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Hiking Uncategorized

Central Oregon Cascades

Several years ago we set a goal for ourselves to hike all 500 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes…” series of guidebooks (post). In 2020 we finished the first of his five guidebooks covering the Central Oregon Cascades. The achievement became bittersweet just 10 days after finishing the final featured hike at Erma Bell Lakes (post) when a freak windstorm caused the Lionshead and Beachie fires to explode burning a number of the trails that we had hiked on our journey to complete this goal. On the one hand we were fortunate enough to see these areas before they burned but it also means being more aware of what was lost, at least for the time being. The 2020 fires were not the first to burn trails that we’d hiked in the area, sometimes after and sometimes before. Fire is part of a forest’s cycle but their time frames take much longer than ours.

For this post we want to recap our journey to complete the 100 featured hikes while sharing a little of what the area looked like as we experienced it but first a little context. The area that Sullivan covers in the Central Cascades book, as well as his books for the other four areas, isn’t exactly easy to define. The vast majority of hikes could be fit into a rectangle starting with the upper left hand corner in Salem and extending east to Highway 97 then south to the junction of highways 97 & 58, then west until intersecting with a line due south from Salem. (The imaginary line follows I5 south until Cottage Grove where the freeway jogs SW.) That is over simplification though as that description overlaps at times with hikes described in the NW & Eastern books and excludes two featured hikes west of I5 and two east of Highway 97. The first snip below generally shows the described rectangle with the hiker symbols representing trailheads where we have started hikes (not limited to the featured hikes being discussed here). The second snip excludes any hikes that are included in one of the other areas that Sullivan covers.

The area is home to a variety of landscapes and ecosystems and contains at least parts of nine designated Wilderness Areas: Opal Creek, Bull of the Woods, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, Menagerie, Middle Santiam, Waldo Lake, and Diamond Peak.

The area has been hit by a number of large fires since 2000. The map below covers the same approximate area as the second map above. The colored areas represent fires with yellow being 2000-2005, light orange 2006-10, dark orange 2011-14, and red 15-19.

Not included in the map above are the Green Ridge, Beachie or Lionshead Fires from 2020. The Green Ridge fire did not burn over any of the featured hikes (it did burn part of the Green Ridge Trail) but the Beachie and Lionshead Fires impacted a number of hikes in the Mt. Jefferson, Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness and surrounding areas.

The map below includes the Riverside Fire (large fire to the north), Beachie and Lionshead (center left and right which combined after Labor Day) and the Green Ridge Fire (SE).

We were lucky enough to complete many of the hikes prior to them being burned but we also hiked a number post fire and have seen the recovery in process. I’ve done my best to note below if a featured hike has experienced fire since 2000 with the year and name of the fire.

After all of that here are the 100 featured hikes from the 2012 4th edition of “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades”:

#1 – Ankeny Wildlife Refuge-Hiked 4/6/2014
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

#2 – Silver Fall-Hiked 2006, 7/30/2010 & 3/29/2018
Middle North FallsMiddle North Falls

#3 – Shellburg Falls-Hiked 5/23/2011
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Shellburg FallsShellburg Falls

#4 – Little North Santiam-Hiked 4/5/2012
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

#5 – Henline Falls & Henline Mountain 7/27/2009 & 6/14/2020
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Henline FallsHenline Falls

#6 – Opal Creek 7/4/2010, 7/4/2012, 6/21/2014 & 7/24/2019
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Jawbone FlatsJawbone Flats

#7 – Dome Rock and Tumble Lake 7/18/2010
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Tumble LakeTumble Lake from Dome Rock

#8 – Battle Ax and Twin Lakes 9/20/2014
Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson with Elk Lake belowMt. Jefferson from Battle Ax

#9 – Stahlman Point 5/6/2013
Burned 2020 Beachie Fire
View from Stahlman PointView from Stahlman Point

#10 – Coffin Mountain Lookout 8/2/2013 & 7/4/2016
Coffin Mountain Lookout with the Three Sisters and The Husband beyond

#11 – Three Pyramids 7/18/2020
Meadow along the Pyramids TrailMeadow below the Three Pyramids

#12 – Crescent Mt. 7/6/2014
Beargrass meadow along the Crescent Mountain TrailBeargrass on Crescent Mountain

#13 – Browder Ridge 9/9/2012 & 7/4/2018
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson from Browder Ridge

#14 – Echo Basin and Fish Lake 6/19/2020
Echo Basin TrailBoardwalk in Echo Basin

#15 – Iron Mt. 7/25/2010 & 7/4/2014
Iron Mountain from the Cone Peak MeadowIron Mountain from the trail.

