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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

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IMG_1668Oregon sunshine

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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

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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.

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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

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista – 6/24/2019

We continued to rearrange our vacation plans based on a seemingly ever changing forecast. On Sunday night the Monday forecast for Silver Star Mountain was mostly sunny so we decided to make our third visit to the area. Our first hike at Silver Star Mountain began at the Silver Star Mountain Trailhead in 2013 (post). The road to that trailhead has become extremely rough and is now only recommended for high clearance vehicles. Then in 2015 we used the Bluff Mountain Trail to visit Silver Star (post). A better road but still a bit rough and further away.

For this visit we would start at the Grouse Vista Trailhead. We took the Battleground approach described in the trailhead link which was a mostly paved road approach with just a final 5.5 miles of decent gravel driving.

The Tarbell Trail crosses the road at the trailhead. The route to Silver Star begins on the far side of the road, opposite the restrooms and signboard. (A Washington Discover Pass is required to park here.)
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The trail climbs from the start as it follows an old roadbed uphill.
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The Tarbell Trail splits off just before the .2 mile mark allowing for a loop. We stayed right at the fork on the Grouse Vista Trail.
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The trail gains 500′ over the next half mile as it climbs up a ridge end. The rocky surface provides an added challenge.
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As the trail begins to emerge from the trees Sturgeon Rock is visible across the Rock Creek Valley (when clouds aren’t hovering over it). The loop route that we were considering would have us descending beneath Sturgeon Rock.
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The trail continued to climb around the ridge and we soon found ourselves with a view of Pyramid Rock (and the Sun).
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IMG_0311Sturgeon Rock (still with cloud) and Pyramid Rock

A smattering of flowers were popping up along the trail as we approached Pyramid Rock.
IMG_0301Wild iris

IMG_0304Paintbrush and lupine

IMG_0309Daisies

IMG_0317Penstemon

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Shortly before reaching Pyramid Rock we detoured on a spur to the right that lead up to a meadow in a saddle.
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Here we had what would turn out to be our only view of a Cascade volcano on the day as Mt. Hood rose above a mass of clouds over the Columbia River Gorge.
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We returned to the trail and continued heading toward Sturgeon Rock past ever improving flower displays.
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IMG_0344paintbrush and mountain spirea

IMG_0345Beargrass

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IMG_0361Columbine

IMG_0373A penstemon

IMG_0374More penstemon

IMG_0377Variety pack

IMG_0378Tiger lily

IMG_0381Golden pea and paintbrush

IMG_0392Another variety pack

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As we neared the junction with the summit trail we could see that clouds had now overtaken Pyramid Rock.
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They were moving up the Rock Creek drainage heading for the summit of Silver Star so when we arrived at the large rock cairn marking the junction we decided that we would skip the summit for now and head north on the Silver Star Trail.
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IMG_0402Avalanche lilies near the junction.

IMG_0404Sign for the Silver Star Trail.

IMG_0405Silver Star Trail

We headed out along the Silver Star trail which began on top of the ridge. This was a new section of trail for us as we had done a big loop around the ridge on our first visit. There wasn’t much visible at the first viewpoint we arrived at but we were able to see Little Baldy which the Bluff Mountain Trail passes along.
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We followed this trail along the ridge for just over a mile and a half passing in and out of the clouds as they in turn passed over the area. The lack of views was mildly disappointing but the flowers more than made up for it.
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IMG_0441Sturgeon Rock momentarily out of the clouds.

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IMG_0490Phlox

IMG_0496Beargrass

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IMG_0582White crowned sparrow

We arrived at Ed’s Trail having already seen a wide variety of flowers.
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We turned up Ed’s Trail wondering if we could possibly see any more types.
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For the most part it was the same cast but in continuously different combinations.
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There were a few new sightings though.
IMG_0627Cat’s ear lily

IMG_0632Rose

IMG_0635Violets

IMG_0640Rock penstemon

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And some we’d seen but not a lot of yet.
IMG_0652Bleeding heart

IMG_0660Candy flower

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IMG_0672Lousewort

IMG_0682An aster or fleabane

A unique feature of Ed’s Trail is a rock arch just past the one mile mark.
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IMG_0680Backside of the arch.

