Memorial Day marked the end of our trip to the Medford area but before we headed home we had one final hike planned at Roxy Ann Peak. Located within Prescott Park the 3670′ Roxy Ann Peak offers multiple trails and great views (on clear days) of the surrounding area. The park has two gates that according to the park brochure are “typically” open from 8 to 8 in Spring and Summer (closed at 5pm in Fall/Winter). We wanted to get an early start to our drive back to Salem so we opted to park at the 1st gate and road walk to the start of the trail that Sullivan features in his guidebook.
Setting off at 5:20am from the 1st gate.
This was another hike that became a featured hike in his 4.2 edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” due to fire damage to several of the previously featured hikes. He suggests a 3.4 mile loop started by parking at the second gate. Like most of our other hikes this trip we’d originally planned on a longer hike utilizing more of the Park’s trails but had pulled back after the first day of our trip (post) but parking at the first, lower trailhead did add a little over 2 miles round trip. While the forecast was for a mostly sunny day the clouds from the weekend hadn’t moved on as we hiked up the road.
Roxy Ann Peak from the road.
We spotted three deer and a jack rabbit during the road walk but the low light conditions made for poor picture taking opportunities. Fortunately deer were the theme for the first half of the hike and we had several more photo ops with them.
Coming up on the 2nd gate.
Sunlight hitting the hillsides on the far side of Medford.
Our planned lollipop loop was to take the Madrone Trail to the Oak Trail then onto the Ponderosa Trail which would take us up to the Park Tower Road where we could visit the summit. Then we would descend via the Manzanita Trail back to the Madrone Trail to return to Roxy Ann Road and eventually our car.
It was 0.2 miles along the road from the 2nd gate to the start of the Madrone Trail where we turned right and began climbing in earnest.
Roxy Ann’s shadow being cast over Medford.
For the most part the trails in the park were nice and wide giving us the feeling of plenty of space from the abundant poison oak in the area. (We’re not sure how long it takes to get used to hiking in its presence but we haven’t gotten there yet.) There was a nice variety of wildflowers along the way and, as I already mentioned, a good deal of wildlife. We also appreciated the fact that most junctions were well marked with posts identifying the various trails.
Lots of purple vetch along the trails.
One of the posts used to identify trails.
Madrones along the Madrone Trail.
We turned left following the pointer for the Oak Trail.
Juvenile great horned owl along the Oak Trail. We didn’t get a good look at the second owl to the left but it looked to be an adult.
This segment of the Madrone Trail (MD3) ended at Roxy Ann Road with the Oak Trail picking up on the far side.
The Oak Trail
Lupine amid the vetch
Camas in front of poison oak.
Oak along the Oak Trail.
Roxy Ann Peak
The Oak Trail appeared to be the least used of all the trails we would hike on this day.
Trail junction near the Challenge Course with the Oak and Ponderosa Trails.
Hopping onto the Ponderosa Trail.
Lazuli bunting. We saw quite a few of these during our trip but they proved to be very difficult to photograph.
Medford from the Ponderosa Trail.
Lower Table Rock again.
A bench and Ponderosa pines along the Ponderosa Trail.
Two more deer above the trail.
Deer and balsamroot.
Nearing Park Tower Road.
When we hit the road we headed uphill then took a short rocky trail to a picnic table on the summit. Unfortunately the low clouds hadn’t burned off nearly enough yet for us to get the big views of either the Cascade Mountains or the Sisikyous but it was a nice view none the less.
Serenading lazuli bunting.
A lot darker clouds toward the Cascades.
With no real views today we took a brief break then headed over to the tower on the other side of the peak just for the heck of it before heading down the road to pick up the Manzanita Trail.
Sign for the Manzanita Trail
We followed this trail back down to Roxy Ann Road and the Madrone Trail.
The lower flank of Grizzly Peak (post) to the left. Mt. Ashland (post) is hiding behind the clouds almost straight ahead.
Looking NE from the trail, still a lot of clouds.
Another bunting, we were on a roll.
The clouds were really starting to break up as we descended.
Arrow-leaf buckwheat on the hillside.
Roxy Ann Road
Back on the Madrone Trail.
Back on the road walk. The trail post here is for the Greenhorn Trail.
The lower gate was still closed when we got back to our car around 8:20am but we’d passed a steady stream of hikers and trail runners heading up the road regardless. In the end our hike came to 5.4 miles with approximately 1475′ of elevation gain.
It had been a nice short hike to end the trip on. It was only about 15 minutes from our room so we had left our things there instead of having to leave it in the car and now had time to go back to the room, shower and then drive home. We stopped in Eugene to have lunch with our son Dominique and his friend Russell and then continued home to unpack and start getting ready for our next adventure. Happy Trails!
A wet weather system along with a small chance of thunderstorms led us to look for a plan “B” for our second outing in May. Looking ahead to the hikes on our 2023 list for April/May gave us a suitable alternative so we moved a 2022 hike to next year and moved up an outing to visit four parks, two in Hillsboro and two SE of McMinville. These hikes were all located within an hour of Salem allowing to stay relatively close to home and we figured that the less than ideal weather might make for less crowded trails. We decided to start at the northern most trailhead and work our way south.
We arrived at the Orenco Woods Trailhead (open dawn to dusk) just before 6am and headed past the restrooms to an interpretive sign in front of the McDonald House.
Beyond the house the path forked with the right hand fork leading to the Rock Creek Trail while the left fork led to the Habitat Trail which is the way we went.
After a third of a mile we arrived at the Rock Creek Trail near NW Cornelius Pass Road where we made our first wrong turn of the morning. We initially turned right which would have led us back into Orenco Woods.
We’ll blame our inability to read this sign on it still being early in the morning. We started down the path ahead before quickly questioning the direction and correcting course.
He probably knew which way he was going.
Heading the right way now.
From Orenco Woods the Rock Creek Trail follows the sidewalk along NW Cornelius Pass Road north 150 yards to a crosswalk where it crosses the road and follows NW Wilkins Street west another third of a mile.
The trail crosses NW Wilkins St below some power lines at a crosswalk and resumes as a paved path.
While there are no more sidewalk stretches of the trail until the Rock Creek Trailhead at NE Rock Creek Boulevard there are three other road crossing; NE Walker, NE Cornell, and NE Evergreen Parkway. Fortunately all of these road crossings are at signaled crosswalks.
