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Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas – January, 2021 Update

Heading into 2020 we had plans to visit 5 of the 6 remaining wilderness areas in which he haven’t hiked (post), but 2020 had other plans. Plans to visit three of the areas were moved to another year and a fourth was pushed back from May to September. Flooding in February wiped out our plans to visit the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness which was the same trip that we had planned on visiting the Black Canyon Wilderness. Rearranging hikes due to COVID-19 pushed a visit to the Devils Staircase Wilderness back a year.

Plans for a Memorial Day weekend trip to Roseburg involving a hike in the Boulder Creek Wilderness were a COVID cancellation but we managed to fit the Boulder Creek hike into our Labor Day weekend plans (post).
Boulder Creek Wilderness sign

Boulder Creek TrailPonderosa Pines in the Boulder Creek Wilderness

Looking up the Boulder Creek ValleyBoulder Creek Wilderness

Boulder CreekBoulder Creek

A July vacation to Lakeview and a visit to the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness (post) was the only visit that happened as planned.
Gearhart Mountain Wilderness sign

The Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain WildernessThe Palisades

Gearhart MountainGearhart Mountain

View from Gearhart MountainLooking down from Gearhart Mountain

Meadow below Gearhart MountainMeadow below Gearhart Mountain

Gearhat MountainLooking up at Gearhart Mountain

Visiting these two wildernesses puts us at 42 out of the 46 accessible wilderness. The three areas mentioned above are again in our plans for this year as well as the Monument Rock Wilderness in eastern Oregon. With any luck 2021 will be a better year and we will be able to reach our goal, but if not there’s always next year. Happy Trails!

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Hiking Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2020 – A Look Back

Well 2020 is officially over and I think nearly everyone is glad to see it go. It was a rough year for so many between COVID-19 costing lives and jobs and wildfires claiming homes and businesses. We were fortunate in that we were able to keep working throughout the year, stayed healthy, and were just slightly inconvenienced by the fires that impacted so many after Labor Day. The most traumatic event that we personally experienced was the loss of our eldest cat, Buddy (post) in January.

With all that going on during the year, hiking became a way to try and escape and yet it seemed nearly impossible not to feel the cloud that was 2020 hanging over everything. It certainly made for a “different” year of hiking. I made more changes to our planned hikes in 2020 than in any previous year. It wasn’t just COVID and fires that triggered changes either, flooding in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton in February damaged Forest Service Roads and trails forcing us to cancel a planned June trip. We originally had 58 days of hiking planned (as of January 1, 2020) but we cancelled a September backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness due to heavy wildfire smoke which left us ending the year with 52 days of hiking. Of those only 19 days consisted of hikes that were on the list on January 1, and just 9 wound up happening on the day originally scheduled (an additional two happened within a day of the original plan).

During those 52 days we spent 10 nights backpacking, stopped at 70 trails/trailheads, and 3 roadside waterfalls.
2020 hikesHiker symbol = Trails/trailheads, yellow houses = campsites, purple binoculars = roadside waterfalls

This year saw no repeated hikes and just 18 days where we were on the same part of a trail that we had hiked in a previous year, roughly 34.5 out of the 586.7 miles that hiked. That meant a lot of new trails and sights for us. Two of the hikes, Gearhart Mountain (post), and Boulder Creek (post) were in wilderness areas that we had yet to make it to.
Gearhart Mountain WildernessGearhart Mountain

Boulder CreekBoulder Creek

Here are just a few highlights from the places we visited over the year. (* denotes at least some of the area burned in a 2020 fire.)

January
Cobblestones along the beach at Cape Lookout State ParkNetarts Spit

February

View from Spencer ButteSpencer Butte

Shotgun CreekShotgun Creek

Horse Rock Ridge TrailHorse Rock Ridge

March
Morning at Miller WoodsMiller Woods

Trappist AbbeyTrappist Abbey

April

CamasBush Pasture Park

May
Baskett ButteBasket Slough Wildlife Refuge

North Fork Willamette RiverNorth Fork Willamette River

Little Luckiamute RiverLittle Luckiamute River

Old growth at Valley of the GiantsValley of the Giants

Indigo SpringsIndigo Springs

Rigdon MeadowsRigdon Meadows

Pigeon Butte TrailheadPigeon Butte

June
East Fork South Fork McKenzie RiverEast Fork South Fork McKenzie River

Sullivan Creek FallsSullivan Creek Falls*

Henline FallsHenline Falls*

Bull-of-the Woods and Whetstone Mountain from the lookout siteHenline Mountain*

Spirit FallsSpirit Falls

Pinard FallsPinard Falls

Moon FallsMoon Falls

Memaloose LakeMemaloose Lake*

Echo Basin TrailEcho Basin

Hall HouseFish Lake

View from the Green Ridge TrailGreen Ridge*

High Ridge TrailTable Rock Wilderness* (The Riverside fire burned at least the access road and may have encroached into the SW portion of the wilderness.)

Mt. Adams from the Monte Carlo TrailMonte Carlo Trail

July
Hunchback TrailHunchback Mountain

Meadow along the Pyramids TrailMeadow below the Three Pyramids

North Pyramid from Daly LakeDaly Lake

View from Winter RidgeWinter Ridge

Light Peak from Fence PassFence Pass

Beatys Butte from Flook LakeFlook Lake

Barnhardy RoadHart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Petroglyphs around Petroglyph LakePetroglyphs along Petroglyph Lake

Waterfall on DeGarmo CreekDeGarmo Canyon

The Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain WildernessThe Palisades in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness (This was probably our favorite area of the year amid these rock formations.)

August
View from Sleeping BeautySleeping Beauty

Red Butte and Mt. Adams from the Highline TrailHighline Trail

Cottonwood Creek FallsCottonwood Creek Falls (This was probably the sketchiest hike we’ve done.)

Mt. ThielsenMt. Thielsen* (The Thielsen Creek fire burned a small part of the trails in the area.)

The old Bohemia Post OfficeBohemia Post Office

Diamond Peak from Diamond View LakeDiamond View Lake

Climbers trail to Diamond PeakDiamond Peak (The sketchiest hike we didn’t do.)

Diamond Peak from Karen Lake at sunsetKaren Lake

Middle Erma Bell LakeMiddle Erma Bell Lake

September
Mt. Bailey from the Dellenback TrailDiamond Lake

Rattlesnake Mountain from the Rogue-Umpqua Divide TrailRattlesnake Mountain

View from the Spruce Run Creek TrailSpruce Run Creek Trail

October

Deep Lake TrailIndian Heaven Wilderness

Deschutes River with Grizzly Mountain in the distanceWildcat Canyon

National Creek FallsNational Creek Falls

Takelma GorgeTakelma Gorge

Hershberger Mountian LookoutHershberger Mountain

Rabbit EarsRabbit Ears

Rogue River at Natural BridgeNatural Bridge

Old lookout tower on Abbott ButteAbbott Butte Lookout

Wild Cherry TrailForest Park

Upper Latourell FallsUpper Latourell Falls

Larch Mountain from Multnomah BasinLarch Mountain

November
McKenzie RiverMcKenzie River

December

Sun rays through the treesYachats

Not all of the trails were in the greatest of shape, an issue that is unfortunately becoming more common as the agencies that manage them often lack the funding to maintain them.
Blowdown over the Swordfern TrailSwordfern Trail

East Fork Trail under blowdownEast Fork Trail

Blowdown over the Riggs Lake TrailRiggs Lake Trail

Hackleman Old Growth TrailHackleman Old Growth Loop

Howlock Mountain TrailHowlock Mountain Trail

Shale Ridge Trail continuing on the far side of the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette RiverShale Ridge Trail

Acker Divide Trail covered by blowdownAcker Divide Trail

Union Creek Trail (it is straight ahead, really)Union Creek Trail

While we haven’t run out of new trails and areas to explore we are finding it harder to see wildflowers and wildlife that we haven’t already seen at some point but there always seems to be some. We spotted a bobcat for the first time (from the car) on our way to Winter Ridge (post). Lake Abert and Summer Lake hosted a few species of birds that we hadn’t run across before. (post) We plan on posting wildflower and wildlife galleries soon but for now here are those that were new to us this year.
Castilleja levisecta - Golden PaintbrushCastilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush at Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge (post)

Musk thistleMusk Thistle at Winter Ridge (Unfortunately it’s an invasive but they were impressive.)

Pandora moth catapillerPandora moth caterpillar at Green Ridge (post)

Horned larkHorned Lark at Flook Lake (post)

Gulls and American avocets at Lake Abert Watchable Wildlife AreaGulls and American avocets at Lake Abert

Various birds including a white faced ibis and a black necked stiltBlack necked stilt at Summer Lake

Frog under Heather's daypackPossibly a coastal tailed frog at Wiley Camp in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness (post)

The most interesting thing that happened this year though was stumbling on a human mandible. It was a little unsettling but it was clearly fairly old. We left it alone and marked the coordinates the GPS and reported it to the agency in charge of the land. The agency was nice enough to keep us in the loop when archeologists were called in to confirm that it was Native American at which point they contacted the appropriate Tribe(s) so that they could decide what to do with it. We were asked no to share the location for obvious reasons. It was very interesting getting to see how that process worked.

We also hit a couple of milestones this year, our last hike at Yachats (post) was our 500th day of hiking and we reached our long term goal of hiking all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition). We will talk a little more about that in a progress report on our goal to finish the 100 featured hikes in all five of his guide books covered areas.

Despite all its troubles 2020 will at least be memorable. Here is to a better 2021 with more new trail, new discoveries, and hopefully some happier stories. Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Boulder Creek Wilderness – 09/07/2020

We woke up at Wiley Camp on Labor Day and got ready to head back to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to drive back to Salem via Highway 138 and stop at the Boulder Creek Wilderness, one of the five remaining Oregon wilderness areas we had yet to visit (post) and one of Sullivan’s featured hikes.

It was the least smokey morning of the weekend which made for a pleasant 2 mile hike back to our car.
IMG_5942Buck Canyon Trail

IMG_5957View from the Buck Canyon Trail

IMG_5960Hummingbird Meadows Trail

IMG_5960West Fork Muir Creek

We drove back to Diamond Lake (post) from the trailhead then took Highway 138 toward Roseburg to milepost 55. There we turned right onto Medicine Creek Road and made an immediate left onto Soda Springs Road following it for 1.3 miles to the Soda Springs Trailhead.
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From the trailhead we took the Soda Springs Trail which ducked beneath a large steel pipe diverting water from the North Umpqua River to a nearby power station.
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The trail began climbing immediately after passing under the pipe and quickly arrived at a signed junction where the North Umpqua Trail forked to the right.
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The trail continued to climb through previously burned woods to another junction .4 miles from the trailhead.
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This was the Bradley Trail onto which we turned left following pointers for Pine Bench.

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This trail climbed over 650′ in the next mile before leveling out along the broad plateau of Pine Bench. There was an increasing presence of poison oak along the trail which we kept our eyes out for. It was especially bad along the hillside after we entered a more recent (2017) fire scar.
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IMG_6005Bradley Trail passing below some cliffs.

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IMG_6009A lot of the poison oak was turning color which made it easier to spot.

IMG_6013Entering the 2017 fire scar.

IMG_6018Lizard

IMG_6029Bradley Trail arriving at Pine Bench.

It was a hot climb in the exposed sun so reaching the forest atop Pine Bench was a nice reprise from both the heat and the vast majority of poison oak.
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IMG_6033Rock formation visible from the Bradley Trail.

A little over a mile and a half from the Soda Springs/Bradley Trail junction we arrived at the Boulder Creek Trail.
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We turned right here looking for a side trail to a spring near a campsite.
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IMG_6040Common wood nymph

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IMG_6045Illahee Rock Lookout

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We passed the campsite after .4 miles but we didn’t take the unsigned spur trail down to the spring due to the GPS map showing the trail further off.
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IMG_6112Spur trail to the left.

We quickly realized that the trail we had seen must have been the one we wanted but decided to continue on for now. From the campsite the trail continued to Boulder Creek after 1.7 miles. We were seeing very little poison oak and it was a nice day on the bench so we opted to do Sullivan’s longer described hike to the creek. The trail made a few unexpectedly steep up and downs and it grew fainter with a few downed snags but it was passable and there were signs of recent brushing/trail maintenance.
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IMG_6058Just over half a mile from the campsite we passed the very faint Perry Butte Trail.

IMG_6060Trail maintenance and ripe blackberries.

IMG_6063Looking up the Boulder Creek Valley

IMG_6064Looking down at the trail across a side drainage.

IMG_6065Looking across the Boulder Creek valley.

IMG_6067Small fall on Boulder Creek

IMG_6069Final drop down to Boulder Creek.

IMG_6070Boulder Creek

We took a short break on the rocks along the creek before turning back.
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IMG_6076The continuation of the Boulder Creek Trail on the far side of Boulder Creek which reportedly becomes even fainter and more wild.

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After cooling off a bit we started the process of climbing back up to the campsite and the spur trail to the spring.
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When we made it back to the spur trail we turned down it for 100 yards to a wide open area with madrone trees.
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The spring was just below some rocks on the left but there wasn’t much water flowing this time of year.
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After another short break we continued back to the Bradley Trail junction. We stayed straight here following the Boulder Creek Trail downhill through the 2017 fire scar. While there had been a good deal of poison oak along the Bradley Trail this trail put that one to shame. It was all avoidable but it was thick along the trail as it switchbacked downhill. There was also one switchback near the top where we were forced to walk down a large downed tree.
IMG_6115Fern tree along the Boulder Creek Trail.

IMG_6118This log was the trail.

IMG_6120Another switchback with poison oak on all sides of the trail.

The bright side of going down this way was there was a wilderness sign, or at least most of one (we hadn’t seen one on the other side).
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After a approximately 1.5 miles we arrived at a junction with the North Umpqua Trail where we turned left on an old roadbed.
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We followed the road another tenth of a mile or so to a gate blocking the road at the Boulder Creek Trailhead.
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Not too far from the gate we came to a pair of boulders blocking the road meaning the actual trailhead is inaccessible via car although there was room to park at the boulders. We continued down the road which brought us close to the North Umpqua River near the power station.
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We stopped at the far end of the Soda Springs Day Use Area to read the interpretive signs before returning to our car.
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We headed back to Salem and when we were back in cell range began receiving alerts about a hazardous wind event. By the time we made it back to Salem strong dry winds from the east had pushed the Lionshead and Beachie Creek Fires into the valley. Later that evening/night those fires would explode along with numerous other new fires up and down the West Coast. A slightly smokey but wonderful Labor Day Weekend turned into a nightmare for thousands. The fires continue to be a huge danger to many but the winds have shifted and rain is in the forecast so hopefully some relief is coming. Happy Trails and stay safe.

Flickr: Boulder Creek Wilderness