the west.)
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The same 2017 fire that burned Illahee Rock affected the Forest here as well although many large trees did survive. We followed the Twin Lakes Trail for 0.6 miles to a junction.
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IMG_3307Meadow along the trail.

IMG_3310Trillum

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IMG_3319Becoming sunny in action. From this viewpoint Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey are visible sans clouds.

IMG_3320A carpet of blue-eyed Mary at the viewpoint.

IMG_3325Illahee Rock was visible from the viewpoint despite the clouds.

IMG_3326The lookout tower on Illahee Rock.

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IMG_3334Indian plum

IMG_3338Hellbore starting to sprout in a meadow.

IMG_3344Waterleaf

IMG_3348Nearing the junction.

At the first junction we stayed right then veered left at the next, avoiding the Deception Creek Trail, and descended through a meadow to the Twin Lakes Shelter.
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IMG_3353Woodpecker

IMG_3356Gray jay

IMG_3357The second junction where we turned left.

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IMG_3368Mushroom near the shelter.

After a short break at the shelter we started around the bigger of the two lakes going counter-clockwise. We passed a walk in campground and continued along the lake shore.
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The lake was very colorful and it was easy to see into the water which allowed us to watch fish as they swam around.
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IMG_3381No fish but it was easy to see them when they were present.

IMG_3382This big rock added to the scenery.

IMG_3385We couldn’t decide if that was an old bridge or dock in the water.

IMG_3386Passing behind the big rock.

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IMG_3388The rock turned out to be split.

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IMG_3396There was a lot of water in the section between the two lakes. Fortunately there didn’t seem to be any mosquitos which was really surprising but in a good way.

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We weren’t entirely sure where the trail between the two lakes was and we started thinking that we’d missed it so when we saw an opportunity we headed cross country toward the smaller lake.
IMG_3398This looked like it could be a trail.

IMG_3399How were there not any mosquitos in here.

IMG_3401A local wondering what we were up to.

We spotted more large rocks with a bit of a shelter underneath and were headed for it when we spotted an actual trail running by the rocks.
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We followed this trail to the second lake and made our way around it counter-clockwise as well.
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IMG_3408The outlet creek.

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IMG_3413Yellow-rumped warbler

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IMG_3425Red-breasted sapsucker

IMG_3429Stellar’s jay

There was still snow in the basin on the south side of the lake making this side very wet.
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A 1995 log shelter used to be located on this side of the lake but was lost to the 2017 fire. A small outhouse and a whole lot of garbage (people are awful sometimes) is all that was left.
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After completing the loop we followed the trail back toward the larger lake passing the boulder shelter and a balancing rock.
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IMG_3446This cracked us up, someone just nailed the planks into the tree that broke the bridge.

This trail led back to the trail around the larger lake.
IMG_3447A small sign at the junction.

We finished the loop around the larger lake and stopped again at the shelter.
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A 1.1 mile climb from the first junction that we’d come to earlier would take us to a viewpoint above the lakes.
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We had been waiting to see if it really did become sunny before deciding on this optional side trip but now that there was quite a bit of blue sky overhead we decided to head up.
IMG_3473Another meadow along the 1.1 mile section.

IMG_3484The 2017 fire hit this section pretty hard.

There was a bit more snow over 5400′ but not enough to cause any problems.
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A well established use trail led out to the viewpoint where we met another pair of hikers enjoying the view.
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IMG_3499The larger lake.

IMG_3504The smaller lake.

IMG_3506Illahee Rock from the viewpoint.

IMG_3509The lower flanks of Howlock Mountain, Mt. Thielsen (post), and Mt. Bailey (post).

We chatted with the other hikers long enough that we could almost see all of Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey by the time we were headed back.
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20220614_143125Bee on an anemone.

20220614_143956Glacier lily

IMG_3529Moth and a violet.

When we passed by the lower viewpoint the views had improved even more.
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IMG_3536Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey

IMG_3540Black Rock on the right.

IMG_3534Highrock Mountain

IMG_3538Howlock Mountain

IMG_3539Cowhorn Mountain (post)

It truly had become sunny and was supposed to stay that way at least for the next couple of days. After driving back to Highway 138 we followed it east to Diamond Lake then took Highway 230 south to Highway 62 and followed it into Medford to I-5 and took the freeway south to Ashland where we would be staying for the next four nights. We’d hoped to stop by Becky’s Cafe in Union Creek but when we drove by it was closed so instead we wound up with Wendy’s after another long day (sigh) of driving.

The hikes were 5.2 miles and 6.2 miles with 650′ and 850′ of elevation gain respectively giving us an 11.4 mile 1500′ day.

Illahee Rock Track
Twin Lakes Track
Categories
Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Oregon Roseburg Area Trip report

Highway 138 Waterfalls – 06/13/2022

The last two years have created a bit of urgency to our goal of completing the 100 featured hikes in all five areas covered by William L. Sullivan in his 100 hikes guidebook series (post). Between the pandemic and 2020 wildfire season it became clear that taking our time could create issues down the road so starting last year we refocused our efforts on finishing the 500 hikes as soon possible. As we started 2022 we were down to just the Eastern and Southern Oregon (and Northern CA) areas to complete (post). The majority of the remaining hikes were from the southern book where a number of planned trips had been canceled in recent years due to weather and/or the effects of wildfires. We spent a week in Medford earlier in June checking off Roxy Ann Peak (post) and the Jack-Ash Trail (post) and we headed back south a couple of weeks later to hopefully check off more.

A cool and wet Spring has left parts of Oregon, in particular the northern and central Cascade Mountains with a lot of lingering snow. Many trails and trailheads in those areas that in recent years would be open are still snowed in but Southern Oregon had been dealing with an extreme drought, so the recent weather has not had as much of an impact leaving trails accessible. While accessibility wasn’t an issue the weather forecast was a bit of one. More wet weather was forecast for the start and end of our six-day trip with the possibility of snow at higher elevations. After some substituting and rearranging of hikes we settled on a tentative plan that gave us some flexibility in case the forecast tried to pull a fast one on us. Since Monday was supposed to be mostly cloudy with a chance of showers off and on all day we decided to combine a number of stops east of Roseburg along Highway 138 to check out seven different waterfalls.

We started our morning off at Susan Creek Falls. This waterfall is one of three stops listed in featured hike #2, Fall Creek Falls (4th edition). This area was burned in the 2020 Archie Creek Fire and to date the other two stops at Fall Creek Falls and the Tioga Segment of the North Umpqua Trail remain closed. The BLM has managed to get the 0.7 mile Susan Creek Trail open although the trailhead on the north side of the highway was full of logs forcing us to park across the street at the Susan Creek Picnic Area.
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After dashing across the highway we set off on the trail through the burned forest.
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IMG_2741Checkermallow

IMG_2743A slug and a bug on a flower.

IMG_2745Pea

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IMG_2753Approaching the falls.

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20220613_081135Columbine

20220613_080719_HDRSusan Creek Falls

This short trail only gained about 150′ and was a nice leg stretcher after the drive down from Salem. After admiring the falls we returned to the car and continued east on 138 to milepost 59 and turned left onto Forest Road 34 to the Toketee Falls Trailhead. One of two stops that make up featured hike #9 (edition 4.2) a 0.4 mile trail leads to a platform above the falls which spill out of gap in basalt cliffs.
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IMG_2800Evidence of overnight rains on the trail.

IMG_2806A very faint rainbow over the North Umpqua River.

IMG_2815Stairs down to the viewpoint platform.

IMG_2810Toketee Falls

We spent some time admiring this waterfall which is one of Oregon’s more recognizable falls before returning to the car and continuing on FR 34 to FR 3401 and following it to the Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead.
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The hike starting here is not the second part of featured hike #9 but rather its own entry (featured hike #8, edition 4.2). Sullivan gives two 0.6 mile round trip options starting from this trailhead. The first is a 120′ climb to Umpqua Hot Springs overlooking the North Umpqua River. To reach the hot springs we crossed the river on a footbridge and turned right to make the climb up to the springs.
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IMG_2851Candy sticks along the trail.

Just before the hot springs I veered downhill on a side trail to visit the river.
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IMG_2857During lower flow there is another hot spring along the river bank in the area.

I climbed back up to find Heather sitting near the springs. There were a number of people enjoying a soak and with clothing being optional pictures were very limited.
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We climbed down from the hot springs and returned to the trailhead where we took a short trail up to FR 3401 and turned left following a short distance to the resumption of the North Umpqua Trail.
IMG_2867Heading up to the road.

IMG_2870The North Umpqua Trail on the left leaving the FR 3401.

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Approximately a quarter mile along this segment we arrived at Surprise Falls, a cascade created by cold springs bursting from the hillside below the trail.
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The mossy cascade was beautiful and we spent quite a while enjoying the lush green surroundings. A very short distance further we arrived at our turn around point at another spring fed waterfall, Columnar Falls.
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This fall gets its name due to the columnar basalt that the water both cascades down and spouts right out of.
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IMG_2907The hot springs across the river from Columnar Falls.

We returned the way we’d come and hoped back into our car and drove back to Highway 138 where we again turned east. Our next stop was the second waterfall in featured hike #9, Watson Falls. Another short (0.4 mile) trail leads from the Watson Falls Trailhead to Southern Oregon’s tallest waterfall.
IMG_2914The top of Watson Falls from the trailhead signboard.

This trail gains 300′ as it climbs to a viewpoint part way up the 272′ waterfall.
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20220613_113355Watson Falls from below.

IMG_2932Footbridge over Watson Creek.

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IMG_2953Heather at the viewpoint.

IMG_2946The splash pool.

On the way back down we took the loop back trail which splits off just before the creek crossing.
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This trail follows Watson Creek down to FR 37 where a right turn and short road walk completes the loop.
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IMG_2969Watson Creek at FR 37.

IMG_2971A little bit of blue sky and sunlight along FR 37.

Once again we returned to Highway 138 and continued east. Our next three stops were in the Lemolo Lake Recreation Area so we turned off of the Highway onto FR 2610 at a pointer for the Recreation Area. Our first stop was at the Warm Springs Trail.
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Yet another short trail (0.3 miles) that led to a scenic waterfall.
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IMG_2982Viewing platform above the falls.

IMG_2986We both really liked the angled basalt cliff on the far side of these falls.

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This waterfall surprised us a bit with how much we both liked it. We headed back to the car and drove back the way we’d come until reaching a canal bridge along FR 2610 where we turned across it to the North Umpqua Trail.
IMG_3069The canal bridge is 5.6 miles from Highway 138 on FR 2610.

