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Hiking Oakridge Area Oregon Trip report

South Willamette Trail

A dry forecast and a day off for Presidents Day seemed like a perfect excuse to get our February hike in.  For this outing we’d picked the South Willamette Trail. This was yet another trail we had yet to hike and this seemed like a good time of the year to do so because the trail lacks any highlights or views that would be impacted by inclement weather.

The South Willamette Trail is basically a five mile long connector trail between the Hardesty Trailhead and the Eula Ridge Trailhead. We began our hike at the Hardesty Trailhead which had also been the starting point for our Goodman Creek hike (post).

A single trail leaves the trailhead to the left of a large signboard.
Hardesty Trailhead

The trail is actually the Hardesty Trail which gains over 3000′ in five miles to the old lookout site atop Hardesty Mountain. Unless you’re looking for a training hike the old lookout site is now view less. For a slightly shorter and more scenic hike to that location start at the Mount June Trailhead instead as we did in 2013 (post).

Back to our current hike now. We followed the Hardesty Trail for .2 miles to the Goodman Creek Trail junction.
Hardesty Trail

Junction with the Goodman Creek Trail

We stayed left continuing on the Hardesty Trail for another four tenths of a mile to the start of the South Willamette Trail.
Hardesty Trail

Hardesty Trail junction with the South Willamette Trail

We stayed left again leaving the wider tread of the Hardesty Trail behind for the narrower but not overgrown South Willamette Trail.
South Willamette Trail

This trail runs parallel to Highway 58 but due to the presence of some private land holdings it bends back away from the highway which kept the noise down for much of the hike. There are not any views to speak of along the trail and although it crossed several creeks there are no waterfalls either. The trail simply passes through some different types of forest on its way from one end to the other. A half mile from the Hardesty Trail a nice footbridge brought us over an unnamed seasonal creek.
South Willamette Trail

A half mile later we were crossing another unnamed creek.
South Willamette Trail

This was followed by a footbridge over Crale Creek just a tenth of a mile later and a log crossing of another stream just beyond that.
South Willamette Trail

Crossing Crale Creek

The trail then made a slight climb to cross Crale Creek Road.
South Willamette Trail crossing Crale Creek Road

The trail climbed steadily for the next 1.75 miles gaining approximately 400′ to reach its high point at an elevation just over 1400′. There was just a little left over snow scattered about along the way.
A bit of snow along the South Willamette Trail

The Sun was shining overhead as we began to descend to a footbridge over Harper Creek.
Sun behind trees in the Willamette National Forest

Footbridge over Harper Creek

From there we climbed up and around a ridge gaining 280′ in half a mile before dropping again, this time to a bridge less crossing of North Creek.
North Creek

There was just enough water to prevent a dry rock hop across the creek and a pair of logs downstream were too slick and angled to be worth risking so we decided to make North Creek our impromptu turn around. We were only about a tenth of a mile from the Eula Ridge Trailhead so we had covered most of the trail and I had especially been struggling all morning.

We returned the way we’d come listening to the birds and watching for the small purple blossoms of snow queen.
WrenWren signing along the trail

Snow queen

I had had a sore throat when I’d woken up and by the time we made it back to the car I was chilled. I spent the rest of the day and the next in bed ill which actually made me feel a little better about having struggled so much on a 10.8 mile 1600′ elevation gain hike.

The South Willamette Trail is definitely not a big reward hike, there are no views to speak of and aside from the few small creeks no real attractions along the way other than a nice green forest. That being said it was a good moderate winter hike and it’s open all year save for the worst storms. Happy Trails!

Flickr: South Willamette Trail

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Lawler Trail to Patterson Mountain

For our first hike in May we headed east of Eugene, OR on Highway 58 to the Lawler Trail. The 5.5 mile trail gains over 2700′ to the Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trail. Our plan was to start at the Lawler Trailhead.

The forest service website mentioned a slide about .75 miles from the trailhead and that turning around was difficult for passenger cars so we were expecting some interesting driving conditions. We turned off of Highway 58 onto Patterson Mountain Road (Forest Service Road 5840) and then left onto FS Road 531 after a short climb uphill. Not long after turning onto this road we passed a trail and hiker sign on the right. As we passed a second signed trail just east of Duval Creek, there was also space for a couple of vehicles. These were part of the Lawler Extension Trail that extends between the Lawler Trailhead and the Eula Ridge Trailhead. None of these possible starting points were options for us since they would have required over 20 miles of hiking (nearly 25 round trip from the Eula Ridge TH).

