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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Green Ridge – 6/20/2020

After three nice days the weather turned on us again and what had been a pleasant forecast for Saturday turned to rain everywhere I looked on the west side of the Cascades so we swapped a planned hike in Washington’s Trapper Creek Wilderness for a trip over Santiam Pass to Green Ridge where there was just the slightest chance of showers.

The Green Ridge escarpment sits at the eastern edge of the High Cascades graben along the Green Ridge Fault. With the ridge being the transition zone between the High Cascades and the High Desert the area is an interesting mix of trees and vegetation. The trail is popular with equestrians and mountain bikers as it connects with various longer loop options.

To reach the trailhead that we began at we drove Highway 20 to FR 11 also known as Green Ridge Road (2 miles east of Black Butte Ranch or 5.8 miles west of Sisters). We turned north onto FR 11 at a pointer for Indian Ford Campground and followed this paved road for 4.3 miles to an unmarked junction with FR 1120 at a curve. We turned left on the red cinder FR 1120 for 0.9 of washboard road to the trailhead on the left.
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The Green Ridge Trail began on the far side of FR 1120 at a sign.
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The trail passed through a forest of mostly ponderosa pine and a few scattered flowers.
IMG_6945Paintbrush

IMG_6956Balsamroot

IMG_6971A phacelia, Oregon sunshine, and a little pink diamond clarkia.

20200620_071037A penstemon

IMG_6977Washington lily

IMG_6955I couldn’t get a good shot of this western tanager but he was really colorful.

IMG_6995Buckwheat

IMG_6985Bird with breakfast

The trail soon began climbing gradually up the ridge via a long switchback. As we climbed we began to get views of the nearby Cascade peaks.
IMG_7012Three Fingered Jack

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20200620_071856Pinedrops

We also began to notice 3-inch long Pandora moth larva crawling across the trail.
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The larva spent spring feeding on ponderosa pines and are now burrowing into the ground where they will transform into pupae. They will then emerge next summer as adult moths. Based on studies of ponderosa pine tree rings up to 22 Pandora moth outbreaks have occurred in the last 600 years. When I was at Redmond High School in the late 80s/early 90s one of the outbreaks occurred and the number of the large moths was amazing.
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Many of the larva we saw would not be making it to adulthood as they seemed to be of particular interest to the resident ants of the area.

Three Fingered Jack was clear of clouds but the same couldn’t be said for Mt. Washington when it came into view over the shoulder of Black Butte (post).
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While it was still climbing the trail began to level out as it followed the ridge south.
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As I was watching the drama at my fleet playing out between the larva and the ants I spotted something in a hole in the middle of the trail.
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We shared a moment then the lizard scurried off into the sagebrush and we continued on. Mt. Jefferson soon joined the view and it too was relatively free of clouds for the time being.
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We spotted another familiar prominent feature along the Cascade crest as well.
IMG_7084South Cinder Peak (post)

As we continued along the ridge the forest transitioned from the ponderosa pines to higher elevation furs and pines.
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The flowers transitioned too and we were soon seeing a lot of purple larkspur red scarlet gilia, and white California stickseed as well as a few other flowers.
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California stickseed

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IMG_7195Lupine

IMG_7200Columbine

IMG_7206A moth but not a Pandora moth. 🙂

20200620_092042Sticky cinquefoil

20200620_091818Salsify

IMG_7225Tortoiseshell butterfly

Around the 5.25 mile mark we came to a bend in an old roadbed that the trail had been following since the 4 mile mark. Past the bend the road headed downhill a bit to dip around a knoll and continue on another 4.3 miles to the Green Ridge Lookout.
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This knoll was our goal for the day. We were using Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” guidebook and he described a faint trail leading up past a campsite to a viewpoint. We couldn’t identify the faint trail so we simply set off cross-country up the knoll. We did pass a fire pit which we assumed was the campsite and then noticed what might have been a faint trail.
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Just .2 miles from the trail/roadbed we arrived at the rocky viewpoint where we found a lot of penstemon.
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There was also a view of several mountains from the North Sister north to Mt. Hood.
IMG_7271Black Butte and the North Sister

IMG_7304North Sister

IMG_7289Three Fingered Jack

IMG_7302North Cinder Peak and Forked Butte (post)

IMG_7252Mt. Jefferson

IMG_7248Mt. Hood

We could also make out just the slightest bit of the Metolius River (post) below the ridge.
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After a nice break we headed back along the ridge. We took one side trip on the way back down just over 2.25 miles from the knoll to check out what looked to be quite a bit of balsamroot to the east of the trail. It turned out to be a wide open area that had a high desert feel in the center with lots of buckwheat while balsamroot surrounded it near the tree line.
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IMG_7323Buckwheat in the center.