IMG_2991Sign near the canal bridge.

IMG_2992The North Umpqua Trail.

IMG_2993The section between Lemolo Lake and the Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead is called the “Dread and Terror Segment” but both sections we hiked were beautiful.

This would be our longest hike of the day at 3.5 miles round trip. The trail followed the North Umpqua River providing numerous views while losing 400′ to a viewpoint above Lemolo Falls.
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IMG_3006Numerous seasonal streams and seeps flowed across the trail.

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IMG_3017Unnamed fall along the river.

IMG_3031Trillium

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IMG_3037Ouzel

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IMG_3054Lemolo Falls

We took a short break at the viewpoint then headed back. We had one final stop to make on the other side of the river to visit a better viewpoint below Lemolo Falls.
IMG_3060Red flowering currant along the trail.

IMG_3063Bleeding heart.

From the canal bridge we drove back toward Lemolo Lake crossing the dam then in half a mile turned right on FR 3401 for another half mile to FR 800 where we again turned right. We followed FR 800 for 1.6 miles to a spur road (FR 3401-840). The trailhead is located approximately a quarter-mile down this road but we parked as soon as we had a chance due to this road being in the worst condition we’d experienced this day.
IMG_3070Approaching the trailhead.

This old trail/trailhead was recently reopened and aside from the poor access road the trail was in good shape. The first 0.6 miles follows an old roadbed to a former picnic area where the Lemolo Falls Trail used to begin. Three quarters of a mile later the trail arrives at the North Umpqua River below Lemolo Falls.
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IMG_3083The former picnic area (Note the picnic table in the trees to the right.)

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IMG_3098Valerian along the trail.

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IMG_3113One of many brief appearances of blue sky during the day.

This was by far the superior view and a great way to end the day. We climbed back up the 500′ that we’d descended to the falls and called it a day. Our seven stops was a new personal record (previously six on a trip down the Oregon Coast). With most of the hikes being rather short our mileage for the day was just a smidge over 11 miles with a little over 1800′ of cumulative elevation gain. It was a long day made longer by a couple of delays due to road construction so it was later than we’d planned when we pulled into our motel in Roseburg but we had managed to finish three more featured hikes (and one third of a fourth) and although it had sprinkled off and on all day we’d also had a few sun breaks which made it a perfect day for chasing waterfalls. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Highway 138 Waterfalls

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Chehalem Ridge Nature Park – 05/14/2022

May continues to be wet this year despite being in the midst of a drought. Hopefully these rainy days will help with that to some extent but in the meantime for the second week in a row we found ourselves looking for a “Plan B” hike that was more inclement weather friendly. We decided on the recently opened (December 2021) Chehalem Ridge Nature Park. Located in the Chehalem Mountains this 1260 acre park is managed by Metro which also manages Orenco Woods where we had started last week’s hike (post). Chehalem Ridge offers a network of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails but does not allow pets/dogs. The park website states that the park is open from sunrise to sunset which I mention because Google seemed to think it opened at 6:30am and entries in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide (Iowa Hill & Chehalem Ridge) give the hours as 8am to 7pm. With sunrise being a little before 6am this time of year we gambled on the Metro website hours and arrived at the large Chehalem Ridge Trailhead at 6am to find that the gate to the trailhead was indeed open.
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We had spent most of the hour drive passing through rain showers but there was no precipitation falling as we prepared to set off. We stopped at the signboard to read up on the park and to study the map to confirm out plan for the hike.
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Simply put the plan was to stay right at all junctions. This meant taking the Timber Road to the Ammefu (mountain in Atfalti (Northern Kalapuya)) Trail back to the Timber Road then to the Ayeekwa (bobcat in Atfalti) Trail to Witches Butter to the Chehalem (outside place in Atfalati) Ridge Trail. We would then follow the Chehalem Ridge Trail (detouring on a small partial loop) to the Madrona Trail and follow it to it’s end at a loop near some madrone trees. Our return would be back along the Madrona Trail to the Chehalem Ridge Trail (skipping the partial loop this time) to the Mampaꞎ (lake in Atfalati) Trail then right on the Zorzal (Spanish for thrush) Trail back to the Mampaꞎ Trail to Iowa Hill where the Mampaꞎ Trail ends in a loop around the hill. From Iowa Hill we would return to the Timber Road via the Mampaꞎ Trail and follow the road downhill to the Woodland Trail which we would follow back to the trailhead. The route could have been confusing but Metro has done an excellent job with not only placing posts identifying the trails at all of the junctions but also including maps on top of the posts.
The other nice touch is that the maps on these posts were oriented differently to align with the direction of the trail with north identified in the legend which made them quicker to read.

We set off down the Timber Road past the first of three figures located throughout the park representing the traditional storytelling of the Atfalti.
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IMG_9691The Castor (Spanish for beaver) Trail on the left, this was the only trail in the park that we didn’t hike on during our visit. It was always a left turn.

IMG_9695Fawn lilies

IMG_9697Our first right turn (left was a short connector to the Woodland Trail).

IMG_9698Again the posts and accompanying maps were some of the best trail identifiers we’ve run across.

IMG_9700Bench at the viewpoint along the Ammefu Trail.

IMG_9701We had to imagine the view today.

IMG_9702The second figure.

IMG_9708Back at the Timber Road and another short connector to the Woodland Trail.

IMG_9709Fog on Timber Road

IMG_9712Passing the Woodland Trail on the left which would be our right turn on the way back.

IMG_9713Christensen Creek

IMG_9714Right turn for the Ayeekwa and Witches Butter Trails.

IMG_9715Witchs Butter on the left and Ayeekwa on the right.

IMG_9716Trillium

Some of the trails were gravel which helped keep mud from being an issue given the damp conditions. In fact there was only one spot (along the Madrona Trail) where mud was an issue at all.
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IMG_9719Another bench, this one overlooked Christensen Creek.

IMG_9720Common blue violet

IMG_9722Pioneer violets and a strawberry blossom.

IMG_9726Mushrooms under a fern.

IMG_9727Popping out on the Witches Butter Trail.

IMG_9728Witches Butter Trail

IMG_9737Witches Butter Trail winding through Douglas firs.

IMG_9742Turning right onto the Chehalem Ridge Trail.

IMG_9745There was a little more mud on the Chehalem Ridge Trail.

IMG_9754Spring green carpet.

IMG_9756A good example of the differently oriented maps, on this one north is down.

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IMG_9759Another fir plantation. The land had been owned by a timber company prior to being purchased by Metro in 2010.

IMG_9760Start of the Chehalem Ridge Loop. We went right which simply swung out along the hillside before dropping down to the Madrona Trail in 0.4 miles.

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IMG_9763The loop continued to the left but we turned right onto the Madrona Trail.

The one thing that was hard to distinguish on the maps was the topography so we were a little surprised when the Madrona Trail continued to descend the hillside. (Had we read the Oregon Hikers Field Guide more closely we would have been prepared.) The trail switchbacked a total of 11 times before arriving at an old roadbed which it continued along to the right.
IMG_9769Still cloudy and gray but we’d experience very little if any precipitation yet.

IMG_9772Lots of tough-leaved iris along this trail.

IMG_9773One of several blooming dogwood trees.

IMG_9774View on the way down.

IMG_9775Madrone trees began to be a common sight as we descended.

IMG_9776One of the 11 switchbacks.

IMG_9777We hadn’t seen a lot of mushrooms recently but this hike had plenty.

IMG_9781Following the roadbed.

The trail left the roadbed at a post and dropped down to the 0.1 mile loop at the end of the Madrona Trail.
IMG_9783Aside from one other very small (3 in diameter) tree this was the only obstacle we encountered all day.

IMG_9784The start of the loop along with several madrones.

As we started back from the loop Heather mentioned that there should be a deer in the brush nearby and I jokingly said that there probably was and pointed out a game trail heading down to a small stream. As soon as I had finished my remark Heather spotted a doe that emerged from the bushes along the game trail. The doe made her way to the far hillside before we could get a good look at her.
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After watching the deer for a while we began the climb back up to the Chehalem Ridge Loop. It had felt like we’d come a long ways down but the climb back wasn’t any where near as bad as we expected it to be (In reality we’d only lost about 400′). It was as we were hiking back up that the first vestiges of blue sky appeared.
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IMG_9811The Tualatin Valley and Coast Range.

We stayed right at the Chehalem Ridge Loop to finish that loop and then retraced our steps on the Chehalem Ridge Trail back to Witches Butter Trail junction where we stayed right on the Chehalem Ridge Trail to its end at a three way junction. We had only seen 3 other people all morning, a trail runner on our way to the Madrona Trail and two hikers as we were coming back. We did however need to keep our eyes out for other trail users.
IMG_9819Either these worms were racing or it was a bird buffet. The rain had brought a lot of earthworms onto the trails.

IMG_9821Another trail user a rough skinned newt.

IMG_9824A closer look at the rough skinned newt.

We also spotted a pileated woodpecker at the top of a dead tree. Between the distance and other trees in between I couldn’t get a good picture.
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IMG_9831It had been so foggy when we had come up the Witches Butter Trail that we hadn’t realized that there was a giant green field nearby.

IMG_9834The end of the Chehalem Ridge Trail with the Mampaꞎ Trail to the right and a very short connector to the Timber Road to the left.

We briefly followed the Mampaꞎ Trail then turned right onto the Zorzal Trail.
IMG_9836Sunlight hitting the Mampaꞎ Trail.

IMG_9837Fairy slippers

IMG_9842Squirrel

IMG_9845The Zorzal Trail to the right.

IMG_9847Toothwort along the Zorzal Trail.

IMG_9848Stripped coralroot

The Zorzal Trail swung out and then rejoined the Mampaꞎ Trail near the Timber Road. We yet again turned right, crossed the Timber Road near a gate and continued on the Mampaꞎ Trail.
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The Mampaꞎ Trail passed along Iowa Hill before turning uphill and entering a wildflower meadow on the hilltop where a loop began.
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There was a large amount of lupine in the meadow but we were several weeks early and only a few plants had any blossoms. There were a few other flowers blooming and many more to come over the next few weeks.
IMG_9860An assortment of smaller flowers.

IMG_9861One of the few lupines with blossoms.

IMG_9865Camas buds

IMG_9870Oak tree on Iowa Hill. Most of the larger green clumps are lupine.

On the western side of the loop was a horse hitch, bike rack and stone circle where we sat and took a break.
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IMG_9873The third and final figure was also located near the stone circle.

As we sat and enjoyed the sun breaks and views we began spotting a few other wildflowers hiding in the lupine.
IMG_9874Yarrow

IMG_9876More lupine starting to blossom.

IMG_9877Tualatin Valley

IMG_9880Plectritis

IMG_9886Believe this is a checker mallow.

IMG_9888Parsley

IMG_9894Camas

IMG_9899Iris

IMG_9906White crowned sparrow

Buttercups in the lupine.

After a nice rest we finished the loop and headed back to the Timber Road which we followed downhill for six tenths of a mile to the Woodland Trail.
IMG_9913Turning down the Timber Road.

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IMG_9919I’m not good with these little yellowish birds. It could be an orange-crowned warbler.

IMG_9921Black capped chickadee

IMG_9924Approaching the Woodland Trail on the right.

IMG_9927Woodland Trail

We followed this trail for 1.4 winding miles back to the trailhead.
IMG_9930Candyflower

IMG_9932Coming to a switchback.

IMG_9936We ignored a couple of shortcuts that would have led back to the Timber Road.

IMG_9943We also skipped the Castor Trail which would have slightly lengthened the hike.

IMG_9946Lupine along the Woodland Trail as we neared the trailhead.

IMG_9947Much nicer conditions than we’d had that morning and way nicer than anything we had expected.

Our hike came to 12.1 miles with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain utilizing portions of all but one of the parks trails.

Again we had been fortunate enough to avoid any significant precipitation. The weather forecast had kept the crowds away though and we only encountered about 15 other hikers all day, the majority of which had been during the final hour of our hike. We were very impressed by the park and have put it on our list of nearby go to destinations when weather or other factors keep us from going someplace new. The number of different trails provide for hikes of various lengths with none of the trails being too challenging. There was also a decent variety of scenery in the park and it looks like the wildflower display on Iowa Hill toward the end of May will be amazing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Chehalem Ridge Nature Park

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Orenco, Noble & Miller Woods and Erratic Rock State Natural Site – 05/07/2022

A wet weather system along with a small chance of thunderstorms led us to look for a plan “B” for our second outing in May. Looking ahead to the hikes on our 2023 list for April/May gave us a suitable alternative so we moved a 2022 hike to next year and moved up an outing to visit four parks, two in Hillsboro and two SE of McMinville. These hikes were all located within an hour of Salem allowing to stay relatively close to home and we figured that the less than ideal weather might make for less crowded trails. We decided to start at the northern most trailhead and work our way south.

We arrived at the Orenco Woods Trailhead (open dawn to dusk) just before 6am and headed past the restrooms to an interpretive sign in front of the McDonald House.
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Beyond the house the path forked with the right hand fork leading to the Rock Creek Trail while the left fork led to the Habitat Trail which is the way we went.
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IMG_9268

20220507_060901Camas

IMG_9282Lupine

IMG_9275Habitat Trail

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After a third of a mile we arrived at the Rock Creek Trail near NW Cornelius Pass Road where we made our first wrong turn of the morning. We initially turned right which would have led us back into Orenco Woods.
IMG_9292We’ll blame our inability to read this sign on it still being early in the morning. We started down the path ahead before quickly questioning the direction and correcting course.

IMG_9295He probably knew which way he was going.

IMG_9296Heading the right way now.

From Orenco Woods the Rock Creek Trail follows the sidewalk along NW Cornelius Pass Road north 150 yards to a crosswalk where it crosses the road and follows NW Wilkins Street west another third of a mile.
IMG_9299NW Wilkins

The trail crosses NW Wilkins St below some power lines at a crosswalk and resumes as a paved path.
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IMG_9303

While there are no more sidewalk stretches of the trail until the Rock Creek Trailhead at NE Rock Creek Boulevard there are three other road crossing; NE Walker, NE Cornell, and NE Evergreen Parkway. Fortunately all of these road crossings are at signaled crosswalks.

A little over a half mile from Wilkins Street we arrived at the start of a loop in Orchard Park
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We stayed left planning on completing the loop on our return.
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IMG_9313Another trail user

Two tenths of a mile from the start of the loop the trail split. We didn’t see a sign/map here and didn’t consult the maps we had on our phones and mistook the left hand fork as simply a spur trail to a parking lot in the park and we stayed right. This was our second wrong turn of the morning.
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This path led downhill and crossed crossed Rock Creek without realizing that we had curved a full 180 degrees.
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IMG_9323

IMG_9324Fringecup

The trail split again two tenths of a mile later and here we veered left thinking it was the continuation of the Rock Creek Trail.
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After a short distance the pavement ended at a circle of stone benches.
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A well worn dirt path picked up here along a fence line behind some apartements
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IMG_9332Spotted towhee

IMG_9334Stellar’s Jay

This dirt path ended after a tenth of a mile at what turned out to be NW John Olson Avenue but we didn’t figure that our right away. We didn’t see any signs for the trail here so we finally consulted the maps we had in our phones but even then didn’t realize our mistake. On the map there was a slight jog right coming out of Orchard Park before crossing NE Walker so we headed right to the next street corner where we read the street sign realized this was NE Walker. The full extent of our mistake still wasn’t clear though as we followed the dirt path back past the stone benches to the fork where we’d veered left. It was here that we made our third and final wrong turn of the morning. We were actually on the Orchard Park Loop and not on the Rock Creek Trail which had veered left up to the parking lot while we had gone downhill to the right. Not realizing this we took the right hand fork which recrossed Rock Creek and then climbed back up to the Rock Creek Trail at the start of the loop
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We almost made our fourth mistake here as we didn’t initially realize that we had made the full loop. It wasn’t until we spotted some familiar looking camas nearby that the light bulb went off.
IMG_9343Second time staring at this sign.

Having finally figured it out we headed north through Orchard Park again but this time hiked uphill through the parking lot to NE Walker.
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IMG_9347

IMG_9349Not sure exactly how to interpret this scene – mourning, a murder, or breakfast?

IMG_9350The slight jog right along NE Walker.

We crossed NE Walker and a tenth of a mile later crossed NE Cornelius Pass.
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The next three quarters of a mile proved to be the most active for wildlife even though portions of it were between the creek and residences.
IMG_9359

IMG_9361Bridge of Rock Creek

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IMG_9363Look a pointer for John Olsen Avenue (just a lot further north).

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IMG_9366Mallards (A pair of wood ducks flew off at the same time the mallards headed downstream.)

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We had stopped while I attempted to get a photo of a small yellow bird that was bouncing around in a tree when we heard a branch/tree crack nearby. While I continued to try and get a picture Heather went over to the creek to investigate. It turned out to be a beaver which had been one of the animals left on our list that we hadn’t yet seen on a hike (or drive to one). Before she could get my attention (or a photo) it disappeared underwater so I still haven’t seen one in the wild.
IMG_9368Here is the only photo that I could even get with the little yellow bird visible at all.

IMG_9374NE Evergreen Parkway

Two tenths of a mile beyond NE Evergreen the trail passed under Highway 26 and in another 400′ arrived at the Rock Creek Trailhead.
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This was our turn around point so we headed back the way we’d come. We checked again for the beaver but it was no where to be found. Since we had inadvertently completed the Orchard Park Loop earlier we went straight back through the park and made our way back to Orenco Woods. At the entrance to the park we forked left staying on the Rock Creek Trail. (Retracing the short distance that we had hiked in the morning when we had made our first wrong turn.)
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Two tenths of a mile into the park we came to a footbridge over Rock Creek.
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After crossing the bridge we forked left and then took another left back on the Habitat Trail.
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IMG_9396Checkermallow

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The trail looped around and downhill to pass under the footbridge before arriving at small pond with a viewing platform.
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Beyond the pond the trail climbed back uphill near the McDonald House. We turned left here and made our way back to the trailhead.
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While it had remained cloudy all morning there had not been any noticeable precipitation during our 7.5 mile hike here.

The orange portion is the wrong turn on the Orchard Park Loop

From Orenco Woods we drove to the Baseline Road Trailhead at nearby Noble Woods.
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Our plan here was to make a counterclockwise loop using the outer most trails.
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From the trailhead we headed downhill to the right behind the rest rooms.
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Even though we were less than a mile from Orenco Woods we spotted a few flowers that we hadn’t seen during that hike.
IMG_9424Trillium

IMG_9426Solmonseal

20220507_092026_HDRFawnlilies

The trail leveled out to cross Rock Creek.
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20220507_092158Aven

A short spur trail on the other side of the creek theoretically led to Rock Creek but the recent rains had swollen it enough that the trail ended before the actual creek.
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We continued on the loop climbing toward Borwick Road Trailhead but before reaching the grassy park at that trailhead we turned right leaving the paved path for a compacted gravel/dirt trail
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IMG_9443

This trail swung to the west before making a 180 degree turn and leading to the Borwick Road Trailhead. Near a viewpoint and bench Heather spotted a barred owl being harassed by a robin.
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IMG_9462Rock Creek from the viewpoint.

20220507_093329_HDRThe back of the owl (middle tree 2/3 of the way up)

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The viewpoint was near the turn of the trail so we got some more glimpses of the owl through the trees after the turn. A second owl began hooting and this one wound up flying off to have a conversation. We hiked past the parking area at the Borwick Road Trailhead and hopped on a the trail the map called a “wood-chip” trail. In truth it was mostly mud at this point.
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IMG_9474Violets

We stuck to the outer trail when this trail forked.
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We arrived back at the paved loop near Rock Creek. We turned right onto it, crossed Rock Creek, and then climbed back up to the Baseline Road Trailhead.
IMG_9481Swollen creek

20220507_094724Fairy bells

20220507_095156Cinquefoil

IMG_9482Nearing the trailhead.

The loop here was just over a mile.

We had once again been sparred any precipitation and as we drove to our next stop at Miller Woods found ourselves under blue skies and bright sunshine. Miller Woods however was under cloud cover but we were feeling pretty confident and put all our rain gear into our packs before setting off from the trailhead. While it had been our first visit to Orenco and Noble Woods we had hiked here in March, 2020 (post).
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On our previous visit we had taken the yellow Outer Loop and had considered taking one of the other trails this time but a portion of the Discovery Loop was closed due to hazardous conditions (appeared to be a slide/washout) and the Oak Summit Trail didn’t look as interesting as the Outer Loop so we followed our route from 2020 except for a short section that had been rerouted.
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From the kiosk we followed the yellow pointers downhill through the grass passing camas and birds along the way down.
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20220507_105411

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IMG_9493A wren and a white-crowned sparrow

IMG_9496American goldfinches

IMG_9499Tree swallows

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As we neared the tree line the precipitation finally arrived and a light rain began to fall.
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We stopped in the trees to put our rain jackets on and then began descending through the forest to an unnamed stream.
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IMG_9511Bleeding heart near the stream.

