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Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Fields Peak – 07/23/2021

Our time in John Day had come to an end and it was time to start our journey back to Salem. We were planning on visiting Heather’s parents in Bend for the night but of course we had a hike planned on the way. The hike to Fields Peak and McClellan Mountain in the Aldrich Mountains was another hike that was previously featured in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Easter Oregon” but had been moved to the back of the book in his most recent 3rd edition. We began the hike at the McClellan Mountain Trailhead after a rough final 1.2 miles of driving (high clearance vehicles recommended). The bright spot of the drive was spotting a bobcat in the road.
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While the route to Fields Peak is open to OHVs the McClellan Mountain Trail, which splits off to the east after 1.5 miles is not.
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The trail/OHV track begins through a barbed wire fence and heads steeply uphill, at times, 0.7 miles to a saddle.
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IMG_1110A lone interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail.

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IMG_1118The saddle

Sullivan mentioned that bitterroot bloomed on the ridge to the right but it was too late in the year to see any of them but I wandered out along the ridge a short distance anyway having reached the saddle ahead of Heather.
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IMG_1122Fields Peak from the saddle.

IMG_1123Heather arriving at the saddle.

We had gained a little over 700′ in the first section and now the trail would gain nearly another 600′ in the 0.8 miles to the trail junction.
IMG_1124A rare level section.

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IMG_1129Scarlet gilia in the middle of the OHV track.

IMG_1131Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_1132The McClellan Mountain Trail to the right.

We ignored the McClellan Mountain Trail for now and climbed another 0.8 miles gaining 700 plus more feet to the 7362′ summit of Fields Peak. The meadows along the track were way past bloom but it was evident that earlier in the year there would have been quite the wildflower display.
IMG_1134A peak east to McClellan Mountain and the more distant Strawberry Mountain (post).

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IMG_1137We saw a number of these moths sleeping on the hyssop.

IMG_1139Hyssop and sunflowers

IMG_1142Paintbrush

IMG_1143Looking up Fields Peak.

IMG_1144Mountain coyote mint

IMG_1146Shadow of Fields Peak

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IMG_1152Buckwheat

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IMG_1155A few trees near the top.

IMG_1158Final steep pitch to the summit.

IMG_1160View west, Aldrich Mountain is the high point to the near right.

It was another nice morning with relatively clear skies given the fires that were (and still are) raging in Oregon.
IMG_1162View north

IMG_1165McClellan Mountain and the Strawberry Mountain Range to the east.

IMG_1164Logan Valley to the SE.

IMG_1169The view south.

We had a nice break and then headed back down. On the way several grouse startled us when they flew out of the trees as a group of raucous Clark’s nutcracker watched from the tree tops.
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20210723_075245More moths

When we reached the junction with the McClellan Mountain Trail we turned left.
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Aside from being a little crowded with brush the trail was in relatively good condition with just a couple of downed trees that were easily navigated.
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Over the next 2.2 miles the trail slowly lost elevation as it alternated between south and north facing hillsides via four saddles, the first of which we arrived at after 0.5 miles.
IMG_1191Hillside above the trail.

IMG_1193Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1194Approaching the saddle where we would cross the the north side of the hill ahead.

IMG_1195The first saddle with Moon Mountain behind.

IMG_1197Looking back along the trail.

IMG_1199Looking back from the saddle.

IMG_1200The north side had a few more trees.

IMG_1203Looking back toward Fields Peak

IMG_1209We passed through a rocky section near the second saddle.

In another half mile we found ourselves passing through the second saddle and back on the south side of the ridge.
IMG_1212McClellan Mountain from the second saddle.

Yet another half mile of trail brought us to the third saddle. Sullivan calls this phlox saddle and there was indeed a lot of phlox present it but had been a long time since it bloomed and all of the plants were now brown and dried.
IMG_1213Approaching the third saddle.

