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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Wildcat Canyon (Maston Trail System) – 10/11/2020

A wet weather system arrived with the weekend dropping some much need rain over the wildfires in Oregon and depositing a decent amount of new snow on the Cascades. This was great news and one of the few times that we were more than happy that our original plan was forced to change due to weather. We were going to be in Bend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Heather’s Dad which provided us an opportunity to hike in the rain shadow of the Cascades before heading home Sunday morning. It was a nice celebration and a rare event for all our calendars to align and be together.

Having finished all 100 featured hikes (post) in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades” (4th edition) we turned to his 5th edition of the book and decided to check out Wildcat Canyon (Hike #36). Wildcat Canyon is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s Maston Trail System, a 4,000 acre mixed use network of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. It also happens to be located in my old stomping grounds near Tumalo, OR. The Maston Trailhead (see previous link) is less than 10 driving miles from the my parent’s old house between Bend and Redmond and just over 5 miles from my former elementary school. Way back then the Maston Trail System didn’t exist but I had spent time exploring the Deschutes River Canyon near that area, closer to Eagle Crest Resort, so I was excited to check the trail system out.

We were the second car at the Maston Trailhead that morning.
Sunrise at the Maston Trailhead

Maston TrailheadCline Buttes from the Maston Trailhead.

It was a crisp morning with a bit of frost on the ground, the kind of morning that reminded me of a high school job I had moving irrigation pipes at a nearby farm. We set off through the equestrian parking area and passed through an open fence by a trail map.
Equestrain trail at the Maston Trailhead

Maston Trailhead map

This was the Settlement Trail (an equestrian/hiker only trail), named for the settlers who had cleared the land and began constructing farms in the early 1900’s in preparation of the arrival of irrigation water. The water never came and by the 1930’s the farms had been abandoned.
Interpretive sign at the Maston TrailheadInterpretive sign at the Maston Trailhead telling the story of the settlers.

Old foundations along the Settlement TrailStone foundation of one of the abandoned buildings along the Settlement Trail.

We followed the Settlement Trail by staying right at junctions for the first 1.5 miles.
Settlement Trail

Settlement TrailTypical sign at a junction. Not all of the junctions had signs and not all of the signs identified which trail/junction it was so having a copy of the trail system map is a really good idea.

There were a lot of different birds about but most wouldn’t stay still long enough for a picture and those that did perched at the top of junipers distant enough to make identifying them even with a 30x zoom a bit difficult.
Songbird atop a juniperThis one may be a sparrow of some sort, it was signing quite a bit.

Bird atop a juniperPossibly another sparrow or a finch or something else.

Bluebird atop a treeMaybe a bluebird?

We took a wrong turn at a junction just over a half mile from the trailhead. We had been expecting to see the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead to our right which our guidebook indicated we should go down to, so when we spotted a signboard along a road less then a tenth of a mile to our right we headed for it. When we got to the little pullout at the road we double checked the map and realized that we had turned right too early so we turned around and returned to the junction. We turned right again and continued on the Settlement Trail another quarter of a mile to the actual Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.
Wildcat Canyon Parking from the Settlement TrailWildcat Canyon Trailhead off to the right.

We spotted the only non-bird wildlife of the day near this trailhead when a rabbit raced out of the sagebrush and paused briefly on the other side of a juniper.
Out of focus rabbit behind the juniperI managed to snap one photo and of course the camera focused on said juniper instead of the rabbit beyond.

We stayed straight at the trailhead on the Settlement Trail which was now almost directly next to the Rockbar Trail (a mountain bike trail). The Settlement Trail quickly arrived on the basalt cliffs above the Deschutes River Canyon.
Deschutes River and Wildcat CanyonWildcat Canyon on the right joining the Deschutes River Canyon

Deschutes RiverThe Deschutes River near where the canyons meet.

Deschutes RiverGrizzly Mountain in the distance beyond the Deschutes River.

The trail turned north along the canyon rim which we followed for half a mile, switching to the Rockbar Trail when the equestrian trail crossed over it.
Deschutes RiverAnother of several viewpoints along the rim.

Deschutes RiverSome Fall color along the Deschutes River.

Rock doveRock dove

Deschutes River CanyonA viewpoint along the Rockbar Trail.

Deschutes River

Deschutes RiverLooking south up the river canyon.

Deschutes RiverA calm pool along the Deschutes.

Stellar's jayI could see this one, a Stellar’s jay.

Shortly after the Rockbar Trail turned away from the canyon it crossed a private road.
Rockbar TrailComing up to the road.

We followed Sullivan’s instructions and jogged left 100′ picking up the equestrian trail again.
An equestrian continuing on the far side of Necomb Road

We turned uphill on the equestrian trail to a junction with the Headgate Trail, another mountain bike trail, in just 100 yards.
Headgate Trail

We turned left following this single track through the juniper and sagebrush for approximately 2 miles ignoring side trails along the way.
Headgate Trail

Headgate TrailThis was Junction 2 (one of the junctions with an identifying sign). We stayed right on the Headgate Trail here.

At a slightly higher elevation than the Settlement Trail the Headgate Trail would have provided a fairly nice view of the Cascades but on this day they were mostly shrouded in clouds although we could see fresh snow on Tam McArthur Rim (post) and on the lowest portion of the South and North Sisters.
View from the Headgate TrailTam McArthur Rim is left center with South Sister in the center and North Sister to the right center.

We turned down what we believe on the map to be the Maston Tie Trail (it was unmarked) and followed it for a quarter of mile back to the beginning of the Settlement Trail at the Maston Trailhead.
Maston Tie TrailHeather and Dominique on the Maston Trail.

Maston Tie Trail comging back to the Maston TrailheadComing up on the Settlement Trail.

This wound up being a nice loop, just under 5 miles, with minimal elevation gain (200′ or so). The network of trails provides options for both shorter and longer loops too with multiple starting points available. We hope to come back again in the Spring some year to check out more of the area and see what it looks like during a different season. Until then this was a great introduction to the area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wildcat Canyon

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Cove Palisades State Park – SE Oregon Vacation Day 8

After spending the night in Bend it was finally time to head home. We had one final hike planned before we drove back to Salem though. For the final hike of our vacation we headed north of Bend to the Cove Palisades State Park.

The park is home to the man made Lake Billy Chinook which fills a canyon behind the Round Butte Dam. Three rivers converge here, the Crooked, Metolius, and the Deschutes. We didn’t do it on purpose but by hiking here we wound up starting and ending our vacation with hikes near the Deschutes.

We started our hike from the Lower Deschutes Day Use Area which according to a signboard didn’t open until 7am. I hadn’t been able to find that information on the park website so we had arrived just before 6am. Luckily the gate was open and the automated permit booth was operating. There was also a second sign stating that parking was prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 5am so we went ahead and parked in the large, empty lot.
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We were going to hike the Tam-A-Lau Trail which actually officially starts at a trailhead near the campground but a half mile connector trail started at the eastern end of the day use area.
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The connector trail crossed over the day use entrance road then a short while later it crossed the main road through the park before arriving at the trailhead.
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From this trailhead the Tam-A-Lau Trail climbed just over a mile to the rim of the canyon and the start of a loop atop the plateau.
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As we climbed the views got better, both of the Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook and of Mt. Jefferson which appeared above the far side of the canyon.
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The trail also passed some nice rock formations revealing the various layers of the canyon.
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Near the top of the rim Mt. Jefferson was entirely visible and several other Cascade peaks could be seen.
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IMG_7164The Three Sisters

At the start of the loop we took the left hand fork which followed the rim of the canyon north.
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As we continued north more mountains emerged to the SW.
IMG_7201Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, The Three Sisters, and Three Fingered Jack.

The only major Cascade missing was Mt. Washington which was hidden behind Black Butte and Green Ridge.
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After 1.25 miles of the loop we reached the tip of the plateau which looked out to “The Island”. Despite it’s name The Island isn’t surrounded by water but it is a separated portion of the plateau.
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To the right of The Island the Crooked River arm flows in to merge with the Deschutes. From the tip of the plateau the trail followed the rim above the Crooked River arm for another 1.1 miles before turning inland across the plateau to complete the loop. From this section we had a good view of the bridge over the Crooked River arm.
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Shortly after turning inland we spotted a group of deer on the far side of a fence.
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IMG_7259(the camera deciding the fence was more interesting than the deer)

It was 1.3 miles across the plateau where we headed back down to the campground and then on to the day use area where the number of cars had double to two including ours. (A third arrived while we were loading up.) The relatively short hike was a good way to end the vacation and put a cap on 8 days of hiking. We’re not done with SE Oregon yet and we’re looking forward to our next visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cove Palisades State Park

Categories
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

IMG_5168Chicory

IMG_5134Blanket flower

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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 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

IMG_4031A vetch

IMG_4042Oregon sunshine

IMG_4044A penstemon

IMG_4171Clustered broomrape

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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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IMG_4226Broken Top and the Three Sisters

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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 High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Alder Springs

This week we’re going to throwback to a hike that had a profound impact on how we hike. In 2011 the snow melt was unusually late and wound up impacting us on our vacation in Central Oregon during the first week of August. On 8/3/2011 we had planned on hiking the Benson Lake Loop. We took the McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242) from Sisters and headed for the trailhead.  It was a beautiful morning and we stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory to take in the spectacular views.

Dee Wright Observatory

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Belknap Crater, Little Belknap Crater and Mt. Washington

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Black Butte

Black Butte

Black Crater

Black Crater

North & Middle Sister

North and Middle Sister with the Little Brother

We continued on to the trailhead near Scott Lake and set off on the Benson Lake Trail.

Benson Lake Trailhead

In the mile and a half to Benson Lake we encountered a few snow patches and lots of mosquitoes.
Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

From Benson Lake we could see our next planned stop,Scott Mountain which appeared relatively snow free.

Benson Lake

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly beyond Benson Lake as the mosquitoes were thick and relentless and the trail was covered in snow.

Snowmelt pond near Benson Lake

Snow along the Benson Lake Trail

We were still quite inexperienced hikers with raw map skills, no GPS, and we hadn’t learned to look for blazes yet so we were relegated to following a lone set of footprints which worked until they disappeared. While we struggled to locate the trail Heather had a mosquito fly directly into her eye where it stuck. It remains the most disgusting hiking moment ever for us.

After extracting the kamikaze mosquito we surrendered and turned back while we knew we could still find the trail back.

We had only hiked around 4 miles by the time we were driving back toward Sisters and began looking for another hike that we might be able to do. We landed on the Alder Springs trail which would be snow free being in the high desert and at an elevation of only 2600′. Even better the trailhead was less than 20 miles from Sisters.

From the trailhead parking area Mt. Washington and the North Sister were visible. It was odd to think we’d just been forced by snow to turn back from a hike on the other side of those two mountains and now we were standing amid the sagebrush and juniper in the high desert. Not only was it a drastic change in scenery but it was also a lot warmer.

Alder Springs Trailhead

Mt. Washington

Middle and North Sister

The view here also included a look down the Wychus Creek Canyon which is where the trail would be leading us.

Wychus Creek Canyon

The Alder Springs Trail descended .2 miles to a fork where the Old Bridge Trail split to the left.

Old Bridge Trail sign

We took this .4 mile path down to the site of a former bridge and then down to the bank of Wychus Creek.

Site of a former bridge over Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Wychus Creek

We then returned to the Alder Springs Trail and followed it 1.2 miles to Alder Springs. This section of trail provided some nice views of the canyon before descending to the creek.

Wychus Creek Canyon

Wychus Creek

Whychus Creek Canyon

Rock formations along the Whychus Creek Canyon

A short narrow slot in the canyon wall was a neat little detour along the way.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Dry waterfall

The scenery became a little greener as the trail dropped to creek level and neared Alder Springs.

Alder Springs Trail

Alder Springs Trail

Interpretive sign at Alder Springs

We faced a choice here, turn back or ford the creek and continue a little over a mile and a half to the Deschutes River at its confluence with Wychus Creek. It was too nice a day and the scenery was too good to turn back so we forded the shin deep creek. Downstream the creek seemed to flow right into the canyon wall.

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Springs bubbled up in several spots joining the waters of Wychus Creek along the far bank.

Alder Springs

Alder Springs

Beyond the springs the trail stuck fairly close to the creek as it met the canyon wall and turned north.

Whychus Creek

Soon we were once again traversing the hillside a bit above the creek due to the thick vegetation along the creeks banks.

Whychus Creek Canyon

Whychus Creek

At one point the trail split with the right hand fork dropping down near to the creek in a thistle filled meadow. We took this path thinking it would be fun to be in the thistle and closer to the creek but as we made our way into the meadow the a distinctive sound of a rattle rose up.

Thistle meadow along the Alder Springs Trail

We slowed up and realized that there were at least two maybe three alarms being raised from different sides. We proceeded slowly making plenty of noise ourselves keeping our trekking poles ahead to give any snakes plenty of time to leave the area. We never saw any but they made plenty of noise. On the way back we skipped the meadow and stayed on the path that passed higher up the hillside.

We continued on, now on high alert, to the confluence of the river and creek. On the far side of the water rose a spectacular striped rock fin.

Rock fin near the Wychus Creek and Deschutes River confluence

Rock fin

A sign on a ponderosa announced the end of the maintained trail.

End of the Alder Springs Trail

A rock ledge along the Deschutes River provided a perfect lunch spot across from the fin where we could watch the river as it headed further down the canyon.

Deschutes River

Deschutes River

Rock fin from the Deschutes River

Having arrived at this spot from the Alder Springs Trailhead gave this spot a real feeling of remoteness. The fact that we hadn’t seen any other hikers since the parking area and having to ford the creek added to the sensation of solitude. In actuality the homes of Crooked River Ranch were not far away on the other side of the river and the Scout Camp Trail loops around the fin that seems so remote.

The Alder Springs Hike was a little over 6 miles round trip with about 650′ of elevation gain.

The experience at Benson Lake was a key motivating factor in our decision to make getting a GPS unit before the 2012 hiking season a top priority. It also reminded us that we needed to improve our map and navigational skills which we began to focus more on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Benson Lake & Alder Springs

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail

We had stayed in Central Oregon after visiting the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain on Saturday. Before heading home we took the opportunity to do a pair of short hikes in the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area near Crooked River Ranch. The first of the hikes started at the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.
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The falls are only a half mile from the trailhead and can get very busy, but we were there early and had the trail to ourselves. We followed the path down into the Deschutes River Canyon.
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Flowers included sand lilies, balsamroot, and thread-leaf phacelia.
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Colorful rocks formations lined the canyon walls.
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Steelhead Falls is only about 20′ tall but the width and setting of the falls makes it an impressive sight.
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Beyond the falls the Deschutes calmed and various ducks and geese were enjoying the morning.
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We continued past the falls for .6 miles planning on visiting the Gray Tower, a 70′ rock formation. Our guidebook instructed us to turn right at a dry wash and then “stay right at junctions” up to the tower. We turned at the wash with the Gray Tower visible up the hillside.
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We apparently did too good a job at staying right and wound up following a path up a ridge with the wash on our left. We began to suspect that we were too far right when were getting further away from the Gray Tower and there was no sign of the ridge we were on bending back towards it. We spotted a trail on the opposite side of the wash and realized that it was the trail we should be on and headed back down. The detour had not been without its charms though, as it provided a nice view across the wash to the Gray Tower and to Mt. Jefferson (covered in clouds this morning).
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We’d also seen some nice wildflowers.
Paintbrush
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Rough eyelashweed
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Desert yellow fleabane
desert yellow fleabane

White-daisy tidytips
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Once we had returned to the dry wash we headed up the left-hand side on a horse path keeping the wash on our right while we stayed right at the junctions. This trail did indeed lead us to the tower.
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We followed the horse path past the tower veering right heading for the start a .9 mile loop described in our guide book. At some point we lost the trail as it turned uphill and we were once again forced to backtrack. We decided to head cross country to try and pick up the trail, which we managed to do. When we reached a split to the trail on top of the rim we went right to start the loop. There was a small rocky knoll a short distance to the left with some small junipers on it at this junction.
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Several deer were watching us as we began the loop.
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We passed around a small hill through juniper and sagebrush keeping left at junctions marked by rock cairns.
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It was a beautiful sunny day which would have normally meant some nice mountain views but all the Cascade peaks were draped in clouds making for an interesting sight.
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Heather spotted a coyote that ran off too quickly for a photo, but several birds stayed put long enough for pictures.
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We completed the loop and managed to follow the horse path all the way back down to the river without losing it this time. The sun was now on the river and ducks paddled about as red-winged blackbirds filled the canyon with their songs.
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After returning to the trailhead we drove further into Crooked River Ranch to the Scout Camp Trailhead.
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This trail descends over 600′ to the Deschutes River and its confluence with Wychus Creek. The path starts out level passing through juniper and sage before dropping down into the canyon.
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Turkey vultures soared overhead and occasionally landed on the cliffs.
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At the .4 mile mark the trail splits marking the start of a 2 mile loop. We went left following a trail pointer and headed downhill through fields of balsamroot and other wildflowers.
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The further into the canyon we got the thicker the balsamroot became.
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A couple of different types of lizards were sunning themselves.
Side bloctched lizards
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Western fence lizard
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After a fairly steep .7 mile descent the trail leveled off passing along a cliff face with the river on the left.
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A family of canada geese paddled about on the water.
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The cliff face gave way to a hillside of flowers.
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we then passed through a grassy area before the trail appeared to end at a rock wall below a rock fin where a fish monitoring station was set up.
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We climbed up and over the rocks which brought us to the continuation of the loop. From here we could see the spot on the opposite side of the river where we had eaten lunch during a 2012 hike on the Alder Springs Trail.
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The trail then climbed up the canyon switching back once to a view above the rock fin.
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We continued to climb passing another set of cliffs with small caves and rocks that appeared ready to come crashing down at any moment.
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Some of the brightest paintbrush we’d seen was along the hillside below these cliffs as well as some tiny but spectacular Cusick’s monkey flowers.
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We finished the loop and climbed back out of the canyon. As the views opened up we could see that the mountains had finally managed to shed most of their cloud cover.
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We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flowers along the Scout Camp Trail and fortunate to have had the Steelhead Falls trail all to ourselves. It was a great end to a weekend of wonderful hikes in Central Oregon. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667267583520

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Fall River and LaPine State Park

The day after finally getting to see the Green Lakes clouds had moved into the mountains bringing snow to the higher elevations and rain lower. A pair of hikes near LaPine, OR offered us a chance to stay below the clouds while visiting the Fall and Deschutes Rivers.

Our first hike of the day began at the Fall Creek Campground located off the Cascade Lakes Highway near milepost 15.
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Fall River is fed by springs located less than a mile from the campground which causes the water to be crystal clear.
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We started our hike by crossing the river on a footbridge and heading east .4 miles downstream to a dirt road.
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Along the way we began noticing many trees that had been gnawed by beavers, some rather recently.
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We began watching intently hoping to see one of them. After reaching the road and returning to where we had crossed the footbridge we stayed on the south side of the river and continued west toward the springs. We didn’t see any beavers but we saw plenty of other wildlife along the way to the springs.

Fish in Fall River
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Mergansers
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More ducks
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Small birds
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Kingfisher
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Great Blue Heron
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At the springs we spotted several deer.
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The clear water near the springs was brightened by green plants in the water.
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There is a parking area near the springs as well as the rentable Fall River Guard Station.
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We returned to the campground on the north side of the river resulting in a nice little loop back to the bridge. We continued to see wildlife along the way.

Duck
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Golden-mantled squirrel
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Robin
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Merganser
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Deer
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The trail on the north side of the river continues east past the campground for a total of 2.4 miles before reaching private land. We decided to check out that section as well. More wildlife and peaceful river views awaited on this section of the trail. There was also plenty of evidence of beavers but they never showed themselves.

Golden-mantled squirrel
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Crossbill
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Ducks
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Aster
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Small bird
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Chipmunk
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After reaching the private land and returning to the car we drove 5 miles back toward Highway 97 on the Cascade Lakes Highway and turned south on a gravel road where we had seen a pointer for LaPine State Park. Just over a mile on the gravel road brought us to a pair of parking areas on either side of Fall River. We parked on the south side of the river and set off on a 5.3 mile loop through LaPine State Park.
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We decided to do the loop counter-clockwise and headed right away from Fall River. The forest was fairly dry and mostly lodgepole pine here which can be a little less than exciting.
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After crossing a couple of dirt roads we ignored a trail at the 1 mile mark that split off to the left sticking to the Fall River Trail using the many trail signs along the way.
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At a well signed junction within sight of a fee booth we turned left heading for the McGregor Viewpoint.
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The viewpoint offered our first look at the Deschutes River as it wound through the park.
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Continuing on the loop we veered left at the next trail fork then ignored another left staying straight until we reached a dirt road junction. We went straight toward the river on a dirt road heading for an old house ruin that was shown in our guide book. As it turned out the house had been completely torn down.
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We followed the road a little further then turned right on a trail with nice river and wildlife views and passing two other old ruins.
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Ducks
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Nuthatch
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Northern Flicker
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Heron
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The first ruin was along the Deschutes River.
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The second was was along Fall River.
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The trail followed a short section of dirt road after the second ruin. We turned right on a nice path sticking close to Fall river only to find that we had turned too soon and the path we were on followed a ridge down to the river where it abruptly ended. We backtracked to the road, turned right and quickly found the signed trail we should have taken. We followed the trail for a little less than a mile then forked right heading for Fall River Falls.
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From the falls it was less than a half mile along the river back to our waiting car.

These were great hikes for a less than perfect weather day and both of them offered multiple distance options. The nearly level terrain and abundant wildlife also make them good hikes for kids. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658868264591

Categories
Year-end wrap up

The hikes of 2013 – A year in review.

What an amazing year of hiking it was! As we reach then end of 2013 we thought we’d make one final entry recapping the beautiful areas and unique features we were blessed enough to encounter while out on our “wanderings”. We began the year in February at the Oregon Coast, hiking at Gwynn Creek and Cape Perpetua then finished up just a couple of weeks ago, once again on the Oregon Coast at Tillamook Head, 140 miles north of where we had started. Sandwiched in between these two hikes were 40 other adventures in which we climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and scrambled cross-country to explore a small sampling of the trails of NW Oregon and SW Washington. We put together a map of the approximate location of the trailheads for each of the hikes.
2013 Trailheads
An interactive version can be viewed on mapquest using the following link.
http://mapq.st/1bQXoXo

I’ve always been interested in numbers so I have kept quite a few statistics regarding these 42 hikes. Here are some of those that I found most interesting. We visited 10 wilderness and 2 scenic areas in 8 different national forests. In addition to the national forests we hiked in 4 state parks and at a national volcanic monument. Some of the other numbers are as follows:
Total Miles (according to the Garmin) – 515.2
Cumulative Elevation Gained (approx.) – 88,000′
Minimum/Maximum Elevation – sea level/10,358′
Total Moving Time (per the Garmin) – 240hrs 36min
Total Time on the Trails (per the Garmin) – 280hrs 6min
Total Miles Driven (approx.) – 7550 miles

For the most part the weather was good. We had a warm, dry end to Winter which carried into Spring clearing many trails of snow earlier than normal. This allowed for some earlier visits to some of the higher elevation areas and also an early bloom for most of the wildflowers including the bear grass which only blooms every 2nd or 3rd year. A mild summer kept temperatures bearable and despite the dry beginning to the year the fire season wasn’t too bad. Fall brought an early snowstorm and left an early winter wonderland at mid-elevations and some unusually cold temperatures of late created some interesting ice displays.

Words can’t do justice to the beauty of God’s creation that we experienced this so year I’ll try to keep them to a minimum and attempt to let pictures show what they can.
I have to start with the Cascade Mountains. The most awe inspiring creations, these steadfast beacons that on clear days dot the horizon always seem to draw our attention.

From the rim of Crater Lake in the south to Mt. Rainier in the north they rise above the other ridges, rooted in their positions, yet ever changing in order or varying in appearance depending on what our location was. Some of the views we had were amazing.

Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Baily, & Diamond Peak from the South Sister Summit
View from the South Sister
Cascade Peaks from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood (minus the North Sister which was hidden behind the Middle) from Mt. Fuji
Waldo Lake
Mt. Washington to Mt. Hood from the Pacfic Crest Trail near Yapoah Crater
Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson & Mt. Hood
Mt. Washington to Mt. Bachelor from Three Fingered Jack
Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and The Husband
Mt. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams from Wildcat Mountain
Mr. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams from Silver Star Mountain
View from Ed' Trail

Individual peaks working from the south to the north.
Mt. Thielsen:
From Fuji Mountian
Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Peak:
From Waldo Mountain
Fuji Mountain and Diamond Peak
From Fuji Mountain
Diamond Peak

Mt. Bachelor:
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Bachelor
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Mt. Bachelor

Broken Top:
From above Moraine Lake
Broken Top and Moraine Lake
From Fuji Mountain
Broken Top and Ball Butte
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Broken Top

South Sister:
From above Moraine Lake
South Sister Climbers Trail
From Tam MacArthur Rim
South Sister
From Fuji Mountain
South Sister

Middle & North Sister
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Middle and North Sister
From Scott Meadow
North & Middle Sister and Little Brother from Scott Meadow
From the South Sister
South Sister summit view

Mt. Washington
From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Mt. Washington
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater
From Three Fingered Jack
Mt. Washington and The Husband

Three Fingered Jack:

From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Three Fingered Jack
From Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack from the upper meadow

Mt. Jefferson:
From Fuji Mountain (Dwarfing Three Fingered Jack)
Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack
From Hanks Lake
Hank's Lake
From Three Fingered Jack
Looking back down
From Bays Lake in Jefferson Park
Bays Lake in Jefferson Park