The trail then turned NNW leveling out a bit above Berry Creek as it traversed the hillside.
IMG_9514Berry Creek down to the right.

IMG_9516There was a lot of wild ginger on the hillside.

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Not long after donning our rain jackets the rain stopped and sunlight began to break through again.
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The trail climbed as it came around the hill and we spotted a deer in the distance.
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It was a young one that was munching on plants along a service road. As we made our way by on the trail Heather noticed the mother bedded down on the road.
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After leaving the deer the trail soon began to descend and leave the trees.
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It was here that the trail had been rerouted since our 2020 visit. In 2020 the trail veered left to a service road and made a right turn along the road back to the tree line before reaching a bridge across a creek. Now the trail simply headed downhill sticking to the treeline.
IMG_9542

IMG_9544Iris

IMG_9546Buttercups

One of the neat features at Miller Woods is the wildlife survey covers which are liftable metal covers that could house wildlife. We had yet to lift one and see anything more than ants though until the cover near the creek. Lifting this cover revealed a small snake.
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IMG_9549Small garter snake

We gently replaced the cover and continued on the loop which reentered the trees after crossing the creek.
IMG_9552Approaching the bridge and creek.

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20220507_114520 Striped coralroot

It was shortly after crossing the bridge that we discovered the trail closure which ended the question of whether we would do the different, shorter loop this time or repeat our previous hike.
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Doing the longer 4.5 mile loop turned out to be great as the weather stayed dry and we spotted several more deer and some birds along the way.
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IMG_9574Sparrow

IMG_9583Doe just hanging out in a patch of poison oak. (It doesn’t bother deer.)

IMG_9584

IMG_9585Nearing the high point of the trail at K.T. Summit

IMG_9586Spotted coralroot

IMG_9589K.T. Summit

IMG_9591A very cool madrone tree.

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IMG_9598Two more deer with a third off camera.

Another neat feature that was new for us this visit were a number of signs along the trail identifying different evergreen trees in the Miller Woods Diversity Area.
IMG_9613There was at least one identifier for each tree listed on this sign. The signs were particularly nice because many were next to younger trees which made it easier to see the needles and bark instead of just look at a trunk and having to look up to try and see other details of the trees.

A couple of examples.
IMG_9614Western white pine

IMG_9616Western larch

IMG_9623Vanilla leaf

20220507_124234Fairy slippers

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IMG_9632

The trail passes above the entrance road and swings out before dropping down to what you expect to be the parking area (there is a signed short cut to it along the way) but the Outer Loop actually loops back behind the parking area and pops out of the trees near a the pond that the Discovery Loop goes around.
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IMG_9635

IMG_9638

IMG_9642

IMG_9646

IMG_9649Frog near the pond.

Another new feature was a platform over the pond.
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IMG_9656Red-winged blackbird

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After taking a break on the platform we hiked uphill to the parking area and headed for our last stop.

2022 track in orange

The Erratic Rock State Natural Site is located just off Highway 18 between McMinville and Sheridan. There are no amenities at the site, just a quarter mile paved trail uphill to the rock from a small pullout along Oldsville Road. While it is less than 30 miles from our house that is a stretch of highway that we never find ourselves on. I realized when I was planning this outing that it would only add about 10 minutes to our drive home from Miller Woods to detour to the site so I added it to the plans.

We missed the little pullout but found a wide section of shoulder to pull off on and walk back to the signed trail.
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The Erratic Rock is a 90 ton rock from the Northern Rocky Mountains that wound up over 500 hundred miles away on a hill in Oregon after being deposited here after one of Lake Missoula’s floods.
IMG_9666Interpretive sign at the start of the trail.

We were in a pocket of mostly blue sky as we headed up the trail.
IMG_9667Vineyard along the trail.

Although short the trail gains over 100′ in the quarter mile to the rock and we had already hiked over 13 miles, we were relieved when we saw the trail begin to crest.
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Seeing the rock there and knowing how far it had to travel to wind up there made it an impressive sight. The views from the hill were also quite nice making it a worthwhile detour.
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Our total for the day came to 13.8 miles with only 920′ of cumulative elevation gain. Individually each of these hikes are worth a stop and they all have things to offer young hikers. It turned out to be a fun combination with a unexpected amount of wildlife sightings and aside from the 10-15 minutes of light rain had been a surprisingly dry day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Orenco, Noble & Miller Woods and Erratic Rock State Natural Site

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – 04/23/2022

For the last six months we’ve been having projects done around the house and while everything at home has seemed to be in a state of upheaval work has felt just as chaotic. The end of our projects is in sight just barely overlapping with our hiking season. This is the most I’ve looked forward to a hiking season yet. I am a very introverted person and while hiking can be physically exhausting, for me it provides a mental recharge. Spending time relaxing at home is typically another way that I recharge but with all the projects going on I haven’t been able to get that same relaxed feeling this off-season.

Part of being an introvert is that socializing, especially in larger groups, is draining. It’s not that it isn’t enjoyable, it certainly can be, but it is exhausting and I haven’t been in a place where I’ve felt like I had the energy to interact with people beyond work recently (close family excluded). Heather on the other hand is more extroverted than I am. She still has some introvert traits but on a scale of introvert to extrovert she is closer to the extrovert than where I land. Before hiking season started she wanted to have a few friends over to see the progress thus far on the home. I thought it was a great idea but I also didn’t personally feel up to it despite how much I enjoy the group she was planning on inviting. To Heather’s credit she understood so in the interest of mental health I got an early jump on hiking season.

After doing a few last minute chores to help get the house ready for guests I headed out the door a little before 6am to make the 25 minute drive to Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. I had made a solo trip here last April (post) during a vacation week that Heather didn’t share. While I (we) typically don’t revisit places/hikes that close together the opening of the Ankeny Hill Nature Center in February was a good excuse for another visit. The website for the Nature Center listed “dawn to dusk” as the hours but I arrived just minutes before sunrise (6:14am) to find the gate still closed. A lower parking lot along Buena Vista Rd S was also gated closed with a sign stating it was due to ongoing construction. After reading the sign I wasn’t sure if I was too early or if the center was actually closed even though the website indicated it was open. A mystery that I would solve later though as I had some hiking to do.

The trail system at the Nature Center is less than a mile so I had planned on re-hiking some of my routes from the previous year and any areas that had been closed on that visit that might be open this time around. It had been a clear morning at our house and remained that way all the way to the Nature Center but as soon as I passed the lower parking lot I entered a fog bank which covered my first stop at Eagle Marsh.
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I could hear geese and ducks on the water but seeing much let alone taking pictures would require the fog to relent a bit. I set off along the dike road around the marsh hoping that the rising Sun would simultaneously take care of the fog and raise the temperature from the mid-30’s.
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IMG_8745Camas

IMG_8748Black phoebe in the fog. It’s the only one seen all day so despite the poor quality I kept the photo.

IMG_8761Wet spider webs are the best.

IMG_8758There was a brief respite in the fog before it rolled in again.

IMG_8765The fog bank waiting to move back in.

The section of the Eagle Marsh Trail on the SE side of Willow Marsh had been closed last year making the lollipop loop showed on the Refuge Map impossible but this year there were no signs indicating it’s closure. Like last year I headed clockwise around Willow Marsh passing between it and Teal Marsh.
IMG_8764Teal Marsh

The grassy track here was very damp and my feet and lower legs were soon soaked (and cold!) but I distracted myself by watching for birds.

IMG_8771Northern flicker

IMG_8772A very grumpy looking spotted towhee

IMG_8775I have a hard time identifying some of these little birds. This one may be an orange-crowned warbler.

DSCN1310A bald eagle that was across Willow Marsh.

DSCN1317Female red-winged blackbird

DSCN1313Buffleheads

DSCN1324A less grumpy looking spotted towhee

As I came around Willow Marsh I took a very short detour to check out the Sidney Power Ditch before continuing around the marsh.
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DSCN1331Here comes the fog again.

DSCN1335Black capped chickadee

Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon's)Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon’s)

DSCN1342Red-winged blackbird

Marsh wrenWrens can be tricky too, I think this is a marsh wren.

DSCN1349White-crowned sparrow

DSCN1360Song sparrow

IMG_8779Eagle Marsh, still can’t see much.

I had considered driving back to the Nature Center to see if it was open but in the end decided to make that my last stop and instead drove to the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead.
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I started by taking the 0.13 mile boardwalk to the blind overlooking Egret Marsh where there wasn’t anything to see at the moment.
IMG_8783Bashaw Creek

DSCN1369Egret Marsh from the blind.

After the obligatory boardwalk I walked west along the shoulder of Wintel Road just over 150 yards to a small pullout on its south side where I passed through a green gate to find another damp grassy track. I had passed through the same gate on my prior visit and taken the right hand fork away from the road. This time I went left following the track along the road for three tenths of a mile to the entrance road for the Rail Trailhead.
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Up to this point I had encountered a total of 3 people but at this trailhead there were several cars and a half dozen people milling about. I headed out on the rail trail and skipped the boardwalk portion where most of the people were headed and continued straight through more wet grass to the dike near Killdeer Marsh.
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DSCN1375Lots of fringecup along the trail.

DSCN1376Purple deadnettle and field mustard

DSCN1377Common yellow-throat

I looped counter-clockwise around Killdeer Marsh forgetting how muddy it was on the western side.
DSCN1380Looking back along the eastern side of the marsh. There was a lot less water this year.

Killdeer MarshWater level on 4/13/21.

There were also fewer birds than on either of my previous two visits but I did see the only norther pintails of the day here.
DSCN1385Seeing them was a lot easier than getting photos.

After looping around that marsh I headed east along the dike where again there was a lot less water in Dunlin Pond this year compared to last.
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I followed the dike around what was left of Dunlin Pond to the eastern end of the boardwalk.
DSCN1397Canada flamingo?

DSCN1399American robin

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DSCN1403Dunlin Pond from the boardwalk.

