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Hells Canyon Hiking Oregon Trip report

Freezeout Saddle

Day two of our Memorial Day Weekend trip to NE Oregon was set to be our first visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness. Our planned hike was a loop described by Sullivan as “rugged” starting from the Freezeout Trailhead and utilizing the Saddle Creek, Summit Ridge, and Freezeout Trails.

According to the weather forecast, day two was also the most likely to provide precipitation with a 90% chance of showers as the day wore on. It had rained a bit overnight at Wallowa Lake so we were pleasantly surprised to have a nice view of the mountains as we drove into Joseph that morning.
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From Joseph we drove to Imnaha where we turned right onto the mostly gravel Upper Imnaha Road for 12.3 miles. Just before a bridge we veered left from the wide gravel road onto a much narrower, steep, more dirt than gravel road for 2.7 miles to the large trailhead.
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Two trails leave from this trailhead, the Saddle Creek and Freezeout. We took the Saddle Creek Trail on the left side of the informational signboard.
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There was a decent amount of blue sky behind us to the east as we began to climb up the trail.
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Ahead of us the Sun was still rising in the east where a few lighter clouds filled the sky.
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We also noticed a few cows on the hillside ahead of us.
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We were busy looking for flowers and ignoring the cattle.
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We couldn’t ignore them for long though as we soon rounded a bend to find several of them in the trail. They began to head up the trail so we followed having played this game before (post). More cows began to hurry down the hillside and cross the trail and then we noticed the bull. He didn’t look overly please with us but he managed to get the rest of the herd off the trail and uphill a bit. We passed on by and then promptly heard several of the cows coming up quickly behind us. I knew this game too from my time moving irrigation pipes in Central Oregon as a teenager. I turned and they stopped then we repeated (like the school yard game “red light, green light”). Knowing this could go on for awhile when we got into a brushy section of trail we sped up and left them behind.
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IMG_7364Heather emerging from the brushy section.

We could relax and start enjoying the hike again. The trail climbed up through open grass hillsides with occasional stands of trees. Views abounded.
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About a half mile from the trailhead the Saddle Creek Trail made a wide arc into the tress to Saddle Creek.
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The trail crossed the creek only to recross it moments later.
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The forest hosted a few different flowers than the grassy hillsides.
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The trail climbed away from the creek and began a series of switchbacks leading back to the open hillsides.
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As we gained elevation the number of blooming flowers increased.

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IMG_7421Balsamroot, paintbrush and biscuitroot

The views also got better as we climbed but we also began to notice showers passing by. A bonus result of the showers was a faint rainbow that framed the snowy Wallowa Mountains to the west for a time.
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The Saddle Creek Trail kept climbing, sometimes via switchback and others up and around ridges.
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There was a good number of flowers in bloom with quite a few more to come.
IMG_7464Larkspur and monkeyflower

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IMG_7490Chickweed

IMG_7470Possibly going to be a penstemon

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We finally arrived at Freezeout Saddle after gaining over 1900′ in what our GPS claims was 3 miles.
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A trail signpost marked the junction with the Summit Ridge Trail.
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Despite the showers nearby we had a pretty good 360 degree view.
IMG_7493West to the quickly vanishing Wallowa Mountains.

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We rested briefly at the saddle admiring the view.
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After the break we headed south on the Summit Ridge Trail passing more views into Hells Canyon and some different wildflowers.
IMG_7514Cutleaf daisy

