High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Rebel Creek Loop – Three Sisters Wilderness

The Three Sisters Wilderness hosts approximately 260 miles of trails. Some of them such as Green Lakes and Obsidian are overused while others see little if any use. The 12.3 mile loop starting at the Rebel Trailhead on the Rebel Creek and Rebel Rock Trails is on the lesser used end of the scale. The trailhead is 14.5 miles from Highway 126 along paved Aufderheide Road 19.

The loop starts on the Rebel Creek Trail and quickly comes to a fork where the Rebel Rock Trail splits to the right. We stayed on the Rebel Creek Trail and would meet back up with the upper end of the Rebel Rock Trail in 5 miles.

The forested trail led along Rebel Creek, crossing twice on footbridges, while it gradually climbed up the valley.





The hike through the forest was peaceful with the sound of the creek below and birds singing in the trees. We didn’t see many of the birds we were hearing, but we did spot a nice variety of flowers along the way.
Prince’s Pine

Pink pyrola

Spotted coralroot

Fringed pinesap
Fringed pinesap


Tall bluebells

Yellow coralroot


The trail was in pretty good shape despite it’s light usage. There were a few downed trees and near the upper end it became a little brushy in spots.


We met back up with the Rebel Rock Trail at the edge of thimbleberry meadow where a post with no signs left marked the junction.

The Rebel Creek Trail technically continued to the left to the Olallie Trail but that section is, according to the Forest Service, faint due to lack of use/maintenance. After a short break we turned right onto the Rebel Creek Trail skirting the meadow and climbing up and over a ridge near the hidden Rebel Rock. More thimbleberry filled meadows awaited us as we traversed along what was now a west facing hillside. The meadows contained a few flowers beside the white thimbleberry blossom and also allowed for views across the valley to the opposite hillside.




Cat’s ear lily


Whenever we have views of distant meadows we try and scan them for wildlife. It always seems like we should see deer, elk or even a bear and on a couple of occasions we have managed to spot deer or elk. More often than not though we get our hopes up only to discover we are staring at a rock or downed tree. This time though I was sure I’d seen a dark object, I had my eyes on, move so I used the 120x digital zoom on the camera to take a closer look. It turned out to be a bear wandering around in a meadow full of white valerian flowers. Given the distance the pictures didn’t turn out great but we watched it for a while before it disappeared into the trees.
With 30x optical zoom.
IMG_9007 (2)

120x digital zoom


The trail continued to pass through similar meadows until finally reentering the forest where we startled a grouse.




Blurry grouse photo

A short distance later it crested a ridge where we entered a drier environment as we moved to the south facing side of the ridge.


The first snowy peak of the day came into view to the south, Maiden Peak near Waldo Lake.

The trail had entered a wildflower meadow filled with bright red scarlet gilia.



There were several other types of flowers mixed in as well.
Cat’s ear lily

Oregon sunshine

Blue gilia and buckwheat

Paintbrush and penstemon


As we worked our way through the meadow the view behind us to the east opened up revealing the only view of Rebel Rock’s spire, the top of South Sister and Mt. Bachelor.



The trail passed into another section of trees where we noticed what appeared to be a faint trail to the left leading to a possible viewpoint. We followed it out to an open rocky ledge which allowed us to see the old Rebel Rock Lookout further to the west.


We returned to the trail and continued west watching for the side trail to the old lookout building. A rock cairn along an open area marked the path.

The lookout itself was not visible until we’d gone a couple hundred feet on the side path. The windows were mostly broken out and several boards were missing from the deck but the view was nice.



After a break at the lookout we returned to the trail in the rocky meadow. The flower display was pretty nice here too with a few different flowers that we hadn’t seen yet during the hike.
Bastard toadflax
Bastard toadflax

Catchfly and a yellow composite

Owl’s clover and blue gilia

A half mile from the side path the the lookout was yet another meadow and the best viewpoint of the day.

From this meadow Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor were all clearly visible.


The meadow sported another nice collection of wildflowers.


