One of the most enjoyable experiences while hiking is encountering wildlife. Oddly enough it’s also one of the worst (see ticks, mosquitos, and yellow jackets). From creatures great to small we were blessed to see a wide variety of God’s creations this past year. While there remain a number of critters on our “bucket list” of animals we haven’t encountered yet in 2021 we were able to put a check mark by river otters, American bitterns, and raccoons.
River Otters on a boom at Dorena Lake
American bittern flying over Fern Ridge Wildlife Area
Raccoons at South Slough Estuary
We are working on learning to identify the various birds and butterflies we see and have made our best efforts (guesses), but as with our attempted identification of wildflowers (post) any help and or corrections is appreciated. With that here is a collection of the rest of the wildlife we encountered in 2021 starting with caterpillars, butterflies and moths.
One of the sulphurs
Also a hairstreak
Chlosyne acastus – sagebrush checkerspot, female
Chlosyne acastus – sagebrush checkerspot, male?
Juba skipper – Hesperia juba
Langton’s Forester Moth
A moth, possibly Gnophaela latipennis
Possibly a Boisduval’s blue – Icaricia icarioides
Propertius duskywing – Erynnis propertius
Possibly another purplish copper, Steens Mountain Wilderness 8/17.
Possibly a pale swallowtail -Ninemile Ridge
Possibly a western swallowtail -Devil’s Staircase Wilderness
July 19th, Ochoco Mountains
August 17th Steens Mountain Wilderness
August 19th Steens Mountain Wilderness
One of the fritillary butterflies I think.
Flying ants at the summit of Mt. Bachelor
Find the beetle
Spot the spider
Ring necked snake
Western fence lizards
Rough skinned newt
Crawdad surrounded by rough skinned newts
Fish in Black Canyon Creek
Hindquarters of what we believe to have been a mole.
There are several species of chipmunks in the area and I think these are two different species but I’m not sure which ones.
Indian Heaven Wilderness
Badger Creek Wilderness
Likewise there are several different squirrels and ground squirrels.
Golden mantled-ground squirrel
Pikas at first glance might seem to be related to ground squirrels but they are actually closely related to rabbits.
Ring-necked duck and a lesser scaup
American coot, spotted sandpiper and mallards on a log
Mallards, a cinnamon teal and a pied billed grebe
A female hooded merganser? and buffleheads
Bird at the Formal Gardens at Shore Acres State Park
At least two types of egrets and a bunch of ducks at Malhuer Wildlife Refuge
Great blue heron
White faced ibis
A couple of types of shorebirds
American dipper aka ouzel
A couple of American bushtits
Wren? at Horsethief Butte near The Dalles.
No idea, seen along the Alder Springs Trail in Central Oregon.
Possibly a flycatcher?
Another no clue, seen near a creek in the Ochoco Mountains.
Crossbills? (based on the crossed beaks)
Black headed grosebeak
California scrub jays
Yellow headed blackbird
Red winged blackbird
Dark eyed junco
Possibly an orange crowned warbler
Ruby crowned kinglet
Robin, western bluebird and swallows
Red breasted nuthatch
Western tanager – male
Western tanager – female
Rufous sided hummingbird
White crowned sparrows
Red breasted sapsucker
Grouse, leaning toward sooty
Not sure which type of grouse this is.
Rooster at Cape Arago State Park
A magpie and some sort of hawk
Hawk in flight
Hawk in the Pueblo Mountains
Osprey (with meal)
Great horned owl
Wild horses at Steens Mountain
Not wild cows along the Little Malhuer Trail
Columbian black-tailed deer
Columbian white-tailed deer
Mule deer fawn
Elk in the Aldrich Mountains
At the top of our list of animals we haven’t seen is a cougar (at a distance please), beaver, and porcupine along with a number of others. Good luck out there in 2022 and Happy Trails!
For the Fourth of July weekend we had originally planned on a trip to Central Oregon but the drought conditions that were exasperated by the recent heat wave had us reconsidering not being home to guard against rogue illegal fireworks (a house in our neighborhood lost a fence and tree last year on the 4th). Our decision was made final when, following the heat wave, mostly dry thunder storms passed over the Ochoco Mountains where some of our hikes were planned. Lighting caused fires have kept firefighters busy since then as the race to contain the fires that are still cropping up from that storm system. We turned to Plan B, which was in part a modified Plan A, and spent the weekend hiking in the Central Cascades. On Saturday we stuck to our originally planned hike to Berley and Santiam Lakes but instead of continuing on to Bend afterward we drove back home.
This hike is covered in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and provided us an opportunity to revisit some places as well as discover some new ones. The hike starts at the Pacific Crest Trailhead along Highway 20 at Santiam Pass.
