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Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Cascades

Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop – 6/27/2020

After ending a five day stretch of hiking with a 13 mile, nearly 4000′ elevation gain hike we chose a longer hike with even more elevation gain for our next outing. I found the the Monte Carlo – Monte Cristo Loop while working on our future hiking plans in the off season. A recent trip report indicated that the wildflowers were near peak and a mostly sunny forecast for Saturday made it seem like a good time to check it out. In addition this hike is not particularly popular so social distancing most likely wouldn’t be a problem.

There are numerous potential starting points for this loop (or shorter hikes to one or both of the peaks) we chose to start at the Monte Carlo Trailhead. The reason was twofold. First this was the starting point for the hike described in the Oregonhikers.org field guide and secondly the drive was almost entirely paved.

We missed the parking area for the trailhead which was directly across FR 18 from the start of the trail mistaking it for part of the Oklahoma Campground. We wound up turning up the next little forest road (I believe it was 752) on the right and parking at a pullout along it and walked down FR 18 to the trail. This really didn’t add any extra distance as the loop ended by walking approximately 2 miles along FR 18 between the Lower Monte Cristo Trailhead and the Monte Carlo Trailhead.
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We followed the field guide entry closely for this hike due to numerous logging road crossings, a couple of road walks and a few odd junctions. The field guide was spot on (despite being a bit off on total distance which we’ll get to later) so I won’t reinvent the wheel here and try and describe every twist and turn of the route. A tenth of a mile up the trail we came to a forest road which was the same one that we parked along. There was no signage at this junction but we knew from the field guide (and our GPS) to turn right. After our hike some hikers came by our car having turned left at the junction. After following the road for approximately 450′ we came to a trail on the left which quickly began climbing.
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The designer of the trail apparently had little use for switchbacks as the trail went just about straight uphill. A little over three quarters of a mile in we came to an old logging road which the trail followed to the right where it leveled off a bit.
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This road ended at FR 1840 where a sign pointed to the left for the Monte Carlo Trail.
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At another road junction after just 500′ on FR 1840 another segment of trail launched uphill. In the forest here we found a large number of phantom orchids.
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IMG_7967One of the phantom orchids to the right of the trail.

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Just over a quarter mile after leaving FR 1840 we came to another logging road which we turned right on briefly to pick up the continuation of the Monte Carlo Trail.
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Another .3 mile climb was followed by another short walk to the right on a road followed by yet more climbing.
IMG_7983A rare level section of trail.

IMG_7995There were thimbleberry bushes along the roads/trails all day long.

Just over 2 miles into the hike we came to a small hillside meadow.
IMG_8010Bumble bee working on some clover.

IMG_8004Penstemon

IMG_8018A few wildflowers.

IMG_8020Yarrow

IMG_8022Popcorn flower and strawberry plants.

After rounding a corner we came to a bigger meadow with more wildflowers and some views.
IMG_8059Timberhead Mountain

IMG_8062Little Huckleberry Mountain

IMG_8067Nightblooming false bindweed

The trail managed to steepen as it headed uphill and entered the upper portion of the meadow.
IMG_8077Wallflower

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The meadow was full of Oregon sunshine and a few other flowers.
IMG_8085Tall buckwheat

Tall buckwheatCloser look at the tall buckwheat.

IMG_8091Oregon sunshine

IMG_8078Yarrow, lupine and penstemon

At the top of the meadow the trail leveled out a bit and entered some trees before arriving at a trail junction.
IMG_8099Many of the signs along the route were no longer in the ground so it was important to make sure they really were pointing in the correct directions.

IMG_8104Honeysuckle

The junction consisted of the Monte Carlo Trail which we were on and the Buck Creek Trail which is managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources whose land we were now on. We kept left on what was now a combination of the Monte Carlo and Buck Creek Trails which crossed and old logging road then arrived at the Buck Creek No. 2 Trailhead. We picked up the Monte Carlo – Buck Creek Trail here at a sign for the Middle Fork Grove and Monte Carlo Viewpoint.
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The Monte Carlo-Buck Creek Trail dropped to a crossing of Buck Creek before climbing for almost a mile (crossing one logging road) to a 90-degree right hand turn. Much of the time was in previously logged forests.
IMG_8119A few trees that were spared.

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IMG_8120Bunchberry

IMG_8131Footbridge over Buck Creek.

IMG_8135Salsify

IMG_8139Streambank globemallow

IMG_8141Silverleaf phacelia

IMG_8153Logging road crossing.

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The trail had reentered forest a bit before the 90-degree turn. After turning the trail dropped just over 200′ to Road B-1500 where we encountered the first other hikers of the day. A couple had parked along this road and were getting ready to head up to Monte Carlo for the wildflowers.
IMG_8161Starting the descent.

The trail set off from B-1500 amid a lot of lupine.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining over 600′ in the next three quarters of a mile to a junction atop Monte Carlo. A bit below the summit the trail enters an open hillside with wildflowers and some actual switchbacks. There is also reportedly an excellent view of Mt. Hood but there were enough clouds present that we could not verify that.
IMG_8179Entering the meadow.

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IMG_8194Pollinator on wallflower

IMG_8197Bee heading for some penstemon.

IMG_8203Clouds to the south.

IMG_8204Penstemon

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IMG_8211Lots of Oregon sunshine again.

IMG_8216Taper tip onions

20200627_101109Penstemon and lomatium seedheads.

IMG_8218Warning for mountain bikers going down the trail.

After briefly reentering the woods (and leveling out for a bit) the trail reached the summit junction.
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At this point the trail is back in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. A jeep track to the right heads down Eton Ridge while the Buck Creek Trail also drops to the right down Penny Ridge. The Monte Carlo Trail turned left and began a mile long traverse of the Monte Carlo Ridge.
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The ridge walk was a delight. First it was relatively level and better yet it was covered in wildflowers.
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IMG_8278Balsamroot

IMG_8260Ladybug on a flower.

20200627_103428Cat’s ear lily

IMG_8280Lupine

IMG_8283Phlox and Oregon sunshine

IMG_8297Buckwheat

IMG_8301Paintbrush

20200627_104543Sunflowers

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IMG_8334Grouse in the flowers.

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Despite the clouds having hidden Mt. Hood from the meadow below there were plenty of views from the ridge.
IMG_8378Little Huckleberry Mountain to the left and Lemi Rock to the right.

IMG_8233Lemi Rock in the Indian Heaven Wilderness

IMG_8255Looking SE into Eastern Oregon.

By far the best view was of Mt. Adams.
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There were various penstemons in the area with the view of Mt. Adams.
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The level trail ended at the ridge end where the Monte Carlo Trail dove down toward a saddle and FR 1840. The trail dropped nearly 800′ in .7 miles before reaching the road. Worse than the steepness of the descent was knowing that we would need to gain all of the lost elevation back to visit Monte Cristo.
IMG_8397Starting the drop.

IMG_8409There were huge amounts of Arnica in the forest.

IMG_8419Monte Cristo from the trail as we dropped….further, and further.

The trail arrives at the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead on FR 1840.
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To complete our loop we would eventually need to start down FR 1840 to the left but to reach Monte Cristo we needed to head uphill to the right on FR 1840-100 following pointers for the Monte Cristo Trail 53.
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IMG_8428FR 1840-100.

IMG_8431Shiny beetles

After .6 miles of gradual climbing the road ended at the an old trailhead.
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It was time to gain that elevation back and the Monte Cristo Trail did it with gusto. Despite the presence of actual switchbacks the concept seemed to escape the designer and instead of tight turns and gradual grades the trail went from a moderate grade to nearly straight uphill before turning back along the hillside at a moderate grade. We gained over 800′ in the next .8 miles.
IMG_8447A “switchback” turning directly uphill.

About a tenth of a mile below the summit the trail entered a spectacular wildflower meadow.
IMG_8456Sunflowers at the edge of the meadow.

IMG_8468Approaching the meadow.

IMG_8474Sunflowers

IMG_8479Scarlet gilia

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After having missed out the view of Mt. Hood earlier there was just enough of a break in the clouds to see the mountain from Monte Cristo.
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A lookout tower once sat atop the peak.
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A much shorter ridge than on Monte Carlo ran north from the summit where the Monte Cristo Trail continued eventually reaching the Monte Cristo Upper Trailhead. Our second encounter with hikers came along this ridge when a group of three people were coming up from this upper trailhead.

The short ridge was covered with wildflowers including quite a bit of white-stemmed frasera which we haven’t often encountered.
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IMG_8521Pussytoes

IMG_8525White-stemmed frasera

IMG_8544Phlox

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IMG_8563Taper tip onions

20200627_122010White-stemmed frasera

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IMG_8584Wallflower and paintbrush

IMG_8581A white lupine

IMG_8580Paintbrush and phlox

We took a short break at the summit which was just long enough for Mt. Hood to sort of reemerge from clouds that had hidden it. This happened at the same time a hawk decided to ride an updraft straight up in the sky.
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After admiring the hawks flight abilities we started back down through the meadow.
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The trail was just as steep going down as it had been coming up and our knees were starting to protest this whole adventure. We made our way back to FR 1840-10 and followed it back to the Monte Carlo Upper Trailhead, pausing briefly to watch some swallowtail butterflies.
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We followed FR 1840-100 a few yards downhill to it’s junction with FR 1840 and turned left for 20 yards to the signed Monte Cristo Trail on the right.
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Our knees would not be getting a break just yet as the Monte Cristo Trail descended over 1000′ in just over a mile to the Monte Cristo Lower Trailhead along FR 18.
IMG_8612Presumably letting you know that you’re a mile from the road. (It could also be that this tree is “Number 1”.)

IMG_8618Twinflower in the forest.

IMG_8622Our first blooming prince’s pine of the year.

20200627_134001_HDRNot nearly the steepest section.

IMG_8626FR 18 finally!

We turned left on FR 18 the nearly 2 mile road walk back to our car. The good news was that the road surface wasn’t too hard and better yet it was nearly level the whole way!
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The field guide lists the hike as 11.8 miles but a trip report from 6/20 that I’d seen said that the hike came in closer to 14 miles for him. My Garmin came in at 13.6 miles so keep that in mind if you’re considering this hike. It was certainly challenging but the wildflowers and the views made it a worthwhile endeavor. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Loop

Categories
Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows – 6/21/2020

For the final hike of our vacation we were looking for something relatively close to home that we had not done before. While we had visited the Table Rock Wilderness twice before (post) both of the previous hikes started from the Table Rock Trailhead. Two of our guidebooks contained hikes starting at the Old Bridge Trailhead which would allow us to do a predominately new hike in the BLM managed wilderness.

One author (Sullivan) suggested a 6.4 mile loop utilizing the High Ridge and Bull Creek Trails as well as Rooster Rock Road while the other author’s (Reeder) suggested hike was a 10.8 mile out and back to Rooster Rock on the High Ridge Trail. We decided to combine the two and visit the meadow below Rooster Rock and then return via the Bull Creek Trail/Rooster Rock Road route described by Sullivan. We parked at the Old Bridge Trailhead which had it’s pros and cons.
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Trailhead sign at the Old Bridge Trailhead.

On the pro side the entire drive to the trailhead is on paved roads. On the con side the trailhead is at a gravel pit used for target shooting and there were a lot of empty shell casings as well as litter in the immediate vicinity.

The first few feet of the trail were nearly hidden by thimblerry bushes but after passing through them the trail was obvious and well maintained.
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IMG_7385A second signboard just up the trail from the trailhead.

There was a chance of showers in the forecast that never materialized, but it was foggy and the fog left the vegetation wet which in turn made us increasingly wet as we brushed against the leaves.
IMG_7389Wet leaves around an iris.

One thing that we’ve come to expect from hikes in this wilderness is a good climb and this portion of the High Ridge Trail was no exception. Starting at an elevation just over 1200′ the trail climbed 1800′ in 2.5 miles to a junction with the Image Creek and Bull Creek Trails. The majority of the climb is through a mature forest but at the 2.4 mile mark a small wildflower meadow awaits.
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IMG_7423Rhododendron

IMG_7430Coralroot

IMG_7448The small wildflower meadow.

We’d timed it fairly well for the flower display but the fog made it a little hard to get the full effect of colors.
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IMG_7452Paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and plectritis

IMG_7461Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_7465Death camas

20200621_074119Paintbrush

IMG_7472Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7478A penstemon

The trail briefly reentered the forest before coming to a second, larger meadow in .1 miles.
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IMG_7490Balsamroot at the edge of the meadow.

