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Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Steins Pillar

In our last post I said we had completed our final planned hike with less than 1000ft or elevation gain for the year. I chose the word “planned” because I knew I needed to leave open the possibility of an unplanned hike. It only took a week for that to prove wise. We had a hike free weekend but wound up with the opportunity to go on a hike in Central Oregon with my parents and assist them with trying out their new Garmin GPS unit. We had planned on meeting them last weekend after our hike in Detroit, but a deer had different ideas and they were unable to make it.

This was our first chance to take a hike together and we decided on hiking to Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville Oregon. This was a new trail to all of us, but we had seen the pillar last year when we hiked to the Twin Pillars in the Mill Creek Wilderness. The trail clocks in at 4 miles round trip with just under 700ft of elevation gain. The trail head is near a small meadow surrounding a little spring. A number of bright yellow flowers as well as large solomonseal and wild strawberries were present. While we were getting ready to begin the hike I spotted a fritillary which was the first of that type of flower we’ve encountered.

We were all pleasantly surprised by the diversity that the trail had to offer. The forest seemed to shift constantly from firs to ponderosa pine to juniper and back. The collection of wildflowers was even more diverse with white death camas, yellow balsamroot and arnica, purple larkspur and phlox, and various shades of paintbrush.
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A number of others were present as well including desert parsley, giant-head clover, penstemon, and naked broomrape (an unfortunate name for a cute little flower). In addition a large number of lupine leaves promised a good show within a couple of weeks.

A nice opening offered a view toward the the Three Sisters but on this day low clouds ensured that the Cascade peaks were mostly hidden. It mattered little though as the wildflower show more than made up for the missed view. After 1.8 miles the trail finally offers the first glimpse of its goal -Steins Pillar.
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From the viewpoint the trail descends for 0.2 miles to the base of the pillar. The pillar is made of rhyolite ash that has been compacted. The area at the base makes for a nice lunch spot with views across Mill Creek to the Twin Pillars. Much of the elevation gain is due to the climb back up to the viewpoint up several sets of stairs.

As usual most of the wildlife we spotted was from the car on the way to and from the trail head. We saw several deer from the road but the trail offered a Northern Pacific Treefrog and a few Golden Mantled Squirrels. In all this was a very nice hike and a great time of year for it. Until the next time, Happy Trials.

Pictures on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633538803950/
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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

South Breitenbush Gorge Trail

Well it seems that summer has arrived early in the Pacific NW. We’ve enjoyed some unusually warm/dry weather which has me making some adjustments to our hiking plans. We’re hoping that some of the trails will be snow free earlier this year than the previous couple. On the flip side we’re hoping that the weather doesn’t translate to an early or particularly bad fire season, but I digress. On to the trip report for the South Breitenbush Gorge trail.

For the second hike in a row we headed to the Detroit, OR recreation area, and for the 2nd week in a row we were greeted with great weather. This time we would be hiking the first 3.6 miles of the South Breitenbush Gorge trail. The trail itself continues on to Jefferson Park (one of my favorite places) where it meets the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail sets off near the South Breitenbush River and quickly crosses it on a series of footbridges. Our sources (William Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” and Oregonhiking.com) had warned that these bridges are prone to floods which was apparent upon seeing them. They were a patchwork of styles and materials which only added to their charm. This one in particular was rather bouncy which Dominique found a bit unsettling.
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Once across the river the trail followed along at a distance through the forest. Never out of earshot but seldom in view the South Breitenbush flowed along on it’s way to Detroit Lake. In addition to the sound of the river there was almost always a bird singing, and though we didn’t see many we knew there was always one close by.

Like last week we spotted a flower that we had not previously seen on a hike. Last time it was Fairy Slippers (of which we saw many on this hike) and this time it was Fairy Bells which are twin small white flowers. In addition there were many other flowers in bloom including Wood Violets, Sourgrass, Red-Flowering Currant, Salmon Berries, Strawberries, Trillium, Vanilla Leaf, Oregon Grape, and Solomonseal. Rhododendron and Beargrass were present but had yet to bloom; although, there was a very colorful bud showing on a single Rhody and I managed to spot a Beargrass bloom along the road on the way back to Detroit. Heather is sure I am obsessed with Beargrass. She might be right.

The trail was well maintained and never steep. Our goal was to reach Roaring Creek then continue another .5miles to a pullout on road 4685 that can be used as an alternate trail access. Roaring Creek was the scenic highlight. The water cascading over mossy rocks down through the forest was very pretty.
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After spending some time taking in the view we continued on to our turnaround spot where we spotted a rough skinned newt and headed back to the car. This was our final planned hike with less than 1000 feet of elevation gain as we get ready to start climbing up to some better viewpoints. Something of which we are all looking forward to. Until next time – Happy Trails.

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Flickr album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633457445053/

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Stahlman Point

Sometimes the weather makes you an offer you just can’t refuse. This was supposed to be an off weekend so Heather could rest after last weekends Eugene marathon, but the prospect of clear skies and 80 degree weather proved to be too enticing. We decided to sneak in a short hike to take advantage of the summer like conditions and chose Stahlman Point near Detroit Lake. We had started this hike a couple of times in years past but due to time constraints had never had made it to the summit viewpoint. The trail gains just over 1300 feet in 2.3 miles to the site of a former lookout tower.

The morning got off to a rocky start when I woke up 45 minutes after the alarm was to have gone off. Anyone familiar with the Sienfeld episode with the marathon runner should know it was the volume. Luckily we always get everything we can ready the night before a hike so after a bit of scrambling we were off at our normal time and were hiking by 6:30am.

There were several types of wildflowers in bloom including trillium, sourgrass, yellow wood violets, and our first encounter with fairyslippers.
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It was still too early for the rhododendron and beargrass blooms but they were both starting to show buds and in a few weeks should be putting on quite a display. The trail offered a few glimpses of Detroit Lake and the ridges of the Willamette Forest beyond. A small spring trickles across the trail near the 2 mile mark. It then ends at a rocky viewpoint that was once home to a fire lookout. Here among the rocks were several other types of flower including a single penstemon that we nearly missed hiding at the base of an outcropping.

The viewpoint provided a clear view of Mt. Jefferson to the northeast. A lone cloud hovered over it’s summit and seemed to refuse to budge from it’s perch.
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Several birds joined us while we had a quick snack and took in the view before heading back down to the car for our drive home.

Photos from the hike http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633411223157/
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Hiking Northern Coast Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Bayocean Spit

Before I dive into a description of our most recent hike I wanted to mention that last night we had a chance to listen to a presentation by William L. Sullivan, the author of the hiking books we use to plan our hikes. He presented a number of new hikes that are included in his updated guide to the Central Oregon Cascades. He travels around Oregon giving presentations throughout the year and you can check his calendar of events at http://www.oregonhiking.com/ if you are interested in attending one.

Now on to our hike. We traveled to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast for a hike around Bayocean Spit which protects Tillamook Bay. I’d picked this hike due to the lack of elevation gain given both Heather and I have races in two weeks (a full marathon for her and a half for me).

This turned out to be another interesting hike with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the bay on the other. Between the two the spit is a mix of grassy dunes and a small forest. We decided on hiking in a figure 8 pattern in order to cover both sides of the spit as well as explore the forest via a .5mile connector trail. We left the parking area and headed West across some grassy dunes toward the beach sporting some less than attractive ponchos. It was a cloudy day with intermittent rain. We must have been a sight because it wasn’t long before we noticed a doe watching us from behind a dune.
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We found the beach which was empty aside from a few seagulls and turned north. There were numerous shells and sand dollars in the sand. To the south was Cape Meares along with Pillar & Pyramid rocks, and to the north was Cape Falcon. As we approached the forested section of the spit we quickly spotted several Bald Eagles perched in the tree tops. We also noticed a large gathering of seagulls on the beach. Curious about the attraction Dominique and I set off for a closer look while Heather searched for the connector trail to the bay side. As we got closer to the birds we noticed that they were huddled around the end of a log that had washed up on the beach. That end of the log appeared to be covered with some type of clam. 081

After satisfying our curiosity we headed back to the now located connector trail. This sandy half mile trail led through a small but varied forest to an old dike road along Tillamook Bay. The water level was low due to it being a low tide and the number of birds was less than we had hoped, but we did spot a Great Blue Heron, several ducks, Canadian Geese, and another Bald Eagle. We continued north along the road to an abandoned campground across the bay from the city of Garibaldi. Shortly after the campground we spotted some flagging leading back across the spit toward the ocean.

