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Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Cascade Head to Hart’s Cove – 10/01/2022

With Heather sidelined for at least a few weeks due to an injury I made some changes to this years remaining hikes so that she might not miss out on places we hadn’t hike yet. I looked through the hikes I had in the works for future years and pulled some of the more challenging seeming outings forward for this October. First up on that list was a hike combining Cascade Head (post) and Hart’s Cove (post). It seemed like a good time to try this hike since the seasonal closure (Jan 1 – July 15) which had kept us from attempting it in 2019 wasn’t in effect and Forest Road 1861 which provides access to both the Hart’s Cove Trailhead and the Nature Conservancy Trailhead is closed. The road closure meant no cars on the road walk between the two trailheads as well as the likelihood of few other hikers on the Hart’s Cove Trail. The downside was the landslide that closed FR 1861 in November 2021 meant that the Hart’s Cove Trail had likely not seen much, if any, maintenance this year and there was limited emergency response capabilities should anything go wrong.

I started from Knights County Park (The same place we’d started on our previous two hikes to Cascade Head) just before 7am.
IMG_2766It seems this time of year I (we) are always a little ahead of the sunlight which does nothing for photos.

Heather had told me that this was probably the time when I would finally see some of the elk that inhabit Cascade Head since she wasn’t going to be there. She hit the nail on the head. Just after crossing Three Rocks Road (less than a quarter mile into the hike) I spotted several elk grazing in a field.
IMG_2768Coming up on the road crossing.

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After crossing Three Rocks Road the trail climbs through the trees along Savage Road before crossing it at the half mile mark. Just before crossing Savage Road I spotted another elk, this time a lone young bull.
IMG_2779Cascade Head from the trail with the elk at the end of the grass to the right.

IMG_2784Fuzzy (low light) photo of the elk.

IMG_2787Crossing Savage Road with the first view of the Pacific.

I recrossed the road a tenth of a mile later at a big trailhead sign where there is no parking.
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From the no parking trailhead the trail climbs (steeply at first) through the forest before leaving the trees behind after three quarters of a mile.
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IMG_2794View from one of five metal footbridges along this section.

IMG_2798Signboard and donation box at the start of The Nature Conservancy owned land.

IMG_2801First direct sunlight of the morning.

IMG_2802Out of the trees and into the meadows.

IMG_2804Looking uphill

The trail traverses the open hillside for approximately 0.4 miles before turning more steeply uphill along a ridge.
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IMG_2810Snacks

IMG_2811Salmon River Estuary

IMG_2814A snail and lupine leaves.

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IMG_2818A small viewpoint just before the trail turns uphill.

IMG_2820Going up

IMG_2825The trail gains views as it gains elevation.

IMG_2827The trail through the meadow below.

IMG_2829This knoll looks like the high point as you climb, but it’s a trick.

IMG_2833The high point is actually marked by a post. (Near the right end of the photo).

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The high point is approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead at Knights County Park. From there the trail drops slightly and enters the forest after a tenth of a mile.
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The transition from open meadow to lush green forest here is probably the most abrupt and starkest contrast that we’ve encountered on trail. This was my third time crossing this boundary and it was just as impressive and impactful as the first.
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The trail was now nearly level as it followed an old road bed another 0.9 miles to the Nature Conservancy Trailhead.
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IMG_2843Wooden arch over the old roadbed.

IMG_2844Nearing the upper trailhead.

I turned left onto FR 1861 and followed it downhill for 0.8 miles to the Hart’s Cove Trailhead.
IMG_2847When they do reopen the road there will be a few trees to deal with.

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The Hart’s Cove Trail begins with a steep descent via several switchbacks before easing at the 0.6-mile mark.
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IMG_2856There were around 18 trees such as this one across the trail from the trailhead to Cliff Creek.

I arrived at Cliff Creek at the 0.8-mile mark without any issues, all of the trees that were down were easily stepped over or around.
IMG_2858This large chunk of tree trunk has done some damage to the bridge, but it was still passable.

IMG_2859Cliff Creek

Shortly beyond the crossing I came to the first tricky obstacle.
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It was obvious that others had made their way through it and with some careful climbing and ducking I soon found myself on the other side.
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A second tricky downed tree was just a bit further along the trail.
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I wondered if this was a sign of things to come over the remaining two miles but after making my way through this second obstacle the trail conditions improved and the remaining obstacles were easily avoided.
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IMG_2868At the 1.6-mile mark I entered the Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area

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Just beyond the signs the trail rounds a ridge to a bench above Hart’s Cove (still a mile away) with a limited view due to trees.
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IMG_2939Sign near the bench.

Beyond the bench the trail turns inland to cross Chitwood Creek then heads back towards the Pacific Ocean.
IMG_2871Big sitka spruce trunk.

IMG_2872Approaching the Chitwood Creek crossing.

IMG_2873Chitwood Creek

IMG_2874Heading back toward the ocean.

IMG_2875Someone stuck some feathers in this mushroom.

The trail eventually left the forest entering another meadow and descending to a viewpoint.
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IMG_2893There was a large number of noisy sea lions on the shaded rocks below Cascade Head. Even though they were quite far away they were loud.

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IMG_2901Seagull hanging out on a sea rock.

IMG_2902Sea lion heading for its buddies.

To the north Cape Lookout (post) along with Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda (post) were visible.
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While the ocean views were great, my timing had resulted in the view into Hart’s Cove leaving something to be desired.
IMG_2906A combination of the position of the Sun and the presence of haze made it very difficult to make out the waterfall on Chitwood Creek. I don’t know if the haze was smoke or just the usual coastal haze. (There was a fairly good east wind blowing steadily all morning.)

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I tried several different viewpoints with no luck for the waterfall although I did find a nice one looking out of the mouth of the cove.
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After exhausting the potential viewpoints I headed back the way I’d come. I passed two other hikers on their way to Hart’s Cove, one at Chitwood Creek and the second just before the bench viewpoint. I stopped at the bench and changed into some dry socks as my feet had gotten a little wet in the damp, muddy area around Chitwood Creek before continuing on.
IMG_2927Sparrow in the meadow at Hart’s Cove.

IMG_2928Pearly everlasting

IMG_2933Varied thrush

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IMG_2942A reminder of Spring, a trillium that bloomed months ago.

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img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/52398212269_2dca5370f2_3k.jpg” width=”3072″ height=”2304″ alt=”IMG_2949″>Back at the Hart’s Cove Trailhead.

I retraced my steps to Cascade Head and was a bit surprised when I reached the post at the high point without having seen anyone but the two hikers on the Hart’s Cove Trail.
IMG_2950A monkeyflower along FR 1861.

IMG_2951Back at the upper trailhead.

IMG_2955Candyflower

IMG_2957Mushrooms on a log.

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IMG_2974The Thumb, aka God’s Thumb (post)

IMG_2971Heading for the high point.

IMG_2976Descending Cascade Head

IMG_2979There were quite a few of these (an aster?) blooming along the trail.

IMG_2981Not sure what type of bird this is.

IMG_2984Sulphur butterfly

IMG_2990Wooly bear caterpillar, there were many of these on the trail.

When I had a better view of the trail below I could see that I would soon be passing a number of other hikers working their way up Cascade Head.
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IMG_2997Looking back up at one of the first hikers I’d passed.

The remainder of the hike included a lot of pauses as I stepped aside to let the uphill traffic pass. One woman asked if I’d happened to have made it to Hart’s Cove as she was also hoping to make it there. I also spoke briefly with a volunteer from The Nature Conservancy.
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IMG_3002Pretty moth on a bush.

IMG_3009View to the east of the Coastal Range.

IMG_3016Heading for the tree line.

IMG_3022Back where I’d seen the bull elk in the morning.

IMG_3025Cars parked along Three Rocks Road, the parking area at Knights County Park was full when I got back to the car a little before 1pm.

My Garmin showed this to be a 14.5-mile hike with over 2700′ of elevation gain.

It had been quite a bit warmer than I’d hoped for an October hike with the temperature being well over 70 degrees back at the trailhead. Despite that it had been a good hike with good views save for the waterfall at Hart’s Cove. It was pretty strange not having Heather there but given how warm it was this was a good one for her to miss. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cascade Head to Hart’s Cove

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Sky Lakes Basin Day 2 – 09/25/2022

We woke up way too early for the time of year and found ourselves playing Yahtzee on Heather’s phone lest we would be hiking out from our camp at Trapper Lake in the dark. After some less than stellar scores we packed up camp and set off on the Sky Lakes Trail back toward the Cold Springs Trailhead.
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IMG_2682Low-light at Trapper Lake.

IMG_2689Sunrise from the trail.

IMG_2691Sunlight hitting the tops of trees.

Just before reaching the Heavenly Twin Lakes we came to the Isherwood Trail where we turned right.
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The Isherwood Trail passed by the larger of the Heavenly Twin Lakes.
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The trail left the lake and climbed gradually through the forest to a rocky bluff above Isherwood Lake.
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IMG_2701Heading up to the bluff.

