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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 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.
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IMG_4700Footbridge over Falls Creek.

IMG_4702Falls Creek

IMG_4710Butterfly near Falls Creek.

IMG_4712Sign at the final trail junction near FR 65.

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

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

Flickr: Indian Racetrack via Falls Creek

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

Norway Pass – 08/29/2021

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

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

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IMG_4318Mt. Rainier without a whole bunch of smoke.

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

IMG_4333FR 2551

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

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

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

IMG_4343FR 25 at the end of a long straight away.

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

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

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

IMG_4360Buckwheat

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IMG_4369We could hear a waterfall in the valley below.

IMG_4368The top of the waterfall.

IMG_4373Penstemon and pearly everlasting.

IMG_4382Looking back over our shoulders to Meta Lake.

IMG_4384Mt. Adams also from over our shoulders.

IMG_4385Aster

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IMG_4388Switchback at the Independence Ridge Trail junction.

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

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IMG_4399Penstemon

IMG_4445Monkeyflower

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

IMG_4408Orange agoseris

IMG_4412Approaching the pass.

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

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

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

Flickr: Norway Pass

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3789Penstemon

IMG_3791Paintbrush

IMG_3798Mt. St. Helens

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

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

IMG_3835The Dome

IMG_3832Mt. Margaret

IMG_3831Mount Teragram

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

IMG_3851Mt. St. Helens.

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

IMG_3864Mt. Rainier

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

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

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

IMG_3897Butterfly on pearly everlasting

IMG_3899Lupine in the pearly everlasting

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IMG_3911Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_3913Might be Oregon sunshine

IMG_3915Penstemon

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

IMG_3943Pearly everlasting

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IMG_3950The Loowit Trail junction.

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

IMG_3953In the gully.

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

IMG_3965Big Spring is in the willow thicket.

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

IMG_3974A pink monkeyflower at the spring.

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IMG_3984Looking back at the willows and Big Spring.

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

IMG_3992The Sugar Bowl lava dome.

IMG_3996_stitchSpirit Lake from the trail.

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

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

IMG_4016Dropping into the second gully.

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

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

IMG_4031Sign for Loowit Falls.

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

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

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

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

IMG_4105Dwarf lupine

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

IMG_4122Heading toward Spirit Lake.

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

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IMG_4150Vehicles ahead in the research parking area.

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

IMG_4160Mt. Adams

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

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IMG_4168Some sort of sulphur butterfly on pearly everalsting.

Our 10.7 mile track from the Windy Ridge Interpretive Site

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

IMG_4196Blueberries

IMG_4210Huckleberries

IMG_4209Mushrooms (the flowers of Fall)

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

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

IMG_4193Candyflower

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

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

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

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

IMG_4243Elk Creek

IMG_4244Pink monkeyflower along Elk Creek

IMG_4247Lupine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4281Mt. Hood in the haze.

IMG_4283Mt. Rainier

IMG_4284Mt. Rainier

IMG_4286Mt. Adams

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

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

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

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

Flickr: Harmony Falls, Windy Ridge, and Badger Lake

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Pueblo Mountains – 08/20/2021

We had a long day planned for the final day of our trip to SE Oregon. We were starting off by doing Sullivan’s Pueblo Mountains hike (#96 in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” guidebook and we were going to attempt the long drive back to Salem (a 6 1/2 to 7 hour drive). We were a little nervous about getting to Sullivan’s starting point for his described 7.2 mile hike which follows a portion of the Oregon Desert Trail. He describes the final 2.2 miles of road as a “rocky, bumpy road”..”passable only by high-clearance vehicles”. Given where we were and the tire scare we’d had earlier in the week we decided that adding 4.4 miles of road walk round trip was okay with us so after turning right off of Highway 205 exactly three miles south of Fields we followed a decent gravel road 4.7 miles to a fork where we took the left most track a hundred yards or so to the first decent spot we could pull off and park at.

The Oregon Desert Trail is a 750 mile route doesn’t always follow a trail (or road or other discernible track).
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The section we would be hiking was guided by rock cairns with a couple of sections of what appeared to be actual tread but may also simply have been game/cattle trails that were going the same way. First we had to get to the start of the hike though so after a moment appreciating the desert sunrise we started up the rocky road.
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IMG_3473The view back along the road to the fork.

IMG_3475Road walk

IMG_3476Rabbit

There was a bit more smoke/haze on the horizon this morning than there had been for a few days and a red Sun rose in the east.
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After just under a mile the road made a 90 degree turn at a fence corner then crossed Sesena Creek, which was still flowing.
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IMG_3495A hawk in a dead tree above the springs feeding Sesena Creek.

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IMG_3504This was the only water we’d see all day.

We arrived at the grassy flat Sullivan described as the start of the hike. Sullivan listed 14 cairns along his hike starting with one here at the starting point but the rocks it had been comprised of were spread on the ground. We hoped that wasn’t a sign of things to come.
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IMG_3740The first cairn from later in the day.