IMG_7529A little white alpine pennycress

IMG_7533Largehead clover

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The view toward the Wallows had taken a hit though as some dark clouds and rain showers now lay between us and them.
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We began to run into quite a few yellow glacier lilies when we reentered the trees as we traversed around the west side of a rise along the ridge.
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There were also a few kittentails present.
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We ran into our first non-bovine obstacle in the form of a downed tree in this section.
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Oh if that had been the only other obstacle. As we came around the hillside and spotted a snowfield in the distance.
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The rain “showers” had made their way over to us and at an elevation of approximately 6200′ we were partly in the clouds.
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We hoped it would pass quickly and stuck to looking for more flowers which we found in a clump of hairy clematis.
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We arrived at the snow field and sized it up. There was a clear track crossing from the side we were on.
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We had brought our microspikes for just such an occasion but the snow looked narrow and the footprints were well established from what we could see so we eschewed the spikes and started across. Big mistake as the footprints had smoothed over on the far side of the snow (which was icy and even slicker than usual with the rain falling). I managed to heal kick some footholds and get off the snow without too much trouble but Heather had gone higher thinking it would be easier to get off by going up. Luckily she was able to kick in a little bit of footing and jam her poles into the snow to help keep her from sliding down the hill. I was able to the get a hold of her pack and we got her off the snow as well. Lesson learned, we carry the microspikes for a reason, use them!

A bit shaken we continued on stopping to admire a yellowbell.
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The rain was not letting up so we’d thrown on our rain jackets which we had put off putting on thinking that we were liable to get wetter from sweat while we climbed than wearing them in the rain. The trail had leveled off along the ridge now and we began encountering more patches of snow.
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Just under three miles from Freezeout Saddle we arrived at another signed junction.
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In our guidebook Sullivan has you go straight at this junction showing the fork to the right petering out after a short distance. The Forest Service map which is also on the GPS unit shows the right hand trail (Marks Cabin Trail) going all the way over to the Freezeout Trail. We initially headed straight but the footprints that we had been following through the snow patches disappeared and so had the trail. After about 450 feet we decided to go back to the junction and try the other way which would be shorter and we hoped less snowy. Incidentally the 450 foot excursion from the junction officially took us into the Hells Canyon Wilderness so we at least were able to mark off another wilderness area as visited.

Marks Cabin Trail was no easier to follow as it was faint even when there was no snow.
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We used the maps to stay close to where the trail was supposed to be having to correct course a number of times due losing sight of it under the snow only to find it again by spotting cut logs or a bit of tread.
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After crossing over a barbed wire fence we spotted a cairn in the grass but there was no sign of a trail anywhere near it.
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More map work led us to what at least looked like a trail.
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By now the rain shower had not only not passed over but it was now a snow shower. At some point we wound up a 100 feet or so above the trail and had to climb over a number of logs to get down to it.
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Luckily we managed to get back to it near the junction with the Freezeout Trail which was marked by a small piece of white flagging (not shown as my hands were too cold to unclip the camera from my waist) 1.5 miles (they route we took) from the junction. Heather kept asking where the cabin was which I thought was a strange obsession to see some private cabin while all I wanted to do was get down below the snow. A couple days later she pointed out that we might have been able to warm up at the cabin (if it had been open or if someone from one of the vehicles at the trailhead had been using it) or use it to orient ourselves and make sure we were on the right trail.

We headed down the Freezeout Trail which quickly became faint in the grass.
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The good news was it reappeared and the rain/snow was finally starting to let up.
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The bad news was that after passing over a ridge the trail headed into a gully that was holding quite a bit of snow among trees and other vegetation (again not pictured due to cold hands and a bit of frustration). The trail is described as an old cattleman’s trail in the guidebook and that description fit in the steep gully. We knew the trail crossed the gully but we couldn’t see where and we didn’t want to try and cross any of the steep snow even with our spikes so we picked our way through the best looking gap in the snow patches and found what turned out to be the trail somehow.

We were now done with the snow for the day and soon we were back traversing an open hillside with views albeit more limited than those from the morning.
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(The rest of the photos were a fight with moisture and numb fingers so please excuse the numerous water spots. 🙂 )
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Despite being cold and soaked we were still looking for flowers.
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IMG_7650Mariposa lily starting to open.

This portion of trail alternated between grassy open areas and ponderosa pine forest.
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After the first mile from where we’d turned onto it, the Freezeout Trail steepened a lot as it headed downhill fast to an unsinged junction with the Long Ridge Trail.
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Shortly beyond the junction we crossed a scenic unnamed creek that refused to sign a waiver forcing me to blur out its identity.
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The trail leveled out somewhat beyond the creek and at another opening we were able to look back up towards the ridge where we’d come from.
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We were now traversing a hillside above Freezeout Creek and gradually making our way down to it through the forest.
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Along this strecht we spotted this cute little flower.
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As we neared Freezeout Creek we passed a junction for the Morgan Ridge Trail.
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Our final obstacle of the day was navigating around Freezout Creek which has claimed a chunck of the trail as its own. A scramble path led up and around a tree which was lucky because the water actually looked quite deep where the trail had been.
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From there it was just over a quarter mile back to the trailhead where we were more than happy to put on some dry clothes and warm up. The GPS tallied a 13 mile hike and it felt every bit of one with approximately 3700′ of elevation gain. The climb up really wasn’t all that bad but we were feeling the steep decent in our knees.

The day had one more bit of adventure in store for us as we headed down the narrow road from the trailhead. A pair of trucks, one with a horse trailer, were heading up and where we met the road was too narrow to pass. Heather had to back up a good distance until we found a spot where they could pass.

After the trucks went by we were able to get back to Joseph with the only other excitement being a pair of turkeys along the road.
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In Joseph we stopped at the R & R Drive In for some comfort food which really hit the spot. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Freezeout Saddle

Categories
Bull of the Woods/Opal Creek Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Little North Santiam River

Our Throwback Thursday hike this week was the first time that we experienced snowfall while on a trail. In early April of 2012 we headed to the Little North Santiam, West Trailhead for what we hoped would be a 9 mile out-and-back hike along the Little North Santiam River.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

The area has become so popular on summer weekends that in June 2017 the Forest Service put several restrictions in place (information). Most of the issues have been north bank of the river which is easily accessed by car. Even in 2012 we knew to avoid the warm days of summer so we were there on a cold, wet Spring morning ready to go.
Little North Santiam Trail sign

Little North Santaim Trail

The Little North Santiam Trail led through a green forest along the Little North Santiam River.
Winter Creek

Little North Santaim River

Several side paths led down to the clear water.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Low clouds provided a light drizzle but we could see high enough up the hillside to see that snow level wasn’t all that much more above us.
Snowy trees not too much higher up

After crossing Winter Creek the trail climbed away from the river as it passed through a narrow canyon.
Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

After passing the canyon the trail descended back down to the river through a mossy green forest.
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Forest along the Little North Santaim Trail

Little North Santaim River

At the 3.3 mile mark we passed above the Three Pools which are emerald pools in the river separated by small falls.
Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

Little North Santaim River

A little beyond the Three Pools the trail crosses Little Cedar Creek on a footbridge only the footbridge had been washed out over the winter and the creek was flowing high enough and fast enough to make the thought of fording unattractive. We were only about half a mile from the eastern trailhead but had to turn back.

As we headed back it began to snow.
Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

It was coming down steadily and beginning to stick.
Snow along the Little North Santiam Trail

Snow falling on the Little North Santaim River

Things looked quite a bit different at the high point of the trail when we passed over on the way back.
Little North Santaim Trail

Fresh snow on the Little North Santiam Trail

As we descended the amount of snow lessened but it still made for some beautiful scenery.
Snow on the Little North Santaim River

There was even a bit of snow at the trailhead when we got back.
Fresh snow at the Little North Santiam Trailhead

The snow had surprised us and we were a little nervous at first about being able to see the trail, which was unfounded but we hadn’t hiked in snow like that before. It wound up being an exceptionally beautiful hike though and so much nicer than it would have been with hundreds of people swimming in the river. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Little North Santiam River

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Peavy Arboretum – McDonald Forest

We are in the middle of an extremely mild winter. Aside from some freezing rain on Christmas Weekend we’ve experienced no other snow or icy conditions. That of course changed when we decided that we would take our February hike on Presidents Day. After making that decision the weather forecast immediately called for a snow event that same weekend with Sunday night expected to be the worst of it. After double checking the forecast Saturday afternoon we moved our hike up by one day and changed destinations to something closer to Salem, the McDonald Forest. The forest has become our go to destination in inclement weather having visited McCulloch (post) Peak in October 2016 and Dimple Hill (post) in December of that same year.

For this visit we chose the trails around the Peavy Arboretum. The arboretum is located at the northwestern end of the forest and can be reached by driving Highway 99W north of Corvallis 5 miles and turning left on Arboretum Road for .8 miles to the Peavy Arboretum entrance sign on the right. There are several potential parking areas to choose from and we stayed to the left at forks for .3 miles to a trailhead sign where the road ahead was gated.
Peavy Arboretum Trailhead

John H. Beuter Road

After picking up a trail map we headed up John H. Beuter Road for .3 miles to the OSU Forestry Club Cabin.
OSU Forestry Club Cabin

We turned left onto the Section 36 Loop Trail at the start of the lawn and crossed a small stream on a footbridge.
Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

We had woken up to a small amount of snow and as we gained a little elevation on the trail, we began to encounter some on the vegetation. It was a strange mix of Winter and Spring as some of plants were starting to blossom.
Spring blossoms with a dusting of snow on the leaves behind

The trail continued to climb through a foggy forest and past benches to more and more snow covered ground.
Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

Snowy hillside

Snow along the Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

Section 36 Loop Trail

We stuck to the Section 36 Loop ignoring side trails for 1.4 miles. Then we came to a T-shaped junction with the Powder House Trail where we turned left.
Powder House Trail

About a quarter mile from the junction the Powder House Trail crossed a series of three gravel roads. We had been planning to turn left on the first road (Road 500) and follow it to the Vineyard Mountain Trail and down to a trailhead at Lewisburg Saddle where we would then take a different series of trails and one of the other roads (Road 580) back up to the Powder House Trail. On the far side of Road 500 was a cougar sighting warning.
Cougar warning along the Powder House Trail

We were so distracted by the sign and our conversation that we forgot to turn onto the road. It wasn’t until we were about to cross the third road and we were looking at the map that it dawned on us that we should have turned left back on the first road.
Powder House Trail

Fortunately we had only passed Road 500 by a tenth of a mile so we backtracked and turned right onto the road.
Road 500

We didn’t see any cougars but we did see a whole bunch of juncos.
Junco invasion

We followed Road 500 for just over a mile and a half to a junction at a saddle.
Road 500

Here the Vineyard Mountain Trail began at a signpost.
Vineyard Mountain Trail

This trail climbed for .4 miles to a point near the some towers at the summit of Vineyard Mountain.
Radio tower on Vineyard Mountain

Vineyard Mountain

The trail then began descending along the southern ridge of Vineyard Mountain.
Vineyard Mountain Trail

Vineyard Mountain Trail

Just under a mile and a half from the summit we arrived at the Lewisburg Saddle Trailhead.

Here we briefly followed William A. Davies Road aka Road 580 before turning left onto the unsigned New Growth Trail.
New Growth Trail

An interpretive sign a little ways down the trail let us know that we were on the right path.
New Growth Trail Sign

The New Growth Trail lost enough elevation that we were soon on a snow free trail. Although snow melting from the tops of the trees made the stretch somewhat wet.
New Growth Trail

New Growth Trail

After a half mile we arrived at a junction. Here the half mile Old Growth Trail lay straight ahead or for a short loop back to the Lewisburg Saddle TH the right fork led back uphill to Road 580.
Old Growth Trail junction with the New Growth Trail

We took the Old Growth Trail which led us back into the snow.
Footbridge along the Old Growth Trail

The Old Growth Trail ended further up along Road 580 where we turned left and continued uphill.
Road 580

And into a decent snow flurry.
Snowing on Road 580

There had been a couple of quick breaks in the clouds earlier in the day but after this snow flurry passed the largest patch of blue sky yet appeared.
View from Road 580

View from Road 580

It just so happened that the section of Road 580 that we were on at the time passed by a clearcut which allowed us a nice view across the valley to peaks on the other side of the McDonald Forest.
View from Road 580

View from Road 580

The road then passed through a brief stand of remaining trees before entering another clearcut where the views had mostly disappeared.
View from Road 580

Approximately 2.5 miles from the end of the Old Growth Trail we arrived back at the Powder House Trail where we turned left.
Powder House Trail

This time we crossed the third road and headed uphill through a clearcut to a bench where we imagined the views would be pretty good on a clearer day.
Powder House Trail

Snow covered bench along the Powder House Trail

View from the snowy bench

The trail then curved back downhill to the Cap House where the Civilian Conservation Corps had once stored blasting caps.
Cap House

Interpretive sign at the Cap House

The trail continued to the right of the Cap House and descended a short distance to rejoin the Section 36 Loop Trail. Along the way we encountered several snow queen plants in bloom.
Snowy snow queen

Powder House Trail

We turned left onto the Section 36 Loop.
Powder House Trail junction with the Section 36 Loop Trail

The trail gradually descended as it passed through the forest for almost a mile to Cronemiller Lake.
Section 36 Loop Trail

Signs for the George W. Brown Sports Arena

Cronemiller Lake

Cronemiller Lake

We followed the lake shore all the way around to the right until we reached the signed Calloway Creek Trail.
Calloway Creek Trail

Closed from April to November to bike traffic we followed the Calloway Creek Trail a total of 2.5 miles staying left at most junctions except for the signed trail to Road 547 where we stayed right.
Calloway Creek Trail

Calloway Creek Trail

The trail crossed Calloway Creek twice and passed a small meadow with a bench.
Calloway Creek

Calloway Creek Trail

After the 2.5 miles we turned left onto the Intensive Management Trail.
Calloway Creek Trail junction with the Intesive Management Trail

At the next junction was a signboard map which could have been a little more descriptive.
Trail sign along the Intesive Management Trail

We stuck to this trail following pointers for the Arboretum Parking to a different parking lot a tenth of a mile from where we had started.
Intesive Management Trail

From here we took the .1 mile Firefighters Memorial Trail past a nice shelter and back to our car.
Firefighter Memorial Trail

Shelter along the Firefighter Memorial Trail

The hike turned out to be an approximately 14 mile loop with around 2000′ of elevation gain. A little more than we had planned for the day but a nice hike none the less. Alternating between being above and below the snow line added to the variety of the hike. It had turned out to be a good choice and another fun hike in the McDonald Forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Peavy Arboretum

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Baldy Lake

At the beginning of our vacation the forecast had called for Tuesday to be the coldest and wettest day of the week and then Wednesday and Thursday were expected to be a bit warmer with decreasing chances of precipitation and by Thursday afternoon partly sunny skies. By Tuesday that had all changed and a second weather system was following up the first. Wednesday morning was expected to be a little warmer than Tuesday  meaning less chance of snow on our drive to the trailhead but as the second system moved in that day more precipitation was expected and now there was a chance of isolated thunderstorms.

The good news in that forecast was we had no issues getting to the Baldy Creek Trailhead in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The Baldy Creek Trail set off from a small campground and promptly crossed the North Fork John Day River on a log footbridge.
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We then entered the North Fork John Day Wilderness.
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The 121,099 acre wilderness is made up of four separate areas with this being the third we’d visited during our vacation but the first in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The other two, Olive Lake and the North Fork John Day River, were in the Umatilla National Forest.

The trail passed through a nice, albeit wet, forest for just over a mile before reaching the first of several crossings of Baldy Creek.
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After crossing Baldy Creek the trail almost immediately crossed Bull Creek before entering a small section of forest recovering from a fire.
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We had enough of a view from the area of the fire to get an idea of where the snow line was. We knew going in that we would be hitting snow at some point on the hike since Baldy Lake sat at an elevation just over 7000′ plus the forecast called for 2-4 inches of snow during the day.
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Not long after crossing Bull Creek we recrossed Baldy Creek on a footbridge where we noticed a small amount of snow between the logs.
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As we made our way uphill along the creek the amount of snow on the ground slowly increased.
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In the next three miles the trail crossed Baldy Creek four more times. There were footbridges at all of the crossings but several of them were in such a state that it was easier to find a different way across the water.
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Beyond the final bridge the trail veered away from Baldy Creek and began climbing a bit more. As we climbed we found more and more snow on the trail and the trees.
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At the 5 mile mark we passed a trail sign at a junction.
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We were loving the winter scenery, it was such a welcome sight after a summer full of wildfires. On top of the snow on the ground and in the trees it had started snowing a bit. I mentioned that the only thing that could make it better would be to see a deer or even better an elk in the snow. Not five minutes later I looked up the trail and saw an elk cow staring back at me.
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She disappeared into the trees but then a second cow and two calves stepped onto the trail.
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The trail was now winding around a hillside with several small streams which seemed to be attracting the wildlife. The elk had been at one of these streams and not too much further at another stream was a varied thrush and some grouse.
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Our hike the day before along the North Fork John Day River had felt like fall but now we were in a winter wonderland.
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We crossed a greatly diminished Baldy Creek then came to a junction with a trail coming from Silver Creek Road.
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Baldy Lake was approximately a quarter mile from the junction.
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It was just a bit foggy when we arrived at the lake making it impossible to see the cliffs beyond the lake including Mt. Ireland.
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We found a log and brushed off the snow so we could take a seat and enjoy the lake. The wind was really blowing along the ridge above the lake but it was calm along the water and not particularly cold.
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We hadn’t been sitting there long when the clouds started to lift revealing the lookout tower atop the 8321′ Mt. Ireland.
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Our original plans had called for us to hike up to the lookout on Mt. Ireland at some point during the week but given the conditions we had decided to save that hike for another trip, so for now getting to see it from the lake would have to suffice.

We finally started to get chilly just sitting there so we tore ourselves away from the lake and headed back. It was snowing pretty hard as we made our way back down and we could see the difference along the trail.
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We eventually left the snow behind which ironically made me colder. My feet and hands had stayed relatively dry in the snow but now they were starting to get wet. My hands, without gloves (I’m a slow learner), froze when a brief round of hail passed over. We picked up our pace eager to get to a heated car.

As we passed by the old fire area a little blue sky was visible.
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By the time we’d reached the trailhead there was quite a bit more blue allowing us to bask in a little warm sunshine.
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It had been a 14 mile hike that took us a few months into the future when winter snows will be here to stay. Getting to see the elk had been a big bonus to what was a great hike and fun adventure. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baldy Lake

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Red Lake Trail

I am a bit behind on our trip reports but that’s because we were busy getting a few more hikes in on our final week of vacation. After our hike on the coast at Pacific City we headed back toward the mountains on Thursday. We had been debating on whether or not to attempt the hike we had planned due to the early snow that had been falling in the Cascades. The planned hike had us starting on the west end of the Red Lake Trail, climbing Potato Butte, continuing on to Top Lake, and then making a small loop past Cigar Lake where we would attempt to climb Double Peaks before returning to the Red Lake Trail and our car.

It was a nice morning as we set off and there were some good Fall colors on display. We climbed for a mile and a half before reaching the trails namesake – Red Lake.
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Water on the Red Lake Trail
Water on the Red Lake Trail
Red Lake
Red Lake

After passing Red Lake the trail then visits three more lakes in the next 1.3 miles. Avrill Lake was up first with a great reflection of Olallie Butte and Twin Peaks.
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Next up was Wall Lake where we got our first good glimpse of Potato Butte.
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Finally we came to Sheep Lake where a pair of ducks paddled beneath the reflection of Double Peaks.
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We took a trail on the eastern end of Sheep Lake that led up to Potato Butte. There were several swollen ponds along this trail and in places standing water obscured the path. We wound up losing the trail at the base of the butte and decided to scramble to the top and hope to pick up the correct trail at the summit.

One of the many swollen ponds along the Potato Butte Trail
One of the many swollen ponds along the Potato Butte Trail

We arrived at the summit and easily picked up the official trail. We had a fairly good view of Mt. Hood despite the presence of some clouds and a great view of Olallie Butte.

Mt. Hood from Potato Butte
Mt. Hood from Potato Butte
Olallie Butte from Potato Butte
Olallie Butte from Potato Butte

On the way down on the real trail we got a good look toward Mt. Jefferson which was hiding in the clouds and at Double Peaks. At 5280′ Potato Butte had only small amounts of scattered snow but Double Peaks was clearly snow-covered at its height of 5998′.

Looking toward Mt. Jefferson from Potato Butte
Looking toward Mt. Jefferson from Potato Butte
Twin Peaks on the left and Double Peaks on the right from Potato Butte
Twin Peaks on the left and Double Peaks on the right from Potato Butte

When we got to the base of the butte we saw the reason for our having lost the trail on the way up. One of the ponds had enveloped the actual trail making it impossible to see. We made our way around the edge of the pond and back to the Red Lake Trail and continued east toward the Pacific Crest Trail which we would use for part of our small loop to Cigar Lake.

The trail passed Fork Lake and several other unnamed ponds/lakes as it slowly climbed toward the PCT. We also began encountering more and more snow as we went.

Pond below Twin Peaks
Pond below Twin Peaks
Increasing amounts of snow
Increasing amounts of snow

The snow made it possible to see a variety of animal tracks showing us just how many different species that we never see walk these same trails. At the PCT junction we continued on the Red Lake Trail heading down now to Top Lake.

Some of the tracks in the snow
Some of the tracks in the snow
Top Lake
Top Lake
Fall on the shore of Top Lake
Fall on the shore of Top Lake

At Top Lake we left the Red Lake Trail and skirted the overflowing lake to its south end and climbed back up to the PCT near Cigar Lake.

Double Peaks from Cigar Lake
Double Peaks from Cigar Lake

There was a good amount of snow at Cigar Lake but we decided to see how far up Double Peaks we could make it. We found the marker for the trail easily enough, but between the snow and the extra water around Cigar Lake we were having a hard time determining just where the trail actually was. Luckily for us a deer had left us a set of tracks that we were able to follow that led us across and around the edge of Cigar Lake and to the continuation of the Double Peaks Trail which was just barely identifiable by a slight indentation in the snow.

Snow and water near Cigar Lake
Snow and water near Cigar Lake
Double Peaks Trail
Double Peaks Trail

Once we found the trail it was like walking through a winter wonderland. The snow was anywhere from a half-inch deep to mid-shin. The snow-covered trees looked ready for Christmas making this one of the most enjoyable stretches of hikes we’d had.

Heather on the Double Peaks Trail
Heather on the Double Peaks Trail
Christmas Trees in October
Christmas Trees in October

The trail was fairly steep and we almost lost it near the top when it veered up between some boulders but we managed to follow it all the way to the summit.

The base of Mt. Jefferson from Double Peaks
The base of Mt. Jefferson from Double Peaks
Evidence of wind and ice
Evidence of wind and ice
Potato Butte from Double Peaks
Potato Butte from Double Peaks
Olallie Butte
Olallie Butte
Timber, Olallie, Long, and Monon Lake from Double Peaks
Timber, Olallie, Long, and Monon Lake from Double Peaks

We didn’t get the view of Mt. Jefferson we’d hoped for but the snow more than made up for that. As we started down Double Peaks the day began to warm up and the snow was melting quickly. We did a lot of sliding down the slushy trail before reaching the PCT again and heading back to the Red Lake Trail. We returned the way we’d come only now we had some blue skies and sunlight as we passed the lakes and arrived back at our car. Happy Trails!

Sunlight mushroom
Sunlight mushroom
Twin Peaks from Sheep Lake in the afternoon
Twin Peaks from Sheep Lake in the afternoon

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