Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

North Fork Nehalem River – 02/20/2021

Like much of the U.S. we’ve had some ugly weather so far in February so when we saw the potential for a “not too wet” window of time we decided to head out for this month’s hike. On our schedule for February was the North Fork Nehalem River in the Coastal Range. This hike came from the Oregon Hikers Field Guide, my favorite online source for ideas. This particular hike utilizes roads instead of trails which was actually a good thing after an unusually destructive ice and snow storm had come through just a week before our hike. We hopped that the combination of the roads and some clearcuts along those roads would mean we wouldn’t have to deal with much if any debris from the storm. As we drove west on Highway 26 from Portland we were amazed at how much damage there was to trees in the Coastal Range. Between the damage we saw and a couple of heavy rain showers we were wondering what we might be getting ourselves into as we turned south onto Highway 53. The rain let up as we wound our way down past more damaged trees to the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. We had planned to stop at the hatchery first for a quick stop to see Umbrella Falls but signs at the hatchery indicated it was closed to visitors due to COVID-19 (the ODFW website for the hatchery didn’t mention the closure). With access to the 1/8 mile path to the falls blocked we had to skip Umbrella Falls for now and we drove the short distance north on Highway 53 to Cole Mountain Road (just north of the bridge over the North Fork Nehalem River) where we turned west (right) and kept right at a fork to reach the North Fork Nehalem Trailhead.
Trailhead on North Fork Road

We parked at a pullout before a gate marking the start of private land owned by McCracken Woodlands LLC and set off on foot.
Informational sign from McMracken Woodlands LLC

After crossing over a small stream we started getting views of the North Fork Nehalem River on our right.
Stream along North Fork Road

North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

We were soon passing one of several clearcuts.
Clearcut above North Fork Road

While we are always on the lookout for wildlife we rarely spot anything when we’re specifically looking for something. Today was no exception and after scanning the hillside and coming up empty we started walking again. I turned around to see what the view was like behind us and caught movement 2/3rds of the way up the hill. It was a pair of deer that were well aware of us and making their way in the other direction.
Deer in the clearcut

Deer moving away from us through the clearcut

A mile into the hike we crossed the river on a bridge.
North Fork Road crossing the North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

Just under a half a mile from the bridge we came to North Fork Falls where some steps led down to a fish ladder.
North Fork Falls

North Fork Falls

Fish ladder at North Fork Falls

North Fork Nehalem River

After checking out the falls and fish ladder we continued on North Fork Road passing twin seasonal waterfalls, a quarry, and a pond before crossing over Gods Valley Creek near the two and three quarter mile mark of the hike.
North Fork Road

Twin seasonal waterfalls along North Fork Road

Pond along North Fork Road

Gods Valley CreekGods Valley Creek

Just beyond Gods Valley Creek we spotted some old moss covered picnic tables. We’d be interested in the history here as there was also at least one former campsite with an old fire ring in the area as well. Our guess is that before the logging this was some sort of recreation area but we haven’t been able to find any information online about it.
Old picnic tables

FrogFrog near the old picnic tables.

After crossing the creek the road left the North Fork Nehalem as the river bent northward sticking to a straight line to another crossing of the River just before the 3.5 mile mark.
North Fork Road

North Fork Road crossing the North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

A gate at the far end of this bridge marked the boundary of the private land and the start of the Clatsop State Forest. We followed North Fork Road through the forest another two miles to Fall Creek (just on the far side of another large quarry).
Skunk cabbageNot much in the way of flowers yet but there was a bit of skunk cabbage in bloom.

Skunk cabbage

North Fork RoadSome low hanging trees, presumably from the storm. The roads had been cleared but occasional damage along the side of the road was evident.

North Fork Nehalem River

Snail shell

Old stump amid younger treesThere were no recent clearcuts in the Clatsop State Forest section but there was evidence of past logging.

Fall CreekFall Creek

After crossing Fall Creek the road (which is shown on maps as Hill Road here) turned away from the river and followed Fall Creek. We took a short detour to the right toward the river where a gated suspension bridge led to another fish ladder.
North Fork Nehalem River

Path to a closed suspension bridge over the North Fork Nehalem RiverNot sure why I neglected to get a picture of the bridge from the locked gate but this is the only one I took of the bridge.

Upper North Fork FallsThe hike description in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide mentions walking along the bank to get a view of Upper North Fork Falls from the rocks below but that wasn’t going to be an option with the river level today.

After checking out the bridge we returned to the the road and continued uphill along Fall Creek to visit three more waterfalls.
Hill Road along Fall Creek

We came to the first fall after .3 miles, a side stream flowing into Fall Creek. The lack of leaves made it a little easier to see the falls than it would be later in the year.
Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

I was able to make my way down to Fall Creek below the falls for a closer look. (I did however get slapped in the face a couple of times by the vegetation.)
Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

Another quarter mile brought us to the final two falls. A stepped fall on Fall Creek and another side stream flowing into Fall Creek.
Falls on Fall Creek

Waterfalls on Fall Creek

Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

We were pleasantly surprised at how nice these last three waterfalls were, especially the two on the side streams. We were also thankful that we hadn’t had any real precipitation to deal with. We headed back the way we’d come looking for anything we’d missed on our fist pass.
Thick moss on a treeWe both thought that this thick moss looked like some sort of hairstyle.

Mushrooms

Rough skinned newtRough-skinned newt

A brief mist passed over but that was it and we enjoyed some bright blue sky as we finished up our outing.
North Fork Road

The hike came in at a little under twelve and a half miles with just over 500′ of elevation gain. We passed three anglers on the road on the way back and saw two more (their fishing line anyway) down on river. This was a great winter hike and a thoroughly enjoyable outing despite being entirely on roads. It just goes to show that it’s the not the surface but the surroundings that make a good hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork Nehalem River

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes – 09/26/2020

The tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns and communities had kept us home since Labor Day. Several forests and parks still remain closed but things have been slowly reopening and some much needed rain arrived to help slow the fires and clear the air. One of the forests that had reopened was the Clatsop State Forest between Portland and Seaside. Hike #12 in William L. Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” consists of three short hikes to lakes in that forest. We had visited Soapstone Lake on a previous outing (post) With many forests and parks still closed due to the tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns it seemed like a perfect time to check out the other two lakes, Lost and Spruce Run. We also added nearby Bloom Lake whose trailhead along Highway 26 we’d driven by a number of times.

We began our morning at the Spruce Run Creek Trailhead at Henry Rierson Campground.
IMG_6161

The winds that had caused the fires to explode throughout Labor Day night had also toppled thousands of trees across the forests of Oregon so we we weren’t sure what conditions we might encounter. Nearly immediately after setting off on the trail we were met with a jumble of recently downed limbs.
IMG_6325

They were passable with care due to the slick condition of the wood which was damp from passing showers. Encountering this so early in the hike made us even more concerned about the conditions further on but as it turned out this would be the biggest obstacle of the day. There were a couple of downed trees which we simply stepped over and the rest was just smaller debris.

The Spruce Run Creek Trail began with a series of ups and downs, sometimes surprisingly steep, as it followed along Spruce Run Creek.
IMG_6166

It was a fairly dark morning as passing showers kept the Sun behind clouds but none of the showers lasted long nor were very heavy and the clouds breaking up made for some nice views.
IMG_6178

IMG_6183

IMG_6185

A little over a mile along the trail we were surprised to enter a recently logged area.
IMG_6190

The trail was in relatively good shape and easy to follow through this area.
IMG_6196

IMG_6201

Another small surprise came near the 2 mile mark where we expected to find a short spur trail on the left leading to Lost Lake Road. Instead we arrived at a newer logging road.
IMG_6209

