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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, & Huntington Wagon Road – 05/29/21

For Memorial Day weekend this year we headed to Bend to visit Heather’s family and of course do some hiking. Having finally reached our goal of completing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” 4th edition last year (post) we kicked off this trip with a stop at a the Whychus Canyon Preserve, which was a new featured hike in his 5th edition.

The 930 acre preserve is owned and managed by the Deschutes Land Trust who have established over 7 miles of hiker only (dogs on leash) trails open to the public. The focus here is conservation so respecting the rules and Leaving No Trace is imperative (as it always should be) in order to keep the access open. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 7am on Saturday morning to find the parking area empty.
IMG_5809Kiosk and bench at the trailhead.

A map at the kiosk shows that there are a number of loops possible here and we decided to deviate slightly from the route described by Sullivan.
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From the kiosk we followed a pointer for the Rim & Creek Trails onto a dirt path.
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The trail led slightly downhill, through a red gate and after just 0.2 miles arrived a “T” shaped junction with the Rim Trail where Sullivan has you turn right. We opted for a slightly longer loop and turned left instead.
IMG_5815Tent caterpillars (and the red gate)

As we followed the Rim Trail west along the canyon we began to get some good mountain views.
IMG_5827Mt. Washington and Black Butte (post)

IMG_5837Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Black Crater (post), Little Belknap & Belknap Crater (post), and Mt. Washington.

After 0.4 miles the trail made a 180 degree turn dropping further into the canyon.
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IMG_5843Whychus Creek was hidden by trees for the most part.

While there weren’t a lot of wildflowers a number of different types were present.
IMG_5847Balsamroot

IMG_5850Lupine

IMG_5855Paintbrush

IMG_5870A Penstemon

IMG_5874Western stoneseed

IMG_5875Sedum leibergii -Leiberg’s Stonecrop

IMG_5848Spreading stickseed

IMG_5853Western wallflower

In addition to the various flowers we spotted some varied wildlife as well.
IMG_5844Magpie playing hard to get.

IMG_5864Spotted towhee

IMG_5895Black-headed grossbeak

IMG_5885Ochre ringlet

IMG_5898Pair of bucks in Whychus Creek

This is a good time to mention how much I appreciate the zoom on my Canon XS740HS. While I often look at other peoples photos and wish mine were as crisp/clear the compact size and low price (compared to even low end DSLR cameras) of the little point and shoot has worked well enough. Those two bucks are a good example as we spotted them from here.
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Approximately 0.6 miles from the big turn we arrived at a signed junction. Uphill led back to the trailhead (where we would have come down following Sullivan’s directions) while the Creek Trail headed downhill to the left.
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We turned downhill and switchbacked downhill for 0.2 miles to Whychus Creek.
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We followed along the creek on this trail for 1.5 miles, ignoring a steep trail to the right at the 0.8 mile mark. The sounds of the creek combined with the songs of birds made for a relaxing stroll through the canyon.
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20210529_081300Chokecherry

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IMG_5941Star-flower false solomonseal

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IMG_5950Trail junction at the 0.8 mile mark.

20210529_082320Spider on a wallflower.

IMG_5953Lewis flax

20210529_084000 Heuchera cylindrica -roundleaf allumroot

At the 1.5 mile mark the trail turned uphill away from the creek and made a turn back toward the trailhead.
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The trail climbed for 0.4 miles before leveling out near a rock outcrop where a side trail to the right led to a viewpoint.
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IMG_5969Oregon sunshine

IMG_5976Buckwheat and penstemon

IMG_5982Sign post for the viewpoint.

IMG_5983Heading for the rock outcrop/viewpoint.

IMG_5990Middle and North Sister with Whychus Creek below.