#16 – House Rock 11/8/2014
House Rock

#17 – Rooster Rock 6/12/2016
Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie Wilderness

#18 – Cascadia State Park 6/12/2016
Soda Creek FallsSoda Creek Falls

#19 – Crabtree Lake 9/7/2019
Crabtree Lake

#20 – McDowell Creek Park 2/16/2014
Majestic FallsMajestic Falls

#21 – South Breitenbush Gorge 5/11/2013
Burned 2020 Lionshead Fire
Roaring CreekRoaring Creek

#22 – Jefferson Park 9/23/2011, 10/13/2014, & 8/8/2015
Burned partly in 2017 Whitewater and rest in 2020 Lionshead Fire
Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson ParkMt. Jefferson

#23 – Pamelia Lake 9/19/2013 & 9/8/2018
Pamelia Lake

#24 – Marion Lake 10/3/2014 & 9/10/2016
Burned 2002 Mt. Marion, 2003 B&B Complex, 2006 Puzzle, 2015 208SRZ Marion
Three Fingered Jack from Marion LakeThree Fingered Jack from Marion Lake

#25 – Duffy Lake 7/28/2010
Burned 2002 Mt. Marion, 2003 B&B Complex
Mowich Lake and Duffy ButteMowich Lake and Duffy Butte from Red Butte

#26 – Three Fingered Jack 10/13/2012
Burned 2003 B&B Complex
Three Fingered Jack

#27 – Canyon Creek Meadows 7/28/2013
Burned 2003 B&B Complex
The trail aheadThree Fingered Jack

#28 – Carl Lake 9/1/2018
Burned 2003, B&B Complex, 2006 Puzzle
Carl Lake

#29 – Metolius River 7/23/2012
Wizard FallsWizard Falls

#30 – Black Butte 10/13/2013 & 5/28/2018
Burned 2009 Black Butte II
Cupola style lookout on Black Butte

#31 – Alder Springs 8/3/2011
Deschutes RiverDeschutes River

#32 – Scout Camp Trail 5/1/2016
Balsamroot hillside

#33 – Steelhead Falls 5/1/2016
Steelhead Falls

#34 – Smith Rock 7/14/2006, 7/13/2011 & 6/5/2015
Monkey FaceMonkey Face

#35 – Shevlin Park 8/5/2011
Hixson Crossing Covered BridgeHixson Crossing Covered Bridge

#36 – Tumalo Falls 9/27/2014
Tumalo Falls

#37 – Dillon & Benham Falls 8/1/2013
Benham FallsBenham Falls

#38 – Lava Cast Forest and Lava River Cave 5/28/2017
Newberry Crater from the Lava Cast Forest

#39 – Fall River 9/16/2015
Fall River

#40 – LaPine State Park 9/16/2015
Deschutes RiverDeschutes River

#41 – Poxy Falls and Linton Lake 5/3/2014(Proxy Falls) & 6/25/2017(Linton Lake)
Burned (Linton Falls) 2017 Separation Fire
Proxy FallsProxy Falls

#42 – Obsidian Trail 10/14/2012
Burned (tiny portion of trail) 2017 Separation Fire
Obsidian FallsObsidian Falls

#43 – Four-in-one-Cone 10/14/2012 & 8/14/2019
View from Four-in-one ConeView from Four-in-One-Cone

#44 – Benson Lake 10/14/2012 & 8/30/2014
Burned (small section of longer loop trail) 2010 Scott Mt. Fire
Benson Lake

#45 – Hand Lake Shelter 8/30/2014
Hand Lake Shelter

#46 – Little Belknap Crater 9/14/2015
Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson from Little Belknap CraterMt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson from Little Belknap Crater

#47 – Matthieu Lakes 7/29/2013
Burned 2017 Milli Fire
South Matthieu LakeNorth Sister from South Matthieu Lake

#48 – Black Crater 10/1/2016
Burned 2017 Milli Fire
Remanants of the lookout tower on Black CraterFormer lookout site on Black Crater.

#49 – Chambers Lakes 8/26/2014
Burned 2012 Pole Creek Fire
South Sister from Camp LakeSouth Sister from Camp Lake

#50 – Park Meadow 8/27/2014
Burned 2012 Pole Creek Fire
Middle and North Sister beyond Golden LakeMiddle and North Sister from Golden Lake

#51 – Tam McArthur Rim 8/31/2013
Broken Top and Broken HandBroken Top and Broken Hand from Tam McArthur Ridge

#52 – Tumalo Mt. 9/27/2014
Trees near the summit of Tumalo MountainTrees near the summit of Tumalo Mountain.

#53 – Todd Lake and Broken Top 8/23/2014
Broken Top from No Name LakeBroken Top from No Name Lake

#54 – Sparks Lake 10/1/2014
South Sister from Sparks LakeSouth Sister from Sparks Lake

#55 – Green Lakes via Fall Creek 9/15/2015
The third Green LakeThe third Green Lake

#56 – Moraine Lake and South Sister 9/1/2013
View from the South SisterLooking north from the South Sister.

#57 – Sisters Mirror Lake 9/19/2015
South Sister from Sisters Mirror LakeSouth Sister from Sisters Mirror Lake

#58 – Horse Lake 8/4/2011
Horse LakeHorse Lake

#59 – Doris & Cliff Lakes 9/29/2014
Doris LakeDoris Lake

#60 – Clear Lake 6/15/2014
Clear Lake

#61 – Sahalie & Koosah Falls 9/9/2012
Sahalie FallsSahalie Falls

#62 – Tamolitch Pool 5/27/2013
Tamolitch Pool

#63 – Rainbow Falls and Separation Lake 5/3/2014
Separation LakeSeparation Lake

#64 – Horsepasture Mt. 7/7/2018
South Sister and Mt. Bachelor from the Horsepasture Mountain TrailSouth Sister and Mt. Bachelor form Horsepasture Mountain.

#65 – Olallie Mt. 9/1/2019
Burned 2017 Olallie Lookout Fire (Lookout burned down winter 2019/20).
Olallie Mountain lookout

#66 – Lowder Mt. 9/1/2019
View from Lowder MountainView from Lowder Mountain.

#67 – Tidbits Mt. 6/29/2019
View from Tidbits MountainView from Tidbits Mountain.

#68 – Castle Rock 6/3/2017
Monkeyflower and pletritisMonkeyflower and plectritis on Castle Rock.

#69 – French Pete Creek 5/16/2015
Burned 2017 Rebel and 2018 Terwilliger Fires
French Pete Creek

#70 – Erma Bell Lakes 8/29/2020
Middle Erma Bell LakeMiddle Erma Bell Lake

#71 – Spencer Butte 2/9/2020
View from Spencer ButteFog over Eugene.

#72 – Mt. Pisgah 10/5/2019
Summit of Mt. PisgahSummit marker on Mt. Pisgah.

#73 – Shotgun Creek 2/9/2020
Shotgun Creek

#74 – Fall Creek 3/31/2013
Burned 2003 Clark and 2017 Jones Fires
Fall Creek

#75 – Mt. June 6/2/2013
Sawtooth TrailSawtooth Trail

#76 – Goodman Creek 11/10/2013
Small Falls on a branch of Goodman Creek

#77 – Patterson Mt. 5/5/2018
Lone Wolf MeadowLone Wolf Meadow

#78 – Tire Mt. 6/8/2014
Wildflowers along the Tire Mountain TrailWildflowers along the Tire Mt. Trail.

#79 – North Fork and Buffalo Rock 5/10/2020
Buaffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette RiverBuffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette River

#80 – Grasshopper Meadow 7/8/2017
Grasshopper Meadow

#81 – Blair Lake and Wall Creek 6/11/2015
Beargrass MeadowBeargrass meadow along the Blair Lake Trail.

#82 – Chuckle Springs 5/24/2020
Burned 2009 Tumblebug Complex
Indigo SpringsIndigo Springs (These springs have not burned.)

#83 – Spirt, Moon, and Pinard Falls 6/17/2020
Moon FallsMoon Falls

#84 – Brice Creek 5/5/2014
Upper Trestle Creek FallsUpper Trestle Creek Falls

#85 – Bohemia Mt. 8/15/2020
Bohemia Mountain

#86 – Eddeeleo Lakes 8/25/2018
Lower Eddeeleo LakeLower Eddeeleo Lake

#87 – Waldo Mt. 9/7/2013
Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters and Broken Top from Waldo MountainView from the Waldo Mountain Lookout.

