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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Berley and Santiam Lakes- 07/03/2021

For the Fourth of July weekend we had originally planned on a trip to Central Oregon but the drought conditions that were exasperated by the recent heat wave had us reconsidering not being home to guard against rogue illegal fireworks (a house in our neighborhood lost a fence and tree last year on the 4th). Our decision was made final when, following the heat wave, mostly dry thunder storms passed over the Ochoco Mountains where some of our hikes were planned. Lighting caused fires have kept firefighters busy since then as the race to contain the fires that are still cropping up from that storm system. We turned to Plan B, which was in part a modified Plan A, and spent the weekend hiking in the Central Cascades. On Saturday we stuck to our originally planned hike to Berley and Santiam Lakes but instead of continuing on to Bend afterward we drove back home.

This hike is covered in Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” and provided us an opportunity to revisit some places as well as discover some new ones. The hike starts at the Pacific Crest Trailhead along Highway 20 at Santiam Pass.
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For now this is one of the trailheads where a Central Cascade Wilderness Day Use Permit is not required but a NW Forest Pass ($5/day or $30/annual) is, as well as completing a free self-issue permit. Note that for overnight trips a Central Cascade Wilderness Permit is needed for any visits to the Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters or Mt. Washington Wilderness areas.
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We had started another hike here in October of 2012 when we hiked to the base of Three Fingered Jack then returned on a loop past Martin, Booth, and Square Lakes (post). We were interested to not only see the area during a different season but also to see what had changed in nearly 9 years. This was particularly interesting to us due to the area having been burned badly in the 2003 B&B Complex and this would give us an idea of how the forest was recovering. Given the huge swaths that were burned in the September 2020 wildfires this might give us a small frame of reference for what to expect for some of the areas. The first thing that we noticed was that post fire trees seemed larger than we remembered which was confirmed by comparing some pictures of the Pacific Crest Trail junction with the Old Summit Trail 0.2 miles from the trailhead.
Pacific Crest TrailTrail sign at the junction on 10/13/2012.

IMG_9248Trail sign at the junction on 07/03/2021.

What we didn’t really notice though was just how many of the snags were now missing.
Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Pacific Crest TrailEntering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness in 2012 (0.3 miles from the TH).

IMG_9255Entering the wilderness in 2021.

We followed the PCT a total of 1.2 miles to a junction with the Santiam Lake Trail. The view to the south was as spectacular as we had remembered with several Cascade Mountains in view along with several distinctive lesser peaks.
IMG_9275Cache Mountain, Black Crater (post), Tam McArthur Rim & Broken Top (post), North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, and Hayrick Butte (flat top on the right).

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To the north the top of Three Fingered Jack was occasionally visible.
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There were a few more flowers in bloom now than there had been in October.
IMG_9258A thistle

IMG_9273Penstemon

IMG_9274Bleeding heart

IMG_9281Pussytoes

IMG_9285California stickseed

IMG_9293Another penstemon

Shortly after passing a small unnamed lake we arrived at the junction.
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IMG_9295Mountain bluebird by the lake.

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We turned left onto the Santiam Lake Trail at the junction striking off on new to us trail. The Santiam Lake Trail headed slightly downhill to the north passing a series of small ponds/lakes before making a sweeping turn to the west then meeting up with the now abandoned Santiam Lodge Trail (coming uphill on the left) one mile from the PCT.
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IMG_9304There was a good amount of scarlet gilia blooming along this section of trail.

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IMG_9310Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9313One of the ponds.

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IMG_9316Another pond with Maxwell Butte (post) behind to the right.

IMG_9319Unnamed lake along the trail with Maxwell Butte behind.

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IMG_9333Lupine

IMG_9340Dark-eyed junco

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IMG_9357The view south.

IMG_9357Seasonal pond

A half mile beyond the abandoned trail (there was part of a sign still hanging, partially hidden on a tree) we came to an unsigned fork.
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We admittedly hadn’t read Matt’s hike description recently and had conveniently forgotten that there were no maintained trails to the Berley Lakes and this unmarked fork was where he would have had us turn. It wasn’t shown on the GPS map and since we hadn’t bothered to re-familiarize ourselves with the hike we continued on the Santiam Lake Trail but were still looking for the trail to Berley Lakes.
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We crossed the nearly dry bed of Lost Lake Creek (There was enough water around to host a healthy population of mosquitos though.) and continued through a meadow filled with lupine into some unburned forest.
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IMG_9374Beargrass

The combined presence of the trees and more water in Lost Lake Creek (which the trail was now following) was a perfect recipe for even more mosquitos. We hustled along as quickly a possible to try and keep as much of our own blood as possible.
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IMG_9381Recent snow melt is another recipe for mosquitos.

IMG_9382Another creek crossing.

IMG_9383Shooting star

IMG_9386Mountain heather. Typically if we see this blooming we expect there to be mosquitos.

Fortunately the creek soon faded out in an open rocky landscape where the heat of the sun kept the buggers away and we were able to slow down a bit.
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IMG_9396A sulphur

IMG_9397Alpine false dandelion

IMG_9406One of several snow patches at the tree line.

IMG_9401Nearing the end of the opening.

IMG_9412More snow in the trees.

IMG_9415A checkerspot

By the time we’d reached the open area it was obvious we had missed our turn and should have taken the fork we’d seen since we were now past the Berley Lakes. That was fine though as the original plan had been to visit those lakes first and hook up with the Santiam Lake Trail beyond Lower Berley Lake then continue on to Santiam Lake and return via the Santiam Lake Trail. Our new plan was to visit Santiam Lake then find the route to Lower Berley Lake, visit it, then check out Upper Berley Lake and return to the Santiam Lake Trail at the fork. Beyond the open plain the trail began a 250′ descent through more unburned forest to Santiam Lake.
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IMG_9419Trees & melting snow = more mosquitos.

IMG_9422Not Santiam Lake but a very pretty unnamed lake just to the left of the trail approximately 0.4 miles from Santiam Lake.

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IMG_9426Not sure what type this is but the orange on the wing was pretty.

We turned off the Santiam Lake Trail at a “No Campfires” sign and followed a familiar path down to the lake.
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It had been almost 11 years since we visited this lake. On our previous visit we had come up the Santiam Lake Trail from the Duffy Lake Trail (post).

IMG_9430Mt. Jefferson behind Red Butte

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IMG_9438Duffy Butte on the left.

IMG_9440Three Fingered Jack

IMG_9442Paintbrush, shooting stars, and buttercups.

We set off to hike around the west side of the lake but we encountered quite a bit of recent blowdown and decided it was a little more trouble than it was worth.
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IMG_9451Just one of several large uprooted trees along the shore.

Taking a break along the shore and enjoying the view would have been nice but the mosquitos weren’t interested in letting us sit peacefully so when we came to the third bunch of downed trees we called it good and headed back for the Santiam Lake Trail. We followed it back to the open plain where the mosquitos hadn’t been bad and stopped to study the map in Reeder’s book (still weren’t smart enough to take the time to re-read it though) and we could see that from this end his track showed him heading for Lower Berley Lake just before a topographic feature. We made our way across the plain where butterflies were busy flying from plant to plant.
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IMG_9471The “topographic feature” ahead on the right where we planned on turning for Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9473Mountain heather along the trail, it was warm and sunny enough that the mosquitos weren’t as bad this time by.

IMG_9475Threeleaf lewisia

IMG_9478Getting closer to the hill where we planned on turning.

IMG_9479California tortoiseshell butterflies in the bed of Lost Lake Creek.

Later when we finally did read the hike description Reeder mentioned a cairn marking a user trail but we didn’t notice any cairn (and admittedly may have turned too soon) but we spotted what appeared to be faint tread along a hillside above a dry stream bed and took a right onto it.
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The track on the map showed the route on the south side of the lake but this trail was leading to the south side of Lower Berley Lake. It led past a couple of campsites to some rocks above the lake.
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IMG_9484Three Fingered Jack from the rocks.

We picked our way down through the rocks to the lake shore and followed a user trail west until more downed tress forced us to climb back up above the rocks.
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IMG_9493More tortoiseshells

IMG_9495A butterfly photo bomb

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Once we were back above the lake we came across what looked like another user trail leading away from it.
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We thought it might be a side trail to Upper Berley Lake so we turned right on it but soon realized that we were following a dry bed instead of a trail.
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IMG_9505The bed was popular with the butterflies.

A GPS check showed we were heading too much to the NNE and needed to be NNW so we left the bed and used the GPS units to find Upper Berley Lake, but not before startling a doe.
IMG_9508Cross country to Upper Berley Lake, the doe was in this meadow and headed in the direction of the patch of snow at the far end.

IMG_9510Upper Berley Lake

Reeder mentions a view of Three Fingered Jack from this lake as well but we were on the wrong side of it for that. The lake shore where we were was pretty thick with small trees so we would have needed to back track to make our way around for a view but we decided to save that for another time. We took a slightly more direct route back toward Lower Berley Lake and found what seemed to us a bit of a random Day Use Only sign.
IMG_9514We wound up finding the same “user trail” and followed it down to the lower lake.

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What we could see was a clear trail heading south past the lake. We went down to the lake shore to see if we could pick something up since the track in the book showed it at the SW edge of the lake. We couldn’t make out any clear trail but that could have been because it was covered in butterflies.
IMG_9518California tortoiseshell butterflies along Lower Berley Lake.

IMG_9520Three Fingered Jack and about a half dozen butterflies.

We did another comparison of the track in the guidebook and the topographic map on our GPS units and came to the conclusion that we were in the right spot and just needed to hike over a saddle between two hillsides. As we made our way up we found an obvious trail.
IMG_9524The hillside on the right was rocky.

IMG_9525The trail dropping down from the saddle with Mt. Washington and the North Sister ahead.

This trail was at times easy to follow and at others non-existent.
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Just under three quarters of a mile from Lower Berley Lake we ran into three hikers heading for the lake which we took as a good sign. Just a short distance later we came to the dry channel of Lost Lake Creek.
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It was hard to tell where the “trail” crossed or where it was on the far side. Reeder’s track showed the alignment converging with the Santiam Lake Trail at an gradual angle but we could see that we were only about a tenth of a mile from that trail as the crow flies so we abandoned all attempts at following the user trail. We headed straight for the Santiam Lake Trail and found it without much difficulty.
IMG_9534Found it!

We were a tenth or two of a mile from the actual junction which wound up working in our favor. We had rejoined the Santiam Lake Trail just north of the seasonal pond where there were now dozens of butterflies hanging out and this time they weren’t all the same types.
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We made our way back to the PCT then followed it south back to the trailhead but not before stopping at a viewpoint for one last look at the mountains.
IMG_9571Yellow beetle on lupine.

IMG_9572Orange agoseris

IMG_9584Back at the PCT.

IMG_9588Bumble bees on penstemon.

IMG_9589Cicada in the grass.

IMG_9594Black Crater, Broken Top, North & Middle Sister, Mt. Washington, Hayrick Butte, and Hoodoo Butte from the viewpoint.

Three Fingered Jack from the viewpoint.

Track for our 12.9 mile, 1300′ elevation gain hike

After a great day of hiking we spent the evening with my Grandma and parents. It was a great start to the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Berley & Santiam Lakes

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High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Broken Top – No Name Lake

We’re a little behind on our trip reports due to spending too much time hiking 🙂 (If that is possible). After being in Washington for our last couple of trips we headed over to Central Oregon to spend some time in the Three Sisters area. We started off with a day hike to a lake we had really been wanting to visit, a lake with no name but a spectacular view located at 8000′ on the east side of Broken Top.

We set off from Todd Lake as the Sun was rising hoping to beat the crowds up to this increasingly popular spot.
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The trail from Todd Lake entered the Three Sisters Wilderness shortly after leaving the lake.
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Then Broken Top made an appearance.
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It wasn’t the only Cascade Peak visible from the trail.
Mt. Bachelor:
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South Sister:
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The trail climbed gently as it left the forest and gained better and better views as it passed by and through open meadows.
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And across wildflower lined streams.
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We spotted several deer grazing in the meadows near the junction with the Green Lakes Trail.
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As we gained elevation the views to the south opened up and we could see Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey beyond Mt. Bachelor.
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As we worked our way around Broken Top we passed several springs which were the sources of many of the green meadows we’d passed.
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It was interesting to note a small section of land that was not included in the Three Sisters Wilderness surrounding Crater Ditch. The ditch channels water from glacial melt-off down into Central Oregon for irrigation purposes and predates the wilderness designation thus remaining outside of the boundary.
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After crossing Crater Ditch the trail headed toward Ball Butte and the end of the Green Lakes Trail at road 380.
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Shortly after crossing a creek an unofficial trail forked to the left heading between Ball Butte and Broken Top with Broken Hand dead ahead.
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We then recrossed the monkeyflower lined creek and followed it up toward the no name lake passing several small but scenic falls.
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The trail turned toward Broken Top and continued to climb toward the east side of the mountain. An increasing variety of wildflowers could be seen as we got closer to the lake and many birds were flying about chirping happily.
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Finally the path reached a snowfield between two moraines. We climbed the snowfield to find no name lake waiting at the base of Broken Top.
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The lake was as beautiful as advertised. The colors of the water and of Broken Top were spectacular.
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We were surprised by several things. The lake was larger than we had expected and there was a surprising number of flowers growing on the moraines surrounding the lake.
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A path around the right side of the lake led to yet more amazing views. Climbing to a viewpoint revealed mountains from Broken Top to a faint Mt. Hood on the horizon with the lake below behind us.
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There was a single tent high up on the rim overlooking the lake but we didn’t see the owner and had had the lake all to ourselves for awhile before another pair of hikers arrived. On our hike out we passed a number of people heading up the trail and were once again glad we chose to get an early start. There is a shorter route to the lake but it involves what has been described as a terrible access road and it would have meant missing out on some great scenery. When we got back to Todd Lake the parking lot was full but the lake and Broken Top remained a peaceful sight and a great way to kick off a vacation.
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Happy Trails!

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Beargrass
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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