The Three Sisters

The trail began to descend beyond the viewpoint through another series of thimblerry meadows. The tread here was often hidden by the thick vegetation.


The trail switched back just before reaching Trail Creek and reentered the forest.

This section of trail gradually descended through the forest. Along the way were a couple of additional meadows where there were again some different flowers.


Oregon sunshine and clarkias


Diamond clarkia
diamond clarkia

There was also a nice supply of ripe, warm, strawberries to munch on.

Although a few cars had joined ours at the trailhead we completed the loop without seeing any other people along the trails. Any time the number of bears you see is more than other people it’s a good day on the trail. After doing this loop we were left wondering why it isn’t a little more popular. Although there are a couple of longer stretches without view there were some nice ones and the amount and variety of flowers had surprised us. There is a cumulative elevation gain of 3300′ but the trail was never particularly steep and it was spread over such a distance that it didn’t feel like we’d done that much climbing. The fact that the trailhead is an easy drive on good paved roads is an added bonus. It is definitely a hike we’d recommend. Happy Trails!


High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Three Sisters Wilderness Day 2 – Linton Creek Exploration

The second day of our four day backpacking trip was set to be an adventure. Our plan was to spend the day “off-trail” exploring Linton Creek which is home to several rarely visited waterfalls. We had camped at Eileen Lake on the NE side of The Husband and originally planned on hiking down the official trail to Linton Creek where we had eaten our dinner the night before, but during our evening exploration of the area behind our campsite we realized we should be able to follow a dry creek bed we’d seen and reach Linton Creek by a more direct route. It would also allow us to avoid another trip through all the frogs along Eileen Lake.

I woke up a little before 5 and went down to the lake for a bit to look at the mountains.

Heather woke up and I was busy getting ready for our breakfast and the days hike when I looked up and noticed there were deer about 50 feet from our tent. Heather was still inside putting her hair into braids and hadn’t noticed them yet.

I got her attention and we watched as they nibbled on some plants then entered the little meadow by our site and had their own breakfast.


They looked up at us occasionally but didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with our presence then left the same way they’d come slowly disappearing into the forest.


After our breakfast we threw on our daypacks and got ready for our adventure. We had our compass and three different maps including the map loaded on the Garmin and I had studied the area using Google Earth. That research along with information from a few trip reports and the Northwest Waterfall Survey had us feeling pretty confident that we would at least be able to reach Duncan Falls and possibly Upper Linton Falls if time allowed. I also established a turn around time in order to make sure we had enough time to climb back up from wherever we ended up.

We followed a use path from our campsite through the little meadow along the dry creek into a larger meadow. The use path ended at the larger meadow so we hopped into the dry creek bed planning on following it as far as possible.


We had to leave the creek bed in the meadow for a bit when we started running into small pools of water. We got back in shortly after leaving the meadow but that also didn’t last long because the creek bed was getting deeper and we spotted downed trees blocking it further downhill. We didn’t want to get stuck in the bed and be forced to backtrack so we got out and started bushwacking through the forest.

We gradually made our way downhill toward the meadows surrounding Linton Creek. There was some blowdown in the forest but it wasn’t ever too bad and the vegetation was sparse enough not to cause any problems. We used the Garmin and our maps to keep us heading in the direction we wanted. We were aiming for the northwestern end of the meadows where Linton Creek enters the forest near a series of whitewater. We managed to reach the meadows fairly close to that area and made our way to the glassy creek.


There were a few flowers still blooming including some very tall monkshood.


The South Sister loomed behind us over the creek and meadows.

Shortly after Linton Creek enters the trees it takes a horseshoe bend through a rocky chasm where it puts on its first whitewater show. We were on the south side of the creek and able to side-hill along and around the ridge that the creek bent around which allowed us some good views of the now raging creek.



After rounding the ridge we came to the first small unnamed waterfalls. A pair of short drops were visible through the trees.


A little further was another whitewater slide.

