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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Browder Ridge Trail to Heart Lake

It has become a tradition to spend the first half of our 4th of July hiking. This year we revisited the rocky viewpoint on Browder Ridge which we had previously hiked to via the Gate Creek Trail on 9/18/2012 (post). This time around we decided to start at the Browder Ridge Trailhead based on Matt Reeder’s hike description in his 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region guidebook.

The Browder Ridge Trail set off from paved Forest Road 15 near a small parking area.
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The trail climbed gently through a forest for the first half mile before steepening as it entered a series of large meadows.
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These lower meadows were filled with ferns and a smattering of wildflowers.
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After two sets of switchbacks the trail began to traverse SE along the hillside below the ridge top. The wildflower display really picked up along this traverse. Purple larkspur, red paintbrush, blue gilia, and white cat’s ear lilies joined several varieties of yellow wildflowers to paint the hillside with color.
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The Three Sisters could be seen at times as the trail alternated between forest and meadows.
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The flower combinations always seemed to be a little different in each of the meadows. At the 3 mile mark the trail entered a short stretch of burned forest along the ridge top.
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Just beyond the four mile mark there was a short side trail to a rocky viewpoint.
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Beyond the viewpoint the trail climbed gradually for three tenths of a mile to its end at an unsigned junction with the Gate Creek and Heart Lake Trails.
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Here we turned left regaining the ridge crest in the forest where we encountered the first downed trees of the hike and a huge cascade toad.
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The Heart Lake Trail then dropped over the ridge to the NE passing beneath some basalt cliffs through another wildflower meadow.
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The trail climbed through the meadow to a forested saddle a mile from the trail junction.
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The saddle is the official end of the Heart Lake Trail. Here we faced a choice, we could turn left on the unofficial continuation of the Heart Lake Trail and climb up the rocky ridge crest to a summit viewpoint or we could attempt to visit Heart Lake. Heart Lake was a little under three quarter miles to the north and 750′ below the saddle. In the guidebook Reeder used the terms “not for the faint of heart” and “hell on the knees” to describe the trip down to the lake on the abandoned portion of trail. Heather had been dealing with a calf strain and it had been acting up on the hike so she decided against the side trip but I was feeling adventurous. She would head up to the summit and wait for me there so we set a time that she should expect me to meet up with her. I gave myself an hour and a half figuring that we typically hike at a 2 – 2.5 mile per hour pace and the round trip to Heart Lake should have only been about 1.5 miles.

I set off downhill from the saddle on a well defined trail.
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In the first quarter of a mile the trail dropped into a basin losing 150′ at a not too steep grade. Being on the north facing side of the ridge at an elevation of 5400′ meant that there was still a decent amount of snow in this area though.
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I quickly lost the tread so I turned to the Forest Service Map loaded on the GPS unit in an attempt to re-find the trail. Unfortunately this was one of those instances where the location of the trail on the map is inaccurate. Reeder had included a GPS track on the topographic map in the guidebook but I’d left that with Heather so I didn’t immediately realize that the Forest Service map was wrong. The Forest Service map showed the trail passing through a meadow (where I found some marsh marigolds and shooting stars).
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At the far end of the meadow I spotted a couple of old fire rings amid the trees which made me think that maybe I was on the right track but less than 20 yards from the meadow I came to a line of impassable cliffs. Using the GPS I wandered to the right then back to the left several times looking for where the trail might possibly be. According to the GPS I had crossed and recrossed the trail multiple times but there was no way anyone was getting down that cliff. I was just about to give up when I suddenly remembered to use my brain. I thought I remembered that the track in the guidebook spent most of the time to the left of a creek and when I zoomed out a bit on the GPS I could see a creek to my left. I decided to bushwack over toward the head of the creek to see if I might be able to find something there. I could also see that the trail on the Forest Service map crossed the creek further downstream so if nothing else I might be able to follow the creek down to that point. As I neared the creek the forest opened up and I was able to spot what appeared to be a blaze on a tree on the opposite side.
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I crossed the creek on a log and sidehilled my way down past the blaze where I once again spotted trail.
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Once I had re-found the trail it was easy enough to follow. The tread was faint but visible with little blowdown and there were some remains of pink flagging to assist me.
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I disturbed a family of grouse as I descended.
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It was quite a descent too! This was one steep trail which mostly just headed straight down a ridge-line for about a quarter mile before beginning to level out as it neared a large meadow to the south of Heart Lake.
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Elephant head flowers bloomed in the marshy meadow along with some other wildflowers.
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The area was damp but I was able to find enough dry spots to make my way down to Heart Lake.
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The old trail shown on the map had passed around the lake on its west side to a campsite on the northern end. I found a brushy path that I was able to follow through more marshy meadows and a tangle of trees to that campsite.
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Due to all the wandering around I had done in the basin looking for the trail it had taken me nearly 40 minutes to reach the campsite which was 1.2 miles from the saddle. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me to climb back up so I didn’t stay at the campsite long before heading back. The climb back up was brutal but it only took me a half an our to reach the saddle but I still had a .3 mile climb up the ridge before I reached Heather.
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I managed to make it with a little under 15 minutes to spare. The meadow at the summit didn’t have quite the impressive flower display as the lower meadows had had but the view was nice even though it was a bit hazy.
IMG_8033Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

