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Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Trip report

Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park – 6/18/2020

We had the rare opportunity to have company on one of our outings on our vacation. Four of Heather’s running buddies (we won’t name names but you know you you are) were open to our 5am start time so we swung by and had them follow us to the first of two stops at the Memaloose Lake Trail.

The trailhead is along Forest Road 45 which runs between Highway 242 and Highway 211. The 2014 36 Pit Fire forced the closure of FR 45 at Highway 224 after damaging a section of the road. This was the recommended way to the trailhead as the fist 11.2 miles were paved and the final mile was good gravel. While the repairs are nearly finished FR 45 was still closed 3.5 miles from Highway 242 meaning we would need to take FR 45 from Highway 211. From that highway it was 23 miles to the trailhead and although most two digit forest roads are paved or at least good gravel FR 45 was not. There was a short section of pavement before turning to a pothole filled mess. For their part the Forest Service was in the process of clearing brush and debris along the road but there was still quite a bit of work to do as some downed trees had been worked on just enough to allow vehicles to get by. We picked our way slowly around (and sometimes through) the obstacles and eventually made it to the trailhead.
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The Memaloose Lake Trail starts uphill into the Mt. Hood National Forest and quickly enters the Clackamas Wilderness.
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The 1.4 mile trail gained 700′ as it climbed through a lush green forest.
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IMG_6252Bunchberry

IMG_6266Salmonberry

The trail crossed a couple of small streams before climbing to a more substantial crossing of Memaloose Creek.
IMG_6282First little stream crossing.

IMG_6288Another stream crossing, this one with skunk cabbage.

IMG_6296Memaloose Creek crossing.

IMG_6298Memaloose Creek above the crossing.

The crossing was made just a bit tricky by a downed log in the middle of the creek which required some awkward steps on potentially slick rocks.
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Beyond the creek the trail made a long switchback up to Memaloose Lake.
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IMG_6313Skunk cabbage, shooting stars, and marsh marigolds across the lake.

There were some rough skinned newts in the water that we watched for a bit.
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After a short break at the lake we continued on crossing the outlet on some logs.
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The Memaloose Lake Trail ends at the lake, but a user maintained trail continues uphill for a mile to the summit of South Fork Mountain.
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The trail was in good shape for an “unmaintained” trail. There were a few trees down including a spot where we were forced to dip down on a hillside to get around one. The footing wasn’t bad but it could become an issue if not addressed.
IMG_6330Typical obstacles for the trail.

I was hoping for a few flowers on the summit but aside from some trillium a bit below the summit and some small parsley up top there weren’t any.
IMG_6339Trillium

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What there was though were views of volcanoes. It was pretty much cloudless and we had unimpeded views of the Cascades from Mt. Rainier down to the Three Sisters.
IMG_6352Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams (with Goat Rocks the snowy patch just to the left), and Mt. Hood

IMG_6360Mt. Rainier

IMG_6358Goat Rocks to the left with Mt. Adams

IMG_6364Mt. St. Helens

IMG_6354Mt. Hood

IMG_6368Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters.

IMG_6371Mt. Jefferson

IMG_6381Three Fingered Jack

IMG_6377Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters

I am often surprised by views of Broken Top forgetting that it is quite a bit east of the Three Sisters. I hadn’t clued into the fact that it was visible behind Mt. Washington until I was writing this post.

After exploring the summit and taking another short break we headed back down to the trailhead and prepared to drive back down through the potholes to Highway 211.

The hike to Memaloose Lake and South Fork Mountain was 4.75 miles so when I was planning our outing I was looking for another hike in the 6 to 8 mile range in the area. Luckily Milo McIver State Park offered a couple of loop options that fit the bill.

I had chosen the Riverside Loop Hike described in the Oregonhikers.org Field Guide.

We parked at the Riverside Day Use Area near the Clackamas Fish Hatchery and set off on the Dog Creek Loop Trail at the far end of the parking lot.
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We took a quick detour to visit the Clackamas River and watch a duck on a rock.
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The trail crossed Dog Creek twice on footbridges before arriving at the fish hatchery after .2 miles.
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We stayed right here and continued to stay right at junctions for 1.2 miles to the start of the Vortex Loop which we had originally considered taking, but the junction with the trail on the right was simply marked with a hiker symbol and no trail name. It appeared to be heading back down to the trail we just came up so we continued on until coming to a viewpoint of the Clackamas River below.
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IMG_6434Red elderberries

