Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Washington Area Oregon Trip report

Mount Washington North Ridge – 10/15/2022

Our lack of rain unfortunately continued for another week allowing the numerous fires in Oregon and Washington to remain active. To top it off a warm, dry East wind arrived in time for the weekend creating a red flag warning for high fire danger and blowing the smoke from the current fires into Western Oregon. The combination of the smoke and unseasonably high temperatures had me searching for a suitable hike. My Plan A, B, and C hikes were all forecast to be in the smoke (and warmer than I’d prefer in October) then I remembered seeing that Hike Oregon had gone up Mount Washington’s North Ridge back in August using a climbers trail off of the Pacific Crest Trail. I had been interested in that trail ever since hearing about it during the Chemeketans Route Finding course we’d taken and then later passing it on our hike to Mount Washington Meadows in 2017 (post). A quick of check of the forecast there showed clear (but breezy) skies and a high below 60 at the mountain, I was sold.

Just as we had done in 2017 I parked at the Pacific Crest Trailhead at Big Lake which at this time does not require a Cascade Wilderness Permit for day-use (one is required for overnight stays).
IMG_3615

I set off South on the PCT shortly before sunrise and followed it for three miles to a cairn marking the obvious climbers trail.
IMG_3387Mount Washington from the Mt. Washington Wilderness boundary just a few hundred feet from the trailhead.

IMG_3395Three Fingered Jack to the North from the PCT.

IMG_3399From left to right – Sand Mountain (post), Hoodoo Butte, and Hayrick Butte.

IMG_3401Mount Washington

IMG_3406Sunrise on Hoodoo Butte.

IMG_3410Sunlight hitting the spire of Mount Washington.

IMG_3416Hayrick Butte and Three Fingered Jack at sunrise.

IMG_3424Big Lake, Hoodoo, Hayrick Butte, and Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_3429Just over two miles from the trailhead I passed a sign for the non-maintained use trail from the private Big Lake Youth Camp.

IMG_3432

IMG_3440Shortly before reaching the climbers trail the PCT left the 2011 Shadow Lake Fire scar.

IMG_3442The cairn and climbers trail from the PCT.

I turned left onto this trail which was fairly easy to follow through the trees.
IMG_3443Huckleberry leaves turning color.

IMG_3444

IMG_3446

IMG_3448There were a few logs to navigate and keeping an eye on the tread was helpful.

The trail climbed moderately at first then steepened as it went, with occasional flatter sections before reaching the ridge.
IMG_3451

IMG_3452Maxwell Butte (post) behind Hoodoo and Hayrick Butte.

IMG_3454

IMG_3459Mount Washington

IMG_3468

I stopped here for a moment to admire a raptor that was hovering high above the ridge (small black dot in the middle of the photo).

IMG_3470The only movement that I could see was when it tilted its tail feathers which would catch the sunlight.

IMG_3471First view of Mt. Jefferson behind Three Fingered Jack.

IMG_3473Coming up on the ridge.

IMG_3474Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and a lot of smoke to the North.

IMG_3478Cache Mountain and Black Butte (post) to the NE.

Approximately 1.5 miles from the PCT the climbers trail turned North along the ridge toward Mount Washington.
IMG_3484View along the ridge to Mount Washington.

IMG_3488That East wind was really noticeable as I made my way along the open ridge crest.

I didn’t have much trouble following the trail for the first three-quarters of mile up the ridge. It was typical Cascade volcanic rock which isn’t the most fun rock to hike through but the views were great.
IMG_3496_stitchThree Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson to the left. Green Ridge (post) across the center, and Cache Mountain & Black Butte to the right.

IMG_3503Big Lake came into view as I climbed.

IMG_3506One of the steeper sections I went up. The spire is poking up on the right.

IMG_3509Mount Washington’s shadow.

IMG_3510View back down the ridge.

IMG_3511I was hoping to get up and over these rocks where the map showed a more level bench but I wound up reaching a chute where I was unsure of the correct route. The further up I’d gone the more braided the trail became and I may have been too far left. A climber had passed me way back on the PCT but if I had been able to watch him go up here I may have found a better route.

IMG_3513The chute that turned me back. It’s a bit hidden by the rocks in the foreground but there was no way across that I would have been comfortable with and scrambling up looked way too sketchy for my taste (especially w/o a helmet).

I sat down here and took a brief break to catch my breath and have a snack. I was just over 7100′ in elevation and had been feeling that on the climb up.
IMG_3514My shadow on the left from my break spot.

IMG_3518This was the place I’d come up.

IMG_3523Zoom of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3525With all the smoke I hadn’t noticed Coffin (flat top) and Bachelor Mountains (post) beyond Hoodoo, Hayrick, and Maxwell Buttes.

After catching my breath I started carefully down, pausing often to admire the view.
IMG_3527The Moon overhead to the West.

IMG_3528Patjens Lakes (post) in the forest below.

IMG_3536Lookout tower on Black Butte.