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After catching my breath we headed back returning the way we’d come. On the way back several flowers were now open making the view a little different.
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The pollinators were also now busy doing their things.
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We only encountered 8 other people, all on our way back to the car, which was surprising to us given how great the wildflowers were. We both preferred this approach to the shorter Gate Creek Trail, but to be fair it was a different time of year. Either way the views at the top are great and for those wanting some extra adventure there’s the option to visit Heart Lake. All in all another great hike in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Browder Ridge Trail and Heart Lake

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Jefferson Park via Woodpecker Ridge

We deiced to try a new approach this year for our annual trip to Jefferson Park. Our plan was to hike the Woodpecker Ridge Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail and then on to Jefferson Park with a possible bushwack to see Russell Creek Falls on the way back. We parked at the Woodpecker Ridge Trailhead which is a little over 5 miles along Forest Road 040.
Woodpecker Ridge Trailhead

The Woodpecker Ridge Trail extends approximately 1.8 to the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The trail starts off with a steep climb through the forest before gaining the ridge and leveling out. There were lots of juicy ripe huckleberries along this section. As we hiked along the ridge we entered the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
Entering the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness on the Woodpecker Ridge Trail

Unlike some of the other trails that lead to Jefferson Park Mt. Jefferson remained mostly hidden from the Woodpecker Ridge Trail. Only near the end did we get a look at the mountain.
Mt. Jefferson from the Woodpecker Ridge Trail

Shortly after getting our first look at the mountain we arrived at the Pacific Crest Trail and turned left.
Woodpecker Ridge Trail junction with the PCT

We had another Mt. Jefferson sighting from a pond not far from the junction.
Mt. Jefferson from a pond along the Pacific Crest Trail

Most of the views along the PCT were to the NW across the Whitewater Creek drainage to Triangulation Peak and Bocca Cave
Triangulation Peak and Bocca Cave from the Pacific Crest Trail

Bocca Cave and Triangulation Peak

One of the other differences between this approach and the other trails leading to Jefferson Park is the presence of a sometimes tricky creek crossing. The bridge-less crossing of the glacier fed Russell Creek can be dangerous during high water flow. It was a mostly dry crossing on this morning though.
Russell Creek crossing

Monkeyflower

Russell Creek crossing

Our plan was to recross the stream before too much additional water was added to the flow as the temperatures rose during the day. A few smaller creek crossings brought us to the familiar junction with the Whitewater Creek Trail after a total of 3.2 miles on the PCT.
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Junction with the Whitewater Creek Trail

We had come up the Whitewater Trail on our previous visit on 8/8/2015 and were anxious to compare the scenery given how dry the prior year had been. It had looked more like Fall than Mid-Summer on that visit but this year had seen more snow so we were expecting more water, more green, and more flowers. The difference was already noticeable when we arrived at the informational sign for Jefferson Park.

