Our trip home from the southern Oregon coast was very different than our six stop drive that started our long weekend (post). We had only one stop planned at Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Only 24 miles from Highway 101 in Coos Bay the park felt further removed due to the winding back country roads to the trailhead.
We started our morning off by heading for Golden Falls first. The trail led to a footbridge across Silver Creek and then forked.
We took the right hand Lower Trail first which followed Glenn Creek to the base of 254′ Golden Falls.
Rough skinned newt
Wren below Golden Falls
After exploring the area below Golden Falls we returned to the fork and turned onto the Upper Trail. This trail climbed for .4 miles to a switchback below 259′ Silver Falls.
Inside out flower
Beyond the switchback the trail continued to climb along an long abandoned road over half a mile to cliffs at the top of Golden Falls.
Upper portion of Golden Falls.
Glenn Creek above Golden Falls.
The trail petered out after a short distance so we turned back. As we began our hike back down blue skies emerged overhead.
Despite a cloudy morning they stayed high enough to not obstruct the view of the falls.
We returned to the trailhead where another car had joined ours and walked to the west end of the parking area to the Silver Falls Viewpoint Trail.
This .3 mile trail led to the base of Silver Falls across from the switchback.
Epic battle between a rock and a tree.
I was treated to a single ripe salmonberry along this stretch of trail. It didn’t survive long enough for a photo but I found another that was almost ripe.
Ouzel (might be the same one as earlier)
We did some more exploring around the base of the falls before saying goodbye and heading back to our car.
At 4 miles this was a perfect hike to end our trip on, even with 4 more hours of driving we made it home around 1:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and get ready for the work week ahead. Happy Trails!
We started our day parking at the closed (stupid COVID) interpretative center at South Slough Reserve.
It looked like it would be full of good info and we’ll have to come back someday post pandemic when we can experience it. For now we settled for the trails walking behind the center and picking up the Ten Minute Loop Trail where we turned right.
After just a tenth of a mile we came to a junction with the Middle Creek Trail where we turned right detouring briefly to check out an opening where in better times talks are given by staff members.
We followed the Middle Creek Trail downhill through a coastal forest to a road crossing where the Hidden Creek Trail continued on the far side.
All the bridges had labels consisting of the first initial of the trail and then the bridge number making this the 4th bridge along the Middle Creek Trail.
That’s a fancy hat for a stump.
The Hidden Creek Trail continued downhill following the creek to Hidden Creek Marsh where a series of boardwalks passed through giant skunk cabbage patches. We stayed to the right each time the boardwalks split (they eventually rejoined along the way).
We saw a lot of rough skinned newts on the trails, but what we were really hopping for was a Pacific Giant Salamander. No luck there this time.
A few trillium still had petals.
We heard a few frogs and we were looking in the skunk cabbage to see if we could spot any. We didn’t see any of the frogs but we did spot several others on the plants.
At the end of Boardwalk 2 the trail became the Tunnel Trail and headed back into the forest.
After a short climb we came to a nice big observation deck. The view was good but there wasn’t much to observe on this morning.
We ignored the Big Cedar Trail to the left when we passed it and continued on the Tunnel Trail passing a couple of more viewpoints out to the South Slough. While we had struck out at the observation deck we now could see movement which turned out to be over a half dozen raccoons crossing the mud flats in search of breakfast.
Tunnel Trail indeed.
This marked the first time we’d seen raccoons on a hike and we had a lot of fun watching them search for snacks. Shortly after passing some restrooms the trail came to a junction where we headed downhill to a shed and another junction.
We turned right by the shed passing under an awning to the Sloughside Trail
We turned right first passing several wooden decks before the trail ended along the slough.
Castilleja ambigua – Estuarine Paintbrush
After watching more raccoons from the end of this spur we returned to the shed and took the left hand fork. This spur was a bit longer (still only .1 miles) and passed along a narrow strip between flats.
>End of the line.
It was interesting to see how this uprooted tree peeled back a layer of the ground.
We again returned to the shed staying to the right and crossing a nice bridge on the North Creek Trail.
A third of a mile along the North Creek Trail we came to the signed .15 mile North Creek Spur.
We decided to check it out and followed the short trail downhill to a different view of the Sloughside Marsh.
We returned to the North Creek Trail and followed it uphill back to the Ten Minute Loop Trail where we turned right for a tenth of a mile to the Interpretive Center.
Bleeding heart, fairy bells, and youth-on-age.
This was an excellent 4 mile hike with 300′ of elevation gain.
From the Interpretive Center we returned to Seven Devils Road and followed it north to Charleston were we turned left onto the Cape Arago Highway to Sunset Bay State Park, a total of 6.7 miles from the center. We parked at Sunset Bay Middle (there is a North, Middle, and South but we didn’t realize that before we parked) which added a tenth of a mile each way to our hike but we had a nice view of Sunset Beach and Bay.
We walked over to Sunset Bay South and picked up the Oregon Coast Trail at a bridge over Big Creek.
The trail climbed to the top of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific as it looped around a large grass clearing that in non-pandemic times acts as a group camp.
Cape Arago Lighthouse (not on Cape Arago) on Chiefs Island.
The group campsite.
We followed pointers for the Oregon Coast Trail which briefly followed the shoulder of Cape Arago Highway as it passed Norton Gulch.
On the far side of the gulch the trail veered away from the highway and by staying right at junctions soon got back to the cliffs above the ocean providing some excellent views.
A long pause in our hike came when we stopped to watch some harbor seals on the rocks below us.
Harbor seals in the lower right hand corner on the rocks.
Drama was unfolding in front of us as one pup repeatedly attempted to follow its mother up onto the rocks only to slide back into the water. It finally found success and then back into the water they went. Apparently it was just a practice run.
After tearing ourselves away from the seal show we continued south along the cliffs.
Just over two miles into the hike we came to the first noticeable remnants of the 1906 estate of timber baron Louis Simpson.
Former tennis courts.
It was windy on the plateau and I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could play tennis in the windy conditions that are often present on the coast.
View near the tennis courts.
These roots explain how some of the trees that look like they should be plunging into the ocean don’t.
Observation Building ahead on the cliff.
The rocks along the coastline here had been pounded and carved by the ocean into some interesting shapes and designs.
We walked past the Observation Building (closed due to COVID) to a viewpoint overlooking Simpson Cove.
The Oregon Coast Trail dropped down to the cove before climbing again and continuing onto Cape Arago State Park but before we headed down we wanted to check out the Shore Acres Gardens which were open (limit of 75 persons at a time).
It was a little early yet for many of the flowers, especially the rose garden, but there was still a lot to see. The most impressive specimens to us were a plant and tree from South America.
Prickly Rhubarb from Chile
Monkey Puzzle Tree from South America
The yet to bloom rose garden.
After winding our way through the gardens we returned to the Oregon Coast Trail and followed it down to Simpson Beach.
After climbing up from the beach we came to an unsigned junction where we turned right continuing to follow the cliff south for .9 miles to an overlook along the Cape Arago Highway of Simpson Reef.
Looking back across Simpson Cove to the Observation Building.
Simpson Reef extending into the Pacific.
There was a lot of action going on out on the reef, in particular on Shell Island where sea lions barked and eagles engaged in aerial combat.
Shell Island in the middle of Simpson Reef.
Sea lions and juvenile bald eagles on Shell Island.
Harbor seals on the reef.
After watching the action for awhile we continued on our trek by crossing the Highway onto a hiking trail marked by a post.
After a half mile on this trail we arrived at the Cape Arago Pack Trail.
Left would loop us back to Shore Acres State Park while heading right would drop us into the main part of Cape Arago State Park. We turned right to check out more of the park and popped out near the South Cove of Cape Arago.
Woolly bear caterpillar
Looking back up the Pack Trail.
A short trail led down to the beach in the South Cove (and possible tidepools) but we were starting to feel the effects of 3 straight days of hiking and having to climb back up from the cove just didn’t sound appealing so we opted to take a break at bench overlooking the cove in a picnic area.
Plaque near the bench commermorating Sir Frances Drake’s visit to the area in 1579.
Our stalker while we sat at the bench hoping we would leave some food behind (we didn’t).
After the break we continued to follow the parking area around Cape Arago passing Middle Cove and then arriving at the North Cove Trail.
We thought we might be hearing things, but no it was a rooster crowing.
We decided to take this trail as it only lost a little elevation on its way to a ridgeend viewpoint with a view of a different side of Shell Island.
North Cove (A trail down to that beach was closed for the season.)
From the North Cove Trail it was shorter to continue around the parking loop to reach the Pack Trail instead of backtracking so that’s what we did. The Cape Arago Pack Trail gained approximately 300′ in just under a mile to reach its high point at 530′. There had been caution signs regarding storm damage which we found near the high point where a clearcut had left trees overly exposed to winds causing several large ones to be uprooted. Luckily crews had cleared the trail beacuse the size and amount of trees down here would have been very problematic to get past.
The trail then descended to a small stream crossing before climbing again to a ridgetop.
On the ridge we turned left at a junction on an old roadbed which followed the ridge down to the highway passing an old WWII radar installation bunker near the highway.
The Cape Arago Pack Trail at the highway.
We recrossed the highway here into Shore Acres State Park.
Just five hundred feet after crossing the road we came to the unsigned junction where we had turned right earlier after climbing up from Simpson Beach only we both missed it. Luckily we realized our mistake less than fifty yards later and got onto the right path. At this point we had hiked 12.5 miles on the day and it was closing in on 3pm due to all our extended breaks and we were getting tired. We decided to take the straightest path back to our car instead of following the Oregon Coast Trail as we had done earlier. We followed the entrance road in Shore Acres to the fee booth where we turned left on an old roadbed that now acts as a trail.
Going this way shortened our return trip by nearly 3/4 of a mile but it meant missing the views along the cliffs where we had watched the seals earlier. When we reached the Oregon Coast Trail we turned right and followed it back to the group camp at Sunset Bay State Park. We shortened our hike even further here by cutting through the empty camp, a move that shaved another 1/2 mile off the hike. It was a good thing too because our feet were not happy with us when we finally made it back to our car.
It had been a great day though with the two hikes combining for a 14.3 mile day. Happy Trails!
Day two of our Southern Oregon Coast extended weekend had us visiting the Rogue River Trail for the first time. We were admittedly a bit apprehensive about this hike as we had hiked another river trail (the Illinois) in the area around the same time of year in 2016 and had been overrun with ticks on that outing. This turned out to be a much more pleasant outing with just a single tick needing to be flicked off Heather which she promptly flicked straight at me.
It was a beautiful morning as we set off on the trail in the forest skirting a pasture.
Near the half mile mark the trail passed below the Illahe Lodge where a couple of deer had their eyes on us.
The trail passed through a fence that was booby trapped with poison oak.
The poison oak trap in the afternoon.
While the relative absence of ticks was great we still aren’t accustomed to hiking with the amount of poison oak that tends to be present in the southern part of the State but we’re working on that. This hike was a good test as the majority of the first 4.5 miles of the trail passed through quite a bit of vegetation that more often than not included poison oak. We weren’t entirely sure what to make of the hikers we saw in shorts or pants that left open skin near the calves and ankles, were we being too paranoid or are they crazy? The first four miles also included a couple of climbs to bypass private land which limited the views of the river quite a bit.
Bridge over Billings Creek.
Del Norte iris
Tolmie’s mariposa lily
Douglas iris with insect.
More mariposa lilies (with a poison oak background)
The Rogue River from the trail during one of the climbs.
One of dozens of lizards we saw (or heard).
We watched a number of rafts float by and later learned that it was the last weekend to float the river without needing a permit so it was an extra busy weekend.
We had honestly been a little underwhelmed with the trail as we reached the bridge over Flea Creek at the 4.5 mile mark. We had equated the Rogue River Trail with the dramatic views we’d seen in others photos but the section of trail up to now was short on those.
Footbridge over Flea Creek
Things changed in a hurry beyond Flea Creek though as the views opened up a bit before the trail arrived at Flora Del Falls less than a quarter mile later.
We took an extended break at the falls before continuing on another 1.75 miles to the Clay Hill Lodge where we decided to turn around. The scenery was now excellent, exactly what we had been hoping for but it was warmer than we were used to and we had more hiking to do over the next couple of days so as tempting as continuing on was, the lodge made for a good turnaround point.
Clay Hill Lodge
Rafts in Clay Hill Rapids
We saw our only snake of the day on our return trip when we spotted our first ring-necked snake in the trail.
The rafts seemed to have given way to Jet Boats which we could hear coming well before we saw them.
We stopped again at Flora Del Falls where I was tormented by a swallow tail that just wouldn’t land.
One of the dozens of photos I took trying to get the swallow tail in flight.
After the break we headed back to the trailhead. We were trying to come up with markers to break up the 4.5 mile section and Heather remembered that Sullivan had said that there were 5 bridge crossings over named creeks. We ignored the “named creeks” detail and began counting bridges down from 5. There were well more than 5 bridge, closer to a dozen but only 5 crossed “named creeks”. Either way we made it back to the car (and past a few cows) finishing a very nice 12.9 mile hike just after 2:15pm.
After staying in Gold Beach the night before we were now headed north to Bandon for a couple of nights. We stopped for dinner in Port Orford at the Crazy Norwegian on a recommendation from Heather’s Dad. We shared a clam chowder and split the fish and chips. They were wonderful, a perfect ending to our day.
We found out a couple of days later that we had missed running into the folks from Boots on the Trail, one of our favorite hiking blogs. They had been hiking the entire trail one way and would be doing this section on Saturday the 15th, one day after our hike. We have wondered if that might happen sometime when we are down in that area and it almost did. Maybe next trip. Happy Trails!
Our first big trip of the year was an extended weekend visit to the southern Oregon coast area to finish the remaining featured hikes from Sullivan’s “100 Hikes Oregon Coast & Coast Range” (3rd ed.) as well as a couple from his additional hikes section. For the first day of the trip we had set an ambitious goal of stopping at five different trailheads on the way to our motel in Gold Beach and after checking in continuing almost to the California border for a sixth hike on the Oregon Redwoods Trail. We got our typical early start driving from Salem to Eugene to take Highway 126 toward the coast and our first stop at the Mapleton Hill Pioneer Trailhead .
The short loop (0.6 miles) on the Pioneer Trail here follows portions of the historic North Fork Trail and Mapleton Hill Road which were early routes connecting Florence and Eugene.
The trail was in good shape and there were a some wildflowers in bloom to go along with the numerous interpretive signs along the loop.
One of the sharp turns.
Star flower solomonseal
Wren – We heard lots of birds but didn’t see many of them.
After completing the loop we drove west from the trailhead on Road 5070/North Fork Siuslaw Road to Road 5084 which we followed 5 miles to the Pawn Trailhead.
This was another short loop hike (0.8 miles) which combined with the Pioneer Trail make up featured hike #57 in the 3rd edition (they were moved to the additional hikes section in the 4th edition). This trail suffered some storm damage over the Winter and as of our hike had only been 80% cleared. It is also an interpretive trail but instead of signs there are markers which correspond to information on a brochure that can be downloaded from the Forest Service here. The name “Pawn” was derived from the last names of four families that settled in the area in the early 1900’s – the Pooles, Akerleys, Worthingtons, and Nolans.
While this trail was relatively close to the Pioneer Trail the presence of the old growth trees gave the hike a different feel.
Marker for a fire scarred Douglas fir. According to the brochure the last major fire in the area was in the 1860s.
The storm damage proved to be a bit tricky but it appeared the Forest Service had started a reroute of the trail which we were able to follow.
We had to climb over this big tree.
We lost the reroute after climbing over the big trunk and had to bushwack our way through some debris before climbing up on a second downed trunk and walking along it to the resumption of the trail. At one point Heather bumped a limb and pine needles exploded over her head like confetti giving us both a good laugh.
The loop ended shortly beyond the damage and we were soon back at the trailhead. From there we drove west on North Fork Siuslaw Road into Florence. From Florence we took Highway 101 south toward Coos Bay. We turned off a little north of North Bend at a sign for Horsefall Dune and Beach. Our next stop was yet another short loop trail, this time at Bluebill Lake. We parked at the Bluebill Trailhead and set off on the wide trail.
We went clockwise around the loop. The water level of the lake varies throughout the year but there was a good amount of water now but no flooding which can be an issue in late Winter/early Spring.
Looking at the bridge at the north end of the lake.
Cormorants flying above the lake.
Ring necked ducks
Boardwalk at the south end of the lake.
Coming up on the bridge at the north end.
Yellow rumped warbler
After completing the 1.5 mile hike here we returned to Highway 101 and continued south into Coos Bay where we detoured to our fourth stop of the day at Millicoma Marsh. This was an interesting trailhead given that it was right next to a middle school track and field.
The trail on the far side of the track.
We followed the posted directions and kept to the outside of the grass as we walked around the track to the trail.
One of three panels on a signboard at the start of the trails.
Two tenths of a mile from the signboard the grassy track came to a junction. The loop continued to the left but a quarter mile spur trail to the right led to an observation bench. We hiked out to the end of the spur trail before continuing on the loop.
This bench is at the junction.
Sparrow near the junction.
Heading to the observation structure.
Looking toward Coos Bay along the Coos River.
McCullough Memorial Bridge spanning Coos Bay.
Wetlands from the end of the spur.
We returned to the loop and continued counterclockwise around. There wasn’t much wildlife activity which was probably a matter of timing as it looked like an area where we might see quite a bit. In any case the hike was pleasant with nice scenery.
Canada goose with goslings
Arriving back at the field.
Up to this point we had only passed one other hiker all day (at Bluebill Lake) but this area was popular and we ran into over a half dozen other users on this 1.8 mile jaunt.
From Coos Bay we continued south on Hwy 101 for 14.6 miles before turning right onto West Beaver Hill Road at a sign for the Seven Devils Wayside, our next stop. We parked in the large lot where only one other vehicle sat and promptly headed down to the beach.
Ground squirrel enjoying the view.
Our plan here was to hike south along the beach at least as far as Fivemile Point to complete another of Sullivan’s featured hikes. We hopped across the creek using rocks and logs and set off on what is considered possibly the windiest beach along the Oregon coast (it was windy).
Shore bird in the creek.
The occupant of the other vehicle had headed north so we had this stretch of beach to ourselves, and a few feathered friends.
The hillside was covered with yellow gorse, an invasive but colorful shrub.
The gorse wasn’t the only yellow flowers present though.
Brass buttons (another non-native)
We were looking for a side trail up to a viewpoint bench that Sullivan showed as .7 miles from the trailhead just beyond a brown outcrop.
The brown outcrop a little way ahead with Fivemile Point further on.
We couldn’t pick out any trail just several stream beds and seeps so we kept going coming next to a rock spire a short distance from Fivemile Point.
We passed the spire and continued to Fivemile Point where the ocean was coming up to the rocks effectively creating our turn around point.
Whiskey Run Beach lay on the other side of the rocks with another parking area 0.8 further south.
A cormorant off Fivemile Point
We turned back and headed north past the spire.
We were now walking into the stiff wind but from this direction Heather was able to spot some stairs in the vegetation marking the side trail to the bench.
We followed a good trail .2 miles to said bench.
View from the bench.
After a short break at the viewpoint we descended to the beach and returned to our car.
We returned to Highway 101 and drove south into Gold Beach where we checked into our motel and dropped our stuff off before hitting the road again. Our final stop of the day had us driving south of Brookings to the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead.
A 1.2 mile barrier free lollipop loop trail starts at the trailhead.
We were once again the only people on this trail which was especially nice given the setting amid the giant trees. Although the trees here aren’t as big as those found in California we were once again awestruck by them. We stayed right where the barrier free loop started which brought us to a hollowed out trunk with room for several people.
Coming up on the hollow trunk straight ahead.
Approximately a half mile into the loop portion of the trail the Oregon Redwoods Trail split off allowing for a longer (2.5 miles total) hike.
We set off on the Pioneer Trail at 7:19am and stepped off the Oregon Redwood Trail at 5:51pm. We logged 9.8 miles of hiking but nearly 147 miles (as the crow flies) separated the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead from the Pawn Trailhead (and another 70 miles home) making for a long but great day. We had gotten to see a great variety of scenery all in one day. To top it off we could now check three more featured hikes off our yet-to-do list. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been an actual knob on the cold water handle in the motel shower. Happy Trails!
Having visited the Ankeny and William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuges on Tuesday (post) and Wednesday (post) respectively I visited the third refuge comprising the Willamette Valley Complex, Baskett Slough on Thursday. For the final in this trifecta I had the chance to hike with my Father so I picked him up just after 6am and off we went. Like the other two refuges in the complex I had visited Baskett Slough before, most recently in May of last year (post) during the initial COVID lock down when many places weren’t open and we were trying to stay close to home. We began our hike at the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
Mt. Jefferson from the trailhead.
The Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail begins here and we followed it uphill to the start of the loop where we forked left continuing uphill to a second junction with the side trail to the Rich Guadagno Viewing Platform. We were just a couple of weeks earlier than Heather and my visit from last year but it made a big difference. The hill had been covered with wildflowers during that hike but there were just a few out now.
A few lupine and buttercups
Castilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush
A few little flowers starting to open up.
View from the deck.
We returned to the loop and continued into the woods on the side of Baskett Butte where we kept a streak of mine alive by spotting deer in this area.
There weren’t nearly as many flowers here as there had been in the woods at Finley NWR but a few fawn lilies and toothworts were blooming.
The rangers had been busy cleaning up after the ice storm based on some large piles of debris but it also appeared there was more work to do.
We turned left at a sign for the Moffiti/Morgan Loop Trail and headed downhill toward Moffiti Marsh.
Camas pretending to be part of a lupine plant.
White crowned sparrow
Pied billed grebe
We turned right along a path parallel to Smithfield Road following it to a small trailhead (where Heather and I started the 2020 hike). The fences across Smithfield Road were popular with the feathered community.
A robin, a western bluebird and swallows
A green winged teal and a cinnamon teal in a small marsh.
We took the path from the trailhead to Morgan Lake where there were a lot of ducks doing their best to stay as far away from us as possible.
This scrub jay wasn’t shy.
Neither was this serious looking spotted towhee
Norther shovelers heading to the opposite side of the lake.
A bufflehead and some lesser scaups
Canada goose flyover
After passing the lake we got a wild hair and instead of following the loop up around the north side of Baskett Butte we decided to stay on a fainter grassy track around the eastern side of the butte.
Old out building below Baskett Butte.
This seemed to be a good way to avoid the elevation gain of going up and over the saddle on Baskett Butte but along the way the grassy track disappeared into a field. There was another track heading uphill toward the butte but we were set on not climbing so we sallied forth.
Not only was this uphill but we didn’t know for sure where it might lead.
Along the field we went.
On the bright side our little adventure led us to the only blooming checkermallow we’d seen all morning.
At a row of vegetation if briefly appeared we might be turning back but a break in the brush provided us a way through (it appeared to be a popular route with the resident deer and elk.
Looking uphill along the row of brush.
On the other side of the brush we found a huge flock of geese (or several smaller flocks that had merged)
An extremely small portion of the geese.
We veered right away from the geese not wanting to be the cause of what we could only imagine would have been quite a commotion and cut across another field directly to the trailhead which was now visible.
Baskett Butte from the field.
Our route may have actually been a little shorter than if we had stayed on the trail as my GPS showed 4.8 miles while the route as described by Sullivan is 4.9 miles. It also saved a little bit of elevation gain and allowed us to see a little part of the refuge that we hadn’t before. It would have been pretty ugly though if it had rained recently though as I can only imagine those fields would be muddy messes. While not quite as exciting as the other two refuges Baskett Slough has always managed to deliver wildlife sightings and is definitely worth a visit. Happy Trails!
A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.
The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
Mt. Hood from the refuge road
Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)
I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe
More northern shovelers
Green winged teal
At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)
Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
Spotted towhee serenade
Camas blooming near the summit
View from Pigeon Butte
Scrub jay spotted on the way down.
One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue
When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.
Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn
I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.
heron flying by the egret
Green winged teals
Trailhead off of Bruce Road
I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
Entering the woods
Giant white wakerobin
Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon
As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
The pink turned out to be shooting stars.
I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
One of many fairy slippers
It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.
Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail
I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
The Woodpecker Loop
I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop
Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.
The Three Sisters
I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.
After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.
I found myself with some time off that Heather does not and after spending the first day getting the car serviced and receiving my first dose of COVID vaccine (YAY) I spent the next morning exploring the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. We had visited once before in 2014 for a short hike described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (post). This time I hoped to explore more of the refuge by hiking some of the dike trails that are open from April 1st to September 30th. I started my morning at the Eagle Marsh parking area on Buena Vista Road.
There is a nice kiosk there overlooking the marsh from which quite a few ducks and geese were visible.
Canada goose and mallards
Ring-necked ducks (I’m not sure all the females are the same.)
Geese flying over Eagle Marsh as the Sun rises.
There was more vegetation at the southern end of the marsh where robins and blackbirds were singing.
At the end of Eagle Marsh the dike split and I had intended to stay straight (the Refuge trail map appeared to show a possible loop around Willow Marsh but other maps do not show a dike at the southern end) but a sign there announced that dike was closed due to active nesting so I turned left instead.
There were a lot of ducks in Willow Marsh but they were keeping a safe distance from me.
A bufflehead and mallards
Mallards and ring-necked ducks
I then turned right along a dike passing between Willow and Teal Marshes.
Teal Marsh to the left of the dike.
It was more of the same treatment from the ducks in Teal Marsh.
Mallards an northern shovelers
While the ducks stayed away I had better luck with the smaller birds.
Female red-winged blackbird
At the end of Teal Marsh I turned around and headed back past the ducks.
Geese coming in for a landing on Teal Marsh
Ring-necked ducks and a bufflehead pair
Pie billed grebe at Eagle Marsh
The out-and-back was a nice, albeit windy, 3.2 mile walk with no elevation gain. From Eagle Marsh I turned left (SW) onto Buena Vista Road and drove a quarter mile to a small pullout at a green gate.
From here I planned on following another dike past Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh to Wintel Road and then follow that road briefly to the Rail Trail Loop Area which is where we had been on our first visit. A bald eagle flew over Mohoff Pond just as I set off.
Mohoff Pond was busy with a number of different ducks but primarily they seemed to be northern shovelers.
I didn’t see it when I took the picture but it appears there is an eagle on the ground in the distance here.
The activity wasn’t only at Mohoff Pond though as a handful of egrets were mostly out of view in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks.
One of the egrets taking off.
Brewer’s blackbird on a tree along the railroad tracks.
I stayed right at a junction with a dike running between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
Pintail Marsh ahead on the left.
The dike between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
Ducks at Pintail Marsh
There was a gravel parking area at the southern end of Pintail Marsh where I hopped onto Wintel Road and headed left following the narrow shoulder for .3 miles to another green gate on the right hand side of the road.
Looking back at the gate and Wintel Road
I followed a grassy track which split 100 feet from the gate and turned right (left would have led me to the Rail Trail Parking area). The path led past a little standing water before leading onto a dike along Wood Duck Pond.
I passed the Rail Trail Boardwalk and stayed on the dike now retracing our steps from our first visit.
The dike turned south wrapping around Dunlin Pond.
The boardwalk across Dunlin Pond from the dike.
Ring-necked ducks taking off.
Hawk and a sparrow
At the far end of Dunlin Pond the dike split again at Killdeer Marsh. Here I turned right and looped around Killdeer Marsh.
Another yellow legs?
Mustard along Killdeer Marsh
A killdeer amid ducks at Killdeer Marsh
The dike didn’t quite go all the way around the marsh but it was easy walking along the edge of a field to get back to the dike on the north side of the marsh. The only issue was a 5 foot wide wet area between the field and dike where try as I might my shoes wound up wet. Once I was back on the dike I had the choice to go left back along Killdeer Marsh or a different dike veering off to the right along South Pond. I chose right and followed this dike around the end of South Pond.
Cinnamon Teal in South Pond
The dike led me to one of two actual trails in the Refuge, the Rail Trail.
Damaged trees from the ice storm earlier this year.
I turned right at the boardwalk and followed it over the water to the dike on the far side.
I think this is a ring-necked duck and a lesser scaup.
At the dike I turned right and retraced my steps back to Witnel Road and headed back toward Pintail Marsh. Instead of going to the gravel parking lot that I had been at earlier I left the road at the Pintail/Egret Marsh Boardwalk Trailhead.
I followed this short boardwalk along and over Bashaw Creek to a bird blind.
Again on the trail map it appeared that the boardwalk connect to a dike at Egret Marsh but it instead it dead ended at the blind.
The dike from the blind.
I turned around and headed back to Witnel Road a little dissapointed but then I spotted a little green frog on a log and all was good.
When I got back to the lot a Pintail Marsh I turned right thinking I would follow the dike on the other side Pintail Marsh and Mohoff Pond.
I stayed right when I passed another dike that allowed for a loop around Frog Marsh and stopped at a photo blind (reservable from 10/1-3/31).
At the junction with the other end of the Frog Marsh Loop I ran into another obstacle, more active nesting had closed the dike along Pintail Marsh so I did the loop around Frog Marsh and back to the gravel lot I went.
I retraced my steps on the dike along the west side of Pintail Marsh before turning right on the dike between the marsh and Mohoff Pond.
Killdeer on the dike.
A whole lot of geese in the air ahead.
I turned left at a four way junction where the closed dike joined from between Pintail and Egret Marshes.
I was now on a dike between Mohoff Pond (left) and Mallard Marsh (right).
Ducks and geese were everywhere as I trudged directly into the wind along the dike.
Another green-winged teal
A green-winged teal and a yellow legs
My second stop wound up coming to 7.5 miles making for a 10.7 mile day. I only passed two people all day and saw a lot of different birds which made for a great hike. If I were a more patient person I would have sat at a blind or two and waited for some closer encounters but I prefer to keep moving so I have to settle for the long distance shots more often than not. Either way Ankeny is a great place to visit. Happy Trails!
We normally only do one hike a month from November through April but a forecast of sunny skies and highs in the low to mid 60’s combined with a chance to see some early wildflowers was enough to break that rule and head to the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. The first wildflowers (usually grass widows and/or parsleys) can show up as early as January in areas such as Catherine Creek (post) with things really picking up by late March and running through early June in the upper meadow of Dog Mountain (post). We had previously been to Catherine Creek (along with Coyote Wall), the Tom McCall Preserve (post), Columbia Hills State Park (post), Memaloose Hills (post) and Swale Canyon (post) so for this outing we decided to check out the Lyle Cherry Orchard and Sevenmile Hill.
Before we got to those wildflower hikes we planned a quick stop at the Mitchell Point Trailhead to make the 1.1 mile climb up to the top of the point. We had actually stopped here in 2018 (after our Memaloose Hills hike) to take the Wygant Trail up to a viewpoint. Originally my plan had been to do these three hikes in a different order starting at the Lyle Cherry Orchard and ending with Mitchell Point but after looking at the plan a little more I realized that it had two flaws. First the exit to the Mitchell Point Trail is only accessible from the eastbound lanes of I-84 and there is no westbound access to I-84 from the trailhead either. (I had made this mistake with the outing in 2018 leading to some extra driving.) The second issue had to do with crowds and our never ending attempt to avoid them. Leaving Mitchell Point as the last hike might have meant dealing with some crowds whereas we didn’t expect Sevenmile Hill to be busy. Our plan seemed to be working pretty well as we were the first car at the Mitchell Point Trailhead.
We headed to the left of the signboard to the Mitchell Point Trail which began climbing almost immediately.
The trail switchbacked up a forested hillside with a few blooming toothworts.
Bench at a switchback.
We then crossed a talus slope beneath Mitchell Point where lots of tiny blue-eyed Mary grew amid the rocks.
Reroute below Mitchell Point
Mushrooms’ and some sedums.
Views to the west along the Columbia River opened up as we climbed.
The trail briefly reentered the forest and climbed to a set of power lines and an accompanying road.
The trail never quite reached the road instead turning east then north as it headed out toward Mitchell Point.
We followed the trail out onto Mitchell Points Ridge which was dotted with wildflowers including a lot of bright grass widows.
Yellow bell lily
Desert parsley and woodland stars
Gold stars and woodland stars
In addition to the wildflowers the view from Mitchell Point was impressive.
North across the Columbia River into Washington
In typical Gorge fashion it was a bit windy (a theme that would continue throughout the day) which didn’t seem to bother the birds.
Looks like moss for a nest maybe?
We returned the way we’d come arriving back at the trailhead to find we were still the only people there, but we weren’t alone.
Turkeys on the Wygant Trail
At just over 2 miles round trip the hike to Mitchell Point made for a nice short hike but it comes at a price gaining over a thousand feet on the way up. From this trailhead we continued east to Hood River where we paid the $2 toll to cross the bridge into Washington. We continued east on SR 14 through the town of Lyle then parked at a gravel pullout on the left hand side of the road just beyond a tunnel. This was the unsigned trailhead for the Lyle Cherry Orchard Hike. There were maybe a half dozen or so cars here already which we were pleased with given the large number of cars we already passed by at the Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek Trailheads (and it wasn’t even 8:45 yet). The unsigned trail starts near the eastern end of the parking area and passing along a rock wall through oak trees with lots of poison oak.
From the signboard the trail continues to climb through the rock and oaks to a plateau where the poison oak is briefly left behind.
Lots of death camas blooming on the plateau.
We followed the trail as it headed gradually uphill toward a second plateau.
Looking up at the cliffs above.
Balsamroot blooming below the rim.
At a fork in the trail we detoured left for a view of the Columbia River.
We returned to the main trail which began to climb the hillside below the rim. While it was still a couple of weeks from prime wildflower season here there was a good balsamroot display along with a few other flowers in bloom.
Woodland stars with some lupine leaves
Columbia desert parsley
The trail leveled out again after reaching the rim of the upper plateau where it also reentered an oak woodland.
View west (With a snow capped Mt. Defiance (post) in the distance.)
Amid the oaks were some additional types of flowers.
Yellow bell lily, woodland stars, grass widows and shooting stars.
Yellow bell lilies
Sagebrush false dandelions
Just under 2.5 miles from the trailhead we came to a junction which is the start of a short loop. We stayed left arriving at an old road bed a short distance later where we turned right and soon entered the site of the old orchard. Nearly all the cherry trees are gone and the few that remain only have a few branches that continue to bloom and we were too early for those.
The trail looped through the now open meadow with views east of the Columbia River.
A short spur trail on the SW part of the loop led to a viewpoint to the west.
Tom McCall Point and the Rowena Plateau with Mt. Defiance in the distance.
After checking out the view we completed the loop and headed back the way we’d come. We had only encountered a couple of other hikers up to this point (we’d seen more from afar) but the return trip was a different story. There was a lot of mask donning and stepping aside on the way back to the trailhead.
Hikers on the trailhead and below.
One bit of excitement on the return trip was spotting a couple of orange-tip butterflies. We rarely see these pretty butterflies and it’s even rarer that I manage to get any kind of picture.
Just my third photo of an orange-tip.
The hike here for us came to 5.5 miles with another 1200′ of elevation gain giving us over 2200′ for the day so far. The parking area was now a full two rows of cars with more arriving (it was between 11:30 & 12:00). We quickly packed up and opened a spot for someone else and once again headed east on SR 14. We re-crossed the Columbia River on Highway 197 into The Dalles and took I-84 west for 5 miles following the Oregon Hikers directions to the Sevenmile Hill Trailhead
We weren’t sure how popular this hike is given that there are no official trails. That question, at least for this time of the year, was answered when we pulled into the empty gravel pullout.
Our plan was to follow the entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide (description). The area consists of Forest Service land surrounded by private holdings (note the no trespassing sign across the road in the photo above).
We headed uphill and left, away from the blocked road passing a gravel pit on our left.
We were supposed to reach a knoll with a small windbreak made out of erratics (rocks from the Rocky Mountains deposited by the Missoula Floods). The first knoll we climbed had some erratics but no windbreak.
Mt. Hood and Columbia desert parsley from the first knoll we tried.
Top of knoll #1.
A lone balsamroot blossom.
We weren’t sure if this was the right knoll or not but we did know from the map in the field guide that we should continue uphill and to the left. We kept climbing up the grassy hillside and reached the top of another knoll where we did indeed find a small windbreak.
From the knoll we followed a faint grassy track past a spring to a stand of oak trees.
The path leading past the spring to the oaks.
There was a fence on the hillside at the oak trees. We got a bit confused here reading the hike description. It reads “Head up gradually to your left, reaching a draw. Walk across the broken fence line here and cross a small bench. Continue hiking up to your left. At some point, you should see the southwest boundary corner of the property and a fence line ahead.” We had not noticed another fence line and this fence was broken here with no signs so we continued on the faint path. That was a mistake and the fence we passed through was the boundary. When we reached a small crest where we could see everything ahead of us there was no other fence in sight.
We quickly turned and began heading uphill to the NE to relocate the fence line and get ourselves on the correct side (Our apologies to whomever that land belongs too).
Back on the right side
Now we were back on course and followed the fence line uphill. While the wildflowers here would have been better from mid to late April there were a few splashes of color here and there.
Balsamroot surrounded by some little white flowers.
Lupine thinking about blooming.
Yellow bell lilies
We deviated from the description as we neared the top of the hill electing not to follow the fence through a stand of oak trees, where the guide indicates there is a profusion of poison oak, opting instead to pass through the oaks lower on the hillside.
We didn’t notice any poison oak here.
On the far side of the oaks we turned almost directly uphill reaching a viewpoint where Mt. Adams rose to the north beyond the Columbia River.
A grass widow at the viewpoint.
Mt. Hood over the oak stand.
We turned right along the rim following deer and elk trails through the oaks and past more viewpoints.
From a grassy rise along the ridge we could see a faint path leading into another stand of trees where we could also make out the fence line marking the eastern boundary of the Forest Service Land.
We headed downhill and followed the path to the fence line and then followed it down.
The Dalles beyond the fence line.
Heading down the fence line.
As we lost elevation we began to see quite a few more flowers. It seemed that the flowers at this eastern end were ahead of those to the west.
Large head clover
A lupine with blossoms.
Hillside covered in Columbia desert parsley
Our car had been joined by one other. (middle left of photo)
We turned away from the fence on an old farm road following it back to the road near the trailhead by the “No Trespassing” signs.
This loop came in at 4.3 miles according to my GPS and was at least 1250′ of elevation gain which was made more difficult by the cross country terrain. There was little to no level footing for the vast majority of this hike and coming after we had already hiked 7.6 miles and gained 2200′ it really tired us out. That being said it was a great day to be out. One thing to note is that all three hikes are in located in tick country (we were lucky enough not to pick up any) and both Sevenmile Hill and Lyle Cherry Orchard are in rattlesnake country (again didn’t see any). Happy Trails and stay safe out there!
We were hoping for some nicer weather on the Saturday before the dreaded “Spring forward” which always seems to be the harder of the two time changes to adjust to. In addition to adjusting to the struggle, adjusting to the change springing forward also meant losing an hour of light in the morning when we like to do our hiking. We got our nice weather so we headed out to Lincoln City to explore some of the nearby trails and cross off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes at Roads End Beach. The hike at Roads End (#35 in the 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range) was one nine remaining featured hikes in his third edition which we reverted back to this year due to not knowing when (if) the final featured hike in his 4th edition, the Salmonberry Railroad, will reopen to hikers (post).
The Roads End hike is a roughly 2.8 mile out and back along Roads End Beach at the north end of Lincoln City which gave us an opportunity to add some mileage to our day and check out two other nearby destinations. The first of which was a quick stop at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Lincoln City. With the time change not yet happening we were able to arrive early and start hiking by 6:30am and more importantly drive through Lincoln City without any traffic to speak of.
The refuge offers a single trail, a short lollipop loop (just under a mile) around Alder Island. Canoeing and kayaking is a popular activity here. It was in the mid 30’s as we set off from the small parking area so there were no human paddlers out yet but the frosty temperature didn’t dissuade others.
Goose and a mallard in the channels.
While the Sun wasn’t quite above the Coast Range great blue herons were already busy working on building a nest in some trees across a channel.
It wasn’t just the bigger birds that were busy. A ruby-crowned kinglet was busy in the brush.
Approximately .2 miles north of the parking area we made a hard right turn crossing over some water to Alder Island and the start of the short loop.
Several interpretive signs were placed along the loop.
A reminder that COVID-19 is still an issue.
The trail passed through stands of alder as it followed a small branch of the Siletz River for .3 miles before reaching a bench facing the main branch of the river. There were a number of ducks a geese in the channel but the highlight came when Heather spotted something heading down to the water on the far side ahead of us. It was a river otter! This had been one of, if not the, most wanted animal sightings on our list of critters we’d yet to see while hiking (or driving to a hike). Unfortunately the otter was too quick and far enough away in the low morning light to get more than a blurry photo of it swimming across the channel.
The larger muddy area along the bank ahead on the right is where Heather spotted the otter.
Alder lined trail.
Blurry photo of a non-breeding male hooded merganser.
The blurry river otter.
The bench might have been a nice place to sit for awhile had it been a little warmer but we needed to keep moving so we continued on the loop which led us back along the main river channel,
Goose and a bufflehead (the duck not the post)
Spring is coming!
We completed the loop and headed back to the car just as the Sun was cresting the foothills.
We then drove back through Lincoln City (still with very little traffic) and made our way to the parking lot at the Roads End Recreation Site.
Sentry at the Roads End entrance.
We weren’t quite ready to head out along the beach though. Before doing the featured hike we planned on visiting the increasingly popular God’s Thumb. We were hoping that 7:30am was still early enough to avoid the crowds that were sure to show up later in the day. While there are two closer trailheads (The Villages and the Sal La Sea Trailhead), parking at Roads End meant having access to bathrooms and not having to move the car again.
We followed the Oregon Hikers Field Guide directions (see link for God’s Thumb above) to make our way up through the neighborhood between Roads End and the Sal La Sea Trailhead.
There weren’t any people but the neighborhood was fairly active.
We passed a single car parked at the trailhead as we continued on by a gate across an old roadbed.
We had walked up some steep hills through the neighborhood and that theme continued on the old road bed for .4 miles before leveling out at a ridge top junction.
It’s hard to tell just how much uphill this is. Fortunately it wasn’t very muddy.
A little easier to see the uphill here, this was near the top.
We turned left at the junction following the ridge out to The Knoll, an open space overlooking Lincoln City to the south.
The Roads End parking area is the open green space in the center along the ocean.
The Pacific Ocean.
Roads End Point jutting out to the north.
We returned to the junction and continued straight following the ridge north.
More signs of Spring, salmonberry blossom and buds.
Sitka spruce and ferns along the ridge.
At the far end of the ridge (after approx 1/3 of a mile) we came to another junction with a trail coming up from the trailhead at The Villages.
Here we turned left and began a short descent that looked to be in some doubt due to several large downed trees.
The downed trees ahead in the distance.
As it turned out there was just one tree to duck under while the rest looked to have been recently taken care of.
The last of the tree fall.
The trail then dipped into an open meadow before rising again on the far side.
Mud had begun to be a bit of an annoyance at this point.
After reaching the top of the hill the trail briefly continued north before turning left in a grassy meadow.
The trail getting nearing the turn left.
Lone tree in the meadow.
Lone robin in the lone tree.
From the meadow there was a view of Cascade Head (post) to the north and to God’s Thumb jutting out into the Pacific to the west.
The trail to God’s Thumb crosses a narrow saddle before climbing steeply to the top of the thumb. We were thankful that it hadn’t rained for a few days which eliminated any issues that mud might have made with footing. We were also pleased that we didn’t see any other hikers in the area that we might have to pass on the way there.
Heather crossing the saddle (left of the big bush)
Cascade Head from the saddle.
Final pitch up to the top.
The view of Cascade Head was great from the thumb and we were able to enjoy it by ourselves.
Not quite to ourselves, we shared the space briefly with some chestnut backed chickadees.
Cascade Head and the mouth of the Salmon River.
Roads End Point and Lincoln City
Rocks below God’s Thumb
We did actually see another hiker but he wasn’t coming down the trail to God’s Thumb, he was heading down to the ocean in the cove north of us.
After enjoying the view for a bit we headed back. We finally passed some other hikers just as we started down into the valley before climbing back up to the junction at the ridge end. It was beginning to be a fairly steady stream of hikers as we reached the junction where we forked left to make a loop out of the middle of the hike. The old road bed on this side of the ridge was much muddier than what we’d come up, but we also spotted quite a few yellow violets and a single toothwort along this route.
A reasonable representation of the wet/muddy conditions on this part of the hike.
A mile and a half from the junction we arrived at the very crowded trailhead at The Villages. Here we turned left on a little path which quickly joined another old roadbed.
Less than a half mile later we were passing another gate along Sal La Sea Drive.
The gate and Sal La Sea Drive in the distance.
It’s not a hike at the coast without some skunk cabbage.
At Sal La Sea Drive I suggested turning left as it looked like the road would take us back downhill almost directly to the Roads End Recreation Site but Heather wasn’t sold on that. (She was sure there was a hidden uphill that would be worse than what we were facing to get back to the Sal La Sea Trailhead.) Never one to pass up a climb we turned right and headed up Sal La Sea Drive. It was a little over 3/4 of a mile back to that trailhead (where there were now 9 cars) and somewhere in there Heather realized she had chosen poorly. We then retraced our path from earlier back down to Roads End. Along the way we saw over a half dozen more deer among the houses which we found humorous, in the woods we saw no deer and a bunch of people and in the neighborhood we saw no people and a bunch of deer.
While our plan to avoid people had worked well at Alder Island and for our visits to The Knoll and God’s Thumb there was no chance for privacy along the beach at Roads End. While it was busy it was a nice walk along the beach for almost a mile and a half to Roads End Point where continuing is only possible during low tides.
An immature bald eagle flew overhead at one point.
Little waterfall along the beach.
Roads End Point
Not going around that today.
We headed back saying one last goodbye to God’s Thumb and The Knoll before driving back home to Salem.
God’s Thumb on the right.
Hikers on The Knoll
Our mileage for the day was right around ten with a mile coming at Alder Island, two and three quarters at Roads End and the remaining six and a quarter being The Knoll and God’s Thumb. There was 1420′ of elevation gain all of which was during the portion from Roads End to God’s Thumb and back. While we’ve had good weather for all three of our hikes thus far in 2021 this hike was the first to truly feel like Winter is coming to an end. Happy Trails!
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.
We parked at a pullout before a gate marking the start of private land owned by McCracken Woodlands LLC and set off on foot.
After crossing over a small stream we started getting views of the North Fork Nehalem River on our right.
We were soon passing one of several clearcuts.
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.
A mile into the hike we crossed the river on a bridge.
Just under a half a mile from the bridge we came to North Fork Falls where some steps led down to a fish ladder.
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.
Gods 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.
Frog 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.
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).
Not much in the way of flowers yet but there was a bit of skunk cabbage in bloom.
Some low hanging trees, presumably from the storm. The roads had been cleared but occasional damage along the side of the road was evident.
There were no recent clearcuts in the Clatsop State Forest section but there was evidence of past logging.
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.
Not 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.
The 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.
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.
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.)
Another quarter mile brought us to the final two falls. A stepped fall on Fall Creek and another side stream flowing 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.
We both thought that this thick moss looked like some sort of hairstyle.
A brief mist passed over but that was it and we enjoyed some bright blue sky as we finished up our outing.
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!