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Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Elk Lake Creek – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

While we continue to work on completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks we occasionally take a break from that pursuit and take a hike recommended from another source. Our recent hike along the Elk Lake Creek Trail was one such outing.

Using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” we drove to the northern end of the Elk Lake Creek Trail.
Elk Lake Creek Trailhead

After a short forested section the trail traversed a burnt hillside above Elk Lake Creek.
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Washington Lilies above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

Washington lilies

Elk Lake Creek

As the gap between the creek and trail narrowed we passed a pair of small waterfalls leading into green pools. A small amount of bushwhacking was required to get the best views.
Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek

The burned section ended just before entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness near Pine Cone Creek at the 1.1 mile mark.
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Elk Lake Creek Trail entering the Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Pine Cone Creek

Beyond Pine Cone Creek the trail entered a fir forest with rhododendron and ripening huckleberries.
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Just before the two mile mark we arrived at a crossing of Knob Rock Creek.
Sign for Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Knob Rock Creek

Just around a ridge end from Knob Rock Creek was Welcome Creek which had a couple of nice little waterfalls.
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Waterfall on Welcome Creek

Waterfall on Welcome Creek

A short climb from Welcome Creek brought us to a junction with the Welcome Lakes Trail.
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Welcome Lakes Trail sign

That trail climbs 2000′ in three miles through mostly burned forest to Welcome Lakes, a trip for another time. We stayed straight on the Elk Lake Creek Trail (Trail 559).
Elk Lake Creek Trail

From the junction the trail descended for two tenths of a mile to a ford of Elk Lake Creek. We had originally planned to do this hike last June but the high snow pack had left creek running high well into June making the fords of Elk Lake Creek dangerous. With a much lower snow pack this year the ford was only knee deep and not swift.
Elk Lake Creek ford

Elk Lake Creek

Elk Lake Creek ford

On the far side of the creek I nearly stepped on a rough skinned newt. He high tailed it off the trail and tried to disguise himself as a piece of bark.
Rough skinned newt

Rough skinned newt

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through old-growth forest just a bit away from the creek but it was always within earshot and often eye sight.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

Elk Lake Creek

Just over 3.25 miles from the trailhead the trail arrived at a viewpoint above an emerald pool.
Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Emerald Pool

We spent a good deal of time marveling at the colors here on the creek before continuing on. Beyond the emerald pool a small section of trail had been claimed by a stream.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We reached the second knee deep ford of Elk Lake Creek 0.4 miles from the pool.
Elk Lake Creek

On the far side, the trail became a bit brushy as it continued near the creek skirting a hillside of rocks.
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Hillside above the Elk Lake Creek Trail

As soon as we were past the rock fields the trail reentered the forest.
Elk Lake Creek Trail

We faced another ford near the 5 mile mark, this time of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

Battle Creek

Just two tenths of a mile later we had reached our original goal – the junction with the Mother Lode Trail (Trail 558).
Elk Lake Creek Trail junction with the Mother Lode Trail

Mother Lode Trail

The Elk Lake Creek Trail continued from the junction and would have eventually brought us to Elk Lake after nearly another 4 miles but continuing from the junction meant climbing up a ridge. Instead of turning back here though we decided to hike a short distance up the Mother Lode Trail to visit Mother Lode Creek. This looked to involve much less climbing so off we went to yet another ford of Battle Creek.
Battle Creek

We soon entered forest burned in the 2010 View Lake Fire Complex and after a half mile on this trail came to a junction with the now abandoned Geronimo Trail.
Mother Lode Trail junction with the abandoned Geronimo Trail

What appeared to be a homemade sign marked that trail and its tread was still visible heading uphill into the burn.
Old Geronimo Trail

Mother Lode Creek was just a short distance away and we hiked down to it before turning back.
Sign for Mother Lode Creek

Mother Lode Creek

We returned the way we’d come stopping again at the emerald pool which was now in the sunlight. We watched fish swimming in the clear water for a bit before continuing on.
Emerald pool

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake Creek

Fish

The hike was a little over 11.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of total elevation gain and 5 fords (I forded Mother Lode Creek to get a picture of its sign). One of the things we really enjoyed about the hike was that there were several “attractions” along the way with the small waterfalls, the emerald pool, and the old-growth forest in general. There were a few mosquitoes around but one spraying of DEET seemed to keep most of them at bay. This makes for a great early summer hike as long as the water levels make the fords possible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elk Lake Creek

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Dickey Creek Trail

Once again the weather wasn’t cooperating with our overnight plans so we turned to plan B for our latest hike. Plan B wound up being the Dickey Creek Trail in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on what turned out to be a great hike on a beautiful day. We began our hike at the Dickey Creek Trailhead located in forest service road 140 near Ripplebrook, OR.
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The Dickey Creek Trail followed a decommissioned road for about half a mile to the former trailhead parking area.
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The trail continued to follow the old roadbed for .3 miles and then suddenly heads downhill.
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The descent was steep for the next half mile and included several sections of steps. It was one of the most fun sections of trail we’ve been on as it twisted and turned on it’s way down toward the creek. When the trail leveled out we were within earshot of the creek but the trail remained in the forest with the creek out of sight. The old growth forest in the valley was beautiful. Green moss carpeted the ground while large trees towered above. Rough skinned newts seemed to be everywhere and we had to step carefully to make sure we didn’t harm any.
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The old growth forest briefly opened up near a dry pond. The fall colors were on display around the pond and made a nice contrast to the green ground left over from where the pond water had been.
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We arrived at the bridgeless crossing of Dickey Creek after almost 3.5 miles.
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On the far side of the creek we spotted some interesting fungi.
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We were heading for Big Slide Lake which was a little over 2.5 miles from Dickey Creek. From there we would decide whether we would continue on to Big Slide Mountain or turnaround depending on how clear the skies were. After a few switchbacks the trail climbed gradually up the valley toward the lake. Views opened up across the valley to North and South Dickey Peak. Ahead were the cliffs of Big Slide Mountain and the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods, the wilderness’s namesake.
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After crossing a large rock field the trail split. We headed downhill to the right to visit Big Slide Lake where we encountered the only other people we’d see the entire day.
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It was approximately 6 miles to Big Slide Lake from the trailhead so turning around here would have made for a decent enough hike, but the weather was great and there were only a few clouds in the sky so we decided to head up to Big Slide Mountain to see how the view was. We climbed back up to the Dickey Creek Trail from the lake and continued uphill toward a saddle on the ridge between Bull of the Woods and Big Slide Mountain. After about a half mile of good climbing we arrived at the saddle and a trail junction.
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We turned left past a nearly dry pond.
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On the far side of the pond was a second trail junction. We stayed to the left on trail 555 and began to gradually climb Big Slide Mountain. Views opened up almost immediately on this section of trail. Mount Jefferson was the first of the Cascade peaks to come into view.
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Followed by Three Fingered Jack.
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Then came Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the North and Middle Sisters.
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Finally the South Sister made an appearance.
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After almost a mile and a half of climbing the trail crested at a saddle between the summit of Big Slide Mountain and Knob Peak. The trail then headed over the saddle and downhill to its end at Lake Lenore a half mile away. In order to get to the summit of Big Slide Mountain we needed to do some cross country climbing. From the saddle we headed uphill along the ridge toward the summit making our way up as best we could. We managed to find sections of faint trail and pick our way up the rocky slope to the summit. The views from the summit were great. Big Slide Lake lay below us to the West.
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To the North was Lake Lenore, Schriner Peak, Mt. Hood, and the shy Mt. Adams.
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To the southeast cascade peaks dotted the horizon while Welcome Lakes lay below in the wilderness.
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The peaks of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness rose to the south including Battle Ax and Bull of the Woods.
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Table Rock rose above the Table Rock Wilderness to the southwest.
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We took a long break on the summit watching the clouds in the sky and soaking in the sun before heading back downhill. On the way back we had one final stop to make. We wanted to check out an unnamed lake that lay off-trail below Big Slide Mountain. A short steep climb through some thick rhododendron bushes brought us to the edge of the small lake.
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The water was crystal clear with some excellent reflections of Big Slide Mountain.
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After fighting our way back through the rhododendrons we regained the trail. On our way back we stopped to check out a few interesting mushrooms, one complete with a newt.
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When we arrived back at the dry pond the sunlight was lighting up the deciduous trees.
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As we neared the end of our hike the only disappointment was having not seen a wilderness sign that morning. I try and get a picture of a wilderness sign for every wilderness we visit and I had been unsuccessful on our first two visits to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness. After making the steep climb away from the creek and back up to the old roadbed we began watching for signs that we may have missed on our way by earlier. Just before reaching the former trailhead we spotted the sign up on a tree.
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It was a great end to a great hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157659338785890

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Twin Lakes & Battle Ax Mountain – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

As we transition into Fall our hiking destinations begin to shift away from alpine views and wildflowers in favor of lower elevation viewpoints and lakes. It is a great time for these hikes since the mosquitoes that plague many of the lakes have thinned out and the vine maple and huckleberry leaves have begun to change color. Our most recent hike combined both of these features.

We made our first trip to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for a 15.4 mile hike visiting Twin Lakes and the summit of Battle Ax Mountain. Before we could set off on the hike though we had to make the drive to Elk Lake which meant enduring five and a half miles of awful gravel roads. We parked at the Elk Lake Campground and once I managed to pry my hands from the steering wheel we made a quick trip down to the lake to have a look.
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From the campground we had to walk back up the entrance road .4 miles and then continue another .4 miles on road 4697 to the start of the Bagby Trail #544.
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The Bagby Trail wound beneath Battle Ax Mountain passing several ponds and crossing a number of rock fields in the first two miles.
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Battle Ax Mountain

At the two mile mark the Battle Ax Mountain Trail joined from the left (our return route). Views of Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters began to materialize as we continued along the Bagby Trail.
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We traveled on a ridge for another 1.5 miles to a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail 573. The Bagby Trail was closed here due to a small fire smoldering in the wilderness between Bagby Hot Springs and this junction. We were headed toward Twin Lakes though so we turned down trail 573 and began the 1.9 mile section to Upper Twin Lake.
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The colors and reflections of Upper Twin Lake were impressive.
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Upper Twin Lake

We passed around the lake and headed toward the former trail 573A that used to go to Lower Twin Lake. The trail was overrun by the Mother Lode Fire in 2011 and was subsequently left unmaintained by the Forest Service. We located the old trail and began following it the best we could. As we approached the lake the fireweed was profuse and although most of it was finished blooming it still made for an interesting sight.
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Although the side of the lake we were on had burned in the fire the far side had been spared.
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Lower Twin Lake

We noticed some flagging tape when we were ready to leave and hoped it would lead us to a better path back to trail 573. Instead we found an old toilet.
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We then came to a dry creek bed which the map showed leading back to almost the same point we left trail 573 so we decided to try following it back up to the trail.
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As we made our way up the creek bed we began to encounter some water and some of the local residents.
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The water increased just as the creek was squeezing between two hillsides which forced us to abandon that route and head cross country up the hill on our left. We managed to relocate the abandoned trail and follow it back to 573. We then headed back the way we’d come until we reached the Battle Ax Mountain Trail. At that point we forked up hill to the right and began the fairly steep climb to the former lookout site.
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One of the reasons we saved Battle Ax for the return trip was to allow the Sun to move overhead which would hopefully give us better views of the mountains to our east. That plan paid off and as we climbed we added more and more mountains to the view.
Mt. Jefferson:
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Mt. Hood behind the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods:
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Mt. Rainier behind Silver King Mountain:
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Mt. Adams behind Pansy Mountain and South Dicky Peak:
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Eventually we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood with the Washington Cascades in the background.
Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier from Battle Ax Mountain

To the SE was Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack.
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The ridge began to flatten out as we neared the summit with views all around. From below it hadn’t looked as long and flat on top.
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Working our way south along the ridge Elk Lake became visible far below.
View from Battle Ax Mountain

Finally Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack in the view to the South.
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We could also see smoke from the 36 Pit fire near Estacada, OR but the wind was blowing it to the East and there hadn’t been much of a plume until a little after 1:00 when it suddenly picked up.

Smoke from the 36 Pit fire prior to 1pm:
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Plume around 1:30:
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Smoke plume from the 36 Pit fire and Mt. Hood

We learned later that the fire had jumped across the South Fork Clackamas River due to the strong winds.

After a nice rest at the old lookout site we began our descent down the South side of the mountain.
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The trail switchbacked down through open, rocky terrain, with plenty of views of Mt.Jefferson.
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Mt. Jefferson

After a mile and a half descent we arrived at Beachie Saddle.
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From the saddle trails lead to Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek Wilderness, Mt. Beachie and French Creek Ridge in that same wilderness, and back to Elk Lake on an abandoned road which is the path we took.
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Back at the campground it was hard to imagine the long summit ridge looking back up at Battle Ax Mountain.
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It was a good early start to our Fall hiking season and it put us over 500 miles for the year. Now we just had to make it back out over the horrible gravel roads. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157647848590435/
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