IMG_3540Unfortunate that my timing once again put the Sun directly in line with my view.

I passed three more hikers heading up the ridge on my way down and at one point wound up following a wrong trail too low on the ridge and had to scramble back up to the correct one.
IMG_3555Using a tree to try and get a better view.

IMG_3561A framed Mt. Jefferson.

IMG_3570Sometimes it’s the little things, like these bent trees that I really appreciate on a hike.

IMG_3572This mushroom casting a shadow was another one.

IMG_3574

When I got back to the PCT I turned right and hiked the three miles back to the trailhead.
IMG_3575

IMG_3584Looking back at Mount Washington from the PCT.

IMG_3589Three Fingered Jack

IMG_3595Hoodoo and Hayrick Buttes behind Big Lake.

IMG_3601Huckleberry bushes and ferns adding some Fall colors.

IMG_3607The best Fall colors were near the trailhead.

IMG_3608

IMG_3611The trailhead from the wilderness boundary sign.

This hike came to 10.7 miles with a little over 2700′ of elevation gain. In total I saw 7 hunters, 4 climbers, and two fellow hikers, not bad for a sunny Saturday. It might not be one for those uncomfortable with heights or climbing/descending loose volcanic rock (for those reasons it was a good choice since Heather is still sidelined) but if you don’t mind those things this would be a worthwhile outing.

When I got back to Salem around 2pm it was 90 degrees, in mid-October! The good news is that the high pressure system causing the warm, dry weather is supposed to break up this week with rain to follow. Hopefully it will be enough to put an end to the fires. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Washington North Ridge

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Day 1 – 5/23/2020

We continued to adjust our hiking plans to allow us our best chances of social distancing and visiting areas that are actually open. In January our plans for the three day weekend had been to stay in Roseburg and take day hikes along Highway 138. With staying in motels not the greatest way to socially distance, those plans were a no-go so we looked next to our 2021 plans. Those plans were a three day backpacking trip along the 30+ mile Middle Fork Trail SE of Oakridge to complete one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in his Central Cascades book, Indigo and Chuckle Springs (hike #83 in the 5th edition). This would be our first backpacking trip together since early September 2018 having skipped 2019 so that we could take care of our ill cat Buddy. (Heather did an overnight trip with some friends to Elk Lake Creek so she had been out once in 2019.)

The hike he describes is an easy 4.4 miles starting at the trailhead by Indigo Springs Campground. Doing the hike that he describes would have violated a couple of our self imposed rules. First the driving time to that trailhead for us would have been over 3 hours and secondly the amount of time spent hiking would have been less than the driving time (by a lot). My solution was to turn it into a backpacking trip by starting just south of the Sand Prairie Campground near milepost 12 of Rigdon Road (Forest Road 21). The plan was to hike around 13 miles on Saturday and then set up a base camp. Sunday we would hike the remaining distance to Indigo and Chuckle Springs and the return to camp and hike back out Monday morning. Our itinerary remained the same for the trip, but for reasons I’ll get to later the distances were not quite what we had planned on.

The Middle Fork National Recreation Trail stretches from Sand Prairie Campground to Timpanogas Lake (post).
There are a number of trailheads and access points for the Middle Fork Trail and we chose to start at the FR 2120 Trailhead.
Middle Fork Trail south of Sand Prairie Campground

A short distance from the trailhead we crossed Buck Creek on a nice bridge.
Buck Creek

For the first 5 miles the trail was relatively flat with a few ups and downs. This section was to the east of the Middle Fork Willamette River and to the west of Rigdon Road (FR 21). There were occasional glimpses of the river as well as some time spent along and on FR 21.
Middle Fork TrailMiddle Fork Trail along FR 21.

Middle Fork Willamette RiverOne of only a couple of spots where we were able to get to the river.

Where the trail crossed roads either signs or flagging were present to identify the continuation of the trail.
Middle Fork TrailOrange flagging on the left after crossing a gravel road.

The scenery was mostly green forest with a few meadows and a couple of creek crossings along the way. There were a few woodland flowers present as well as some patches of poison oak.
Middle Fork Trail

ThimbleberryThimbleberry

Cone CreekCone Creek

AnemonesAnemones

Bills CreekFootbridge over Bills Creek

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Columbine along the Middle Fork TrailColumbine

Middle Fork TrailYellowleaf iris along the Middle Fork Trail.

Pine CreekPine Creek – At first it looked like they put the bridge in the wrong spot, but there was another branch to the creek.

View from the Middle Fork TrailSmall meadow along the trail.

At the 4.4 mile mark the trail popped us onto FR 21 for a little over a quarter mile before resuming along the river.
Middle Fork Trail popping onto FR 21 for a bit

Middle Fork Trail leaving FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River

This was short lived though as we quickly found ourselves back on FR 21 near its junction with FR 2127.
Middle Fork Trail at FR 2127

Here the trail crossed the river on the bridge.
FR 2127 crossing the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

Common merganserCommon merganser on the river below the bridge.