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IMG_7329Balsamroot near the trees.

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After the brief side trip we continued down the trail which was now quite a bit busier with several mountain bikers and a couple of hikers making their way up the trail. Going in this direction there were times where we were looking straight at Black Butte and in so doing we noticed that Broken Top was visible over the left shoulder of the butte.
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IMG_7365Tam McArthur Rim (post) and Broken Top

There was a moment when a bit of blue sky opened above the cascades giving us a good look at Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack.
IMG_7346A sliver of blue sky over Black Butte and Mt. Washington.

IMG_7348Mt. Washington

IMG_7352Three Fingered Jack with some blue sky.

The blue sky quickly disappeared and it sprinkled ever so briefly before we arrived back at the trailhead. Our hike came in at 11.2 miles with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain which was spread out fairly well along the trail so that it never felt very steep at all. Given all the rain forecast for the west side of the cascades we felt fortunate to have gotten the mountain views we did. The best part of the hike for us though was the different vegetation and scenery along the ridge. The mix of high cascades and high desert made it a truly interesting place. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Green Ridge

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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Head of the Metolius

As an epilogue to our Strawberry Mountain Wilderness backpacking trip (Day 1, Day 2, Days 3 &4) we visited the head of the Metolius River on our way home after spending a night in Bend.

Our original plan had been an overnight trip in the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness but neither of us were left with the energy to tackle such an outing, but the quarter mile paved path the the headwaters of the Metolius sounded doable.

We arrived at the trailhead along Forest Road 14 just after 8am and started down the short paved path.
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It was a gloriously crisp 55 degrees which felt much cooler than it had at any time during our backpacking trip. Golden-mantled ground squirrels scurried about as we made our way to the viewing area.
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The Metolius emerges from the springs as a fully formed river flowing north toward the Cove Palisades State Park (post).
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IMG_9668Mt. Jefferson rising above the Metolius River

It may have only been a half mile hike but it was just what we’d needed before we headed home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Head of the Metolius

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Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Metolius River

Throwback Thursday is dedicated this week to one of the best wildlife hikes we’ve taken. On July 29th, 2012 on the way to Central Oregon we stopped at the Lower Canyon Creek Campground along the Metolius River. We parked at the West Metolius Trailhead at the far end of the campground.

West Metolius River Trailhead

An interesting thing here was the presence of a parking attendant.

Golden mantled ground squirrel

The trail begins along the banks of the Metolius River and stick close to it for the first 1.25 miles.

Metolius River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead a series of springs gushed from the far bank of the river.

Springs along the Metolius River

Springs along the Metolius River

Wildflowers grew along the bank and sometimes out in the river.

Metolius River

Scarlet gilia

Monkshod and hedge-nettle

Wildflowers along the Metolius River

Monkeyflower

Near the 1.25 mile mark the trail climbed away from the river just a bit as it wound through a steep canyon.

Metolius River

Soon we were back down along the riverbank though.

Metolius River

At the 2.7 mile mark we arrived at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Driving here is an option and can be a fun place for kids to watch and even feed the fish.

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

Fish at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

The hatchery apparently has other fans as well.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

For a shorter 5.7 mile hike we could have turned around here and headed back but a 6.4 mile loop could be completed by continuing on from the fish hatchery to a bridge at the Lower Bridge Campground so after looking at all the fish we continued on. In the 3.2 miles to the bridge we spotted a variety of wildlife.

Robin

Robin

Yellow rumped warbler

Yellow rumped warbler

Western fence lizard

Western fence lizard

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel

Deer in a meadow along the West Metolius Trail

Doe

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Lorquin’s admiral

Mylitta crescent butterfly

Mylitta crescent? butterfly

western fence lizard

Another western fence lizard

Coronis fritillary

Fritillary butterfly

Osprey

Osprey

We crossed the Metolius on the bridge and headed back along the eastern bank.

Metolius River

East Metolius Trail

The 3.2 miles back to the bridge at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery also had its share of wildlife.

Junco

Junco

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Silver-spotted skipper on lewis flax

Silver-spotted skipper

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Chipmunk

Another chipmunk

Golden mantled ground squirrel

Another ground squirrel

Western tanager

Western tanager

The bridge to the hatchery offers a great view of Wizard Falls. Not exactly a waterfall, Wizard Falls is created by ledges in the lava rock below the river creating a colorful water feature.

Wizard Falls

Wizard Falls

After crossing the bridge we returned to the trailhead and headed to Sisters. This was a great hike for not a lot of effort. There was very little elevation gain making the 11.8 miles very manageable. Another nice aspect to this trail is that it is open most of the year (other than during winter storms). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Metolius River