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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

McKenzie River Trail (Blue Pool TH south to NF-610) – 11/21/2020

A combination of a day off, a favorable forecast and a need to drive to Bend to pick up some Christmas items provided the perfect excuse to check out a section of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This would be our third hike on this 26.4 mile long trail, all on different sections (Tamolitch Pool and Clear Lake).

We started our hike at the popular Tamolitch Blue Pool Trailhead where we had also started our hike to the Blue Pool.
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This time though we headed south (left) on the McKenzie River Trail away from the Blue Pool and the crowds that would surely be arriving later in the day (we were the 2nd car at the TH on this morning).
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The Sun wasn’t quite up yet, and it was still under 30 degrees, as we set off on the trail.
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The trail climbed a forested hillside and crossed a forest road above Trail Bridge Reservoir (2 miles from the TH).
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IMG_8455Forest road crossing.

The trail then descended to Forest Road 730 and a crossing of Smith River which feeds into the reservoir.
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Another brief climb followed before dropping down to the Trail Bridge Dam.
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IMG_8495The top of Three Fingered Jack is visible in the distance.

We continued on the trail which now began to follow the McKenzie River more closely.
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IMG_8499Fall means mushrooms.

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There were a couple of opportunities to get down to the river bank which we took advantage of and just over a mile and a half from the dam we stopped to admire Olallie Creek joining the river.
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IMG_8533Anderson Creek joining the McKenzie.

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IMG_8541Olallie Creek across from the trail.

A half mile beyond Olallie Creek the river split leaving a large forested island briefly in its center.
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Beyond the island the trail passed some rocky cliffs where icicles dripped before dropping to a crossing of Deer Creek at the 5.5 mile mark of our hike.
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IMG_8572Turning up Deer Creek to reach the footbridge.

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Shortly after crossing the creek the trail arrived at Deer Creek Road (NF 782) where there is parking for the trail and Deer Creek (aka Bigelow) Hot Springs. We knew the hot springs were somewhere along our route but we didn’t know for sure where until we got home after the hike. There was no sign for the small hot spring that sits along the river bank but we did see an obvious trail heading south down to the river here. Not knowing that the hot springs were down there we visited the bridge over the McKenzie and then continued on the McKenzie River Trail.
IMG_8586Up river from Deer Creek Road.

IMG_8588Deer Creek Hot Springs would be somewhere along the right hand side of the river.

The trail briefly climbed above the river before switchbacking down and arriving at Frissel Creek just over a mile from Deer Creek Road.
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IMG_8592We had to go around this bridge due to frost and it being at an angle.

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IMG_8606Footbridge over Frissel Creek.

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We had planned to turn around between 10 and 10:30 at either the hot springs or Forest Road 610 which the trail briefly follows. Since we didn’t realize we’d passed the hot springs we wound up making FR 610 the turnaround which was approximately three quarters of a mile beyond Frissel Creek. We arrived at the road just after 10:30.
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We turned around at the road and headed back keeping our eyes open for any sign of the hot springs and any other things we missed on the first pass. We still didn’t realize that the hot springs were where they were but we did spot a lot more mushrooms and the tops of the Middle and North Sister on the way back.
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IMG_8624We missed this sign for slough creek the first time by.

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IMG_8633Missed this survey marker too.

IMG_8631We also completely missed this sign at Deer Creek.

IMG_8638Still cold

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IMG_8679Without the use of the zoom on the camera they are hard to make out but the tops of the North and Middle Sister are visible over the hills.

The Garmin showed 14.6 miles for this out and back (Google maps had indicated it would be 13.4 miles) and there was between 800 and 1000′ of cumulative elevation gain. What climbs there were weren’t ever steep and didn’t last long. We encountered a half dozen other trail users but when we arrived back at the trailhead it was full and cars were stretched all they way down the road with people heading for the Blue Pool. It has become one of “those” hikes and is getting loved to death. After changing we drove to Bend for a quick visit with Heather’s parents and then headed back over the pass to Salem. Happy Trails!

Flickr: McKenzie River Trail

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Forest Park Loop (Leif Erikson, Wild Cherry, Wildwood and Nature Trails) – 10/24/2020

With Heather’s foot still a little sore from her fall at Abbott Butte we wanted to find a hike that wasn’t too strenuous for her to test it out on. An 8.8 mile loop in Portland’s Forest Park fit the bill, especially since there would be several shorter loop options available in case her foot didn’t respond well. The loop we had chosen is the longer of two options given by Sullivan for the Balch Creek hike in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” guidebook (hike #4 in the 4th & 5th editions). The shorter loop option involves Balch Creek itself while the longer 8.8 mile loop never comes near the creek. For this hike we parked at the end of NW Thurman St. at the gated Leif Erikson Drive.
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In August 2020 Portland Parks and Recreation began a pilot program of one-way loops in an attempt to reduced visitor interaction and possibly help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Parts of our loop were included in one of the one-way pilots.
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We followed the paved Leif Erikson Drive for .3 miles to the Wild Cherry Trail (near a set of outhouses).
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We turned up the dirt Wild Cherry Trail (following the one-way signs) and quickly encountered people coming down the wrong way (so much for the signs). The Wild Cherry Trail gained about 400′ as it climbed to a junction with the Wildwood Trail in .6 miles.
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IMG_7986Switchback along the Wild Cherry Trail.

We turned right onto the Wildwood Trail at the junction and remained on it when the Wild Cherry Trail continued uphill to the left a few yards later.
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This was our fourth hike involving the 30.2 mile Wildwood Trail having hiked portions of it on our Washington Park (post), Maple Trail (post), and Northern Forest Park (post) outings.
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After .6 miles on the Wildwood Trail we arrived at a 4-way junction with the Dogwood Trail, part of the 2.75 mile one-way loop.
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Heather’s foot was doing well so we continued on the Wildwood Trail. In another .6 miles we arrived at parking area along NW 53rd.
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IMG_8011This was the first slug we recall seeing of this color.

IMG_8014Interpretive sign at the NW 53rd parking area.

In another .3 miles we ignored the Alder Trail on the right (another option to shorten the loop) continuing on the Wildwood Trail.
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The next loop option came almost 2 miles from the Alder Trail when the Wildwood Trail crossed Firelane 1. There were some nice clumps of mushrooms along this stretch. There was also a damaged bridge near the middle of this section which there were several warnings posted for.
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IMG_8037The bridge damage was not an issue.

IMG_8038Another bunch of musrhooms.

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Approximately a half mile before reaching Firelane 1 we passed the Morak Trail on the left (a 100 yard connector to Firelane 1 that is not shown on all maps).
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IMG_8050Firelane 1 junction.

With Heather still going strong we stuck to the Wildwood Trail arriving at the Nature Trail in another half mile.
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We turned right and when the trail split a tenth of a mile later we stayed left (the right hand fork would have taken us to Firelane 1).
IMG_8056The fork, left was downhill right up.

The Nature Trail followed Rockingchair Creek downhill to Leif Erikson Drive in just over a quarter mile where we turned right back toward our car.
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It had been busy when we had started our hike with the parking already nearly full but things had picked up even more since then. Even with it being busy there were moments where no one else was present along the 3.5 miles back to NW Thurman Street.
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IMG_8081Somewhere along Leif Erikson there was supposed to be a view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along the way but the clouds never burned off like the forecast had called for.

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IMG_8091The Alder Trail at Leif Erikson Dr.

IMG_8093An orange one-way marker along Leif Erikson Drive between the Dogwood and Wild Cherry Trail junctions.

For the most part people appeared to be doing a pretty good job of covering their faces and maintaining social distancing (at least better than following the one-way trail designations). It was another enjoyable hike in Forest Park and an encouraging outing for Heather’s foot. At some point we plan on returning to see Balch Creek and explore more of the park. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park 10/24/2020

Categories
Hiking Mt. Rainier Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground (Mt. Rainier National Park) – 9/21/2019

We spent most of the Summer doing day hikes from home so that we could be back in time to give our elderly cats their daily medicines which put a limit on how far away we could go, but we had purchased tickets to the Seattle Seahawks/New Orleans Saints game prior to Buddy getting ill so my parents graciously took over for a day. We took the opportunity to drive up the day before the game and stop for a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park.

This would be our second visit to the park having hiked the Northern Loop on a 4-day backpack in 2015 (post). For this visit we were looking for something on the SW side of the mountain that would be a good late Summer/early Fall hike. A little research led us to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground from Longmire.