IMG_2706Pelican Butte beyond Isherwood Lake.

IMG_2708Fall foliage above Isherwood Lake.

About half way along Isherwood Lake we detoured to the other side of the trail to visit Lake Liza.
IMG_2709Heading for Lake Liza through a dry bed.

IMG_2710Great reflection

After returning to the Isherwood Trail and passing Isherwood Lake we passed Elizabeth Lake on our left.
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Elizabeth Lake was followed by Lake Notasha on the right with another nice reflection.
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IMG_2722_stitchLake Notasha

IMG_2728Depending on the angle the water was a beautiful green.

A short distance beyond Lake Notasha we came to the end of the Isherwood Trail at the Sky Lakes Trail.
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We turned right for a third of a mile to a junction with the Cold Springs Trail.
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We turned left this time following the Cold Springs Trail pointer. This trail climbed a lot more than we’d expected as it passed by Imagination Peak but after nearly two miles we arrived back at the junction with the South Rock Creek Trail which we had taken the day before.
IMG_2746Parts of the latter half of this trail passed through the 2017 fire scar.

IMG_2748Fireweed seeds

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IMG_2753Pelican Butte as we descended toward the junction.

We turned right here for the final 0.6 miles to our car.
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IMG_2757Leaving the Sky Lakes Wilderness

IMG_2758Dark-eyed junco seeing us off.

IMG_2760An as of yet unidentified flower.

20220925_092616Another unidentified flower.

IMG_2761I do know this one – bleeding heart.

IMG_2764Woodpecker (it was a busy final 0.6 miles).

IMG_2765Back at the shelter and trailhead.

Our hike out came to 6.6 miles with just over 1000′ of elevation gain.

Dark track is Day 2 while the light solid line is Day 1.

It had been a great Autumn weekend for a backpacking trip and the hikes were great. The only negative to come out of it was Heather’s knee which had been a lingering but manageable issue for most of the year finally decided it had had enough. She has some PT ahead and no hiking so I’ll be on my own for a bit. The good news her knee should be fine and we didn’t have any more featured hikes on our schedule until mid-Spring next year. It also means we might be welcoming some new kitties into our home sooner than we’d expected since she won’t be joining me on the October hikes. Happy Tails! (or Trails!)

Flickr: Sky Lakes Basin Day 2

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Sky Lakes Basin Day 1 – 09/24/2022

An excellent weekend forecast allowed us to head back to the Southern Oregon Cascades less than a week from our three night, four day stay in Shady Cove (post). In an attempt to give us the best chance to finish our featured hike goal (post) I’d recently broken a 5-6 day backpacking trip in the Sky Lakes Wilderness into shorter trips. During our Shady Cove stay we did the Blue Lakes Basin hike (post) and now we were back for an overnight backpack in the Sky Lakes Basin to check off Sullivan’s Sky Lakes via Cold Springs and Sky Lakes via Nannie Creek hikes. (Hikes #43 & #44 respectively in edition 4.2 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California.)

We started at the Cold Springs Trailhead.
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IMG_2395Shelter at the trailhead.

We set off through a 2017 fire scar following the Cold Springs Trail into the Sky Lakes Wilderness.
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IMG_2399Aster

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IMG_2407Fireweed

After 0.6 miles we came to a junction with the South Rock Creek Trail.
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Both forks would lead to the Heavenly Twin Lakes but the South Rock Creek Trail would do it in a shorter distance (1.8 vs 2.4 miles) so we stayed to the right and followed that trail through more burned forest.
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IMG_2417Comma butterfly

We left the fire scar after about a mile and continued another 0.8 miles to the first Heavenly Twin Lake.
IMG_2419Exiting the fire scar.

IMG_2420Doe watching us through the trees.

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The larger lake lay just beyond the smaller and provided a view of Luther Mountain.
IMG_2431Luther Mountain on the left and Lee Peak on the right.

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After checking out the view we continued on the Sky Lakes Trail which led along the East side of the large lake arriving at the junction with the Isherwood Trail at the far end.
IMG_2436Sign for the Sky Lakes Trail.

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IMG_2443Isherwood Trail junction.

We would be taking the Isherwood Trail the next day on our way back to the car but for now we continued straight for 1.9 miles to Trapper Lake where we looked for and found a campsite for the weekend. Along the way we passed several small ponds and unnamed lakes and one named one. It was clear why the area is notorious for mosquitos until late Summer (we only noticed two the whole weekend).
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IMG_2448Lake Land

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IMG_2457Luther Mountain from Trapper Lake.

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After setting up camp we returned to the Sky Lakes Trail and continued North along the lake passing the Cherry Creek Trail coming up from the right before arriving at a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
IMG_2467View along the trail.

IMG_2468Sign for the Cherry Creek Trail.

IMG_2469Sky Lakes Trail sign.

IMG_2470Donna Lake Trail to the right.

This was the start of an approximately 8.8 mile loop around Luther Mountain. We had decided to do the loop counter-clockwise so we took the left hand trail which kept us on the Sky Lakes Trail. This trail led around the North end of Trapper Lake for 0.2 miles where it met the Divide Trail.
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IMG_2473Divide Trail junction.

We stayed left here and started following the Divide Trail which would lead us to the Pacific Crest Trail in 2.8 miles. Shortly after starting up this trail we detoured right to check out Margurette Lake.
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The trail passed close to this lake offering several views of Luther Mountain along the way.
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Beyond Margurette Lake the trail began to wind it’s way uphill passing several smaller bodies of water including Lake No-SE-Um where several mergansers had congregated.
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The trail turned back to the North passing above Margurette and Trapper Lakes along a shelf before turning West and climbing more steeply via switchbacks.
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IMG_2507Saddle Mountain is in the distance with pointy Cherry Peak in the foreground. I believe that is Agency Lake visible in the Valley.

IMG_2514Pelican Butte to the right.

IMG_2515Mt. McLoughlin (post) to the South.

IMG_2517Eagle flyby.

IMG_2522Lather Peak with several more lakes below.

IMG_2524In the distance to the left is Aspen Butte (post) in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness.

IMG_2530Fall is in the air.

IMG_2531On of several small bodies of water along the shelf.

IMG_2533We know there were pikas out there because we heard their “meeps” off and on all day but with so many rocks we were never able to spot one.

IMG_2535Heading toward Luther Mountain.

IMG_2539Pelican Butte on the left and Mt. McLoughlin on the right. The peaks in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness are behind and to the right of Pelican Butte then the small, closer hump is Imagination Peak. To the right of Imagination Peak and slightly further back is Lost Peak and then further to the right (left of Mt. McLoughlin) is Brown Mountain (post). Interestingly according to Peak Finder Mt. Shasta should be visible in between Imagination and Lost Peaks but apparently there was enough smoke/haze in the sky that it was camouflaged.

After passing through the switchbacks the trail straightened out and headed almost due West as it climbed through a rock field on the southern flank of Luther Mountain.
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We left the rock field and made a final climb to a saddle where we arrived at the PCT.
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IMG_2551Luther Mountain from the saddle.

IMG_2553The Pacific Crest Trail.

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After catching our breath we turned right on the PCT which descended slightly to a ridge to the West of Luther Mountain. We followed this ridge, which had been burned in 2014, for a little over a mile to a junction with the Snow Lakes Trail.
IMG_2556Lucifer Peak directly behind Shale Butte.

IMG_2557Lucifer Peak, Shale Butte, Devil’s Peak and Lee Peak.

IMG_2562Blowdown on the PCT.

IMG_2566Luther Mountain

IMG_2573Luther Mountain and Mt. McLoughlin behind us.

IMG_2575Lots of little birds along the ridge but most didn’t stop long enough for even a poor picture.

IMG_2580Sign at the Snow Lakes Trail junction.

We turned right onto the Snow Lakes Trail which passed along another shelf full of small lakes.
IMG_2581Martin, Wind and a Snow Lake from the Snow Lakes Trail.

IMG_2583Hawk circling overhead.

IMG_2585While I was trying to keep track of the hawk this Bald Eagle flew over.

IMG_2588Nearing the end of the 2014 fire scar.

IMG_2591Luther Mountain from one of the Snow Lakes.

IMG_2592Another of the lakes.

IMG_2593Tree on the edge of the shelf.

IMG_2595View from the shelf.

IMG_2601There were many cool rock features along the trail.

IMG_2603Devil’s Peak

IMG_2605Lee Peak and another of the Snow Lakes.

After approximately three quarters of a mile on the Snow Lakes Trail we dropped to one of the larger lakes where we briefly lost the trail.
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IMG_2610A tree had fallen over the Snow Lakes Trail hiding it right where a use trail veered off to the lake. Only seeing the use trail we followed it along the lake until it petered out. A quick look at the map showed we were off-trail so we made our way back finding the downed tree covering the actual trail.