I could hear people approaching on the boardwalk so after a quick stop I continued north on the grassy track returning to the gate at Wintel Road and followed it back past the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead to the Pintail Marsh Overlook.
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I turned right from the parking area following a sign for the seasonal photo blind. On last years hike I had attempted to go around Egret Marsh but had been turned back by a closure sign just beyond the blind and had to return to the parking area via a short loop around Frog Pond. There were no closure signs this time so I continued on past the short loop passing the blind at the end of the boardwalk trail.
DSCN1424Egret Marsh

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DSCN1436Ring-necked ducks.

DSCN1433Anyone know if this is a female cinnamon or blue-winged teal?

DSCN1432Another yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon’s) showing off its yellow rump.

DSCN1430Egret Marsh

DSCN1431The trail around Egret Marsh.

When I arrived at the service road between Egret and Mallard Marshes I passed a sign saying the area was indeed closed. I don’t know if that sign was left over or if the sign at the other end had gone missing. In my defense the refuge map shows it as part of the trail system and there is nothing online or posted at Pintail Marsh stating that there is a closure but had I been coming from this end I would have respected the sign. This is not the first time that we’ve been on a trail with no indications of any closure only to pass a closure sign at the other end. For the land managers out there could you please post at both ends of closed sections (or remove the signs from both ends if it has been lifted)? It would sure help those of us that are trying to do the right thing.

Back to the hike though. The service road ended a short distance away to the right in a flooded field.
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There was a lot of activity near the end of the road.
DSCN1441I think these might be long-billed dowichters. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I turned left and then quickly turned right on the dike between Mallard Marsh and Mohoff Pond. There were lots of geese, ducks and coots here but they did there best to keep plenty of distance between themselves and me.
DSCN1460Heading to the right turn. Egret Marsh is on the left and Mallard Marsh on the right. A huge flock of geese had just taken to the sky.

DSCN1466Killdeer

Yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle)Today I realized that there are two yellow-rumped warblers, this one is a Myrtle, note the white throat compared to the yellow throat of the Audubon’s above.

DSCN1473Northern shoveler

DSCN1477Mohoff Pond and Mallard Marsh

DSCN1479Canada goose with various ducks in the background. At least one of the ducks is a ruddy duck which is one I hadn’t seen yet (that I know of). They were too far to get clear photos of though.

DSCN1482Canada geese and northern shovelers giving a good size comparison.

DSCN1486The black dots in the sky here aren’t geese, they are little insects that followed me along the dike.

DSCN1483Not Canada geese flying over.

DSCN1489Immature bald eagle.

DSCN1498Sandpiper

When I reached the end of Mohoff Pond I turned left around it and headed back toward the Pintail Marsh Overlook.
DSCN1510Greater white-fronted geese, another first.

DSCN1513Bushtit. Several flew in here but I couldn’t make them out once inside so I took a few pictures hoping to get lucky.

On my way back a hawk and an immature bald eagle put on an areal display.
DSCN1517Can anyone ID the hawk? Another thing that I find difficult.

DSCN1534Swimming lessons, Canada goose style.

From the overlook I walked back along Wintel Road to the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead to retrieve my car then drove back to the Nature Center where I had attempted to start my day. The lower trailhead was still gated but the entrance road along Ankeny Hill Road was no longer gated. There were just a handful of cars here as I set off on the short loop trail.
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The loop offered nice views, interpretive signs, and a surprising variety of flowers. As a bonus a pair of great blue herons where stalking the hillside in search of snacks.
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DSCN1540Buttercups

DSCN1543Meadow checker-mallow

DSCN1547Columbine

DSCN1550Yarrow

DSCN1552Possibly Nelson’s checker-mallow

IMG_8810Lupine that will be blooming soon.

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DSCN1573Iris

DSCN1575Swallows

DSCN1578Mary’s Peak (post) in the distance, the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range.

The Nature Center is a really nice addition to the Refuge providing a great opportunity for kids to get out on a short educational trail. The rest of the refuge as usual did not disappoint, plenty of wildlife and a great variety to boot. The three stop, 11.3 mile day was just what I needed and Heather had a great time entertaining. With any luck the home improvements will be over in a couple of weeks and we will both have started our official hiking seasons. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ankeny Wildlife Refuge 2022

Categories
Coastal Range Eugene Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Clay Creek Trail and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area – 11/20/2021

A dry forecast on my birthday provided a great excuse to head out on our November hike. We had an unusually loose plan for this outing which consisted of a stop at the Clay Creek Trail followed by a visit to the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area with a third possible stop at Meadowlark Prairie. While the 2 mile hike on the Clay Creek Trail was covered in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” we had very little information on the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. There was enough information available on line to know that it was open to hiking but it was unclear just how long of a hike was possible which is why we were keeping the option of Meadowlark Prairie on the table. The mostly paved 14 mile long Fern Ridge Path passes along Meadowlark Prairie on its way into Eugene, OR which would have provided some extra hiking time if we’d felt that we needed it.

We started our morning by driving to the BLM managed Clay Creek Recreation Site. The hike here is one of two hike Sullivan lists under his Siuslaw Ridge Trails entry (featured hike #65, 4th edition). We had done the other hike at nearby Whittaker Creek in 2016 (post) and while we considered that earlier hike enough to check off the featured hike from our list completed this second short hike would complete it. We parked at a small pullout on the south side of the Siuslaw River.
IMG_7207The trailhead sign for the Clay Creek Trail is ahead on the opposite side of the road.

It was a foggy morning, much like it had been on our earlier visit to the Wittaker Creek Recreation Area.
IMG_7209Siuslaw River

IMG_7211Clay Creek on the left emptying into the Siuslaw.

A short use trail led down to Clay Creek and a small gravel bench.
IMG_7213Stairs at the Clay Creek Recreation Area across the river.

After checking out the creek we walked the short distance up the road to the start of the trail. Sullivan described the hike as a 2 mile out and back but the map on the sign at the trailhead showed a lollipop loop. (Sullivan does mention the loop in his “Trail Updates” on oregonhiking.com.)
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The existence of the loop at the top was a pleasant surprise. We crossed Clay Creek on a footbridge and began the 600′ climb to the ridge top.
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IMG_7218The Clay Creek Trail climbing above Clay Creek.

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We passed a bench at the second swtichback and continued climbing to a junction 0.6 miles from the parking area.
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IMG_7225It’s hard to tell size here but the diameter of this tree was well over 5′.

IMG_7238The junction for the loop.

We turned right and continued to climb through the fog to the ridge top where the trail turned left.
IMG_7240One of several reroutes we encountered.

IMG_7243On the ridge top.

The trail passed several madrone trees before arriving at a bench at the high point of the ridge.
IMG_7245Madrone trunk and bark, always fascinating.

IMG_7246Lots of mushrooms pushing up through the forest floor.

IMG_7251Good sized trees near the high point.

IMG_7254No idea what you might see on a clear day.

The trail then began to descend to another bench at a switchback where the map indicated there was a view.
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IMG_7258The viewpoint.

The trail continued switchbacking downhill while it wound back to the junction.
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Just before reaching the junction I nearly went head over heals trying to avoid stepping on a rough skinned newt that I spotted at the last minute.
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After having a one sided conversation with said newt we continued downhill to the car.
IMG_7271Nearing the footbridge.

IMG_7275The fog had lifted off the river at least.

While Sullivan indicates in his update that the loop makes this a 3.6 mile hike others still list it as 2 miles and both Heather and my GPS units logged 2 miles for the hike. Despite the fog not allowing for any view it was a pleasant little hike. Sullivan does also mention that the BLM is considering a $5 parking fee for the area in the future so be sure to check the BLM site before heading out.

We spent just over an hour on the Clay Creek Trail after driving over 2 hours to get there so a second stop was a must in order to not break our rule against spending more time driving than hiking. That’s where the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area came in. Located just west of Eugene the area consists of a dozen units broken up around Fern Ridge Reservoir. We had driven by the reservoir numerous times on the way to hike in the Coast Range and around Florence and seen signs for the wildlife area which had piqued at least my curiosity. After some online research it appeared that parking at the end of Royal Avenue between the Royal Amazon and Fisher Butte units was our best bet. The ODFW website mentions possible seasonal closures but finding detailed information on them wasn’t easy. I was eventually able to determine that these two units were open to the public from 10/16 thru 1/30 from until 2pm each day (presumably starting at sunrise). Even with the earlier hike we had arrived before 9:30am so we had plenty of time to explore. There is a $10 daily fee to park in the lots which is typical for ODFW wildlife areas (although it appeared most people simply parked along the shoulder of Royal Ave to avoid the fee).
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IMG_7277Note that Royal Ave and the trail to the viewing platform are open year around with the other restrictions listed below.

20211120_092412We took a picture of this map to assist us with our route.

From the signboard we continued on the gated extension of Royal Avenue. It was a lot foggier than we had expected so the visibility wasn’t good and it was in the mid 30’s so it was chilly too.
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We passed a grassy path leading to the viewing platform at the 0.4 mile mark.
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We opted to pass on the platform for now hoping that visibility would improve as the morning wore on and we could stop by on our way back. We continued on the old road bed watching for birds and any other animals that might be about.

IMG_7285White crowned sparrow

IMG_7289Northern harrier on the hunt.

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IMG_7301Wetlands in the Royal Amazon unit.

As we neared sub-impoundment one a large bird flew up from the reeds. It was our first encounter with an American bittern which was on my bucket list of animals we’d yet to see.
IMG_7302The bittern taking off.

IMG_7304Not the greatest photo but enough to identify it.

We turned right on a levy/old roadbed on the other side of the sub-impoundment and followed it for 0.7 miles to Gibson Island. The highlight of this stretch was a pair of bald eagles hanging out in a snag.
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IMG_7311A hawk on a stump.

IMG_7313American coots

IMG_7317Gibson Island (with the eagles in the snag to the far left)

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A short trail at the end of the levy led onto the island before petering out.
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We turned around and headed back to Royal Avenue where we turned right and continued west just to see how far we could go.
IMG_7351A flock of geese above the coots.

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IMG_7355There were a number of these small birds pecking around in the mud which, with some help from Molly in the comments, are American pipits.

IMG_7357Continuing west.

IMG_7360We used the stones to the right to cross the water here.

IMG_7361Great blue heron (with Highway 126 in the background).

DSCN1182Sandpiper in the roadway.

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IMG_7366End of the line.