Just beyond the trail at Duval Creek we came upon a small tree across Road 531. We carry a small saw and ax with us just in case we need to do some clearing and I thought I was finally going to get to us them, but it turned out that the tree was not stuck in the ground and it was small enough that I was able to drag it off to the side so we could continue. After a little over 2 miles on Road 531 we veered uphill to the right on Road 535. This was the road with the slide and it was narrow. We were driving slowly looking for the slide when we arrived at a small turnaround and a hiker sign.IMG_2845

We still aren’t sure if the slide had been cleared or if the note about the slide was old and this spot was actually the site of it. It clearly wasn’t the original trailhead because we had to walk up the old road bed to reach the start of the actual trail. We came upon some wood that had been laid across the road marking the location of the Lawler Extension Trail coming up from below.IMG_2848

Instead of being .75 miles from the trailhead we arrived at then end of the old road bed and the start of the trail in just over .25 miles.IMG_2852

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We turned onto the trail which quickly began to climb into the forest.IMG_2855

A first series of switchbacks passed beneath some large rock outcroppings.IMG_2864

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After getting past the rocks the trail swung back around climbing above them to another series of switchbacks. Along the way the forest was dotted with white trillium.IMG_2875

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We also spotted a green frog.IMG_2884

After approximately 1.75 miles we gained a ridge. Soon we came to a grassy viewpoint amid manzanita bushes and fawn lilies.IMG_2895

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The trail followed the ridge through shifting forests and past more early wildflowers.IMG_2904

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A quarter mile from the viewpoint the trail dropped to a saddle before climbing back up to another viewpoint .7 miles from the first. The view from the previous viewpoint was to the NE while this one looked west.IMG_2932

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Patterson Mountain in the upper left hand corner and Hardesty Mountain on the right.

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Lookout Point Reservoir

There was a nice madrone tree at the western end of the grassy opening.IMG_2941

After taking in the view we continued along the ridge passing a cool rock pinnacle.IMG_2943

Beyond the pinnacle the trail dropped to another saddle and the first of three road crossings.IMG_2951

Road 213 was clearly no longer in use but there was a nice red flowering current at the junction.IMG_2952

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The Lawler Trail climbed from the saddle into a small section of forest that had experienced a burn at some point. It was either a small forest fire or possibly from a burnout operation during the Deception Fire of 2014.IMG_2956

Beyond the burn area we began to encounter some minor blowdown which was all manageable.IMG_2960

An eighth of a mile after crossing Road 213 we arrived at another decommissioned road, FS 542.IMG_2961

Another .3 miles of climbing brought us to the third road crossing, FS 543, which appeared to still be in use.IMG_2968

Between these two crossing we passed one of the oddest looking trees we’ve seen. As we approached it looked as if its trunk was shaped in a loop.IMG_2965

Looking at if from the other side showed that it wasn’t quite a loop but it had grown in some interesting directions.IMG_2964

The trail continued climbing beyond FS 543 and we began running into small patches of snow and more blowdown.

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A little over a half mile beyond the road we gained another ridge and headed up it. The ridge provided some views of several Cascade snow peaks.IMG_3000

North & Middle Sister

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South Sister

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Broken Top

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Mt. Bachelor

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Diamond Peak

We continued along the ridge which became broader, more forested, and snowy to the signed junction of the Lawler and Lone Wolf/Patterson Mountain Trails.IMG_3010

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We turned right at the junction passing between a large snow patch and the skunk cabbage filled southern end of the Lone Wolf Meadow.IMG_3019

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This trail took us along the Lone Wolf Meadow for half a mile to another junction. The hellebore was just beginning to come up in the meadow which was apparently full of frogs. We never saw any but boy could we hear them.IMG_3027

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At the junction we turned right to visit the Lone Wolf Shelter.IMG_3032

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We took a break at the shelter listening to the chorus of frogs mix with the sounds of stream flowing from the meadow and the various birds calling from the trees.IMG_3044

After our relaxing rest at the shelter we continued on toward the summit of Patterson Mountain. The trail passed above another meadow that was full of more yellow skunk cabbage.IMG_3048

After passing the forested summit of Patterson Mountain the trail dropped slightly to a saddle with a small meadow.IMG_3057

Here a few yellow glacier lilies mixed with purple snow queen and some small white flowers.IMG_3062

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A final quarter mile of hiking brought us to the end of the trail and a bench at a rocky viewpoint.IMG_3065

From here views extended west past Hardesty Mountain and Lookout Point Reservoir to the Willamette Valley.IMG_3081

The Three Sisters and Broken Top could be seen to the NE.IMG_3070

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We sat on the bench for a bit. The only sounds were of the occasional bird and it was wonderfully peaceful. We pulled ourselves away at 11:45 and started back. We had only seen a couple of mountain bikers up to that point but as we made our way back to the shelter we began to see a few more people. We passed a couple of families who had started from the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead which allowed for a kid friendly 5 mile round trip to the bench viewpoint.

