It’s hard to believe another year has passed but here we are once again looking back on 12 months worth of hikes. While 2021 was an improvement over 2020 in almost every way it still had its share of ups and downs including losing our remaining cat Hazel in June and my Grandmother in October. While the challenge of finding places to hike due to COVID in 2020 were no more, the same couldn’t be said for COVID itself and it seems like it will be around for awhile. Wildfires once again were a large factor in deciding on our destinations, another issue that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
Despite these issues we had some great hikes in 2021. I slipped an extra three hikes in during the month of April to wind up hiking on 58 days for a total of 641.5 miles while Heather got 55 days in and 614.7 miles. Forty of the hikes were entirely new to us while only one, Tumalo Mountain (post), was an complete repeat. We had done that one over after failing to catch the sunrise on our first try and boy was it worth it.
Our first and final hikes of the year were on converted railroads.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail in January. (post)
Over the course of the year we managed to complete several of our long term hiking goals. A trip to Cottonwood Canyon State Park in May marked our first hike in Gilliam County which is the last of Oregon’s 36 counties that we had not hiked in.
John Day River from the Lost Corral Trail
Trips in June and July took us to the final four of the 46 designated wilderness areas (open to visitors) that we had yet to visit in Oregon. In all we spent twenty-one days hiking in 15 different designated wilderness areas.
Ninemile Ridge in the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness in June. (post)
By the end of July we had also completed our goal of hiking at least part of all 100 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast” guidebook and in August we did the same with his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington” guidebook.
Ledbetter Point, the last of the hikes from the coast book. (post)
Badger Lake, the last hike from the northwestern book. (post)
Finishing those two books in addition to the central Cascades book we completed last year (post) left just the eastern and southern books. We checked off 14 featured hikes from the eastern book but were unfortunately unable to make any headway on the southern book due to the wildfires and persistent smoke that plagued southern Oregon and northern California for much of the hiking season.
Our northern most hike was at the aforementioned Ledbetter Point while our southern most hike was on the Oregon Redwoods Trail near the California border (post).
The western most hike was, as usual, along the Oregon Coast at Cape Argo State Park. (post)
This marked the first time 3 hikes from the same guidebook marked the furthest in different directions. For obvious reasons the eastern most hike was not from the coast book but from the eastern book. That was our hike on the Wenaha River Trail. (post)
As we have done the last couple of years we plan on putting together 2021 wildlife and wildflower posts but we’ll leave you with a few of our favorite sights throughout the year. For the most part the weather was good but wildfire smoke often impacted views.
Falls Creek – February
Cascade Head from God’s Thumb – March
Columbia River from Mitchell Point – March
Mt. Hood from Sevenmile Hill – March
Dalles Mountain Ranch – April
Mt. Adams from Grayback Mountain – May
Navigating a downed tree along the Pawn Old Growth Trail – May
Rogue River Trail – May
Golden Falls – May
Lenticular cloud over Mt. Hood from Surveyor’s Ridge – May
Whychus Canyon – May
Deschutes River – May
Whychus Creek Overlook – May
Forest on Mary’s Peak – June
North Fork Umatilla River – June
Tower Mountain Lookout – June
Malheur River – June
Meadow on Round Mountain – June
Santiam Lake – July
Three Fingered Jack from Lower Berley Lake (and a butterfly photobomb) – July
The Husband and Three Sisters from Substitute Point – July
Mountain Trail – July
Red Sun through wildfire smoke from the Monument Rock Wilderness – July
Canyon Mountain Trail, Strawberry Mountain Wilderness – July
Aldrich Mountains – July
Mt. Mitchell summit on a rare poor weather day – August
Mt. Bachelor – August
Cottonwood Camp, Big Indian Gorge in the Steens Mountain Wilderness – August
Wildhorse Lake, Steens Mountain Wilderness – August
Evening at the Steens Mountain Resort – August
Little Blitzen Gorge – August
Riddle Ranch – August
Morning in the Pueblo Mountains – August
Oregon Desert Trail, Pueblo Mountains – August
Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake – August
Harmony Falls – August
Loowit Falls – August
Mt. St. Helens from Norway Pass – August
Mt. Hood from the PCT in the Indian Heaven Wilderness – September
Mt. Adams and Soda Peaks Lake, Trapper Creek Wilderness – September
Jubilee Lake – September
Rough Fork Trail, Blue Mountains – September
Heritage Landing Trail, Deschutes River – September
McDonald-Dunn Forest – October
Cascade Mountains from the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness – October
Three Fingered Jack from Round Lake – October
Mt. Hood from the Flag Point Lookout
Mt. Hood from Lookout Mountain – October
Silver Falls State Park – October
Laurel Hill Wagon Chute – October
Barlow Ridge, Mt. Hood Wilderness – October
Fern Ridge Wildlife Area – November
Here’s to an even better 2022. Happy New Year and Happy Trails!
We ended our hiking season with a bang, a pair of stops along the Barlow Wagon Road with an off-trail adventure, great views and beautiful weather. Created in 1846 the “Barlow Road” provided an alternate route along the Oregon Trail which previously ended at The Dalles where emigrates were forced to find passage down the Columbia River. The 80 mile road led from The Dalles to Oregon City crossing several rivers and the Cascade crest along the way. The wagons also had to navigate Laurel Hill’s steep descent and our first stop of the day was to visit the Laurel Hill Wagon Chute, the steepest drop along the road.
We parked at the small pullout along Highway 26 that serves as the Laurel Hill Trailhead.
Mt. Hood from the trailhead.
We followed the trail uphill on stairs to an abandoned section of the Mt. Hood Highway then turned right to find the bottom of the rocky chute.
The wagon chute.
A trail to the right of the chute led uphill to a 4-way junction where we turned left and followed this path a short distance to the top of the chute.
The left at the 4-way junction.
Looking down the chute.
After reading the sign near the chute and trying to picture actually lowering a wagon down the chute we returned to the old highway walking a short distance past the chute to a viewpoint above Highway 26.
Sunlight starting to hit the SE side of Mt. Hood.
Ravens photo bombing a close up of the mountain.
We backtracked from the viewpoint and descended down the stairs to our car.
We then drove east through Government Camp to Highway 35 before turning right onto FR 3531 at a pointer for Barlow Road and the Pacific Crest Trail. After 0.2 miles we parked at the Barlow Pass Trailhead/Sno-Park. Both the Barlow Wagon Road and the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the trailhead. After parking we headed to a picnic table and sign boards on the south side of the parking area.
The PCT was on our right heading south toward Twin Lakes (post) while the Barlow Wagon Road lay straight ahead.
We followed the wagon road for approximately a tenth of a mile before it joined FR 3530 (Barlow Road).
A portion of the original Barlow Wagon Road.
Barlow Road (FR 3530)
Just 40 yards after joining FR 3530 the Barlow Butte Trail veered downhill at a signpost.
The trail was still following the route of the wagon road as it passed through a forest that was hit hard by last Winter’s storms.
At the half mile mark we came to a junction with the Barlow Creek/Devil’s Half Acre Trail in a small meadow.
Following pointers for the Barlow Butte Trail and Mineral Springs Ski Trail we turned left here.
The trail began a gradual 0.4 mile climb to another junction where the Barlow Butte and Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways.
We made a hard right here sticking to the Barlow Butte Trail which quickly entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Wilderness sign along the Barlow Butte Trail.
It was a mile from the junction where the Mineral Springs Ski Trail parted ways to the next junction. The trail climbed gradually at first but soon steepened as it began a series of switchbacks.
This was the worst of the blow down we had to navigate on this section.
Nearing the junction.
A small rock cairn marked the junction where a spur trail led left up to the old lookout site on Barlow Butte.
We turned left on the spur trail which began with a great view to the NE of the Badger Creek Wilderness including Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte (post)
It was a little chilly with temps in the mid 30’s combined with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill.
On the right of the far ridge is Bonney Butte (post).
The summit of Barlow Butte is overgrown now with trees but just downhill from the former lookout site was a small rock outcrop with a view of Mt. Hood.
Remains from the lookout.
The Oregon Hikers Field Guide mentions a better viewpoint on yet another rock outcrop below this one but we didn’t scramble down to it. Instead we planned on visiting a couple of other viewpoints on the Barlow Butte Trail further along Barlow Ridge. So after a short break trying to use the trees to block the wind we headed back down to the Barlow Butte Trail and turned left (downhill) at the small rock cairn. The trail passed through a stand of trees before popping out on a rocky spine.
Barlow Butte and the top of Mt. Hood.
Frog Lake Buttes (post) is the hump in the center.
Mt. Jefferson behind some clouds.
Sisi Butte (double humps) and Bachelor Mountain (post).
The rocks were a little frosty in spots so we had to watch our footing, especially dropping off the rocks back into the forest.
This is a good point to mention that the Oregon Hikers Field Guide has you turn back here for their Barlow Butte Hike but there is a second hike in the guide, the Barlow Ridge Loop which describes a possible 10.5 mile loop. This hike is listed as a “lost” hike due to the Forest Service having abandoned the trail along the remainder of Barlow Ridge. The Barlow Butte Trail at one time followed the ridge to its end and descended to Klingers Camp. We were keeping the loop option open but were planning on turning back possibly at the high point of the trail.
The next marker along Barlow Ridge was Lambert Rock which we reached a half mile from the small rock cairn on Barlow Butte.
It’s possible to carefully scramble up this rock past a memorial plaque for Dr. Richard Carlyle Lambert who perished while hiking in Utah.
The view of Mt. Hood was spectacular from the rock but the stiff breeze and cold air made for a short stay.
Barlow Butte to the left of Mt. Hood.
If not for the clouds to the south the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson would have also been visible from the rock.
Mt. Jefferson still behind some clouds.
Beyond Lambert Rock the trail dropped a bit into a saddle where another small rock cairn marked an unofficial cutoff trail to the left that leads downhill to FR 3560.
We continued to the right on the Barlow Butte Trail and 0.4 miles from Lambert Rock detoured to the right to what we hoped might be another viewpoint. Trees blocked the view north to Mt. Hood and east to Lookout Mountain. Again there would have been a decent view of Mt. Jefferson from this spot but we did have a good view west to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain above Mirror Lake (post)
Parts of Mt. Jefferson peaking through the clouds.
Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (with the rock fields near the top).
We continued on following the increasingly faint trail another third of a mile to it’s high point and another great view of Mt. Hood. While the trail was faint there were often cairns, blazes or diamonds marking the correct path.
Small cairns in a meadow.
One of the aforementioned diamonds.
Approaching the high point.
Clouds were starting to pass over Lookout Mountain at this point.
Mt. Hood from the high point of Barlow Ridge.
Up to this point the trail had been fairly easy to follow and there hadn’t been much blow down over it so we decided to continue along the ridge at least to the point where it started to steepen on it’s way down to Klingers Camp. For the next three quarters of a mile the trail was still visible at times and the occasional marker let us know we were still on the right course.
Carin in the trees ahead.
Elk or deer tracks leading the way.
Another section of frost.
We took this as a blaze.
That blaze led to this large cairn.
Things were starting to get interesting here.
Stopped here to listen for pikas, no luck though.
This could be trail.
Still on the right track, note the folded trail sign on the tree at center.
We lost the trail for good in a small beargrass meadow which was my fault. While I had brought a topographic map that showed where the trail was supposed to be I was navigating primarily based off of what I remembered reading from the Oregon Hikers field guide. I had remembered most of it well but had forgotten the part where “the trail swings off the ridge to the right….”. All I remembered was that the route eventually dropped steeply down the nose of a ridge. Not realizing it was the nose of a different ridge I kept us following Barlow Ridge for another 0.2 miles.
The small meadow.
Officially off-trail now.
This looked like a place the trail would go.
A final look at Mt. Hood from Barlow Ridge.
Not realizing that we were off the trail alignment we decided that the hiking had been easy enough up until now that we would go ahead and try for the loop. Down we headed looking in vain for any sign of trail. Several times we convinced ourselves that we’d found it, but it turns out if it was anything it was game trails.
This doesn’t look so bad.
One of several big trees we encountered.
Little orange mushrooms, how appropriate for Halloween.
Starting to encounter more debris.
If there had been a trail good luck finding it.
Heather coming down behind me.
We lost over 600′ of elevation in three quarters of a mile and things were only getting steeper. It was at this point that I turned my brain on and pulled the map out of Heather’s pack. I quickly saw what I’d done wrong, we were following the wrong ridge line down and should have been one ridge to the SW. The problem now was there was a stream bed between us. We backtracked up hill a bit and followed a game trail across the trickling stream and attempted to traverse over to the correct ridge.
Pretty decent game trail here.
This section was fun.
A bigger orange mushroom.
We struggled down and across, occasionally having to backtrack or veer uphill to find safer passage.
Uphill on this game trail.
Thickets of brush kept us from getting all the way over to the ridge we needed so we just kept going downhill knowing that we would eventually run into one of the forest roads at the bottom.
More steep fun.
We eventually made it to flat ground in a forest of young trees and ferns.
We could tell using our GPS that despite all of that we were only about two tenths of a mile from Klingers Camp. We were even closer to FR 240 and being tired of off-trail travel we headed straight for the road.
Look Ma a road!
We turned right on this road and followed it to a junction with Barlow Road.
It doesn’t look that steep from down here.
We turned right onto Barlow Road and followed it 150 yards to Klingers Camp.
After visiting the camp we continued on Barlow Road for five miles back to the Barlow Pass Trailhead. Along the way two pickups drove past us in the other direction. At the 1.6 mile mark we passed the Grindstone Campground and near the 4 mile mark the entrance to the Devil’s Half Acre Campground.
Western larches above Barlow Road.
Crossing Barlow Creek near Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.
Clouds on top of Mt. Hood towering over the trees.
Barlow Road at the campground.
Devil’s Half Acre Meadow.
We could have taken the Devil’s Half Acre Trail from the campground to the Barlow Butte Trail but we weren’t sure what the condition was and the Field Guide didn’t mention taking it so we played it safe and trudged up the road.
Finally back to where we’d left the road in the morning.
Arriving back at the Barlow Pass Trailhead
Before we attempted the crazy loop we had planned on also making the 2.2 mile round trip hike to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave on the other side of Barlow Pass and then stopping at the Castle Canyon Trail for a final short hike. Neither of us had any interest in making another stop at this point but we were interested in the grave site. Unfortunately Heather’s plantar was acting up. Surprisingly, given the lack of good ideas we’d displayed so far, we came up with a alternate plan. Heather would drive to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave Trailhead while I hiked the Barlow Wagon Road to it. The trailhead is located right next to the grave site so Heather didn’t have to worry about her plantar and now I only needed to hike a little over a mile downhill.
The first other people (not counting the two drivers in the pickups) that we’d seen all day.
I hustled down the wagon road stopping along the way at another nice Mt. Hood viewpoint.
I did take the time to walk down the road 60 yards to the East Fork Salmon River to check out some stonework and wagon ruts left by the emigrants.
East Fork Salmon River
The 10.5 mile loop hike turned into 12 miles due to our being off course and wandering around trying to figure out where we were going so my day wound up being just under 14 miles total with approximately 3100′ of elevation gain. Heather got all the elevation gain with 1.2 miles less traveled. I probably wouldn’t try that loop again but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of curious what it would be like to actually follow the field guide correctly. Happy Trails!
For reference here is where the trail is shown on the map we were carrying and here is a link to the map in the field guide.
For the second weekend in a row we abandoned plans for a night in the tent in favor of day hike. Similar to the weekend before the forecast for was for a mostly sunny and warm Saturday followed by rain and/or snow moving in Saturday night through the end of the weekend. We decided on the Fret Creek Trail in the Badger Creek Wilderness. Our plan was to take that trail to the Divide Trail and visit the Flag Point Lookout to the east followed by Lookout Mountain to the west. While we had been to Lookout Mountain twice before (2014, 2019) we had not visited the Flag Point Lookout nor had we hiked the lower portion of the Fret Creek Trail. We were hoping to get some good views and see some of the areas Western Larch trees as they began to turn color.