The trail was again on the north facing side as it passed over a ridge leading out to Moon Mountain.
IMG_1215Moon Mountain

IMG_1216Fields Peak (center).

IMG_1219McClellan Mountain as we approached the fourth saddle.

As the trail descended to the fourth saddle it disappeared in the sagebrush meadow.
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The good news was this fourth saddle was where the off trail route to the top of McClellan Mountain started so we simply made our way through the sagebrush to the gentlest looking slope and started up the mountain. Sullivan showed it being 1.2 miles and just under 700′ up to the 7043′ summit.
IMG_1224Looking back you can sort of make out the trail angling down the near hillside.

IMG_1225Looking up McClellan Mountain.

Earlier in the hike I had mentioned to Heather that the only real disappointment of the trip had been the lack of large wildlife (aside from the dozens of deer and lone bobcat we spotted on our drives). As we crested the first hill on our way up McClellan Mountain though we spotted a line of ungulates crossing the hillside far above us. They were far enough away that I couldn’t tell for sure if they were elk or deer but once again the zoom on our camera helped solve the mystery.
IMG_1229In the middle of the center hill to the left of the tree in the foreground is the line of what turned out to be 5 bull elk.

IMG_1226Blurry due to the elk moving and the deep zoom.

IMG_1232Four of the bulls stopped to look back at us.

IMG_1234The fifth and largest bull on top of the ridge waiting for the rest.

After watching the elk disappear over the hillside we continued on. As far as off trail hikes go this was nice and straight forward, not ever too steep, and the vegetation wasn’t too tall or thick.
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IMG_1242An old fence line on the hill.

IMG_1243Fields Peak on the left, an unnamed peak in the center and Moon Mountain on the right.

IMG_1245False summit (there’s always at least one). After some debate we went to the left of the rock outcrop which worked out well.

IMG_1246Passing the rock outcrop.

IMG_1248Almost there.

IMG_1249The Greenhorn Mountains, Elkhorns, Dixie Butte and the Strawberry Mountains from left to right in the distance.

IMG_1251Looking back at Fields Peak

IMG_1250The John Day River Valley.

IMG_1253Logan Valley

IMG_1254Company at the summit.

We took another nice break at the summit before heading back the way we’d come. On the return trip we had an encounter with what we believe was our first ruffed grouse.
IMG_1262Passing back through Phlox Saddle.

IMG_1264A better look at the rocky section of trail.

IMG_1272Mountain coyote mint, one of only a couple with this coloration on the stems.

IMG_1271Butterfly and a beetle.

20210723_114437Sagebrush mariposa lily

IMG_1277Ruffed grouse

IMG_1280A final look at McClellan Mountain.

For the second day in a row our hike came in at 12.3 miles, this time with approximately 3200′ of elevation gain.

Fields Peak Track

In our five days of hiking in the area we passed a single hiker (with dogs), something that is unheard of even on weekdays on the western side of the State. We were a little concerned about ticks but we only saw two, Heather had one on her hand the first night on the Rock Creek Trail and she had a second on her tights at the end of the Canyon Mountain hike but neither had bitten her. It had been an enjoyable trip but it was time to head home. We drove to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before leaving early the next morning for one final short hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Fields Peak

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 1 – Ice Lake

When I put together our hiking schedule for the year one of the most anticipated trips was our first visit to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in North Eastern Oregon. At 355,846 acres it is the largest wilderness area in Oregon and contains 31 peaks whose summits are over 8000′. A variety of wildlife is also present including wolves. Our plan was to visit during the first week of August hoping it would be early enough to see some good flowers but late enough to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes and not have issues with lingering snow. Leading up to our trip we watched the weather and fire reports making sure everything looked clear and thanks to some timely trip reports on Oregonhikers.org we knew that snow wasn’t going to be an issue.