A little over a half mile from Wilkins Street we arrived at the start of a loop in Orchard Park
We stayed left planning on completing the loop on our return.
Another trail user
Two tenths of a mile from the start of the loop the trail split. We didn’t see a sign/map here and didn’t consult the maps we had on our phones and mistook the left hand fork as simply a spur trail to a parking lot in the park and we stayed right. This was our second wrong turn of the morning.
This path led downhill and crossed crossed Rock Creek without realizing that we had curved a full 180 degrees.
The trail split again two tenths of a mile later and here we veered left thinking it was the continuation of the Rock Creek Trail.
After a short distance the pavement ended at a circle of stone benches.
A well worn dirt path picked up here along a fence line behind some apartements
This dirt path ended after a tenth of a mile at what turned out to be NW John Olson Avenue but we didn’t figure that our right away. We didn’t see any signs for the trail here so we finally consulted the maps we had in our phones but even then didn’t realize our mistake. On the map there was a slight jog right coming out of Orchard Park before crossing NE Walker so we headed right to the next street corner where we read the street sign realized this was NE Walker. The full extent of our mistake still wasn’t clear though as we followed the dirt path back past the stone benches to the fork where we’d veered left. It was here that we made our third and final wrong turn of the morning. We were actually on the Orchard Park Loop and not on the Rock Creek Trail which had veered left up to the parking lot while we had gone downhill to the right. Not realizing this we took the right hand fork which recrossed Rock Creek and then climbed back up to the Rock Creek Trail at the start of the loop
We almost made our fourth mistake here as we didn’t initially realize that we had made the full loop. It wasn’t until we spotted some familiar looking camas nearby that the light bulb went off.
Second time staring at this sign.
Having finally figured it out we headed north through Orchard Park again but this time hiked uphill through the parking lot to NE Walker.
Not sure exactly how to interpret this scene – mourning, a murder, or breakfast?
The slight jog right along NE Walker.
We crossed NE Walker and a tenth of a mile later crossed NE Cornelius Pass.
The next three quarters of a mile proved to be the most active for wildlife even though portions of it were between the creek and residences.
Bridge of Rock Creek
Look a pointer for John Olsen Avenue (just a lot further north).
Mallards (A pair of wood ducks flew off at the same time the mallards headed downstream.)
We had stopped while I attempted to get a photo of a small yellow bird that was bouncing around in a tree when we heard a branch/tree crack nearby. While I continued to try and get a picture Heather went over to the creek to investigate. It turned out to be a beaver which had been one of the animals left on our list that we hadn’t yet seen on a hike (or drive to one). Before she could get my attention (or a photo) it disappeared underwater so I still haven’t seen one in the wild.
Here is the only photo that I could even get with the little yellow bird visible at all.
NE Evergreen Parkway
Two tenths of a mile beyond NE Evergreen the trail passed under Highway 26 and in another 400′ arrived at the Rock Creek Trailhead.
This was our turn around point so we headed back the way we’d come. We checked again for the beaver but it was no where to be found. Since we had inadvertently completed the Orchard Park Loop earlier we went straight back through the park and made our way back to Orenco Woods. At the entrance to the park we forked left staying on the Rock Creek Trail. (Retracing the short distance that we had hiked in the morning when we had made our first wrong turn.)
Two tenths of a mile into the park we came to a footbridge over Rock Creek.
After crossing the bridge we forked left and then took another left back on the Habitat Trail.
The trail looped around and downhill to pass under the footbridge before arriving at small pond with a viewing platform.
Beyond the pond the trail climbed back uphill near the McDonald House. We turned left here and made our way back to the trailhead.
While it had remained cloudy all morning there had not been any noticeable precipitation during our 7.5 mile hike here.
Our plan here was to make a counterclockwise loop using the outer most trails.
From the trailhead we headed downhill to the right behind the rest rooms.
Even though we were less than a mile from Orenco Woods we spotted a few flowers that we hadn’t seen during that hike.
The trail leveled out to cross Rock Creek.
A short spur trail on the other side of the creek theoretically led to Rock Creek but the recent rains had swollen it enough that the trail ended before the actual creek.
We continued on the loop climbing toward Borwick Road Trailhead but before reaching the grassy park at that trailhead we turned right leaving the paved path for a compacted gravel/dirt trail
This trail swung to the west before making a 180 degree turn and leading to the Borwick Road Trailhead. Near a viewpoint and bench Heather spotted a barred owl being harassed by a robin.
Rock Creek from the viewpoint.
The back of the owl (middle tree 2/3 of the way up)
The viewpoint was near the turn of the trail so we got some more glimpses of the owl through the trees after the turn. A second owl began hooting and this one wound up flying off to have a conversation. We hiked past the parking area at the Borwick Road Trailhead and hopped on a the trail the map called a “wood-chip” trail. In truth it was mostly mud at this point.
We stuck to the outer trail when this trail forked.
We arrived back at the paved loop near Rock Creek. We turned right onto it, crossed Rock Creek, and then climbed back up to the Baseline Road Trailhead.
Nearing the trailhead.
The loop here was just over a mile.
We had once again been sparred any precipitation and as we drove to our next stop at Miller Woods found ourselves under blue skies and bright sunshine. Miller Woods however was under cloud cover but we were feeling pretty confident and put all our rain gear into our packs before setting off from the trailhead. While it had been our first visit to Orenco and Noble Woods we had hiked here in March, 2020 (post).
On our previous visit we had taken the yellow Outer Loop and had considered taking one of the other trails this time but a portion of the Discovery Loop was closed due to hazardous conditions (appeared to be a slide/washout) and the Oak Summit Trail didn’t look as interesting as the Outer Loop so we followed our route from 2020 except for a short section that had been rerouted.
From the kiosk we followed the yellow pointers downhill through the grass passing camas and birds along the way down.
A wren and a white-crowned sparrow
As we neared the tree line the precipitation finally arrived and a light rain began to fall.
We stopped in the trees to put our rain jackets on and then began descending through the forest to an unnamed stream.
Bleeding heart near the stream.
The trail then turned NNW leveling out a bit above Berry Creek as it traversed the hillside.
Berry Creek down to the right.
There was a lot of wild ginger on the hillside.
Not long after donning our rain jackets the rain stopped and sunlight began to break through again.
The trail climbed as it came around the hill and we spotted a deer in the distance.
It was a young one that was munching on plants along a service road. As we made our way by on the trail Heather noticed the mother bedded down on the road.
After leaving the deer the trail soon began to descend and leave the trees.
It was here that the trail had been rerouted since our 2020 visit. In 2020 the trail veered left to a service road and made a right turn along the road back to the tree line before reaching a bridge across a creek. Now the trail simply headed downhill sticking to the treeline.
One of the neat features at Miller Woods is the wildlife survey covers which are liftable metal covers that could house wildlife. We had yet to lift one and see anything more than ants though until the cover near the creek. Lifting this cover revealed a small snake.
Small garter snake
We gently replaced the cover and continued on the loop which reentered the trees after crossing the creek.
Approaching the bridge and creek.
It was shortly after crossing the bridge that we discovered the trail closure which ended the question of whether we would do the different, shorter loop this time or repeat our previous hike.
Doing the longer 4.5 mile loop turned out to be great as the weather stayed dry and we spotted several more deer and some birds along the way.
Doe just hanging out in a patch of poison oak. (It doesn’t bother deer.)
Nearing the high point of the trail at K.T. Summit
A very cool madrone tree.
Two more deer with a third off camera.
Another neat feature that was new for us this visit were a number of signs along the trail identifying different evergreen trees in the Miller Woods Diversity Area.
There was at least one identifier for each tree listed on this sign. The signs were particularly nice because many were next to younger trees which made it easier to see the needles and bark instead of just look at a trunk and having to look up to try and see other details of the trees.
A couple of examples.
Western white pine
The trail passes above the entrance road and swings out before dropping down to what you expect to be the parking area (there is a signed short cut to it along the way) but the Outer Loop actually loops back behind the parking area and pops out of the trees near a the pond that the Discovery Loop goes around.
Frog near the pond.
Another new feature was a platform over the pond.
After taking a break on the platform we hiked uphill to the parking area and headed for our last stop.
The Erratic Rock State Natural Site is located just off Highway 18 between McMinville and Sheridan. There are no amenities at the site, just a quarter mile paved trail uphill to the rock from a small pullout along Oldsville Road. While it is less than 30 miles from our house that is a stretch of highway that we never find ourselves on. I realized when I was planning this outing that it would only add about 10 minutes to our drive home from Miller Woods to detour to the site so I added it to the plans.
We missed the little pullout but found a wide section of shoulder to pull off on and walk back to the signed trail.
The Erratic Rock is a 90 ton rock from the Northern Rocky Mountains that wound up over 500 hundred miles away on a hill in Oregon after being deposited here after one of Lake Missoula’s floods.
Interpretive sign at the start of the trail.
We were in a pocket of mostly blue sky as we headed up the trail.
Vineyard along the trail.
Although short the trail gains over 100′ in the quarter mile to the rock and we had already hiked over 13 miles, we were relieved when we saw the trail begin to crest.
Seeing the rock there and knowing how far it had to travel to wind up there made it an impressive sight. The views from the hill were also quite nice making it a worthwhile detour.
Our total for the day came to 13.8 miles with only 920′ of cumulative elevation gain. Individually each of these hikes are worth a stop and they all have things to offer young hikers. It turned out to be a fun combination with a unexpected amount of wildlife sightings and aside from the 10-15 minutes of light rain had been a surprisingly dry day. Happy Trails!
Monday was mostly a travel day as we left Bend and headed for the Steens Mountain Resort where we would be staying for the next three nights. We did however manage to get a few short hikes in along the way beginning with a trail that had intrigued us since the first time we’d stopped at the Sagehen Rest Area on Highway 20 eighteen miles west of Burns. A highway rest stop seemed like a bit of an odd place for a trail but that’s part of what piqued our interest. The Sagehen Hill Nature Trial is a short (just over half a mile) interpretive loop with 11 numbered stops.
Trailhead sign at the south end of the rest stop. Brochures were located in the small box under the sign.
Map on the trailhead sign.
Smoke from fires near Lakeview, OR made for a smoke filled horizon and unlike our hike on Mt. Bachelor the previous day (post) here we could smell it in the air.
Red Sun through the smoke.
Despite the lack of views (on a clear day Steens Mountain would have been visible) it was a nice hike and the interpretive stops were interesting. We didn’t see any sage grouse here but we spotted some other wildlife along the route.
The Harney Valley to the east.
This stop was for a juniper that was blown apart by a lightning strike.
The rest area from the loop.
The last stop was to discuss the relationship between the junipers and the Idaho fescue that grows underneath.
This was a neat little trail and a nice leg stretcher. After completing the loop we drove into Burns, filled up our gas tank and then headed for our next stop at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. This was the one place we had previously visited (post) but we hadn’t driven the entire auto tour route that time and there were some other trails in the complex that we could check out. We started with a stop at the headquarters where we once again were treated to a variety of wildlife as we toured the complex.
Deer in the nearly dry Marshall Pond
Yellow headed blackbird
The early bird
Little bird on a feeder
We skipped the Overlook Trail this time due to the smoke filled horizon and started the auto tour route. Again there was plenty of wildlife to pause for along the drive and we also stopped at Benson Pond to hike the Benson Pond Trail (a short half mile out and back) where we were treated to a large number of ducks and other birds on the pond.
The auto tour route ends at the Steens Mountain Loop Road just a mile and a half from the Steens Mountain Resort. We were a bit too early to check in though so we drove past the resort another tenth of a mile to the entrance of the Page Springs Campground. We turned into the campground and parked at the day use area at its far end where two trails start. The one mile Wilderness Nature Trail and the 3.7 mile long Donner und Blitzen River Trail.
We decided to take the Donner und Blitzen Trail since the nature trail looped back into the campground and ended near one of the campsites leaving a short road walk back to the trailhead. The Donner und Blitzen Trail entered the Steens Mountain Wilderness a short distance from the trailhead and followed the river fairly closely for the first 1.2 miles which is as far as we went on this day. It was a little smokey and it was hot and enough time had passed that we would be able to check into the resort by the time we made it back to our car. The trail was a little brushy at times but a nice surprise was finding a loop option not shown on the map but clearly marked starting 0.4 miles from the trailhead and rejoining the river trail at the 0.7 mile mark. We took this route on the way back climbing up through the cliffs above the river providing some nice views despite the haze.
Bee and a butterfly
A brushy section.
A bee and a skipper
The “other” trail on the hillside at the 0.7 mile mark.
Rejoining the Donner und Blitzen Trail at the 0.4 mile mark.
We got a total of 5.4 miles of hiking in between Sagehen Hill, the refuge headquarters, Benson Pond, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The abundant wildlife was the highlight of the day. We checked into the resort and got settled in our modular unit which had a full kitchen, shower, couch and most importantly A/C. We were hoping that the smoke would move out overnight or at least over the next day or two when the temperature was also set to drop to more reasonable levels. We spent the evening listening to the osprey that had a nest below the resort. Happy Trails!
For Memorial Day weekend this year we headed to Bend to visit Heather’s family and of course do some hiking. Having finally reached our goal of completing all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” 4th edition last year (post) we kicked off this trip with a stop at a the Whychus Canyon Preserve, which was a new featured hike in his 5th edition.
The 930 acre preserve is owned and managed by the Deschutes Land Trust who have established over 7 miles of hiker only (dogs on leash) trails open to the public. The focus here is conservation so respecting the rules and Leaving No Trace is imperative (as it always should be) in order to keep the access open. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 7am on Saturday morning to find the parking area empty.
Kiosk and bench at the trailhead.
A map at the kiosk shows that there are a number of loops possible here and we decided to deviate slightly from the route described by Sullivan.
From the kiosk we followed a pointer for the Rim & Creek Trails onto a dirt path.
The trail led slightly downhill, through a red gate and after just 0.2 miles arrived a “T” shaped junction with the Rim Trail where Sullivan has you turn right. We opted for a slightly longer loop and turned left instead.
Tent caterpillars (and the red gate)
As we followed the Rim Trail west along the canyon we began to get some good mountain views.
Mt. Washington and Black Butte (post)
Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Black Crater (post), Little Belknap & Belknap Crater (post), and Mt. Washington.
After 0.4 miles the trail made a 180 degree turn dropping further into the canyon.
Whychus Creek was hidden by trees for the most part.
While there weren’t a lot of wildflowers a number of different types were present.
Sedum leibergii -Leiberg’s Stonecrop
In addition to the various flowers we spotted some varied wildlife as well.
Magpie playing hard to get.
Pair of bucks in Whychus Creek
This is a good time to mention how much I appreciate the zoom on my Canon XS740HS. While I often look at other peoples photos and wish mine were as crisp/clear the compact size and low price (compared to even low end DSLR cameras) of the little point and shoot has worked well enough. Those two bucks are a good example as we spotted them from here.
Approximately 0.6 miles from the big turn we arrived at a signed junction. Uphill led back to the trailhead (where we would have come down following Sullivan’s directions) while the Creek Trail headed downhill to the left.
We turned downhill and switchbacked downhill for 0.2 miles to Whychus Creek.
We followed along the creek on this trail for 1.5 miles, ignoring a steep trail to the right at the 0.8 mile mark. The sounds of the creek combined with the songs of birds made for a relaxing stroll through the canyon.
Star-flower false solomonseal
Trail junction at the 0.8 mile mark.
Spider on a wallflower.
Heuchera cylindrica -roundleaf allumroot
At the 1.5 mile mark the trail turned uphill away from the creek and made a turn back toward the trailhead.
The trail climbed for 0.4 miles before leveling out near a rock outcrop where a side trail to the right led to a viewpoint.
Buckwheat and penstemon
Sign post for the viewpoint.
Heading for the rock outcrop/viewpoint.
Middle and North Sister with Whychus Creek below.
Two tenths of a mile beyond the viewpoint we passed the upper end of the cutoff trail coming up from the Creek Trail.
We were now on the Meadow Trail which we followed for 1.5 miles (ignoring a signed trail to the left at the 0.5 mile mark). We were still spotting different flowers and wildlife on this stretch.
Trail sign in the distance for spur trail to the Santiam Wagon Road.
Sagebrush false dandelions
Mountain bluebird pair
unidentified little songbird.
Second type of lizard
Just before reaching the trailhead the trail joined the Santiam Wagon Road at an interpretive sign.
This wasn’t the first time we’d been on this historic 400 mile route between the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon (House Rock, Iron Mountain, Fish Lake, Sand Mountain , ) but it did mark the eastern most portion we’d been on.
We turned right on the Wagon Road for a few steps and were back at the trailhead where there was now a second car. We were surprised there weren’t more considering how nice a hike it had been. We logged just a little over 5 miles on our GPS and were now ready to head to our second stop of the day at the Alder Springs Trailhead.
This was another chance to visit Whychus Creek but unlike Whychus Canyon we had done the hike at Alder Springs before (post). That hike had been almost 10 years prior having taken place on 8/3/2011. Two things stand out about that first visit. Most notably we only did the Alder Springs hike because our Plan A, Benson Lake/Scott Mountain Loop, was still under too much snow (also the mosquitos were horrendous). It has been quite some time since there has been that much snow that late in the year, yes climate change is real. Secondly it was a really nice hike but August probably wasn’t the best month for it. It’s been on my list of hikes to revisit at a different (better) time of the year. The road to the trailhead is seasonally closed (typically 12/1-3/31) so April or May seemed the best time to catch wildflowers and cooler temperatures.
Another difference between Whychus Canyon and Alder Springs is the access road. While the former is almost entirely paved with a short stretch of good gravel the latter is not far removed from a 4×4 jeep track. Rocks, washouts, and dried mud holes await for most of the final 4.7 miles to the rather larger parking area which we were surprised to find nearly full at 10:15am. At first we couldn’t figure out why there were so many cars SUVs and trucks here while it was just us and one other car at the preserve then it hit us, you can camp here. That realization came from overhearing a large group saying something about having to make two trips down and “the beer”.
Looking back up the dirt access road to the North Sister, Mt. Washington and Black Butte
The trailhead signboard.
This time we didn’t take the side trip down the 0.4 mile Old Bridge Trail but otherwise it was the same route as we had taken nearly 10 years before. The big difference was the number of wildflowers in bloom and the number of people we encountered, mostly on the way back to the car. The scenery was stunning and the ford at the 1.5 mile mark refreshing.
Purple cushion fleabane
Blue mountain prairie clover
Haven’t id this one yet.
The Three Sisters, Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington with some dancing clouds.
Whychus Creek Canyon
Love the different rock formations in the canyon.
Pretty sure this side creek was dry on our previous visit.
Whychus Creek at the ford.
We’ll get into a little more of the history of Whychus Creek when we cover our Memorial Day hike but we noted that the water level seemed about the same as it had on our previous crossing and that the water was surprisingly warm given the source of the creek is the glaciers and snowfields of Broken Top and the Three Sisters. After a bit of thinking it dawned on us that higher up near Sisters water is diverted to irrigation ditches and other uses.
A clarkia, possibly Lassen
Creek dogwood and a beetle covered in pollen
Rose with crab spider
We took a break at the end of the trail along the Deschutes River before hiking back just as we had done on the previous visit.
Confluence of the Deschutes (left) and Whychus Creek (right).
Butterflies and birds were out in force on the hike back.
The hike here came in at 6.4 miles and 650′ of elevation gain giving us a little over 11.5 miles and 1120′ of climbing so far on the day.
We had one more quick stop planned for the day. Our first hike had been on Deschutes Land Trust land and the second in the Crooked River National Grassland managed by the Ochoco National Forest and our final stop at the Huntington Wagon Road was on BLM land. The hike here was of particular interest to me as the trailhead is only 2 miles from where I lived from 2nd grade until leaving home for college and yet I had no idea it was there. The BLM has created a 1.2 mile long interpretive trail along a section of a route that was built to haul supplies from The Dalles to build Fort Klamath.
Trailhead on McGrath Road.
There is a lot to see along the trail as far as scenery goes. It’s mostly sagebrush and juniper with some lava formations mixed in. The history is what makes this hike interesting, and the dozens of lizards scurrying about.
A 300+ year old juniper named an Oregon Heritage Tree
Sagebrush, juniper and lava – my childhood 🙂
Ruts along the wagon road.
Skipper on Showy townsendia.
Post marking the relic fence line and turnaround point.
An old fence post and barbed wire.
Junipers are some interesting trees, they come in all shapes and sizes.
In total we hiked 14 miles with 1150′ of elevation gain. We got to see two sections of Whychus Creek and Canyon as well as parts of two historic Wagon Roads. We ended the day by enjoying some homemade lasagna at Heather’s parents place. Not a bad way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!
A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.
The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
Mt. Hood from the refuge road
Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)
I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe
More northern shovelers
Green winged teal
At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)
Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
Spotted towhee serenade
Camas blooming near the summit
View from Pigeon Butte
Scrub jay spotted on the way down.
One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue
When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.
Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn
I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.
heron flying by the egret
Green winged teals
Trailhead off of Bruce Road
I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
Entering the woods
Giant white wakerobin
Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon
As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
The pink turned out to be shooting stars.
I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
One of many fairy slippers
It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.
Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail
I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
The Woodpecker Loop
I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop
Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.
The Three Sisters
I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.
After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.
We were hoping for some nicer weather on the Saturday before the dreaded “Spring forward” which always seems to be the harder of the two time changes to adjust to. In addition to adjusting to the struggle, adjusting to the change springing forward also meant losing an hour of light in the morning when we like to do our hiking. We got our nice weather so we headed out to Lincoln City to explore some of the nearby trails and cross off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes at Roads End Beach. The hike at Roads End (#35 in the 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range) was one nine remaining featured hikes in his third edition which we reverted back to this year due to not knowing when (if) the final featured hike in his 4th edition, the Salmonberry Railroad, will reopen to hikers (post).
The Roads End hike is a roughly 2.8 mile out and back along Roads End Beach at the north end of Lincoln City which gave us an opportunity to add some mileage to our day and check out two other nearby destinations. The first of which was a quick stop at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Lincoln City. With the time change not yet happening we were able to arrive early and start hiking by 6:30am and more importantly drive through Lincoln City without any traffic to speak of.
The refuge offers a single trail, a short lollipop loop (just under a mile) around Alder Island. Canoeing and kayaking is a popular activity here. It was in the mid 30’s as we set off from the small parking area so there were no human paddlers out yet but the frosty temperature didn’t dissuade others.
Goose and a mallard in the channels.
While the Sun wasn’t quite above the Coast Range great blue herons were already busy working on building a nest in some trees across a channel.
It wasn’t just the bigger birds that were busy. A ruby-crowned kinglet was busy in the brush.
Approximately .2 miles north of the parking area we made a hard right turn crossing over some water to Alder Island and the start of the short loop.
Several interpretive signs were placed along the loop.
A reminder that COVID-19 is still an issue.
The trail passed through stands of alder as it followed a small branch of the Siletz River for .3 miles before reaching a bench facing the main branch of the river. There were a number of ducks a geese in the channel but the highlight came when Heather spotted something heading down to the water on the far side ahead of us. It was a river otter! This had been one of, if not the, most wanted animal sightings on our list of critters we’d yet to see while hiking (or driving to a hike). Unfortunately the otter was too quick and far enough away in the low morning light to get more than a blurry photo of it swimming across the channel.
The larger muddy area along the bank ahead on the right is where Heather spotted the otter.
Alder lined trail.
Blurry photo of a non-breeding male hooded merganser.
The blurry river otter.
The bench might have been a nice place to sit for awhile had it been a little warmer but we needed to keep moving so we continued on the loop which led us back along the main river channel,
Goose and a bufflehead (the duck not the post)
Spring is coming!
We completed the loop and headed back to the car just as the Sun was cresting the foothills.
We then drove back through Lincoln City (still with very little traffic) and made our way to the parking lot at the Roads End Recreation Site.
Sentry at the Roads End entrance.
We weren’t quite ready to head out along the beach though. Before doing the featured hike we planned on visiting the increasingly popular God’s Thumb. We were hoping that 7:30am was still early enough to avoid the crowds that were sure to show up later in the day. While there are two closer trailheads (The Villages and the Sal La Sea Trailhead), parking at Roads End meant having access to bathrooms and not having to move the car again.
We followed the Oregon Hikers Field Guide directions (see link for God’s Thumb above) to make our way up through the neighborhood between Roads End and the Sal La Sea Trailhead.