IMG_6212

We momentarily wondered if we had somehow taken the spur trail without realizing it but after consulting the map it was clear that this was a new road and we were still on the Spruce Run Creek Trail. We turned right onto the road and spotted the continuation of the trail at a 3-way junction after 100 yards or so.
IMG_6213

We had actually planned on taking the spur trail to Lost Lake Road and hiking up that road 1.1 miles to Lost Lake instead of driving to the Lost Lake Trailhead after finishing our hike to Spruce Run Lake so at the 3-way junction we turned left. We followed this road downhill approximately .2 miles past a gate to Lost Lake Road where we turned right.
IMG_6215The open gate and Lost Lake Road from a logging road.

As we climbed up the road the alternating showers and blue sky created a nice rainbow behind us.
IMG_6218

IMG_6220

From the parking lot of Lost Lake we headed clockwise around the lake on a nice trail.
IMG_6228

There were several opportunities for views of the little lake along the 1 mile loop.
IMG_6232

IMG_6238

IMG_6240

IMG_6248

IMG_6249

IMG_6252

IMG_6253Hardhack

After completing the loop we returned on the roads to the continuation of the Spruce Run Creek Trail.
IMG_6255Spruce Run Creek Trail on the left.

The trail descended through logged forest for the next half mile before passing the timber sale boundary.
IMG_6261

IMG_6262

IMG_6264Leaving the logged area.

In another quarter mile we arrived at a pair of benches near the end of Spruce Run Lake.
IMG_6275

20200926_094603Rough skinned newt near Spruce Run Lake.

The lake was created by a landslide that backed up Spruce Run Creek. The water level fluctuates with the season and was little more than a pond at this point of the year.
IMG_6276

The rest of the lake bed was a marshy green meadow with Spruce Run Creek flowing through.
IMG_6277

IMG_6280One of many damp spider webs in the meadow.

IMG_6283The meadow from the bank of Spruce Run Creek

After exploring the meadow for a bit we headed back to our car under increasingly blue skies.
IMG_6295

IMG_6296Bleeding heart

IMG_6299Scouler’s bluebell

IMG_6307A little butterfly

When we had passed through the logged area we got a better look at the forest along the first part of the trail now that it was lighter. It looked and felt like Autumn.
IMG_6309

IMG_6312

IMG_6316

20200926_111919

Combining these two hikes was a little over 9 miles with 1600′ of elevation gain. We drove back to Highway 26 and headed toward Portland stopping at the Bloom Lake Trailhead just west of the Quartz Creek Bridge for a final quick hike.
IMG_6330

The blue skies that we had enjoyed on the earlier hike were nowhere to be found at this trailhead even though it was only 3 miles from Spruce Run Lake as the crow flies. The heaviest shower of the day passed overhead as we crossed South Fork Quartz Creek on a footbridge.
IMG_6333

IMG_6334

Fortunately this shower was like all the rest had been, brief. The Bloom Lake Trail climbed along an old road cut for a mile to the start of a loop around little Bloom Lake. We stayed left at the fork and in another .3 miles crossed an inlet creek on a slick looking piece of wood.
IMG_6337

IMG_6340Fall means mushrooms start replacing wildflowers.

IMG_6345

Beyond the creek crossing we turned right another another old road bed then right again on August Fire Road (on which one can drive to Bloom Lake).
IMG_6346August Fire Road

We turned right off of this road at another old road bed that was blocked by cut tree trunks.
IMG_6348

This led us down to Bloom Lake.
IMG_6349

IMG_6351

IMG_6356Snail near Bloom Lake.

We continued around the lake on a trail which crossed the outlet creek on an old log.
IMG_6358

We completed the loop around the lake then headed back downhill to our car.
IMG_6366Mushrooms

IMG_6360More mushrooms

This hike was 3.2 miles with 675′ of elevation gain making our days tally 12.4 miles and 2275′. It was nice to get back out and this had turned out to be a good choice. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes