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Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Goat Marsh Lake and Kalama Ski Trail – 06/25/2022

After a wet and mild Spring, Summer announced its arrival with our fist 90-degree temperatures just in time for the weekend. When it gets that warm we typically turn to the mountains for relief but that’s a little trickier this year due to there being quite a bit of snow still up in the Cascades. Even some of the lower elevation mountains are still in the process of melting out. For instance our original plan for this hike had been to visit Silver Star Mountain (post) via the Starway Trail, an approach that we haven’t done yet. While this mountain is accessible recent reports showed several remaining snowdrifts but more importantly the wildflower show is running late. To decide where to go I turned to my spreadsheet looking for hikes that I had scheduled in coming years around the end of June. Goat Marsh Lake was on the schedule for next year and while the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area is located with the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It sits at a low enough elevation that there was a chance that snow wouldn’t be an issue. Using NOAA’s NOHRSC snow depth layer on the PCTA’s interactive map confirmed that snow shouldn’t be an issue at the lake or along the loop we were planning after visiting the lake using the Kalama Ski and Toutle Trails. With a forecast high of 78 degrees it would be warm but not unbearable so with that as our plan we got an early start and headed north to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead.

We parked a little up FR 8123 from the trailhead and walked back down to the start of the trail.
IMG_4715FR 8123

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This was the Kalama Ski Trail (Trail 231) and part of the loop we were planning as well as the way to reach the Goat Marsh Trail in a quarter mile.
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We followed this path to the junction where we turned right to visit the lake.
IMG_4722It appeared the trail had been rerouted at least a couple of times to cross this dry creek bed.

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This trail led slightly uphill for 0.5 mile to our first view of the lake. Along the way we’d spotted a cow elk in the trees but she disappeared before we could take a picture.
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IMG_4730Fence at the boundary for the Research Area.

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IMG_4738Goat Mountain and Goat Marsh Lake.

The trail continued around the lake for a little over three quarters of a mile. We spotted two more cow elk and moments later noticed a whole heard, including several calves, further to the north.
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IMG_4746Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4749Trillium

IMG_4750Vanilla leaf

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IMG_4761Frog on a log.

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IMG_4769The two cow elk in the middle of the grassy area.

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IMG_4777Calves lined up, this one is a bit blurry due to them moving and the amount of zoom used.

IMG_4786The elk herd not zoomed in.

IMG_4787Zoomed

After watching the elk for a while we continued on.
IMG_4794Coralroot

IMG_4795Goat Mountain

IMG_4799Avalanche lilies

IMG_4804Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4806Marsh violet

IMG_4811Frog under a log.

IMG_4814Salmonberry

IMG_4816Sign near the end of the trail.

IMG_4818At the end of the trail.

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IMG_4821Beaver lodge

IMG_4826Duck and ducklings

IMG_4836Geese out in the grass.

We returned to the trailhead and crossed FR 8123 to stay on the Kamala Ski Trail.
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IMG_4844The road crossing.

We had a little trouble picking up the trail beyond the sign because there was also a campsite here with several use trails radiating from it. We used our GPS while we looked for the blue diamonds that would identify a ski trail. Heather was the first to spot one and we were soon on the ski trail heading toward Mt. St. Helens.
IMG_4848In the campsite trying to decide which way to go.

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IMG_4851Once we found it the trail was pretty obvious, at least for a while.

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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the road we came to a junction with the Blue Lake Horse Trail. The horse trail can be used to reach Blue Lake (post) to the north via the Toutle Trail or the same Toutle Trail to the south near the Kalama River (post) which we could have done here to shorten our loop. Instead we stayed straight on the ski trail.
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We had remarked several times during our Ashland vacation about the lack of mosquitos, and really insects overall, but that was not the case here. While they weren’t a big issue it was noticeably buggier here than it had been in Southern Oregon. The local birds were busy doing their part to reduce the number of bugs.
IMG_4862Gray jay with a snack.

IMG_4865Western tanager. Right after this photo he flew straight at us snatching an insect out of mid-air.

Four tenths a mile from the horse trail the ski trail made a turn away from the mountain and headed SE.
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The trail became a little more overgrown then came to a series of dry creek beds where we again had to hunt for signs of the trail.
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IMG_4881Butte Camp Dome in front of Mt. St. Helens.

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IMG_4891Crossing another dry bed.

IMG_4892Where is the trail?

IMG_4893In one of the creek beds. We were using the GPS along with looking for cairns and/or flagging.

IMG_4894Goat Mountain

IMG_4896You can’t really make them out in the photo but there is a pink flag and a blue diamond (on a downed tree) near the edge of the green trees.

We were now entering the section of trail that the NOHRSC indicated there could be some lingering snow patches.
IMG_4899There was another short brushy section before the forest opened up.

IMG_4900One of the strangest snow sightings we’ve come across.

IMG_4902My theory was bigfoot hung this.

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IMG_4916The NOHRSC estimated 2″-3.9″ of snow and that seemed to be about right.

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Unlike in the Siskiyous this melting snow had produced a fair number of mosquitos so we hustled through this section even though it was scenic.
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We encountered the first other hikers we’d seen when we arrived at the junction with the Toutle Trail (Approx 3 miles from the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead). The junction was unsigned and they were considering which way to go to find the Loowit Trail. We pointed them north (left from the direction we were coming, straight for them) on the Toutle Trail and then turned south (right) ourselves onto the Toutle.
IMG_4921Looking back at the junction from the Toutle Trail. The post with no sign is the continuation of the Toutle while the trail on the left is the ski trail.

We followed this trail south for half a mile passing through a beargrass meadow that appears to have bloomed heavily last year and a lava flow with excellent views of Mt. St. Helens before dropping to FR 81 at the Red Rock Pass Trailhead.
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IMG_4932Last years beargrass.

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IMG_4937Strawberry

IMG_4938Phlox

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IMG_4952FR 81 below the trail.

IMG_4953Trail sign at the trailhead.

We crossed FR 81 and continued on the Toutle Trail.
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After 100 yards we came to a familiar fork where we had turned uphill in 2019 on our Cinnamon Ridge Hike linked above.
IMG_4961Raven flyover

IMG_4963The fork.

We were going in the opposite direction of what we’d done in 2019. Bugs were a bit more of a nuisance here so we kept a steady pace as we made a little climb then descended to McBride Lake and the Kalama River.
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IMG_4971One of several side creeks we crossed.

20220625_112201Trillium

20220625_112218Avalanche lily

IMG_4976Violet

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IMG_4993Goat Mountain beyond McBride Lake.

IMG_4994Sourgrass

IMG_5004Valerian

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IMG_5012Solomonseal

20220625_115233Saxifrage

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A little west of McBride Lake the Toutle Trail crosses the Kalama River on a closed road bed.
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IMG_5031Kalama River from the road bed.

Our original plan was blown up here. We had intended to follow the Toutle Trail to the start of the Kalama Ski Trail and then take that trail back uphill to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead. The problem was I had already forgotten about the Blue Lake Horse Trail and when I had glanced at the GPS and saw a trail extending north from the end of the road bed I mistook it for the ski trail so we followed the road bed a quarter mile to FR 81. (We had a paper map with us but didn’t pull it out to confirm.)
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IMG_5035The Blue Lake Horse Trail on the far side of FR 81.

When we crossed FR 81, two things that should have tipped us off to our mistake. First the sign clearly said “Blue Horse Trail” and second instead of blue diamonds there were orange diamonds with arrows marking this trail.
IMG_5036The sign did show FR 8123 which was the road the trailhead was on so that fed into us not realizing our mistake at first.

We followed this trail for a third of a mile before we realized what we’d done. We stopped and considered our options. We could back track three quarters of a mile to the Toutle Trail or a third of a mile to FR 81 and follow one of them west to the ski trail. Another option was to continue uphill on this trail to the junction we’d passed earlier and retrace our steps on the ski trail from there back to the trailhead. All of those options meant adding distance and retracing steps. Heather suggested another option, simply heading cross-country for FR 8123 and the trailhead.
IMG_5037An orange diamond on a tree ahead.

The forest was definitely conducive to cross-country travel so we struck off in a WNW direction. The cross-country hike was about as easy as we could have hoped for and after 0.7 miles we arrived a FR 8123 just 0.2 miles from our car.
IMG_5038Where we left the horse trail.

IMG_5039Typical terrain for the cross-country walk.

IMG_5040It seems like every time we go off-trail we come across a mylar balloon. We’ve really come to despise those things. We packed it and the ribbon out.

IMG_5041The trickiest part was crossing this dry stream bed but we fortunately came to it at a spot that was perfect for crossing.

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IMG_5043FR 8123

IMG_5045Coming up to the Goat Marsh Lake Trailhead (and our car) on FR 8123.

I had estimated a 10-12 mile hike with only about 800′ of total elevation gain and we came in at 10.8 miles.

Our track with the cross-country portion in orange.

While it had been a warm day, the combination of shade provided by the forest and a fairly steady breeze, it hadn’t been too hot. The hike had provided a lot of diverse scenery and great views of Mt. St. Helens. The wildlife was a big bonus along the Goat Marsh Trail too. It seems like we can always count on hikes in Mt. St. Helens area to be great ones. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Goat Marsh Lake

Categories
SW Washington SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer – 06/11/2022

Another rainy weekend was in the forecast which had us questioning whether or not it was worth heading out. Our original plan had involved a hike with mountain views so we wanted to save that for a day with a clearer forecast. This had us looking for something that wasn’t view dependent. The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge a.k.a the Columbian White-Tailed Deer Refuge fit that bill and was on our schedule during the month of June in 2025. I had it penciled in for June due to one of the trails in the refuge, the Center Road Trail, only being open to hiking from June through September. While a refuge hike is typically okay on a rainy overcast day it had poured Friday and we were expecting Saturday to be similar and weren’t keen on driving over two hours to be drenched for an entire 12 mile hike. Friday evening we had all but decided to take the weekend off but just to be sure I pulled up the NOAA forecast for the refuge. To our surprise there was just a 10% chance of showers in the morning followed by partly sunny skies and a high in the low 60s. That sold us and we got our packs ready for a 5am departure the next morning.