#88 – Lillian Falls 8/30/2019
Lillian Falls

#89 – Fuji Mt. 10/6/2013
View from Fuji Mountain

#90 – South Waldo Lake 8/22/2015
Waldo Lake

#91 – The Twins 9/14/2019
View north from the south summit of The Twins

#92 – Rosary Lakes and Maiden Peak 9/3/2016
Pulpit Rock from Middle Rosary LakePulpit Rock from Middle Rosary Lake

#93 – Salt Creek Falls 7/4/2013
Salt Creek Falls

#94 – Midnight & Yoran Lakes 10/18/2014
Yoran LakeYoran Lake

#95 – Diamond View Lake 8/22/2020
Diamond Peak from Diamond View LakeDiamond Peak from Diamond View Lake

#96 – Fawn Lake 9/22/2018
Huckleberry BushesHuckleberry Bushes along Saddle Lake.

#97 – Divide Lake 8/24/2020
Notch LakeNotch Lake

#98 – Blue and Corrigan Lakes 8/23/2020
Diamond Peak from Corrigan LakeDiamond Peak from Corrigan Lake

#99 – Marie Lake and Diamond Peak 8/23/2020
Climbers trail to Diamond PeakDiamond Peak

#100 – Timpanogas Lake 9/17/2016
Sawtooth Mountain from Timpanogas LakeSawtooth Mountain from Timpanogas Lake

In addition to the 100 featured hikes we’ve manged to add other hikes from Sullivan’s addtional hikes located in the back of his book. In doing so we have also completed all 100 featured hikes in the 3rd edition and are just 2 hikes short of completing the 5th edition as well. There were 14 hikes from the 3rd edition that were not featured hikes in the 4th edtion while the 5th edition contains 12 new featured hikes from the 4th edition (Three of these had been featured hikes in the 3rd edition.) Even with all of the hikes we’ve done, and the areas lost to fire in 2020 there are a number of trails in the Central Cascades we have yet to explore. We will continue to work those into our plans as we strive to explore as many different places as possible while we can.

 

Happy Trails!

Scout Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Categories
Hiking Uncategorized

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Donaca Lake – Middle Santiam Wilderness

We recently returned from our final overnight backpacking “test run”. Our destination for this round was Donaca Lake in the Middle Santiam Wilderness. The wilderness, established in 1984, consists of 8900 acres in the Willamette National Forest. There were several potential trailheads that we could have started at and we chose to park at the Pyramids Trail. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/willamette/null/recarea/?recid=4334&actid=64

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This trailhead left us with the least amount of driving time, but it was by no means the shortest hike to Donaca Lake. That was okay with us since we were wanting the extra distance to get used to hiking with our packs over 12 miles at a time, and coming from this trail we would be able to do the majority of the Middle Santiam River hike described in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades. After crossing a little footbridge we turned left on the South Pyramid Creek Trail which traversed the SE flank of the South Pyramid for 1.5 miles where it briefly joined road 572 at a trail junction. On the opposite side of the road was the Crescent Mountain Trail. This was the opposite end of the trail we had taken up to the top of Crescent Mountain earlier in the month. The South Pyramid Creek Trail picked up about 10 yards down the road reentering the trees on the same side that we had just exited.

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The trail soon began following an unnamed stream downhill toward South Pyramid Creek. We crossed over this stream a couple of times, sometimes on a bridge and other times not.
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As we neared South Pyramid Creek the forest showed signs of logging activity on our left. This meant a lack of trees and shade, but it also meant there were tons of berries that had taken advantage of the sunlight and disturbed soil. We noticed several different varieties of huckleberries/blueberries, trailing blackberries, and what turned out to be Gooseberries.
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Gooseberry

Since we didn’t know what they were for sure we didn’t sample the gooseberries, but the rest of the berries were thoroughly tested. 🙂

