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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Boulder Ridge Trail and Wildwood Recreaction Area

Our most recent hike brought us to the BLM managed Wildwood Recreation Site. We were going to be taking the Boulder Ridge Trail from the site to a viewpoint along Huckleberry Mountain in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. The view had escaped us during a 2015 hike the same viewpoint using the Bonanza Trail (post). Cloudy conditions that day had been our downfall so we were a little apprehensive when we saw the forecast calling for a slight chance of showers in the morning but then it called for the skies becoming mostly sunny.

With the Wildwood Recreation Site not opening until 8am (the road is gated) it meant we would be getting a little later start than we normally would which would hopefully give the clouds more time to burn off. After paying the $5 day use fee we parked at the trailhead parking area which acts as the trailhead for the Boulder Ridge Trail as well as for two short interpretive trails – The Cascade Streamwatch and the Wetlands. We decided to do both of these before heading up the Boulder Ridge Trail to give the weather even more time to clear up.
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We began with the paved Cascade Streamwatch Trail.
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The trail led down through the forest to the bank of the Salmon River with several interpretive signs along the way.
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Of particular interest was a 3D model of the Salmon River drainage including Mt. Hood. It mapped out the southern and western flowing creeks and rivers drain into the Sandy River and eventually the Columbia.
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Further along the loop is an underwater viewing area. There were only a few small fish visible on this day but we imagined that at times it would be quite a sight.
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We continued on the loop which passed a sandy beach near a deep hole in the Salmon River where at times spawning steelhead trout and chinook salmon can be seen.
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After completing this short (under a mile) informative loop we returned to the trailhead parking and walked over to a signboard for the Boulder Ridge Trail.
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A paved path here lead to a bridge spanning the Salmon River and the start of the Wetlands Boardwalk.
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We took each of the side trails along the boardwalk starting with the detour to Cattail Marsh.
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The next side trip was to see the results of beaver dams and how they help create the wetlands. We didn’t see any beavers (yet again) but there were some newts swimming in the waters.
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Next up was a “Ghost Forest” caused by rising waters caused by the beavers work.
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The boardwalk then passed a large amount of skunk cabbage before reaching a final detour to a view of the transition from a wetland to a stream.
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The boardwalk ended at a junction where a left turn led to the Boulder Ridge Trail while a right turn would complete a short loop back to the parking area (also under a mile total).
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Left we went passing a sign for the Boulder Ridge Trail and signing in at a signboard.
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The trail wasted little time in launching uphill needing to gain 3100′ to reach the top of Huckleberry Mountain. Not only did it head uphill immediately but it crossed a rocky area that had been exposed by a series of seeps. It looked narrow and possibly slick.
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The trail climbed steeply gaining 1400′ in then next two and a quarter miles where a rocky viewpoint looked into clouds instead of Mt. Hood. Just a bit before reaching the viewpoint we had entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. One thing that has never disappointed us about the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and surrounding area is the beauty of the forest. The clouds might have been blocking our views of Mt. Hood but the fog added a nice element to the forest.
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IMG_9169Rhododendron

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IMG_9172Beargrass and rhododendron along the trail.

IMG_9180Coralroot and sourgrass

IMG_9188Candy stick

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IMG_9197Damp iris

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We passed by the viewpoint hoping that maybe there would be a view by the time we were headed back down. The trail continued to climb gaining another 800′ over the next mile and a quarter where another rock viewpoint looked east.
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IMG_9222Green lichen

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IMG_9255A few trees peaking through the clouds along McIntyre Ridge (post)

With no view to speak of we turned our attention to the flowers in the area.
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For the next half mile the trail climbed more gradually spending some time on the ridge top amid a carpet of green before dropping off and arriving at a small seasonal stream where some Scouler’s corydalis was blooming.
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Another half mile of climbing brought us to the end of the Boulder Ridge Trail at a signed junction with the Plaza Trail.
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The only choice to continue here was to turn right onto the Plaza Trail as there is no longer any discernible continuation of it to the left of the junction.
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It was almost 11:45 now and we had been hoping that the skies would be starting to clear but looking up revealed no sign of it happening anytime soon. We still had approximately a mile and a half to our goal though so we sallied forth. After a brief respite from climbing the trail headed uphill into more fog.
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As the trail passed the 4000′ elevation it passed through a small grassy meadow where a few phlox were blooming.
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As the trail gained the final 280′ of elevation there were more open areas where indian plum was blooming while the beargrass was just starting.
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We passed by a large ant pile.
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When we reached the viewpoint the clouds had not only not lifted but they were actually worse than they had been in 2015.
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Huckleberry Mountains summit2015

Slightly disappointed we made our way to a rock outcrop and again looked to the nearby flowers instead of Mt. Hood.
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IMG_9319Phlox

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We stayed for a bit looking for any hint of the clouds breaking but they sky remained a canvas of white so we started back down shortly before 1pm. The view had changed quite a bit at the eastern facing viewpoint when we arrived 45 minutes later. It was still overcast but the clouds had lifted noticeably.
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By the time we reached the lower viewpoint that we had not stopped at earlier there was a significant amount of blue sky overhead.
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The only problem was a mass of clouds directly over (or in front of) Mt. Hood.
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You win some you lose some. We made our way back down to the Salmon River stopping to admire some yellow coral root along the way.
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Despite missing out on the view again the 12.9 mile hike was a good one albeit challenging with over 3000′ of elevation gain. The interpretive trails were a lot of fun and the Mt. Hood National Forest in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness was as scenic as ever. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Boulder Ridge

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Bonanza Trail – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

We were looking for a hike that would avoid the crowds of Memorial Day weekend and landed on the Bonanza Trail. The Bonanza Trail starts at the edge of Welches, OR near the Salmon River where it climbs 3000′ through the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness to a junction with the Plaza Trail #783 on Huckleberry Mountain. The forest service lists usage as light for this trail which is exactly what we were looking for.

The trailhead consists of a small pullout (room for 2 cars maximum) along E. Grove Rd in Welches marked by a cable, a no hunting sign, and a small trail sign.
Bonanza Trail Trailhead

The trail begins on an old grassy road climbing up over a ridge before dropping down the other side to a crossing of Little Cheney Creek.
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Shortly after crossing the creek the trail enters the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness at what has to be the most pathetic wilderness sign we’ve seen yet (note the slug attached to it).
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The trail then went up and down along Cheeney Creek still following an old roadbed. I am still trying to figure out why Little Cheney Creek has one “e” and Cheeney Creek is spelled with two. In places the trail was rather overgrown with salmon berry bushes and scouler’s corydalis, a rather interesting flower.
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Scouler’s corydalis
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The trail leaves the creek shortly after arriving at a possible campsite near a small waterfall.
Small fall on Cheeney Creek

We had gained a little over 300′ of elevation up to the point of the campsite and then the real climbing began. One of the reasons that the Bonanza Trail is not heavily used is the 3000′ of cumulative elevation gain to reach the summit of Huckleberry Mountain. The trail only has a handful of switchbacks which means that the trail is fairly steep in some sections and even on sunny days lacks viewpoints. We had not chosen a sunny day though and so we climbed up through a forest filled with fog.
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It may as well have been raining as the mist in the clouds gathered on the plants and trees falling as drops of rain.
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Despite the lack of views there was plenty to see along the way. Flowers, wildlife, and the abandoned Bonanza mine gave us plenty of things to look for and explore.
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Bonanza Mine

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Rhododendron in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

As we climbed the forest and flowers we were seeing changed.
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When we reached the trail junction we were a bit surprised to find a newer looking sign announcing the Boulder Ridge Trail. According to the Forest Service the Boulder Ridge Trail ends at the Plaza Trail on the same ridge further to the NW on the opposite side of the summit of Huckleberry Mountain.
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We turned right on the Plaza/Boulder Ridge Trail and headed for the summit of Huckleberry Mountain. We knew we wouldn’t be getting any views on this day but we wanted to bag the summit before turning around. The trail traveled up and down along the ridge entering a nice meadow after .3 miles where we spotted a number of different flowers.
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Lilies
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Larkspur
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Lupine
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Phlox and violets
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Beyond the meadow the path reentered the forest which was a stark contrast to the open saddle we had just left.
Forest along the Boulder Trail on Huckleberry Mountain

In another .2 miles the trail once again emerged from the forest in a meadow at the summit of Huckleberry Mountain.
Meadow on Huckleberry Mountain

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There were more flowers here, some of which we hadn’t seen on the hike until this meadows.
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Penstemon
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Paintbrush
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Yellow violets
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We sat on the rocky summit where at least four cascade peaks would have been visible on a clear day and took a short rest. Missing out on the view just meant we’d need to come back some other day, possibly via the Boulder Ridge Trail, and try again. As we were leaving the meadow Heather noticed an ant pile that was quite active.
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Our descent was pretty uneventful as we made our way back down the mountain. We finally saw other people at the small waterfall, a family of four exploring the creek. The Bonanza Trail lived up to the light usage label, but despite the fact that it hadn’t been maintained by the Forest Service since 2013 it was in surprisingly good shape. Perfect for a good bit of exercise and solitude.
Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653391492331