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Hiking Trapper Creek Washington Washington Cascades

Soda Peaks Lake – 09/06/2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Observation Trail.

We stayed straight on the Trapper Creek Trail here.

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

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

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

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

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

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One of the big trees was down.

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

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

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Grey jay

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Observation Peak from the trail.

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Huckleberry leaves

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Woodpecker

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

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Fungus amid some bark.

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Big rock outcrop along the trail.

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Mountain ash changing into its Fall colors.

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Mt. Hood from the trail.

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Mt. Hood

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

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Mt. St. Helens from the trail.

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Mt. St. Helens

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

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

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Mt. Adams from the trail.

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

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Day use area at Soda Peaks Lake.

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

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

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Not a pika, but it was a cute chipmunk.

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

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Mt. Rainier

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Mt. Rainier

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

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

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

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

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

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Mt. Hood and some vine maples.

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

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Back on level ground.

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

Flickr: Soda Peaks Lake

Categories
Hiking Trapper Creek Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Siouxon Creek & Peak

It was finally time for our first overnight trip this year. We picked the Siouxon Trail for the trip which would be our test run for our backpacking season. Our plan was to hike up the Siouxon Trail approximately four miles, find a campsite to set up in then hike up to Siouxon Peak on a loop using the Wildcat, Chinook, and Huffman Peak Trails.

The trail is located in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest and is accessed via forest road 5071 which is east of Chelatchie, WA. Although the roads are mostly paved, washouts and pot holes made it interesting on the way to the trailhead.
Siouxon Trailhead

There were already quite a few cars in the parking area when we arrived shortly after 7am. Since this was our first hike here we weren’t sure what to expect for campsites and hoped that we would be able to find an open one in the area we had planned on. We slung our packs on and set off downhill toward Siouxon Creek.

We crossed West Creek on a nice footbridge and continued along in a cool, green forest.
Siouxon Trail

West Creek

Siouxon Trail

Cool was going to be important as the forecast called for temperatures in the mid-90s for some nearby areas.

It wasn’t long before Siouxon Creek came into view with crystal clear water and colorful pools. It reminded us a lot of our previous hike along the Lewis River.
Siouxon Creek

Siouxon Creek

The trail then bent back away from Siouxon Creek as it crossed Horseshoe Creek above Horseshoe Creek Falls on another footbridge.
Horseshoe Creek Falls

Horseshoe Creek Falls

Just over a mile and a half from the trailhead Siouxon Falls came into view. Here Siouxon Creek drops in an S-shaped chute into a green pool.
Siouxon Falls

Siouxon Falls

Beyond Siouxon Falls the trail continued along the creek offering views of a few smaller cascades and more green pools.
Siouxon Creek

Small fall along Siouxon Creek

Pool below small waterfall along Siouxon Creek

We passed a trail sign for the Wildcat Trail around the 3 mile mark which would wind up being our return route the following day. Shortly after the Wildcat Trail sign was another junction, this time with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail.
Siouxon Trail junction with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail

We continued on the Siouxon Trail another 3/4 of a mile to a footbridge over Siouxon Creek.
Unnamed creek and the bridge across Siouxon Creek to Chinook Falls

We had begun keeping an eye out for a good campsite following the Horseshoe Ridge Trail junction but  most were already taken and the few that remained were near other groups of backpackers. We crossed on the footbridge and found the sites on the opposite side occupied as well.

We had left the Siouxon Creek Trail and were now following Chinook Creek. In 0.2 miles we came to 50′ Chinook Falls.
Chinook Falls

Chinook Falls

To continue we would need to cross Chinook Creek which did not have a bridge. Logs provided a dry crossing and we were quickly across heading toward yet another trail junction.
Chinook Falls

Junction with the Chinook Trail

If we had been able to find a campsite before reaching this point we would have headed up the Chinook Trail at this point. Since we were still searching we decided to take the connector trail between this junction and the Wildcat Trail. Even though the sign here didn’t point left for a trail there was a clear one there. It climbed a bit at first then dropped down closer to Siouxon Creek again in a much denser forest than on the Siouxon Trail side. We were focused on finding a suitable campsite but instead all we found was a lot of elk sign. As we neared Wildcat Creek we decided that if we hadn’t found a spot by the time we reached the Wildcat Trail we would loop back on the Siouxon Trail and take one of the few spots we’d seen near other groups. Luckily we didn’t need to implement that plan as we found a small secluded spot near Wildcat Creek with just enough room for a tent.
Campsite near Wildcat Creek

After getting settled we switched to our little daypacks and crossed Wildcat Creek on some more logs.
Wildcat Creek

Just on the other side of the creek was the junction with the trail coming from the Siouxon Trail
Wildcat Trail junction

We headed uphill on the Wildcat Trail. The trail stayed a bit above the creek but we spotted a couple of small cascades that warranted checking out on short scramble trails.
Wildcat Trail

Cascades along Wildcat Creek

Slide falls along Wildcat Creek

The best fall of the day came a half mile up the Wildcat Trail. The 225′ Wildcat Falls drops 3 times with the final drop being 124′.
Wildcat Falls

To reach the base of the falls a steep trail headed downhill. The assistance of a rope which we found waiting was almost a necessity here.
Rope down to Wildcat Falls

Wildcat Falls

We’d timed it well both for the day and the time of year. According to the information on the falls from the Northwest Waterfall Survey the falls become “substantially less impressive as summer progresses”. There was plenty of water now and there was no one else at the falls when we arrived. We sat on some rocks at the edge of the splash pool letting the misty wind from the falls cool us off.
Splash pool of Wildcat Falls

When other hikers began to arrive we climbed back up using the rope and continued our loop. We started to climb looking back after about a hundred feet to see the upper tiers of the falls.
Wildcat Falls

The Wildcat Trail switchbacked uphill to a viewpoint above Wildcat Falls allowing us to see the upper tier even beter.
Wildcat Falls

Upper tier of Wildcat Falls

From the falls the trail gained approximately 2000′ in 2 miles to a junction with the Huffman Peak Trail. It was starting to get really warm and we were forced to take quite a few more breaks than usual along the way. Fortunately there was a bit of an off-and-on breeze that helped to cool us off a little as we took in the scenery.
Wildcat Trail

Little prince’s pine
Little prince's pine

Tiger lily
Tiger lily

Penstemon
Penstemon

We turned right when we reached the Huffman Peak Trail which promptly began descending to a saddle.
Wildcat Trail junction with the Huffman Peak Trail

It eventually leveled out and then began climbing again as it headed up the side of Siouxon Peak. Wildflowers along this section included beargrass, avalanche lilies and pioneer violets.
Beargrass

Avalanche lily

Violets

We hadn’t seen any other hikers since we’d left Wildcat Falls but just before we reached the spur trail to the summit of Siouxon Peak we met another pair of hikers that had just come down. We had seen them earlier at Chinook Falls but they had headed up that trail doing the loop the way we’d originally planned on. They said it was beautiful up at the summit and they weren’t kidding. We had been seeing glimpses of several mountains through the trees from the Huffman Peak Trail but no clear views. As we began up the summit spur trail though that all changed.
Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams

An exposed ridge led up to the former site of a lookout tower on top of Siouxon Peak. Snowy peaks dominated the horizon while numerous butterflies flitted among the various wildflowers.
Mt. Hood heading to the summit of Siouxon Peak

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

Goat Rocks
Goat Rocks

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier

Phlox
Phlox

Swallowtail above the meadow
Swallowtail butterfly flying over wildflowers on Siouxon Peak

Butterflies above the meadow with Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams in the distance.
Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams from Siouxon Peak

Penstemon
Penstemon

Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams and Swift Reservoir from the summit of Siouxon Peak

Goat Rocks and MT. Adams from the summit of Siouxon Peak

Butterfly on bistort
Hairstreak butterfly on bistort

Swallowtail on phlox
Swallowtail on phlox

Swallowtail overhead
Swallowtail soaring overhead

We sat for awhile at the summit. There was just enough breeze to keep it from being too warm and it was just too beautiful to not spend some time appreciating it. Ironically the closest mountain to us was Mt. St. Helens which we couldn’t see due to trees lining the west side of the peak.

After pulling ourselves away and returning to the Huffman Peak Trail we spotted a little spur trail on the opposite side. This one led to a viewpoint that included Mt. St. Helens.
Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier from a viewpoint below Siouxon Peak

We continued on our loop passing beneath Siouxon Peak in a meadow of strawberry blossoms and phlox.
Strawberries and phlox

After a few switchbacks the trail leveled out some as it began following an old roadbed.
Huffman Peak Trail

The trail entered a section of young trees where the penstemon display was amazing. There was also quite a bit of paintbrush and some lupine mixed in.
Penstemon

Penstemon and paintbrush along the Huffman Peak Trail

Penstemon and paintbrush along the Huffman Peak Trail

Paintbrush

Lupine

There was a bit of a washout in this section but it was not too difficult to cross.
Washout along the Huffman Peak Trail

Slide along the Huffman Peak Trail from the other side of the valley

We turned onto the Chinook Trail at a signed junction.
Huffman Peak Trail junction with the Chinook Trail

The Chinook Trail began as an old narrow jeep track which eventually turned to a true trail.
Chinook Trail

As we were coming down the Chinook Trail we met our neighbor from across Siouxon Creek. She had set up camp Friday night and was now doing the Siouxon Peak loop in the opposite direction. After a nice conversation she introduced herself as Nicole and we shared our names before continuing on. It turns out she is a fellow member of the //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js“>PortlandHikers Facebook group. It’s always nice to put faces to names and have these chance meetings out on the trails.

We spotted a variety of interesting plants in the forest along this trail including yellow coralroot, indian pipe, and some candysticks.
Yellow coralroot

Indian Pipe

Candystick

Candysticks

Before returning to our campsite we detoured back to Chinook Falls to see how it looked in the afternoon sunlight and to cool off by the splash pool.
Chinook Falls

While we were enjoying the falls we noticed a few tadpoles nearby.
Tadpole

We returned to camp and got ready for dinner. We were excited to try out our new Alite Mayfly chairs. I had been a bit reluctant to add any extra weight to my pack but at 1lbs 4oz the chairs aren’t that heavy. I was still thinking I might only bring mine on shorter trips or trips where we establish a base camp for multiple days, but after eating dinner and relaxing next to Wildcat Creek in the chair it will be coming with me from now on.

The next morning we woke a little before 5am and began packing up. Heather had a baby shower that afternoon and we were hoping to be home in time for her to attend. While we were working on breakfast we were thoroughly entertained by a slug that had passed over a strap on my pack then set to scaling a mossy boulder.
Slug on my backpack strap

Slug on a boulder

Instead of going back to the bridge across Siouxon Creek at the Chinook Trail we decided to shorten the morning hike by fording Siouxon Creek at the Wildcat Trail. The ford is not recommended in high water but it wasn’t running too swiftly so we plunged in. At it’s deepest the water came up just a bit past our knees but we had no problems reaching the trail on the other bank.
Siouxon Creek ford between the Wildcat and Siouxon Trails

We returned to the Siouxon Trailhead a just before 8am and Heather was back in plenty of time to go to the baby shower. All in all it was a pretty successful first over night for the year. We thought we had forgotten a couple of items only to discover that they had been in our packs the whole time and our new chairs worked out great. We’re looking forward to several more backpacking trips in the next few months. Until next time, happy trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666763253394

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Hiking Trapper Creek Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Observation Peak

Unexpected is as fitting a description as I can think of for our visit to the Trapper Creek Wilderness in Washington. The first unexpected event happened before we even arrived at the trail head. I have mentioned before that we seem to see more large wildlife from our car than we do on the trail. As we were turning off the highway I noticed a large brown animal just a bit further up along the shoulder. I quickly turned around and got out the camera. It was an Elk just grazing on the side of the road. This was the closest we’ve been to seeing an elk on one of our hikes.
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We created the next unexpected event when we parked near Bubbling Mike Spring at an empty sign board. This turned out to be the wrong parking area, but the road ahead was gated closed and we failed to notice the small sign around the corner to our left that pointed toward the campground. We set off on a clear trail toward Trapper Creek which we knew we needed to cross at some point. That path quickly ended at the creek with no dry way to cross so we backtracked and headed up the gated road. We spotted one footbridge that had a do not use, danger sign posted on it as we passed several cabins that sat along the creek. The road veered away from the creek and just after crossing a small stream we decided to head back and work our way up the creek bank to see if we could find a crossing that way. No sooner had I recrossed the stream when I heard quite a commotion behind me. I expected to see Dominique on the ground since he is the most prone to losing his balance but instead it was Heather sitting in the middle of the stream. She banged her hand up pretty good but was fortunate not to have hit her head or hurt her legs. Her pinky though was already swelling and slightly discolored. We hadn’t even found the official trail yet and we had a “man down”. She decided she wanted to try and continue the hike so back we went to searching for a dry way across.

After wandering up and down we settled on trying a downed tree that appeared to be flattened on top for crossing. It led to the back of a couple of cabins on the far side of the creek so we quickly ducked past them onto the access road that led to them. Our map showed that this road would lead to the trail we had been seeking so we headed left and soon had found it.

We entered the Trapper Creek Wilderness and paralleled Trapper Creek through a dense forest. If you love old forests and the sound of flowing water this would be a great hike for you. If you are after views and wildflower meadows skip this trail and take the Observation Peak Trail from road 5800 as described in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes book. The trail went up and down occasionally offering glimpses of the creek below. After 2.5 miles the path crossed Hidden Creek and shortly after a pair of signs pointed to Hidden Falls. We decided we needed to check this out so we struck off on the faint trail up a ridge to a nice camping spot. Hidden Falls was below down a steep hillside which Heather and I picked our way down. We were able to make our way to the base of the secluded falls and then had to climb back out of the canyon.
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From Hidden Falls the Trapper Creek trail began to climb a long series of fairly steep switchbacks. We crossed the creek again after the first set of switchbacks and then launched upward again. A nice viewpoint along the way overlooked Trapper Creek Falls across the valley backed by Observation Peak. The trail eventually leveled out, recrossed Trapper Creek, and then came to a junction with a trail labeled “Shortcut Tr. 129B”. Dominique was all for taking any trail that had the word shortcut in it’s name so we turned up it. I don’t know how much of a shortcut it was, but we were soon at another junction, this time with the Observation Peak Trail.

We headed up toward the summit through a forest with large bear grass plumes and many other smaller white flowers. After about a half mile of climbing we reached the lower viewpoint. This first viewpoint was on a rocky outcropping dotted with white cats ear blossoms. It had been a nice day, with blue sunny skies and a occassional breeze that kept it from being too warm but we found that clouds were hanging around the Washington peaks covering each of them to some degree. Never the less the view was impressive and the view from the actual summit promised to be even better. We returned to the trail and continued up another .2 miles to the summit passing bear grass blooms and other various wild flowers. As we approached the summit, Mt. Hood appeared over the right shoulder of Observation Peak with a faint Mt. Jefferson nearly hidden by haze further to the south.

Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak
Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak

After a short rest we headed back down from the summit and turned right at the trail junction to begin our descent down Howe Ridge. We had a little over 5 miles down this pleasant trail to get back to the car. It gradually descended through the forest crossing numerous small streams and we were able to make good time. We spotted a small snake and later I came around a corner to find myself staring straight at an owl about 10 yards away. When I reached for my camera it flew to a nearby tree but I was able to get
a couple of decent pictures.
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Our feet were sore and legs tired when we finally reached Trapper Creek and we didn’t care about finding a dry crossing. Our car was almost directly across from us so we just walked into the water and crossed. What was supposed to have been a 13.3 mile hike turned into a 15.8 adventure. Despite a few mosquitoes (much less than our last hike) and Heather’s bruised hand it had been a pretty good day. There was only one way to end a day like this – with pizza 🙂 Happy Trails.

Photos – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201538005439185.1073741841.1448521051&type=3
Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157634535134225/