8/8/2015
Entering the Jefferson Park area

8/13/2016
Mt. Jefferson

Shortly after passing the sign the trail passes through a small rock field where we had seen a pika the year before. One greeted us this year in almost in the exact same spot.
Pika

A nice display of paintbrush greeted us as we entered Jefferson Park.
Paintbrush in Jefferson Park

We stuck to the Pacific Crest Trail ignoring the signed trails to Bays and Scout Lakes as we headed for Russell Lake at the far end of Jefferson Park. Along the way we passed a small pond that gave another good example of the difference a year can make.

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Pond in Jefferson Park

2016
Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park

Patches of paintbrush dotted the meadows along the way providing beautiful scenes.
Mt. Jefferson from Jefferson Park

We followed the PCT to the South Breitenbush River which was lined with wildflowers.
Wildflowers along the South Brietenbush River

Wildflowers along the South Brietenbush River

South Brietenbush River

Wildflowers along the South Brietenbush River

Wildflowers along the South Brietenbush River

We turned off the PCT and crossed the river to Russell Lake where Mt. Jefferson was reflecting nicely.
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake

Once again the difference in water level and flowers from the prior year was obvious.

2015
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake

2016
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake

Patches of red paintbrush lined the lake as we made our way around its shore.
Mt. Jeffferson from Russell Lake

Paintbrush along Russell Lake

Park Butte from Russell Lake

After circling Russell Lake we returned to the Pacific Crest Trail and then turned down the South Breitenbush Trail.
Junction with the South Breitenbush Trail

We followed this trail to a meadow overlooking the river.
South Breitenbush River

Wildflowers along the South Breitenbush River

Wildflowers along the South Breitenbush River

At a rock cairn in the meadow we turned left and headed up a small hill to Park Lake.
Trail to Park Lake

Mt. Jefferson from Park Lake

From Park Lake we followed a trail along a dry creek bed up to Rock Lake.
Mt. Jefferson from Rock Lake

After passing by Rock Lake we crested another small hill and arrived at Bays Lake.
Mt. Jefferson from Bays Lake

We left Bays Lake after a short rest and headed toward Scout Lake passing a small unnamed lake along the way.
Mt. Jefferson from the lake between Bays and Scout Lakes

Park Butte and Scout Lake

Mt. Jefferson from Scout Lake

After visiting Scout Lake we returned to the PCT and headed out of Jefferson Park. We arrived back at the Russell Creek crossing at 11:15am and found that there hadn’t been much change in the water level yet.
Russell Creek Crossing

The butterflies were out now though.
Skipper

Fritillary butterfly on yarrow

Butterfly on thistle

After recrossing the creek we began watching for a spot to leave the PCT in order to bushwack down to a view of Russell Creek Falls. This waterfall was on my radar based on a report by a fellow hiker and avid waterfall hunter. He had warned of a steep cliffy approach so we weren’t sure if we’d be successful or not. I had done some preliminary scouting using Google Maps and a topographic map to find what had looked like the most suitable ridge to head down. Just off the trail we found an old campsite and then plunged into the forest.
Bushwack to a view of Russell Creek Falls

The ridge was indeed extremely cliffy on the Russell Creek side so we began fighting our way through the brush on the opposite side. We were glad that at least there weren’t any rhododendron plants at that elevation. As we continued down we kept looking for a way back toward the creek but the terrain and forest pushed us further away. After getting quite a ways¬†downstream from the falls we found what appeared to be a possible gully. I began to work on finding a way down but it was very steep and after struggling and slipping twice I began looking to see if we could side hill back upstream. That wasn’t going to happen due to the cliffs lining the creek. I climbed back up to where I had left Heather and we adjusted our plan. We headed back upstream sticking as close to the top of the ridge as possible hoping to get some sort of view of the falls. We managed to find another gully closer to the falls where another steep descent brought us to a view halfway down the cliffs.
Russell Creek Falls

Russell Creek Falls

Russell Creek Falls

There wasn’t any way down from the view that looked even close to safe so we declared victory here and took a break before climbing back up to the PCT. The 151′ waterfall was indeed impressive but we can’t recommend attempting to see it. The steep slopes and abrupt cliffs make this a difficult and dangerous goal.