After a brief conversation with a very friendly Washington State Trooper (I completely missed a 45mph sign and was given a warning) we pulled into the refuge HQ (open Mon-Fri 7:30am – 4pm). We had gotten the hike for this idea from the “more hikes” section of Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” guidebook as well as an entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide describes a 6.1 mile loop, which for reasons that will become evident later, is no longer possible. (I have contacted both with updated information.)
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IMG_2440A damp and cloudy morning.

IMG_2445Swallow

Our plan had been to to the described loop but after reaching the far end of the loop we were going to do an out-and-back along Steamboat and Brooks Slough Roads to add a little hiking time since a six mile loop would likely violate our rule of not having our driving time be greater than our hiking time on day trips. From the HQ we walked out of the parking lot onto Steamboat Slough Road and turned right crossing Indian Jack Slough. The loop description was to then turn right through a gate into the refuge shed/garage yard.
IMG_2441Indian Jack Slough and the garage from Refuge HQ.

The gate, including a secondary pedestrian gate were padlocked and there were “Area Closed” signs on the driveway gate. This was a bit unexpected, but shouldn’t have been if we’d have read the Refuge website more closely. What we discovered after our hike was that at some point a 0.3 section of Center Road, from Steamboat Slough Road west, had been closed to the public making the loop impossible and leaving the Center Road Trail as a 5 mile round trip out-and-back. At this point though we weren’t sure what was going on so we decided to simply head out Steamboat Slough Road and were prepared to skip Center Road and make the hike a simple out-and-back.
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Beyond the shed/garage there was a living quarters and just beyond that we spotted the first Columbian White-tailed deer of the day.
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We followed this road for 2.3 miles to the start of the White-tail Trail. It is possible to drive to this trail and park at the nearby dead end of Steamboat Slough Road.
IMG_2465Elochoman Slough

IMG_2473The first of many bald eagles we spotted (atop the dead tree across the slough).

IMG_2489Working on drying out.

IMG_2475Lots of non-native yellow flag iris in the area.

IMG_2494Little birds such as this sparrow were everywhere but rarely sat still.

IMG_2501A different eagle waiting to dry.

IMG_2503There are at least 5 birds in the tree including four goldfinches.

IMG_2507A male goldfinch takes off.

IMG_2513The morning clouds were starting to break up as forecasted.

IMG_2516One of many great blue herons.

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IMG_2539A male wood duck.

IMG_2545Another great blue heron with the female wood duck on the log below.

IMG_2548The first of several osprey.

IMG_2552Cattle in a field along the road.

IMG_2557Geese

IMG_2565Snail crossing the road.

IMG_2572Maybe a yellow warbler. I had to use the digital zoom to get between the branches so it’s not the clearest photo.

The start of the mile long White-tail trail which travels along a setback levee.
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IMG_2586There was a pole with a bunch of bird nests hung from it near the start of the trail. We’d never seen one like it before.

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It turned out to be nests for purple martins, a bird that as far as we know we hadn’t seen before.
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DSCN1586Bald eagle in the same area.

IMG_2597Slug on lupine

IMG_2600A different type of lupine.

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IMG_2605Lupine, daisies and yellow gland-weed.

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20220611_090020Bumble bee needing to dry out.

We spotted more white-tailed deer along the levee, a pair of young bucks.
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DSCN1653A look at the white tail. He gave us a better look but in that one he was also doing his business so we stuck with this uncentered, slightly blurry version.

There was also a great blue heron sitting in a nearby snag.
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While we were keeping an eye on the bucks and the heron to the inland side of the levee there were geese, ducks, and various small birds all around us.
DSCN1612Guessing marsh wren.

DSCN1637Ducks

DSCN1644Goose with goslings.

DSCN1651Common yellow throat.

DSCN1660Male gadwall?

We eventually tore ourselves away from the wildlife bonanza and continued on.
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DSCN1666There was pretty much non-stop bird song throughout the day.

IMG_2616Traffic on the Columbia River.

DSCN1668The Santa Maria on the Columbia.

DSCN1671Female brown-headed cowbird?

IMG_2619Flowers along the levee.

DSCN1676American robin

DSCN1677Red-winged blackbird chasing a heron.

When we reached the end of the White-tail Trail we turned right onto Steamboat Slough Road. You can also park near this end of the trail but you must come from the west as Steamboat Slough Road is missing a section (which is why you hike on the levee).
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We followed this two-lane version of the road for approximately 1.25 miles to a fork and turned right on Brooks Slough Road. After just 0.2 miles we passed the western end of the Center Road Trail. This end was clearly open. We talked ourselves into believing that either we missed where we were actually supposed to go or that they just hadn’t unlocked the gate yet since we were still unaware of the updated rules for the trail and decided that we would take this trail on our way back and we could do the loop after all.
IMG_2625 Note the sign does not indicate that you cannot reach the HQ from the road, it simply says it is 5 miles round trip. Online it adds that hikers must exit the trail the way they entered.

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IMG_2630Roses along the road.

DSCN1699Muskrat

DSCN1694Warbler

DSCN1716Osprey

IMG_2634Brooks Slough Road junction.

We turned right and followed this narrow one-lane road along Brooks Slough. For the first mile it ran parallel to Highway 4 then it veered away becoming a quieter walk.
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IMG_2645Another eagle sitting near the top of the first tall tree on the far side of the slough.

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IMG_2647Interesting shrub along the road.

IMG_2649The partly sunny skies had indeed materialized.

DSCN1748Kingfisher

DSCN1751California scrub jay

DSCN1755White pelicans

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IMG_2654Some sort of ornamental shrub/tree but it had cool flowers.

DSCN1771Turkey vulture

DSCN1786Couldn’t tell what type of ducks they were.

We followed the road for approximately 2 miles to what was shown on the GPS as Alger Creek.
IMG_2660Alger Creek somewhere in the grass flowing into Brooks Slough.

IMG_2661Pond on the other side of the road.

DSCN1788Black pheobe?

After a short break we headed back. It was actually starting to feel warm now but we distracted ourselves with even more wildlife.
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DSCN1798Red-tailed hawk

DSCN1803American goldfinch

DSCN1815Swallowtail

DSCN1825Cedar waxwing with a salmonberry.

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DSCN1850Goat lounging in a driveway across the highway. There had actually been a black goat in nearly the same spot on our first pass.

IMG_2669Caterpillar

When we got back to Center Road we reread the signage and stuck to our plan to try and complete the loop.
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We had been discussing all the different wildlife that we’d seen already and I mentioned that the only thing missing was a turtle. Not long after starting down Center Road I noticed something brown (that didn’t look like a cow) in the distance near the tree line. As I was staring at it a large set of antlers raised from the grass and I realized it was a bull elk.
DSCN1886The elk is in the center of the photo near the tree line.

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We watched him as he munched on grass for quite a while before moving on. At that point I said something to the effect of forgetting about the turtle because that was better. It wasn’t too much longer before we came to some more wetlands. Lo and behold there was a turtle.
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Many pictures followed before resuming our hike.
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Heather spotted a pair of egrets in a distant tree which proved impossible to get a decent picture of.
DSCN1910Here is a not so decent picture of the egrets.

We also startled up a pair of American bitterns.
DSCN1912One of the bitterns in flight.

After 2 miles we spotted a set of posts with signs where we finally understood that the Center Road Trail no longer runs the entire length of the roadbed now.
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We were less than half a mile from the HQ which was visible from where we were but we obeyed the signs and turned around. It would have been about a perfect distance for us as we were at the 12.1 mile mark when we had gotten to the closed area. Now we had to backtrack two miles on Center Road before the mile long White-tail Trail and the 2.3 mile road walk back to the HQ parking lot. Not only was this a lot longer than we’d planned but the surface had been mostly paved and what wasn’t paved was packed gravel road beds so our feet were really protesting as we retraced our steps.
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DSCN1924Heather spotted this garter snake along Center Road. Another animal to add to the days list.

IMG_2708Back at the White-tail Trail.

IMG_2711It had cooled down again which provided some relief as we trudged back.

DSCN1929A second turtle

DSCN1931Mallards

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IMG_2714Way more water in the afternoon.

DSCN1940Another kingfisher. It was in the same tree as the heron had been earlier that morning when we were watching the bucks.

DSCN1941Family swim

IMG_2719By Steamboat Slough Road we had all kinds of blisters/hotspots on our feet.

IMG_2725Arriving back at the refuge HQ.

I got to the car first, changed shoes and drove back to pick up Heather who was only about a quarter mile behind me. My GPS read 17.5 miles of almost entirely flat hiking.

Fortunately I had thought to bring my parents camera which has more powerful zoom than my point and shoot and also our binoculars which Heather had been using since there was so much wildlife to be seen. We encountered a couple of other hikers on the White-tail Trail as well as a pair of cyclists and several cars along the various roads but for the most part it was a fairly peaceful (long) hike. The one thing we kept coming back to was that if we hadn’t done the hike the we did we wouldn’t have seen some of the wildlife that we encountered. Was it worth the blisters though? You betcha – Happy Trails!

