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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Boulder Creek Wilderness – 09/07/2020

We woke up at Wiley Camp on Labor Day and got ready to head back to the Hummingbird Meadows Trailhead. Our plan for the day was to drive back to Salem via Highway 138 and stop at the Boulder Creek Wilderness, one of the five remaining Oregon wilderness areas we had yet to visit (post) and one of Sullivan’s featured hikes.

It was the least smokey morning of the weekend which made for a pleasant 2 mile hike back to our car.
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IMG_5957View from the Buck Canyon Trail

IMG_5960Hummingbird Meadows Trail

IMG_5960West Fork Muir Creek

We drove back to Diamond Lake (post) from the trailhead then took Highway 138 toward Roseburg to milepost 55. There we turned right onto Medicine Creek Road and made an immediate left onto Soda Springs Road following it for 1.3 miles to the Soda Springs Trailhead.
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From the trailhead we took the Soda Springs Trail which ducked beneath a large steel pipe diverting water from the North Umpqua River to a nearby power station.
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The trail began climbing immediately after passing under the pipe and quickly arrived at a signed junction where the North Umpqua Trail forked to the right.
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The trail continued to climb through previously burned woods to another junction .4 miles from the trailhead.
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This was the Bradley Trail onto which we turned left following pointers for Pine Bench.

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This trail climbed over 650′ in the next mile before leveling out along the broad plateau of Pine Bench. There was an increasing presence of poison oak along the trail which we kept our eyes out for. It was especially bad along the hillside after we entered a more recent (2017) fire scar.
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IMG_6005Bradley Trail passing below some cliffs.

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IMG_6009A lot of the poison oak was turning color which made it easier to spot.

IMG_6013Entering the 2017 fire scar.

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IMG_6029Bradley Trail arriving at Pine Bench.

It was a hot climb in the exposed sun so reaching the forest atop Pine Bench was a nice reprise from both the heat and the vast majority of poison oak.
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IMG_6033Rock formation visible from the Bradley Trail.

A little over a mile and a half from the Soda Springs/Bradley Trail junction we arrived at the Boulder Creek Trail.
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We turned right here looking for a side trail to a spring near a campsite.
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IMG_6040Common wood nymph

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IMG_6045Illahee Rock Lookout

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We passed the campsite after .4 miles but we didn’t take the unsigned spur trail down to the spring due to the GPS map showing the trail further off.
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IMG_6112Spur trail to the left.

We quickly realized that the trail we had seen must have been the one we wanted but decided to continue on for now. From the campsite the trail continued to Boulder Creek after 1.7 miles. We were seeing very little poison oak and it was a nice day on the bench so we opted to do Sullivan’s longer described hike to the creek. The trail made a few unexpectedly steep up and downs and it grew fainter with a few downed snags but it was passable and there were signs of recent brushing/trail maintenance.
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IMG_6058Just over half a mile from the campsite we passed the very faint Perry Butte Trail.

IMG_6060Trail maintenance and ripe blackberries.

IMG_6063Looking up the Boulder Creek Valley

IMG_6064Looking down at the trail across a side drainage.

IMG_6065Looking across the Boulder Creek valley.

IMG_6067Small fall on Boulder Creek

IMG_6069Final drop down to Boulder Creek.

IMG_6070Boulder Creek

We took a short break on the rocks along the creek before turning back.
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IMG_6076The continuation of the Boulder Creek Trail on the far side of Boulder Creek which reportedly becomes even fainter and more wild.

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After cooling off a bit we started the process of climbing back up to the campsite and the spur trail to the spring.
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When we made it back to the spur trail we turned down it for 100 yards to a wide open area with madrone trees.
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The spring was just below some rocks on the left but there wasn’t much water flowing this time of year.
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After another short break we continued back to the Bradley Trail junction. We stayed straight here following the Boulder Creek Trail downhill through the 2017 fire scar. While there had been a good deal of poison oak along the Bradley Trail this trail put that one to shame. It was all avoidable but it was thick along the trail as it switchbacked downhill. There was also one switchback near the top where we were forced to walk down a large downed tree.
IMG_6115Fern tree along the Boulder Creek Trail.

IMG_6118This log was the trail.

IMG_6120Another switchback with poison oak on all sides of the trail.

The bright side of going down this way was there was a wilderness sign, or at least most of one (we hadn’t seen one on the other side).
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After a approximately 1.5 miles we arrived at a junction with the North Umpqua Trail where we turned left on an old roadbed.
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We followed the road another tenth of a mile or so to a gate blocking the road at the Boulder Creek Trailhead.
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Not too far from the gate we came to a pair of boulders blocking the road meaning the actual trailhead is inaccessible via car although there was room to park at the boulders. We continued down the road which brought us close to the North Umpqua River near the power station.
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We stopped at the far end of the Soda Springs Day Use Area to read the interpretive signs before returning to our car.
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We headed back to Salem and when we were back in cell range began receiving alerts about a hazardous wind event. By the time we made it back to Salem strong dry winds from the east had pushed the Lionshead and Beachie Creek Fires into the valley. Later that evening/night those fires would explode along with numerous other new fires up and down the West Coast. A slightly smokey but wonderful Labor Day Weekend turned into a nightmare for thousands. The fires continue to be a huge danger to many but the winds have shifted and rain is in the forecast so hopefully some relief is coming. Happy Trails and stay safe.

