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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Killin Wetlands & Elk & Kings Mountain Loop

The weather finally cooperated enough for us to get back to our originally planned 2022 hikes. For this outing we were heading back to one of our earliest hikes, Elk & Kings Mountains (post) to see how much we remembered from that first visit. When we made the conscious choice to take up hiking in 2010 the loop over Elk and Kings Mountains was our eighth hike. One of only a handful of hikes rated “Very Difficult” in all five of Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” guidebooks, and the only one in the Oregon Coast book, this had been quite the challenge for us. We were curious how nearly 12 years of additional hikes, and age, might change our experience this time around. We were also hiking the trail at a better time of the year having tackled it in the heat of mid-August the first time around. Our hope was that the earlier visit would provide a different experience with wildflowers and with the streams and creeks along the route.

Before we started the difficult loop though we stopped at Killin Wetlands Nature Park just outside of Banks, OR for a short warmup hike on the 0.7 mile loop. An unintended result of having altered the plan for our two previous outings was that this stop would mark our third straight outing visiting an Oregon Metro managed park. (Orenco Woods)(Chehalem Ridge)
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We set off on a clockwise loop on the Peat Swamp Trail then stayed left at its junction with the Waterfowl Way Trail.
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IMG_9959Peat Swamp Trail.

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Our 6am start time paid off as we were not only the only ones at the park but we spotted a deer (too quick for a photo), two otters, several families of Canada geese, and a gadwall and a mallard.
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IMG_9963One of the two otters that were swimming in the wetlands.

IMG_9974Mallard

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IMG_9972The gadwall amid a family of Canada geese. When we got home and looked closer at the picture we realized that one of the round shapes we took for a clump of mud was actually an animal. We can’t make out the tail to know for sure whether it was a beaver or a nutria but we’d like to think it was another beaver.

IMG_9973The beaver? turned a bit in this photo but we still couldn’t make out the tail. It does appear relatively large when compared to the adult goose though.

Waterfowl Way made a 180 turn and headed uphill through some small trees to return to the Peat Swamp Trail.
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We stayed left again and completed the short but eventful loop.
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From Killin Wetlands we headed west on Highway 6 to Elk Creek Campground and the Elk Mountain Trailhead.
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We set off on the Wilson River Trail which began a 0.2 mile climb to a junction with the Elk Mountain Trail.
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IMG_9998Fairy bells and bleeding heart.

IMG_0003Elk Creek below the trail.

IMG_0005Junction with the Elk Mountain Trail

While it had been sunny at the wetlands we had dropped under some clouds as we descended to the Wilson River Valley and found ourselves hiking steeply up into fog.
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IMG_0014Paintbrush

IMG_0015Parsley

IMG_0016Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_0022Viewpoint along the Elk Mountain Trail.

IMG_0029The blue sky is up there.

IMG_0033Snow queen

IMG_0035The trail was as steep and rough as we’d remembered.

We did climb out of the cloud to find that blue sky again.
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IMG_0043White service berry blossoms and a huckleberry plant.

The trail made a series of ups and downs along a ridge crossing four saddles before climbing to the 2788′ summit of Elk Mountain.
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IMG_0062Violet

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IMG_0076Red-flowering currant

IMG_0083Trillium

IMG_0087Anemone

IMG_0092Monkeyflower

IMG_0100One of the saddles.

20220521_084754Chocolate lily

IMG_0116Elk Mountain summit.

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We spent a little time resting at the summit where we found a lone blooming beargrass with more to come.
IMG_0134Kings Mountain from Elk Mountain.

IMG_0123Wilson River

IMG_0124Pacific Ocean

IMG_0129The blooming beargrass below some red-flowering currant.

IMG_0131Beargrass

While the 1.5 mile climb to this summit had been hard the next mile of trail beyond the summit took it up a notch. The trail dropped nearly straight down the rocky west face of Elk Mountain requiring us to use our hands as we climbed down the damp rocks.
IMG_0136Looking down the trail.

IMG_0137Heather on her way down.

After navigating the rocky descent the trail passed along some cliffs then climbed atop a narrow rocky ridge which it followed to an old roadbed where the hiking became temporarily much easier.
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IMG_0153On the ridge.

IMG_0156Dropping down to a saddle along the ridge.

Near the start of the road bed we spotted a hermit warbler eating something off of some huckleberry bushes.
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This was the first time we’d seen one of these pretty little birds, at least that we are aware of. Who knows how many we’ve seen fly by and not been able to identify them.