Flickr: Columbia White-tailed Deer Refuge

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Trip report Washington

Black Hole Falls – 06/04/2022

After our extended Memorial Day weekend of hiking in the Medford area we were looking forward to a poison oak free outing. While we didn’t come away from that trip with any physical repercussions from the plant it had gotten into our heads to the point where we were seeing it when we closed our eyes. As I said before I’m sure after a while people just get used to it but we weren’t anywhere near that point yet and while it is present in the Willamette Valley and parts of the Columbia Gorge it isn’t as abundant. On our schedule for this hike was a visit to Black Hole Falls along North Siouxon Creek. This was good timing as the forecast for the weekend was for rain showers which, barring heavy fog, wouldn’t negatively affect our experience here. Black Hole Falls is a hike featured in Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” 2nd edition guidebook which as the title suggests contains 55 (50 featured and 5 bonus) hikes that don’t usually see a lot of visitors. In most cases it isn’t because of poor road or trail conditions but there are more popular destinations nearby causing these hikes to be overlooked. In the case of Black Hole Falls the drive wasn’t the greatest but it also was nowhere near the worst we’d been on but it is also near the much more popular hike at Siouxon Creek (post). Note that the 2020 Big Hollow Fire affected the Siouxon Creek area (it didn’t reach North Siouxon Creek) which was reopened in August 2021.

We followed the Oregon Hikers Field Guide directions to the North Siouxon Trailhead which were also the direction provided by Google Maps as Reeder’s directions were no longer appeared accurate. (We don’t independently trust Google Maps as it sometimes tries to send you on roads that in no way shape or form appear passable.)
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The trail departing from this trailhead is actually the Mitchell Peak Trail which leads to the summit of Mount Mitchell (post) but that destination is over 9 miles away with the upper portion of the trail being unmaintained. The trail drops steeply for approximately 200′ from the trailhead before leveling out. The remainder of the hike was a series of ups and downs, none of which were too long nor too steep. There were a number of creek crossings some of which had footbridges (sometimes makeshift) or logs to cross on. Given the wet conditions we chose to ford a couple of the creeks instead of risking slipping off of a slick log. A reroute of the trail at mile 3.5 dropped below a pair of cascades where the previous tread had been washed out. At the 4.5 mile mark the trail forks with the right hand fork leading a quarter mile downhill to Black Hole Falls.
IMG_2186Dropping into the forest.

The forest along the trail was just what we’d needed with a lush green (poison oak free) under story where woodland wildflowers and mushrooms thrived. With no confusing junctions and very little blowdown along the trail we were able to fully relax and take in the surroundings.
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IMG_2194Anemone

IMG_2190Vanilla leaf

IMG_2197Baneberry

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IMG_2206Quite a few snails and slugs along the trail.

IMG_2211Starflower

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IMG_2230Some of the logs had had tiles and ropes placed on them to help avoid slipping.

IMG_2233Surprisingly this was the only rough-skinned newt we spotted all day.

IMG_2234Foam flower

IMG_2237Inside-out flower

IMG_2241There were some huge nursery logs in the forest here.

IMG_2243A good example of a makeshift crossing.

IMG_2244Most of the flowers were white or pale pink but this salmonberry blossom added a splash of bright color.

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A side trail near the 1.75 mile mark led down to a campsite near North Siouxon Creek.
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IMG_2265Violets

IMG_2268This was an interesting log/bridge.

IMG_2270Millipedes were everywhere but this one was a color we hadn’t seen before.

IMG_2275These were the ones we were seeing all over.

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IMG_2276The dismount was a little awkward but doable.

IMG_2281Star-flowered solmonseal catching a moment of sunlight.

IMG_2283Fairybells

IMG_2285Solomonseal

IMG_2286False lily of the valley

IMG_2288Moss and lichens

IMG_2289Spotted coralroot

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IMG_2298Bunchberry

IMG_2309Small fall along the trail.

IMG_2312Did I mention millipedes were everywhere?

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IMG_2325Another creek crossing.

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The trail reroute at the 3.5 mile mark.
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IMG_2331The reroute

IMG_2334This was one of the log crossings that looked too slick and high to warrant an attempt so we forded here. The water was ankle deep and we crossed easily.

IMG_2335We forded just above the larger rocks in the middle of the creek.

IMG_2337The lower of the two cascades.

After fording the trail climbed up hill alongside a large tree that had fallen directly in the middle of the reroute. The presence of this tree didn’t cause too much trouble although it was wide enough that you could clamber over it except for near it’s top. I had wound up on the wrong side so I took the opportunity to follow the original trail to the old crossing before climbing up and around the root ball of the tree to rejoin Heather on the trail.
IMG_2343The upper cascade.

IMG_2344Looking across the old crossing you can see where some of the hillside was washed out.

IMG_2346Looking back at the trail from the creek. The large downed tree was the one that was too wide to climb over.

IMG_2347Most of the downed trees were like this although there was one that required ducking pretty low.

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IMG_2350We could hear the songs of wrens throughout the hike but only caught flitting glimpses of the little singers.

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IMG_2356Two of the footbridges were in a state like this. It held but we had to watch our step to not only avoid the holes but also the millipedes.

IMG_2360This was another ford/rock hop. There was a log serving as the bridge but it also looked slick. The rope in the picture was connected to the log and I almost didn’t see it (both times by).

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IMG_2362Deep pool near the crossing.

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A post marked the side trail down to Black Hole Falls.
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We turned right and descended to Black Hole Falls which did not disappoint.
IMG_2375First view through the trees.

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IMG_2382The pool was a beautiful green.

IMG_2390More cascades and clear pools were located downstream.

IMG_2388Heather taking in the view.

IMG_2394Since I was already wet from the fords I waded out in the calf deep creek to get a different angle.

In addition to the beautiful waterfall and creek there was a unique feature in the basalt to the left of the falls that looked to us like a head with a wide open mouth.
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We stayed at the falls for a while before heading back. The forest was just as pretty on the return trip as it was on the way to falls. A light rain finally began to fall in the final mile or two of the hike which felt nice by then.
IMG_2406The right fork heading on toward Mount Mitchell.

20220604_104816A really long nursery log spanning across this whole depression.

IMG_2408Camouflaged mushrooms.

IMG_2409The only trillium that still had its petals.

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IMG_2412It looked like someone took a slice of this mushroom.

IMG_2416There weren’t too many views of North Siouxon Creek from the trail but this was a nice one.

IMG_2420Sour grass

IMG_2423Youth-on-age

IMG_2428Scouler’s corydalis

20220604_130059Candy flower

With some wandering down and along the creek and at the falls our day came in at 10.6 miles and approximately 2400′ of cumulative elevation gain.

The hike had lived up to being referred to as off the beaten trail as we didn’t encounter another hiker all day. We did have a pickup drive by while we were changing back at the car after our hike but it appeared to be someone from one of the logging companies checking the area. We had passed signs for active logging operations and saw equipment on the drive in. This turned out to be an excellent hike from start to finish and one that we will be keeping in mind to revisit in the future. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Black Hole Falls

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Balfour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails – 04/02/2022

We have spent much of our hiking “off-season” addressing long overdue house projects including replacing siding, windows, floors, and now countertops. Hopefully the projects will be done shortly after our official hiking season starts. In the meantime we welcomed the start of a new month with an outing to Lyle, WA for hikes on a pair of trails along the Klickitat River. Our first stop, on the west side of the river, was at the Balfour-Klickitat Trail. The site of a former ranch this day-use area includes a short interpretive loop, picnic tables, and a wildlife viewing path.
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IMG_8374Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Point (post) on the Oregon side of the Columbia River

We headed counter-clockwise on the loop which provided views of the Columbia River and across the Klickitat to Lyle.
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The trail then turned inland along the Klickitat where a noisy group of domestic geese drew our attention to a pair of common mergansers and great blue heron.
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IMG_8405A blurry heron along the river.

We spotted a number of smaller birds in the bushes and trees as we made our way around the loop. We also took a quick detour downhill to a picnic table overlooking the river.
IMG_8407Acorn woodpecker

IMG_8417Scrub jay

IMG_8418View from the picnic table.

A short time after returning to the loop we came to a sign for the Wildlife Viewing Area near a bench where we made another short detour.
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IMG_8425This trail was not paved.

IMG_8428Woodland-stars

IMG_8434View from a bench at the end of the trail.

IMG_8435Mallards on the water below.

After checking out the wildlife viewing area we completed the 0.75 mile loop which brought our stop here to a total of 1.3 miles. We hopped in our car and drove across the river on Hwy 14 to the Lyle Trailhead. Here the 31-mile long Klickitat Trail begins. This Washington State Park trail follows the historic rail bed of the Spokane, Portland, Seattle Railway (SP&S). A 3 mile section of the trail north of Klickitat, WA is currently unhikeable due to a missing bridge over the Klickitat River effectively splitting the trail southern and northern sections of 13 and 15 miles respectively. We hiked 3.8 miles along the end of the northern section from Harms Road in 2014 (post).
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IMG_8449Starting at mile 0.

The trail starts by passing some private homes in Lyle but soon provides views down to the Klickitat River. Across the river we spotted a number of deer working their across the hillside and a bald eagle surveying the river below.
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IMG_8458Keep your eyes out for poison oak which was prevalent along the trail. Luckily the trail is nice and wide so avoiding it was easy enough.

IMG_8469Heather spotted these three deer across the river.

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IMG_8474Another group of deer.

IMG_8487Bald eagle

We had chosen this hike based on Matt Reeder’s entry in his “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook where he recommends a late March visit for wildflowers. We kept our eyes out for flowers as we went and were not disappointed.
20220402_080542Larkspur and woodland-stars

IMG_8491Buttercups

IMG_8493Pacific hound’s tongue

IMG_8495Milepost 1

IMG_8496Saxifrage

IMG_8500Balsamroot

At the 1.7 mile mark we crossed the river on a Fisher Hill Bridge. The view was great and included a series of small cascades on Silvas Creek.
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IMG_8504Silvas Creek

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We continued north on the trail passing some nice views of the river which were briefly ruined by the smell of rotting flesh (fish?) which brought back memories of the decomposing whale we passed several years ago on our Floras Lake Hike (post).
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20220402_083857Blue-eyed Mary

At mile two we passed the Lyle Falls Facility which is a fish monitoring station.
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Beyond the fish facility the gap between the trail and the river closed and the views become even prettier.
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IMG_8526Seasonal pool along the trail.

The only mountain view of the day was along this stretch with Mt. Hood making an appearance to the south.
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IMG_8536Common mergansers

A short distance upstream we passed a screw trap, an instrument used to trap and count young fish.
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We continued upriver until we reached milepost 6 where we called it good and turned around. I had gotten myself confused by misreading Reeder’s hike description and thought that there was another bridge around the 5 mile mark and had originally planned to turn around at that but since it didn’t exist (and we didn’t realize that until after passing MP 5) we made MP 6 the turnaround marker.
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IMG_8542Popcorn flower

IMG_8544Columbia desert parsley

IMG_8546Lupine

IMG_8549Balsamroot

IMG_8554Shooting stars

IMG_8560Buttercups

IMG_8561Waterleaf

IMG_8567A balsamroot amid pungent desert parsley

IMG_8564Big-leaf maple trees lining the trail.

20220402_091018Big-leaf maple blossoms

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IMG_8574Gold stars

IMG_8583Larkspur, poison oak, and buttercups

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IMG_8589Spotted towhee

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IMG_8600Squirrel

IMG_8609Dillacort Canyon

20220402_101749Red-stem storksbill

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After turning around we took a brief break on a rocky beach near MP6.
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On our way back it had warmed enough for the butterflies (and moths) to come out and we watched for them along with anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_8633Couldn’t get a good look at this small moth but it was pretty.

IMG_8643Anise swallowtail

IMG_8644Sara’s orangetip

IMG_8654Grass widow

20220402_112438Slender phlox

IMG_8672Heading back.

IMG_8685Immature bald eagle

IMG_8688Propertius duskywing – Erynnis propertius

IMG_8690The mergansers had moved to the near bank.

IMG_8698Hood behind some clouds.

IMG_8700Ground squirrel

IMG_8708Mourning cloak

IMG_8718Lizard

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View from the Fisher Hill Bridge in the afternoon.

IMG_8741Arriving back at the Lyle Trailhead.

Some backtracking and detours brought our hike to a little over 12.5 miles here giving us close to 14 miles on the day with only a couple of hundred feet of elevation gain.

Rattlesnakes and ticks are present in the area but we encountered neither on this day. It was a nice break from the projects at home and a good way to end our off-season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blafour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails

Categories
Hiking Trapper Creek Washington Washington Cascades

Soda Peaks Lake – 09/06/2021

For Labor Day we headed back up to Washington where we’d been able to mostly avoid smoke from the numerous wildfires in the West. We’d spent the day before in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (post) and today we were returning to the Trapper Creek Wilderness for the first time since 2013 (post). The wilderness areas are just eight miles apart, separated by the Wind River Highway (and Wind River).

Our planned hike for the day was inspired by a featured hike in Sullivan’s 5th edition of his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” book. While Sullivan describes two options for hike #34, Trapper Creek, both were a bit short for us after the 2 hour drive to reach the closest trailhead. His first option is a 3.8 mile out and back to what he calls the “Grove of Giants”, a stand of old growth cedar trees starting at the Trapper Creek Trailhead. His second option (beginning at a different trailhead) is a 5 mile out and back to visit Soda Peaks Lake. Our plan was to park at the Trapper Creek Trailhead and do an out and back hike passing the Grove of Giants, then continuing on the Soda Peaks Lake Trail to Soda Peaks Lake and beyond to a viewpoint on the rim above the lake.

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The Trapper Creek Trail started out nearly level which made for a nice warm up before climbing.

Not far from the trailhead the unsigned Dry Creek Trail joined from the right.

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Warning sign for burned trees due to the 2020 Big Hollow Fire (there’s that four letter “F” word again). The wilderness had been closed most of the year due to that fire (and some bad winter storms) and was only reopened in August.

The trail climbed gradually along a hillside above Trapper Creek for three quarters of a mile to a 4-way junction with the Observation Trail which we had been on in 2013.

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The Observation Trail.

We stayed straight on the Trapper Creek Trail here.

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For the next three quarters of a mile the trail gradually descended to a unnamed creek crossing.

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On the far side of the creek we turned left onto the Soda Peaks Lake Trail.

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We followed the creek downhill ignoring a side trail joining from the left and came to a footbridge over Trapper Creek.

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Sign at the jct with the side trail joining from some private cabins.

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The trail then passed through a stand of alder before turning left and reaching the Grove of Giants just under half a mile from the Trapper Creek Trail.

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One of the big trees was down.

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At the grove the trail made a sharp right turn and began an arduous three mile climb gaining over 2300′ of elevation.

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Lousewort was just about the only flowers left blooming along the trail.

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Grey jay

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Observation Peak from the trail.

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Huckleberry leaves

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Woodpecker

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There were three short stretches in saddles where the trail briefly leveled out giving us a respite from the climb.

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Fungus amid some bark.

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Big rock outcrop along the trail.

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Mountain ash changing into its Fall colors.

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Mt. Hood from the trail.

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Mt. Hood

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Red bunchberries and a blue berry from a queen’s cup.

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Mt. St. Helens from the trail.

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Mt. St. Helens

The only real obstacle came about a quarter of a mile from the lake where a large tree trunk blocked the trail. It was too wide to step over and at too steep an angle to climb over.

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The only option was to climb steeply uphill to pass around the top of it.

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Mt. Adams from the trail.

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Almost to the lake which was busy with folks that most likely took the shorter route in.

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Day use area at Soda Peaks Lake.

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I don’t think we’d seen anyone all morning on the trails so the barking dogs and yelling people (maybe they were just talking loud but I wasn’t used to hearing voices) were enough encouragement to move on after a short break. The rim viewpoint that we planned to make our turnaround point was another 1.1 miles and 600′ of climbing away. The trail immediately climbed away from the lake from the day use area.

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It then curved around the north side of the lake passing through several rock fields where we heard a few pikas but were not able to spot any.

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Not a pika, but it was a cute chipmunk.

After some gradual climbing the trail got serious and switchbacked steeply to the rim where it turned right following it for 0.2 miles to the viewpoint.

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Mt. Rainier

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Mt. Rainier

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The Goat Rocks with a smoke plume rising behind them to the north.

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Mt. Adams with Soda Peaks Lake in the trees below. The row of peaks in between Mt. Adams and the lake is the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

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The Red Mountain lookout where we’d been the day before.

There were more people coming down the trail headed for the lake. After a moment admiring the view and catching our breath we also headed back down. We stopped again briefly at the lake then said our goodbyes.

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It was a long descent and our knees were happier once we were back on the Trapper Creek Trail. Heather also suffered a yellow jacket sting on her calf on the way down which wasn’t a nice surprise.

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Mt. Hood and some vine maples.

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This stellar’s jay almost hit Heather in the head.

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Back on level ground.

The hike wound up being 12.5 miles with 3800′ of elevation gain. It was in the 80’s when we arrived back at the trailhead and the heat just made the hike a little harder. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable day in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Soda Peaks Lake

Categories
Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek – 09/05/2021

The horrible wildfire season finally thwarted one of our planned trips when California announced that all National Forests would be closed over Labor Day Weekend (and at least through September 17th). This was at least the third year in a row we had a backpacking trip in the Siskiyou Wilderness planned but either fire or weather has kept those plans from happening each time. Much like last September many of the areas that aren’t on fire are suffering from unhealthy air quality due to the smoke so our options were limited. (How I miss the days of rain being the driving factor on where we were going to hike.) One of the areas that has been less impacted by the smoke has been SW Washington and so we turned to that area once again for a pair of hikes over the holiday weekend. We skipped Saturday as smoke was an issue pretty much everywhere save for the Coast and Coast Range and waited for the next system to push the smoke east (sorry Central Oregon).

For our hike on Sunday we turned to Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” 2nd edition. In his Indian Racetrack and Red Mountain description (hike #15) Reeder describes an alternate loop using the unmaintained Basin Lakes Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail as an alternate to the 7.4 mile out and back that he suggests. We’d been to Indian Racetrack and Red Mountain as part of a diffent loop (post) so this other loop sounded more interesting than the out and back. We figured if the old Basin Lakes Trail was too hard to follow we could simply turn back and still do the out and back as described since it was only 2 miles to the basin then an additional mile up to the Pacific Crest Trail. We started our hike at the Falls Creek Horse Camp. The Falls Creek Trail heads southwest from the horse camp descending to Falls Creek Falls.
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The trail we wanted, the Indian Racetrack Trail, began on the opposite side of Forest Road 65.
IMG_4451There were no signs for the obvious trail.

Once we were on the trail we ignored an unsigned side trail on the right which presumably led down to Falls Creek.
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Approximately 0.2 miles from FR 65 a second trail joined from the left at a wilderness signboard.
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Approximately 120 yards beyond the signboard we arrived at an unsigned fork.
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The Indian Racetrack Trail continued to the right while the abandoned Basin Lake Trail veered left. While the Forest Service no longer maintains the trail (or even lists it on their website) the tread was obvious and based on the number of road apples on the ground it is used fairly regularly by equestrians.
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IMG_4459Entering the Indian Heaven Wilderness

A half a mile up this trail we came to a small meadow where a couple of hikers were camped.
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They warned us that where were quite a few trees down the closer you got to the Basin Lakes but that didn’t dissuade us and we continued on. The trees weren’t much of an issue and in most cases clear paths simply went around them.
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We crossed a branch of Falls Creek just under a mile along the trail.
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The tread continued to be fairly easy to follow for another half mile and then it vanished, at least from our sight, near a gully.
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After a few minutes of hunting for it (which included crossing and recrossing the gully) we decided to simply follow the tallest ridge in the direction of the lakes using our GPS and Reeder’s map. A quarter mile later we were looking down at Peggy Lake on our left.
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We stayed on the ridge above Peggy Lake and turned on the far end made a hard right toward Janet Lake.
IMG_4488Typical vegetation and trees on the ridge.

