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.

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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

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Trip report Washington

Mount Mitchell via Sugarloaf Ridge- 08/07/2021

Mount Mitchell is located near Cougar, WA just south of the Lewis River (post) and only 10 miles south of Mt. St. Helens providing an up close view of the mountain’s southern flank. That is if there is any visibility at the summit. On our recent visit we had near zero visibility from the former lookout site but despite missing out on the view this was an enjoyable hike which will soon likely be inaccessible due to planned logging activities.

Until 2011 the hike to Mount Mitchell began at the Mount Mitchell Trailhead on the north side of the mountain and was a 5 mile round trip gaining just over 2000′. In 2011 the owner of private land which the access road passes through gated the road and cut off recreational access. An alternate route via the North Siouxon Creek Trail requires a 20+ mile hike and quite a bit more elevation gain but for now at least there is a third unofficial option, a hunter’s path from the east along Sugarloaf Ridge to the Mount Mitchell Trail. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources land (which means a Discover Pass is required) at the end of a dirt/gravel road not shown on Google Maps (it is visible on the satellite image though).
IMG_1574The start of the “trail” at the end of the road.

IMG_1575Wildflowers at the trailhead.

It was a cloudy morning but the last forecast I had seen was for partly sunny skies so we were hoping the clouds might burn off, although some precipitation wouldn’t be the worst thing given the current drought conditions in the West. After briefly following an old road bed the trail launched steeply uphill through thick vegetation.
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It’s hard to capture steepness in pictures but it was steep. Luckily this wasn’t the case for long and we soon found ourselves on a more level trail.
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For an unofficial trail it was in good shape and easy to follow. We did run into a hunter later in the day who said he had been one of the people that originally cleared some of the trail years ago. He wasn’t sure the history of the trail, he thought possibly loggers, but the tread had been there. He also said that it had become a much clearer and well wore trail ever since it showed up on “some yuppie hiker website”. While the tread was good and there were pointers and flagging present there was also a lot of recent flagging done for the timber sales along the first mile or so of the hike.
IMG_1586Orange dot on a tree.

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IMG_1590Another orange dot.

IMG_1593Occasionally there were short steep climbs but nothing as steep as the first part.

IMG_1595Mushroom

IMG_1600Pink flagging on the right related to the timber sale.

IMG_1601Water in a creek bed.

IMG_1602Mushroom amid bunchberry leaves.

IMG_1606Red huckleberries

IMG_1607Timber sale boundary sign on the right with a flag.

IMG_1611More huckleberries.

After leaving the timber sale the trail continued through a nice forest until reaching basalt cliffs below Sugarloaf Mountain near the 2.5 mile mark.
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The cliffs reminded us a lot of Table Rock (post) near Mollalla just not quite as tall. We thought we heard a pika or two “meep” from the rocks but weren’t able to spot any. There were however a good number of flowers blooming along the route below the cliffs.
IMG_1638Bluebell of Scotland

IMG_1643Gentian

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IMG_1650Pearly everlasting

IMG_1653The view north, not much to see.

IMG_1654Mount Mitchell from the path.

IMG_1659Paintbrush

20210807_085857Gentian

IMG_1662Penstemon

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IMG_1668Oregon sunshine

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IMG_1667The trail nearing the end of the basalt cliffs.

The trail reentered the forest beyond the cliffs and a short distance later arrived a junction with the Sugarloaf Trail.
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We turned right on the Sugarloaf Trail and followed it 200 yards to a viewpoint where we met the hunter who gave us the back history on the area.
IMG_1677The view south across North Siouxon Creek was the same as it had been to the north.

It’s possible to follow a faint trail from the viewpoint to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain but with no views to be gained by doing so we returned to the junction and continued east on the Sugarloaf Trail toward Mount Mitchell.
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IMG_1683It was apparently a good beargrass year along the trail.

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A half mile from the junction we arrived at the Mount Mitchell Trail as it made a turn uphill.
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We followed the left hand fork uphill through more beargrass stalks.
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IMG_1697Fireweed amid the beargrass.

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We reached the rocky summit after 0.4 miles only to find ourselves in the middle of passing clouds.
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IMG_1702Mt. St. Helens is out there somewhere.

IMG_1705Looking east over the site of the former lookout.

IMG_1708The survey marker and one of several neat rock formation near the summit.

IMG_1709Closer look at the formation.

It was an interesting summit even without the views but it was also a little chilly due to the dampness of the passing clouds and our own sweat from the hike up so we didn’t stay too long before heading back down. We had wondered if this was going to be one of those hikes where the skies didn’t clear up until we were on our way back down but that wasn’t the case today. By the time we were passing the basalt cliffs it was sprinkling off and on and the visibility was even less than it had been earlier when we passed through.
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This time we for sure were hearing the meeps of pikas so we took our time passing through and stopped below the largest rock field and watched.
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Heather was the first to spot one darting toward some brush at the edge of the rocks. After a little more surveying I spotted a flash of movement in the middle of the rocks. After seeing another bit of movement I took a picture of the area and even though I couldn’t pick it out then I got a pika in the picture.
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IMG_1718A second picture after seeing it move again.

The pika disappeared for a moment behind a larger rock but we waited it out knowing from experience that it would probably reemerge to keep an eye on us.
IMG_1720The pika popped back out below the larger rock that it had run behind.

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This was our first pika this year as we haven’t spent much time in areas where they are present in 2021 and they are not easy to spot.
IMG_1727A non zoomed in photo, the pika is still in the same spot as in the two photos immediately above.

Having seen the pika more than made up for the lack of views. We completed the final 2.5 miles in on-again off-again light showers.
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IMG_1740Spotting this patch of ghost pipe emerging from the forest floor was another highlight on the return hike. The hike is reportedly 7.3 miles with a little over 2000′ of elevation gain but Heather’s GPS put us at 7.8 miles and mine registered 8.3 miles. (If you’ve read other posts you know that Heather’s unit used to almost always show the higher mileage but lately mine has been.) Whatever the actual mileage it was a good hike through a very nice forest which sadly, barring a last minute successful change, may not be possible in the future.

Our track for Mount Mitchell

Typically I’d say Happy Trails here but the thought of losing another to logging, fire or abandonment somehow makes it seem inappropriate.

Flickr: Mount Mitchell

Categories
Hiking SW Washington SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and Ledbetter Point – 07/31/2021

As we continue to close in on and complete some of our long term hiking goals such as hiking all 100 featured hikes in at least one edition of William L. Sullivan’s five 100 Hikes guidebooks some of the remaining hikes have provided some challenges (post). Distance, weather, and various closures have required us to be flexible and get creative at times. Our visit to the Ridgefield and Willapa Wildlife Refuges in SW Washington was a good example. We had a visit to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge on our schedule for 2020 but then COVID-19 struck and things changed. It was back on the schedule for this Spring but nesting Sandhill Cranes caused the refuge to close the 1.5 mile Kiwa Trail which was part of Sullivan’s featured hike. The Ledbetter Point hike had been a featured hike in the “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” 3rd edition but was moved to an additional hike in the 4th edition. We had switched to the 4th edition as the one to attempt completing all 100 featured hikes in part because the hike at Ledbetter Point was only 4 miles long but was a three and a half hour drive from Salem. Subsequently we switched back to the 3rd edition due to the indefinite closure of the Salmonberry Railroad which was a new featured hike in the 4th edition.

After having to postpone our Ridgefield hike and modify the plan if we were going to hike there this year (I had originally combined it with a hike at the Stiegerwald Wildlife Refuge but a restoration project has closed it for the entirety of 2021.) I came up with the idea to combine it with the Ledbetter Point hike which was also planned for this year. It was only a little bit out of the way to stop at Ridgefield before continuing up to Ledbetter Point State Park. The combined hikes would be close to 11 miles which was a reasonable distance and with an early start would likely get us back home between 5 and 6pm. (This did mean breaking our self imposed rule of not spending more time driving than hiking on day hikes but sometimes compromises must be made.) With the plan set we just needed for the hikes to be open and as luck would have it the sandhill crane colt fledged and the Kiwa Trail was set to reopen on the very day we had hoped to do the hike.

After paying the $3.00 entry fee at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge our first stop of the morning was at the Kiwa Trailhead.
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The Kiwa Trail crossed the Bower Slough and then splits to create a loop around South East and Middle Lakes. We chose to hike the trail in a counter clockwise direction.
IMG_1329Bower Slough

IMG_1330Ducks in the slough.

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IMG_1333South East Lake which was mostly dried up at this point in the year.

IMG_1335Apparently deer can’t read based on the trail leading past the sign.

IMG_1339The bed of South East Lake

IMG_1340Some moisture passing through this morning.

IMG_1342Dove

IMG_1344Walking along a cleaner looking portion of the slough.

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IMG_1352Bridge/boardwalk between Middle Lake (left) and West Lake (right).

IMG_1351Wapato blossoms

With the lack of water this time of year there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife other than lots of little birds flying in and out of the vegetation. The views were nice enough to keep us entertained on the short loop though and when we got back to the trailhead there were several deer in the field across the road and a rabbit just a short distance from our car.
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IMG_1362Lots of ripening blackberries.

IMG_1363Second crossing of Bower Slough near the end of the loop.

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Since the trailhead is along the 4.2 mile one-way auto tour loop we drove back around to the fee booth and restrooms at the start of the loop. Along the way we stopped several times for wildlife.
IMG_1381Great blue heron

IMG_1384Doe

IMG_1385Deer near the restrooms/fee booth.

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Kiwa Trial Track

From the auto tour loop we drove to our second stop in the refuge at the Ridgefield Trailhead in the Carty Unit.
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Construction to build a new multi-purpose building is in process to be completed in 2022.
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We passed the new building and crossed over some railroad tracks on a nice footbridge.
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IMG_1404Doe in the brush near the tracks.

The trail then led to a replica plankhouse.
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The trail split on the far side of the plankhouse with the Carty Lake Trail heading left around Duck Lake and the Oaks to Wetland Trail system to the right.
IMG_1433Carty Lake Trail and Duck Lake

IMG_1412Ducks on Duck Lake

We went right to explore the Oaks to Wetland Trails. The maps show several loop possibilities but an ongoing restoration project currently has some connector trails closed and an entire portion of the system closed on Thursdays.
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IMG_1414Paved and dirt options allow for a mini-loop near the start, later the trails are all dirt.

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IMG_1420Big oak

IMG_1421One-way pointers for a second loop.

IMG_1424The trails can reportedly be quite muddy during the wet season but the current drought meant a hard packed surface.

IMG_1430Bright red poison oak climbing some of the tree trunks.

IMG_1431A bit of a low bridge.

IMG_1433Passing back by Duck Lake on the way back.

After touring the Oaks To Wetlands trails we headed past Duck Lake toward Carty Lake.
<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51349920581_2ee1202bd3_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_1434">Looked like a young pied billed grebe.

IMG_1437Spotted towhees

IMG_1438Onward toward Carty Lake.

It’s possible to follow the Carty Lake Trail all the way to the Port of Ridgefield Trailhead on the Lake River but for our hike today we simply hiked until the trail turned south on the far side of Carty Lake then turned around and headed back to the car.
IMG_1441Gee Creek

Orange jewelweedOrange jewelweed along Gee Creek.

IMG_1444Carty Lake also lacking much water.

IMG_1445Bindweed

IMG_1448A primrose

IMG_1449Wapato at Carty Lake

IMG_1451The trail turning south toward the Port of Ridgefield.

Carty Unit Track

From Ridgefield we drove north to Longview, WA where we crossed back into Oregon to take Highway 30 to Astoria only to return once again to Washington eventually making our way to the Ledbetter Point Trailhead.
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We got a little confused at the trailhead as three trails appeared to start here, one was to the left of the restrooms, one on the right of the signboard which appeared to head straight for Willapa Bay, and another to the right of the signboard that appeared to head parallel to the bay. Our plan was to follow the Bay Loop Trail (Green) north along the bay to the Bayberry Trail (Yellow) and take that trail west across the peninsula to the Beach Trail at the Pacific Ocean. We’d then head south along the beach to the Weather Beach (Blue) Trail where we would turn inland and hook up with the Dune Forest Loop Trail (Red). Sullivan’s description of this hike would have had us turn left here for 0.6 miles back to the trailhead but our plan was to go right for 1.5 miles to the southern parking lot and then turn north along Willapa Bay for 0.7 miles back to the car.
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The official trail is the one to the left of the restrooms but being unaware of that we struck out on the path which looked to head directly to the Willapa Bay.
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IMG_1458Lots of salal along the trail.

The trail did pop us out near the bay and onto an official trail where we turned left.
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We realized we’d chosen the wrong path when we spotted a group of hikers that had taken the left hand trail ahead of us on the trail. When we made it to where they had come out we found a signboard and viewing platform indicating it had been the official trail.
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IMG_1466Map near the platform.

We continued up the beach until we spotted another signboard and hiker post.
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IMG_1468High tide had been between 7 and 8am so the water was retreating from the Bay.

IMG_1471Looking south.

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A short distance later we came to another signboard at the junction of the Bay Loop and Bayberry Trails. Here we began to follow the hiker posts coded in yellow for the Bayberry Trail.
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The Bayberry Trail soon turned inland into the forest.
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We were following another pair of hikers who had spotted something small running along the trail. We stopped and watched as what we believe was a mole hurried down the trail right past us nearly running into my foot in the process.
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The trail eventually left the forest and entered the deflation plain behind the dunes along the beach.
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IMG_1500Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1502Cresting the dune.

IMG_1503Snowy plover sign, a common sight along the beaches in Oregon too.

IMG_1504Bayberry Trail passing through the snowy plover closure area.

IMG_1507Bumblee on American skyrocket.

While there had been a bit of blue sky above Willapa Bay the Pacific Ocean was covered in fog (another familiar sight to for us).
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We turned south as planned, hiking through the fog between the Pacific and the snowy plover closure area, until we spotted an opening in the foredune marking the Weather Beach Trail.
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We followed this trail back into the forest to its end at the Dune Forest Loop Trail.
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IMG_1526Chestnut backed chickadee

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We turned right as planned wondering why Sullivan didn’t have you do the same.
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IMG_1539Someone had written “umpassable (sic) swamp” below the word loop on this sign. This is when we began to guess why Sullivan had you turn left at the Weather Beach Trail junction.

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IMG_1541Slug and a mushroom. We both thought of Alice in Wonderland.

While we did not encounter any swamps the vegetation did get thick and it was easy to see how in wetter times of the year the trail would be difficult if not impossible. Our biggest problem though were the mosquitos which were a nuisance.
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IMG_1544Signboard at the southern trailhead.

We were happy to have reached the southern trailhead and gotten back to the bay where the openness and breeze kept the mosquitos away.
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We turned north and followed the trail back to where we had come down from the trailhead and hiked back up that same way. There were a few downed trees that needed to be climbed over along this stretch. We were also fortunate to have a bald eagle land ahead of us with its catch and then watch as some pesky crows tried to steal it for their own.
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IMG_1551Looking back over one of the trees.

IMG_1553Bumble bee on gumweed.

IMG_1554A pair of great blue herons in Willapa Bay.

IMG_1558The eagle has landed.

IMG_1560Crow attack

IMG_1562Looking for a quite place to eat.

IMG_1563We didn’t see what happened to the kill, if the eagle got to eat it or not.

IMG_1570The crows weren’t leaving the eagle alone.

IMG_1572Last of the trees to navigate.

Our hike here was a little over 6 miles giving us about 10.5 miles on the day with minimal elevation gain.

Ledbetter Point Track (no we weren’t in the water)

On the way home we stopped in Warrenton for a late lunch/early dinner at Nisa’s Thai Kitchen. We’d eaten here in 2017 and really enjoyed the food and it was as good as we had remembered. It was a good way to celebrate checking off our final featured hike of the coast guidebook as well as the 97th in the northwestern Oregon book. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and Ledbetter Point

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Pika and Fir Lakes – 07/24/2021

After a week of hiking in the John Day area we had stopped in Bend on our way home Friday to visit Heather’s parents. Saturday morning we headed to Salem but stopped first for a short hike to Pika and Fir Lakes in the Willamette National Forest. The hike starts at the Pika-Fir Trailhead which is currently one of the trailheads in the Central Cascades that does not require any Central Cascades Wilderness Permits as the trail and lakes are outside of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. (You would however need an overnight permit if you were try continue off trail into the wilderness to stay overnight.)
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We picked this trail because it was on our way back to Salem, we hadn’t been here before, and it was nice and short. The trail itself is about a mile long passing Pika Lake and ending at Fir Lake and after averaging just over 12 miles a hike for the previous five days a short hike sounded nice. We were also in a bit of a hurry to get home to see our cat Hazel who we were going to have to say goodbye to soon (post).

The trail passed through a nice green forest with some bigger trees, a very different sight than the hikes we’d taken in Central Oregon that week.
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A little bit of up and down brought us to Pika Lake in just half a mile.
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We walked a short way around the SE side of the little lake before returning to the trail and continuing to Fir Lake which was just 0.4 miles away.
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IMG_1308Unnamed lakelet/pond between Pika and Fir Lakes.

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IMG_1312Fir Lake

IMG_1313Goldeneyes

We again explored a little of the lake shore before turning around and returning to the car.
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This was a quick hike which we managed to make 2.5 miles by exploring some of the lake shores. There were several camp sites at the lakes which would be good options for folks with young kids for some early backpacking trips.

Track for Pika & Fir Lakes

With our hikes now completed we drove home to spend the rest of the weekend with Hazelnut before having to say our final goodbyes. It was a bitter sweet ending to what was otherwise a good vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pika and Fir Lakes

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Fields Peak – 07/23/2021

Our time in John Day had come to an end and it was time to start our journey back to Salem. We were planning on visiting Heather’s parents in Bend for the night but of course we had a hike planned on the way. The hike to Fields Peak and McClellan Mountain in the Aldrich Mountains was another hike that was previously featured in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Easter Oregon” but had been moved to the back of the book in his most recent 3rd edition. We began the hike at the McClellan Mountain Trailhead after a rough final 1.2 miles of driving (high clearance vehicles recommended). The bright spot of the drive was spotting a bobcat in the road.
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While the route to Fields Peak is open to OHVs the McClellan Mountain Trail, which splits off to the east after 1.5 miles is not.
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The trail/OHV track begins through a barbed wire fence and heads steeply uphill, at times, 0.7 miles to a saddle.
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IMG_1110A lone interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail.

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IMG_1118The saddle

Sullivan mentioned that bitterroot bloomed on the ridge to the right but it was too late in the year to see any of them but I wandered out along the ridge a short distance anyway having reached the saddle ahead of Heather.
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IMG_1122Fields Peak from the saddle.

IMG_1123Heather arriving at the saddle.

We had gained a little over 700′ in the first section and now the trail would gain nearly another 600′ in the 0.8 miles to the trail junction.
IMG_1124A rare level section.

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IMG_1129Scarlet gilia in the middle of the OHV track.

IMG_1131Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_1132The McClellan Mountain Trail to the right.

We ignored the McClellan Mountain Trail for now and climbed another 0.8 miles gaining 700 plus more feet to the 7362′ summit of Fields Peak. The meadows along the track were way past bloom but it was evident that earlier in the year there would have been quite the wildflower display.
IMG_1134A peak east to McClellan Mountain and the more distant Strawberry Mountain (post).

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IMG_1137We saw a number of these moths sleeping on the hyssop.

IMG_1139Hyssop and sunflowers

IMG_1142Paintbrush

IMG_1143Looking up Fields Peak.

IMG_1144Mountain coyote mint

IMG_1146Shadow of Fields Peak

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IMG_1152Buckwheat

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IMG_1155A few trees near the top.

IMG_1158Final steep pitch to the summit.

IMG_1160View west, Aldrich Mountain is the high point to the near right.

It was another nice morning with relatively clear skies given the fires that were (and still are) raging in Oregon.
IMG_1162View north

IMG_1165McClellan Mountain and the Strawberry Mountain Range to the east.

IMG_1164Logan Valley to the SE.

IMG_1169The view south.

We had a nice break and then headed back down. On the way several grouse startled us when they flew out of the trees as a group of raucous Clark’s nutcracker watched from the tree tops.
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20210723_075245More moths

When we reached the junction with the McClellan Mountain Trail we turned left.
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Aside from being a little crowded with brush the trail was in relatively good condition with just a couple of downed trees that were easily navigated.
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Over the next 2.2 miles the trail slowly lost elevation as it alternated between south and north facing hillsides via four saddles, the first of which we arrived at after 0.5 miles.
IMG_1191Hillside above the trail.

IMG_1193Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1194Approaching the saddle where we would cross the the north side of the hill ahead.

IMG_1195The first saddle with Moon Mountain behind.

IMG_1197Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1199Looking back from the saddle.

IMG_1200The north side had a few more trees.

IMG_1203Looking back toward Fields Peak

IMG_1209We passed through a rocky section near the second saddle.

In another half mile we found ourselves passing through the second saddle and back on the south side of the ridge.
IMG_1212McClellan Mountain from the second saddle.

Yet another half mile of trail brought us to the third saddle. Sullivan calls this phlox saddle and there was indeed a lot of phlox present it but had been a long time since it bloomed and all of the plants were now brown and dried.
IMG_1213Approaching the third saddle.

The trail was again on the north facing side as it passed over a ridge leading out to Moon Mountain.
IMG_1215Moon Mountain

IMG_1216Fields Peak (center).

IMG_1219McClellan Mountain as we approached the fourth saddle.

As the trail descended to the fourth saddle it disappeared in the sagebrush meadow.
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The good news was this fourth saddle was where the off trail route to the top of McClellan Mountain started so we simply made our way through the sagebrush to the gentlest looking slope and started up the mountain. Sullivan showed it being 1.2 miles and just under 700′ up to the 7043′ summit.
IMG_1224Looking back you can sort of make out the trail angling down the near hillside.

IMG_1225Looking up McClellan Mountain.

Earlier in the hike I had mentioned to Heather that the only real disappointment of the trip had been the lack of large wildlife (aside from the dozens of deer and lone bobcat we spotted on our drives). As we crested the first hill on our way up McClellan Mountain though we spotted a line of ungulates crossing the hillside far above us. They were far enough away that I couldn’t tell for sure if they were elk or deer but once again the zoom on our camera helped solve the mystery.
IMG_1229In the middle of the center hill to the left of the tree in the foreground is the line of what turned out to be 5 bull elk.

IMG_1226Blurry due to the elk moving and the deep zoom.

IMG_1232Four of the bulls stopped to look back at us.

IMG_1234The fifth and largest bull on top of the ridge waiting for the rest.

After watching the elk disappear over the hillside we continued on. As far as off trail hikes go this was nice and straight forward, not ever too steep, and the vegetation wasn’t too tall or thick.
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IMG_1242An old fence line on the hill.

IMG_1243Fields Peak on the left, an unnamed peak in the center and Moon Mountain on the right.

IMG_1245False summit (there’s always at least one). After some debate we went to the left of the rock outcrop which worked out well.

IMG_1246Passing the rock outcrop.

IMG_1248Almost there.

IMG_1249The Greenhorn Mountains, Elkhorns, Dixie Butte and the Strawberry Mountains from left to right in the distance.

IMG_1251Looking back at Fields Peak

IMG_1250The John Day River Valley.

IMG_1253Logan Valley

IMG_1254Company at the summit.

We took another nice break at the summit before heading back the way we’d come. On the return trip we had an encounter with what we believe was our first ruffed grouse.
IMG_1262Passing back through Phlox Saddle.

IMG_1264A better look at the rocky section of trail.

IMG_1272Mountain coyote mint, one of only a couple with this coloration on the stems.

IMG_1271Butterfly and a beetle.

20210723_114437Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1277Ruffed grouse

IMG_1280A final look at McClellan Mountain.

For the second day in a row our hike came in at 12.3 miles, this time with approximately 3200′ of elevation gain.

Fields Peak Track

In our five days of hiking in the area we passed a single hiker (with dogs), something that is unheard of even on weekdays on the western side of the State. We were a little concerned about ticks but we only saw two, Heather had one on her hand the first night on the Rock Creek Trail and she had a second on her tights at the end of the Canyon Mountain hike but neither had bitten her. It had been an enjoyable trip but it was time to head home. We drove to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before leaving early the next morning for one final short hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fields Peak

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon

Canyon Mountain Trail – 07/22/2021

For our fourth day of vacation we had planned another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, this time the Canyon Mountain Trail in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Sullivan suggests two possible turn around points, for a moderate 6.6 mile hike Dog Creek and a more difficult 11.8 mile hike Dean Creek. We had originally planned on the more difficult option but were having second thoughts after reading the Forest Service information for the the Canyon Mountain Trailhead which noted that the final couple of miles of road were not maintained by the Forest Service and they recommend 4×4 vehicles only during dry months of the year. Sullivan simply described the road as “very steep and bumpy at times!”. We had prepared ourselves to have to park at one of the many dirt (OHV) spurs before reaching the trailhead thus adding a few miles to our hike in which case Dog Creek might need to be our turnaround. The road was indeed steep and bumpy but our Rav4 managed to make it 2.2 miles to a saddle where the road worsened even further. We decided to park along a spur road at the saddle and walk the final 1/4 mile of road to the trailhead.
IMG_0825I had started up to the left at the saddle but it was steep with gullies and some debris so we carefully turned around and parked below.

IMG_0827Little Canyon Mountain from the saddle. A wildfire burned the area in 2015 and the trail up to Dog Creek.

IMG_0828The actual trailhead.

A short distance up the trail we entered the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
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The Canyon Mountain Trail doesn’t climb Canyon Mountain but rather traverses the hillsides below its namesake. There were however views of said mountain as we came around the first ridge end of the hike.
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This was the least hazy morning of our trip so far but we were heading toward the rising Sun so visibility still wasn’t all that great.
IMG_0840Little Pine Creek flowed down this valley below Canyon Mountain.

It looked like the wildflower display was probably pretty good earlier in the year but most of them were past now. We did see a fair number of late bloomers though.
IMG_0846Yarrow along the trail.

IMG_0848Fireweed

IMG_0853Paintbrush

Approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Little Pine Creek at a switchback.
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A tenth of a mile beyond the switchback (and after switching back once more) we crossed Little Pine Creek but not before stopping to sample some raspberries.
IMG_0862Paintbrush and pearly everlasting

IMG_0864Raspberries

IMG_0868We don’t recall seeing a penstemon with leaves like this before.

IMG_0870Twinberry (we did NOT sample)

Sitka burnetSitka burnett (white)

IMG_0873Little Pine Creek at the crossing.

The trail then gradually climbed through the forest to a viewpoint at a ridge end in what was now a dry meadow dotted with sagebrush mariposa lilies.
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IMG_0877Prince’s pine

Mountain death camasMountain death camas

IMG_0886Fringed grass of parnassus

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IMG_0888John Day below.

IMG_0889Little Canyon Mountain behind the ridge we’d come around earlier.

IMG_0896The Aldrich Mountains to the west, our destination for the next day’s hike.

IMG_0897Canyon Mountain

20210722_072943One of the sagebrush mariposa lilies.