Beyond the arch the next quarter of a mile gets a little tricky. There are two short but steep scramble sections. The first was a bit muddy making it a little slick. The second is a rocky section with pretty good holds.
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We had forgotten just how steep these places were and had considered doing the loop in the opposite direction. We were glad we had not.

Silver Star’s summit soon came into view and although it was cloud free there didn’t appear to be much hope for views of the surrounding mountains anytime soon.
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When we arrived back at the junction we eschewed the .3 mile climb to the summit opting to skip the 250′ climb since we’d been up there twice before and there weren’t going to be any views. Instead we continued past the rock cairn two tenths of a mile and turned down hill on a rocky unmarked roadbed.
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This return route would add about 1.6 miles to the hike, but it would cut down on the amount of time spent descending on a rocky roadbed. We find that toward the end of hikes our feet and lower legs are much more sensitive to uneven terrain, especially loose rocks. We had been down this 1.4 mile section of road before passing the basalt columns of Sturgeon Rock.
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Silver Star was not done with the flower show even though we were now in denser forest as we spotted some marsh marigolds and marsh corydalis near a wet area.
IMG_0712Marsh marigold

IMG_0714Marsh corydalis

The section of the Tarbell Trail that runs from the Grouse Vista Trailhead to Hidden Falls had been closed on weekdays during much of 2018 due to an active logging operation. There were plenty of signs of it when we arrived at the junction with that trail.
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We turned left onto the Tarbell Trail which followed the new logging road for a bit before crossing it into the clear cut.
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IMG_0733Pyramid Rock from the Tarbell Trail

IMG_0741Black headed grosbeak

IMG_0737Mountain parnassian

After descedning a series of switchbacks the trail left the clear cut and reentred the forest before reaching a footbridge over Rock Creek.
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Beyond Rock Creek the trail traversed the hillside beneath Pyramid Rock wrapping around the ridge end to meet the Grouse Vista Trail. Along this final stretch we noticed some green orchids near a seep that was also popular with butterflies.
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The trailhead parking lot had filled up while we’d been hiking but we only ran into a half dozen people on the trails, far fewer than the number of different flowers we had seen over our 11.1 miles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Long Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, and Fort Columbia

For the third day of our 4 day mini-vacation we headed north into Washington for a series of hikes along the coast from Long Beach to the Columbia River. We decided to start with the northernmost hike and work our way south. Our first stop was at the north end of the 7.2 mile Discovery Trail located on North 26th St. in Long Beach.

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Normally when we have a 7.2 mile trail we would just hike the entire thing out and back and call it a day, but on this rare occasion we were going to follow Sullivan’s easy 3 hike description. From this trailhead we were simply following the trail for .3 miles to a replica of Clark’s Tree. The replica represents a tree where William Clark carved his name on a tree in November of 1805 to claim the territory for the U.S.

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We took a short sandy path from the tree to the foredune to take a look at the ocean before heading back.

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For our next hike we drove south to Sid Snyder St. where a .4 mile stretch of boardwalk parallels the paved Discovery Trail.

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Interpretive signs lined the boardwalk including one showing all of the shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.

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We returned via the paved Discovery Trail and once again hopped into the car and headed south. We left Long Beach and continued south on Highway 101 for 3 miles to the stoplight in Ilwaco where we turned right on Highway 100 and entered Cape Disappointment State Park.

We were originally headed for a signed parking lot for Beards Hollow 1.9 miles away. We needed a $10 Discovery Pass to park there but, when we turned right into the parking area we discovered that there was no self-pay station. We had passed a Beards Hollow Viewpoint about a mile before turning into the parking lot which didn’t require a pass so we drove back uphill to the viewpoint parking lot and started our hike from there.

