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Coastal Range Eugene Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

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

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

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

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

IMG_7211Clay Creek on the left emptying into the Siuslaw.

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

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

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

IMG_7238The junction for the loop.

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

IMG_7243On the ridge top.

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

IMG_7246Lots of mushrooms pushing up through the forest floor.

IMG_7251Good sized trees near the high point.

IMG_7254No idea what you might see on a clear day.

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

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

IMG_7275The fog had lifted off the river at least.

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

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

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

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

IMG_7285White crowned sparrow

IMG_7289Northern harrier on the hunt.

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IMG_7301Wetlands in the Royal Amazon unit.

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

IMG_7304Not the greatest photo but enough to identify it.

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

IMG_7313American coots

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

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

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IMG_7355There were a number of these small birds pecking around in the mud.

IMG_7357Continuing west.

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

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

DSCN1182Little bird in the roadway.

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IMG_7366End of the line.

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

DSCN1206Perhaps the same northern harrier.

DSCN1211The harrier taking a break.

IMG_7376The path to the platform.

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DSCN1222The platform.

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7398Looking back over the ditch.

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

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DSCN1262Northern shovelers and a bufflehead.

DSCN1266Buffleheads and two hooded merganser females.

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DSCN1286Kingfisher

DSCN1288American robin

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

DSCN1290Noisy geese.

IMG_7405Back on the mowed track.

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

DSCN1295Spotted towhee and friend.

DSCN1300Finch

DSCN1302Another sparrow?

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

Track at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

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

Flickr: Clay Creek Trail and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Laurel Hill Wagon Chute and Barlow Ridge Loop – 10/30/2021

We ended our hiking season with a bang, a pair of stops along the Barlow Wagon Road with an off-trail adventure, great views and beautiful weather. Created in 1846 the “Barlow Road” provided an alternate route along the Oregon Trail which previously ended at The Dalles where emigrates were forced to find passage down the Columbia River. The 80 mile road led from The Dalles to Oregon City crossing several rivers and the Cascade crest along the way. The wagons also had to navigate Laurel Hill’s steep descent and our first stop of the day was to visit the Laurel Hill Wagon Chute, the steepest drop along the road.

We parked at the small pullout along Highway 26 that serves as the Laurel Hill Trailhead.
IMG_6859Mt. Hood from the trailhead.

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We followed the trail uphill on stairs to an abandoned section of the Mt. Hood Highway then turned right to find the bottom of the rocky chute.
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IMG_6874The wagon chute.

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A trail to the right of the chute led uphill to a 4-way junction where we turned left and followed this path a short distance to the top of the chute.
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IMG_6881The left at the 4-way junction.

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IMG_6888Looking down the chute.

After reading the sign near the chute and trying to picture actually lowering a wagon down the chute we returned to the old highway walking a short distance past the chute to a viewpoint above Highway 26.
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IMG_6901Sunlight starting to hit the SE side of Mt. Hood.

IMG_6903Ravens photo bombing a close up of the mountain.

We backtracked from the viewpoint and descended down the stairs to our car.
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We then drove east through Government Camp to Highway 35 before turning right onto FR 3531 at a pointer for Barlow Road and the Pacific Crest Trail. After 0.2 miles we parked at the Barlow Pass Trailhead/Sno-Park. Both the Barlow Wagon Road and the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the trailhead. After parking we headed to a picnic table and sign boards on the south side of the parking area.
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The PCT was on our right heading south toward Twin Lakes (post) while the Barlow Wagon Road lay straight ahead.
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We followed the wagon road for approximately a tenth of a mile before it joined FR 3530 (Barlow Road).
IMG_6912A portion of the original Barlow Wagon Road.

IMG_6913Barlow Road (FR 3530)

Just 40 yards after joining FR 3530 the Barlow Butte Trail veered downhill at a signpost.
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The trail was still following the route of the wagon road as it passed through a forest that was hit hard by last Winter’s storms.
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At the half mile mark we came to a junction with the Barlow Creek/Devil’s Half Acre Trail in a small meadow.
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Following pointers for the Barlow Butte Trail and Mineral Springs Ski Trail we turned left here.
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The trail began a gradual 0.4 mile climb to another junction where the Barlow Butte and Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways.
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We made a hard right here sticking to the Barlow Butte Trail which quickly entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
IMG_6932Wilderness sign along the Barlow Butte Trail.

It was a mile from the junction where the Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways to the next junction. The trail climbed gradually at first but soon steepened as it began a series of switchbacks.
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IMG_6938Getting steeper.

IMG_6942This was the worst of the blow down we had to navigate on this section.

IMG_6944Nearing the junction.

A small rock cairn marked the junction where a spur trail led left up to the old lookout site on Barlow Butte.
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We turned left on the spur trail which began with a great view to the NE of the Badger Creek Wilderness including Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte (post)

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IMG_6953It was a little chilly with temps in the mid 30’s combined with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill.

IMG_6982On the right of the far ridge is Bonney Butte (post).

The summit of Barlow Butte is overgrown now with trees but just downhill from the former lookout site was a small rock outcrop with a view of Mt. Hood.
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IMG_6975Remains from the lookout.

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The Oregon Hikers Field Guide mentions a better viewpoint on yet another rock outcrop below this one but we didn’t scramble down to it. Instead we planned on visiting a couple of other viewpoints on the Barlow Butte Trail further along Barlow Ridge. So after a short break trying to use the trees to block the wind we headed back down to the Barlow Butte Trail and turned left (downhill) at the small rock cairn. The trail passed through a stand of trees before popping out on a rocky spine.
IMG_6992Barlow Butte and the top of Mt. Hood.

IMG_6985Frog Lake Buttes (post) is the hump in the center.

IMG_6987Western larches

IMG_6999Mt. Jefferson behind some clouds.

IMG_7002Sisi Butte (double humps) and Bachelor Mountain (post).