After regaining the trail we followed it downhill via a series of switchbacks past another lake.
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The trail then began to turn ESE as it continued to descend toward Martin Lake and the Lower Snow Lakes. A total of 2.3 miles from the PCT we came to the Nannie Creek Trail junction.
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IMG_2624The worst obstacle for the day.

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IMG_2629Pelican Butte from the trail.

IMG_2630Sign at the Nannie Creek Trail junction.

We stayed right on the Snow Lakes Trail at the junction. After 0.4 miles we passed Martin Lake on our right.
IMG_2634Luther Mountain as we neared Martin Lake.

IMG_2635Dragon fly blending in with the huckleberry leaves.

IMG_2641Martin Lake with a view of the shelf that we’d been on.

Two tenths of a mile beyond Martin Lake we came to what was labeled Lower Snow Lakes on our map which was partly in Luther Mountain’s shadow.
IMG_2643Red huckleberry leaves

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We found a log in the shade along the shore where we took a nice break.
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After our break we continued on the Snow Lakes Trail another three quarters of a mile to a junction with the Donna Lake Trail.
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It was another 0.7 miles back to Trapper Lake either way but the Donna Lake Trail led past Deep and then Donna Lakes so we veered left and took that trail.
IMG_2659Deep Lake was up first, just a tenth of a mile down the trail.

IMG_2665Donna Lake was only two tenths further.

IMG_2670Donna Lake Trail

We arrived back at the Sky Lakes Trail at Trapper Lake and headed back to our campsite for dinner.
IMG_2674Back at Trapper Lake.

Dinner didn’t go as planned as we realized when we pulled our water filter out that we’d left all the hoses at home. Fortunately we carry Iodine tablets for just such an occurrence so we had a way to treat water but by the time it was all said and done we decided to skip a warm meal and opted to eat some of the extra food we’d brought. At least we’d have water for the hike out the next day though. It cooled off quickly once the Sun had vanished and for the first time in a while we got to test the warmth of our sleeping systems.
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Today’s hike came in at 14.5 miles with approximately 2300′ of elevation gain.

Day one is the dark track with the light solid line being part of day 2.

The number of lakes/ponds was almost hard to believe and the scenery was really nice. The timing was great with almost no bugs and the trails were in relatively good shape, just a few downed trees here and there but nothing too difficult to get past. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sky Lakes Basin Day 1

Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Union Creek Revisited – 09/20/2022

For the final hike of our Southern Oregon trip we had pegged the Union Creek Trail, the only featured hike that only I had done. Heather had been forced to skip this one after hurting herself at Abbott Butte in 2020 (post). Sullivan has been working on an update to his Southern Oregon book and it will be interesting to see if the Union Creek hike remains a featured hike. A 2015 storm downed many trees along the trail, the middle portion of which had not yet been cleared in 2020 when I’d attempted the hike. A quick look online led us to believe that two years later the conditions were the same so instead of attempting to reach Union Creek Falls from the Union Creek Resort we drove to the Upper Trailhead. To reach this trailhead we followed Highway 62 two miles east of its junction with Highway 230 turning right on Road 600 at a small Union Creek Trailhead sign. After 0.2 miles we veered left at another pointer for 0.1 miles to the parking area at roads end.
IMG_2300An OHV Trail continues on the old road bed from the parking area.

The Union Creek Trail is located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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The upper portion of the trail was in great shape and we quickly found ourselves at Union Creek Falls just 0.3 miles from the trailhead.
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We continued another 0.7 miles before encountering the first real obstacle and began to wonder if by some miracle someone had finally shown this trail a little love.
IMG_2316We had to get creative to see some of the many cool water features along the creek.

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IMG_2338The first mess on the trail.

The trail conditions deteriorated quickly over the next half mile before we completely lost the trail at a large downed tree. Overnight rain had left the vegetation wet and we didn’t see any point in trying to force our way through the brush in an attempt to relocate the tread so we turned around and headed back.
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IMG_2350This mess was just before the bigger tree that turned us back.

On the way back we hopped a side channel onto an island to find a pretty impressive feature that had been hidden from the trail.
IMG_2383Where I crossed the channel.

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To get a good view I had to carefully follow a narrow ledge to an overlook of a thundering hole where water plunged in from all sides.
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We returned to the car having come up a just over a quarter mile short of where I’d given up and turned around in 2020 resulting in a 3.7 mile hike with just over 400′ of elevation gain.

The dashed track is from 2022 with the solid line being 2020’s track.

It is a shame that this trail doesn’t seem to warrant any attention from the Forest Service. The creek is beautiful and the trail isn’t that long so there isn’t that much to clear. It also isn’t in a wilderness area so they could use chainsaws where needed. Ironically this sign is posted at the trailhead along with a box that was full of spiderwebs.
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It was just after 9:15am when we got back to the car and after changing we did what any sane people would do and drove back into Union Creek to Beckie’s Cafe for breakfast, a cinnamon roll, and a blackberry pie to go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Union Creek

Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Discovery Point and Lightning Spring – 09/19/2022

The longest planned hike of our Southern Oregon trip also promised to be the most scenic with nearly two and a half miles being along the rim of Crater Lake. After a couple of days of rain showers (and one night of thunderstorms) Monday was forecast to be partly sunny albeit with a 40% chance of showers. We were hoping for clear views of the lake with just enough clouds to make the sky interesting. We had picked up a 7-day pass on Saturday when we’d driven through Crater Lake National Park and now reentered the Park from Highway 62 to the south and parked near the Rim Village Gift Shop and Cafe.
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Our plan was to hike the Discovery Point and Lightning Spring loop described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” (edition 4.2 hike #21). He describes hiking the route counter-clockwise hiking along the rim of the caldera to Discovery Point first but we opted instead for a clockwise loop for two reasons. First was that we wanted to be hiking the rim later in the day when the Sun would hopefully be directly overhead instead of across the lake to the east. The second reason was because Sullivan described the final section of the Dutton Creek Trail as “climbing more seriously…to your car”. Our thought was that it might be more enjoyable to be going down that stretch rather than up.

Before starting the loop we passed by the Gift Shop to check out the morning view of the lake.
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IMG_1885Mt. Scott (post) with a bit of a lenticular cloud.

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IMG_1903Raven making a landing atop a mountain hemlock.

IMG_1909The Watchman (post), Hillman Peak, and Llao Rock along the western side of the rim.

The view was amazing and aside from the ravens we were about the only people around this early. We got distracted enough by the views that we didn’t catch that the Dutton Creek Trail was located a bit downhill along the West Rim Road and we set off on the Rim Trail toward the Discovery Point Trailhead.
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In our defense the topo map on our GPS showed a connector trail further along the Rim Trail (that trail no longer exists) but we didn’t catch our mistake until we’d gone nearly a quarter mile. We turned around and hiked back to the entrance road to Rim Village and hiked downhill to the signed Dutton Creek Trail.
IMG_1913It was by far the most scenic mistake we’ve made while hiking.

IMG_1914Wizard Island and Llao Rock

IMG_1915Mount Scott

IMG_1916We joked that views had been so good maybe we should just end the hike now.

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A short distance down the Dutton Creek Trail we came face to face with a pair of bucks.
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It was quite the start to the hike and we wondered how anything during the remainder of the hike could top the beginning. We followed the Dutton Creek trail a total of 2.4 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail. The upper portion had indeed been fairly steep before leveling out quite a bit. The forest along the trail was very nice and the trail was in excellent shape.
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IMG_1944Dutton Creek was dry.

IMG_1954Blue sky ahead.

20220919_083501Not much left for flowers, this could be a Crater Lake collomia although it’s a little late in the season.

IMG_1964Castle Creek still had some water flowing.

IMG_1965We spotted several piles of hail, possibly from the severe thunderstorms that had been forecast for Saturday night?

IMG_1966Arriving at the PCT.

We turned right on the PCT and followed it for 4.4 fairly level miles to the Lightning Springs Trail. Sullivan described this section of trail as relatively dull but there was enough variety in the scenery to make it enjoyable if not remarkable.
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IMG_1969The campsite at the junction was closed due to hazard trees.

IMG_1970Recrossing Castle Creek.

IMG_1974The PCT appeared to be following an old road bed through the park.

IMG_1982Dropping down to Trapper Creek.

IMG_1984PCT crossing of Trapper Creek.

We saw one other deer, a doe in the trail, and otherwise it was a lot of chipmunks and squirrels along with numerous birds.
IMG_1985A red-breasted nuthatch that was toying with me as I tried to get a photo.

IMG_1988Canada jay (grey jay)
IMG_1990Blue sky to the north ahead.

IMG_1992Some blue sky south too with a glimpse of Union Peak (post).

IMG_1993Union Peak

IMG_2002Entering the 2006 Bybee Complex fire scar.

IMG_2005The Watchman. The lookout tower on top was in a cloud after having been clearly visible from rim earlier. We wondered what that might mean for our views when we finally made it back to the rim.

IMG_2008Chipmunk checking us out.

IMG_2012Coneflower remains

IMG_2017Another creek crossing.

IMG_2015Red crossbills at the creek crossing.

IMG_2025There were some pretty ominous looking clouds behind us but no showers yet.

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IMG_2027Several white crowned sparrows and at least one junco. We could also hear chickadee calls but I couldn’t find one in this capture.

IMG_2030Despite the ugly clouds behind us there was almost always blue sky ahead.

IMG_2032North Fork Castle Creek

IMG_2034Approaching the junction with the Lightning Springs Trail.

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We turned onto the Lightning Springs Trail and headed for the clouds above The Watchman.
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This trail climbed gradually along a ridge at the edge of a 2016 fire scar.
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IMG_2047Townsend’s solitaire

IMG_2048Union Peak had been swallowed by clouds.

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IMG_2052The Watchman with a cloud still hanging on.

IMG_2053Hawk

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IMG_2058The base of Union Peak with lots of blue sky around.

IMG_2066A brief stint in full sunlight.

IMG_2068Robin

We were supposed to pass below a small waterfall after 2.4 miles along Lightning Creek but this late in the Summer it was dry.
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The trail continued to climb beyond the dry fall arriving at Lightning Springs after another 0.8 miles.
IMG_2072Union Peak nearly free of clouds.

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IMG_2081The Watchman still not free.

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IMG_2094Mountain bluebird

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We detoured a short distance down the trail to Lightning Springs Camp to check out the springs which were not dry.
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After visiting the springs we continued another 0.8 miles to West Rim Drive and crossed over to the Rim Trail.
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IMG_2106Full view of Union Peak.

IMG_2109And finally a full view of The Watchman.

IMG_2119Conditions were changing quickly and now there was blue sky above The Watchman.

IMG_2120West Rim Drive ahead with the lower portion of Mt. McLoughlin (post) in between the trees to the right.

IMG_2121Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_2124This squirrel put its cone down in case I had something better for it, but we don’t feed the wild animals per Park rules (and Leave No Trace Principles).

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We followed the Rim Trail for 2.4 miles back to Rim Village passing Discovery Point at the 1.1 mile mark. The views were spectacular resulting in many, many photos for which we don’t feel the least bit sorry about.
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IMG_2150Wizard Island’s cone

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IMG_2160Llao Rock

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IMG_2165Dock along Wizard Island

IMG_2174The Watchman and Hillman Peak

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IMG_2189_stitchGarfield Peak to the left with Union Peak to the far right.

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IMG_2221Phantom Ship

IMG_2224Mount Scott

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IMG_2249Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_2282That blue though!

IMG_2290Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_2297Back to where we’d been that morning.

Including our wandering around Rim Village and going the wrong way to start our hike came to 14.4 miles with 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain.

I don’t think we could have asked for better conditions. It only sprinkled for one brief moment and the amount as well as type of clouds added to the beauty instead of hiding it. Add in temperatures that didn’t get much over 50 degrees if that and it was about a perfect day for a hike. We changed our shoes and socks then grabbed lunch in the cafe and did some shopping in the gift shop before heading back to Shady Cove. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Discovery Point and Lightning Spring

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Sky Lakes/Mountain Lakes Area Trip report

Blue Lake Basin – 09/18/2022

The second day of our Southern Oregon trip was forecast to be the wettest so we headed for the Sky Lakes Wilderness where the cloudy conditions wouldn’t hinder our views too much. Our goal for the day was to hike to Island Lake via Blue Lake Basin then possibly return via Cat Hill Way. The out-and-back to Island Lake is featured hike #40 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” guidebook (edition 4.2). We had visited Island Lake in 2016 (post) but from the other direction. Since that visit only covered 0.1 miles of the featured hike and the hike is titled “Blue Lake Basin” not Island Lake we had not considered it done.

We began at the Blue Canyon Trailhead.
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A crisp wind blew through the small meadow near the trailhead encouraging us to hustle downhill on the trail into the trees which provided some relief.
IMG_1712An old fence in the meadow.

IMG_1714Entering the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

IMG_1715Into the trees we go.

It had been a while since we’d actually been cold starting out on a hike and it was kind of nice. We hoped that the wet weather was also present over the Cedar Creek Fire to the north near Waldo Lake. Here there was no sign of smoke as we hiked through the damp forest.
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Just over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at our first lake of the day, Round Lake.
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We continued on the Blue Canyon Trail another 1.2 miles to Blue Lake where a bald eagle startled me when it took off from a tree directly over my head.
IMG_1727The cliff face above Blue Lake ahead from the trail.

IMG_1733Hiking along Blue Lake.

20220918_085604Blue Lake

IMG_1739The bald eagle across the lake after startling me.

The combination of cool temperatures, wet ground and light rain kept us from lingering too long at the lake and we were soon on our way to the next one. Just beyond Blue Lake we veered right at a trail junction to stay on the Blue Canyon Trail.
IMG_1743The South Fork Trail went to the left past Meadow Lake and the Mud Lake before following the South Fork Rogue River to Road 720.

The Blue Canyon Trail passed to the right of Meadow Lake before arriving at a junction with the Meadow Lake Trail in a quarter mile.
IMG_1747Meadow Lake

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IMG_1751Meadow Lake Trail junction.

For now we stuck to the Blue Canyon Trail which brought us to Horseshoe Lake in another half mile.
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IMG_1754Just beyond this small pond south of the trail we turned right on a use trail which led out onto Horseshoe Lake’s peninsula.

IMG_1759Camping is prohibited on the peninsula which is signed in multiple places.

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After exploring the peninsula we returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and followed it to the next lake, Pear Lake, which was just over a half mile away. We took another use trail down to the shore of this lake which is not at all shaped like a pear. (Unless it’s named after the core then maybe but it would still be a stretch.)
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IMG_1773Ducks flying further down the lake.

From Pear Lake it was just over 1.75 miles to Island Lake. The trail climbed up and over a ridge passing above Dee Lake before dropping into Island Lake’s basin.
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IMG_1783Grouse

IMG_1784The only flowing water we’d encounter on this day after not crossing any streams the day before at Union Peak (post) either.

IMG_1815Dee Lake barely visible through the trees.

IMG_1790Bigelow’s sneezeweed

IMG_1794Meadow near Island Lake.

IMG_1795A Horse Camp sign.

IMG_1796Island Lake through the trees.

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We couldn’t remember exactly where we’d gone down to the lake on our previous visit, just that it had been a short trail to the Judge Waldo Tree. We turned left on a clear use trail which brought us down to the lake but not to the tree we were looking for.
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IMG_1806There were a lot of mushrooms down by the water though.

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We returned to the Blue Canyon Trail and continued around the lake to another use trail and again turned left. This one looked familiar and indeed brought us to the Judge Waldo Tree.
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IMG_1812For those interested the 1888 inscription reads:

Judge J.B. Waldo
William Taylor
H.P. Minto
E. J. Humason
F. W. Isherwood
September 13, 1888

Judge Waldo was an early voice for conservation of the Cascade forests (today he most likely would not have carved his name into the tree like that).

Now that we’d linked the two hikes together we were content to head back. When we’d made it back to the Meadow Lake Trail junction we turned uphill onto that trail.
IMG_1817Pear Lake from the Blue Canyon Trail.

IMG_1820Back at the Meadow Lake junction.

IMG_1821Heading up the Meadow Lake Trail.

This trail was much steeper than the Blue Canyon Trail had been and if we were to do the hike again we most likely would opt to come down this way.
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IMG_1832The huckleberries don’t lie, Autumn was right around the corner.

IMG_1833Approaching the ridge top.

IMG_1834Not sure what we missed here but imagine it was some of the peaks in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

Just over a mile from the junction the Meadow Lake Trail ended at Cat Hill Way.
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This trail ran between the Pacific Crest Trail (1.5 miles to the left) and The Blue Canyon Trailhead (2.25 miles to the right). We turned right following a very old roadbed that climbed gradually just below the summit of Cat Hill before descending to the meadow at the trailhead. While the other trails had been well maintained this one had a number of downed trees that were fairly easily navigated. This trail did provide a view of Mt. McLoughlin (post) albeit limited on this day due to the cloud cover.
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IMG_1858Colorful fungus

IMG_1856Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_1861A little fresh snow, a welcome sight.

IMG_1863A nice little viewpoint just off the trail.

IMG_1870Passing below Cat Hill.

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IMG_1874Back to the trailhead.

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Our hike came in at 12.2 miles with approximately 1700′ of elevation gain.