Luckily Sullivan had supplied GPS coordinates both along the drive and for cairns 1, 5, 10, and 14 which I had entered into both our GPS units. From the road at cairn one we followed an old road bed through the sage brush toward the mountains.
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A little over half a mile along the road brought us to another grassy area, an old cow lick, where we veered left on a trail (cattle?) through the sagebrush.
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We could see the second cairn on a little rise ahead to our right and made our way towards it.
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Sullivan’s instructions beyond the cow lick were to “head cross-country up the leftmost branch of the valley and scramble up past a grove of shrub-sized mountain mahogany trees to find cairn #3”. We could see the mahogany trees and using binoculars and the zoom feature on the camera were able to spot what we assume to be cairn #3.
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From there the climb got steep fast and neither of us are sure we we ever saw cairn #4. Luckily we had the GPS coordinates for #5, which was 0.3 miles from #3, to keep us relatively on track.
IMG_3566View from cairn #3.

IMG_3565Looking back over the mahogany trees, the rise with cairn #2 and the cow lick.

IMG_3567Looking up the steep hillside.

IMG_3572On the climb up to #5.

Cairn #5 was said to be atop a 12′ rock in a saddle. There appeared to be more than one possible saddle though as we climbed and at the angle we were at we couldn’t see any 12′ rocks.
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I picked a saddle to aim for and arrived first but there was no cairn here.
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IMG_3577The view from the saddle.

I climbed up on a the rocks to the west of the saddle to see if I could see cairn #5 which, based on the GPS coordinates would have been a little to the SE and downhill from where I was.
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When Heather arrived we discussed the next stage our hike. Even though we couldn’t see #5 from where we were we could see another cairn atop a cliff on the hillside ahead of us.

We decided to contour up along the hillside heading for that cairn and as we came over a rise we spotted what must have been cairn #5.
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IMG_3587A kestral on a cairn.

The GPS coordinates were a little off but it fit the description of the fifth cairn pretty well.
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We continued heading uphill toward the cliff with what we believe was cairn #6.
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IMG_3593You can see Heather following me up on this “less” steep section.

As we neared the cliffs we spotted another cairn which was a lot easier to reach.
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IMG_3601Looking down into the haze in the east.

From the cairn with no number we could see another cairn perched atop a rock outcrop which we determined to be #7 since #8 was shown to be at a pass.
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IMG_3603Cairn #7 was being guarded by magpies.

Cairn #7 was uphill more than was necessary to reach the ridge beyond it so instead of heading directly for it we traversed the hillside below it.
IMG_3605View south over the Pueblo Mountains.

IMG_3607Passing below cairn #7 (upper right corner).

We found cairn #8 at the pass.
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IMG_3610View to the NW from the pass.

IMG_3612Pueblo Mountain (the large rounded peak) from the pass.

Heather was delayed reaching the pass due to spotting a sheep moth.
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Sullivan’s map was a little confusing from cairn #8 to cairn #9. The sketch appeared to show the route passing behind (on the west side of) a rise to cairns #9 & #10 and then arriving at cairn #11 at another pass. What we found was that it was easier to hike south on the ridge for two tenths of a mile where a much larger rock outcrop forced us off the ridge to the west.
IMG_3613We climbed this rise on the ridge and continued on the top for a bit.

Heather near cairn #8 in the saddle and cairn #7 on the hillside behind.

We didn’t cross over to the west side until we reached a much larger rock formation along the ridge.
IMG_3616Looking at the rocky cliffs that would force us to the west.

We were starting to notice actual tread along the ridge and when we reached the rocks a clear, albeit thin, trail could be seen traversing the hillside.
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IMG_3632It’s not a desert trail without bones.

As we approached the other end of the rock outcrop we spied cairn #9 on a hillside.
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IMG_3634Looking back

The tread disappeared in a small draw filled with sagebrush, but a little bushwhacking and a short steep climb got us to the cairn.
IMG_3636The sagebrush draw below (Heather is traversing the hillside.)

IMG_3635Cairn #9 and the view west.

For some reason cairn #10 was ahead and further DOWN the hillside. From cairn #9 we could see our goal for the day ahead, a high point on a ridge above the Oregon Desert Trail before it began a descent that would eventually lead to Denio, Nevada.
IMG_3637The next ridge is where the high point we were planning to turn around at was.

We made our way to the saddle where cairn #11 sat.
IMG_3640Cairn #11 in the saddle along the ridge.

IMG_3642Heather dropping down to the saddle, cairn #10 was out of frame to the left here.

IMG_3646View to the west from the saddle.

From cairn #11 we could see cairn #12 sitting atop an outcrop at the start of the next rocky section.
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IMG_3648Sculpted rock along the ridge.

The small section of hike near cairn #12 was one of the toughest on the day. Large boulders were surrounded by taller and thicker sagebrush than any we’d encountered since the mahogany trees. The easiest route was to boulder hop as directly as possible to the cairn which meant extra climbing but the vegetation was too thick to pass through safely due to hidden holes amid the boulders.
IMG_3650Heather making her way up to #12.

We then followed the rocky ridge until the sagebrush thinned out.
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IMG_3654Thought this might be an arrowhead or at least something that was used for a tool of some sort.

IMG_3655Heather resting by cairn #12 while I scouted the route.

After a false summit we realized that the high point was at the far end of the ridge.
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IMG_3664A hazy Pueblo Mountain (and more of the Pueblo Mts.) from the high point.

IMG_3665Cairn #15 is on a small rock outcrop near the saddle at center.

DSCN0821Cairn #15 (at least we think).

We had a nice break at the summit, and for some reason I felt compelled to trot down and tag cairn #14 only to realize too late that I had to hike back up to the high point.
IMG_3680Cairn #15 below from the cairn #14 coordinates, it appears that cairn #14 may have been at least partially dismantled.

IMG_3683Oh great, more uphill.

It would have been nice to have had a less hazy view but at least we could make a few things out.
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DSCN0819Peaks in the Pueblo Mts. near the Nevada border.

DSCN0829Cairn #12 and the saddle zoomed in.

DSCN0838Van Horn Creek is down there somewhere as is Ten Cent Meadows.

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After resting up we headed back attempting to follow the same route but judging by our track we may have been drinking something other than water up at the high point.
IMG_3696A lupine with a few blossoms left.

IMG_3701Lots of colored lichen on the rocks along the way.

IMG_3707Vertical rocks.

IMG_3713Rounded rocks.

IMG_3724Back to the mahogany trees.

IMG_3729Cairn #2 dead ahead.

IMG_3731Found the cow lick again.

IMG_3735Looking back at the Pueblo Mountains from the road walk.

IMG_3742Trees marking the spring and Sesena Creek.

IMG_3748The southern end of Steens Mountain from the road walk.

IMG_3751Sage grouse hen

The last half mile or so of the road walk provided us with a couple of close encounters with common nighthawks that were resting along the barbed wire fence.
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We got back to our car just before 1pm and after changing started the long drive to Salem. We got home just before 8pm making for a long but fun day. It had been a really nice vacation despite the hazy conditions for several of the hikes. The temperatures had ranged from hot the first two days to freezing on Wednesday to just about right Tuesday, Thursday and the hike in the Pueblos wasn’t all that warm either. We already have more ideas for hikes and stops in that part of Oregon so we’ll be heading back at some point even though we have finished with the “featured hikes” in the area. Happy Trails!

My mileage for the day came in at 13.3 including a total of 4.2 along the dirt road. Total elevation gain was approximately 2400′.

Our track for the hike. The orange segment is the road walk which was 2.1 miles each way.

Flickr: Pueblo Mountains

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Little Blitzen River – 08/19/2021

After three nights at the Steens Mountain Resort it was time to move on. Our plan for Thursday was to make two stops for hikes along the Little Blitzen River then continue driving south to Fields Station where we’d spend the night before hiking the Pueblo Mountains on Friday then making the long drive back to Salem. We started our morning at the Little Blitzen Trailhead located along the Steens Mountain Loop Road at South Steens Campground.
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The trail begins on the far side of the road and similar to the Big Indian Gorge Trail begins in a landscape of juniper and sagebrush.
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It was a much clearer morning than it had been when we hiked Big Indian Gorge on Tuesday.
IMG_3044Big and Little Indian Gorges from the Little Blitzen Trail.

IMG_3046Heading for the Little Blitzen Gorge.

IMG_3049So many dried out wild onions.

The trail descended to the lone ford of the Little Blitzen River at the 1.4 mile mark which we crossed easily on rocks.
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On the far side of the river was a sign for several trails. The Nye and Wet Blanket Trail led up out of the gorge further up the Little Blitzen Trail while the Fred Riddle Trail was barely visible along the grassy hillside leading off toward Cold Springs Road and the Riddle Ranch.
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We followed the Little Blitzen Trail through a grassy meadow and into a much narrower gorge than Big Indian Gorge.
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It was nice to not have any haze limiting our view of the rocky walls.
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Speaking of rocks there were quite a few larger boulders along this trail.
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There were also boulders present in the river which created some nice cascades.
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Our plan had been to turn around at 4-mile camp, approximately 4.5 miles from the trailhead or 3 miles beyond the ford. We took our time admiring the scenery along the way.
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IMG_3173Looking back the way we’d come.

IMG_3174The view ahead.

IMG_3178A stand of quacking aspen.

IMG_3179Something to avoid.

IMG_3181A geranium blossom.

IMG_3190Passing through some willows.

IMG_3192Hyssop

IMG_3193Vegetation along a spring fed creek.

IMG_3195Monkshood

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We hadn’t paid enough attention to Sullivan’s hike description so we didn’t realize when we passed the remains of an old corral that was Four Mile Camp.
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In our defense there were no obvious camp sites in this area, just a grassy area inside the corral remains. We had passed an obvious campsite about a mile earlier, too soon to be Four Mile Camp. We continued a half mile beyond the corral remains before deciding we had missed the camp and then we read the hike description again where Sullivan mentioned the corral.
IMG_3208The view ahead where we turned around.

IMG_3214A robin

IMG_3224Heading back

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IMG_3228The Little Blitzen River near Four Mile Camp

IMG_3234More of the old corral.

IMG_3235Gentians under a willow.

IMG_3249Paintbrush

IMG_3252Another little cascade along the river.

IMG_3256A nice pool.

IMG_3268There were a number of tiny grey birds in here, at least two in this photo.

IMG_3274A bigger bird, but not by a lot.

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IMG_3278A wood nymph

IMG_3309This was a huge boulder along the trail. At least two small junipers were growing out of it.

Having overshot Four Mile Camp our hike came in just under 10 miles round trip with about 900′ of elevation gain.

