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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lower Deschutes River – SE Oregon Vacation Day 1

It’s been awhile since our last post but we have a good excuse, we were busy hiking. Eight straight days of hiking in fact. 😊

For the last two years we’ve had plans to visit SE Oregon in May but each time our vacation week arrived so did rain in the forecast. Since May wasn’t working out we decided to give June a try. A dry Spring had things looking promising but a system moved in at the end of the week prior to our leaving that had us a little worried. There was rain in the Willamette Valley (and snow in Cascades) but our destinations looked like they would escape mostly dry. At least dry enough that we could rearrange a few of our planned hikes to let things dry a bit before attempting the drives that would be impassible if wet.

Before we could even attempt those hikes we had to get to SE Oregon. Conventional wisdom would have had us driving through Bend via Santiam Pass but we aren’t conventional. First the Sisters Rodeo was happening which meant even more traffic than usual in that little town. More importantly we wanted to squeeze a hike in on the way to Bend were we planned to stay with Heather’s parents again.

Following up on our recent hike along the Deschutes River at Macks Canyon (post) we decided to kick off our eight days of hiking at the Deschutes River Recreation Area near the mouth of the river. From Salem we drove north to Portland and took Interstate 84 ten miles east of The Dalles to the park. It seems a bit odd to kick off a SE Oregon vacation with a hike near the northern border of the State, but it’s a hike we hadn’t done yet and it was sort of on the way.

We parked at the end of the park and walked across a grassy area to a trail sign at the far end where we followed a pointer for the River Trail.
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Unlike the trail at Macks Canyon, the River Trail stayed close to the water.
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We stayed right at junctions sticking to the River Trail where we passed several groups of Canada geese.
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The trail did climb away from the river to cross over a rocky area at the 1.5 mile mark.
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Pigeons kept an eye on us as we passed the rocky cliffs and a family of mergansers sat on a rock in the river below.
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The trail improved again beyond the rocks and it passed below a rock arch.
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A short distance beyond the arch we passed Rattlesnake Rapids.
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Up to this point we’d seen a few flowers and an interesting dragon fly.
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Showy MilkweedShowy milkweed

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After 3 miles on the River Trail we passed by a 10 acre wheat field.
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At the far end of the wheat field we followed an old dirt roadbed uphill to a gravel road where we turned right, crossed small Gordon Creek and veered right again on another dirt roadbed down to a primitive camp site.
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After checking out a small beach where one could wade in the river we headed back to the gravel road.
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The road led up to the same old railroad grade that we had followed on our hike at Macks Canyon.
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Here the grade is in good shape and used by bicyclists as well as hikers.
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We followed the old railroad grade for a mile and a half from the primitive camp to a signboard.
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The unmarked Ferry Springs Trail led off to the right a little before the sign and use paths to the left of the sign led to a view of the rock arch from above.
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After checking out the arch we took the Ferry Springs Trail uphill.
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This trail gained nearly 500′ as it climbed up and then traversed the hillside above the Deschutes River.
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As we gained elevation we also gained more wildflowers, primarily yellow blanket flower and purple lupine.
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Just over three quarters of a mile along this trail we came to Ferry Springs where we crossed a brushy creek.
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A lizard greeted us on the far side of the creek.
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The trail then passed a less than informative sign and passed through an old fence.
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Beyond the fence the trail began to descend back down toward the river. From here we had a good view of the river’s confluence with the Columbia.
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Near the end, the trail follows a section of the Oregon Trail.
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After almost 1.75 miles on the Ferry Springs Trail we arrived back at the railroad grade. Here we had the choice of following it back to the parking area or continuing on hiker only trails. We opted for the hiker trail and flowed a pointer on the far side of the bike path.
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This trail traversed the hillside between the River Trail and the bike path and brought us back to the start of the River Trail in just under three quarters of a mile.
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The hike came in just over 8 miles which was a nice way to start a week of hiking. It had been pretty windy (not unusual for the area) but the rain had stayed to the west which we took as an encouraging sign for the rest of our trip. We left the Deschutes and headed east to Biggs Junction where we took Highway 97 south to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before heading further east (and south) for more adventures. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Deschutes River

Categories
Bend/Redmond Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Central Oregon Hiking Mt. St. Helens Newberry Crater Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Throwback Thursday – Odds and Ends

With this Throwback Thursday post we will have covered all the trails that we hiked prior to starting this blog and have not been part of a subsequent hike that was featured here. We are combining several hikes in one for a couple of reasons. The remaining hikes were all relatively short, some we have few if any pictures, and one was done on the same day that we did another hike that we did again after we started the blog.

Many of our earliest hikes were centered around Bend, OR and were part of vacations prior to 2010 when we first started to be serious about hiking. These were hikes of opportunity more than conscious efforts to go on a hike.

One such was the 3 mile loop around Suttle Lake. We were staying at one of the cabins at the Suttle Lake Resort and decided to take the trail around the lake. The level hike offered views of the lake and of bald eagles and osprey as they soared over the lake watching for fish. On that hike we didn’t even carry a camera.

Another camera-less but worthwhile hike was the Lava River Cave. This mile long lava tube south of Bend is a great stop for kids and adults and can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lava Lands or the High Desert Museum.

In 2007, while in Bend on vacation in July, we hiked up Pilot Butte. A mile long trail in the middle of town leads up to the top of the 4148′ summit which offers view on a clear day north to Mt. Adams in Washington.
Mountain locator on Pilot Butte

It was a bit hazy during this visit but the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Mt. Bachelor to the Three Sisters were still visible.
Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mt., Ball Butte, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters

On that same trip we took a stroll along the Deschutes River Trail from the Mt. Bachelor Village upriver to a footbridge and returned on a loop via Reed Market Road.
Deschutes River

Geese on the Deschutes River

Scarlet gilia

Deer along the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, OR

Deschutes River

Grand Collomia

The hikes weren’t all in Central Oregon. On 7/27/2009 we completed the 1.8 mile round trip to Henline Falls from the Henline Falls Trailhead. The trail is approximately 45 minutes east of Salem and features an old mine shaft near the waterfall.
Henline Falls

Abandoned mine shaft

Abandonded mine shaft

We also started up the nearby Henline Mountain Trail (trailhead) that day but were not in decent enough shape to make it very far.

The final short hike along Lava Canyon near Mt. St. Helens was done after our first hike to Ape Canyon on 9/17/2012. We went back to Ape Canyon in 2015 (post) but that time we did Ape Cave for the other hike.

After finishing our Ape Canyon hike in 2012 we walked from the Ape Canyon Trailhead .25 miles to the Lava Canyon Trailhead.
Trail map near Lava Canyon

A .4 mile trail leads down to the start of a short half mile loop.
Lava Canyon Trail sign

We stayed left at the start of the loop staying on the west side of the Muddy River. A footbridge led across the river above Lava Canyon Falls which was below the trail but mostly obscured.
Lava Canyon Trail sign at the start of the loop

Lava Canyon Falls

Just .2 miles from the first bridge the loop crosses the river on a suspension bridge.
Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Suspension Bridge over Lava Canyon

Upstream from the suspension bridge the Muddy River careens down Triple Falls.
Triple Falls

A .3 mile trail returns to the footbridge along the river along the eastern bank.
Muddy River

Muddy River

Upper Lava Canyon Falls

Henline Falls, Henline Mountain, and Lava Canyon are all in our future plans and reliving these and all our other Throwback Thursday hikes has been a lot of fun. Even though the information is dated hopefully they have provided some additional ideas for places to visit here in the Pacific Northwest. As always check with the managing agencies for current trail conditions before heading out. Happy Trails!

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon

White River Falls, Macks Canyon & Rimrock Springs

We headed over to Bend for Memorial Day weekend to visit Heather’s parents and get a few more hikes checked off our to do list. On our drive over to Bend we hit three different locations starting with White River Falls.

In order to visit White River Falls we took what we call the long way around to Bend. From Salem we headed north through Portland to I84 then east to Highway 197 in The Dalles which we followed south to Tygh Valley. Our plan was to take Highway 216 four miles east from Tygh Valley to White River Falls State Park then continue on Hwy 216 to Sherars Bridge where we would turn for our second hike. We had about a quarter of a tank of gas left so we tried to stop in Tygh Valley to fill up not knowing for sure when we would see another gas station but the one in Tygh Valley was still closed so we decided to go to the falls then come back for gas before continuing to our second stop.

We parked at the good sized day use area and passed a large signboard warning of the dangers of the river (and also the presence of rattlesnakes).
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A short paved path led to a railed overlook above White River Falls.
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An interpretive sign at the viewpoint told about the 1901 hydroelectric plant that was built here.
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From the viewpoint we could see the remains of the powerhouse in the canyon downstream.
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From the viewpoint a path led downhill across a bridge along the settling pond damn and down into the canyon for a view upstream to the falls.
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The trail continued downhill past the powerhouse where the view of the falls included a nice rainbow.
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There were a few flowers blooming in the canyon.
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We continued to follow the path downstream a short distance past Celestial Falls.
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Beyond Celestial Falls the trail brought us to several rocky viewpoints where we could look back upstream to those falls and also further downstream.
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A couple of mergansers were enjoying a beach along the river downstream.
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We had gone about half a mile from the viewpoint when we decided to call it good and head back. The path had split where we turned around, one trail stayed up on the canyon hillside above the rocks and the other appeared to be a scramble down to the river. We had seen what we had come for in the falls though and had other hikes to get to, so back we went.