We only saw a few other people which was surprising even with the wet weather given how popular this area is in the Summer. It had sprinkled off and on for most of the morning but we didn’t ever feel the need to put our rain gear on. We drove back to Shady Cove and after changing headed to 62’s Burgers and Brews for a late lunch/early dinner. The clouds were once again breaking up which was encouraging as we were heading back to Crater Lake the following day where we would be hoping for some good views. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blue Lake Basin

Categories
Crater Lake Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Union Peak – 09/17/2022

Our hiking focus this year has been primarily on the Southern Oregon and Northern California area. This was due in large part to that being the area where the majority of the remaining hikes were located for us to reach our goal of hiking Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). Over the last couple of years we’ve canceled several trips down to this area due to wildfires (and associated smoke) as well as inclement weather. In fact we were starting to wonder if we might ever get the chance to finish the featured hikes from the area. This year things have been different, in fact we switched our August vacation from the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon to Northern California because the conditions, for once, were more favorable.

One of the trips we’d canceled in recent years was a four day stay in Union Creek. (Dangerous air quality due to wildfire smoke.) We had placed that trip back on our schedule for this year hoping for better luck. There were no fires in the immediate area but a number of fires were burning elsewhere in Oregon and Northern California which could still send enough smoke into the area to affect air quality. We kept a close eye on the weather and air quality forecasts and while the latter looked good the weather forecast was a little iffy. There was potential for showers including snow at higher elevations (7500′) as well as a slight chance of thunderstorms on a couple of days. The forecast was good enough for us to give it a try. Of the four hikes we had planned, two were not view dependent so we could rearrange the order depending on the forecast.

The forecast for Saturday was for partly cloudy skies with a chance of showers all day and a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We decided to attempt Union Peak despite the possible thunderstorms counting on summiting the 7709′ peak well before the arrival of potential thunderstorms. The most direct route from Salem to the Union Peak Trailhead is to take the West Rim Drive through Crater Lake National Park requiring the purchase of a $30.00, 7-day park pass. (Please note that both the Union Peak Trailhead and Union Peak itself are inside the park but do not require a park pass.) Since one of our other planned hikes started along West Rim Drive we would have needed a pass anyway so we entered the Park from the north entrance, purchased a pass, and then stopped at the Watchman Lookout Trailhead for a view of Crater Lake.
IMG_1518Wizard Island

IMG_1520The Watchman (post)

IMG_1522Hillman Peak and Llao Rock

We continued through the Park past the south entrance to Highway 62 where we turned right toward Medford for a mile to the Union Peak Trailhead.
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It was a little before 9am which gave us plenty of time to complete the hike based on the weather forecast. Both Sullivan and the trailhead signboard indicated that it was an 11 mile out-and-back.
IMG_1530The sign calls this the “steepest” hike in Southern Oregon. We wondered what criteria that was based on?

The hike begins on the Pacific Crest Trail following it south for 2.5 fairly level miles to a signed junction with the Union Peak Trail.
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IMG_1536There were a large number of big mushrooms along this section of trail as seen to the lower right.

IMG_1537One of the big shrooms.

IMG_1539A Stellar’s jay.

IMG_1540More of the big mushrooms.

IMG_1542Another Stellar’s jay.

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IMG_1549Nearing the trail junction.

We veered right onto the Union Peak Trail which began with a gradual climb following a ridge toward Union Peak.
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IMG_1557First glimpse of Union Peak through the trees.

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IMG_1561Gardner Peak behind Goose Egg (center) to the SE.

IMG_1563Fireweed

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IMG_1566It was cloudy but no showers so far and the clouds appeared to be well above the summit.

IMG_1570Townsend’s solitaire

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I was so focused on Union Peak I failed to notice the deer to the right below until it and a nearby fawn bounded off.

Approximately 1.7 miles from the junction the trail passed an colorful rock outcrop on the right.
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IMG_1585Mount Bailey in the distance to the right of the outcrop.

I missed more deer below the trail here, only noticing them when they started to run off.
IMG_1588The last doe keeping watch as the rest of the deer disappeared into the forest.

Beyond the colorful outcrop the trail dipped to a saddle then turned left at the base of Union Peak passing through a boulder field then onto a cinder hillside.
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IMG_1593Golden-mantled ground squirrel

IMG_1595Western pasque flower seed-heads along the trail.

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IMG_1601Looking up at Union Peak and wondering how the trail got up there.

IMG_1603Nearing the cinder field.

The trail switchbacked in the cinders providing a nice view of Crater Lake’s Rim.
IMG_1606Mount Scott (post) was the only peak covered by clouds.

The trail climbed back through the rock field and then came the steep part.
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IMG_1611It’s always interesting to see the various rock that make up these volcanic peaks.

IMG_1614The Watchman and Llao Rock with Mt. Thielsen in between in the background.

IMG_1617That’s the trail on the right side of the photo.

IMG_1618Looking down at the trail below.

IMG_1619The trail was fairly easy to follow as it switchbacked up through the rocks. It was narrow in places which might be hard for those with a fear of heights.

The final pitch was more of a scramble than a hike though.
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IMG_1625While there were no people at the summit the brush had attracted a fairly large number of yellow jackets.

I had reached the summit before Heather so I wandered back and forth along the top since every time I tried to sit down the yellow jackets took an interest in me, and I don’t do yellow jackets.
IMG_1626Looking west toward the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.

IMG_1633The trail along the ridge below Union Peak.

IMG_1638Lost Creek Lake (post) in the valley to the SW.

IMG_1630Mount Bailey, Diamond Peak (post), and Mt. Thielsen behind the rim of Crater Lake.

IMG_1639The rim of Crater Lake.

The combination of clouds, smoke, and the position of the Sun impacted the view to the south which on a clear day would have included both Mt. McLoughlin (post) and Mt. Shasta.
IMG_1640Mt. McLoughlin is to the far right with some clouds over the top. Starting from the left is Goose Nest, Goose Egg (with Gardner Peak behind), Maude Mountain (with a faint Pelican Butte behind to the right), Lee, Devil’s, & Lucifur Peaks (Mt. Shasta is behind those three.) followed by Mt. McLoughlin.

Heather joined me at the summit. Her dislike of heights had kicked in on her way up so she was ready for a nice break but after having been stung two weeks earlier the presence of the yellow jackets did not help her relax. We did however stay long enough for the clouds to start breaking up a little.
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IMG_1656Mt. Bailey

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IMG_1654The Watchman and Hillman Peak directly behind with Mt. Thielsen further in the distance.

IMG_1653Llao Rock

IMG_1655Applegate Peak

When Heather was ready we headed down. She was a little nervous but managed fine and we soon found ourselves crossing the boulder field again.
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IMG_1671Looking back up from the rock field.

IMG_1672Mount Shasta arnica

By the time we were recrossing the ridge near the colorful outcrop a bit of blue sky had appeared behind Union Peak.
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IMG_1679Bleeding heart

That trend continued and we imagined that the two hikers we’d passed on the way down were enjoying even better views than we’d had.
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We had no complaints though. The smoke hadn’t been bad, we didn’t smell any at all until we were nearly back to the trailhead, and the clouds had kept the temperature down without raining at all. The Sun even made an appearance along the way.
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IMG_1690One of several mountain bluebirds we spotted.

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IMG_1700Bumblebees on a few remaining aster.

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IMG_1703Sunshine

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IMG_1705A sulphur butterfly.

IMG_1708Arriving back at the trailhead.

While Sullivan and the signboard listed this as an 11 mile hike our GPS came in at only 10 miles round trip. Either way there was 1600′ of elevation gain, much of which came in the final, steep, half mile.

From the trailhead we continued west on Highway 62 to the Edgewater Inn in Shady Cove, OR where we would be spending the next three nights. A quick check of the forecast for Sunday before bed revealed that “severe” thunderstorms were now forecast for Crater Lake overnight and Sunday called for clouds and a 50% chance of showers everywhere we’d planned on hiking. The good news was that our planned hike for Sunday was a visit to several lakes in the Sky Lakes Wilderness so showers wouldn’t really affect any views and getting some much needed precipitation was a lot more important than whether or not we would be getting wet on our hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Union Peak

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Spring Valley Greenway – 09/10/2022

September has always been a bit tricky for planning hikes. Historically it seemed there was always at least one weekend where snow returned to the mountains while other weekends might see rain or 90 degree temperatures. In recent years extreme wildfire behavior has entered into the mix resulting in some devastating fires and some very unhealthy air quality as was the case with the Labor Day fires in 2020. A rare east wind event that year caused a number of wildfires to explode.

A similar, but not nearly as strong, wind event was forecast for Friday & Saturday which coincided with our third attempt at using a Central Cascade Overnight Wilderness Permit. We had planned on trying to reach Goat Peak in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after having failed to do so in September 2018 (post) but the combination of extreme fire danger and forecast for wide spread smoke resulted in our once again deciding not to utilize the permit we’d obtained. (An early snowstorm in 2021 and thunderstorms in July of this year were the reasons we’d changed our permit plans.)

