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Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Hanging Rock -Panther Ridge Trail

The second day of vacation we left Gold Beach and headed toward Agness of Jerry’s Flat Road aka NF-33. Our plan for the day was to visit Hanging Rock in the Wild Rogue Wilderness and to revisit Elk Creek Falls to retake the pictures we’d lost when I threw the camera into the Coquille River the day before. When we drove past the Coquille River Falls Trailhead on our way out Road 3348 I gave one last goodbye to the camera.

We began our hike at the Buck Point Trailhead.

The trail climbed for a mile around Buck Point to a spring at the head of Buck Creek.
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Early spring flowers included fairy slippers, fawn lilies and trillium.
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Just over half a mile from the spring the unsigned Hanging Rock Trail split off to the left. We were planning on continuing along the Panther Ridge Trail to make it a longer hike than the 4 mile round trip out to Hanging Rock and back so we decided to save the side trip until later when the sun would be more overhead and not interfering with the view east from the rock. The Panther Ridge Trail followed the rim of Panther Ridge up and down through a variety of scenery.
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Approximately 2.7 miles north of the Hanging Rock Trail we reached the signed cutoff for Panther Camp.
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We continued on passing through a beargrass meadow and a dry section of trail lined with manzanita.
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Two miles from Panther Camp we came to a junction with the Clay Hill Trail which led down into the Rogue River Valley.
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Our guidebook indicated that another .9 miles would bring us to the rentable Bald Knob Lookout so we kept going.

After about a mile we arrived at a grassy turnaround at the end of an abandoned road. There was no lookout to be seen but the trail continued north below a small hill along the ridge. We kept following the trail for another mile and a half where we came to another abandoned road bed. The Garmin showed this road heading up to the top of the hill we’d just skirted around so we followed it up to the top where there was no lookout and just a minimal view to the west.

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While we took a break I did some looking at the map on the Garmin and decided that the actual lookout was likely still to the north but we’d already gone further than we’d planned and were still confused by the description in the guidebook. We returned the way we’d come checking around the grassy turnaround to see if we’d somehow missed the lookout.

On the way back the views to the east had improved and now we were able to make out a snowy Mt. McLoughlin on the horizon.
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We turned onto the .4 mile trail out to Hanging Rock which still had some lingering snow of its own.
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It was quite windy on the exposed rocks but the views were good with Hanging Rock towering over the Rogue River Valley.
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Having slipped on the wet rocks the day before I chose not to make my way out onto Hanging Rock itself although it is possible.
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After a nice long break we returned to our car stopping at Elk Creek Falls before returning to Gold Beach. We hadn’t seen much in the way of wildlife on the hike but on the drive back we spotted a couple of deer and a young black bear along Jerry’s Flat Road. A check of the Garmin back at the motel showed we’d gone 19.5 miles on the day, nearly 5 miles more than we’d planned. We were also able to determine that the Bald Knob Lookout had been another 1.5 miles north of the road we took up the hill where we turned around. It was a good example of what can happen when you don’t take the time to fully research your hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Panther Ridge Trail