IMG_0163Mercifully on the old roadbed.

We followed the old roadbed for about a mile as it climbed to a junction at a saddle.
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IMG_0170A clump of trillium.

IMG_0171Little moth.

IMG_0180Getting closer to Kings Mountain.

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IMG_0187Paintbrush

IMG_0189Coming up to the junction.

We turned left onto the Kings Mountain Trail which according to the pointer was 1.3 miles away.
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The trail continued to follow an old road bed for a little over half a mile before dropping steeply to a ridge and switchbacking around an outcrop and finally crossing over a saddle.
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IMG_0198Phlox, paintbrush, and chickweed.

IMG_0203Still on the old road.

IMG_0206At the ridge end above the saddle, the trail dropped down to the left then through the saddle.

IMG_0208Below the outcrop headed to the saddle.

Probably the most memorable part of our first hike here was needing to use a rope that had been affixed to a stump to descend a steep chute. While we both remembered that we had forgotten at what point we’d encountered the rope and after the steep drop off of Elk Mountain we convinced ourselves that the rope had been there. As we passed over the saddle we realized our mistake as the stump and rope were here and the 12 years had not been kind to the trail here.
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IMG_0210Heather getting ready to start down.

Kings Mountain TrailThe chute in 2010.

The rope was quite a bit longer this time, out of necessity, but we made it down and continued on. From here the trail passed below some sheer cliffs which had been a very nerve wracking experience in 2010. Apparently somewhere during the 549 outings that we’d done between visits I’d gotten much more comfortable with narrow trails with steep drop offs because this time there were no nerves but there were a couple of spots that required the use of hands to get up.
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IMG_0216The trail is down there somewhere.

20220521_110629Trillium

20220521_110646Bleeding heart

IMG_0225Fringed kitten-tails

20220521_114513Glacier lily

The trail then climbed to a high point along the ridge which Heather initially mistook for the summit of Kings Mountain. She was less than thrilled when I pointed out the actual summit a short distance, and one saddle, away.
IMG_0229Coming up to the high point.

IMG_0230Kings Mountain

IMG_0231View SE from the high point.

We dropped down to the saddle then made the final climb to Kings Mountain. We had seen a small number of other hikers up to this point but found several others here having come up from the Kings Mountain Trailhead.
IMG_0237Dropping to the last saddle.

IMG_0238Summit register at Kings Mountain.

IMG_0239Pacific Ocean in the distance.

IMG_0241View north.

IMG_0245Other hikers at the summit.

IMG_0244Valerian

IMG_0248Saxifrage, possibly Saddle Mountain saxifrage.

IMG_0250Phlox, paintbrush, parsley, blue-eyed Mary, and chickweed.

From Kings Mountain the Kings Mountain Trail dropped steeply downhill for 2.5 miles to a 4-way junction with the Wilson River Trail. While the trail is steep and rough in a couple of spots it’s nowhere near as gnarly as the Elk Mountain Trail. We had remembered the descent as having given us trouble but in those days we hadn’t used hiking poles. Armed with proper poles this time the descent went much smoother.
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IMG_0255One of the rougher sections.

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IMG_0272Wood sorrel

IMG_0279Woodland buttercup and candy flower.

IMG_0281The 4-way junction.

We turned left on the Wilson River Trail to make the 3.5 mile hike back to the Elk Mountain Trailhead. While the hike had been challenging we’d been doing pretty well but we’d forgotten to bring any electrolytes with us and while we had plenty of water we both started feeling a bit off. We paused at Dog Creek which is right near the junction for a bit of a break before continuing on the final stretch.
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IMG_0285Dog Creek

The Wilson River Trail passed a wetland fed by several small streams before making a long gradual climb up to the junction with the Elk Mountain Trail.
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The wetlands

IMG_0295One of the smaller streams.

IMG_0302Monkey flower

IMG_0305Lily that will bloom in a few weeks.

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IMG_0309Fringecup

IMG_0314Coming up on a footbridge across Big Creek.

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IMG_0319Big Creek

IMG_0322Pacific waterleaf

IMG_0325Steadily climbing.

IMG_0327A pea or vetch.

IMG_0329Unnamed stream crossing.

IMG_0332Miterwort

IMG_0338Rosy Birdsfoot Trefoil

IMG_0344The third type of monkey flower we saw on the day.