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A trail led downhill from the viewpoint to the lower parking lot.

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At the lower parking lot we once again picked up the Discovery Trail.

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We followed the paved trail through a wetlands which is a result of the building of the Columbia River jetties.

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When the Discovery Trail made a sharp right near the ocean we took one of several sandy paths to the beach where we turned south and headed for North Head.

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The beach was quite but judging from the number of tire tracks and amount of garbage lying around it gets a lot busier in the evenings. Near the end of the beach we came upon some nice tide pools which we explored briefly before heading back.

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After hiking back up to the viewpoint we continued south on Highway 100 and turned right onto North Head Lighthouse Road. A Discovery Pass is required to park here as well but we spotted a self-pay station near some signboards so we parked and I went to pay.

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I don’t mind having to pay for the passes, but I do get annoyed by how hard it is to buy them sometimes. We had to drive a couple of miles further along Hwy 100 to the park entrance booth where we were finally able to purchase the required pass.

After returning to the North Head parking lot we headed for the North Head Lighthouse.

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A short .3 mile loop passes several buildings that used to house the lighthouse keepers, but are now vacation rentals, before continuing out the headland to the lighthouse which is currently undergoing rennovations.

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After completing the loop we turned right at a sign for the 1.5 mile North Head Trail.

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Our plan was to follow this trail out to McKenzie Head then take a short road walk past Oneil Lake and explore a few more trails in the park from the area near the entrance booth. The North Head Trail passed through a pretty coastal forest going up and down, over and around ridges. We spotted lots of wildlife along this section of trail, mostly in the form of frogs and snakes.

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We crossed Fort Canby Road at a small parking lot for McKenzie Head.

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After stopping to read the interpretive signs we started up the .3 mile path to Battery 247.

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We explored the old bunker and took in the view from North Head before heading back down.

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When we arrived back at the McKenzie Head parking lot we turned right and walked along Fort Canby Road until we were able to cut over to a gravel campground road along Oneil Lake.

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We spotted an egret and an osprey at the lake.

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At the far end of the lake we crossed Jetty Road just west of the park entrance booth and located the Cape Disappointment Trail.

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We followed the trail uphill past a viewpoint of the jetty.

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The trail continued to climb from the viewpoint passing a set of stairs that led to a hilltop with a view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

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The little hilltop was a dead end so we backtracked down the stairs and continued following the trail to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

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The aroma near the center was less than appealing due to the presence of sea birds on the rocks below.

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At the far end of the center we managed to find a spot in the shade where we couldn’t smell the birds and took a short break.

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It was another .6 miles to the lighthouse from the interpretive center so we sallied forth. The trail dipped down between a Coast Guard station and Dead Mans Cove.

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A narrow paved road led from the Coast Guard station uphill to the lighthouse and an impressive view.

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After another short break we returned to the interpretive center and walked around the east side and explored Battery Harvey Allen.

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After exploring the battery we returned to the park entrance booth. We headed out Jetty Road past the booth and park entrance sign toward the boat launch across Coast Guard Road. On the far side of that road we located a trail sign for the Coastal Forest Trail.

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There was a moment of hesitation when we read the caution sign warning of ground hornets on the trail. Growing up I had a huge fear of bees and any related species but as we’ve been hiking I’ve come to an understanding with most of the yellow and black insects. Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are not on that list. We decided to proceed but with extreme caution.

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Our plan was to do the 1.5 mile loop. At the far end of the loop near a bench a spur trail led out to a viewpoint.

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A heron was hunting in the grasses nearby.

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We completed the loop without running into any hornets and I was relieved when we got back to Coast Guard Road. After passing Oneil Lake on Fort Canby Road again we took the North Head Trail back to our car at the lighthouse parking lot. There were more snakes on the trail on the return trip than we’d seen earlier in the day which was fine with me since they weren’t hornets.

