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Hiking Uncategorized

Central Oregon Cascades

Several years ago we set a goal for ourselves to hike all 500 featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes…” series of guidebooks (post). In 2020 we finished the first of his five guidebooks covering the Central Oregon Cascades. The achievement became bittersweet just 10 days after finishing the final featured hike at Erma Bell Lakes (post) when a freak windstorm caused the Lionshead and Beachie fires to explode burning a number of the trails that we had hiked on our journey to complete this goal. On the one hand we were fortunate enough to see these areas before they burned but it also means being more aware of what was lost, at least for the time being. The 2020 fires were not the first to burn trails that we’d hiked in the area, sometimes after and sometimes before. Fire is part of a forest’s cycle but their time frames take much longer than ours.

For this post we want to recap our journey to complete the 100 featured hikes while sharing a little of what the area looked like as we experienced it but first a little context. The area that Sullivan covers in the Central Cascades book, as well as his books for the other four areas, isn’t exactly easy to define. The vast majority of hikes could be fit into a rectangle starting with the upper left hand corner in Salem and extending east to Highway 97 then south to the junction of highways 97 & 58, then west until intersecting with a line due south from Salem. (The imaginary line follows I5 south until Cottage Grove where the freeway jogs SW.) That is over simplification though as that description overlaps at times with hikes described in the NW & Eastern books and excludes two featured hikes west of I5 and two east of Highway 97. The first snip below generally shows the described rectangle with the hiker symbols representing trailheads where we have started hikes (not limited to the featured hikes being discussed here). The second snip excludes any hikes that are included in one of the other areas that Sullivan covers.

The area is home to a variety of landscapes and ecosystems and contains at least parts of nine designated Wilderness Areas: Opal Creek, Bull of the Woods, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, Menagerie, Middle Santiam, Waldo Lake, and Diamond Peak.

The area has been hit by a number of large fires since 2000. The map below covers the same approximate area as the second map above. The colored areas represent fires with yellow being 2000-2005, light orange 2006-10, dark orange 2011-14, and red 15-19.

Not included in the map above are the Green Ridge, Beachie or Lionshead Fires from 2020. The Green Ridge fire did not burn over any of the featured hikes (it did burn part of the Green Ridge Trail) but the Beachie and Lionshead Fires impacted a number of hikes in the Mt. Jefferson, Bull of the Woods and Opal Creek Wilderness and surrounding areas.

The map below includes the Riverside Fire (large fire to the north), Beachie and Lionshead (center left and right which combined after Labor Day) and the Green Ridge Fire (SE).

We were lucky enough to complete many of the hikes prior to them being burned but we also hiked a number post fire and have seen the recovery in process. I’ve done my best to note below if a featured hike has experienced fire since 2000 with the year and name of the fire.

After all of that here are the 100 featured hikes from the 2012 4th edition of “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades”:

#1 – Ankeny Wildlife Refuge-Hiked 4/6/2014
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

#2 – Silver Fall-Hiked 2006, 7/30/2010 & 3/29/2018
Middle North FallsMiddle North Falls

#3 – Shellburg Falls-Hiked 5/23/2011
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Shellburg FallsShellburg Falls

#4 – Little North Santiam-Hiked 4/5/2012
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

#5 – Henline Falls & Henline Mountain 7/27/2009 & 6/14/2020
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Henline FallsHenline Falls

#6 – Opal Creek 7/4/2010, 7/4/2012, 6/21/2014 & 7/24/2019
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Jawbone FlatsJawbone Flats

#7 – Dome Rock and Tumble Lake 7/18/2010
Burned-2020 Beachie Fire
Tumble LakeTumble Lake from Dome Rock

#8 – Battle Ax and Twin Lakes 9/20/2014
Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson with Elk Lake belowMt. Jefferson from Battle Ax

#9 – Stahlman Point 5/6/2013
Burned 2020 Beachie Fire
View from Stahlman PointView from Stahlman Point

#10 – Coffin Mountain Lookout 8/2/2013 & 7/4/2016
Coffin Mountain Lookout with the Three Sisters and The Husband beyond

#11 – Three Pyramids 7/18/2020
Meadow along the Pyramids TrailMeadow below the Three Pyramids

#12 – Crescent Mt. 7/6/2014
Beargrass meadow along the Crescent Mountain TrailBeargrass on Crescent Mountain

#13 – Browder Ridge 9/9/2012 & 7/4/2018
Mt. JeffersonMt. Jefferson from Browder Ridge

#14 – Echo Basin and Fish Lake 6/19/2020
Echo Basin TrailBoardwalk in Echo Basin

#15 – Iron Mt. 7/25/2010 & 7/4/2014
Iron Mountain from the Cone Peak MeadowIron Mountain from the trail.