Once we were back at the viewpoint we followed the fence upstream through the grassy day use area to a different view of White River Falls.
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We then cut through the day use area as I had seen a bullock’s oriole after getting out of the car but couldn’t get a picture and was hoping to see it again. We didn’t spot the oriole but there was a nice view of Mt. Hood where the White River originates.
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We drove back to Tygh Valley to see if the gas station was open (it was now after 8am) and it was, so we filled up and then drove out Highway 216 again, past White River Falls State Park four miles to Sherars Bridge where we continued across the Deschutes River an additional three quarters of a mile to a left had turn at a Deschutes River Access sign. We followed this mostly gravel, sometimes paved, always 20mph road 17 miles to its end at Macks Canyon Campground. We parked at a small pullout at a hairpin turn just before the road dropped down to the campground.
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From the road we took an unsigned trail following an old railroad grade into the Deschutes River Canyon.
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Just a short distance from the pullout we arrived at Macks Canyon where a trestle once spanned the opening.
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IMG_4178Looking up Macks Canyon

The trail scrambled downhill then crossed the canyon before scrambling steeply back up the other side to the railroad grade.
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We couldn’t have asked for much better weather, the sky was mostly sunny and although it was warm a fairly steady breeze kept it from feeling to hot. We continued following the trail for nearly another mile to a second long gone trestle. The views along this section were great with some really interesting rock formations along the canyon wall and several different types of wildflowers in bloom.
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IMG_4019A thistle

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The second missing trestle crossing was quickly followed a third, each of which involved a short scramble into and back out of small canyons.
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The trail then continued along the railroad grade along a fence where we found some interesting wildflowers.
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A little under a mile from the third missing trestle we arrived at a fourth at Sixteen Canyon.
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Before heading down into the canyon we watched some of the many rafters float by.
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Sixteen Canyon by far had the most vegetation. Some of it was nice like the mock orange which was blooming profusely. The blackberries weren’t so pleasant with their sharp thorns.
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We climbed out of Sixteen Canyon and continued on another mile and a half.
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At one point we found ourselves on the opposite side of a fence than the river.
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Over this next stretch we did a lot of insect watching. We were seeing quite a variety of beetles and other flying insects, many of which were busying themselves on large thistle blossoms.
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We turned around at a bend in the river where the trail passed above a campsite.
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I had seen two snakes earlier on the trail and on the way back a third darted off the trail in front of us. None of them were rattlers though. We hadn’t seen any snakes at White River Falls that morning either but we were keeping our eyes out (or so I thought). I heard Heather gasp behind me only to turn around and see that I had somehow managed to step right over a snake in the middle of the trail and never noticed it. Luckily it was just a harmless gopher snake.
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We were even more vigilant after that but the only other reptile we spotted was a lizard.
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After returning to the car we headed back toward Highway 216 where we decided to get creative. We could have taken the Hwy 216 back to Hwy 197 and then headed south toward Maupin which was about 18.5 miles away going that route. The Deschutes River Access Road continued south across Hwy 216 though and a sign there indicated that Maupin was only 9 miles that way. We decided to try the access road which lived up to its name offering many access points for the river. The speed limit varied between 20 & 35mph so it was a little slower pace than the Highways would have been but it was more scenic. We ran into trouble though when we reached Maupin. When the access road ended in town, there were no signs that we could see. The road map we had appeared to show the road ending at Highway 197 where we would want to turn left (south). After initially turning right we decided to trust the map and turned around. The road we were on was narrow with tight turns as it climbed up the canyon away from Maupin. That didn’t seem right and neither did the direction we were beginning to head so we turned on our Garmin, that we use hiking, and checked it. Sure enough we were on Bakeoven Road not the highway so we turned around. Looking at the GPS we could see that if we’d have gone just a bit further when we had initially turned right we would have found 197.

After that little adventure we drove south on Hwy 197 to its junction with Highway97 and followed it to Madras. Highways 97 & 26 join in Madras before splitting again at the other end. We turned onto 26 at the southern end of Madras in order to get to our final stop of the day at Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area.

