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Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Discovery Point and Lightning Spring – 09/19/2022

The longest planned hike of our Southern Oregon trip also promised to be the most scenic with nearly two and a half miles being along the rim of Crater Lake. After a couple of days of rain showers (and one night of thunderstorms) Monday was forecast to be partly sunny albeit with a 40% chance of showers. We were hoping for clear views of the lake with just enough clouds to make the sky interesting. We had picked up a 7-day pass on Saturday when we’d driven through Crater Lake National Park and now reentered the Park from Highway 62 to the south and parked near the Rim Village Gift Shop and Cafe.
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Our plan was to hike the Discovery Point and Lightning Spring loop described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” (edition 4.2 hike #21). He describes hiking the route counter-clockwise hiking along the rim of the caldera to Discovery Point first but we opted instead for a clockwise loop for two reasons. First was that we wanted to be hiking the rim later in the day when the Sun would hopefully be directly overhead instead of across the lake to the east. The second reason was because Sullivan described the final section of the Dutton Creek Trail as “climbing more seriously…to your car”. Our thought was that it might be more enjoyable to be going down that stretch rather than up.

Before starting the loop we passed by the Gift Shop to check out the morning view of the lake.
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IMG_1885Mt. Scott (post) with a bit of a lenticular cloud.

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IMG_1903Raven making a landing atop a mountain hemlock.

IMG_1909The Watchman (post), Hillman Peak, and Llao Rock along the western side of the rim.

The view was amazing and aside from the ravens we were about the only people around this early. We got distracted enough by the views that we didn’t catch that the Dutton Creek Trail was located a bit downhill along the West Rim Road and we set off on the Rim Trail toward the Discovery Point Trailhead.
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In our defense the topo map on our GPS showed a connector trail further along the Rim Trail (that trail no longer exists) but we didn’t catch our mistake until we’d gone nearly a quarter mile. We turned around and hiked back to the entrance road to Rim Village and hiked downhill to the signed Dutton Creek Trail.
IMG_1913It was by far the most scenic mistake we’ve made while hiking.

IMG_1914Wizard Island and Llao Rock

IMG_1915Mount Scott

IMG_1916We joked that views had been so good maybe we should just end the hike now.

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A short distance down the Dutton Creek Trail we came face to face with a pair of bucks.
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It was quite the start to the hike and we wondered how anything during the remainder of the hike could top the beginning. We followed the Dutton Creek trail a total of 2.4 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. The upper portion had indeed been fairly steep before leveling out quite a bit. The forest along the trail was very nice and the trail was in excellent shape.
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IMG_1944Dutton Creek was dry.

IMG_1954Blue sky ahead.

20220919_083501Not much left for flowers, this could be a Crater Lake collomia although it’s a little late in the season.

IMG_1964Castle Creek still had some water flowing.

IMG_1965We spotted several piles of hail, possibly from the severe thunderstorms that had been forecast for Saturday night?

IMG_1966Arriving at the PCT.

We turned right on the PCT and followed it for 4.4 fairly level miles to the Lightning Springs Trail. Sullivan described this section of trail as relatively dull but there was enough variety in the scenery to make it enjoyable if not remarkable.
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IMG_1969The campsite at the junction was closed due to hazard trees.

IMG_1970Recrossing Castle Creek.

IMG_1974The PCT appeared to be following an old road bed through the park.

IMG_1982Dropping down to Trapper Creek.

IMG_1984PCT crossing of Trapper Creek.

We saw one other deer, a doe in the trail, and otherwise it was a lot of chipmunks and squirrels along with numerous birds.
IMG_1985A red-breasted nuthatch that was toying with me as I tried to get a photo.

IMG_1988Canada jay (grey jay)
IMG_1990Blue sky to the north ahead.

IMG_1992Some blue sky south too with a glimpse of Union Peak (post).

IMG_1993Union Peak

IMG_2002Entering the 2006 Bybee Complex fire scar.

IMG_2005The Watchman. The lookout tower on top was in a cloud after having been clearly visible from rim earlier. We wondered what that might mean for our views when we finally made it back to the rim.

IMG_2008Chipmunk checking us out.

IMG_2012Coneflower remains

IMG_2017Another creek crossing.

IMG_2015Red crossbills at the creek crossing.

IMG_2025There were some pretty ominous looking clouds behind us but no showers yet.

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IMG_2027Several white crowned sparrows and at least one junco. We could also hear chickadee calls but I couldn’t find one in this capture.

IMG_2030Despite the ugly clouds behind us there was almost always blue sky ahead.

IMG_2032North Fork Castle Creek

IMG_2034Approaching the junction with the Lightning Springs Trail.

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We turned onto the Lightning Springs Trail and headed for the clouds above The Watchman.
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This trail climbed gradually along a ridge at the edge of a 2016 fire scar.
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IMG_2047Townsend’s solitaire

IMG_2048Union Peak had been swallowed by clouds.

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IMG_2052The Watchman with a cloud still hanging on.

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IMG_2058The base of Union Peak with lots of blue sky around.

IMG_2066A brief stint in full sunlight.

