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Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Pueblo Mountains – 08/20/2021

We had a long day planned for the final day of our trip to SE Oregon. We were starting off by doing Sullivan’s Pueblo Mountains hike (#96 in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” guidebook and we were going to attempt the long drive back to Salem (a 6 1/2 to 7 hour drive). We were a little nervous about getting to Sullivan’s starting point for his described 7.2 mile hike which follows a portion of the Oregon Desert Trail. He describes the final 2.2 miles of road as a “rocky, bumpy road”..”passable only by high-clearance vehicles”. Given where we were and the tire scare we’d had earlier in the week we decided that adding 4.4 miles of road walk round trip was okay with us so after turning right off of Highway 205 exactly three miles south of Fields we followed a decent gravel road 4.7 miles to a fork where we took the left most track a hundred yards or so to the first decent spot we could pull off and park at.

The Oregon Desert Trail is a 750 mile route doesn’t always follow a trail (or road or other discernible track).
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The section we would be hiking was guided by rock cairns with a couple of sections of what appeared to be actual tread but may also simply have been game/cattle trails that were going the same way. First we had to get to the start of the hike though so after a moment appreciating the desert sunrise we started up the rocky road.
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IMG_3473The view back along the road to the fork.

IMG_3475Road walk

IMG_3476Rabbit

There was a bit more smoke/haze on the horizon this morning than there had been for a few days and a red Sun rose in the east.
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After just under a mile the road made a 90 degree turn at a fence corner then crossed Sesena Creek, which was still flowing.
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IMG_3495A hawk in a dead tree above the springs feeding Sesena Creek.

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IMG_3504This was the only water we’d see all day.

We arrived at the grassy flat Sullivan described as the start of the hike. Sullivan listed 14 cairns along his hike starting with one here at the starting point but the rocks it had been comprised of were spread on the ground. We hoped that wasn’t a sign of things to come.
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IMG_3740The first cairn from later in the day.

Luckily Sullivan had supplied GPS coordinates both along the drive and for cairns 1, 5, 10, and 14 which I had entered into both our GPS units. From the road at cairn one we followed an old road bed through the sage brush toward the mountains.
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A little over half a mile along the road brought us to another grassy area, an old cow lick, where we veered left on a trail (cattle?) through the sagebrush.
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We could see the second cairn on a little rise ahead to our right and made our way towards it.
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Sullivan’s instructions beyond the cow lick were to “head cross-country up the leftmost branch of the valley and scramble up past a grove of shrub-sized mountain mahogany trees to find cairn #3”. We could see the mahogany trees and using binoculars and the zoom feature on the camera were able to spot what we assume to be cairn #3.
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From there the climb got steep fast and neither of us are sure we we ever saw cairn #4. Luckily we had the GPS coordinates for #5, which was 0.3 miles from #3, to keep us relatively on track.
IMG_3566View from cairn #3.

IMG_3565Looking back over the mahogany trees, the rise with cairn #2 and the cow lick.

IMG_3567Looking up the steep hillside.

IMG_3572On the climb up to #5.

Cairn #5 was said to be atop a 12′ rock in a saddle. There appeared to be more than one possible saddle though as we climbed and at the angle we were at we couldn’t see any 12′ rocks.
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I picked a saddle to aim for and arrived first but there was no cairn here.
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IMG_3577The view from the saddle.

I climbed up on a the rocks to the west of the saddle to see if I could see cairn #5 which, based on the GPS coordinates would have been a little to the SE and downhill from where I was.
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When Heather arrived we discussed the next stage our hike. Even though we couldn’t see #5 from where we were we could see another cairn atop a cliff on the hillside ahead of us.

We decided to contour up along the hillside heading for that cairn and as we came over a rise we spotted what must have been cairn #5.
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IMG_3587A kestral on a cairn.

The GPS coordinates were a little off but it fit the description of the fifth cairn pretty well.
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We continued heading uphill toward the cliff with what we believe was cairn #6.
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IMG_3593You can see Heather following me up on this “less” steep section.

As we neared the cliffs we spotted another cairn which was a lot easier to reach.
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IMG_3601Looking down into the haze in the east.

From the cairn with no number we could see another cairn perched atop a rock outcrop which we determined to be #7 since #8 was shown to be at a pass.
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IMG_3603Cairn #7 was being guarded by magpies.

Cairn #7 was uphill more than was necessary to reach the ridge beyond it so instead of heading directly for it we traversed the hillside below it.
IMG_3605View south over the Pueblo Mountains.

IMG_3607Passing below cairn #7 (upper right corner).

We found cairn #8 at the pass.
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IMG_3610View to the NW from the pass.

IMG_3612Pueblo Mountain (the large rounded peak) from the pass.

Heather was delayed reaching the pass due to spotting a sheep moth.
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Sullivan’s map was a little confusing from cairn #8 to cairn #9. The sketch appeared to show the route passing behind (on the west side of) a rise to cairns #9 & #10 and then arriving at cairn #11 at another pass. What we found was that it was easier to hike south on the ridge for two tenths of a mile where a much larger rock outcrop forced us off the ridge to the west.
IMG_3613We climbed this rise on the ridge and continued on the top for a bit.

Heather near cairn #8 in the saddle and cairn #7 on the hillside behind.

We didn’t cross over to the west side until we reached a much larger rock formation along the ridge.
IMG_3616Looking at the rocky cliffs that would force us to the west.

We were starting to notice actual tread along the ridge and when we reached the rocks a clear, albeit thin, trail could be seen traversing the hillside.
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IMG_3632It’s not a desert trail without bones.

As we approached the other end of the rock outcrop we spied cairn #9 on a hillside.
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IMG_3634Looking back

The tread disappeared in a small draw filled with sagebrush, but a little bushwhacking and a short steep climb got us to the cairn.
IMG_3636The sagebrush draw below (Heather is traversing the hillside.)

IMG_3635Cairn #9 and the view west.

For some reason cairn #10 was ahead and further DOWN the hillside. From cairn #9 we could see our goal for the day ahead, a high point on a ridge above the Oregon Desert Trail before it began a descent that would eventually lead to Denio, Nevada.
IMG_3637The next ridge is where the high point we were planning to turn around at was.

We made our way to the saddle where cairn #11 sat.
IMG_3640Cairn #11 in the saddle along the ridge.

IMG_3642Heather dropping down to the saddle, cairn #10 was out of frame to the left here.

IMG_3646View to the west from the saddle.

From cairn #11 we could see cairn #12 sitting atop an outcrop at the start of the next rocky section.
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IMG_3648Sculpted rock along the ridge.

The small section of hike near cairn #12 was one of the toughest on the day. Large boulders were surrounded by taller and thicker sagebrush than any we’d encountered since the mahogany trees. The easiest route was to boulder hop as directly as possible to the cairn which meant extra climbing but the vegetation was too thick to pass through safely due to hidden holes amid the boulders.
IMG_3650Heather making her way up to #12.

We then followed the rocky ridge until the sagebrush thinned out.
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IMG_3654Thought this might be an arrowhead or at least something that was used for a tool of some sort.

IMG_3655Heather resting by cairn #12 while I scouted the route.

After a false summit we realized that the high point was at the far end of the ridge.
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IMG_3664A hazy Pueblo Mountain (and more of the Pueblo Mts.) from the high point.

IMG_3665Cairn #15 is on a small rock outcrop near the saddle at center.

DSCN0821Cairn #15 (at least we think).

We had a nice break at the summit, and for some reason I felt compelled to trot down and tag cairn #14 only to realize too late that I had to hike back up to the high point.
IMG_3680Cairn #15 below from the cairn #14 coordinates, it appears that cairn #14 may have been at least partially dismantled.