IMG_6441Youth-on-age

IMG_6443A phacelia

IMG_6445Hedgenettle

IMG_6448Tiger lily

IMG_6453Fringecup

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Beyond the viewpoint we arrived at a meadow with a grassy track joining on our right we reread the description and realized that this was the other end of the Vortex Loop and we had missed the turn.
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We decided to save the 2 mile Vortex Loop for another time and stayed on the Rivermill Trail which skirted the meadow before crossing a pair of roads, the second of which was near a horse staging area.
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The horse staging area was located at another meadow which we turned right at skirting the edge on a wide track which was the Bat Trail (the Rivermill Trail was further to the right in the trees).
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This led us to the Bat Barn and had a view of Mt. Hood which was now sporting some clouds.
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It was too early in the day for bats but we did see a hawk with lunch.
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Beyond the barn the Bat Trail rejoined the Rivermill Trail where we turned left and descended along a row of blackberry bushes.
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This section of the Rivermill Trail hosted a horse training circuit which the six of us took turns training on.
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The park had a serious issue with identifying trails. Most of the junctions indicated whether or not they were open to horses or just hikers, but the vast majority didn’t give the name of the trails or any indication of what might be down the trail. There was a sign for the Estacada Lake Trail though which we turned onto when we arrived at it.
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We were now descending back down toward the river through a forest where a pileated woodpecker was busy working on a log.
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When we arrived at a muddy pond we wondered if this could be the lake.
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IMG_6534Dragonfly near the pond.

A quick look at the hike description let us know that this was indeed just a pond and that Estacada Lake was actually on the Clackamas River behind a dam. The Estacada Lake Trail dropped us onto South River Lake Road where we turned left along the river to the lake.
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We picked up the Rivermill Trail again just beyond the dam viewpoint and followed it back to the Riverside Day Use Area and our cars. This loop came in at 6.5 miles giving us a nice 11.2 mile day. It was an interesting day in that the first hike had been in a wilderness area and we had seen no other people while the second hike was in a developed state park where there were other people and horses about. The scenery was very different but both hikes had their place.

It was also nice to share a hike with some other people. Most folks balk when they hear what time we leave in the morning (and sometimes when they hear how far we’re planning on going). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Lake and Milo McIver State Park

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Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail – 11/09/19

We managed to stay off the trail for two weeks but a favorable forecast called us back out for our November outing.  We chose a pair of hikes along the Clackamas River east of Estacada, OR.  The Riverside Trail was another of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we’d been saving for a rainy day, but we just didn’t have many of those this year so we decided to go ahead and check it off our to do list.

Before getting to the Riverside Trail though we stopped at the nearby Alder Flat Trailhead which is located along Highway 224 just west of the Ripplebrook Guard Station.
Alder Flat Trailhead

We arrived a little before the light so we waited at the trailhead for enough light before setting off on the .9 mile trail that led to the primitive Alder Flat Campground along the Clackamas River.
Sunrise over RipplebrookThere was a nice sunrise while we waited for enough light.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail at the trailhead.

The trail passes by an old beaver pond and through a green forest before arriving at the campground near a swimming hole at a bend in the river. Maps also show a trail around the beaver pond but we followed it briefly on the way back and it petered out after crossing the outlet creek on a log.
Sunrise from the Alder Flat TrailPassing the old beaver pond.

Old beaver pond along the Alder Flat TrailBeaver pond from the former trail around it.

Former trail around the beaver pond.The trail around the pond petered out on the far side of this log.

Alder Flat TrailAlder Flat Trail in the forest.

Arriving at the campground.

Clackamas River at Alder FlatSwimming hole (It was a little too cold today.)

Clackamas River at Alder FlatClackamas River at the Alder Flat Campground.

From the Alder Flat Trailhead it was less than a mile to our starting point for the Riverside Trail at the Rainbow Campground.
Gate at Rainbow Campground

When the campground is open you need to pay to park there. With the campground closed there is no fee, but it does add a .3 mile road walk into and through the campground to reach the trail.
Rainbow CampgroundThe Rainbow Campground

The Riverside Trail sets off at the far end of the campground following the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River.
Riverside Trail

Riverside Trail

Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River

The trail climbs up to an overlook of the Clackamas River in the first half mile near the confluence of the two rivers. We both were a bit confused at first when we got to the overlook because the river was suddenly flowing in the opposite direction, then we remembered that is was a different river.
Clackamas River

Clackamas River

Beyond this first viewpoint of the Clackamas River the Riverside Trail continues a little over three and a half miles to its end at the Riverside Campground. Along the way the trail makes several ups and downs as well as dipping deeper into the forest occasionally to navigate side canyons. There were a number of viewpoints above the river as well as numerous chances to explore the river bank. The final mile and half (after passing a spur trail coming from the no fee Riverside Trailhead) did spend more time closer to paved Forest Road 46 but there wasn’t a lot of traffic and the scenery was still nice.
Riverside TrailIn the forest for a bit.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint from above.