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We had one final stop left. Following signs for Ilwaco we left the park and returned to Highway 101 where we headed back toward Oregon. Eight miles from Ilwaco we turned right at a sign for Fort Columbia State Park.
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We walked through the old buildings and turned uphill on Military Road. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was visible in the distance.
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We found a map on a signpost which showed fewer trails than what our guidebook and Google showed.
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We decided to trust the park map and headed up the grassy Military Road Trail.
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The trail passed some overgrown structures.
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When we arrived at 780′ summit we decided to head back down on the Scarborough Trail, forgoing the .5 mile Summit Trail.
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The Scarborough Trail began as a decent dirt trail but soon became overgrown with a few downed trees to climb over.
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After .4 miles we came to another grassy roadbed.
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This was the route shown on the park map. The trail did seem to continue downhill which corresponded to the map in the guidebook but without knowing the condition of that trail we played it safe and followed the roadbed back to the Military Road Trail. On the way down we took a short detour following a use path toward the sound of falling water. The path led to a small waterfall behind a fence with a “Do Not Enter” sign. We took a photo from the fence and then returned to our car.
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When it was all said and done we’d hiked a total of 17.3 miles from 5 different trailheads. It had been a really enjoyable group of hikes full of wildlife and history. Happy Trails!

Flickr: SW Washington Coast

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Lucia & Moulton Falls Parks

It’s been a wet and dreary winter in the Pacific Northwest so when a halfway decent forecast came along we jumped on it and headed out for our March hike. Our destination was a pair of Clark County, WA parks along NE Lucia Falls Road and the North Fork Lewis River.

We began our day with 1 mile warm-up hike at Lucia Falls Regional Park. A loop passes through the park and along the river past viewpoints of the modest Lucia Falls.

Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls Park

North Fork Lewis River in Lucia Falls Park

Lucia Falls

North Fork Lewis River

After our warm-up we hopped back into the car and continued east on Lucia Falls Rd for .3 miles where we veered right onto Hantwick Rd. We followed this road for half a mile to the Hantwick Road Trailhead.

Hantwick Rd. Trailhead

From the trailhead the Moulton Falls Trail follows an old railroad grade 2.6 miles to Moulton Falls Park.

Moulton Falls Trail

The trail crossed several streams which were flowing nicely and also passed a long pond.

Pond along the Moulton Falls Trail

Small fall along the Moulton Falls Trail

Stream along the Moulton Falls Trail

Beyond the pond the trail neared the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Just beyond the 2 mile mark we came to the Bells Mountain Trail junction. We planned on heading up the trail a ways after visiting Moulton Falls Park so for now we took a photo of the sign and continued on.

Bells Mountain Trailhead along the Moulton Falls Trail

A little further along the trail we spotted cars on the far side of the river in the park’s parking lot. Moulton Falls was visible below, a small 10′ cascade.

Moulton Falls

We crossed the river on a scenic footbridge.

East Fork Lewis River

Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

The trail split on the far side of the bridge and we forked right heading uphill toward Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail climbed to an upper parking lot which appeared to still be closed for the winter before dropping back down to a crossing of Lucia Falls Rd. On the far side of the road were a couple of picnic tables and a small pullout above Yacolt Creek Falls. The trail continued down some stairs to a seasonal footbridge.
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The footbridge pivots and was still in its winter position making it impossible to complete the loop shown on the park map.

Yacolt Creek Falls

We were a little confused by this as well as by the placement of the falls on the map. The star marking the location appeared to be further up the creek along a spur trail that extended north off the loop on the other side of Big Tree Creek. The fact that the falls at the footbridge were on Big Tree Creek and not Yacolt Creek also made us question whether or not this was actually Yacolt Creek Falls. We decided to walk down Lucia Falls Road and pick up the other side of the loop where it crossed the road. We turned back uphill on the loop trail on the east side of Big Tree Creek and quickly arrived at a viewpoint of the falls and bridge.