Little Blitzen Track

From the trailhead we drove back along Steens Mountain Loop Road a quarter mile and turned right on a narrow gravel road (signed from the other direction for the Riddle Brothers Ranch). We did this hike second because a gate 1.3 miles up the road doesn’t open until 9am.
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From the gate Ben Riddle’s restored cabin and his original stone house were visible on the hillside across the Little Blitzen River.
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IMG_3463The stone house is too low to even stand up in but it was enough to stake a claim to the land.

The road continues 1.3 more miles beyond the gate to the Riddle Brothers Ranch. Now a National Historic District the ranch was established in the early 1900s by brother Walter, Fredrick and Ben Riddle. We were met by the volunteer caretaker who gave us a tour and history of the ranch before we set off on the 1.5 mile Levi Brinkley Trail which follows the Little Blitzen River from the parking lot to its confluence with the Donner und Blitzen River (post).
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IMG_3339Upstairs

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IMG_3354The barn

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IMG_3361Inside the Bunkhouse

After touring the ranch we walked back across the Little Blitzen River to the other side of the parking lot where the Levi Brinkley Trail began.
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IMG_3369Levi was one of 9 Prinveille Hotshot firefighters who perished on Storm King Mountain in Colorado fighting the South Canyon Fire. This hit home for me having gone to school with one of the 9, Bonnie Holtby.

The trail set off along the river passing an old willow corral after a quarter mile.
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IMG_3374Thistle in a field once used for hay production by the Riddles.

IMG_3375Could be a green-tailed towhee

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Beyond the corral the trail made a series of ups and downs passing through several flat areas the Riddles once irrigated for hay.
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IMG_3390Lots of butterflies in the grassy areas.

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IMG_3417Nearing the confluence.

IMG_3420The confluence of the Donner und Blitzen River (left) and Little Blitzen River (right).

IMG_3433A skipper at the confluence.

We returned the way we’d come, keeping an eye out for snakes but the only reptile we spotted was a western fence lizard.
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IMG_3450A ringlet

IMG_3456The mouth of Big Indian Gorge from the Levi Brinkley Trail.

After completing the three mile hike here we drove back to Highway 205 and headed south (left) to Fields where we checked into our accommodations for the night at Fields Station then ordered bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes from the cafe. Heather got a chocolate, marshmallow, butterscotch combination and I froze at the wide variety of flavors and just got a butterscotch (it was good though).
IMG_3469Old wagon at Fields Station.

In the morning we’d be heading just a little further south into the Pueblo Mountains and then home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little Blitzen River

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Steens Mountain Summit – 08/18/2021

On Tuesday a change in the weather had pushed much of the smoke away from Steens Mountain which is what we had hopped would happen in anticipation for our drive up the Steens Mountain Loop Road on Wednesday. The shift in weather also brought cooler temperatures which had made the previous days hike at Big Indian Gorge one of the more comfortable (temperature wise) of the year thus far. We once again got an early start hoping to reach the first of four planned stops around 6am and immediately realized that it was a lot cooler than it had been Monday or Tuesday. In fact the car was showing 39 degrees when we set off. Since the Steens Mountain Resort where we were staying was located along the Steens Mountain Loop Road we simply left the resort and turned right driving past the entrance to the Page Springs Campground and gradually climbing up the fault block Steens Mountain. By the time we arrived at the left turn for our first stop the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint 19.1 miles beyond the Page Springs Campground the temperature was down to 30 degrees. Luckily we try and come prepared so we had jackets, Buffs, and gloves although in hindsight we could have been a little more prepared. There was a decent breeze which made it feel a lot colder than 30 degrees.
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The Kiger Gorge is one of 5 glacier carved valleys on Steens Mountain and is the largest and most scenic. We were fortunate to arrive just before some clouds moved in.
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IMG_2689Still some smoke to the east as shown by the red Sun.

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IMG_2699Here come the clouds.

With the clouds moving in we hustled back to the car and continued on the loop road another 2.7 miles to a four-way junction where we turned left at a pointer for the East Rim Viewpoint where the clouds had not yet reached.
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IMG_2717Between the Sun and haze it was hard to see much of the ragged eastern side of Steens Mountain or the Alvord Desert (post) below.

IMG_2713Frozen thistle

IMG_2718The Alvord Desert through the haze.

IMG_2716A look back at the parking area.

After checking out this view we returned to the 4-way junction and turned left at a pointer for Wildhorse Lake following this road for almost two miles to a parking area below the 9741′ summit of Steens Mountain. A gated road led uphill the final half mile to some towers on the summit.
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IMG_2731Wildhorse Lake below the summit.

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IMG_2734The rocks here provided a little protection from the freezing wind.

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IMG_2743Big Indian Gorge (post) from the summit.

IMG_2747Heather getting a closer look at Wildhorse Lake.

IMG_2752Not much snow left up here.

After checking out the summit we walked back down past the gate and turned left at a post on a trail heading downhill to a registration box.
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The trail split here with the left hand fork heading downhill for a mile to Wildhorse Lake. The tread was a little dicey near the top but soon became better as it switchbacked down to a small bench before steepening quite a bit along a small stream.
IMG_2772Typical tread near the top.

IMG_2776Buckwheat

IMG_2782The bench.

IMG_2786The small stream.

IMG_2788A wren.