After fighting our way back to the PCT we headed for the Woodpecker Ridge Trail saying goodbye to Mt. Jefferson as we passed the pond.
Mt. Jefferson from a pond along the Pacific Crest Trail

We made it back to the car after a total of 15.5 miles. I thought I had escaped relatively unscathed after the bushwacking adventure but after changing into a pair of shorts I was ambushed by an evil yellow jacket (or jackets) and received a pair of stings on my leg. Those things are just plain mean.

Happy (yellow jacket free) Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157672410754435

Categories
Bend/Redmond Central Oregon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail

We had stayed in Central Oregon after visiting the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain on Saturday. Before heading home we took the opportunity to do a pair of short hikes in the Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area near Crooked River Ranch. The first of the hikes started at the Steelhead Falls Trailhead.
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The falls are only a half mile from the trailhead and can get very busy, but we were there early and had the trail to ourselves. We followed the path down into the Deschutes River Canyon.
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Flowers included sand lilies, balsamroot, and thread-leaf phacelia.
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Colorful rocks formations lined the canyon walls.
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Steelhead Falls is only about 20′ tall but the width and setting of the falls makes it an impressive sight.
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Beyond the falls the Deschutes calmed and various ducks and geese were enjoying the morning.
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We continued past the falls for .6 miles planning on visiting the Gray Tower, a 70′ rock formation. Our guidebook instructed us to turn right at a dry wash and then “stay right at junctions” up to the tower. We turned at the wash with the Gray Tower visible up the hillside.
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We apparently did too good a job at staying right and wound up following a path up a ridge with the wash on our left. We began to suspect that we were too far right when were getting further away from the Gray Tower and there was no sign of the ridge we were on bending back towards it. We spotted a trail on the opposite side of the wash and realized that it was the trail we should be on and headed back down. The detour had not been without its charms though, as it provided a nice view across the wash to the Gray Tower and to Mt. Jefferson (covered in clouds this morning).
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We’d also seen some nice wildflowers.
Paintbrush
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Rough eyelashweed
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Desert yellow fleabane
desert yellow fleabane

White-daisy tidytips
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Once we had returned to the dry wash we headed up the left-hand side on a horse path keeping the wash on our right while we stayed right at the junctions. This trail did indeed lead us to the tower.
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We followed the horse path past the tower veering right heading for the start a .9 mile loop described in our guide book. At some point we lost the trail as it turned uphill and we were once again forced to backtrack. We decided to head cross country to try and pick up the trail, which we managed to do. When we reached a split to the trail on top of the rim we went right to start the loop. There was a small rocky knoll a short distance to the left with some small junipers on it at this junction.
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Several deer were watching us as we began the loop.
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We passed around a small hill through juniper and sagebrush keeping left at junctions marked by rock cairns.
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It was a beautiful sunny day which would have normally meant some nice mountain views but all the Cascade peaks were draped in clouds making for an interesting sight.
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Heather spotted a coyote that ran off too quickly for a photo, but several birds stayed put long enough for pictures.
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We completed the loop and managed to follow the horse path all the way back down to the river without losing it this time. The sun was now on the river and ducks paddled about as red-winged blackbirds filled the canyon with their songs.
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After returning to the trailhead we drove further into Crooked River Ranch to the Scout Camp Trailhead.
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This trail descends over 600′ to the Deschutes River and its confluence with Wychus Creek. The path starts out level passing through juniper and sage before dropping down into the canyon.
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Turkey vultures soared overhead and occasionally landed on the cliffs.
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At the .4 mile mark the trail splits marking the start of a 2 mile loop. We went left following a trail pointer and headed downhill through fields of balsamroot and other wildflowers.
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The further into the canyon we got the thicker the balsamroot became.
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A couple of different types of lizards were sunning themselves.
Side bloctched lizards
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Western fence lizard
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After a fairly steep .7 mile descent the trail leveled off passing along a cliff face with the river on the left.
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A family of canada geese paddled about on the water.
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The cliff face gave way to a hillside of flowers.
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we then passed through a grassy area before the trail appeared to end at a rock wall below a rock fin where a fish monitoring station was set up.
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We climbed up and over the rocks which brought us to the continuation of the loop. From here we could see the spot on the opposite side of the river where we had eaten lunch during a 2012 hike on the Alder Springs Trail.
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The trail then climbed up the canyon switching back once to a view above the rock fin.
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We continued to climb passing another set of cliffs with small caves and rocks that appeared ready to come crashing down at any moment.
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Some of the brightest paintbrush we’d seen was along the hillside below these cliffs as well as some tiny but spectacular Cusick’s monkey flowers.
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We finished the loop and climbed back out of the canyon. As the views opened up we could see that the mountains had finally managed to shed most of their cloud cover.
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We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of flowers along the Scout Camp Trail and fortunate to have had the Steelhead Falls trail all to ourselves. It was a great end to a weekend of wonderful hikes in Central Oregon. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157667267583520

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain

We have lived in Oregon all our lives and yet neither of us had ever been to the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We finally made it there on a weekend trip to Central Oregon. We had headed to Bend after work on Friday and planned on visiting the Painted Hills then checking out a pair of nearby wilderness study areas – Pat’s Cabin and Sutton Mountain.

The Painted Hills Unit is one of three units making up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It is located 10 miles NW of Mitchell, OR and contains five short hiking trails ranging from the .2 mile Painted Cove Loop to the 1.6 mile round trip Carroll Rim Trail. We began our visit at the Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead.
Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead

We had gotten our usual early morning start and had arrived a little before 7am. The Sun was just coming up over Sutton Mountain to the east and the sky was partly cloudy creating some interesting lighting.
Sun coming over Sutton Mountain from the Painted HIlls

The .3 mile Painted Hills Overlook Trail began at this trailhead and provided some great views of the Painted Hills, Carroll Rim, and Sutton Mountain.
Painted Hills Overlook Trail

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

Painted HIlls

Painted HIlls

Painted HIlls

There had been one other car at the trailhead but its occupant never left that area so it was just us on the trail with a host of birds that remained unseen but whose songs filled the air. The wildflowers on the other hand remained silent but stood out with their splashes of color.

Golden Bee Plant
Golden Bee Plant

Fiddleneck
Fiddleneck

Rough eyelash weed
Rough eyelash weed

Tolmie’s Onion
Tolmie's Onion

Arnica
Arnica

Silverpuff
Uropappus lindleyi; Silverpuffs

After returning to the trailhead we walked across Bear Creek Road to the Carroll Rim Trail which climbs almost 400′ in .8 miles to a rimrock viewpoint.
Carroll Rim Trail

The Painted Hills stole the show, but there were other sights along this trail as well including our fist encounter with chukars.
Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail

Carroll Rim
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Chukar
Chukar

Caterpillar
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Fiddleneck

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Orange globe mallow
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From the Painted Hills Overlook Trailhead we drove 1.2 miles following signs to the Painted Cove Loop Trailhead. Here a .2 mile loop passes colorful claystone formations.
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A short side trail forked off to the left leading to a viewpoint above the Painted Cove. While we were at the viewpoint Heather spotted a Coyote across the road.
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There was also a nice bloom of John Day Pincushion on the hillside.
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Next we headed to the Leaf Hill Trail traveling back the way we’d come and following signs to the trailhead.
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This loop passes around a small hill containing many fossils (we didn’t spot any though).
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Finally we visited the Red Hill Trail which leads to a close up view of a hill of red and yellow ash.
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Near the end of the trail we spotted our first ever bitteroot flowers. They were just beginning to open but it was exciting nonetheless given we had looked for these on other hikes and failed to find any.
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Our next destination for the day was a bit of a wild-card. While I was doing research for the Sutton Mountain hike I had seen references to another nearby wilderness study area calls Pat’s Cabin. i wasn’t able to find much information about it, but I did find a 2011 BLM map of the area showing a trail going up Pat’s Cabin Canyon. Internet searches turned up nothing in regards to the trail so we decided that we would check it out in person. The BLM map showed a parking area along Burnt Ranch Road just before reaching the Twickenham-Bridge Creek Cuttoff Road. We parked in a grassy area next to an old corral near a sign for the Burnt Ranch and Priest Hole Recreation Sites.
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From there we crossed Burnt Ranch Road and passed through a barb wire gate on an old dirt road. After approximately a quarter mile we came to a sign marking the boundary of the wilderness study area.
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Just on the other side of the sign was Bridge Creek. Bridge Creek lacked a bridge here and the flow was swifter and deeper than we were comfortable with trying to ford. Later in the year it may have been doable but on this day Pat’s Cabin would remain a mystery to us.
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Our final destination for the day was on the other side of Sutton Mountain so we drove to Mitchell and turned north onto Highway 207 for 9.3 miles. We were hoping to spot two things during our Sutton Mountain hike that we had not yet seen during a hike, pronghorns and hedgehog cactus. We spotted some pronghorns in a field before we even made it to the trailhead.
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That didn’t count since we weren’t on the hike yet, but it was still neat to see them.

The trailhead we were looking for was located just beyond milepost 15 behind a wire gate in a grassy meadow with lots of signs of cattle.
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An old roadbed serves as the trail.
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We followed the roadbed along a wire fence to a private barn. There were horses on the other side of the fence and cows on our side. We hesitated for a moment when we realized there was also a bull, but after he gave us a look he headed away toward the barn. The roadbed turned uphill to the left so we began to climb.
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There were a few wildflowers and as we climbed we began seeing more, especially different colors of paintbrush.
Larkspur
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Sagebrush false dandelion
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Wild onion
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Prairie star
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Paintbrush
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There was also plenty of lupine but much of it had not even started to bloom.
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A mile from the trailhead the roadbed curved to the right across a dry wash. On this side of the wash the lupine was further along and a few more flowers made appearances.
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Stoneseed
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Wallflower
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Milk-vetch
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As we climbed the trees gave way to grassy meadows where wildflowers dotted the ground with color.
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Maybe a grass widow
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Old man’s whiskers
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Paintbrush
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An arnica
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Larkspur
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Lupine
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Just over a mile after crossing the dry wash we arrived at an old corral and another barb wire fence. A roadbed continued straight from the corral but the correct route turned left and continued uphill on a fainter old roadbed on the far side of the corral and fence.
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We spotted additional wildflowers as we continued to climb.
Phlox
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Dwarf yellow fleabane
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Shooting star
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The fence eventually disappeared but we just stuck to the roadbed which was easy enough to follow. The open meadows allowed for some great views including the bottom portion of Mt. Jefferson.
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As we were taking in the views we spotted some pronghorns on the opposite hillside.
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They were a lot further away than those we spotted in the car but at least now we could say we had seen some while hiking.