We imagined that much of this stretch would be under water by late Winter/early Spring but we had managed to make make it 1.7 miles from the trailhead before being turned back. We headed back past sub-impound one to the grassy path near the viewing platform where we left the road bed.
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DSCN1203Seagull

DSCN1206Perhaps the same northern harrier.

DSCN1211The harrier taking a break.

IMG_7376The path to the platform.

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DSCN1218Dunlins (thanks again to Molly)

DSCN1222The platform.

From the platform dikes led west and south. Since we had just come from the west we decided to go south along a body of water in Field 5.
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IMG_7384The first signs that the fog/clouds might be breaking up.

IMG_7387Looking back at a little blue sky and a visible Gibson Island

We watched a group of shore birds as the alternate between foraging in the mud and performing areal acrobatics.
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A little over three quarters of a mile from the viewing platform we arrived at a 4-way junction.
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We turned left continuing around Field 5 for a third of a mile before arriving at a “T” junction just beyond a ditch.
IMG_7391Fisher Butte is the low hill ahead to the right.

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According to the map we’d taken a picture of at the trailhead continuing straight at the junction would lead us to the area’s boundary near Fisher Butte while the right hand path led past Field 2 to Field 1 and then to a parking area off Highway 126. We turned left walking between the ditch and Field 3.
IMG_7395Gibson Island was now lit by direct sunlight.

In another third of a mile we faced another choice. Another dike headed to the right (east) between Field 3 and Field 4.
IMG_7396The dike running between Fields 3 & 4.

IMG_7398Looking back over the ditch.

We opted to turn right having misread the map for the first time. For some reason we ignored the difference between the symbols for the dikes and boundary lines (although some online sights showed paths along the boundary lines). At first everything was fine as the dike gave way to a cut mowed track wrapping around Field 4 along the boundary. There was a pond in Field 4 where several species of ducks were gathered as well as a great blue heron and a kingfisher.
DSCN1248California scrub jay

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DSCN1262Northern shovelers and a bufflehead.

DSCN1266Buffleheads and two hooded merganser females.

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DSCN1286Kingfisher

DSCN1288American robin

After wrapping around the pond for half a mile the track we were following became increasingly muddy with standing water in areas. We were very close to a gravel road so we hopped onto it for a tenth of a mile where we were able to get back onto a grassy track at a signpost.
IMG_7404The gravel road and another small portion of the wildlife area on the other side.

DSCN1290Noisy geese.

IMG_7405Back on the mowed track.

We went straight here looking for a trail on the right that would leave us back to the parking area. The clouds were really breaking up now and lots of little birds were out enjoying the warmer weather.
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DSCN1291A sparrow

DSCN1295Spotted towhee and friend.

DSCN1300Finch

DSCN1302As of yet unidentified little bird.

We found what we were looking for, at least what we thought we were looking for and turned right on a clear trail that dropped down into a mowed field then mostly disappeared. We skirted along the edge of the field toward the parking area and as we neared the trailhead a clear trail emerged, or more like submerged. We followed the wet trail almost to the signboards near the trailhead where a ditch of standing water stood in our way. Our only choice (aside from backtracking) was to get wet so get wet (or wetter) we did. Luckily our hike was over and we had a change of socks and shoes waiting in the car. We finished hiking just before 1pm and managed to get a full 7 miles in while leaving parts of the area unexplored. It was nice to find another option in the valley that offered a potential destination when getting up into the mountains is possible. While we did hear occasional gun shots from hunters we only saw two duck hunters, but we also saw some families and bird watchers.
IMG_7410This path headed north from the trailhead, something to explore on our next visit.

Track at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

It was a good birthday hike and we were done early enough for my parents to treat us to a great birthday dinner at The Manilla Fiesta, a restaurant I’d been dying to try. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Clay Creek Trail and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Silver Falls Backcountry Loop – 10/23/2021

The run of sunny Saturdays finally came to an end so we were looking for a good rainy day hike. We turned to Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) for inspiration. Hike #7 in his book is a 9.3 mile lollipop loop in the backcountry of Silver Falls State Park. He lists Oct-Nov as some of the best months for this hike as well as mentioning that it is a good hike for rainy days so the timing seemed right. Our original plan was to start the hike at Howard Creek Horse Camp just as Reeder describes but to deviate a bit from his description to see more of the backcountry. Our previous visits to the park had all involved hikes on the uber popular Trail of Ten Falls (post). There are no waterfalls in the backcountry and therefore far fewer people. The park opens at 8am so we actually slept in a bit in order to not arrive too early but we still had a couple of minutes to kill when we arrived at the park entrance so we stopped briefly at the South Viewpoint.
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IMG_6547Park map at the viewpoint.

IMG_6550Willamette Valley

It was rather windy at the viewpoint and it was cold with the wind chill in the mid-30s. We thought we were going to be in for a chilly hike only as soon as we got into the forest in the park the wind was gone and the temperature was near 50 degrees. We picked up a $5 day use permit at a fee booth between the Park Office and campground and continued toward the Howard Creek Trailhead. As we neared we kept seeing signs along the road with pointers for “base camp” and “catering”. We hadn’t seen anything on the park website but it appeared that there might be some sort of event happening. There were a bunch of trailer trucks parked at the Horse Camp and we were flagged down by a Park Ranger? who mentioned that the trailhead was open but there would be a detour to get around the equipment and wires set up on the “horse loop”. We thanked him but didn’t ask any additional questions which we probably should have. We started to park but then decided that if there was an event then it was probably going to get pretty busy/crowded there so we decided instead to start from a different trailhead.

The route that we had settled on was a combination of several trails including the Howard Creek Loop, Buck Mountain Loop, Smith Creek, and 214 Trails. The 214 Trailhead would provide us access to this loop as well as give us a reason to add the Rabbit Hole and Newt Loop Trails to the itinerary. We drove back toward the park’s south entrance and turned left into the large 214 Trailhead. (There is no fee station here so you need to pick up a day use permit elsewhere.)
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From this trailhead is was just over 3/4 of a mile on the 214 Trail to the junction with the Smith Creek Trail where we would have eventually been on our originally planned loop. We followed signs for the 214 Trail at junctions. Signage in the park is hit and miss, having a map of the park is a must to avoid getting confused at unsigned junctions.
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IMG_6561Sign post for the Newt Loop and mountain biking skills station.

IMG_6563As much blue sky as we were going to get on this day.

IMG_6564A massive old growth nursery log. The tree stood for hundreds of years and will spend hundreds more slowly decaying and providing nutrients for younger trees.

IMG_6566Nursery stump. While some old growth exists in the park it was also logged heavily which was the primary reason it was passed over for National Park status.

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IMG_6582The Smith Creek Trail junction.

We stayed left on the 214 Trail at the junction with the Smith Creek Trail following it for another 0.6 miles to a junction with the 1.1 mile Nature Trail Loop.
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20211023_085008Does anyone know their salamanders? Not sure what type this one was.

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IMG_6603The Nature Trail junction.

We called an audible here and decided that a 1.1 mile loop wouldn’t add too much distance onto our day so we turned left and then left again to go clockwise on the Nature Trail.
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In just over half a mile the trail popped us out in the park campground. After consulting our maps we determined we needed to turn left to find the continuation of the trail.
IMG_6619From the spot that we entered the campground you could just see a hiker sign at the far end of the paved campground road.

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At an unlabeled junction with the Racket Ridge Connector Trail we stayed right on the Nature Trail. The Racket Ridge Connector Trail crossed South Fork Silver Creek while the Nature Trail followed the south bank for a short distance.
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It was a half mile from the jct with the Racket Ridge Connector Trail back to the 214 Trail and just before we completed the loop we passed a blind.
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IMG_6631No wildlife to view today.

When we got back to the 214 Trail we turned left to continue on our loop. Just under half a mile later we arrived at a “T” junction with the Howard Creek Loop Trail where we turned left.
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IMG_6639The Howard Creek Loop Trail.

This trail crossed a paved road before crossing Howard Creek on a footbridge.
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IMG_6642Howard Creek

On the far side of Howard Creek the trail turned right along the road we had taken earlier to reach the Howard Creek Horse Camp.
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IMG_6645Sign for the trailhead.

We hiked past the gate in the photo above and encountered the Park Ranger from earlier. He directed us to a trail on the right that would bypass the “wires and equipment”. This time we at least confirmed that the Buck Mountain Loop was open and thanked him before continuing on our way. We still aren’t sure what is/was going on but it wasn’t an event like we had thought. It appeared that they were either upgrading part of the horse camp, repairing the entrance road, or doing some thinning. Whatever they were doing we were able to pick up the Howard Creek/Buck Creek Loop trail at the SE end of the loop at the end of the road.
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In a tenth of a mile we turned right on an old logging road.
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Three tenths of a mile later we arrived at another junction where the Howard Creek Loop split to the right while the Buck Mountain Loop continued straight uphill.
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For the next 2.7 miles we followed this road uphill until it leveled out and came to a large trail junction at the edge of a fire closure. We often turned to the maps along this stretch to ensure we stayed on the correct road.
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IMG_6687Blue appeared to mean Buck Mountain Loop (the posts along the Howard Creek Loop had been red and later the Smith Creek Trail posts were yellow.)

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IMG_6710The mix of tree trunks here caught our eye.

IMG_6719Approaching the trail junction.

The good news at this big junction was there was good signage and a full park map.
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IMG_6724The 2020 Beachie Creek Fire threatened the Park and did in fact burn over nearby Shellburg Falls (post). As it was a small portion of the park was burned causing the very SE portion of the park to remain closed until repairs and removal of hazard trees are completed.

IMG_6723Orange fence marking the closure of the Catamount Trail.

We stuck to the Buck Mountain Loop which descended to a pair of crossings of tributaries of Howard Creek.
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IMG_6727The first footbridge which spans Howard Creek. The creek was obscured by brush.

IMG_6730The second footbridge over a tributary not shown on the topo map.

IMG_6731This stream was a little easier to see.

We took a short break at this bridge before continuing on.
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Just over a mile from the large junction we arrived at a 4-way junction where we turned right to stay on the Buck Mountain Loop.
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IMG_6748A reminder of how close the Beachie Creek Fire was.

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IMG_6760The 4-way junction.

We kept on the Buck Mountain Loop for nearly another mile before arriving at the Smith Creek Trail junction.
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IMG_6780Approaching the Smith Creek Trail junction.

Up until this point other than a few very brief sprinkles we hadn’t seen much actual rainfall during the hike. As we started down the Smith Creek Trail though a steady rain began to fall. We followed this trail downhill for 1.6 miles to a junction near the Silver Falls Conference Center.
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We stayed on the Smith Creek Trail for another 1.3 miles to yet another junction, this time with the Rabbit Hole Trail.
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We faced a choice here. Looking at the map the Rabbit Hole Trail offered a slightly shorter route back to the 214 Trailhead versus the Smith Creek Trail, but it also appeared to climb a steeper hillside, albeit via switchback. The deciding factor for us though was whether or not there appeared to be many mountain bikers coming down the trail. Given the weather and not seeing any bikers or fresh tire tracks we decided to give it a shot.
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There were 13 signed switchbacks in just over half a mile before arriving at the Newt Loop Trail near the mountain bike skills station.
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IMG_6839Ramps in the background at the skills station.

We turned left on the Newt Loop and followed it through the forest ignoring side roads and trails for 0.6 miles to the 214 Trail just two tenths of a mile from the 214 Trailhead.
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IMG_6850The Catamount Trail arriving on the left.

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IMG_6858The 214 Trail from the Newt Loop.

We didn’t encounter any bikers on the Newt Loop or Rabbit Hole trails. In fact we only saw one mountain biker all day and that was on the Buck Mountain Loop. We did see a couple of larger groups of trail runners (or one big group split into smaller groups) on the Nature Trail but otherwise I don’t believe we saw even a half dozen other trail users during our 12.9 mile loop. Reeder had been right, this was a great rainy day hike and the fall colors made it a good time of year to visit. While we managed to spend time on a number of the trails in the backcountry there is still plenty for us to explore and I’m already coming up with other ideas for the future when the fire closure is lifted.

Our 12.9 loop

Our “hiking season” is quickly coming to an end for the year and while it wasn’t an ideal year from a drought and wildfire perspective we’ve been fortunate enough to get some great hikes in while wrapping up a number of our longer term goals which we will be posting about during our off-season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Silver Falls Backcountry

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

McDonald-Dunn Forest via Sulphur Springs – 10/02/2021

Sometimes the main purpose of a hike isn’t to see a sight but rather to step away from things and find a peaceful place in nature to reflect. My Grandmother turned 97 on 9/30/21, her last birthday after suffering a massive stroke just days earlier. We were able to drive up to her home in Portland on her birthday to visit and while she couldn’t speak she was able to respond and interact with her family that had gathered. We would be returning on Saturday afternoon to visit again when my Brother and his family arrived from Missouri but that morning we felt like getting outside and taking a nice long walk would be good. Since we were heading to Portland later we wanted a hike that was close to home to cut down on driving time so we decided to revisit the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest near Corvallis, OR.

This would be our fourth hike in McDonald Forest having previously hiked to McCulloch Peak (post), Dimple Hill (post) and Peavy Arboretum (post). Each of those three hike had been entirely unique with no steps retracing an earlier path. They had also mostly avoided the center and northwestern portions of the forest. For this hike we planned on visiting those two areas and had originally hoped to connect all three of our previous hikes. We were only able to connect two of the three though due to an active logging operation which closed a portion of the loop we’d planned.

We started our hike at a pullout by the Sulphur Springs Trail along Sulphur Springs Road.
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We visited the springs first by following the Sulphur Springs Trail for a tenth of a mile.
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IMG_5535Sulphur Springs

IMG_5536Soap Creek near Sulphur Springs.

We then returned to Sulphur Springs Road and turned left (west) following it for 0.4 miles through some residences to the Sulphur Springs Road Trailhead.
IMG_5539Sulphur Springs Road from the pullout.

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IMG_5542Sulphur Springs Road Trailhead.

Our plan had been to combine a pair of hikes described in the Oregonhikers.org field guide, the McCulloch Peak Loop Hike and the Sulphur Springs via Alpha Trail Hike by connecting them using the gravel roads in the forest.
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We continued on Sulphur Springs Road (Road 700) past an orange gate to the left of the signboard.
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Approximately 1.5 miles beyond the gate we came to an intersection below a clearcut where pointers in both directions were labeled McCulloch Peak.
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We followed the Oregonhikers guide and went right on Road 760. We followed this road for 0.4 miles to an the unmarked, unofficial Rocky Road Trail.
IMG_5559We stayed right at this junction with Road 761.

IMG_5561The Rocky Road Trail.

The sheer number of roads and trails (both official and unofficial) makes it really easy to get turned around in the forest so having plenty of maps and a plan handy helps. Roads and trails come and go as the forest is used for research purposes by Oregon State University. The Rocky Road Trail is an unofficial trail that follows an old road bed half a mile uphill before rejoining Road 760.
IMG_5564A good sized cedar along the trail.

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IMG_5570Road 760 ahead.

We turned left on Road 760 and followed it for another quarter mile to a junction with Road 700 where we again turned left. Road 700 followed a ridge briefly providing views of the surrounding area then wrapped around a hillside and arriving at a junction with Road 7040 which was the first familiar sight to us.
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IMG_5580Interesting patchwork of trees. We would have liked to have been able to see when each section had been harvested and replanted.

IMG_5583We couldn’t see much to the east due to the Sun’s position.

IMG_5589Mary’s Peak (post)

IMG_5594Road 7040 on the left.

We had returned down Road 7040 as part of our previous hike to McCulloch Peak but now we stuck to Road 700 for another quarter mile to a 4-way junction where we turned right on Raod 790.
IMG_5598Pointer for McCulloch Peak at the junction. We had come up from Road 700 on the right.

IMG_5597The rest of the 4-way junction. After visiting the peak we would head downhill following the pointer for Oak Creek.

We followed Road 790 a half mile to its end at the peak.
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It was just a little hazy to get much of a view from the peak so we headed back by following an unofficial trail down from the summit to a spur road not shown on the maps which connected to Road 790 a tenth of a mile from the summit.
IMG_5606Trail to the spur road.

At the 4-way junction we followed Road 700 downhill for a little over three quarters of a mile to a junction with Road 680.
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IMG_5614Fading pearly everlasting.

IMG_5615We stayed left here which was the shorter route.

IMG_5617Madrone

IMG_5619Tree island at the junction with Road 680.

We had originally planned on taking Road 680 from the junction but a short distance up that road there was an unofficial trail showing on the Oregonhikers Field Guide Map which looked like it would cut some distance off our hike. The trail was obvious and had even been recently brushed.
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This trail began with a short climb then headed downhill reaching a junction with the Uproute and Extendo Trail near Road 680.
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IMG_5629Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_5630Poison oak climbing trees.

IMG_5631Signs for the Uproute and Extendo Trails.

IMG_5633Road 680

We turned right onto Road 680 and followed it a half mile to a signboard at Road 600.
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At this signboard was a notice that a portion of Road 600 was closed so we spent some time reviewing the map to come up with an alternate route.
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We had planned on following Road 600 all the way to the Ridge Trail at Lewisberg Saddle which we had visited on our Peavy Arboretum hike but the closure was going to force us onto the Bombs Away Trail which would hook up with the Ridge Trail half a mile from Lewisberg Saddle. We didn’t feel like adding another mile to our hike so we would only be connecting two of our three previous hikes this time. We followed Road 600 uphill for a mile and a half to yet another 4-way junction.
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IMG_5647A few larger trees in the forest.

IMG_5652A sea of green grass.

IMG_5653Horsetails

IMG_5654The 4-way junction.

We had been to this junction during our hike to Dimple Hill and hadn’t originally planned on making the 0.4 mile side trip to that viewpoint but with the upcoming detour and a couple of shortcuts we’d already taken we decided to revisit the hill. We turned right on Road 650.
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After two tenths of a mile we left the road and followed a pointer for Upper Dan’s Trail.
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IMG_5660Summit of Dimple Hill.

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The view here was a bit better than it had been at McCulloch Peak. We could at least see Mary’s Peak by walking just a bit downhill.
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IMG_5666Mary’s Peak

After a short break we followed Road 650 back to the 4-way junction and turned right back onto Road 600. Three quarters of a mile later we arrived at the closure. Along the way the road passed through a clearcut where we could just make out the tops of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
IMG_5673Approaching the junction on Road 650.

IMG_5675Junco

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IMG_5684Mt. Hood

IMG_5680Mt. Jefferson

IMG_5687The Three Sisters

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We made a hairpin turn at the closure onto the unsigned High Horse Trail.
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Things got a little confusing at this point. The maps on the signboards (we had taken photos with our phones) showed the Bombs Away Trail as a planned trail for 2020. From the placement on the map it appeared that it split off of the High Horse Trail very close to Road 600 but we wound up climbing a series of switchbacks for half a mile before arriving at an unsigned 4-way junction.
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IMG_5697The High Horse Trail and another trail heading uphill at the 4-way junction.

IMG_5698What we assume is the Bombs Away Trail on the left and the High Horse Trail on the right at the 4-way junction.

We took the first trail on the right since it was headed in the correct direction hoping it was indeed the Bombs Away Trail. What we found was a braided mess of trails coming and going on each side. We relied on our GPS to make sure we stayed headed in the right direction and after a confusing 0.6 miles we arrived at Road 640.
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IMG_5706Left or right? More often than not both ended up in the same spot.

IMG_5709Road 640

The trail continued on the far side of the road. This stretch was more straight forward ending at Road 620 after 0.4 miles.
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On the far side of Road 620 we found the Ridge Trail which we followed for a tenth of a mile to a junction with the Alpha Trail.
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IMG_5721Junction with the Alpha Trail.

We turned left here onto the Alpha Trail.
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After 0.4 mile the Alpha Trail dropped us out onto Road 810 which we followed downhill 0.6 miles to Road 800.
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IMG_5730Looking back at the Alpha Trail from Road 810.

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IMG_5735Road 800 below Road 810.

We turned left on Road 800 for three tenths of mile then turned right onto the Baker Creek Trail.
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IMG_5739Baker Creek Trail ahead on the right.

The Baker Creek Trail followed Baker Creek (heard but not seen) for two tenths of mile before crossing Soap Creek on a 1923 Pony Truss Bridge.
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The Baker Creek Trailhead was just on the other side of the bridge as was Sulphur Springs Road. We turned left and walked 100 yards up the road back to our car.

Our 13.1 mile hike with approx 2800′ of elevation gain.

After a brief stop at home to clean up we headed to Portland to say our last goodbyes to Grandma. She always enjoyed hearing about our hikes and looking at the pictures, and she eagerly anticipated the calendar we made each year with them. She passed the following Monday night and is with the Lord now. We’ll think of her often when we’re out exploring. Happy Trails Grandma!

