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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
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Malheur River – 06/17/2021

After a night in John Day we headed south for a day hike on the Malheur River Trail. The trail starts at Malheur Ford Trailhead where Forest Road 1651 actually does ford the river.
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The Malheur, a designated Wild and Scenic River, is fed from the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness (post). The trail is 7.6 miles long running from the ford to another trailhead at Hog Flat. For our hike we planned on hiking around 6.5 miles of the trail at which point the trail would be starting the steep climb away from the river to Hog Flat. It was a pleasantly cool morning as we set off on the trail. Despite the Forest Service indicating that the trail had not been maintained it was in good shape with just a couple of trees to step over/around.
IMG_8357Bench near the trailhead.

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IMG_8363Lupine along the trail.

IMG_8378There was plenty of river access along the way.

20210617_065036Currant

IMG_8388Paintbrush and lupine along the trail.

IMG_8392Geraniums

IMG_8397Ponderosa pines

Mile markers were present (at least to mile 6) although we missed 3 & 5 on the way out. We managed to spot them on the way back though. There did seem to be a bit of a discrepancy regarding the first mile as there were two trees sporting “1”s.
IMG_8399First 1

IMG_8400Second 1

A little past the mile 1 markers the trail descended to Miller Creek where just a little water was present but it was enough to host a number of flowers.
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IMG_8407Camas

IMG_8416Balsamroot, columbine, geraniums and paintbrush.

The trail did several more ups and downs sometimes rising above the river and other times dropping down to flats along it. A rocky viewpoint just before the 2 mile mark was fairly impressive.
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IMG_8601Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8603Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8444Tree marking mile 2.

IMG_8448Typical “obstacles” that were present along the trail.

IMG_8454Columbine

IMG_8461Cusick’s sunflower?

IMG_8463Balsamroot or mule’s ears?

IMG_8472Woodland stars

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IMG_8478Mile 4

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Right around mile five (which we missed the marker for) was a riverside meadow of wildflowers.
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IMG_8498Salsify and geraniums

20210617_092225Sticky cinquefoil

IMG_8505Swallowtail on scarlet gilia

20210617_092314Geranium

IMG_8514Some sort of copper butterfly

IMG_8523A checkerspot

IMG_8533Iris

IMG_8539Balsamroot (or mule’s ears)

20210617_093615A fleabane

20210617_093639A different type of fleabane.

20210617_093941Larkspur

20210617_094301Rosy pussytoes

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After hanging out in the meadow watching the butterflies for awhile we continued on.
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IMG_8550Hog Flat is up on top of the hillside.

IMG_8556Mile 6 markers.

IMG_8557Cracked egg in the trail.

IMG_8562We passed this cairn around the 6.5 mile mark.

IMG_8563We turned around here shortly after passing the cairn. It appeared the trail was beginning it’s climb and we took the cairn and downed tree as signs that it was time to turn around. We did just that and headed back keeping our eyes open for the mile 3 and 5 markers.
IMG_8579A fritillary butterfly on an iris.

IMG_8581Found 5

IMG_8593This was a particularly tricky little muddy spot to stay dry crossing.

IMG_8595And there’s “3”.

IMG_8607Immature bald eagle. We saw it on the way out in the same area but couldn’t get a photo. This time it flew right by me, and I think it was giving me the stink eye.

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IMG_8614Back at the trailhead.

This was a 13.5 mile out and back with a few hundred feet of elevation gain spread over the various ups and downs along the way. There were plenty of views of the river and a nice variety of wildflowers and wildlife making this a nice river hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Malheur River Trail

Categories
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
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Diamond Lake and Wiley Camp – 09/05/2020

As I write up this trip report the Diamond Lake Resort, like many other areas in Oregon, has been evacuated due to a wildfire. The tragic loss of homes and lives happening right now is truly heartbreaking. Right now the Thielsen Fire is moving away from the lake but a shift in the winds could change that in an instant.

We visited Diamond Lake to kick off our Labor Day Weekend hiking the full loop around the 3,015 acre lake. There are numerous possible starting points for the loop and we chose to park at Horse Lake where we could follow the Horse N Teal Trail to the Dellenback Trail which is the paved trail around Diamond Lake. There was quite a bit of smoke from wildfires in California in the air which limited visibility as we set off from Horse Lake on the trail.
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IMG_5373Horse Lake

IMG_5375Lesser yellowlegs

We opted not to make the short loop around Horse Lake and turned right at a junction toward Forest Road 4795 and Teal Lake.
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The trail crossed the road and then descended a short distance to Teal Lake.
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There is also a loop around Teal Lake so we had the choice of going left or right. We had planned on hiking counter-clockwise around Diamond Lake so we went right here and passed around the east side of Teal Lake where there was a hazy view of Mt. Bailey (post).
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At the north end of the lake a very short connector trail led to the paved Dellenback Trail where we again turned right.
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IMG_5398Northern flicker

A large meadow separates the trail from the lake here.
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We followed the path through the forest ignoring side trails for a mile where we arrived at the South Shore Picnic Area.
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IMG_5406Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.

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IMG_5420Mt. Thielsen from the South Shore Picnic Area

IMG_5412Diamond Lake underneath the smoke.

IMG_5414Mt. Bailey

IMG_5425Mt. Thielsen from the boat dock.

We had expected the lake to be busy given it was Labor Day weekend and Diamond Lake is a very popular spot and we were right. We utilized our masks as we passed through the picnic area and continued past an RV park and into the Diamond Lake Campground which stretches along most of the eastern side of the lake.
IMG_5427Picnic tables in the picnic area.