The bridge crossing marked the start of what Sullivan’s map showed to be a 5.2 mile section along the western side of the Middle Fork Willamette River before recrossing on bridge at FR 2134 (our Adventure Maps, Inc. Oakridge Oregon Trial Map showed the section as 5.4 miles).
Middle Fork Trail Sign at the Road 2127 Trailhead.

With FR 21 now on the opposite side of the river this section was a little quieter and more scenic. There was still occasional poison oak to keep an eye out for and somewhere along this stretch a tick hitched a momentary ride on my pant leg before being flicked off.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork TrailMossy stump along the trail.

Middle Fork TrailLots of grass along portions of the trail, one of these areas was probably where the tick hopped on.

A highlight of the section was a series of rocky seeps long the river where patches of wildflowers were blooming.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Ookow along the Middle Fork TrailThe ookow wasn’t quite blooming yet.

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

MonkeyflowerMonkeyflower and tomcat clover

StonecropStonecrop

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed MaryPlectritis and giant blue-eyed Mary

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Western buttercupsButtercups

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

The trail reentered the forest where we spotted a couple of different coralroots.
Middle Fork Trail

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot (with a caterpillar)

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Two miles into this section we came to our first real obstacle of our trip. I had watched a series of Youtube videos from Hike Oregon of the trail including this section (video and in her video from a few years ago there was a footbridge over Indian Creek. No such bridge existed now. The water was flowing pretty quickly and although it looked doable it didn’t look like the easiest ford we’d done. We went ahead and gave it a go.
Fording Indian Creek

We managed to get across and continued on to find a second ford a short distance later. This one was just through some very slow moving water though.
Water covering the Middle Fork Trail

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next two miles but then we came to a sign announcing a trail closure and reroute.
Middle Fork Trail

Clear water along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Chocolate liliesChocolate lilies

Sign for a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail

The reroute sent us away from the river to FR 201 where we crossed Coal Creek on a bridge to FR 2133. The Forest Service map for the reroute showed that the trail will eventually continue on the other side of FR 2133 extending to FR 2134 but for now the reroute followed FR 2133 for one and a quarter miles to FR 2134.
Middle Fork TrailCompleted section of the reroute.

Signage for the Middle Fork TrailMore signs at FR 201

Sign for the Middle Fork TrailFR 201 crossing Coal Creek.

Coal CreekCoal Creek

FR 2133Road walking on FR 2133

Once we made it to FR 2134 we were back on the original route of the Middle Fork Trail as it once again crossed the river, this time using FR 2134’s bridge.
Bridge over the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River

The reroute had added a mile to our hike for the day and we weren’t done yet. The next section of trail between FR 2134 and Sacandaga Campground was listed as just under 5 miles and we were hoping to find a camp site close to the middle of the section.

The trail picked up at the north end of the bridge (the river had turned and was now flowing east to west as opposed to the first section when it was flowing to the north).
Middle Fork Trail

Simpson CreekSimpson Creek

Northern phloxNorthern phlox

Folded fungusDon’t know what type of fungus this is but it looked neat.

We were once again between the river and FR 21 and crossed several primitive forest roads.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Trail

After 2 miles it began to veer away from the road a bit to what appeared on the topographical map as a wide relatively flat area where we were hoping to find our camp site. We hadn’t passed many established (or even semi-established sites). We had seen one near Indian Creek and we had also seen one tent set up on an rocky island separated from the trail by a small channel of the river.

We passed up a couple of possible sites along decommissioned road beds hoping to be a bit closer to the river than they had been so when we did get back along the river we started looking.
Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Willamette River

There wasn’t much, the trees and underbrush was thick enough that there weren’t many areas with enough room for a tent. Heather spotted a more open area in the trees about 2.8 miles from FR 2134 that looked promising but I stubbornly continued for another quarter of a mile before turning back because her spot appeared to be the best choice. We set up camp amid the trees on the opposite side of the trail from the river.
Campsite along the Middle Fork Trail

There was a nice little opening along the river nearby where we were able to cook our meals and watch the river flow by.
Middle Fork Willamette River from our dinner/breakfast spot

Our plan for a 13 mile first day turned into 14.5 miles due to the extra mile added by the reroute and my continuing past our eventual campsite a quarter mile and having to come back to it. The lower portions of the trail had been a bit of a mixed bag. We hadn’t expected as much poison oak as we’d seen along the way and the reroute had been a bit of a bummer since road walking, even if it’s dirt/gravel is a lot harder on us than a nice trail. The scenery was nice and there had been quite a few wildflowers but being so close to paved FR 21 for much of the hike and having a large number of other road crossings where car campers were present didn’t allow for much of a remote feeling. The middle section (prior to the reroute) was probably the nicest, but having to ford Indian Creek probably isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side we only encountered one other hiker on the trail and our campsite turned out to be pretty comfortable with a nice thick layer of cushy duff to sleep on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Middle Fork Trail Day 1