We were still hoping to sneak some sort of hike in so I started looking for another idea. We didn’t want to go too far from home due to the potential for fast spreading fires but at the same time the Saturday forecast for Salem was a high in the mid-90’s and widespread haze/smoke. I turned to the Oregon Hikers Field Guide for inspiration and noticed the Spring Valley Loop in the Willamette Valley State Parks section. It was less than a 20 minute drive from home and at less than four miles would allow us to be done hiking by mid-morning and avoid the warmer part of the day.

Prior to leaving in the morning I checked up on a fire that had started the day before in South Salem along Vitae Springs Road and stuck my head outside to see if the air smelled of smoke. Everything seemed okay so we proceeded to get ready and headed out at about a quarter to 7am. While the air didn’t smell of smoke the sky had a familiar hauntingly orange hue to it. As we prepared to set off on the first of three short loops from the Spring Valley Trailhead we remarked at how dark it still was due to the layer of smoke overhead. (The majority of the smoke was likely from the Cedar Creek Fire near Waldo Lake (post) which had grown rapidly overnight toward Oakridge and Westfir prompting evacuations although there was also a new fire to the NE at Milo McIver State Park (post).)
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For the first loop we walked back up the park entrance road approximately 400 feet to the Rook Trail on the left.
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We followed this trail as it wound through the woods for nearly a mile before ending at the entrance road a short way from Highway 221 (Wallace Rd NW).
IMG_1426The combination of low light and orange hue made for some poor photography conditions.

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IMG_1440Approaching the entrance road. The gate is for the road which is only open during daylight hours.

We turned right onto the road and followed it for a tenth of a mile to the unsigned Generator Trail (there was some pink flagging present) and took a left onto this one-way trail.
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IMG_1449The Generator Trail.

The 0.4 mile Generator Trail brought us back down to the entrance road between the trailhead and where we had turned onto the Rook Trail.
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As we followed the road back to the trailhead we were discussing which loop to try next. That decision was made by the couple having an intimate moment in the back of a pickup parked at the start of the Perimeter Trail. We turned right, away from the show, and cut across the mowed field surrounding the vault toilet to pick up the also unsigned Upper Spring Valley Trail.
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IMG_1466Spring Valley Creek passing under the entrance road.

IMG_1467The mowed field.

IMG_1472Upper Spring Valley Creek Trail.

The 0.7 mile Upper Spring Valley Creek Trail simply loops back to the trailhead so we hopped that by the time we had finished the short loop the couple was finished as well.
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IMG_1475A few Autumn colors starting to show, now we just need some Fall rain.

IMG_1476Brief glimpse of the Willamette River.

IMG_1477The tailgate was up on the pickup, a good sign for us.

IMG_1478Some of the various non-native wildflowers in the area.

Before setting off on the Perimeter Trail we decided to make the quick detour down to the Willamette.
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IMG_1480Mile 74.2 of the Willamette Water Trail.

We didn’t quite make it to the river though as the couple had apparently decided to switch locations, but at least they were taking turns. We made a hasty retreat and set off on the Perimeter Trail.
IMG_1484The Perimeter Trail begins to the right of the gate.

The Perimeter Trail loops around another mowed field but after 0.2 miles the signed TCC Trail splits off to the right into the woods (assuming you are hiking counter-clockwise).
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IMG_1487Invasive common tansy but the beetle was cool looking.

IMG_1488We were initially fooled by this side-trail at the 0.1 mile mark which was not the TCC Trail, but did provide access to the Willamette.
IMG_1491Willamette Mission State Park (post) is located on the opposite side down river.

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IMG_1494There’s the TCC Trail.

After just a tenth of a mile on the TCC Trail it appeared that we were going to be led right back out to the field but the TCC Trail made a hard right and stayed in the woods for an additional four tenths of a mile.
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IMG_1500Back to the field after half a mile.

At the field we turned right onto what in theory was the Perimeter Trail following it another 0.4 miles back to the trailhead.
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Canada thistleInvasive Canadad thistle.

IMG_1504Common toadflax – non-native.

IMG_1505Moth mullein – you guessed it, non-native.

IMG_1506The Sun behind a layer of smoke.

IMG_1509Pigeons (or doves) in a snag.

The three loops came to a grand total of 3.5 miles with a little over 200′ of elevation gain.

While the conditions weren’t ideal there was a cool (mostly) breeze and it never smelt like smoke. Early Spring would be a much better time to visit or maybe a little later once more of the leaves have had time to change color but given the circumstances it was a suitable destination. It was nice to find another option so close to home too. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spring Valley Greenway

Categories
Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

Fish, Buckeye, and Cliff Lakes – 09/03-04/2022

For Labor Day Weekend we continued our focus on featured hikes from the Southern Oregon area and headed for the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness to visit several lakes. Our goal was to finish hikes #6 & 7, Fish Lake and Buckeye & Cliff Lakes respectively. To do this we planned hiking into Fish Lake from the Beaver Swamp Trailhead, setting up camp there, and then taking the Lakes Trail from there to the Buckeye and Cliff Lakes for a loop described by Sullivan visiting Grasshopper Mountain. We planned on hiking out the next day one of two ways, either by Rocky Ridge which Sullivan described as a rough route requiring route finding skills or back the way we’d come via the Beaver Swamp Trail.

We made an unscheduled stop on the drive to the trailhead at South Umpqua Falls (We used our NW Forest Pass to cover the $5 day use fee). My Mom had mentioned a water fall along the South Umpqua River that they had not made it to during their explorations and when I saw the sign for the South Umpqua Falls picnic area I thought this might be the falls she was talking about so we pulled in for a quick peek.
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We had the popular swimming area that often draws large crowds all to ourselves. We began by visiting the base of the falls then hiked up above the falls.
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IMG_1094Ouzel

In all our wanderings here came to 0.4 miles, a good leg stretcher after having driven for a little over 3 hours. We then continued on our drive to the Beaver Swamp Trailhead which we arrived at shortly after 9am.
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We set off downhill on the Beaver Swamp Trail which promptly entered the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.
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It was surprisingly overcast and a light drizzle was falling as we hiked through a mixed forest with madrone trees and sporadic poison oak. When I’d checked the forecast the night before it simply called for “widespread haze” with Sunday showing as sunny.
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After 1.4 miles on the Beaver Swamp Trail we arrived at the Fish Lake Trail where we turned left.
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This trail followed Fish Lake Creek for 0.3 miles to Fish Lake.
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IMG_1115Small cascade on Fish Lake Creek.

IMG_1119Logs at the outlet of Fish Lake. The Indian Trail can be seen on the far side. This junction was unmarked and you would have to cross the logs to reach it. In theory one could take this trail to the Lakes Trail near Buckeye Lake, but as we understand it the trail does not receive regular maintenance so we did not include it in our plans.

IMG_1121Arriving at Fish Lake

We continued around the northern shore of the lake for three quarters of a mile passing the one other family camped at the lake along the way (more on them later). Before reaching Highrock Creek we followed a use trail uphill to locate a suitable campsite. When we passed by the campers we caught the distinct smell of campfire smoke which, as of 7/22/2022 had been prohibited in Wilderness areas within the Umpqua National Forest. (Not a good start with this group.)

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IMG_1130The clouds began burning off before we’d found our campsite.

IMG_1133We set up camp on a little knoll near an old stone foundation. We’re interested to know what used to be there but so far haven’t found any information on it.

After setting up camp we returned to the Fish Lake Trail which appears to have been rerouted through a large and elaborate campsite.
IMG_1134A little too developed for Wilderness standards.

From the large campsite the trail followed Highrock Creek for 0.6 miles to a fork. The Fish Lake Trail actually veered uphill to the left and the Lakes Trail picked up to the right.
IMG_1136A dry channel along Highrock Creek.

IMG_1138Crossing an unnamed creek.

IMG_1140The trail junction.

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Just beyond the junction the Lakes Trail crossed Highrock Creek and began a steady climb along a hillside above Fish Lake.
IMG_1142Highrock Creek. There were several nice pools here which we utilized to replenish our water on our way back to camp.

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IMG_1149Foam flower and a few ripe thimbleberries, Heather’s favorite.

This trail was well maintained and after approximately 2 miles we arrived at a junction with the Grasshopper Trail. A couple of things to note about this segment of the Lakes Trail. Sullivan showed it as 1.7 miles so this was a little longer than we’d expected, but more importantly the trail alignment shown our GPS unit’s topographic map had the trail quite a bit higher on the hillside. (CalTopo agrees with our actual track so it appears to be accurate.)
IMG_1152The junction with the Grasshopper Trail

We decided to make the climb to Grasshopper Mountain before visiting the two lakes so we turned right onto the Grasshopper Trail and trudged uphill gaining 860′ in the next 1.25 miles before arriving at a junction near Grasshopper Spring.
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IMG_1157Pine white

IMG_1170Sign for the Gasshopper Mountain Trail.

IMG_1168Grasshopper Spring is out there somewhere.