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We were supposed to pass below a small waterfall after 2.4 miles along Lightning Creek but this late in the Summer it was dry.
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The trail continued to climb beyond the dry fall arriving at Lightning Springs after another 0.8 miles.
IMG_2072Union Peak nearly free of clouds.

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IMG_2081The Watchman still not free.

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IMG_2094Mountain bluebird

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We detoured a short distance down the trail to Lightning Springs Camp to check out the springs which were not dry.
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After visiting the springs we continued another 0.8 miles to West Rim Drive and crossed over to the Rim Trail.
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IMG_2106Full view of Union Peak.

IMG_2109And finally a full view of The Watchman.

IMG_2119Conditions were changing quickly and now there was blue sky above The Watchman.

IMG_2120West Rim Drive ahead with the lower portion of Mt. McLoughlin (post) in between the trees to the right.

IMG_2121Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_2124This squirrel put its cone down in case I had something better for it, but we don’t feed the wild animals per Park rules (and Leave No Trace Principles).

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We followed the Rim Trail for 2.4 miles back to Rim Village passing Discovery Point at the 1.1 mile mark. The views were spectacular resulting in many, many photos for which we don’t feel the least bit sorry about.
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IMG_2150Wizard Island’s cone

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IMG_2160Llao Rock

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IMG_2165Dock along Wizard Island

IMG_2174The Watchman and Hillman Peak

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IMG_2189_stitchGarfield Peak to the left with Union Peak to the far right.

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IMG_2221Phantom Ship

IMG_2224Mount Scott

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IMG_2249Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_2282That blue though!

IMG_2290Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_2297Back to where we’d been that morning.

Including our wandering around Rim Village and going the wrong way to start our hike came to 14.4 miles with 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain.

I don’t think we could have asked for better conditions. It only sprinkled for one brief moment and the amount as well as type of clouds added to the beauty instead of hiding it. Add in temperatures that didn’t get much over 50 degrees if that and it was about a perfect day for a hike. We changed our shoes and socks then grabbed lunch in the cafe and did some shopping in the gift shop before heading back to Shady Cove. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Discovery Point and Lightning Spring

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Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Union Peak – 09/17/2022

Our hiking focus this year has been primarily on the Southern Oregon and Northern California area. This was due in large part to that being the area where the majority of the remaining hikes were located for us to reach our goal of hiking Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). Over the last couple of years we’ve canceled several trips down to this area due to wildfires (and associated smoke) as well as inclement weather. In fact we were starting to wonder if we might ever get the chance to finish the featured hikes from the area. This year things have been different, in fact we switched our August vacation from the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon to Northern California because the conditions, for once, were more favorable.

One of the trips we’d canceled in recent years was a four day stay in Union Creek. (Dangerous air quality due to wildfire smoke.) We had placed that trip back on our schedule for this year hoping for better luck. There were no fires in the immediate area but a number of fires were burning elsewhere in Oregon and Northern California which could still send enough smoke into the area to affect air quality. We kept a close eye on the weather and air quality forecasts and while the latter looked good the weather forecast was a little iffy. There was potential for showers including snow at higher elevations (7500′) as well as a slight chance of thunderstorms on a couple of days. The forecast was good enough for us to give it a try. Of the four hikes we had planned, two were not view dependent so we could rearrange the order depending on the forecast.

The forecast for Saturday was for partly cloudy skies with a chance of showers all day and a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We decided to attempt Union Peak despite the possible thunderstorms counting on summiting the 7709′ peak well before the arrival of potential thunderstorms. The most direct route from Salem to the Union Peak Trailhead is to take the West Rim Drive through Crater Lake National Park requiring the purchase of a $30.00, 7-day park pass. (Please note that both the Union Peak Trailhead and Union Peak itself are inside the park but do not require a park pass.) Since one of our other planned hikes started along West Rim Drive we would have needed a pass anyway so we entered the Park from the north entrance, purchased a pass, and then stopped at the Watchman Lookout Trailhead for a view of Crater Lake.
IMG_1518Wizard Island

IMG_1520The Watchman (post)

IMG_1522Hillman Peak and Llao Rock

We continued through the Park past the south entrance to Highway 62 where we turned right toward Medford for a mile to the Union Peak Trailhead.
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It was a little before 9am which gave us plenty of time to complete the hike based on the weather forecast. Both Sullivan and the trailhead signboard indicated that it was an 11 mile out-and-back.
IMG_1530The sign calls this the “steepest” hike in Southern Oregon. We wondered what criteria that was based on?

The hike begins on the Pacific Crest Trail following it south for 2.5 fairly level miles to a signed junction with the Union Peak Trail.
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IMG_1536There were a large number of big mushrooms along this section of trail as seen to the lower right.

IMG_1537One of the big shrooms.

IMG_1539A Stellar’s jay.

IMG_1540More of the big mushrooms.

IMG_1542Another Stellar’s jay.

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IMG_1549Nearing the trail junction.

We veered right onto the Union Peak Trail which began with a gradual climb following a ridge toward Union Peak.
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IMG_1557First glimpse of Union Peak through the trees.

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IMG_1561Gardner Peak behind Goose Egg (center) to the SE.

IMG_1563Fireweed

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IMG_1566It was cloudy but no showers so far and the clouds appeared to be well above the summit.