Once we were back on the Lawler Trail we passed some equestrians on their way up and were passed by a handful of mountain bikers on their way down. Some of the wildflowers had opened up as the day moved on adding some sights to the decent that we had not seen earlier.20180505_114836

Toothwort

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Sour grass

The insects were a little more active as well.IMG_3120

As we were finishing our hike along the old road bed I spotted a little garter snake curled up by the trail.IMG_3138

We were still the only car parked on Road 535 which was good because we had been slightly concerned about getting penned in if more people parked there. As we drove out it appeared that the equestrians had parked at Duval Creek and the Mountain Bikers had likely either parked at the Eula or Hardesty Trailheads.

The hike was on the longer side coming in a little over 16 miles and had a cumulative elevation gain over 3000′ putting it squarely in the difficult category, but it had been worth the effort. The various viewpoints helped provide breaks along the way and in the end we encountered less than 20 other people. While the shorter option of starting at the Lone Wolf/Patterson Trailhead is surely the choice of most hikers this longer option would be a great training hike for those seeking one. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Patterson Mountain

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Goodman Creek to Eagles Rest

500 miles! Heather and I reached that hiking milestone for 2013 this past weekend. We hadn’t started out with that accomplishment in mind but as the year progressed added hikes and added distances (What’s down that trail?) made it a reachable goal. It’s amazing to us to think that all that hiking isn’t even 1/5 of what it would take to complete the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Even so it was a nice feeling to hit that mark before the year was over.

On to the hike that put us over the top. We headed back down to the Eugene area for another creek hike. We had hiked both Larison and Fall Creek in the same area back in March, and this time we had our sights set on Goodman Creek in the Willamette National Forest. This trail offered a chance to climb up Eagles Rest to a viewpoint overlooking the Lost Creek Valley. We woke up to some pretty heavy morning fog and weren’t sure what we would find at the trail head, but shortly after leaving Eugene on Highway 58 we rose above the fog to a nice bright morning. The Goodman Creek Trail actually starts on the Hardesty Mountain Trail near milepost 21 on Hwy 58.

The trail set off in an old growth forest full of moss and mushrooms and soon split with the left fork heading up to Hardesty Mt. and the right fork to Goodman Creek.

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The trail slowly climbed at a distance from Goodman Creek for 2 miles where a small creek joined the main branch of Goodman Creek. Just before the confluence there was a side trail at the back of a campsite leading down to the small creek and a pair of scenic small falls.

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After visiting the falls we crossed Goodman Creek on a log footbridge and continued another 2.2 miles to another trail head on Goodman Creek Rd.

Goodman Creek Crossing
Goodman Creek Crossing
Trail leading to a log crossing on a branch of Goodman Creek
Trail leading to a log crossing on a branch of Goodman Creek

From the road the trail then continued to climb through the forest to the Ash Swale Shelter. We saw several rough skinned newts in this section. The shelter was in good shape and offered a nice spot to sit and have a bite to eat.

Approaching the shelter
Approaching the shelter
View from the Ash Swale Shelter
View from the Ash Swale Shelter

From the shelter it was another mile to the former lookout site atop Eagles Rest. The trail crossed paved Eagles Rest Road just .3mi from the shelter. The forest changed dramatically after crossing the road. Until then the forest had been damp and full of moss, ferns, and various mushrooms and fungus. On this side of the road the forest was much drier and the undergrowth more sparse. Sunlight began filtering through the trees and soon we reached a viewpoint overlooking the Lost Creek Valley.

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We continued up the trail to the better viewpoint atop Eagles Rest. Here we could see Hardesty Mountain and Mount June to the east (A hike we had done at the beginning of June). To the west the valley still appeared to be fogged in. There were several burns taking place in what looked to be clear cut areas in the valley leaving a bit of a haze but it remained a decent view.

