High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Canyon Creek Meadows

Canyon Creek Meadows had been a monkey on our backs, or is it packs for hikers? We had tried several times in the past two years to get this hike in and either snow or forest fires forced us to change our plans. We had put it back on our schedule for August 2nd this year hoping this year would be different. Thanks to a very helpful trip report on 7/26 by pdxgene via we learned that the meadows were not only snow free but the flowers were in bloom. We were now in danger of being too late for the full flower display so we moved the hike up in the rotation and off we went.

It was a beautiful morning at the Jack Lake trail head and after a minor detour around the wrong side of the lake we were headed for the lower Canyon Creek meadow. The trail alternated between burned and unburned forest as it climbed to the first meadow. The flowers here were still in bloom despite some already feeling the effects of a warm and dry late Spring and early Summer.
Beyond the meadow Three Fingered Jack filled the horizon beneath a blue sky.

As we continued on toward the upper meadow the views of the mountain got better and better. A near full moon hovered above the summit all morning shifting positions as time passed. We skirted the edge of the upper meadow and headed up toward a saddle with a view of a cirque lake below a glacier on the flank of Three Fingered Jack. The path was steep with a lot of loose rock but the views were more than worth it, and a healthy wind quickly cooled us off on top of the saddle.

Looking south from the saddle
Looking south from the saddle

We had some food and explored the ridge along the saddle where we found a less steep trail down from the east. In the post on portlandhikers Gene had mentioned that after 12:00 the shadows from the mountain causes issues with picture quality from the upper meadow so we wanted to get back down before we ran out of time. Canyon Creek flows out of the cirque lake through the upper meadow creating a wonderful wildflower display. The lupine was especially thick here.

After exploring the upper meadow we followed Canyon Creek down to the lower meadow and began the loop back to the car. (To help control the foot traffic on this popular hike there is a loop that you are asked to hike in a clockwise direction.) Before we got back we took a short side trip to Wasco Lake for no particular reason. It was pretty and quite but we were ready to get back to the car so we took a quick break and finished the hike and removed the monkey from our packs. Happy Trails.

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Elk Meadows

Greetings, we recently made our first visit of the year to Mt. Hood. We had taken a handful of trips to the west side of the mountain last year and had fallen in love with it. So for this hike we decided to check out the east flank of Oregon’s tallest mountain. The plan was to travel a big loop around the area to hit as many sights as possible. Starting at the Elk Meadows trail head just off highway 35 near the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area the plan was to hike around the far end of the meadow, head up Gnarl Ridge for an up close view, then take the Timberline Trail through Mt. Hood Meadows, and return to the car via the Umbrella Falls trail to visit two waterfalls along the East Fork Hood River. Total planned distance was 15.2 miles (which I verified using two different maps).

We set off on the Elk Meadows and soon reached the boundary of the Mt. Hood Wilderness at Clark Creek. After crossing the creek (and into the wilderness) another .6 miles brought us to Newton Creek and a nice view of Mt. Hood.
We crossed the creek on a makeshift bridge and began climbing up towards Elk Meadows. Purple lupine began lining the trail as we approached the meadows and soon we could see the open green expanse through the trees ahead. Our arrival was ill timed as it was early on a weekend morning so many backpackers were camped around the perimeter. We did our best to avoid disturbing the campers and skipped a visit to the old shelter, but we still managed to get some good views.

Mt. Hood from Elk Meadows
Mt. Hood from Elk Meadows

We veered off the perimeter trail and took the Gnarl Ridge trail up toward the mountain. After a mile or so we reached the junction with the Timberline Trail on its way around Mt. Hood. We continued on the Timberline Trail through ever better wildflower meadows as we gained elevation. This portion of the trail winds around Lamberson Butte which kept Mt. Hood hidden for awhile. As we worked our way around the butte we spotted Mt. Adams and the very top of Mt. Rainier away to the north. Eventually forest began to give way to sand and rocks as we approached the Gnarl Ridge viewpoint. Dwarf lupine and buckwheat dotted the drier ground able to survive in the exposed dry climate. Mt. Hood now loomed before us while the Newton Creek Canyon replaced Lamberson Butte on our left. Behind us to the south snowy Mt. Jefferson was joined by the Three Sisters and Broken Top in Central Oregon. To the SE there appeared to be a fire which it turned out was in fact a forest fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

We had been informed by a fellow hiker we’d run into earlier that there were a couple of waterfalls coming off of snow melting higher up on the mountain, but we couldn’t see them from where we’d stopped. We decided to split up and see if we could get a view so Heather headed further up the ridge while I turned around and scrambled up Lamberson Butte. From the butte I was able to see the falls, the higher of the two seemed to be flowing straight out of the rocks and sand.
I could barely make out Heather up on the ridge and decided to go see if she had a closer view from where she was. She didn’t, but she did find a great overlook of Newton Creek as it flowed down through the canyon.

Having found the waterfalls we headed back down the Timberline Trail and headed down into the Newton Creek Canyon. On the way down we ran into Ken, the hiker who had told us about the waterfalls, on his way back up the trail. He had been down to the creek but was uncertain of the correct place to cross and hadn’t been able to spot the continuation of the trail on the opposite side of the creek. I had seen trail reports on from hikers that had made the crossing in the previous couple of weeks so I knew there was one, and between my maps and GPS unit felt confident we could find it. Ken decided to join us and followed us back down to the creek. We wound up using the map, GPS, and binoculars but in the end found two good crossings and Ken quickly spotted the flagging marking the continuation of the trail.

One of the “bridges” across Newton Creek

At the top of the canyon Ken turned down the Newton Creek Trail to complete his planned loop and we continued clockwise around the mountain on the Timberline Trail.

When we reached the Clark Creek canyon the gray sandy ground began to give way to more plants and flowers. We could see down to Heather Creek as it flowed through the canyon on its way to join Clark Creek. The lush valley below was a stark contrast to the bare ridges beyond as Heather Creek flowed down the middle in a series of picturesque waterfalls.
We crossed the creek just above a nice waterfall surrounded by beautiful wildflowers. It was certainly one of the prettiest places we’ve been.

When we gained the canyon ridge we came to the Mt. Hood Meadows. The ski lifts sat idle and the ski runs were replaced with green slopes decorated with wildflowers. As we passed through the meadows we noticed that each one seemed to have a slightly different mix of flowers often with Mt. Hood towering above. One would be cat’s ear lilies and lupine, another beargrass and paintbrush, and yet another of western pasque flowers and paintbrush. This was a treat for Dominique since his favorite flower is the paintbrush but he also enjoys the “Hippies on a stick”.

Paintbrush & Western Pasque Flowers (Hippies on a Stick)
Paintbrush & Western Pasque Flowers (Hippies on a Stick)

After a little over three miles since saying goodbye to Ken we reached the Umbrella Falls Trail. In 3.5 miles we would be back at our car but first we had some waterfalls to visit. Up first was Umbrella Falls, the trails namesake. We crossed the East Fork Hood River just below this fall which was rather scenic.
Normally we would have stuck around for awhile and enjoyed a snack while taking in the falls, but after the unplanned scramble up Lamberson Butte and extra climb up the Timberline Trail it was getting late and we were all pretty tired. We continued on to a sign for Sahalie Falls which was down in a narrow canyon. The trail down was steep and after surveying it I went down alone. This was another nice waterfall and the breeze created by it felt wonderful. After climbing back out of the canyon we completed the final .5mi leg of our loop and arrived at the trail head.

Once again Mt. Hood had delivered a spectacular hike. In addition to the mountain views, wildflowers, and waterfalls we saw dozens of butterflies and a pair of Western Tanagers. We have three more hikes planned around Mt. Hood this year and can’t wait to see what else the mountain has to offer. Happy Trails.

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Diamond Peak Area High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report

Salt Creek Falls

It’s July and that means mosquito season in the Cascades. We had our first real run in with the pests on our 4th of July hike at Salt Creek Falls. Through June I had seen only one mosquito which managed to get me on top of Salmon Butte. For the next month or so we will be faced with a dilemma, brave the hoards of bloodsuckers in order to see some of the best wildflower displays of the year, or play it safe and wait them out missing the best of the flowers.

We chose to brave the danger (annoyance at the very least) for this waterfall hike. At 286′ Salt Creek Falls is Oregon’s second tallest and is conviniently close to Hwy 58 making it easy to make a quick stop. We tend to avoid quick and easy but trails leading past Salt Creek Falls head up into the Diamond Peak Wilderness passing a couple of lakes and two additional waterfalls giving us a good excuse for a visit.

We were the first car in the parking lot and apparently the mosquitoes were waiting because I had one land on me almost immediately after I got out of the car. Luckily we had come prepared. We were all wearing long pants/sleeves and sported less than fashionable bug net hats. After a good dousing in DEET (a necessary evil) we headed down the short path to the Salt Creek Falls viewpoint.

After viewing the falls we headed for the Vivian Lake which was 4 3/4mi away and our turnaround point. Shortly after crossing Salt Creek the trail split making a loop to Diamond Creek Falls possible. We headed right and soon came to Too Much Bear Lake. Despite the name we saw no sign of bears but the pretty lake was lined with blooming rhododendrons and reflecting the surrounding trees.

As we continued toward Diamond Creek Falls several signs announced viewpoints. Perhaps we had been spoiled by the views on our last few hikes, but the view from these viewpoints was a bit of a let down. Diamond Creek Falls on the other hand was lovely. A short side path led down into a narrow canyon and across Diamond Creek on a footbridge. Not long after the crossing Diamond Creek Falls came into view through the trees. It was an impressively sized 100′ cascade that fanned out over the rocks as it fell into a cozy grotto.

We returned to the main trail and continued past an upper viewpoint of Diamond Creek Falls to a second fork in the trail. The left fork would take us back to the parking area while the right continued on toward the wilderness and Vivian Lake. Before we made it to the wilderness we crossed Diamond Creek on a road bridge and passed over the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. When we reached the sign board announcing the start of the Diamond Peak Wilderness we found that there were no self-serve entry permits left in the box, but there were plenty of mosquitoes buzzing around. The forest was full of white flowers, bunchberry, anemone, and queens-cup with an occasional beargrass thrown in. Many of the rhododendron were in bloom as well. The trail followed Fall Creek up to a viewpoint of Fall Creek Falls, a smaller 40′ cascade lined at the top with pink rhododendron blooms. The viewpoint proved a good place for a brief rest as it was an exposed rocky outcrop and almost devoid of mosquitoes.

Another mile of climbing brought us to Vivian Lake but before we would reach the lake shore we had to cross a “meadow”. The meadow was still quite damp from recent snow melt but we did our best to stay on the driest part of the trail. Shooting star and heather blooms dotted the green meadow while frogs hopped toward the water where they joined tadpoles that had not yet emerged. Unfortunately it was also a perfect spot for mosquitoes and a large number of them swarmed the air just waiting for us to stop so we quickly made our way across to drier ground and followed the trail to the shore of Vivian Lake. We worked our way around the shore until we got a good view of the top of Mt. Yoran which reflected in the water. This would have been a wonderful spot for lunch if we hadn’t been on the menu. We stayed long enough to snap a couple pictures then headed back to the viewpoint above Fall Creek Falls where we had a better chance of a mosquito free lunch.

We made great time on the way back to the car as we tried to stave off the skeeters but we did stop when we spotted a golden mantled squirrel and later a cascade frog. We saw only one other hiker on the trail but the parking area was full of people and cars when we got back. Heather got the worst of the bites but still only about a half dozen, Dominique had a couple and I miraculously escaped with only one. Hopefully our next few hikes will have less mosquito activity, but we’ll be ready for the little buggers if need be. Happy Trails

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Wildcat Mountain

Greetings, I’m back again with another trip report from the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We were making a second attempt at Wildcat Mountain; which we had tried to do in May but had run into fresh snow on the road to the trail head. I’d seen a trip report on from 6/09/13 saying that the trail head was open and that in a couple of weeks the flower show should be going strong.

We were aware that there have been issues in this area with illegal shooting & off highway vehicle operation but the forest service and volunteers have been attempting to limit access and discourage the bad behavior. Evidence of this battle was everywhere on the drive to the trail head. Numerous “No Shooting” signs lined the road and almost every spur road was barricaded to block access. Unfortunately litter (mostly beer cans and empty shell casings) was visible in many areas as well. When we reached the new McIntyer Ridge trail head the parking area was covered in more of the same. It was a shame because the surrounding forest was beautiful.

We had a little difficulty finding the correct path due to our not noticing the small temporary trail sign at first. The OHV use was obvious given the width and condition of the trail. We followed this wide path for a mile to an opening which provided the first view of Mt. Hood. Shortly after the opening the tail narrowed leaving the OHV damage behind.

Rhododendrons bloomed in mass along the trail and we spotted several patches of avalanche lilies proving that snow had melted not too long before.

Avalanche lilies
Avalanche lilies

Next the trail entered a meadow of beargrass which was still, for the most part, not in bloom. I hoped that this would not be the case when we reached the next viewpoint in a meadow with a memorial bench.

The bench meadow did not disappoint. A good number of beargrass plumes rose up while paintbrush and penstemon added red and purple to the ground. The view of Mt. Hood was great and a pair of hummingbirds zoomed about visiting the flowers. One of them even landed long enough for me to get a couple of pictures.

Mt. Hood from the bench meadow
Mt. Hood from the bench meadow

Continuing along the path we reached a junction with the Douglas Trail and turned SE along it toward Wildcat Mountain. A short side trail led up to the summit where an old lookout tower once stood. In order to get a decent view we had to follow a very faint trail through rhododendrons toward Mt. Hood. When we reached an opening not only did we have a view of Mt. Hood but Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier now appeared to the NW. After returning to the Douglas trail we continued SE to another viewpoint on a rocky section of the ridge. More wildflowers covered this area and Mt. St. Helens and the top of Mt. Jefferson now joined the views.

Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden
Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden

We continued on the Douglas trail to it’s end at the Plaza trail and turned around. Clouds had begun forming around the mountains changing the views on the way back. We stopped again at the bench (I don’t think you could not stop here) where I took a few more pictures.
We heard a few gunshots on the way back which sounded like they may have been coming from the Douglas trail head, and learned from a couple of hikers that they had run into a pair of OHVs (illegally) on the trail. We hadn’t heard them, but the presence was easy to see. The trail had been torn up and fresh damage done to several trees and plants along the path.

It’s hard to understand why some people just can’t follow the rules or how they could possibly leave such a mess without regard to anyone or anything else. If you were able to bring it in you can certainly pack it back out. That’s enough of a rant from me 🙂 Despite the depressing state of the trail head and OHV damage it was a great hike with wonderful views. The best thing that could happen to this area is to have more responsible/legal users. Maybe that would discourage the bad seeds and give the area a chance to recover from their damage. Happy (clean) Trails

High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Salmon Butte

It’s raining mice! We’ve all heard the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” but on our last hike it rained mice (well a mouse anyway). I’ll explain that later, but for now let me tell you where we were. For Father’s Day we headed toward Mt. Hood and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Our plan was to head to the top of 4877′ Salmon Butte where we hoped to have a view of about a half dozen Cascade peaks.

The trail head is located next to the Salmon River, a fork of which it quickly crosses on a old bridge. The river is left for good here as the path follows an abandoned road up toward a former trail head. The road was closed down due to repeated washouts which we could see evidence of as we passed over numerous small creeks. The roadbed was fairly overgrown with green grasses and many small flowers. After travelling on the road for a little over a mile we reached the former trail head and turned into the forest. Not long after entering the forest a we came to a sign announcing the boundary of the wilderness. This was our first visit to the 62,455 acre Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness which is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

The trail offered no real views for the first 2.5 miles as it steadily climbed up through the forest. Rhododendrons lined the trail, many of which were in bloom adding a splash of pink amid the green. Although the total elevation gain for the trail is almost 3200′ it was rarely steep and never for very long which was a welcome change to last week’s trudge up Heartbreak Ridge. At the 2.6 mile mark a viewpoint at a rocky ridge end opens across the Mack Hall Creek Valley and to Salmon Butte itself. The ridge end was home to a small but diverse number of flowers. There were a couple red paintbrush, a single lupine, a lone cats ear, a couple of yellow flowers, and a blue filed gilia which was a first for us.

Leaving the viewpoint the trail reentered the forest and climbed along the west side of a ridge for 2 miles before we would reach the next viewpoint. Still there was plenty to keep us entertained which is where the mouse rain incident occurred. As we were walking along I saw something out of the corner of my eye and heard a “thump” on the hillside just to the left of us. My first thought was pine cone, but the thump was too loud and the color wrong for a cone so my next thought was that someone had thrown a rock at us. It nearly rolled into Heather. As she attempted to avoid it we realized it was an animal. The poor mouse got its bearings and scurried off the side of the trail and disappeared into the brush. We have no idea where it came from, if it just slipped or possibly escaped from a bird in the trees above, but we certainly won’t forget our first encounter with mouse rain.

At a switchback near the 3.9 mile mark a short side path extended out to a small but amazing hillside meadow. There was no view to speak of but the hill side was carpeted with plectritis, larkspur, and little yellow monkeyflowers.

The trail eventually moved from the west side of the ridge to the east and shortly after reached a viewpoint with the first view of Mt. Hood. Here beargrass and rhododendrons lined the trail in various states of bloom. For the next half mile the trail climbedd gently along the top of the ridge before a couple of steep switchbacks reached a second abandoned road. This was the road to the former lookout tower that no longer exists on Salmon Butte. As the road curved up around the summit Mt. Jefferson came into view to the south followed by Mt. Hood to the north. After .3 miles we reached the summit and sweeping across the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness to the north, south, and east.

Although there were a few clouds in the sky we had an excellent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens were clearly visible in Washington and the North Sister was peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Jefferson to the south. With an assist from the binoculars we were finally able to identify Mt. Rainier as well. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch as the only people on the summit. We were not alone though. A couple of swallowtail butterflies flitted around the summit and a gray jay flew up to check us out. There was also a chipmunk busy eating seed on a tree trunk, obviously knowing this was a perfect spot for lunch.

We passed several hikers on our way back down but no more falling mice. When we rejoined the old road near for the final 1.2 miles the scenery had changed. Scores of white candy flowers had opened to the sun and now dotted the green grass along the path. This was a really nice hike and in the end didn’t feel like we’d gone 3170′ in 11.2 miles. Until next time – Happy Trails (and watch out for falling mice :))

Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Mount June

Ah the elusive view. One of my favorite rewards on a hike is reaching that spot where the view simply takes your breath away. It could be the sudden appearance of a giant snow covered mountain that looks so close that you could reach out and touch it or a wildflower meadow that seems to have been painted by the Creator himself or a panoramic view that is so immense that you can barely take it all in. We’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty of places to hike where these types of views are possible. Possible but not guaranteed. We were reminded of that once again on our recent hike up Mount June.

There are a number of things that can end your chances to have the view you had hoped for. Hazy skies, forest fires, fog and clouds can all conspire against you. Unfortunately it was fog and clouds that proved our nemesis on Mount June. We had heard that the area is known for it’s fog but had also heard that often the rocky summit of Mount June rises above it to offer a view of a string of Cascade peaks. The forecast had called for a partly cloudy/mostly sunny morning with clear skies starting around 1:00pm.

We were the first to arrive at the trail head on this morning and were immediately struck by the darkness of the forest as soon as we stepped on the trail. Within a short distance we entered the fog which we had heard about.
We noticed a number of the same Spring flowers we had seen over a month earlier at lower elevations blooming here now. Trillium, sourgrass, and wood violets add color to the forest along with a good number of fawn lilies. Once again we were too early for the rhododendron & beargrass displays even though these were in bloom along the road at the trail head.

It appeared to be raining most of the time we were in the forest but upon reaching a series of meadows near Sawtooth rock we realized it was not in fact raining. The fog was so damp that the condensation was falling from the trees creating the rainy affect. The meadows here were filled with wildflowers glistening with water droplets. The foggy conditions meant no views and even made it hard to make out large Sawtooth rock at the far end of the meadows. We skipped a short side trail to it’s base hoping that on our way back the skies might be clearer.

We continued on the Sawtooth trail toward Hardesty Mountain. Our plan was to make a short loop on it’s summit and visit the sight of a former lookout tower. As we reached our furthest point a hint of blue sky seemed to be just a little further to the North just out of our reach. We had a snack at the former lookout site and then completed the loop and headed back hoping that blue sky might be waiting for us on Mount June.

This time we took the trail to the base of Sawtooth rock where the conditions were slightly improved. Many birds were now flying around the meadows and we spotted one with some bright yellow coloring. It turned out to be a yellow-rumped warbler.
The fog had lifted some and there was even a short lived opening giving us a view of the forest below, but Mount June was still hidden in the clouds.

We took the .5 mile climb to Mount June’s rocky summit which was for some reason particularly tough on this day. I don’t know if it was due to it being toward the end of the hike or the cumulative effect of a week of hiking but it was a trudge. Much to our disappointment the we found the same clouds and fog on the summit as we had been in all day. We decided to have some lunch and hope that the sunny skies that had been forecast would materialize since it was just now 1:00pm. The clouds kept rolling past us and all we managed were a couple of very short glimpses of Mt. Bailey and the ghostly outline of Mt. Thielsen to the SE.
The view had eluded us once again, simply teasing us with a small brief sample of what could have been.

It was a good example of just why the elusive view is one of the most rewarding things for me on a hike. The mountains and forests don’t move but there is never a guarantee that they will be there to be seen. The view must be pursued and caught to be enjoyed.

After lunch we returned to the car where fluffy white clouds floated by in the blue sky. As we drove away there was no missing Mount June, it was the only peak with a cloud draped over it’s summit. We have many more hikes planned where we will have a chance to capture the elusive view, and after Mount June it will be even sweeter when we finally do. Happy Trails

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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Trip report

Saddle Mountain

I am not sure we had completely dried out after our Hamilton Mountain hike (I know ours shoes hadn’t) but we were back in the “saddle” yesterday for another hike. Saddle Mountain state park was our destination, located in the NW corner of Oregon just 20 miles from the coastal city of Seaside. Saddle Mountain is known for it’s wildflowers and rare plants as well as being the highest point in northwest Oregon.

Once again we were we greeted at the trail head by a layer of low clouds which made for a damp morning. The good news was that there was no wind or rain this time. The trail started out amid salmon and thimble berry bushes in a forest of alders. The trail climbs 1603 feet in just 2.5 miles so the forest and plants changed often. A quick .2 climb to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint provided a view up toward Saddle Mountain’s cloud covered summit.

We returned to the summit trail and headed up through the fog passing multiple meadows full of wildflowers and lush forests. Much like our previous hike, visibility was limited to a couple hundred feet due to the low clouds but the variety of plants and flowers we were encountering kept us entertained. The trail itself was fairly steep and much of it consisted of wire enclosed rocks which looked like it could be slick but we didn’t have any real problems. Several picnic tables were placed along the trail at switchbacks which allowed for breaks from the climb if needed.

As we approached the summit we noticed some very slight breaks in the clouds which gave us hope. We decided to have some lunch and spend some time at the summit hoping that some views would open up. The clouds were actually moving from east to west toward the Ocean which we could now occasionally see through the clouds. We spent over an hour watching the clouds pass by us as better and better views opened up on all sides. Many swallows zoomed about as we waited and a Junco and a crow also stopped by to check us out. As the view opened up to the west was the Pacific, north the city of Astoria, OR and the Columbia River flowing into the Ocean
and to the south the coastal mountains. The only disappointment was that on a clear day the Cascade mountains from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Jefferson would have been visible to the East.

We headed back down now able to see the forest below. The wildflowers became even prettier as the increased light made their colors more intense. We took the side trail to the Humbug Mountain viewpoint again to get the cloudless view of Saddle Mountain before returning to the car.

If you are a wildflower or plant enthusiast this is a great hike, especially from May-July when the flowers are on display. If you can find a clear day (which isn’t easy near the Oregon Coast) the view is a great bonus. Next up is Mount June and yet another attempt at a view of the Cascades. Until then-Happy Trails.

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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tamolitch Pool

Amazing! That is a good start in describing Tamolitch Pool which was the highlight of our most recent hike. Beautiful, gorgeous, and spectacular would also be fitting. We were looking for a good rainy day hike and decided on a section of the McKenzie River Trail in the Willamette National Forest. We had hiked a different section of the trail in September that passed Sahalie & Koosah Falls. This time we would start further down the McKenzie River with Koosah Falls being our turn around point.

We arrived armed with our rain gear and set off through a lush, damp forest. The trail quickly descended to the river, crossed two creeks on bridges, and traveled next to the McKenzie for awhile. It then climbed above the river as it crossed an old lava flow with moss covered rocks and numerous views to the roaring river below.
McKeznie River

Our first view of Tamolitch Pool came just after the 2 mile mark. It was one of those “take your breath away” moments. The pool sits in a small bowl below a dry waterfall. The crystal clear water offers a view to the bottom and is a blue that is truly stunning.
We spent some time exploring the rim of the bowl watching the McKenzie River flow full speed ahead from this still pool’s outlet.

After a snack we continued up the trail following the now dry riverbed toward Koosah Falls. Somewhere below us the McKenzie River flowed underground, buried by a lava flow, on it’s way to Tamolitch Pool. The forest along this portion of the trail changed often as we crossed the old riverbed on a series of log bridges. After another 3 miles we reached Carmen Reservoir (and most importantly bathrooms) where the McKenzie was once again visible above ground. Another 0.4 mile stretch brought us to Koosah Falls and our turn around point.

On our way back we stopped again at the pool which was just as stunning now as it was in the morning. Round trip to the pool from the trail head at Trailbridge is only 4.2 miles. Koosah Falls is a little over 11 but can be visited from the nearby Sahalie Falls parking area on a 2 mile loop. The McKenzie River Trail runs a total distance of 26.5 miles with numerous access points making it easy to do the entire trail in shorter sections. Until next time – Happy Trails 🙂

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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Angel’s Rest & Wahkeena Falls

The weather threw us a curve ball this last week. After enjoying a couple of weeks of summer like weather snow returned to some of the lower elevations. A fact we discovered on the way to our most recent hike. After seeing the amount of snow on the road to the Wildcat Mountain trail head we decided to alter our plans a bit and headed to the Columbia Gorge instead.

Despite the side trip we arrived at the Angel’s Rest trail head (Bridal Veil exit 28 off I-84) before 7:30am. There was only one car in the parking area which we knew would change by the time we hiked back out given the popularity of the Gorge trails. The weather was typical of our experience hiking in the area, low clouds and mild temps. The trail set off in a damp green forest and made it’s way on a steady climb up to Angel’s Rest, a rocky bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The trail was lined with flowers along the way, mostly larkspur and columbine but many different varieties were present. After passing Coopey Falls views begin to open of the Columbia River to the west especially as you reach a rock field crossing.

We were surprised by the width of Angel’s Rest when we arrived at the bluff. It was much wider than we had expected and we spent some time exploring around the area and because we arrived early we had it all to ourselves.
When we first arrived here we were in the midst of some very low clouds which obstructed our views but they eventually moved on allowing us to see across the river to Washington.

The round trip to Angel’s Rest is about 4.6 miles so we had planned on combining this hike with the Wahkeena Falls trail a couple of miles to the east via the Foxglove trail. This trail obviously doesn’t see much traffic and was fairly overgrown but usable. By the time we had completed this 1.3 mile segment we were pretty soaked from the damp leaves that we brushed against. We then continued on the Angel’s Rest trail passing pretty Wahkeena Spring to the junction with the Wahkeena trail.

The Wahkeena Trail followed Wahkeena creek down through the forest with a brief side trip to Fairy Falls.
After passing below the falls the trail rejoins Wahkeena Creek crossing it twice before joining a paved path that switchbacks down to Wahkeena Falls.

The closer we got to the falls the more crowded the trail became but we eventually picked our way down to the double cascade of Wahkeena Falls.
Next came the most dangerous portion of the hike, crossing the historic Columbia River Highway and the seemingly endless stream of cars creeping along trying to get a glimpse of the waterfalls along the way. After a successful game of Frogger and a brief pit stop we headed back up the Wahkeena Trail to begin the 6.7 mile trek back to our car.

By now the trails had become even more crowded but once we reached the junction we lost the crowds for awhile. The advantage of an early start was clear upon arriving back at Angel’s Rest. At least two dozen people, likely more were mulling around on the bluff that we had had to ourselves just 6 hours earlier. When we reached the now full parking area cars were lined along the shoulders of the highway and more were cruising around looking for a free spot. The gorge has some amazing waterfalls, beautiful forests and amazing views which explains the crowds. Our advice is to avoid the weekends, get there early, and don’t stop at the most popular spots. With a vast network of trails many of the real popular falls can be reached from less crowded trail heads if you’re willing to do a little extra hiking and really when is that such a bad thing :). Happy Trails ~

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

South Breitenbush Gorge Trail

Well it seems that summer has arrived early in the Pacific NW. We’ve enjoyed some unusually warm/dry weather which has me making some adjustments to our hiking plans. We’re hoping that some of the trails will be snow free earlier this year than the previous couple. On the flip side we’re hoping that the weather doesn’t translate to an early or particularly bad fire season, but I digress. On to the trip report for the South Breitenbush Gorge trail.

For the second hike in a row we headed to the Detroit, OR recreation area, and for the 2nd week in a row we were greeted with great weather. This time we would be hiking the first 3.6 miles of the South Breitenbush Gorge trail. The trail itself continues on to Jefferson Park (one of my favorite places) where it meets the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail sets off near the South Breitenbush River and quickly crosses it on a series of footbridges. Our sources (William Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” and had warned that these bridges are prone to floods which was apparent upon seeing them. They were a patchwork of styles and materials which only added to their charm. This one in particular was rather bouncy which Dominique found a bit unsettling.

Once across the river the trail followed along at a distance through the forest. Never out of earshot but seldom in view the South Breitenbush flowed along on it’s way to Detroit Lake. In addition to the sound of the river there was almost always a bird singing, and though we didn’t see many we knew there was always one close by.

Like last week we spotted a flower that we had not previously seen on a hike. Last time it was Fairy Slippers (of which we saw many on this hike) and this time it was Fairy Bells which are twin small white flowers. In addition there were many other flowers in bloom including Wood Violets, Sourgrass, Red-Flowering Currant, Salmon Berries, Strawberries, Trillium, Vanilla Leaf, Oregon Grape, and Solomonseal. Rhododendron and Beargrass were present but had yet to bloom; although, there was a very colorful bud showing on a single Rhody and I managed to spot a Beargrass bloom along the road on the way back to Detroit. Heather is sure I am obsessed with Beargrass. She might be right.

The trail was well maintained and never steep. Our goal was to reach Roaring Creek then continue another .5miles to a pullout on road 4685 that can be used as an alternate trail access. Roaring Creek was the scenic highlight. The water cascading over mossy rocks down through the forest was very pretty.

After spending some time taking in the view we continued on to our turnaround spot where we spotted a rough skinned newt and headed back to the car. This was our final planned hike with less than 1000 feet of elevation gain as we get ready to start climbing up to some better viewpoints. Something of which we are all looking forward to. Until next time – Happy Trails.

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