For now this is one of the trailheads where a Central Cascade Wilderness Day Use Permit is not required but a NW Forest Pass ($5/day or $30/annual) is, as well as completing a free self-issue permit. Note that for overnight trips a Central Cascade Wilderness Permit is needed for any visits to the Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters or Mt. Washington Wilderness areas.
We had started another hike here in October of 2012 when we hiked to the base of Three Fingered Jack then returned on a loop past Martin, Booth, and Square Lakes (post). We were interested to not only see the area during a different season but also to see what had changed in nearly 9 years. This was particularly interesting to us due to the area having been burned badly in the 2003 B&B Complex and this would give us an idea of how the forest was recovering. Given the huge swaths that were burned in the September 2020 wildfires this might give us a small frame of reference for what to expect for some of the areas. The first thing that we noticed was that post fire trees seemed larger than we remembered which was confirmed by comparing some pictures of the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Old Summit Trail 0.2 miles from the trailhead.
Trail sign at the junction on 10/13/2012.
Trail sign at the junction on 07/03/2021.
What we didn’t really notice though was just how many of the snags were now missing.
Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness in 2012 (0.3 miles from the TH).
Entering the wilderness in 2021.
We followed the PCT a total of 1.2 miles to a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail. The view to the south was as spectacular as we had remembered with several Cascade Mountains in view along with several distinctive lesser peaks.
Cache Mountain, Black Crater (post), Tam McArthur Rim & Broken Top (post), North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, and Hayrick Butte (flat top on the right).
To the north the top of Three Fingered Jack was occasionally visible.
There were a few more flowers in bloom now than there had been in October.
Shortly after passing a small unnamed lake we arrived at the junction.
Mountain bluebird by the lake.
We turned left onto the Santiam Lake Trail at the junction striking off on new to us trail. The Santiam Lake Trail headed slightly downhill to the north passing a series of small ponds/lakes before making a sweeping turn to the west then meeting up with the now abandoned Santiam Lodge Trail (coming uphill on the left) one mile from the PCT.
There was a good amount of scarlet gilia blooming along this section of trail.
Three Fingered Jack
One of the ponds.
Another pond with Maxwell Butte (post) behind to the right.
Unnamed lake along the trail with Maxwell Butte behind.
Sub-alpine mariposa lilies
The view south.
A half mile beyond the abandoned trail (there was part of a sign still hanging, partially hidden on a tree) we came to an unsigned fork.
We admittedly hadn’t read Matt’s hike description recently and had conveniently forgotten that there were no maintained trails to the Berley Lakes and this unmarked fork was where he would have had us turn. It wasn’t shown on the GPS map and since we hadn’t bothered to re-familiarize ourselves with the hike we continued on the Santiam Lake Trail but were still looking for the trail to Berley Lakes.
We crossed the nearly dry bed of Lost Lake Creek (There was enough water around to host a healthy population of mosquitos though.) and continued through a meadow filled with lupine into some unburned forest.
The combined presence of the trees and more water in Lost Lake Creek (which the trail was now following) was a perfect recipe for even more mosquitos. We hustled along as quickly a possible to try and keep as much of our own blood as possible.
Recent snow melt is another recipe for mosquitos.
Another creek crossing.
Mountain heather. Typically if we see this blooming we expect there to be mosquitos.
Fortunately the creek soon faded out in an open rocky landscape where the heat of the sun kept the buggers away and we were able to slow down a bit.
Alpine false dandelion
One of several snow patches at the tree line.
Nearing the end of the opening.
More snow in the trees.
By the time we’d reached the open area it was obvious we had missed our turn and should have taken the fork we’d seen since we were now past the Berley Lakes. That was fine though as the original plan had been to visit those lakes first and hook up with the Santiam Lake Trail beyond Lower Berley Lake then continue on to Santiam Lake and return via the Santiam Lake Trail. Our new plan was to visit Santiam Lake then find the route to Lower Berley Lake, visit it, then check out Upper Berley Lake and return to the Santiam Lake Trail at the fork. Beyond the open plain the trail began a 250′ descent through more unburned forest to Santiam Lake.
Trees & melting snow = more mosquitos.
Not Santiam Lake but a very pretty unnamed lake just to the left of the trail approximately 0.4 miles from Santiam Lake.
Not sure what type this is but the orange on the wing was pretty.
We turned off the Santiam Lake Trail at a “No Campfires” sign and followed a familiar path down to the lake.
It had been almost 11 years since we visited this lake. On our previous visit we had come up the Santiam Lake Trail from the Duffy Lake Trail (post).
Mt. Jefferson behind Red Butte
Duffy Butte on the left.
Three Fingered Jack
Paintbrush, shooting stars, and buttercups.
We set off to hike around the west side of the lake but we encountered quite a bit of recent blowdown and decided it was a little more trouble than it was worth.
Just one of several large uprooted trees along the shore.
Taking a break along the shore and enjoying the view would have been nice but the mosquitos weren’t interested in letting us sit peacefully so when we came to the third bunch of downed trees we called it good and headed back for the Santiam Lake Trail. We followed it back to the open plain where the mosquitos hadn’t been bad and stopped to study the map in Reeder’s book (still weren’t smart enough to take the time to re-read it though) and we could see that from this end his track showed him heading for Lower Berley Lake just before a topographic feature. We made our way across the plain where butterflies were busy flying from plant to plant.
The “topographic feature” ahead on the right where we planned on turning for Lower Berley Lake.
Mountain heather along the trail, it was warm and sunny enough that the mosquitos weren’t as bad this time by.
Getting closer to the hill where we planned on turning.
California tortoiseshell butterflies in the bed of Lost Lake Creek.
Later when we finally did read the hike description Reeder mentioned a cairn marking a user trail but we didn’t notice any cairn (and admittedly may have turned too soon) but we spotted what appeared to be faint tread along a hillside above a dry stream bed and took a right onto it.
The track on the map showed the route on the south side of the lake but this trail was leading to the south side of Lower Berley Lake. It led past a couple of campsites to some rocks above the lake.
Three Fingered Jack from the rocks.
We picked our way down through the rocks to the lake shore and followed a user trail west until more downed tress forced us to climb back up above the rocks.
A butterfly photo bomb
Once we were back above the lake we came across what looked like another user trail leading away from it.
We thought it might be a side trail to Upper Berley Lake so we turned right on it but soon realized that we were following a dry bed instead of a trail.
The bed was popular with the butterflies.
A GPS check showed we were heading too much to the NNE and needed to be NNW so we left the bed and used the GPS units to find Upper Berley Lake, but not before startling a doe.
Cross country to Upper Berley Lake, the doe was in this meadow and headed in the direction of the patch of snow at the far end.
Upper Berley Lake
Reeder mentions a view of Three Fingered Jack from this lake as well but we were on the wrong side of it for that. The lake shore where we were was pretty thick with small trees so we would have needed to back track to make our way around for a view but we decided to save that for another time. We took a slightly more direct route back toward Lower Berley Lake and found what seemed to us a bit of a random Day Use Only sign.
We wound up finding the same “user trail” and followed it down to the lower lake.
What we could see was a clear trail heading south past the lake. We went down to the lake shore to see if we could pick something up since the track in the book showed it at the SW edge of the lake. We couldn’t make out any clear trail but that could have been because it was covered in butterflies.
California tortoiseshell butterflies along Lower Berley Lake.
Three Fingered Jack and about a half dozen butterflies.
We did another comparison of the track in the guidebook and the topographic map on our GPS units and came to the conclusion that we were in the right spot and just needed to hike over a saddle between two hillsides. As we made our way up we found an obvious trail.
The hillside on the right was rocky.
The trail dropping down from the saddle with Mt. Washington and the North Sister ahead.
This trail was at times easy to follow and at others non-existent.
Just under three quarters of a mile from Lower Berley Lake we ran into three hikers heading for the lake which we took as a good sign. Just a short distance later we came to the dry channel of Lost Lake Creek.
It was hard to tell where the “trail” crossed or where it was on the far side. Reeder’s track showed the alignment converging with the Santiam Lake Trail at an gradual angle but we could see that we were only about a tenth of a mile from that trail as the crow flies so we abandoned all attempts at following the user trail. We headed straight for the Santiam Lake Trail and found it without much difficulty.
We were a tenth or two of a mile from the actual junction which wound up working in our favor. We had rejoined the Santiam Lake Trail just north of the seasonal pond where there were now dozens of butterflies hanging out and this time they weren’t all the same types.
We made our way back to the PCT then followed it south back to the trailhead but not before stopping at a viewpoint for one last look at the mountains.
Yellow beetle on lupine.
Back at the PCT.
Bumble bees on penstemon.
Cicada in the grass.
Black Crater, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, Hayrick Butte, and Hoodoo Butte from the viewpoint.
Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.
After a great day of hiking we spent the evening with my Grandma and parents. It was a great start to the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!
After spending three nights in Pendleton and two John Day it was time for us to head back to Salem on Friday. We planned on stopping at Walton Lake in the Ochoco National Forest along the way to visit the man made lake where I had spent some time in my childhood. We also planned to hike from the lake to the summit of Round Mountain which we had done from the opposite side back in 2017 (post). After our hike we were meeting Heather’s parents for a late lunch/early dinner in Redmond at Madeline’s before continuing home to Salem.
We left John Day a little before 5am and arrived at Walton Lake shortly after 6:30am. There were already several folks our fishing and we were met by the camp greeters.
A paved/gravel 0.8 mile trail encircles the lake with the Walton Lake Trail splitting off on the south side of Walton Lake. We decided to hike around the lake clockwise passing the small dam that created the lake and a number of campsites before arriving at the unsigned Walton Lake Trail after 0.6 miles. Along with the people fishing there were a number of ducks (including ducklings), geese and coots around the lake.
American coot and a duck family.
Pied billed grebe
The spur of the Walton Lake Trail that leads to the Round Mountain Trail.
We turned up the spur trail which climbed through a meadow where several families of geese were hanging out.
After 0.2 miles the spur trail crosses the campground road.
It was about this time that we realized that we hadn’t put our NW Forest Pass out. We headed back down to the lake and completed to the 0.8 mile loop to put our pass out. We later realized that it wasn’t good at Walton Lake anyway and paid the $5 day use fee.
This is also a good time mention that a 0.3 mile segment of the spur trail between Forest Road 2220 and Forest Road 22 is by Forest Order 06-07-01-21-02 closed from 5/18/21 to 10/31/21 (or until rescinded). There were no signs present at the start of the spur trail nor at the crossing of FR 2220, the notice was however posted at the FR 22 crossing (along with a warning about sheep dogs). The order also states that the closure area will be signed along with pink flagging along all boundaries on the ground (we didn’t see any pink flagging at FR 2220).
Fortunately the Round Mountain North Trailhead is just on the other side of FR 22 from the Walton Lake entrance if you don’t want to road walk around the closure. Assuming you are coming from the FR 22 crossing though the Walton Lake Trail continues 1/2 mile to its end at the Round Mountain Trail (0.2 miles from the North Trailhead).
Approximately 0.4 miles from FR 22 the trail passes a snow survey site in a small meadow where we spotted several does.
A short distance beyond the meadow we arrived at the Round Mountain Trail where we turned left. (Ignore the sign, it was the only one present and it was facing the wrong way.)
The trail climbed to a dry, rocky plateau but not before first passing a nice display of lupine.
The rocky plateau with Round Mountain to the right.
A wild onion
The trail dipped off the plateau and lost a little elevation on its way to a saddle below Round Mountain. Just over 2 miles from the Walton Lake Trail we passed Scissors Spring in a meadow on our right.
Valerian along the trail.
California tortoiseshell on valerian.
Mt. Jefferson from the trail.
Maybe a miterwort?
Beyond the spring the trail began to climb through a series of hellebore filled meadows.
A comma butterfly of some sort.
Possibly some sort of phlox?
Another wild onion
Butterfly on Jessica stickseed
A larkspur, Jessica stickseed, and hyssop
Mountain view from a meadow.
Just over a mile from the spring the trail made a switchback at which point it steepened noticeably. The next 1/3 of a mile consisted of steep switchbacks through a hellebore meadow to Round Mountain Road 0.2 miles from the summit.
Viewpoint at one of the switchbacks. Cascade Mountains from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson.
Ball Butte and Broken Top
Three Fingered Jack
The trail sign along Round Mountain Road up the hill.
Butterfly on an onion
Ladybug on lupine
Round Mountain summit
We sat on the cool concrete in the shade cast by the radio tower while we watched butterflies swirl through the air.
After the break we returned the way we’d come with a slight delay caused by a Sara’s orangetip butterfly that refused to land despite repeatedly looking like it was going to as it flew in the same loop over and over again.
Not too horrible of a photo of the orangetip on one of its many passes.
We retrieved our car from the now packed Walton Lake but not before checking out some of the wildlife one more time.
A coot, a spotted sandpiper and ducks.
Osprey with a recently caught fish (we got to see the dive)
From Walton Lake we drove to Redmond where we were a bit early so we stopped at the Spud Bowl and watched some dogs playing in the sprinklers before meeting up with Heather’s parents at Madelines. We had a great meal then continued home to Salem. When a section of the trail isn’t closed (and you don’t have to go back to your car to after starting your hike) this would be about a 12 mile hike with approximately 1900′ of elevation gain while the 0.8 mile loop around Walton Lake would be great for kids. Happy Trails!
We spent another vacation doing day hikes from home as we continue to take care of our elderly cats. It has created a delay in our plans to visit all of the designated wilderness areas in Oregon, but it also has given us a chance to redo some hikes that didn’t go as planned the first time around and hit a few other hikes sooner than planned.
The first hike of the week was a repeat of a cloudy September 2015 climb to the summit of Maxwell Butte (post). We’d had no views whatsoever that day so a sunny forecast gave us the green light to try again. Once again we parked in the paved Maxwell Butte Sno-Park lot instead of driving the additional .4 miles of gravel road to the actual Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
From the official trailhead the Maxwell Butte Trail climbed gradually through a nice forest entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after 1.75 miles. It was sad to find that the unique wilderness sign was missing.
The wilderness sign in 2015.
A little more than two and a quarter miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Lava Lakes Trail near Twin Lakes.
There was significantly more water in the lakes this time around (and better visibility too).
Our presence raised a ruckus from a Stellar’s jay.
One the way back by later (after the Sun had moved out of the way) we stopped at the lakes to get a photo of Maxwell Butte.
We followed the Maxwell Butte Trail past the lakes as it began to climb up and around the butte. Closer to the lakes we passed a few remaining flowers and some ripe huckleberries.
A couple of short (and late) beargrass plumes.
As the trail got closer to the butte we passed through some meadows and open rocky areas where we kept on the lookout for pikas.
This looked like prime pika habitat to us.
The trail made its way to the south side of Maxwell Butte where our first good mountain view was of Diamond Peak beyond Sand Mountain which we had visited earlier in the year (post).
The trail steepened a bit as it made its way up the south side of Maxwell Butte via a series of switchbacks.
Butterflies and increasingly better views helped keep our minds off the climb.
Hogg Rock (near left), flat topped Hayrick Butte next to Hoodoo Butte, Mt. Washington with Broken Top behind left and the Three Sisters behind right.
Five and a quarter miles from the sno-park we arrived at the summit of Maxwell Butte where a fire lookout once stood.
The view now included Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the north.
Mt. Hood in the distance to the left of Mt. Jefferson.
Less than three miles away as the crow flies Three Fingered Jack dominated the view east.
Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Santiam Lake in the forest below.
The view south.
Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters with Hayrick Butte in the forefront.Santiam Lake
After a nice long break taking in the views and naming as many of the lakes dotting the forest below as we could we headed back down. We took a quick detour to check out Maxwell Butte’s crater.
Paintbrush in the crater.
There were quite a few more butterflies out as we made our way back and we managed to spot a pika gathering greens in the rocky area we had thought looked like a good spot for one.
Golden-mantled ground squirrel in the same rocky area as the pika.
It had been a successful do-over getting the views we’d missed out on before. Round trip the hike was 10.6 miles with a little over 2500′ of elevation gain. It was a solid start to what we hoped would be six straight days of hiking. Happy Trails!
Sticking with our Matt Reeder inspired vacation, on Thursday we selected a hike featured in both his “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and “Off the Beaten Trail” second edition. In the latter he doesn’t describe the extended hike to Baty Butte. We started our hike at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead where, just as at the Pine Ridge Trailhead, we were greeted by mosquitoes.
Spur road leading to the trail from the pullout.
Signage at the end of the closed spur.
The trail began climbing almost immediately via a switchback that passed us through a thimbleberry and devil’s club covered hillside.
Thimbleberry crowding the trail.
Devil’s club along the trail. We each had our hands brush against some and it doesn’t feel pleasant.
Lupine and paintbrush in the thimbleberries as the trail enters the forest.
After the initial battle with the brush the trail entered the forest where some old growth was present and the trail much clearer.
It looked like these two trees fell out of the same hole but in different directions.
Anemone and queen’s cup
Beargrass and huckleberry bushes.
After climbing for a mile we reached a viewpoint at a switchback with a view of Mt. Jefferson.
Schreiner Peak in front of Mt. Jefferson.
Another .2 miles of climbing along a wildflower dotted ridge brought us to a junction just below the summit of Thunder Mountain.
Small sign on the tree marking the trail to Thunder Mountain’s summit.
We decided to save Thunder Mountain for the return trip due to the position of the Sun and the presence of quite a bit of haze. We followed the pointers on a temporary sign for Skookum Lake and Baty Butte.
The Skookum Lake Trail began to descend along a steep hillside that looked to have had an excellent wildflower display just a week or two earlier. As it was there were still a decent number of flowers in bloom.
Columbine and a couple different types of penstemon.
Cat’s ear lily
The trail left the wildflowers as it made a horseshoe shaped turn into thicker trees.
Skookum Lake Trail below coming out of the horseshoe turn.
Approximately a mile from the Thunder Mountain junction we passed a rocky viewpoint where large basalt boulders were jumbled along the hillside.
We didn’t stop to check out the view until our way back by, but there was a decent view of Mt. Hood and through the trees we could make out Mt. Rainier.
The trail descended another half mile beyond the rocks before leveling out along a meadow.
The trail skirts a talus slope above the meadow.
Finally leveling out by the meadow after losing approximately 700′.
The meadow is also the site of the junction with the abandoned Baty Butte Trail which was marked by a sad little rock cairn and tattered flagging along with an easy to miss temporary sign.
I missed the sign until we had come back and started down the Skookum Lake Trail.
There were a few mosquitoes patrolling the meadow so we didn’t linger long but we did stick around long enough to notice several types of flowers still blooming.
The yellow might be a groundsel.
The tread of the trail was difficult to make out but there was some flagging on the far side and a faint path to it.
Beyond the meadow the trail became a bit more obvious as it passed through the trees. Occasional flagging assisted in keeping us on track.
The trail climbed a bit before arriving at an old roadbed .4 miles from the meadow.
The road was a casualty of the 1996 storms that caused flooding in Oregon and washed out much of the Fish Creek road network. The roadbed is now more of a wildflower garden. We turned right onto the road following a faint path through the flowers.
Shortly after setting off on the road there was a nice view of Mt. Hood to the north.
This was by far the most enjoyable stretch of old roadbed we’ve been on. The wildflowers were profuse and there were dozens of butterflies flying about. It was the tail end of the flowers but they were still very impressive.
Paintbrush, penstemon and lupine
Mostly past lupine
Several butterflies on Oregon sunshine.
At about the .4 mile mark another old road joined from the right which wasn’t a problem on the way to Baty Butte but it is worth noting because coming from the other direction it looked like it might be easy to continue straight on the wrong roadbed.
Left is the wrong way on the return, the correct route is to the right through the brush.
Flagging marking the correct path.
Near the three quarter mile mark on the road we passed some rock out crops and a talus slope where we spotted a pika and some golden-mantled ground squirrels.
Shortly after passing along a narrow ridge the road arrived at the base of Baty Butte.
The road continued around the butte to the left but the Baty Butte Trail headed uphill amid some small trees.
Baty Butte Trail to the right.
The trail climbed around the side of the butte and showed some signs of recent trail maintenance.
After .4 miles on the trail, as it began to curve around a ridge, we turned uphill on a scramble trail.
Baty Butte Trail starting to curve around the ridge.
Scramble route up the ridge.
It was a steep quarter mile climb up the ridge which devolved into a narrow rocky spine toward the top.
Looking down from the start of the spine.
It required the use of our hands to navigate this and we stopped at a wide (for the ridge) spot. From here it appeared that the number of trees increased to a point that would make continuing even more difficult.
From this viewpoint we had a view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.
There was also an excellent view of Table Rock and Rooster Rock in the Table Rock Wilderness (post).
Rooster Rock is the formation to the far left.
Looking down from Baty Butte.
After a brief rest we headed back eager to see more of the butterflies and flowers along the road.
We also got to sample a few ripe strawberries.
The trail heading off of the road was easier to spot than it had been at the meadow.
Back through the meadow we went to the Skookum Lake Trail.
Monkeyflower along the trail.
Crab spider on aster.
We turned left following the pointer for Skookum Lake.
The Skookum Lake Trail descended for three tenths of a mile to Skookum Lake.
Rhododendron along the Skookum Lake Trail.
The little lake was full of activity with butterflies flying along the shore and rough skinned newts floating lazily in the water. Trout were also visible swimming in the shallows.
We followed the trail along the lake shore to the Skookum Lake Campground.
A forest road used to provide access to the primitive campground. It still sees some use though as the litter left in a bucket near the picnic table showed.
As we headed back along the lake Heather spotted a crawdad on a log.
After watching the crawdad for a bit we climbed back up to the junction with the Baty Butte Trail and then made the steep climb back up to the Thunder Mountain spur trail where we turend left.
Small sign on a tree marking the trail to the summit of Thunder Mountain.
It was just a tenth of a mile climb to the site of the former lookout tower at the summit.
From the summit we could again see Mt. Jefferson but now we also had a view north to Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.
The view north.
Mt. St. Helens
Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams beyond Fish Creek Mountain (post).
From the summit we headed back down to the car stopping at the lower viewpoint which had a better view of Mt. Jefferson.
Shortly before reaching the brushy section we passed a group of backpackers headed up the trail, the only people we saw all day. This was a really nice hike with a variety of scenery. Even if the scramble up Baty Butte is a little too much for some with the exposure the road walk to the butte was well worth a visit during wildflower season. The hike came in at just over 10 miles with a little over 3000′ of elevation gain making it a bit of a challenge but nothing too crazy. Happy Trails!
With our SE Oregon vacation winding down we started our 7th day in Burns, OR. As I mentioned in a previous post our guidebooks didn’t show a lot of hiking options in the immediate area but Sullivan’s 3rd edition Easter Oregon hiking guide did have the Myrtle Creek Trail listed in the additional hikes. The trailhead was a 32 mile drive north of Burns in the Malheur National Forest near the edge of the high desert. The paved roads allowed for a roughly 35 minute drive along Highway 395 to Forest Road 31 1.1 miles north of the Idlewild Campground. The short road to the trailhead was approximately 13.1 miles up FR 31 on the left.
A quick check on the trail status on the Forest Service website showed that the trail was open but receives light use and had not been maintained. It didn’t say how long it had been since the last trail maintenance but being that it passed through a ponderosa forest we weren’t too concerned because those types of forests typically don’t have much underbrush and suffer less blowdown than forests with other types of conifers.
At the trailhead Myrtle Creek lazily meandered through a meadow.
A barbed wire fence separated the creek and the trail as we set off but near the end of the meadow the fence also ended.
Here the trail made the first of several climbs away from the creek as it passed above some exposed rocks.
There were quite a few flowers along this first stretch of trail which was just a sample of what was to follow.
Old man’s whiskers and a chocolate lily
As we neared the mile and a half mark the trail descended back down to the creek to a crossing. There was a footbridge there but it looked as though it came out of a Dr. Seuss book.
It would have been easy enough to splash across the creek but sometimes you just want to keep your feet dry so we accepted the challenge of the twisted bridge and made our way across it. More flowers awaited on the far side.
A quarter mile after crossing Myrtle Creek we came to a sign for Crane Creek which was nearly dry (it was dry when we returned later in the day).
There were some nice scarlet gilia flowers in this area.
After another quarter mile we passed a sign for the West Myrtle Creek Trail which must be invisible because we couldn’t see any trace of it.
A short distance later we crossed West Myrtle Creek.
More flowers appeared along the creek including some yellow paint.
A little over a mile from West Myrtle Creek the trail climbed uphill via a couple of switchbacks not shown on the map. A doe and small fawn ran off into the forest as we approached a green grassy area amid the ponderosa. Around the same area we saw a squirrel and a noisy woodpecker.
A short while later we noticed a sign on a tree in the middle of grassy area. Upon closer inspection it was a sign for Arden Glade.
Beyond Arden Glade the trail returned to the meadows along the creek and continued to alternate between the meadows and the trees. Climbing up and down at least a bit each time. The further we went the fainter the trail got especially in the meadows where we often lost it completely only to rediscover it when it reentered the trees.
Just beyond the six mile mark we passed a post and what appeared to be a trail descending on the far side of the creek. We believe that was the FL Spring Trail.
The miles had been marked by small plaques on trees through mile six.
We had set a turn around time of no later than 9am for the hike. The trail was 8 miles one way and ended at private land. We had been averaging about 25 minutes a mile when we passed mile 6 and it was just after 8:15 at that point so we decided to try and reach the marker for mile 7 (assuming there was one). Just under a mile from the FL Spring Trail junction we lost the trail once again in a meadow only this time we coudn’t find a continuation of the trail amid the downed logs.
A glance at the time showed that it had been about half an hour since we’d passed mile 6 so we figured that we most likely had passed the 7 mile mark and either missed the markers or perhaps there weren’t any. After a short break and quick snack, we decided to head back. It was about ten till 9 anyway. It had been a chilly morning but it was warming up quickly on our way back and the rising temperatures brought out the butterflies.
When we were finished our GPS had us at 14.2 miles so we may well have made the 7 mile mark after all. Although the trail was faint in places it was a nice hike with a lot of solitude. It was a little strange to be hiking in a true forest again after a week in the sagebrush and junipers though.
We drove back to Burns then returned to Bend for another visit with Heather’s parents where we had some excellent pizza at Olde Town Pizza. Happy Trails!
On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.
We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.
The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.
Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.
After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.
Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.
We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.
After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.
The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.
The Three Sisters
Three Fingered Jack
There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.
We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.
We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.
When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.
We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.
On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.
We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!
Our wildflower adventure in the Old Cascades continued on our way home from Bend on July 6th. The hike we’d chosen was Crescent Mountain which is less than five miles from Iron Mountain as the crow flies. A 4.5 mile trail climbs up the SE ridge of this crescent shaped mountain through a series of meadows to another former lookout site.
The first 2.5 miles climbed through a nice forest with a crossing of Maude Creek at the 1.3 mile mark.
The trail then entered the first meadow which was full of bracken fern and some wildflowers.
The ferns gave way to more wildflowers as the trail continued to climb. Then we spotted a field of beargrass ahead. It turned out to be the most densely packed we’d ever seen.
Butterflies and birds could be seen flying about in all directions. Behind us a view of Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters opened up across the open hillside.
There was a nice variety of flowers in bloom.
The meadows lasted for about a mile before the trail reentered the forest and climbed a ridge to a trail junction. Taking the uphill fork to the right we quickly popped out on the rocky summit where the former lookout had stood. The view here was better than Iron Mountain with Three Fingered Jack unobstructed and Crescent Lake below nestled in the curve of the mountain.
Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters
Three Fingered Jack and Black Butte
Mt. Hood & Mt. Adams
There were more flowers, butterflies and birds up at the summit and despite a brief encounter with mosquitoes when we left the meadows we were left alone to enjoy the scenery.
Hummingbird enjoying the paint
Coming down we ran into a pair of hikers passing through the meadow who were equally impressed with the flowers. We agreed that we’d probably timed it as well as could be hoped. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!
We recently returned from a long weekend in Central Oregon. We had a few hikes that we were wanting to try in June in that area starting with Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest. Roughly 26 miles east of Prineville, OR the summit of Lookout Mountain is the 2nd highest point in the Ochoco Mountains. The summit is part of a broad plateau of sagebrush and wildflowers which also offers a 360 degree view.
There are a couple of options for reaching the plateau. For our visit we decided to start at the Round Mountain Trailhead on road 4205 just after turning off of road 42. We could have shaved nearly 2 miles form the hike by continuing up road 4205 to the Independent Mine Trailhead but the road is quite rough and I would rather be hiking than bouncing around in a car. The 0.9 mile path between the trailheads was pleasant enough with a number of wildflowers and a deer sighting.
We accidently left the trail and wound up on road 4205 across from signs for the Independent Mine and the Baneberry Trailhead.
Our version (2008, 2nd edition) of 100 Hikes in Eastern Oregon didn’t give any information about this trail but a sign at the Round Mountain Trailhead made mention of extensive trail work and renaming starting in 2010. Our book did show an old road leading down to the mine though so we decided to check it out. We reached the Baneberry Trail before getting to the mine and saw that it was an interpretive nature loop. Thinking it would loop us around to the mine we turned on the trail and began the loop. It was evident why the trail was named Baneberry as the forest was full of the plant.
Many benches and interpretive signs were located around the trail telling of the mining activity, forest, and wildlife.
As we continued on the loop it became evident that we were not going to loop to the mine site but instead were heading around in the opposite direction. When we had almost completed the loop a trail shot off uphill to the left which we took thinking it might take us up to the Independent Mine Trailhead. We lost the tread in a small meadow but we could tell the trailhead was just on the other side so we followed what looked like it might be the trail through the meadow and popped out at the trailhead.
From the trailhead we had more options. Straight ahead up the shorter steeper trail 808A, right on what was now named trail 804 or left on trail 808. We chose 808 based on the suggested route in the book. The trail passed through several meadows full of hellbore with views nice views to the north with Mt. Jefferson visible on the horizon.
The trail then turned south and we climbed up onto the sloped plateau. From here the trail climbed through open ground covered with wildflowers and sagebrush and the occasional stand of trees.
Looking ahead from the lower plateau
We crossed Brush Creek
and found some leftover of snow
There were some small lilies in this area as well as a few shooting star and mountain bluebells.
We came out of a clump of trees into another sagebrush covered meadow where we could see the summit of Lookout Mountain.
There were more flowers as we climbed through the sagebrush toward the summit. Balsamroot, paint, larkspur, and columbine dotted the landscape. There were other flowers both known and unknown to us as well.
Old Man’s Whiskers
The lupine was yet to bloom.
A sign stood at a trail crossroads giving directions.
From the summit we could see Cascade Peaks from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt. Hood in the North.
Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance:
We also spotted a very strange plant on the summit which thanks to some detective work form the folks at portlandhikers we identified as balloon-pod milk-vetch.
On our way down we stopped by a snow shelter built by the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Forest Service in 1989.
We spotted another deer on the way down and the butterflies started coming out as the day wore on.
Just before reaching the Independent Mine Trailhead on trail 804 we passed a left over mining building and an abandoned mine shaft.
We saw what must have been the same doe on the way down as we saw on the way up. She came out of the exact same group of trees and we wondered if she might not have a young fawn bedded down in them. We didn’t want to disturb it if there was so we continued on back to the Round Mountain Trailhead and our car. Day one had provided a great 10.3 mile hike and we had three more days to go. Happy Trails!