IMG_2791Wildhorse Lake from near the end of the bench.

IMG_2792We were a little disappointed to see just how late we were for most all of the wildflowers. I don’t know how much the drought this year affected the timing or if it blooms that much earlier in SE Oregon but the remains of what looked to have been an excellent display were all we were left with.

IMG_2793A few stone steps began the steep descent along the stream.

IMG_2796A few of these little yellow flowers were still in bloom.

IMG_2799This was a mass of pink monkeyflower a few weeks ago.

IMG_2801A look up at the summit.

IMG_2803The trail descending less steeply to the lake.

IMG_2815A lone lupine blooming near the lake.

IMG_2821A pair of paintbrush and the remainder of some aster or fleabane.

IMG_2822A ground squirrel near the lake.

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We rested for a bit by the lake where there was thankfully not much of a breeze and then explored along the shore.
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DSCN0790The only pink monkeyflower blossom we spotted.

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IMG_2853Ranger buttons

IMG_2854Mountain coyote mint

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IMG_2831Cascade grass-of-parnassus

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IMG_2868Gentians

IMG_2870Wildhorse Creek

IMG_2873Looking down along Wildhorse Creek.

20210818_084407Wildhorse Lake and Steens Summit.

After checking out the lake we started back up the trail as a few more clouds began to move in.
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IMG_2927Rockfringe willowherb

IMG_2933Raptors soaring above Steens Mountain.

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When we had both reached the registration box we took the other trail fork downhill. Sullivan shows this unofficial trail leading to a pass above Little Wildhorse Lake after in a mile but mentions having to use your hands in an update on his website Oregonhiking.com but that “adventurous hikers should have no trouble”.

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IMG_2959Big Indian Gorge

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IMG_2965The summit from the unofficial trail.

IMG_2966The trail on the ridge.

IMG_2967Looking ahead at the ridge the rocky outcrop looked a bit intimidating.

IMG_2968The view out over Big Indian Gorge.

IMG_2970Wildhorse Lake

After a small saddle the trail came to the final rock fin along the ridge and I followed some clear tread along the left side of the outcrop.
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In hindsight the correct route was probably up onto the top of the ridge and the right hand side was a very steep loose rocky slope because the path I was following just ended at a small slide.
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IMG_2975I turned back here, I’m not that adventurous.

I retraced my steps and met Heather at the small saddle. She was not liking this little trail and at that point neither was I. Between the cold, incoming clouds, and steady breeze we decided we’d seen enough and retreated back to the trailhead.
IMG_2990Darker clouds over the summit from the trailhead.

IMG_2991A little better view of the Alvord Desert.

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51394274589_2328a93b39_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2994">Here comes the cloud.

IMG_2995The view as we prepared to drive off.

Our hike here came to a little over 6 miles with approximately 1400′ of elevation gain.

Track for Steens Summit

We drove back the way we’d come instead of completing the loop. Two reasons, the final downhill stretch to South Steens Campground was reportedly rough and recommended for 4×4 high clearance vehicles (In fact the folks at the resort recommended going counter-clockwise and driving up from that side if we were going to drive the loop) and we had a low tire pressure light on. It had come on when we’d driven over a cattle guard that morning which we were hoping was simply due to the cold temperatures but we didn’t want to try driving a rougher road in case. Going back the way we’d come would also gave us an opportunity to stop at the viewpoints again if the conditions looked better. The East Rim Viewpoint was in the middle of the clouds though so we drove on by but did detour to the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint again.
IMG_2996We did stop along the way to take a couple of photos.

IMG_2997Our planned hike for the next day was up this gorge.

The view was a little better and a little warmer at Kiger Gorge.
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We made one final stop on the way back to the resort by pulling into Fish Lake (5.7 miles from the turn for the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint). There is no hike here but we wanted to see the lake.
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The tire pressure light was still on when we got back to the resort so after showering we made the hour plus drive north into Burns to visit Les Schwab. Ironically we had had to stop in this same Les Schwab the last time we were in the Steens area due to a low tire pressure light in our Rav 4. That turned out to be a nail stuck in the tire but this time it was simply a low reading in the right rear tire. They made sure there was nothing stuck in it and that it wasn’t leaking and they had us back on our way in no time. We really appreciate the service we get from every Les Schwab we visit. It was a nice evening at the resort and the clouds made for a dramatic setting Sun.
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DSCN0804The historic Frenchglen Hotel zoomed in on from the resort.

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This was our final night here and we’d be leaving early the next morning to hike along the Little Blitzen River before driving on to Fields (and getting milkshakes). Happy Trail!

Flickr: Steens Summit

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Big Indian Gorge – 08/17/2021

Our original plan for Tuesday had been to drive up the Steens Summit Loop Road and hike to the summit and Wildhorse Lake, one of four of Sullivan’s featured hikes (post) we were hoping to check off during the trip. With the amount of smoke in the air Monday night though we decided to wait until morning to decide if that was still the plan or if we were going to do the Big Indian Gorge hike instead. At 5am when we were heading out the door the air still smelled of smoke so Big Indian Gorge it was. We drove from the Steens Mountain Resort to Highway 205 in Frenchglen (a whopping 3.1 miles) and headed south on the highway ten miles to the southern end of the Steens Mountain Loop Road where we turned left for 18.9 miles to the South Steens Campground. This section of road passes through the South Steens Horse Management Area (HMA) and we got a chance to see some of the wild horses up close as we passed through.
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The hike up Big Indian Gorge begins at a day use area at the end of the South Steens Campground.
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One thing that we really appreciated about the trails in the area was the quality of information the BLM had posted at all the trailheads we visited. Maps, trail condition reports and photos were posted at them all.
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The Big Indian Gorge Trail began as an old road bed passing through juniper and sagebrush on the way to the mouth of the gorge.
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It was long past flower season but evidence of a large number of wildflowers was still visible.
IMG_2318There were tons of wild onions along the way.