IMG_3683Oh great, more uphill.

It would have been nice to have had a less hazy view but at least we could make a few things out.
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DSCN0819Peaks in the Pueblo Mts. near the Nevada border.

DSCN0829Cairn #12 and the saddle zoomed in.

DSCN0838Van Horn Creek is down there somewhere as is Ten Cent Meadows.

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After resting up we headed back attempting to follow the same route but judging by our track we may have been drinking something other than water up at the high point.
IMG_3696A lupine with a few blossoms left.

IMG_3701Lots of colored lichen on the rocks along the way.

IMG_3707Vertical rocks.

IMG_3713Rounded rocks.

IMG_3724Back to the mahogany trees.

IMG_3729Cairn #2 dead ahead.

IMG_3731Found the cow lick again.

IMG_3735Looking back at the Pueblo Mountains from the road walk.

IMG_3742Trees marking the spring and Sesena Creek.

IMG_3748The southern end of Steens Mountain from the road walk.

IMG_3751Sage grouse hen

The last half mile or so of the road walk provided us with a couple of close encounters with common nighthawks that were resting along the barbed wire fence.
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We got back to our car just before 1pm and after changing started the long drive to Salem. We got home just before 8pm making for a long but fun day. It had been a really nice vacation despite the hazy conditions for several of the hikes. The temperatures had ranged from hot the first two days to freezing on Wednesday to just about right Tuesday, Thursday and the hike in the Pueblos wasn’t all that warm either. We already have more ideas for hikes and stops in that part of Oregon so we’ll be heading back at some point even though we have finished with the “featured hikes” in the area. Happy Trails!

My mileage for the day came in at 13.3 including a total of 4.2 along the dirt road. Total elevation gain was approximately 2400′.

Our track for the hike. The orange segment is the road walk which was 2.1 miles each way.

Flickr: Pueblo Mountains

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Little Blitzen River – 08/19/2021

After three nights at the Steens Mountain Resort it was time to move on. Our plan for Thursday was to make two stops for hikes along the Little Blitzen River then continue driving south to Fields Station where we’d spend the night before hiking the Pueblo Mountains on Friday then making the long drive back to Salem. We started our morning at the Little Blitzen Trailhead located along the Steens Mountain Loop Road at South Steens Campground.
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The trail begins on the far side of the road and similar to the Big Indian Gorge Trail begins in a landscape of juniper and sagebrush.
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It was a much clearer morning than it had been when we hiked Big Indian Gorge on Tuesday.
IMG_3044Big and Little Indian Gorges from the Little Blitzen Trail.

IMG_3046Heading for the Little Blitzen Gorge.

IMG_3049So many dried out wild onions.

The trail descended to the lone ford of the Little Blitzen River at the 1.4 mile mark which we crossed easily on rocks.
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On the far side of the river was a sign for several trails. The Nye and Wet Blanket Trail led up out of the gorge further up the Little Blitzen Trail while the Fred Riddle Trail was barely visible along the grassy hillside leading off toward Cold Springs Road and the Riddle Ranch.
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We followed the Little Blitzen Trail through a grassy meadow and into a much narrower gorge than Big Indian Gorge.
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It was nice to not have any haze limiting our view of the rocky walls.
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Speaking of rocks there were quite a few larger boulders along this trail.
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There were also boulders present in the river which created some nice cascades.
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Our plan had been to turn around at 4-mile camp, approximately 4.5 miles from the trailhead or 3 miles beyond the ford. We took our time admiring the scenery along the way.
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IMG_3173Looking back the way we’d come.

IMG_3174The view ahead.

IMG_3178A stand of quacking aspen.

IMG_3179Something to avoid.

IMG_3181A geranium blossom.

IMG_3190Passing through some willows.

IMG_3192Hyssop

IMG_3193Vegetation along a spring fed creek.

IMG_3195Monkshood

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We hadn’t paid enough attention to Sullivan’s hike description so we didn’t realize when we passed the remains of an old corral that was Four Mile Camp.
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In our defense there were no obvious camp sites in this area, just a grassy area inside the corral remains. We had passed an obvious campsite about a mile earlier, too soon to be Four Mile Camp. We continued a half mile beyond the corral remains before deciding we had missed the camp and then we read the hike description again where Sullivan mentioned the corral.
IMG_3208The view ahead where we turned around.

IMG_3214A robin

IMG_3224Heading back

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IMG_3228The Little Blitzen River near Four Mile Camp

IMG_3234More of the old corral.

IMG_3235Gentians under a willow.

IMG_3249Paintbrush

IMG_3252Another little cascade along the river.

IMG_3256A nice pool.

IMG_3268There were a number of tiny grey birds in here, at least two in this photo.

IMG_3274A bigger bird, but not by a lot.

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IMG_3278A wood nymph

IMG_3309This was a huge boulder along the trail. At least two small junipers were growing out of it.

Having overshot Four Mile Camp our hike came in just under 10 miles round trip with about 900′ of elevation gain.

Little Blitzen Track

From the trailhead we drove back along Steens Mountain Loop Road a quarter mile and turned right on a narrow gravel road (signed from the other direction for the Riddle Brothers Ranch). We did this hike second because a gate 1.3 miles up the road doesn’t open until 9am.
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From the gate Ben Riddle’s restored cabin and his original stone house were visible on the hillside across the Little Blitzen River.
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IMG_3463The stone house is too low to even stand up in but it was enough to stake a claim to the land.

The road continues 1.3 more miles beyond the gate to the Riddle Brothers Ranch. Now a National Historic District the ranch was established in the early 1900s by brother Walter, Fredrick and Ben Riddle. We were met by the volunteer caretaker who gave us a tour and history of the ranch before we set off on the 1.5 mile Levi Brinkley Trail which follows the Little Blitzen River from the parking lot to its confluence with the Donner und Blitzen River (post).
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IMG_3339Upstairs

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IMG_3354The barn

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IMG_3361Inside the Bunkhouse

After touring the ranch we walked back across the Little Blitzen River to the other side of the parking lot where the Levi Brinkley Trail began.
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IMG_3369Levi was one of 9 Prinveille Hotshot firefighters who perished on Storm King Mountain in Colorado fighting the South Canyon Fire. This hit home for me having gone to school with one of the 9, Bonnie Holtby.

The trail set off along the river passing an old willow corral after a quarter mile.
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IMG_3374Thistle in a field once used for hay production by the Riddles.

IMG_3375Could be a green-tailed towhee

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Beyond the corral the trail made a series of ups and downs passing through several flat areas the Riddles once irrigated for hay.
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IMG_3390Lots of butterflies in the grassy areas.

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IMG_3417Nearing the confluence.

IMG_3420The confluence of the Donner und Blitzen River (left) and Little Blitzen River (right).

IMG_3433A skipper at the confluence.

We returned the way we’d come, keeping an eye out for snakes but the only reptile we spotted was a western fence lizard.
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IMG_3450A ringlet

IMG_3456The mouth of Big Indian Gorge from the Levi Brinkley Trail.

After completing the three mile hike here we drove back to Highway 205 and headed south (left) to Fields where we checked into our accommodations for the night at Fields Station then ordered bacon cheeseburgers and milkshakes from the cafe. Heather got a chocolate, marshmallow, butterscotch combination and I froze at the wide variety of flavors and just got a butterscotch (it was good though).
IMG_3469Old wagon at Fields Station.

