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Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2017 – A Look Back

Once again it’s time for our year end review post. Each year has a bit of a different feel to it, but this year was especially so. This was by far the most challenging year we’ve faced in terms of being able to visit the trails we’d planned on. A heavy winter snow pack lingered delaying access to many areas. Then an unusually bad fire season closed much of the Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters Wilderness areas as well as parts of the Columbia Gorge. Snow returned in mid-September causing more changes to our plans. In the end plans for 39 of our originally scheduled 63 days of hiking were pushed out to future years as well as 2 additional short hikes that were part of multi stop days. Plans for another 12 of those days were shifted around on the schedule which meant that only 10 of our originally planned days occurred as we had envisioned them in January. We had also planned on spending 18 nights backpacking but wound up with a measly 3 nights in the tent. Despite all the issues we actually managed to end the year having hiked on 64 days and covered 751.6 miles.

Here is a look at where we wound up. The blue hiker symbols denote trailheads and the two yellow houses are the approximate location of our two backpacking campsites.
2017 Trailheads

Due to the issues with access to so many locations the mix of hikes this year was very different. An example of this is the average high point of our hikes:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    1444′                        1776′
May             2718′                        2355′
June            4900′                        3690′
July             5553′                        6530′
August       6419′                        3048′
Sept.           6400′                        4175′
Oct.             4886′                        3484′
Nov.-Dec.   2042′                        750′

Another example is our mileage distribution:

                     2013-2016                2017
Jan.-Apr.    9.19%                       9.74%
May             13.57%                     14.14%
June            13.75%                      13.50%
July             13.75%                      19.15%
August       19.33%                      6.07%
Sept.           14.13%                      23.28%
Oct.             12.17%                      10.36%
Nov.-Dec.   4.11%                        3.75%

As you can see August was way off the norm with many of those miles coming in September this year. Several wildfires were burning by then and we also changed some plans due to work and family commitments. Finally we chose to stick close to home the weekend of the solar eclipse .

On many occasions we visited multiple trailheads in a single day. We had been slowly increasing the frequency of doing so but this year 25 of our 64 days included more than one stop. In fact we stopped at a total of 106 trailheads this last year.

None of that made it a bad year, it just felt very different. The 64 hiking days was the most we’ve managed in a single year and the 751.6 miles was second only to 2016s 792.8 We managed to make decent headway on our quest to visit all of Oregon’s 45 visit-able wilderness areas by checking 8 more off the list. Rock Creek (post), Spring Basin (post), Wild Rogue (post), Grassy Knob (post), Bridge Creek (post), Clackamas (post), North Fork John Day (post), and Cummins Creek (post).

This year we made use of guidebooks by four different authors as well as a few websites. Most of our destinations can be found in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Oregon guidebooks (information) but we also made use of Scott Cook’s “Bend, Overall“, Matt Reeder’s “101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region“, and Bubba Suess’s “Hiking in Northern California“.

A special thanks goes out to Bubba Suess and his Hike Mt. Shasta website for his suggestions and input on our visit to the Mt. Shasta area in July. On that trip we visited four of California’s wilderness areas: Russian (post), Castle Crags (post), Trinity Alps (post), and Mt. Shasta (post). Our visit the the Trinity Alps brought us to the most southerly point while hiking to date. We also reached our highest elevation on that trip when we hiked to the top of Mt. Eddy (post) and saw our first rattle snake along the PCT (post).

We also set a new mark for the western most point reached on a hike when we visited Cape Blanco in May (post).

One way that this year was no different than previous years was that we once again saw and experienced many things for the first time during our hikes. It’s not surprising that we saw new things given that 57 out of our 64 days were comprised of entirely new sections of trail and none of the other 7 were exact repeats. In fact only about 17.2 miles retraced steps from previous hikes which works out to less than 2.5% of our total mileage for the year.

Some new flowers for us included:
Butter and eggsButter and eggs – Yontocket

Possibly tomcat cloverTomcat clover – Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside

dalmatian toadflax along the John Day RiverDalmation toadflax – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Heart-leafed milkweedHeart-leafed milkweed – Applegate Lake

California groundconeCalifornia groundcones – Jacksonville

GeraniumGeranium – Lost Creek Lake

GeraniumGeranium – Round Mountain

rockfringe willowherbRockfringe willowherb – Mt. Eddy

Leopard lilyLeopard Lily – Trinity Alps Wilderness

There were a few new critters too:
Bullock's OrioleBullock’s Oriole – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Big Horn SheepBig horn sheep – Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Sheep mothSheep moth – Grasshopper Meadow

Pigeon guillemotPigeon guillemot – Yaquina Bay

EgretEgret – Cape Disappointment State Park

CaterpillarCaterpillar – Cape Disappointment State Park

As is often the case we started and ended our hikes at the coast.
Berry Creek flowing toward the PacificBaker Beach in January

Exposed rocks on Ona BeachOna Beach in December

In between we visited some pretty amazing places. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil BedsPalisades – Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, April

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – Spring Basin Wilderness, April

Fern CanyonFern Canyon – Prairie Creek State Park, May

Tall Trees GroveTall Trees Grove – Redwoods National Park, May

Crack in the GroundCrack in the Ground, Christmas Valley, May

Wildflowers on Lower Table RockWildflowers on Lower Table Rock, Medford, June

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessNorth Point – Bridge Creek Wilderness, June

Upper Linton FallsUpper Linton Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, July

Deadfall Lakes from Mt. EddyView from the Summit of Mt. Eddy, July

Caribou LakeCaribou Lake – Trinity Alps Wilderness, July

Vista Ridge TrailFireweed along the Vista Ridge Trail – Mt. Hood Wilderness, August

Grey back whale seen from Yaquina HeadWhale – Yaquina Head, August

Mt. Adams from Horseshoe MeadowHorseshoe Meadow – Mt. Adams Wilderness, September

Bull elk at Clatsop SpitBull elk – Clatsop Spit, September

View from the Blue Basin Overlook TrailBlue Basin – John Day Fossil Beds, September

Mt. Ireland from Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – North Fork John Day Wilderness, September

Dead Mountain TrailDead Mountain Trail – Willamette National Forest – October

Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mirror LakeMt. Hood from Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, October

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Creek Wilderness, November

It is only a small sample of the amazing diversity that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest. We are looking forward to discovering more new places next year, hopefully with less disruptions to our plans (including not tossing my camera into any rivers). Happy Trails!

Categories
California Hiking Klamath Mountains Salmon Mountains Trip report

Paynes Lake – Russian Wilderness

We were watching the weather closely during our stay in Mount Shasta City. Scattered thunderstorms were being forecasted for the first half of the week and we didn’t want to be up on some peak during a lightning storm. We’d also added an extra day at the last minute in hopes that the Everitt Memorial Highway would be opened by the end of our stay so we could make it to Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta. To fill the extra day we chose the hike to Paynes Lake in the Russian Wilderness based in part on a recent trip report posted on vanmarmot.org. While his hike didn’t take him to Paynes Lake it was in the same area and provided some good information on a side trip we could take from the Pacific Crest Trail down to Taylor Lake.

We started our hike at the Etna Summit Trailhead by taking the Pacific Crest Trail south.

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The PCT passed through a couple of nice meadows with wildflowers and great views in the first 1.7 miles.

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At the 1.7 mile mark we arrived at a 4-way junction where the PCT crossed a on old roadbed now acting as a trail to Ruffey Lake.

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Beyond the junction the trail traversed a sagebrush covered hillside with a good view of the peaks rising from the Russian Wilderness.

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Behind us the Marble Mountains were visible despite a couple of wildfires burning in that wilderness.

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The trail followed a ridge toward a peak where we could see a large snow drift that we appeared to be heading straight for.

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We spotted a group of hikers just finishing their crossing of the snow so we waited for them to finish taking the opportunity to admire Mt. Shasta looming to the east.

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From below the snow we couldn’t tell just how far we were going to travel on it so we decided to use it as an excuse to finally try out our Kahtoola MICROspikes. After putting them on we stepped out on the snow and fell in love. Unfortunately (or not) our need for them was short lived. After just a few steps up we discovered a clear path in the snow covered with debris to assist with traction.

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Off came the spikes and onward we went. The PCT traversed a hillside above Smith Lake passing through a section of granite rocks.

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A total of 3.5 miles from the trailhead we passed Smith Lake and began a fairly substantial descent to a saddle above Taylor Lake. The open rocky hillside was sporting a good variety of blooming flowers.

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We arrived at the saddle .3 miles after passing Smith Lake where we took note of the user path from Vanmarmot’s trip report.

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Our plan was to take the path down to Taylor Lake on our way back using the old roadbed to Ruffey Lake to return to the PCT. For the time being though Paynes Lake was our goal so we continued on the PCT which continued to traverse the hillside below some impressive rock formations.

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We made a 90 degree turn around a ridge end and reentered the trees.

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Shortly after making the turn we entered the Russian Wilderness. One of the things that I try and do is get pictures of wilderness signs from the the wilderness areas we visit. We hadn’t noticed a sign by the time we reached an unnamed creak that we knew to be well within the wilderness boundary.

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We’d keep a watch for a sign on the way back and would also be crossing the wilderness boundary near Taylor Lake giving us another possible location for a sign.

Beyond the creek the PCT rounded another ridge end bringing into view the granite peak above Paynes Lake.

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A total of 2.2 miles from the pass above Taylor Lake we arrived at a signed junction with the Paynes Lake Trail.

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We turned right here and arrived at the lake after a hundred feet.

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After admiring the lake for a few minutes we continued on a path along the north side of the lake. We were hoping to follow this path up to the Albert Lakes. We followed the trail to a meadow where we turned uphill a little too soon.

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We were following what at times looked like a possible trail or several game trails through a boggy, brushy meadow.

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After several consultations with the GPS we managed to find the actual faint trail which was actually on the other side of the meadow. It climbed steeply uphill for about half a mile to a basin above Paynes Lake.

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An amazing display of tiger lilies greeted us to the basin.

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The visible trail ended at Lower Albert Lake.

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In looking at the surrounding terrain the best route to Upper Albert Lake would likely be around the south side of the lower lake but the water level was high enough that crossing the outlet creek didn’t look particularly appealing nor did the climb up to the other lake. If we had been set on completing a loop to Taylor Lake via Big Blue and Hogan Lakes that would have been the way to go, but that was more than we were willing to take on so we returned to Paynes Lake and headed back along the PCT.

When we arrived back at the saddle above Taylor Lake we had a better view of Mt. Shasta than we’d had that morning.

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We headed downhill on the steep user trail which switchbacked past some nice wildflowers.

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We arrived at Taylor Lake without incident and took another short snack break along the shore before hiking to the right around the lake to the Taylor Lake Trailhead.

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My hopes for a Russian Wilderness sign ended when just before we arrived at the Taylor Lake Trailhead we finally spotted a small generic metal sign marking the wilderness boundary.

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From the trailhead parking area we followed a paved road uphill to the right which quickly turned to dirt.

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The road was still open up to a green metal gate where it deteriorated to a wide trail.

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There were a few views and some wildflowers along the 1.2 miles from Taylor Lake to the PCT.

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From there it was just 1.7 miles back to the Etna Summit Trailhead where one of the thru-hikers we’d passed on the trail was in need of a ride into Etna, a hiker friendly town along Highway 3. We offered him a ride and had a nice talk during the 10.2 mile drive to town. He introduced himself as Octane from Oakland, CA. He, like many of the thru-hikers this year, had skipped the Sierras due to snow and was having to do sections out of order.

We dropped Octane off in Etna and returned to Mount Shasta City to check the weather forecast to see where we’d be going next. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Paynes Lake