We turned right onto the Grasshopper Mountain trail. This three quarters of a mile trail climbed another 350′ to the site of a former lookout. The climb was surprisingly gradual and passed through a variety of scenery along the way.
IMG_1173We had to go around this big tree.

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IMG_1183A few aster

IMG_1185There were some good sized cedars up here.

IMG_1187A fritillary

IMG_1190Another big cedar.

IMG_1193Fritillary on pearly everlasting.

IMG_1199The final stretch to the summit passed through a fire scar.

IMG_1200Highrock Mountain to the left, Hershberger Mountain in the middle, and the Rabbit Ears to the right (post).

IMG_1198Rabbit Ears closeup.

IMG_1207Fish Mountain (back left), Weaver Mountain, Highrock Mountain, and Hershberger Mountain with Grasshopper Meadow below.

IMG_1208Highrock Mountain

IMG_1209Owl’s clover.

IMG_1212Arriving at the old lookout site.

We spent some time enjoying the view but a lack of shade (and places to comfortably sit) kept us from taking a longer break at the summit.
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IMG_1225Buckeye (left) and Cliff Lakes below Grasshopper Mountain. The broad hump beyond to the left is Twin Lakes Mountain. We had visited a viewpoint on the north side of that mountain back in June of this year (post).

IMG_1226Buckeye and Cliff Lakes

IMG_1213Smoke on the horizon to the NW. The Cedar Creek fire to the NE, Rum Creek Fire to the SW or several fires in Northern California could be the culprit(s). The peak with the white spot to the center right is Quartz Mountain which we recognized from our Hemlock Lake hike in August (post).

IMG_1218To the NE we got a glimpse of Rattlesnake Mountain (far left) which we’d climbed during Labor Day weekend in 2020 (post).

IMG_1231Rattlesnake Mountain behind Standoff Point.

We headed back down toward the Grasshopper Trail but instead of simply retracing our steps we veered right after 0.6 miles on a spur of the Grasshopper Mountain Trail that brought us to the Grasshopper Trail on the opposite side of a saddle from where we’d left it.
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IMG_1233A skipper

IMG_1237We veered right here which kept us from dropping below the saddle that we otherwise would have had to climb over on the Grasshopper Trail.

IMG_1238Descending to the Grasshopper Trail.

IMG_1241Trail sign at the other junction.

We turned right again and continued on our loop following the Grasshopper Trail downhill to Grasshopper Meadow.
IMG_1247Grasshopper Meadow through the trees.

IMG_1248Sign for a (faint) spur trail to a spring above the meadow.

The Grasshopper Trail skirted the meadow and a half mile from the saddle arrived at a signed junction with the Acker Divide Trail.
IMG_1253Highrock Mountain from Grasshopper Meadow.

IMG_1255A few flowers hanging on to the last days of Summer.

IMG_1257Common wood nymph

IMG_1263The trail got pretty faint just before the junction but we could see the trail sign so we just headed for it.

IMG_1265Fleabane? and paintbrush.

IMG_1267Acker Divide Trail pointer.

IMG_1269Pointer for Cripple Camp (we visited the shelter there on our Hershberger Mountain hike) and the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail.

We turned right onto the Acker Divide Trail following this trail for a total of 3.2 miles (per our GPS, Sullivan had it as 3) passing a spur to the Acker Divide Trailhead at the 1 mile mark, Mosquito Camp at the 1.4 mark, and a pond labeled Little Fish Lake in the guidebook after 2.8 miles. This appeared to be the least utilized trail that we’d been on. It was fairly well maintained but there was a lot of debris on it and vegetation crowding the trail. It also left and reentered the wilderness area a couple of times.
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IMG_1276This fuzzy caterpillar was in a hurry.

IMG_1279The trail along an old log.

IMG_1283Passing through a small meadow near the spur to the Acker Divide Trailhead.

IMG_1286Yarrow and goldenrod

IMG_1288The area was really well signed.

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IMG_1295Sign for Mosquito Camp on the tree to the right. There was zero sign of any established campsites here.

IMG_1294Meadow at Mosquito Camp, it came complete with mosquitos (not too many though).

IMG_1299First of two times reentering the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.

IMG_1301Scat on the trail, at least we knew something used it.

IMG_1307One of several very small bodies of water along Skimmerhorn Creek which may or may not be Little Fish Lake.

IMG_1308Overgrown trail near Skimmerhorn Creek.

IMG_1310Looking down at the pond? lake?

IMG_1313As we neared the Lakes Trail we began seeing more signs of what appeared to be an ancient lava flow.

IMG_1315Last of the lupine blooms.

IMG_1318Lots of these insect tents on the madrones in the area.

IMG_1319Arriving at the Lakes Trail.

At the Lakes Trail we again turned right following it briefly through a fire scar before reentering unburnt forest and arriving at Buckeye Lake after 0.4 miles.
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IMG_1324First glimpse of Buckeye Lake

IMG_1326At this fork we detoured right to visit the lake shore.

IMG_1327A good reminder that far too many people tend to forget.

IMG_1333Grasshopper Mountain from Buckeye Lake.

We were surprised to find that there was no one at the lake given that it’s just a mile from the Skimmerhorn Trailhead. While there were no people to be seen we were not alone.
IMG_1330Lizard

IMG_1340We had to really watch our step because these little guys were everywhere.

IMG_1335There is an smaller, unnamed lake just West of Buckeye Lake that we did not take the time to check out closer.

From the far end of Buckeye Lake we followed the Lakes Trail 0.2 mile through the old lava flow to a spur trail on the right that led to a large campsite along Cliff Lake. Someone had left (placed) a small BBQ and tarp here but we never saw anyone.
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IMG_1347The spur trail to the campsite.

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IMG_1350_stitchAttempted panorama.

The campsite provided a nice shaded place for a break free of mosquitos. After a nice long break we returned to the Lakes Trail and continued another 0.3 miles to the junction where we had earlier turned onto the Grasshopper Trail. We turned left at the junction and headed back toward Fish Lake.
IMG_1357Footbridge over the outlet creek which flows into another small unnamed lake that we did not attempt to find.

20220903_171037_HDRUnfortunately the lighting made this tree very hard to photograph but it was the coolest tree/rock combination that we’ve encountered.

IMG_1362Fritillary on thistle.

IMG_1363Short climb back up to the junction.

We had considered having our dinner at Cliff Lake since it was close to 5pm but we had decided against it due to being low on water and preferring to refill from one of the creeks over the lakes. We followed the Lakes Trail back to Highrock Creek where I worked on dinner while Heather refilled our water. After enjoying some Mountain House creamy macaroni and cheese we hiked the final 0.6 miles back to our campsite.
IMG_1364This slug was heading our way while we finished dinner.

IMG_1367The Sun was getting pretty low as we ended our hike.

IMG_1368A big nest atop a tree and the Moon above Fish Lake.

IMG_1370Zoomed in on the nest and Moon.

IMG_1375Fish Lake just before 7:30pm.

We were again surprised by the lack of people, it appeared that it was still just us and the campfire family. We turned in a little after 8pm to the welcome sound of crickets. Just before 9pm someone with the campfire family decided it was the perfect time to repeatedly fire a small caliber gun. It was both jarringly startling and disconcerting. We were not sure which direction they were firing in and we had no idea if the even knew we were camped there. As the shooting continued we began to consider our options. We couldn’t hike out because we’d need to pass them and that didn’t seem safe in the dark plus we guessed that whoever it was had been drinking. (Based on the four Coors cans we passed the next morning cooling in a stream we think that was probably the case.) The other option was to move camp further back, there was a site near Highrock Creek that was closer to the water than we would normally choose but given the choice of being struck by a stray bullet of camping closer than 200′ to water we were going to pick the water. During a break in the gunfire I quickly retrieved our bear bag and moved it downhill where we could easily access it if we needed move to the creek. We settled on moving camp if the shooting started again but fortunately it did not and we were able spend the rest of the night in relative peace.

The next morning we discussed our plan for the day. Neither of us were too keen on passing by what we were now referring to as the “mouth breathers” but we also both had the sneaking suspicion that the previous days hike was longer than the 13 miles we had come up with adding the distances in Sullivan’s book together. In the end though we both felt like we’d regret not trying the longer (and more elevation gain) return via Rocky Ridge. We decided that we would go ahead and give it a try knowing that we always had the option of turning around and hiking out the way we’d come in on the Beaver Swamp Trail given it was less than 2.5 miles to the trailhead from our campsite that way. We packed up camp and headed for Highrock Creek to top off our water.
IMG_1377Campsite after packing up in the morning.

IMG_1380Passing our planned route for the day on the left. Highrock Creek was just a 20 yard detour to the right.