Hardesty Mountain and Mount June (from left to right)
Hardesty Mountain and Mount June (from left to right)
Valley clouds
Valley clouds
Lost Creek Valley
Lost Creek Valley

We hadn’t seen any people all day and the forest had been full of peace and quiet up until the target shooting began down in the valley. With that we decided it was time to head back down the trail and make our back to the car. The forest had brightened as the Sun passed overhead making the forest colors even more striking.

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The trail was in good condition and well used although we didn’t run into very many people until the final two miles. Given it’s low elevation (starting @ 1000′ and topping out @ 3024′) and easy trail head access this hike is an option much of the year making it a good choice for late fall or early spring.

Our other goal for the year was to do at least one hike a month (January was lost due to our passing the flu around) so we’re hoping to get out at least once more this year. Until then Happy Trails.

Facbook Photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202612354697245.1073741864.1448521051&type=3
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157637535657125/

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Mount June

Ah the elusive view. One of my favorite rewards on a hike is reaching that spot where the view simply takes your breath away. It could be the sudden appearance of a giant snow covered mountain that looks so close that you could reach out and touch it or a wildflower meadow that seems to have been painted by the Creator himself or a panoramic view that is so immense that you can barely take it all in. We’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty of places to hike where these types of views are possible. Possible but not guaranteed. We were reminded of that once again on our recent hike up Mount June.

There are a number of things that can end your chances to have the view you had hoped for. Hazy skies, forest fires, fog and clouds can all conspire against you. Unfortunately it was fog and clouds that proved our nemesis on Mount June. We had heard that the area is known for it’s fog but had also heard that often the rocky summit of Mount June rises above it to offer a view of a string of Cascade peaks. The forecast had called for a partly cloudy/mostly sunny morning with clear skies starting around 1:00pm.

We were the first to arrive at the trail head on this morning and were immediately struck by the darkness of the forest as soon as we stepped on the trail. Within a short distance we entered the fog which we had heard about.
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We noticed a number of the same Spring flowers we had seen over a month earlier at lower elevations blooming here now. Trillium, sourgrass, and wood violets add color to the forest along with a good number of fawn lilies. Once again we were too early for the rhododendron & beargrass displays even though these were in bloom along the road at the trail head.

It appeared to be raining most of the time we were in the forest but upon reaching a series of meadows near Sawtooth rock we realized it was not in fact raining. The fog was so damp that the condensation was falling from the trees creating the rainy affect. The meadows here were filled with wildflowers glistening with water droplets. The foggy conditions meant no views and even made it hard to make out large Sawtooth rock at the far end of the meadows. We skipped a short side trail to it’s base hoping that on our way back the skies might be clearer.

We continued on the Sawtooth trail toward Hardesty Mountain. Our plan was to make a short loop on it’s summit and visit the sight of a former lookout tower. As we reached our furthest point a hint of blue sky seemed to be just a little further to the North just out of our reach. We had a snack at the former lookout site and then completed the loop and headed back hoping that blue sky might be waiting for us on Mount June.

This time we took the trail to the base of Sawtooth rock where the conditions were slightly improved. Many birds were now flying around the meadows and we spotted one with some bright yellow coloring. It turned out to be a yellow-rumped warbler.
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The fog had lifted some and there was even a short lived opening giving us a view of the forest below, but Mount June was still hidden in the clouds.

We took the .5 mile climb to Mount June’s rocky summit which was for some reason particularly tough on this day. I don’t know if it was due to it being toward the end of the hike or the cumulative effect of a week of hiking but it was a trudge. Much to our disappointment the we found the same clouds and fog on the summit as we had been in all day. We decided to have some lunch and hope that the sunny skies that had been forecast would materialize since it was just now 1:00pm. The clouds kept rolling past us and all we managed were a couple of very short glimpses of Mt. Bailey and the ghostly outline of Mt. Thielsen to the SE.
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The view had eluded us once again, simply teasing us with a small brief sample of what could have been.

It was a good example of just why the elusive view is one of the most rewarding things for me on a hike. The mountains and forests don’t move but there is never a guarantee that they will be there to be seen. The view must be pursued and caught to be enjoyed.

After lunch we returned to the car where fluffy white clouds floated by in the blue sky. As we drove away there was no missing Mount June, it was the only peak with a cloud draped over it’s summit. We have many more hikes planned where we will have a chance to capture the elusive view, and after Mount June it will be even sweeter when we finally do. Happy Trails

foggy photos on facebook:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201288913212035.1073741835.1448521051&type=1
flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633890026592/