The rocks were a little frosty in spots so we had to watch our footing, especially dropping off the rocks back into the forest.
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This is a good point to mention that the Oregon Hikers Field Guide has you turn back here for their Barlow Butte Hike but there is a second hike in the guide, the Barlow Ridge Loop which describes a possible 10.5 mile loop. This hike is listed as a “lost” hike due to the Forest Service having abandoned the trail along the remainder of Barlow Ridge. The Barlow Butte Trail at one time followed the ridge to its end and descended to Klingers Camp. We were keeping the loop option open but were planning on turning back possibly at the high point of the trail.

The next marker along Barlow Ridge was Lambert Rock which we reached a half mile from the small rock cairn on Barlow Butte.
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It’s possible to carefully scramble up this rock past a memorial plaque for Dr. Richard Carlyle Lambert who perished while hiking in Utah.
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The view of Mt. Hood was spectacular from the rock but the stiff breeze and cold air made for a short stay.
IMG_7019_stitchBarlow Butte to the left of Mt. Hood.

If not for the clouds to the south the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson would have also been visible from the rock.
IMG_7012Mt. Jefferson still behind some clouds.

Beyond Lambert Rock the trail dropped a bit into a saddle where another small rock cairn marked an unofficial cutoff trail to the left that leads downhill to FR 3560.
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We continued to the right on the Barlow Butte Trail and 0.4 miles from Lambert Rock detoured to the right to what we hoped might be another viewpoint. Trees blocked the view north to Mt. Hood and east to Lookout Mountain. Again there would have been a decent view of Mt. Jefferson from this spot but we did have a good view west to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain above Mirror Lake (post)
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IMG_7030Parts of Mt. Jefferson peaking through the clouds.

IMG_7028Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (with the rock fields near the top).

We continued on following the increasingly faint trail another third of a mile to it’s high point and another great view of Mt. Hood. While the trail was faint there were often cairns, blazes or diamonds marking the correct path.
IMG_7031Small cairns in a meadow.

IMG_7034One of the aforementioned diamonds.

IMG_7038Approaching the high point.

IMG_7042Clouds were starting to pass over Lookout Mountain at this point.

IMG_7044Mt. Hood from the high point of Barlow Ridge.

Up to this point the trail had been fairly easy to follow and there hadn’t been much blow down over it so we decided to continue along the ridge at least to the point where it started to steepen on it’s way down to Klingers Camp. For the next three quarters of a mile the trail was still visible at times and the occasional marker let us know we were still on the right course.
IMG_7045Carin in the trees ahead.

IMG_7048Elk or deer tracks leading the way.

IMG_7050Another section of frost.

IMG_7051We took this as a blaze.

IMG_7052That blaze led to this large cairn.

IMG_7053Things were starting to get interesting here.

IMG_7058Stopped here to listen for pikas, no luck though.

IMG_7059This could be trail.

IMG_7061Still on the right track, note the folded trail sign on the tree at center.

We lost the trail for good in a small beargrass meadow which was my fault. While I had brought a topographic map that showed where the trail was supposed to be I was navigating primarily based off of what I remembered reading from the Oregon Hikers field guide. I had remembered most of it well but had forgotten the part where “the trail swings off the ridge to the right….”. All I remembered was that the route eventually dropped steeply down the nose of a ridge. Not realizing it was the nose of a different ridge I kept us following Barlow Ridge for another 0.2 miles.
IMG_7062The small meadow.

IMG_7063Officially off-trail now.

IMG_7064This looked like a place the trail would go.

IMG_7070A final look at Mt. Hood from Barlow Ridge.

Not realizing that we were off the trail alignment we decided that the hiking had been easy enough up until now that we would go ahead and try for the loop. Down we headed looking in vain for any sign of trail. Several times we convinced ourselves that we’d found it, but it turns out if it was anything it was game trails.
IMG_7077This doesn’t look so bad.

IMG_7078One of several big trees we encountered.

IMG_7081Little orange mushrooms, how appropriate for Halloween.

IMG_7082Starting to encounter more debris.

IMG_7083If there had been a trail good luck finding it.

IMG_7084Heather coming down behind me.

We lost over 600′ of elevation in three quarters of a mile and things were only getting steeper. It was at this point that I turned my brain on and pulled the map out of Heather’s pack. I quickly saw what I’d done wrong, we were following the wrong ridge line down and should have been one ridge to the SW. The problem now was there was a stream bed between us. We backtracked up hill a bit and followed a game trail across the trickling stream and attempted to traverse over to the correct ridge.
IMG_7085Pretty decent game trail here.

IMG_7086This section was fun.

IMG_7088A bigger orange mushroom.

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We struggled down and across, occasionally having to backtrack or veer uphill to find safer passage.
IMG_7094Uphill on this game trail.

IMG_7096Thickets of brush kept us from getting all the way over to the ridge we needed so we just kept going downhill knowing that we would eventually run into one of the forest roads at the bottom.

IMG_7097More steep fun.

We eventually made it to flat ground in a forest of young trees and ferns.
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We could tell using our GPS that despite all of that we were only about two tenths of a mile from Klingers Camp. We were even closer to FR 240 and being tired of off-trail travel we headed straight for the road.
IMG_7101Look Ma a road!

We turned right on this road and followed it to a junction with Barlow Road.
IMG_7104It doesn’t look that steep from down here.

IMG_7107Barlow Road.

We turned right onto Barlow Road and followed it 150 yards to Klingers Camp.
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After visiting the camp we continued on Barlow Road for five miles back to the Barlow Pass Trailhead. Along the way two pickups drove past us in the other direction. At the 1.6 mile mark we passed the Grindstone Campground and near the 4 mile mark the entrance to the Devil’s Half Acre Campground.
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IMG_7127Western larches above Barlow Road.

IMG_7129Grindstone Campground

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IMG_7138Barlow Creek

IMG_7147Crossing Barlow Creek near Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.

IMG_7151Clouds on top of Mt. Hood towering over the trees.

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IMG_7157Barlow Road at the campground.

IMG_7159Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.

We could have taken the Devil’s Half Acre Trail from the campground to the Barlow Butte Trail but we weren’t sure what the condition was and the Field Guide didn’t mention taking it so we played it safe and trudged up the road.
IMG_7164Finally back to where we’d left the road in the morning.