IMG_1570Townsend’s solitaire

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I was so focused on Union Peak I failed to notice the deer to the right below until it and a nearby fawn bounded off.

Approximately 1.7 miles from the junction the trail passed an colorful rock outcrop on the right.
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IMG_1585Mount Bailey in the distance to the right of the outcrop.

I missed more deer below the trail here, only noticing them when they started to run off.
IMG_1588The last doe keeping watch as the rest of the deer disappeared into the forest.

Beyond the colorful outcrop the trail dipped to a saddle then turned left at the base of Union Peak passing through a boulder field then onto a cinder hillside.
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IMG_1593Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_1595Western pasque flower seed-heads along the trail.

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IMG_1601Looking up at Union Peak and wondering how the trail got up there.

IMG_1603Nearing the cinder field.

The trail switchbacked in the cinders providing a nice view of Crater Lake’s Rim.
IMG_1606Mount Scott (post) was the only peak covered by clouds.

The trail climbed back through the rock field and then came the steep part.
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IMG_1611It’s always interesting to see the various rock that make up these volcanic peaks.

IMG_1614The Watchman and Llao Rock with Mt. Thielsen in between in the background.

IMG_1617That’s the trail on the right side of the photo.

IMG_1618Looking down at the trail below.

IMG_1619The trail was fairly easy to follow as it switchbacked up through the rocks. It was narrow in places which might be hard for those with a fear of heights.

The final pitch was more of a scramble than a hike though.
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IMG_1625While there were no people at the summit the brush had attracted a fairly large number of yellow jackets.

I had reached the summit before Heather so I wandered back and forth along the top since every time I tried to sit down the yellow jackets took an interest in me, and I don’t do yellow jackets.
IMG_1626Looking west toward the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.

IMG_1633The trail along the ridge below Union Peak.

IMG_1638Lost Creek Lake (post) in the valley to the SW.

IMG_1630Mount Bailey, Diamond Peak (post), and Mt. Thielsen behind the rim of Crater Lake.

IMG_1639The rim of Crater Lake.

The combination of clouds, smoke, and the position of the Sun impacted the view to the south which on a clear day would have included both Mt. McLoughlin (post) and Mt. Shasta.
IMG_1640Mt. McLoughlin is to the far right with some clouds over the top. Starting from the left is Goose Nest, Goose Egg (with Gardner Peak behind), Maude Mountain (with a faint Pelican Butte behind to the right), Lee, Devil’s, & Lucifur Peaks (Mt. Shasta is behind those three.) followed by Mt. McLoughlin.

Heather joined me at the summit. Her dislike of heights had kicked in on her way up so she was ready for a nice break but after having been stung two weeks earlier the presence of the yellow jackets did not help her relax. We did however stay long enough for the clouds to start breaking up a little.
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IMG_1656Mt. Bailey

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IMG_1654The Watchman and Hillman Peak directly behind with Mt. Thielsen further in the distance.

IMG_1653Llao Rock

IMG_1655Applegate Peak

When Heather was ready we headed down. She was a little nervous but managed fine and we soon found ourselves crossing the boulder field again.
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IMG_1671Looking back up from the rock field.

IMG_1672Mount Shasta arnica

By the time we were recrossing the ridge near the colorful outcrop a bit of blue sky had appeared behind Union Peak.
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IMG_1679Bleeding heart

That trend continued and we imagined that the two hikers we’d passed on the way down were enjoying even better views than we’d had.
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We had no complaints though. The smoke hadn’t been bad, we didn’t smell any at all until we were nearly back to the trailhead, and the clouds had kept the temperature down without raining at all. The Sun even made an appearance along the way.
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IMG_1690One of several mountain bluebirds we spotted.

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IMG_1700Bumblebees on a few remaining aster.

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IMG_1703Sunshine

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IMG_1705A sulphur butterfly.

IMG_1708Arriving back at the trailhead.

While Sullivan and the signboard listed this as an 11 mile hike our GPS came in at only 10 miles round trip. Either way there was 1600′ of elevation gain, much of which came in the final, steep, half mile.

From the trailhead we continued west on Highway 62 to the Edgewater Inn in Shady Cove, OR where we would be spending the next three nights. A quick check of the forecast for Sunday before bed revealed that “severe” thunderstorms were now forecast for Crater Lake overnight and Sunday called for clouds and a 50% chance of showers everywhere we’d planned on hiking. The good news was that our planned hike for Sunday was a visit to several lakes in the Sky Lakes Wilderness so showers wouldn’t really affect any views and getting some much needed precipitation was a lot more important than whether or not we would be getting wet on our hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Union Peak

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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls – 10/17/2020

The third day of our long weekend in Union Creek was supposed to be a single hike to Abbott Butte and Elephant Pond in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness. The day started as planned as we drove from Union Creek to the Abbott Butte Trailhead.
IMG_7633Union Peak and Mt. McLoughlin on our drive to the trailhead.

IMG_7635The peaks of Crater Lake National Park

IMG_7639Abbott Butte Trailhead

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail begins here at Huckleberry Gap near the southern end of the wilderness. Much of the area burned in a 2017 fire and there was a profuse amount of fireweed present which had gone to seed and left the ground looking as though it had received a dusting of snow.
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Just after taking the preceding photo which Heather had stepped to the side of the trail for, we resumed the hike and I immediately heard a ruckus behind me. I turned around to see Heather laying on the trail next to a log. She had gotten tangled some branches and fallen. While nothing was broken she twisted her foot awkwardly. After taking inventory she decided to continue on.

The trail spent the first mile and a half loosing approximately 300′ as it wound around Quartz Mountain before arriving at Windy Gap.
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IMG_7662Huckleberry bushes

IMG_7663A section of green trees along the trail.

IMG_7670Quartz Mountain

IMG_7675Passing below Quartz Mountain

IMG_7673Abbott Butte from the trail.

Along the way my camera decided to malfunction giving me a lens error when trying to use the zoom function. I eventually had to give up on using the zoom and am now looking for a replacement :(.

At Windy Gap the trail entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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Prior to the fire the trail paralleled an old road bed on the hillside above it but that tread has been mostly lost so we stuck to the road bed.
IMG_7684On the roadbed

IMG_7685Pearly everlasting

The road arrived at Sandy Gap .4 miles from Windy Gap.
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The peaks of Crater Lake were visible from this gap.
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We continued on the road bed form this gap as well. Between the gaps we had at least been able to see where the trail had been on the hillside above but at Sandy Gap the tread had all but vanished.
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Approximately .7 miles from Sandy Gap we passed a trail sign for the Cougar Butte Trail. The sign was the only evidence that the trail had ever existed from what we could see.
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Another tenth of a mile brought us to what in theory was a 4-way junction below Abbott Butte.
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IMG_7702Sign indicating the non-existent trail is not suitable for horses.

We followed the old road up an open hillside switchbacking three times to the summit of Abbott Butte after a mile. Along the way we spotted a pair of deer near the tree line.
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There were also some spectacular views.
IMG_7727_stitchMt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta and a whole lot of other peaks that I should know.

IMG_7724Mt. Thielsen

IMG_7732Nearing the summit.

The Abbott Butte Lookout has seen better days. While the stand is still upright the lookout was not and the old sleeping quarters beneath looked near collapse as well.
IMG_7734The old lookout on Abbott Butte

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Regardless whoever the idiot was that used wood from the lookout for their precious campfire should be ashamed.

IMG_7739The old outhouse?

There view south was limited by trees but there was a good view to the east.
IMG_7745Mt. Thielsen and the peaks of Crater Lake.

After a nice break at the summit we headed back down the road. After .7 miles at the 3rd (lowest) switchback we turned right toward a post.
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This was the route to the continuation of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail. Our plan was to follow it another 1.3 miles to Elephant Pond. In typical Rogue-Umpqua Divide Fashion the trail alternated between good tread and non-existent as it passed through meadows, green forest and burned forest.
IMG_7760Flagging marking the route.

IMG_7763A cairn along the tread ahead.

We passed another sign for the Cougar Butte Trail .4 miles from the switchback and at least this time there was a visible trail.
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Just beyond this junction the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail crossed a cinder field, turned east and headed steeply downhill.
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The trail eventually leveled out a bit passing through a series of overgrown meadows. For the first time since early in our first hike in this wilderness we nearly saw other people. We heard someone calling for Tyler but we never saw that person or Tyler.
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IMG_7783This meadow is where we heard the voice.

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IMG_7789Another late flower

Before we reached Elephants Pond we spotted the rock formation known as Elephants Head.
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IMG_7804Fireweed that hadn’t gone to seed.

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IMG_7823An owl’s clover

IMG_7820It’s hard to tell from the photo but this mushroom was big.

We declared victory at the pond as the trail was growing increasingly faint and entering another section of snags plus Heather’s foot was feeling a bit sore.

We returned the way we’d come only this time when we had reached Sandy Gap I decided to follow the old trail alignment above the road bed.
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I rejoined Heather on the road near the wilderness boundary and we continued back to the car. Just before reaching it, near where she had fallen earlier we spotted a very pretty butterfly.
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This was another enjoyable hike in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, even with the faint tread and our other mishaps. At 10.3 miles it was a good days worth of hiking and we drove back to Union Creek for another round of dinner and pie from Beckie’s Cafe.

During the return hike and drive we had been discussing possible scenarios for the next days hike given Heather’s tender foot. Our planned hike was an 8.2 mile out and back from the Union Creek Resort along Union Creek to Union Creek Falls. We came up with a few different options making use of the upper trailhead which was only a seven minute drive away. Unfortunately by the time we’d driven back to Union Creek and finished our late lunch/early dinner her foot had swollen and stiffened signaling an end to her hikes this weekend.

While we were waiting for our food I had been checking up on the condition of the Union Creek Trail which as of 2018 was overgrown with quite a bit of blowdown in between the resort and falls. Trip reports as recent as August 2020 confirmed this. The temperature in the morning was going to be just under 40 degrees and an overgrown trail meant wet foliage which wasn’t exactly an enticing combination so a new plan was formed. It was just after 4pm when we finished dinner so with Heather’s blessing I took my leave and drove to the upper trailhead.
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It was a little after 4:30pm when I set off and I gave myself a turn around time of 1 hour (or sooner if the trail conditions warranted). The trail began by descending 100′ in the first quarter a mile to the creek near Union Creek Falls, a small but scenic cascade.
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From the falls the trail continued downstream and was in relatively good shape with just a couple of small trees to step over. The creek was lively at first so I made frequent stops to check out several small cascades and chutes.
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Approximately 1.7 miles from the trailhead the trail conditions really started to deteriorate. I had been encountering a little more blowdown and now I was facing nearly chest high ferns.
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It was passable but I had to watch out for hidden obstacles so my pace slowed as had the creeks.
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I continued another quarter mile or so before calling it good, 45 minutes into my self-imposed 1 hour turn around time. The wilder show from the creek was over as it continues to calm the closer it gets to the resort. I double timed it back to the car stopping less frequently (an ouzel caught my attention at one point).
IMG_7953The broken zoom function didn’t let me get a good shot but the ouzel is on a rock in the middle of the creek.

I managed to get 3.9 miles in so almost half of the trail and I got to see a number of nice little cascades along the way. I was however a little damp from the vegetation so I was really glad I hadn’t tried to do the hike first thing in the morning.
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I drove back to the resort and found heather sitting by the creek reading. Before turning in for the evening we picked up a cinnamon roll for us and two pieces of pie from Beckie’s to take to my parents the next day. Heather is currently on the mend and will hopefully be back out there hiking and running shortly. Until next time, Happy Trails!

Flickr: Abbott Butte and Union Creek Falls

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Thielsen

For this week’s throwback we’re going back to September 22, 2012 for our visit to Mt. Thielsen. When we had summited Mt. Bailey a little over a month before when we had been on the opposite side of Diamond Lake. These two mountains couldn’t look much different. The summit of Mt. Bailey was a walk up, albeit a steep one while the pointy summit of Mt. Thielsen is only accessible via a final 80′ vertical class 4 scramble. We weren’t planning on even attempting the summit, we just wanted to go as far as possible which would be a higher elevation than we had been at on Mt. Bailey.

We parked at the Mt. Thielsen Trailhead off of Highway 138 and set off toward the old volcano.

Mt. Thielsen Trailhead

The trail climbed through a forest filled with blowdown for 1.4 miles to a junction with the Spruce Ridge Trail.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Junction with the Spurce Ridge Trail

Mt. Thielsen was hidden from view along this section but looking back across the highway we had a decent view of Mt. Bailey in the morning sunlight.

Mt. Bailey

We continued past the Spruce Ridge Trail gaining a view of Diamond Peak to the north.

Diamond Peak

Soon the spire of Mt. Thielsen came into view through the trees ahead.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

The trail then entered the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and a section of forest that had been struck by massive blowdown.

Mt. Thielsen Wilderness sign

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

After passing through the blowdown the trail followed a ridge with increasingly better views to the Pacific Crest Trail 3.8 miles from the Trailhead.

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak

Llao Rock and Hillman Peak along the rim of Crater Lake

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake

Howlock Mountain

Howlock Mountain

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Diamond Peak and Sawtooth Mountain

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Lake and Mt. Bailey

Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

The official trail ends at the PCT but a clear climbers trail continued on the other side and we followed that further up along the ridge. The first part of the path led along the ridge with views of west face of the mountain revealing it’s swirling volcanic rock.

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

The path then bent slightly SE away from the sheer drop of the north side of the ridge and up a very steep slope of increasingly slippery scree.

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen Trail

To the south the entire rim of Crater Lake was visible including Mt. Scott.

Crater Lake's Rim

Mt. Scott

Braided trails crisscrossed up through the loose rock and every step seemed to come with a complimentary slide backward. Although the hike to Mt. Bailey had been steep it hadn’t been this steep nor slick and the drop offs along the way not nearly as daunting.

Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Looking down from the Mt. Thielsen Trail

Mt. Thielsen

We were the first hikers up the trail that morning and at an elevation of a little over 8700′ I came to, what looked to me, to be an impassable wall of rock.

Where we stopped climbing

As I waited for Heather and Dominique I searched for signs of where to go from there. I was unsure of the correct route and the longer I stood in the same spot the more I took inventory of my surroundings. The view was quite impressive having now climbed high enough that Mt. McLoughlin was visible to the south of Crater Lake.

Mt. McLoughlin and Llao Rock

It wasn’t long before I started to feel just how high up we were and how steep the mountain was. At that point the nerves kicked in and butterflies filled my stomach. Apparently Heather and Dominique had begun feeling the same thing and when they were close enough to talk to we made a unanimous decision to turn back.

Shortly after starting back down a lone female hiker passed us going up. We stopped to watch her as she made her way to the point where I had turned around. We were curious to see how she would navigate the section. She didn’t miss a beat and was quickly above the spot and continuing on. We were only about a hundred yards down and I had to fight the urge not to go back and try again after she’d made it look so easy but I was apparently the only one fighting that urge so reason won the day and we continued our descent.

On the way down Dominique and I wound up too far to the north on the ridge and found ourselves near the edge of a vertical shaft

Patch of snow on Mt. Thielsen

Not liking how close we were to the edge we veered back to the south having to cross a very loos section of scree where Dominique slipped and scratched himself up pretty good. That was the only incident though and we made it back to the trailhead in relatively good shape.

At the time it was the most nerve wracking hike we’d done. Not making it as far up as we’d hoped was a bit of a disappointment but it was a good reminder that knowing when to turn around (and being willing to do so)is important. After all if you keep yourself safe there’s always next time. Happy Trails!

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Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Bailey and The Watchman

Today’s Throwback Thursday hike took place on 8/11/2012 and featured our first summit of one of the Cascade Mountains – Mt. Bailey. The 8368′ summit would also mark the highest elevation we’d reached surpassing that of Paulina Peak.

Mt. Bailey is located north of Crater Lake National Park on the west side of Diamond Lake across from the taller, pointier Mt. Thielsen.
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Mt. Bailey to the left of Diamond Lake with Mt. Thielsen on the right as seen from Mount Scott, Crater Lake National Park

There are two trailheads to choose from. From Diamond Lake’s South Shore Picnic Area turn onto Road 4795 and drive just past Silent Creek to Road 300 and turn left. The lower trailhead is just .4 miles further and suitable for passenger vehicles. The road to the upper trailhead was reportedly rough and although starting there would cut 4.4 miles off the hike it would still be under 10 miles round trip from the lower starting point so we parked there and set off.
Mt. Bailey Trailhead

The trail climbed through a somewhat sparse forest, typical for this part of the Cascades due to the presence of a thick layer of ash and pumice which covered the area following the eruption of Mt. Mazama.
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Forest along the Mt. Bailey Trail

As we neared the 1.5 mile mark a somewhat hazy view of Hillman Peak and The Watchman on the west side of Crater Lake’s rim opened up.
Hillman Peak and The Watchman

A couple of hundred yards later we came to a viewpoint of Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielsen.
Diamond Lake with Tipsoo Butte, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Scott was also visible to the south on the east side of Crater Lake, but the view wasn’t great due to smoke from forest fires.
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We also had a good look at our ultimate goal, the summit of Mt. Bailey.
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The trail had climbed approximately 750′ from the trailhead to the viewpoint but beyond the viewpoint it leveled off for the next .5 plus miles before reaching the upper trailhead. Along the way we kept watch for the Hemlock Butte Shelter which was off-trail on our left. When we spotted it we headed cross country to check it out.
Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

Inside the Hemlock Butte Cabin

After signing the register in the shelter we made our way to the upper trailhead where the Mt. Bailey Trail began to climb again. At first the trail remained in the hemlock forest but before long we’d reached a ridge crest where the trees thinned and views opened up.
Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Bailey Trail

Mt. Thielsen

View from the Mt. Bailey Trail

Small meadows along the trail were homes to a few wildflowers.
Paintbrush

Penstemon

Bleeding Heart

The trail followed the ridge uphill which curved to the NW around a large glacier carved valley on the mountain’s east side. The angle of ridge provided excellent views of the mountain ahead.
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Mt. Bailey

Small patches of snow lingered along the trail at higher elevations and the views opened up even more as we climbed. Unfortunately the smoke was also getting worse further limiting the visibility.
Snow along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake, Tipsoo Peak, Howlock Mountain, and Mt. Thielsen

The trail passed a viewpoint down into the glacial-valley and up to a window in a rock wall along the mountain’s summit ridge which we would pass later.
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Mt. Bailey

Beyond this viewpoint the trail passed by a 300′ snowy crater as it turned northward nearing the southern summit of the mountain.
Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Snow field along the Mt. Bailey Trail

From the lower southern summit the actual summit was a half mile away and another 220′ up.
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The trail crossed a cinder saddle which wasn’t too narrow but not too wide either. Then we passed along the left side of the rock wall pausing to peep through the window we’d seen from below. The smoke had gotten so bad that Mt. Thielsen was nearly hidden on the other side of Diamond Lake now.
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Rock window along the Mt. Bailey Trail

Diamond Lake and a faint Mt. Thielsen

The rock wall was also home to some flowers.
Western Pasque Flower

Arnica and partridge foot

The trail passed over the rock wall on the far end at a low point which did require the us of our hands.
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A final steep climb brought us to the bare, rocky summit of Mt. Bailey.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

The smoke wasn’t too bad where we were, but with fires burning to both the north and south there was little view to speak of.
Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Lake from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

We explored the broad summit which sported some wildflowers and a snowfield.
Summit of Mt. Bailey

Summit of Mt. Bailey

Snowmelt on the summit of Mt. Bailey

View from the summit of Mt. Bailey

Partridge foot

After resting atop the mountain for a bit we returned the way we’d come. When we’d gotten back to the car we decided to drive down to Crater Lake since it was only 15 minutes away. Neither of us had been there for years so why not take advantage of being so close. We parked at a large parking area 2.2 miles after turning right onto Rim Drive from the North Entrance Road.

From here a .8 mile climb led to a lookout tower on The Watchman.
Interpretive sign

We had really been looking forward to seeing Crater Lake again but the smoke was thick over the water leaving us with a very limited view. At least we could see Wizard Island, a cinder cone that formed after the eruption of Mt. Mazama creating Crater Lake.
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Wizard Island in Crater Lake

The Watchman Trail led right along Rim Drive for .4 miles to a junction where we turned left and began the steep climb to the lookout.
Lookout at the summit of The Watchman

From the lookout Hillman Peak and Wizard Island were about the only landmarks visible. Interpretive signs at the summit showed us what we were missing.
Hillman Peak and Llao Rock

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Interpretive sign on The Watchman

Sign near the lookout tower on The Watchman

Despite the smoke it was well worth the stop but we did feel bad for the many tourists that might not get another chance to see this amazing place. We knew we’d be back and hopefully the conditions would be better the next time. Happy Trails!

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Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Grizzly Peak and Beaver Dam Trail

Friday it was time to head home and we had originally planned a shorter hike up Grizzly Peak. The Grizzly Peak Trailhead is located off of Dead Indian Memorial Highway. From the Green Springs Inn where were staying we could take Hyatt Prarie Rd. between Hwy 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Hwy avoiding the windy drive back down into Ashland. We noticed the 2.1 mile Beaver Dam Trail was close to where we would come out on Dead Indian Memorial Highway from Hyatt Prarie Rd. so we decided to start our final day with that hike prior to Grizzly Peak. The trail started at the Daley Creek Campground which we surprisingly found gated closed. We could see a trail sign just on the other side of the gate so we parked on the shoulder and headed down.
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The first part of the trail clearly hadn’t been maintained for some time and it took a bit of searching at times to keep on it.
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After recrossing the creek, where a bridge had obviously been, the trail was in a little better shape. Then we came to a sign post that was set against a tree at a trail junction.
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The trail supposedly traveled .6 miles to the start of a .9 mile loop. The directions that this sign was giving made no sense. It indicated that the start of the loop was in the direction we’d just come. We disregarded the sign and took the path that seemed correct. We chose wisely and arrived at the signed start of the loop.
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Here we tried taking the left fork toward the creek which brought us to a creek crossing with another missing bridge.
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Neither of us were in the mood for a fording and we weren’t sure what the trail would be like on the far side so we turned around and headed back to the confusing sign. When we got back to the sign post we took a moment to attempt to figure out where the sign should have been placed and when we did we noticed the pointer for Daley Creek CG was not pointing in the direction we had come from early but toward a different path. We decided to follow it to see where it took us and ended up at a different trailhead further down the closed campground road where we had parked. Here were additional signs including a notice that parts of the trail were closed due to missing bridges.
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Later I checked the Forest Service website but it hadn’t been updated since 2013 regarding the trail and said that the campground would be reopening in May 2015. We should have checked the website before visiting, but in this case that wouldn’t have made much of a difference. After returning to our car we headed for Grizzly Peak arriving at the empty trailhead under the first virtually cloud free skies we’d had on the trip.
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The first portion of the trail offered nice views to the NE of Mt. McLoughlin, Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.

Mt. McLoughlin
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Union Peak, Mt. Scott, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.
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Mt. Bailey
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Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, and Mt. Thielsen
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Crater Lakes rim and Mt. Scott
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From the trailhead the trial travels 1.2 miles through open forest with wildflowers to the start of a 3 mile loop.
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We took the loop counter-clockwise passing by the viewless summit first.
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Then the trail passed a broad meadow.
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As the loop continued around the peak we came to another meadow with a view to the north.
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Here we could see the city of Medford and the Table Rocks.

Upper Table Rock
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Flowers here included camas
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and ookow which was very popular with a swallowtail butterfly.
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As we continued on the views shifted to the SW. Here Mt. Ashland and Wagner Butte which we had climbed the day before were visible.
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Mt. Ashland
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Wagner Butte
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We had entered an area burned in 2002 where the fire left open views and plenty of sunlight for wildflowers.
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Further along the views included Mt. Shasta, Black Butte, Pilot Rock, and Mt. Eddy.
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Mt. Shasta
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Black Butte and Pilot Rock
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Mt. Eddy
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and the distant Trinty Alps
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Just like all our other hikes in the area there were lots of birds happily singing along the way and here in the burnt trees they were easier to spot.
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Hummingbird going for the paintbrush
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We completed our loop and headed back down to the now packed trailhead. This was the first trail besides Lithia Park where we saw more than 5 other hikers on the trail but with views like this packed into only 5.4 miles we could see why it was a popular hike. Our first hiking trip to Southern Oregon had turned out well. We got to see new flowers, plenty of wildlife, and nice views along with a wonderful play. That’s the recipe for Happy Trails!

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Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Mt. Theilsen/Mt. Bailey Area Oregon Trip report

Mt. Scott (Crater Lake National Park) & Tipsoo Peak (Mt. Thielsen Wilderness)

After a semi-rest day (Sparks Lake) we headed to Crater Lake National Park for our third visit hoping this time to actually be able to see the lake. In 2012 smoke had made it nearly invisible and earlier this year clouds had completely blocked the view. This time we were not disappointed.

August 2012
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June 2014
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October 2014
Crater Lake in the morning

Our plan was to hike to the former lookout tower on Mt. Scott, the highest point in the park at 8938′ and then head north on Hwy 138 to the Tipsoo Peak Trail and also summit that 8034′ peak. The two hikes combined would be just over 11 miles with a combined 3000′ of elevation gain making them very doable in a single day.

