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Hiking Mt. Adams Washington

Grayback Mountain, WA – 05/01/2021

We kicked off our official 2021 hiking season with a bit of an obscure hike from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) guidebook. The hike to the summit of Grayback Mountain is a gated dirt road walk through mostly private lands to a view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks. Because the road to the summit passes through private land it is important to respect the landowners rights, Leave No Trace and be aware that access could be closed at anytime. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources Land (A Discover Pass is required to park) at a parking area at a gate.
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To reach the trailhead we took Washington Highway 142 north from Lyle, WA 23.3 miles to a junction with the Glenwood-Goldendale Road where we turned left for an additional 5.6 miles to an unmarked junction with Grayback Road on the right. (The road crests just beyond this junction and begins to descend into the Klickitat River Canyon.) We followed Grayback Road for 0.6 miles to the parking area at the end of a meadow.
IMG_3124Looking back toward the meadow.

After checking out the various wildflowers around the trailhead we set off past the gate on Grayback Road.
IMG_3125Western white groundsel

IMG_3134Showy phlox

IMG_3136Larkspur

20210501_074234Mahala Mat (Prostrate ceanothus)

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We then just followed this road for 5.6 miles to a radio tower atop Grayback Mountain. There were several junctions with other roads along the way but by keeping more or less straight and uphill it was easy enough to follow the correct road.

Ranging in elevation from just over 2000′ to approximately 3700′ the scenery varied from oak and ponderosa pines interspersed with meadows to mixed conifers and then to open hillsides filled with wildflowers (mostly parsleys). The views were spectacular and we were fortunate to not only have relatively clear skies but little wind making our time at the summit quite pleasant. We saw no other people during the hike and I don’t think a minute went by that we didn’t hear at least one bird signing. Butterflies came out later in the morning and I spent much of the return hike trying to catch them at rest for pictures.
IMG_3148Showy phlox among the oaks.

IMG_3146Serviceberry

IMG_3151Sparrow

IMG_3153Oregon grape

IMG_3156Strawberry

20210501_075157Arnica

IMG_3165Grayback Mountain from Grayback Road. The first 2.5 miles of the hike only gained 400′ while the next 3.1 gained 1400′.

IMG_3171Large head clover

IMG_3176Camas, much of which had yet to bloom.

IMG_3179Ponderosa pines along the road.

IMG_3180Western buttercups

Small flower woodland star and slender phloxWoodland star and slender phlox

IMG_3184Pussytoes and camas

IMG_3193A cryptantha

IMG_3196Oaks and ponderosas

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51153012403_83d088dc07_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_3197">Death camas and parsley

IMG_3201Lupine

IMG_3214Robin

IMG_3217Dark eyed junco

IMG_3218Bumble bee

IMG_3220A more forested section of the road.

IMG_3223Ball-head waterleaf

IMG_3224Largeleaf sandwort

20210501_085644American vetch

IMG_3233Dandelions in Mahala Mat

IMG_3235Bitter cherry

IMG_3237The real climb started at about the 4 mile mark at a junction below Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3241Sagebrush false dandelion

IMG_3246Climbing up Grayback Mountain

IMG_3258Red breasted nuthatch

IMG_3265First view of Mt. Hood since the trailhead.

IMG_3267Mt. Hood

IMG_3281Buckwheat

IMG_3289Mt. Hood beyond the Klickitat River Canyon

IMG_3294Turkey vulture

IMG_3292Entering the meadows on Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3301Approaching the first view of Mt. Adams.

IMG_3304Mt. Adams

IMG_3306Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3307Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3313In the meadows.

IMG_3314A balsamroot surrounded by parsley.

IMG_3321Indra swallowtail

IMG_3326Western meadowlark in a patch of Columbia desert parsley.

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IMG_3367Radio equipment atop Grayback Mountain with Mt. Adams beyond.

IMG_3360Mt. Hood (we could just barely make out the top of Mt. Jefferson too.) from the summit.

IMG_3361The Klickitat River

IMG_3351Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3353Mt. Adams

IMG_3355Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks (the Klickitat River originates from Goat Rocks.)

IMG_3369Daggerpod

IMG_3371Obligatory survey marker photo.

IMG_3366Looking east across the summit to the long ridge of Indian Rock. The boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation is just on the north side of the summit.

IMG_3376A few gold stars still had petals.

IMG_3394A hairstreak but I’m not sure which type.

IMG_3400At least 4 ants on a large head clover.

IMG_3404Looking back south down Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3429There was a lot of white-stemmed frasera in the area but this was the closest one to blooming (and it’s a ways off).

Possibly a Brown elfin - Callophrys augustinus?Maybe a brown elfin. I couldn’t get a clear picture of this one.

IMG_3453Erynnis propertius – Propertius Duskywing (aka Western Oak Dustywing). There were lots of these duskywings flying about, it turns out that oaks are their host plants.

IMG_3494Another Erynnis propertius

Juba skipper - Hesperia jubaJuba skippers caught in the act.

Anise SwallowtailAnise swallowtail coming in for a landing on showy phlox.

IMG_3493Alligator lizard on a log.

IMG_3497Western fence lizard

Mylitta crescents - Phyciodes mylitta?I believe these to be Mylitta crescents.

After our relatively crowded previous outing at Columbia Hills State Park (post) the hike to Grayback Mountain was a welcome dose of solitude. While the flower display wasn’t as plentiful here it was still nice and there appeared to be plenty more to come. The view from the summit was worth the visit on its own and the near constant bird song made for a perfect soundtrack for the day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Grayback Mountain

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Foggy Flat Backpack Day 2 – 08/02/2020

Normally when we are just hiking back to a trailhead the same way we got to a campsite it wouldn’t warrant a separate trip report, but our hike from Foggy Flat back to the Killen Creek Trailhead did. After spending the night at Foggy Flat(post) we woke just after 5am to find clear skies and a nice sunrise.
IMG_3076Goat Rocks in the morning

Even before the Sun was up it was light enough to get a good look at Mt. Adams.
IMG_3081Mt. Adams

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Morning had brought out the mosquitoes so we decided to pack up and stop for breakfast somewhere along the return hike hoping for a less buggy spot. After a mile we stopped at the Muddy Meadows Trail junction where a log made for a prefect bench to have breakfast on.
IMG_3100Looking down the Muddy Meadows Trail from the log.

After breakfast we continued on the Highline Trail which offered good views of Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks in this direction. When we weren’t looking at the mountains or the flowers various birds caught our attention.
IMG_3091Small hawk

IMG_3120Gray jay

Going in this direction gave us some good looks ahead toward Mt. Rainier.
IMG_3110Mt. Rainier and some of the Goat Rocks.

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IMG_3128Northern flicker

The unnamed lake near the Pacific Crest Trail had an excellent reflection of the forest and Mt. Adams.
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IMG_3145Little bird near the PCT junction.

When we reached Killen Creek (.2 miles beyond the PCT junction) we crossed on the footbridge then removed our packs to take the steep use trail down below the waterfall as we’d planned the day before.
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IMG_3158Killen Creek below the waterfall.

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IMG_3171Mt. Adams from the waterfall.

After exploring the area below the falls we climbed back up and continued through Killen Creek Meadows, stopping to check on the pollywogs along the way.
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The blue sky made for a different look than we’d had the day before and we kept pausing along the way to marvel at the scenery.
IMG_3195Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks from the PCT.

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IMG_3209Breakfast time (possibly second breakfast)

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IMG_3214Zooming in on Mt. Rainier

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We were almost surprised when we arrived at the junction with the Killen Creek Trail. The miles go by pretty quick when you’re distracted. We turned down that trail putting Mt. Adams to our backs.
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IMG_3231Killen Creek Trail heading away from Mt. Adams.

We turned to look back several times seeing less and less of the mountain before we lost sight of it for good.
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It had been wonderful trip. The Mt. Adams Wilderness has yet to let us down and we’re already looking forward to our next visit down the road. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Foggy Flat Backpack Day 2

 

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Sleeping Beauty & Foggy Flat Backpack Day One- 08/01/2020

Our first backpacking trip of the year was over Memorial Day weekend (post) but since then we hadn’t had an opportunity to break out our tent. Sleeping Beauty, a 3 mile featured hike in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” (4th edition), gave us a reason to put the tent to use again.

It wasn’t because the hike to the top of Sleeping Beauty was backpackable, but rather the 2:45 drive time to the trailhead was too long for this to be a stand alone hike for us. To make the trip worth the drive we decided to continued to nearby Mt. Adams and do a hike to Foggy Flat from Matt Reeder’s “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook.

We began our trip by driving to Trout Lake, WA then continued on to the Sleeping Beauty Trailhead.
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The trail climbed steeply up through a green forest for a mile to a forested saddle. Most of the flowers had passed but a few lingered and the pearly everlasting was getting started. Thimbleberries weren’t quite ripe but we did find a few strawberries to snack on.
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IMG_2376Beardstongue

IMG_2377Pearly everlasting next to thimbleberry bushes.

IMG_2371Not quite ready yet.

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Near the saddle we got our first look at the rock feature that is Sleeping Beauty from the trail (it is visible on the drive).
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The trail bends to the right (ignore a fainter trail heading left) at the saddle continuing through the trees.
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Another bit of climbing brought us beneath the rocks.
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The trail switchbacked its way up amid the rocks up stonework ramps gaining views of the surrounding Cascade mountains along the way.
IMG_2414Mt. Adams

IMG_2415Goat Rocks (post) to the left beyond Mt. Adams

IMG_2417Looking down at some of the switchbacks.

IMG_2419Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

IMG_2424The top of Mt. Rainier.

IMG_2426Mt. Hood to the South.

IMG_2431_stitchMt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams.

IMG_2448Indian Heaven Wilderness

It was fairly windy up on the rocks, just windy enough to make us a little nervous when we got to the saddle near the top as we had to push back a bit against it. Luckily the top is fairly wide and there was a least one place behind a rock where the wind was non-existent.
IMG_2430Looking east over the top of Sleeping Beauty.

20200801_084405_HDRLooking west to the true summit where a lookout once stood.

We were hoping to see a mountain goat as they do live here but alas we only saw some fur on a rock and a couple of bushes. The views would have to do and they did just fine. I scrambled over to the former lookout site after deciding it looked safe enough while Heather waited at the saddle.
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IMG_2455Mt. Hood from the foundation of the former lookout.

After a good long time exploring the area and enjoying the views we headed back down. We passed several groups of hikers heading up (just about everyone had a mask) so we were once again glad we’d gotten the early start to have the top to ourselves.

From the trailhead we drove back to Trout Lake and turned left onto Mount Adams Road aka Forest Road 23. (Google would have had us continue on the forest road we had been on to reach the Killen Creek Trailhead, but Google doesn’t always know the condition of the Forest Roads and I don’t either so we played it safe.)

We then followed Reeder’s direction to the Killen Creek Trailhead stopping along the way when Heather spotted a nice waterfall on Big Spring Creek.
IMG_2469Sign at a pullout along FR 23.

IMG_2471These were huge yellow monkeyflowers.

IMG_2476Big Spring Creek

After the brief stop we drove on. The final 9 miles on FR 23 was gravel but wide and not too bad. We turned off of the gravel onto the narrow, paved FR 2329 which was a nice break, but beyond the turn for Takhalakh Lake Campground this road also turned to gravel. It was not in the best condition and was fairly narrow and busy which made for a bit of a tedious final 6 miles to the Killen Creek Trailhead.
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After attempting some gear repair (a hole in some clothing) we set off and quickly entered the Mt. Adams Wilderness.
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This was only our third visit to the wilderness with our first having been a hike from the South Climb Trailhead to Iceberg Lake in 2014 (post) and the second an overnight stay at Horseshoe Meadows in 2017 (post). (Apparently this is an every three year thing.)

The Killen Creek Trail climbed through the forest where we were pleased to find quite a few flowers were blooming. Little did we know what was coming.
IMG_2493Lupine along the trail.

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IMG_2501Arnica

IMG_2504Lousewort

IMG_2505More lupine along the trail.

IMG_2506Partridge foot and lupine.

IMG_2514Lupine, paintbrush and valerian.

IMG_2523Lupine along the trail which sees a good amount of equestrian use.

IMG_2526Mountain heather.

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As we continued to climb the number and types of flowers we were seeing kept increasing.
IMG_2536Yellow buttercups mixed in with the lupine, paintbrush and valerian.

IMG_2542Beardstongue, arnica and lupine.

IMG_2544Beargrass

Approximately 2.5 miles up the trail the flowers really started to explode as the trail began to level out a bit.
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Over the next mile we gained views of Mt. Adams and crossed a small alpine stream all while being mesmerized by the flowers.
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IMG_2582Lousewort

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IMG_2595Elephants head near the stream.

IMG_2604Elephants head and a shooting star.

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20200801_125034Mountain heather

IMG_2620Phlox

As we gained elevation we also began to get glimpses of Mt. Rainier to the NW.
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The views and flowers just kept getting better as we went.
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IMG_2652False hellebore amid the lupine.

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IMG_2665Paintbrush framed by trees.

IMG_2675Woolly pussytoes

After a little over 3.25 miles the Killen Creek Trail ended at the Pacific Crest Trail.
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We had been to this junction in 2017 when we had hiked the PCT north from Horseshoe Meadows. We had continued a few hundred feet before realizing that Killen Creek was still almost a mile away. This time we would be hiking beyond Killen Creek and so we turned left on the PCT and continued on.
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Where the Killen Creek Trail was heading for Mt. Adams the PCT was bending around the mountain. This made for more up and down hiking as opposed to steady climbing. Mt. Adams occasionally made an appearance over our right shoulders and the flowers continued to be amazing.
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20200801_131817Cinquefoil

IMG_2702White and pink mountain heather, paintbrush and lupine above the PCT.

IMG_2706Shooting star

IMG_2733Violets

IMG_2737Coming in for a landing on groundsel.

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IMG_2739Aster

The Goat Rocks was soon fully visible between us and Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_2746_stitchGoat Rocks

A little under a mile from the Killen Creek Trail junction the PCT began a descent to Killen Creek Meadows.
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IMG_2761Aster and white seed heads

There were a couple of small ponds still holding water in the meadows and we noticed a lot of ripples in the water as we approached.
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It turned out to be pollywogs, and a lot of them.
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IMG_2775Spirea

The PCT crossed Killen Creek on a footbridge just above a waterfall.
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IMG_2782Killen Creek and Mt. Adams.

There was a steep path down on this side of the falls but it looked like the PCT might have a good view of it on the other side of the creek so we opted not to head down. We figured the worst case scenario was that there wouldn’t be a view and we could just go down on the way back out.
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As we started to cross the bridge we noticed something in the creek nearby, it was an ouzel.
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There wasn’t a great view of the waterfall on the other side.
IMG_2791The waterfall from the PCT.

The PCT descended to a lower meadow where a trail led out to a campsite and another possible vantage point for the waterfall but the view was obscured so we put it on the to do list for the next day.
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From Killen Creek it was .2 flower filled miles to a junction with the Highline Trail.
IMG_2800Highline Trail ahead.

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Here we left the PCT as it continued on its way to Goat Rocks and beyond and turned up the Highline Trail. Not far from the junction we arrived at an unnamed lake with a reflection of Mt. Adams.
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The wildflowers had been impressive thus far but the Highline Trail took it up a notch.
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IMG_2812Yellow arnica along the trail.

IMG_2813Beargrass in full bloom.

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IMG_2836Subalpine mariposa lily

After a total of 1.7 miles on this trail we arrived at another junction. This time it was the Muddy Meadows Trail.
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IMG_2840Look more lupine that way.

We continued on the Highline Trail another mile before reaching Foggy Flat, a wet meadow near an unnamed creek.
IMG_2844Still tons of flowers.

IMG_2856Frog near Foggy Flat

IMG_2862Mt. Adams from Foggy Flat

IMG_2869Frog in a little stream at Foggy Flat.

IMG_2868Zoomed in

We walked along the meadow to the far end where the creek was located looking for tent sites. There was one occuppied site along the trail across from the meadow but that was about all we saw at first.
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The Highline Trail crossed the creek on a footbridge but then launched steeply uphill so we turned around and decided to check around the meadow more thoroughly for a suitable site.
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IMG_2878Gentian

IMG_2884Elephants Head

We are fairly picky about our campsites. We do not like to camp on any vegetation, especially in meadows and we do our best to maintain a proper distance from water and trails. Unfortunately we are in the minority and it was obvious from the fire rings and smashed grasses that many others aren’t as selective (not to mention the TP – come on people). We finally managed to find an acceptable spot tucked into some trees.
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With camp established we took our daypacks out put our essentials plus dinner and the stove into them and set off across the creek on the Highline Trail. Reeder described the trail beyond Foggy Flat as having “incredible views” but also “difficult creek crossings”. Our plan was to go as far as the Muddy Fork crossing and unless it looked really easy turn back there.
IMG_2897Monkeyflower and willowherb along the creek.