IMG_7170Arriving back at the Barlow Pass Trailhead

Before we attempted the crazy loop we had planned on also making the 2.2 mile round trip hike to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave on the other side of Barlow Pass and then stopping at the Castle Canyon Trail for a final short hike. Neither of us had any interest in making another stop at this point but we were interested in the grave site. Unfortunately Heather’s plantar was acting up. Surprisingly, given the lack of good ideas we’d displayed so far, we came up with a alternate plan. Heather would drive to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave Trailhead while I hiked the Barlow Wagon Road to it. The trailhead is located right next to the grave site so Heather didn’t have to worry about her plantar and now I only needed to hike a little over a mile downhill.
IMG_7171The first other people (not counting the two drivers in the pickups) that we’d seen all day.

I hustled down the wagon road stopping along the way at another nice Mt. Hood viewpoint.
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I did take the time to walk down the road 60 yards to the East Fork Salmon River to check out some stonework and wagon ruts left by the emigrants.
IMG_7202East Fork Salmon River

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The 10.5 mile loop hike turned into 12 miles due to our being off course and wandering around trying to figure out where we were going so my day wound up being just under 14 miles total with approximately 3100′ of elevation gain. Heather got all the elevation gain with 1.2 miles less traveled. I probably wouldn’t try that loop again but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of curious what it would be like to actually follow the field guide correctly. Happy Trails!

Loop is in blue with the Pioneer Woman’s Grave in orange.

For reference here is where the trail is shown on the map we were carrying and here is a link to the map in the field guide.
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Flickr: Laurel Hill Wagon Chute and Barlow Ridge Loop

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Silver Falls Backcountry Loop – 10/23/2021

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

IMG_6550Willamette Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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IMG_6582The Smith Creek Trail junction.

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

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IMG_6603The Nature Trail junction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IMG_6710The mix of tree trunks here caught our eye.

IMG_6719Approaching the trail junction.

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

IMG_6723Orange fence marking the closure of the Catamount Trail.

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

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

IMG_6731This stream was a little easier to see.

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

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IMG_6760The 4-way junction.

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

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

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

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IMG_6858The 214 Trail from the Newt Loop.

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

Our 12.9 loop

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

Flickr: Silver Falls Backcountry

Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Fret Creek to Flag Point and Lookout Mountain – 10/16/2021

For the second weekend in a row we abandoned plans for a night in the tent in favor of day hike. Similar to the weekend before the forecast for was for a mostly sunny and warm Saturday followed by rain and/or snow moving in Saturday night through the end of the weekend. We decided on the Fret Creek Trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness. Our plan was to take that trail to the Divide Trail and visit the Flag Point Lookout to the east followed by Lookout Mountain to the west. While we had been to Lookout Mountain twice before (2014, 2019) we had not visited the Flag Point Lookout nor had we hiked the lower portion of the Fret Creek Trail. We were hoping to get some good views and see some of the areas Western Larch trees as they began to turn color.

The Fret Creek Trail starts between Fifteen Mile Campground (post) and Fret Creek along Forest Road 2730 across from a trailhead sign at a pullout on the left.
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IMG_6187A few larches along Road 2730

IMG_6188Fret Creek Trail across from the pullout.

For the first third of a mile the trail climbed fairly steeply above Fret Creek.
IMG_6193Entering the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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The trail eventually leveled off crossing Fret Creek several times before once again launching steeply uphill before arriving at Oval Lake just under 2 miles from the trailhead.
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IMG_6221Starting to climb again.

IMG_6240Sign for Oval Lake.

The small lake is just off the trail but has several campsites in the surrounding forest.
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We’d visited the lake briefly in 2014 during our first ever backpacking trip and it looked quite a bit like we’d remember but with less water given the time of year.
Oval LakeJune 28, 2014

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After checking out the lake we continued climbing on the Fret Creek Trail for 0.2 more miles to its end at the Divide Trail.
IMG_6243A bit of snow left from the recent snowfall.

IMG_6245The Divide Trail.

We turned left on the Divide Trail and climbed for 0.3 miles to a ridge crest where we took a side trail out to Palisade Point. This rock outcrop has a nice view south across the Badger Creek Wilderness to Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
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IMG_6250Some snow near a switchback along the trail.

IMG_6255Mt. Adams starting to peak over a ridge to the north.

IMG_6263Mt. Adams with some larch trees in the foreground.

IMG_6269Lookout Mountain from the Divide Trail (The bare peak in between the two bare snags. Just to the right of the left snag.)

IMG_6272Side trail to Palisade Point.

IMG_6281Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack (just the very top), Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte (post) were visible in the distance.

IMG_6283Mt. Jefferson with the tip of Three Fingered Jack to the left and Olallie Butte to the right.

IMG_6275Mt. Hood peaking up over the rocks.

IMG_6288_stitchPanoramic view with Badger Creeks valley below.

IMG_6302Rocks below Palisade Point.

After the stop at Palisade Point we continued east along the ridge for 1.2 miles losing a little over 300′ to Flag Point Lookout Road (NF 200). Occasional views opened up along the way.
IMG_6317We ran into this jumble of downed trees shortly after leaving Palisade Point but fortunately it was the worst of the obstacles.

IMG_6323Flag Point Lookout from the trail.

IMG_6328A small meadow that was full of flowers a couple of months ago.

IMG_6332A stand of larches.

IMG_6337A better view of Mt. Hood.

IMG_6343Zoomed in.

IMG_6351Looking back through larches at a Badger Creek Wilderness sign near Road 200.

IMG_6354Looking back at the Divide Trail.

We had been to this junction on our 2014 backpacking trip where we turned off the Divide Trail here onto the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail to hike down to Badger Creek. This time we took Road 200 which led to the Flag Point Lookout in 0.8 miles.
IMG_6355Road 200

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IMG_6360Chipmunk

IMG_6361Nearing the lookout.

The lookout is staffed in the Summer and used to be available as a rental during the Winter but the Forest Service discontinued that a few years ago.
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A gate blocks access to the platform and tower but climbing the stairs below the gate provided for some more excellent views.
IMG_6368Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the north.

IMG_6369Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

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IMG_6384Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte

IMG_6389View east to the hills above the Columbia River.

We spent quite a while admiring the views and then more time attempting to spot one of the pikas that we could hear in the rock field below the lookout. Alas none of the little rock rabbits wanted to make an appearance but several robins did.
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We headed back to the Divide Trail and stayed straight at the junction with the Fret Creek Trail. It was just 1.6 miles to Lookout Mountain and on such a beautiful day we couldn’t pass up the chance of another spectacular view.
IMG_6434Passing the Fret Creek Trail.

IMG_6438We did need to gain almost 800′ of elevation to reach Lookout Mountain which at times was a fairly steep climb.

IMG_6440_stitchAnother viewpoint along the way where Badger Lake was visible.

IMG_6447Badger Lake

We had seen our first fellow hikers on our return from Flag Point and now we were seeing more of them as well as a little more snow.
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IMG_6474The final pitch to the summit, there is at least one hiker visible up top.

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IMG_6483Looking back to Flag Point.

IMG_6484Looking NE toward The Dalles and the Columbia River.

IMG_6486Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

IMG_6494View south past Badger Lake to Mt. Jefferson.

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After another nice break we headed back, but just under half a mile from the summit we turned right on a side path to what Sullivan labels the Helispot. Several campsites were located here and yet another amazing view.
IMG_6515Flag Point from the Helispot.

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IMG_6518And of course Mt. Hood again.

After exploring the Helispot area we hopped back onto the Divide Trail and returned to the Fret Creek Trail. We made a final quick stop at Oval Lake before returning to our car and heading home.
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IMG_6542Fret Creek from the road near the trailhead.

The hike was just over 13 miles with approximately 2800′ of elevation gain. A number of shorter options could be done and longer trips are also possible with the numerous trails in the Badger Creek Wilderness.

It was great to see the mountains with fresh snow and nice to have some snow on the ground after the dry Spring and Summer. They are calling for a La Nina Winter which could mean plenty of precipitation. After this year we would welcome it. Hopefully it will be in the form of snow for the mountains and not rain though. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fret Creek to Flag Point

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Round and Square Lakes – 10/9/21

We were hoping to get a backpacking trip in over the holiday weekend but the forecast called for rain/snow in the mountains starting Saturday night through the rest of the weekend so we opted instead for a day hike instead. The good news was that the forecast for Saturday was for partly to mostly sunny skies so we were hoping for some nice views. We’d chosen a hike to Round and Square Lakes near Three Fingered Jack and the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness which was the shortest of the drives (a little over 1 1/2 hours from Salem) that we had been considering. While we hadn’t been to Round Lake yet we had passed by Square Lake on a loop hike in 2012 (post). Earlier this year on our hike to Santiam Lake (post) we had retraced some the beginning of that loop. For this hike we would also be starting at the Pacific Crest Trailhead at Santiam Pass but would be retracing the final 4.5 miles of the 2012 loop between Booth Lake and the trailhead.

Both Reeder and Sullivan describe hikes to Round and Square Lakes but each of their descriptions are for out and back hikes starting at the Round Lake Trailhead which is closer to the Sisters/Bend area. Starting at Santiam Pass cut off some driving but it did add approximately 5 miles of hiking to our days total. We arrived at the trailhead just in time to catch a bit of color from the sunrise.
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IMG_5758Black Crater (post)

After 0.2 miles we turned right at the junction with the Old Summit Trail.
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The Old Summit Trail traverses a hillside above Highway 20 through snags left over from the 2003 B & B Complex (Bear and Booth Fires). The lack of larger trees provides plenty of views south to Black Crater, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Hayrick Butte and Hoodoo Butte. The over night clouds were quickly breaking up as we hiked revealing more and more of the mountains.
IMG_5768Black Crater and North Sister

IMG_5772Black Crater, the top of Broken Top, some of the Sisters, and part of Mt. Washington.

IMG_5775Hayrick and Hoodoo

IMG_5777Between Mt. Washington and Hayrick Butte is Scott Mountain (post).

IMG_5787Cache Mountain is the high point furthest to the left.

IMG_5788Broken Top and the Three Sisters

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IMG_5797Mt. Washington

IMG_5798The Three Sisters. The summit of South Sister is between North and Middle Sister behind 9321′ Prouty Point.

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IMG_5812Black Butte (post)

Near the 2 mile mark we entered the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The wilderness sign provided a good reference for comparing how much taller the trees were this time versus in 2012.
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Mount Jefferson Wilderness signA different angle from 2012.

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Shortly after entering the wilderness we began descending toward Square Lake. Three Fingered Jack was somewhat hidden behind a cloud further to the north.
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The only deer we spotted during the hike popped out of some brush below the trail for just a moment before disappearing back into it. As has been the case more often than not this year I did not have my camera at the ready so all I got was one of their white rumps.
IMG_5825One white rump with a black tail amid the ferns near the center of the photo (good luck).

The trail wrapped around the lake past a large campsite to a junction with the Round Lake trail approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead.
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IMG_5827The only paintbrush we would see all day.

IMG_5829The top of Mt. Washington is just visible on the other side of Square Lake.

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At the junction we followed the pointer for the Round Lake Trail and continued along Square Lake.
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IMG_5837Mt. Washington’s spire again.

IMG_5839A rainbow was trying to form to the west.

We soon left Square Lake and continued through the recovering forest.
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IMG_5842Lodgepole pine seeds require fire in order to be released from their tight cones.

The Round Lake Trail is just about 2 miles long running between the junction and the Round Lake Trailhead to the east. Several maps show the trail passing near Long Lake Lake along the way. It does not but rather veers away form that lake. It may have been an older pre-fire alignment but Reeder mentions this discrepancy in the map and warns “don’t even bother trying to find it unless you’ve got lots of time and patience”. I’ll be honest and say this sounded like a little bit of a challenge so when we were able to spot the western end of Long Lake we decided to make an attempt for it.
IMG_5847Our first sighting of Long Lake (zoomed in).

Using our GPS and a paper map as backup we angled cross country toward the lake which quickly was hidden from sight. There were plenty of downed trees to climb over or around and one line of snowbrush to push through but we also were able to follow some game trails which helped us find ways through the obstacles. It was also evident that the area around the lake can be pretty wet and probably muddy meaning getting as close as we did probably wouldn’t be possible at other times.
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We reached the western end of the lake after three tenths of a mile. It took less than 15 minutes but without a map and some route finding skills we wouldn’t advise it.
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IMG_5850Ducks taking off from Long Lake.

Any thoughts of walking around the north side of the lake quickly vanished when we saw how dense the vegetation and downed trees were.
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We did however return to the Round Lake Trail by bearing NE. It took a little over 21 minutes to find the trail just over a half mile from the lake.
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IMG_5860This is one of the areas that we could see getting pretty muddy/wet.

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IMG_5870Rainbow

IMG_5871The Round Lake Trail just on the other side of the downed tree.

IMG_5873Long Lake is back down that way somewhere.

We turned right and continued east on the Round Lake Trail.
IMG_5874Back on the Round Lake Trail.

IMG_5876Black Butte shedding the morning clouds.

IMG_5879The top of Three Fingered Jack behind some thin clouds.

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IMG_5883Green Ridge (post) in the distance with a little smoke rising from the Metolious Basin where the Forest Service had ignited a prescribed burn over the preceding two days.

IMG_5892A better look at Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_5898First glimpse of Round Lake.

The trail descended to a small parking area at the trailhead next to the Wilderness Lakes Retreat.
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We’d seen some maps showing a trail around the north side of the lake through the retreat to some camp sites on the eastern end but we weren’t sure if the retreat was private property or if it was okay to hike through so we opted to follow Forest Road 600 from the trailhead around the south side of the lake.
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When we spotted a path heading down off the road we took it and made our way down to the lake shore.
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The partial rainbow returned as we took a break at the lake.
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We eventually pulled ourselves away from Round Lake and headed back toward Square Lake. We were feeling a little moisture in the air and based on the clouds ahead we were expecting to find ourselves in some misty fog at best by the time we made it back to the Old Summit Trail.
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IMG_5955Starting to look kind of grey.

IMG_5961A mountain bluebird adding a splash of blue to the green backdrop.

IMG_5966Clouds over Square Lake.

IMG_5968A few scarlet gilia blossoms.

Instead of heading straight back onto the Old Summit Trail we turned right in order to revisit Booth Lake. From Square Lake the Old Summit Trail switchbacked uphill gaining 400′ in the next mile to a gap between a rock outcrop and a rocky hill. We remembered seeing a small lake amid the rocks over on the opposite hill and as we climbed this time we began thinking that it might be possible to get to the unnamed lake.
IMG_5975The unnamed lake is about halfway up the far hillside.

IMG_5981Black Butte and Long Lake from the trail.

IMG_5994Heading toward Three Fingered Jack we got back under blue skies.

IMG_6003Square Lake still under a clouds,

IMG_6008The unnamed lake that drew our attention.

Unnamed small lake in the Mt. Jefferson WildernessSimilar view from 2012.

We stopped momentarily at the gap discussing what route we would take if we did try and reach the lake. I was pretty certain I wanted to give it a shot but I decided to wait until we were headed back in case I changed my mind after reaching Booth Lake.
IMG_6014The trail at the gap. It was grey and cloudy to the west.

IMG_6016Still at the gap, it was blue skies to the east.

Beyond the gap the trail climbed just a bit arriving at its high point above Booth Lake in 0.3 miles.
IMG_6017There is Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_6027A good look at Green Ridge.

IMG_6030A lupine that was late to the party.

IMG_6038Booth Lake

Heather opted to stay at the high point instead of visiting the lake which was roughly 0.4 miles away and 150′ below. I shuffled down the trail and made my way to the familiar sandy lake shore.
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It didn’t look that much different than it had in 2012.
Three Fingered Jack from Booth Lake

I returned to Heather and we started back toward the gap. I was still planning on trying to reach the off trail lake but Heather was not. She had decided that she would only attempt it if the Three Sisters had been uncovered from the clouds. I went ahead of her and left the trail at the gap working my way up around rocks and over downed trees while climbing up a semi-steep slope. I trusted the deer tracks that I was trying to follow and sure enough made it to the little lake.
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IMG_6066The trail cut on the far hillside.

The rock cliffs holding the water on the eastern side made for some easy walking and great views down to Square Lake.
IMG_6074Black Butte, Long Lake, and part of Square Lake.

IMG_6078Square Lake along with Broken Top and the Three Sisters (Mt. Washington was hiding in the clouds still).

IMG_6093Part of the rock ledge.

IMG_6084Three Fingered Jack had once again disappeared.

As I was admiring the view I thought was hearing things but as I was making my way back along the ledge I spotted Heather on a small hill on the opposite side of the lake. The Three Sisters had been visible so she stuck to her word and had followed me up.
IMG_6094Where’s Heather.

After satisfying our desire for adventure we returned to the trail and headed back to Square Lake where we made a quick stop at the campsite.
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We spent the return hike watching the clouds almost clear from Mt. Washington just to reform over around its top.
20211009_132540View climbing away from Square Lake.

Three Fingered Jack and Square LakeSimilar view in 2012.

Square Lake2012

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IMG_6174Finally clear!

IMG_6181Hayrick Butte and Hoodo as we neared the trailhead.

This hike was a lot of fun with some new sights and some familiar but different sights. I wound up doing 14.8 miles according to the GPS and although no climbs were particularly long the up and down nature of the hike provided approximately 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain.