We arrived at Longmire just after 8am and prepared to set off on the Trail of Shadows.
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Our trail was located across the park entrance road from the National Park Inn.
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Also across the road was the shear cliffs of Rampart Ridge and the snow capped summit of Mt. Rainier.
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We were excited to see the mountain as it had been raining for several days and more rain was forecast for the next few, but a partly sunny forecast had at least given us some hope.
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The Trail of Shadows is a .7 mile interpretative loop around Longmire Meadow. We followed this trail clockwise for a quarter mile where we arrived at a junction with the Rampart Ridge Trail.
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We turned left on the Rampart Ridge Trail which promptly began climbing via a series of switchbacks to the top of the ridge. The trail climbed through an old growth forest with lots of mushrooms this time of year and a bit of fall color showing on the maples.
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The trail gained the ridge after a little under 1.5 miles and began to follow it to the NE. One and three quarters of a mile from the junction we forked right to a signed viewpoint overlooking Longmire.
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The position of the Sun wasn’t ideal, even with some clouds around, but Eagle Peak was also visible (albeit through some trees) rising above Longmire.
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Less then a quarter mile from the viewpoint we came to a turn where the trail began to descend, but before we started down we followed a short path to a rocky viewpoint where we got a better look at Mt. Rainier.
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Mt. Rainier was the main attraction but to the NW behind the clouds was another interesting and colorful peak, Mt. Wow.
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We spent quite a while at the viewpoint before starting down on the Rampart Ridge Trail which we found turned back toward the mountain and provided another spectacular view.
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We were soon back in the mushroom filled forest grateful for having gotten such a nice view of the mountain already. We figured if the clouds moved in, at least we’d gotten to see that .
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After 2.9 miles on the Rampart Ridge Trail we came to a signed junction with the Wonderland Trail.
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Here we turned left following the pointer for Indian Henry’s (Hunting Ground)
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We had gained over 1400′ climbing up to Rampart Ridge and now we began to lose 400 of those feet as the Wonderland Trail dropped to Kautz Creek in 3/4 of a mile. Mushrooms remained a main theme of the hike as we descended through more green forest.
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As we neared Kautz Creek the mountain once again came into view.
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We dropped into the washed out canyon of Kautz Creek where, you guessed it, there were some more interesting mushrooms amid the rubble.
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IMG_9731Satuick Mountain

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The crossing of Kautz Creek was fairly easy as far as glacier fed streams go. The creek was split into three channels which were small enough to rock hop across dry footed.
IMG_9735First crossing

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IMG_9737The third channel was the largest but still relatively small.

IMG_9740Mt. Rainier from the far side of Kautz Creek.

The trail then reentered the forest and shortly arrived at Pyramid Camp.
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IMG_9746Yet another big mushroom.

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After a brief stint in the trees we emerged at another washed out creek bed. According to the map this was Pearl Creek (which later becomes Pyramid Creek after merging with a couple of other streams).
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This creek would have been a little trickier to cross had it not been for the presence of a pair of footbridges.
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After crossing the creek we popped back into the forest and almost immediately came to a clear spring.
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Beyond the spring the trail began to climb steeply gaining over 400′ in a half mile before becoming a bit more gradual as it traversed up the hillside crossing a few creek beds along the way.
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IMG_9763There were quite a few coral fungi present as well.

IMG_9766Fishers Hornpipe Creek

IMG_9769The mushrooms in the back had exploded.

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IMG_9774A few red huckleberries left to eat.

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Approximately one and three quarters of a mile from the Pearl Creek crossing we arrived at Devil’s Dream Creek.
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This creek flowed through a narrow slot canyon that looked (and sounded) really interesting.
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Although the trail briefly climbed uphill along side the canyon there were no views to speak of save one look down to the water below. From that spot it sounded like there was some sort of waterfall just upstream but there was no angle available to see anything so we settled for more colorful mushrooms.
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A half mile after crossing Devil’s Dream Creek we did spot a waterfall downhill to the right of the trail just before arriving at Devil’s Dream Camp. A path led down to the creek here. There wasn’t a lot of water flowing but it looked like it might be a pretty good waterfall when there was more flow.
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After the side trip we passed through the 8-site Devil’s Dream Camp.
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IMG_9804Bear pole

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It was uphill through the camp but not longer after passing the group site the trail leveled out a bit and entered the first meadow as we neared Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.
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A larger meadow followed with a view of Mt. Rainier hiding behind Iron Mountain.
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IMG_9825Gentians

IMG_9826Mushrooms in the meadow.

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IMG_9828Gray jay in the huckleberries.

A quarter mile from the camp we arrived at Squaw Lake.
IMG_9832Iron Mountain from the lake.

We crossed Devil’s Dream Creek again as we passed around the lake.
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I don’t know where the actual boundary of the hunting ground is but beyond Squaw Lake the meadows kept opening up more as we neared a backcountry patrol cabin.
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Finally Mt. Rainier came back into view.
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We spotted the patrol cabin approximately 8 miles (according to my GPS) into the hike. The cabin was set back in some trees overlooking the meadow with Mt. Rainier in the background. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque setting.
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We had been playing leap frog with another pair of day hikers who had planned on turning back at the cabin. We had also considered that given the distance and elevation gain to get there, but the mountain was so visible we decided to push on to Mirror Lakes which was just under a mile away. From a junction with the Kautz Creek Trail near the cabin we followed a pointer for the Mirror Lakes Trail .3 miles down the Wonderland Trail.
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The Wonderland Trail lost a little elevation before arriving at the Mirror Lakes Trail junction. Views of Mt. Rainier were plentiful along the .3 mile stretch.
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We turned onto the Mirror Lakes Trail which was pretty wet in spots from the recent rains, as were the meadows alongside the trail.
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There were a number of frogs in the meadow and they seemed to be enjoying the extra water.
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Most of the flowers were long since past but a few stragglers were hanging on.
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IMG_9920Butterfly on the remains of an aster.

IMG_9926Gentians

While the Summer flowers were mostly gone the nearby hillsides were heralding the arrival of Fall.
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We were glad that we’d decided to go on even before reaching the Mirror Lakes as the trail just kept getting us closer views of Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_9931Pyramid Peak to the right.

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The best was yet to come though. The largest (and first) of the little lakes that make up the Mirror Lakes had a perfect reflection of the still mostly cloud free mountain.
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We lingered for awhile studying the mountains various features.
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We would have loved to have stuck around longer but we still had a long hike back to Longmire and a 2 hour drive to our motel so we pulled ourselves away and started back. In the time it took to reach the patrol cabin the clouds had increased noticably.
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The shift in the clouds did reveal more of Emerald Ridge to the north which had some interesting features.
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We returned the way we’d come until arriving at the Wonderland Trail/Rampart Ridge Trail junction. This portion of the hike saw us spotting additional mushrooms that we hadn’t noticed earlier and a few more frogs, including one at the spring near Pearl Creek.
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IMG_9987This guy was tiny.

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IMG_9995Frog on a rock at the spring.

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The clouds had really moved in by the time we were crossing Kautz Creek and Mt. Rainier was gone.
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From the Wonderland/Rampart Ridge junction we stayed straight on the Wonderland Trail which, in addtion to being new trail, was at least a mile shorter route back to Longmire.
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The trail lost elevation pretty quickly and was fairly steep in places. The mushroom theme continued here as well.
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The trail did level out some as it passed below Rampart Ridges cliffs and over a swale on a boardwalk.
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We crossed the Paradise Road and soon after turned at a pointer for Longmire.
IMG_0044Looking back across the road.

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Our feet were sore and our knees tired but the 16.4 miles had been more than worth it. As we were loading up the car a gentleman asked if we would give him a ride out of the park. He had been on the Wonderland Trail but after 5 days of rain everything was wet and he hadn’t been able to cook some of his food so he was living to fight another day. His car was at Mowhich Lake though so we gave him a lift to Ashford and dropped him off at a motel/restaurant there before heading toward Seattle.

It was a great start to the weekend, if only Seattle’s play had been half as impressive as Mt. Rainier was maybe they could have pulled out a win. Ah well, we will take a beautiful hike over a single W any time. Happy Trails! (and GO Hawks!)

Flickr: Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

Categories
Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

House Rock

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

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

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

House Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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