We drove for 9 miles to a rise where a sign pointed to the trailhead turnoff on the left. From the parking area a half mile paved trail began.
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The paved portion of the trail led past interpretive signs to a viewing platform and the start of a mile long dirt trail.
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The viewing platform overlooked the wetland where all we saw on this day were a couple of ducks and numerous blackbirds.
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From the platform we took the Overview Trail uphill through the juniper to a spur trail that led to a second platform.
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We didn’t spot anything different from the second platform and continued on the loop.
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At the crest of the trail we passed a Mountain Overview sign where rock outcrops offered views across the Crooked River Grassland to the Cascade Mountains.
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We got a pleasant surprise when Heather spotted a couple of bitterroot flowers blooming in the area.
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Beyond the overlook the trail descended to the paved path less than a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Along the final stretch of the Mountain Overlook Trail Mt. Hood could be seen in the distance ending our hikes as we’d begun them looking at the tallest mountain in Oregon. Happy Trails!
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Flick: White River Falls, Macks Canyon, & Rimrock Springs

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Dillon & Benham Falls

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening. We were driving up the Cascade Lakes Highway through an impressive thunderstorm attempting to reach the Green Lakes trail head at Fall Creek when we came to our senses. The second round of hail and the increasing display of lighting prompted a retreat back down toward the city of Bend, OR. We had known this was a possibility the day before when the lighting and thunder had started so we invoked our backup plan and headed south of Bend to the Benham Falls picnic area on the Deschutes River near the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

We parked on the east side of the river at the picnic area and waited for a rain shower to pass and some sunlight before setting out. We promptly crossed the river on a footbridge and remained on the west side for the remainder of the hike. The river was calm and peaceful above Benham Falls as we walked along watching the sun rise through the clouds to the east while the thunder and lighting continued to the west.
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After approximately .7 miles the river became louder as it approached Benham Falls. The falls are not a classic waterfall but rather a series of turbulent rapids as the Deschutes flows through a lava canyon.
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We headed up to the parking area here to make use of the facilities and had a deer bolt away as we came around a corner. Then a forest service vehicle pulled up and we spoke briefly with the driver who confirmed we made the right choice when we turned around. He said it was a mess up in the Cascades with many small lightning fires having been spotted. Indeed we heard (and saw) the helicopters and planes throughout the day flying over on their way assist with the fires.

The river calmed again after Benham Falls passing forest on the west bank and a lava flow on the east. The sun made a couple of brief appearances, once creating a faint rainbow in front of us, and then disappeared. We were heading toward the Slough Day Use area and the hike was quickly turning into a wildlife spotting bonanza. We saw douglas squirrels, golden mantled squirrels, chipmunks, and scores of birds. Heather also spotted a paper wasp nest near the trail which was not the kind of wildlife I was interested in seeing.

When we reached a small slough pond we started noticing little Pacific Tree Frogs hopping along the trail.

A pair of Pacific Tree Frogs
A pair of Pacific Tree Frogs

The further we walked the more frogs we spotted and soon our progress was slowed as we tip-toed along trying to avoid all the little frogs.

We made it to the day use area and went down to the river for a closer look when I noticed something staring at us from across the water. At first we thought it was another deer, but then I spotted a second one and we noticed that their heads were darker than that of a deer. We broke out the binoculars and while we were watching a couple more came into view and we confirmed that they were indeed elk. The first we have seen while actually hiking :). They headed on down the river and out of sight so we continued on as well. We didn’t have to go far when we spotted them again on the opposite bank. There was now close to 20 elk including a small bull and several calves.
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The trail then swung around a 10 acre slough lake where the number of frogs somehow increased. There were now dozens of frogs hopping in all directions. There were also several families of ducks who left the reeds and headed for the center of the water as we approached.
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Next we passed through a short forested section of the trail and came to the edge of a large meadow. Looking across the meadow we could see Mt. Bachelor beneath the clouds in the distance. Here we were greeted by mosquitoes which quickly became a nuisance. The thunder and lightning had not quit and as we hurried across the meadow a heavy rain began to fall. It was both a blessing and a curse as the rain helped keep the mosquitoes at bay, but drenched us in the process.
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Shortly after leaving the meadow we reached the parking area for Dillon Falls. Like Benham Falls, Dillon Falls was a series of rapids in a lava canyon. We spotted an Osprey clenching a fish that it had snatched from the river as we descended down toward the calmer waters below the falls.
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A series of log steps brought us down into the canyon and to the river’s bank where we passed through some different types of vegetation including a section of trail lined with ferns.

Over the next three miles we passed Aspen (where whitewater rafters put in), Big Eddy Rapids (where the rafters scream), and Lava Island (where they get out). Near Big Eddy there were several Osprey across the river including one perched on its nest.
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A smaller bird was circling the river, occasionally diving into the water hunting for something. Just past the Lava Island Day Use area we came to our turn around point a small rock shelter used long ago by hunters.
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The thunderstorms had ended and the trail became increasingly crowded on our way back, but the wildlife remained abundant. The birds and golden mantled squirrels kept us entertained as we returned to the car. We had started the morning expecting mountains and lakes, but instead found a river and wildlife which proved to be a more than adequate replacement.
Happy Trails 🙂
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Facebook pictures: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201735043005001.1073741847.1448521051&type=1
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157634888763551/