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Tumalo Mountain Sunrise Hike – 09/26/2021

After missing a week of hiking due to heavy rains arriving for the one weekend we’d obtained a Central Cascade Wilderness Overnight Permit we were heading to Bend to celebrate Heather’s parents 50th wedding anniversary (congratulations again). That was possibly the first time we were excited to have to cancel our hiking plans as the rain (and snow on the mountains) continues to be greatly needed. Saturday was set aside for the anniversary party but we planned on getting a quick hike in Sunday morning before driving home.

In 2014 we attempted a to catch the sunrise from Tumalo Mountain (post) but were thwarted by low clouds which provided almost zero viability. Nearly seven years later (9/26/21 vs 9/27/14) we returned for another attempt and this time were rewarded with a colorful show. We arrived at the Dutchman Sno-park/Trailhead just after 5am and got ready to head out using our headlamps. Things already looked more promising than on our previous trip as the Moon was visible over Mt. Bachelor.
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The Tumalo Mountain Trail gains 1425′ in two miles to the site of a former lookout tower. I hustled up to the lookout site as fast as my legs would allow and arrived a little after 6am to catch the first strip of color to the east beyond Bend.
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After Heather joined me we continued further along the broad summit to the northern end where the view included Mt. Bachelor to the south and the Three Sisters and Broken Top immediately to the NW.
20210926_062629Mt. Bachelor

20210926_062918The Three Sisters and Broken Top

We spent the next half an hour watching the changing light and colors as we waited for the Sun to rise. We had brought an extra camera which I had been using the day before to photograph the anniversary. This proved interesting as each of the cameras we were using captured the sights in their own ways. As I’ve mentioned before I basically have no idea what I’m doing as far as photography and mostly I just rely on getting lucky once in awhile if I take enough photos. My usual camera is a Canon SX740HS, a small point and shoot with 40x optical zoom. Heather was using her phone, an LGE LM-G820, and the other camera, a Nikon Coolpix P900, belongs to my parents.
DSCN1128Mt. Bachelor via the Nikon.

IMG_5444Heather watching the show taken with the Canon.

IMG_5446The Three Sisters with the Canon.

IMG_5450Canon

DSCN1129Nikon

IMG_5455Mt. Bachelor (post) with the Canon.

IMG_5461Canon shortly before the Sun became visible.

IMG_5462Canon shortly before the Sun became visible.

DSCN1140The Three Sister just before sunrise with the Nikon.

20210926_064832The Three Sister just before sunrise with Heather’s phone.

IMG_5467Canon moments before sunrise. A line of wildfire smoke on the horizon gave it a red tint.

IMG_5469Canon

IMG_5471Canon catching the Sun.

IMG_5473Canon

DSCN1155The Three Sisters and Broken Top (Nikon)

DSCN1157South Sister (post) (Nikon)

DSCN1156Middle and North Sister (Nikon)

DSCN1158Broken Top (post) (Nikon)

IMG_5481Aline glow hitting the mountains. (Canon)

IMG_5478South Sister (Canon)

IMG_5479Middle and North Sister (Canon)

IMG_5480Broken Top (Canon)

IMG_5484Mt. Bachelor (Canon)

We started back down as soon as the sun was up.
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There were lots of views of Mt. Bachelor on the way down and we could also make out Mt. Thielsen (post) and Mt. Scott (post) further south.

IMG_5503Mt. Scott to the left and Mt. Thielsen to the right.

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IMG_5519Grouse

IMG_5523Chipmunk

IMG_5528Mt. Bachelor as we arrived back at the snow-park.

We finished our hike just after 7:45am and headed back to Salem. The hike had been everything we could have hoped for. There were just enough clouds in the sky to create some beautiful colors (the lingering smoke even added a bit although we would rather it wasn’t in the air) and the mountains were all clearly visible. My GPS showed a total of 4.7 miles which made sense given it was too cold to simply sit while we waited for the sunrise, spending over half an hour wandering around at the summit.

There were two other groups of hikers watching the sunrise with us and we passed many more as we descended. Tumalo Mountain is a great choice for a short hike with spectacular views. It is also just outside the Three Sisters Wilderness meaning that a Cascade Wilderness Permit is not needed. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tumalo Mountain

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Heritage Landing – 09/13/2021

After spending two days hiking in the Blue Mountains NE of Pendleton it was time to head home. We typically look for a short hike that can act as a leg stretcher when we are facing long drives to or from a vacation spot. Driving from Pendleton to Salem meant looking for something along I-84 preferably closer to Pendleton than Salem. Looking through our hiking books gave us the perfect answer, Heritage Landing. The hike along the Deschutes River from Heritage Landing is included in Matt Reeder’s “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook (Hike #9). There is also an entry for the hike on Oregonhikers.com as well. Heritage Landing is primarily used by rafters and fishermen but the fishermen and other users have created a series of trails up river at least as far as Rattlesnake Bend.

We parked in a gravel lot on the left side of the road just uphill from the boat ramp and hiked down past a gate.
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We followed an old road bed upstream past Moody Rapids. We had hiked the Deschutes River Trail on the other side of the river in 2018 (post)
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IMG_5256Sunlight on Haystack Butte in Washington.

IMG_5260Part of Moody Rapids.

IMG_5258Gum weed

IMG_5262The last petals on a blanket flower.

IMG_5265We saw several of these large beetles, all prepared to defend themselves.

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IMG_5267Snow buckwheat

IMG_5275Chicory

IMG_5281Seagull

IMG_5282Mergansers

The trail passed by a spring where thick blackberry bushes and other green vegetation hosted a number of small birds (and a few fishermen).

IMG_5285Sparrow

Shortly after passing the spring both Heather and I noticed something that looked out of place down by the water but we both decided it was another fisherman. After a few more steps we realized it was a river otter grooming itself on a small rock or patch of grass. I tried to grab my camera but it somehow knew I wanted a photo and disappeared into the water. The next thing we knew there were three otters swimming with the current and heading downstream but they were close enough to the bank that my camera kept focusing on the grass or limbs between them and us so I still don’t have a decent picutre of an otter. 😦
IMG_5292One blurry otter head and another partial otter on the right.

IMG_5293A bunch of tree branches, oh and an otter in the water.