Flickr: Boulder Creek Wilderness

Categories
Hiking Mt. Rainier Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground (Mt. Rainier National Park) – 9/21/2019

We spent most of the Summer doing day hikes from home so that we could be back in time to give our elderly cats their daily medicines which put a limit on how far away we could go, but we had purchased tickets to the Seattle Seahawks/New Orleans Saints game prior to Buddy getting ill so my parents graciously took over for a day. We took the opportunity to drive up the day before the game and stop for a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park.

This would be our second visit to the park having hiked the Northern Loop on a 4-day backpack in 2015 (post). For this visit we were looking for something on the SW side of the mountain that would be a good late Summer/early Fall hike. A little research led us to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground from Longmire.

We arrived at Longmire just after 8am and prepared to set off on the Trail of Shadows.
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Our trail was located across the park entrance road from the National Park Inn.
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Also across the road was the shear cliffs of Rampart Ridge and the snow capped summit of Mt. Rainier.
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We were excited to see the mountain as it had been raining for several days and more rain was forecast for the next few, but a partly sunny forecast had at least given us some hope.
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The Trail of Shadows is a .7 mile interpretative loop around Longmire Meadow. We followed this trail clockwise for a quarter mile where we arrived at a junction with the Rampart Ridge Trail.
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We turned left on the Rampart Ridge Trail which promptly began climbing via a series of switchbacks to the top of the ridge. The trail climbed through an old growth forest with lots of mushrooms this time of year and a bit of fall color showing on the maples.
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The trail gained the ridge after a little under 1.5 miles and began to follow it to the NE. One and three quarters of a mile from the junction we forked right to a signed viewpoint overlooking Longmire.
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The position of the Sun wasn’t ideal, even with some clouds around, but Eagle Peak was also visible (albeit through some trees) rising above Longmire.
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Less then a quarter mile from the viewpoint we came to a turn where the trail began to descend, but before we started down we followed a short path to a rocky viewpoint where we got a better look at Mt. Rainier.
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Mt. Rainier was the main attraction but to the NW behind the clouds was another interesting and colorful peak, Mt. Wow.
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We spent quite a while at the viewpoint before starting down on the Rampart Ridge Trail which we found turned back toward the mountain and provided another spectacular view.
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We were soon back in the mushroom filled forest grateful for having gotten such a nice view of the mountain already. We figured if the clouds moved in, at least we’d gotten to see that .
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After 2.9 miles on the Rampart Ridge Trail we came to a signed junction with the Wonderland Trail.
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Here we turned left following the pointer for Indian Henry’s (Hunting Ground)
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We had gained over 1400′ climbing up to Rampart Ridge and now we began to lose 400 of those feet as the Wonderland Trail dropped to Kautz Creek in 3/4 of a mile. Mushrooms remained a main theme of the hike as we descended through more green forest.
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As we neared Kautz Creek the mountain once again came into view.
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We dropped into the washed out canyon of Kautz Creek where, you guessed it, there were some more interesting mushrooms amid the rubble.
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IMG_9731Satuick Mountain

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The crossing of Kautz Creek was fairly easy as far as glacier fed streams go. The creek was split into three channels which were small enough to rock hop across dry footed.
IMG_9735First crossing

IMG_9736Second crossing

IMG_9737The third channel was the largest but still relatively small.

IMG_9740Mt. Rainier from the far side of Kautz Creek.

The trail then reentered the forest and shortly arrived at Pyramid Camp.
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IMG_9746Yet another big mushroom.

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After a brief stint in the trees we emerged at another washed out creek bed. According to the map this was Pearl Creek (which later becomes Pyramid Creek after merging with a couple of other streams).
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This creek would have been a little trickier to cross had it not been for the presence of a pair of footbridges.
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After crossing the creek we popped back into the forest and almost immediately came to a clear spring.
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Beyond the spring the trail began to climb steeply gaining over 400′ in a half mile before becoming a bit more gradual as it traversed up the hillside crossing a few creek beds along the way.
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IMG_9763There were quite a few coral fungi present as well.

IMG_9766Fishers Hornpipe Creek

IMG_9769The mushrooms in the back had exploded.

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IMG_9774A few red huckleberries left to eat.