In the morning we’d be heading just a little further south into the Pueblo Mountains and then home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little Blitzen River

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Steens Mountain Summit – 08/18/2021

On Tuesday a change in the weather had pushed much of the smoke away from Steens Mountain which is what we had hopped would happen in anticipation for our drive up the Steens Mountain Loop Road on Wednesday. The shift in weather also brought cooler temperatures which had made the previous days hike at Big Indian Gorge one of the more comfortable (temperature wise) of the year thus far. We once again got an early start hoping to reach the first of four planned stops around 6am and immediately realized that it was a lot cooler than it had been Monday or Tuesday. In fact the car was showing 39 degrees when we set off. Since the Steens Mountain Resort where we were staying was located along the Steens Mountain Loop Road we simply left the resort and turned right driving past the entrance to the Page Springs Campground and gradually climbing up the fault block Steens Mountain. By the time we arrived at the left turn for our first stop the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint 19.1 miles beyond the Page Springs Campground the temperature was down to 30 degrees. Luckily we try and come prepared so we had jackets, Buffs, and gloves although in hindsight we could have been a little more prepared. There was a decent breeze which made it feel a lot colder than 30 degrees.
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The Kiger Gorge is one of 5 glacier carved valleys on Steens Mountain and is the largest and most scenic. We were fortunate to arrive just before some clouds moved in.
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IMG_2689Still some smoke to the east as shown by the red Sun.

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IMG_2699Here come the clouds.

With the clouds moving in we hustled back to the car and continued on the loop road another 2.7 miles to a four-way junction where we turned left at a pointer for the East Rim Viewpoint where the clouds had not yet reached.
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IMG_2717Between the Sun and haze it was hard to see much of the ragged eastern side of Steens Mountain or the Alvord Desert (post) below.

IMG_2713Frozen thistle

IMG_2718The Alvord Desert through the haze.

IMG_2716A look back at the parking area.

After checking out this view we returned to the 4-way junction and turned left at a pointer for Wildhorse Lake following this road for almost two miles to a parking area below the 9741′ summit of Steens Mountain. A gated road led uphill the final half mile to some towers on the summit.
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IMG_2731Wildhorse Lake below the summit.

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IMG_2734The rocks here provided a little protection from the freezing wind.

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IMG_2743Big Indian Gorge (post) from the summit.

IMG_2747Heather getting a closer look at Wildhorse Lake.

IMG_2752Not much snow left up here.

After checking out the summit we walked back down past the gate and turned left at a post on a trail heading downhill to a registration box.
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The trail split here with the left hand fork heading downhill for a mile to Wildhorse Lake. The tread was a little dicey near the top but soon became better as it switchbacked down to a small bench before steepening quite a bit along a small stream.
IMG_2772Typical tread near the top.

IMG_2776Buckwheat

IMG_2782The bench.

IMG_2786The small stream.

IMG_2788A wren.

IMG_2791Wildhorse Lake from near the end of the bench.

IMG_2792We were a little disappointed to see just how late we were for most all of the wildflowers. I don’t know how much the drought this year affected the timing or if it blooms that much earlier in SE Oregon but the remains of what looked to have been an excellent display were all we were left with.

IMG_2793A few stone steps began the steep descent along the stream.

IMG_2796A few of these little yellow flowers were still in bloom.

IMG_2799This was a mass of pink monkeyflower a few weeks ago.

IMG_2801A look up at the summit.

IMG_2803The trail descending less steeply to the lake.

IMG_2815A lone lupine blooming near the lake.

IMG_2821A pair of paintbrush and the remainder of some aster or fleabane.

IMG_2822A ground squirrel near the lake.

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We rested for a bit by the lake where there was thankfully not much of a breeze and then explored along the shore.
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DSCN0790The only pink monkeyflower blossom we spotted.

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IMG_2853Ranger buttons

IMG_2854Mountain coyote mint

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IMG_2831Cascade grass-of-parnassus

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IMG_2868Gentians

IMG_2870Wildhorse Creek

IMG_2873Looking down along Wildhorse Creek.

20210818_084407Wildhorse Lake and Steens Summit.

After checking out the lake we started back up the trail as a few more clouds began to move in.
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IMG_2927Rockfringe willowherb

IMG_2933Raptors soaring above Steens Mountain.

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When we had both reached the registration box we took the other trail fork downhill. Sullivan shows this unofficial trail leading to a pass above Little Wildhorse Lake after in a mile but mentions having to use your hands in an update on his website Oregonhiking.com but that “adventurous hikers should have no trouble”.

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IMG_2959Big Indian Gorge

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IMG_2965The summit from the unofficial trail.

IMG_2966The trail on the ridge.

IMG_2967Looking ahead at the ridge the rocky outcrop looked a bit intimidating.

IMG_2968The view out over Big Indian Gorge.

IMG_2970Wildhorse Lake

After a small saddle the trail came to the final rock fin along the ridge and I followed some clear tread along the left side of the outcrop.
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In hindsight the correct route was probably up onto the top of the ridge and the right hand side was a very steep loose rocky slope because the path I was following just ended at a small slide.
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IMG_2975I turned back here, I’m not that adventurous.

I retraced my steps and met Heather at the small saddle. She was not liking this little trail and at that point neither was I. Between the cold, incoming clouds, and steady breeze we decided we’d seen enough and retreated back to the trailhead.
IMG_2990Darker clouds over the summit from the trailhead.

IMG_2991A little better view of the Alvord Desert.

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51394274589_2328a93b39_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2994">Here comes the cloud.

IMG_2995The view as we prepared to drive off.

Our hike here came to a little over 6 miles with approximately 1400′ of elevation gain.

Track for Steens Summit

We drove back the way we’d come instead of completing the loop. Two reasons, the final downhill stretch to South Steens Campground was reportedly rough and recommended for 4×4 high clearance vehicles (In fact the folks at the resort recommended going counter-clockwise and driving up from that side if we were going to drive the loop) and we had a low tire pressure light on. It had come on when we’d driven over a cattle guard that morning which we were hoping was simply due to the cold temperatures but we didn’t want to try driving a rougher road in case. Going back the way we’d come would also gave us an opportunity to stop at the viewpoints again if the conditions looked better. The East Rim Viewpoint was in the middle of the clouds though so we drove on by but did detour to the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint again.
IMG_2996We did stop along the way to take a couple of photos.

IMG_2997Our planned hike for the next day was up this gorge.

The view was a little better and a little warmer at Kiger Gorge.
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We made one final stop on the way back to the resort by pulling into Fish Lake (5.7 miles from the turn for the Kiger Gorge Viewpoint). There is no hike here but we wanted to see the lake.
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The tire pressure light was still on when we got back to the resort so after showering we made the hour plus drive north into Burns to visit Les Schwab. Ironically we had had to stop in this same Les Schwab the last time we were in the Steens area due to a low tire pressure light in our Rav 4. That turned out to be a nail stuck in the tire but this time it was simply a low reading in the right rear tire. They made sure there was nothing stuck in it and that it wasn’t leaking and they had us back on our way in no time. We really appreciate the service we get from every Les Schwab we visit. It was a nice evening at the resort and the clouds made for a dramatic setting Sun.
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DSCN0804The historic Frenchglen Hotel zoomed in on from the resort.

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This was our final night here and we’d be leaving early the next morning to hike along the Little Blitzen River before driving on to Fields (and getting milkshakes). Happy Trail!

Flickr: Steens Summit

Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Steens Mountain Trip report

Big Indian Gorge – 08/17/2021

Our original plan for Tuesday had been to drive up the Steens Summit Loop Road and hike to the summit and Wildhorse Lake, one of four of Sullivan’s featured hikes (post) we were hoping to check off during the trip. With the amount of smoke in the air Monday night though we decided to wait until morning to decide if that was still the plan or if we were going to do the Big Indian Gorge hike instead. At 5am when we were heading out the door the air still smelled of smoke so Big Indian Gorge it was. We drove from the Steens Mountain Resort to Highway 205 in Frenchglen (a whopping 3.1 miles) and headed south on the highway ten miles to the southern end of the Steens Mountain Loop Road where we turned left for 18.9 miles to the South Steens Campground. This section of road passes through the South Steens Horse Management Area (HMA) and we got a chance to see some of the wild horses up close as we passed through.
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The hike up Big Indian Gorge begins at a day use area at the end of the South Steens Campground.
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One thing that we really appreciated about the trails in the area was the quality of information the BLM had posted at all the trailheads we visited. Maps, trail condition reports and photos were posted at them all.
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The Big Indian Gorge Trail began as an old road bed passing through juniper and sagebrush on the way to the mouth of the gorge.
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It was long past flower season but evidence of a large number of wildflowers was still visible.
IMG_2318There were tons of wild onions along the way.

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IMG_2344Deer on one of the hillsides.

IMG_2357Beginning to drop down to Big Indian Creek.

Just under two miles from the current trailhead we arrived at a much older trailhead and a ford of Big Indian Creek.
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This was the first of three fords (two of Big Indian Creek and one of Little Indian Creek) which I managed to make dry footed. Heather was not so lucky, which was a change from what normally happens on these types of crossings. The ford of Little Indian Creek followed just 0.2 miles later and proved to be quite a bit easier.
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While there was still quite a bit of haze in the sky there was beginning to be some signs that things were improving.
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Our goal for the day was to reach Cottonwood Camp, approximately 6.5 mile in, before turning around. Beyond Little Indian Creek the trail climbed a bit passing a collapsed cabin 0.4 miles from the second ford.
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Three quarters of a mile from the cabin ruins we arrived at the third ford (3.1 miles from the trailhead). This crossing had enough exposed rocks to also make it across dry footed.
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IMG_2391Quacking aspen along the trail.

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We continued on passing a rather large boulder a mile from the third crossing where we passed a backpacker on his way back to the trailhead. The landscape was a mix of juniper and sagebrush with some quacking aspen and cottonwoods scattered about. Most of the wildflowers here were also far past bloom but a few were hanging on. We did notice that there had been a lot of Brown’s peony plants in the area which we sadly missed blooming.
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IMG_2402One of the many Brown’s peonies along the trail.

IMG_2407Hawk atop a cottonwood

IMG_2410This counts a lupine in bloom!

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IMG_2413A lone yarrow

IMG_2414One of a couple of spring fed streams along the trail.

IMG_2416Aspens and junipers

IMG_2420Tassel-flowered Brickellbush

IMG_2429Waxwings

IMG_2622The large boulder later in the day on our way out.

Cottonwood Camp was another 2.4 miles beyond the boulder. It was a very gentle climb through increasingly open terrain to the camp. We were heading toward the Sun which was amplifying the smokey haze ahead of us. We kept thinking we were going to be heading into increasingly thick smoke but that never really materialized.
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IMG_2436One of the other spring fed crossings.

IMG_2437There were lots of crickets/grasshoppers bouncing about.

IMG_2438We could see some of the closer cliffs through the haze.

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IMG_2442We started to see a few more lupine in bloom the further in we hiked.

IMG_2444What the smoke looked like ahead.

IMG_2447Lots of butterflies too.

IMG_2450Salsify

IMG_2454Paintbrush

IMG_2458Aster or fleabane

IMG_2459Geranium

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IMG_2472We couldn’t see very far up the gorge because of the smoke.

IMG_2474The view was better behind us.

IMG_2484Coneflower

IMG_2489Hummingbird visiting paintbrush

IMG_2486A few aspen already turning golden.

IMG_2509Cottonwood Camp down to the right.

IMG_2510Looking up Big Indian Gorge from the trail near Cottonwood Camp.

IMG_2514Genitian

IMG_2518Raptor

We took a short side trail to the large camp site and took a nice break amid the cottonwoods. It hadn’t gotten too warm yet and as we rested a nice breeze picked up which kept the temperature down and started to push the smoke out.
IMG_2521Cottonwood Camp

IMG_2519View across the gorge when we arrived at the camp.

IMG_2523Big Indian Creek

IMG_2536A few white clouds started to appear along with the breeze.

IMG_2541The near wall above Big Indian Creek and Cottonwood Camp.

By the time we started back we could at least make out the headwall and other features further up the gorge through the haze that was left.
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The view heading out of the gorge continued to improve as we made our way back to the fords and eventually the trailhead.
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IMG_2556We missed this nest on the first pass. It was about 30 yards off the trail.

IMG_2562We also missed this Nuttall’s linanthus blooming along the trial.

IMG_2564Improving views

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IMG_2604This was a very pretty butterfly that for some reason the camera just didn’t want to focus on.

IMG_2619Clearer skies above.

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IMG_2623Clouds building up over Steens Mountain

IMG_2633Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_2639Ground squirrel

IMG_2646Some type of wood nymph.

IMG_2653Back to the first ford, which I again managed to cross dry footed giving me a perfect record for the day which is unheard of.

IMG_2655A comma of some sort.

IMG_2665A vast improvement over the morning.

IMG_2677Looking back toward the gorge from the old road bed.

IMG_2679What a difference a few hours can make.

Our track – My GPS had 14 miles vs 13 miles but I tend to wander, a lot.

After our hike we drove back to the Steens Mountain Resort where the views had also improved greatly over the previous afternoons. Happy Trails!
DSCN0776Our accommodations.

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Flickr: Big Indian Gorge

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, & Donner Und Blitzen River – 08/16/2021

Monday was mostly a travel day as we left Bend and headed for the Steens Mountain Resort where we would be staying for the next three nights. We did however manage to get a few short hikes in along the way beginning with a trail that had intrigued us since the first time we’d stopped at the Sagehen Rest Area on Highway 20 eighteen miles west of Burns. A highway rest stop seemed like a bit of an odd place for a trail but that’s part of what piqued our interest. The Sagehen Hill Nature Trial is a short (just over half a mile) interpretive loop with 11 numbered stops.
IMG_1968Trailhead sign at the south end of the rest stop. Brochures were located in the small box under the sign.

IMG_1969Map on the trailhead sign.

Smoke from fires near Lakeview, OR made for a smoke filled horizon and unlike our hike on Mt. Bachelor the previous day (post) here we could smell it in the air.
IMG_1972Red Sun through the smoke.

Despite the lack of views (on a clear day Steens Mountain would have been visible) it was a nice hike and the interpretive stops were interesting. We didn’t see any sage grouse here but we spotted some other wildlife along the route.
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IMG_1991The Harney Valley to the east.

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IMG_1998This stop was for a juniper that was blown apart by a lightning strike.

IMG_2000The rest area from the loop.

IMG_2001The last stop was to discuss the relationship between the junipers and the Idaho fescue that grows underneath.

This was a neat little trail and a nice leg stretcher. After completing the loop we drove into Burns, filled up our gas tank and then headed for our next stop at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. This was the one place we had previously visited (post) but we hadn’t driven the entire auto tour route that time and there were some other trails in the complex that we could check out. We started with a stop at the headquarters where we once again were treated to a variety of wildlife as we toured the complex.
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DSCN0516Deer in the nearly dry Marshall Pond

DSCN0539Yellow headed blackbird

DSCN0557California quail

IMG_2045Owl

DSCN0614Chipmunk

IMG_2065More quail

DSCN0617The early bird

IMG_2077Hummingbird

IMG_2081Little bird on a feeder

We skipped the Overlook Trail this time due to the smoke filled horizon and started the auto tour route. Again there was plenty of wildlife to pause for along the drive and we also stopped at Benson Pond to hike the Benson Pond Trail (a short half mile out and back) where we were treated to a large number of ducks and other birds on the pond.
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DSCN0654Shrike

IMG_2099Hawk and a magpie

DSCN0663Osprey

DSCN0667Turkey vultures

IMG_2125Coyote

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IMG_2138Mourning doves

IMG_2143Egrets and ducks at Benson Pond

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51393871889_968777c132_c.jpg&quot; width="800" height="600" alt="IMG_2153">American kestral

IMG_2156Old cabin at Benson Pond

IMG_2177Another owl

DSCN0725Another turkey vulture

IMG_2189Grasshopper

DSCN0733White faced ibis

DSCN0736Great blue heron amid the ducks.

IMG_2195A couple types of egrets it appears.

DSCN0763Deer that were in the Blitzen River

DSCN0764Bounding fawn

DSCN0769Ducks and coots at Knox Pond

The auto tour route ends at the Steens Mountain Loop Road just a mile and a half from the Steens Mountain Resort. We were a bit too early to check in though so we drove past the resort another tenth of a mile to the entrance of the Page Springs Campground. We turned into the campground and parked at the day use area at its far end where two trails start. The one mile Wilderness Nature Trail and the 3.7 mile long Donner und Blitzen River Trail.
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We decided to take the Donner und Blitzen Trail since the nature trail looped back into the campground and ended near one of the campsites leaving a short road walk back to the trailhead. The Donner und Blitzen Trail entered the Steens Mountain Wilderness a short distance from the trailhead and followed the river fairly closely for the first 1.2 miles which is as far as we went on this day. It was a little smokey and it was hot and enough time had passed that we would be able to check into the resort by the time we made it back to our car. The trail was a little brushy at times but a nice surprise was finding a loop option not shown on the map but clearly marked starting 0.4 miles from the trailhead and rejoining the river trail at the 0.7 mile mark. We took this route on the way back climbing up through the cliffs above the river providing some nice views despite the haze.
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IMG_2224Bee and a butterfly

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IMG_2235A brushy section.

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IMG_2256A bee and a skipper

20210816_131717Praying mantis

IMG_2261The “other” trail on the hillside at the 0.7 mile mark.

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IMG_2275A wren?

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IMG_2280Fence crossing

IMG_2281Rejoining the Donner und Blitzen Trail at the 0.4 mile mark.

2.9 mile hike on the Donner und Blitzen trail

We got a total of 5.4 miles of hiking in between Sagehen Hill, the refuge headquarters, Benson Pond, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The abundant wildlife was the highlight of the day. We checked into the resort and got settled in our modular unit which had a full kitchen, shower, couch and most importantly A/C. We were hoping that the smoke would move out overnight or at least over the next day or two when the temperature was also set to drop to more reasonable levels. We spent the evening listening to the osprey that had a nest below the resort. Happy Trails!
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Flickr: Sagehen Hill, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and Donner und Blitzen River

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Mount Bachelor – 08/15/2021

For our August vacation this year we finally returned to the Steens Mountain area for five days of hiking but along the way we made a stop in the Cascade Mountains to hike up to the summit of Mt. Bachelor. As the 6th largest ski resort in the US, Mt. Bachelor is known more for that winter sport than hiking. Hiking also takes a back seat to mountain biking and even a zip line tour but as part of an agreement between the resort and the Forest Service a trail is maintained to the summit for hiking to the 9068′ summit. Growing up in the Bend area I spent a lot of time skiing the mountain but other than riding the Summit lift to the top one Summer (when that lift still operated in the Summer months) neither of us had spent time on the mountain without snow. It was going to be another warm, hazy day as that seems to be the new norm here in the West but the air quality wasn’t in the danger zone so we left early on Sunday morning and arrived at the West Village Parking lot a little before 8am to find a somewhat blue sky overhead.
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There are currently three routes shown on the resorts web page with the easiest being from the top of the Pine Marten Lift which operates from 10am thru 5 or 7pm depending on the date. The other two routes start at the West Village Lodge near the Pine Marten Lift which allows for a reverse lollipop hike which is what we did. We took the more scenic trail up which was marked by blue signboards for the West Village to Summit Connect Trail.
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IMG_1761A hazy look at the South Sister and Broken Top.

After a short distance on cat roads we came to an actual trail which led into the trees.
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The trail traversed along the mountain crossing several ski runs before turning uphill near the “Marshmallow” run and the Sunrise lift.
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IMG_1771Passing under the Skyliner Express

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IMG_1777The ski runs gave us a good look at the top of the mountain.

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IMG_1792Turning uphill

IMG_1793Spotted a grouse hen and her chicks in this little meadow.

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IMG_1807Two of the chicks.

IMG_1812Passing under the Sunrise lift.

The first 1.4 miles had gained under 350′ but after turning uphill the trail steepened gaining almost 2400′ over the next 2.5 miles.
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IMG_1817Nearing the top of the Sunrise lift.

IMG_1818Another hazy look at the nearby mountains.

IMG_1819South and Middle Sister through the haze.

IMG_1823The top of Sunrise and the bottom of the Summit lifts.

IMG_1824Looking up from the top of Sunrise.

Above the Sunrise lift the trees thinned out leaving a few scattered trees including white bark pines.
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IMG_1832A few saxifrage blossoms still left.

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IMG_1841Alpine buckwheat and paintbrush

IMG_1846The first patch of snow we passed.

IMG_1848Golden mantled ground squirrel

IMG_1850Tumalo Mountain (post) in the haze.

Signs gave way to white arrows painted on rocks at the higher elevations.
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IMG_1861Looking down from beneath the Summit Express.

IMG_1863We could really feel the elevation affecting our breathing and by this point we were both sucking wind.

IMG_1864Dwarf alpinegold

I arrived at the summit first and followed the path the the mountain’s high point.
IMG_1869Looking back at the Summit Express.

IMG_1871Heading for the high point.

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IMG_1882A mountain bluebird near the summit.

IMG_1887South Sister and Broken Top with Sparks Lake (post) the brown patch below.

I took my pack off and had a seat and was soon joined by a curious golden mantle.
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IMG_1896It’s our rule not to feed the wildlife but it was obvious that many don’t adhere to that LNT principle. I had to put my pack back on to avoid having a hole chewed through my pocket.

IMG_1901View of the summit.

The surrounding smoke made it impossible to see anything to the east, very little to the south or west and just the closest features to the north, but a cool breeze made it a comfortable spot for a rest while I waited for Heather to join me.
IMG_1899Broken Top, the Pine Marten Lodge halfway up the mountain, the West Village Lodge and parking area below and Tumalo Mountain across the Cascade Lakes Highway.

After Heather had a chance to relax at the summit as well we headed back down taking a short detour to a viewpoint above the Cirque.
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We then hiked back down just above the Sunrise Lift where we turned left on the West Village Getback road which I could picture skiing on all those years ago.
IMG_1931A little better view of Broken Top and Tumalo Mountain on the way down.

IMG_1935Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_1942Left leads up to the Pine Marten Lodge atop the Pine Marten Express, right to the West Village Lodge.

The road walk is not only not as scenic as the trail route we took up it also passes through the mountain bike trails so we had to keep our eyes open at the crossings.
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IMG_1945A decent look at Tumalo Mountain

IMG_1948Warning sign for a bike crossing.

IMG_1949A look at some of the mountain bike trails and some haze moving in overhead.

IMG_1959A tortoiseshell butterfly on the road.

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The trail map showed this route passing under the Pine Marten Express and turning 90 degrees downhill alongside the lift.
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There was a disc golf hole here but no sign of any trail except for a faint line continuing straight ahead through some grass. We followed it briefly before realizing it wasn’t going to get us to the parking lot.
IMG_1965At least we could see the mountains a little better from here.

We turned back to the lift and headed cross country downhill alongside it. We eventually did find some tread which took us to the base of the lift and back to the parking lot. We were glad we’d gotten there as early as we had because it was now quite a bit hazier overhead and a lot warmer.
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We left the mountain and drove to Heather’s parents house where we spent the night before once again heading out early for another adventure. Happy Trails!

Our track for Mt. Bachelor. The GPS said 8.8 miles and 2800′ of elevation but the resort lists the hike as 6.5 miles and 2742′ of elevation gain.

Flickr: Mt. Bachelor

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Pika and Fir Lakes – 07/24/2021

After a week of hiking in the John Day area we had stopped in Bend on our way home Friday to visit Heather’s parents. Saturday morning we headed to Salem but stopped first for a short hike to Pika and Fir Lakes in the Willamette National Forest. The hike starts at the Pika-Fir Trailhead which is currently one of the trailheads in the Central Cascades that does not require any Central Cascades Wilderness Permits as the trail and lakes are outside of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. (You would however need an overnight permit if you were try continue off trail into the wilderness to stay overnight.)
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We picked this trail because it was on our way back to Salem, we hadn’t been here before, and it was nice and short. The trail itself is about a mile long passing Pika Lake and ending at Fir Lake and after averaging just over 12 miles a hike for the previous five days a short hike sounded nice. We were also in a bit of a hurry to get home to see our cat Hazel who we were going to have to say goodbye to soon (post).

The trail passed through a nice green forest with some bigger trees, a very different sight than the hikes we’d taken in Central Oregon that week.
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A little bit of up and down brought us to Pika Lake in just half a mile.
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We walked a short way around the SE side of the little lake before returning to the trail and continuing to Fir Lake which was just 0.4 miles away.
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IMG_1308Unnamed lakelet/pond between Pika and Fir Lakes.

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IMG_1312Fir Lake

IMG_1313Goldeneyes

We again explored a little of the lake shore before turning around and returning to the car.
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This was a quick hike which we managed to make 2.5 miles by exploring some of the lake shores. There were several camp sites at the lakes which would be good options for folks with young kids for some early backpacking trips.

Track for Pika & Fir Lakes

With our hikes now completed we drove home to spend the rest of the weekend with Hazelnut before having to say our final goodbyes. It was a bitter sweet ending to what was otherwise a good vacation. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pika and Fir Lakes

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Fields Peak – 07/23/2021

Our time in John Day had come to an end and it was time to start our journey back to Salem. We were planning on visiting Heather’s parents in Bend for the night but of course we had a hike planned on the way. The hike to Fields Peak and McClellan Mountain in the Aldrich Mountains was another hike that was previously featured in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Easter Oregon” but had been moved to the back of the book in his most recent 3rd edition. We began the hike at the McClellan Mountain Trailhead after a rough final 1.2 miles of driving (high clearance vehicles recommended). The bright spot of the drive was spotting a bobcat in the road.
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While the route to Fields Peak is open to OHVs the McClellan Mountain Trail, which splits off to the east after 1.5 miles is not.
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The trail/OHV track begins through a barbed wire fence and heads steeply uphill, at times, 0.7 miles to a saddle.
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IMG_1110A lone interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail.

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IMG_1118The saddle

Sullivan mentioned that bitterroot bloomed on the ridge to the right but it was too late in the year to see any of them but I wandered out along the ridge a short distance anyway having reached the saddle ahead of Heather.
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IMG_1122Fields Peak from the saddle.

IMG_1123Heather arriving at the saddle.

We had gained a little over 700′ in the first section and now the trail would gain nearly another 600′ in the 0.8 miles to the trail junction.
IMG_1124A rare level section.

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IMG_1129Scarlet gilia in the middle of the OHV track.

IMG_1131Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_1132The McClellan Mountain Trail to the right.

We ignored the McClellan Mountain Trail for now and climbed another 0.8 miles gaining 700 plus more feet to the 7362′ summit of Fields Peak. The meadows along the track were way past bloom but it was evident that earlier in the year there would have been quite the wildflower display.
IMG_1134A peak east to McClellan Mountain and the more distant Strawberry Mountain (post).

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IMG_1137We saw a number of these moths sleeping on the hyssop.

IMG_1139Hyssop and sunflowers

IMG_1142Paintbrush

IMG_1143Looking up Fields Peak.

IMG_1144Mountain coyote mint

IMG_1146Shadow of Fields Peak

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IMG_1152Buckwheat

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IMG_1155A few trees near the top.

IMG_1158Final steep pitch to the summit.

IMG_1160View west, Aldrich Mountain is the high point to the near right.

It was another nice morning with relatively clear skies given the fires that were (and still are) raging in Oregon.
IMG_1162View north

IMG_1165McClellan Mountain and the Strawberry Mountain Range to the east.

IMG_1164Logan Valley to the SE.

IMG_1169The view south.

We had a nice break and then headed back down. On the way several grouse startled us when they flew out of the trees as a group of raucous Clark’s nutcracker watched from the tree tops.
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20210723_075245More moths

When we reached the junction with the McClellan Mountain Trail we turned left.
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Aside from being a little crowded with brush the trail was in relatively good condition with just a couple of downed trees that were easily navigated.
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Over the next 2.2 miles the trail slowly lost elevation as it alternated between south and north facing hillsides via four saddles, the first of which we arrived at after 0.5 miles.
IMG_1191Hillside above the trail.

IMG_1193Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1194Approaching the saddle where we would cross the the north side of the hill ahead.

IMG_1195The first saddle with Moon Mountain behind.

IMG_1197Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1199Looking back from the saddle.

IMG_1200The north side had a few more trees.

IMG_1203Looking back toward Fields Peak

IMG_1209We passed through a rocky section near the second saddle.

In another half mile we found ourselves passing through the second saddle and back on the south side of the ridge.
IMG_1212McClellan Mountain from the second saddle.

Yet another half mile of trail brought us to the third saddle. Sullivan calls this phlox saddle and there was indeed a lot of phlox present it but had been a long time since it bloomed and all of the plants were now brown and dried.
IMG_1213Approaching the third saddle.

The trail was again on the north facing side as it passed over a ridge leading out to Moon Mountain.
IMG_1215Moon Mountain

IMG_1216Fields Peak (center).

IMG_1219McClellan Mountain as we approached the fourth saddle.

As the trail descended to the fourth saddle it disappeared in the sagebrush meadow.
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The good news was this fourth saddle was where the off trail route to the top of McClellan Mountain started so we simply made our way through the sagebrush to the gentlest looking slope and started up the mountain. Sullivan showed it being 1.2 miles and just under 700′ up to the 7043′ summit.
IMG_1224Looking back you can sort of make out the trail angling down the near hillside.

IMG_1225Looking up McClellan Mountain.

Earlier in the hike I had mentioned to Heather that the only real disappointment of the trip had been the lack of large wildlife (aside from the dozens of deer and lone bobcat we spotted on our drives). As we crested the first hill on our way up McClellan Mountain though we spotted a line of ungulates crossing the hillside far above us. They were far enough away that I couldn’t tell for sure if they were elk or deer but once again the zoom on our camera helped solve the mystery.
IMG_1229In the middle of the center hill to the left of the tree in the foreground is the line of what turned out to be 5 bull elk.

IMG_1226Blurry due to the elk moving and the deep zoom.

IMG_1232Four of the bulls stopped to look back at us.

IMG_1234The fifth and largest bull on top of the ridge waiting for the rest.

After watching the elk disappear over the hillside we continued on. As far as off trail hikes go this was nice and straight forward, not ever too steep, and the vegetation wasn’t too tall or thick.
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IMG_1242An old fence line on the hill.

IMG_1243Fields Peak on the left, an unnamed peak in the center and Moon Mountain on the right.

IMG_1245False summit (there’s always at least one). After some debate we went to the left of the rock outcrop which worked out well.

IMG_1246Passing the rock outcrop.

IMG_1248Almost there.

IMG_1249The Greenhorn Mountains, Elkhorns, Dixie Butte and the Strawberry Mountains from left to right in the distance.

IMG_1251Looking back at Fields Peak

IMG_1250The John Day River Valley.

IMG_1253Logan Valley

IMG_1254Company at the summit.

We took another nice break at the summit before heading back the way we’d come. On the return trip we had an encounter with what we believe was our first ruffed grouse.
IMG_1262Passing back through Phlox Saddle.

IMG_1264A better look at the rocky section of trail.

IMG_1272Mountain coyote mint, one of only a couple with this coloration on the stems.

IMG_1271Butterfly and a beetle.

20210723_114437Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1277Ruffed grouse

IMG_1280A final look at McClellan Mountain.

For the second day in a row our hike came in at 12.3 miles, this time with approximately 3200′ of elevation gain.

Fields Peak Track

In our five days of hiking in the area we passed a single hiker (with dogs), something that is unheard of even on weekdays on the western side of the State. We were a little concerned about ticks but we only saw two, Heather had one on her hand the first night on the Rock Creek Trail and she had a second on her tights at the end of the Canyon Mountain hike but neither had bitten her. It had been an enjoyable trip but it was time to head home. We drove to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before leaving early the next morning for one final short hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fields Peak

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon

Canyon Mountain Trail – 07/22/2021

For our fourth day of vacation we had planned another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, this time the Canyon Mountain Trail in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Sullivan suggests two possible turn around points, for a moderate 6.6 mile hike Dog Creek and a more difficult 11.8 mile hike Dean Creek. We had originally planned on the more difficult option but were having second thoughts after reading the Forest Service information for the the Canyon Mountain Trailhead which noted that the final couple of miles of road were not maintained by the Forest Service and they recommend 4×4 vehicles only during dry months of the year. Sullivan simply described the road as “very steep and bumpy at times!”. We had prepared ourselves to have to park at one of the many dirt (OHV) spurs before reaching the trailhead thus adding a few miles to our hike in which case Dog Creek might need to be our turnaround. The road was indeed steep and bumpy but our Rav4 managed to make it 2.2 miles to a saddle where the road worsened even further. We decided to park along a spur road at the saddle and walk the final 1/4 mile of road to the trailhead.
IMG_0825I had started up to the left at the saddle but it was steep with gullies and some debris so we carefully turned around and parked below.

IMG_0827Little Canyon Mountain from the saddle. A wildfire burned the area in 2015 and the trail up to Dog Creek.

IMG_0828The actual trailhead.

A short distance up the trail we entered the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
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The Canyon Mountain Trail doesn’t climb Canyon Mountain but rather traverses the hillsides below its namesake. There were however views of said mountain as we came around the first ridge end of the hike.
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This was the least hazy morning of our trip so far but we were heading toward the rising Sun so visibility still wasn’t all that great.
IMG_0840Little Pine Creek flowed down this valley below Canyon Mountain.

It looked like the wildflower display was probably pretty good earlier in the year but most of them were past now. We did see a fair number of late bloomers though.
IMG_0846Yarrow along the trail.

IMG_0848Fireweed

IMG_0853Paintbrush

Approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Little Pine Creek at a switchback.
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A tenth of a mile beyond the switchback (and after switching back once more) we crossed Little Pine Creek but not before stopping to sample some raspberries.
IMG_0862Paintbrush and pearly everlasting

IMG_0864Raspberries

IMG_0868We don’t recall seeing a penstemon with leaves like this before.

IMG_0870Twinberry (we did NOT sample)

Sitka burnetSitka burnett (white)

IMG_0873Little Pine Creek at the crossing.

The trail then gradually climbed through the forest to a viewpoint at a ridge end in what was now a dry meadow dotted with sagebrush mariposa lilies.
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IMG_0877Prince’s pine

Mountain death camasMountain death camas

IMG_0886Fringed grass of parnassus

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IMG_0888John Day below.

IMG_0889Little Canyon Mountain behind the ridge we’d come around earlier.

IMG_0896The Aldrich Mountains to the west, our destination for the next day’s hike.

IMG_0897Canyon Mountain

20210722_072943One of the sagebrush mariposa lilies.

IMG_0899Dixie Butte and the Greenhorn Mountains to the NE

After wrapping around the ridge the trail reentered the forest once again and descend gradually to Dog Creek, 1.7 miles from the Little Pine Creek crossing. Berries were the highlight at Dog Creek with three different types of ripe blue/huckleberries to pick from.
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20210722_080022Columbine

20210722_080031Swamp onion

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IMG_0918Flowers at Dog Creek

IMG_0920Twinflower

Since we’d manage to drive almost to the trailhead we decide to continue on to Dean Creek which was another 2.2 miles away. The distance was mostly due to having to swing out and around the rocky ridge separating the two creek drainage’s.
IMG_0930There was a lot of elk sign along this section of the trail.

IMG_0931A lot of sign.

IMG_0937Looking back toward Canyon Mountain.

IMG_0939The trail crossed over the ridge in a saddle with quite a bit of mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0941Mountain coyote mint

IMG_0944Strawberry Mountain (post) from the saddle.

IMG_0948Heading toward Dean Creek now.

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IMG_0953Green Mountain on the left and Canyon Mountain on the right.

IMG_0955A smaller raptor, it wouldn’t look at us so I’m not sure what type it was.

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Butterflies on western snakerootButterflies on western snakeroot. Side note we didn’t see a single snake or lizard all week which was really surprising to us.

IMG_0975We did however see quite a few grouse.

IMG_0977The trail got a little brushy nearing Dean Creek.

20210722_092454_HDRThere wasn’t much water in Dean Creek but there was enough for a small cascade.

IMG_0993Wildflowers next to a small pool.

20210722_093953Dean Creek

IMG_1008Butterfly near the pool.

We sat in a nearby campsite to soak in the views as we took a short break.
IMG_0983Canyon Mountain

IMG_0984Dixie Butte with the Greenhorns on the left and the Elkhorns (post) on the right.

After our break we returned the way we’d come, watching as always for wildlife and any flowers we’d missed on our fist pass (also ripe berries).
IMG_1013Cones

IMG_1014Lousewort

IMG_1018Pearly everlasting, yellow flowers, and fireweed.

IMG_1020An eagle?

IMG_1032More cones

IMG_1036Dragon fly

IMG_1038A sulphur butterfly

IMG_1040California tortoiseshell

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IMG_1060Grouse

IMG_1063Maiden fly

IMG_1071Skipper

IMG_1082Woodpecker

IMG_1085Northern flicker

IMG_1095Mountain bluebird

We put the car in low and drove back down the steep road until we made it to pavement then returned to John Day for one final night. This was probably our favorite hike of the trip because it felt the most like being in the mountains even though we were at higher elevations on Spanish Peak, in the Monument Rock Wilderness and the next day in the Aldrich Mountains. With the little extra road walk we came in at 12.3 miles and about 1850′ of elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Our Canyon Mountain Track

Flickr: Canyon Mountain Trail

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Monument Rock and Little Malheur River – 07/21/2021

We were finally down to our last Oregon Wilderness area to visit, the Monument Rock Wilderness (post). The 20,210 acre wilderness is located in the southern Blue Mountains a little over an hour east of John Day. We’d spent the night in John Day and woke to find that it had rained overnight but we hadn’t heard any thunder so we were optimistic that no new lighting caused fires would be springing up. We had two hikes in the wilderness planned for the day with the first being a hike to the wilderness’s namesake, Monument Rock.

Our starting point for the hike to Monument Rock was the Table Rock Trailhead. The final 3.8 miles to this trailhead require slow driving and a high clearance vehicle.
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IMG_0553The trailhead is at this hairpin curve below Table Rock. The road continues another 0.8 miles to the staffed Table Rock Lookout but reportedly worsens which is hard to imagine is possible.

The trail quickly crossed the wilderness boundary on an old roadbed completing our goal of hiking in all of Oregon’s 46 wilderness areas open to human visitors.
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IMG_0556First time seeing a wilderness sign quite like this.

There was quite a bit of smoke in the sky this morning even though we still weren’t really smelling it.
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IMG_0562A red Sun behind the smoke, presumably mostly from the 400,000 plus acre Bootleg Fire east of Klamath Falls in south central Oregon.

We followed the old road bed through sagebrush and occasional stand of trees for a total of 1.7 miles to a post. There was a nice amount of red paintbrush blooming amid the sage and lots of interesting rock formations along the way.
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IMG_0563Clark’s nutcracker

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IMG_0572Monument Rock in the distance.

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IMG_0578Paintbrush in the sagebrush.

IMG_0583Ground squirrel

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IMG_0586There was a fair amount of this green paintbrush too.

IMG_0589We believe this post (not the 1.7 mile post) marked a side trail to Rock Spring but we didn’t see any tread in the area to know for sure.

IMG_0593Bullrun Rock dead ahead.

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IMG_0595Table Rock in the distance.

IMG_0596The Table Rock Lookout.

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IMG_0604Two kinds of paint.

IMG_0601Bullrun Rock below the Sun.

IMG_0602Monument Rock again.

IMG_0607Old man’s whiskers

IMG_0611A checkermallow

IMG_0614We passed this sign for the Amelia Trail along the way but again didn’t see any trace of tread for it.

IMG_0618Grazing cattle near the post.

IMG_0624The post with Monument Rock in the background.

We made a sharp left turn following an old jeep track uphill toward Bullrun Rock.
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In a little under a half mile we were at the base of the rock near a fence.
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IMG_0633I believe that is Ironside Mountain.

We then scramble up the side of Bullrun Rock to the 7873′ summit.
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IMG_0637The jeep track and Monument Rock.

IMG_0641Table Rock

IMG_0642Looking down into the Monument Rock Wilderness

After enjoying the view we climbed down and returned to the post which we then continued past through an old fence and onward toward Monument Rock.
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IMG_0651Woodpecker

IMG_0654Mountain bluebird

The old road bed wasn’t much more than a cattle trail now but we followed it for approximately 0.2 miles to what was shown on our GPS units as a sharp turn to the right. Sullivan indicated that there was a small cairn in this area marking the start of the route to Monument Rock. We didn’t notice any cairns but comparing the map on our GPS to the one in his guidebook led us to believe this was the correct spot so we followed an elk/cow path to the left but it was leading us too much to the east so we struck off cross country toward the flank of Monument Rock.
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IMG_0656Looking back toward Bullrun Rock.

The initial climb up was a little steeper than we’d expected which led us to believe we may have not been quite where Sullivan would have had us go up, but we managed to make it up to a broad ridge where we then headed uphill through sagebrush.
IMG_0658Table Rock from where we gained the ridge.

IMG_0660Heading up.

Soon the large rock cairn atop Monument Rock was visible (the cairn was likely constructed by Basque shepherds or possibly gold miners long ago).
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We made our way over to the andesite outcrop and climbed up to the cairn and took a break.
20210721_085946Me making my way up to the cairn.

IMG_0668Bullrun Rock from the cairn.

IMG_0669Table Rock from the cairn.

IMG_0673The Monument Rock Wilderness.

The haze had cleared up somewhat by this point giving us blue sky at least overhead as we began our hike back.
IMG_0675The cairn on Monument Rock from below.

We decided to try a slightly different route back down hoping that we could follow the ridge further down and pick up what was showing on our GPS units as a trail below following South Bullrun Creek. Sullivan’s map showed the first part of the trail from the turn where we’d left the road bed extending 0.3 miles to a spring but the Garmins showed the trail then continuing south. Our thought was that if a trail had at one time been down there it was likely built on a less steep grade than the side we’d scrambled up.
IMG_0680Heading downhill.

20210721_092712Heather spotted this sheep moth.

When we came to what appeared to be an old jeep track or path of some sort we turned right (north) and followed it down a short but still steep hill.
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IMG_0683The path leading downhill.

The trail that was shown on the GPS dropped over 150′ from where we were, presumably down to the spring, but that was about 120′ more than we needed to lose so when the hillside leveled out a bit we made a hard right turn and made our way back to the track we’d taken earlier. We arrived below the point where we’d scrambled up and then headed back to the old road bed. Once we rediscovered the road we followed it back past the post and to the trailhead.
20210721_095222Table Rock in the distance with Bullrun Rock on the right.

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IMG_0728Robin

IMG_0731Quite a bit of a difference from the morning.

The hike here came in at an even 7 miles with just under 900′ of elevation gain.

Our track for Monument Rock

We had a little left in our legs after the Monument Rock hike so after navigating the rough 3.8 miles back to the Elk Flat Springs Campground we continued another 3/4 of a mile on Forest Road 1370 to the North Little Malheur Trailhead. The Little Malheur River had been one of Sullivan’s featured hikes in previous editions of his Eastern Oregon book but repeated fires and lack of maintenance have relegated it to a back of the book entry. We had decided to check it out to see what the trail condition was and to hopefully make it to the Little Malheur River which was approximately 2.2 miles from the trailhead.
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We were encouraged to find signs at the trailhead showing that the Blues Crew had done some work on the trail.
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We were less excited that a cow crew was currently present.
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In true cow fashion instead of just letting us pass by above them on the trail they ran uphill onto the trail and the for the next couple of miles we occasionally caught up to them and they would run off along the trail again kicking up dust and leaving cow pie mines along the path but I digress. Getting back to the hike, the trail was faint but flagging and a few rock cairns assisted in keeping it found (along with the cows).
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IMG_0741Yarrow and an orange agoseris.

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IMG_0745Wilderness sign marking the boundary of the Monument Rock Wilderness.

IMG_0747Table Rock from the trail.

IMG_0749Elk Flat Creek.

IMG_0752An orange flag to the right ahead.

IMG_0759The trail following Elk Flat Creek.

IMG_0760A few areas of green trees remained.

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We were entertained by a large number of hawks in the area.
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IMG_0770Unnamed stream shortly before reaching the Little Malheur River.

IMG_0774Monkshood along the stream.

IMG_0775It appeared that quite a few trees survived along the Little Malheur.

IMG_0777The trail crossing the Little Malheur River. We were especially excited to see a lot of nice pink monkeyflower along the banks.

We reached the river which wasn’t much more than a creek here, but it was a pretty setting. Wildflowers and green vegetation hosted a number of butterflies.
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IMG_0792Pearly everlasting

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After a nice relaxing break along the river we returned the way we’d come. In theory the trail extends another 5 miles to the south trailhead crossing the river 7 times along the way but we had gone far enough for today. It was nice not to be following the cattle on the way back.
IMG_0800Ground squirrel

IMG_0806Either a big ground squirrel or a small marmot.

IMG_0813Another hawk.

IMG_0824Fluffy clouds forming over the Monument Rock Wilderness.

Our hike here, which included just a bit of wandering, came in at 4.8 miles giving us 11.8 for the day.

Our track for the Little Malheur River

It had been a good ending to our quest to visit all of Oregon’s designated wilderness areas and we celebrated with an early dinner at 1188 Brewing in John day before turning in early so that we could get up in the morning and head into the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Monument Rock and Little Malheur River