After the exciting and yet disappointing otter encounter we continued up river. We planned on hiking until either the tread petered out or we reached Rattlesnake Rapids. The tread petered out a little before the rapids but we had a nice view of them from Rattlesnake Bend.
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IMG_5302At times there were multiple trails to choose from.

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IMG_5314Rattlesnake Bend is up ahead but we stopped here for a bit to watch a heron getting breakfast.

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IMG_5320A sparrow, possibly a Savannah sparrow.

IMG_5322The trail climbed higher on the hillside for a bit to avoid some thick vegetation below.

IMG_5330Rattlesnake Bend

IMG_5337Railroad tracks above the trail.

IMG_5338Looking back from Rattlesnake Bend near where we turned around.

IMG_5339Rattlesnake Rapids

On our way back we tried to choose the fishing trails closer to the river.
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IMG_5343Killdeer

IMG_5345An older channel?

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IMG_5348Had to go back up to avoid the vegetation here.

IMG_5350Ground squirrel

IMG_5354Heron flying up river.

IMG_5359Old rock wall along the way.

IMG_5360Typical use trail.

IMG_5363Merganser

IMG_5364Aster

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IMG_5366Osprey showing up the fishermen.

IMG_5370Finch

IMG_5372More birds near the spring.

IMG_5373Little yellow birds, maybe warblers?

IMG_5377One of the yellow birds on a blackberry plant.

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IMG_5384Moody Rapids

IMG_5390Haystack Butte

IMG_5391A line of mergansers.

This turned out to be an excellent hike with great scenery and plenty of wildlife (and no rattlesnakes). We got in a little over 4 miles round trip. Reeder listed it as a 3.2 mile out and back while Oregonhikers has it at 3.8 miles but a lot depends on where you turn around and how much back and forth you do down to the river.

Our track for the day.

It hadn’t been the vacation that we’d originally planned but our three days of hiking were beautiful and we were thankful to have been able to enjoy them so much. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Heritage Landing

Categories
Blue Mountains - North Hiking Oregon Trip report

Jubilee Lake and the South Fork Walla Walla River – 09/12/2021

After spending the night in Pendleton we headed back to the same area in the Blue Mountains where we had hiked the day before on the Wenaha River Trail (post). We started our day at the Jubilee Lake Campground. (We had passed the entrance road the day before on our way to the Timothy Springs Trailhead.) An earlier version of this trip had us staying at the campground given the hike here and it’s proximity to the other two trails that made up the trip but sleeping in a comfy bed won out over a tent in a busy campground. After paying the $3 day use fee we parked near the boat ramp where the morning sunlight was just hitting the lake.
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The Jubilee Lake Trail loops around the the lake and is one of two hikes Sullivan lists for hike #42 in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” 3rd edition guidebook. He recommended hiking the loop counter-clockwise so we headed right from the boat ramp past a picnic area and onto a paved trail.
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From the boat ramp the trail winds around the lake for three quarters of a mile to the lake’s dam which was built in 1968. We passed several picnic tables and viewpoints along this stretch.
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The trail passed over the dam and continued on the far side switching from paved to dirt tread.
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IMG_5077This squirrel was making an impressive amount of noise with its mouth full.

IMG_5081Passing around one of the lake’s arms.

IMG_5084One of several bridges over creeks.

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DSCN0852Mergansers

There were several benches positioned along the trail. We got a kick out of this one which was right next to a nice view of the lake but it was facing directly into some trees.
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IMG_5099The view next to the bench.

20210912_080313_HDRThe view from the bench.

IMG_5100Going around another arm.

20210912_080713A checker-mallow

20210912_080717Aster

IMG_5106Forest as we neared the campground again.

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IMG_5116Arriving back at the ramp.

The loop around the lake came in at just about three miles which we thought was a perfect distance for a hike around a lake. Longer loops around lakes often begin to feel repetitive but this one didn’t. We were also glad we stopped here first as there wasn’t anyone out on the lake while we hiked nor did we pass any other users on the trail (there were a couple of fishermen/hunters behind us at one point). From Jubilee Lake we then drove to our second stop at the Rough Fork Trailhead near Mottet Campground. The final 1.5 miles to this trailhead on FR 6043 were rough and probably only passable with a high clearance vehicle.
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From the trailhead we followed a sign for the Rough Fork Trail.
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The Rough Fork Trail descends nearly 1900′ in 3.3 miles. Twelve switchbacks allow the grade to never be too steep and there were nice views nearly all the way down to the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.
IMG_5122The first part of the trail passed through a stand of trees.

IMG_5125View to the west along the South Fork Walla Walla River canyon.

IMG_5128Loved the top of this tree.

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IMG_5133Another view, there was just a hint of smoke in the air giving the hillsides a blue tint which is where the name “Blue Mountains” comes from. Apparently smoke has been a common occurrence here for a long time.

20210912_091153There was a lot more Fall color along this trail.

IMG_5140Paintbrush

IMG_5145Cone flower

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IMG_5147Aster amid some thimbleberry leaves.

IMG_5148Vine maple

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IMG_5180Looking down toward the Sheep Creek.

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IMG_5191Finally found the river.

IMG_5193There was a 6 to 8′ waterfall along Sheep Creek but no way to get a clear view of it through the thick vegetation on a steep hillside.

As we neared the river the trail leveled out in a lusher forest.
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IMG_5196Two types of clover.

IMG_5200Footbridge over the South Fork Walla Walla River.

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There was a small campsite near the bridge where we took a break and watched an ouzel dip up and down on rocks in the river.
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IMG_5210Reser Creek on the left joining the South Fork Walla Walla River just upstream from the bridge.

There was another small cascade on Sheep Creek near the river which I was able to reach with a little effort.
IMG_5214There were just enough exposed rocks for me to work my way downstream from the bridge to Sheep Creek.

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After enjoying the river we headed back up having completed Sullivan’s suggested hike here. We could have continued two more miles downstream to Box Canyon but adding another four miles to our day didn’t seem necessary. The climb up wasn’t as bad as we’d feared. The grade along with a cooling breeze that would come and go helped immensely.
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IMG_5224A couple of the larch trees were just starting to turn color for the fall.