There weren’t any people but the neighborhood was fairly active.
We passed a single car parked at the trailhead as we continued on by a gate across an old roadbed.
We had walked up some steep hills through the neighborhood and that theme continued on the old road bed for .4 miles before leveling out at a ridge top junction.
It’s hard to tell just how much uphill this is. Fortunately it wasn’t very muddy.
A little easier to see the uphill here, this was near the top.
We turned left at the junction following the ridge out to The Knoll, an open space overlooking Lincoln City to the south.
The Roads End parking area is the open green space in the center along the ocean.
The Pacific Ocean.
Roads End Point jutting out to the north.
We returned to the junction and continued straight following the ridge north.
More signs of Spring, salmonberry blossom and buds.
Sitka spruce and ferns along the ridge.
At the far end of the ridge (after approx 1/3 of a mile) we came to another junction with a trail coming up from the trailhead at The Villages.
Here we turned left and began a short descent that looked to be in some doubt due to several large downed trees.
The downed trees ahead in the distance.
As it turned out there was just one tree to duck under while the rest looked to have been recently taken care of.
The last of the tree fall.
The trail then dipped into an open meadow before rising again on the far side.
Mud had begun to be a bit of an annoyance at this point.
After reaching the top of the hill the trail briefly continued north before turning left in a grassy meadow.
The trail getting nearing the turn left.
Lone tree in the meadow.
Lone robin in the lone tree.
From the meadow there was a view of Cascade Head (post) to the north and to God’s Thumb jutting out into the Pacific to the west.
The trail to God’s Thumb crosses a narrow saddle before climbing steeply to the top of the thumb. We were thankful that it hadn’t rained for a few days which eliminated any issues that mud might have made with footing. We were also pleased that we didn’t see any other hikers in the area that we might have to pass on the way there.
Heather crossing the saddle (left of the big bush)
Cascade Head from the saddle.
Final pitch up to the top.
The view of Cascade Head was great from the thumb and we were able to enjoy it by ourselves.
Not quite to ourselves, we shared the space briefly with some chestnut backed chickadees.
Cascade Head and the mouth of the Salmon River.
Roads End Point and Lincoln City
Rocks below God’s Thumb
We did actually see another hiker but he wasn’t coming down the trail to God’s Thumb, he was heading down to the ocean in the cove north of us.
After enjoying the view for a bit we headed back. We finally passed some other hikers just as we started down into the valley before climbing back up to the junction at the ridge end. It was beginning to be a fairly steady stream of hikers as we reached the junction where we forked left to make a loop out of the middle of the hike. The old road bed on this side of the ridge was much muddier than what we’d come up, but we also spotted quite a few yellow violets and a single toothwort along this route.
A reasonable representation of the wet/muddy conditions on this part of the hike.
A mile and a half from the junction we arrived at the very crowded trailhead at The Villages. Here we turned left on a little path which quickly joined another old roadbed.
Less than a half mile later we were passing another gate along Sal La Sea Drive.
The gate and Sal La Sea Drive in the distance.
It’s not a hike at the coast without some skunk cabbage.
At Sal La Sea Drive I suggested turning left as it looked like the road would take us back downhill almost directly to the Roads End Recreation Site but Heather wasn’t sold on that. (She was sure there was a hidden uphill that would be worse than what we were facing to get back to the Sal La Sea Trailhead.) Never one to pass up a climb we turned right and headed up Sal La Sea Drive. It was a little over 3/4 of a mile back to that trailhead (where there were now 9 cars) and somewhere in there Heather realized she had chosen poorly. We then retraced our path from earlier back down to Roads End. Along the way we saw over a half dozen more deer among the houses which we found humorous, in the woods we saw no deer and a bunch of people and in the neighborhood we saw no people and a bunch of deer.
While our plan to avoid people had worked well at Alder Island and for our visits to The Knoll and God’s Thumb there was no chance for privacy along the beach at Roads End. While it was busy it was a nice walk along the beach for almost a mile and a half to Roads End Point where continuing is only possible during low tides.
An immature bald eagle flew overhead at one point.
Little waterfall along the beach.
Roads End Point
Not going around that today.
We headed back saying one last goodbye to God’s Thumb and The Knoll before driving back home to Salem.
God’s Thumb on the right.
Hikers on The Knoll
Our mileage for the day was right around ten with a mile coming at Alder Island, two and three quarters at Roads End and the remaining six and a quarter being The Knoll and God’s Thumb. There was 1420′ of elevation gain all of which was during the portion from Roads End to God’s Thumb and back. While we’ve had good weather for all three of our hikes thus far in 2021 this hike was the first to truly feel like Winter is coming to an end. Happy Trails!
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.
Union Peak and Mt. McLoughlin on our drive to the trailhead.
The peaks of Crater Lake National Park
Abbott 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.
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.
A section of green trees along the trail.
Passing below Quartz Mountain
Abbott 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.
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.
On the roadbed
The road arrived at Sandy Gap .4 miles from Windy Gap.
The peaks of Crater Lake were visible from this gap.
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.
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.
Another tenth of a mile brought us to what in theory was a 4-way junction below Abbott Butte.
Sign 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.
There were also some spectacular views.
Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta and a whole lot of other peaks that I should know.
Nearing 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.
The old lookout on Abbott Butte
Regardless whoever the idiot was that used wood from the lookout for their precious campfire should be ashamed.
The old outhouse?
There view south was limited by trees but there was a good view to the east.
Mt. 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.
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.
Flagging marking the route.
A 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.
Just beyond this junction the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail crossed a cinder field, turned east and headed steeply downhill.
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.
This meadow is where we heard the voice.
Another late flower
Before we reached Elephants Pond we spotted the rock formation known as Elephants Head.
Fireweed that hadn’t gone to seed.
An owl’s clover
It’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was passable but I had to watch out for hidden obstacles so my pace slowed as had the creeks.
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).
The 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.
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!
We had decided to make 3/15 (Sunday) the day for our March hike to take advantage of a clear, albeit cold, forecast and to get it in before COVID-19 becomes any larger an issue. We started our day by visiting Miller Woods, a conservation area maintained by the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District. The 130 acre property was donated to the district in 2004 and is open from dawn to dusk for hiking (no pets). Although there is no fee, donations are welcome and can be made online (the option we used). These donations appear to be put to good use based on the amount of obvious work that has been put into the area.
As hard as it may be to believe we were the first car in the parking lot. After stopping at the information kiosk (laminated maps were available) we set off on the Outer Loop Trail planning on going counter-clockwise around the approximately 4.5 mile loop.
Part of the work being done at Miller Woods is Oak Savanna restoration, which is what most of the Willamette Valley was made up of prior to development.
After passing some of the restoration work the trail entered a forest of Douglas firs.
We had our first covering of snow at our house when we awoke on Saturday and the near freezing temperatures had our hands stinging by the time we had made it to the trees but in the forest we were reminded that Spring is on the way as we began to notice several of the early wildflower varieties.
The trail wound around a hillside above Berry Creek before looping back toward the old farm fields.
Bird’s nest that Heather spotted along the trail.
After briefly passing through the edge of the field the trail reentered the forest after crossing an outlet stream from a pond.
A shorter loop was possible here by taking the green Discovery Loop back to the parking area.
We stuck to the Outer Loop though and began a gradual climb to the loop’s high point at the 600′ K.T. Summit. As we were climbing we spotted what we thought was a pair of deer (it turned out to be three).
The first deer we spotted (up near the top of the hill at center).
Zoomed in shot of the second deer at upper left.
First deer again.
The trail zigzagged up the hill and wound up taking us right past the deer who seemed less than worried about us.
First deer crossing the trail ahead of us.
The second and third deer watching us pass.
After passing the deer we also passed a memorial to the Miller’s who had donated the property.
The summit was marked by a sign and a bench but lacked a view.
Beyond the summit the trail began to descend back down to the fields. The forest here was a little more mature and we spotted another early wildflower getting ready for Spring when we noticed a fairy slipper emerging from some green moss.
We also noticed a little dusting of snow left on a few leaves and stumps.
The trail wound down to a crossing of the pond’s inlet creek where some skunk cabbage was putting on a nice display.
We emerged from the forest and followed the trail to the pond where the trail split. We went left passing the pond on our right and made our way back to the trailhead.
The area around the pond was popular with the birds.
Book binding, a bakery, a wine warehouse and forestry all occur at here and a gift shop sells fruitcakes and honey. Given that “social distancing” is a thing right now we opted not to enter the gift shop or any of the other buildings on this visit and walked through the courtyard to a gravel path leading between two ponds.
Larger of the two ponds
Little footbridge by the large pond
Beyond the ponds we turned uphill on an old roadbed.
We followed the road as it climbed up a tree thined hillside gaining views to the west of the snow covered coastal range.
We ignored the signed trails sticking to the road which was also signed as the “Guadalupe Loop”
There were quite a few birds in the remaing trees. We watched a pair of acorn woodpeckers for a bit and a spotted towhee was busy picking through some grass while stellars jays could be heard but seldom seen.
Second acorn woodpecker
We soon left the thinned area and entered a forest where we spotted more toothwort and some sort of blooming tree.
After about a mile we came to a fork in the road where the left side was gated (and posted no hiking beyond the gate). We forked right continuing uphill for a half mile to another fork. This time we went left which led a short distance to a viewpoint overlooking vineyards and Mt. Hood in the distance. (We should have taken a fork right shortly after taking the left but missed it and ended up having to backtrack a bit.)
We returned to the fork and went straight on what was still the Guadalupe Loop for just over a quarter mile to a sign for a shrine.
Snow along the Guadalupe Loop
A short spur led to the shrine and a viewpoint of the Coast Range.
Our guidebook said to turn back here and return the way we’d come. We toyed with the idea of continuing on the Guadalupe Loop and started to do just that, but we weren’t certain if it was really in fact a loop or how long it might be. We decided not to tempt fate but then instead of going back the way we’d come we turned left at a sign for St. Juan Diego Pass and followed a grassy track downhill.
A patch of purple caught our eyes on the hillside and it turned out to be an iris that was weighted down a bit with water.
This chipmunk also caught our attention.
We followed the path for a little over half a mile before popping back out on the Guadalupe Loop near the fork with the gated road where we turned left and hiked the mile back down to the parking area.
It turned out to be a beautiful day (once we thawed out from the initial frozen hands at Miller Woods) with a total of 8.2 miles of hiking (4.4 at Miller Woods and 3.8 at Trappist Abbey). There were very few folks out, we saw two trail runners at Miller Woods and passed a handful of groups at Trappist Abbey, had some wildlife encounters, and spotted a few Spring flowers along the way. Hopefully things will settle down sooner rather than later with the corona virus but until then stay safe and Happy Trails!
We had so much fun in 2018 putting together posts of the different species and varieties of wildlife and wildflowers we’d seen that year that we decided to do it again for 2019. While we didn’t see a lot of larger animals this year we did see a lot of pikas, frogs and toads, and a number of new birds.
In the spirit of Leave No Trace principles we do our best not to cause any distress to the wildlife we see by keeping our distance, not feeding them, and doing our best not to disturb or startle them in any way.
Starting out small-
We didn’t see as many different moths and butterflies this year but we saw quite a few of several types.
It was a good year for reptiles and amphibians, especially frogs and toads.
Water held a couple of creatures.
We had good luck with birds this year as well, being the one animal where we saw quite a few varieties for the first time (that we know of).
Small furry creatures included a number of our personal favorites the pika.
Finally the larger mamals which included the wildlife highlight of the year, watching a group of big horn sheep roughhousing on the far side of the Wenaha River canyon.
The deer near Wallowa Lake got into the roughhousing as well.
Didn’t see many elk but these were at Zumwalt Prairie.
We spotted two coyotes in the brush at the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge. One’s head can be seen here as it was running off.
There are still a handful of animals (that we are aware of) that we haven’t seen yet but continue to keep an eye out for. At the top of that list are cougar, bobcat, beaver, otter (Apparently there was one swimming in Crabtree Lake (post) while we were there this year but we didn’t notice it.) porcupine, wolf, and wolverine. The odds of seeing any of these are not in our favor, but they are out there and have probably seen us. Keeping an out for these and all the other animals we’ve seen or have yet to see is an additional motivation to get out and explore. Happy Trails (and tails)!