IMG_0899Dixie Butte and the Greenhorn Mountains to the NE

After wrapping around the ridge the trail reentered the forest once again and descend gradually to Dog Creek, 1.7 miles from the Little Pine Creek crossing. Berries were the highlight at Dog Creek with three different types of ripe blue/huckleberries to pick from.
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20210722_080022Columbine

20210722_080031Swamp onion

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IMG_0918Flowers at Dog Creek

IMG_0920Twinflower

Since we’d manage to drive almost to the trailhead we decide to continue on to Dean Creek which was another 2.2 miles away. The distance was mostly due to having to swing out and around the rocky ridge separating the two creek drainage’s.
IMG_0930There was a lot of elk sign along this section of the trail.

IMG_0931A lot of sign.

IMG_0937Looking back toward Canyon Mountain.

IMG_0939The trail crossed over the ridge in a saddle with quite a bit of mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0941Mountain coyote mint

IMG_0944Strawberry Mountain (post) from the saddle.

IMG_0948Heading toward Dean Creek now.

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IMG_0953Green Mountain on the left and Canyon Mountain on the right.

IMG_0955A smaller raptor, it wouldn’t look at us so I’m not sure what type it was.

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Butterflies on western snakerootButterflies on western snakeroot. Side note we didn’t see a single snake or lizard all week which was really surprising to us.

IMG_0975We did however see quite a few grouse.

IMG_0977The trail got a little brushy nearing Dean Creek.

20210722_092454_HDRThere wasn’t much water in Dean Creek but there was enough for a small cascade.

IMG_0993Wildflowers next to a small pool.

20210722_093953Dean Creek

IMG_1008Butterfly near the pool.

We sat in a nearby campsite to soak in the views as we took a short break.
IMG_0983Canyon Mountain

IMG_0984Dixie Butte with the Greenhorns on the left and the Elkhorns (post) on the right.

After our break we returned the way we’d come, watching as always for wildlife and any flowers we’d missed on our fist pass (also ripe berries).
IMG_1013Cones

IMG_1014Lousewort

IMG_1018Pearly everlasting, yellow flowers, and fireweed.

IMG_1020An eagle?

IMG_1032More cones

IMG_1036Dragon fly

IMG_1038A sulphur butterfly

IMG_1040California tortoiseshell

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IMG_1060Grouse

IMG_1063Maiden fly

IMG_1071Skipper

IMG_1082Woodpecker

IMG_1085Northern flicker

IMG_1095Mountain bluebird

We put the car in low and drove back down the steep road until we made it to pavement then returned to John Day for one final night. This was probably our favorite hike of the trip because it felt the most like being in the mountains even though we were at higher elevations on Spanish Peak, in the Monument Rock Wilderness and the next day in the Aldrich Mountains. With the little extra road walk we came in at 12.3 miles and about 1850′ of elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Our Canyon Mountain Track

Flickr: Canyon Mountain Trail

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Monument Rock and Little Malheur River – 07/21/2021

We were finally down to our last Oregon Wilderness area to visit, the Monument Rock Wilderness (post). The 20,210 acre wilderness is located in the southern Blue Mountains a little over an hour east of John Day. We’d spent the night in John Day and woke to find that it had rained overnight but we hadn’t heard any thunder so we were optimistic that no new lighting caused fires would be springing up. We had two hikes in the wilderness planned for the day with the first being a hike to the wilderness’s namesake, Monument Rock.

Our starting point for the hike to Monument Rock was the Table Rock Trailhead. The final 3.8 miles to this trailhead require slow driving and a high clearance vehicle.
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IMG_0553The trailhead is at this hairpin curve below Table Rock. The road continues another 0.8 miles to the staffed Table Rock Lookout but reportedly worsens which is hard to imagine is possible.

The trail quickly crossed the wilderness boundary on an old roadbed completing our goal of hiking in all of Oregon’s 46 wilderness areas open to human visitors.
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IMG_0556First time seeing a wilderness sign quite like this.

There was quite a bit of smoke in the sky this morning even though we still weren’t really smelling it.
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IMG_0562A red Sun behind the smoke, presumably mostly from the 400,000 plus acre Bootleg Fire east of Klamath Falls in south central Oregon.

We followed the old road bed through sagebrush and occasional stand of trees for a total of 1.7 miles to a post. There was a nice amount of red paintbrush blooming amid the sage and lots of interesting rock formations along the way.
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IMG_0563Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_0572Monument Rock in the distance.

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IMG_0578Paintbrush in the sagebrush.

IMG_0583Ground squirrel

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IMG_0586There was a fair amount of this green paintbrush too.

IMG_0589We believe this post (not the 1.7 mile post) marked a side trail to Rock Spring but we didn’t see any tread in the area to know for sure.

IMG_0593Bullrun Rock dead ahead.

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IMG_0595Table Rock in the distance.

IMG_0596The Table Rock Lookout.

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IMG_0604Two kinds of paint.

IMG_0601Bullrun Rock below the Sun.

IMG_0602Monument Rock again.

IMG_0607Old man’s whiskers

IMG_0611A checkermallow

IMG_0614We passed this sign for the Amelia Trail along the way but again didn’t see any trace of tread for it.

IMG_0618Grazing cattle near the post.

IMG_0624The post with Monument Rock in the background.

We made a sharp left turn following an old jeep track uphill toward Bullrun Rock.
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In a little under a half mile we were at the base of the rock near a fence.
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IMG_0633I believe that is Ironside Mountain.

We then scramble up the side of Bullrun Rock to the 7873′ summit.
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IMG_0637The jeep track and Monument Rock.

IMG_0641Table Rock

IMG_0642Looking down into the Monument Rock Wilderness

After enjoying the view we climbed down and returned to the post which we then continued past through an old fence and onward toward Monument Rock.
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IMG_0651Woodpecker

IMG_0654Mountain bluebird

The old road bed wasn’t much more than a cattle trail now but we followed it for approximately 0.2 miles to what was shown on our GPS units as a sharp turn to the right. Sullivan indicated that there was a small cairn in this area marking the start of the route to Monument Rock. We didn’t notice any cairns but comparing the map on our GPS to the one in his guidebook led us to believe this was the correct spot so we followed an elk/cow path to the left but it was leading us too much to the east so we struck off cross country toward the flank of Monument Rock.
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IMG_0656Looking back toward Bullrun Rock.

The initial climb up was a little steeper than we’d expected which led us to believe we may have not been quite where Sullivan would have had us go up, but we managed to make it up to a broad ridge where we then headed uphill through sagebrush.
IMG_0658Table Rock from where we gained the ridge.

IMG_0660Heading up.

Soon the large rock cairn atop Monument Rock was visible (the cairn was likely constructed by Basque shepherds or possibly gold miners long ago).
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We made our way over to the andesite outcrop and climbed up to the cairn and took a break.
20210721_085946Me making my way up to the cairn.

IMG_0668Bullrun Rock from the cairn.

IMG_0669Table Rock from the cairn.

IMG_0673The Monument Rock Wilderness.

The haze had cleared up somewhat by this point giving us blue sky at least overhead as we began our hike back.
IMG_0675The cairn on Monument Rock from below.

We decided to try a slightly different route back down hoping that we could follow the ridge further down and pick up what was showing on our GPS units as a trail below following South Bullrun Creek. Sullivan’s map showed the first part of the trail from the turn where we’d left the road bed extending 0.3 miles to a spring but the Garmins showed the trail then continuing south. Our thought was that if a trail had at one time been down there it was likely built on a less steep grade than the side we’d scrambled up.
IMG_0680Heading downhill.

20210721_092712Heather spotted this sheep moth.

When we came to what appeared to be an old jeep track or path of some sort we turned right (north) and followed it down a short but still steep hill.
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IMG_0683The path leading downhill.

The trail that was shown on the GPS dropped over 150′ from where we were, presumably down to the spring, but that was about 120′ more than we needed to lose so when the hillside leveled out a bit we made a hard right turn and made our way back to the track we’d taken earlier. We arrived below the point where we’d scrambled up and then headed back to the old road bed. Once we rediscovered the road we followed it back past the post and to the trailhead.
20210721_095222Table Rock in the distance with Bullrun Rock on the right.

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IMG_0731Quite a bit of a difference from the morning.

The hike here came in at an even 7 miles with just under 900′ of elevation gain.

Our track for Monument Rock

We had a little left in our legs after the Monument Rock hike so after navigating the rough 3.8 miles back to the Elk Flat Springs Campground we continued another 3/4 of a mile on Forest Road 1370 to the North Little Malheur Trailhead. The Little Malheur River had been one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in previous editions of his Eastern Oregon book but repeated fires and lack of maintenance have relegated it to a back of the book entry. We had decided to check it out to see what the trail condition was and to hopefully make it to the Little Malheur River which was approximately 2.2 miles from the trailhead.
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We were encouraged to find signs at the trailhead showing that the Blues Crew had done some work on the trail.
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We were less excited that a cow crew was currently present.
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In true cow fashion instead of just letting us pass by above them on the trail they ran uphill onto the trail and the for the next couple of miles we occasionally caught up to them and they would run off along the trail again kicking up dust and leaving cow pie mines along the path but I digress. Getting back to the hike, the trail was faint but flagging and a few rock cairns assisted in keeping it found (along with the cows).
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IMG_0741Yarrow and an orange agoseris.

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IMG_0745Wilderness sign marking the boundary of the Monument Rock Wilderness.

IMG_0747Table Rock from the trail.

IMG_0749Elk Flat Creek.

IMG_0752An orange flag to the right ahead.

IMG_0759The trail following Elk Flat Creek.

IMG_0760A few areas of green trees remained.

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We were entertained by a large number of hawks in the area.
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IMG_0770Unnamed stream shortly before reaching the Little Malheur River.

IMG_0774Monkshood along the stream.

IMG_0775It appeared that quite a few trees survived along the Little Malheur.

IMG_0777The trail crossing the Little Malheur River. We were especially excited to see a lot of nice pink monkeyflower along the banks.

We reached the river which wasn’t much more than a creek here, but it was a pretty setting. Wildflowers and green vegetation hosted a number of butterflies.
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IMG_0792Pearly everlasting

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After a nice relaxing break along the river we returned the way we’d come. In theory the trail extends another 5 miles to the south trailhead crossing the river 7 times along the way but we had gone far enough for today. It was nice not to be following the cattle on the way back.
IMG_0800Ground squirrel

IMG_0806Either a big ground squirrel or a small marmot.

IMG_0813Another hawk.

IMG_0824Fluffy clouds forming over the Monument Rock Wilderness.

Our hike here, which included just a bit of wandering, came in at 4.8 miles giving us 11.8 for the day.

Our track for the Little Malheur River

It had been a good ending to our quest to visit all of Oregon’s designated wilderness areas and we celebrated with an early dinner at 1188 Brewing in John day before turning in early so that we could get up in the morning and head into the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monument Rock and Little Malheur River

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Rock Creek to Spanish Peak – 07/20/2021

After spending the night camped near First Creek along the Rock Creek/Ochoco Mountain Trail we got an early (6:30am) start to hopefully climb up the 2000 plus feet to the summit of Spanish Peak before the day got too hot. According to Sullivan’s map (which matched the Forest Service’s map) it was 5.3 miles to the summit.

Forest Service Map

Just 0.2 miles from where we had made our makeshift campsite we came to an established campsite in a saddle near where the Ochoco Mountain Trail supposedly turned uphill to start the climb.
IMG_0375Continuing along the Waterman Ditch.

IMG_0376If this trail sign was marking a junction it wasn’t clear where the other trail was.

IMG_0380Campsite at the saddle.

There was no clear tread other than the continuation of the Rock Creek Trail to the north where it ends at the National Forest Boundary in another mile. There was however a sign for the “Rim Trail” on a tree uphill from the trail.
IMG_0378The Rim Trail sign on a tree trunk.

We headed uphill to the sign and picked up what appeared to be a rough trail but it also looked like it could have been an elk trail.
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We tried our best to follow it uphill but there were no blazes, flagging, or cut logs to indicate that it really was an actual trail and in less than a half mile we lost it in brush.
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The hike had suddenly become an off-trail adventure. Between the Sullivan’s and the Forest Service map we knew the general route that the trail supposedly took so we did our best to recreate it at first. That meant a series of switchbacks up a steep hillside through a sagebrush meadow above First Creek.
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The trail then supposedly wrapped around the ridge between First and Second Creeks arriving at a rock cairn along a rim 2.5 miles from the saddle. We thought that we might rediscover the tread as we switchbacked up, but we did not. As we compared the maps with our GPS we noticed that we weren’t that far below the top of the ridge and that it might be possible to simply climb over the ridge taking a more direct route to the rim cairn. We decided that was our safest bet as we weren’t sure if we would find the trail wrapping around the ridge and even if we did a large downed tree in the wrong spot could make it impassable. We followed game trails through a small stand of trees into more sagebrush on top of the ridge.
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IMG_0402Rock Creek Lake

IMG_0403Gaining the ridge.

We found the trail again on top of the ridge and were soon following rock cairns to the rim.
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IMG_0407View from the rim.

IMG_0408Spanish Peak

IMG_0419A local

The trail was easy to follow along the rim but soon it came into some trees (and past a few wildflowers) where it appeared maintenance hadn’t been performed for a bit.
IMG_0430Astter

IMG_0431Some sort of delphinium I think.

IMG_0433Downed trees across the trail ahead.

IMG_0434Interestingly camouflaged beetle on the upper onion.

IMG_0438Lupine

20210720_084339A checkermallow

IMG_0439Some more downed trees that we had to go around.

We briefly left the trees and were back to cairns in the sagebrush but soon reentered the trees and encountered more obstacles.
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After passing through a couple of meadows we came to a rocky hillside below Spanish Peak where we left the trail and headed uphill following a few scattered cairns along what was shown on the GPS as the “Mascall Jeep Track”.
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IMG_0456We left the trail here, note the small cairn on the left.

IMG_0457Heading uphill.

IMG_0453Scarlet gilia

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After a third of a mile we came to Spanish Peak Road, a dirt track to the radio tower and former lookout site atop Spanish Peak.
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We turned left on the road and followed it another 0.3 miles up to the summit.
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IMG_0467The site of the former lookout.

The view was impacted by the “widespread haze” that had been forecasted but we could still make out quite a bit (and at least it didn’t smell smokey).
IMG_0469 Looking out toward the John Day River valley.

IMG_0470SE to Windy Point.

IMG_0472West to Rock Creek Lake and on the horizon the flat topped Lookout Mountain (post) and pointier Round Mountain (post) in the Ochocos.

IMG_0474NE to the John Day River Valley.

IMG_0477Lookout and Round Mountain and the rim that we had hiked up below Spanish Peak.

IMG_0480The Pisgah Lookout on the far side of the Bridge Creek Wilderness (post).

IMG_0484A hazy Mount Hood to the NW.

After taking a break at the summit we returned down the road to the jeep track and followed it back down to the Ochoco Mountain Trail where we turned left into some trees.
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We passed through a meadow filled with fritiallry butterflies who were loving the remaining hyssop blossoms.
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After 0.3 miles back on the Ochoco Mountain Trail we came to a signed junction with the Mascall Corral Trail.
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Here we made a hard right and headed steeply downhill along the Baldy Creek drainage.
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This trail was in a little better shape having seen some maintenance.
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IMG_0504Baldy Creek was on our left.

The trail soon followed old roadbeds, including another section of the Mascall Jeep Track and just under three miles from the junction arrived at the Mascall Corrals Trailhead
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IMG_0506Red-tailed hawk

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IMG_0519Western tanager

IMG_0527Arriving at the trailhead.

IMG_0529Signage at the trailhead.

From this trailhead we turned right and followed Forest Road 3820 one and a quarter miles (some of which was disappointingly uphill) to Arvid Nelson Road where we turned right for another 0.8 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead and our waiting car.
IMG_0532Baldy Creek below FR 3820.

IMG_0535A sulphur butterfly of some sort.

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IMG_0546A watermellon or June bug as we called them growing up.

IMG_0549FR 3820 meeting Arvid Nelson Road.

IMG_0550Spanish Peak from Arvid Nelson Road.

This was an 11.5 mile hike with almost 2500′ of elevation gain. The off-trail scramble above First Creek had made the hike a lot more difficult than planned, made more so by having our full backpacks instead of a lighter day pack, but it had been fun (mostly) and despite the haze we had decent views on the day.

Our track in orange

From the Rock Creek Trailhead we drove to Highway 26 then headed east to John Day where we checked into the Dreamers Lodge then had a nice dinner at the Outpost Pizza Pub & Grill before turning in for the night. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spanish Peak