#16 – House Rock 11/8/2014
House Rock

#17 – Rooster Rock 6/12/2016
Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie Wilderness

#18 – Cascadia State Park 6/12/2016
Soda Creek FallsSoda Creek Falls

#19 – Crabtree Lake 9/7/2019
Crabtree Lake

#20 – McDowell Creek Park 2/16/2014
Majestic FallsMajestic Falls

#21 – South Breitenbush Gorge 5/11/2013
Burned 2020 Lionshead Fire
Roaring CreekRoaring Creek

#22 – Jefferson Park 9/23/2011, 10/13/2014, & 8/8/2015
Burned partly in 2017 Whitewater and rest in 2020 Lionshead Fire
Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson ParkMt. Jefferson

#23 – Pamelia Lake 9/19/2013 & 9/8/2018
Pamelia Lake

#24 – Marion Lake 10/3/2014 & 9/10/2016
Burned 2002 Mt. Marion, 2003 B&B Complex, 2006 Puzzle, 2015 208SRZ Marion
Three Fingered Jack from Marion LakeThree Fingered Jack from Marion Lake

#25 – Duffy Lake 7/28/2010
Burned 2002 Mt. Marion, 2003 B&B Complex
Mowich Lake and Duffy ButteMowich Lake and Duffy Butte from Red Butte

#26 – Three Fingered Jack 10/13/2012
Burned 2003 B&B Complex
Three Fingered Jack

#27 – Canyon Creek Meadows 7/28/2013
Burned 2003 B&B Complex
The trail aheadThree Fingered Jack

#28 – Carl Lake 9/1/2018
Burned 2003, B&B Complex, 2006 Puzzle
Carl Lake

#29 – Metolius River 7/23/2012
Wizard FallsWizard Falls

#30 – Black Butte 10/13/2013 & 5/28/2018
Burned 2009 Black Butte II
Cupola style lookout on Black Butte

#31 – Alder Springs 8/3/2011
Deschutes RiverDeschutes River

#32 – Scout Camp Trail 5/1/2016
Balsamroot hillside

#33 – Steelhead Falls 5/1/2016
Steelhead Falls

#34 – Smith Rock 7/14/2006, 7/13/2011 & 6/5/2015
Monkey FaceMonkey Face

#35 – Shevlin Park 8/5/2011
Hixson Crossing Covered BridgeHixson Crossing Covered Bridge

#36 – Tumalo Falls 9/27/2014
Tumalo Falls

#37 – Dillon & Benham Falls 8/1/2013
Benham FallsBenham Falls

#38 – Lava Cast Forest and Lava River Cave 5/28/2017
Newberry Crater from the Lava Cast Forest

#39 – Fall River 9/16/2015
Fall River

#40 – LaPine State Park 9/16/2015
Deschutes RiverDeschutes River

#41 – Poxy Falls and Linton Lake 5/3/2014(Proxy Falls) & 6/25/2017(Linton Lake)
Burned (Linton Falls) 2017 Separation Fire
Proxy FallsProxy Falls

#42 – Obsidian Trail 10/14/2012
Burned (tiny portion of trail) 2017 Separation Fire
Obsidian FallsObsidian Falls

#43 – Four-in-one-Cone 10/14/2012 & 8/14/2019
View from Four-in-one ConeView from Four-in-One-Cone

#44 – Benson Lake 10/14/2012 & 8/30/2014
Burned (small section of longer loop trail) 2010 Scott Mt. Fire
Benson Lake

#45 – Hand Lake Shelter 8/30/2014
Hand Lake Shelter

#46 – Little Belknap Crater 9/14/2015
Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson from Little Belknap CraterMt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Jefferson from Little Belknap Crater

#47 – Matthieu Lakes 7/29/2013
Burned 2017 Milli Fire
South Matthieu LakeNorth Sister from South Matthieu Lake

#48 – Black Crater 10/1/2016
Burned 2017 Milli Fire
Remanants of the lookout tower on Black CraterFormer lookout site on Black Crater.

#49 – Chambers Lakes 8/26/2014
Burned 2012 Pole Creek Fire
South Sister from Camp LakeSouth Sister from Camp Lake

#50 – Park Meadow 8/27/2014
Burned 2012 Pole Creek Fire
Middle and North Sister beyond Golden LakeMiddle and North Sister from Golden Lake

#51 – Tam McArthur Rim 8/31/2013
Broken Top and Broken HandBroken Top and Broken Hand from Tam McArthur Ridge

#52 – Tumalo Mt. 9/27/2014
Trees near the summit of Tumalo MountainTrees near the summit of Tumalo Mountain.

#53 – Todd Lake and Broken Top 8/23/2014
Broken Top from No Name LakeBroken Top from No Name Lake

#54 – Sparks Lake 10/1/2014
South Sister from Sparks LakeSouth Sister from Sparks Lake

#55 – Green Lakes via Fall Creek 9/15/2015
The third Green LakeThe third Green Lake

#56 – Moraine Lake and South Sister 9/1/2013
View from the South SisterLooking north from the South Sister.

#57 – Sisters Mirror Lake 9/19/2015
South Sister from Sisters Mirror LakeSouth Sister from Sisters Mirror Lake

#58 – Horse Lake 8/4/2011
Horse LakeHorse Lake

#59 – Doris & Cliff Lakes 9/29/2014
Doris LakeDoris Lake

#60 – Clear Lake 6/15/2014
Clear Lake

#61 – Sahalie & Koosah Falls 9/9/2012
Sahalie FallsSahalie Falls

#62 – Tamolitch Pool 5/27/2013
Tamolitch Pool

#63 – Rainbow Falls and Separation Lake 5/3/2014
Separation LakeSeparation Lake

#64 – Horsepasture Mt. 7/7/2018
South Sister and Mt. Bachelor from the Horsepasture Mountain TrailSouth Sister and Mt. Bachelor form Horsepasture Mountain.

#65 – Olallie Mt. 9/1/2019
Burned 2017 Olallie Lookout Fire (Lookout burned down winter 2019/20).
Olallie Mountain lookout

#66 – Lowder Mt. 9/1/2019
View from Lowder MountainView from Lowder Mountain.

#67 – Tidbits Mt. 6/29/2019
View from Tidbits MountainView from Tidbits Mountain.

#68 – Castle Rock 6/3/2017
Monkeyflower and pletritisMonkeyflower and plectritis on Castle Rock.

#69 – French Pete Creek 5/16/2015
Burned 2017 Rebel and 2018 Terwilliger Fires
French Pete Creek

#70 – Erma Bell Lakes 8/29/2020
Middle Erma Bell LakeMiddle Erma Bell Lake

#71 – Spencer Butte 2/9/2020
View from Spencer ButteFog over Eugene.

#72 – Mt. Pisgah 10/5/2019
Summit of Mt. PisgahSummit marker on Mt. Pisgah.

#73 – Shotgun Creek 2/9/2020
Shotgun Creek

#74 – Fall Creek 3/31/2013
Burned 2003 Clark and 2017 Jones Fires
Fall Creek

#75 – Mt. June 6/2/2013
Sawtooth TrailSawtooth Trail

#76 – Goodman Creek 11/10/2013
Small Falls on a branch of Goodman Creek

#77 – Patterson Mt. 5/5/2018
Lone Wolf MeadowLone Wolf Meadow

#78 – Tire Mt. 6/8/2014
Wildflowers along the Tire Mountain TrailWildflowers along the Tire Mt. Trail.

#79 – North Fork and Buffalo Rock 5/10/2020
Buaffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette RiverBuffalo Rock from the North Fork Willamette River

#80 – Grasshopper Meadow 7/8/2017
Grasshopper Meadow

#81 – Blair Lake and Wall Creek 6/11/2015
Beargrass MeadowBeargrass meadow along the Blair Lake Trail.

#82 – Chuckle Springs 5/24/2020
Burned 2009 Tumblebug Complex
Indigo SpringsIndigo Springs (These springs have not burned.)

#83 – Spirt, Moon, and Pinard Falls 6/17/2020
Moon FallsMoon Falls

#84 – Brice Creek 5/5/2014
Upper Trestle Creek FallsUpper Trestle Creek Falls

#85 – Bohemia Mt. 8/15/2020
Bohemia Mountain

#86 – Eddeeleo Lakes 8/25/2018
Lower Eddeeleo LakeLower Eddeeleo Lake

#87 – Waldo Mt. 9/7/2013
Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters and Broken Top from Waldo MountainView from the Waldo Mountain Lookout.

#88 – Lillian Falls 8/30/2019
Lillian Falls

#89 – Fuji Mt. 10/6/2013
View from Fuji Mountain

#90 – South Waldo Lake 8/22/2015
Waldo Lake

#91 – The Twins 9/14/2019
View north from the south summit of The Twins

#92 – Rosary Lakes and Maiden Peak 9/3/2016
Pulpit Rock from Middle Rosary LakePulpit Rock from Middle Rosary Lake

#93 – Salt Creek Falls 7/4/2013
Salt Creek Falls

#94 – Midnight & Yoran Lakes 10/18/2014
Yoran LakeYoran Lake

#95 – Diamond View Lake 8/22/2020
Diamond Peak from Diamond View LakeDiamond Peak from Diamond View Lake

#96 – Fawn Lake 9/22/2018
Huckleberry BushesHuckleberry Bushes along Saddle Lake.

#97 – Divide Lake 8/24/2020
Notch LakeNotch Lake

#98 – Blue and Corrigan Lakes 8/23/2020
Diamond Peak from Corrigan LakeDiamond Peak from Corrigan Lake

#99 – Marie Lake and Diamond Peak 8/23/2020
Climbers trail to Diamond PeakDiamond Peak

#100 – Timpanogas Lake 9/17/2016
Sawtooth Mountain from Timpanogas LakeSawtooth Mountain from Timpanogas Lake

In addition to the 100 featured hikes we’ve manged to add other hikes from Sullivan’s addtional hikes located in the back of his book. In doing so we have also completed all 100 featured hikes in the 3rd edition and are just 2 hikes short of completing the 5th edition as well. There were 14 hikes from the 3rd edition that were not featured hikes in the 4th edtion while the 5th edition contains 12 new featured hikes from the 4th edition (Three of these had been featured hikes in the 3rd edition.) Even with all of the hikes we’ve done, and the areas lost to fire in 2020 there are a number of trails in the Central Cascades we have yet to explore. We will continue to work those into our plans as we strive to explore as many different places as possible while we can.

 

Happy Trails!

Scout Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Categories
Hiking Uncategorized

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

French Creek Ridge

After visiting the Bull of the Woods Wilderness on our previous hike we paid a visit to the neighboring Opal Creek Wilderness. Our choice of trail was the French Creek Ridge Trail staring at the west trailhead. We had been to this trailhead before when we headed east from the trailhead to Phantom Bridge in 2011. (post) The road to the trailhead was in worse shape than we’d remembered including a short section of narrow road along a steep drop off with some trenching and potholes. It was only a couple hundred feet but it didn’t look like it would take much for that section of FR 2207 to become impassible.

Road 2207 was worse for the ware but that wasn’t the case at the trailhead where the sign board was in better shape than the one that had been present in 2011.
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French Creek Ridge Trailhead

We headed down the trail following an old roadbed into the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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The lightly used trail suffers a bit from a lack of maintenance but there were some signs that the first bit of trail had seen some recent brush removal.
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The trail passes the Marten Buttes on the north side of the ridge beneath some impressive basalt cliffs. Along this stretch were some open views across the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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When the trail was crossing over talus slopes it passed through a mixed forest with a few remaining wildflowers.
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IMG_8611Washington lilies

IMG_8774Penstemon

IMG_8782False hellebore

After a mile and a half we crossed over a saddle to the south side of the ridge. Looking back to the west we could see one of the Marten Buttes.
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Views from this side of the ridge also included several Cascade peaks.
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IMG_8644Mt. Jefferson

IMG_8635Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters with Coffin Mountain in the foreground.

The brushing out of the trail only covered a bit of the trail at the beginning and now it was a bit more overgrown when it wasn’t passing through the rockier sections.
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Luckily much of the trail did pass through rocky sections as it bounced from the south to north side of the ridge then back to the south again.
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After approximately 2.75 miles we arrived at a signed junction with the Beachie Trail.
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We took the left fork and followed the Beachie Trail steeply downhill for a little over a quarter mile before climbing an additional quarter mile back to the ridge top. This section was extremely overgrown but well marked by pink flagging.
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We then followed the trail uphill along the ridge for another .7 miles. The official trail bypasses the summit of Mount Beachie but not by much and a short bushwack led us to the small flat summit.
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Smoke from wildfires made for a hazy view but with the naked eye peaks from Mt. Adams south to Diamond Peak were visible except for Mt. Hood which was hidden behind Battle Ax Mountain in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness (post)
IMG_8730Mt. Adams

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IMG_8728Battle Ax Mountain

We sat at the summit for a bit before heading back. On the return trip the butterflies were out and so was a friendly wren who posed for a bit before disappearing into the forest.
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The round trip was approximately 8 miles with just under 2000′ of cumulative elevation gain. Most of the flowers were past so an early July visit would likely be better timing for those. There were a few mosquitoes present making stopping in the trees a bad idea but they were less of a bother along the open rocky slopes. A nice trail and one that you’re likely to have all to yourself. Happy Trails!

Flickr: French Creek Ridge

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

This week were covering a 8/14/2011 visit to Phantom Bridge and Opal Lake located at the southern end of the Opal Creek Wilderness. Our main focus on this hike was to finally make it to Phantom Bridge. We had tried twice before having failed first in 2010 to find an alternate trailhead due to washouts along the roads to the trailhead we would use on this hike. A month prior to this hike we attempted to come from the west along the Elkhorn Ridge Trail, a trip that will be covered in a later throwback post.

The third time was the charm though as Road 2207 had been reopened and we were able to drive from Detroit, OR to the French Creek Ridge Trailhead.
French Creek Ridge Trailhead

The French Creek Trail extended to both the east and west from the trailhead. Phantom Bridge lay to the west so we crossed Road 2207 and picked up the trail at a downed trail sign.
French Creek Ridge Trail sign

We followed the trail for 1.3 miles to small forest Cedar Lake passing Dog Tooth Rock and views of Opal Lake and the Opal Creek Wilderness.
Dog Tooth Rock

View from the French Creek Ridge Trail

Opal Lake

Cedar Lake

Near Cedar Lake a connector trail from Road 2207 near Opal Lake was marked by a trail sign.
Trail sign for Opal Lake

We decided that on the way back we’d take that trail down to visit Opal Lake before heading back to our car. For now though we continued west on what had become the Elkhorn Ridge Trail.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

We came to a second possible trailhead .7 miles from Cedar Lake on Road 2223. This trailhead just a quarter mile from Phantom Bridge the road has a reputation for being a nasty drive so the 2 mile hike from the French Creek Ridge Trailhead was preferable to us. Along this stretch wildflowers lined the trail and views extended from Mt. Hood to the Three Sisters.
Elkhorn Ridge Trail

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack and The Three Sisters

Phantom Bride spanned a 50′ wide chasm to the right (north) of the trail.
Phantom Bridge

A short side path led out to the rock arch (on the right hand side in the photo below).
Phantom Bridge

I walked out onto the arch and took a picture looking back toward the side path.
Phantom Bridge

After admiring this geologic feature we returned to Cedar Lake and headed steeply downhill toward Road 2207 at the trail sign we’d passed earlier. The steep trail was rather brushy and we decided not to return up it after visiting Opal Lake opting instead to walk Road 2207 up to the trailhead. From the road Phantom Bridge was visible high up on the hillside.
Phantom Bridge form road 2207 near Opal Lake

Phantom Bridge

Blank signboards marked the half mile trail down to Opal Lake.
Opal Lake Trail

The trail was basically a runoff stream bed which made it rather rocky and uneven.
Opal Lake Trail

Opal Lake Trail

The brush rimmed lake was very pretty and it teemed with activity.
Opal Lake

Opal Lake

Swallowtail butterfly on a bog orchid

Lorquin's admiral butterfly

Dragonfly

Rough skinned newt in Opal Lake

After watching the butterflies, dragonflies and newts at the lake we returned to the road and followed it uphill to our waiting car. It was a fairly steep walk but not as steep as it would have been going back up to Cedar Lake and the road was lined with wildflowers which made it a little nicer than some road walks.
Paintbrush and penstemon

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phantom Bridge & Opal Lake

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Whetstone Mountain

One of the hikes we wanted to do this year was a repeat of a hike we’d done back in 2010 when we were just getting into hiking. The goal of that hike was Whetstone Mountain. When we were done with that hike we had no idea how far we’d gone, we just knew that it kicked our derrieres. We wanted to revisit this hike to find out just how far it was and to also see how we would fare now being more prepared and experienced.

The previous hike had ended with Heather and I jogging down the closed portion of forest service road 2209. We weren’t jogging for fun, we were jogging because we couldn’t walk any longer and we desperately wanted to be back at our car. We were heading back now armed with 4 years of experience and a Garmin to find out just how difficult this hike really was. The starting point for this loop was the Opal Creek trail head which was already full of cars when we pulled up at 6am. The trail head is the main gateway into the Opal Creek Wilderness and Jawbone Flats a former mining camp turned ancient forest center. A gate at the trail head blocks any unauthorized vehicles from reaching the center.