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Approximately one and three quarters of a mile from the Pearl Creek crossing we arrived at Devil’s Dream Creek.
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This creek flowed through a narrow slot canyon that looked (and sounded) really interesting.
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Although the trail briefly climbed uphill along side the canyon there were no views to speak of save one look down to the water below. From that spot it sounded like there was some sort of waterfall just upstream but there was no angle available to see anything so we settled for more colorful mushrooms.
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A half mile after crossing Devil’s Dream Creek we did spot a waterfall downhill to the right of the trail just before arriving at Devil’s Dream Camp. A path led down to the creek here. There wasn’t a lot of water flowing but it looked like it might be a pretty good waterfall when there was more flow.
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After the side trip we passed through the 8-site Devil’s Dream Camp.
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IMG_9804Bear pole

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It was uphill through the camp but not longer after passing the group site the trail leveled out a bit and entered the first meadow as we neared Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.
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A larger meadow followed with a view of Mt. Rainier hiding behind Iron Mountain.
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IMG_9825Gentians

IMG_9826Mushrooms in the meadow.

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IMG_9828Gray jay in the huckleberries.

A quarter mile from the camp we arrived at Squaw Lake.
IMG_9832Iron Mountain from the lake.

We crossed Devil’s Dream Creek again as we passed around the lake.
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I don’t know where the actual boundary of the hunting ground is but beyond Squaw Lake the meadows kept opening up more as we neared a backcountry patrol cabin.
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IMG_9853Western pasque flower

Finally Mt. Rainier came back into view.
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We spotted the patrol cabin approximately 8 miles (according to my GPS) into the hike. The cabin was set back in some trees overlooking the meadow with Mt. Rainier in the background. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque setting.
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We had been playing leap frog with another pair of day hikers who had planned on turning back at the cabin. We had also considered that given the distance and elevation gain to get there, but the mountain was so visible we decided to push on to Mirror Lakes which was just under a mile away. From a junction with the Kautz Creek Trail near the cabin we followed a pointer for the Mirror Lakes Trail .3 miles down the Wonderland Trail.
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The Wonderland Trail lost a little elevation before arriving at the Mirror Lakes Trail junction. Views of Mt. Rainier were plentiful along the .3 mile stretch.
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We turned onto the Mirror Lakes Trail which was pretty wet in spots from the recent rains, as were the meadows alongside the trail.
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There were a number of frogs in the meadow and they seemed to be enjoying the extra water.
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Most of the flowers were long since past but a few stragglers were hanging on.
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IMG_9920Butterfly on the remains of an aster.

IMG_9926Gentians

While the Summer flowers were mostly gone the nearby hillsides were heralding the arrival of Fall.
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We were glad that we’d decided to go on even before reaching the Mirror Lakes as the trail just kept getting us closer views of Mt. Rainier.
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IMG_9931Pyramid Peak to the right.

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The best was yet to come though. The largest (and first) of the little lakes that make up the Mirror Lakes had a perfect reflection of the still mostly cloud free mountain.
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We lingered for awhile studying the mountains various features.
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We would have loved to have stuck around longer but we still had a long hike back to Longmire and a 2 hour drive to our motel so we pulled ourselves away and started back. In the time it took to reach the patrol cabin the clouds had increased noticably.
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The shift in the clouds did reveal more of Emerald Ridge to the north which had some interesting features.
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We returned the way we’d come until arriving at the Wonderland Trail/Rampart Ridge Trail junction. This portion of the hike saw us spotting additional mushrooms that we hadn’t noticed earlier and a few more frogs, including one at the spring near Pearl Creek.
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IMG_9987This guy was tiny.

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IMG_9995Frog on a rock at the spring.

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The clouds had really moved in by the time we were crossing Kautz Creek and Mt. Rainier was gone.
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From the Wonderland/Rampart Ridge junction we stayed straight on the Wonderland Trail which, in addtion to being new trail, was at least a mile shorter route back to Longmire.
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The trail lost elevation pretty quickly and was fairly steep in places. The mushroom theme continued here as well.
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The trail did level out some as it passed below Rampart Ridges cliffs and over a swale on a boardwalk.
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We crossed the Paradise Road and soon after turned at a pointer for Longmire.
IMG_0044Looking back across the road.

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Our feet were sore and our knees tired but the 16.4 miles had been more than worth it. As we were loading up the car a gentleman asked if we would give him a ride out of the park. He had been on the Wonderland Trail but after 5 days of rain everything was wet and he hadn’t been able to cook some of his food so he was living to fight another day. His car was at Mowhich Lake though so we gave him a lift to Ashford and dropped him off at a motel/restaurant there before heading toward Seattle.

It was a great start to the weekend, if only Seattle’s play had been half as impressive as Mt. Rainier was maybe they could have pulled out a win. Ah well, we will take a beautiful hike over a single W any time. Happy Trails! (and GO Hawks!)

Flickr: Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground