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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Heritage Landing – 09/13/2021

After spending two days hiking in the Blue Mountains NE of Pendleton it was time to head home. We typically look for a short hike that can act as a leg stretcher when we are facing long drives to or from a vacation spot. Driving from Pendleton to Salem meant looking for something along I-84 preferably closer to Pendleton than Salem. Looking through our hiking books gave us the perfect answer, Heritage Landing. The hike along the Deschutes River from Heritage Landing is included in Matt Reeder’s “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook (Hike #9). There is also an entry for the hike on Oregonhikers.com as well. Heritage Landing is primarily used by rafters and fishermen but the fishermen and other users have created a series of trails up river at least as far as Rattlesnake Bend.

We parked in a gravel lot on the left side of the road just uphill from the boat ramp and hiked down past a gate.
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We followed an old road bed upstream past Moody Rapids. We had hiked the Deschutes River Trail on the other side of the river in 2018 (post)
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IMG_5256Sunlight on Haystack Butte in Washington.

IMG_5260Part of Moody Rapids.

IMG_5258Gum weed

IMG_5262The last petals on a blanket flower.

IMG_5265We saw several of these large beetles, all prepared to defend themselves.

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IMG_5267Snow buckwheat

IMG_5275Chicory

IMG_5281Seagull

IMG_5282Mergansers

The trail passed by a spring where thick blackberry bushes and other green vegetation hosted a number of small birds (and a few fishermen).

IMG_5285Sparrow

Shortly after passing the spring both Heather and I noticed something that looked out of place down by the water but we both decided it was another fisherman. After a few more steps we realized it was a river otter grooming itself on a small rock or patch of grass. I tried to grab my camera but it somehow knew I wanted a photo and disappeared into the water. The next thing we knew there were three otters swimming with the current and heading downstream but they were close enough to the bank that my camera kept focusing on the grass or limbs between them and us so I still don’t have a decent picutre of an otter. 😦
IMG_5292One blurry otter head and another partial otter on the right.

IMG_5293A bunch of tree branches, oh and an otter in the water.

After the exciting and yet disappointing otter encounter we continued up river. We planned on hiking until either the tread petered out or we reached Rattlesnake Rapids. The tread petered out a little before the rapids but we had a nice view of them from Rattlesnake Bend.
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IMG_5302At times there were multiple trails to choose from.

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IMG_5314Rattlesnake Bend is up ahead but we stopped here for a bit to watch a heron getting breakfast.

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IMG_5320A sparrow, possibly a Savannah sparrow.

IMG_5322The trail climbed higher on the hillside for a bit to avoid some thick vegetation below.

IMG_5330Rattlesnake Bend

IMG_5337Railroad tracks above the trail.

IMG_5338Looking back from Rattlesnake Bend near where we turned around.

IMG_5339Rattlesnake Rapids

On our way back we tried to choose the fishing trails closer to the river.
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IMG_5343Killdeer

IMG_5345An older channel?

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IMG_5348Had to go back up to avoid the vegetation here.

IMG_5350Ground squirrel

IMG_5354Heron flying up river.

IMG_5359Old rock wall along the way.

IMG_5360Typical use trail.

IMG_5363Merganser

IMG_5364Aster

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IMG_5366Osprey showing up the fishermen.

IMG_5370Finch

IMG_5372More birds near the spring.

IMG_5373Little yellow birds, maybe warblers?

IMG_5377One of the yellow birds on a blackberry plant.

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IMG_5384Moody Rapids

IMG_5390Haystack Butte

IMG_5391A line of mergansers.

This turned out to be an excellent hike with great scenery and plenty of wildlife (and no rattlesnakes). We got in a little over 4 miles round trip. Reeder listed it as a 3.2 mile out and back while Oregonhikers has it at 3.8 miles but a lot depends on where you turn around and how much back and forth you do down to the river.

Our track for the day.

It hadn’t been the vacation that we’d originally planned but our three days of hiking were beautiful and we were thankful to have been able to enjoy them so much. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Heritage Landing

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Alder Island, God’s Thumb & Roads End – 3/13/2021

We were hoping for some nicer weather on the Saturday before the dreaded “Spring forward” which always seems to be the harder of the two time changes to adjust to. In addition to adjusting to the struggle, adjusting to the change springing forward also meant losing an hour of light in the morning when we like to do our hiking. We got our nice weather so we headed out to Lincoln City to explore some of the nearby trails and cross off another of Sullivan’s featured hikes at Roads End Beach. The hike at Roads End (#35 in the 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range) was one nine remaining featured hikes in his third edition which we reverted back to this year due to not knowing when (if) the final featured hike in his 4th edition, the Salmonberry Railroad, will reopen to hikers (post).

The Roads End hike is a roughly 2.8 mile out and back along Roads End Beach at the north end of Lincoln City which gave us an opportunity to add some mileage to our day and check out two other nearby destinations. The first of which was a quick stop at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Lincoln City. With the time change not yet happening we were able to arrive early and start hiking by 6:30am and more importantly drive through Lincoln City without any traffic to speak of.
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The refuge offers a single trail, a short lollipop loop (just under a mile) around Alder Island. Canoeing and kayaking is a popular activity here. It was in the mid 30’s as we set off from the small parking area so there were no human paddlers out yet but the frosty temperature didn’t dissuade others.
IMG_0632Mallard pair

IMG_0635Canada geese

IMG_0642Goose and a mallard in the channels.

While the Sun wasn’t quite above the Coast Range great blue herons were already busy working on building a nest in some trees across a channel.
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It wasn’t just the bigger birds that were busy. A ruby-crowned kinglet was busy in the brush.
Ruby-crowned kinglet

Approximately .2 miles north of the parking area we made a hard right turn crossing over some water to Alder Island and the start of the short loop.
IMG_0656Several interpretive signs were placed along the loop.

IMG_0657A reminder that COVID-19 is still an issue.

The trail passed through stands of alder as it followed a small branch of the Siletz River for .3 miles before reaching a bench facing the main branch of the river. There were a number of ducks a geese in the channel but the highlight came when Heather spotted something heading down to the water on the far side ahead of us. It was a river otter! This had been one of, if not the, most wanted animal sightings on our list of critters we’d yet to see while hiking (or driving to a hike). Unfortunately the otter was too quick and far enough away in the low morning light to get more than a blurry photo of it swimming across the channel.
IMG_0662The larger muddy area along the bank ahead on the right is where Heather spotted the otter.

IMG_0665Alder lined trail.

IMG_0659Blurry photo of a non-breeding male hooded merganser.

Blurry River OtterThe blurry river otter.

IMG_0670Another mallard

IMG_0672Canada geese

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IMG_0681Siletz River

The bench might have been a nice place to sit for awhile had it been a little warmer but we needed to keep moving so we continued on the loop which led us back along the main river channel,
IMG_0685Western grebe

IMG_0688Goose and a bufflehead (the duck not the post)

IMG_0689Bufflehead

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IMG_0701Spring is coming!

We completed the loop and headed back to the car just as the Sun was cresting the foothills.
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We then drove back through Lincoln City (still with very little traffic) and made our way to the parking lot at the Roads End Recreation Site.
IMG_0703Sentry at the Roads End entrance.

We weren’t quite ready to head out along the beach though. Before doing the featured hike we planned on visiting the increasingly popular God’s Thumb. We were hoping that 7:30am was still early enough to avoid the crowds that were sure to show up later in the day. While there are two closer trailheads (The Villages and the Sal La Sea Trailhead), parking at Roads End meant having access to bathrooms and not having to move the car again.

God’s Thumb (arrow) from the Roads End parking Area

We followed the Oregon Hikers Field Guide directions (see link for God’s Thumb above) to make our way up through the neighborhood between Roads End and the Sal La Sea Trailhead.
There weren’t any people but the neighborhood was fairly active.
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We passed a single car parked at the trailhead as we continued on by a gate across an old roadbed.
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We had walked up some steep hills through the neighborhood and that theme continued on the old road bed for .4 miles before leveling out at a ridge top junction.
IMG_0722It’s hard to tell just how much uphill this is. Fortunately it wasn’t very muddy.

IMG_0723A little easier to see the uphill here, this was near the top.

IMG_0724The junction.

We turned left at the junction following the ridge out to The Knoll, an open space overlooking Lincoln City to the south.
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IMG_0733The Roads End parking area is the open green space in the center along the ocean.

IMG_0731The Pacific Ocean.

IMG_0735Roads End Point jutting out to the north.

IMG_0737The Knoll

We returned to the junction and continued straight following the ridge north.
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IMG_0740Snow queen

IMG_0744More signs of Spring, salmonberry blossom and buds.

IMG_0749Sitka spruce and ferns along the ridge.

At the far end of the ridge (after approx 1/3 of a mile) we came to another junction with a trail coming up from the trailhead at The Villages.
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Here we turned left and began a short descent that looked to be in some doubt due to several large downed trees.
IMG_0751The downed trees ahead in the distance.

As it turned out there was just one tree to duck under while the rest looked to have been recently taken care of.
IMG_0752The last of the tree fall.

The trail then dipped into an open meadow before rising again on the far side.
IMG_0754Mud had begun to be a bit of an annoyance at this point.

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After reaching the top of the hill the trail briefly continued north before turning left in a grassy meadow.
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IMG_0764Busy woodpecker

IMG_0766The trail getting nearing the turn left.

IMG_0769Lone tree in the meadow.

IMG_0771Lone robin in the lone tree.

From the meadow there was a view of Cascade Head (post) to the north and to God’s Thumb jutting out into the Pacific to the west.
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The trail to God’s Thumb crosses a narrow saddle before climbing steeply to the top of the thumb. We were thankful that it hadn’t rained for a few days which eliminated any issues that mud might have made with footing. We were also pleased that we didn’t see any other hikers in the area that we might have to pass on the way there.
IMG_0779Heather crossing the saddle (left of the big bush)

IMG_0801Cascade Head from the saddle.

IMG_0800Final pitch up to the top.

The view of Cascade Head was great from the thumb and we were able to enjoy it by ourselves.
IMG_0788Not quite to ourselves, we shared the space briefly with some chestnut backed chickadees.

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IMG_0795Cascade Head and the mouth of the Salmon River.

IMG_0792Roads End Point and Lincoln City

IMG_0790Rocks below God’s Thumb

We did actually see another hiker but he wasn’t coming down the trail to God’s Thumb, he was heading down to the ocean in the cove north of us.
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After enjoying the view for a bit we headed back. We finally passed some other hikers just as we started down into the valley before climbing back up to the junction at the ridge end. It was beginning to be a fairly steady stream of hikers as we reached the junction where we forked left to make a loop out of the middle of the hike. The old road bed on this side of the ridge was much muddier than what we’d come up, but we also spotted quite a few yellow violets and a single toothwort along this route.
IMG_0807A reasonable representation of the wet/muddy conditions on this part of the hike.

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IMG_0815Toothwort

A mile and a half from the junction we arrived at the very crowded trailhead at The Villages. Here we turned left on a little path which quickly joined another old roadbed.
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Less than a half mile later we were passing another gate along Sal La Sea Drive.
IMG_0828The gate and Sal La Sea Drive in the distance.

IMG_0829It’s not a hike at the coast without some skunk cabbage.

At Sal La Sea Drive I suggested turning left as it looked like the road would take us back downhill almost directly to the Roads End Recreation Site but Heather wasn’t sold on that. (She was sure there was a hidden uphill that would be worse than what we were facing to get back to the Sal La Sea Trailhead.) Never one to pass up a climb we turned right and headed up Sal La Sea Drive. It was a little over 3/4 of a mile back to that trailhead (where there were now 9 cars) and somewhere in there Heather realized she had chosen poorly. We then retraced our path from earlier back down to Roads End. Along the way we saw over a half dozen more deer among the houses which we found humorous, in the woods we saw no deer and a bunch of people and in the neighborhood we saw no people and a bunch of deer.
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While our plan to avoid people had worked well at Alder Island and for our visits to The Knoll and God’s Thumb there was no chance for privacy along the beach at Roads End. While it was busy it was a nice walk along the beach for almost a mile and a half to Roads End Point where continuing is only possible during low tides.
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IMG_0849Coltsfoot

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IMG_0853An immature bald eagle flew overhead at one point.

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IMG_0863Little waterfall along the beach.

IMG_0866Roads End Point

IMG_0871Not going around that today.

We headed back saying one last goodbye to God’s Thumb and The Knoll before driving back home to Salem.
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IMG_0879God’s Thumb on the right.

IMG_0880Hikers on The Knoll

Our mileage for the day was right around ten with a mile coming at Alder Island, two and three quarters at Roads End and the remaining six and a quarter being The Knoll and God’s Thumb. There was 1420′ of elevation gain all of which was during the portion from Roads End to God’s Thumb and back. While we’ve had good weather for all three of our hikes thus far in 2021 this hike was the first to truly feel like Winter is coming to an end. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alder Island, God’s Thumb & Roads End