IMG_0349The junction is on the saddle ahead.

From the junction we dropped down to the trailhead where we thankfully had some meat sticks waiting that provided some much need salt and protein.
IMG_0352Cars to the left through the trees, we made it.

So what did we learn revisiting this challenging hike after 12 years? One is that we are more comfortable with sketchy trails and exposure after having experienced both many times since then. Secondly our bodies are 12 years older and they reminded us of that toward the end of the hike. Finally we were reminded that as much as we have learned about hiking such as the advantage that trekking poles can provide we are still prone to making mistakes and underestimating what we might need such as the electrolytes. It will likely be quite a while before you find us on a hike without some handy.

Aside from both stops being loops our two hikes for the day couldn’t have been much different from one another. The 0.7 mile loop at Killin Wetlands was short with a well graded trail that gained a total of 60′ of elevation while the Elk and Kings Mountain Loop and been over 11 miles (It’s just under 11 if you don’t wander around with over 4000′ of elevation gain. The gains were often steep, as were the losses, requiring the use of hands at times and included steep exposed drop offs. It was obvious from the number of other trail users that we encountered that most people stick to the out and back up to Kings Mountain but if you’re an experience hiker looking for a challenge or an early season training hike this is a great option. Happy Trails!

Our track for the Elk & Kings Mountain Loop

Flickr: Killin Wetlands and Elk & Kings Mountain

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon

Crown Zellerbach (CZ) Trail – East Fork Nehalem River Section 03/05/2022

So far in 2022 the first Saturday of every month has come with a dry and at least partially sunny forecast which meant for the third month in a row we took our hike on the first weekend. We tend to take for granted the opportunities we have to get out and enjoy nature but this outing was different. For more than a week we’ve watched as the Ukrainian people have been forced to fight for their freedom and country. We continue to pray for their safety and an end to Russian aggression.

For our March hike we decided to check out the Crown Z Linear Trail, also known as the CZ Trail or Crown Zellerbach Trail. The 24.8 mile long CZ Trail runs between the cities of Vernonia and Scappoose following former (and sometimes active) logging roads open to hikers, bicycles and horses. Multiple trailheads make it possible to hike shorter segments as either out-and-backs or between trailheads using a second car. For our first visit we used the Oregon Hikers field guide which breaks the trail up into five sections. We picked section four, the East Fork Nehalem River Section, which runs between the Nehalem Divide and Wilark Trailheads.

We began at the Nehalem Divide Trailhead which provided the shorter drive of the two and also allowed us to begin the day with a downhill.
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A 100′ path leads downhill from the trailhead to the CZ Trail which passes under the Scapoose-Vernonia Highway (if you’re heading toward Vernonia).
IMG_8227Heading down the connector trail.

IMG_8228Trial sign at the jct with the CZ Trail.

IMG_8230CZ Trail passing under the highway.

We followed the road downhill for approximately 3/4 of a mile to an interpretive wildlife sign where a path behind led downhill to the East Fork Nehalem River. The river isn’t much as it isn’t far from the headwaters, but a short distance up river is a pair of small waterfalls with the western end of the Nehalem Divide Railroad Tunnel.
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IMG_8244Light from the eastern portal is visible at the other end but the tunnel is not safe to enter without at least a hard hat.

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After checking out the old tunnel we returned to the CZ Trail and resumed our hike toward the Wilark Trailhead.
CZ Trail

East Fork Nehalem RiverThe East Fork Nehalem River next to the trail.

We detoured again briefly to check out a small seasonal fall just off the trail.
Season fall along the CZ Trail

CZ TrailIt was a little muddy in places.

Interpretive sign along the CZ TrailAnother of several interpretive signs along the trail.

Indian plumNot much in the way of flowers yet but there were a few indian plum starting to blossom.