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IMG_5244A scarlet gilia blossom waiting to fall off.

IMG_5249A final view back over the canyon with the crooked tree.

The hike came in at the expected 6.6 miles giving us a total of 9.6 for the day.

Rough Fork Trail track

We were done early enough to spend a relaxing afternoon in Pendleton where we discovered that a lot of the downtown restaurants were closed on Sundays. We wound up eating at Thai Crystal which turned out to be a good choice. These two hikes finished off Sullivan’s featured hikes in the northern Blue Mountains but that doesn’t mean we wont be back. There are more trails in the area and all our hikes there so far have been enjoyable. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Jubliee Lake and the South Fork Walla Walla River

Categories
Blue Mountains - North Hiking Oregon Trip report

Upper Wenaha River – 09/11/2021

For the second year in a row our September vacation plans were disrupted by wildfires. The reality we are facing is that this may well be the norm now and maybe September isn’t the best time to try and take a hiking trip. We’d been avoiding October due to the erratic weather that time of year but it might be time to rethink that. Unlike last September when we scrapped our plans and just stayed home staying inside to avoid the smoke this year we had a viable back up plan. Our original plan was for a long weekend in Union Creek near Crater Lake National Park but that area seemed to be ground zero for unhealthy air quality so we canceled our reservations there and watched the weather and smoke forecast waiting until Friday to make our final decision. A favorable forecast put Pendleton as our first choice but according to the Forest Service website two of the three trails we planned on hiking were showing as closed. The entire Umatilla National Forest had been closed earlier this year due to wildfires but those were either out or mostly contained and the closure area had been greatly reduced. I reached out to the Forest Service and they confirmed that despite what the website said the trails we were planning on hiking were open.

It was a 5 to 5 1/2 hour drive from Salem to the Timothy Springs Trailhead for our first hike of the weekend on the Wenaha River Trail. We had hiked on this trail in 2019 but from the other end near Troy, OR (post). The trail is just under 31.5 miles long but for this hike we planned on following the trail downhill for 4.5 miles to Milk Creek which is Sullivan’s longer option for his featured hike #43 in the 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon”. We arrived to find the campground at the trailhead full of bow hunters which we had expected this time of year. We parked in a dirt area not far from the historic Timothy Springs Guard Station because the only spot open at the actual trailhead would have meant parking over grass which we didn’t want to do given the fire danger.
IMG_4882The guard station.

IMG_4884The only “parking spot” open near the actual trailhead.

The trail immediately entered the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
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The trail descended gradually through a the forest crossing a couple of small streams before reaching the South Fork Wenaha River at the 2.3 mile mark.
IMG_4889There was a lot of cone flower along the trail.

IMG_4891It had rained the night before but most of the moisture had already dried up or evaporated.

IMG_4898There were just a few flowers hanging on.

IMG_4899There was also a nice variety of mushrooms.

IMG_4900Paintbrush

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IMG_4908One of the small streams.

IMG_4910Self-heal

IMG_4913There weren’t many views along the trail but this one was nice.

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IMG_4921Pearly everlasting

IMG_4923Ghost pipe

IMG_4925This was one of the smallest frogs we’ve seen. When I first saw it jump I mistook it for a grasshopper.

A short distance before reaching the river we passed what Sullivan described as 6′ waterfall. There wasn’t much water flowing this time of year so we had to picture it mostly.
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IMG_4932South Fork Wenaha River

The river was just wide enough and the logs wet enough that crossing dry wasn’t an option so we forded the river, it was maybe mid-calf at its deepest. A brief climb on the far side quickly put us above the river as the trail traversed a rock hillside.
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The views were better along this section as it gradually descended to Milk Creek 2.2 miles beyond the South Fork Wenaha ford.
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IMG_4953One of two snakes we came across, both the harmless types.

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IMG_4961South Fork Wenaha River

IMG_4965Fall colors along the trail.

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IMG_4971Milk Creek with the Wenaha River Trail continuing on the far side.

IMG_4972Milk Creek joining the South Fork Wenaha River.

DSCN0844Elderberry near Milk Creek

DSCN0845Snowberry

After a nice break at Milk Creek we began the 1300′ climb back to the trailhead. It was a fairly uneventful return trip but we managed to spot a few flowers and mushrooms along the way that we’d missed on our first pass.
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IMG_4989Might be an aven?

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IMG_5004Coral fungus

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IMG_5017Aster

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IMG_5022A lone arnica still blooming.

This was a pleasant 9.1 mile hike and despite it being bow hunting season most of the hunters were already back in camp when we arrived so we only saw one group of three people the entire hike.

It was interesting to see the difference in the forest and terrain between the upper and lower ends of the Wenaha River Trail too. We then drove to Pendleton and after a little hiccup in our plans checked into a motel and then went to OMG! Burgers & Brew for dinner. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Upper Wenaha River

Categories
Hiking Indian Heaven Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek – 09/05/2021

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4494Sign at the saddle between Peggy and Janet Lakes.

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

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

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

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

20210905_090147Me getting close to the top.

IMG_4546The top of the ridge.

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

IMG_4556Mt. St. Helens behind a line of clouds.

IMG_4559Gifford Peak (post) behind us.

IMG_4561Chipmunk

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

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

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

IMG_4595Looking toward Mt. St. Helens

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

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

IMG_4607Mt. Hood as we headed downhill.

IMG_4609Red Mountain and its lookout tower.

IMG_4617This beargrass is way off schedule.

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

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

IMG_4652View of Mt. Adams beyond Indian Heaven.

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

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

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

IMG_4671Mt. Hood with smoke from the Bull Complex behind.

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

IMG_4686Race Track Lake on the left.

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

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IMG_4700Footbridge over Falls Creek.

IMG_4702Falls Creek

IMG_4710Butterfly near Falls Creek.

IMG_4712Sign at the final trail junction near FR 65.

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

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

Flickr: Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek