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Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Oregon Coast Southern Coast Trip report

Illinois River Trail and Indian Sands

Our wildest hike came Friday. We had planned on a 17.2 mile hike along the Illinois River Trail going 8.6 miles to Silver Creek and back. The description in our guidebook said to look out for poison oak and to check for ticks at the end so we were prepared for a bit of an adventure. Our hike began at a trailhead near the end of Oak Flat Road. To get there we took Jerrys Flat Road from Gold Beach 27 miles then turned right on Oak Flat Road road for another 3.1 miles.
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The trail set off through an open forest with lots of yellow and purple wildflowers and some poison oak.
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As we neared our first marker, Nancy Creek, we spotted a pair of deer that had already seen us and were heading back into the forest. Just beyond Nancy Creek we came upon a nice patch of columbine flowers. The only ones we would see during our vacation.
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Other flowers here included catchfly and henderson’s stars.
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The next creek up was Rattlesnake Creek. A short distance before reaching this small stream we spotted a black bear in the woods below the trail. It saw us at about the same time and promptly turned around. For some reason I failed to even reach for the camera as we watched it go back downhill through the trees.

Beyond Rattlesnake Creek the trail entered an area where the trees had been lost to the 2002 Biscuit Fire.
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There continued to be a lot of flowers as well as the occasional patch of poison oak.
Pink honeysuckle
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chaparral false bindweed
chaparral false bindweed

Bridges’ brodiaea
Bridges' brodiaea

With the trees mostly burned this section of trail was crowded by brush.
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The amount of poison oak increased in the area of Ethels Creek and we started picking up ticks. Heather was the first to notice. She made an alarmed sound behind me and I turned around to see several ticks climbing up her legs. Looking down at my own I immediately spotted three. We brushed them all off and started to hike again. We had not gone far at all before Heather exclaimed again. We both had multiple ticks on our legs again. This had gone on for about a mile when we reached the Buzzards Roost, a rocky outcrop, at the 2.5 mile mark of our hike.
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A short scramble path went out onto the Buzzards Roost but we could see poison oak along that path and were too preoccupied with looking for and knocking off any additional ticks. We were discussing what to do as the number of ticks that we’d already brushed off was more than we could have imagined and it was giving us the willies. Things didn’t get any better when one of my trekking poles slid off the log I had propped it on. I had made the mistake of leaning it on the log without checking the area around the log. We watched it fall and bounce on some little poison oak plants. We used some wipes to pick it up (along with yet another tick) and then wiped it down as best as we could. I had also left my gloves in the car which would have come in handy since it was the grip that had made contact with the poison oak.

After a thorough cleaning we decided to at least try and go another 2 miles to Indian Flat and Indigo Creek and see if the tick and poison oak situation got any better.

It did improve some beyond the Buzzards Roost where the trail had rounded the hillside and was now on the southern facing slope which was drier with less brush crowding the trail. The flower display along this section was impressive.
Henderson’s Stars
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Silver puff
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Paintbrush
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Blue gilia in the foreground
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Balsamroot
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Mariposa lily
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Fleabane
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Madia
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Penstemon
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Narrowleaf blue eyed mary
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California lady-slippers
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Western wallflower
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Ookow
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About 1.7 miles from the Buzzards Roost an old roadbed split off to the left. This led .2 miles to the meadow at Indian Flat.
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We continued on the Illinois River Trail and descended to the bridge across the lovely Indigo Creek.
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On the far side of the creek we stopped to do a more intensive tick check. There were just a couple of stragglers to knock off and we decided to try and continue at least another .7 miles to Fantz Ranch. The trail began to climb uphill to reach a saddle above the ranch. As we climbed the switchbacks the amount of poison oak began to increase again. When it appeared that there was going to be no way past one patch without going through it we finally gave in and decided to call it. We’d made it a little over 5 miles and had seen a lot of neat stuff despite everything.

As we made our way back we stopped regularly to brush off the inevitable ticks. There were other more enjoyable critters out along the trail as well including a large number of alligator lizards. We hoped that they were filling up on the little blood suckers. ūüôā
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Back at the trailhead we wiped everything down in an attempt to remove an urushiol we might have picked up from contact with poison oak and did a final tick check before heading back to Gold Beach. We stopped by our room to shower and soak in the hot tub to try and relax.

We decided that since we had cut our hike short we should go back out in the evening to check out Indian Sands in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. We had not gone that far on Thursday when we were hiking in the southern portion of the park so we drove back down and parked at the Indian Sands pullout.
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We set off on the wide Oregon Coast Trail.
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A confusion of paths led off toward the ocean and the dunes of Indian Sands from the trail. We weren’t sure which was the “correct” one but we just kept heading toward the Pacific until we could see sand and then headed for that.
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We followed a path out to a wildflower covered viewpoint of a rock arch.
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Sea figs
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Seaside daisy
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Sea thrift and paintbrush
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Mariposa lilies
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The sandstone cliffs here create the dunes making it an interesting area unlike anything else we’d seen in the park.
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We made our way north following footprints in the sand.
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We came to a saddle with a great view where a trail to the right led up through a brush covered slope back into the forest and onto the Oregon Coast Trail.
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Turning right on the Oregon Coast Trail would have taken us back to the car but we decided to turn left and check out the Thomas Bridge Viewpoint. We’d driven over the bridge multiple times already and read that it was the highest bridge in Oregon at 345′. We left the Oregon Coast Trail at a split in the trail where it headed uphill toward the parking area for the viewpoint. We headed downhill to the left to find the viewpoint. The first viewpoint we came to was partly blocked by trees.
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The trail continued out along a ridge so we followed it looking for a better view. We noticed another trail along the right that hopped over the ridge and headed steeply down into the trees. We ignored that and continued heading for the ocean. No view of the bridge had appeared as we rounded the end of the ridge but the trail kept going now heading downhill back inland. It did wind up leading to a better, but not great, viewpoint.
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From this viewpoint we followed a path uphill that wound up being the same trail we had seen going over the ridge and down into the trees. When we crested the ridge we met another couple looking for the viewpoint. We pointed them in the right direction before heading back to Indian Sands.

In the end it worked out really well to have turned back on the Illinois River Trail in time for us to get the hike in at Indian Sands. It was definitely worth the visit. We appear to have escaped the poison oak without any ill effects (at least not yet) and haven’t had to brush off any ticks since leaving the Illinois River Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666245754163

Categories
Hiking Oregon Roseburg Area Trip report Willamette Valley

North Bank Habitat

We recently headed down to Ashland, OR on vacation for a few hikes and to catch a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  On our way down south we stopped at the BLM managed North Bank Habitat just north of Roseburg for a quick hike to break up the drive.  The primary goal of the habitat is to  provide secure habitat for the Columbia white-tailed deer and other special status species.

The 10-mile square area has several access points and trail possibilities, although some access points are only open during certain days/hours so check ahead.  We started our hike at the West Access and headed up the Blacktail Ridge Road Trail.
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The area which had been a farm/ranch? was very different than any of the places we have visited.  Rolling hills of grass and oak trees along with valleys filled with forest.
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There were also a lot of flowers, many that were unfamiliar to us.  The only issue was having to watch out for the poison oak that seemed to be everywhere along the way.
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Yellow Glandweed
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Poison Oak lining the old road
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Elegant Brodiaea
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Blessed Milk Thistle
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Despite it being a cloudy day there were views all along the ridge. ¬†We kept our eyes open for deer on the surrounding hillsides but weren’t having any luck. The only signs of wildlife so far were some blackbirds at the trailhead and lots of birdsong from the trees.
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We followed the Blacktail Ridge Road Trail to a junction with Middle Ridge Trail to a second junction the Thistle Ridge Trail.  Some of the best views were along the Middle Ridge Trail (which we were now on) just after the Thistle Ridge junction. It was here that we began spotting wildlife.  First a hawk
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Then a small blue bird
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and finally some deer.
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They were a ways off but there appeared to be a pair of black-tailed deer not the Columbian white-tailed but they were deer none the less. We continued to spot new flowers as well including several Henderson’s stars which were really unique.
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Eventually we reached a junction with the Chasm Creek Road Trail. Here we turned left and headed steeply down the old muddy road.
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The trail eventually leveled off and we strolled through mores open grassland to the border of the Jackson Ranch where we turned left on  the Jackson Ranch access road.  This area was filled with birds including this beautiful western bluebird.
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Just before reaching North Bank Road at the gated Jackson Ranch access road we turned left again along a short path lined with daisies and purple self-heal to return to the West Access Parking area.
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Granted it was a Monday morning but we didn’t see another person during the 6.2 mile loop. ¬†It was a perfect way to kick off a week of vacation. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653672903899

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Columbia Hills State Park

Spring came early to the Pacific Northwest and many of the flowers are running a week or two ahead of schedule so I’d been keeping my eye on the wildflower situation in the Columbia Gorge. Recent trip reports from the east end of the gorge showing the flowers out in force, a promising forecast, and a free day at Washington State Parks made for a combination that I just couldn’t pass up. Due to Heather training for the upcoming Corvallis half-marathon she was unable to accompany me this time, but my parents were able to join me for three short hikes in Columbia Hills State Park.

The park is located in Washington just across the Columbia River from The Dalles, OR and encompasses 3,338 acres offering rock climbing, fishing, sailboarding, and many other activities in addition to the hiking trails. We started our day off at Horsethief Butte, a rocky outcrop left over from an ancient basalt flow popular with rock climbers.

Basalt cliffs on the opposite side of Highway 14 from the trailhead.
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The trail starts off with a nice view of Mt. Hood over The Dalles.
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The trail crosses a short section of flat grassland before splitting with the left fork heading up into a canyon of Horsethief Butte and the right fork leading around the mesa to rejoin the left fork on the far end of the canyon. There were a variety of flowers to be seen along this portion of the trail.

Manroot
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Bugloss fiddleneck
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Death camas
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Prarie star
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Large-flower triteleia
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Western stoneseed
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Larkspur
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Desert parsley
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When the trail split we took the left hand fork and headed for the canyon. At Horsethief Butte the dirt trail gave way to a short rock scramble up to the canyon entrance. At the top of the scramble the canyon opened up to reveal a good sized slot dotted with yellow balsamroot flowers.
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Members of the Mazamas, an outdoor group based out of Portland, were busy setting up and climbing among the rocks.
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At the far end of the canyon the view opened to the Columbia River and Mt. Hood.
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Here the trail dropped out of the canyon (without a rock scramble) to rejoin the right-hand fork. Before heading back we turned left and continued another quarter mile behind the butte to a viewpoint where poison oak patches were growing.

Poison Oak
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We headed back and completed the loop with Mt. Hood looming to our left.
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Next we headed to the Dalles Mountain Ranch, a short 4.5 mile drive away. To get there we drove 1.8 miles west on Hwy 14 and turned right on Dalles Mountain Road for another 2.5 miles to a fork. The trailhead for the ranch was to the right about .2 miles. Here an abandoned farmhouse and other buildings sat amid fields of balsamroot and lupine.
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We explored the area around the farmhouse first where several pieces of old equipment were on display along with the flowers and views of Mt. Hood and distant Mt. Jefferson.
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There were also a couple of trail options. I wandered down to Eight Mile Creek through a spectacular field of balsamroot and lupine.
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Our final stop was another short 1.4 mile drive up Dalles Mountain Road where a gate marked the end of the drive and the start of the Columbia Natural Area Preserve.
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We set off on the 2.5 mile hike up the closed road that would led us to the summit of Stacker Butte. Entire hillsides were covered in yellow from the balsamroot with a smattering of other flowers thrown in.
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The total climb was a little over 1100′ but it was never too steep and the sweeping views drew attention away from the climb.
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It was interesting to note the change in the mix of flowers as we climbed. Along the lower portion balsamroot and lupine dominated with a few prairie stars mixed in. A little higher up we ran into paintbrush and phlox.
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Next came larkspur and big-head clover.
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Flowers weren’t the only things we spotted. There were numerous birds and a few deer in the area.
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We had lost our views of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the clouds, but when we reached the summit of Stacker Butte new views opened up. To the NW Mt. Adams was mostly obscured by a line of clouds, but Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks were virtually cloud free.
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Almost directly below us lay Stacker Canyon where the Klickitat Rail Trail follows Swale Creek toward the Klickitat River, a hike we had done last April. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/klickitat-rail-trail-swale-canyon-from-harms-rd/

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It was a little too windy (and chilly) to spend much time at the summit so after a quick snack break near an air control wigwam we headed back down the road.
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On our way down I got my first butterfly pictures of the year.

Sheridan’s Hairstreak
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Blue Copper
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With all of the options Columbia Hills State Park has to offer it makes a great place to spend a day outdoors, especially during the spring flower bloom. There are ticks and rattlesnakes in the area in addition to the poison oak so you’ll want to pay attention if you visit, but don’t let that stop you from checking this park out. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157649434751593/