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Central Oregon Hiking Lakeview Oregon Trip report

Crooked Creek – 07/20/2020

We knew which hikes we wanted to do during our stay in Lakeview but the order of the hikes was up in the air due to the chance of some mid-week thunderstorms. Our hikes were somewhat spread out which allowed us to keep an eye on the forecasts for each one and attempt to optimize our experience. Based on what we had seen Sunday night after arriving in Lakeview we decided to make Crooked Creek our outing for Monday. This was the closest hike to Lakeview so it gave us a bit of a break on driving too.

For the hike we started at the Mill Trailhead.
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Like our previous hike at Winter Ridge this hike followed the Fremont National Recreation Trail. We had expected to have to find some rocks or a downed tree to get across Crooked Creek at the trailhead. The trailhead used to be another 2.5 miles further along the road but floods washed it out. We were happy to find a footbridge in place across the creek.
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Beyond this initial crossing the map in our guidebook showed the trail following the old roadbed on the left side of the creek to the original trailhead so we were surprised when we came to a second crossing just .2 miles from the trailhead.
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In another .2 miles we were once again forced to find rocks to hop across the creek on.
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Once we had made it across the creek again we noticed a trail joining on the left.
IMG_0799The trail joining the road after the 3rd creek crossing (picture is from the afternoon).

As it turned out we had walked past a side trail to the left just before reaching the second creek crossing without noticing it. We discovered this when we followed the trail on the way back to the trailhead.
IMG_0801Downed post marking the trail to avoid the creek crossings.

We continued on the road arriving in another .2 miles at a large sign announcing the site of a former sawmill.
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We continued on noting the vast stark difference in the trees and vegetation on either side of Crooked Creek. The hills on the north side of the creek were mostly juniper trees and sagebrush while pine and fir trees grew on the south side.
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IMG_0394A short stretch where both sides looked similar.

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IMG_0406Dry waterfall

IMG_0405Smooth stemmed blazing star

As we gained some elevation we started seeing more wildflowers.
IMG_0410Oregon sunshine

IMG_0413Fireweed

IMG_0417Butterfly sleeping on yarrow

IMG_0419Sticky purple geranium

IMG_0434A mallow

IMG_0438Balsamroot

IMG_0442Rough eyelashweed

IMG_0454Various wildflowers along the road bed.

IMG_0460Monkeyflower

IMG_0463White triteleia

Things got a bit confusing again when we arrived at the old trailhead. Our guidebook showed the Fremont Trail beginning here on the left side of Crooked Creek but the only thing that looked at all like a trail was this.
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We tried following it and wound up next to a pile of tree clippings from what appeared to be recent thinning operations.
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We did some searching along the hillside above the creek thinking that we might have missed the trail heading further up the hillside.
IMG_0488Piles from thinning while we were searching for the trail.

After almost a quarter mile along the hillside we found the trail coming steeply uphill from Crooked Creek. To add to the confusion here there were National Recreation Trail markers on a number of trees in the area, some of which were no where near the trail.
IMG_0493Marker on a juniper heading away from Crooked Creek.

IMG_0490Markers on seemingly random trees.

In any event we had found the trail again. On our return trip we would follow the trail down to Crooked Creek which we crossed to reach a road bed. We then turned right on that roadbed, crossed Big Cove Creek and then Crooked Creek again to arrive at the old trailhead.
IMG_0769Big Cove Creek crossing.

IMG_0770Crooked Creek crossing near the old trailhead.

The Fremont Trail passed through a series of open hillsides which were pretty dry at first but became greener as we climbed up the canyon.
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IMG_0507Sagebrush mariposa lily

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IMG_0518Checker mallows

IMG_0534A wetter meadow

IMG_0535Bog orchids

The trail also spent some time in the forest finally leaving the juniper and sagebrush behind.
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IMG_0541Blurry doe through the trees.

Just over 5 miles along we reached an easy crossing of the North Fork Crooked Creek.
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The trail then rounded a ridge end and followed the South Fork Crooked Creek for .6 miles before crossing it just below a series of meadows.
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White water buttercupsWhite water buttercups

The trail skirted the meadows for the next mile and a half which would have been nice if not for the mosquitoes that the meadows were home to. They weren’t anywhere near the worst we’ve seen but we couldn’t stop for long. We eventually were forced to break out the spray but not before Heather had collected a good number of bites (I think I only got one, they like her WAY better).
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Just under a mile along this stretch the trail crossed an old road bed that functions as the Crane Mountain Trail (and a mosquito hatching ground).
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We did stop for a moment at a second crossing of the creek to admire some pink monkeyflower.
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At the end of the meadows we arrived at FR 3615 and the South Fork Crooked Creek Trailhead
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IMG_0612The trailhead.

