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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Eagle Creek to 7 1/2 Mile Camp – 11/19/2022

I took advantage of some favorable weather and headed to Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge for a pre-birthday hike. I was on my own again with Heather still working her way back from her injury (Good news she has been released to do some short hikes), so I was looking for something we’d done before but also wouldn’t be a total repeat. We’ve visited Eagle Creek twice in the past, both prior to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire but never gone past Twister Falls so my plan was to continue on beyond that waterfall to at least Sevenmile Falls.

I left home at 5:30am and found myself being pushed around by the wind as I drove Interstate 84 along the Columbia River. Luckily the wind was calm at the Eagle Creek Trailhead where it was right around 30 degrees. I bundled up and set off on the trail past a burned area warning sign.
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Despite the fire the scenery was good. I had to pay attention to my footing though due to areas of slick ice mixed in the wet portions of the trail.
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IMG_4431It was hard to tell at times which parts were frozen.

IMG_4433Snow at the higher elevations.

IMG_4438A pink cloud in the direction of the Columbia River Gorge.

Near the 1.5-mile mark I found the first major difference post fire, a view of Sorenson Falls which had been hidden by trees and other vegetation on our previous visits.
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IMG_4449Sorenson Falls splashing down into Eagle Creek.

Prior to December 2016 there had been a short spur trail just up the trail from this new view of Sorenson Falls that led to a viewpoint of Metlako Falls. A landslide claimed that spur trail but as I continued along the trail Metlako Falls became visible through the remaining trees.
IMG_4454Looking back down Eagle Creek. It was hard to tell where the spur trail had been.

IMG_4456Runoff falling from the cliffs into Eagle Creek.

IMG_4457Metlako Falls

IMG_4459Metlako Falls

I crossed Sorenson Creek on round concrete steps that were fortunately ice free and quickly found myself at the Lower Punchbowl Falls Trail junction.
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I detoured down this nearly 0.2-mile spur trail even though I knew that the former view of Punchbowl Falls was lost in 2018 after a post-fire landslide rerouted Eagle Creek.
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IMG_4470Lower Punchbowl Falls

IMG_4472Rocks from the landslide on the right.

I returned to the Eagle Creek Trail and continued to the Punchbowl Falls viewpoint to get a look at that fall.
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Beyond the viewpoint the trail crosses Tish Creek on a footbridge followed by a second footbridge over Fern Creek after another 0.6 miles.
IMG_4487Tish Creek Bridge

IMG_4490Tish Creek

IMG_4496More snow on the ridge.

IMG_4498Fern Creek Bridge

IMG_4502Fern Creek

After Fern Creek the trail passed through a scree slope where I kept my eyes open for pikas hoping that one might brave the chilly temperatures but alas no luck.
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Following the pika-less scree slope I came to a section of trail where a cable acts as a rail as the trail passes along a rocky cliff. This was the first section where I encountered actual icicles.
IMG_4506Coming up on the cable section with a bit of ice to start things off.

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IMG_4509Careful where you step.

IMG_4512The last part was ice free.

Continuing on the trail brought me to a view of Loowit Falls. This was another case of the fire having created a better view of Eagle Creek below the falls.
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IMG_4521Passing Loowit Falls.

IMG_4529More cable passing Loowit Falls with High Bridge in
the distance.

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At the 3.3-mile mark I came to High Bridge.
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IMG_4538Eagle Creek from High Bridge.

IMG_4541Eagle Creek from High Bridge, looking upstream.

Less than a quarter mile from High Bridge I came to another dramatic change in the trail when I got a good view of Skoonichuck Falls. Previously only the upper portion of this 50′ waterfall was visible from the trail above it but again the fire had removed enough vegetation to provide a nice view of the waterfall.
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IMG_4550Skoonichuck Falls

I was briefly distracted by a varied thrush (my nemesis bird).
IMG_4556Not my worst varied thrush photo.

IMG_4558Another nice view of Skoonichuck after I’d given up on the thrush.

IMG_4559Sad looking penstemon but I’m counting it as a flower.

IMG_4566Some nearly as sad pearly everlasting.

IMG_4569This fall was visible across the creek on an unnamed creek (at least on the maps I’ve seen).

At 4 1/2 Mile Bridge I recrossed Eagle Creek.
IMG_4574I arrived at nearly the same time as the Sun.

IMG_4575Beach and Summer swimming hole at 4 1/2-mile bridge.

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Just beyond the bridge is Tenas Falls on the other side of Eagle Creek.
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IMG_4582Tenas Falls

A little further along the trail passes Opal Creek which begins below Tanner Butte.
IMG_4586Opal Creek flowing into Eagle Creek.