Flickr: McDonald Forest via Sulphur Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands – 06/26/2021

With a record setting heat wave arriving just in time for the weekend we changed our hiking plans and looked for something close to home and on the shorter side so that we could get a hike in before the temperatures got too ridiculous. A pair of hikes at the Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area matched that criteria and would be new hikes to us. A mere 30 minute drive from our house we were able to reach the first of the two trailheads, the Luckiamute Landing Trailhead by 5:15am. (We actually parked in a pullout 0.4 miles from the trailhead which I blame on not being fully awake yet.)
IMG_9011Private farm along the entrance road from the pullout we parked at.

IMG_9012Osprey nest above the corn field.

IMG_9013Gated road at the trailhead. There was a second gravel road to the right that was blocked with a log. The gravel road appeared to be fairly new and possibly a reroute of the gated road.

We walked around the gate and followed the dirt road a tenth of a mile to what must have once been the trailhead. The road passed near the Luckiamute River and it looked as though the river had been eroding the the embankment under the road which might explain why the trailhead was moved and the newer gravel road.
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IMG_9017Old trailhead?

A loop started at the signboard here.
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We stayed straight and continued following the road which never approached the Luckiamute again.
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The road soon skirted the edge of a large field where a cat was in the middle on a morning hunt.
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IMG_9024Extreme zoom on the kitty.

There was also a coyote out in the field but it disappeared into the grasses too quickly for even a poor photo. We continued on toward the Sun that would soon be scorching the Northwest and away from the Moon and the cool of night.
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On our right was the open field but on the left was a wall of vegetation including some ripe thimbleberries which are Heather’s favorites.
IMG_9032Wild rose

IMG_9039Vetch

IMG_9043Oregon grape

20210626_054759Thimbleberry

A finch appeared to be doing some sort of dance in the road.
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A half mile after starting the loop we came to spur trail to the left with a hiker symbol for an interpretive sign. We of course took the bait and followed the path 50 yards to the sign at the end of the spur.
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After reading the sign we returned to the loop and continued to the end of the field.
IMG_9056We both initially thought that this was the start of an out and back to campsites along the Willamette River and that the loop continued around the field to the right. In fact there was a blue awning set up at the edge of the field in that direction and at least 3 vehicles (not sure why they were there or how they got through the gate). This was not the case and fortunately for us we were planning on doing the out and back which meant we didn’t make the mistake of turning here. The continuation of the loop was actually 0.2 miles further along the road in the forest.
IMG_9060The correct right turn for the loop.

We ignored the loop for now continuing on the road through a mixed forest.
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IMG_9063Cottonwood on the road.

IMG_9059Red elderberry, a favorite of the birds.

IMG_9066This wren was taking a dirt bath, perhaps an attempt to stay cool?

IMG_9067A lot of invasive daisies in an opening.

IMG_9073Native elegant brodiaea

IMG_9074Egg shell

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IMG_9078More ripe berries.

The road curved to the north as it neared the Willamette and led to an open flat with a couple of picnic tables and campsites for boaters traveling the 187 mile long Willamette Water Trail.
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IMG_9080Poppies

IMG_9086Mostly non-natives – chicory and clovers.

IMG_9088More non-natives – Moth mullein and cultivated radish

IMG_9083Slug

IMG_9089Douglas spirea (native)

Beyond the campsites a narrow use trail led to a view across the Willamette River to the Santiam River as it joined the Willamette.
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IMG_9092The mouth of the Luckiamute on the left was hidden by trees.

I tried following the use trail to the Luckiamute but it ended (or at least my attempt did) in thick vegetation.
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We returned to the campsites and followed a path down to the river landing.
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To be honest neither of us had heard of the Willamette Water Trail until then but it was interesting to learn of its existence.
IMG_9105Willamette River at the landing.

IMG_9104Not sure what type of birds these were.

IMG_9102Bindweed at the landing.

We headed back along the road, which was still busy with wildlife, and then turned left to continue the loop when we reached that junction.
IMG_9112Bunny and a bird (not pictured is the chipmunk that raced across the road here).

IMG_9114Slug also “racing” across the road. Speed is relative.

IMG_9116Back on the loop.

Instead of skirting the filed this portion of the loop stayed in the “gallery forest”, a narrow strip of trees that grows along a waterway in an open landscape. (Learned that term from an interpretive sign along this section.)
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IMG_9150Near the end of the loop the trail passed back along the field.

IMG_9141White crowned sparrow

IMG_9147Possibly nelson’s checkermallow.

IMG_9149Meadow checkermallow

IMG_9155Completing the loop.

IMG_9156Lupine that is just about finished.

Before we headed back to the car we followed a path on the other side of the road a tenth of a mile to the Luckiamute River.
IMG_9159Old bus

IMG_9163Tree frog

IMG_9165Luckiamute River

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After visiting this river we hiked back to our car via the newer gravel road. One of the osprey had just left the nest to presumably find some food when it came back into view.
IMG_9173Waiting for food.

Our hike here came to 5.5 miles. Had we parked at the actual trailhead and not taken all of the side trails it would have been between 4.5 and 5 miles and if they reopen the road to the old trailhead the hike would be approximately 4 miles.

From the pullout we’d parked in we returned to Buena Vista Road and turned left (south) for a mile to the South Luckiamute Trailhead.
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This was supposed to be a 1.1 mile out and back to visit the West Pond where we might just spot a western pond turtle. We followed a gravel path south for 0.2 miles before it turning east at the edge of the park boundary.
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An old road bed dipped down to a flower filled field which it skirted eventually curving north and arriving at West Pond after half a mile. (West Pond is an old gravel pit.)
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IMG_9183Old farm equipment with poison oak in the background.

IMG_9184One of several birdhouses along the road.

You can go down to the pond at the south end but a couple had just headed down there in front of us so we decided to keep going and possibly visit that spot on the way back. The turtles, if we were to spot any, are primarily located at the northern end of the pond and we had left our binoculars in the cars so spotting them from the southern end wasn’t likely anyway.
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IMG_9190North end of the pond.

Except for the southern end the area around the pond is closed for turtle habitat.
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There was a good view of the pond from the road at the north end though. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any turtles although there were a couple of disruptions in the water that very well could have been their work. We did however see a few birds.
IMG_9198We are both pretty sure a turtle swam off from this area when we came into view.

IMG_9193Spotted towhee

IMG_9204Swallow

The entry on the Oregonhikers.org field guide showed the trail extending a bit to the north of the pond before ending which is why we had planned for a 1.1 mile out and back. The field guide did mention future plans to expand the trail network here though. We continued north along the road which turned into more of a grassy track but it never petered out. Instead it curved west then south wrapping around the field eventually leading back to the roadbed near where it had dropped to the field.
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IMG_9210European centaury

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IMG_9218Oyster plant

IMG_9221Creeping jenny

IMG_9222Arrowleaf clover

IMG_9223Scrub jay

IMG_9224Corn Chamomile

IMG_9226Northern flicker

IMG_9229Great blue heron

IMG_9234American kestral

After completing this unexpected loop we returned to our car. The hike here came in at 1.9 miles, still short but quite a bit further than the 1.1 miles we expected. We finished just before 9am but it was already in the high-70’s. The plan had worked though, we’d managed to get 7.4 miles of hiking in before 9am and were back home with the A/C on by 9:30am. During our hike we discussed the very real possibility that these types of heat waves will become more and more common in the future and pondered what that would look like. Something to think about and be prepared for but for now we’d had a nice morning on the trails and found a new local option to revisit. Happy Trails!

Top track – Luckiamute Landing
Lower track – Luckiamute Wetlands

Flickr: Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop – 4/14/2021

A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.

The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
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From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
IMG_1824Mt. Hood from the refuge road

IMG_1826The Three Sisters from the road

IMG_1832Yellow paintbrush

IMG_1841Cabell Barn

img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51116225393_9feb61f994_c.jpg&#8221; width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_1860″>Cabell Lodge

IMG_1852Rabbit at the lodge

IMG_1865Cabell Marsh Overlook

IMG_1871White crowned sparrows

IMG_1878Deer in a field near Cabell Marsh

IMG_1879Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)

I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
IMG_1880Norther shovelers

IMG_1887American coots

IMG_1889Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1892Buffleheads

IMG_1908Black pheobe

IMG_1910American wigeons

IMG_1915_stitchCabell Marsh

IMG_1921Canada geese

Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pie billed grebeWood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe

IMG_1951More northern shovelers

IMG_1953Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1955Green winged teal

IMG_1956Robin

At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
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IMG_1983Killdeer

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IMG_1991Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2003Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)

Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
IMG_2004Tortoiseshell butterfly

IMG_2012Spotted towhee serenade

IMG_2020Bewick’s wren

IMG_2022Madrone

IMG_2027Mourning dove

IMG_2029Camas blooming near the summit

IMG_2034View from Pigeon Butte

IMG_2036Scrub jay spotted on the way down.

IMG_2038One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue

IMG_2043Acorn woodpecker

When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
IMG_2050Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.

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Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
IMG_2068Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn

IMG_2066Western bluebird

IMG_2070Bruce Rd and a sign for the overlook.

IMG_2071Swallows at the overlook

IMG_2075Mary’s Peak and Pigeon Butte from the overlook.

IMG_2076Mary’s Peak (post)

I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
IMG_2083Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.

IMG_2080Sparrows

IMG_2085Western bluebird

IMG_2088Mitigation Wetland

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IMG_2103Egret

IMG_2098heron flying by the egret

IMG_2125Northern shoveler

IMG_2126Green winged teals

IMG_2129Trailhead off of Bruce Road

I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
IMG_2132Ground squirrel

IMG_2136Entering the woods

IMG_2142Giant white wakerobin

IMG_2144Fairybells

IMG_2162Startled heron

IMG_2169Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon

As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
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The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
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IMG_2181Candyflower

At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
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IMG_2188The pink turned out to be shooting stars.

I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
IMG_2196Iris

IMG_2201Bleeding heart

IMG_2220One of many fairy slippers

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IMG_2218It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.

IMG_2230Buttercups

IMG_2232Violets

IMG_2238Fawn lilies

IMG_2244Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail

I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
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IMG_2256Service berry

IMG_2257The Woodpecker Loop

I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
IMG_2259Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop

IMG_2263Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.

IMG_2267Viewing structure

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IMG_2272Mt. Jefferson

IMG_2273The Three Sisters

I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
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IMG_2279This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.

After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop