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.
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.
The trail/OHV track begins through a barbed wire fence and heads steeply uphill, at times, 0.7 miles to a saddle.
A lone interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail.
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.
Fields Peak from the saddle.
Heather 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.
A rare level section.
Scarlet gilia in the middle of the OHV track.
Nearing the trail junction.
The 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.
A peak east to McClellan Mountain and the more distant Strawberry Mountain (post).
We saw a number of these moths sleeping on the hyssop.
Hyssop and sunflowers
Looking up Fields Peak.
Mountain coyote mint
Shadow of Fields Peak
A few trees near the top.
Final steep pitch to the summit.
View 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.
McClellan Mountain and the Strawberry Mountain Range to the east.
Logan Valley to the SE.
The 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.
When we reached the junction with the McClellan Mountain Trail we turned left.
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.
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.
Hillside above the trail.
Sagebrush mariposa lily
Approaching the saddle where we would cross the the north side of the hill ahead.
The first saddle with Moon Mountain behind.
Looking back along the trail.
Looking back from the saddle.
The north side had a few more trees.
Looking back toward Fields Peak
We 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.
McClellan 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.
Approaching the third saddle.
The trail was again on the north facing side as it passed over a ridge leading out to Moon Mountain.
Fields Peak (center).
McClellan Mountain as we approached the fourth saddle.
As the trail descended to the fourth saddle it disappeared in the sagebrush meadow.
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.
Looking back you can sort of make out the trail angling down the near hillside.
Looking 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.
In 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.
Blurry due to the elk moving and the deep zoom.
Four of the bulls stopped to look back at us.
The 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.
An old fence line on the hill.
Fields Peak on the left, an unnamed peak in the center and Moon Mountain on the right.
False summit (there’s always at least one). After some debate we went to the left of the rock outcrop which worked out well.
Passing the rock outcrop.
The Greenhorn Mountains, Elkhorns, Dixie Butte and the Strawberry Mountains from left to right in the distance.
Looking back at Fields Peak
The John Day River Valley.
Company 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.
Passing back through Phlox Saddle.
A better look at the rocky section of trail.
Mountain coyote mint, one of only a couple with this coloration on the stems.
Butterfly and a beetle.
Sagebrush mariposa lily
A 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.
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