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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Sardine Mountain

Having done quite a bit of driving over our Memorial Day Weekend trip to NE Oregon we stuck close to Salem for our next hike. The hike up to the summit of Sardine Mountain from Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mt. Jefferson Region“. Reeder recommends the hike in Winter when you can snowshoe the route, but as we have yet to get into snowshoeing (we’ve talked about it) an early June visit seemed appropriate. Located toward the western edge of the Old Cascades Sardine Mountain has an elevation of 4948′. This combination allows it to melt out sooner than some of the other peaks in the Old Cascades.

The peak is named after nearby Sardine Creek which purportedly gained that name when Thomas Henness found a sardine can in the creek in 1867. There are no official trails to the mountain but there is a scramble trail from Knutson Saddle which can be reached via Forest Road 2223 or by the route we took following Sardine Road (which becomes a 4wd track) up from Highway 22. Sardine Road is an unsigned gravel road located .4 miles east of Big Cliff Dam (2.3 miles west of Detroit Dam). In his description Reeder had parked just beyond a bridge over Sardine Creek just .2 miles up this road which is where we had planned to park but a van was already occupying it so we proceeded up the road another 150 yards to the next pullout.
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There had been a “road closed ahead” sign just after we had turned onto the road and Matt had mentioned that high clearance vehicles could make it as far as 3-4 miles up the road and other cars probably shouldn’t go further than a mile up. In addition to avoiding the bumpy drive the first mile of the road follows close to Sardine Creek so by parking sooner we were able to get some good looks at the creek.
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There were a lot of rough skinned newts out on the road which made us wonder how many have been on roads we’ve been driving on. 😦
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A half mile from where we parked we passed an scenic unnamed side creek.
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Despite being a road walk there was a lot to see between the creek, flowers, and the forest.
IMG_8762Paintbrush above Sardine Creek

IMG_8752Iris

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Approximately a mile and a half from where we had started the road veered away from Sardine Creek at a sharp switchback. In another quarter mile we arrived at a fork.
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The right hand fork was the continuation of the route up to Knutson Saddle and Sardine Mountain but we detoured left on Reeder’s recommendation to visit a huge logjam. We followed this road for four tenths of a mile to one of Sardine Creeks forks where there was indeed an impressive logjam.
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On the way to the logjam we came across a tennis ball and a slug and wondered if this was the worlds slowest game of fetch.
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Also there were more newts.
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There were even more logs jammed upstream on the creek.
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We returned to the fork and continued climbing up toward the saddle. We still had about 2000′ to gain just to reach the saddle. We tried to keep our minds off the climb by focusing on the sights along the way. There was one quarter mile section (1.4 miles from the fork) where the road lost 200′ of elevation before steeply climbing again.
IMG_8798Beargrass

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IMG_8828Mushroom in the middle of the road

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IMG_8813A hillside spring

The road deteriorated as we climbed although there were some noticeable tire tracks and there had been some recent clearing of brush.
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Shortly after passing the 4000′ elevation we passed a lingering patch of snow (with tire tracks).
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A total of 5.5 miles from where we’d parked (6.3 if you add in the side trip to the logjam) we arrived at Knutson Saddle where the trilliums where still white. We took a seat near some snow and rested.
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Before continuing up I walked NE along the level Forest Service road 100 yards to a view of Dome Rock and Mt. Jefferson. Unfortunately it was a very hazy morning so the mountain was blending with the haze.
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After our rest we located the use trail heading uphill where the 4wd track arrived at Knutson Saddle.
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After a brief stint in some trees we emerged in a meadow of huckleberry bushes and beargrass.
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At times the route was overgrown or became faint but pink flagging helped mark the way.
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The bushes gave way to an open rocky hillside where yellow wallfowers and red paintbrush colored the slopes.
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IMG_8873Red flowering currant

It was a fairly steep but non-technical class 2 scramble.
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The combination of the haze and time (the Sun we still to the east of us) really impacted what would have been spectacular views.
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Along the way up we spotted a northern alligator lizard.
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We reached the summit of Sardine Mountain where a long ridge extended north toward Rocky Top.
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The view west was marred by clearcuts.
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To the NE Mt. Hood stood out with Mt. Adams being barely visible through the haze.
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IMG_8961Mt. Hood with North Dicky Peak in front.

Mt. Jefferson rose to the east behind Dome Rock (post).
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Beyond Tumble Lake to the SE was Three Fingered Jack behind Coffin Mountain (post), Mt. Washington, and the barely visible Three Sisters.
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IMG_8964Three Fingered Jack

IMG_8951Mt. Washington and the Three Sisters

IMG_8939Tumble Lake

After another nice rest we started back down stopping to get pictures of some of the flowers we hadn’t noticed on the way up.
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IMG_8953A saxifrage

IMG_8972Blue-eyed mary

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After picking our way down the exposed slope we made our way back to Knutson Saddle and headed back downhill on the 4wd road. We didn’t see anymore newts along the road on our descent but we did see a few other critters.
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IMG_9028Another northern alligator lizard

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20190601_121157These two long legged spiders got into a brawl when they met crossing the road.

With the Sun now overhead the candy flower had opened up and many of the other flowers were showing up better so we stopped to get some pictures of them as well.
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20190601_123148Candy flower

20190601_121738Iris

20190601_121916Beargrass

IMG_9047Cinquefoil and candy flower

IMG_9049Fringecup

IMG_9056Monkeyflower

20190601_124017Thimbleberry

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20190601_125119Youth-on-age with an interesting insect

The sunlight also helped bring out the colors of Sardine Creek.
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Aside from the unfortunately hazy conditions the only real drawback to the hike was that we each managed to pick up a couple of ticks, likely taking pictures of the flowers and creek at the end of the day where the grass was tall along the road. A good reminder to always check thoroughly, best a couple of times as even though we did a check and knocked three off us at the car one managed to make it all the way home with Heather where a second check found it before it had started to dig in.

We did not see another person the whole day although we did hear a car drive past Knutson Saddle as we approached it. There was plenty of evidence that people do spend time along the road though based on the used shotgun shells, pieces of clay targets, and trash filled fire pits at several of the pullouts. 😦

From where we parked, with the logjam side trip, our GPS recorded a 12.8 mile hike which was a bit shorter than we’d expected based on Reeder’s book where he put it at 14.4 miles without the side trip. The stat that did agree was the 4600′ cumulative elevation gain making this a pretty good early season training hike for climbers. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sardine Mountain

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Scar Mountain

We’ve developed a tradition of using the day off of work provided by the 4th of July holiday to take a hike. One of our go to areas in the first part of July is the Old (Western) Cascades. The Old Cascades are older than the volcanic peaks of the High Cascades and rise only half as high meaning they melt out much sooner than their younger companions. These highly eroded volcanoes are home to old growth forests and top notch wildflower meadows.

This year we decided to visit the Scar Mountain Trail. The hike is listed in our usual guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” as hike #111. Due to it not being a featured hike the description in that book is brief so we turned to another excellent resource, “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region” by Matt Reeder.

We followed his directions to the North Pyramid Trailhead where we parked then crossed Forest Road 2266 to the signed Scar Mountain Trail.

North Pyramid Trailhead

Scar Mountain Trail

The Scar Mountain Trail is part of the approximately 30 mile long Old Cascades Loop. We had done another section of this loop in 2014 when we started at the Pyramids Trailhead and hiked to Donaca Lake for an overnight stay.

The trail climbed through a nice forest,gradually at first then more steeply as it switchbacked up toward a ridge top.

Scar Mountain Trail

The switchbacks ended after just over a mile and the trail began to traverse along the hillside below the ridge. There were occasional glimpses of the Three Pyramids to the south and Daly Lake in the valley below.

Daly Lake below the Three Pyramids

Daly Lake

For the next mile and a half the trail continued to gain elevation via a series of ups and downs as it gained the ridge top and alternated between its west and east sides providing views of several of the High Cascades to the SE, Mt. Jefferson to the NE, and Coffin & Bachelor Mountains to the north.

Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and the Husband Mt. Washington, the Three Sisters and the Husband

Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson

Coffin and Bachelor MountainsCoffin and Bachelor Mountains

A few small patches of snow lingered on and along the trail.

Snow on the Scar Mountain Trail

The trial began to climb steeply again at the 2.5 mile mark as it headed up Trappers Butte. The forested summit offered some similar views to what we had seen on the way up but one big difference was the presence of some non-white wildflowers near the top.

Paintbrush

Penstemon

The trail then descended roughly 400′ in .8 miles to a saddle where it crossed an old roadbed in a clearing with blooming beargrass and rhododendron and view of the Three Pyramids.

The Three Pyramids

Another one and three quarter miles of ups and downs had us nearing our goal, a dramatic rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain. The trail had been in reasonably good shape with some minor blowdown and a few brushy spots which became a bit more frequent as we climbed Scar Mountain.

Scar Mountain Trail

Rock pinnacle on Scar Mountain

The flowers on and around the pinnacle might not have been as impressive as the meadows on some of the other nearby peaks but there were still some nice displays.

Valerian along the Scar Mountain Trail

Wildflower on Scar Mountain

Yellowleaf iris

Paintbrush along the Scar Mountain Trail

Columbine

Wildflowers along the Scar Mountain Trail

Stonecrop and penstemon

The real reward for this hike were the views from Scar Mountains cliffs.

Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams peaking over a ridge and Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson from Scar MountainMt. Jefferson

Three Fingered JackThree Fingered Jack

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters and the HusbandThe Three Sisters and the Husband

The Husband and the Three PyramidsThe Husband behind the Three Pyramids

Crescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountian and South PeakCrescent Mountain, North Peak, Echo Mountain, and South Peak

North Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron MountainNorth Peak, Echo Mountain, South Peak, Cone Peak, and Iron Mountain.

We took a nice break near the pinnacle where there seemed to be less mosquitoes. They hadn’t been too noticeable but with the snow still melting there were more around than we realized given the number of bites we discovered later.

Rock pinnacle along the Scar Mountain Trail

Looking down from cliffs along the Scar Mountain Trail

We returned the way we’d come passing the time on the ups and downs by admiring the many different flowers in the forest including large numbers of coralroots.

Caterpillar on coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Coralroot

Round trip was just under 12 miles with a good amount of elevation gain overall but broken up enough to never feel too daunting. Like many of the trails in the Old Cascades the Scar Mountain Trail offered a good dose of solitude. We neither spotted nor heard another person during the hike. Instead we listened for the calls of sooty grouse, the singing of birds, and “meeps” of hidden pikas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Scar Mountain

Categories
Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Beargrass
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

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