IMG_4491We rediscovered tread as we dropped to a saddle near Janet Lake.

IMG_4494Sign at the saddle between Peggy and Janet Lakes.

We did walk down to the bank of Janet Lake to admire its reflection.
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From Janet Lake it was another 0.1 miles to an unnamed (at least officially) Basin Lake, sometimes on tread and sometimes not.
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IMG_4513Sleepy ducks

IMG_4516I believe Oregon Hikers calls this one “Cindy Lake”.

We passed another lake on our left a quarter mile later.
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That was followed by what appeared to be a mostly dry lake bed on the right, now filled with green grass.
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We were now at the eastern end of the basin facing a steep climb up to the Pacific Crest Trail. We needed to gain almost 500′ to reach that trail and at the moment we weren’t sure if there was any tread to follow up.
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We scanned the hillside but couldn’t pick anything out so we put our route finding hats on and identified a small saddle where it looked like a trail would go and headed for it. As we approached we stumbled on tread.
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IMG_4534The small saddle we’d been aiming for.

From there we were able to follow a faint path up and out of the basin.
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IMG_4543Heather down to the right between a couple of trees.

20210905_090147Me getting close to the top.

IMG_4546The top of the ridge.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs right along the ridge (despite where it’s shown on Google Maps) and passes over the top of Berry Mountain to the south. After catching our breath we turned right and headed toward Berry Mountain and yet more climbing.
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Fortunately it was the PCT so the climb was relatively gradual as it switchbacked up 170′ in 0.4 miles.
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IMG_4553Mt. Adams in some clouds.

IMG_4556Mt. St. Helens behind a line of clouds.

IMG_4559Gifford Peak (post) behind us.

IMG_4561Chipmunk

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At a switchback a bit below the summit we were treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
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IMG_4568Mt. Jefferson was also visible to the right of Mt. Hood. Unfortunately so was the smoke being produced by the Bull Complex Fire which destroyed the historic Bull of the Woods Lookout (post) on Labor Day 😦 .

"IMG_4572Autumn is on the way, bring on the rain please.

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The PCT stuck to the long summit which would have also provided good views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens on a clearer day.
IMG_4591Mt. Adams

IMG_4595Looking toward Mt. St. Helens

IMG_4594The peaks in the Trapper Creek Wilderness (post) to the west.

We finally began to descend from Berry Mountain and after 3 miles on the PCT arrived at a signed junction for the Indian Racetrack Shortcut Trail.
IMG_4604Cliffs on Berry Mountain

IMG_4607Mt. Hood as we headed downhill.

IMG_4609Red Mountain and its lookout tower.

IMG_4617This beargrass is way off schedule.

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On our previous hike we’d arrived at this junction from the other direction so when we turned right we one a somewhat familiar trail. After a brief stint in the forest the trail entered larger and larger meadows.
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After a half mile we arrived at the Indian Racetrack Trail arriving on our right.
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This would be the route back to our car but first we wanted to revisit the lookout on Red Mountain so we continued straight for approximately 50 yards and turned left at a pointer for the Indian Racetrack Trail.
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We followed the trail 0.8 miles to a road and then followed the road another quarter mile to the lookout gaining a total of 700′ along the way.
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IMG_4634Mt. Adams from a viewpoint along the way.

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We passed two sets of hikers on their way down, the second of which mentioned having accidentally driven to the lookout. Apparently someone had vandalized the gate which allowed vehicles to drive up the road. Hopefully the Forest Service can get that remedied quickly as Google still shows the Indian Racetrack Trailhead on Red Mountain.
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IMG_4656Not sure if someone forced the door open too or not.

IMG_4652View of Mt. Adams beyond Indian Heaven.

IMG_4657Photo taken from the doorway, it looked like nothing had been vandalized.

IMG_4658Mt. St. Helens still hiding behind that line of clouds.

We took a long enough break at the summit to get to a brief glimpse of Mt. St. Helens summit.
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IMG_4675Mt. Adams with a few clouds passing by.

IMG_4671Mt. Hood with smoke from the Bull Complex behind.

We headed back down the Indian Racetrack Trail to Indian Racetrack and then continued on it past Race Track Lake. We passed quite a few hikers on our way down and saw more at Indian Racetrack.
IMG_4681Indian Heaven Wilderness sign on Red Mountain with Mt. Adams in the background.

IMG_4686Race Track Lake on the left.

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It was 2.3 miles total from the junction back to the Falls Creek Horse Camp. We continued to see more and more hikers and were once again glad we’d gotten an early start allowing us to have the lookout to ourselves.
IMG_4694Hardhack

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IMG_4700Footbridge over Falls Creek.

IMG_4702Falls Creek

IMG_4710Butterfly near Falls Creek.

IMG_4712Sign at the final trail junction near FR 65.

Reeder called this a 12 mile loop but our GPS came in at 11.2 miles which was a nice surprise. Total elevation gained was approximately 2850′. For this loop route finding, map, and navigation skills are highly recommended, otherwise the out and back option still provides a nice hike. Happy Trails!

Orange represents the old Basin Lakes Trail which is not shown on most maps.

Flickr: Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek

Categories
Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Norway Pass – 08/29/2021

After spending the night in our tent at Badger Lake (post) Heather’s foot was feeling better enough to give the Norway Pass hike a go. We were up nice and early thanks in part to an owl who visited the lake just before 4am. After a breakfast of Mountain House’s Spicy Southwest Skillet (our current favorite) we packed up and started our hike back to Elk Pass.
IMG_4311The view from the trees surrounding our campsite as we prepared to leave.

We had decided not to follow the Boundary Trail all the way back to Elk Pass opting to cut over to a forest road after the first two miles near the Mosquito Meadows Trail junction. Sullivan mentions doing this stating that it is “slightly quicker, but a bit tedious”. Our hope was there would be less elevation gain because we’d done a fair amount of up and down on the trail the day before.
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IMG_4316Mt. St. Helens catching some morning light.

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IMG_4318Mt. Rainier without a whole bunch of smoke.

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There were a couple of paths near the trail junction where people had cut over to the old forest service road which was only about 10 yards away (but hidden by trees from the trail). We turned left at the first of the paths and quickly popped out onto the road.
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We turned right on the roadbed and followed it downhill just under half a mile to FR 2551 which is still in use.
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IMG_4331We snagged a few black caps along the road to as a post breakfast snack.

IMG_4333FR 2551

We turned right onto FR 2551 and were pleasantly surprised to find that there was very little elevation change (just a slight gain) over the 1.7 miles back to FR 25.
IMG_4335The very top of Mt. St. Helens from FR 2551.

IMG_4338Sullivan had labeled this stretch with the word slide which had caused a little apprehension in deciding to try this return route but despite the obvious slide(s) that had occurred here the road was in decent shape.

IMG_4339Not sure what kinds of birds were in this tree but there were a lot of them.

IMG_4343FR 25 at the end of a long straight away.

We turned right again at FR 25 walking along the shoulder for 150 yards to the Boundary Trailhead.

IMG_4344The Boundary Trail crosses FR 25 near the road sign ahead. The picture was taken from FR 2551 at FR 25.

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We pulled our day packs out, refilled our water with some extra we had left in the car and drove north on FR 25 to FR 99 where we turned left heading for the Norway Pass Trailhead. A short connector from the trailhead leads to the Boundary Trail.
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We turned left at the Boundary Trail and climbed for just over a mile to a signed junction with the Independence Ridge Trail. A couple was taking a break at the junction and another hiker, from the Mt. St. Helens Institute, coming down hill stopped to ask them if they were debating on which way to go. They weren’t and she said good because the Independence Ridge Trail is “dicey”.
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IMG_4359Paintbrush

IMG_4360Buckwheat

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IMG_4369We could hear a waterfall in the valley below.

IMG_4368The top of the waterfall.

IMG_4373Penstemon and pearly everlasting.

IMG_4382Looking back over our shoulders to Meta Lake.

IMG_4384Mt. Adams also from over our shoulders.

IMG_4385Aster

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IMG_4388Switchback at the Independence Ridge Trail junction.

The Boundary Trail climbed less steeply beyond the junction with the exception of an up and down to cross a dry stream bed.
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IMG_4396Heading down to the stream bed.

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IMG_4399Penstemon

IMG_4445Monkeyflower

As the trail made it’s final climb to Norway Pass Mt. Rainier was visible beyond the ridges to the north.
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IMG_4407Norway Pass (the low saddle to the right) from the trail.

IMG_4408Orange agoseris

IMG_4412Approaching the pass.

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To get a good view of Mt. St. Helens we had to descend on the trail a short distance beyond the pass.
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After admiring the view we headed back stopping along the way to debate what these flowers were and whether or not they were non-natives (we believe they probably are).
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With much of the 2.2 mile return hike being downhill we made good time back to the trailhead where we changed and then started the long drive home.
IMG_4446Mt. Adams and Meta Lake from the trail.

This hike was just 4.4 miles but gained nearly 900′ of elevation making it a good workout with great views.