Riverside TrailBack in the forest.

Clackamas RiverAt the river.

Sun through the trees along the Riverside TrailSun peaking through the trees.

Rock formation along the Riverside Trailone of several rock formations along the trail.

Clackamas RiverAnother view of the Clackamas.

Riverside TrailSide creek crossing.

Clackamas RiverBack along the river.

Clackamas RiverRock pinnacle in the Clackamas River.

Riverside TrailSpur trail to the Riverside Trailhead.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Clackamas RiverViewpoint near the spur trail.

Riverside Trail

Clackamas RiverAnother rocky beach along the Clackamas.

Clackamas RiverLooking down river.

Clackamas RiverNow from above the rock beach.

Just before reaching the end of the trail at the Riverside Campground the trail passed above a deep green hole.
Clackamas River

We’d been keeping our eyes open for fish all morning given how clear the river was but hadn’t seen any until we gazed into the water here. We spotted several large fish.
Fish in the Clackamas River

Fish in the Clackamas River

The trail descended from the viewpoint above the hole to the Riverside Campground where we watched an ouzel dip in and out of the river looking for snacks.
Riverside Trail sign at Riverside Campground

Riverside Campground

Ouzel

Ouzel

Clackamas RiverClackamas River at the Riverside Campground.

We headed back the way we’d come stopping to admire some of the mushrooms and fungi along the trail.
Mushrooms

Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Tree mushroom

Mushrooms on a log

In addition to the fish we’d been on the lookout for rough skinned newts. As we stopped at a viewpoint looking across the river valley toward Fish Creek Mountain (post) we finally spotted one.
Fish Creek Mountain

Rough skinned newt

This is a very popular trail in the Summer based on the number of cars we’ve seen when driving past on the way home from other hikes. We didn’t see a lot of other hikers on this day although we did pass one group twice (near each end of the trail) and several others as we got close to the Rainbow Campground on the way back. The GPS said we did 9.5 miles which included several side trips along the river and to viewpoints as well as the .6 miles of road walking. For those looking for a shorter hike the Riverside Trailhead would be a good starting point or try the Alder Flat Trail which is only about 2 miles round trip.

With the Holiday Season quickly approaching it was nice to be able to get our November hike in early with such nice weather. We plan to head out once more next month to wrap up our 2019 hikes so until then Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alder Flat and the Riverside Trail

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Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Clackamas River Trail

It’s time for another throwback Thursday hike. This week we’re covering our 6/30/2012 visit to the Clackamas River Trail. This was a strange hike for us. For some reason we were really dragging on this hike. Of the hikes where we’ve had our GPS with us our average moving speed for this one was our 9th slowest. All eight of the slower hikes had extenuating circumstance such as snow or extended off-trail stretches which contributed to the slower pace but this hike had none of that.

We began our hike at the Fish Creek Trailhead. The steep hillsides in the Clackamas River Canyon are prone to slides and rockfall which close the trail from time to time so as always it pays to double check the trail status before heading out.
Fish Creek Trailhead

The trail contoured along the hillside above the Clackamas River often within sight of Highway 224 on the opposite side. A half mile from the trailhead the trail spent some time near the riverbank before climbing away through a 2003 fire zone.
Clackamas River

Foggy forest along the Clackamas River Trail

Clackamas River

June flowers bloomed along the way including orange tiger lilies, purple penstemon, and red columbine.
Columbine

The trail left the 2003 fire zone after 2 miles and entered a lush green forest passing several small side streams.
Stream along the Clackamas River Trail

Waterfall back in the trees

Skunk cabbage

Creek along the Clackamas River Trail

Rhododendrons were blooming along this section.
Rhododendron

There was also a unique feature on a tree trunk, what appeared to us to be a face coming out of the wood.
Face in a tree

Just over 3.5 miles from the Fish Creek Trailhead we arrived at Pup Creek where a pointer to the right led us on side trail to 100′ Pup Creek Falls.
Pup Creek Falls

Pup Creek Falls

We had lunch by the falls before continuing. Our original plan had been to hike to Indian Henry Campground and back for a 15.6 mile round trip but the bridge at Pup Creek was out. We contemplated fording the creek but we had both felt pretty lethargic and knew we were dragging so we turned around and headed back leaving the other section for another time. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Clackamas River