Just under a mile and a half from the old corral the roadbed came to a pass where it curved to the right and continued to the NW. Our goal, the summit of Sutton Mountain, was to our SE though so we left the roadbed here and headed uphill along the rim cliff.
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We had seen our pronghorns but not a hedgehog cactus which we knew to bloom in the area in late April or early May. We had nearly given up hope as we neared the summit when Heather spotted the first one.
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They seemed to only be present in a small area along the rim and then only on the SW facing slope.
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We spent quite a while studying the different cacti before finally making our way to the official summit where we took a break and admired the view.
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Mt. Jefferson in the distance and the Painted Hills unit below.
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Lookout Mountain in the Ochocos.
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Many butterflies were out as we returned the way we’d come.
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We returned the way we’d come and found that the cows had moved from their earlier location and now the trailhead was crowded.
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The cows had thoroughly inspected our car leaving smudges in the dust along the body and drivers side window where they had licked the vehicle.

It was a wonderful day of hiking. It had been warm but not too hot which was nice given the lack of shade on these hikes. There was a great variety of wildflowers and wildlife including several of each that were new to us, and there were birds signing almost everywhere we were. We couldn’t recall another hike with as much birdsong, much of which came from western meadowlarks. For what it’s worth Sutton Mountain made its case to for becoming an officially designated wilderness. Happy Trails!

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Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Mt. Ashland Meadows

After hiking to Boccard Point in the morning and resting for a couple of hours back at the Green Springs Inn we headed into Ashland. Our plan was to pick up a meal to go and then eat it at Grouse Gap Shelter on Mt. Ashland. The shelter makes for a good turnaround point for a moderate hike along the Pacific Crest Trail on the flanks of Mt. Ashland. After picking up some sandwiches from the Greenleaf Restaurant we headed toward the Mt. Ashland ski area south of Ashland. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Mt. Ashland Rd. (Road 20) just beyond the 7 mile marker which is where we parked at a pullout with a signboard to begin our hike.
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We crossed the road and headed south on the PCT.
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The first section of trail passed through forest before emerging in the first of the meadows.
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It was a little early in the year for most of the flowers but we spotted a few.
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In the second meadow we had views of the now mostly cloud covered Mt. Shasta and the now cloud free Pilot Rock. A near reversal from that mornings hike.
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After leaving the second meadow the PCT crossed a drier slope dotted with red paintbrush and manzanita. We were also joined by some golden-mantled squirrels.
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After about a mile and a half we crossed a gravel road and entered another meadow.
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Just beyond this meadow was another smaller meadow where we spotted a deer far below at the meadows end.
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The trail continued to pass through alternating meadows and forest before entering the final broad meadow before the Grouse Gap Shelter. It was still early for flowers but this large meadow had the most we’d seen on this hike.
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From the meadow we could see the shelter at the far end.
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A quarter mile road led from the PCT down to the shelter.
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The shelter looks out across the meadow toward the summit of Mt. Ashland. We were below the clouds this time but the summit wasn’t.
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After eating our sandwiches we headed back. On the way we spotted another deer in the same meadow we had seen the earlier deer in, an owl who was nice enough to sit and have its picture taken, and a final deer amid the hillside trees.
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Then as we were driving back down the mountain a pair of turkeys emerged from the forest.
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This hike wound up being a little over 7 miles long with about 700′ of elevation gain. The Grouse Gap Shelter proved to be a perfect place to stop for a meal making this a great relaxing hike to end the day. Happy Trails!

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Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
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We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.
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After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
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Wild Rose
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Columbine
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Larkspur
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Penstemon & Blue Gilia
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Cat’s Ear Lily
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Woolly Sunflower
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Flower variety
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Columbia Windflower
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Wallflower
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Paintbrush & Larkspur
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More variety packs
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We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
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Cone Peak
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Cone Flower
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Giant Blue-eyed Mary
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Iron Mountain
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Scarlet Gilia
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We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.
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We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
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Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson
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The Three Sisters
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At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
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Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
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Mt. Washington
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The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
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Diamond Peak
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The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.
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We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
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Bunchberry & Queens Cup
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The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!

flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645515763015/
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Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/hager-mountain/
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.
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By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.
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We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
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Scarlet Gilia
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Lewis Flax
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Prairie Star
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Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
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Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
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and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top
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We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.
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We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
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It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.
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It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.
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Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
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Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
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From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
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Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
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Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
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Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
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Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
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And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
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We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.
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By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.
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We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.
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Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
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Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.
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A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
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To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:
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It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