The hike out of Badger Lake had been 4.2 miles so combined it was an 8.6 mile day. Knowing that we had now hiked at least portions of all 100 featured hikes in another of Sullivan’s books was the icing on the cake of a fun but tiring visit to Mt. St. Helens. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Norway Pass

Categories
Hiking Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Harmony Falls, Loowit Falls, and Badger Lake – 08/28/2021

After having spent a week in SE Oregon checking off a few of Sullivan’s featured hikes in that region we turned our focus back to the Northwest Oregon/Southwest Washington guidebook where just 3 featured hikes remained. All three hikes were located on the NW side of Mt. St. Helens, a three and a half hour drive from Salem. These last three hikes were a good example of some of the things we’ve had to work out on what counts toward being able to check off a hike. Due to their distance day hikes were out and a limited number of nearby rooms meant we needed to get creative. Our plan was to do portions of all three hikes on Saturday starting at Mt. St. Helens and ending with us backpacking in to Badger Lake and the finishing up on Sunday by driving back to Mt. St. Helens to complete one of the three options Sullivan has for his Spirit Lake hike (4th edition hike #29).

One of the quirks with Sullivan is that while he has the 100 featured hikes he often gives multiple options. Typically the second option is an extension of the shorter option but sometimes the options go in different directions or are even completely different hikes starting at different trailheads. Two of these last three hikes had three options. For Spirit Lake the shortest option, Harmony Falls, started at the Harmony Trailhead while the other two, Norway Pass and Mt. Margaret, began at the Norway Pass Trailhead. We had hiked up Mt. Margaret on a previous trip coming from the other direction (post) so we didn’t feel we needed to do that option but the other two options would be new to us so we planned on doing them both starting with Harmony Falls and saving Norway Pass for Sunday.
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From the Harmony Viewpoint a 1.2 mile trail leads 700′ downhill to Spirit Lake.
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IMG_3772Mt. St. Helens from the viewpoint.

As has been the case this Summer there was a good deal of haze surrounding us but we had blue(ish) sky overhead. There were also a fair amount of wildflowers blooming, at least compared to what we had seen in SE the previous week.
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IMG_3783Pearly everlasting

IMG_3789Penstemon

IMG_3791Paintbrush

IMG_3798Mt. St. Helens

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Prior to the 1980 eruption of the mountain Harmony Falls was a 50′ waterfall but most of the falls were buried as was the lodge that sat near the base of the falls. Now there is only a small cascade along the trail.
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20210828_085006Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake from the end of the trail.

As we were making our way back we were doing our best to try and identify the various rock formations and peaks across the lake.
IMG_3834Coldwater Peak (post) is easy with the white equipment on top.

IMG_3835The Dome

IMG_3832Mt. Margaret

IMG_3831Mount Teragram

After finishing this 2.4 mile hike we continued driving toward Mt. St. Helens on FR 99 and parked at the Windy Ridge Interpretive Site where the road is gated and only open to research vehicles.
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We were now working on featured hike #28 – Windy Ridge. Again Sullivan had three options, this time all starting from this parking lot. The shortest option was a .2 mile round trip up a steep set of stairs to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint at the northern end of the parking lot (see photo above). We set off across the lot to tackle this one first.
<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51413600517_e0b437d3fb_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_3847">The interpretive site and Spirit Lake.

IMG_3851Mt. St. Helens.

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Aside from a little section near the top the stairs were nicely spaced making the climb better than it looked from the bottom.
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In addition to Mt. St. Helens both Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier were visible from the viewpoint although on this day the haze was an issue.
IMG_3861Mt. Adams

IMG_3864Mt. Rainier

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The interpretive signs at the viewpoint did a good job of identifying different features that were visible which we appreciated.
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IMG_3878The Johnston Ridge Observatory was visible across Spirit Lake on a far hillside.

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IMG_3882It’s often hard to tell if you’re seeing dust from rockfall or steam from one of the vents.

After reading the signs and taking in the views we headed down the stairs and to the other end of the parking area where we walked past the gate and followed FR 99 for 1.8 miles to a sign for the Abraham Trail, the return route for the longer option.
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IMG_3895Butterfly on ragwort

IMG_3897Butterfly on pearly everlasting

IMG_3899Lupine in the pearly everlasting

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IMG_3911Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_3913Might be Oregon sunshine

IMG_3915Penstemon

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The longer option would add approximately 2.2 miles and 500′ to our hike and visit the Plains of Abraham. As with Mt. Margaret we had visited the Plains of Abraham (post) previously so we were going to stick to the shorter option. Beyond the junction with the Abraham Trail FR 99 dropped to a small parking area for research vehicles where two trails began.
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To the left was the Windy Trail and to the right was the Truman Trail. Our plan was to take the Windy Trail and hike a clockwise loop returning on the Truman Trail.
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We followed the Windy Trail just over a mile to the Loowit Trail where we turned right.
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IMG_3942Paintbrush and dwarf lupine

IMG_3943Pearly everlasting

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IMG_3950The Loowit Trail junction.

The Loowit Trail immediately dropped into a gully to cross a small stream.
IMG_3951Spirit Lake from the junction.

IMG_3953In the gully.

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We continued another 0.4 miles before arriving at Big Spring which was a big surprise.
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IMG_3964Another gully to cross.

IMG_3965Big Spring is in the willow thicket.

We knew that there was a spring but more often than not the springs wind up being small trickles or big mud puddles but not Big Spring. This was a good sized stream beginning almost right next to the Loowit Trail.
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IMG_3970The stream flowing over the Loowit Trail.

IMG_3974A pink monkeyflower at the spring.

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IMG_3984Looking back at the willows and Big Spring.

Another half mile of big views and a couple of gully crossings followed Big Spring. We were excited to spot mountain goats lounging on a ridge between the mountain and the trail along this stretch.
IMG_3989Coldwater Peak to the right.

IMG_3992The Sugar Bowl lava dome.

IMG_3996_stitchSpirit Lake from the trail.

IMG_4001The first goats we spotted are on this ridge above the lone tree.

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IMG_4010The Loowit Trail crossing two gullies in a short stretch, one red one black.

IMG_4016Dropping into the second gully.

IMG_4019From the second gully we could see quite a few more goats on the ridge.

A half mile from Big Spring we arrived at another trail junction.
IMG_4030Approaching the junction with the side trail to Loowit Falls.

IMG_4031Sign for Loowit Falls.

We stayed straight here following the pointer for Loowit Falls for another half mile.
IMG_4039Loowit Falls (right side of the photo) was visible for much of the half mile.

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IMG_4043Looking back at Coldwater Peak and Spirit Lake. (The top of Mt. Rainier is barely visible peaking over the top of the ridges.)

As we neared the falls we noticed another small herd of mountain goats on the hillside.
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We could also see the hummocks (post) off in the distance to the NE, pieces of the mountain that slid off during the 1980 eruption and settled in the debris flow creating odd mounds.
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Loowit Falls looked bigger than I had expected. We took a good break at the viewpoint with a couple of other hikers and a pair of young Forest Service workers.
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IMG_4070Spirit Lake from the viewpoint.

After our break we returned to the Loowit Trail to continue the loop.
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IMG_4104Paintbrush

IMG_4105Dwarf lupine

Just under three quarters of a mile from the Loowit Falls Trail junction we arrived at the Willow Springs Trail junction.
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Here we left the Loowit Trail by turning right on the 0.8 mile long Willow Springs Trail.
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IMG_4110Mt. St. Helens from the Willow Springs Trail.

IMG_4122Heading toward Spirit Lake.

The Willow Springs Trail ended at the Truman Trail where we again turned right.
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We followed the Truman Trail for a mile and a half back to the research vehicle parking area, re-crossing the gullies and streams we had crossed on the Loowit Trail.
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IMG_4139The Dome above Spirit Lake

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IMG_4150Vehicles ahead in the research parking area.

From the parking area we followed FR 99 (mostly uphill until the very end) 1.8 miles back to the Windy Ridge Interpretive Site. The haze was improving as the day wore on and we could now at least make out some snow on Mt. Adams.
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IMG_4155Mt. Adams to the left.

IMG_4160Mt. Adams

IMG_4165Look out for snakes, not the poisonous kind just don’t want to step on them.

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IMG_4168Some sort of sulphur butterfly on pearly everalsting.

Our 10.7 mile track from the Windy Ridge Interpretive Site

We hopped in the car and drove back to FR 25 where we turned south to reach the Boundary Trailhead at Elk Pass.
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The 53.7 mile long Boundary Trail’s western end is near Norway Pass where we planned on hiking the next day while the eastern end is located at Council Lake near Mt. Adams. The section of the trail that we planned on hiking was a 4.3 mile segment from Elk Pass to Badger Lake. From the signboard at the trailhead a short spur led away from FR 25 into the trees before joining the Boundary Trail.
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We turned left on the Boundary Trail and promptly arrived at FR 25 which we then crossed.
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This trail is open to both mountain bikes and motorcycles which probably explains why it was only briefly one of Sullivan’s featured hikes (#30 in his 4th edition). The forest was pretty and quiet (no motorcycles during our visit) but the trail showed a lot of wear from tires.
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One plus was a good variety of berries along the way and there were a few flowers as well.
IMG_4192Salmonberries

IMG_4196Blueberries

IMG_4210Huckleberries

IMG_4209Mushrooms (the flowers of Fall)

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IMG_4212I was really surprised to still be able to make out the remains of the petals on these trillium.

IMG_4213These bunchberries with a few petals left were near the trillium above.

IMG_4193Candyflower

At the 2.3 mile mark we passed the Mosquito Meadows Trail on the left.
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At this junction Heather told me to go on ahead and find a campsite then hike up Badger Peak without her if I wanted. Her plantar fasciitis had flared up on the way back from Loowit Falls and was struggling a bit. We had planned on hiking up to the summit after setting up camp and I didn’t want to wait for morning because the rising Sun would have been directly behind Mt. Adams. (Sullivan’s short option for this hike was to the lake and back while the longer option was to the summit.)