Two tenths of a mile beyond the viewpoint we passed the upper end of the cutoff trail coming up from the Creek Trail.
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We were now on the Meadow Trail which we followed for 1.5 miles (ignoring a signed trail to the left at the 0.5 mile mark). We were still spotting different flowers and wildlife on this stretch.
IMG_5998A monkeyflower

20210529_092023Sand lilies

IMG_6004Trail sign in the distance for spur trail to the Santiam Wagon Road.

IMG_6008Death camas

IMG_6011Sagebrush false dandelions

IMG_6021Pinion jay

IMG_6034Mountain bluebird pair

IMG_6041Mourning dove

IMG_6047unidentified little songbird.

IMG_6051Lizard

IMG_6058Second type of lizard

IMG_6060Showy townsendia

Just before reaching the trailhead the trail joined the Santiam Wagon Road at an interpretive sign.

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This wasn’t the first time we’d been on this historic 400 mile route between the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon (House Rock, Iron Mountain, Fish Lake, Sand Mountain , ) but it did mark the eastern most portion we’d been on.

We turned right on the Wagon Road for a few steps and were back at the trailhead where there was now a second car. We were surprised there weren’t more considering how nice a hike it had been. We logged just a little over 5 miles on our GPS and were now ready to head to our second stop of the day at the Alder Springs Trailhead.

Whychus Canyon Track

This was another chance to visit Whychus Creek but unlike Whychus Canyon we had done the hike at Alder Springs before (post). That hike had been almost 10 years prior having taken place on 8/3/2011. Two things stand out about that first visit. Most notably we only did the Alder Springs hike because our Plan A, Benson Lake/Scott Mountain Loop, was still under too much snow (also the mosquitos were horrendous). It has been quite some time since there has been that much snow that late in the year, yes climate change is real. Secondly it was a really nice hike but August probably wasn’t the best month for it. It’s been on my list of hikes to revisit at a different (better) time of the year. The road to the trailhead is seasonally closed (typically 12/1-3/31) so April or May seemed the best time to catch wildflowers and cooler temperatures.

Another difference between Whychus Canyon and Alder Springs is the access road. While the former is almost entirely paved with a short stretch of good gravel the latter is not far removed from a 4×4 jeep track. Rocks, washouts, and dried mud holes await for most of the final 4.7 miles to the rather larger parking area which we were surprised to find nearly full at 10:15am. At first we couldn’t figure out why there were so many cars SUVs and trucks here while it was just us and one other car at the preserve then it hit us, you can camp here. That realization came from overhearing a large group saying something about having to make two trips down and “the beer”.
IMG_6066Looking back up the dirt access road to the North Sister, Mt. Washington and Black Butte
IMG_6067The trailhead signboard.

This time we didn’t take the side trip down the 0.4 mile Old Bridge Trail but otherwise it was the same route as we had taken nearly 10 years before. The big difference was the number of wildflowers in bloom and the number of people we encountered, mostly on the way back to the car. The scenery was stunning and the ford at the 1.5 mile mark refreshing.
IMG_6070Buckwheat

20210529_103018Rough eyelashweed

IMG_6094Yarrow

IMG_6103Fiddleneck

20210529_104231Largeflower hawksbeard

IMG_6111Purple cushion fleabane

IMG_6114Oregon sunshine

20210529_104625Blue mountain prairie clover

20210529_104747Lewis flax

IMG_6122Lupine

IMG_6123Bearded hawksbeard

IMG_6134Haven’t id this one yet.

IMG_6118The Three Sisters, Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington with some dancing clouds.

IMG_6126Whychus Creek Canyon

IMG_6136Love the different rock formations in the canyon.

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IMG_6143Catchfly

IMG_6149Balsamroot

IMG_6160Paintbrush

IMG_6161Pretty sure this side creek was dry on our previous visit.

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IMG_6171Whychus Creek at the ford.

We’ll get into a little more of the history of Whychus Creek when we cover our Memorial Day hike but we noted that the water level seemed about the same as it had on our previous crossing and that the water was surprisingly warm given the source of the creek is the glaciers and snowfields of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. After a bit of thinking it dawned on us that higher up near Sisters water is diverted to irrigation ditches and other uses.