I continued along the trail chasing the Sun past Wy’East Camp and to the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness boundary.
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IMG_4599The sites on the East side of the trail were posted closed for restoration at Wy’East Camp.

IMG_4603The wilderness begins a little over 5.5 miles from the trailhead.

IMG_4606A bluebird sky above a few green topped trees.

Next up was Wy’East Falls which was more visible than before as well from the trail. I opted not to attempt to get closer to the falls this time due to not being able to pick out the route we had taken on our previous visits.
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I continued on from Wy’East Falls enjoying the wonderful weather.
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IMG_4627Near the six-mile mark I passed the signed Eagle-Benson Trail which hasn’t been maintained since the fire, in fact the sign was the only sign of a trail here.

IMG_4632Sunrays over Eagle Creek.

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At the 6.5-mile mark I got a good look at Grand Union Falls.
IMG_4640Note the hexagonal shape of the basalt columns making up the trail surface here.

IMG_4644Grand Union Falls

Not far past Grand Union Falls I got my first glimpse of Tunnel Falls in the distance through the trees.
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The falls disappear as the trail gets closer then after rounding a corner they are back.
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IMG_4657Tunnel Falls on East Fork Eagle Creek.

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The trail passes behind the falls in a tunnel built in the early 1900’s (pre-1920).
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IMG_4664I had brought my micro spikes just in case, but even though there were some impressive ice features there was enough good footing (and cable) to not require putting the spikes on.

IMG_4667The slickest section was exiting the tunnel here.

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With the ice situation being manageable I continued on beyond Tunnel Falls to Twister (or Crossover) Falls just a short distance upstream on West Fork Eagle Creek.
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IMG_4680No ice on this section which was welcome because it can be intimidating anyway.

IMG_4685Twister Falls. There is another hiker ahead on the left.

The section passing Twister Falls was the one that I had been most concerned about ice on. I assessed the situation and decided that with care it was passable and continued on.
IMG_4692This was the trickiest section but again there was just enough good footing to allow passing without need spikes.

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I soon found myself looking at another waterfall which turned out to be Sevenmile Falls. I had been mistakenly thinking that it was 7 1/2 Mile Falls confusing it with 7 1/2 Mile Camp.
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I continued on thinking that this must have been the waterfall but confused because 7 1/2 Mile Camp was still a half mile away. I decided to keep going until 10:45am or I found another waterfall, whichever came first. At this point the trail maintenance, which had been excellent up to a small slide between Tunnel and Twister Falls, really fell off.
IMG_4705A bit more overgrown here.

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IMG_4709Hair ice, only the second time I’ve encountered it.

IMG_4710I stopped at this campsite which some maps show as 7 1/2 Mile Camp, but I pulled out my National Geographic topo which showed the camp a little further ahead near a pair of small creeks. I think both are correct and this was just the first of the sites that make up the “camp”.

IMG_4711Eagle Creek near the first campsite.

It was only 10:15am so I kept going, now thinking that I would either turn around at 10:45 or at the Eagle-Tanner Cutoff Trail junction which didn’t appear too far beyond the pair of creeks.
IMG_4718More campsites near the first creek.

IMG_4722The first small creek. This one was a lot icier than any of the other creeks I’d crossed. I was able to find enough dry rock to make my way to the other side though.

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IMG_4729Looking back at the creek.

The next creek was a different story though. There were no dry rocks here.
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It was almost 10:40am anyway and I was now sure that the earlier waterfall had been what I was calling 7 1/2 Mile Falls where I’d intended to turn around anyway. I made my way back stopping to admire all the falls again along the way.
IMG_4725This cascade was across Eagle Creek near the last campsites.

IMG_4734Woodpecker

IMG_4748Green pool above Twister Falls.

IMG_4758Above Twister Falls.

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IMG_4808Plant in ice.

IMG_4818Wren

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IMG_4868Chipmunk

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With a couple of detours my hike came in at approximately 16.2 miles with 1400′ of elevation gain.

It was a great day overall. The weather, although a bit chilly to start, was great and there weren’t a lot of other hikers out. I still passed a fair number of other hikers on my way out but nothing like it would be on a warm Spring or Summer Saturday. The falls had enough added water from recent rain/snow to be flowing better than they had been when we visited in early October which was also a plus. I missed having Heather out there with me, but it was nice to get out one last time before I turned 50 (yikes!). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Eagle Creek 2022

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Wahtum Lake with Indian, Chindrie, and Tomlike Mountains – 10/27/2019

After a false start we closed out our 2019 hiking season with a bang on a 16.7 mile jaunt to three peaks near Wahtum Lake. We set off on Saturday morning for this hike but only made it 16 miles from our house where we wound up stuck on Interstate 5 for more than three hours due to an unfortunate accident that resulted in a fatality. By the time we were able to proceed it was too late for our liking so we took a mulligan and tried again the next morning.

