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Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Long Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, and Fort Columbia

For the third day of our 4 day mini-vacation we headed north into Washington for a series of hikes along the coast from Long Beach to the Columbia River. We decided to start with the northernmost hike and work our way south. Our first stop was at the north end of the 7.2 mile Discovery Trail located on North 26th St. in Long Beach.

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Normally when we have a 7.2 mile trail we would just hike the entire thing out and back and call it a day, but on this rare occasion we were going to follow Sullivan’s easy 3 hike description. From this trailhead we were simply following the trail for .3 miles to a replica of Clark’s Tree. The replica represents a tree where William Clark carved his name on a tree in November of 1805 to claim the territory for the U.S.

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We took a short sandy path from the tree to the foredune to take a look at the ocean before heading back.

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For our next hike we drove south to Sid Snyder St. where a .4 mile stretch of boardwalk parallels the paved Discovery Trail.

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Interpretive signs lined the boardwalk including one showing all of the shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.

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We returned via the paved Discovery Trail and once again hopped into the car and headed south. We left Long Beach and continued south on Highway 101 for 3 miles to the stoplight in Ilwaco where we turned right on Highway 100 and entered Cape Disappointment State Park.

We were originally headed for a signed parking lot for Beards Hollow 1.9 miles away. We needed a $10 Discovery Pass to park there but, when we turned right into the parking area we discovered that there was no self-pay station. We had passed a Beards Hollow Viewpoint about a mile before turning into the parking lot which didn’t require a pass so we drove back uphill to the viewpoint parking lot and started our hike from there.

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A trail led downhill from the viewpoint to the lower parking lot.

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At the lower parking lot we once again picked up the Discovery Trail.

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We followed the paved trail through a wetlands which is a result of the building of the Columbia River jetties.

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When the Discovery Trail made a sharp right near the ocean we took one of several sandy paths to the beach where we turned south and headed for North Head.

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The beach was quite but judging from the number of tire tracks and amount of garbage lying around it gets a lot busier in the evenings. Near the end of the beach we came upon some nice tide pools which we explored briefly before heading back.

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After hiking back up to the viewpoint we continued south on Highway 100 and turned right onto North Head Lighthouse Road. A Discovery Pass is required to park here as well but we spotted a self-pay station near some signboards so we parked and I went to pay.

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I don’t mind having to pay for the passes, but I do get annoyed by how hard it is to buy them sometimes. We had to drive a couple of miles further along Hwy 100 to the park entrance booth where we were finally able to purchase the required pass.

After returning to the North Head parking lot we headed for the North Head Lighthouse.

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A short .3 mile loop passes several buildings that used to house the lighthouse keepers, but are now vacation rentals, before continuing out the headland to the lighthouse which is currently undergoing rennovations.

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After completing the loop we turned right at a sign for the 1.5 mile North Head Trail.

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Our plan was to follow this trail out to McKenzie Head then take a short road walk past Oneil Lake and explore a few more trails in the park from the area near the entrance booth. The North Head Trail passed through a pretty coastal forest going up and down, over and around ridges. We spotted lots of wildlife along this section of trail, mostly in the form of frogs and snakes.

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We crossed Fort Canby Road at a small parking lot for McKenzie Head.

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After stopping to read the interpretive signs we started up the .3 mile path to Battery 247.

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We explored the old bunker and took in the view from North Head before heading back down.

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When we arrived back at the McKenzie Head parking lot we turned right and walked along Fort Canby Road until we were able to cut over to a gravel campground road along Oneil Lake.

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We spotted an egret and an osprey at the lake.

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At the far end of the lake we crossed Jetty Road just west of the park entrance booth and located the Cape Disappointment Trail.

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We followed the trail uphill past a viewpoint of the jetty.

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The trail continued to climb from the viewpoint passing a set of stairs that led to a hilltop with a view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

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The little hilltop was a dead end so we backtracked down the stairs and continued following the trail to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

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The aroma near the center was less than appealing due to the presence of sea birds on the rocks below.

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At the far end of the center we managed to find a spot in the shade where we couldn’t smell the birds and took a short break.

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It was another .6 miles to the lighthouse from the interpretive center so we sallied forth. The trail dipped down between a Coast Guard station and Dead Mans Cove.

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A narrow paved road led from the Coast Guard station uphill to the lighthouse and an impressive view.

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After another short break we returned to the interpretive center and walked around the east side and explored Battery Harvey Allen.

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After exploring the battery we returned to the park entrance booth. We headed out Jetty Road past the booth and park entrance sign toward the boat launch across Coast Guard Road. On the far side of that road we located a trail sign for the Coastal Forest Trail.

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There was a moment of hesitation when we read the caution sign warning of ground hornets on the trail. Growing up I had a huge fear of bees and any related species but as we’ve been hiking I’ve come to an understanding with most of the yellow and black insects. Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are not on that list. We decided to proceed but with extreme caution.

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Our plan was to do the 1.5 mile loop. At the far end of the loop near a bench a spur trail led out to a viewpoint.

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A heron was hunting in the grasses nearby.

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We completed the loop without running into any hornets and I was relieved when we got back to Coast Guard Road. After passing Oneil Lake on Fort Canby Road again we took the North Head Trail back to our car at the lighthouse parking lot. There were more snakes on the trail on the return trip than we’d seen earlier in the day which was fine with me since they weren’t hornets.

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We had one final stop left. Following signs for Ilwaco we left the park and returned to Highway 101 where we headed back toward Oregon. Eight miles from Ilwaco we turned right at a sign for Fort Columbia State Park.
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We walked through the old buildings and turned uphill on Military Road. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was visible in the distance.
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We found a map on a signpost which showed fewer trails than what our guidebook and Google showed.
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We decided to trust the park map and headed up the grassy Military Road Trail.
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The trail passed some overgrown structures.
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When we arrived at 780′ summit we decided to head back down on the Scarborough Trail, forgoing the .5 mile Summit Trail.
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The Scarborough Trail began as a decent dirt trail but soon became overgrown with a few downed trees to climb over.
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After .4 miles we came to another grassy roadbed.
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This was the route shown on the park map. The trail did seem to continue downhill which corresponded to the map in the guidebook but without knowing the condition of that trail we played it safe and followed the roadbed back to the Military Road Trail. On the way down we took a short detour following a use path toward the sound of falling water. The path led to a small waterfall behind a fence with a “Do Not Enter” sign. We took a photo from the fence and then returned to our car.
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When it was all said and done we’d hiked a total of 17.3 miles from 5 different trailheads. It had been a really enjoyable group of hikes full of wildlife and history. Happy Trails!

Flickr: SW Washington Coast