The trail gained a little over 600′ over the next two miles which doesn’t sound like a lot but nearly all the elevation was packed into two short sections of the leg.
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IMG_4225These thimbleberries weren’t ripe but a short distance further were a lot of ripe ones. I thought I might have to hike back and retrieve Heather from them.

IMG_4229A brief glimpse of Mt. Rainier from the ridge the trail was following, it looked like a lot of the smoke had blown away.

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Two miles from the Mosquito Meadows Trail I arrived at a junction with the Badger Peak Trail.
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Before I headed up that trail though I needed to hike on to Badger Lake to find a campsite (and get rid of my full backpack). Beyond this junction the trail passed through a meadow crossing Elk Creek and arriving at the lake on the far side.
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IMG_4240Aster

IMG_4243Elk Creek

IMG_4244Pink monkeyflower along Elk Creek

IMG_4247Lupine

IMG_4248The trail near Badger Lake was particularly torn up and there were several signs posted admonishing motorcyclists to stop driving off trail.

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IMG_4250Torn up hillside near the lake, it only takes one or two idiots to cause a lot of damage (the same goes for hikers/mountain bikers).

IMG_4251The little puddle in the foreground is not the lake, it is further back.

I found a tent site back in the trees near the meadow and dropped my pack off and hung my hunter orange shirt so Heather couldn’t miss it. Then I grabbed my day pack and hiked back to the Badger Peak Trail and headed uphill.
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IMG_4257This mushrooms was at least as wide as a salad plate.

It was 0.8 miles to the summit with 700′ of elevation to gain which meant the trail was pretty steep. In addition the motorcycles had gouged a deep trough in the center of much of the trail which was uncomfortably narrow to walk in. It turned out to be for the best that Heather had decided to skip the summit.
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IMG_4266A columbine

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The view was nice though and the sky around Mt. Adams had also cleared up greatly from earlier in the day.
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A hiker from Boise was at the summit when I arrived. She said she had been planning on staying up there until sunset but was having second thoughts due to the chilly breeze and not wanting to have to hike down the trail in the dark. I helped her identify the different mountains as this was her first time to the area. She was on a driving expedition as was thinking of heading to the Olympic Mountains next.
IMG_4277Mt. St. Helens was hard to make out with the combination of haze and Sun position.

IMG_4278Looking south toward Mt. Hood (I could make it out with the naked eye.)

IMG_4281Mt. Hood in the haze.

IMG_4283Mt. Rainier

IMG_4284Mt. Rainier

IMG_4286Mt. Adams

IMG_4293The Goat Rocks were also hard to make out due to the smoke.

IMG_4292Western pasque flowers, aka hippies on a stick, below the summit.

I headed down after a short break and found Heather finishing setting up our tent.
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We took our dinner over near Badger Lake and then turned in for the night. It had been a long day with a lot of hiking. For me it was a 19.4 mile day with approximately 3800′ of elevation gain and Heather was in the 18 mile range with over 3000′, no wonder her plantar acted up.
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IMG_4305The last of the sunlight hitting Badger Peak.

We hoped her foot would be feel better in the morning so the hike out wasn’t too miserable and so she might be able to do the Norway Pass hike. For now though we just needed to get our sore bodies to let us fall asleep. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Harmony Falls, Windy Ridge, and Badger Lake

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Trip report Washington

Mount Mitchell via Sugarloaf Ridge- 08/07/2021

Mount Mitchell is located near Cougar, WA just south of the Lewis River (post) and only 10 miles south of Mt. St. Helens providing an up close view of the mountain’s southern flank. That is if there is any visibility at the summit. On our recent visit we had near zero visibility from the former lookout site but despite missing out on the view this was an enjoyable hike which will soon likely be inaccessible due to planned logging activities.

Until 2011 the hike to Mount Mitchell began at the Mount Mitchell Trailhead on the north side of the mountain and was a 5 mile round trip gaining just over 2000′. In 2011 the owner of private land which the access road passes through gated the road and cut off recreational access. An alternate route via the North Siouxon Creek Trail requires a 20+ mile hike and quite a bit more elevation gain but for now at least there is a third unofficial option, a hunter’s path from the east along Sugarloaf Ridge to the Mount Mitchell Trail. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources land (which means a Discover Pass is required) at the end of a dirt/gravel road not shown on Google Maps (it is visible on the satellite image though).
IMG_1574The start of the “trail” at the end of the road.

IMG_1575Wildflowers at the trailhead.

It was a cloudy morning but the last forecast I had seen was for partly sunny skies so we were hoping the clouds might burn off, although some precipitation wouldn’t be the worst thing given the current drought conditions in the West. After briefly following an old road bed the trail launched steeply uphill through thick vegetation.
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It’s hard to capture steepness in pictures but it was steep. Luckily this wasn’t the case for long and we soon found ourselves on a more level trail.
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For an unofficial trail it was in good shape and easy to follow. We did run into a hunter later in the day who said he had been one of the people that originally cleared some of the trail years ago. He wasn’t sure the history of the trail, he thought possibly loggers, but the tread had been there. He also said that it had become a much clearer and well wore trail ever since it showed up on “some yuppie hiker website”. While the tread was good and there were pointers and flagging present there was also a lot of recent flagging done for the timber sales along the first mile or so of the hike.
IMG_1586Orange dot on a tree.

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IMG_1590Another orange dot.

IMG_1593Occasionally there were short steep climbs but nothing as steep as the first part.

IMG_1595Mushroom

IMG_1600Pink flagging on the right related to the timber sale.

IMG_1601Water in a creek bed.

IMG_1602Mushroom amid bunchberry leaves.

IMG_1606Red huckleberries

IMG_1607Timber sale boundary sign on the right with a flag.

IMG_1611More huckleberries.

After leaving the timber sale the trail continued through a nice forest until reaching basalt cliffs below Sugarloaf Mountain near the 2.5 mile mark.
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The cliffs reminded us a lot of Table Rock (post) near Mollalla just not quite as tall. We thought we heard a pika or two “meep” from the rocks but weren’t able to spot any. There were however a good number of flowers blooming along the route below the cliffs.
IMG_1638Bluebell of Scotland

IMG_1643Gentian

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IMG_1650Pearly everlasting

IMG_1653The view north, not much to see.

IMG_1654Mount Mitchell from the path.

IMG_1659Paintbrush

20210807_085857Gentian

IMG_1662Penstemon

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IMG_1668Oregon sunshine

IMG_1671Yarrow

IMG_1667The trail nearing the end of the basalt cliffs.

The trail reentered the forest beyond the cliffs and a short distance later arrived a junction with the Sugarloaf Trail.
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We turned right on the Sugarloaf Trail and followed it 200 yards to a viewpoint where we met the hunter who gave us the back history on the area.
IMG_1677The view south across North Siouxon Creek was the same as it had been to the north.

It’s possible to follow a faint trail from the viewpoint to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain but with no views to be gained by doing so we returned to the junction and continued east on the Sugarloaf Trail toward Mount Mitchell.
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IMG_1683It was apparently a good beargrass year along the trail.

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A half mile from the junction we arrived at the Mount Mitchell Trail as it made a turn uphill.
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We followed the left hand fork uphill through more beargrass stalks.
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IMG_1697Fireweed amid the beargrass.

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We reached the rocky summit after 0.4 miles only to find ourselves in the middle of passing clouds.
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IMG_1702Mt. St. Helens is out there somewhere.

IMG_1705Looking east over the site of the former lookout.

IMG_1708The survey marker and one of several neat rock formation near the summit.

IMG_1709Closer look at the formation.

It was an interesting summit even without the views but it was also a little chilly due to the dampness of the passing clouds and our own sweat from the hike up so we didn’t stay too long before heading back down. We had wondered if this was going to be one of those hikes where the skies didn’t clear up until we were on our way back down but that wasn’t the case today. By the time we were passing the basalt cliffs it was sprinkling off and on and the visibility was even less than it had been earlier when we passed through.
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This time we for sure were hearing the meeps of pikas so we took our time passing through and stopped below the largest rock field and watched.
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Heather was the first to spot one darting toward some brush at the edge of the rocks. After a little more surveying I spotted a flash of movement in the middle of the rocks. After seeing another bit of movement I took a picture of the area and even though I couldn’t pick it out then I got a pika in the picture.
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IMG_1718A second picture after seeing it move again.

The pika disappeared for a moment behind a larger rock but we waited it out knowing from experience that it would probably reemerge to keep an eye on us.
IMG_1720The pika popped back out below the larger rock that it had run behind.

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This was our first pika this year as we haven’t spent much time in areas where they are present in 2021 and they are not easy to spot.
IMG_1727A non zoomed in photo, the pika is still in the same spot as in the two photos immediately above.

Having seen the pika more than made up for the lack of views. We completed the final 2.5 miles in on-again off-again light showers.
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IMG_1740Spotting this patch of ghost pipe emerging from the forest floor was another highlight on the return hike. The hike is reportedly 7.3 miles with a little over 2000′ of elevation gain but Heather’s GPS put us at 7.8 miles and mine registered 8.3 miles. (If you’ve read other posts you know that Heather’s unit used to almost always show the higher mileage but lately mine has been.) Whatever the actual mileage it was a good hike through a very nice forest which sadly, barring a last minute successful change, may not be possible in the future.

Our track for Mount Mitchell

Typically I’d say Happy Trails here but the thought of losing another to logging, fire or abandonment somehow makes it seem inappropriate.