A little under four miles from the Nehalem Divide Trailhead we arrived at the Floeter Trailhead.
CZ Trail arriving at the Floeter Trailhead

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Beyond this trailhead the CZ Trail immediately crossed an unnamed creek on a bridge.
Footbridge near the Floeter Trailhead

Unnamed creek

After crossing the bridge we detoured here yet again passing over the highway to a small trail sign for Scaponia Park.
Scaponia Park across the Vernonia-Scappoose Highway

Trail to Scaponia Park

This short path dropped us into the 7 acre park which has 12 campsites and a short network of trails. We turned right on the park entrance road then crossed the East Fork Nehalem River on a footbridge to do a short 0.4 mile loop utilizing a second footbridge to return to the road near the campground.
Scaponia Park

East Fork Nehalem River in Scaponia Park

One of two footbridges in Scaponia Park

Trail in Scaponia Park

Second footbridge in Scaponia Park

East Fork Nehalem RiverEast Fork Nehalem River

After our little loop we returned to the CZ Trail and continued west.
Sign for the CZ Trail in Scaponia ParkPointer for the CZ Trail in Scaponia Park

CZ Trail

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail parralled the highway.
Log home across the highway

American kestralAmerican kestral

The trail veered away from the highway again after the highway crossed the river putting it between the road and the trail.
East Fork Nehalem River

Just over two miles from the Floeter Trailhead we arrived at the former site of Camp 8, a logging camp established in the 1920’s.
CZ Trail nearing Camp 8

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Robin at Camp 8Robin in the meadow that once was Camp 8.

Beyond the Camp 8 site the trail crossed the East Fork Nehalem River then climbed to the highway passing mile marker 19 along the way.
CZ Trail crossing the East Fork Nehalem River

East Fork Nehalem River

CZ Trail mile 19The orange mile marker 19 ahead.

This short section was full of birds.
JuncosJuncos

Varied thrushAnother not great picture of a varied thrush.

SparrowSparrow

Vernonia-Scappoose Highway at the Wilark Trailhead

We turned around at the highway and headed back.
CZ Trail at the Wilark Trailhead

The clouds finally began to break up after we passed Camp 8 and soon we found ourselves under a bright blue sky.
Blue sky begining to emerge

Grey jayA grey jay enjoying the emerging sunlight.

CZ Trail

CZ TrailBlue sky near the Floeter Trailhead.

Surprisingly until the final tenth of a mile we hadn’t seen a single other trail user when a lone mountain biker zoomed past us heading downhill. Including our three detours our hike came in at 12.7 miles with a little over 650′ of elevation gain. A good early season workout with some nice scenery and interesting history.

At some point down the road we will return to do another section of the trail but for now this was a fun introduction to CZ Trail. Happy Trails and Slava Ukraini.

Flickr: CZ Trail – East Fork Nehalem River Section

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

North Fork Nehalem River – 02/20/2021

Like much of the U.S. we’ve had some ugly weather so far in February so when we saw the potential for a “not too wet” window of time we decided to head out for this month’s hike. On our schedule for February was the North Fork Nehalem River in the Coastal Range. This hike came from the Oregon Hikers Field Guide, my favorite online source for ideas. This particular hike utilizes roads instead of trails which was actually a good thing after an unusually destructive ice and snow storm had come through just a week before our hike. We hopped that the combination of the roads and some clearcuts along those roads would mean we wouldn’t have to deal with much if any debris from the storm. As we drove west on Highway 26 from Portland we were amazed at how much damage there was to trees in the Coastal Range. Between the damage we saw and a couple of heavy rain showers we were wondering what we might be getting ourselves into as we turned south onto Highway 53. The rain let up as we wound our way down past more damaged trees to the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. We had planned to stop at the hatchery first for a quick stop to see Umbrella Falls but signs at the hatchery indicated it was closed to visitors due to COVID-19 (the ODFW website for the hatchery didn’t mention the closure). With access to the 1/8 mile path to the falls blocked we had to skip Umbrella Falls for now and we drove the short distance north on Highway 53 to Cole Mountain Road (just north of the bridge over the North Fork Nehalem River) where we turned west (right) and kept right at a fork to reach the North Fork Nehalem Trailhead.
Trailhead on North Fork Road

We parked at a pullout before a gate marking the start of private land owned by McCracken Woodlands LLC and set off on foot.
Informational sign from McMracken Woodlands LLC

After crossing over a small stream we started getting views of the North Fork Nehalem River on our right.
Stream along North Fork Road

North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

We were soon passing one of several clearcuts.
Clearcut above North Fork Road

While we are always on the lookout for wildlife we rarely spot anything when we’re specifically looking for something. Today was no exception and after scanning the hillside and coming up empty we started walking again. I turned around to see what the view was like behind us and caught movement 2/3rds of the way up the hill. It was a pair of deer that were well aware of us and making their way in the other direction.
Deer in the clearcut

Deer moving away from us through the clearcut

A mile into the hike we crossed the river on a bridge.
North Fork Road crossing the North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

Just under a half a mile from the bridge we came to North Fork Falls where some steps led down to a fish ladder.
North Fork Falls

North Fork Falls

Fish ladder at North Fork Falls

North Fork Nehalem River

After checking out the falls and fish ladder we continued on North Fork Road passing twin seasonal waterfalls, a quarry, and a pond before crossing over Gods Valley Creek near the two and three quarter mile mark of the hike.
North Fork Road

Twin seasonal waterfalls along North Fork Road

Pond along North Fork Road

Gods Valley CreekGods Valley Creek

Just beyond Gods Valley Creek we spotted some old moss covered picnic tables. We’d be interested in the history here as there was also at least one former campsite with an old fire ring in the area as well. Our guess is that before the logging this was some sort of recreation area but we haven’t been able to find any information online about it.
Old picnic tables

FrogFrog near the old picnic tables.

After crossing the creek the road left the North Fork Nehalem as the river bent northward sticking to a straight line to another crossing of the River just before the 3.5 mile mark.
North Fork Road

North Fork Road crossing the North Fork Nehalem River

North Fork Nehalem River

A gate at the far end of this bridge marked the boundary of the private land and the start of the Clatsop State Forest. We followed North Fork Road through the forest another two miles to Fall Creek (just on the far side of another large quarry).
Skunk cabbageNot much in the way of flowers yet but there was a bit of skunk cabbage in bloom.

Skunk cabbage

North Fork RoadSome low hanging trees, presumably from the storm. The roads had been cleared but occasional damage along the side of the road was evident.

North Fork Nehalem River

Snail shell

Old stump amid younger treesThere were no recent clearcuts in the Clatsop State Forest section but there was evidence of past logging.

Fall CreekFall Creek

After crossing Fall Creek the road (which is shown on maps as Hill Road here) turned away from the river and followed Fall Creek. We took a short detour to the right toward the river where a gated suspension bridge led to another fish ladder.
North Fork Nehalem River

Path to a closed suspension bridge over the North Fork Nehalem RiverNot sure why I neglected to get a picture of the bridge from the locked gate but this is the only one I took of the bridge.

Upper North Fork FallsThe hike description in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide mentions walking along the bank to get a view of Upper North Fork Falls from the rocks below but that wasn’t going to be an option with the river level today.

After checking out the bridge we returned to the the road and continued uphill along Fall Creek to visit three more waterfalls.
Hill Road along Fall Creek

We came to the first fall after .3 miles, a side stream flowing into Fall Creek. The lack of leaves made it a little easier to see the falls than it would be later in the year.
Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

I was able to make my way down to Fall Creek below the falls for a closer look. (I did however get slapped in the face a couple of times by the vegetation.)
Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

Another quarter mile brought us to the final two falls. A stepped fall on Fall Creek and another side stream flowing into Fall Creek.
Falls on Fall Creek

Waterfalls on Fall Creek

Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

Waterfall spilling into Fall Creek

We were pleasantly surprised at how nice these last three waterfalls were, especially the two on the side streams. We were also thankful that we hadn’t had any real precipitation to deal with. We headed back the way we’d come looking for anything we’d missed on our fist pass.
Thick moss on a treeWe both thought that this thick moss looked like some sort of hairstyle.

Mushrooms

Rough skinned newtRough-skinned newt

A brief mist passed over but that was it and we enjoyed some bright blue sky as we finished up our outing.
North Fork Road

The hike came in at a little under twelve and a half miles with just over 500′ of elevation gain. We passed three anglers on the road on the way back and saw two more (their fishing line anyway) down on river. This was a great winter hike and a thoroughly enjoyable outing despite being entirely on roads. It just goes to show that it’s the not the surface but the surroundings that make a good hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: North Fork Nehalem River

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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes – 09/26/2020

The tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns and communities had kept us home since Labor Day. Several forests and parks still remain closed but things have been slowly reopening and some much needed rain arrived to help slow the fires and clear the air. One of the forests that had reopened was the Clatsop State Forest between Portland and Seaside. Hike #12 in William L. Sullivan’s 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” consists of three short hikes to lakes in that forest. We had visited Soapstone Lake on a previous outing (post) With many forests and parks still closed due to the tragic wildfires that claimed lives and wreaked havoc on several towns it seemed like a perfect time to check out the other two lakes, Lost and Spruce Run. We also added nearby Bloom Lake whose trailhead along Highway 26 we’d driven by a number of times.

We began our morning at the Spruce Run Creek Trailhead at Henry Rierson Campground.
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The winds that had caused the fires to explode throughout Labor Day night had also toppled thousands of trees across the forests of Oregon so we we weren’t sure what conditions we might encounter. Nearly immediately after setting off on the trail we were met with a jumble of recently downed limbs.
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They were passable with care due to the slick condition of the wood which was damp from passing showers. Encountering this so early in the hike made us even more concerned about the conditions further on but as it turned out this would be the biggest obstacle of the day. There were a couple of downed trees which we simply stepped over and the rest was just smaller debris.

The Spruce Run Creek Trail began with a series of ups and downs, sometimes surprisingly steep, as it followed along Spruce Run Creek.
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It was a fairly dark morning as passing showers kept the Sun behind clouds but none of the showers lasted long nor were very heavy and the clouds breaking up made for some nice views.
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A little over a mile along the trail we were surprised to enter a recently logged area.
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The trail was in relatively good shape and easy to follow through this area.
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Another small surprise came near the 2 mile mark where we expected to find a short spur trail on the left leading to Lost Lake Road. Instead we arrived at a newer logging road.
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We momentarily wondered if we had somehow taken the spur trail without realizing it but after consulting the map it was clear that this was a new road and we were still on the Spruce Run Creek Trail. We turned right onto the road and spotted the continuation of the trail at a 3-way junction after 100 yards or so.
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We had actually planned on taking the spur trail to Lost Lake Road and hiking up that road 1.1 miles to Lost Lake instead of driving to the Lost Lake Trailhead after finishing our hike to Spruce Run Lake so at the 3-way junction we turned left. We followed this road downhill approximately .2 miles past a gate to Lost Lake Road where we turned right.
IMG_6215The open gate and Lost Lake Road from a logging road.

As we climbed up the road the alternating showers and blue sky created a nice rainbow behind us.
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From the parking lot of Lost Lake we headed clockwise around the lake on a nice trail.
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There were several opportunities for views of the little lake along the 1 mile loop.
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IMG_6253Hardhack

After completing the loop we returned on the roads to the continuation of the Spruce Run Creek Trail.
IMG_6255Spruce Run Creek Trail on the left.

The trail descended through logged forest for the next half mile before passing the timber sale boundary.
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IMG_6264Leaving the logged area.

In another quarter mile we arrived at a pair of benches near the end of Spruce Run Lake.
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20200926_094603Rough skinned newt near Spruce Run Lake.

The lake was created by a landslide that backed up Spruce Run Creek. The water level fluctuates with the season and was little more than a pond at this point of the year.
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The rest of the lake bed was a marshy green meadow with Spruce Run Creek flowing through.
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IMG_6280One of many damp spider webs in the meadow.

IMG_6283The meadow from the bank of Spruce Run Creek

After exploring the meadow for a bit we headed back to our car under increasingly blue skies.
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IMG_6296Bleeding heart

IMG_6299Scouler’s bluebell

IMG_6307A little butterfly

When we had passed through the logged area we got a better look at the forest along the first part of the trail now that it was lighter. It looked and felt like Autumn.
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Combining these two hikes was a little over 9 miles with 1600′ of elevation gain. We drove back to Highway 26 and headed toward Portland stopping at the Bloom Lake Trailhead just west of the Quartz Creek Bridge for a final quick hike.
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The blue skies that we had enjoyed on the earlier hike were nowhere to be found at this trailhead even though it was only 3 miles from Spruce Run Lake as the crow flies. The heaviest shower of the day passed overhead as we crossed South Fork Quartz Creek on a footbridge.
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Fortunately this shower was like all the rest had been, brief. The Bloom Lake Trail climbed along an old road cut for a mile to the start of a loop around little Bloom Lake. We stayed left at the fork and in another .3 miles crossed an inlet creek on a slick looking piece of wood.
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IMG_6340Fall means mushrooms start replacing wildflowers.

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Beyond the creek crossing we turned right another another old road bed then right again on August Fire Road (on which one can drive to Bloom Lake).
IMG_6346August Fire Road

We turned right off of this road at another old road bed that was blocked by cut tree trunks.
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This led us down to Bloom Lake.
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IMG_6356Snail near Bloom Lake.