We set off down road 2209 and followed it across Gold Creek.
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Shortly after the bridge a sign and wilderness registration box announced the Whetstone Mountain Trail heading up on our left. We turned up it and quickly entered the Opal Creek Wilderness.
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The trail climbed steadily through rhododendrons and beargrass. Neither Heather nor I remembered much about this portion of the hike from our first visit. It may be that we suppressed the memory of this difficult climb :). It wasn’t until we reached a small saddle with an open view of Mt. Hood to the north that anything looked familiar.
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Another notable item that we remembered was an anvil shaped rock outcrop that could be seen through the trees as well as view of Mt. Jefferson.
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On our first visit we had been disappointed with the mountain views. We had been told to look for a trail that forked off to the left and led to a nice view, but we never found it that first trip. We had our eyes open again this time determined to find this trail to a view, but this time we didn’t need to look very hard. A nice new sign had been put up pointing directly at a well maintained trail. It’s hard to believe either was there on our previous visit. The sign was surely new and we couldn’t believe we would have missed such an obvious trail.
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The views kept getting better as we climbed toward the former lookout site. The trail passed a nice meadow below the rocky summit before winding up on top where a 360 degree view awaited.
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Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson and Battle Ax Mountain
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Mt. Hood
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Broken Top, Coffin Mountain and the Three Sisters
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Three Fingered Jack
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Diamond Peak
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Mt. Rainier
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Mt. Adams
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We would have liked to have stayed up on the summit for awhile but it was crowded up there. Mosquitoes were beginning to swarm us and there was no breeze to keep them at bay so we didn’t stick around very long and headed back down to the Whetstone Mountain trail to continue our loop. Not far from the summit we passed another lovely meadow filled with larkspur and paintbrush.
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The trail down the east side of Whetstone Mountain had a gentler grade than the side we had come up. We didn’t remember this section either until we reached the bridge less crossing of Battle Ax Creek. On our last visit we removed our shoes and socks and made sure our pant legs would stay dry. Our attitudes about creek crossings have changed since then and this time we just plunged in.
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Shortly after crossing the creek we popped back up on the old road 2209 at a trail junction. We turned toward Jawbone Flats and headed down the abandoned mining road. As we were walking I spotted a snake trying to get out of the way. It didn’t seem too concerned with us and posed for several pictures. Nique and I moved on and soon realized we’d lost Heather. When she caught back up she told us that the snake had come over to check her out.
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About a mile from Jawbone Flats are the remains of the Ruth Mine. We took a moment this time to check out the old equipment and shafts.
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Just before Battle Ax Creek reaches Jawbone Flats there is a nice open rocky area where we could get an up close view of the clear water that the Opal Creek Wilderness is known for.
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We had gone straight through Jawbone Flats crossing Battle Ax Creek on a footbridge on our previous visit but we had made other plans this time. The bridge had recently collapsed so there was no direct route through the old camp. Instead we would take the Kopetski Trail which would take us across the Little North Santiam River and by the Opal Pool.

Closed bridge:
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Old mining equipment:
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Little North Santiam River:
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Opal Pool:
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Despite the number of cars in the parking lot that morning we had only seen one group of people up until we reached the Opal Pool. From that point on we were passing another group every couple of minutes. Since we had hiked this trail in 2012 and we’d already been hiking for over 6 hours we didn’t bother with exploring all the possible access points to the river. After a mile and a half we recrossed the river on another bridge and were back on road 2209. We had one last stop to make. There was a waterfall that we had yet to find along the trail. We knew it was somewhere behind the old Merten Mill but we had yet to actually see it. Determined to finally see Sawmill Falls we turned off the road at the old mill and followed a path next to the building. This time we found the falls easily and it was worth the side trip.
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After a brief rest we returned to the road and began the home stretch. Nique and I began snacking on the Salmonberries that were ripening along the trail (Heather finds them too sour) and we passed a good patch of flowers growing in an exposed rocky section.
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We ended up with the Garmin showing a 16.3 mile hike which would explain why it had seemed so hard 4 years ago, it was hard :). We’d probably gone closer to 15 that day since we hadn’t found the summit trail or taken time to explore the Ruth Mine, Opal Pool, or Sawmill Falls but up until then 7.1 had been our longest hike.

It is really a beautiful area with lots of options, but if you don’t like crowds avoid weekends, especially nice ones. When we got back to the parking area the number of cars had more than doubled. If we were to ever do this loop again I’d go the opposite direction to minimize crowds and to take advantage of a more gradual climb. Happy Trails!

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