With everything checking out we left home on July 31st and began the 6+ hour drive to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. Our first little hiccup came as we were driving along I84 and learned that a fire had started overnight closing the interstate just beyond Pendleton, OR. We were forced to detour through the Umatilla National Forest which added a little time to our drive. Luckily we had left the house early and it was just after 11am when we finally arrived at the trailhead.
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The trailhead is located at the end of Wallowa Lake State Park and the area is a very popular recreation area which was evident by the number of people. We strapped on our packs and followed signs for the West Fork Wallowa Trail and Ice Lake.
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It wasn’t long before we entered the wilderness.
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The trail followed the West Fork Wallowa River up a valley with occasional views.
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The wildflowers were starting to fade at the lower elevations but there were still some blooming along the way.
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After 2.8 miles we arrived at the junction with the Ice Lake Trail.
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This trail led down to a crossing of the West Fork Wallowa River.
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From this area we could see the monstrous Ice Falls on Adam Creek which flowed from Ice Lake over 4.5 miles and 2000′ away.
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Ice Falls

On the far side of the river we began the long climb up to Ice Lake.
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The lower section of trail passed through grassy meadows filled with two types of mariposa lilies.
Sagebrush mariposa lily
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White mariposa lily
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The trail then passed through a section of rock fields before reaching Adam Creek.
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The climbing really started here as the trail began a series of switchbacks along the creek. After 14 of them we came to Beauty Falls.
Beauty Falls

Ice Falls was visibly beyond Beauty Falls.
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The trail straightened out as it passed through another series of meadows where the wildflowers were blooming nicely.
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Beyond these meadows another dozen switchbacks stood between us and our goal. Although the temperature wasn’t all that high the combination of the climb and being in the sun made it seem hot. It was slow going but we knew we were getting close when we passed the sign announcing that fires were prohibited beyond that point which meant we were about a quarter mile away.
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As we came around a bend we got our first view of the marble rock of the Matterhorn in the distance.
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It wasn’t much further before the blue water of Ice Lake became visible.
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We’d read that most of the campsites were located on the SE side of the lake so we crossed Adam Creek and began searching for a spot.
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In addition to the ban on fires camping is prohibited less than 100′ from the lake or streams. It was immediately evident by the numerous fire rings and obvious prior tent locations near the lake that some people are incapable of following the rules. We picked out an appropriate spot and got settled.
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After relaxing and having dinner we did some exploring following a trail along the south side of the lake.
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We spotted a few of the locals along the way.
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We crossed a nice inlet creek and followed it up to a pretty alpine meadow with a waterfall.
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After filtering some water from the creek we returned to camp for the night.
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It had been a great first day but shortly after we turned in Heather became ill. We were up for a couple of hours as she attempted to get her stomach to settle down. When we finally were able to go back to bed we did so wondering if we would be continuing our trip.

Happy trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669026671623

Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Fifteenmile Creek

An unusually wet forecast had us looking for an alternative hike this past week.  I was looking for a hike that didn’t have a mountain view as it’s main focus and if there was less of a possibility of getting rained on that would be a bonus.  In looking at our list of “to-do” hikes Fifteenmile Creek stood out as a good option.  The hike is in the Mt. Hood National Forest east of Mt. Hood and Lookout Mountain.  A loop descends from Fifteenmile Campground through the ecological transition zone between the Cascade Mountains and Central Oregon.

The forecast looked promising with Mt. Hood acting as the rain shadow for this area so we headed out the door at 4:30am and made the two and a half hour drive past Mt. Hood to Highway 35. To reach Fifteenmile Campground from Hwy 35 we took Forest Road 44 for 8.5 miles to Forest Road 4420 where we turned right for 2.3 miles to Forest Road 2730. The campground was 1.9 miles down FR 2730.  A bonus for this hike is the roads were paved the entire way with minimal potholes.
Fifteen Mile Forest Camp entrance

We parked in a small two car parking area near the trailhead and set off on the Fifteenmile Trail toward the Cedar Creek Trail junction.
Fifteenmile Trail

We were not alone in the forest.
Doe

The trail descended along Fifteenmile Creek for a quarter mile to the start of the loop. The trail had been logged out a month earlier and was in great shape despite evidence that there had been a lot of trees down.
Fifteenmile Trail

Footbridge over Fifteenmile Creek

Fifteenmile Trail sign

The sign at the start of the loop was a little confusing in that it showed the Cedar Creek Trail jct as being another quarter mile to the right, but the trail sign at the trailhead had also listed the jct as a quarter mile away. We did not see another trail junction along the Cedar Creek Trail until it rejoined the Fifteenmile Trail so it would seem the sign is an error. In any event we followed the pointer for the Cedar Creek Trail and crossed Fifteenmile Creek.
Fifteenmile Creek

The Cedar Creek Trail climbed up through a forest to a ridge top where it began to pass through meadows and by rocky viewpoints across the Fifteenmile Creek Valley.
Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

View from the Cedar Creek Trail

Andesite

It was too late in the year for the best of the wildflowers in the area but there were still quite a few along the way.

Lupine
Lupine

Slender bog orchid
Slender bog orchid

Prince’s pine
Prince's pine

Scouler’s bluebell
Scouler's bluebell

Worm-leaf stonecrop
Worm-leaf stonecrop

Wild onion
Wild onion

The trail was now descending along the ridge and as it did so we were dropping down toward Central Oregon. We were now in the pine-oak grassland zone which sits between the forests of Mt. Hood and the high desert of Central Oregon. Manzanita, ponderosa pine, and juniper trees began to appear and we were passing more interesting andesite formations.
Cedar Creek Trail

A couple of Juniper trees along the Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Trail

Andesite rock piles

The ridge began narrowing as we approached the lower junction of the Cedar Creek and Fifteenmile Trails. The flat plain of Central Oregon lay straight ahead reveling the stark contrast in the topography between the Cascades and High Desert.
Cedar Creek Trail looking east

Looking east toward the Central Oregon plain

There were a bunch of sagebrush mariposa lilies, one of my favorite wildflowers, along this stretch.
Sagebrush mariposa lily

Sagebrush mariposa lily

The trail steepened a little at the end of the ridge and dropped down to a trail junction at Fifteenmile Creek.
Fifteenmile Creek

Lower junction

After a little exploration we started up the Fifteenmile Trail to complete the loop and return to Fifteenmile Camp. The lower portion of the Fifteenmile Trail climbed very slowly through a much lusher forest than we had seen along the lower portion of the Cedar Creek Trail.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

It eventually began to climb more quickly and entered the terrain more akin to that along the Cedar Creek Trail with meadows and andesite formations.
View from the Fifteenmile Trail

Andesite along the Fifteenmile Trail

Again it was too late for the best of the flowers but not completely devoid of them.
Grand collomia
Grand collomia

Penstemon
Penstemon

Yarrow
Yarrow

Scarlet gilia
Scarlet gilia

After 2.5 miles the trail arrived at a signed junction with an old roadbed.
Trail junction along the Fifteenmile Trail

We followed the old roadbed for a short distance before it gave way to trail once again. The trail then climbed through a series of increasingly impressive andesite formations.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Andesite outcroping

Looking down into the Fifteenmile Creek Valley

The trail then reenters the forest for good as it drops down to a footbridge over Foster Creek, climbs to a second footbridge across an unnamed creek, and finally arrives back at the Cedar Creek Trail jct just a quarter mile from the trailhead.
Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

Fifteenmile Trail

It had turned out to be a good choice for the day. We had our fair share of blue skies and only a few minutes of a light sprinkle for rain. Although these trails are popular with mountain bikers we only saw two during our hike and no other hikers. Based on the amount of balsamroot and lupine that was no longer in bloom, a visit during the first part of June would probably be great for the wildflowers here. The views, the andesite formations, and the varied ecological zones along the way would make it a worthwhile trip anytime though. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668046892554