We continued around the lake on a trail which crossed the outlet creek on an old log.
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We completed the loop around the lake then headed back downhill to our car.
IMG_6366Mushrooms

IMG_6360More mushrooms

This hike was 3.2 miles with 675′ of elevation gain making our days tally 12.4 miles and 2275′. It was nice to get back out and this had turned out to be a good choice. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lost, Spruce Run, and Bloom Lakes

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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Little Luckiamute River and Valley of the Giants – 05/16/2020

As we continue to navigate this COVID-19 reality we decided to finally make an attempt at visiting the Valley of the Giants, a stand of old growth forest in the Coastal Range. Even though the Valley of the Giants is a featured hike in Williams L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” and we would need to complete this hike someday if we were ever going to complete our goal of hiking all 500 of the featured hikes (post) we had thus far avoided this hike for a two reasons. The first reason was that at only 1.5 miles long this hike violated our made up rule of not spending more time driving than hiking on a day trip. Despite only being 31 miles, as the crow flies, from our houseĀ  the drive to the trailhead would be around an hour and forty-five minutes.

The second reason was that we’d heard it was sometimes difficult to reach the trailhead if you could even find it at all. The area (and much of the Coast Range) is a checkerboard of public and private land with most of the private land being owned by timber companies and heavily logged. From time to time the timber companies close the roads used to reach the trailhead due to logging activity. The logging activity also means that there are often new roads or changes to existing roads that are not on maps making them unreliable.

With social distancing in mind we thought now was as good as a time as ever to finally give this hike a go. First we needed to make sure that the hike was indeed open so during the week I contacted the Northwest Oregon District Office of the BLM via email to confirm. They responded that same day saying that it was open and also attached two pdfs. One was a brochure for the trail as well as detailed driving directions and the second contained phone numbers for the timber companies to check on any potential closures they might have in place. We didn’t wind up calling the timber companies opting to just take the chance that the roads would be open.

With the hike being only 1.5 miles we also looked for some other options along the way and in the back of Sullivan’s book was an additional hike just outside of Falls City, which we would be driving through, along the Little Luckiamute River. He described the hike as an “easy mile and an additional 1.5 faint miles to a brushy clearcut”. The guidebook had us park at a locked gate at a bridge over the Little Luckiamute River along Blackrock Road.
Blackrock Road

IMG_3715Little Luckiamute River from the bridge.

The book then mentions crossing the bridge on foot and continuing up the road 200 yards to the trail on the left and shows the BLM as the land manager. When we walked up to the gate though we were met with posted signs from Weyerhaeuser stating that permits were required for all recreation beyond that point. We did walk up the road a bit to see if we could find the start of the trail to see if maybe the it was in fact on BLM land and it was only the road and possibly the land on the right hand side that was Weyehaeuser owned. Our Garmin appeared to show the location of the trail but we walked a little past where it was showing and never saw any signs of one so we quickly returned to our car. Heather had noticed another gated road just before the spot where we parked heading in the same direction that the trail on the opposite side of the river would have taken us so we walked over to it to check it out. There were signs here too but it wasn’t Weyerhaeuser land it was owned by Hancock Forest Management and they didn’t require permits for recreational use.
Informational signs at a gated logging road

We decided to hike up this road instead. We wanted to kill some time before heading to the Valley of the Giants because the Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry for the hike mentioned visiting between 8am and 5pm to avoid gates that might be opened and closed daily. It was a little before 6am when we’d discovered that our plan A was a no go so to kill enough time we set a 45 minute goal for hiking out along this road before turning around.
Logging road along the Little Luckiamute River

A quarter mile up the road we followed a well developed use trail down to the river.
Trail down to the Little Luckiamute River

Little Luckiamute River

Little Luckiamute River

SalmonberrySalmonberry blossoms along the river.

After checking out the river we continued up the road until we arrived at a 1.5 mile marker spray painted in orange on a stump. We were at almost 43 minutes and in the middle of an uphill climb so we decided that the marker was a good definitive turnaround spot.
Mile marker along the logging roadOur turnaround spot.

We returned the way we’d come arriving back at the car close to 7:20. Even though it wasn’t the trail that we’d planned on hiking this was a pleasant little hike and probably very similar to what we would have seen on the trail itself. There were a number of different flowers, slugs, a snail, a millipede, and a rough skinned newt along the way not to mention the sounds of the river and lots of signing birds.
Logging road along the Little Luckiamute River

Cinquefoil and youth-on-ageCinquefoil and youth-on-age

Snail

Small creekOne of several little creeks along the road.