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IMG_5432Short Creek (it really is short)

IMG_5433Resort buildings between the RV park and campground.

IMG_5434Sign instructing users to follow painted bike symbols through the campground.

Despite passing through the busy campground there were a number of good views of Mt. Bailey across the lake. There were also quite a few ducks in the area.
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IMG_5443Common merganser

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IMG_5458Goldeneyes

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The trail left the campground and then in a quarter mile arrived at the Diamond Lake Lodge area.
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IMG_5469Mt. Bailey again.

IMG_5471Arriving at the lodge area.

IMG_5472Seagulls

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We passed by the lodge along the grassy lake shore and then returned to the trail on the far side. We were now far enough around the lake that we could once again see Mt. Thielsen.
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This section of trail was lined with larger and more diverse trees and is also the side closest to the Thielsen Fire as of this writing.
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There were fewer people along this stretch but a steady stream of bicycle riders did pass by. More entertaining though were the birds.
IMG_5492Bald eagle

IMG_5498I’ve been spotted

IMG_5503Chickadee with a seed or nut.

IMG_5510Junco in some fireweed.

IMG_5513The junco with Mt. Bailey in the background.

IMG_5521Looking back at Mt. Thielsen

IMG_5523More goldeneyes

IMG_5526Mergansers

The trail joined FR 4795 again 1.7 miles from the lodge to avoid what appeared to be an old guard station or possibly just a private cabin near Lake Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail continued with the Rodley Butte Trail on the opposite side of the road.
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The trail then passed a nice little sandy beach with a view of Mt. Thielsen.
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IMG_5536Osprey

We were now heading south along the western side of the lake which provided good views of Mt. Thielsen and Howlock Mountain despite the smoke.
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IMG_5546Cormorant

IMG_5548Howlock Mountain to the left and Mt. Thielsen

The mountain views would be interrupted just over a mile from Lake Creek when the Dellenback Trail veered away from the lake to avoid the Thielsen View Campground.
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We again crossed FR 4795 and continued through the trees for nearly three miles before recrossing the road.
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IMG_5554Back on the lake side of FR 4795.

We were now passing by the large meadow at the south end of the lake, only this time it was Mt. Thielsen not Mt. Bailey beyond the meadow.
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Just under a mile after recrossing FR 4795 we arrived at a scenic footbridge over Silent Creek.
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A quarter mile beyond Silent Creek we arrived back at the Horse N Teal Trail junction near Teal Lake.
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We turned up this trail and passed by Teal Lake on the opposite side from that morning thus completing that loop.
IMG_5576Canada geese at Teal Lake.

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We arrived back at Horse Lake after 11.6 miles of hiking. This managed to be a somewhat easy yet hard hike at the same time. The lack of elevation change and obstacles along the trail made for easy, quick hiking, but the paved surface is a lot harder on the feet than dirt. We hadn’t stopped much at all along the way either due to the number of other trail users and our attempting to do our best to stay properly socially distanced.

Our day wasn’t done after the lake loop though. We were planning on spending the weekend in the area with Sunday’s hike being to Rattlesnake Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. We left Diamond Lake and took Highway 230 toward Medford to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead which was devoid of other vehicles.
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We had brought our backpacking gear with thoughts of setting up camp somewhere between the trailhead and Wiley Camp.
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We had been to Hummingbrid Meadows before (post) but on that hike we had come in on the Buck Canyon Trail. On that trip we had also not visited Wiley Camp. For this trip we were planning on spending the night in our tent then using the Wiley Camp Trail to hike up to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail and complete the Rattlesnake Mountain hike described in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook. The status of Wiley Camp and the Wiley Camp Trail was a little confusing. The Forest Service websites mention the trail but in almost every instance “area not available” followed the reference. A 2018 trip report from vanmarmot.org though showed that just two years before the trail was still there and passable.

We followed the Hummingbird Meadows Trail into the wilderness where we were quickly met with some downed trees.
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The trail then passed through a meadow and dropped to a crossing of the West Fork Muir Creek where we thought we might find a campsite but there really wasn’t anything that caught our eye.
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IMG_5596hedgenettle and aster.

IMG_5597Monkeyflower

The trail climbed away from the creek and in 100 yards arrived at the Buck Canyon Trail junction (approx .4 miles from the trailhead).
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We turned right onto the Buck Canyon Trail which passed through Hummingbird Meadows before arriving at the Wiley Camp Trail junction in 1.6 miles. There were quite a few downed logs as trail maintenance in the area appears to be way down the Forest Service’s list of priorities but nothing was unmanageable. We had been watching for any campsites but nothing stood out so we decided to just go to Wiley Camp since it was only a little over 2 miles from the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead.
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IMG_5605Wiley Camp Trail on the right.

We turned down the Wiley Camp Trail which was in no worse/better shape than the Buck Canyon Trail arriving at Wiley Camp after a quarter of a mile.
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IMG_5611Wiley Camp sign

Unlike the busy Diamond Lake area there was no one else to be seen in this area. We picked a tent site and set up camp on the hillside above the West Fork Muir Creek.
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We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening down at the creek and doing a quick survey of the Wiley Camp Trail for the next day. Clear tread led up from the creek into the meadow on the far side where it quickly vanished. After heading too far left (west) into some trees we located a small cairn and some pink flagging leading the way out of the meadow.
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IMG_5615Grass of parnassus

IMG_5623Frog

IMG_5616Trail leading up from the creek into the meadow.

IMG_5630Big cedar at the edge of the meadow.

IMG_5635Cairn and pink flagging (small tree to the right) marking the Wiley Camp Trail.

