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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon

Middle Fork Trail Backpack Day 1 – 5/23/2020

We continued to adjust our hiking plans to allow us our best chances of social distancing and visiting areas that are actually open. In January our plans for the three day weekend had been to stay in Roseburg and take day hikes along Highway 138. With staying in motels not the greatest way to socially distance, those plans were a no-go so we looked next to our 2021 plans. Those plans were a three day backpacking trip along the 30+ mile Middle Fork Trail SE of Oakridge to complete one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in his Central Cascades book, Indigo and Chuckle Springs (hike #83 in the 5th edition). This would be our first backpacking trip together since early September 2018 having skipped 2019 so that we could take care of our ill cat Buddy. (Heather did an overnight trip with some friends to Elk Lake Creek so she had been out once in 2019.)

The hike he describes is an easy 4.4 miles starting at the trailhead by Indigo Springs Campground. Doing the hike that he describes would have violated a couple of our self imposed rules. First the driving time to that trailhead for us would have been over 3 hours and secondly the amount of time spent hiking would have been less than the driving time (by a lot). My solution was to turn it into a backpacking trip by starting just south of the Sand Prairie Campground near milepost 12 of Rigdon Road (Forest Road 21). The plan was to hike around 13 miles on Saturday and then set up a base camp. Sunday we would hike the remaining distance to Indigo and Chuckle Springs and the return to camp and hike back out Monday morning. Our itinerary remained the same for the trip, but for reasons I’ll get to later the distances were not quite what we had planned on.

The Middle Fork National Recreation Trail stretches from Sand Prairie Campground to Timpanogas Lake (post).
There are a number of trailheads and access points for the Middle Fork Trail and we chose to start at the FR 2120 Trailhead.
Middle Fork Trail south of Sand Prairie Campground

A short distance from the trailhead we crossed Buck Creek on a nice bridge.
Buck Creek

For the first 5 miles the trail was relatively flat with a few ups and downs. This section was to the east of the Middle Fork Willamette River and to the west of Rigdon Road (FR 21). There were occasional glimpses of the river as well as some time spent along and on FR 21.
Middle Fork TrailMiddle Fork Trail along FR 21.

Middle Fork Willamette RiverOne of only a couple of spots where we were able to get to the river.

Where the trail crossed roads either signs or flagging were present to identify the continuation of the trail.
Middle Fork TrailOrange flagging on the left after crossing a gravel road.

The scenery was mostly green forest with a few meadows and a couple of creek crossings along the way. There were a few woodland flowers present as well as some patches of poison oak.
Middle Fork Trail

ThimbleberryThimbleberry

Cone CreekCone Creek

AnemonesAnemones

Bills CreekFootbridge over Bills Creek

Queen's cupQueen’s cup

Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Columbine along the Middle Fork TrailColumbine

Middle Fork TrailYellowleaf iris along the Middle Fork Trail.

Pine CreekPine Creek – At first it looked like they put the bridge in the wrong spot, but there was another branch to the creek.

View from the Middle Fork TrailSmall meadow along the trail.

At the 4.4 mile mark the trail popped us onto FR 21 for a little over a quarter mile before resuming along the river.
Middle Fork Trail popping onto FR 21 for a bit

Middle Fork Trail leaving FR 21

Middle Fork Willamette River

This was short lived though as we quickly found ourselves back on FR 21 near its junction with FR 2127.
Middle Fork Trail at FR 2127

Here the trail crossed the river on the bridge.
FR 2127 crossing the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River from FR 2127

Common merganserCommon merganser on the river below the bridge.

The bridge crossing marked the start of what Sullivan’s map showed to be a 5.2 mile section along the western side of the Middle Fork Willamette River before recrossing on bridge at FR 2134 (our Adventure Maps, Inc. Oakridge Oregon Trial Map showed the section as 5.4 miles).
Middle Fork Trail Sign at the Road 2127 Trailhead.

With FR 21 now on the opposite side of the river this section was a little quieter and more scenic. There was still occasional poison oak to keep an eye out for and somewhere along this stretch a tick hitched a momentary ride on my pant leg before being flicked off.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork TrailMossy stump along the trail.