IrisIris

FairybellsFairybells

Forest along the Little Luckiamute RiverForest along the road.

Bleeding heartBleeding heart

Rough skinned newtRough skinned newt escaping into the grass.

LupineLupine

ColumbineColumbine

We drove back into Falls City and stopped at a viewpoint along Parry St. to check out the Falls City Falls.
Falls City Falls viewpoint

Unfortunately you can’t get a good look at the waterfall from this side of the river and it wasn’t any apparent access on the opposite side where a clearer view could have been had.
Little Luckiamute RiverLittle Luckiamute above the falls.

Falls City FallsFalls City Falls

Falls City FallsLower end of Falls City Falls.

That quick stop killed a little more time before we began our quest for the Valley of the Giants. The entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide for the trailhed begins with “Here follows one of the most convoluted approaches to a trailhead you will ever endure:”. We were primarily using the BLM directions with Sullivan’s being secondary. (All three provided similar directions although they were worded differently.) The trailhead was 31.5 miles from the Falls City Post Office with all but the first .6 on gravel roads. As crazy as the directions appeared the drive turned out to be fairly straight forward. The directions were spot on and we found that at many of the intersections the BLM had pointers for VOG.
BLM pointer for the Valley of the Giants

We weren’t expecting to see these pointers and aren’t sure how new they might be (or how long they will last given some peoples penchant for causing mischief) but they proved to be very helpful.

The roads had a few potholes but were in relatively good shape and passable for lower clearance vehicles. The scenery alternated between the bleak landscapes of clearcuts and beautifully green forests surrounding the South and later North Forks of the Siletz River.
South Fork Siletz RiverSouth Fork Siletz River along Valsetz Road.

Confluence of the North and South Fork Siletz RiversConfluence of the North and South Forks of the Siletz River.

North Fork Siletz RiverNorth Fork Siletz River.

The route also took us past the historical site of Valsetz, an unincorporated community and timber company town. In 1983 the timber company announced the halting of operations there and in 1984 all structures were removed leaving just some foundations. We drove by the foundations but didn’t stop due to some sort of gathering occurring (which we were pretty sure wasn’t within the current COVID-19 guidelines).

An hour and fifteen minutes after passing the Post Office in Falls City we arrived at the Valley of the Giants Trailhead.
Valley of the Giants Trailhead

A signboard at the trailhead provided a brief history and a map of the 51 acre area.
Interpretive sign at Valley of the Giants

We followed the trail downhill to a footbridge over the North Fork Siletz River.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Bleeding heartBleeding heart

FairybellsFairybells

Star-flowered slomonseal and false lily of the valley getting ready to blossomStar flowered solomonseal and false lily of the valley getting ready to bloom.

Footbridge over the North Fork Siletz River

North Fork Siletz River

North Fork Siletz River

At the far end of the footbridge was a lone picnic table.
Picnic table at the Valley of the Giants

The trail climbed a bit to the start of a .7 mile loop which itself climbed approximately 160′ to the “Big Guy”, a huge Douglas Fir that fell in a 1981 storm. At that time the tree is believed to have been 230′ tall and approximatley 600 years old.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Valley of the GiantsOld growth giants.

Valley of the GiantsAnother huge Douglas fir.

Valley of the GiantsStanding among the giants.

FernsUnfurling ferns.

“Big Guy”

Standing in between a cut in “Big Guy”. For reference I am a little under 5’9″.

Bench at “Big Guy”

Beyond “Big Guy” the trail descended back down to the start of the loop.
Trail at Valley of the Giants

Oregon grapeOregon grape

Old growth at Valley of the Giants

TrilliumThe only trillium we saw all day that still had any petals.

Old growth at Valley of the Giants

Valley of the Giants

We returned to the trailhead to find a second car there now and the only other hikers we’d seen that day. We chatted with them for a bit (from over 6 feet away). His grandfather had been working at Valsetz when it was shut down so he had spent time there as a child and all around the area.

Driving back past the clear-cuts after having just visited the pocket of old growth just reinforced how important it is to us to protect any wild areas lucky enough to have yet been spared from development or resource extraction. There are not that many of them left and those that aren’t yet protected deserve to be. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little Luckiamute River and Valley of the Giants