20200621_074643Penstemon

IMG_7491Larger meadow

This meadow was quite a bit larger with a few additional types of flowers present but it was also disappointingly foggy.
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IMG_7498Honeysuckle

IMG_7493Larkspur amid the paintbrush and Oregon sunshine

IMG_7516Tomcat clover

IMG_7518Possibly a milk-vetch or some sort of vetch.

On the far side of the meadow we arrived at the wide 4-way junction with the Image Creek Trail on the left, the Bull Creek Trail on the right, and the continuation of the High Ridge Trail straight ahead.
IMG_7525Image Creek Trail and the High Ridge Trail.

We stuck to the High Ridge Trail which launched uphill. The trail gained the ridge and leveled out for a bit before another steep climb. There were a few dips along the way as the trail was forced to leave the ridge to drop under rock outcroppings which just increased the amount of climbing needed.
IMG_7535One of the sets of rocks along the way.

IMG_7543In the middle of one of the climbs.

IMG_7552The trail leveling off a bit.

Approximately 2 miles from the junction we came to the first of a series of small meadows, each with a slightly different feel.
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IMG_7591Oregon sunshine

IMG_7607Mountain sandwort

IMG_7611Penstemon

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Olympic onionOlympic onion

IMG_7635Back in the trees.

20200621_093033Fawn lilies

IMG_7647The next little meadow.

IMG_7656Larkspur and blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7658Groundsel

IMG_7661Trees again.

IMG_7662Another meadow

IMG_7672Phlox

IMG_7676Phlox

IMG_7678Chickweed

Just under 3 miles from the junction we arrived at the meadow below Rooster Rock. This was the first part of the hike that was familiar to us having visited Rooster Rock on both our previous trips to the wilderness.
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We were just a week or two early for the full false sunflower display but a few of the blossoms had opened and there were plenty of other flowers blooming.
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IMG_7709Larkspur

IMG_7710Lupine

IMG_7713Wallflower

IMG_7722Paintbrush

IMG_7727Bistort

20200621_100025Sub-alpine mariposa lily

We turned left at a “Y” junction with the Saddle Trail and climbed to, wait for it…. a saddle between Rooster Rock and Chicken Rock. With the fog we couldn’t really see either rock formation but we knew they were there. While Rooster Rock is taller there is no trail to it, but there is one up to Chicken Rock and we headed up despite knowing that there would be no views of Mt. Jefferson today. There was a lot of colorful clumps of purple and pink penstemon though.
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The rocks were at least a good spot to take a short rest and have a bit to eat. We were occasionally able to make out the shape of Rooster Rock across the saddle as we sat.
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Mt. Jefferson to the left and the Three Sister to the right of Rooster RockFor comparison.

After our break we explored a little more of the meadow along the High Ridge Trail looking for any types of flowers that we might have missed earlier.
IMG_7805Sticky cinquefoil

We headed back along the High Ridge Trail to the junction with the Bull Creek Trail. The three miles back to the junction were pretty uneventful except for startling an unexpected hiker who we thought had seen us but hadn’t. He was in the middle of the trail and when he didn’t move we noticed he had ear buds in. I said hi and he about jumped off the trail. He wasn’t expecting to see anyone else on the trail he said. We wished him luck with the view as it was supposed to clear up at some point during the day and continued on our way.

By the time we arrived at the junction the fog had at least lifted so we took a faint user trail out to the edge of the big meadow from the Bull Creek Trail to take another look.
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After returning to the trail we noticed a smaller meadow on the opposite side that was bursting with color.
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It was mostly plectritis and Oregon sunshine but Heather managed to spot a couple of yellow monkeflowers.
IMG_7842Plectritis and Oregon sunshine

20200621_120104A monkeyflower by some plectritis.

The Bull Creek Trail dropped fairly steeply along an old roadbed to a crossing of a branch of Bull Creek.
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In a cruel twist the trail climbed away from this crossing. We had hoped that we were done climbing for the day but not quite. We then dropped to a second branch of the creek.
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After a brief smaller climb form this crossing the trail dove downhill in a hurry to the Bull Creek Trailhead along Rooster Rock Road.
IMG_7864Iris along the trail.

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It was 1.6 miles from the junction to the trailhead and now we faced a 2.3 mile road walk back to the Old Bridge Trailhead.
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As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad. We could hear (and occasionally got a glimpse of) the Molalla River and there was finally some blue sky overhead.
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The butterflies were coming out to pollinate the flowers so we watched them as we shuffled along.
IMG_7873I didn’t see the beetle until I was uploading this photo.

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We spotted a colorful bird flying back into some trees but couldn’t quite figure out where it had gone of what it was. I took a bunch of pictures of the branches though hoping to at least get an idea of what it was which actually sort of worked. It was a western tanager.
IMG_7890Where’s the western tanager.

The highlight of the road walk came as we neared the trailhead. Several cedar waxwings were in the trees nearby.
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Instead of 12.4 miles my GPS showed 13 but that’s to be expected when we wander around exploring things. 🙂 This was a tough hike with nearly 4000′ of elevation gain up some steep climbs but it was a good one. Having already gotten to experience the views from Chicken Rock helped alleviate any disappointment about the foggy conditions and we got to see a very different set of flowers in the meadow on this trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows

Categories
Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Olallie and Lowder Mountains – 09/01/2019

For our final outing of Labor Day Weekend we set our sights on a pair of peaks in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Both the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and Pat’s Saddle Trailhead (for Olallie Mountain) are located just 2 miles apart along Forest Road 1993. These were two more featured hikes from Sullivan’s 4th edition Central Cascades guidebook that we had yet to do. (Olallie Mountain was removed from the featured hikes in the 5th edition due to a 2017 fire that burned much of the route.) On their own the hike to driving time ratios didn’t pan out, but doing them both on the same day would, and as it turns out FR 1993 was in excellent shape allowing for a driving time closer to 2 1/2 hours versus the nearly 3 hours that Google predicted.

We drove south to Eugene and took Highway 126 four miles east of Blue River where we turned right on FR 19 to Cougar Dam. After turning left on FR 1993 and crossing the dam we followed the road 11.2 miles to the Pat’s Saddle Trailhead.
We chose to start with Olallie Mountain for a couple of reasons, first we thought that the lack of tree cover due to the fire might make this a warmer hike later in the day and second it was the longer of the two hikes. There are a couple of trails that leave from this trailhead. The French Pete Creek Trail is the first trail on the right. The upper section of this trail is not maintained (according the Forest Service webpage) and the forest around the lower section was impacted by fires in both 2017 and 2018. We hiked the first 5 miles of the trail from the lower trailhead prior to the fires in 2015 (post)
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The trail we were taking on this trip was the second one on the right, the Olallie Trail.
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This trail promptly enters the Three Sisters Wilderness amid old growth that escaped the fire.
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The signs of the fire could be seen after about a third of a mile.
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At the half mile mark we arrived at a small stream flowing from Wolverine Lake which was about a quarter mile uphill on our right. The forest on the right hand side of the trail had burned pretty good while the left hand side had fared much better. There was already plenty of green vegetation growing amid the snags on the hillside though.
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20190901_073350Cone flower

Sullivan had mentioned visiting Wolverine Lake by heading uphill cross country after crossing over the stream but the vegetation here looked pretty thick so we waited until we had climbed a bit beyond the stream and angled back toward the lake.
IMG_8191Cross country to Wolverine Lake.

There were a fair number of trees down from the fire so it wasn’t too difficult to reach the lake, but it was tricky trying to get a good look at it due to the brushy shore.
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It looked like there might have been a better vantage point around the lake to our right, but it wasn’t worth fighting through the brush and fallen trees to try and reach it so we settled for the view we had and headed back to the Olallie Trail. From above, the route down along the creek looked much more appealing and we wound up taking a track much closer to what Sullivan had shown on his map to arrive back on trail. Once we were back on trail we turned right and passed through a patch of thimbleberry bushes encroaching on the trail.
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We emerged from the thimbleberries and rounded a ridge end where the forest became a bit more open and many of the trees had survived the fire.
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A sooty grouse caught our attention as it crossed the trail ahead of us.
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The trail climbed gradually along the hillside and we marveled at the varying effects of the fire and how the forest was in different stages of recovery already.
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IMG_8215Baneberry

IMG_8217Monkshood

There were also some views that might not have been there if some of the trees hadn’t burned.
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IMG_8201South Sister

IMG_8220Middle and North Sister

IMG_8223Mt. Washington

IMG_8226Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

The line of clouds obstructing the view of the mountains wasn’t exactly a welcome sight, but we could at least see some of them and it was early so maybe they would eventually burn off.

A little over 2 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction in a grassy saddle.
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The Olallie Trail continued straight passing an old guard station site at Olallie Meadows in .9 miles then continuing deeper (and fainter) into the Three Sisters Wilderness eventually ending at Horse Lake (post). We turned right though, onto the Olallie Mountain Trail.
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This trail began with a reasonably gradual climb past a series of meadows where a few late blooming flowers remained.
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IMG_8240Aster and pearly everlasting

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IMG_8252Columbine

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The trail briefly leveled out on top of ridge where the fire had burned intensely in some areas while sparing trees in others.
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After the brief respite from climbing the trail steepened below the summit of Olallie Mountain and began to wrap up and around its rocky western face.
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The tread along the steep hillside here was a little sketchy in part due to the fire but we made our way up to the summit. The remains of the Olallie Mountain lookout tower still stand on the summit having been covered by firefighters to protect it from the blaze.
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The three hundred and sixty degree view was impressive and would have been more so if not for the presence of clouds to the north and in front of many of the cascade peaks. On top of that our early ascent left the Sun in a less than ideal overhead position for lighting.
IMG_8306_stitchParts of the Cascades from Mt. Jefferson to the NE to Mt. Bachelor to the SE.

IMG_8302Mt. Jefferson was still tangled up in the clouds.

IMG_8300Just a peak at Mt. Washington (which was more than we could see of Three Fingered Jack)

IMG_8297Middle and North Sister behind The Husband

IMG_8296South Sister

IMG_8295Broken Top

Things were a little less cloudy to the south where Cowhorn Mountain (post) and Mt. Thielsen (post) seemed to be cloud free while Diamond Peak wasn’t so lucky.
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IMG_8282Cowhorn Mountain and Mt. Thielsen

IMG_8291Diamond Peak

We were able to identify the cliffs of flat topped Lowder Mountain, our next stop, to the NW.
IMG_8312Lowder Mountain to the left of the tree in the foreground.

IMG_8317Lowder Mountain

After watching the clouds pass by (but not leave) for awhile we headed back down. We had passed a single backpacker on the way up and on the way down we encountered a trio of hikers making their way up. When we got back to the stream below Wolverine Lake we spotted a frog (no wolverines though).
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We completed our 8 mile hike here and drove back the two miles to the Lowder Mountain Upper Trailhead and parked at a pullout near the trailhead signboard. The signboard announced three trails: the Quaking Aspen, Lowder Mountain, and Walker Creek Trails.
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We weren’t paying close attention as we set off on a trail heading for a wilderness to the left of the signboard.
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Our first clue that we were on the wrong trail should have been the location of the trail signs on the signboard but away we went following the Quaking Aspen Trail downhill parallel to FR 1993. We had a feeling something might be off but a quick glance at the GPS showed that we were almost to some switchbacks which matched up with Sullivan’s map but we were surprised that they were headed downhill and not up (the one complaint we have about Sullivan’s maps are that they are not topographic so we can’t always tell when a trail is climbing or dropping). We were zoomed in too far to see the other trail behind us that switchbacked uphill. Just after turning on the first of the switchbacks Heather figured it out and got us turned in the right direction but not until we’d covered a third of a mile.

We hiked back uphill to the trailhead and looked at the signboard and area more closely. Sure enough there was another trail and wilderness to the right of the signboard (the side listing the Lowder Mountain and Walker Creek Trails).
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We now set off on the Lowder Trail and began switchbacking uphill through an old growth forest.
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After a quarter mile of serious climbing the trail leveled out a bit (and straightened out) as it traversed along a hillside. We soon got a quick glimpse of Olallie Mountain across the valley.
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For the next 1 3/4 miles the trail alternated between meadows and forest before arriving at a junction in one of the meadows.
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IMG_8364Skipper

IMG_8365This reminded us of a torture device.

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IMG_8372This meadow had a lot of buckwheat.

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IMG_8377Olallie Mountain again.

IMG_8380The lookout tower on Olallie Mountain

IMG_8381Diamond Peak had shed its cloud cover momentarily.

IMG_8384Diamond Peak

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IMG_8386Pollinators got to pollinate.

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This junction marked the start of the Walker Creek Trail which climbed up through the meadow to the right. This was actually the trail to take in order to reach the viewpoint atop Lowder Mountain.
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The Lowder Mountain Trail continued on straight but beyond the junction is no longer maintained due to “lack of use”.
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A series of 12 switchbacks led steeply up through the meadow and forest to a large meadow atop Lowder Mountain.
IMG_8394The trail heading up through some thimbleberry.

IMG_8397Butterfly

IMG_8405Another skipper

IMG_8412This guy was the size of my pinky.

IMG_8399A few scarlet gilia still in bloom.

IMG_8415Pearly everlasting at the edge of the large meadow.

We followed a well worn path across the broad summit to the edge of the large meadow where it turned right passing along the tree line.
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Like the Lowder Mountain Trail the Walker Creek Trail is no longer maintained beyond the meadow. The clear path along the impressively large meadow is a user trail to the viewpoint above Karl and Ruth Lakes.
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IMG_8427Karl & Ruth Lakes

The clouds were still a bit of an issue but it was now late enough in the day for the lighting to be much better.
IMG_8433Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with Horsepasture Mountain (post) in the foreground.

IMG_8431Mt. Washington

IMG_8440North and Middle Sister

IMG_8438South Sister and Broken Top

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We made our way south along the cliffs to reach a view of Mt. Bachelor.
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IMG_8456Mt. Bachelor

In addition to the great views there was an interesting little rock feature that looked a lot like a head of some kind.
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We took a good break here before heading back. On the return trip we discovered that we had actually spent a decent amount of time losing elevation traversing along the hillside on the way to the Walker Creek Trail junction. It had been so gradual that we hadn’t noticed but it was evident that we were going uphill a lot more than we’d expected once we were back on the Lowder Mountain Trail. There were quite a few butterflies out searching for the remaining flowers which gave us something to focus on (in addition to eating quite a few ripe thimbleberries).
IMG_8496Butterfly with a small crab spider on the next flower head to the right.

Between taking the wrong trail from the trailhead and wandering around at the viewpoint we managed to turn a 5.6 mile hike into 6.8 miles making our total for the day 14.8 miles. The elevation gains were roughly 1400′ for Olallie Mountain and 900′ for Lowder Mountain. The views were great from both peaks and we were already talking about a return trip earlier in the Summer to see what all the meadows might look like earlier in the year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Olallie and Lowder Mountains

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Bunchgrass Ridge – 7/04/2019

For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.

We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.

After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
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In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
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A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
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The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
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IMG_2117The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.

20190704_072419orange agoseris beginning to open.

20190704_072403Cat’s ear lily

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At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
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It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
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We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
IMG_2132The Three Sisters and Broken Top

IMG_2136Larkspur along the trail.

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IMG_2138Bunchberry

IMG_2142Anemone

IMG_2149Another meadow

IMG_2159The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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IMG_2170Queen’s cup

IMG_2181The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_2208Rhododendron

IMG_2210Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.

The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
IMG_2214View from the SW facing hillside.

IMG_2215Looking SE

The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
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IMG_2221Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.

After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
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IMG_2229Diamond Peak through the trees.

After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
IMG_2241Valerian in the saddle.

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IMG_2270Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey

IMG_2276Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2272Mt. Bailey

IMG_2656View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2658The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2281Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
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Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
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In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
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There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
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After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
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From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
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Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
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From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
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We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
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Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
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IMG_2332Giant blue-eyed Mary

20190704_091315Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_2328Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia

IMG_2334Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia

IMG_2339Coneflower

IMG_2342Cow parsnip

IMG_2345Tall mountain bluebell

IMG_2347More of the blue flowers

IMG_2350Larkspur

20190704_092323Jacob’s ladder

20190704_092346An aster or fleabane

IMG_2361Columbine and valerian

IMG_2362Lupine

IMG_2370Not sure what type of flower this one is.

IMG_2364Valerian filled meadow below the trail.

IMG_2373White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells

Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
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The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
IMG_2381Looking back at our route so far.

IMG_2383The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.

The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
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The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
IMG_2414Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.

IMG_2403Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2401Mt. Bailey

We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.

This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
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20190704_101615A few orange agoseris were scattered about.

IMG_2425Scarlet gilia

IMG_2432More scarlet gilia

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At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
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The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
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IMG_2452A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.

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Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
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We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
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Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
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The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
IMG_2479Owl’s head clover

IMG_2488Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia

IMG_2491Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris

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IMG_2510Hyssop

IMG_2514Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily

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20190704_105633Wait that’s not a butterfly.

As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
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IMG_2499Fuji Mountain

Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
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As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
IMG_2513The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.

We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
IMG_2552Heather at the rock outcrop.

I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
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IMG_2543Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain

IMG_2544Diamond Peak

I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
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After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
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IMG_2567Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)

IMG_2585Turkey vulture

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IMG_2594Back in the valerian meadows

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IMG_2683Not sure what this is going to be either.

We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

As far as we know we didn’t have any mountain goat visitors during our night at Lower Twin Lake but I did wake up once and managed to see a streak across the sky which I assume was part of the Perseid meteor shower. Another goat did pass close by in the morning though as we were preparing to leave.
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It wasn’t nearly as chilly as it had been the previous morning and the air had gotten quite a bit hazier overnight.
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The increased smoke made us thankful that we had made our climb up Rock Creek Butte the day before instead of waiting until this morning. We had a fairly straight forward day planned as we would simply be returning the way we’d come the day before minus the side trip up to Rock Creek Butte’s summit. We were still seriously considering not going all the way back to Summit Lake which would be approximately a 13 mile hike. We figured we could shorten that by nearly a mile if we set up camp near one of the streams along the Summit Lake Trail.

As we began the mile climb from Lower Twin Lake back to the Elkhorn Crest Trail we passed the mountain goat who had stop to graze.
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A little further along we spotted three deer doing the same in a patch of yellow wildflowers.
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The hoofed animals weren’t the only ones out this morning.
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As we climbed away from the Twin Lakes Rock Creek Butte came into view.
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When we reached the Elkhorn Crest Trail we turned left and headed toward Rock Creek Butte where we spotted another mountain goat coming down the ridge where we had gone up the day before.
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It turned out to be a mountain goat filled morning. As we were passing around the western side of Rock Creek Butte a herd of goats came up from the valley below. Some of them crossed the trail in front of us while others stayed down in the trees until we passed.
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We had another encounter a short while later as I passed around a rock outcropping and came face to face with a goat heading south on the trail. We were both equally startled and the goat quickly leapt downhill behind more rocks.
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The increased smoke limited the views on the way back so we focused more on the things along the trail.
IMG_0579Mt. Ruth to the north

IMG_0575Rock Creek Butte to the south

IMG_0560Looking east toward the Wallowas

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Curiosity got the best of Heather as we came to a jeep track heading uphill to a ridge 9.3 miles from the Twin Lakes Trail junction and 1.2 miles before the Summit Lake junction.
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Wondering if there might be a view of Summit Lake from the ridge we followed it steeply uphill only to discover that the angle was wrong and we were looking north over Little Summit Lake which was hidden in the trees below.
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We were feeling relatively good all things considered so we had decided to go all the way to Summit Lake and stay there again only this time we would take the first available camp site we came too instead of going half way around the lake. We arrived at the lake to find it a little smokier than we had left it the morning before but it was still a great lake.
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We were the only people there when we arrived and did indeed set up camp in the first available spot.
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We were later joined by a solo backpacker who we had passed along the Summit Lake Trail. We spent the afternoon lounging around camp and hanging out with the locals.
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The total distance for the day was just a bit over 13 miles but there had been a lot less elevation gain making it a fairly mild day. We were dealing with some blisters and Heather was having a little issue with an ankle that was being bruised by her shoe which told her it was time for a new pair. The good news was the next two days were only going to be around 10 miles each, but we were facing some more climbing on day four along the Lost Lake Trail which I had been told was steep and rocky. We turned in after memorizing the route for the following day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Elkhorn Crest Trail Day 3

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

French Creek Ridge

After visiting the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on our previous hike we paid a visit to the neighboring Opal Creek Wilderness. Our choice of trail was the French Creek Ridge Trail staring at the west trailhead. We had been to this trailhead before when we headed east from the trailhead to Phantom Bridge in 2011. (post) The road to the trailhead was in worse shape than we’d remembered including a short section of narrow road along a steep drop off with some trenching and potholes. It was only a couple hundred feet but it didn’t look like it would take much for that section of FR 2207 to become impassible.

Road 2207 was worse for the ware but that wasn’t the case at the trailhead where the sign board was in better shape than the one that had been present in 2011.
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French Creek Ridge Trailhead

We headed down the trail following an old roadbed into the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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The lightly used trail suffers a bit from a lack of maintenance but there were some signs that the first bit of trail had seen some recent brush removal.
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The trail passes the Marten Buttes on the north side of the ridge beneath some impressive basalt cliffs. Along this stretch were some open views across the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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When the trail was crossing over talus slopes it passed through a mixed forest with a few remaining wildflowers.
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IMG_8611Washington lilies

IMG_8774Penstemon

IMG_8782False hellebore

After a mile and a half we crossed over a saddle to the south side of the ridge. Looking back to the west we could see one of the Marten Buttes.
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Views from this side of the ridge also included several Cascade peaks.
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IMG_8644Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8635Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters with Coffin Mountain in the foreground.

The brushing out of the trail only covered a bit of the trail at the beginning and now it was a bit more overgrown when it wasn’t passing through the rockier sections.
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Luckily much of the trail did pass through rocky sections as it bounced from the south to north side of the ridge then back to the south again.
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After approximately 2.75 miles we arrived at a signed junction with the Beachie Trail.
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We took the left fork and followed the Beachie Trail steeply downhill for a little over a quarter mile before climbing an additional quarter mile back to the ridge top. This section was extremely overgrown but well marked by pink flagging.
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We then followed the trail uphill along the ridge for another .7 miles. The official trail bypasses the summit of Mount Beachie but not by much and a short bushwack led us to the small flat summit.
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Smoke from wildfires made for a hazy view but with the naked eye peaks from Mt. Adams south to Diamond Peak were visible except for Mt. Hood which was hidden behind Battle Ax Mountain in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (post)
IMG_8730Mt. Adams

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IMG_8728Battle Ax Mountain

We sat at the summit for a bit before heading back. On the return trip the butterflies were out and so was a friendly wren who posed for a bit before disappearing into the forest.
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The round trip was approximately 8 miles with just under 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain. Most of the flowers were past so an early July visit would likely be better timing for those. There were a few mosquitoes present making stopping in the trees a bad idea but they were less of a bother along the open rocky slopes. A nice trail and one that you’re likely to have all to yourself. Happy Trails!

Flickr: French Creek Ridge

Categories
Hiking Idaho Oregon Trip report

Jump Creek Falls and Three Forks – SE Oregon Vacation Day 4

Day four of our vacation was to be our first hike in Idaho followed by a visit to Three Forks on the Owyhee River south of Jordan Valley. When we wound up in Caldwell, ID on day 2 we had decided to stay the night there on day 3 as well since the hike at Jump Creek Falls was relatively close and then we could go back to our original plan of staying in Jordan Valley after hiking at Three Forks. This caused our driving time for day 3 to be nearly seven and a half hours but shaved off some of the driving time for day 4. We had also decided that after one night in Jordan Valley we would try staying at Fields Station the following night. This was going to be a bit of a leap of faith because we couldn’t reach anyone at Fields Station but Heather left a Facebook message so we didn’t know if there would be a room available, but that was a problem for another day.

We took advantage of the free breakfast at the motel then headed for Jump Creek for a quick .7 mile round trip to visit Jump Creek Falls. From researching the hike it was apparent that this is a popular area for people to hang out and play in the water so an early visit on a weekday seemed like a good way to possibly avoid the crowds. It worked as we were the only car at the trailhead when we arrived.
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The trail follows the brush lined creek (watch for poison ivy) into Jump Creek Canyon crossing the creek on stepping stones.
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Evidence of the areas popularity was everywhere (people stink sometimes) reinforcing our thoughts about an early morning mid-week visit. The short trail ended at the waterfall.
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After admiring the falls we returned to the car and headed for Jordan Valley where we planned on stopping for gas and inquiring about a room for the night. It was a good thing we asked about the room while we were filling up (the gas station is also the motel office) since road construction was starting up on Highway 78 and the rooms were filling up. After getting a room reserved we followed signs from Jordan Valley to Three Forks for a total of thirty four and a half miles to the rim of the Owyhee Canyon next to a corral.
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The first 22 miles had been good gravel but the final 14+ was a rutted mess with occasional cows. We once again opted for a road walk instead of more bad roads and parked by the corral.
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It was just under a mile and a half down the road which we were glad we didn’t try and drive, but a couple of brave souls had taken their campers down to the river.
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This was another “no official” trail hike and the only signboard was for boaters.
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William Sullivan describes two options in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide for Eastern Oregon”. One being an out and back and the other a bushwacking loop requiring two fords of the Owyhee River. (Both options require fording the North Fork Owyhee.)

The first thing we did was head for the boat ramp which is where the second ford would be if we tried the loop option. We wanted to check on the viability of that ford before we wound up there later and found it was too difficult to cross. It was a good thing that we did as the water level was high enough that it would have most likely required a swim which we could do, but we didn’t have any waterproof bags to keep our gear dry during such a swim.
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With our plan now set we headed back along the access road to the North Fork Owyhee. From the map in our guidebook it looked like the correct place to ford the river was near its confluence with the Owyhee River.
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It was certainly shallow enough at that spot with the water only calf deep so we headed across. The far shore proved to be thick with vegetation including some nasty nettles that we attempted to fight our way through only to find another small channel of water that effectively thwarted any attempt to continue. We made our way back to the spot where we had forded and crossed back to the road. Heather explored a little further up the road and found a few campsites along the North Fork as well as another possible spot to ford.
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The ford here was slightly deeper but we were able to reach the far shore between two trees and climb the low bank here to a small grassy area and then uphill to a cattle trail in the sagebrush.
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We followed cattle trails past butterflies and dragonflys to the Owyhee River where we picked up an ancient wagon route.
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The old wagon route was occasionally obvious due to the presence of rock embankments. A confusion of faint cattle trails followed the route and we spent most of the time wondering which “trail” was the one we should be on.
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We passed through a canyon with tall cliffs on both sides.
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The Owyhee wound through the canyon often reflecting the rocky cliffs above.
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The canyon widened after a while and we took a short break to have a snack. While we were eating I looked up and noticed a doe on the far bank munching on a bush.
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We passed several types of wildflowers as we hiked along.
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As we neared the two mile mark from the North Fork we spotted a waterfall on the far shore.
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It was actually a series of falls coming from warm springs on the far side and above the largest waterfall was 96 degree pool. The hot springs are on private land which the owners allow hikers to visit at least for now. The guidebook description mentioned fording the river where rocks pinch the trail. We were looking for a faint roadbed on the far shore which we could theoretically follow up to the warm pool. We ran into trouble when we followed the trail all the way to a rock pillar where the trail became flooded.
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We had taken the description too literally and hadn’t paid enough attention to the map. If we had looked closer at the map while reading the description we would have realized that the correct ford was about a tenth of a mile before the point we had reached. There was an easy ford where we were though so we headed across thinking we were in the correct spot and that we would find the old road on the other side.
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We wound up wandering around in thick brush searching for the road in vain. When we finally started to get somewhere we were blocked by a good sized body of water and wound up having to make our way back to where we had forded. Our next incorrect move was to get back into the river and head upstream along the bank to the waterfalls thinking that we might be able to climb up from there. You cannot, but we did get a good close up view of several of the falls and saw some nice stream orchids as well.
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Defeated we recrossed the river and prepared to head back. We could see the old road bed traversing the hillside across the way but were still confused about how to reach it. Then Heather reread the description once more and compared it to the map and realized our mistake. We had spent about 50 minutes trying to reach the road and now we knew why we hadn’t been able to. We decided to give it one more try and forded the river again, this time in the correct spot. It was a little trickier ford but once we were on the other side it was an easy cross country walk up to the old roadbed.
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A short scramble down brought us to the pool.
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After a short soak we headed back.
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It was a pretty uneventful return compared to our hike to the hot springs. We did spot a couple of flowers that we’d missed the first time by though, including a nice mariposa lily.
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The climb up the road in the heat of the day was pretty much awful but it still beat trying to drive down and back up it. The hike wound up being 9.5 miles instead of the 7 to 8 we were expecting but that was due mostly to our wandering around looking for the old road bed. We drove back to Jordan Valley and checked into the Basque Station Motel which turned out to be rather pleasant. It’s short on amenities but the room was clean and comfy as well as surprisingly quiet. We regretted having not stuck to our original plan of staying there instead of in Caldwell. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Jump Creek Falls and Three Forks

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Jordan Craters and Leslie Gulch – SE Oregon Vacation Day 3

After winding up in Caldwell, ID the at the end of day 2 of our vacation we had a bit of a longer drive for our two planned hikes for day 3. The drive to the turnoff for Jordan Craters would have been just over 8 miles but from Caldwell it was a little over 55 miles. Either way that still left 27 miles of gravel and dirt roads from Highway 95 to reach the craters. The first 24 of those miles were on decent gravel roads but then the route to the craters forked left onto a rough dirt road which we followed for a mile and a half to another fork. Here we were met with a sign warning recommending 4 wheel drive vehicles only.
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We decided we’d had enough of the rough roads and chose to hike the rest of the way down to the trailhead. There hadn’t been any rain in the forecast but it looked like there were some showers passing through the area.
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From the road we had a good view of the 27 square mile lava flow as well as the trailhead next to Coffee Pot Crater.
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As we made our way down the road we spotted a chukar and a rabbit.
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When we reached the trailhead we followed a path to the right of Coffee Pot Crater.
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The path led around the crater first passing a rounded cinder hill then more rugged lava rocks.
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The lava flow extended south from the crater in various patterns.
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As we made our way around we were soon able to see inside the 150 foot crater which was much larger than either of us had expected.
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Swallows and blue birds flew in and out of the crater occasionally landing on its rim.
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As we continued around we passed a smaller pit and several openings in the lava.
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After just .3 miles we arrived at a scramble trail down a red cinder slope into Coffee Pot Crater.
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The path was fairly steep with loose rock but we made our way down carefully and explored the inside of the crater.
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After wandering around inside the crater we climbed back out and headed cross country toward a visible channel in the lava.
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We followed this crack across the lava to its end near a pit where an owl startled us by suddenly appearing out of the pit and flying off further down the lava.
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Heather spotted a marmot that was not able to fly off.
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Just a bit further away was a second pit which we headed for. I got there first and started taking pictures.
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As Heather neared the owl reappeared only this time flying in my general direction. I was able to take a few pictures as it flew by to parts unknown.
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After admiring the second pit we headed back for the trail. More marmots watched us from the edge of the lava.
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We were briefly back on the rim of the crater but then left the trail again to get an up close look at a row of splatter cones that extended uphill toward the road.
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We had decided that after visiting the splatter cones we would just continue cross country uphill back to the road eliminating a little distance. In all there were seven cones varying in size and shape.
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We followed the road back to our car and returned to Highway 95 where we headed north toward our next stops for the day at Leslie Gulch.

The hike at Jordan Craters had only been 3.8 miles even with the road walk so we had plenty of energy left for additional hikes and Leslie Gulch offered numerous opportunities. For our visit we planned on hiking into at least four of the explorable gulches. We decided to start at the western most gulch and work our way back east toward the highway. The gravel road to Leslie Gulch was easily the best of the roads we would take to trailheads while in the area and the scenery along the route was spectacular making this a worthwhile visit even if you aren’t planning on hiking.
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We drove to the end of Leslie Gulch Road and parked near Slocum Campground near the boat ramp for the Owyhee Reservoir.
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The trail into Slocum Gulch is not an official trail but it was easily identifiable at first.
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Wildlife and wildflowers accentuated the views but it was the rock formations that were the stars.
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The trail grew fainter the further we went but we managed to go a little over 1.25 miles before turning around and heading for our next stop at Timber Gulch. This was another gulch with no official trail but there was a small pullout 2.35 miles from the Slocum Campground where we parked. From the pullout we followed another clear trail into Timber Gulch.
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Despite the proximity to Slocum Gulch the scenery here was quite different with more “honeycomb” rocks and even some different flowers.
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The trail ended in an amphitheater of rocks with sweeping views.
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The hike up Timber Gulch was only 1.3 miles round trip but it was packed with scenery. After Timber Gulch we drove just 1.25 miles further back up Leslie Gulch Road to the signed Juniper Gulch Trail.
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This wound up being a 1.8 mile hike with a little loop in the middle when we forked right where we should have stayed straight. Some minor scrambling up some rocks got us back on course though. This trail featured rock overhangs that we passed under and was also the only trail that we encountered other hikers on the entire trip after being at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.
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Beyond the overhangs (and once we were back on the correct path) the trail led up to a knoll with some impressive views.
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Our last stop in Leslie Gulch was at Dago Gulch, a mile from Juniper Gulch.
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Here we followed an old roadbed for a mile to private land.
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Although this gulch didn’t have quite as many impressive rock formations as the other gulches it had its share and it also had a lot of butterflies and cicadas.
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We had considered also hiking into Upper Leslie Gulch on a .3 mile trail there but it had gotten really warm and after five hikes we were ready to head back to Caldwell to get cleaned up and cool off. On the way back to the highway we spotted a burrowing owl atop some sagebrush along McBride Road. It flew up on some rocks when we stopped but I was able to get a somewhat blurry photo of the little guy before we drove on.
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It was a long day with just under six hours of hiking and almost seven and a half hours of driving but the sights had been worth it. We grabbed a fast food dinner back in Caldwell and turned in for the evening looking forward to what the next day had in store. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Jordan Craters and Leslie Gulch

Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Badger Creek

We combined our latest hike with a bit of reconnaissance hoping to check out some possible camp sites for an overnight trip this Summer. The plan was to hike the Badger Creek Trail from Bonney Crossing 7.7 miles to it’s junction with the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail looking for possible tent sites near the junction. This was our first visit to the Badger Creek Wilderness which is located just to the east of Mt. Hood in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Badger Creek flows from Badger Lake through a forested valley before joining Tygh Creek and eventually emptying into the White River. From Bonney Crossing the trail heads up the valley through a diverse forest as it climbs from an elevation of 2200′ to Badger Lake at 4500′. We turned around at just under 3650′ for our hike.

For once we were not one of the first cars at the trailhead, in fact we wound up having to park a little bit up the road as the few spots at the trailhead were taken. After walking down to the trailhead we were quickly greeted by a wilderness sign signaling the edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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Not a lot of sunlight was finding it’s way down into the valley in the morning but it did manage a few highlights.
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There was an interesting mix of both trees and flowers along the trail. Various types of pine, cedar, fir, and oak trees could be seen with a number of different flowers. The most interesting of the flowers was an odd yellow flower on a tall stalk that we kept seeing. After doing some research I discovered that it was silvercrown.
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Some of the other flowers present were balsamroot and lupine:
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Prairie Star
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Fairy Slippers
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Arnica
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There was also large patches of Vanilla leaf and skunk cabbage which were both really fragrant on this day. The vanilla leaf was much more pleasant. 🙂
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While the trail stayed fairly close to Badger Creek there really weren’t a lot of opportunities to get down to the creek. Steep banks and dense vegetation limited access but there were a few places where camp sites had been established that allowed access to the creek.
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Shortly after the Post Camp trail joined up with the Badger Creek Trail was the only real discernible waterfall that we saw.
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Being down in the forested valley meant that there were not many views up. The best views came at our turnaround point at the cutoff trail junction where we could see the top of Lookout Mountain and a couple of the other high points of the surrounding hills.
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As the day went on it got quite warm on the trail and the wildlife started to come out, especially the butterflies. We had seen a couple of deer on the drive in but on the trail we didn’t spot anything larger than a snake.
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One of the more interesting sightings was a butterfly that had been caught by a camouflaged spider.
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We were surprised that we didn’t see more people on the trail on the way to our turnaround point based on the number of cars that were at the trailhead when we’d set off. We were even mores surprised by the large number of hikers we encountered on our way back to the trailhead. We just kept passing groups heading in the whole afternoon. I’d seen conflicting reports as to the popularity of this trail but apparently on Memorial Day weekend it is rather popular. We found plenty of new cars at and near the trailhead when we got back and as we were packing up at 4pm cars continued to arrive.

We wound up getting a pretty good idea of where we’ll aim to set up camp when we do our next trip to the Badger Creek Wilderness and are looking forward to visiting Lookout Mountain on that trip. Happy Trails!

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