Middle Fork TrailLots of grass along portions of the trail, one of these areas was probably where the tick hopped on.

A highlight of the section was a series of rocky seeps long the river where patches of wildflowers were blooming.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Ookow along the Middle Fork TrailThe ookow wasn’t quite blooming yet.

Tolmie's mariposa lilyTolmie’s mariposa lily

MonkeyflowerMonkeyflower and tomcat clover

StonecropStonecrop

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed MaryPlectritis and giant blue-eyed Mary

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

Giant blue-eyed MaryGiant blue-eyed Mary

Western buttercupsButtercups

Meadow along the Middle Fork Trail

The trail reentered the forest where we spotted a couple of different coralroots.
Middle Fork Trail

Spotted coralrootSpotted coralroot (with a caterpillar)

Striped coralrootStriped coralroot

Two miles into this section we came to our first real obstacle of our trip. I had watched a series of Youtube videos from Hike Oregon of the trail including this section (video and in her video from a few years ago there was a footbridge over Indian Creek. No such bridge existed now. The water was flowing pretty quickly and although it looked doable it didn’t look like the easiest ford we’d done. We went ahead and gave it a go.
Fording Indian Creek

We managed to get across and continued on to find a second ford a short distance later. This one was just through some very slow moving water though.
Water covering the Middle Fork Trail

It was pretty smooth sailing for the next two miles but then we came to a sign announcing a trail closure and reroute.
Middle Fork Trail

Clear water along the Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Willamette River

Chocolate liliesChocolate lilies

Sign for a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail

The reroute sent us away from the river to FR 201 where we crossed Coal Creek on a bridge to FR 2133. The Forest Service map for the reroute showed that the trail will eventually continue on the other side of FR 2133 extending to FR 2134 but for now the reroute followed FR 2133 for one and a quarter miles to FR 2134.
Middle Fork TrailCompleted section of the reroute.

Signage for the Middle Fork TrailMore signs at FR 201

Sign for the Middle Fork TrailFR 201 crossing Coal Creek.

Coal CreekCoal Creek

FR 2133Road walking on FR 2133

Once we made it to FR 2134 we were back on the original route of the Middle Fork Trail as it once again crossed the river, this time using FR 2134’s bridge.
Bridge over the Middle Fork Willamette River

Middle Fork Willamette River

The reroute had added a mile to our hike for the day and we weren’t done yet. The next section of trail between FR 2134 and Sacandaga Campground was listed as just under 5 miles and we were hoping to find a camp site close to the middle of the section.

The trail picked up at the north end of the bridge (the river had turned and was now flowing east to west as opposed to the first section when it was flowing to the north).
Middle Fork Trail

Simpson CreekSimpson Creek

Northern phloxNorthern phlox

Folded fungusDon’t know what type of fungus this is but it looked neat.

We were once again between the river and FR 21 and crossed several primitive forest roads.
Middle Fork Trail

Middle Fork Trail

After 2 miles it began to veer away from the road a bit to what appeared on the topographical map as a wide relatively flat area where we were hoping to find our camp site. We hadn’t passed many established (or even semi-established sites). We had seen one near Indian Creek and we had also seen one tent set up on an rocky island separated from the trail by a small channel of the river.

We passed up a couple of possible sites along decommissioned road beds hoping to be a bit closer to the river than they had been so when we did get back along the river we started looking.
Middle Fork Trail along the Middle Fork Willamette River

There wasn’t much, the trees and underbrush was thick enough that there weren’t many areas with enough room for a tent. Heather spotted a more open area in the trees about 2.8 miles from FR 2134 that looked promising but I stubbornly continued for another quarter of a mile before turning back because her spot appeared to be the best choice. We set up camp amid the trees on the opposite side of the trail from the river.
Campsite along the Middle Fork Trail

There was a nice little opening along the river nearby where we were able to cook our meals and watch the river flow by.
Middle Fork Willamette River from our dinner/breakfast spot

Our plan for a 13 mile first day turned into 14.5 miles due to the extra mile added by the reroute and my continuing past our eventual campsite a quarter mile and having to come back to it. The lower portions of the trail had been a bit of a mixed bag. We hadn’t expected as much poison oak as we’d seen along the way and the reroute had been a bit of a bummer since road walking, even if it’s dirt/gravel is a lot harder on us than a nice trail. The scenery was nice and there had been quite a few wildflowers but being so close to paved FR 21 for much of the hike and having a large number of other road crossings where car campers were present didn’t allow for much of a remote feeling. The middle section (prior to the reroute) was probably the nicest, but having to ford Indian Creek probably isn’t for everyone.

On the plus side we only encountered one other hiker on the trail and our campsite turned out to be pretty comfortable with a nice thick layer of cushy duff to sleep on. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Middle Fork Trail Day 1

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Bunchgrass Ridge – 7/04/2019

For the 4th of July this year we headed to the Oakridge area to check out a portion of the Eugene to Crest Trail. The concept of the trail is for a continuous trail from Eugene, OR to the Pacific Crest Trail east of Waldo Lake. Despite beginning in the 1970’s the trail has not been completed but a 108 mile route has been established using trails and roads with multiple access points.

We chose to begin our hike at the Eugene to Crest Trailhead #4 It was an interesting drive to the trailhead as winter storms brought extensive damage along Highway 58 causing its closure for a time due to slides and downed trees. Those same conditions affected many of the Forest Service roads and trails. As we headed up FR 2408 toward the trailhead it was apparent that the Forest Service had been busy clearing downed trees along the lower portion of the road. It was interesting to see that higher elevations hadn’t suffered near as much damage though as the number of recently cut trees decreased significantly. Then as we neared the trailhead a young black bear darted across the road in front of the car.

After the excitement of seeing the bear we pulled into the parking area where we discovered a fair number of mosquitoes waiting for us. We applied a bit of bug spray and set off on the signed trail.
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In a tenth of a mile we arrived at a junction with the Eugene to Crest Trail where we turned left.
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A short distance later we entered Little Bunchgrass Meadow.
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The meadow had quite a bit of lupine and some white pussytoes and cat’s ear lilies blooming with tiger lilies and orange agoseris just getting started.
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IMG_2117The only tiger lily that seemed to be open yet.

20190704_072419orange agoseris beginning to open.

20190704_072403Cat’s ear lily

IMG_2120Pussytoes

At the end of the meadow the trail entered the forest where a few vanilla leaf and a single trillium were still blooming.
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It wasn’t long before we popped out into a second meadow. This one was filled with bunchgrass aka beargrass. Unfortunately it appeared that we had missed the beargrass bloom by a year as only a couple of plants had flowers while many others had dead stalks.
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We repeated the meadow-forest-meadow pattern a couple of times as the trail followed the ridge SE. Occasionally there were views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the top of Mt. Bachelor to the NE.
IMG_2132The Three Sisters and Broken Top

IMG_2136Larkspur along the trail.

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IMG_2138Bunchberry

IMG_2142Anemone

IMG_2149Another meadow

IMG_2159The Three Sisters and Broken Top

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IMG_2170Queen’s cup

IMG_2181The Three Sisters, Broken Top, and a bit of Mt. Bachelor

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IMG_2208Rhododendron

IMG_2210Another meadow full of not-in-bloom beargrass.

The first mile and a half of the trail had been fairly level as it passed along the ridge but after passing through the last beargrass meadow for a while the trail began to gradually gain elevation. The trail left the ridge top in favor of the SW facing slope.
IMG_2214View from the SW facing hillside.

IMG_2215Looking SE

The trail then regained the ridge where we once again had views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top along with Mt. Jefferson and the very tip of Three Fingered Jack.
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IMG_2221Mt. Jefferson behind the ridge extending from Mule Mountain (post). The tip of Three Fingered Jack is visible just to the left of the high point along the ridge to the far right.

After passing a knoll on our right we got our fist glimpse of Diamond Peak ahead to the SE.
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IMG_2229Diamond Peak through the trees.

After a brief drop to a saddle we climbed past a wildflower rock garden to a nice viewpoint just over two and a quarter miles from the trailhead.
IMG_2241Valerian in the saddle.

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IMG_2270Mt. Yoran, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Bailey

IMG_2276Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2272Mt. Bailey

IMG_2656View to the NE (from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2658The Husband, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Ball Butte(from the afternoon on the way back)

IMG_2281Mt. Jefferson and the tips of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington

From the viewpoint the trail descended fairly steeply past what appeared to be a small spring but it is not shown on any map that I could find.
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Sections of our route passed through and by the fire scar from the 1991 Warner Creek burn but as we descended from the viewpoint we were passed through a newer scar from the 2017 Kelsey Creek Fire.
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In this newer scar we found one of the best clumps of western wallfower we’d ever seen.
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There was also a large wild ginger blossom which we don’t get to see very often so clearly.
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After losing almost 500′ of elevation the trail looked to regain it as it climbed from a saddle up a ridge and around a knoll before dropping down again.
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From the high point we had a nice view of the ridge behind us that our route had followed.
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Ahead we could see another ridge line on the far side of Kelsey Creek which was in the valley below.
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From this view we couldn’t really make out the ridge between us and the one across the valley. We began to wonder about the rest of our route. We did have two paper maps and our GPS with us but instead of looking at those we wondered if we would be curving around this valley or following an unseen ridge to our right. Whatever our route would be, it began by heading downhill. There was fairly thick vegetation along the trail but it had also recently been cut back.
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We could see a green meadow ahead of and below us.
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Just over three and a half miles in the trail leveled off at a saddle above the meadow. The wildflower display on the saddle was really impressive with large groups of blue-head gilia and giant blue-eyed Mary creating carpets of blue and numerous other flowers scattered about.
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IMG_2332Giant blue-eyed Mary

20190704_091315Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_2328Giant blue-eyed Mary and blue-head gilia

IMG_2334Cat’s ear lily and blue-head gilia

IMG_2339Coneflower

IMG_2342Cow parsnip

IMG_2345Tall mountain bluebell

IMG_2347More of the blue flowers

IMG_2350Larkspur

20190704_092323Jacob’s ladder

20190704_092346An aster or fleabane

IMG_2361Columbine and valerian

IMG_2362Lupine

IMG_2370Not sure what type of flower this one is.

IMG_2364Valerian filled meadow below the trail.

IMG_2373White yarrow, giant blue-eyed Mary, and tall mountain bluebells

Beyond the saddle the trail did not follow a ridge in any direction. It lost a little more elevation passing under a hillside dotted with pink rhododendron.
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The low elevation was approximately 5250′ which the trail dipped to briefly as it started to wind around the headwaters of Kelsey Creek. As we came around we started to climb and quickly realized that the trail was going to take us up and over the ridge we had been looking at from the viewpoint across the valley. From the low point the trail gained 150′ over the first three tenths of a mile before launching uphill to gain another 450′ in the next .4 miles.
IMG_2381Looking back at our route so far.

IMG_2383The trail coming around Kelsey Creek is visible on the hillside behind us.

The trail crested in yet another bunchgrass filled meadow.
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The open hillside here provided views ahead to Fuji Mountain in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post) as well as Diamond Peak and a good look at Mt. Bailey (post).
IMG_2414Fuji Mountain (left), flat topped Mt. David Douglass, Mt. Yoran (shorter thumb to the left of Diamond Peak), and Diamond Peak.

IMG_2403Mt. Yoran and Diamond Peak

IMG_2401Mt. Bailey

We were particularly excited to see Mt. Bailey. It’s one we don’t often get a good view of due to its relatively low profile (8368′) and its alignment which often puts it behind Diamond Peak in the line of sight.

This meadow lasted off and on for a little over half a mile. There again wasn’t much beargrass in bloom but we did come upon a nice display of scarlet gilia, also known as skyrocket which seemed fitting on the 4th of July.
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20190704_101615A few orange agoseris were scattered about.

IMG_2425Scarlet gilia

IMG_2432More scarlet gilia

20190704_112526Skyrocket

At the edge of the meadow we arrived at a rock outcrop.
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The trail switchbacked down below the outcrop which was home to a few flowers of it’s own.
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IMG_2452A thistle that was getting ready to bloom.

IMG_2456Wallflower

Below the outcrop the trail passed through more beargrass with Big Bunchgrass Meadow covering the hillside ahead with a bright green color.
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We had one complaint as we headed toward our goal, the trail was losing elevation. Interestingly though we found ourselves in an entirely different type of forest than we had encountered during the hike so far. It had a drier feel with pines and a grassy forest floor.
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Soon though we popped out into Big Bunchgrass Meadow which didn’t appear to have much if any bunchgrass. False hellebore, grasses, and flowers filled this meadow.
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The flowers weren’t profuse but there was a nice variety and the butterflies seemed to be enjoying them.
IMG_2479Owl’s head clover

IMG_2488Larkspur, an owl’s head clover, and scarlet gilia

IMG_2491Aster or fleabane and an orange agoseris

IMG_2508Coneflower

IMG_2510Hyssop

IMG_2514Butterflies on a cat’s ear lily

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20190704_105633Wait that’s not a butterfly.

As the trail continued to lose elevation we decided to make our turnaround point a trail junction with a tie trail coming up to the meadow from the Bunchgrass Lower Trailhead. There was a post in the meadow with a pointer for the trail but it wasn’t exactly near the post and we missed it on our first pass. We turned around after rounding a small corner that gave us a nice view of Fuji Mountain.
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IMG_2499Fuji Mountain

Looking back we realized just how far we had come down to reach the meadow.
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As we came back around the small corner we spotted the faint trail veering off to the left.
IMG_2513The post, with an orange top, is up and to the right in front of a tree.

We headed back uphill and stopped for a break at the rock outcrop.
IMG_2552Heather at the rock outcrop.

I wandered up along the outcrop to see if there might be a good viewpoint atop the ridge. I was hoping for the Three Sisters and Broken Top but they were nowhere to be seen.
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IMG_2543Big Bunchgrass Meadow and Fuji Mountain

IMG_2544Diamond Peak

I did find a little clump of Oregon sunshine though.
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After our break we continued on looking for anything we might have missed on our first pass as well as for any wildlife.
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IMG_2567Crab spider (probably waiting for that Washington lily to open)

IMG_2585Turkey vulture

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IMG_2594Back in the valerian meadows

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IMG_2683Not sure what this is going to be either.

We never did see that bear again, although there were several piles of scat along the trail. As for people we passed a group of three hikers at the viewpoint about 2 miles from the trailhead and a pair of mountain bikers at the junction near the trailhead. It was a little surprising to us that we didn’t see more, the trail was in great shape with good views and wildflowers. The first few miles were relatively easy too with the real climbing occuring in the latter half of the hike. We logged 11.8 miles on the GPS which seems to be right around where all our hikes have been lately. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bunchgrass Ridge

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon

Salmon Creek Falls

On Columbus Day morning we left Klamath Falls and headed home to Salem. We were planning on hiking on the way home, but we weren’t sure what hike we would be doing. If the weather was decent we were hoping to hike up The Twins near Waldo Lake and if it wasn’t we’d try the Salmon Creek Trail to Salmon Creek Falls near Oakridge.

It was dark at 5am as we headed north on Highway 97 but the stars where visible in the sky above. The stars were still out as we turned onto Highway 58 and began to head NW toward the Cascade Crest. The possibility of The Twins was still on the table, but by the time we had reached Crescent Junction the stars had been replaced by rain clouds. Salmon Creek Falls it was.

Just prior to reaching Oakridge we turned right onto Fish Hatchery Road and drove it’s length to Forest Road 24 where we turned right for .8 miles to the Flat Creek Road. Here we turned right and parked in a large gravel parking lot next to a small gazebo.
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The Salmon Creek Trail began a short distance down the road from the gazebo.
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After just a tenth of a mile we came to an unsigned junction where we turned left.
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A steady light rain was falling from the low clouds overhead as we followed this trail east past the Flat Creek Work Center and along Salmon Creek.
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It was an interesting trail in that it split in several areas only to rejoin a short distance later. A sort of pick your own adventure trail if you will. It also spent some time along the shoulder of FR 24 in areas where Salmon Creek had eroded the bank substantially.
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At other times the trail followed roadbeds.
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This led to a little confusion about the correct route, but it really didn’t matter as long as we kept heading east because the creek and FR 24 acted as rails on either side.

After a little over two and a half miles we arrived at a wide junction.
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A right turn here brought us to the site of a washed out bridge that used to connect to another trail on the south side of Salmon Creek.
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Just under a mile beyond the washed out bridge we arrived at the Salmon Creek Campground.
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We headed through an empty camp site and followed a path down to the creek and 10′ Salmon Creek Falls.
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It was a good day to visit the falls, the autumn colors were nice and there were no crowds around. After spending some time by the water we headed back keeping our eyes open for the small things that are easy to miss in the forest.
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It was a fairly easy 7.8 mile round trip hike and even though it rained almost the entire time we didn’t feel soaked. It was about as nice a hike as one could hope for on that kind of day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salmon Creek Falls

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
Deception Butte Trail

Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tire Mountain

June wildflowers and a “possible” waterfall were are goal for our recent trip to Tire Mountain near Oakridge, OR. Our guidebook showed a 7.6 mile hike starting from the Alpine Trailhead, linking up to the Tire Mountain trail, and turning around after reaching the summit of Tire Mountain. Looking at the forest service maps of the area I noticed that the Tire Mountain trail continued west beyond the junction with the summit trail to a trailhead on road 5824. Along that portion of the trail was a creek crossing where it appeared there might be a waterfall. Thinking that a 7.6 mile hike was a little short for a 2 1/2 hour drive I thought we could investigate the possible waterfall for a little extra exercise.

The Alpine trail started off uphill on a forested ridge where the path was lined with small rocks. The usual woodland flowers were present including vanilla leaf, solomonseal, candyflower, and bunchberry. We also spotted some wild ginger.
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Just a bit over half a mile in the trail entered the first of the meadows. The flowers did not disappoint and as an added bonus several cascade peaks were visible from this meadow.
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The flower show continued as we passed through more meadows on the way to the junction with the Tire Mountain trail. Along the way The Three Sisters joined the view.
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At the 1.2 mile mark we found the Tire Mountain trail and turned right. We passed through several smaller meadows which were home to a variety of different flowers, some of which were unknown to us.
Columbine
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Plectritis & Larkspur
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Plectritis & Yellow Monkeyflower
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Camas
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Paintbrush
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Coastal Manroot & ?
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Another unknown
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Possibly Oregon Sunshine
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Giant Blue-Eyed Mary, Plectritis & unknown
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Buttercups
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Wild Iris
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We were amazed at the number of flowers and we could see that there were even more higher up on the hillsides.
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After the series of smaller meadows the trail entered the largest meadow of the day. Here balsamroot joined the flower bonanza.
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Ookow
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Wallflower
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Unknown
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Blue Gilia
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When we left the meadow I remarked that we hadn’t seen any lupine at all. As soon as we hit the next small meadow that was no longer the case.
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From this meadow we also got a good view of Tire Mountain and Diamond Peak again.
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The trail then entered the forest before splitting. To the left was the 1/2mi path to the summit while the right fork headed down toward road 5824. We headed up to the summit to check out the former lookout site. The trail was nice despite there being a few downed trees to maneuver around.
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When we reached the brushy summit we found a number of additional flower types.
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Unknown
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Fawn Lily
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Unknown
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Wild onion
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Phlox
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Buscuitroot
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Despite being a former lookout site there was no view from the summit. In fact the lookout had been placed up in a tree in order to have a view of the surrounding area. We explored a bit before heading back down to the trail split and starting our search for the waterfall.

From the split, the Tire Mountain trail descended fairly quickly through a series of switchbacks. Several bridges crossed seasonal streams amid the large trees.
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It was a lot further down to the creek I was looking for than I had anticipated and we were all dreading the climb back up. We finally rounded a ridge end and spotted the bridge that crossed the creek I was looking for. There was indeed a waterfall but after seeing it we knew why the guidebook doesn’t mention continuing on to it. It was a pretty sad display lol.
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After soaking in the torrent we started our climb. We did our best to focus on the ever present bird song as we trudged along. Grey jays, varied thrushes, and at least one woodpecker flew from tree to tree. The woodpecker was the only one that stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.
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The meadows were just as impressive on the return trip. The only real bummer for the day was seeing a layer of smoke over the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor. Alas the fire season started early this year with the Two Bulls Fire burning near Bend, OR. 😦
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Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come. Happy (and fire free) trails!

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