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IMG_2344Deer on one of the hillsides.

IMG_2357Beginning to drop down to Big Indian Creek.

Just under two miles from the current trailhead we arrived at a much older trailhead and a ford of Big Indian Creek.
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This was the first of three fords (two of Big Indian Creek and one of Little Indian Creek) which I managed to make dry footed. Heather was not so lucky, which was a change from what normally happens on these types of crossings. The ford of Little Indian Creek followed just 0.2 miles later and proved to be quite a bit easier.
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While there was still quite a bit of haze in the sky there was beginning to be some signs that things were improving.
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Our goal for the day was to reach Cottonwood Camp, approximately 6.5 mile in, before turning around. Beyond Little Indian Creek the trail climbed a bit passing a collapsed cabin 0.4 miles from the second ford.
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Three quarters of a mile from the cabin ruins we arrived at the third ford (3.1 miles from the trailhead). This crossing had enough exposed rocks to also make it across dry footed.
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IMG_2391Quacking aspen along the trail.

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We continued on passing a rather large boulder a mile from the third crossing where we passed a backpacker on his way back to the trailhead. The landscape was a mix of juniper and sagebrush with some quacking aspen and cottonwoods scattered about. Most of the wildflowers here were also far past bloom but a few were hanging on. We did notice that there had been a lot of Brown’s peony plants in the area which we sadly missed blooming.
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IMG_2402One of the many Brown’s peonies along the trail.

IMG_2407Hawk atop a cottonwood

IMG_2410This counts a lupine in bloom!

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IMG_2413A lone yarrow

IMG_2414One of a couple of spring fed streams along the trail.

IMG_2416Aspens and junipers

IMG_2420Tassel-flowered Brickellbush

IMG_2429Waxwings

IMG_2622The large boulder later in the day on our way out.

Cottonwood Camp was another 2.4 miles beyond the boulder. It was a very gentle climb through increasingly open terrain to the camp. We were heading toward the Sun which was amplifying the smokey haze ahead of us. We kept thinking we were going to be heading into increasingly thick smoke but that never really materialized.
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IMG_2436One of the other spring fed crossings.

IMG_2437There were lots of crickets/grasshoppers bouncing about.

IMG_2438We could see some of the closer cliffs through the haze.

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IMG_2442We started to see a few more lupine in bloom the further in we hiked.

IMG_2444What the smoke looked like ahead.

IMG_2447Lots of butterflies too.

IMG_2450Salsify

IMG_2454Paintbrush

IMG_2458Aster or fleabane

IMG_2459Geranium

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IMG_2472We couldn’t see very far up the gorge because of the smoke.

IMG_2474The view was better behind us.

IMG_2484Coneflower

IMG_2489Hummingbird visiting paintbrush

IMG_2486A few aspen already turning golden.

IMG_2509Cottonwood Camp down to the right.

IMG_2510Looking up Big Indian Gorge from the trail near Cottonwood Camp.

IMG_2514Genitian

IMG_2518Raptor

We took a short side trail to the large camp site and took a nice break amid the cottonwoods. It hadn’t gotten too warm yet and as we rested a nice breeze picked up which kept the temperature down and started to push the smoke out.
IMG_2521Cottonwood Camp

IMG_2519View across the gorge when we arrived at the camp.

IMG_2523Big Indian Creek

IMG_2536A few white clouds started to appear along with the breeze.

IMG_2541The near wall above Big Indian Creek and Cottonwood Camp.

By the time we started back we could at least make out the headwall and other features further up the gorge through the haze that was left.
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The view heading out of the gorge continued to improve as we made our way back to the fords and eventually the trailhead.
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IMG_2556We missed this nest on the first pass. It was about 30 yards off the trail.

IMG_2562We also missed this Nuttall’s linanthus blooming along the trial.

IMG_2564Improving views

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IMG_2604This was a very pretty butterfly that for some reason the camera just didn’t want to focus on.

IMG_2619Clearer skies above.

20210817_111418Skipper

IMG_2623Clouds building up over Steens Mountain

IMG_2633Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_2639Ground squirrel

IMG_2646Some type of wood nymph.

IMG_2653Back to the first ford, which I again managed to cross dry footed giving me a perfect record for the day which is unheard of.

IMG_2655A comma of some sort.

IMG_2665A vast improvement over the morning.

IMG_2677Looking back toward the gorge from the old road bed.

IMG_2679What a difference a few hours can make.

Our track – My GPS had 14 miles vs 13 miles but I tend to wander, a lot.

After our hike we drove back to the Steens Mountain Resort where the views had also improved greatly over the previous afternoons. Happy Trails!
DSCN0776Our accommodations.

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Flickr: Big Indian Gorge

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, & Donner Und Blitzen River – 08/16/2021

Monday was mostly a travel day as we left Bend and headed for the Steens Mountain Resort where we would be staying for the next three nights. We did however manage to get a few short hikes in along the way beginning with a trail that had intrigued us since the first time we’d stopped at the Sagehen Rest Area on Highway 20 eighteen miles west of Burns. A highway rest stop seemed like a bit of an odd place for a trail but that’s part of what piqued our interest. The Sagehen Hill Nature Trial is a short (just over half a mile) interpretive loop with 11 numbered stops.
IMG_1968Trailhead sign at the south end of the rest stop. Brochures were located in the small box under the sign.

IMG_1969Map on the trailhead sign.

Smoke from fires near Lakeview, OR made for a smoke filled horizon and unlike our hike on Mt. Bachelor the previous day (post) here we could smell it in the air.
IMG_1972Red Sun through the smoke.

Despite the lack of views (on a clear day Steens Mountain would have been visible) it was a nice hike and the interpretive stops were interesting. We didn’t see any sage grouse here but we spotted some other wildlife along the route.
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IMG_1991The Harney Valley to the east.

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IMG_1998This stop was for a juniper that was blown apart by a lightning strike.

IMG_2000The rest area from the loop.

IMG_2001The last stop was to discuss the relationship between the junipers and the Idaho fescue that grows underneath.

This was a neat little trail and a nice leg stretcher. After completing the loop we drove into Burns, filled up our gas tank and then headed for our next stop at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. This was the one place we had previously visited (post) but we hadn’t driven the entire auto tour route that time and there were some other trails in the complex that we could check out. We started with a stop at the headquarters where we once again were treated to a variety of wildlife as we toured the complex.
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DSCN0516Deer in the nearly dry Marshall Pond

DSCN0539Yellow headed blackbird

DSCN0557California quail

IMG_2045Owl

DSCN0614Chipmunk

IMG_2065More quail

DSCN0617The early bird

IMG_2077Hummingbird

IMG_2081Little bird on a feeder

We skipped the Overlook Trail this time due to the smoke filled horizon and started the auto tour route. Again there was plenty of wildlife to pause for along the drive and we also stopped at Benson Pond to hike the Benson Pond Trail (a short half mile out and back) where we were treated to a large number of ducks and other birds on the pond.
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DSCN0654Shrike

IMG_2099Hawk and a magpie

DSCN0663Osprey

DSCN0667Turkey vultures

IMG_2125Coyote

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IMG_2138Mourning doves

IMG_2143Egrets and ducks at Benson Pond

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51393871889_968777c132_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2153">American kestral

IMG_2156Old cabin at Benson Pond

IMG_2177Another owl

DSCN0725Another turkey vulture

IMG_2189Grasshopper

DSCN0733White faced ibis

DSCN0736Great blue heron amid the ducks.

IMG_2195A couple types of egrets it appears.

DSCN0763Deer that were in the Blitzen River

DSCN0764Bounding fawn

DSCN0769Ducks and coots at Knox Pond

The auto tour route ends at the Steens Mountain Loop Road just a mile and a half from the Steens Mountain Resort. We were a bit too early to check in though so we drove past the resort another tenth of a mile to the entrance of the Page Springs Campground. We turned into the campground and parked at the day use area at its far end where two trails start. The one mile Wilderness Nature Trail and the 3.7 mile long Donner und Blitzen River Trail.
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We decided to take the Donner und Blitzen Trail since the nature trail looped back into the campground and ended near one of the campsites leaving a short road walk back to the trailhead. The Donner und Blitzen Trail entered the Steens Mountain Wilderness a short distance from the trailhead and followed the river fairly closely for the first 1.2 miles which is as far as we went on this day. It was a little smokey and it was hot and enough time had passed that we would be able to check into the resort by the time we made it back to our car. The trail was a little brushy at times but a nice surprise was finding a loop option not shown on the map but clearly marked starting 0.4 miles from the trailhead and rejoining the river trail at the 0.7 mile mark. We took this route on the way back climbing up through the cliffs above the river providing some nice views despite the haze.
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IMG_2224Bee and a butterfly

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IMG_2235A brushy section.

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IMG_2256A bee and a skipper

20210816_131717Praying mantis

IMG_2261The “other” trail on the hillside at the 0.7 mile mark.

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IMG_2275A wren?

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IMG_2280Fence crossing

IMG_2281Rejoining the Donner und Blitzen Trail at the 0.4 mile mark.

2.9 mile hike on the Donner und Blitzen trail

We got a total of 5.4 miles of hiking in between Sagehen Hill, the refuge headquarters, Benson Pond, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The abundant wildlife was the highlight of the day. We checked into the resort and got settled in our modular unit which had a full kitchen, shower, couch and most importantly A/C. We were hoping that the smoke would move out overnight or at least over the next day or two when the temperature was also set to drop to more reasonable levels. We spent the evening listening to the osprey that had a nest below the resort. Happy Trails!
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Flickr: Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and Donner und Blitzen River

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Mount Bachelor – 08/15/2021

For our August vacation this year we finally returned to the Steens Mountain area for five days of hiking but along the way we made a stop in the Cascade Mountains to hike up to the summit of Mt. Bachelor. As the 6th largest ski resort in the US, Mt. Bachelor is known more for that winter sport than hiking. Hiking also takes a back seat to mountain biking and even a zip line tour but as part of an agreement between the resort and the Forest Service a trail is maintained to the summit for hiking to the 9068′ summit. Growing up in the Bend area I spent a lot of time skiing the mountain but other than riding the Summit lift to the top one Summer (when that lift still operated in the Summer months) neither of us had spent time on the mountain without snow. It was going to be another warm, hazy day as that seems to be the new norm here in the West but the air quality wasn’t in the danger zone so we left early on Sunday morning and arrived at the West Village Parking lot a little before 8am to find a somewhat blue sky overhead.
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There are currently three routes shown on the resorts web page with the easiest being from the top of the Pine Marten Lift which operates from 10am thru 5 or 7pm depending on the date. The other two routes start at the West Village Lodge near the Pine Marten Lift which allows for a reverse lollipop hike which is what we did. We took the more scenic trail up which was marked by blue signboards for the West Village to Summit Connect Trail.
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IMG_1761A hazy look at the South Sister and Broken Top.

After a short distance on cat roads we came to an actual trail which led into the trees.
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The trail traversed along the mountain crossing several ski runs before turning uphill near the “Marshmallow” run and the Sunrise lift.
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IMG_1771Passing under the Skyliner Express

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IMG_1777The ski runs gave us a good look at the top of the mountain.

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IMG_1792Turning uphill

IMG_1793Spotted a grouse hen and her chicks in this little meadow.

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IMG_1807Two of the chicks.

IMG_1812Passing under the Sunrise lift.

The first 1.4 miles had gained under 350′ but after turning uphill the trail steepened gaining almost 2400′ over the next 2.5 miles.
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IMG_1817Nearing the top of the Sunrise lift.

IMG_1818Another hazy look at the nearby mountains.

IMG_1819South and Middle Sister through the haze.

IMG_1823The top of Sunrise and the bottom of the Summit lifts.

IMG_1824Looking up from the top of Sunrise.

Above the Sunrise lift the trees thinned out leaving a few scattered trees including white bark pines.
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IMG_1832A few saxifrage blossoms still left.

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IMG_1841Alpine buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_1846The first patch of snow we passed.

IMG_1848Golden mantled ground squirrel

IMG_1850Tumalo Mountain (post) in the haze.

Signs gave way to white arrows painted on rocks at the higher elevations.
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IMG_1861Looking down from beneath the Summit Express.

IMG_1863We could really feel the elevation affecting our breathing and by this point we were both sucking wind.

IMG_1864Dwarf alpinegold

I arrived at the summit first and followed the path the the mountain’s high point.
IMG_1869Looking back at the Summit Express.

IMG_1871Heading for the high point.

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IMG_1882A mountain bluebird near the summit.

IMG_1887South Sister and Broken Top with Sparks Lake (post) the brown patch below.

I took my pack off and had a seat and was soon joined by a curious golden mantle.
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IMG_1896It’s our rule not to feed the wildlife but it was obvious that many don’t adhere to that LNT principle. I had to put my pack back on to avoid having a hole chewed through my pocket.

IMG_1901View of the summit.

The surrounding smoke made it impossible to see anything to the east, very little to the south or west and just the closest features to the north, but a cool breeze made it a comfortable spot for a rest while I waited for Heather to join me.
IMG_1899Broken Top, the Pine Marten Lodge halfway up the mountain, the West Village Lodge and parking area below and Tumalo Mountain across the Cascade Lakes Highway.

After Heather had a chance to relax at the summit as well we headed back down taking a short detour to a viewpoint above the Cirque.
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We then hiked back down just above the Sunrise Lift where we turned left on the West Village Getback road which I could picture skiing on all those years ago.
IMG_1931A little better view of Broken Top and Tumalo Mountain on the way down.

IMG_1935Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_1942Left leads up to the Pine Marten Lodge atop the Pine Marten Express, right to the West Village Lodge.

The road walk is not only not as scenic as the trail route we took up it also passes through the mountain bike trails so we had to keep our eyes open at the crossings.
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IMG_1945A decent look at Tumalo Mountain

IMG_1948Warning sign for a bike crossing.

IMG_1949A look at some of the mountain bike trails and some haze moving in overhead.

IMG_1959A tortoiseshell butterfly on the road.

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The trail map showed this route passing under the Pine Marten Express and turning 90 degrees downhill alongside the lift.
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There was a disc golf hole here but no sign of any trail except for a faint line continuing straight ahead through some grass. We followed it briefly before realizing it wasn’t going to get us to the parking lot.
IMG_1965At least we could see the mountains a little better from here.

We turned back to the lift and headed cross country downhill alongside it. We eventually did find some tread which took us to the base of the lift and back to the parking lot. We were glad we’d gotten there as early as we had because it was now quite a bit hazier overhead and a lot warmer.
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We left the mountain and drove to Heather’s parents house where we spent the night before once again heading out early for another adventure. Happy Trails!

Our track for Mt. Bachelor. The GPS said 8.8 miles and 2800′ of elevation but the resort lists the hike as 6.5 miles and 2742′ of elevation gain.

Flickr: Mt. Bachelor