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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

House Rock

We never know what kind of weather to expect in November when we are penciling out our hiking schedule so we typically play it fairly safe by picking a hike on the coast or along a lower elevation river or creek.   This year we selected House Rock along the Old Santiam Wagon Road which was established in 1865 as a main route from the Willamette Valley to Central and Eastern Oregon for many years.  As it turned out the weather was not a concern and it was a beautiful day for a hike.

The wagon road originally extended from Lebanon, OR all the way to Ontario, OR on the Oregon – Idaho border.  For our hike we started at a trailhead just east of the former Mountain House Restaurant (a long time rest stop along the route) on Highway 20 between milepost 52 & 53.  From the small parking area a footbridge led across the South Santiam River to former road.
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After crossing the river we turned left onto the wide path covered in a carpet of leaves and made our way through the mossy woods toward House Rock.
Old Santiam Wagon Road

Recent rains had left the creeks and runoff streams flowing nicely which added to the scenic beauty.
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At the two-mile mark we arrived at the start of the House Rock loop.
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We turned toward the river where another footbridge joined from the House Rock Campground.
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After checking out the bridge we made our way to House Rock.  There really wasn’t a good way to get a picture that adequately showed the size of House Rock and the opening beneath it.  A small stream flowed through the wide cavern where there was enough room for several people.
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From beneath House Rock

House Rock

We left House Rock and continued on the loop heading toward House Rock Falls.  A tree had recently fallen creating a bit of an obstacle but we were able to make our way over it.

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I emailed the Sweet Home Ranger District when we were home just in case they weren’t already aware of it.

A sign pointed the way to the falls along a .2 mile side trail.
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House Rock Falls was just as difficult to get a good picture of.  Boulders and logs partly obscured the view from the trail and the wet rocks made scrambling down to the base an adventure.  Even then the curve of the river combined with the rocks made it impossible to get a clear view without wading out into the river.  It was just cold enough that I didn’t feel like trying that so I settled for the obstructed view and called it good.
House Rock Falls

We headed back to the loop and then continued up to the wagon road where we turned left once again.  Our goal was a viewpoint near the 5 mile marker. After another 1.1 miles we met FS Rd 2044 where we followed signs to the continuation of the wagon road.  In the next couple of miles the trail briefly left the old road and passed through an ever-changing forest where there was a seemingly endless variety of mushrooms on display.
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Mushrooms along the Old Santiam Wagon Road

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We arrived at the 5 mile marker and took a short trail on the right to  the viewpoint.

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It was a nice place to take a short break and have a snack.  The view wasn’t anything spectacular but Jump Off Joe Mountain was across the a valley while Iron Mountain, which we had hiked on July 4th, rose up in the distance.

Jump Off Joe Mountain
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Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain from the 5 mile viewpoint along the Old Santiam Wagon Road

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We returned the way we had come following the wagon road back past the House Rock loop and ultimately to our waiting vehicle. It had been a wonderful November day for a hike.  Happy Trails!

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Beargrass
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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