The flags marked a path across another set of grassy dunes. We spotted three more deer before reaching the beach where we turned south and began our return trip. We stopped to take a closer look at what I was now calling the “seagull log”
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and the took the connector trail back through the forest to the road. This time we turned right (south) and headed back toward the parking area. It wasn’t until this last leg that we saw any other people which made for a very peaceful day.

We’ll be taking a few weeks off from hiking now due to the upcoming races, but then our hiking season will kick into high gear. Hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate and most of the snow will have melted from the lower elevations by then. In the meantime thanks to the Salem Audobon Society and William Sullivan I have some new hikes to read about and trips to plan. Until next time – Happy Trails 🙂

Pictures from the hike on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200995758203343.1073741827.1448521051&type=3
or Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633242847785/

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Trip report

Fall Creek

We hope everyone had a happy Easter weekend. After attending a Saturday worship service we took advantage of some great weather and headed South to Fall Creek. This was our second hike in a row along a creek in the Willamette National Forest East of Eugene.

The forecast had been for a few showers throughout the day but lucky for us the weatherman was way off. Temps were in the low 50’s when we set off and it wound up being a warm and sunny day. The trail sets off on the Southern bank of Fall Creek through an old growth forest. The first few miles follow Fall Creek through this damp and mossy forest crossing several scenic side creeks on footbridges. This portion of the trail was fairly muddy in spots. Fall Creek was much larger than Larison Creek (our previous hike) with many deeper pools, and the clear water made for some great views. Our timing was good as many of the spring flowers were in bloom carpeting in the forest floor in yellow, purple, and white. The Trillium blooms were particularly pretty.
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After 3.5 miles the old growth gives way to a section of forest that was burned in 2003. This burnt section housed many different wildflowers that prefer the direct sunlight afforded by the fire. It wasn’t long before that direct sunlight had us needing to remove some clothing layers. After a brief pit stop we were off again, now on the Northern side of the creek after crossing on a bridge.

Our goal had been Slick Creek Cave but we decided to continue another half a mile to Bedrock Campground just in case anyone wanted to use the facilities. When we first crossed Slick Creek we completely missed the side trail up to the cave despite my taking several pictures of the cliffs that housed it. When we reached the trail fork for the campground loop we realized we had missed it. The creek bed near the campground was very colorful and worth the extra distance.
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We also came across a type of lily that we had not encountered before.
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When we reached Slick Creek on our way back the side trail had magically appeared. We took the short obvious (this time) trail up to the cave which is basically a recess in the cliff. Apparently it was used by Native Americans for shelter at one point and made for a nice side trip.

Overall this turned out to be a really nice hike. In addition to the various wildflowers we saw a decent amount of wildlife. In the old growth section we came across several snails, slugs, birds, and a Rough Skinned Newt. The burnt section offered geese, ducks, an osprey, several lizards, and a snake. Although this is a heavy use trail we only ran into a handful of people on the trail on this day. Due to the various campgrounds along Big Fall Creek Road which follows the creek on the opposite side there was some car traffic and a number of campers across the water.

As usual I took way too many pictures which can be viewed in full on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633132796203/
or in condensed version on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200914954943312.1073741826.1448521051&type=3

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Larison Creek

It’s been a few weeks since our last hike. We usually do several races between February and May and the training for those leaves us a little less time for hiking. Really it is nice to have the running because a lot of the trails are still snowed under and the weather isn’t always conducive to hiking. We are trying to fit a hike in every few weeks though to get prepared for our peak hiking season. Our most recent hike was up Larison Creek which is just East of Oakridge, OR. Larison Creek

We had not done any hiking near Eugene or along Hwy 58 yet and were looking forward to exploring a new area. The weather cooperated and we had a dry and mostly sunny day. It was a chilly 31 degrees when we set out, but (Aside from some chilly fingers which was our fault for not bringing the proper gloves.) it didn’t seem that cold. The hike starts next to Larison Cove which is a milky green color. This is partly due to Blue-Green Algae.

The trail slowly climbs along the creek through a moss covered forest. At times the forest floor seemed as if a layer of green snow had fallen covering everything. Small Snow Queen flowers bloomed along the first portion of the trail adding a splash of purple to the greens and browns. Larison Creek flowed within earshot, and was often in view. A couple of short paths led to clear pools below small slides or chutes that were worth the slight detour. As we gained elevation beargrass and rhododendrons became more common, but it was too early for them to be in bloom. We eventually ran into some patches of snow displaying the transition from Winter to Spring.