The climb up from the creek was indeed steep and we were happy to just have our daypacks on.
IMG_2902Mt. Rainier behind us.

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IMG_2911The trail dropping steeply behind us on one of the steeper sections.

We passed several nice campsites as the terrain became more level at the edge of a lava flow. A couple of the sites were occupied. Despite the rockier conditions due to the lava flow the flower show continued.
IMG_2914Can you spot the yellow paintbrush?

Shortly after crossing another little creek we found ourselves in the lava field with an excellent view of Mt. Adams. We had been waiting for the clouds to break up all day and now they were starting to oblige.
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IMG_2934Buckwheat

We continued to follow the Highline Trail through the lava and past snow fields.
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The lava also provided great views of Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks.
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IMG_2949Goat Creek falling from Goat Lake.

IMG_2955_stitchRed Butte and Mt. Adams

IMG_2961Red Butte, a neat looking cinder cone.

IMG_2959Flower amid the rocks.

We did indeed stop at Muddy Fork. It was a little more of a crossing than we wanted to tackle at that point.
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We backed track a bit to rise where we had seen a great looking spot for dinner (or a tent). We cooked our dinner there and then explored a bit on the ridge above the spot where we found a few flowers amid the rocks and more amazing views.
IMG_2984Paintbrush

IMG_2993Cutleaf daisy

IMG_2999Dwarf alpinegold

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We eventually headed back to Foggy Flat under the watchful eyes of the locals.
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We were momentarily distracted below one of the snow fields as we watched a stream forming in front of our eyes.
IMG_3028Water in the upper portions of the snowmelt stream.

IMG_3030The same stream 3 minutes later.

When the water reached a large hole that would take some time to fill we managed to pull ourselves away and continue back to our campsite. We stopped at the creek to get water for the next day and turned in fairly quickly. There were just enough mosquitoes about to be a nuisance making the confines of the tent that much more appealing.

Combining this hike with our previous two visits we’ve managed to cover quite a bit of the trails that wrap around the mountain. The east side of Mt. Adams is on part of the Yakima Indian Reservation and is largely trail less. Special permits are required to enter the Reservation with the exception of Bird Creek Meadows on the SE side of the mountain.
Mt. Adams Tracks

From every angle that we’ve seen it Mt. Adams continues to impress us. It’s truly a special place. Happy Trails!
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Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Cascades

Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop – 6/27/2020

After ending a five day stretch of hiking with a 13 mile, nearly 4000′ elevation gain hike we chose a longer hike with even more elevation gain for our next outing. I found the the Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop while working on our future hiking plans in the off season. A recent trip report indicated that the wildflowers were near peak and a mostly sunny forecast for Saturday made it seem like a good time to check it out. In addition this hike is not particularly popular so social distancing most likely wouldn’t be a problem.

There are numerous potential starting points for this loop (or shorter hikes to one or both of the peaks) we chose to start at the Monte Carlo Trailhead. The reason was twofold. First this was the starting point for the hike described in the Oregonhikers.org field guide and secondly the drive was almost entirely paved.

We missed the parking area for the trailhead which was directly across FR 18 from the start of the trail mistaking it for part of the Oklahoma Campground. We wound up turning up the next little forest road (I believe it was 752) on the right and parking at a pullout along it and walked down FR 18 to the trail. This really didn’t add any extra distance as the loop ended by walking approximately 2 miles along FR 18 between the Lower Monte Cristo Trailhead and the Monte Carlo Trailhead.
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We followed the field guide entry closely for this hike due to numerous logging road crossings, a couple of road walks and a few odd junctions. The field guide was spot on (despite being a bit off on total distance which we’ll get to later) so I won’t reinvent the wheel here and try and describe every twist and turn of the route. A tenth of a mile up the trail we came to a forest road which was the same one that we parked along. There was no signage at this junction but we knew from the field guide (and our GPS) to turn right. After our hike some hikers came by our car having turned left at the junction. After following the road for approximately 450′ we came to a trail on the left which quickly began climbing.
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The designer of the trail apparently had little use for switchbacks as the trail went just about straight uphill. A little over three quarters of a mile in we came to an old logging road which the trail followed to the right where it leveled off a bit.
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This road ended at FR 1840 where a sign pointed to the left for the Monte Carlo Trail.
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At another road junction after just 500′ on FR 1840 another segment of trail launched uphill. In the forest here we found a large number of phantom orchids.
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IMG_7967One of the phantom orchids to the right of the trail.

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Just over a quarter mile after leaving FR 1840 we came to another logging road which we turned right on briefly to pick up the continuation of the Monte Carlo Trail.
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Another .3 mile climb was followed by another short walk to the right on a road followed by yet more climbing.
IMG_7983A rare level section of trail.

IMG_7995There were thimbleberry bushes along the roads/trails all day long.

Just over 2 miles into the hike we came to a small hillside meadow.
IMG_8010Bumble bee working on some clover.

IMG_8004Penstemon

IMG_8018A few wildflowers.

IMG_8020Yarrow

IMG_8022Popcorn flower and strawberry plants.

After rounding a corner we came to a bigger meadow with more wildflowers and some views.
IMG_8059Timberhead Mountain

IMG_8062Little Huckleberry Mountain

IMG_8067Nightblooming false bindweed

The trail managed to steepen as it headed uphill and entered the upper portion of the meadow.
IMG_8077Wallflower

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The meadow was full of Oregon sunshine and a few other flowers.
IMG_8085Tall buckwheat

Tall buckwheatCloser look at the tall buckwheat.

IMG_8091Oregon sunshine

IMG_8078Yarrow, lupine and penstemon

At the top of the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and entered some trees before arriving at a trail junction.
IMG_8099Many of the signs along the route were no longer in the ground so it was important to make sure they really were pointing in the correct directions.

IMG_8104Honeysuckle

The junction consisted of the Monte Carlo Trail which we were on and the Buck Creek Trail which is managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources whose land we were now on. We kept left on what was now a combination of the Monte Carlo and Buck Creek Trails which crossed and old logging road then arrived at the Buck Creek No. 2 Trailhead. We picked up the Monte Carlo – Buck Creek Trail here at a sign for the Middle Fork Grove and Monte Carlo Viewpoint.
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The Monte Carlo-Buck Creek Trail dropped to a crossing of Buck Creek before climbing for almost a mile (crossing one logging road) to a 90-degree right hand turn. Much of the time was in previously logged forests.
IMG_8119A few trees that were spared.

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IMG_8120Bunchberry

IMG_8131Footbridge over Buck Creek.

IMG_8135Salsify

IMG_8139Streambank globemallow

IMG_8141Silverleaf phacelia

IMG_8153Logging road crossing.

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The trail had reentered forest a bit before the 90-degree turn. After turning the trail dropped just over 200′ to Road B-1500 where we encountered the first other hikers of the day. A couple had parked along this road and were getting ready to head up to Monte Carlo for the wildflowers.
IMG_8161Starting the descent.

The trail set off from B-1500 amid a lot of lupine.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining over 600′ in the next three quarters of a mile to a junction atop Monte Carlo. A bit below the summit the trail enters an open hillside with wildflowers and some actual switchbacks. There is also reportedly an excellent view of Mt. Hood but there were enough clouds present that we could not verify that.
IMG_8179Entering the meadow.

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IMG_8194Pollinator on wallflower

IMG_8197Bee heading for some penstemon.

IMG_8203Clouds to the south.

IMG_8204Penstemon

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IMG_8211Lots of Oregon sunshine again.

IMG_8216Taper tip onions

20200627_101109Penstemon and lomatium seedheads.

IMG_8218Warning for mountain bikers going down the trail.

After briefly reentering the woods (and leveling out for a bit) the trail reached the summit junction.
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At this point the trail is back in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. A jeep track to the right heads down Eton Ridge while the Buck Creek Trail also drops to the right down Penny Ridge. The Monte Carlo Trail turned left and began a mile long traverse of the Monte Carlo Ridge.
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The ridge walk was a delight. First it was relatively level and better yet it was covered in wildflowers.
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IMG_8278Balsamroot

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IMG_8283Phlox and Oregon sunshine

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IMG_8334Grouse in the flowers.

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Despite the clouds having hidden Mt. Hood from the meadow below there were plenty of views from the ridge.
IMG_8378Little Huckleberry Mountain to the left and Lemi Rock to the right.

IMG_8233Lemi Rock in the Indian Heaven Wilderness

IMG_8255Looking SE into Eastern Oregon.

By far the best view was of Mt. Adams.
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There were various penstemons in the area with the view of Mt. Adams.
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The level trail ended at the ridge end where the Monte Carlo Trail dove down toward a saddle and FR 1840. The trail dropped nearly 800′ in .7 miles before reaching the road. Worse than the steepness of the descent was knowing that we would need to gain all of the lost elevation back to visit Monte Cristo.
IMG_8397Starting the drop.

IMG_8409There were huge amounts of Arnica in the forest.

IMG_8419Monte Cristo from the trail as we dropped….further, and further.

The trail arrives at the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead on FR 1840.
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To complete our loop we would eventually need to start down FR 1840 to the left but to reach Monte Cristo we needed to head uphill to the right on FR 1840-100 following pointers for the Monte Cristo Trail 53.
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IMG_8428FR 1840-100.

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After .6 miles of gradual climbing the road ended at the an old trailhead.
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It was time to gain that elevation back and the Monte Cristo Trail did it with gusto. Despite the presence of actual switchbacks the concept seemed to escape the designer and instead of tight turns and gradual grades the trail went from a moderate grade to nearly straight uphill before turning back along the hillside at a moderate grade. We gained over 800′ in the next .8 miles.
IMG_8447A “switchback” turning directly uphill.

About a tenth of a mile below the summit the trail entered a spectacular wildflower meadow.
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IMG_8468Approaching the meadow.

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IMG_8479Scarlet gilia

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After having missed out the view of Mt. Hood earlier there was just enough of a break in the clouds to see the mountain from Monte Cristo.
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A lookout tower once sat atop the peak.
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A much shorter ridge than on Monte Carlo ran north from the summit where the Monte Cristo Trail continued eventually reaching the Monte Cristo Upper Trailhead. Our second encounter with hikers came along this ridge when a group of three people were coming up from this upper trailhead.

The short ridge was covered with wildflowers including quite a bit of white-stemmed frasera which we haven’t often encountered.
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IMG_8525White-stemmed frasera

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20200627_122010White-stemmed frasera

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IMG_8584Wallflower and paintbrush

IMG_8581A white lupine

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We took a short break at the summit which was just long enough for Mt. Hood to sort of reemerge from clouds that had hidden it. This happened at the same time a hawk decided to ride an updraft straight up in the sky.
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After admiring the hawks flight abilities we started back down through the meadow.
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The trail was just as steep going down as it had been coming up and our knees were starting to protest this whole adventure. We made our way back to FR 1840-10 and followed it back to the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead, pausing briefly to watch some swallowtail butterflies.
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We followed FR 1840-100 a few yards downhill to it’s junction with FR 1840 and turned left for 20 yards to the signed Monte Cristo Trail on the right.
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Our knees would not be getting a break just yet as the Monte Cristo Trail descended over 1000′ in just over a mile to the Monte Cristo Lower Trailhead along FR 18.
IMG_8612Presumably letting you know that you’re a mile from the road. (It could also be that this tree is “Number 1”.)

IMG_8618Twinflower in the forest.

IMG_8622Our first blooming prince’s pine of the year.

20200627_134001_HDRNot nearly the steepest section.

IMG_8626FR 18 finally!

We turned left on FR 18 the nearly 2 mile road walk back to our car. The good news was that the road surface wasn’t too hard and better yet it was nearly level the whole way!
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The field guide lists the hike as 11.8 miles but a trip report from 6/20 that I’d seen said that the hike came in closer to 14 miles for him. My Garmin came in at 13.6 miles so keep that in mind if you’re considering this hike. It was certainly challenging but the wildflowers and the views made it a worthwhile endeavor. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Loop

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Labor Day Weekend – Mt. Adams Wilderness Days 2 & 3

We woke up after 6am on Sunday morning which counts as sleeping in for us. The forecast had called for smokey conditions all weekend which hadn’t materialized at all on Saturday but the sky was a little hazy now.
It certainly wasn’t bad and there was no fire smell in the air which was nice.

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Our mission was to find a water source as we had run low the day before and didn’t want to try and filter out of the nearby Cascade Creek which was too silty. We grabbed our packs and headed across Horseshoe Meadow to the Pacific Crest Trail. Our plan was to follow it north to the Killen Creek Trail and possibly into Killen Creek Meadows.

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The PCT climbed along a ridge at the edge of the meadow and we were able to spot our tent in the trees below.

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The trail climbed around the ridge end through the scars of the Cascade Creek Fire. The ground was covered with flowers that were well past bloom but they still provided a colorful display.

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Looking out to the SW we could see smoke in the valleys below a higher layer of clouds. Mt. St. Helens somehow seemed to be in a clear zone though.

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As we passed a large rocky area we heard the “meep” of a pika followed by several more. We stopped to see if we could spot one of our favorite alpine animals and sure enough one scurried out onto a nearby rock.

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After watching the little guy for a while we remembered our quest for water and continued on. The trail remained in the Cascade Creek Fire zone for nearly the entire 3.5 miles to Sheep Lake which was the first potential source of water we came too. The fire zone offered some nice views and interesting rock formations reminding us that as sad as it is too see the forest burn it is part of the natural cycle and can offer some different scenic qualities.

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IMG_7781Mt. St. Helens

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IMG_7784The bottom of Mt. Rainier

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IMG_7798Goat Rocks

IMG_7806Small cave along the PCT

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Sheep Lake was nice and was lined with berries which we happily ate as part of our breakfast but it was a little shallow along the edges for our pump filter.

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Riley Creek was near enough that we could hear it flowing so we decided to check it out to see if the water was clear enough to filter. Not only was the water clear but the creek was lovely and we found a large flat area atop some rocks where we could cook our breakfast.

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Heather filtered water while I prepared our Mountain House Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash which is quickly becoming one of our favorite backpacking meals.

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After breakfast we continued north on the PCT into a green forest. More blueberries and huckleberries lined the trail and we joined the area wildlife in snacking on the juicy treats.

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Large clumps of gentians dotted the open ground in this area as well.

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Just under a quarter mile from Riley Creek we passed the Riley Camp Trail.

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The stretch of green forest lasted for about a mile before the PCT came to a lava flow near Mutton Creek.

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Mutton Creek was cloudy with silt but not the chocolate color of Cascade Creek. It looked more like someone had poured some milk into the creek. The trail followed the cascading creek for a bit before crossing it.

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The PCT then passed across another section of lava where we stopped to admire the craggy peaks lining the horizon.

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There was also a good view of Mt. Adams although the combination of the haze and angle of the Sun affected it.

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We passed through another meadow before reaching the Lewis River.

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It was hard to believe this was the same river that we’d hiked along when we visited Lower Lewis River Falls in May of 2016.

Lower Lewis River Falls

About a quarter mile from the Lewis River we passed the Divide Camp Trail.

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Just beyond the trail junction we passed over a section of the mountain where a washout or avalanche had wiped out a swath of forest at some point where small trees were now regrowing.

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Just beyond that was an even larger barren rocky area where we came to Adams Creek.

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This proved to be the trickiest crossing of the entire weekend. We chose a spot where it looked like we could rock hop to a small island where a log might get us to the other side relatively dry.

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It worked reasonably well and we sallied forth towards the Killen Creek Trail. IMG_7898

About a mile from Adams Creek we passed a shrinking pond.

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Another quarter mile brought us to the High Camp Trail which headed toward the mountain.

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Shortly beyond that junction we arrived at the Killen Creek Trail.

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Although we had toyed with the idea of continuing all the way to Killen Creek it was another .4 miles away and downhill. We had done 22.6 miles the day before and this day was already going to be over 17 miles so we decided to call it good. We figure we can go back someday and start on the Killen Creek Trail and go north on the PCT from the junction.

On the way back the haze began to clear and the passed far enough overhead to greatly improve the views of Mt. Adams.

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The massive Adams Glacier really caught our attention.

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While we were admiring the mountain, Heather spotted a face in the rocks.

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The view of Mt. Adams kept getting clearer and even the view of Mt. Rainier improved somewhat.

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One view that didn’t improve was to the SW where yet another smoke plume had arisen. This one we would learn the next day was the East Crater Fire in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

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We stopped again at Riley Creek where we joined a number of PCT thru-hikers cooling off and collecting water. We refilled our packs as well as our 96oz canteen (which was not the most fun thing to haul the 4 miles back to camp).

It was just after 4:30 when we arrived back at Horseshoe Meadow. Mt. Adams appeared to be free of any smoke but just over it’s shoulder to the east the sky looked really smokey.

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We ate dinner then sat by our tent and watched as a few wispy clouds passed overhead.

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With all the fires around we couldn’t have asked for a better couple of days on the mountain. Those wonderful conditions didn’t make it into Labor Day though.

We woke up at 5:30am and despite it still being dark, we knew that some smoke had moved in based on the smell. When I got out of the tent and turned on my headlamp it illuminated the ash that was falling like a light snow. As the morning light made seeing a little easier we found that we couldn’t even see Mt. Adams.

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As the Sun rose higher we could at least make out the mountains outline through the smoke.

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We ate breakfast and packed up then headed south on the PCT.

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Overall it was a cool morning but occasional blasts of warmer air hit us. We had started hiking a little before 7am so that helped. We passed a number of thru-hikers on their way north, one of whom told us that the Indian Heaven Wilderness was closed due to a new fire (East Crater).

A red sun came up over Mt. Adams as we made our way back.

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The smoke finally lessened a bit when we had gotten back down into unburnt forest.

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Near the trailhead we spoke to another thru-hiker who had been evacuated from Cascade Locks due to the Eagle Creek Fire. It was from her that we learned a teenager illegally using fireworks had started the inferno and that at least 140 hikers had been stranded overnight, trapped between the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek Fires.

Given the information we decided to drive back to Salem around Mt. Hood via Highways 35 and 26 thinking that I84 might be closed by the time we were trying to get through. It’s been a tough year out west regarding wildfires. Even though they are a natural part of the forest cycle (unless some moron does something stupid) it’s hard when so many of our favorite places seem to be burning at the same time. We know they will not look like they once did anytime in our lifetimes, but they will recover and in the meantime we will watch as God’s creation heals. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Adams Wilderness Days 2 & 3

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Labor Day Weekend – Mt. Adams Wilderness Day 1

We are in the midst of a horrible wildfire season which only seems to be getting worse. Our original Labor Day plans literately went up in smoke due to the Separation and Nash Fires burning in the Three Sisters Wilderness among others. Our next plan was to spend the weekend in the Olallie Lake Scenic Area but the air quality in that area due to the aforementioned fires as well as the Whitewater, Scorpion, and Devil’s Fires (and so many more) made attempting to camp in that area unappealing so we kept looking.

After consulting several fire maps we determined that either the Indian Heaven Wilderness or the Mt. Adams Wilderness were our best chances for relatively smoke free hiking. The closest fires to those areas were the Indian Creek Fire burning along Eagle Creek in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness to the south and the Norse Peak Fire in the Norse Peak Wilderness to the north.

We settled on the Mt. Adams Wilderness. Our plan was to hike north on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Williams Mine Trailhead to Horseshoe Meadow where we hoped to set up camp. From there we would take the Round-the-Mountain Trail SE to the South Climb Trail and also visit Lookingglass Lake at some point along the way.

We set off on the PCT a little before 8 o’clock on Saturday morning.

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After crossing Swampy Creek on a footbridge the PCT entered the Mt. Adams Wilderness.

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It was a warm morning but more importantly it was smoke free. We were greeted by blue sky as the trail entered the fire scar from the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire.

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A few wildflowers remained and lots of ripe huckleberries were available for picking as we went.

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It was just about six miles from the trailhead to Horseshoe Meadow most of which was in the burnt area. Along the way we passed a some nice meadows, a few green trees and had views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and a smokey Mt. Hood.

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At the junction with the Round-the-Mountain Trail we turned and promptly arrived at Horseshoe Meadow.

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Cascade Creek flows through the meadow but was a little too silty filter so we debated on weather to set up camp there or continue on, possibly as far as Lookingglass Lake. After a little more consideration though we decided the location and view from Horseshoe Meadow was too good to pass up so we selected a tent site in some trees.

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We had each started the day with 3 liters of water in our Osprey reservoirs and had brought full 18oz. Hydro Flasks. We also had an extra 96oz. Naglene Canteen and another small collapsible container that we decided to take with us on our afternoon excursion and fill them up on the way back to camp.

After getting camp situated we headed toward the South Climb Trail on the Round-the-Mountain Trail.

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We’d made the South Climb Trail our turnaround point because our first and only other visit to the Mt. Adams Wilderness was a 2014 hike to Iceberg Lake via the South Climb and Round-the-Mountain Trails.

The trail continued through the Cascade Creek burn with views south to Mt. Hood which remained mostly hidden by smoke.

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Before long we began to find some forest that had been spared from the fire.

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About a mile from Horseshoe Meadow we came to a small stream with some little pools just big enough to filter water from.

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Just beyond the stream we passed the Lookingglass Lake Trail.

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We decided to make that side trip on the way back and then we could fill our extra canteens on the way back to camp from the little stream.

There were a number of creeks and streams with flowing water beyond the Lookingglass Lake Trail junction. The first set all eventually flowed into Cascade Creek further down the mountain.

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Much of the area we were now passing through contained debris flows from massive avalanches from the Avalanche Glacier. In fact there had been a warning at the trailhead that a crack in the glacier could trigger an avalanche at any time. The Round-the-Mountain Trail was shown as just outside the danger area but it was obvious from our surroundings that the location of the trail had been in the danger zone in the past.

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The next set of creeks were all tributaries of Salt Creek, most of which flowed from large glacial moraines.

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Others came from springs, one of them just below the trail.

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Two and a half miles from the Lookingglass Trail we came to a junction with the Shorthorn Trail.

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We passed more creeks including one with a nice little waterfall surrounded by lush green vegetation.

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It was just over another 2.5 miles to the South Climb Trail from the Shorthorn Trail which made it about 6 miles from Horseshoe Meadow, a little longer than my initial calculation had been.

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After a break at the junction we headed back and turned down the Lookingglass Lake Trail.

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It was about a mile downhill to the lake. The trail passed through more forest affected by fire and crossed several creeks including one with a number of frogs.

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We made our way around the lake and sat on a little hill facing Mt. Adams where we ate dinner.

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It was a little after 6pm when we finally left the lake and headed back up to the Round-the-Mountain Trail. As we climbed we were looking back at the lake when we noticed a smoke plume that we had not seen on the way down to the lake.

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Based on its location in relation to Mt. Hood we wondered if the Indian Creek Fire had exploded or if this was some new fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

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On Monday we learned from a northbound PCT hiker who had been evacuated from Cascade Locks that what we had seen was the new Eagle Creek Fire apparently started by teenager playing with illegal fireworks. What an idiot. As I write this trip report much of the gorge west of the Ruckle Creek Trail including Multnomah Falls has been affected.

We were still planning on getting water on the way back to Horseshoe Meadow at the little stream but we had forgotten how close it was to the Lookingglass Lake Trail and walked right past it. We didn’t realize our mistake until we’d reached the edge of Horseshoe Meadow. We decided that we would make due for the night with what we had left over in our packs (which wasn’t much) and our Hydro Flasks which we’d left at camp. In the morning we’d get water at either Sheep Lake or Riley Creek if no other sources could be found before then along the PCT.

The shadows were growing long back at Horseshoe Meadow.

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We were pretty tired and ready to crash but then we spotted a waterfall across the meadow and just had to check it out. We also thought there might be another water source that wasn’t so silty around. There wasn’t. The waterfall was nice though but it was the color of chocolate milk.

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We wound up moving our camp further from the trail due to a large group that had arrived and were a little louder than we preferred. After reestablishing camp we watched the last light hit Mt. Adams and turned in for the night.

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Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Adams Day 1

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Mt. Adams – Bird Creek Meadows

After staring at Mt. Adams for the better part of four days during our Goat Rocks trip we were off to that very mountain for the very first time. Our plans included visits to Crooked Creek Falls, Bird Creek Meadows, and Iceberg Lake on the SE flank of Mt. Adams. We had a couple of possible starting points but based on the description given of the access roads we chose to begin on the South Climb Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31934
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Although the parking lot was crowded we didn’t see anyone on the trail as we climbed up toward the Round-the-Mountain Trail which we would follow to Bird Creek Meadows. The South Climb Trail passes through a forest burned in 2008. We had occasional views of Mt. Adams ahead and Mt. St. Helens to the west.
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When we reached the junction with the Round-the-Mountain Trail we turned right and began seeing more green trees.
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This section of the trail was fairly dry with scattered flowers here and there before crossing the Aiken Lava Flow.
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The wildflowers started to increase as we approached the wilderness boundary with the Yakima Indian Reservation. Green meadows also replaced the sandy dirt that had covered much of the ground on the earlier section.
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Things got really colorful as soon as we were on the Reservation.
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In the next half mile the trail crossed several streams including Crooked Creek and through a number of widflower meadows before reaching a trail junction.
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At the trail junction was the Bird Lake Trail and a pointer for Crooked Creek Falls.
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We followed the trail down a short distance to find the falls. The falls were very pretty with paintbrush filled meadows on either side as they spilled over a rocky shelf.
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After viewing the falls we returned to the Round-the-Mountain Trail and continued another scenic .8 miles to the beginning of the Bird Creek Meadows Loop.
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We turned up the Trail of Flowers and began to climb. There were some flowers along the trail but it was wildlife that stole the show as we spotted a variety of creatures including several grouse which made us jump when they took flight from the undergrowth.

Two of the grouse flying low along the trail ahead.
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At the crest of the loop was a sign for the Hellroaring Viewpoint. We turned off the loop here and headed uphill toward the viewpoint. Clouds had begun to gather over the mountain but we could still see most of it.
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Wildflowers grew along the trail before giving way to the viewpoint.
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The Hellroaring Viewpoint looks out across a valley where Hellroaring Creek comes crashing down from the Mazama Glacier to the Ridge of Wonders.
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To reach Iceberg Lake we continued on a path leading up the ridge from the viewpoint. Sometimes it was easy to see while at other times we followed rock cairns and orange paint across rock and snowfields.
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The path eventually climbed up the moraine that held back Iceberg Lake.
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The scenery at the lake was vastly different than that of the meadows below. The color of the water was beautiful and we could hear the ice cracking above on the mountain as we rested from the climb.
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After a brief break we headed back down to the Trail of Flowers and continued on the loop. This section of loop had better wildflowers than the earlier one.
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Once we had completed the loop we retraced our steps along the Round-the-Mountain Trail back to the South Climb Trail. Several groups of climbers were now descending that trail. One final look at Mt. Adams showed the clouds had remained mostly on the SE side of the mountain.
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It had been a long day but well worth the time to visit a new wilderness. It is now another place we will need to explore more in the future. Happy Trails.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646167148139/
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