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Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon

Canyon Mountain Trail – 07/22/2021

For our fourth day of vacation we had planned another of Sullivan’s featured hikes, this time the Canyon Mountain Trail in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Sullivan suggests two possible turn around points, for a moderate 6.6 mile hike Dog Creek and a more difficult 11.8 mile hike Dean Creek. We had originally planned on the more difficult option but were having second thoughts after reading the Forest Service information for the the Canyon Mountain Trailhead which noted that the final couple of miles of road were not maintained by the Forest Service and they recommend 4×4 vehicles only during dry months of the year. Sullivan simply described the road as “very steep and bumpy at times!”. We had prepared ourselves to have to park at one of the many dirt (OHV) spurs before reaching the trailhead thus adding a few miles to our hike in which case Dog Creek might need to be our turnaround. The road was indeed steep and bumpy but our Rav4 managed to make it 2.2 miles to a saddle where the road worsened even further. We decided to park along a spur road at the saddle and walk the final 1/4 mile of road to the trailhead.
IMG_0825I had started up to the left at the saddle but it was steep with gullies and some debris so we carefully turned around and parked below.

IMG_0827Little Canyon Mountain from the saddle. A wildfire burned the area in 2015 and the trail up to Dog Creek.

IMG_0828The actual trailhead.

A short distance up the trail we entered the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
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The Canyon Mountain Trail doesn’t climb Canyon Mountain but rather traverses the hillsides below its namesake. There were however views of said mountain as we came around the first ridge end of the hike.
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This was the least hazy morning of our trip so far but we were heading toward the rising Sun so visibility still wasn’t all that great.
IMG_0840Little Pine Creek flowed down this valley below Canyon Mountain.

It looked like the wildflower display was probably pretty good earlier in the year but most of them were past now. We did see a fair number of late bloomers though.
IMG_0846Yarrow along the trail.

IMG_0848Fireweed

IMG_0853Paintbrush

Approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead we arrived at Little Pine Creek at a switchback.
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A tenth of a mile beyond the switchback (and after switching back once more) we crossed Little Pine Creek but not before stopping to sample some raspberries.
IMG_0862Paintbrush and pearly everlasting

IMG_0864Raspberries

IMG_0868We don’t recall seeing a penstemon with leaves like this before.

IMG_0870Twinberry (we did NOT sample)

Sitka burnetSitka burnett (white)

IMG_0873Little Pine Creek at the crossing.

The trail then gradually climbed through the forest to a viewpoint at a ridge end in what was now a dry meadow dotted with sagebrush mariposa lilies.
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IMG_0877Prince’s pine

Mountain death camasMountain death camas

IMG_0886Fringed grass of parnassus

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IMG_0888John Day below.

IMG_0889Little Canyon Mountain behind the ridge we’d come around earlier.

IMG_0896The Aldrich Mountains to the west, our destination for the next day’s hike.

IMG_0897Canyon Mountain

20210722_072943One of the sagebrush mariposa lilies.

IMG_0899Dixie Butte and the Greenhorn Mountains to the NE

After wrapping around the ridge the trail reentered the forest once again and descend gradually to Dog Creek, 1.7 miles from the Little Pine Creek crossing. Berries were the highlight at Dog Creek with three different types of ripe blue/huckleberries to pick from.
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20210722_080022Columbine

20210722_080031Swamp onion

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IMG_0918Flowers at Dog Creek

IMG_0920Twinflower

Since we’d manage to drive almost to the trailhead we decide to continue on to Dean Creek which was another 2.2 miles away. The distance was mostly due to having to swing out and around the rocky ridge separating the two creek drainage’s.
IMG_0930There was a lot of elk sign along this section of the trail.

IMG_0931A lot of sign.

IMG_0937Looking back toward Canyon Mountain.

IMG_0939The trail crossed over the ridge in a saddle with quite a bit of mountain coyote mint.

IMG_0941Mountain coyote mint

IMG_0944Strawberry Mountain (post) from the saddle.

IMG_0948Heading toward Dean Creek now.

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IMG_0953Green Mountain on the left and Canyon Mountain on the right.

IMG_0955A smaller raptor, it wouldn’t look at us so I’m not sure what type it was.

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Butterflies on western snakerootButterflies on western snakeroot. Side note we didn’t see a single snake or lizard all week which was really surprising to us.

IMG_0975We did however see quite a few grouse.

IMG_0977The trail got a little brushy nearing Dean Creek.

20210722_092454_HDRThere wasn’t much water in Dean Creek but there was enough for a small cascade.

IMG_0993Wildflowers next to a small pool.

20210722_093953Dean Creek

IMG_1008Butterfly near the pool.

We sat in a nearby campsite to soak in the views as we took a short break.
IMG_0983Canyon Mountain

IMG_0984Dixie Butte with the Greenhorns on the left and the Elkhorns (post) on the right.

After our break we returned the way we’d come, watching as always for wildlife and any flowers we’d missed on our fist pass (also ripe berries).
IMG_1013Cones

IMG_1014Lousewort

IMG_1018Pearly everlasting, yellow flowers, and fireweed.

IMG_1020An eagle?

IMG_1032More cones

IMG_1036Dragon fly

IMG_1038A sulphur butterfly

IMG_1040California tortoiseshell

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IMG_1060Grouse

IMG_1063Maiden fly

IMG_1071Skipper

IMG_1082Woodpecker

IMG_1085Northern flicker

IMG_1095Mountain bluebird

We put the car in low and drove back down the steep road until we made it to pavement then returned to John Day for one final night. This was probably our favorite hike of the trip because it felt the most like being in the mountains even though we were at higher elevations on Spanish Peak, in the Monument Rock Wilderness and the next day in the Aldrich Mountains. With the little extra road walk we came in at 12.3 miles and about 1850′ of elevation gain. Happy Trails!

Our Canyon Mountain Track

Flickr: Canyon Mountain Trail

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Malheur River – 06/17/2021

After a night in John Day we headed south for a day hike on the Malheur River Trail. The trail starts at Malheur Ford Trailhead where Forest Road 1651 actually does ford the river.
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The Malheur, a designated Wild and Scenic River, is fed from the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness (post). The trail is 7.6 miles long running from the ford to another trailhead at Hog Flat. For our hike we planned on hiking around 6.5 miles of the trail at which point the trail would be starting the steep climb away from the river to Hog Flat. It was a pleasantly cool morning as we set off on the trail. Despite the Forest Service indicating that the trail had not been maintained it was in good shape with just a couple of trees to step over/around.
IMG_8357Bench near the trailhead.

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IMG_8363Lupine along the trail.

IMG_8378There was plenty of river access along the way.

20210617_065036Currant

IMG_8388Paintbrush and lupine along the trail.

IMG_8392Geraniums

IMG_8397Ponderosa pines

Mile markers were present (at least to mile 6) although we missed 3 & 5 on the way out. We managed to spot them on the way back though. There did seem to be a bit of a discrepancy regarding the first mile as there were two trees sporting “1”s.
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A little past the mile 1 markers the trail descended to Miller Creek where just a little water was present but it was enough to host a number of flowers.
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IMG_8416Balsamroot, columbine, geraniums and paintbrush.

The trail did several more ups and downs sometimes rising above the river and other times dropping down to flats along it. A rocky viewpoint just before the 2 mile mark was fairly impressive.
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IMG_8601Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8603Photo from the afternoon on the way back.

IMG_8444Tree marking mile 2.

IMG_8448Typical “obstacles” that were present along the trail.

IMG_8454Columbine

IMG_8461Cusick’s sunflower?

IMG_8463Balsamroot or mule’s ears?

IMG_8472Woodland stars

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IMG_8478Mile 4

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Right around mile five (which we missed the marker for) was a riverside meadow of wildflowers.
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IMG_8498Salsify and geraniums

20210617_092225Sticky cinquefoil

IMG_8505Swallowtail on scarlet gilia

20210617_092314Geranium

IMG_8514Some sort of copper butterfly

IMG_8523A checkerspot

IMG_8533Iris

IMG_8539Balsamroot (or mule’s ears)

20210617_093615A fleabane

20210617_093639A different type of fleabane.

20210617_093941Larkspur

20210617_094301Rosy pussytoes

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After hanging out in the meadow watching the butterflies for awhile we continued on.
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IMG_8550Hog Flat is up on top of the hillside.

IMG_8556Mile 6 markers.

IMG_8557Cracked egg in the trail.

IMG_8562We passed this cairn around the 6.5 mile mark.

IMG_8563We turned around here shortly after passing the cairn. It appeared the trail was beginning it’s climb and we took the cairn and downed tree as signs that it was time to turn around. We did just that and headed back keeping our eyes open for the mile 3 and 5 markers.
IMG_8579A fritillary butterfly on an iris.

IMG_8581Found 5

IMG_8593This was a particularly tricky little muddy spot to stay dry crossing.

IMG_8595And there’s “3”.

IMG_8607Immature bald eagle. We saw it on the way out in the same area but couldn’t get a photo. This time it flew right by me, and I think it was giving me the stink eye.

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IMG_8614Back at the trailhead.

This was a 13.5 mile out and back with a few hundred feet of elevation gain spread over the various ups and downs along the way. There were plenty of views of the river and a nice variety of wildflowers and wildlife making this a nice river hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Malheur River Trail

Categories
Hiking Uncategorized

Progress Report – Oregon Wilderness Areas

In our last post we wrote about our ambitious (possibly overly so) goal of completing 500 “featured” hikes in William L. Sullivan’s guidebooks. The topic of this post is another one of our goals, visiting all 45 of Oregon’s accessible designated wilderness areas (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands are off limits to all visitors). This goal should be quite a bit easier to accomplish given the much smaller number of needed hikes and the fact that the wilderness areas aren’t changing every few years. (There is legislation pending that would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the coast range between Reedsport and Eugene.)

The inspiration for this goal came from a fellow hiker and blogger over at Boots on the Trail. This smaller goal fit well into our 500 featured hikes goal too as thirty nine of the wilderness areas are destinations of at least one of the featured hikes. The remaining six: Copper-Salmon, Lower White River, Rock Creek, Cummins Creek, Bridge Creek, and Grassy Knob were still included in the books but as additional hikes in the back. Between the hike descriptions in the guidebooks and Boots on the Trail’s trip reports we’ve had plenty of information to work with.

This was an appealing goal too. Wilderness areas are dear to our hearts and home to many of our favorite places. These areas are the least affected by humans and we feel best reflect God’s work as Creator. To me they are akin to a museum showcasing His finest artistry. Just as we would in a museum we admire and enjoy the wilderness but we do our best not to affect it meaning adhering whenever possible to Leave No Trace principles.

We have made pretty good progress on this goal so far and as of 12/31/18 we had visited 38 of the 45 accessible areas (and seen the other two from the beach). We’re currently on track to have visited them all by the end of 2020.

Below is a chronological list of the wilderness areas we’ve been to (or seen) as well as any subsequent year(s) we’ve visited with some links to selected trip reports.

Opal Creek – 2009, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18

Battle Ax CreekBattle Ax Creek – 2014

Mt. Jefferson – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18

Mt. Jeffferson from Russell LakeMt. Jefferson from Russell Lake – 2016

Drift Creek – 2010

Drift CreekDrift Creek – 2010

Mt. Washington – 2011, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson from the Pacific Crest TrailMt. Washington from the Pacific Crest Trail – 2015

Three Sisters – 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

The Three Sisters from the edge of the plateauThe Three Sisters – 2014

Three Arch Rocks – 2011, 18

Three Arch Rocks WildernessThree Arch Rocks from Cape Meares – 2018

Mark O. Hatfield – 2012, 14, 15, 16

Triple FallsTriple Falls – 2012

Mt. Hood – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Mt. Hood from the Timberline TrailMt. Hood – 2015

Oregon Islands – 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Bandon IslandsBandon Islands – 2018

Mill Creek – 2012

Twin PillarsTwin Pillars – 2011

Mt. Thielsen – 2012, 14

Howlock Mountain and Mt. ThielsenHowlock Mountain and Mt. Thielsen – 2014

Table Rock – 2012, 15

Table RockTable Rock – 2015

Salmon-Huckleberry – 2013, 14, 15, 17, 18

Frustration FallsFrustration Falls – 2018

Diamond Peak – 2013, 14, 18

Small waterfall on Trapper CreekTrapper Creek – 2014

Waldo Lake – 2013, 15, 18

Waldo LakeView from Fuji Mountain – 2013

Roaring River – 2013

Serene LakeSerene Lake – 2013

Badger Creek – 2014

Badger Creek WildernessBadger Creek Wilderness – 2014

Middle Santiam – 2014

Donaca LakeDonaca Lake – 2014

Bull of the Woods – 2014, 15, 18

Emerald Pool on Elk Lake CreekEmerald Pool – 2018

Soda Mountain – 2015, 17

Looking west from Boccard PointView from Boccard Point – 2015

Red Buttes – 2015

Red Buttes, Kangaroo Mountain and Rattlesnake MountainRed Buttes – 2015

Oregon Badlands – 2016

View from Flatiron RockOregon Badlands Wilderness – 2016

Kalmiopsis – 2016

Vulcan Lake below Vulcan PeakVulcan Lake – 2016

Menagerie – 2016

Rooster Rock from a viewpoint in the Menagerie WildernessRooster Rock – 2016

Eagle Cap – 2016

Glacier LakeGlacier Lake – 2016

Mountain Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin, Whiteface Peak, Pelican Butte, and Mount Harriman from Aspen ButteView from Aspen Butte – 2016

Sky Lakes – 2016

Mt. McLoughlin from Freye LakeMt. McLoughlin from Freye Lake – 2016

Lower White River – 2016

White RiverWhite River – 2016

Rock Creek – 2017

Rock CreekRock Creek – 2017

Spring Basin – 2017

Hedgehog cactusHedgehog Cactus – 2017

Bridge Creek – 2017

View to the north from the Bridge Creek WildernessBridge Creek Wilderness – 2017

Wild-Rogue – 2017

Hanging RockHanging Rock – 2017

Grassy Knob – 2017

View from Grassy KnobView from Grassy Knob – 2017

Clackamas – 2017

Big BottomBig Bottom – 2017

North Fork John Day – 2017, 18

Baldy LakeBaldy Lake – 2017

Cummins Creek – 2017

Cummins Ridge TrailCummins Ridge Trail – 2017

Rogue-Umpqua Divide – 2018

Hummingbird MeadowsHummingbird Meadows – 2018

Steens Mountain – 2018

View from the Pike Creek TrailView along the Pine Creek Trail – 2018

Strawberry Mountain – 2018

Slide LakeSlide Lake – 2018

Copper-Salmon – 2018

Barklow Mountain TrailBarklow Mountain Trail – 2018

The remaining areas and year of our planned visit looks like this:

2019 – Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, Wenaha-Tucannon
2020 – Boulder Creek, Black Canyon, Monument Rock, Gearhart Mountain

If the Devil’s Staircase is added in the meantime we will do our best to work that in (it is currently on our list of hikes but not until 2023. For more information on Oregon’s wilderness areas visit Wilderness.net here.

Happy Trails!

Categories
Hiking Year-end wrap up

The Hikes of 2018 – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that it’s time for another year end wrap up. This will be our 6th such post since we started this blog in 2013. It’s even harder to believe that we still have so many hikes yet to do before we are finished with our long term hiking goal of completing at least some portion of all 500 of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s five “100 Hikes…” guidebooks.

A goal we are closing in on is visiting all 45 of the accessible designated wilderness areas in Oregon. (Three Arch Rocks and Oregon Islands, both off the Oregon Coast, are off limits to visitors,) We now have just seven wilderness areas left to visit after spending time in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (post), Steens Mountain (post), Strawberry Mountain (post), and Copper-Salmon (post) wildernesses this year.

With so many different hikes available we were once again able to spend most of our year exploring new trails and areas. We took hikes on 61 different days, 51 of those days were spent on trails (or sections of trails) that were new to us this year. Six additional days were partially on new sections of trail while just four days were repeated hikes.

Many of our hiking days consisted of multiple stops this year which resulted in a nice round 100 separate “hikes” varying in length from a quarter mile at the Pillars of Rome (post) to 20.3 miles in the Waldo Lake Wilderness (post).

Of those 100 hikes 89 were brand new, 6 were partially new, and 5 were repeated. The number of repeated hikes is 5 and not 4 because Saddle Mountain was done on the same day as three new hikes (post). Below is a map showing all of our stops.

2018 Trailheads
Hikers=Trailheads, Houses=Tent Sites, Binoculars=Short Walk/Viewpoint

Although the majority of our hikes were done in Oregon we did manage to spend one day each in Washington (Falls Creek Falls), California (Lava Beds National Monument), and for the first time Idaho (Jump Creek Falls).Falls Creek Falls

Falls Creek Falls

View from the Schonchin Butte Trail

Lava Beds National Monument

Jump Creek Falls

Jump Creek Falls

We did spend more time east of the Cascade Crest this year compared to years past including trips to SE Oregon in June (amazing scenery/horrible roads), the Strawberry Mountains in July (beautiful but HOT), the Elkhorns in August (mountain goats galore), and Klamath Falls in October (lots of wildlife). Our other vacation was a trip to the Oregon Coast in September (Bandon = new favorite coast town). Hiking in so many different areas once again provided us with a wide variety of scenery.Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Footbridge along the Old Growth Trail

McDonald-Dunn Forest

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls – Silver Falls State Park

Balsamroot

Balsamroot at Memaloose Hills

Lone Wolf Meadow

Perham Creek

Perham Creek – Columbia River Gorge

White River Falls

White River Falls

Deschutes River

Deschutes River near Macks Canyon

Upper meadow of Buck Canyon

Buck Canyon – Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness

Mt. Thielsen

Mt. Thielsen

Cupola lookout on Black Butte

Cascade Mountains from Black Butte

Salmon River

Salmon River

Frustration Falls

Frustration Falls – Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Peter French Round Barn

Peter French Round Barn

Coffee Pot Crater

Coffee Pot Crater – Jordan Craters

Timber Gulch

Timber Gulch

Waterfall at Three Forks Hot Springs

Owyhee River

Pillars of Rome

Pillars of Rome – Rome, Oregon

Chalk Basin

Chalk Basin

Borax Lake

Borax Lake

Borax Hot Springs

Borax Hot Springs

Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain

Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert

The Island and Lake Billy Chinook

The Island and Lake Billy Chinook

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

Horsepasture Mountain Trail

Horsepasture Mountain Trail

Footbridge over the Hot Springs Fork

Bagby Springs Trail

Boyd Cave

Boyd Cave

Pine Creek Trail

Pine Creek Trail – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Volcanic ash along the Pine Creek Traii

Volcanic ash – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Strawberry Mountain

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Slide Lake

Slide Lake – Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson and the Pacific Crest Trail

Jefferson Park – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Elkhorn Crest Trail

Elkhorn Crest Trail

Summit Lake

Summit Lake – Elkhorns

Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake – Elkhorns

Diamond Peak and Fuji Mountain from Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake

Rigdon Butte from Lake Kiwa

Rigdon Butte

Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack

Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack from South Pyramid Peak in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Carl Lake at sunrise

Carl Lake – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Hole-in-the-Wall Park and Mt. Jefferson

Hole-in-the-Wall Park – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson and Goat Peak

Mt. Jefferson & Goat Peak – Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

Umpqua Dunes

Umpqua Dunes

Bandon Islands

Bandon Islands

Barklow Mountain Trail entering the Copper-Salmon Wilderness

Copper-Salmon Wilderness

Tahkenitch Creek

Tahkenitch Creek

Huckleberry Bushes

Huckleberry bushes – Diamond Peak Wilderness

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Devil's Garden

Devil’s Garden

Sprague River

Sprague River

Tule Lake

Tule Lake

Petroglyph Point

Petroglyph Point

Mt. McLoughlin from Great Meadow

Mt. McLoughlin

Salmon Creek Falls

Salmon Creek Falls

Footbridge over Falls Creek

Footbridge over Falls Creek

View from the Red Mountain Lookout

Washington Cascades from Red Mountain

Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls on the Link River

Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn – Cape Perpetua

Wildwood Trail

Forest Park – Portland, Oregon

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Sunbeams in the Siuslaw National Forest

Siuslaw National Forest

In addition to the great scenery we saw a wide variety of wildlife and a fair number of wildflowers despite it not being the best year for them. Instead of including some of those pictures here we hope to post a separate 2018 wildlife and wildflower galleries soon.

We’re already looking forward to another year of hiking. If everything works out we will be checking off three more Oregon wilderness areas and a whole bunch of new hikes in 2019. We’ll be doing one or maybe two hikes a month from now until mid-Spring. Since we won’t have a lot of trips to report on during that time we’re hoping to do a few other hiking related posts including a more in depth look at our goals of visiting all the wilderness areas and checking off the 500 “featured hikes”.

We hope everyone has a great New Year and as always – Happy Trails!

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Days 3 & 4 – Slide Lake to East Fork Canyon Creek TH

Hope springs eternal and it was with new hope that we got up on the third day of what had so far been the most grueling backpacking trip we’d undertaken. On paper it didn’t look much different than some of our other trips but the big difference maker had been the heat. It had been hot during the afternoon on some of our previous trips but this trip was different. Not only was it hot during the day but it wasn’t really cooling down at night which meant it was still warm in the morning. Day 3 was no different.

We had an early breakfast in front of a beautiful view of Slide Lake.
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As we were finishing up we were joined by a doe who was cautiously grazing nearby.
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As we watched the sunlight overtake more of the cliffs above the lake we noticed our route for the day cutting across the rocks below the far cliffs.
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Seeing the trail produced two thoughts, first it reminded us that we were facing a nearly 1000′ climb out of the Slide Lake Basin, and secondly that the climb would be in full sunlight. We left Slide Lake shortly before 7am and hiked the quarter mile back to the junction with the Sky Line Trail where we turned left following a pointer for High Lake.
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After an all to brief stint in the trees which provided some shade the trail entered rockier terrain where the Sun was already heating things up.
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Some years there is a snow patch that remains over the trail into August which requires a bypass nearly straight up the hillside but with this being a low snow year there was no need for us to climb any more steeply than necessary. By 7:30am Slide Lake already looked far away.
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It was also already officially hot. Luckily after a a quarter mile of switchbacks at the 1 mile mark the climb became much more gradual.
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It was still hot but at least we weren’t having to work as hard as we traversed below the cliffs.
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A nice variety of wildflowers splashed the hillside with color.
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After following the Skyline Trail a little over a quarter of a mile we arrived at junction with the Mud Lake Trail.
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The Mud Lake Basin was heavily burned which revealed both Little Mud Lake which I thought looked like Pacman and the larger Mud Lake.
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At the junction the Skyline Trail turned right and steepened as it climbed past wildflowers to a ridge end above High Lake.
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The 1.6 mile descent from this ridge end down to High Lake was one of the more pleasant stretches of trail on the trip. It was downhill and the ridge blocked the sunlight leaving it a little cooler than it had been on the other side. There were also plenty of wildflowers and views across the basin to the back side of the Rabbit Ears.
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We had been scanning the cliffs for animals, in particular California big horn sheep, which the Forest Service Map mentioned as a possible sighting in the wilderness along with deer, elk, and pronghorn. One thing the map didn’t mention was mountain goats so we were a little surprised when we spotted what appeared to be mountain goat fur in a small pine tree.
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Fifteen minutes later we spotted them way up on the hillside ahead of us.
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It is always amazing to watch these animals maneuver on the rocky hillsides.
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We watched them as we made our way to High Lake which we arrived at ten minutes later.
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We took a nice break at the lake and replenished our water supply before continuing on. We crossed the outlet creek and soon began climbing out of the basin.
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The 1.3 mile climb out of the basin gained approximately 550′ while it passed some of the best wildflower displays of our visit.
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After climbing out of the basin we arrived at the High Lake Rim Trailhead.
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Here I was excited to see a wilderness sign.
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I have been trying to collect pictures of signs for each wilderness area we visit and there hadn’t been a sign along the East Fork Canyon Creek Trail. That sign most likely burned in the 2015 fire. From the trailhead we faced a .4 mile road walk to the Roads End Trailhead.
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IMG_9539Strawberry Mountain from FR 1640.

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The Roads End Trail follows a closed roadbed for 1.2 miles to the junction with the Onion Creek Trail which we had been at the day before. (post)
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As far as road walks go this one provided some nice scenery that we could have appreciated even more if had been a bit cooler out.
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Near the end of the old roadbed the ground became muddy due to the presence of a series of seeps.
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At the unsigned junction a small cairn marked the familiar path downhill to a saddle.
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We turned left for .3 miles to a signed junction where we turned right onto the Indian Creek Trail.
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The day before we had come from the left having stayed the night in Wildcat Basin. By going right here would complete a loop back to the Pine Creek Trail. It was also 1.3 miles shorter than it would have been to retrace our steps through Wildcat Basin.

After a brief initial climb we gained a view of Indian Creek Butte.
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The trail then descended past some more volcanic ash formations similar to the ones we’d seen near Wildcat Basin.
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This was another area affected by fire and there were a number of trees down across the trail.
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A little past the ash formations the trail approached a marsh filled with tall onions.
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A couple of small cairns helped guide us through the marsh but on the far side we missed a sharp right turn and continued straight. We soon realized we were no longer following a trail but that wasn’t anything new during this trip and we could see the saddle we were aiming for straight ahead so we kept going for a bit. Two tenths of a mile from where we should have taken the sharp right downhill we ran into a cliff where we were unable to continue forward. The GPS showed the actual trail as being a tenth of a mile away and 150′ below us. At that point we didn’t know about the sharp right and couldn’t figure out how we got so far off course but there we were. We found a game trail and followed steeply downhill in the general direction of the real trail.
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IMG_9578Our route down.

From above it didn’t look like it was going to be too difficult to go cross country but once we were down in the basin we realized it was going to be a lot harder than we’d thought.
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There were some surprising displays of flowers to be found in the gullies as we crashed through the brush and over numerous downed trees.
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After a lot of sweat, a little blood, and no tears (we didn’t have the moisture left to make any) we found the actual trail.
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A hundred foot climb brought us up to the saddle where we rejoined our path from the first day at a signed junction.
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We turned right and headed toward Indian Creek Butte on the faint Pine Creek Trail.
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It was less hazy than it had been the previous two days allowing for some clearer views from the trail.
IMG_9589_stitchIndian Creek Butte, the John Day Valley, and Strawberry Mountain

It was 1.4 miles to a junction on the east side of Indian Creek Butte where we had the choice of staying to the right on the Pine Creek Trail for .9 miles then turning left on the East Fork Canyon Creek Trail for another 1.3 miles to the spring where we had eaten our dinner on the first day. The other option was to go back the way we’d come up the first day around the south side of the butte. This second option was three quarters of a mile shorter and the condition of the trail, albeit is sad, was known to us. We’d had enough surprises for one trip so we deiced to go with the known option.

Even though we had seen this area before there were some new sights to be had.
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When we reached the series of rock cairns in the green trees on the SW flank of the butte we attempted to use the GPS to follow the actual route of the trail this time.
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That proved to be mostly futile as the brush was just too dense and the tread too light to allow us to stay on course.
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Other than the rare sighting of a cut log we had no idea where the trail was actually supposed to be.
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In the end we wound up aiming for our previous track as shown on the GPS and eventually managed to pick up the actual trail at the same place we’d lost it on the first day. We made our way back to the spring and once again took a break near the lawn chairs.
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This time Heather discovered a mylar pumpkin balloon which we stuffed into our garbage and packed out. We took an extended break in some shade here before setting off on what we had planned on being our last mile for the day down to Hotel De Bum Camp. As we neared the meadow near the camp though we heard the neighing of horses. A good sized group of equestrians had ridden up to the camp and were spending the night there. There really wasn’t any room for us so we decided that we’d just keep going and stop at the next good camp site.
IMG_9614A horse in the meadow at Hotel De Bum Camp

I had thought there might be a couple of spots near Miners Creek when I had checked that area out on the first day but after descending 1.4 miles from Hotel De Bum Camp a closer inspection of the area resulted in us deciding against trying to force a site there. We decided to take another break, have dinner, get more water, and look at the map to see about other potential spots.

The next camp shown on the forest service map was Grindstone Y Camp which looked to be a half mile down the trail. When we arrived in the area we spotted what appeared to be a camp where there were all kinds of supplies stashed in the nearby trees. There really didn’t seem to be a viable tent site though and with all the items about it had an off-putting vibe so we pressed on.

Nearly a half mile later we came to a fork in the trail. On the first day we had come up from the right hand side (north side of the creek) but the equestrians had clearly come up from the right hand fork. We determined that the right hand fork was the trail we should have been on to avoid the ugly bushwhack across East Brookling Creek. We took the right hand fork and promptly crossed East Fork Canyon Creek.
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The trail remained on the south side of the creek for nearly a half mile before recrossing the creek. Near this crossing we spotted the biggest wasp either of us had ever seen.
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A short climb up from the creek brought us to the orange flagging where we had taken the uphill fork on the first day.
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That mystery was solved but the more pressing mystery was where were the decent camp sites. A half mile later (and over three and a half miles from Hotel De Bum Camp) we finally found enough clear level ground to pitch our tent.
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We were somewhere in the vicinity of Bingham Camp and only a tad over four miles from the trailhead. It had been a 15.2 mile day and once again we were beat. We sat in our chairs for a couple of hours while a woodpecker dropped debris on us.
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It was slightly cooler that night and the next morning but still not as cool as we’d have liked as we set off for the final 4.2 miles back to our car at 6:30am.
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The Sun chased us from behind as we followed the creek downstream through the forest.
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We arrived back at the rental car around 8:15am thankful that we would soon feel the cool breeze of air conditioning.
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Our original plans had been to return to Bend, stay the night with Heather’s parents, and then head to the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness for a single night in hopes of visiting an off trail waterfall (Bruce knows the one), but after the brutal heat we’d hiked through for the previous four days neither of us had anything left. We scrapped those plans and decided to simply head home after the night in Bend.

This was by far the hardest backpacking trip we’ve done, so much so that we weren’t able to fully appreciate the beauty that we were seeing. We had timed the trip well for the flowers it was just unfortunate that it was during a heat wave. One thing is for sure we’ll never forget our first visit to the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Days 3 & 4

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Backpack Day 2 – Wildcat Basin to Slide Lake

After a long, hot day the day before we were hoping to wake up to some crisp mountain air. Alas it was not to be as the temperature didn’t seem to have dropped all that far overnight. It was cooler than it had been but we could tell it was going to be another hot one.

After applying a little Deet to deter the mosquitoes that had been waiting for us to wake up we had breakfast in a small meadow near our campsite.
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After breakfast we packed up and headed out of Wildcat Basin via the Pine Creek Trail.
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One of the reasons we were hoping it would have been colder was that the Pine Creek Trail gained nearly 800′ in less than three quarters of a mile as it steeply climbed out of Wildcat Basin.
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As it climbed we passed some interesting ash formations.
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We had read that above these ash formations the trail would become obscured by brush for a short distance. After the previous days bushwacking around Indian Creek Butte (post) we were fearing the worst but it turned out to not be anywhere near as bad as that had been. It was a much shorter stretch and there were less obstacles to maneuver around. We hadn’t been at it long before Heather spotted the trail veering to the right into burned trees.
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The trail leveled out a bit as it crossed a ridge top where we spotted the first of the yellow paintbrush that is plentiful in the area.
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The trail bent around to the north as it crossed the ridge and soon Strawberry Mountain came into view.
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Our plan was to take a side trip up to the summit once we made it to the saddle below the peak, but for now we were focused on the trail at hand which was passing through some nice wildflowers.
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We also flushed out several deer but they escaped before I could get any photos.

A mile and a half from Wildcat Basin we arrived at a junction with the Indian Creek Trail #5001.
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Here we turned right crossing a saddle and climbing for .3 miles to another junction, this time with the Onion Creek Trail #368. The view from the old roadbed here was good and we could see Indian Creek Butte as well as Strawberry Mountain.
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IMG_9198Strawberry Mountain

We took a short break in some shade near the junction having already climbed nearly 1200′ on the day. From this spot we had another 450′ to gain over the next 1.4 miles just to reach the saddle below Strawberry Mountain.

A golden-mantled ground squirrel came out to check on us as we recovered.
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Fortunately some of this section of trail was still shaded from the Sun and once again there was a nice display of wildflowers to help distract us.
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We arrived at the saddle just after 9am. To reach our goal for the day, Slide Lake, we needed to take the right hand Strawberry Basin Trail toward Strawberry Lake.
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Before we did that though we wanted to summit the 9038′ Strawberry Mountain which was to the left.
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Since we would have to come back by this junction after summiting the mountain we pulled our daypacks out and stashed our backpacks in a group of nearby trees. The lighter packs felt great as we traversed across the rocky terrain below the summit.
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The trail climbed gradually across the shaley rocks about a half mile before entering a stand of white bark pines.
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Several grouse were present in this area.
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Three quarters of a mile from the junction we arrived at the junction with the summit trail marked by rock cairns.
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We took another short break in the shade of the white bark pines watching the many butterflies that were flitting about.
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After catching our breath we headed up the left hand fork for the final .4 miles and 350′ to the former lookout site atop Strawberry Mountain.
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Butterflies were swirling around atop the summit, never sitting still for long. The views were good but not great due to the presence of smoke from wildfires. We weren’t sure which fires the smoke was from but with a number of them burning across the northwest it wasn’t a surprise to have hazy skies. It unfortunately seems to be the new default for the summer months.
IMG_9244Looking north toward the John Day Valley

IMG_9239Looking SW toward Wildcat Basin

IMG_9238View west toward Indian Creek Butte and Canyon Mountain

IMG_9241Looking NE

IMG_9247View east

With all the haze it was tough to make out much in the distance but we were able to make out the Elkhorn Range off to the NE.
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It was a little cooler at the summit where we rested once again before starting back down. As we were traversing the rocky hillside on the way back we encountered another group of hikers on their way up to the summit. They mentioned that they had stashed their packs as well after coming up the Strawberry Basin Trail. They let us know that some of the trail to Slide Lake had suffered from a near washout so there might be a little exposure along that stretch. After thanking them for the heads up we returned to the saddle and retrieved our packs.

It was just before 10:45am when we started down the Strawberry Basin Trail. There was a nice view of Strawberry Mountain as we dropped into the basin.
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After approximately .4 miles of descending the trail leveled out somewhat and we passed the ruins of a cabin and a minute later Strawberry Spring.
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This was followed by a series of meadows, some filled with wildflowers as well as views back to Strawberry Mountain.
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We got our first look at Strawberry Lake as the trail began to bend around a ridge.
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We were now heading south, continuing our descent into the Strawberry Basin. Across the valley were the rock formations known as the Rabbit Ears over Little Strawberry Lake which was hidden in the trees.
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Although this side of the ridge was drier than the north side had been there were still some good displays of color.
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The Strawberry Basin Trail wrapped around the basin eventually reaching the side trail to Little Strawberry Lake, two and a half miles from the saddle junction with the Onion Creek Trail.
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We turned right onto the Little Strawberry Lake Trail for the .6 mile side trip (1.2mi round trip) to the lake. Heather asked about stashing our packs again but I chose poorly and we kept them on. The trail crossed Strawberry Creek and climbed about 150′ through the forest to the little lake.
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That shouldn’t have been too difficult a trek but it was so hot (How hot was it?) that we truly regretted not having left our full packs back near the junction. It was also pretty hazy in the basin here so our views of the cliffs backing Little Strawberry Lake were not clear.
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The water however was clear which made it really easy to watch the fish swim about.
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After another short break we strapped on our packs again and returned to the Strawberry Basin Trail. It was obvious by the state of the trails and the number of other people we were seeing that this part of the wilderness is significantly busier than the eastern end.

We turned right and promptly crossed Strawberry Creek again.
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We were just a bit above Strawberry Falls here and I suddenly thought we might not get to actually see the waterfall.
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My fears were eased when Heather correctly pointed out that the trail switchbacked down to the base of the falls.
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The base of Strawberry Falls was by far the most comfortable spot we would be in during the entire trip. We took our packs off again and allowed the mist from the falls to cool us down. Unfortunately we could not take that feeling with us and shortly after leaving that heavenly place we were once again sweating profusely.

After descending a little over half a mile form the falls we came to a fork in the trail near Strawberry Lake.
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Both trails led around the lake with the right hand fork being the shorter but the left hand fork reportedly having the better views. We opted for the left hand fork and descended to the southern end of Strawberry Lake.
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A series of stream crossings followed as we worked our way around to the western side of the lake.
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Eventually the Rabbit Ears came into view across the lake.
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It was time for yet another break once we reached the northern end of the lake but here even in the shade it was stupid hot.
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Since there was no real relief from the heat we quickly decided to press on. After crossing the lakes outlet we turned left and then followed pointers for Slide Lake.
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We climbed gradually for nearly a mile gaining 360′ from Strawberry Lake.
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We were struggling with the gradual climb and now the Slide Basin Trail launched more steeply uphill gaining an additional 350′ over the next half mile. After cresting a ridge we arrived a split in the trail where a horse trail went left and a hiker only trail right.
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Thankfully the trail leveled out quite a bit on this side of the ridge as it traversed the hillside.
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The bad news was we were now out of water, tired, hot, and the trail was indeed semi-washed out in spots. We were almost too miserable to enjoy the scenery which included quite a few wildflowers of which I took almost no pictures.
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We had two overriding goals. First was to stay on the trail and second was to find water. There was a spring shown our our map about three quarters of a mile from the fork but it was dry. To make matters worse we could hear and see Slide Falls in the valley below. It was taunting us with all that water.
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The trail reentered the trees just after being rejoined by the horse trail.
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A short distance later we came to the Slide Lake Trail.
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We veered left for a quarter mile to the lake.
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We claimed a campsite just across the outlet creek and Heather set about refilling our water supply while I set up the tent.
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When we arrived at Wildcat Basin the night before Heather had been done, tonight it was my turn. After setting up the tent I set up my camp chair and just sat there. IMG_9354View from the chair.

It was only 3:30pm but I was done for the day. Heather would later ask if I wanted to do the 1 mile loop around the lake and I said no. That was when she knew I really was wiped out, I rarely pass up a side trip but at that point I had no desire to get up. We had covered 14 miles and climbed over 3700′ that day and that was enough.

As I was getting ready to start dinner I thought I heard voices and assumed that there were other people camped to our left along the lake. After dinner a woman from the group of hikers we’d run into on our way down from Strawberry Mountain showed up. She said that they were equally finished for the day having gone to High Lake after summiting the mountain. She said that they had gotten to High Lake at 1:30pm, took a swim and a nap, then decided to push on to Slide Lake for the night. They set up camp somewhere on the opposite side of the outlet creek and we never did see them again. The next day Heather solved the mystery of the voices I had heard when she suggested that it may have been this group coming down the trail from High Lake which was located in the same direction that I had heard the voices from.

We stayed in our chairs until a little before 7pm. Out of nowhere a host of small insects appeared which we took as are queue to turn in for the night. It was another warm night which told us we were in for more of the same the following day, we just weren’t sure we were ready for it. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Day 2

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Backpack Day 1 – East Fork Canyon Creek to Wildcat Basin

After our less than stellar end to our Sunday exploring caves off of China Hat Road near Bend (post)we were facing a later than planned start for our drive to the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. Typically we’d be on the road by 5am but we had to wait until 7:30 to pick up a rental car before we could leave Bend. The folks at Enterprise were quick though and we were on our way a little before 8am.

Our entry point for our four day trip was the East Fork Canyon Creek Trailhead. From Bend we drove to Burns then north no Highway 395 just over 60 miles to County Road 65 where we turned right for 3 miles to a sign for Alder Gulch and Fawn Spring. Here we turned left onto Forest Road 6510 following the good gravel road for 1.5 miles. We then turned right onto another good gravel road, FR 812 which we followed an additional 2.8 miles to its end where we found a large group of equestrians just setting off on the trail.

The entire area along the drive and much of the East Fork Canyon Creek Trail burned in 2015 so there wasn’t much in the way of signage for the start of the trail.
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It was just after 11:30 when we set off and it was already rather warm. The trail began by losing a bit of elevation before leveling off as it passed below some rocky cliffs.
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The lack of tree cover due to the fire didn’t help the heat situation but we did our best to distract ourselves from the heat by listening to the creek and looking at the flowers
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For the first two and a half miles the trail passed through grassy meadows a bit away from the creek as it gradually climbed up the canyon.
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A little over two miles from the trailhead we spotted the equestrians setting up camp at the Yokum Corrals Camp.
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Three tenths of a mile from Yokum Corrals we came to a junction with the Tamarack Trail which led uphill to the Joaquin Miller Trail.
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IMG_8937Looking in the direction of the Tamarack Trail

The East Fork Canyon Creek Trail was becoming more and more overgrown in spots beyond the corrals.
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The vegetation wasn’t too difficult to push through but there were some thistles to avoid and I wound up with a few ticks on my pant legs. Heather was trying out a new pair of Insect Shield tights and they seemed to do the trick as we never did spot any attached to her. (She did wind up with a few mosquito bites during the trip tough.)
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Near the three mile mark we came to Brookling Creek.
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I made it across the creek dry footed but Heather decided to cool off by slipping on a rock and splashing down into the water. Luckily she wasn’t hurt, just wet and after wringing out her socks a bit we continued on. Approximately 1.7 miles from Brookling Creek we came to a fork in the trail where there was some orange flagging attached to a couple of trees.
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The flagging appeared to have at one time blocked off the left hand fork but it was now broken. According the Garmin and our guidebook the trail stayed on the left hand side of the creek and the right hand fork here seemed to just go down to the creek so we took the left hand fork. The trail was fine for a quarter of a mile but when we arrived at East Brookling Creek we couldn’t see where it was supposed to cross or where it continued on the far side. To make matters worse the creek was choked with debris and the far bank was rather steep so our options of where to cross were limited. We managed to find some logs that got us across the creek and then we crashed uphill through the brush.
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We were able to pick up the tread again with the help of some green flagging but noticed that there was also a trail on the south side of East Fork Canyon Creek.
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By that time we had already forgotten about the fork with the orange flagging and thought we had missed something near East Brookling Creek. A quarter mile beyond East Brookling Creek that trail recrossed East Fork Canyon Creek and rejoined the trail we were on. We were spotting more blooming flowers now including some light pink streambank globe mallow and dark pink monkeyflower.
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About a mile from East Brookling Creek we once again found ourselves on the wrong side of a creek,this time Miners Creek. This time we were on the south side when we should have stayed on the north side. We were doing our best to bushwack up the creek to a point where the trail was supposed to make a hairpin turn across the creek. It finally dawned on me that the trail was only 30 to 50 feet above us as it ran SW for a short distance after the 180 degree turn before rounding a ridge end and continuing NE. It was a steep climb but we managed to link back up with the actual trail. I headed downhill to the hairpin turn to see if there were possible campsites for our last night near the creek and thought I saw a couple of options. As I headed back up to Heather I regretted my choice as it was nearing 3pm and it was really getting hot out.

After climbing for another 1.2 miles we arrived at Hotel De Bum Camp. A large meadow with a campsite where it almost appeared a bum had lived. Someone had left lawn chairs and freeze dried meals at the site. By the looks of them they had been there awhile.
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The meadow was nice though and our plan was for this to be our campsite for our final night of the trip. From the meadow there was a view of Indian Creek Butte which was a pretty sight but we also knew our destination for the day, Wildcat Basin, was over two and a half miles on the other side of it.
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From Hotel De Bum Camp the trail gained 500′ over the next mile to another meadow below Indian Creek Butte where there was supposed to be a trail junction.
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A nearby spring allowed for dense green vegetation and numerous wildflowers which appeared to have overtaken the trails in the area. We did find another set of lawn chairs at a nearby campsite and decided to take a short break and have dinner as well as try and cool down before pushing on.
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When it was time to move on we did our best to follow some blue flagging through the vegetation, across the spring to the right.
IMG_9022Blue flagging is attached to a small burned tree 3/4 up the left hand side of the photo.

The next obstacle was a series of bent trees hanging over the trail.
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The trail then became a little easier to follow as it reentered the burned forest.
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We were on the .6 mile section of the Table Mountain Trail. After the .6 miles our route was to turn right up the Table Mountain A Trail (Trail 5000) which is a mile long connector between the Table Mountain and Pine Creek Trails. We missed the faint unsigned junction at first but quickly realized our mistake (we would do the same thing on the way back three days later).
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The Table Mountain A Trail was a mess at this end. Faint tread lead through tall brush with sporadic flagging or an occasional cut log as the only real indication that we were still on the right course.
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That only lasted about a tenth of a mile and then the tread completely vanished.
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We waited a little too long before consulting the GPS and wound up swinging too far to the SE and adding a tenth of a mile to our hike. After checking the GPS we worked our way back toward the trail (as far as we could tell it really was where the GPS said it was this time) and managed to pick it back up at some cairns amid unburnt trees.
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It was after 6pm now and some clouds were helping to cool things down as we made our way around the SE side of Indian Creek Butte.
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The trail was faint here too but were able to stick relatively close to it as we passed some nice wildflowers which we were too hot and tired to fully enjoy at that point.
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We did however stop to watch a nice buck pass through the brush below us.
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At 6:45pm we spotted a downed trail sign in the distance marking the junction with the Pine Creek Trail.
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Here we turned right onto the similarly faint Pine Creek Trail.
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Once again the wildflowers were nice but we were now on a mission.
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Just over half a mile from the junction we came to a viewpoint with a good look at Strawberry Mountain.
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The trail continued along a ridge with Indian Creek Butte and the Sun behind us and a rocky ridge top and the Moon ahead.
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Wildcat Basin was on the other side of that rocky ridge. A total of 1.4 miles from the previous junction we arrived at another junction.
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We stayed right keeping to the Pine Creek Trail and passed to the SE of the rocky ridge.
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The trail descended past some white volcanic ash formations.
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Soon the trail found some green trees below striped cliffs.
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A mile from the junction we arrived at the meadows of Wildcat Basin and another trail junction.
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A very short distance to the east from the junction was Wildcat Spring and a campsite where we eagerly refilled our now empty bladders and set up our tent.
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It was a little after 8pm by the time we were settled and we went straight to bed hoping that the going would be a little easier on day 2 with an earlier start and better traveled trails. Despite the issues it was still nice to see all the new scenery and wildflowers. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Day 1