Wildlife was limited to birds, most notably the first Varied Thrush we had seen. Despite his posing for some pictures I was able to get a very clear shot as you can see here. Varied Thrush

Facebook album (selected photos) http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200791264571130.1073741825.1448521051&type=3

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Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Gwynn Creek & Cape Perpetua shelter

Our first hikes of 2013 are officially in the books. We headed to Cape Perpetua just South of Yachats on the Oregon coast to visit two trails. One of the things we are always on the lookout for on our hikes is wildlife. We see plenty of birds, chipmunks, and squirrels and a fair number of deer but are always hoping to see something different. On this day we would wind up spotting an owl, a small herd of elk, a deer, and an eagle eating a recently caught fish. The only problem was these were all seen from the car.

The first hike was a loop along the ridges surrounding Gwynn Creek which is located about a mile South of Cape Perpetua in the Siuslaw National Forest. We set out shortly after Sunrise on what turned out to be a nice day. Although there were some clouds and a couple of very brief very light showers, temperatures stayed around 40F for the day. Many of the plants along the trails were showing buds and a few early flowers were starting to bloom. We were also fortunate enough to be able to see the Ocean from the view points along this mostly forested trail.

View from a viewpoint along the Gwynn Creek loop.
View from a viewpoint along the Gwynn Creek loop.

Anyone familiar with the Oregon coast knows there is often a layer of low clouds hanging just at the shore line which have hidden the Ocean from us on several hikes in the past.

After finishing the Gwynn Creek loop we stopped in at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center to take the short trail up to the stone shelter constructed in 1933 at the top of the cape.

shelter on Cape Perpetua
shelter on Cape Perpetua

We had been to the area in 2011 visiting the tidepools and Devils Churn along the beach, but we hadn’t been up to the shelter before. On our way up the 1.3mi trail we could tell we hadn’t been doing much hiking. The 700ft elevation gain felt a lot worse than it should have. 🙂 The view from the top was worth it though. On a clear day the view extends 37 miles to sea and a good 70 miles to the South and to Cape Foulweather to the North. The only drawback on this day was that the position of the Sun to the South limited the view, but did provide some nice effects as it reflected off the Ocean.

The view South from the shelter on Cape Perpetua
The view South from the shelter on Cape Perpetua

More pictures from the trails have been posted on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200643581919156.200254.1448521051&type=3

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Greetings

As Heather mentioned at Christmas we have been considering setting up a web page or blog to share our many wanderings along the trails of Oregon and SW Washington.  Well we decided to attempt it.  We are blessed to live in an area that is packed full of trails exploring some really diverse environments.  As we have enjoyed these hikes we have been struck by the beauty of God’s creation and we’d like to be able to share these wonderful places with our friends and family members who are not able to experience them with us.  For those who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit these places we hope this blog will provide some useful information for your own future wanderings.  We also hope that this will be a way to establish an ongoing connection with friends and family no matter how far away they are, or how often we have the pleasure of seeing them face to face.

One of the benefits of living in the Pacific NW is that the hiking season never officially ends (if you can handle a little rain) – your options simply shrink.  Still it’s been a couple of months since we’ve hit a trail and I for one have been chomping at the bit.  I’ve used the time to plan out several hikes for this year.  Okay 37 of them totaling a little over 405 miles, but who’s counting?  I enjoy the planning phase, maybe a little too much.  I find it enjoyable to try and figure out when trails will be open, what the best time of year to view wildflowers or eat berries (yum) is, and most importantly when to avoid to miss the mosquitoes.  We get most of our information from William L. Sullivan’s series of Oregon Hiking guides which have proven indispensable.

This year we have hikes planned for the Oregon Coast, the Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Mt. Thielsen, and Diamond Peak wilderness areas, the Columbia Gorge, the Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Crater Lake, and the Ochoco & Fremont National Forests.  We hope to bring the beauty of this region to everyone who happens to check in on our wanderings in a way that is both enjoyable and informative.  First up is Gwynn Creek near Cape Perpetua on the Central Oregon Coast.  Happy Trails~