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Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Catherine Creek Meadows – 07/10/2022

We’d spent the night in Baker City following our hike to the Mt. Ireland Lookout (post). Our plan for the next six days was to do five more of the “featured hikes” (post) from Sullivan’s 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” then before heading home on Friday do the Wallowa Homeland hike which is featured in Sullivan’s most recent 2022 edition of “100 Hikes Eastern Oregon”. Because the hikes were spread out along the western and northern sides of the Wallowas we would be moving our base of operations a couple of times during the week starting with a move to La Grande for Sunday through Tuesday nights.

Sunday morning we packed everything up and headed for the North Fork Catherine Creek Trailhead. After navigating the pothole filled FR 7785 we pulled into the large trailhead parking area.
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IMG_6598A $5 fee is required here and at several other trailheads we visited during the week. (An annual NW Forest Pass can be used instead.)

The trail doesn’t start at the parking area but rather another tenth of a mile up the road so we road walked to the official trailhead.
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The trail initially climbs above the creek to an open hillside, that was putting on a pretty good wildflower display, before descending to a bridge a little after 1.5 miles.
IMG_6608Lots of purple venus penstemon.

IMG_6613There were also some white scabland penstemon on the hillside.

IMG_6614Buckwheat

20220710_061539Venus penstemon

IMG_6619Lupine and stonecrop

IMG_6624Paintbrush

IMG_6625North Fork Catherine Creek

20220710_062027Douglas dustymaiden

20220710_062112Spreading dogbane

IMG_6634The trail crossed several side creeks, all of which were we were able to cross dry footed.

IMG_6636A brief stretch along North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6637Queen’s cup

IMG_6638Another side creek.

IMG_6640Bog orchid

IMG_6641Spotted coralroot

IMG_6642A fleabane

One of the more interesting things we’ve witnessed was watching carpenter ants removing sawdust from a dead log and dropping it in a pile below.
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IMG_6653They’re a little blurry but you can see the ants in the cracks where they would drop their sawdust. It was fascinating to watch and we paused for quite a while.

IMG_6658Columbine

20220710_064502Mountain lady slippers

20220710_065926Large-flower triteleia

IMG_6685Back above the creek.

IMG_6692The bridge over Catherine Creek.

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IMG_6695Bluebells next to the bridge.

The trail climbed gradually for the next three and a half miles before reaching Catherine Creek Meadows.
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IMG_6708Crab spider

IMG_6710Another type of penstemon

20220710_073039Rosy pussytoes

IMG_6713A side creek running down the trail.

20220710_073735Yellow columbine

IMG_6720Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_6726Jim Creek, this was one of the trickier crossings.

IMG_6735Hound’s tongue

IMG_6737Nettle-leaf giant hyssop

IMG_6750One of several smaller meadows along the trail.

IMG_6751Jacob’s ladder

IMG_6752California corn lily and bluebells.

20220710_082334Boot Hill Creek was also tricky as it had taken over the trail.

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IMG_6766A large patch of coralroot.

IMG_6772A few remaining balsamroot blooming above North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6777Arriving at Catherine Creek Meadows.

Up until this point we had been very lucky this year with mosquitos but the meadows were very wet and the recent warm weather had the bugs out in decent numbers so we couldn’t linger in any one spot too long but we did take a short break at a campsite near a side creek.
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IMG_6786All the black dots in the blue sky were gnats flying over the stream at the trail crossing.

heart-leaved bittercressHeart-leaved bittercress

Our goal for the day lay about a half mile away, an early 1900’s log cabin at the far end of the meadow. After our break we set off across the creek following what became an increasingly wet trail to a junction where we forked left.
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IMG_6799Looking back at the sign post in the meadow marking the trail junction.

IMG_6802Another dry section of trail.

IMG_6803It wasn’t dry for long.

IMG_6806Yellow buttercups and pink elephant’s head.

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IMG_6805Elephant’s head, one of our favorites.

IMG_6810Ladybug

IMG_6814Nearing the cabin.

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IMG_6817Ground squirrel

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IMG_6820Squatter running from the cabin.

We checked out the inside of the cabin before heading back.
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It was only 9:45am when we started back so we took our time and kept an eye out for anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_6831Beetle

IMG_6836Another beetle and Nevada bitterroot.

IMG_6839Brunch

IMG_6845A comma of some sort.

IMG_6848Big mushroom

IMG_6852Something from the Lycaenidae family.

IMG_6855Coneflower

IMG_6874Swallow-tail on red clover.

IMG_6882Fritilary on clover

IMG_6897Mourning cloak perched overhead.

IMG_6899Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_6900A tortoiseshell

IMG_6903Skullcap, one of the hardest flowers to get a decent picture of for some reason.

IMG_6910Tapertip onion

IMG_6915Yarrow and other wildflowers up the hillside.

Our hike came in at 11.8 miles with approximately 1450′ of elevation gain.

From the trailhead we drove to La Grande and checked into our Motel, after hanging out at a park for about an hour because we’d arrived a bit too early, and then headed to Side A Brewing for an early dinner. It was going to be a warm week so we turned in early planning on another 4am wake-up the next morning to beat as much of the heat as we could. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Catherine Creek Meadows