Yacolt Creek Falls

Yacolt Creek Falls

We found the spur trail shown on the map leading up and away from the viewpoint. We followed this path less than 100 yards past a sign for Yacolt Creek Falls to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad and Moulton Station.

Moulton Station

Sign for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

Despite the fact that the Yacolt Creek Falls sign seemed to support the falls we’d just come from as being the correct ones we were still unsure based on how we were reading the park map.

Yacolt Creek Falls sign

Sign for Yacolt Creek Falls

We passed through Moulton Station and continued along the tracks for a bit before deciding that we were on a wild goose chase. We had failed to take into account the scale of the map and just how short the distances reflected on the map were. It was a good early season reminder to pay attention to the map scale. We turned around and headed back past Yacolt Creek Falls and descended to Lucia Falls Road which we crossed.

To the right was the parking lot at Moulton Falls which was filling up pretty quickly and to the left was the continuation of the loop. If we’d have gone right a short distance we would have come to a viewpoint with a close up of Moulton Falls, but we’d seen them from the other side of the river already so we turned left. The trail crossed Big Tree Creek on a footbridge then led to a nice viewpoint of the bridge over the East Fork Lewis River.

East Fork Lewis River

Footbridge over the East Fork Lewis River

Beyond the viewpoint the trail climbed up away from the river completing the loop. We recrossed the footbridge and headed back toward the Bells Mountain Trail. This trail provides access to  Silver Star Mountain.  We weren’t going to be going anywhere near that far on this day though, instead we decided to pick a turn around time based on when we started on the trail.

It was 10:25am when we started up the Bells Mountain Trail so we gave ourselves until 12:30pm and then we’d turn around hoping that would get us home around 5pm. The trail climbed fairly steeply at first but soon leveled off in a young forest.

Bells Mountain Trail

After the initial climb the trail did a series of ups and downs crossing several streams and logging roads as it passed through alternating sections of clear cuts and trees.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

Creek along the Bells Mountain Trail

Clear cuts along the Bells Mountain Trail

Due to the amount of logging activity in the area the trail is subject to periodic closures so make sure to check ahead if you’re planning on visiting.

The trail was in really good shape and there was good signage at the road crossings as well as mile markers every half mile.

Bells Mountain Trail

Bells Mountain Trail

The mile posts actually played into our turnaround point as we arrived at the 4.5 mile marker at 12:25 which was exactly 2 hours after having set off on the Bells Mountain Trail.

Bells Mountain Trail

Despite setting 12:30 as our turn around time being at the mile marker exactly 2 hours after having started out seemed to demand our calling it so we tapped the post and headed back. On the way back the clouds lifted enough to reveal Silver Star Mountain.

Silver Star Mountain from the Bells Mountain Trail

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain and Sturgeon Rock

We were really feeling the effects of not hiking regularly on the way back. We hadn’t really been paying that much attention to how far we’d gone but our feet knew it was a lot further than the 10 miles I’d originally planned on for the day. By the time we’d made it back to the Hantwick Road Trailhead we’d gone 17.8 miles, but we’d finished a little before three so we were on track to be home by five. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lucia & Moulton Falls

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Bluff Mountain Trail to Silver Star Mountain

Late June is typically a good time to catch the wildflower displays on Silver Star Mountain in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. Located in Washington between the Columbia Gorge and the snowy peaks of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams the Silver Star Scenic Area offers several trails. Many of the trails pass through areas that were part of the 1902 Yacolt Burn, the largest fire in Washington State’s history. The series of September fires left exposed ridges and hillsides which are now wildflower filled meadows. The two most popular routes to Silver Star Mountain are via the Silver Star Trail/Ed’s Trail, a 5.2 mile loop, and an 8.2 mile loop via the Grouse Vista Trailhead. Each of these starting points come with their own drawbacks. Road 4109 which leads to the Silver Star Trail is an awful drive full of rocks, ruts, and potholes. The Grouse Vista Trailhead is on Washington Department of Natural Resource land and thus a Discovery Pass is required to park a car there. Passes are currently $10/day or $30/annually. We had done an expanded loop starting on the Silver Star Trail in 2013 https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/silver-star-mountain/ and didn’t feel like shelling out another $10 for a discovery pass so for this visit we chose a third option – the Bluff Mountain Trail.

The Bluff Mountain Trailhead has its drawbacks too, mostly a slow drive on a rock and pothole filled Forest Service road. I don’t think it is as bad as road 4109, you do pass this road on the way to the trailhead, but it is longer and took us a little over 45min to cover the 9.4 miles. It is also the longest route to Silver Star at 6.5 miles one way. The trailhead is at a poorly marked junction where the road bends around a ridge at a large swath of dirt. Only a small wooden stake marks the start of the trail which follows an old roadbed for the first 2 miles.
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Both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams were visible from the trailhead parking area. It was going to be another hot day here with the highs near 90 degrees, but it was also fairly cloudy so the air was humid and the horizon hazy. We had prepared for the heat by filling the bladders for our packs the night before and leaving them in the refrigerator, bringing a couple of additional Hydro Flasks full of water, and packing some extra salty items such as potato chips and some after hike pickles.
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The old road traveled along ridges past a couple of small hills where a few trees were present. After passing the first of these hills Silver Star Mountain was visible in the distance.

Silver Star Mountain on the far right.
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There were still quite a few flowers along the ridge despite the hot and dry conditions, and there seemed to be butterflies everywhere we looked.
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There were even some huckleberries beginning to ripen.
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One sight that was not welcome was a fire pit filled with garbage where someone had obviously been shooting a shotgun.
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This is something we see far too often and it’s really disappointing that people bother to head out into nature just to make it their personal garbage can.

We continued along the road toward Bluff Mountain amid the wildflowers and butterflies. The views kept shifting as the old road made its way around the small hills along the ridge.
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Little Baldy
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Silver Star Mountain and Little Baldy
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At the two mile mark the trail left the road and diped along the right hand side of a small knoll. At the split the view included all three of the peaks we would be passing – Bluff Mountain, Little Blady, and Silver Star Mountain.
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It was interesting to be able to see so much of our route due to the open views. Often times we could see the trail in the distance giving us a glimpse of what lay ahead.
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The section of trail between the road and Bluff Mountain was full of flowers. Some had seen better days a week or two before but many were still blooming strong and crowding the trail.
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In addition to the numerous butterflies we were seeing we also spotted several snakes during the hike. This one was spotted as we were passing below Bluff Mountain.
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New flowers and more butterflies joined the views as we passed under the cliffs of Bluff Mountain.
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There were also lots of thimble and salmon berry bushes. The thimbleberries were not ripe yet but we found plenty of red and orange salmonberries ready to be eaten.
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Looking back from where we’d come we could see three Cascade mountains. (Some better than others)
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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Rainier
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Mt. Adams
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After passing through the thick berry bushes the trail crossed a rock field then entered an forest of trees on a wide ridge between Bluff Mountain and Little Baldy.
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We spotted a small rock cairn and what looked like a possible trail leading off to the right but didn’t have time to investigate.
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When we emerged from the trees we were in a small meadow with a view of Mt. Hood.
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The meadow was full of yellow flowers.
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We also spotted some of my favorite flowers – gentians.IMG_4981

We were now on the opposite side of Little Baldy from what we’d been seeing all morning. Silver Star Mountain spread out ahead of us across a deep valley.
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Little Baldy looked like a giant rock pile with a few patches of vegetation growing on its flanks.
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Gentians dotted the trail wherever plants were able to grow.
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As were were walking we started to hear a loud noise in the distance. At first I thought it might be thunder since the forecast had called for some storms later in the afternoon, but the noise kept growing and getting closer. Heather was the first to identify it as helicopters and then we spotted three of them crossing the sky above Silver Star.
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At the 5 mile mark we reached the junction with the Starway Trail. This trail starts on the same Forest Service Road as the Bluff Mountain Trail but at an elevation almost 2000′ lower and is reportedly difficult to follow due to light usage and maintenance. We had watched for the trailhead during the tedious drive along road 41 but were unable to spot it on the way up or back down in the afternoon.
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We were now on the final half mile section of the Bluff Mountain Trail before its end at the Silver Star Summit Trail. The trail skirted along the ridge amid wildflower covered slopes and mountain views.
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I had been trying to get one of the many lighter colored butterflies to land long enough for a picture and finally a pink-edged sulpher landed long enough for one.
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As we neared the end of the trail it suddenly forked with the left hand path heading up the hillside while the right hand side turned and began a traverse along a ridge away from the summit. We initially went right due to that fork looking more like an official trail than the left hand fork but we were getting further from the summit and starting to lose some elevation. I checked the map then the GPS unit and decided we should have taken the narrower left hand fork up so we hiked back and took the other path up to a camp site next to an old road that serves as the Silver Star Summit Trail. The only sign in the area was a small metal plate attached to a tree at the campsite.
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We turned up the old road and headed for Silver Stars dual summits.
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The views are great all along the long summit of the mountain. Our route was laid out below us all the way to the large dirt parking area where we’d left our car that morning.
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On our previous visit we had visited the southern summit first so this time we headed for the northern rocky summit where a lookout tower once stood.
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We took a seat on the rocks and ate the potato chips we’d brought along for their extra salt. They really hit the spot after all the hot climb we’d just finished. While we were relaxing and enjoying the view another pair of hikers arrived. I noticed a yellow button hanging from one of their packs and thought it might be a “I’m A Portland Hiker!!” button that some of the members of Oregonhikers.org (formerly Portlandhikers.org) had. It turned out to be miah66 from the forum and a friend who had come up the Silver Star Trail and was planning to return via Ed’s Trail. This was the second time that we’d crossed paths with another member of the forum but the first time we realized it at the time. The first time it wasn’t until we saw a trip report posted on the website that we realized we had passed another forum member.

After a nice conversation we headed to the southern summit then started back down the road. As we were starting to turn into the campsite and the start of the Bluff Mountain Trail miah66 caught up to us. He had realized that he had an extra button which he was nice enough to gift us. After a group photo it went straight on my pack.
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It was a warm hike back to the car but the views and the butterflies helped keep our minds off the heat. We arrived back at the car with a little water to spare and a shiny new button. 🙂 Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157655183073161

Categories
Hiking Silver Star Mountain SW Washington Trip report Washington

Silver Star Mountain

HOT! That certainly describes our recent visit to Silver Star Mountain, but that would be doing this hike a great disservice. Despite the 90 degree temperatures better descriptions would be amazing flowers, great views, and beautiful scenery. Silver Star Mountain is located in Washington State’s Gifford-Pinchot National Forest between Mt. St. Helens and Portland, OR.

I’d been wanting to visit Silver Star for a long time, but the timing hadn’t been right until now. I had seen a number of trip reports which indicated now was a good time to catch many of the wildflowers that fill the meadows and the weather called for clear skies, the perfect combo. There are a number of possible approaches to the 4390′ summit but for our hike we chose to approach from the north via Ed’s Trail.

The drive to the trail head was tedious with the last 9 miles taking a good 45 minutes due to poor road conditions. Our plan was to hike a big loop sampling as much of the area as we could so we knew we had a long day ahead of us. It was already over 60 when we arrived at the parking area at 7:15. The sky was clear and the birds were out in force as we headed up the north flank towards the junction with Ed’s Trail. Mt. St. Helens loomed behind us and as we climbed Mt. Rainier and later Mt. Adams joined the horizon. As we approached the junction with Ed’s Trail Mt. Hood appeared through a gap ahead surrounding us in Cascade peaks.

Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Rainier from the jct with Ed's Trail
Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Rainier from the jct with Ed’s Trail

Already the flower display had been amazing. The variety of flowers was one of the best we’d seen. There was red paintbrush and columbine, pink nootka rose, purple lupine and iris, orange tiger lilies, white beargrass and thimbleberry, and (new to us) yellow lupine. The meadows here are due in large part to the 1902 Yacolt fire which swept over Silver Star Mountain removing the trees and clearing the way for the flowers. I could easily fill this whole trip report attempting to describe the flowers we saw on this day but the hike had other things to offer as well so I will have to let our photos do much of the flower reporting.
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Ed’s trail was truly scenic as it traversed the NE side of the ridge through wildflower meadows with views of the 4 snowy Cascade peaks. Soon the path passed some rocky areas and passed through a natural rock doorway. Not long after passing through the doorway we scrambled up a short, steep section of the trail as it passed through a rocky slot up to a great viewpoint. A small patch of snow remained surrounded by avalanche lilies.

When Ed’s trail met an old road we took it up to the twin summits of Silver Star mountain. The view from the north summit was a true 360 degree panorama. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams were joined by snow covered Goat Rocks to the north while Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and the faint Three Sisters rose to the south. The Columbia River and Portland, OR lay to the SW while the ridges and meadows of Silver Star Mountain surrounded us in every direction.

Washington Cascades form the summit
Washington Cascades form the summit

After leaving the summit we continued on to the Indian Pits trail to visit a series of rock pits used as vision quest sights at one time. More wildflower meadows awaited on this trail which ended at a rocky ridge endge with yet another set of wonderful views. As an added bonus we were serenaded by a resident swallow who appeared to be enjoying the view from the top of the rocks as much as we were. It was really starting to warm up as we left the pits and continued on our loop down an abandoned road past sturgeon rock. The old road was actually lined with trees but it was wide enough to remain in the sunlight.

We made our way down the road to the Tarbell Trail which we then turned right (north) on and momentarily entered the forest. The trees didn’t extend far to our left and we could see that much of the hillside below had been clearcut. It is a sight that I don’t particularly enjoy seeing. The stark contrast of the stumps and piles of slash next to the still standing forest always leaves me imagining what it must have once looked like. We were on a collision course with the cut though and soon emerged to the treeless hillside. One of the first things we noticed were the butterflies. They were everywhere and flitting above a vast array of wildflowers. Even the clearcut couldn’t spoil the areas scenery 🙂
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The lack of trees did mean we were once again exposed to the sun and for about 2 miles we switchbacked down and across the hillside before again reaching the forest on the other side. We were greeted by the first sound of water on the hike. The source was Coyote Creek and that was where we would find our next destination, Hidden Falls. What a welcome change to the heat Hidden Falls was. A bench near the 92′ cascade gave us a place to rest while we cooled off courtesy of the breeze created by the falls.
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After another mile and a half on the Tarbell Trail we arrived at the Chinook Trail which would take us up Kloochman Ridge and back to the road we had been on early in the morning. The Chinook trail spent a short time climbing in the forest before emerging in some of the hikes best wildflower meadows. The number and variety of flowers on this ridge trumped all the others we had been through on this day.
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This was also the steepest trail we’d been on and with the temperatures hitting the 90s we needed all the distraction the flowers could provide.

We eventually made it up Kloochman Ridge and then headed back down the road to our car and the extra water that was stashed in our cooler. This was one of the rare occasion when I actually finished off all the water in my Camelbak (1/4mi from the car). Silver Star Mountain had lived up to all the hype I’d seen in the trip reports. With a little something for everyone it’s an amazing area and I highly recommend exploring any of the areas trails. If you’re a fan of beargrass skip next year since it only blooms every 2nd or 3rd year and this year it was on, or better yet go both years and see the difference. Happy Trails and have a safe 4th of July.

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