Flickr: Mount Mitchell

Categories
Hiking SW Washington SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and Ledbetter Point – 07/31/2021

As we continue to close in on and complete some of our long term hiking goals such as hiking all 100 featured hikes in at least one edition of William L. Sullivan’s five 100 Hikes guidebooks some of the remaining hikes have provided some challenges (post). Distance, weather, and various closures have required us to be flexible and get creative at times. Our visit to the Ridgefield and Willapa Wildlife Refuges in SW Washington was a good example. We had a visit to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge on our schedule for 2020 but then COVID-19 struck and things changed. It was back on the schedule for this Spring but nesting Sandhill Cranes caused the refuge to close the 1.5 mile Kiwa Trail which was part of Sullivan’s featured hike. The Ledbetter Point hike had been a featured hike in the “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” 3rd edition but was moved to an additional hike in the 4th edition. We had switched to the 4th edition as the one to attempt completing all 100 featured hikes in part because the hike at Ledbetter Point was only 4 miles long but was a three and a half hour drive from Salem. Subsequently we switched back to the 3rd edition due to the indefinite closure of the Salmonberry Railroad which was a new featured hike in the 4th edition.

After having to postpone our Ridgefield hike and modify the plan if we were going to hike there this year (I had originally combined it with a hike at the Stiegerwald Wildlife Refuge but a restoration project has closed it for the entirety of 2021.) I came up with the idea to combine it with the Ledbetter Point hike which was also planned for this year. It was only a little bit out of the way to stop at Ridgefield before continuing up to Ledbetter Point State Park. The combined hikes would be close to 11 miles which was a reasonable distance and with an early start would likely get us back home between 5 and 6pm. (This did mean breaking our self imposed rule of not spending more time driving than hiking on day hikes but sometimes compromises must be made.) With the plan set we just needed for the hikes to be open and as luck would have it the sandhill crane colt fledged and the Kiwa Trail was set to reopen on the very day we had hoped to do the hike.

After paying the $3.00 entry fee at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge our first stop of the morning was at the Kiwa Trailhead.
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The Kiwa Trail crossed the Bower Slough and then splits to create a loop around South East and Middle Lakes. We chose to hike the trail in a counter clockwise direction.
IMG_1329Bower Slough

IMG_1330Ducks in the slough.

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IMG_1333South East Lake which was mostly dried up at this point in the year.

IMG_1335Apparently deer can’t read based on the trail leading past the sign.

IMG_1339The bed of South East Lake

IMG_1340Some moisture passing through this morning.

IMG_1342Dove

IMG_1344Walking along a cleaner looking portion of the slough.

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IMG_1352Bridge/boardwalk between Middle Lake (left) and West Lake (right).

IMG_1351Wapato blossoms

With the lack of water this time of year there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife other than lots of little birds flying in and out of the vegetation. The views were nice enough to keep us entertained on the short loop though and when we got back to the trailhead there were several deer in the field across the road and a rabbit just a short distance from our car.
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IMG_1362Lots of ripening blackberries.

IMG_1363Second crossing of Bower Slough near the end of the loop.

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Since the trailhead is along the 4.2 mile one-way auto tour loop we drove back around to the fee booth and restrooms at the start of the loop. Along the way we stopped several times for wildlife.
IMG_1381Great blue heron

IMG_1384Doe

IMG_1385Deer near the restrooms/fee booth.

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Kiwa Trial Track

From the auto tour loop we drove to our second stop in the refuge at the Ridgefield Trailhead in the Carty Unit.
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Construction to build a new multi-purpose building is in process to be completed in 2022.
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We passed the new building and crossed over some railroad tracks on a nice footbridge.
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IMG_1404Doe in the brush near the tracks.

The trail then led to a replica plankhouse.
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The trail split on the far side of the plankhouse with the Carty Lake Trail heading left around Duck Lake and the Oaks to Wetland Trail system to the right.
IMG_1433Carty Lake Trail and Duck Lake

IMG_1412Ducks on Duck Lake

We went right to explore the Oaks to Wetland Trails. The maps show several loop possibilities but an ongoing restoration project currently has some connector trails closed and an entire portion of the system closed on Thursdays.
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IMG_1414Paved and dirt options allow for a mini-loop near the start, later the trails are all dirt.

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IMG_1420Big oak

IMG_1421One-way pointers for a second loop.

IMG_1424The trails can reportedly be quite muddy during the wet season but the current drought meant a hard packed surface.

IMG_1430Bright red poison oak climbing some of the tree trunks.

IMG_1431A bit of a low bridge.

IMG_1433Passing back by Duck Lake on the way back.

After touring the Oaks To Wetlands trails we headed past Duck Lake toward Carty Lake.
<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51349920581_2ee1202bd3_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_1434">Looked like a young pied billed grebe.

IMG_1437Spotted towhees

IMG_1438Onward toward Carty Lake.

It’s possible to follow the Carty Lake Trail all the way to the Port of Ridgefield Trailhead on the Lake River but for our hike today we simply hiked until the trail turned south on the far side of Carty Lake then turned around and headed back to the car.
IMG_1441Gee Creek

Orange jewelweedOrange jewelweed along Gee Creek.

IMG_1444Carty Lake also lacking much water.

IMG_1445Bindweed

IMG_1448A primrose

IMG_1449Wapato at Carty Lake

IMG_1451The trail turning south toward the Port of Ridgefield.

Carty Unit Track

From Ridgefield we drove north to Longview, WA where we crossed back into Oregon to take Highway 30 to Astoria only to return once again to Washington eventually making our way to the Ledbetter Point Trailhead.
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We got a little confused at the trailhead as three trails appeared to start here, one was to the left of the restrooms, one on the right of the signboard which appeared to head straight for Willapa Bay, and another to the right of the signboard that appeared to head parallel to the bay. Our plan was to follow the Bay Loop Trail (Green) north along the bay to the Bayberry Trail (Yellow) and take that trail west across the peninsula to the Beach Trail at the Pacific Ocean. We’d then head south along the beach to the Weather Beach (Blue) Trail where we would turn inland and hook up with the Dune Forest Loop Trail (Red). Sullivan’s description of this hike would have had us turn left here for 0.6 miles back to the trailhead but our plan was to go right for 1.5 miles to the southern parking lot and then turn north along Willapa Bay for 0.7 miles back to the car.
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The official trail is the one to the left of the restrooms but being unaware of that we struck out on the path which looked to head directly to the Willapa Bay.
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IMG_1458Lots of salal along the trail.

The trail did pop us out near the bay and onto an official trail where we turned left.
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We realized we’d chosen the wrong path when we spotted a group of hikers that had taken the left hand trail ahead of us on the trail. When we made it to where they had come out we found a signboard and viewing platform indicating it had been the official trail.
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IMG_1466Map near the platform.

We continued up the beach until we spotted another signboard and hiker post.
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IMG_1468High tide had been between 7 and 8am so the water was retreating from the Bay.

IMG_1471Looking south.

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A short distance later we came to another signboard at the junction of the Bay Loop and Bayberry Trails. Here we began to follow the hiker posts coded in yellow for the Bayberry Trail.
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The Bayberry Trail soon turned inland into the forest.
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We were following another pair of hikers who had spotted something small running along the trail. We stopped and watched as what we believe was a mole hurried down the trail right past us nearly running into my foot in the process.
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The trail eventually left the forest and entered the deflation plain behind the dunes along the beach.
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IMG_1500Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1502Cresting the dune.

IMG_1503Snowy plover sign, a common sight along the beaches in Oregon too.

IMG_1504Bayberry Trail passing through the snowy plover closure area.

IMG_1507Bumblee on American skyrocket.

While there had been a bit of blue sky above Willapa Bay the Pacific Ocean was covered in fog (another familiar sight to for us).
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We turned south as planned, hiking through the fog between the Pacific and the snowy plover closure area, until we spotted an opening in the foredune marking the Weather Beach Trail.
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We followed this trail back into the forest to its end at the Dune Forest Loop Trail.
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IMG_1526Chestnut backed chickadee

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We turned right as planned wondering why Sullivan didn’t have you do the same.
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IMG_1539Someone had written “umpassable (sic) swamp” below the word loop on this sign. This is when we began to guess why Sullivan had you turn left at the Weather Beach Trail junction.

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IMG_1541Slug and a mushroom. We both thought of Alice in Wonderland.

While we did not encounter any swamps the vegetation did get thick and it was easy to see how in wetter times of the year the trail would be difficult if not impossible. Our biggest problem though were the mosquitos which were a nuisance.
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IMG_1544Signboard at the southern trailhead.

We were happy to have reached the southern trailhead and gotten back to the bay where the openness and breeze kept the mosquitos away.
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We turned north and followed the trail back to where we had come down from the trailhead and hiked back up that same way. There were a few downed trees that needed to be climbed over along this stretch. We were also fortunate to have a bald eagle land ahead of us with its catch and then watch as some pesky crows tried to steal it for their own.
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IMG_1551Looking back over one of the trees.

IMG_1553Bumble bee on gumweed.

IMG_1554A pair of great blue herons in Willapa Bay.

IMG_1558The eagle has landed.

IMG_1560Crow attack

IMG_1562Looking for a quite place to eat.

IMG_1563We didn’t see what happened to the kill, if the eagle got to eat it or not.

IMG_1570The crows weren’t leaving the eagle alone.

IMG_1572Last of the trees to navigate.

Our hike here was a little over 6 miles giving us about 10.5 miles on the day with minimal elevation gain.

Ledbetter Point Track (no we weren’t in the water)

On the way home we stopped in Warrenton for a late lunch/early dinner at Nisa’s Thai Kitchen. We’d eaten here in 2017 and really enjoyed the food and it was as good as we had remembered. It was a good way to celebrate checking off our final featured hike of the coast guidebook as well as the 97th in the northwestern Oregon book. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and Ledbetter Point