Our next attempt went better and we arrived at the trailhead at the Wahtum Lake Campground just before dawn. A loan car was parked at the trailhead with just a bit of fresh snow on it from the night before. (We would find out later that he had spent the night at Mud Lake.)
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After some deliberation regarding our planned route we settled on the following. We would hike down to the lake then go southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail to the Indian Mountain Trial and take it up to the summit of Indian Mountain. Then we would return to Wahtum Lake on the PCT and follow the Chindrie Cutoff Trail around the southern end of the lake and climb up to the PCT near the Chindrie Mountain Trail (This part of the plan wound up being changed but more on that later) and hike up to that summit as well. After tagging Chindrie the plan was to return to the PCT and go southbound once again to the Herman Creek Trail following it to the unofficial trail to the summit of Tomlike Mountain. Finally after returning to the Herman Creek Trail from Tomlike Mountain we would backtrack a few hundred feet to the Anthill Trail which would lead us back to the Wahtum Lake Campground.

From the campground we took the Wahtum Express Trail down a series of slick looking steps entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness along the way.
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After dropping a little over 200′ in .2 miles we arrived at the PCT as it curved around Wahtum Lake.
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Before turning left (south) on the PCT we went down to the lake shore. It was a little under 30 degrees and a crisp breeze was making it feel even colder so we didn’t linger but between a small island and a section of snow flocked trees to the north it was a nice scene. Chindrie Mountain was visible across the lake to the SW.
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IMG_1381Chindrie Mountain from across Wahtum Lake.

We set off on the PCT passing a couple of additional nice views of the lake before arriving at a trail junction at the lakes southern end.
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At the junction we noticed a closure sign for the Eagle Creek Fire closure area over the signs for our planned route to Chindrie Mountain.
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I admittedly hadn’t checked the Forest Service closure map in a while but it had been my understanding that the Eagle Creek Trail was closed at the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail but I had expected this trail to be open. Being uncertain we altered our plans and decided to follow the PCT all the way around the northern end of Wahtum Lake on our way between Indian and Chindrie Mountains. According the mileage shown on our map that would and approximately three quarters of a mile to our day. Further research would confirm that it was indeed only the Eagle Creek Trail that was closed which was just over a tenth of a mile further along the Chindrie Cutoff Trail (it would have been nice if the sign had been clear about that).

We continued south on the PCT gradually gaining over 400′ as we contoured along the side of Waucoma Ridge before arriving at the old Indian Springs Campground a little under 3 miles later. Along this stretch we had some additional views of Chindrie Mountain as well as Tanner Butte and Washington’s Table Mountain (post).
IMG_1395Chindrie Mountain

IMG_1399Tanner Butte

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IMG_1404Table Mountain

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IMG_1413Chindrie Mountain again.

We also got our first look at Indian Mountain and Mt. Hood .6 miles from Indian Springs after leaving the wilderness and popping out of the forest alongside Forest Road 660.
IMG_1416Indian Mountain

IMG_1418Mt. Hood

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The presence of ice formations and a bit of snow here and there made the scenery even better.
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IMG_1435Crossing FR 660 near Indian Springs

IMG_1436Trail sign at the junction with the currently closed Indian Springs Trail.

We continued south on the PCT for another third of a mile crossing a small stream before climbing up and around a treeless ridge where a frigid wind was steadily blowing.
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The view from the ridge was spectacular. To the north the snow covered peaks in Washington were visible beyond Chindrie Mountain and to the south was our goal, the 4892′ Indian Mountain.
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As the PCT rounded the ridge we came to the junction with the Indian Mountain Trail.
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The wind was pushing us around a bit as we turned up the Indian Mountain Trail. As this trail climbed the open ridge the views just got better eventually leading to a decent view of Goat Rocks (post) between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_1476Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak with Mt. St. Helens in the background.

IMG_1491Mt. St. Helens

IMG_1490Mt. Rainier

IMG_1488Goat Rocks

IMG_1477Mt. Adams and Chindrie Mountain

The trail finally went back into the trees which gave us some relief from the biting wind.
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After passing remains of the former lookout (and bathroom) the trail climbed to the rocky summit a mile from the PCT.
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Given the time of day and year the Sun wasn’t in the greatest spot for pictures but the view of Mt. Hood was great and there was also a decent view further south to Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_1499Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1503Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1514Mt. Hood from the former lookout site.

IMG_1512Mt. Hood with Lost Lake Butte (post) in front.

The snow and cold weather added some nice touches to the scenery here as well.
IMG_1508Snow on the north side, green on the south.

IMG_1524Mt. St. Helens with some snow on the trees in the foreground.

IMG_1528Crystals on a bush.

We headed back the way we’d come and arrived back at the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail where we paused to see if we could find any indication that that trail was indeed open. With no confirmation in sight we erred on the side of caution and stuck to the PCT which began a gradual climb up and away from the lake beyond the Wahtum Express Trail.
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We gained another 400 plus feet over the next 1.6 miles before arriving at a junction with the Herman Creek Trail.
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IMG_1580Stream crossing

IMG_1581Herman Creek Trail junction.

We stuck to the PCT and promptly passed the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail. At this end there was no closure sign signifying that we could indeed have taken the trail up from Wahtum Lake savings us about .7 miles (but at a “steeper” price).
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Another 100 yards on the PCT brought us to a fork where the Chindrie Mountain Trail headed uphill to the right.
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This .4 mile trail was the steepest we were on during the hike as it gained approximately 400′ on the way to the rocky viewpoint atop the mountain.
IMG_1590Looking at the summit from the trail.

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IMG_1596Mt. Hood

The 360 degree view included Wahtum Lake to the east below.
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The view south included Mt. Hood and Indian Mountain (and some Sun glare).
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Tanner Butte rose above the fire scarred Eagle Creek Valley to the west.
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The best view, given the position of the Sun, was to the north where the Washington Cascades lined the horizon.
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There was also a good view of the rock spine of Tomlike Mountain in front of Mt. Adams.
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From the angle it looked like a pretty gradual ascent. It was a little breezy at the summit so we didn’t linger long because the wind was making it cold. We returned to the PCT and then to the Herman Creek Trail junction where we set off on that trail.
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We had been on the lower end of the Herman Creek Trail before (post) but not this end. Here the trail climbed gradually through an open forest with with lots of beargrass.
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After a quarter mile we passed the Rainy/Wahtum Trail.
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IMG_1645Lots of beargrass clumps.

About a mile from the PCT we passed another junction, this time with the Anthill Trail which we would be taking back to Wahtum Lake later.
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Just under a tenth of a mile later the Herman Creek Trail made a hairpin turn before beginning a steep descent to Mud Lake. Here the unofficial trail to Tomlike Mountain headed out along the ridge to the left. A yellow “temporary” Forest Service sign at the junction identified only the Herman Creek Trail.
IMG_1649Trail to Tomlike on the left.

The trail began in the trees before skirting some cliffs above Mud Lake.
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The trees began to give way allowing for a view ahead to Tomlike Mountain which from this angle looked like it might be a bit steeper of a climb than it had from Chindrie.
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The other thing we noticed was that it looked further than the mile that the map showed between the summit and Herman Creek Trail. Sometimes it seems like it’s better not to be able to see your goal.
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Much of the path was faint with occasional cairns or flagging marking the way. The rocky terrain was somewhat challenging given that we had, by this point, covered over 12 miles already.
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IMG_1671There’s at least one cairn here.

The higher we climbed along the ridge the more of Mt. Hood that was visible behind us.
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After climbing up a pile of larger rocks the trail entered a patch of small trees which we found to be a fun little section.
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The trail emerged from the little trees for the final time as it climbed to the rocky summit.
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IMG_1679Mt. Adams to the right.

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IMG_1683Mt. Hood with Indian Mountain rising up behind Chindrie Mountain to the right.

IMG_1693Heather crossing the ridge below the summit.

The trail continued for a bit beyond the summit although it didn’t provide any real different views.
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IMG_1700Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams from left to right.

IMG_1706Mt. St. Helens

IMG_1705Mt. Rainier

IMG_1703Goat Rocks

IMG_1701Mt. Adams

We left Tomlike Mountain and returned to to the Herman Creek Trail and then walked back to the Anthill Trial junction and turned up that trail for a final 1.9 miles back to Wahtum Lake.
IMG_1720Anthill Trail on the left.

The Anthill Trail climbed for a half a mile to an old road bed which ran between Wahtum and Rainy Lakes.
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We crossed the road and continued to climb gradually to a saddle where we crosed over a ridge and began a descent which included views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and Wahtum Lake.
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IMG_1744Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1751Wahtum Lake and Chindrie Mountain

The descent was gradual until the final quarter mile or so where it steepend before arriving at the campground.
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It was a great way to end our hiking season with a little snow on the ground and a lot of blue sky above. The persistent wind was a little chilly, but we had dressed appropriately so it wasn’t too much of an issue (my fingers weren’t pleased about having to come out so often for pictures). We plan on getting out a couple more times this year but it’s time to back off a bit and relish in the memories of some great hikes this past year. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wahtum Lake with Indian, Chindrie, and Tomlike Mountains