After replenishing our water supply we started up the Fish Lake Trail which climbed nearly 2200′ in three miles to its end at the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trail near Highrock Meadows. This section of the trail had many signs of the 2017 Pup Fire scar which is the main reason we were uncertain whether or not we would be able to make it back to the trailhead this way. There were some signs of post fire trail maintenance, but we weren’t able to even make it a half mile before encountering a very large downed snag blocking the trail. It was too tall and at too steep of an angle to safely climb over and there wasn’t enough clearance to go under (we’d already done both options on other downed trees). The steep hillside was covered in downed trees and the fire had left the ground unstable making scrambling around too risky for our taste so we called it there and made our retreat.
IMG_1382I think this was the third obstacle, one of several that was easy enough to get over.

IMG_1385Prior maintenance, the second log may have been cut post fire?

IMG_1387End of the line for us. Even if we somehow got around this one there was still 9.5 miles of burned trail from the trailhead and who knew how many obstacles like this one we might encounter or how long it would take us if we somehow were successful.

IMG_1388We had the privilege of navigating this one twice. Heather is on the other side coming through.

IMG_1389Back at the junction.

From the junction it was just under three miles back to the car. We hustled past the mouth breathers who seemed to still be asleep and said goodbye to Fish Lake.
IMG_1392No clouds this morning.

IMG_1396Highrock Mountain behind Fish Lake. Seeing the vine maples turning colors reminded us that despite the heat Autumn was just around the corner.

IMG_1402Hiking along Fish Lake Creek.

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IMG_1411Highrock Mountain from the Beaver Swamp Trail.

IMG_1413Leaving the Rogue-Umpqua Wilderness for the last time this trip.

Our suspicions about the length of our hike on Saturday were confirmed by our GPS showing a distance of 16.4 miles with approximately 3200′ of cumulative elevation gain.

Our tracks for the weekend. The solid light blue line was our attempt to reach Rocky Ridge

Given the previous days hike and how warm it was by 9am it was probably for the best that we were turned back from the longer return as quickly as we had been. It had been a bit of a mixed bag with some good weather, nice scenery mixed in with the gunfire and not being able to hike out via Rocky Ridge but overall it had been enjoyable. (Click here for a look at the Rocky Ridge route pre-fire courtesy of Boots-on-the-Trail.)

At the trailhead we encountered a Forest Service employee who had just arrived for a two night stay at the trailhead. They were there to perform a survey of recreation users so we spent about 10 minutes answering the questions before heading home.

Unfortunately for us our adventure wasn’t over. If you’ve been following our blog this year you’ll know that we’ve had the low tire pressure light come on three different times, each one a long way from home (Siskiyou Gap, Black Butte Trail, and Russian Lake) due to a nail, a screw, and a rock. The latter leaving us with a flat tire near Callahan, CA and requiring a purchase of four new tires. This time just outside of Roseburg instead of the low tire pressure light half our dashboard lit up. All at once the check engine light came on, the X-mode indicator began blinking, and the Eye Sight unavailable lights all came on. After further review it appears that when the check engine light comes on those other systems are disabled prompting those indicators to come on. Regardless it was a Sunday and we were over a hundred miles from home. We kept a close eye on all the gauges for the rest of the drive and will have to wait until the Tuesday after Labor Day to make an appointment to have the car checked out. What I wouldn’t give for a Star Trek transporter. Happy Trails!

Flickr: South Umpqua Falls, Fish, Buckeye, and Cliff Lakes

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Trinity Alps Trip report

Hidden and South Fork Lakes – 08/26/2022

For the last hike of our week in Etna, CA we had chosen Hidden and South Fork Lakes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. (Featured hike #91 in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California” 4th edition.) This was both the shortest hike and drive of the week which would allow us to get home as early as possible. We began the hike at the Carter Meadows Summit Trailhead which is right next to a helipad. This area was hit pretty hard by the 2021 Haypress Fire.
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From the small parking area a trail descends 50′ to a junction which was left unsigned by the fire. Here the to the left was the Pacific Crest Trail coming up from the south and heading uphill to the north on the far right. A second trail to the right led downhill to the Carter Meadows Campground and finally the Hidden Lake Trail went straight ahead on along a ridge.
IMG_0831The PCT running left to right with the Hidden Lake Trail extending straight ahead.

IMG_0832Remnants of a trail sign. The sticks across the Hidden Lake Trail are to let PCT hikers know that is not their trail.

We followed the Hidden Lake Trail just under a mile to Hidden Lake. (Sullivan showed a distance of 1.2 miles but our GPS put it at 0.9 each way.) The trail followed a ridge and gained a little over 500′ of elevation which doesn’t sound like a lot but it felt quite a bit harder than we’d expected. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the final day of our trip and we were just worn out, but we were glad that we hadn’t tried to do this portion of the hike the day before after our Gulch Lake Loop (post).
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IMG_0835A layer of smoke over the valley on the horizon.

IMG_0836A fleabane, possibly California rayless fleabane.

IMG_0856Hidden Lake Trail following the ridge.

IMG_0853Dwarf purple monkeyflower

IMG_0868Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_0871Approaching Hidden Lake.

We arrived at Hidden Lake right around 7am, early enough that the Sun hadn’t had time to rise high enough to hit the lake.
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The lighting conditions were not ideal for photos but it was nice to sit in the shade by the lake after the climb up.
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After a short break we headed back along the ridge to the PCT.
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IMG_0895Golden-mantle watching us from atop the ridge.

IMG_0900Looking back now that there was a little more sunlight.

We turned right onto the PCT and began a 0.9 mile descent to a crossing of the South Fork Scott River.
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IMG_0903Diamond clarkia

IMG_0905A small raptor watching from a snag.

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IMG_0910Wildflowers in the burn scar.

IMG_0912Spreading dogbane

IMG_0913A small stream/spring providing some green.

IMG_0916Bleeding heart, fireweed, monkeyflower, and hedge nettle along the stream.

IMG_0923Yarrow and Oregon sunshine.

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IMG_0931California harebells

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IMG_0936A lot more green vegetation near the river crossing.

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IMG_0948South Fork Scott River

20220826_080306Mountain coyote mint

20220826_080407Mountain larkspur

20220826_080417Mountain larkspur

IMG_0953Snacks

IMG_0952Campsites along the PCT near the river crossing.

Two tenths of a mile beyond the river crossing we came to an unsigned junction with the South Fork Lakes Trail.
IMG_0954You can just make out the trail ahead heading uphill to the right.

We turned onto this trail and climbed a quarter of a mile to a meadow where the tread became faint.
IMG_0959This trail was the most overgrown/least maintained of all the trails we’d been on this trip.

IMG_0960Nearing the meadow.

IMG_0961Entering the meadow and losing the trail.

IMG_0964As of yet unidentified flower in the meadow.

We were behind a pair of bow hunters who were just exiting the meadow at the other end so we were able to follow their path through the tall grass. Beyond the meadow the trail began a steep rocky half mile climb before leveling out in a basin near Lower South Fork Lake.
IMG_0966There was a brief pause in the climb while the trail passed a series of springs.

IMG_0968Vegetation along the trail at the springs.

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IMG_0974Back to climbing.

IMG_0975The final spring that we passed was coming out of this hollowed trunk.

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IMG_0982There were several places where it looked like the trail was going to finally crest but when you got there you just found more uphill.

IMG_0985Finally the trail is leveling out.

It had just been a mile between the PCT junction and the lower lake but it had been the hardest mile of our trip. A well deserved break was taken at the lake.
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After the break we followed the trail around the west side of the lake and then bushwhacked two tenths of a mile to Upper South Fork Lake.
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IMG_1002Looking back over the lower lake.

IMG_1003Heading off-trail for the upper lake.

We took another break at the upper lake watching dragon flies zoom up and down the shore.
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The bow hunters arrived as we were starting to head back. It had been years since they’d visited the lake and were glad to see that at least most of the trees, including those around the campsite had survived the fire. We headed back down to the PCT and then hiked back up to the trailhead passing another group of backpackers heading for the lakes along the way.
IMG_1028Back to the lower lake.

IMG_1030A penstemon

IMG_1035Another look at the cool spring.

20220826_100459Monkeyflowers along the springs.

IMG_1043Butterfly on western snakeroot

IMG_1045Back through the meadow.

IMG_1050Thistle

20220826_103807Close up of a California harebell.

IMG_1063I can see a car at the trailhead.

IMG_1064The helipad at the trailhead.

IMG_1065The helipad at the trailhead.

Sullivan has these hikes listed as 2.4 miles out-and-back to Hidden Lake and 6 miles out-and-back to Upper South Fork Lake. Our GPS put the distances as 1.8 and 5 respectively giving us a 6.8 mile total for the day. The cumulative elevation gain was 1770′.

The lower mileage allowed us to get an earlier start on our drive home than expected which was nice. We were back home in Salem a little after 4:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and relax for a bit. Despite the flat tire on Wednesday it had been both a successful and enjoyable trip. It also marked our completion of all of Sullivan’s featured hikes in California. That doesn’t mean we are done hiking in that State but it does mean we are that much closer to completing our goal of hiking all the featured hikes in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon & Northern California guidebook (post). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Hidden and South Fork Lakes