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Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Baker Beach and Rock Creek Wilderness

Since 2013 our first hike of the year has been somewhere along the Oregon Coast.  Often the weather at the coast during January is nicer than other parts of the State making it a great time to visit.  This was certainly the case this year as the first part of January saw near record snows and freezing temperatures over much of the State.  The coast had not escaped the weather entirely but by the time we headed out for our first hike of the year, things were much nicer there than at home in the Willamette Valley.

Our destination was Baker Beach Camp just north of Florence, OR. This was a change (already) to our plans for 2017 but the forecast for the area was just too good to pass up. Mostly sunny skies and a high of 48 degrees was what was being called for so we left 23 degree Salem early in the morning and headed down to Eugene then west to Florence on Highway 126.

Baker Beach Camp is located at the end of Baker Beach Road, 7 miles north of Florence along Highway 101.  The only signage along the highway was a small green street sign which I noticed just as we passed by it. After quickly turning around we turned onto the gravel road and followed it .5 miles to the camps parking area.

Baker Beach Camp

Baker Beach Camp sign

To start our hike we walked a short distance back along the road and turned left at a trail sign for the Lily Lake Loop.

Start of the Lily Lake Loop

A short sandy climb brought us to a trail junction at the top of a sandy ridge.

Pacific Ocean from the Lily Lake Loop Trail in the morning

The Pacific Ocean was visible beyond Baker Beach and the sand dunes.

Trail signs along the Lily Lake Loop

The Berry Creek Loop would have kept us up on the sandy ridge while the Lily Lake Loop dropped down and passed near Lily Lake before climbing back up to the ridge top and rejoining the Berry Creek Loop Trail. We wanted to see the lake so we followed the Lily Lake pointer passing through a salal filled forest before things opened up along the lake.

Lily Lake Loop Trail

Trail along Lily Lake

We stayed on the paths closest to the lake thinking that one would bring us right to it but instead the lake remained mostly hidden behind first a row of trees then by a reed filled marsh near it’s outlet.

Lily Lake

We could see that there was quite a bit of activity on the lake with several types of ducks and some Canada geese floating on the water, but it was hard to get any clear photos with the vegetation in the way.

Canada geese on Lily Lake

Bufflehead

Bufflehead on Lily Lake

From the lake we climbed back up to the top of the Sandy Ridge which overlooked a small pond and Berry Creek flowing out toward the Pacific.

Moon over the Pacific Ocean

Berry Creek flowing toward the Pacific

There was no sign here and we could have followed the sandy ridge back to the junction we’d been at earlier, but instead we followed a path down to the base of the ridge which led us back to the start of the Baker Beach Trail at Baker Beach Camp. This little loop was just under 1.5 miles.

Baker Beach Trail

Here we turned right following the pointer for Baker Beach. (The Lily Lake/Berry Creek Loop continued from this junction creating an additional 1.7 mile loop to the north of the camp.)

The trail passes through a deflation plain behind the beaches foredune for .4 miles.

Foredune at Baker Beach

Looking north along the Baker Beach Trail

The deflation plain is the result of the dunes no longer expanding due to the loss of additional sand being blown from the beach. European bunchgrass which was introduced in the early 1900’s to help stabilize jetties but spread along the beaches and began stopping the blowing sand from leaving the beach which created the foredunes denying the dunes further inland any additional sand.

Baker Beach

Pacific Ocean from the foredune at Baker Beach

Cape Mountain from the foredune at Baker Beach

When we reached the beach we turned south heading toward Sutton Creek which was 3 miles away. Aside from a few birds we had the beach to ourselves.

Sanderlings on Baker Beach

Seagull and sanderlings

After about 3/4 of a mile along the beach we climbed back up the foredune to get a look at Sutton Creek which we had visited the previous February.

Sutton Creek behind the foredune

Ducks on Sutton Creek

We traveled along the foredune for a bit before dropping back down to the beach.

Patterns in the sand

Baker Beach

We had been considering crossing Sutton Creek and continuing south along Heceta Beach another 2.5 miles to the Siuslaw River but the creek was wide and it wasn’t that warm out.

Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek

After watching several large chunks of sand fall into the creek we headed back with the Heceta Head Lighthouse blinking in the distance to the north.

Heceta Head Lighthouse from Baker Beach

As we were recrossing the deflation plain we spotted a doe amid the grass and pines.

Heading back toward Baker Beach Camp

Doe

Doe

Since we’d cut our hike short (8.2 miles instead of the 13.2 planned) we had time to do another. We could have hiked Heceta Beach like we had planned by driving back to Florence and parking at the end of South Jetty Road, but we had noticed that that beach was already busy when we were at Sutton Creek earlier. We preferred something a little less crowded which led us to the Rock Creek Wilderness.

This was one of the wilderness areas that we had yet to visit and it was just another 8 miles north on Highway 101 from Baker Beach Road. We hopped in our car and drove to the gated entrance to the Rock Creek Campground.

Rock Creek Campground sign along Highway 101

The campground was closed for the season so we had to walk along the paved entrance road for approximately .4 miles.

Road to Rock Creek Campground

There had been one other vehicle parked at the gate and we passed it’s owner on his way back up from the campground area. The little campground was located right along Rock Creek.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek

The 7,486 Rock Creek Wilderness was designated as such in 1984 and has no Forest Service developed or maintained trials. That being said there is a use trail leading from the end of the Rock Creek Campground that can be followed into the wilderness.

Use trail leading from the Campground into the Rock Creek Wilderness

The path was brushy and narrow but passable as it followed along the creek.

Use trail in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek Wilderness

Rock Creek

Occasional flagging was present but really unnecessary as the brush was so thick that we had to follow the path in order to keep moving forward. The only real obstacle to speak of was a large downed tree that had fallen over the best path, but game trails led around the root ball.

BIg tree down in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Without an official trail there were no signs to mark the beginning of the wilderness area so we just followed the path as long as we could. After awhile the path led into a frosty meadow where the canyon widened.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

It was a muddy in spots but enough of the ground was still frozen to make it passable. Elk and deer sign were everywhere. It was a beautiful spot with the white frost contrasted against the green of a coastal forest while rays of sunlight attempted to penetrate the canopy.

Frosty meadow in the Rock Creek Wilderness

Sunlight through the trees in the Rock Creek Wilderness

The sound of water flowing on every side only added to the ambiance. There was more flagging at the far end of the meadow and some on the far side of Rock Creek but again this wasn’t a day for fording creeks so we declared victory here and turned around.

Our turn around point (too cold to ford the creek today)

When we got home I wanted to make sure we’d actually made it into the wilderness so I pulled up the interactive map on Wilderness.net. The actual wilderness boundary bows away from the Rock Creek Campground making it further up along the creek than I had thought, but comparing our GPS track to that map showed we had managed to get about .4 miles into the Rock Creek Wilderness.

The Wilderness.net map

Rock Creek Wilderness

Our GPS track

Rock Creek Wilderness Track

On a warmer day when you don’t mind spending some time in the creek it’s possible to get further into the wilderness as this trip report indicates.a href=”http://www.cascadiahiking.com/2012/08/rock-creek-wilderness-no-trail-no.html” target=”_blank”>Cascadia Hiking

Our adventure was only 2.2 miles round trip including the road walk to and from the campground but the solitude and remote feeling of the Rock Creek Wilderness made it seem much more removed from civilization.

With that our 2017 hiking year is officially under way. We checked off our 27th Oregon Wilderness Area and still have 18 to go, 4 more of which are planned this year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157679106715756