The Fret Creek Trail starts between Fifteen Mile Campground (post) and Fret Creek along Forest Road 2730 across from a trailhead sign at a pullout on the left.
A few larches along Road 2730
Fret Creek Trail across from the pullout.
For the first third of a mile the trail climbed fairly steeply above Fret Creek.
Entering the Badger Creek Wilderness.
The trail eventually leveled off crossing Fret Creek several times before once again launching steeply uphill before arriving at Oval Lake just under 2 miles from the trailhead.
Starting to climb again.
Sign for Oval Lake.
The small lake is just off the trail but has several campsites in the surrounding forest.
We’d visited the lake briefly in 2014 during our first ever backpacking trip and it looked quite a bit like we’d remember but with less water given the time of year.
June 28, 2014
After checking out the lake we continued climbing on the Fret Creek Trail for 0.2 more miles to its end at the Divide Trail.
A bit of snow left from the recent snowfall.
The Divide Trail.
We turned left on the Divide Trail and climbed for 0.3 miles to a ridge crest where we took a side trail out to Palisade Point. This rock outcrop has a nice view south across the Badger Creek Wilderness to Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
Some snow near a switchback along the trail.
Mt. Adams starting to peak over a ridge to the north.
Mt. Adams with some larch trees in the foreground.
Lookout Mountain from the Divide Trail (The bare peak in between the two bare snags. Just to the right of the left snag.)
Side trail to Palisade Point.
Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack (just the very top), Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte (post) were visible in the distance.
Mt. Jefferson with the tip of Three Fingered Jack to the left and Olallie Butte to the right.
Mt. Hood peaking up over the rocks.
Panoramic view with Badger Creeks valley below.
Rocks below Palisade Point.
After the stop at Palisade Point we continued east along the ridge for 1.2 miles losing a little over 300′ to Flag Point Lookout Road (NF 200). Occasional views opened up along the way.
We ran into this jumble of downed trees shortly after leaving Palisade Point but fortunately it was the worst of the obstacles.
Flag Point Lookout from the trail.
A small meadow that was full of flowers a couple of months ago.
A stand of larches.
A better view of Mt. Hood.
Looking back through larches at a Badger Creek Wilderness sign near Road 200.
Looking back at the Divide Trail.
We had been to this junction on our 2014 backpacking trip where we turned off the Divide Trail here onto the Badger Creek Cutoff Trail to hike down to Badger Creek. This time we took Road 200 which led to the Flag Point Lookout in 0.8 miles.
Nearing the lookout.
The lookout is staffed in the Summer and used to be available as a rental during the Winter but the Forest Service discontinued that a few years ago.
A gate blocks access to the platform and tower but climbing the stairs below the gate provided for some more excellent views.
Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the north.
Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams
Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Olallie Butte
View east to the hills above the Columbia River.
We spent quite a while admiring the views and then more time attempting to spot one of the pikas that we could hear in the rock field below the lookout. Alas none of the little rock rabbits wanted to make an appearance but several robins did.
We headed back to the Divide Trail and stayed straight at the junction with the Fret Creek Trail. It was just 1.6 miles to Lookout Mountain and on such a beautiful day we couldn’t pass up the chance of another spectacular view.
Passing the Fret Creek Trail.
We did need to gain almost 800′ of elevation to reach Lookout Mountain which at times was a fairly steep climb.
Another viewpoint along the way where Badger Lake was visible.
We had seen our first fellow hikers on our return from Flag Point and now we were seeing more of them as well as a little more snow.
The final pitch to the summit, there is at least one hiker visible up top.
Looking back to Flag Point.
Looking NE toward The Dalles and the Columbia River.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams
View south past Badger Lake to Mt. Jefferson.
After another nice break we headed back, but just under half a mile from the summit we turned right on a side path to what Sullivan labels the Helispot. Several campsites were located here and yet another amazing view.
Flag Point from the Helispot.
And of course Mt. Hood again.
After exploring the Helispot area we hopped back onto the Divide Trail and returned to the Fret Creek Trail. We made a final quick stop at Oval Lake before returning to our car and heading home.
Fret Creek from the road near the trailhead.
The hike was just over 13 miles with approximately 2800′ of elevation gain. A number of shorter options could be done and longer trips are also possible with the numerous trails in the Badger Creek Wilderness.
It was great to see the mountains with fresh snow and nice to have some snow on the ground after the dry Spring and Summer. They are calling for a La Nina Winter which could mean plenty of precipitation. After this year we would welcome it. Hopefully it will be in the form of snow for the mountains and not rain though. Happy Trails!
For the first time in 2021 we were forced to change plans having to delay our hike at the Ridgefiled Wildlife Refuge until the Kiwa trail reopens. (Nesting sandhill cranes have temporarily closed access as of this writing.) Since Ridgefield was out we looked at our schedule late May 2022 and decided to move up a hike on the Surveryor’s Ridge Trail. We had previously hiked portions of the 16.4 mile long trail as part of our Bald Butte (post) and Dog River Trail (post) hikes. For this visit we planned on hiking the center section of trail to visit Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point.
There are several possible trailheads for the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and the Oregon Hikers Field Guide suggests starting at the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead for a 7.9 mile hike. We decided to be a bit different though and chose to park further south along the Forest Road 17 in a large gravel pullout at a spur road on the left. (Coming from FR 44/Dufur Road it is 1.4 miles after turning off of Brooks Meadow Road.)
Mt. Hood partly obscured by clouds from the parking area.
There were three reasons we chose this starting point. First it meant 2.5 miles less driving on gravel roads. Second if you’re visiting both Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead you wind up going to one then back past the trailhead to the other because the trailhead is in between the two. The final reason was this way we would get to experience more of the trail (although the tradeoff is an extra 5 miles of hiking round trip).
We followed the spur road downhill just over a hundred yards to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail crossing. The signpost is laying on the ground.
We weren’t really sure what to expect out of the trail. It is popular with mountain bikers (we saw maybe a dozen or so on the day) so it is well maintained but we weren’t sure what kind of views it might offer except for at Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point.
We were pleasantly surprised when just a third of a mile in we came to an opening with a view of Mt. Hood to the west.
The forecast for the day was mostly sunny skies in the morning with a 20% chance of showers developing after Noon. Our drive to the trailhead had been through low clouds/fog with no view of Mt. Hood to speak of so even seeing this much of the mountain was exciting plus a nice lenticular cloud was developing up top.
Over the next two and a quarter miles the trail passed through alternating forest types and several more views of Mt. Hood (and one of Mt. St. Helens). While no snow remained, much of the vegetation was in its early stages although a variety wildflowers were blooming.
Mt. Hood again.
Trillium (can you spot the crab spider?)
Western larch tree and red-flowering currant on the left.
Larks spur and blue-eyed Mary
Columbine well before blooming.
Vanilla leaf getting ready to bloom.
False solomons seal starting to bloom.
Star-flower false solomons seal prior to blooming.
Just to the south of Shellrock Mountain there is a signed spur to the left for “Shellrock Mountain” which does not go to Shellrock Mountain but rather ends after few hundred feet in a small meadow below the mountain. Despite knowing this we ventured out to the meadow just to check it out.
First paintbrush of the day spotted in the little meadow.
The route to the 4449’summit lays .2 miles further north at the crest of the trail where a rough unsigned user trail veers uphill.
User trail to the left.
The faint trail was fairly well flagged and easy enough to follow through the vegetation to the open rocky slope of Shellrock Mountain.
Once we were out in the open we simply headed uphill to the summit where a lookout once sat. The three-hundred and sixty degree view includes Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in addition to Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.
Shellrock Badlands Basin, an eroded volcanic formation.
View east into Central Oregon.
Mill Creek Buttes with Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte (post) behind to the right.
Bird below Shellrock Mountain.
We took a nice long break at the summit before descending back to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail where we continued north.
A whole lot of trillium.
Approximately .4 miles from the user trail we arrived at the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead.
Sign at the trailhead.
Continuing beyond the trailhead the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail passed above the Shellrock Badlands Basin with views back to Shellrock Mountain and eventually Mt. Hood again.
parsley and popcorn flower.
Over the course of the morning the cloud situation improved substantially, enough that when we arrived at a viewpoint 3/4 of a mile from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead most of the sky around Mt. Hood was blue.
While Mt. Hood wore a lenticular cloud for a hat, my hat wore an inch worm.
I frequently have insects hitching rides, so often that we joke about me being an Uber for bugs.
Beyond this latest viewpoint the trail began a gradual climb to the former site of the Rim Rock Fire Lookout (approx 1.75 miles from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead).
Rock out cropping in the Rim Rock section of trail.
Western tanager female
Western tanager male
View from a rocky viewpoint just before crossing from the east side of the ridge back to the top.
When the trail regained the ridge crest we took a user trail to a viewpoint where Mt. Hood once again dominated the view.
Hood River Valley
Interestingly the improved visibility of Mt. Hood had been countered by a loss of visibility of the Washington Cascades.
Clouds encroaching on Mt. Adams.
Mt. St. Helens
Another unmarked side trail led to the former lookout site.
The other viewpoint had a better view.
Three tenths of a mile from the lookout site we crossed an old roadbed then crossed a second in another .3 miles.
The first roadbed crossing.
There was a profusion of Red-flowering currant in between the road crossings.
Trail signs at the second road crossing.
Four tenths of a mile beyond the second road crossing we thought we had reached Yellowjacket Point when we arrived at an open hillside where we followed a faint path out to some rocks.
Balsamroot and paintbrush
Wildflowers on the hillside.
After another long break (and removing two ticks from my pant legs) we started to head back. Something just didn’t seem right though so we checked our location on the GPS and discovered that we hadn’t quite gotten to Yellowjacket Point yet. We turned around and hiked an additional 0.1 miles to a junction where we turned left.
Sign at the junction.
Spur trail to Yellowjacket Point.
We arrived at Yellowjacket Point a tenth of a mile later.
No yellowjackets, just a robin.
Having finally reached Yellowjacket point we could head back. As usual we kept our eyes open for anything we missed on our first pass.
Things like this gooseberry shrub.
The biggest story on our hike back was the deterioration of the view of Mt. Hood. NOAA had not been wrong about the chance of showers in the afternoon and we watched as the clouds moved in. By the time we had arrived back at the car it had indeed started to sprinkle ever so lightly.
Returning to the parking area at 2:11pm
The 12.9 mile hike came with approximately 1800′ of elevation gain. We were really impressed with the variety of scenery and the views on this hike. Despite being a multi-use trail we didn’t see that many other users; a few trail runners, a couple of hikers, and a dozen or so mountain bikers. All in all a great day in the forest. Happy Trails!
We extended our streak of 3000+ feet elevation gains and checked off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes with a visit to the Hunchback Trail in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We started our hike at the trailhead just off Highway 26 at the Zigzag Ranger Station.
This trailhead is almost directly across Highway 26 from our previous hike, West Zigzag Mountain (post). Based on the forecast there was a really good chance that we’d get to see similar views of Mt. Hood that we’d missed the week before. Similar to that hike the Hunchback Trail began with a steep climb via a series of switchbacks which brought us into a wilderness area.
Unlike the Zigzag Mountain Trail, which was well graded and rarely felt steep, the Hunchback Trail felt quite steep at times.
Switchback below a rock outcrop.
Looking down the hillside from the trail.
Trail dropping to a saddle.
After nearly 1.75 miles of switchbacks the trail gained the ridge and turned SE following it for the remainder of the hike. After an up and down we gained our first limited view of the day to the south.
Looking south across the Salmon River valley. The Bonanza Trail (post) climbs the ridge to the right up to Huckleberry Mountain (hidden behind the first tree on the right).
The ridge was a little more open than the forest below allowing for a wider variety of flowers.
Sub-alpine mariposa lily (cat’s ear lily)
The first really good view came after just over two miles when the trail climbed steeply up to a catwalk along rimrock cliffs.
Starting the steep climb.
Coming up to the cliffs.
Cliffs along the trail.
Salmon Butte (post) (tallest peak on the left and Tumala Mountain (post) (pointy peak furthest back and right)
While Mt. Hood was visible through tree branches to the north there wasn’t enough of a view for photos. There were however plenty of flowers to take pictures of.
Oregon sunshine, blue-head gilia, penstemon and yarrow.
There was also quite a bit of clarkia present but it was too early in the day for the blossoms to be open so they would have to wait until we came back by later.
At the end of the cliffs the trail dropped back into the forest then almost immediately climbed steeply again arriving at a sign (on the opposite side of a tree) for the Rockpile Viewpoint.
Trail dropping toward the forest.
Trail starting to climb again.
Sign for the viewpoint.
The side trail headed steeply uphill and quickly devolved into a web of possible paths.
We followed what appeared to be the “best” route uphill for about 60 yards to the base of the “Rockpile”.
I scrambled up through the rocks enough to see that while it was a great viewpoint for Mt. Hood it was still a little too early for it as the Sun was right above the mountain.
The top of the rocks.
Washed out view of Mt. Hood
I let Heather know it probably wasn’t worth the effort to scramble up right now and we decided to stop on our way back instead.
After scrambling back down to Heather we returned to the Hunchback Trail and continued SE along the ridge. The next mile was the gentlest section of the trail as it continued to do some ups and downs but they were only little rises and drops with some level trail mixed in.
The forest here was home to a number of flowers that rely on their relationship to fungi to survive.
We also got a brief glimpse of Mt. Adams at one point through some trees.
Approximately 1.1 miles from the side trail to the Rockpile Viewpoint another side trail split off to the right. This one was much fainter and there was no sign where it left the Hunchback Trail but it headed uphill to the right toward some rocks.
We suspected that this trail led to the Helispot Viewpoint, but we weren’t positive and Sullivan described the view as overgrown so we decided not to follow this path just in case it wasn’t to the viewpoint. A hundred or so feet down the trail we wound up passing a sign (again on the opposite side of a tree) for the Helispot Viewpoint. There didn’t appear to be an actual route from the sign though as it was simply pointing at a hillside covered with rhododendron bushes.
We decided that on the way back we would take the route we’d seen above and continued on. Over the next mile the trail spent quite a bit of time on the east side of the ridge where the tread was wearing and rhododendron were beginning to encroach on it a bit. There was an short interesting walk on a narrow rocky spine and then there were two steep climbs which brought the trail to a bit over 4000′ in elevation.
Passing a rock outcrop on narrower tread.
Climbing up the Hunchback Trail.
Heather coming up the trail.
Beargrass near the 4000′ elevation.
After reaching the high point the trail began a steep 400′ drop to another saddle, but luckily our turnaround point was only about 50′ down. That turnaround point was the third signed viewpiont along this stretch of the Hunchback Trail, the Great Pyramid.
Heading down to the viewpoint sign.
Side trail to the Great Pyramid.
The short side path led passed an obscured view SE and some wildflowers along a rock outcrop.
Unfortunately the whole area was overrun with thatching ants. After a few steps out along the rocks there were numerous ants climbing our legs and although their bites aren’t as painful as the all red harvester ants they aren’t fun either so we left the viewpoint to the insects and retreated back up the trail.
We followed the Hunchback Trail back to where we had planned to take the side trip to the Helispot Viewpoint and headed uphill on the faint path.
A short distance up we noticed a fairly distinct trail coming up from the left which we assumed was the trail that the sign had originally been pointing too. The viewpoint was just as Sullivan had described it, overgrown. Probably not worth the tenth of a mile side trip but there were a few flowers present.
We returned to the Hunchback Trail happy to be on the gentler mile section. We detoured back up to the Rockpile Viewpoint just as some other hikers were leaving it which allowed us to take a nice break there all by ourselves with the improved view of Mt. Hood.
The cliffs of West Zigzag Mountain to the left of Mt. Hood where we’d been the week before (post)
We weren’t entirely alone as Heather was visited by a butterfly.
After a nice break we made our way back to the rimrock cliffs which were now fully in sunlight opening the clarkia and making for even nicer views.
Looking down into the Salmon River valley
Looking west toward Highway 26
Cat’s ear lilies
As we descended the 1500′ from the rimrock viewpoint to the trailhead our knees and feet were letting us know that they were done with three and four thousand elevation gain hikes for awhile. We’ll have to see about that :).
Both Sullivan and the Oregonhikers.org field guide put this hike at 9 miles roundtrip. They vary on elevation with Sullivan showing a 2900′ gain while the field guide showing 3270′. Our Garmin’s came in at 10.1 and 11.2 miles and we never pay attention to the elevation numbers. We were actually running an experiment on this hike regarding the distances shown on the GPS units. We both carry a Garmin GPSmap 62s unit. We’ve looked at the settings and they seem to be the same, but for the majority of hikes Heather’s Garmin reports a noticeable amount more mileage than mine (mine is typically closer to what the information for the hike states). For this hike we swapped units so I was carrying the one she normally does and vice versa. Sure enough the one she carried registered the higher 11.2 mile total. We are at a bit of a loss to explain what causes the discrepancy. On rare occasions the totals have been the same or within a tenth of a mile or two but more often than not the difference is at least a mile and sometimes a couple. Any thoughts out there as to what might cause this? I tend to hike faster, especially uphill but then I spend more time stopped waiting for Heather.
If you couldn’t tell the GPS thing is driving me a bit crazy, so much so that that night as we were going to bed I wondered aloud what would happen if one of us carried both GPS units on a hike? These are the things that keep me up at night :). Happy Trails!
2019 turned out very differently than we’d originally planned. Not long after our first planned long trip to Joseph, OR one our cats, Buddy, had some health issues. After some time at the veterinarians he was doing better but he needed to be prescribed 3 daily medications (two twice a day). We decided that being there for our friend of 17 years was more important than our remaining plans so we cancelled nearly all of our overnight trips and spent the rest of the year doing day hikes from Salem. Buddy is still with us and seems to be doing well although he sleeps more than ever and has taken to wearing sweaters for warmth.
With us only doing the one long distance trip we didn’t make it to as many new areas as we have been in recent years. On that trip we stopped at the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge near Hermiston (post), OR and hiked in the Hells Canyon (post) and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness areas (post).
MCormack Slough in the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge.
Looking towards Hells Canyon from Freezout Saddle.
Wenaha River Canyon
Thanks to my parents willingness to take care of the cats we also managed to take an overnight trip up to Seattle in September to watch a Seattle Seahawks game stopping on the way up at Mt. Rainier National Park (post).
Cancelling the majority of our overnight trips had a couple of effects. First it reduced the number of days of hiking from an original 60 to 54. These would have been shorter hikes back to the car after backpacking or on the drive home from wherever we’d been. It also compressed the area in which we were able to hike keeping it under a 3 hour drive from Salem.
One thing that wasn’t affected was our tendency not to repeat hikes. Of our 54 days hiking only two days were repeats. For the first time we were able to hike with my brother and his family from Missouri taking them to Jawbone Flats and the Little North Fork Santiam River (post).
The second repeat was to the old lookout site atop Maxwell Butte (post) to get the view that eluded us on our first hike there (post).
A visit to Four-In-One Cone, also to get a view that had previously eluded us, (post) was nearly a repeat but we started from a different trailhead making the first (and final) .4 miles new to us.
Thirteen other days did include some trail that we’d previously hiked and three more outings had turn around points that we’d previously been to but from an entirely different route. That left 35 days with entirely new trails to us. To put those figures in miles we hiked a total of 627.7 miles (according to my GPS). Only 70.6 of those miles, or just over 11%, were on portions of trails that we had hiked on in previous years.
I say “trails” but in reality not all the miles we hiked were on actual trails. Some of it was spent on paved roads, decommissioned roads, and some was entirely off trail/road.
Road walk at Henry Haag Lake
Decommissioned road to Baty Butte.
Cross country to Thayer Glacial Lake.
2019 was a really good year weather wise. Aside from some rain/snow showers on our Freezout Saddle hike in June and a brief stint of rain at Cascade Head and in the Mollala River Recreation Area precipitation was almost non-existent during our outings.
Snow falling on our Freezout Saddle hike.
Rain shower approaching at Cascade Head.
Taking cover under a tree in the Mollala River Recreation Area as a rain shower passes overhead.
Even on those three hikes with measurable precipitation there were breaks allowing for some sort of views.
Rainbow framing the Wallowa Mountains from the Feezout Saddle Trail.
View from Cascade Head after the shower.
View from the morning across the Mollala River Canyon.
Between the cooperative weather and a lack of significant wildfires in the area made 2019 a great year for viewpoints. In fact there was only one hike, our second to the summit of Huckleberry Mountain (post) where we felt skunked on views. That hike began in the Wildwood Recreation area and the interpretive trails along the Salmon River made up for the lack of views up top.
Neat 3D display at Wildwood Recreation Area.
View atop Huckleberry Mountain.
Even on that day blue sky made an appearance before the end of our hike.
We also never got much of a view (but we did see blue sky) on our visit to Silver Star Mountain (post) but the point of that hike was to see the flower display.
As always our hikes included a variety of landscapes, natural features, and some man-made ones. A sample of which follows. (We will cover wildflowers and wildlife in separate posts later.)
Gales Creek – Coast Range
Dry Creek Falls – Columbia River Gorge, OR
Camassia Natural Area – West Linn
Two Chiefs and Table Mountain – Columbia River Gorge, WA
Oak Island – Columbia River
B.C. Creek Falls – Wallowa Mountains
Harsin Butte – Zumwalt Prairie
Sardine Mountain – Willamette National Forest
Gorton Creek Falls – Columbia River Gorge, OR
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake
Mt. Hood from Vista Ridge
Sand Mountain Lookout – Willamette National Forest
Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock from Sitka Sedge Beach
High Lake – Mt. Hood National Forest
Tidbits Mountain – Willamette National Forest
Bunchgrass Meadow – Willamette National Forest
Breitenbush Cascades – Willamette National Forest
Mt. St. Helens from Cinnamon Ridge – Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mt. Jefferson from Bear Point – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
Sawmill Falls – Little North Fork Santiam River
Three Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington
Scramble route to Baty Butte – Mt. Hood National Forest
Boulder Lake – Mt. Hood National Forest
Drift Creek – Drift Creek Wilderness
North Sister and Thayer Glacial Lake – Three Sisters Wilderness
North Sister, Middle Sister, and The Husband from Four-In-One Cone – Three Sisters Wilderness
Mt. Hood from Tumala Mountain – Mt. Hood National Forest
Bull of the Woods Lookout – Bull of the Woods Wilderness
Mt. Hood from Elk Cove – Mt. Hood Wilderness
Mt. Jefferson and Hunts Cove – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
View from Olallie Butte – Warm Springs Indian Reservation
Lillian Falls – Waldo Lake Wilderness
Olallie Mountain Lookout – Three Sisters Wilderness
King Tut – Crabtree Valley
Mt. Jefferson from Ruddy Hill – Mt. Hood National Forest
Henry Haag Lake – Scoggins Valley
Waldo Lake and the Cascade Mountains from The Twins – Deschutes National Forest
Bobby Lake – Deschutes National Forest
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground – Mt. Rainier National Park
Fog over the valley from Mt. Pisgah – Eugene, OR
Twin Peaks and Gifford Lake – Olallie Lake Scenic Area
Mt. Adams from Lookout Mountain – Badger Creek Wilderness Area
Mollala River Recreation Area
View toward Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail near Indian Mountain – Mt. Hood National Forest
Clackamas River – Mt. Hood National Forest
Forest Park – Portland, OR
Tilikum Crossing – Portland, OR
There were many more great places and sights that we visited but they can’t all be included here. It was another amazing year of discovering God’s creation and we are looking forward to seeing what next year brings. For the first time I have two sets of planned hikes going into next year, one is in the hopes that Buddy continues to do well on his medications leading us to stick to day hikes through the year and the other includes long distance trips in the unfortunate event that we have to say goodbye to our furry friend.
Either way we know that we will be blown away yet again by whatever we see on those hikes. Happy Trails and Happy New Year to all!
After a false start we closed out our 2019 hiking season with a bang on a 16.7 mile jaunt to three peaks near Wahtum Lake. We set off on Saturday morning for this hike but only made it 16 miles from our house where we wound up stuck on Interstate 5 for more than three hours due to an unfortunate accident that resulted in a fatality. By the time we were able to proceed it was too late for our liking so we took a mulligan and tried again the next morning.
Our next attempt went better and we arrived at the trailhead at the Wahtum Lake Campground just before dawn. A loan car was parked at the trailhead with just a bit of fresh snow on it from the night before. (We would find out later that he had spent the night at Mud Lake.)
After some deliberation regarding our planned route we settled on the following. We would hike down to the lake then go southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail to the Indian Mountain Trial and take it up to the summit of Indian Mountain. Then we would return to Wahtum Lake on the PCT and follow the Chindrie Cutoff Trail around the southern end of the lake and climb up to the PCT near the Chindrie Mountain Trail (This part of the plan wound up being changed but more on that later) and hike up to that summit as well. After tagging Chindrie the plan was to return to the PCT and go southbound once again to the Herman Creek Trail following it to the unofficial trail to the summit of Tomlike Mountain. Finally after returning to the Herman Creek Trail from Tomlike Mountain we would backtrack a few hundred feet to the Anthill Trail which would lead us back to the Wahtum Lake Campground.
From the campground we took the Wahtum Express Trail down a series of slick looking steps entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness along the way.
After dropping a little over 200′ in .2 miles we arrived at the PCT as it curved around Wahtum Lake.
Before turning left (south) on the PCT we went down to the lake shore. It was a little under 30 degrees and a crisp breeze was making it feel even colder so we didn’t linger but between a small island and a section of snow flocked trees to the north it was a nice scene. Chindrie Mountain was visible across the lake to the SW.
Chindrie Mountain from across Wahtum Lake.
We set off on the PCT passing a couple of additional nice views of the lake before arriving at a trail junction at the lakes southern end.
At the junction we noticed a closure sign for the Eagle Creek Fire closure area over the signs for our planned route to Chindrie Mountain.
I admittedly hadn’t checked the Forest Service closure map in a while but it had been my understanding that the Eagle Creek Trail was closed at the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail but I had expected this trail to be open. Being uncertain we altered our plans and decided to follow the PCT all the way around the northern end of Wahtum Lake on our way between Indian and Chindrie Mountains. According the mileage shown on our map that would and approximately three quarters of a mile to our day. Further research would confirm that it was indeed only the Eagle Creek Trail that was closed which was just over a tenth of a mile further along the Chindrie Cutoff Trail (it would have been nice if the sign had been clear about that).
We continued south on the PCT gradually gaining over 400′ as we contoured along the side of Waucoma Ridge before arriving at the old Indian Springs Campground a little under 3 miles later. Along this stretch we had some additional views of Chindrie Mountain as well as Tanner Butte and Washington’s Table Mountain (post).
Chindrie Mountain again.
We also got our first look at Indian Mountain and Mt. Hood .6 miles from Indian Springs after leaving the wilderness and popping out of the forest alongside Forest Road 660.
The presence of ice formations and a bit of snow here and there made the scenery even better.
Crossing FR 660 near Indian Springs
Trail sign at the junction with the currently closed Indian Springs Trail.
We continued south on the PCT for another third of a mile crossing a small stream before climbing up and around a treeless ridge where a frigid wind was steadily blowing.
The view from the ridge was spectacular. To the north the snow covered peaks in Washington were visible beyond Chindrie Mountain and to the south was our goal, the 4892′ Indian Mountain.
As the PCT rounded the ridge we came to the junction with the Indian Mountain Trail.
The wind was pushing us around a bit as we turned up the Indian Mountain Trail. As this trail climbed the open ridge the views just got better eventually leading to a decent view of Goat Rocks (post) between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.
Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak with Mt. St. Helens in the background.
Mt. St. Helens
Mt. Adams and Chindrie Mountain
The trail finally went back into the trees which gave us some relief from the biting wind.
After passing remains of the former lookout (and bathroom) the trail climbed to the rocky summit a mile from the PCT.
Given the time of day and year the Sun wasn’t in the greatest spot for pictures but the view of Mt. Hood was great and there was also a decent view further south to Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson
The snow and cold weather added some nice touches to the scenery here as well.
Snow on the north side, green on the south.
Mt. St. Helens with some snow on the trees in the foreground.
Crystals on a bush.
We headed back the way we’d come and arrived back at the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail where we paused to see if we could find any indication that that trail was indeed open. With no confirmation in sight we erred on the side of caution and stuck to the PCT which began a gradual climb up and away from the lake beyond the Wahtum Express Trail.
We gained another 400 plus feet over the next 1.6 miles before arriving at a junction with the Herman Creek Trail.
Herman Creek Trail junction.
We stuck to the PCT and promptly passed the junction with the Chindrie Cutoff Trail. At this end there was no closure sign signifying that we could indeed have taken the trail up from Wahtum Lake savings us about .7 miles (but at a “steeper” price).
Another 100 yards on the PCT brought us to a fork where the Chindrie Mountain Trail headed uphill to the right.
This .4 mile trail was the steepest we were on during the hike as it gained approximately 400′ on the way to the rocky viewpoint atop the mountain.
Looking at the summit from the trail.
The 360 degree view included Wahtum Lake to the east below.
The view south included Mt. Hood and Indian Mountain (and some Sun glare).
Tanner Butte rose above the fire scarred Eagle Creek Valley to the west.
The best view, given the position of the Sun, was to the north where the Washington Cascades lined the horizon.
There was also a good view of the rock spine of Tomlike Mountain in front of Mt. Adams.
From the angle it looked like a pretty gradual ascent. It was a little breezy at the summit so we didn’t linger long because the wind was making it cold. We returned to the PCT and then to the Herman Creek Trail junction where we set off on that trail.
We had been on the lower end of the Herman Creek Trail before (post) but not this end. Here the trail climbed gradually through an open forest with with lots of beargrass.
After a quarter mile we passed the Rainy/Wahtum Trail.
Lots of beargrass clumps.
About a mile from the PCT we passed another junction, this time with the Anthill Trail which we would be taking back to Wahtum Lake later.
Just under a tenth of a mile later the Herman Creek Trail made a hairpin turn before beginning a steep descent to Mud Lake. Here the unofficial trail to Tomlike Mountain headed out along the ridge to the left. A yellow “temporary” Forest Service sign at the junction identified only the Herman Creek Trail.
Trail to Tomlike on the left.
The trail began in the trees before skirting some cliffs above Mud Lake.
The trees began to give way allowing for a view ahead to Tomlike Mountain which from this angle looked like it might be a bit steeper of a climb than it had from Chindrie.
The other thing we noticed was that it looked further than the mile that the map showed between the summit and Herman Creek Trail. Sometimes it seems like it’s better not to be able to see your goal.
Much of the path was faint with occasional cairns or flagging marking the way. The rocky terrain was somewhat challenging given that we had, by this point, covered over 12 miles already.
There’s at least one cairn here.
The higher we climbed along the ridge the more of Mt. Hood that was visible behind us.
After climbing up a pile of larger rocks the trail entered a patch of small trees which we found to be a fun little section.
The trail emerged from the little trees for the final time as it climbed to the rocky summit.
Mt. Adams to the right.
Mt. Hood with Indian Mountain rising up behind Chindrie Mountain to the right.
Heather crossing the ridge below the summit.
The trail continued for a bit beyond the summit although it didn’t provide any real different views.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams from left to right.
Mt. St. Helens
We left Tomlike Mountain and returned to to the Herman Creek Trail and then walked back to the Anthill Trial junction and turned up that trail for a final 1.9 miles back to Wahtum Lake.
Anthill Trail on the left.
The Anthill Trail climbed for a half a mile to an old road bed which ran between Wahtum and Rainy Lakes.
We crossed the road and continued to climb gradually to a saddle where we crosed over a ridge and began a descent which included views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and Wahtum Lake.
Wahtum Lake and Chindrie Mountain
The descent was gradual until the final quarter mile or so where it steepend before arriving at the campground.
It was a great way to end our hiking season with a little snow on the ground and a lot of blue sky above. The persistent wind was a little chilly, but we had dressed appropriately so it wasn’t too much of an issue (my fingers weren’t pleased about having to come out so often for pictures). We plan on getting out a couple more times this year but it’s time to back off a bit and relish in the memories of some great hikes this past year. Happy Trails!
For the grand finale hike of our August vacation we headed for Mt. Hood to do the section of the Timberline Trail from Cloud Cap to Elk Cove. We had been to Cloud Cap in 2016 during our hike up Cooper Spur (post) and we’ve visited Elk Cove a couple of times (most recently in 2017 post) via a western approach on the Timberline Trail. We had not however been on the 5 mile section of the Timberline Trail between the Coe Branch (we turned back at the crossing in 2014 post) and the Cloud Cap Saddle Campground.
We had a bit of a scare on the way to the trailhead as most of the drive was spent in a light drizzle which became heavier at Government Camp. At the White River sno-park Mt. Hood was hidden behind a layer of gray clouds but as we continued north on Highway 35 we emerged from the grey. By the time we were winding our way up Cloud Cap Road the sky was blue and there were no signs of the clouds hiding on the other side of the mountain. We parked at the Cloud Cap Trailhead and hiked through the campground to a pair of signboards marking the Timberline Trail.
We turned right onto that trail and followed it through a short stretch of green trees before emerging into a recovering fire scar.
The trail turns north toward Mt. Adams and away from Mt. Hood as it prepares to drop steeply into the gorge carved by the glacial Eliot Branch which could be heard roaring in the chasm below.
Mt. Adams ahead above the clouds.
We descended a series of switchbacks which provided ample views of Mt. Hood without having to strain our necks looking behind us.
The Eliot Branch has a reputation as being one of the trickier crossing on the mountain ever since a bridge was swept away over a decade ago. In fact the Timberline Trail had “officially” been closed for years (there were still unofficial crossings) until the Forest Service completed a reroute of the trail in 2016. As we neared the stream the first looks were impressive.
The combination of the cloudy water, thundering noise, and swift current make glacial streams seem particularly daunting. Crossing earlier in the day minimizes the amount flow making morning crossings easier than those later in the afternoon or evening. We arrived at the crossing shortly before 8am so that was in our favor. There was also a promising looking log a bit downstream but it looked like it might be a tricky descent to reach it from this direction and we were (or at least I was) hoping to get a little fording practice in so we picked a reasonable looking spot and made our way through the water which was only just reaching our calves at its deepest.
It was a fairly uneventful crossing except for having forgotten just how cold a glacial stream is. Brrrr!!
We had lost over 350′ of elevation getting down to the Eliot that needed to be made up now that we were across. The Timberline Trail gained over 500′ in the next three quarters of a mile as it climbed out of the canyon.
We entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the way up.
The burned trees allowed for fairly consistent views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
Mt. Rainier peaking over the clouds to the left of Mt. Adams.
The trail leveled out near the 6000′ elevation and passed through a stand of green trees before arriving at a small wildflower lined stream. A pair of marmots ran into the rocks as we approached.
Western Pasque flower
A second stream followed shortly after.
Lupine with a beetle.
Continuing on we passed a hillside covered with western pasque flower seed heads, often referred to as hippies on a stick.
As we rounded a ridge end we stopped to talk to a backpacker going in the other direction. He asked if we were from the area and wanted to know which mountains he had been seeing to the north. In addition to Adams and Rainier, Mt. St. Helens was just barely visible from that spot which we were able to point out to him.
We rounded the forested ridge and came to a large rock field below the Langille Crags.
Just over a mile from the Eliot crossing we arrived at the first of Compass Creeks three branches.
Compass Creek is fed by the Langille Glacier and each branch sports a waterfall above the Timberline Trail.
A short scramble up the rocks along the creek brought us to the base of the falls.
Mt. Adams from Compass Creek.
Wildflowers along Compass Creek.
Monkeyflower and paintbrush
Hummingbird near Compass Creek.
After admiring the falls we continued on rounding two small ridges before arriving at the middle branch of Compass Creek .3 miles from the first.
This branch didn’t have nearly the amount of water as the first leaving the waterfall a little wispy.
There was yet another stream a short distance away which was putting on a wonderful wildflower display including a nice combination of pink and yellow monkeyflowers.
Lupine, paintbrush and monkeyflower.
This alpine stream was sublime and a reminder of why Mt. Hood is such a wonderful place. We kept going passing an aster covered hillside and then another meadow full of other types of flowers.
It was another .3 miles between the middle and final branches of Compass Creek where another waterfall crashed down behind a snow bridge.
After crossing the final branch of Compass Creek the trail headed down a ridge along the creek passing views of a lower waterfall.
Mt. Adams (again) from Compass Creek.
Waterfall on Compass Creek below the Timberline Trail.
In the next mile we passed through a wildflower meadow, green trees, a fire scar, and lost 350′ of elevation before arriving at yet another little stream.
The trail then headed downhill more quickly as we approached the Coe Branch.
A little over a mile and a half from Compass Creek we arrived at the Coe Branch and were pleased to find a pair of nice makeshift log bridges spanning the stream.
The crossing was no issue at all and we soon found ourselves climbing away from the Coe.
The climb away from the Coe Branch wasn’t nearly as steep as the descent had been and after three quarters of a mile we arrived at a sign for Elk Cove.
We followed the trail into the meadow where the view of Mt. Hood and Barrett Spur (post) was as impressive as always.
We explored a bit and then rested at a familiar spot along the stream that flows through Elk Cove.
After resting and soaking in the scenery we headed back. We stopped again below Compass Creek Falls where we watched a hummingbird moth visiting the monkeyflowers.
When we had finally made it back to the Eliot crossing we used the log we’d seen that morning as suggested by some hikers who we passed shortly before reaching the stream.
We actually wouldn’t have minded the ice cold water at that point, but the flow had increased now that it was after 1pm so the log was the safest option. We made the final climb back up to Cloud Cap taking our final look at Mt. Hood and the Eliot Glacier.
The hike was 12.3 miles round trip with approximately 2700′ of cumulative elevation gain, most of which came from dropping down to and climbing up from the Eliot and Coe Branches. It was a perfect day, blue skies and cool temperatures, and there couldn’t have been a better way to end our 6 days of hiking. Happy Trails!
For the 5th hike of our vacation we finally got around to one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we hadn’t done yet, Pansy Lake. Pansy Lake is located in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in a basin below the Bull of the Woods Lookout. In his guidebook Sullivan has you start the hike from the Pansy Lake Trailhead which is just over a mile from the lake. He gives two options, a 2.4 mile out-and-back to Pansy Lake or a 7.1 mile loop past the lake up to the lookout and then back down passing Dickey Lake along the way. Either of these options would have caused us to break our self-imposed rule against driving for more time than we spend hiking due to the driving time to the Pansy Lake Trailhead being roughly 2:45 for us. Fortunately Sullivan also mentions the option of starting at the Bull of the Woods Trailhead for an easier hike to the lookout. The Bull of the Woods Trailhead was about a 15 minute closer drive and it added almost 3 miles to the round trip which provided an acceptable drive/hike ratio.
With our plan in place we set off on the drive which proved to be a bit of an anomaly. The trailhead is located at the end of Forest Road 6340. Where the road was good it was an excellent gravel road but there were a couple of ugly obstacles along the way. The first was a slide that covered the road, half of which was impassable while the spot that could be driven over required a very slow, bumpy crossing (high clearance is probably necessary until it gets cleaned up). This was prior to a fork where the right hand fork (FR 6341) continued to the Pansy Lake Trailhead. After this fork sections of FR 6340 were deeply rutted by channels created by runoff again requiring careful placement of tires. We arrived at the trailhead no worse for wear though and set off on the signed trail.
The first few hundred yards were a little brushy but soon the vegetation gave way to a huckleberry filled forest.
There were ripe berries everywhere and they were big juicy berries too. In fact for most of the day there were ripe berries available and we ate quite a few. We weren’t the only ones feasting on berries though as we counted no less than 13 piles of berry filled bear scat along the trails.
Although we kept our eyes open for a bear all we ran into on the trail was a rough skinned newt.
The Bull of the Woods Trail climbed gradually as it passed below North and South Dickey Peaks.
A little over 2.25 miles from the trailhead we arrived at a junction with the Dickey Lake Trail. We would be coming back up that trail later after visiting Pansy and Dickey Lakes.
As the trail continued to climb we were treated to a couple of different views. First was to the west across the Pansy Lake Basin.
A little further along, when the trail crested the ridge, we got a look a Mt. Hood which was rising above some clouds.
The trail left the ridge for a bit and then regained it where the view also included Mt. Jefferson to the SE.
The trail then followed a narrow rocky ridge passing below the lookout and coming up to it from the other side, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
A lizard scurried into the rocks beneath the lookout as we approached. Aside from a bit of morning haze the view was great. The clouds to the north hid the Washington volcanoes from sight but Mt. Hood stood out just fine.
To the south Mt. Jefferson was cloud free and so was Three Fingered Jack for a bit. Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters played peek-a-boo through the clouds though.
Three Fingered Jack
Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters
In the basin to the NE Big Slide Lake (post) was visible.
To the SW the flat topped Battle Ax Mountain (post) rose up above the surrounding peaks.
We sat below the lookout for awhile enjoying the cool morning air as we watched the procession of clouds around us. After our break we headed steeply downhill via switchbacks for just over half a mile to the Mother Lode Trail.
Bull of the Woods Trail ending at the Mother Lode Trail.
We turned right onto the Mother Lode Trail.
We continued to descend as we followed this trail for approximately 1.25 miles, passing a viewpoint of Mt. Jefferson shortly before arriving at another junction.
We turned right again, this time onto the Pansy Lake Trail.
More downhill hiking ensued as we dropped into the basin. The trail was a bit rockier than the others and passed over a couple of talus fields.
We’re always on the lookout for pikas and have had quite a bit of luck in spotting them this year, enough so that we have started calling it “the year of the pika”. As we came to the second section of talus Heather spotted one of the little “rock rabbits” scurrying along the hillside.
After talking to the pika (I don’t know why but we tend to have a lot of one sided conversations with the wildlife) we continued on. Shortly before reaching the lake we found a couple of ripe thimbleberries, they were delicious.
First look at Pansy Lake.
We passed by the lake and reached a junction .8 miles from the Mother Lode Trail. We turned left and quickly arrived at the lake where we were a bit surprised that we were the only people there.
We wandered around the lake passing through numerous empty campsites before finding a little log to sit on by the lake where we could watch the dragonflies and ducks.
After a short break we returned to the trail junction and turned left continuing on the Pansy Lake Trail for another .2 miles to the Dickey Lake Trail junction.
It was time to climb now and we headed up the Dickey Lake Trail which climbed relatively steeply at times. After .6 miles we came to a spur trail on the right which led down to Dickey Lake.
The lake was quite a bit smaller than Pansy Lake and a lot brushier. After getting a look we returned to the Dickey Lake Trail and continued the climb back up to the Bull of the Woods Trail. A bit beyond the lake the trail passed through a little meadow with some remaining wildflowers and a few more thimbleberries.
We gained approximately 800′ over the next .8 miles before reaching the junction. There was a few more downed trees along this trail than we had encountered on any of the others but none of them were too troublesome.
We turned left onto the Bull of the Woods Trail and followed back to the car getting one last look at Mt. Hood along the way.
With the extra exploring around the lakes we wound up doing 10.6 miles (for the third time in the week). We both thought that the elevation gain doing the loop from the Pansy Lake Trailhead would have been quite a bit worse so the extra miles were worth it in our minds, plus it gave us that much more time to eat berries. Happy Trails!
In 2017 we hiked the Vista Ridge Trail to Eden Park, Cairn Basin, and Elk Cove in the Mt. Hood Wilderness (post). It had been a cloudy August day which deprived us of any views of the mountain save for a brief glimpse from Elk Cove. The lack of views was enough to put the trail back on our to do list, but there were a couple of other reasons we had wanted to get back to this trail. First was the side trip to Owl Point along a segment of the Old Vista Ridge Trail which was reclaimed by volunteers in 2007. The second was a desire to see the avalanche lilies that bloom profusely on Vista Ridge in the fire scar left by the 2011 Dollar Fire.
We had been following reports on the avalanche lilies from fellow hikers and after seeing that they were blooming we checked the weather forecast for a clear day and headed up to the Vista Ridge Trailhead.
The view of Mt. Hood had been clear on our drive so we decided to head out to Owl Point first and then up Vista Ridge for the lilies. We followed the Vista Ridge Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Old Vista Ridge Trail at the edge of the 2011 fire scar.
We turned left onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and headed toward Owl Point. The trail, which relies on volunteers to keep it maintained, was in good shape.
As we made our way north along though we began to run into some fog.
We had gone a little over half a mile from the junction and decided to turn back and save the viewpoint for later not wanting to risk missing out on a view. We backtracked to the junction, filled out a wilderness entry permit and headed up a fog free Vista Ridge.
Unlike our last visit this time we could see Mt. Hood through the snags as we climbed.
Looking back over our shoulders we could see the cloud that had caused us to turn back was not actually over Owl Point.
Mt. Adams beyond Owl Point
Most of the avalanche lilies were already past until shortly after entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness a mile up the Vista Ridge Trail.
At first the lilies were sparse but then small patches appeared followed by increasingly large fields of white.
As we gained elevation we left the heavy bloom behind and began seeing flowers that had yet to open.
We hit snow about two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
It was patchy and navigable without needing our microspikes and we continued uphill for another quarter mile passing a nice view of Mt. Adams and the Eden Park Trail along the way.
Eden Park Trail
We ended our climb at a snowfield where the Vista Ridge Trail headed left of the ridge toward its junction with the Timberline Trail.
The trail looked passable with the microspikes but we had a nice view from where we were and didn’t see a point in continuing on given we still wanted to get out to Owl Point and we were planning on hiking for the next three days straight.
Near our turn around we spotted some other early bloomers – western pasque flowers aka hippies on a stick.
western pasque flowers already going to seed
Paintbrush and cinquefoil was also present.
After an extended break enjoying the view of Mt. Hood we headed back down to the Old Vista Ridge Trail junction stopping along the way to once again admire the avalanche lilies and also to share a moment with a friendly yellow-rumped warbler.
We turned back onto the Old Vista Ridge Trail and repeated the first section which seemed to climb more this second time. (At least our legs felt like it did.) This time there was no fog though and we soon found ourselves at a viewpoint looking at Owl Point.
There was also a decent view of Mt. Hood.
After the initial climb the trail leveled out some along the ridge top where a few patches of snow remained.
That meant more avalanche lilies, although nowhere near the numbers that Vista Ridge was home to.
After climbing to a saddle we came to a sign for The Rockpile viewpoint.
The short spur trail led out to a nice view of Mt. Hood but we had startled a dog that was with some backpackers and it wouldn’t stop barking so we quickly took our leave heading for quieter surroundings.
The spur trail to Owl Point was just a tenth of a mile from the trail to the Rockpile.
We followed this spur to it’s end at a register at Owl Point.
Laurance Lake lay below to the east with Surveryors Ridge beyond.
Mt. Hood was the main attraction though.
We sat for awhile admiring the mountain and studying Vista Ridge where we could see the trail cutting across the snow beyond where we had turned around.
We also spent some time looking for pikas but never saw (or heard) any. We did however have a butterfly join us briefly.
When we had returned to the Old Vista Ridge Trail we continued north for another tenth of a mile to visit Alki Point.
This viewpoint looked north and on a cleared day would have offered views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. We settled for a glimpse of Rainier’s summit above some clouds (that’s Mt. Defiance in the foreground) and a semi-obstructed view of Mt. Adams.
Mt. Rainier (sort of)
We headed back to the trailhead completing a 10.8 mile hike that would have been under 10 had we not had the false start on the Old Vista Ridge Trail in the morning. The avalanche lilies had not disappointed, it was a great way to start a four day stretch of hiking. Happy Trails!