IMG_5644Elder berry

IMG_5648Twisted stalk

No one else ever showed up to Wiley Camp, at least no people. A bright Moon helped light the area where we could see many bats darting about.
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Hopefully the forest and features in this trip report will look similar for years to come and this isn’t a memorial of what once was. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Diamond Lake Loop

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Netarts Spit – 1/25/2020

We were down to the last weekend of the month so in order to get our monthly hike in we were going to have to deal with whatever weather we were dealt. Heading into Saturday the forecast was for rain everywhere I checked so we decided to stick to our original plan which was to visit a series of lakes in the coastal range. That plan was scrapped on Friday night when I checked the trail conditions and discovered that one of the ones that we’d be on had been closed this month due to heavy storm damage. Plan B had been a nearly 3 hour drive to Reedsport, but a 100% chance of rain didn’t warrant that long of a drive. I looked to our 2021 hikes and decided on Netarts Spit at Cape Lookout State Park which was a more reasonable hour and a half drive away.

We set off just before 6am with all our rain gear and drove to the Cape Lookout Day Use Trailhead where we purchased a $5 parking pass and noted that it was in fact not raining here.
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We suspected it was just a matter of time and put our rain gear on before starting off. One of the issues with last minute hike swaps is that it limits the amount of time we have to read up on the hike. The Netarts Spit hike is featured in two of our books by Matt Reeder (“Off the Beaten Trail” and “PDX Hiking 365”) as well as in the Oregonhikers.org field guide. I had looked at both and noted that while Reeder’s description indicated to hike along the beach the field guide mentioned an inland route for the first portion. After walking down to the beach near a picnic shelter we walked back up to the shelter and followed a path north through some trees.
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The view south from this path was dominated by Cape Lookout jutting out into the Pacific. Several waterfalls could be seen on it’s flanks.
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When we came to another beach access point just before a gated section of the campground we decided to head down to the beach.
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Had I studied the entry in the field guide more thoroughly I would have known that it recommends following the road through the campground to avoid the cobblestones along the beach here.
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The tide was just high enough that in order to stay out of the Ocean we were forced to walk on these rocks and they are not fun. Ankles were rolling and twisting in all sorts of directions as we stumbled along.
IMG_2136Ocean coming right up to the rocks.

When we got our next chance we popped back up off the beach into the campground following a gravel track past some group tent sites.
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We’d already seen one bald eagle fly overhead and here we spotted another one sitting in a tree ahead.
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While watching the eagle a great blue heron flew over.
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Beyond the group tent sites the road was gated and turned into a grassy path with Netarts Bay to the right and dunes to the left.
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The grassy roadbed soon ended at a stand of trees where a clear trail continued.
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IMG_2154Trail at lower right with a little standing water.

The field guide had mentioned that sections of this trail may have standing water but we weren’t quite prepared for long stretches of calf deep ponds. Heather was smart enough to find a deer path a little higher up on the left side (Which was something the field guide said you might have to do but in my quick reading I hadn’t picked up on that.) I tried sticking to the trail for a bit, but after a while in the water my feet starting getting cold so I joined her. We made the decision to try and follow one of these paths up and over to the beach which we managed to do.
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Then it was just a matter of finding the best spot to drop back down onto the beach, and more cobblestones, yay.
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Luckily it wasn’t long before we were able to drop onto the sand.
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There was a lot more blue sky than we’d been expecting which was a pleasant surprise. To the north we could see the Three Arch Rocks although a perpetual fog seemed to be hanging over them.
IMG_2172Three Arch Rocks – one of two wilderness areas in Oregon off limits to visitors.

We were able to spend the next 4 miles to the end of the spit on the beach. There were no other people in sight (until the fishing boats in the bay). There were a few seagulls here and there and we saw at least 8 different Bald Eagles counting at least 6 congregated in a short stretch of trees.
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A final eagle awaited near the end of the spit.
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We were hoping that by the time we got to the turn around point we’d have a better look at Three Arch Rocks but the view wasn’t much clearer than it had been all morning.
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We had stubbornly kept our rain gear on waiting for the forecast to come to fruition, but we stopped here to remove it since we were way too warm. We then made a short loop around the tip of the spit to look at the bay before starting back.
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One thing that both Reeder and the field guide agreed on was that it was impossible to travel along the bay due to marshy conditions so we started back down the beach.
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The tide was coming in and we noticed that waves were starting to cover the entire beach and forced us up into the dunes a bit where we followed some deer tracks for awhile.
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We spent the majority of the next three and a half miles staying up as high on the dunes as possible which made for some more difficult travel. The grass on the dunes is surprisingly sharp tipped and it was all pointing north so we were walking directly into the points. The thickness of the grass also meant that you couldn’t really tell what the terrain underneath was like so there were plenty of awkward steps, although no falls. I had done that on the beach when I tripped over a small piece of driftwood.
IMG_2233Looking back north from the dune crest.

IMG_2235Looking north at what was to come.

IMG_2230Thick forest between the bay and the dune.

IMG_2236One of several semi-circles created by grass going back and forth.

Being up on the dune did allow for some views of the bay where we spotted birds including surf scooters and great blue herons.
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We were forced down onto the backside of the dune as we neared the point where we had crossed over the beach that morning. Here a maze of game trails led in all directions. The trick was attempting to avoid the thorny rose stalks and blackberry bushes as well as thickets of nearly impassable salal.
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We eventually made it back to the submerged trail and grassy track from earlier which we followed back to the campground and then stuck to the paved road as we returned to trail leading between the campground and picnic shelter.
IMG_2255Cape Lookout from the trail to the picnic shelter.

IMG_2257Seagull atop the shelter.

Our GPS put our hike at 11.1 miles which was in line with the field guides 11.2 and a little longer than Reeder’s 10 miles. We both agreed that it may have been the hardest hike we’d done along the coast due to the tricky terrain, although part of it might also be that it had been over a month since our previous hike and we’re a bit out of hiking shape. In any event it felt like an adventure which was nice and the fact that the rainy forecast turned into just a mostly cloudy day with a couple of sun breaks made for a great start to 2020’s hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Netarts Spit

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge & B.C. Creek Falls

We took an couple of days off for an extended Memorial Day Weekend in order to take a trip to NE Oregon in hopes of checking off a few more hikes of our to do list of Bill Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). The plans included our fist visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness which would leave us with just seven more wilderness areas to visit in Oregon (post).

We also recently added a third goal of hiking in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. I had recently been looking at a map and began wondering how many of the counties we had hiked in and realized that there were only 5 in which we hadn’t as of the start of May this year: Columbia, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, and Morrow. We checked off Columbia with our visit to Sauvie Island (post) and we have hikes planned in Umatilla and Union later this year. That left Gilliam and Morrow which are adjacent to one another in the north central portion of the State with the Columbia River acting as their northern borders. Neither of these counties are home to any of the 500 featured hikes but the John Day River acts as the western border for Gilliam County. We had been in Sherman County on the west side of the John Day during our visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park (post) and remembered that there was a trail on the other side of the river, the Lost Corral Trail, which I quickly added to our future plans. That left Morrow County.

Sullivan does have a couple of additional hikes in the back of his Eastern Oregon book that are located in Morrow County but neither seemed to fit into our future plans. I turned to the map to see if anything would turn up and noticed that the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge was located in the county just NE of Boardman just off Interstate 84. We would be driving that by on our way to Wallowa Lake so I did a little research on the refuge. The Heritage Trail is the only official trail there but other areas are open to foot traffic and we were just looking for something that would allow us to stretch our legs and would allow us to check Morrow County off our new list.

We took exit 168 from I-84 and followed Highway 730 for 3.7 miles then turned left onto Patterson Ferry Road at a sign for the refuge. We drove 2.7 miles along Patterson Ferry Road past a parking area with restrooms to left at a large sign marking the start of a short driving loop.
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We had a map of the refuge with us, but the parking areas weren’t marked which was a little confusing. We followed the gravel road around a field parking at a lot on the right just under 1.5 miles from the start of the loop. A green fence blocked what looked like an old road bed.
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We decided to follow this track thinking that it might lead us to the Heritage Trail. There were a few wildflowers amid the grasses and a pleasant scent in the air coming from the trees.
IMG_7034Yarrow

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By the sound of them there were a whole lot of birds around but we weren’t having a lot of luck spotting them aside from a red-tailed hawk screeching in the sky above and a couple of western kingbirds.
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Several signed tracks split off from what appeared to be the main track that we were following. We aren’t sure but think they were pointers for hunting blinds.
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The track led us toward McCormack Slough where a bald eagle was keeping watch.
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At the slough we tried following a fainter track to the left thinking it might hook up with the Heritage Trail but there was no discernible path around the slough so we made our way back to the main track and returned to the car. Along the way we spotted two coyotes, several deer, a great blue heron and a pair of white pelicans.
IMG_7065First coyote in the grass.

IMG_7066Second coyote racing off through the grass.

IMG_7070One of the deer running off.

IMG_7072Great blue heron flying off.

IMG_7073White pelicans circling overhead.

We continued on the driving loop and just about a half mile later spotted the parking area for the signed Heritage Trail on the right.
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The paved trail follows an old road between a portion of the slough.
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We followed this trail for about a half mile where it joined an open road and then turned around and headed back. It was a short hike but we did see some more wildlife and a few flowers.
IMG_7076Bald Eagle

IMG_7080Wild Rose

IMG_7086Butterfly

IMG_7090Killdeer

IMG_7093An egret on the other side of the slough.

IMG_7097Sagebrush lizard

IMG_7099Another butterfly

IMG_7100Deadly Nightshade

IMG_7102A goose in the reeds.

Each of our stops here consisted of 1.1 mile hikes with a nice amount of wildlife. We drove back to the Interstate and continued east onto Wallowa Lake and our second hike of the day.

We had made reservations at the Eagle Cap Chalets near Wallowa Lake, just under 3/4 of a mile from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead and the start of our next hike. We decided to see if our room was ready and it was so we unpacked the car, threw on our packs and road walked to the trailhead.
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We started a 5 day backpacking trip here in 2016 (post) so the first quarter mile of trail was familiar before turning off of the West Fork Wallowa Trail onto the Chief Joseph Trail.
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The first section of trail may have been familiar but being two months earlier in the year the flowers were different.
IMG_7111Anemone

IMG_7115Fairyslipper

IMG_7122Arnica

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Rock Clematis

We turned onto the Chief Joseph Trail at the signed junction following a hand written pointer for B.C. Creek Falls
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The trail descended through the forest to a footbridge over the West Fork Wallowa River.
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On the far side of the river the trail climbed a series of switchbacks past more wildflowers and views down to the bridge below.
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IMG_7161Bluebells

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IMG_7172Prairie stars

IMG_7173More rock clematis

IMG_7178Paintbrush

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IMG_7191Larkspur

The trail then leveled out a bit as it traversed the hillside above the river passing a viewpoint of Wallowa Lake 3/4 of a mile beyond the bridge.
IMG_7206Area near the viewpoint.

IMG_7207Looking further into the Wallowas.

IMG_7242Wallowa Lake

We arrived at B.C. Creek a tenth of a mile from the viewpoint.
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After two bridges were washed out here the Forest Service stopped replacing them.
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After admiring the falls we turned back, not being tempted at all to attempt a ford to complete a possible loop back via the abandoned portion of the Chief Joseph Trail beyond the creek.
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Sullivan describes a second possible loop option by taking a spur trail through a private Boy Scout Camp. He noted that this trail could be closed to the public at any time but we decided to check it out turning left onto the unsigned but obvious trail .4 miles from the creek.
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After just a tenth of a mile a rocky viewpoint offered another look into the mountains and some purple penstemon.
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We also spotted a sign stating that the trail beyond was closed to the public and warning of surveillance cameras. We returned to the Chief Joseph Trail and headed back down to the bridge and recrossed the river. We then noticed another well used trail and followed it left along the canyon rim above the West Fork Wallowa.
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Flowers dotted the rocky terrain here.
20190523_152152Shooting star

IMG_7292Old man’s whiskers

IMG_7298Possibly a checkermallow

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We kept following the path along the rim to a viewpoint above a small unnamed waterfall.
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The user trail kept going beyond the falls so we did too eventually hooking back up with the West Fork Wallowa Trail a little over 100 yards from the trailhead. We then road walked back past the ground squirrels patrolling Wallowa State Park to the Eagle Cap Chalets, but not before stopping at the Khao Neaow Food Cart to get some Thai food to take back to our room for dinner.
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The food was great and after dinner we walked down to Glacier Grill and General Store to pick up some food and drinks for the room. On the way back we noticed a group of deer in front of the old Edelweiss Inn.
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They were a rowdy bunch.
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Our outing to B.C. Creek Falls was a modest 5 miles and a nice reminder of how much we loved our 2016 trip to the Wallowas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Umatilla WLFR & B.C. Creek Falls

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Metolius River

Throwback Thursday is dedicated this week to one of the best wildlife hikes we’ve taken. On July 29th, 2012 on the way to Central Oregon we stopped at the Lower Canyon Creek Campground along the Metolius River. We parked at the West Metolius Trailhead at the far end of the campground.

West Metolius River Trailhead

An interesting thing here was the presence of a parking attendant.

Golden mantled ground squirrel

The trail begins along the banks of the Metolius River and stick close to it for the first 1.25 miles.

Metolius River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead a series of springs gushed from the far bank of the river.

Springs along the Metolius River

Springs along the Metolius River

Wildflowers grew along the bank and sometimes out in the river.

Metolius River

Scarlet gilia

Monkshod and hedge-nettle

Wildflowers along the Metolius River

Monkeyflower

Near the 1.25 mile mark the trail climbed away from the river just a bit as it wound through a steep canyon.

Metolius River

Soon we were back down along the riverbank though.

Metolius River

At the 2.7 mile mark we arrived at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Driving here is an option and can be a fun place for kids to watch and even feed the fish.

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Fish at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

The hatchery apparently has other fans as well.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

For a shorter 5.7 mile hike we could have turned around here and headed back but a 6.4 mile loop could be completed by continuing on from the fish hatchery to a bridge at the Lower Bridge Campground so after looking at all the fish we continued on. In the 3.2 miles to the bridge we spotted a variety of wildlife.

Robin

Robin

Yellow rumped warbler

Yellow rumped warbler

Western fence lizard

Western fence lizard

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel

Deer in a meadow along the West Metolius Trail

Doe

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Lorquin’s admiral

Mylitta crescent butterfly

Mylitta crescent? butterfly

western fence lizard

Another western fence lizard

Coronis fritillary

Fritillary butterfly

Osprey

Osprey

We crossed the Metolius on the bridge and headed back along the eastern bank.

Metolius River

East Metolius Trail

The 3.2 miles back to the bridge at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery also had its share of wildlife.

Junco

Junco

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Silver-spotted skipper on lewis flax

Silver-spotted skipper

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Chipmunk

Another chipmunk

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Another ground squirrel

Western tanager

Western tanager

The bridge to the hatchery offers a great view of Wizard Falls. Not exactly a waterfall, Wizard Falls is created by ledges in the lava rock below the river creating a colorful water feature.

Wizard Falls

Wizard Falls

After crossing the bridge we returned to the trailhead and headed to Sisters. This was a great hike for not a lot of effort. There was very little elevation gain making the 11.8 miles very manageable. Another nice aspect to this trail is that it is open most of the year (other than during winter storms). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Metolius River

Categories
Hiking Northern Coast Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Nehalem Bay State Park, Kilchis Point Reserve, and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

We didn’t waste any time starting on our 2018 list of hikes as we took advantage of favorable weather on New Year’s Day and headed for the Oregon Coast. Our plan for the day was to make three stops near Tillamook. First at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, then at Kilchis Point Reserve, and finally at Nehalem Bay State Park. As we neared Tillamook though it became apparent that we were a bit ahead of the Sun so we decided to swap the first and final stops to avoid sitting at the Cape Meares Trailhead waiting for light.

We drove north through Tillamook on Highway 101 to mile post 44 (one mile south of Manzanita) where we turned west at a sign for Nehalem Bay State Park. After paying the $5 day use fee we parked at the large day use area. We waited briefly for enough light to take a short path to the ocean.
Nehalem Bay Trailhead

Pacific Ocean

The view from the beach was a good one with some of our previous destinations visible to the north.
Neahkahanie Mountain
Neahaknie Mountain, Angora Peak, and Cape Falcon

To the south our final destination of the day, Cape Meares, jutted out into the Pacific.
Looking south from the Nehalem Spit

We walked south along the quite beach for 2.25 miles to the jetty at the end of the spit. We were joined by a lone jogger, some seagulls, and a curious seal.
Morning glow on the Pacific

Seagull

Seal

Jetty on Nehalem Spit

A mass of driftwood near the jetty forced us to backtrack a bit along the beach to a hiker sign where we turned inland.
Morning light hitting Neahkahanie Mountain

Hiker post on Nehalem Spit

We crossed the spit to the bay and turned north along the water on a worn path.
Swell heading into the bay

We were eventually able to get down onto the sandy Nehalem Beach which we walked along as far as we could before the high water forced us back up into the vegetation.
Neahkahanie Mountain across Nehalem BayNehalem Beach ahead

While we walked along the beach we spotted a bald eagle, more seals, and a varied thrush.
Bald eagle

Seals in Nehalem Bay

Varied thrush

Ideally we would have been able to keep on the sand all the way back along the bay to the park’s boat ramp but since that wasn’t an option we turned inland on what appeared to be a well traveled trail. We were hoping it would lead us to the horse trail that our map showed running down the center of the spit but after a short distance the path we were following became flooded.
More water on Nehalem Spit

We were forced to attempt to follow a maze of game trails.
Off trail travel on Nehalem Spit

We could guess who was responsible for the confusion of trails by the elk sign we continually spotted. We lucked out at one point when we came to another flooded area at a narrow point where we were able to cross on driftwood. Had we tried sticking to the bay we would have run into a spot too wide to cross and wound up where we were anyway.
Inlet along Nehalem Bay

Shortly after crossing the water travel became easier as we were able to reach another sandy beach and then pick up a wider more traveled trail back to the horse trail not far from the day use parking lot.
Nehalem Bay

Horse Trail in Nehalem Bay State Park

Our guidebook and called this a 5.2 mile loop but the time we’d arrived back at the car we had squeezed 5.7 miles out of it due to backtracking because of the flooded trail.

After returning to the highway we headed south to Bay City for our second stop of the morning – Kilchis Point Reserve. We turned towards Tillamook Bay on Warren Street near mile post 61 and followed pointers to the parking area on Spurce Street.
Kilshis Point Reserve Trailhead

Kilchis Point is the site of one of the largest Native American villages along the Northern Oregon Coast. It is also the location where the Morning Star of Tillamook, first ship registered in the Oregon Territory, was built. The small park is very nice with plenty of amenities and a plethora of information posted throughout. It was a little chilly out so we didn’t stop to read all the signs this time but that just gives us a reason to stop again and check it out in the Spring or Summertime.
Path at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

We followed the brick path from the parking area keeping right at junctions a total of 1.2 miles to a bird watching gazebo at Tillamook Bay.
Brick path at Kilchis Point Reserve

Gazeebo for birdwatching at Kilchis Point Reserve

Tillamook Bay

We didn’t spot many animals (other than dogs) along the way but we did get to listen to a pair of bald eagles for a bit.
Bald eagle

After a short break by the bay we returned to the parking area by following signs and staying right at trail junctions to complete two short loops.
Trail sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Kilchis Point

We then drove south to Tillamook and followed signs to Oceanside on Highway 131. From Oceanside we followed signs to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and parked at a trailhead parking area at the park entrance.
Cape Meares Trailhead

A mudslide in January of 2013 closed the Three Capes Scenic Loop beyond the park entrance. That slide continues to slowly shift the area and has affected a trail between the trailhead and the beach to the north of Cape Meares. We decided to head down this trail to see the conditions first hand.
Cape Meares Trail map

Trail at Cape Meares

The upper portion of the trail was in reasonably good shape although there was a small tree that required ducking under.
Trail at Cape Meares

Shortly after passing a fairly nice view of another place we had previously hiked, Bayocean Spit, we came to a jumble of debris.
Bayocean Spit from Cape Meares

Washed out trail at Cape Meares

That was our turn around point,a little over half a mile from the trialhead. We headed back up to the trailhead and took the .2 mile Big Spruce Trail. The tree is estimated to be 750 to 800 years old and is the largest known Sitka spruce in Oregon.
Sign for the Big Spurce

Big Spruce

Big Spruce at Cape Meares

For a bit of perspective if the tree sprouted in 1217 it was there at the start of the fifth crusade.

After visiting the old tree we road walked .6 miles along the entrance road to the crowded parking area for the Cape Meares Lighthouse.
Cape Meares lighthouse parking

We stopped at a viewpoint platform overlooking Tower and Pillar Rocks to the north.
Tower and Pillar Rocks

A .2 mile path led from the parking area past more viewpoints to the lighthouse.
Cape Meares

Waterfall at Cape Meares

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse

A second .2 mile path led back to the parking lot allowing for a short loop and providing views south to Cape Lookout and the Three Arch Rocks Wilderness, one of the two off-limits wilderness areas in Oregon.
Looking south from Cape Meares

After returning to the parking area we headed for the Octopus Tree which was just a tenth of a mile away.
Sign for the Octopus Tree

Octopus Tree at Cape Meares

Octopus Tree at Cape Meares

Another Sitka spruce, this unique tree has no central trunk. Instead several limbs have grown vertically. After visiting this tree we walked back up the entrance road to our car and headed home, capping off our first outing of 2018. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Nehalem Bay, Kilchis Point, and Cape Meares

Categories
Hiking Northern Coast Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Fort-To-Sea Trail – Fort Clatsop

We have officially started our 2016 hikes. As we have done for the past several years we headed to the Oregon Coast for our first hike of the year. Our goal this time was to hike the Fort-To-Sea Trail following a route initially blazed by Lewis and Clark in 1805 from Fort Clatsop to the ocean. Fort Clatsop was built near what is now the Lewis and Clark River and the Fort-To-Sea Trail was used by the expedition to gather salt by boiling saltwater. The area is now part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park complete with a replica of the original fort.

We decided to start our hike at the Sunset Beach Recreation Site near the ocean north of Gearhart, OR. From there we would take the trail to Fort Clatsop and back. Things got off to a rocky start at the trailhead when we found the restrooms devoid of toilet paper and discovered that I had not yet switched our toiletry supplies from my backpack to my daypack. After a quick trip back to Gearhart for supplies we were back at the trailhead and ready to begin.
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Before heading to Fort Clatsop we headed toward the ocean on the Fort-To-Sea Trail. There used to be a viewing deck overlooking the ocean 1/3 of a mile from the parking area but it has been removed leaving a sandy circle on the grassy dune.
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The Sun was still rising behind us creating some nice colors on the western horizon.
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After returning to the trailhead we headed inland toward Fort Clatsop which was 6.2 miles away. The first portion of the trail passed through storm damaged trees skirting several bodies of water. Ducks paddled about on the water as it reflected the colors of the sunrise.
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The path then led up and over a small sandy hill and down to an arched bridge over Neacoxie Lake.
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To the SE of the lake was the Astoria Country Club’s golf course, a popular morning stop for elk. We hadn’t seen any elk during our hikes in 2015, but on the far side of the course on a small hill were three.
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We watched them for a bit from the bridge as they made their way along the hillside.
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Beyond the bridge the trail passed through a mile and a half of pastures. The fenced route was well marked as the trail led to East Neacoxie Lake.
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Smaller than Neacoxie Lake, East Neacoxie Lake was full of wildlife. A pair of Bald Eagles watched over the many ducks and small birds enjoying the lake.
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The trail crossed this lake on a floating bridge.
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As we were making our way across something swam out from under the bank near the far end of the bridge. Our minds immediately went to otter or beaver, neither of which we have spotted yet during a hike. Instead it turned out to be a nutria, a large rat-like semiaquatic rodent considered an invasive species by the ODFW.
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The trail then led past a pioneer church and cemetery to an underpass of Highway 101.
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After passing under the highway and skirting another field we crossed the Skipanon River before heading into a forest.
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At the 4.7 mile mark we reached the Clatsop Ridge Overlook which was a nice ocean viewpoint with a picnic table and several benches.
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From the viewpoint the trail followed old roads down to the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center.
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We passed through the center and continued 100 yards to the replica fort.
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We were surprised at just how small a structure the fort was especially considering it was home to 33 people for 106 days. We spent some time poking around the fort and checking out the other nearby displays.
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A 200 yard path led from the fort down to the site of the expedition’s canoe landing.
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We could have turned back here and retraced our steps, but the park has several other trails which allow for various loop options. From the canoe landing we followed the Netul Trail south along the river. Part of the year a shuttle bus stop along this trail allows hikers to ride back to the fort or back to Sunset Beach. We were heading for the South Slough Trail though which we could take back to the Fort-To-Sea Trail. This trail loop around a slough filled with ducks and a couple of red-tailed hawks.
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The South Slough Trail was the only trail marked as difficult on the park maps. It headed steeply uphill from the Netul Trail but the climb didn’t last long. The trail wound around the slough to a signed junction with the only real viewpoint of the trail.
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From this junction we could take the Lower South Slough Trail downhill to the Fort-To-Sea Trail about a half mile from the Visitor Center, or the Upper South Slough Trail which would meet the Fort-To-Sea Trail closer to a mile from the center. We took the upper option and made our way back to the Fort-To-Sea Trail and then took a second detour. Earlier that day just after entering the forest there was a signed trail forking left from the Fort-To-Sea Trail. It was named the Kwis Kwis Trail and it wasn’t shown in our guidebook or on any of the park maps we’d seen. The park maps did show a trail by that name but that trail showed as a wide arc leading from the Fort-To-Sea Trail near the junction with the Upper South Slough Trail and rejoining the Fort-To-Sea Trail about a third of a mile from the Visitor Center. Given the name and the fact that the signage for the mystery trail matched those of the park we theorized that it was a newer trail. We had also spotted sections of trail from the Fort-To-Sea Trail on the way up to the overlook which we suspected to be part of this trail.

From the Upper South Slough Trail junction we headed east on the Fort-To-Sea Trail to the signed Kwis Kwis Trail junction.
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This trail also followed an old roadbed. After winding downhill for a little more than .3 miles we spotted a sign for the Kwis Extension.
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We turned up this path which ran roughly parallel to the Fort-To-Sea Trail at a lower elevation. This was indeed the path we had seen earlier. A nice long boardwalk traversed a large marshy area before rejoining the Fort-To-Sea Trail in the forest near the Skipanon River.
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From there we retraced our steps along the Fort-To-Sea Trail to the Sunset Beach Trailhead. Later we learned the Kwis Kwis Trail Extension was completed in 2014. The scenery and wildlife along the trails were both quite varied, and the history surrounding the area made it a very interesting hike. The various loops and trail distances make this a great option for hikers of any age. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157662826694040

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Beacon Rock State Park – The Return to Hamilton Mountain

Almost two years ago we traveled to Beacon Rock State Park to hike the Hamilton Mountain Trail. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/05/ It was and still is the worst weather that we have ever encountered during a hike. Well enough time had passed and it was time for us to give this hike a second chance. We double checked the weather forecast before heading out which showed some morning clouds clearing up by mid-morning with little to no chance of rain and calm winds. That was good enough for us to give it a go so we got in the car and headed up to the Columbia Gorge once more. For most of the drive we were under a solid mass of clouds but as we headed east along Highway 14 toward Beacon Rock State Park rays of sunlight were shining down on the Columbia River in the distance. The edge of the clouds was just a bit further east than Hamilton Mountain so we decided to warm up on another trail in park, the .8mi Beacon Rock Trail, hoping to give the clouds more time to lift.

Parking for this trail is right along the highway and requires a Discovery Pass which can be purchased at the trailhead (currently $10/a day per vehicle). The trail begins almost directly below Beacon Rock itself.
Beacon Rock Trailhead

After a very short walk through woods the trail begins to switchback up Beacon Rock.
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In fact the trail switchbacks 52 times on its way up to the top of the rock. (I lost count but that is the number that was on one of the signs at the trailhead.)
Beacon Rock Trail

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When we reached the summit the edge of the clouds was still to the east above Bonneville Dam.
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We could also see that Hamilton Mountain still had a cloudy top making us wonder what the conditions would be by the time we got up there.
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On the way back down we watched a number of Turkey Vultures circling above the river as well as a lone Bald Eagle.
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After completing our warm-up we hopped back in the car and crossed the Highway following a campground sign to the trailhead parking area. The trail sets off at a signboard behind the restrooms.
Hamilton Mountian Trailhead

After a gradual .5 mile climb through forest the trail emerges to views of Hamilton Mountain from under some power lines.
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The summit was still in the clouds but they did seem to be breaking up and we still had over 2.5 more miles to climb before reaching the top. After another half-mile a sign announces a viewpoint for Hardy Falls. A narrow path leads down a ridge to a platform that has no view of Hardy Falls at all. The only views are along the ridge prior to reaching the platform, and they are not great.
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The disappointing viewpoint of Hardy Falls is quickly forgotten after just another tenth of a mile on the trail. Here another sign points up to Pool of the Winds.
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This short path leads to another railed viewpoint, but this time there is really something to see. The upper portion of Rodney Falls splashes into a rock enclosed splash pool. The force of the water falling into the pool combined with the narrow opening in the rocks causes wind to funnel out giving the pool its name.
Pool of the Winds

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The view down is also nice as the trail crosses the creek on a footbridge below Rodney Falls.
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After spending some time enjoying the pool we continued on the trail passing below the falls. Rodney Falls is one of the more complicated falls we have seen. With the Pool of the Winds at the top followed by several smaller sections and then fanning out at the bottom it just has a lot going on. It also changes directions a couple of times which makes it difficult to capture it all well in a photo.
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Just over a quarter mile from Rodney Falls the trail splits allowing for a loop over Hamilton Mountain.
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We headed right which is the shorter but steeper way to the summit. We tend to prefer to go up rather than down steeper trails because it’s easier on our knees. Heading up the right fork the trail passes an increasing number of meadows where we were met with views and wildflowers. In 2013 the views consisted almost entirely of clouds so much of this we were seeing for the first time.

Beacon Rock from the trail.
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Larkspur
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Chocolate Lily
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Indian Paintbrush
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Phlox
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A side trail to the right leads to a rocky outcrop with even more views.
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Then the trail passes behind a knoll where more trees await.
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Larkspur along the Hamilton Mountain Trail

After making its way around the knoll the trail crosses a ridge between the knoll and Hamilton Mountains summit which looms ahead.
Hamilton Mountain

The view of the Columbia River along this ridge is very nice.
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The trail then begins its final ascent switchbacking up through open meadows of flowers. Larkspur and Chocolate Lilies were the predominate flowers blooming at this time of the year.
Chocolate Lilies

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As we continued to climb the clouds continued to burn off and Mt. Hood suddenly appeared across the river.
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To reach the actual summit take a side path to the right near the top of the mountain. Here the view was vastly different from our previous visit.

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Mt. Hood from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

There were only a few bands of clouds left when we arrived at the summit and in addition to the view of Mt. Hood to the south Table Mountain and some of Mt. Adams were visible to the east.
Table Mountain and Mt. Adams from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

Mt. Adams

We took a short break and watched the clouds as they passed by. A few hikers and some other critters kept us company.
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We continued on the loop looking forward to reaching an exposed ridge that was the site of my infamous poncho battle in 2013. Wind and rain were whipping up and over the ridge on that visit but this time it was just sunshine and flowers.
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At the far end of the ridge we looked back to soak in the view that we missed the first time.

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Hamilton Mountain trail

Several paths lead off from the far end of the ridge, but we simply took a sharp left and headed down an old road toward Hardy Creek.
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The road leads downhill for a mile to Hardy Creek.
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Signs at Hardy Creek point to the 1.1 mile hiker-only trail that completes the loop .3 miles from Rodney Falls. By the time we arrived back at the falls a steady stream of people were coming up from the trailhead. We were once again glad we’d gotten an early start and made our way past a traffic jam at the footbridge. With the number of hikers and dogs coming up the trail we were surprised when Heather spotted a garter snake on the path. It took cover in a stump but then came out to take a closer look at us.
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We were really happy with the way this hike turned out. We had gotten the views we’d missed out on during our previous visit and the Beacon Rock warm-up was entirely new. Another great day in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652309236702/