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Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Dog Mountain

Oh those pesky clouds. We had been moving this hike all over the calendar in hopes of catching the wildflowers that this hike is famous for at the optimal time. After checking in on portlandhikers.com and seeing some encouraging trip reports we decided it was now or never. The forecast was iffy but there was a chance of some sunshine and little chance of rain and this hike fit our schedules here better than it would again while the flowers were still in bloom. A more flexible schedule would have allowed us to head up earlier in the week when the sky was clear and the sun shining, but that won’t happen for some time yet. For now we are at the mercy of the weather.

Dog Mountain is on the Washington side of the Columbia River just east of Carson. This is a very popular hike, especially during flower season, so we were sure to leave extra early to beat the crowds. We were car number 4 at the trailhead when we arrived shortly before 7am. We were beneath the clouds and could see their edge to the east where clear sky taunted us just a bit further up the gorge. As we began the 3 mile climb to the summit we could see that Mt. Defiance was cloud covered on the Oregon side of the river.
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There were some nice flowers along the early part of the trail but I had a hard time getting decent pictures due to the cloud cover and dim light of the more forested lower parts of Dog Mountain.
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At the half mile mark (which seems much further given the almost 700′ the trail has already climbed) the trail splits offering two routes to the upper meadow. The right hand spur is the recommended spur both for scenery and ease. For once we took the “less difficult” route and opted for the scenery of the lower meadow.
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Just about a mile form the split we came to our first view of the lower meadow which was filled with a large variety of flowers, but dominated by yellow balsamroot.
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The wind was really blowing on the exposed hillside and the clear skies to the east were still teasing us but the beauty of the flowers trumped all.
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We could see the lower portion of the upper meadows from here and it was obvious that the clouds were passing right over the summit area. We held out hope that by the time we climbed the final 1.6 miles the conditions would improve.
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After leaving the lower meadow the trail reentered the forest.
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As the trail emerged from the trees we passed through a short stretch of thimbleberry bushes before entering a hillside filled with balsamroot.
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There were many other wildflowers mixed into the balsamroot too. We were doing our best to spot all the different varieties.
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There is a viewpoint that was the site of a lookout in this lower portion of the meadow but on this day we didn’t have a view.
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Except for that of the meadow.
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The viewpoint as we continued up.
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The flower display continued as we kept climbing. It was pretty cold due to the moist air and steady wind and even climbing couldn’t keep our hands from being a bit numb. The flowers that were in bloom changed as we got closer to the summit showing that there would still be time to get up there and enjoy them in the next couple of weeks.
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A trail junction announces the final .1mi to the summit where a little balsamroot was outnumbered by some smaller yellow flowers.
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On a clear day Mt. Hood would have been peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Defiance and the Columbia River would be snaking along below but with no sign of the clouds ending we took a short break and began our return. For the return trip we turned right at the junction and headed for the Augspurger Mt. trail. This trail passed through even more wildflower meadows before reaching the Augspurger Trail in just over a mile.
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The Ausgsuprger Mt. trail headed down a narrow ridge and then wound around Dog Mt. back to the parking area.
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Along the way were many woodland flowers in the forest and the occasional view once we had descended below the clouds.
Wind Mountain:
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As we got closer to the trailhead small patches of wildflowers began to be more frequent. In places where there the hillsides were free of trees flowers reigned.
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The parking lot had filled when we made it back just before 10:30. We’d seen a handful of hikers coming up the Augspurger trail but the majority of them obviously went up the way we had. We had joked about doing the loop again if the sky had cleared by the time we got back to the car. It hadn’t and seeing the number of cars in the lot all I could picture was a conga line going up the trail so even if it had I think I would have passed and saved the view for another visit. The wildflowers had certainly lived up to their hype even with the poor visibility. We plan on putting this hike back on the to do list in coming years, and this time we’ll look for a sunny day on which to tackle it. Happy trails!

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