IMG_6176Alder Springs

IMG_6181Columbine

20210529_113821A clarkia, possibly Lassen

20210529_113835Threadleaf phacelia

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IMG_6217Unknown

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20210529_121450Creek dogwood and a beetle covered in pollen

20210529_125533Grand Colloma

20210529_124730Deadly nightshade

IMG_6305Rose with crab spider

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Veatch’s blazingstar

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IMG_6255Dragon fly

We took a break at the end of the trail along the Deschutes River before hiking back just as we had done on the previous visit.
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IMG_6300Confluence of the Deschutes (left) and Whychus Creek (right).

Butterflies and birds were out in force on the hike back.
IMG_6311Bald eagle

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IMG_6359Cedar hairstreak

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IMG_6369Turkey vulture

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IMG_6389Mountain chickadee

The hike here came in at 6.4 miles and 650′ of elevation gain giving us a little over 11.5 miles and 1120′ of climbing so far on the day.

Track for Alder Springs

We had one more quick stop planned for the day. Our first hike had been on Deschutes Land Trust land and the second in the Crooked River National Grassland managed by the Ochoco National Forest and our final stop at the Huntington Wagon Road was on BLM land. The hike here was of particular interest to me as the trailhead is only 2 miles from where I lived from 2nd grade until leaving home for college and yet I had no idea it was there. The BLM has created a 1.2 mile long interpretive trail along a section of a route that was built to haul supplies from The Dalles to build Fort Klamath.
IMG_6395Trailhead on McGrath Road.

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There is a lot to see along the trail as far as scenery goes. It’s mostly sagebrush and juniper with some lava formations mixed in. The history is what makes this hike interesting, and the dozens of lizards scurrying about.
IMG_6400A 300+ year old juniper named an Oregon Heritage Tree

IMG_6404Sagebrush, juniper and lava – my childhood 🙂

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IMG_6408Tree blaze

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IMG_6414Buckwheat

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IMG_6423Ruts along the wagon road.

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IMG_6427Skipper on Showy townsendia.

IMG_6433Post marking the relic fence line and turnaround point.

IMG_6434An old fence post and barbed wire.

IMG_6436Junipers are some interesting trees, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Track for the Huntington Wagon Road

In total we hiked 14 miles with 1150′ of elevation gain. We got to see two sections of Whychus Creek and Canyon as well as parts of two historic Wagon Roads. We ended the day by enjoying some homemade lasagna at Heather’s parents place. Not a bad way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Whychus Canyon Preserve, Alder Springs, and Huntington Wagon Road

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Alder Springs

This week we’re going to throwback to a hike that had a profound impact on how we hike. In 2011 the snow melt was unusually late and wound up impacting us on our vacation in Central Oregon during the first week of August. On 8/3/2011 we had planned on hiking the Benson Lake Loop. We took the McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) from Sisters and headed for the trailhead.  It was a beautiful morning and we stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory to take in the spectacular views.

Dee Wright Observatory

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Black Butte

Black Butte

Black Crater

Black Crater

North & Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister with the Little Brother

We continued on to the trailhead near Scott Lake and set off on the Benson Lake Trail.

Benson Lake Trailhead

In the mile and a half to Benson Lake we encountered a few snow patches and lots of mosquitoes.
Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

From Benson Lake we could see our next planned stop,Scott Mountain which appeared relatively snow free.

Benson Lake

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly beyond Benson Lake as the mosquitoes were thick and relentless and the trail was covered in snow.

Snowmelt pond near Benson Lake

Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

We were still quite inexperienced hikers with raw map skills, no GPS, and we hadn’t learned to look for blazes yet so we were relegated to following a lone set of footprints which worked until they disappeared. While we struggled to locate the trail Heather had a mosquito fly directly into her eye where it stuck. It remains the most disgusting hiking moment ever for us.

After extracting the kamikaze mosquito we surrendered and turned back while we knew we could still find the trail back.

We had only hiked around 4 miles by the time we were driving back toward Sisters and began looking for another hike that we might be able to do. We landed on the Alder Springs trail which would be snow free being in the high desert and at an elevation of only 2600′. Even better the trailhead was less than 20 miles from Sisters.

From the trailhead parking area Mt. Washington and the North Sister were visible. It was odd to think we’d just been forced by snow to turn back from a hike on the other side of those two mountains and now we were standing amid the sagebrush and juniper in the high desert. Not only was it a drastic change in scenery but it was also a lot warmer.

Alder Springs Trailhead

Mt. Washington

Middle and North Sister

The view here also included a look down the Wychus Creek Canyon which is where the trail would be leading us.

Wychus Creek Canyon

The Alder Springs Trail descended .2 miles to a fork where the Old Bridge Trail split to the left.

Old Bridge Trail sign

We took this .4 mile path down to the site of a former bridge and then down to the bank of Wychus Creek.

Site of a former bridge over Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Wychus Creek

We then returned to the Alder Springs Trail and followed it 1.2 miles to Alder Springs. This section of trail provided some nice views of the canyon before descending to the creek.

Wychus Creek Canyon

Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek Canyon

Rock formations along the Whychus Creek Canyon

A short narrow slot in the canyon wall was a neat little detour along the way.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Dry waterfall

The scenery became a little greener as the trail dropped to creek level and neared Alder Springs.

Alder Springs Trail

Alder Springs Trail

Interpretive sign at Alder Springs

We faced a choice here, turn back or ford the creek and continue a little over a mile and a half to the Deschutes River at its confluence with Wychus Creek. It was too nice a day and the scenery was too good to turn back so we forded the shin deep creek. Downstream the creek seemed to flow right into the canyon wall.

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Springs bubbled up in several spots joining the waters of Wychus Creek along the far bank.

Alder Springs

Alder Springs

Beyond the springs the trail stuck fairly close to the creek as it met the canyon wall and turned north.

Whychus Creek

Soon we were once again traversing the hillside a bit above the creek due to the thick vegetation along the creeks banks.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Whychus Creek

At one point the trail split with the right hand fork dropping down near to the creek in a thistle filled meadow. We took this path thinking it would be fun to be in the thistle and closer to the creek but as we made our way into the meadow the a distinctive sound of a rattle rose up.

Thistle meadow along the Alder Springs Trail

We slowed up and realized that there were at least two maybe three alarms being raised from different sides. We proceeded slowly making plenty of noise ourselves keeping our trekking poles ahead to give any snakes plenty of time to leave the area. We never saw any but they made plenty of noise. On the way back we skipped the meadow and stayed on the path that passed higher up the hillside.

We continued on, now on high alert, to the confluence of the river and creek. On the far side of the water rose a spectacular striped rock fin.

Rock fin near the Wychus Creek and Deschutes River confluence

Rock fin

A sign on a ponderosa announced the end of the maintained trail.

End of the Alder Springs Trail

A rock ledge along the Deschutes River provided a perfect lunch spot across from the fin where we could watch the river as it headed further down the canyon.

Deschutes River

Deschutes River

Rock fin from the Deschutes River

Having arrived at this spot from the Alder Springs Trailhead gave this spot a real feeling of remoteness. The fact that we hadn’t seen any other hikers since the parking area and having to ford the creek added to the sensation of solitude. In actuality the homes of Crooked River Ranch were not far away on the other side of the river and the Scout Camp Trail loops around the fin that seems so remote.

The Alder Springs Hike was a little over 6 miles round trip with about 650′ of elevation gain.

The experience at Benson Lake was a key motivating factor in our decision to make getting a GPS unit before the 2012 hiking season a top priority. It also reminded us that we needed to improve our map and navigational skills which we began to focus more on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Benson Lake & Alder Springs