As we finished up a four day stretch of hiking to start a week of vacation we were looking for the best chance of decent weather which brought us to the Oregon Coast for our second visit to Cascade Head. I had originally had a grandiose plan to hike from the lower trailhead all the way over to Harts Cove (post) but I hadn’t paid close enough attention to detail and we wound up going with a plan B.
We started the morning at Knight County Park.
Salmon River at Knight County Park
It had rained throughout most of our drive through the Coast Range but we were pleased to have been able to see the meadows on Cascade Head as we drove to the trailhead. We set off on the Nature Conservancy Trail which quickly crossed Three Rocks Road.
The trail climbed through the forest along Savage Road popping out of the trees at a field where we could see that the meadows were not nearly as clear as they had been just a bit earlier.
The fact that we could see the ocean was a bit encouraging though.
After crossing to the other side of the road the trail passed an active slide and recrossed to the original trailhead.
The trail continued to climb through the forest before leveling out for a bit as it crossed a series of overgrown streams on footbridges.
One of the bridges.
When we finally popped out of the trees around the mile and a half mark we found ourselves in some pretty thick fog.
We had hoped to see some of the elk herd that lives on Cascade Head but we couldn’t see much of anything, although we did spot a few birds.
White crowned sparrow
One of three hummingbirds
Another white crowned sparrow
There were just a few flowers scattered about as we made our way through and up the grassy meadow.
Foxglove with a spider web
With no views from the meadows when we finally reached the upper viewpoint we headed into the forest.
When we came to Siuslaw National Forest boundary my lack of attention to detail became apparent. I had seen where the road to the Upper Trailhead was closed annually from January 1st through July 15th, but I hadn’t noticed that the entire area starting at the boundary was closed to all traffic during that time period.
So much for that plan. We gathered under the awning over the Nature Conservancy signboard and mulled over our options. We decided that it might be a decent time to check out a couple of other nearby hikes – Whalen Island and Sitka Sedge. These two hikes would be just a little less mileage than our original plan with quite a bit less elevation gain, plus they were close to Pacific City which gave us a great excuse to have lunch at the Pelican Brewing Company.
With a new plan we headed back to the upper viewpoint where the conditions had improved slightly. We could make out the trees and even a bit of the ocean in the distance through the fog.
The problem seemed to be that the clouds/fog wasn’t coming in from the Pacific but was instead coming from inland up the Salmon River. We paused for a moment wondering if the view might clear up. While we were watching we spotted a doe walking along the tree line.
Look for the head to the right of the tall foxglove stalk.
We decided to keep descending figuring that we would still have a good view if the fog did happen to lift.
As we were headed in the direction of the Salmon River the fog did indeed clear in a span of just over a minute.
It was a remarkable change. As we were admiring the new, clearer view we noticed a pair of deer feeding in a gully far below us.
As we continued downhill we were encourage to see an actual pocket of blue sky.
We stopped to take in the view from the lower viewpoint.
From the lower viewpoint the trail turned back inland where things were taking another turn. It was now beginning to rain.
It was a fairly quick, damp, descent back to the car. We were briefly followed by a young fawn who quickly ran the other way when we turned around and spotted it. We had heard a couple of odd noises which caused Heather to turn and notice it. Were aren’t sure what prompted it to follow but hopefully it got back to it’s bed and mother.
The rain had ended by the time we arrived back at Knight Park and we headed north along Highway 101 for 12.7 miles to a sign for Pacific City and Sand Lake where we turned left. This was Brooten Rd. which we followed for 3.5 miles before turning left onto a bridge across the Nestucca River and into Woods. After 2.3 miles on what was now Sandlake Rd. we turned right at a T-shaped junction remaining on Sandlake Rd. for 2.9 more miles to the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island on the left.
It was overcast here but not raining or foggy so that was a plus. We began our loop hike here by taking a trail near the southern end of the parking area.
The 1.5 mile loop here passes several viewpoints of Sand Lake and the Lillian Parker Craft wetland. Near the first viewpoint we spotted a rabbit.
The trail was nice and there were a few flowers along with the views.
At the wetlands a curious hummingbird came to check us out.
After completing this short loop we drove back south along Sandlake Rd a mile and turned right into the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area. Purchased by the State in 2014 this is a relatively new hiking area offering a couple of loop options.
We followed the Beltz Dike Trail to the start of the loops.
With water and wetlands on both sides of the dike we were a bit surprised by the lack of wildlife which was basically just a few ducks, some crows, and a number of smaller birds.
There appeared to have been quite a display of roses a bit earlier in the year.
On the far end of the dike we turned right onto the Estuary View Loop.
This trail passed through a typical coast forest and climbed to a viewpoint above the Sand Lake Estuary.
We scanned the estuary for any interesting wildlife but didn’t spot anything so we continued on. As the trail looped around and began heading south it became quite a bit sandier requiring a little extra effort.
At a rise in the trail there was a view south to Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock (post).
We missed the the pointer for beach access where the Woods and Estuary View Loops met and continued south on what was now the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop.
This section was much less sandy which made it easier to walk on.
At the next trail sign we did follow the beach access pointer but we mistook it on the map for the one we had already passed.
This path was a slightly longer route to the beach as it first paralleled it for nearly two tenths of a mile before a short spur trail to the right led out to it.
Cape Lookout lay to the north while Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock were to the south.
When we left the beach we turned right thinking that this was still the Kinnikinnik Woods Loop but a quick look at the Garmin showed that we were quickly approaching the outskirts of Pacific City so we promptly turned around and headed back to the junction and got ourselves back on the correct path.
We took a final short detour at the pointer for the Elk Knoll Trail.
This 500′ long path led to a bench atop a small knoll, there were no elk present.
After sitting briefly on the bench we completed the loop but not before Heather did one of the craziest dances I’d ever seen as we were walking along the trail. She had suddenly seen something right in front of her and thought it was some kind of big insect coming for her. It wasn’t.
Obstacle hanging over the trail.
We both got quite a laugh out of her fancy moves and chuckled all the way back to the trailhead. Despite our detour the hike here was still under 4 miles bringing the days total to 11.1 miles.
After a quick change we drove into Pacific City and stopped at the Pelican Brewery before heading back to Salem. The food and drink were a nice way to end four days of hikes. With more rain in the forecast over the next couple of days we’ll see when and where our next hike takes us. Happy Trails!