The Mt. Scott Trail sets off along a broad plain at the base of the mountain giving a clear view of the entire peak as well as the lookout tower on it’s northern end.
Mt. Scott

The trail climbs around to the south side of the mountain and then up to the long ridge along Mt. Scotts summit. Not only were the skies clear above Crater Lake but we were able to see mountain peaks from Mt. Shasta in the south to Mt. Jefferson up north along the way. The views started early along the trail and just improved was we climbed.

Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin, and Union Peak to the south.
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Crater Lake
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Crater Lake from Mt. Scott

Mt. Bailey
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Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Peak
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack
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While we were traversing the ridge over to the lookout tower we spotted a hawk soaring high above the park.
Hawk soaring over Crater Lake National Park

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After checking out the tower we headed back down to the car to start the drive to the Tipsoo Peak Trail. We had to make a couple of stops just to take in the beauty of Crater Lake.
Crater Lake

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We left the park and drove up to the Tipsoo Trail where we were surprised to find a much nicer forest than we had expected. Our previous trips in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness had been through lodgepole pine forests which are not exactly eye candy.
Tipsoo Peak Trailhead

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We were also surprised by the number of mushrooms we spotted.
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The climb was very gradual making it fairly easy going as we approached the summit. Near the top the trail passed by the edge of pumice filled Howlock Meadows where Howlock Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey were visible.
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Red cinder covered the top of Tipsoo Peak and the 360 degree view revealed several mountains and lakes.
View from Tipsoo Peak

Red Cone
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Howlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen
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Diamond Peak
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The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor
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Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake
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Lemolo Lake
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Miller Lake
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Madieu Lake
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Lucille Lake
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These were a couple of really nice hikes if you are looking for big views without a long or steep hike. Both hikes were on the shorter end (4.6 & 6.5 miles) and both trails climbed very gradually making them very nice options. The access road for the Tipsoo Peak trail was a bit rough and would probably require a high clearance vehicle though. Happy Trails!

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Categories
Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
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By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
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We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
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Scarlet Gilia
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Lewis Flax
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Prairie Star
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Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
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Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
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and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
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We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
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We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
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It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
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It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
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Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
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Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
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From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
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Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
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Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
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Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
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Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
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And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
Mt. Shasta fro m Hager Mountain

We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
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By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
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We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
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Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
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Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
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A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
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To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
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It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

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Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Upper Rogue River Trail and Boundary Springs

Hike #2 on our mini-vacation was a visit to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Crater Lake National Park. The plan was to start at the Mazama Viewpoint on Hwy 230 and first visit Boundary Springs which is where the Rogue River begins. Then we would hike down the Rogue River to Rough Rider Falls. We would have turned around there but my parents decided to come along and start at a different trail head and hike up the Rogue to the falls. They dropped us off at the Mazama Viewpoint before heading down to the lower trail head. This allowed us to continue past Rough Rider Falls and meet them at that spot.

It was a cloudy morning and we’d driven through a little rain/snow mix on the way there. An occasional light rain would continue all day long with a glimpse of blue sky thrown in every now and then. We started off on the Upper Rogue River Trail from the Mazama Viewpoint and followed the trail half a mile to a junction with the Boundary Springs Trail. Shortly after joining this trail we started getting glimpses of the Rogue flowing through the forest.
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We crossed the boundary of Crater Lake National Park and continued on toward the springs. The river was increasingly scenic as we went.
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Near Boundary Springs was a pretty waterfall:
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The river just below the springs:
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The largest of the springs:
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After poking around the springs we returned to the Upper Rogue River Trail and turned left to head down river to Rough Rider Falls. The trail started out far above the Rogue as it flowed through an interesting canyon.
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We came upon a couple of deer that were too quick for pictures and a pair of noisy woodpeckers that didn’t seem too pleased with one another.
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We also saw the best candysticks we’d come across:
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And a strange mushroom thing:
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The trail descended back down to the river which was amazingly clear where the water was calm.
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Once the trail lowered into the canyon it became a bit messy. Many downed trees created tricky obstacles and the trail was in need of some maintenance.
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It was 4.2 miles from the Boundary Springs Trail to Rough Rider Falls. A sign above the falls announced them.
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It was pretty above the falls but we couldn’t get a good feel for them until we descended below them.
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After Rough Rider Falls we passed a pretty little waterfall coming from a hillside into the river.
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A little island with whitewater on each side:
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And finally an unnamed waterfall:
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The strangest thing of the hike was the amount of climbing we felt like we did considering we were supposedly traveling downhill with the river. When we arrived at my parents car we discovered that they had just finished about 15 minutes earlier. There were some mosquitoes around the car so we quickly tossed our gear in the back and hopped in. We had hopped to stop by Crater Lake on the way home since Dominique has never seen it and it had been years since my parents had. We were there in 2012 but smoke from a fire had obscured most the views. With the weather flipping between blue sky and rain showers all day we weren’t sure if we would be able to see the lake but my parents had their National Park Pass with them so we decided why not give it a try. As we drove up to the north rim we entered the clouds and some more rain/snow mix. The visibility was worse than our previous visit so I took a couple of pictures to show we were then we turned around and headed home.
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We plan on heading back this Fall for another try and maybe then we'll be able to actually see the lake. Happy Trails!

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