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Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Black Canyon Wilderness and Rock Creek – 07/19/2021

Every year we pick our vacation time in January/February (due to work) so we never know what the conditions will be when we choose. We had a week scheduled in July for a trip to the John Day area in hopes to make further headway on the 100 featured hikes in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” (post) and to complete our goal of visiting all of Oregon’s designated wilderness areas (minus the two that are closed to human visitors) (post).

With severe drought conditions present all of the West and multiple wildfires burning in Oregon we kept an eye on the forecast and made daily checks with the relevant National Forests to make sure the hikes that we had planned remained open. While all of the trails were open a red flag warning for possible scattered thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday for the Blue Mountains had us a little concerned. The forecast also called for “wide spread haze” every day but fortunately not for “smoke” which meant we’d probably not have much in the way of views on the trip. We could deal with the haze, it was the possibility of new lightning caused fires that could quickly end our trip and our two days of hiking (Monday & Tuesday) involved our first overnight backpacking trip of the year.

Monday we left Salem and drove to the Boeing Field Trailhead, the first of two stops in the eastern portion of the Ochoco Mountains.
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This trailhead, named in honor of a B-18 bomber that crashed nearby during a WWII training flight killing all four crew members, provides access to the Black Canyon Wilderness via the Owl Creek Trail.
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We headed down the Owl Creek Trail and quickly entered our 45th Oregon wilderness area.
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We descended to the nearly dry bed of Owl Creek in the scar of a 2008 wildfire and in a half mile reached the Black Canyon Trail.
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IMG_0129Aster, paintbrush, and fireweed.

IMG_0134Fireweed, aster, and pearly everlasting.

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IMG_0150Clouds and smoke mixing in the sky made it hard to tell if any thunderstorms might be developing.

IMG_0147We never heard any thunder but we did briefly get sprinkled on.

IMG_0151Ground squirrel.

IMG_0156Columbine

IMG_0158Fritillary butterfly

IMG_0159Black Canyon Trail junction.

We turned left onto the Black Canyon Trail and followed it down into Black Canyon along Owl Creek soon leaving the fire scar behind.
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IMG_0172Owl Creek crossing approximately 1.5 miles from the junction.

In another half mile we arrived at Black Canyon Creek which we easily crossed on small logs.
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IMG_0185Fish in Black Canyon Creek

We were seeing a lot of mountain lady slipper orchids but unfortunately they were all past.
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Three quarters of a mile after crossing Black Canyon Creek we passed the Coffee Pot Trail and soon entered another fire scar, this one from 2002.
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IMG_0201Western Tanager

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Just under 4 miles into the hike we came to the second crossing of Black Canyon Creek and our turnaround point for the day.
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IMG_0214California tortioseshell

Western Jacob's ladderWestern Jacob’s ladder

IMG_0211Black Canyon Creek

After a short break on a log spanning the creek we headed back to the car stopping occasionally along the way to watch pollinators busy at work.
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This was an eight mile out and back with almost 1600′ of elevation gain, mostly on the way back.

Black Canyon Track

From Boeing Field we drove back the way we’d come 4.3 miles to the Rock Creek Trailhead.
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Here we threw on our full backpacks as our plan was to camp somewhere along Rock Creek and then return on a loop the next day by hiking up to Spanish Peak the next day following the route of the Ochoco Mountain Trail and Mascall Corral Trail.

Forest Service Map

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From the trailhead the trail descended to Rock Creek crossing it on a nice footbridge.
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IMG_0288The number of insects on the blossoms and their size differences were fascinating.

The trail then followed along Rock Creek for a bit before the creek began descending more steeply than the trail. At the 2.4 mile mark we arrived at a sign announcing the Waterman Ditch.
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IMG_0301Snacks

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IMG_0310Lorquin’s adrmiral

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IMG_0321A little light on the tread in this section.

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The trail then followed the old ditch passing the remains of a cabin next to Fir Tree Creek in 1.4 miles.
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IMG_0348Fir Tree Creek

IMG_0349Butterflies on coneflower

IMG_0351The cabin ruins.

We continued on heading for Second Creek which was just over 1.5 miles beyond Fir Tree Creek where we hoped we might find a spot to camp or at least refill our water supply.
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IMG_0358Coming around a ridge end toward Second Creek.

IMG_0363Monkshood at Second Creek

IMG_0365This little guy oversaw our water pumping.

There wasn’t a lot of water in Second Creek and the crossing where the most obvious spot to get water was had a whole lot of yellow jackets flying around. We had to do a little hunting up and down the creek in thick vegetation to find a pool deep enough for our pump but finally managed to. What we couldn’t find was a place for our tent or a spot to cook dinner away from the yellow jackets and mosquitos so after getting water we reluctantly continued hiking. After nearly 1.5 more miles we arrived at First Creek where there was almost no water but there was a suitable spot for a tent.
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It had been a long day with this hike coming in a little over 7 miles making it a 15+ mile day for us.

Rock Creek Track (orange)

It was also a warm evening and we had the rainfly on due to the slight chance of rain which made it even warmer. It did finally cool off enough overnight to warrant pulling our sleeping bag/quilt over us and we managed to get some sleep. I woke up once when something fairly big cracked it’s way through the trees below our camp and a couple more times when a pair of nearby owls were trading hoots. It was a more difficult start to our trip then we had anticipated but a good day none the less. Happy Trails!

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Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Walton Lake & Round Mountain – 06/18/2021

After spending three nights in Pendleton and two John Day it was time for us to head back to Salem on Friday. We planned on stopping at Walton Lake in the Ochoco National Forest along the way to visit the man made lake where I had spent some time in my childhood. We also planned to hike from the lake to the summit of Round Mountain which we had done from the opposite side back in 2017 (post). After our hike we were meeting Heather’s parents for a late lunch/early dinner in Redmond at Madeline’s before continuing home to Salem.

We left John Day a little before 5am and arrived at Walton Lake shortly after 6:30am. There were already several folks our fishing and we were met by the camp greeters.
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A paved/gravel 0.8 mile trail encircles the lake with the Walton Lake Trail splitting off on the south side of Walton Lake. We decided to hike around the lake clockwise passing the small dam that created the lake and a number of campsites before arriving at the unsigned Walton Lake Trail after 0.6 miles. Along with the people fishing there were a number of ducks (including ducklings), geese and coots around the lake.
IMG_8625American coot and a duck family.

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IMG_8638Spotted sandpiper

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IMG_8645Pied billed grebe

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IMG_8656The spur of the Walton Lake Trail that leads to the Round Mountain Trail.

We turned up the spur trail which climbed through a meadow where several families of geese were hanging out.
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After 0.2 miles the spur trail crosses the campground road.
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It was about this time that we realized that we hadn’t put our NW Forest Pass out. We headed back down to the lake and completed to the 0.8 mile loop to put our pass out. We later realized that it wasn’t good at Walton Lake anyway and paid the $5 day use fee.
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IMG_8676A saxifrage.

This is also a good time mention that a 0.3 mile segment of the spur trail between Forest Road 2220 and Forest Road 22 is by Forest Order 06-07-01-21-02 closed from 5/18/21 to 10/31/21 (or until rescinded). There were no signs present at the start of the spur trail nor at the crossing of FR 2220, the notice was however posted at the FR 22 crossing (along with a warning about sheep dogs).
IMG_8696The order also states that the closure area will be signed along with pink flagging along all boundaries on the ground (we didn’t see any pink flagging at FR 2220).

Fortunately the Round Mountain North Trailhead is just on the other side of FR 22 from the Walton Lake entrance if you don’t want to road walk around the closure. Assuming you are coming from the FR 22 crossing though the Walton Lake Trail continues 1/2 mile to its end at the Round Mountain Trail (0.2 miles from the North Trailhead).
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Approximately 0.4 miles from FR 22 the trail passes a snow survey site in a small meadow where we spotted several does.
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A short distance beyond the meadow we arrived at the Round Mountain Trail where we turned left. (Ignore the sign, it was the only one present and it was facing the wrong way.)
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The trail climbed to a dry, rocky plateau but not before first passing a nice display of lupine.
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20210618_080749Chocolate lily

IMG_8749The rocky plateau with Round Mountain to the right.

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IMG_8752A wild onion

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The trail dipped off the plateau and lost a little elevation on its way to a saddle below Round Mountain. Just over 2 miles from the Walton Lake Trail we passed Scissors Spring in a meadow on our right.
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IMG_8768Valerian along the trail.

IMG_8767California tortoiseshell on valerian.

IMG_8772Mt. Jefferson from the trail.

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20210618_083047Maybe a miterwort?

IMG_8779Milbert’s tortoiseshell

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IMG_8790Scissors Spring

IMG_8791A fleabane

20210618_085307Geranium

Beyond the spring the trail began to climb through a series of hellebore filled meadows.
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IMG_8813Woodpecker

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IMG_8818Another doe

IMG_8823A comma butterfly of some sort.

IMG_8831Possibly some sort of phlox?

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IMG_8836Another wild onion

IMG_8837Mountain bluebells

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Threeleaf lewisiaThreeleaf lewisia

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IMG_8854Butterfly on Jessica stickseed

IMG_8865A larkspur, Jessica stickseed, and hyssop

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IMG_8863Mountain view from a meadow.

IMG_8862Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8864Mt. Hood

Just over a mile from the spring the trail made a switchback at which point it steepened noticeably. The next 1/3 of a mile consisted of steep switchbacks through a hellebore meadow to Round Mountain Road 0.2 miles from the summit.
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IMG_8882Viewpoint at one of the switchbacks. Cascade Mountains from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson.
IMG_8884Diamond Peak

IMG_8886Mt. Bachelor

IMG_8887Ball Butte and Broken Top

IMG_8888Three Sisters

IMG_8889Mt. Washington

IMG_8890Three Fingered Jack

IMG_8891Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8893The trail sign along Round Mountain Road up the hill.

IMG_8896Fritillary butterfly

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IMG_8901Silky phacelia

IMG_8904Prairie smoke

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IMG_8917Balsamroot

IMG_8924Butterfly on an onion

20210618_100034Ladybug on lupine

IMG_8925Round Mountain summit

We sat on the cool concrete in the shade cast by the radio tower while we watched butterflies swirl through the air.
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IMG_8948And occasionally land.

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IMG_8929Lookout Mountain (post)

IMG_8959Mt. Hood

IMG_8961Mt. Adams

After the break we returned the way we’d come with a slight delay caused by a Sara’s orangetip butterfly that refused to land despite repeatedly looking like it was going to as it flew in the same loop over and over again.
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IMG_8971Not too horrible of a photo of the orangetip on one of its many passes.

We retrieved our car from the now packed Walton Lake but not before checking out some of the wildlife one more time.
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IMG_9005A coot, a spotted sandpiper and ducks.

IMG_9001Osprey with a recently caught fish (we got to see the dive)

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From Walton Lake we drove to Redmond where we were a bit early so we stopped at the Spud Bowl and watched some dogs playing in the sprinklers before meeting up with Heather’s parents at Madelines. We had a great meal then continued home to Salem. When a section of the trail isn’t closed (and you don’t have to go back to your car to after starting your hike) this would be about a 12 mile hike with approximately 1900′ of elevation gain while the 0.8 mile loop around Walton Lake would be great for kids. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Walton Lake and Round Mountian

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Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

North Point and Round Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

For Father’s Day weekend we headed over to Central Oregon to visit my Dad and our Son. On Saturday we headed to the Ochoco Mountains for a pair of hikes.

Our first destination was North Point in the trail-less Bridge Creek Wilderness. We started our hike near Pisgah Springs along Forest Road 2630. We made the mistake of following Google’s suggested route which led us over an extremely rough section of that road which we could have avoided. We had turned right off of Highway 26 at a sign for Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie onto Ochoco Creek Road which becomes Forest Road 22. Just before crossing Ochoco Creek, Google had us fork left onto Road 2210 before turning right onto Rd 2630. That was where the road deteriorated quickly into a muddy, giant hole filled mess. Had we stayed on Road 22 past Walton Lake we could have turned left onto Road 2630 a mile and a half beyond the entrance road to the lake. That section and the remainder of Rd 2630 was a fairly good gravel road. We followed Rd 2630 to a fork at a Bridge Creek Wilderness sign where Road 450 went left and 2630 continued to the right.

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Road 2630 became rougher beyond the fork but nothing like the earlier section Google had taken us on. A May 2016 trip report mentioned that the road improved after the first couple hundred yards and this was still the case. A total of two miles from the fork we arrived at an old jeep track near Pisgah Springs.

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We pulled off the road at the jeep track which at one time went all the way out to North Point. Much of the wilderness burned in 2008 and many of the left over snags have begun falling and we’d heard that the track had a good deal of blowdown. Looking uphill from the jeep track we decided to angle left and skirt around the side of a stand of trees.

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The cross country travel was easy through the sagebrush but our pace was slowed due to stopping to admire the many wildflowers along the way.

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Brown’s Peony

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Parsley

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Paintbrush

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IMG_2864Old man’s whiskers

IMG_2866Woodland stars

The terrain began to level after the initial climb (which was short and not at all steep) revealing some open meadows among the trees.

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We encountered additional flowers in and around these meadows.

2017-06-17 08.26.38Bluebells

IMG_2888Big-head clover

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We took a line along between the meadows and a line of dead trees.

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Using the GPS we eventually veered to the right stepping over a couple of downed snags then briefly following the jeep track toward the rim of the plateau.

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We arrived at the rim between point 6607 to the west and North Point to the east.

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The view to the north was amazing and included some very interesting topographical formations.

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Behind us to the south lay Mt. Pisgah and the Mt. Pisgah Lookout

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We made our way along the rim to North Point which was marked with a cairn.

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From North Point we could see parts of the Cascade Mountains from Mt. Bachelor to the south to Mt. Adams in Washington to the north. The only problem was a single line of clouds moving north right in our line of sight for the snowy volcanoes.

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We spotted a few additional flowers on North Point.

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IMG_2932A stonecrop?

IMG_2940Balloon pod milk vetch

After taking in the views on what was shaping up to be a beautiful day we made our way back to our car amid the ever present sound of birds.

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The hike to North Point had only been 2.2 miles round trip and we were heading for hike number two of the day, but first we wanted to check out Big Summit Prairie. After passing the point on Road 2630 where we had emerged from the apocalyptic section of road from the morning we continued on the gravel road .8 miles to NF-22 where we turned left. After 4.2 miles on NF-22 we turned right onto gravel South Howard Road for 1.6 miles then right again onto Badger Creek Road (NF 4210). We followed this road for 2.3 miles to Canyon Creek Road (NF-42) where we turned left. We drove 9.7 miles on NF 42 which travels along the southern side of Big Summit Prairie.

Covering several thousand acres in the middle of the Ochoco Mountains, Big Summit Prairie sports some impressive wildflower displays from April through Mid-June. We were hoping that we weren’t too late for the show, but alas we seemed to be on the tail-end of the last flowers.

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We stopped near the North Fork Crooked River bridge and took a look at our next goal, Round Mountain rising to the west.

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We drove back on NF-42 12.7 miles to a sign for the Independent Mine on the left. We had been here before in 2014 when we hiked to the summit of Lookout Mountain.

We parked at the same trailhead as before just a few hundred feet up Road 4205. A good sized parking area here doubles as the Lower Lookout Mountain and the Round Mountain South Trailheads.

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From the trailhead the Round Mountain Trail descended into a small meadow before entering some trees and climbing up to a crossing of NF-42.

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The trail climbed gradually through wildflower filled meadows to a view of little Prospect Pond.

2017-06-17 10.54.46Crab spider

IMG_2975Torrey’s peavine

IMG_2985Lupine

IMG_2997Tortoiseshell butterfly

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IMG_3003Balsamroot and larkspur

IMG_3007Death camas

IMG_3009Vetch

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IMG_3019Prospect Pond (and Lookout Mountain beyond)

As the trail continued to follow a ridge uphill the wildflower displays kept getting better.

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The trail briefly leveled off at the wide Onion Pass.

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We soon got our first good look at our goal, Round Mountain.

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Shortly after crossing a road at the 2.3 mile mark the trail traversed an open slope with views of several Cascade Mountains.

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The flowers continued to impress along the entire trail with the pink Oregon geraniums being some of our favorites.

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After another short level stretch along what appeared to be an old road track the trail finally began to climb with some urgency through a series of hellebore meadows.
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The trail was in great shape with only a minor slide which was easily passable.

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The trail wrapped around under the summit of Round Mountain to Round Mountain Road (yes it is possible to drive up).

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We followed the road up past the signed junction with the Round Mountain Trail coming up from the northern trailhead near Walton Lake.

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The 360 degree view from the 6755′ summit did not disappoint. The clouds that had hidden parts of the Cascades had mostly burned off (except for over Three Fingered Jack) and Diamond Peak joined the line of snow covered volcanoes.

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IMG_3131Diamond and Maiden Peaks

IMG_3132Mt. Bachelor

IMG_3133Ball Butte and Broken Top

IMG_3134The Three Sisters

IMG_3062Mt. Washington

IMG_3140Three Fingered Jack

IMG_3141Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3143Mt. Hood

IMG_3147Mt. Adams

The plateau of the Bridge Creek Wilderness was visible to the NE.

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Lookout Mountain rose across NF-42 to the south.

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While Big Summit Prairie stretched out to the east.

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We spotted a couple of flowers near the summit that we hadn’t seen lower including a few pink phlox, a patch of purple silky phacelia, and some yellow bells along the road.

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silky phacelia

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We returned the way we’d come. After crossing NF-42 we spotted a doe which seemed fitting since we were close to a road and we seem to see more deer from the roads than we do on the trails.

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It was a great day in the Ochocos and it had felt really nice to finally spend some time in the mountains. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Point & Round Mountain

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Lookout Mountain – Ochoco National Forest

We recently returned from a long weekend in Central Oregon. We had a few hikes that we were wanting to try in June in that area starting with Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco National Forest. Roughly 26 miles east of Prineville, OR the summit of Lookout Mountain is the 2nd highest point in the Ochoco Mountains. The summit is part of a broad plateau of sagebrush and wildflowers which also offers a 360 degree view.

There are a couple of options for reaching the plateau. For our visit we decided to start at the Round Mountain Trailhead on road 4205 just after turning off of road 42. We could have shaved nearly 2 miles form the hike by continuing up road 4205 to the Independent Mine Trailhead but the road is quite rough and I would rather be hiking than bouncing around in a car. The 0.9 mile path between the trailheads was pleasant enough with a number of wildflowers and a deer sighting.
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We accidently left the trail and wound up on road 4205 across from signs for the Independent Mine and the Baneberry Trailhead.
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Our version (2008, 2nd edition) of 100 Hikes in Eastern Oregon didn’t give any information about this trail but a sign at the Round Mountain Trailhead made mention of extensive trail work and renaming starting in 2010. Our book did show an old road leading down to the mine though so we decided to check it out. We reached the Baneberry Trail before getting to the mine and saw that it was an interpretive nature loop. Thinking it would loop us around to the mine we turned on the trail and began the loop. It was evident why the trail was named Baneberry as the forest was full of the plant.
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Many benches and interpretive signs were located around the trail telling of the mining activity, forest, and wildlife.
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As we continued on the loop it became evident that we were not going to loop to the mine site but instead were heading around in the opposite direction. When we had almost completed the loop a trail shot off uphill to the left which we took thinking it might take us up to the Independent Mine Trailhead. We lost the tread in a small meadow but we could tell the trailhead was just on the other side so we followed what looked like it might be the trail through the meadow and popped out at the trailhead.
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From the trailhead we had more options. Straight ahead up the shorter steeper trail 808A, right on what was now named trail 804 or left on trail 808. We chose 808 based on the suggested route in the book. The trail passed through several meadows full of hellbore with views nice views to the north with Mt. Jefferson visible on the horizon.
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The trail then turned south and we climbed up onto the sloped plateau. From here the trail climbed through open ground covered with wildflowers and sagebrush and the occasional stand of trees.
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Big-headed Clover
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Brown’s Peony
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Looking ahead from the lower plateau
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We crossed Brush Creek
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and found some leftover of snow
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There were some small lilies in this area as well as a few shooting star and mountain bluebells.
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We came out of a clump of trees into another sagebrush covered meadow where we could see the summit of Lookout Mountain.
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There were more flowers as we climbed through the sagebrush toward the summit. Balsamroot, paint, larkspur, and columbine dotted the landscape. There were other flowers both known and unknown to us as well.
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Old Man’s Whiskers
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The lupine was yet to bloom.
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A sign stood at a trail crossroads giving directions.
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From the summit we could see Cascade Peaks from Diamond Peak in the south to Mt. Hood in the North.
Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance:
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We also spotted a very strange plant on the summit which thanks to some detective work form the folks at portlandhikers we identified as balloon-pod milk-vetch.
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On our way down we stopped by a snow shelter built by the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Forest Service in 1989.
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We spotted another deer on the way down and the butterflies started coming out as the day wore on.
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Just before reaching the Independent Mine Trailhead on trail 804 we passed a left over mining building and an abandoned mine shaft.
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We saw what must have been the same doe on the way down as we saw on the way up. She came out of the exact same group of trees and we wondered if she might not have a young fawn bedded down in them. We didn’t want to disturb it if there was so we continued on back to the Round Mountain Trailhead and our car. Day one had provided a great 10.3 mile hike and we had three more days to go. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644735166968/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204236394617228.1073741883.1448521051&type=1

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Ochoco Mountains Oregon Trip report

Steins Pillar

In our last post I said we had completed our final planned hike with less than 1000ft or elevation gain for the year. I chose the word “planned” because I knew I needed to leave open the possibility of an unplanned hike. It only took a week for that to prove wise. We had a hike free weekend but wound up with the opportunity to go on a hike in Central Oregon with my parents and assist them with trying out their new Garmin GPS unit. We had planned on meeting them last weekend after our hike in Detroit, but a deer had different ideas and they were unable to make it.

This was our first chance to take a hike together and we decided on hiking to Steins Pillar in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville Oregon. This was a new trail to all of us, but we had seen the pillar last year when we hiked to the Twin Pillars in the Mill Creek Wilderness. The trail clocks in at 4 miles round trip with just under 700ft of elevation gain. The trail head is near a small meadow surrounding a little spring. A number of bright yellow flowers as well as large solomonseal and wild strawberries were present. While we were getting ready to begin the hike I spotted a fritillary which was the first of that type of flower we’ve encountered.

We were all pleasantly surprised by the diversity that the trail had to offer. The forest seemed to shift constantly from firs to ponderosa pine to juniper and back. The collection of wildflowers was even more diverse with white death camas, yellow balsamroot and arnica, purple larkspur and phlox, and various shades of paintbrush.
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A number of others were present as well including desert parsley, giant-head clover, penstemon, and naked broomrape (an unfortunate name for a cute little flower). In addition a large number of lupine leaves promised a good show within a couple of weeks.

A nice opening offered a view toward the the Three Sisters but on this day low clouds ensured that the Cascade peaks were mostly hidden. It mattered little though as the wildflower show more than made up for the missed view. After 1.8 miles the trail finally offers the first glimpse of its goal -Steins Pillar.
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From the viewpoint the trail descends for 0.2 miles to the base of the pillar. The pillar is made of rhyolite ash that has been compacted. The area at the base makes for a nice lunch spot with views across Mill Creek to the Twin Pillars. Much of the elevation gain is due to the climb back up to the viewpoint up several sets of stairs.

As usual most of the wildlife we spotted was from the car on the way to and from the trail head. We saw several deer from the road but the trail offered a Northern Pacific Treefrog and a few Golden Mantled Squirrels. In all this was a very nice hike and a great time of year for it. Until the next time, Happy Trials.

Pictures on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633538803950/
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