The trail crossed road 2047 where a sign indicated it’s continuation 800′ to the right.
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We turned up the road, passed over the creek and started looking for the continuation. We hadn’t really thought out just how far 800′ was and at first we thought we’d passed by the trail since we felt like we’d gone plenty far. We backtracked looking for an sign of the trail and tried pushing through some trees thinking that we might have seen it. Once we stopped for a minute and really considered that 800′ is nearly three full football fields we realized we hadn’t gone far enough so we headed back up the road. I spotted a sign ahead just around a bend and announced that I’d found it, then looked to my left to see I was standing next to a trail and hiker sign. What I had seen was actually a sign for the South Pyramid Horse Camp and I had completely missed the trail.
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The trail was much fainter and overgrown in this section. It appeared that the trail had been rerouted at some point which would explain why my maps and Garmin did not show the 800′ road walk and instead showed the trail continuing directly across the road. It would also explain the trail junction that we came to not far from the road. It wasn’t on the Forest Service Topographical Maps I had nor was it shown on the Garmin (in fact both showed that the South Pyramid Creek Trail ceased to exist before reaching the Chimney Peak Trail which was the one we needed. Sullivan’s map showed the trail connecting and so did the Willamette National Forest trail description, but standing at this junction we became a bit confused. There was only one sign at the junction.
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It was on a tree facing away from the direction we’d come. It was a “Y” junction so one trail went up and away to the right and the other headed down to our left. The distances didn’t match up with anything I had seen or read about but I knew we wanted to head toward Shedd Camp. The map in Sullivan’s book showed the South Pyramid Creek Trail intersecting the Chimney Peak Trail .3 miles from the Middle Santiam River and the Shedd Camp Shelter and we had planned to turn left at that point to visit a small waterfall on the river. The 2.4 mile distance listed on this sign just didn’t make any sense though. We headed left wondering if we would magically arrive at the river in .3 miles but after walking for awhile it became apparent that that would not be the case. After approximately 1.5 miles we spotted what I thought was a really random sign pointing back up the trail we’d just come down identifying the trail as the South Pyramid Creek Trail.
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After a moment pondering why there would be a sign here we noticed another trail and sign. We had finally arrived at the Chimney Peak Trail.
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This time there really was only .3 miles to the Middle Santiam River. We took a break there to look at the falls and enjoy the river.
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After the break we headed back up to the trail junction and took the Chimney Peak Trail. We were now following the route described in our 100 Hikes book which put an end to the trail surprises. It was 2 miles from the junction to our next marker, Pyramid Creek. Along the way we spotted a couple of very interesting patches of Indian Pipe.
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There was a nice camp site at Pyramid Creek which was my backup plan just in case there were no sites available at the lake. The creek itself was fairly wide with no bridge, and there was no way we were going to get across dry.
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After fording the creek we crossed road 2041 which was abandoned years ago due to numerous washouts and entered the Middle Santiam Wilderness.
Road 2041:
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Edge of the wilderness:
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It was obvious that the trail doesn’t get a lot of use as the vegetation was encroaching on most of it.
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The trail was joined by the Gordon Peak Trail 2.3 miles from Pyramid Creek and shortly after we came to Swamp Creek. I had expected a swampy bog here given the name but found a nice little creek that required another fording.
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After crossing Swamp Creek we were only about three quarters of a mile from Donaca Lake. I had read somewhere that there was only one camp site at the lake and we had just passed a couple who had been staying at the lake so we were anxious to get there to make sure we could get a tent site. They told us the lake was lovely and it did not disappoint. From the first view through the trees we could see it was a very pretty little lake.
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As we were passing along the lake we spotted a trail up to a small camp site away from the lake so we headed up and claimed our spot. After dropping off our gear we headed back down to the trail to explore the rest of the lake. The trail came to an inlet creek where we found another bigger campsite and a nice little gravel beach.
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Just a little further up the trail was a third campsite but we decided to stay where we had dropped our packs because we didn’t want to be in the path of the lake access. Before going back and setting up camp though we sat on the gravel beach and watched as Newts and fish swam around in the lake while birds and bugs zoomed over the water.
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After watching the wildlife for awhile we headed back to our packs and set up camp.
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While we were setting up another group arrived and settled down at the big site so when we were ready to go back down to the lake we took our dinner and headed to the third site we’d found and followed a little path to a different gravel beach. After dinner we hung out for awhile before turning in for the night.
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I woke up a little before 5AM and headed down to the lake to see if I could get any sunrise pictures. There wasn’t enough light for my camera to pick up much but there was a colorful stump that Heather had remarked on after dinner. It’s reflection in the water was eye catching.
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After Heather woke up and we’d eaten breakfast we packed up and started our return trip. It was going well until we hit the 3.8 mile sign. It was the longest section of trail I can remember hiking. We kept thinking we were going to arrive at road 572 and the Crescent Mtn. Trail junction but instead we just kept climbing. Even when we finally spotted the road it seemed as though we paralleled it for miles. We had a mini celebration when we did finally pop out on the road before tackling the final mile and a half. The final stretch went much quicker as it was primarily downhill and we eventually arrived back at the Pyramids Trailhead.
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In 27.7 miles of hiking we had seen only the two groups totaling five people over the two days. If you’re looking for a nice quite forest where you can have the trail to yourself the Middle Santiam Wilderness may just be the place for you. Happy Trails!

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