Mt. Hood:
From Barrett Spur
Mt. Hood from Barrett Spur
From Table Mountain
Mt. Hood from Table Mountain
From Elk Meadows
Mt. Hood from Elk Meadows
From Lamberson Butte
Mt. Hood
From Youcum Ridge
Mt. Hood from Yocum Ridge
From Timothy Lake
Mt. Hood from Timothy Lake

Mt. St. Helens:
Mt. St. Helens
From the Loowit Trail on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from the Loowit Trail
From Johnston Ridge
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. Adams:
From Silver Star Mountain
Paintbrush, penstemon and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier:
From Wildcat Mountain
Mt. Rainier

From the giant rock towers of the mountains we move on to the delicate meadows full of wildflowers that often times call the mountains home. We visited amazing wildflower displays near Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack but the Cascades were possibly outdone by Silver Star Mountain in Washington.
Bear Grass on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from a beargrass meadow along the Loowit Trail
Balsam Root and Paintbrush in the Ochoco National Forest
Paintbrush and balsamroot
Clearcut on Silver Star Mountain
Tarabell Trail
Meadow on Salmon Butte
An arnica in  a meadow of plectritis, larkspur and monkeyflower
Elk Meadows
Elk Meadows
Near Heather Creek on Mt. Hood
Wildflowers along the Timberline Trail at Heather Creek
Mt. Hood Meadows
Wildflowers in Mt. Hood Meadows
Lupine in Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack
On Coffin Mountain
Aster, penstemon and paintbrush
Avalanche Lilies on the Timberline Trail
Avalanche lilies
Western Pasque flowers and Paintbrush near Elk Cove
Mt. Hood from the Timberline Trail near Elk Cove
Barret Spur on Mt. Hood
Lupine and monkeyflower
Gentians in Jefferson Park
Gentians
Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitbenbush Trail
Along the South Brietenbush River in Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitenbush River
Aster on Yocum Ridge
Aster field on Yocum Ridge
On Yocum Ridge
Wildflowers along the Yocum Ridge Trail
More from Yocum Ridge
Paintbrush and aster

There weren’t many hikes where the presence of water was not felt. We encountered it in various forms and in an array of colors. There were lakes, creeks, rivers, waterfalls, springs, and the Pacific Ocean adding sights and sounds to our hikes.
Roaring Creek
Roaring Creek
McKenzie River
Mckenzie River
Tamolitch Pool
Tamolitch Pool
Russell Lake
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake
Umbrella Falls
Umbrella Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Heather Creek
Waterfall on Heather Creek
South Matthieu Lake
South Mattieu Lake
Benham Falls
Benham Falls
Carver, Camp, and the Chambers Lakes
Carver, Camp and some of the Chambers Lakes
Lewis Tarn
Lewis Tarn
Creek near Pamelia Lake
Waterfall near Pamelia Lake
Timothy Lake
Timothy Lake
Little Crater Lake
Little Crater Lake
Frozen pond near Fuji Mountain
Half frozen pond
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Ramona Falls
Ramona Falls
Pacific Ocean at Tillamook Head
View from Ecola State Park
Pacific Ocean from Cape Perpetua
Looking south from Cape Perpetua
Last but not least the most unpredictable of the sights out on the trails are the creatures that call these places home. From flying ants on Coldwater Peak to the black bear who left its tracks in the snow on Fuji Mountain we were the tourists traipsing through their neighborhoods. We spotted our first elk, snow shoe hare, and sooty grouse this year. We also had the mysterious case of “mouse rain” on Salmon Butte which you can read about here:https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/salmon-butte/
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Tide pool at Cape Kiwanda
Snail
Rough skinned newt
Snake
Tree frog
Spider along the Tam McArthur Rim Trail
Bug on Fuji Mountain
Frog
Butterflies
Zerene fritillary butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Edith's checkerspot
Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly on the way up Coldwater Peak
Hoary Comma
Hoary Comma
Clodius parnassian
Birds
Bald eagle
Seagull buffet
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Owl
Gray jay taking a bath
Duck family
Northern Flicker
Osprey
Hummingbird
Red Crossbill
Osprey flying over ducks on Timothy Lake
Hummingbird
Canada geese
Pelicans
Ducks on Wall Lake
Great Blue Heron
Little guys
Chipmunk
Pika
Douglas squirrel
Golden Mantled Squirrels
Snowshoe hare

Big Guys
Our first elk sighting. Near the Observation Peak Trailhead
Columbia Black Tailed Deer
Elk herd on the far shore of the Deschutes River
Elk
Deer near the Lower Black Butte Trailhead

We’d like to leave you with what each of us found to be their favorite hike and the most difficult. For myself Elk Meadows was my favorite. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/elk-meadows/ The variety and beauty we encountered on that hike put it atop my list. As for the most difficult I chose Silver Star Mountain https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/silver-star-mountain/ which was also in the running for my favorite. The heat on that day made it the hardest one for me.

After much deliberation Heather chose the same hike as I did her favorite, Elk Meadows; something about that day had her mesmerized as we traveled up Gnarl Ridge towards Mt. Hood. For the most difficult she picked Observation Peak due in part to having fallen shortly after we stared the hike and spraining her hand and wrist. It made for a more challenging and uncomfortable hike as she endeavored to keep her injury elevated above her heart during most of the journey. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/observation-peak/

Dominique chose Fuji Mountain for his favorite. There was snow and a great view with a reasonable amount of distance. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/fuji-mountain/ For the most difficult he picked Table Mountain and the climb up Heartbreak Ridge. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/table-mountain/

I am already hard at work putting together a 2014 itinerary which will include some overnight backpacking trips and hopefully visits to the Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Adams in Washington. If all goes as planned we will kick things off in January, take things slow until we’ve recovered from our April half or full marathons, and then be ready to crank things up in May. Until 2014 here is a link to a 2013 hikes in pictures album on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157635497870439/

Merry Christmas & Happy Trails!

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Central Deschutes River

We headed over to Central Oregon for the last part of our vacation to visit our families and get a couple more hikes in on the east side of the Cascades. Originally we had planned on combining two hikes in one day for our first hike. Tipsoo Peak in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness followed by Mount Scott on the rim of Crater Lake. We had to abandon those plans for good when the Government Shutdown closed Crater Lake so we turned to a standby hike along the Deschutes River between Trout Creek Campground and Mecca Flats.

With a trail head at each end of this 7.6 mile segment it allowed us to set up a shuttle with Deryl’s parents where they would start at Mecca Flats with Nique while we started at the Trout Creek Campground. The idea was we would do the whole trail both ways while the went from their car to ours, then we would drive them back to Mecca Flats to pick up their vehicle. With the plan set Heather and I headed to Trout Creek and set off along the Deschutes through the rivers canyon.
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The trail follows an old railroad grade along the river surrounded by the scenic canyon walls. The river cut a colorful ribbon through the sagebrush desert. We spotted a heron standing on the river bank apparently watching for small fish.

Heron
Heron
Splashes of color in the sagebrush
Splashes of color in the sagebrush

We spotted quite a few birds along the way as well as some deer making their way up the canyon side.

Pair of ducks on the river
Pair of ducks on the river

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Deer near the top of the canyon
Deer near the top of the canyon
Kingfisher near Mecca Flats
Kingfisher near Mecca Flats
Finch
Finch
Hidden heron on the rocks
Hidden heron on the rocks
Merganser
Merganser

There was also still a number of flowers in bloom along the river.
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We met Dominique and my parents on the trail earlier than we had expected. They were moving a lot faster than they thought they would be. They gave us some info on what to expect on the trail ahead including to be watching for Scorpion Rock on the Warm Springs Reservation side of the river and a waterfall on our side of the river near a small creek.

Waterfall from an irrigation pipe way in the distance
Waterfall from an irrigation pipe way in the distance
Grassy creekside
Grassy creekside
Scorpion Rock
Scorpion Rock

Heather and I eventually made it to Mecca Flats where I accused my parents of hitching a boat ride with some of the many fishermen we’d seen. It was the only explanation of how they managed to make it that far that fast ;). We turned around at Mecca Flats and headed back toward our car and my family. Along the way we noticed a scenic red tree growing in the midst of a rock slide and several rock climbers high on the canyon cliffs.

The view from Mecca Flats
The view from Mecca Flats
Red tree
Red tree
Rock climbers on the canyon cliffs
Rock climbers on the canyon cliffs

It was a nice relaxing hike and a good time of year for it since the area is known for rattlesnakes in warmer weather. It was also nice to do a hike in the sagebrush landscape of Central Oregon. Ironically enough we were almost due east of our previous hike on the Red Lake Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest and less than 50 miles as the crow flies. What a difference location and elevation makes. Happy Trails!

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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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