IMG_0614Trailhead host

We stopped at the trailhead to decide our next course of action. It was already warm and a break sounded good, but there wasn’t really a spot for one at the trailhead. Heading back down the trail meant going through the mosquito gauntlet again and taking a break along that stretch was out. A third option was to continue uphill .7 miles from the trailhead following a roadbed to Fence Pass at an elevation of 7440′. Sullivan described it as a sagebrush covered hillside with some of the best views of the Drake Peak area. We figured that there wouldn’t be any mosquitoes up there so we headed up a dirt road arriving at a split that wasn’t shown on the guidebook map.
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After consulting our Garmins we discovered that the checkermallow covered roadbed to the right ended shortly near a spring feeding the South Fork Crooked Creek.
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We turned left to stay on the correct roadbed which headed steeply uphill past the continuation of the Fremont Trail.
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IMG_0625Fremont Trail on the left.

The road headed for Twelvemile Peak before veering to the south of that peak to the pass. The hillside was mostly sagebrush as described with a fair number of wildflowers mixed in.
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IMG_0695Oregon sunshine

IMG_0691Grand collomia

IMG_0682Yarrow

IMG_0651A paintbrush

IMG_0635Checkermallow and paintbrush

IMG_0634What had been a Brown’s peony

The views were also as described with Twelvemile Peak on our left (north), Light Peak and Drake Peak on our right and our route up behind us. We made it to Fence Pass where a gentle breeze helped cool us off and the lack of mosquitoes allowed us to take a nice break.
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IMG_0666Light Peak from Fence Pass

IMG_0656_stitchDrake Peak and Light Peak

IMG_0658The Drake Peak Lookout which is on Light Peak

IMG_0677Twelvemile Peak

IMG_0653Looking back over our route up.

IMG_0661Mt. Shasta off to the SW

IMG_0664Hart Mountain to the SE.

After a nice break we headed back. The mosquitoes weren’t as noticeable on the return trip but the butterflies (and police car moths) were. In addition the sagebrush mariposa lilies had opened up allowing us to see them better.
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It was another 90+ degree day back at the trailhead and after 15.5 miles and a little over 2500′ of elevation gain it didn’t feel all that great, but the hike had been enjoyable. We headed back to Lakeview and checked the weather again to see what had changed. Based on the ever shifting forecasts we decided to tweak our plans a bit which turned out to be for the best in the long run. For Tuesday we decided to do Flook Lake and Hart Mountain Hot Springs to Warner Peak with an option to also do Petroglyph Lake if the road was open. If it was closed as we suspected we would do that one with DeGarmo Canyon later in the week. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Crooked Creek

Categories
Blue Mountains - North Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lower Wenaha River

After dealing with snow the day before at Freezeout Saddle (post) we called an audible and decided not to try hiking at Hat Point. That trailhead is a little higher in elevation along Hells Canyon than we had been during the Freezeout Saddle Hike. We turned instead to the Wenaha River Trail starting from Troy, OR. This trail provided us with the opportunity to make our first visit into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. We planned on visiting this wilderness later on this year but knowing our plans are always subject to change we jumped on the chance for a warmer, drier hike that visited another of Oregon’s wilderness areas.

The drive to Troy from Wallowa Lake was an eventful one. The wildlife was out in force. We kept our eyes on the numerous deer that we spotted along Highway 3 between Enterprise and the turnoff to Flora. At one point several elk ran across the highway ahead of us from one field to another. There were two deer in the second field that upon seeing the elk running away from the road toward them decided they should run too, only they ran toward the road (and us). The lead deer realized its mistake and turned around chasing after the elk leaving the second deer looking confused before also turning around. A short while later we were slowed by a turkey in the road. Its escape plan appeared to be to try and outrun our car. If you’ve seen a turkey try and sprint its a pretty funny sight. Eventually it remembered its wings and flew to the side of the road.

Thirty five miles from Enterprise we turned left at a sign for Flora, a ghost town that peaked in the early 1900’s. Beyond Flora the road was paved for the first 4 miles but then turned to mostly dirt with some gravel. For about 7 miles this road wound steeply down to the Grande Ronde River and Troy. Numerous hairpin turns with steep dropoffs made for a bit of a tense drive down but we arrived at the Troy Trailhead in one piece.
Troy Trailhead

Not only were we at a much lower elevation (under 2000′) but the forecast was for just a 30% chance of showers on this day so we were optimistic that we’d have a little better weather experience. The sky seemed to back that up as we looked back over Troy and the Grande Ronde River.
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This lower portion of the 31.3 mile long Wenaha River Trail passes through the 2015 Grizzly Fire scar.
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Some of the trees survived the fire.
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We had seen a trip report from the end of April over on Oregonhikers.org which indicated that the trail was in pretty good shape, but might be a bit brushy in spots. The author had also spotted big horn sheep during the hike so we were going to be keeping on the lookout for those.

In April it looked like there had been a nice display of balsamroot along the trail but most of that was now done but we were pleased to still find some flowers in bloom.
IMG_7762Vetch

IMG_7768Spreading dogbane

IMG_7776Wild rose with a beetle

IMG_7778Yarrow

IMG_7787Houndstongue

IMG_7784Paintbrush

IMG_7792Catchfly

IMG_7795sticky purple geranium

The trail itself began above the Wenaha River but soon dropped down to river level passing through a flat. This pattern would repeat itself over the course of the hike. The sections along the flats ranged from open grass to overgrown brush. We appeared to be the first to be going through the brush since the leaves were heavy with water which quickly soaked the lower halves of our bodies.
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As we made our way along the trail we discovered additional flower types.
IMG_7812Oregon sunshine

IMG_7818Monkey flower

WatercressWatercress?

IMG_7822Fiddleneck

IMG_7827Rough eyelashweed

IMG_7829Blanket flower with two sleeping bees

After a mile we arrived at a gate which we at first mistook for the boundary with the Umatilla National Forest.
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While we were on the lookout for big horn sheep it was colorful birds that we kept seeing (and hearing).
IMG_7848Yellow breasted chat

IMG_7865Lazuli bunting

The contrast in the hillsides on the opposite sides of the river was interesting. The north side consisted of smooth rounded terrain while the south side was much more rugged.
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While we were admiring the ruggedness of the opposite hillside we spotted some promising brown dots (they are in the picture above). With a little help from the zoom on the camera and our monocular we were able to confirm they were some of the big horn sheep we’d been looking for.
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Just a bit further down the trail we spotted another group. These were engaged in some rowdy play around a burnt ponderosa trunk.
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We watched them for quite a while before continuing on. The north side of the river became a bit more rugged and the rockier terrain provided more diverse flowers.
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IMG_7919Penstemon

IMG_7921Clarkia

IMG_7932Phlox

IMG_7945More spreading dogbane

IMG_7949Buckwheat

IMG_7952Scabland penstemon

IMG_7953Cinquefoil?

While the trail was up on the hillside we had nice views of the Wenaha below.
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A little over two and a half miles in we passed a second fence which was the actual forest boundary.
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Just beyond the boundary was a viewpoint across from Dry Gulch.
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From the viewpoint the trail made a couple switchbacks down to another brushy flat.
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Although it wasn’t thick there was a few pockets of poison ivy along the trail so we kept a watchful eye when the vegetation was close to the trail. It was along these flat sections where we spotted most of the birds.
IMG_7970Woodpecker with a snack.

IMG_7978Northern flicker

IMG_8003Black headed grosebeak

We also spotted a few big horn sheep on our side of the river.
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After climbing up a bit again we found a nice combination of false sunflower and balsamroot blooming along a ridge end along with a few other flowers.
IMG_7985Blue dicks with a beetle

IMG_8010Lupine

IMG_8012Salsify

IMG_8021False sunflowers

IMG_8024Balsamroot

IMG_8013Clarkia with beetles

IMG_8028View from the ridge end.

We repeated the dip and climb a couple more times before arriving at a neat rock overhang a bit before the 6 mile mark (at least according to our GPS). Along the way spotted more birds, a deer, and what appeared to be a rattlesnake that had met its demise along the trail.
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IMG_8040Another bunting

IMG_8045Wallflower

IMG_8052Another chat

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20190525_095959Geranium

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Beyond the overhang we could see Crooked Creek Canyon ahead to the right where it joined the Wenaha to the left.
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From the overhang it was a little over a mile to Crooked Creek. The stretch began with another nice selection of flowers.
IMG_8077Skullcap

IMG_8081Stream globemallow

IMG_8083Thimbleberry

IMG_8084Threadleaf phacelia

The the wildlife kicked back in and not in the most welcome way for Heather. I had stopped to try and get a picture of a garter snake that had just moved off the trail.
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I heard Heather say snake a couple of time and I was thinking “Yeah I know I’m trying to get a picture of it” only she was talking about a second garter snake that was slithering into the grass on the other side of the trail. Then she notice the third one coiled a couple of inches from her left foot. She is not a huge fan of snakes but has gotten quite a bit more comfortable around them, but three in one spot was getting close to too much. The third snake slithered away when I approached and we continued on.

More welcome wildlife came in the form of a family of geese, a pair of Lewis’s woodpeckers, and butterflies.
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At the 6.3 mile mark we passed a rock cairn with a “6” on top. We weren’t sure but thought that it might have been marking the boundary of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
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Whether or not that was the official boundary somewhere near the cairn we did enter the wilderness crossing one more off of our list to visit.
IMG_8134Officially inside the wilderness

We followed the trail to the site of the former footbridge over Crooked Creek which was lost in the Grizzly Fire.
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We spent some time pondering what the crossing would be like for backpackers wanting to continue on the Wenaha Trail. The water level looked like fording would be possible but we couldn’t see how one would get up to the trail on the far side. The best we could figure is that you would need to ford closer to the mouth of Crooked Creek and not at the old bridge site but we didn’t investigate further.

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come. The day was warming up nicely as blue sky began to emerge overhead. We ran into several groups of backpackers heading in and they all asked about Crooked Creek. We told them that we thought fording would be possible but they’d need to find a spot to get back up to the trail. One of them mentioned what we had suspected, that there was a way up a little further downstream.
IMG_8165Blue sky

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On the way back we kept our eyes open for anything we might have missed the first time by.
IMG_8177Wren

IMG_8190Spider and blue dicks

IMG_8194Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8220Wild onion

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Near the spot where we had seen the first group of big horn sheep across the river Heather spotted a small group on our side along the river bank.
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By the time we made it back to the trailhead the sky was mostly blue and temperatures were in the upper 70’s. It was a far cry from the snow shower the day before.
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20190525_134957The bees woke up at some point.

For some reason I had started craving pizza near the end of our hike so when we got cell signal I did a quick search of restaurants in Joseph and decided a calzone from Embers Brewhouse which really hit the spot and provided breakfast for the next day as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Wenaha River

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Mt. Adams – Bird Creek Meadows

After staring at Mt. Adams for the better part of four days during our Goat Rocks trip we were off to that very mountain for the very first time. Our plans included visits to Crooked Creek Falls, Bird Creek Meadows, and Iceberg Lake on the SE flank of Mt. Adams. We had a couple of possible starting points but based on the description given of the access roads we chose to begin on the South Climb Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31934
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Although the parking lot was crowded we didn’t see anyone on the trail as we climbed up toward the Round-the-Mountain Trail which we would follow to Bird Creek Meadows. The South Climb Trail passes through a forest burned in 2008. We had occasional views of Mt. Adams ahead and Mt. St. Helens to the west.
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When we reached the junction with the Round-the-Mountain Trail we turned right and began seeing more green trees.
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This section of the trail was fairly dry with scattered flowers here and there before crossing the Aiken Lava Flow.
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The wildflowers started to increase as we approached the wilderness boundary with the Yakima Indian Reservation. Green meadows also replaced the sandy dirt that had covered much of the ground on the earlier section.
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Things got really colorful as soon as we were on the Reservation.
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In the next half mile the trail crossed several streams including Crooked Creek and through a number of widflower meadows before reaching a trail junction.
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At the trail junction was the Bird Lake Trail and a pointer for Crooked Creek Falls.
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We followed the trail down a short distance to find the falls. The falls were very pretty with paintbrush filled meadows on either side as they spilled over a rocky shelf.
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After viewing the falls we returned to the Round-the-Mountain Trail and continued another scenic .8 miles to the beginning of the Bird Creek Meadows Loop.
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We turned up the Trail of Flowers and began to climb. There were some flowers along the trail but it was wildlife that stole the show as we spotted a variety of creatures including several grouse which made us jump when they took flight from the undergrowth.

Two of the grouse flying low along the trail ahead.
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At the crest of the loop was a sign for the Hellroaring Viewpoint. We turned off the loop here and headed uphill toward the viewpoint. Clouds had begun to gather over the mountain but we could still see most of it.
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Wildflowers grew along the trail before giving way to the viewpoint.
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The Hellroaring Viewpoint looks out across a valley where Hellroaring Creek comes crashing down from the Mazama Glacier to the Ridge of Wonders.
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To reach Iceberg Lake we continued on a path leading up the ridge from the viewpoint. Sometimes it was easy to see while at other times we followed rock cairns and orange paint across rock and snowfields.
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The path eventually climbed up the moraine that held back Iceberg Lake.
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The scenery at the lake was vastly different than that of the meadows below. The color of the water was beautiful and we could hear the ice cracking above on the mountain as we rested from the climb.
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After a brief break we headed back down to the Trail of Flowers and continued on the loop. This section of loop had better wildflowers than the earlier one.
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Once we had completed the loop we retraced our steps along the Round-the-Mountain Trail back to the South Climb Trail. Several groups of climbers were now descending that trail. One final look at Mt. Adams showed the clouds had remained mostly on the SE side of the mountain.
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It had been a long day but well worth the time to visit a new wilderness. It is now another place we will need to explore more in the future. Happy Trails.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646167148139/
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