The creek was putting on a good show and we were trying to stick as close as possible to it given the terrain. When we couldn’t see the creek we listened intently for any indication of another fall. The creek then began a second horseshoe bend turning back toward the NW. Somewhere in the middle of the bend was where we would find Duncan Falls. It was one the two main targets for our hike and we heard it well before reaching it. We arrived at the top of the falls and could tell we were not going to be disappointed.


The ridge stayed and made a wide swing around the falls. We were finally able to get a good view though.


It was a spectacular waterfall. After standing in awe of this hidden gem we worked our way down a steep hillside to the creek a little ways below Duncan Falls. We could just see the bottom of the falls through some trees and briefly considered hiking up the creek to reach the base but decided against that in the end. We still had a lot of bushwacking ahead of us and the thought of wet shoes and socks was not appealing plus I was fairly certain that I’d fall in and ruin the camera.

Below Duncan Falls the creek settled down some as the terrain became a little more level.

At one point we found what looked like it could possibly be a beaver pond.



We then came upon another pair of small waterfalls.



In the other trip reports that I had seen the hikers had been on the north side of the creek from Linton Lake until somewhere below Duncan Falls. We had originally planned on staying on the south side of the creek the entire time, partly to be different, and partly because the top tiers of Upper Linton Falls were said to not be visible from the north side of the creek. That changed when we could see that we had arrived at point directly across from the start of a large meadow on the other side of the creek. It looked so much easier than picking our way over and around logs and brush and there was a perfect log to cross the creek on near us. We gave in and walked across the log and entered the meadow. I had read about the meadow and the reports called it marshy but I was hopping the dry year we were having would lessen that, but there was still plenty of wet spongy ground and both of us had soaked shoes in no time.

We aimed for the closest stand of trees and exited the meadow. We took a short side trip to check out one of two small lakes/ponds that the maps had shown toward the back of the meadow.

After checking out the pond we began making our way back toward the creek. Shortly after rejoining the creek we found another log we could cross on and got back to our original plan of being on the south side of the creek for Upper Linton Falls.

We knew we were getting close to our goal but before we got to Upper Linton Falls there was another nice little fall with a great viewpoint.

The next fall we came to was the top tier of Upper Linton Falls.

The roar from the creek was amazing as it thundered steeply down toward Linton Lake.

We found our way down to the third tier where there was a nice viewpoint.


The fourth tier was visible below.

The ridge we were on began to swing away from the creek though. We could see Linton Lake far below and went in search of a decent view but there were too many trees to ever get a good clear look.


We found one final viewpoint of Upper Linton Falls. We appeared to be somewhere between the 5th and 6th tiers.

There was a big drop below us but no way to get a look at the lower tiers from the south side. We decided that just gave us an excuse to come back some day and hike up from Linton Lake to see Lower Linton Falls and get a look at the lower tiers from the north side. In the meantime we sat at the edge of the enormous fall recharging in the cool breeze it generated.

We had made it to our goal just before the established turnaround time and now it was time to climb back up to Eileen Lake. This time we did stick to the south side of the creek avoiding the marshy trap of the meadow. By doing so we located a couple more small falls we’d missed on the way down.

We also managed to find a balloon which happens more often than you’d think (and we’d like) in the forest. We retrieved the garbage and packed it out with us.


We arrived back at Duncan Falls to find it was just as impressive the second time around.


After Duncan Falls we left the creek and took a more direct route toward Linton Meadows which avoided the steep ridge above the whitewater of the first horseshoe bend. White fluffy clouds hung over the mountains when we finally reentered the meadows.

We were paying more attention to the views than to where we were going and wound up passing the spot where we had entered the meadows in the morning. We turned up a different creek bed instead. It looked similar enough that we both thought we remembered certain details as we passed them but as the drainage got steeper and we started noticing more blowdown than we’d remembered we knew we had made a wrong turn. Using the GPS and our maps we could see that we were just on the other side of the ridge we’d come down but we had found a different little meadow here and it’s creek had a little more water which was home to some larger frogs and fish.




We were able to make our way over the ridge at the far end of the meadow and picked up our earlier path just about where we had entered the dry creek bed near the start of our hike.

According to the Garmin we had covered 9.3 miles. We both had a few scrapes and bruises as well as some mosquito bites and Heather had been stung in the shin by a yellow jacket but it had all been worth it. We spent the evening at Eileen Lake watching clouds float by and then disappear over the Three Sisters.

Happy Trails!


Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Blair Lake Trail

On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.

We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.




The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.

















Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.





After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.






Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.






We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.


After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.


The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.



Mt. Bachelor

Broken Top

The Three Sisters

Mt. Washington

Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson

There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.


Northwestern Alligator Lizard

We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.

We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.





When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.








We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.


On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.













We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!

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

Twin Lakes & Battle Ax Mountain – Bull of the Woods Wilderness

As we transition into Fall our hiking destinations begin to shift away from alpine views and wildflowers in favor of lower elevation viewpoints and lakes. It is a great time for these hikes since the mosquitoes that plague many of the lakes have thinned out and the vine maple and huckleberry leaves have begun to change color. Our most recent hike combined both of these features.

We made our first trip to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for a 15.4 mile hike visiting Twin Lakes and the summit of Battle Ax Mountain. Before we could set off on the hike though we had to make the drive to Elk Lake which meant enduring five and a half miles of awful gravel roads. We parked at the Elk Lake Campground and once I managed to pry my hands from the steering wheel we made a quick trip down to the lake to have a look.

From the campground we had to walk back up the entrance road .4 miles and then continue another .4 miles on road 4697 to the start of the Bagby Trail #544.

The Bagby Trail wound beneath Battle Ax Mountain passing several ponds and crossing a number of rock fields in the first two miles.
Battle Ax Mountain

At the two mile mark the Battle Ax Mountain Trail joined from the left (our return route). Views of Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters began to materialize as we continued along the Bagby Trail.

We traveled on a ridge for another 1.5 miles to a junction with the Twin Lakes Trail 573. The Bagby Trail was closed here due to a small fire smoldering in the wilderness between Bagby Hot Springs and this junction. We were headed toward Twin Lakes though so we turned down trail 573 and began the 1.9 mile section to Upper Twin Lake.

The colors and reflections of Upper Twin Lake were impressive.
Upper Twin Lake

We passed around the lake and headed toward the former trail 573A that used to go to Lower Twin Lake. The trail was overrun by the Mother Lode Fire in 2011 and was subsequently left unmaintained by the Forest Service. We located the old trail and began following it the best we could. As we approached the lake the fireweed was profuse and although most of it was finished blooming it still made for an interesting sight.

Although the side of the lake we were on had burned in the fire the far side had been spared.
Lower Twin Lake

We noticed some flagging tape when we were ready to leave and hoped it would lead us to a better path back to trail 573. Instead we found an old toilet.

We then came to a dry creek bed which the map showed leading back to almost the same point we left trail 573 so we decided to try following it back up to the trail.

As we made our way up the creek bed we began to encounter some water and some of the local residents.

The water increased just as the creek was squeezing between two hillsides which forced us to abandon that route and head cross country up the hill on our left. We managed to relocate the abandoned trail and follow it back to 573. We then headed back the way we’d come until we reached the Battle Ax Mountain Trail. At that point we forked up hill to the right and began the fairly steep climb to the former lookout site.

One of the reasons we saved Battle Ax for the return trip was to allow the Sun to move overhead which would hopefully give us better views of the mountains to our east. That plan paid off and as we climbed we added more and more mountains to the view.
Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Hood behind the lookout tower on Bull of the Woods:

Mt. Rainier behind Silver King Mountain:

Mt. Adams behind Pansy Mountain and South Dicky Peak:

Eventually we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood with the Washington Cascades in the background.
Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier from Battle Ax Mountain

To the SE was Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack.

The ridge began to flatten out as we neared the summit with views all around. From below it hadn’t looked as long and flat on top.

Working our way south along the ridge Elk Lake became visible far below.
View from Battle Ax Mountain

Finally Mt. Washington, Broken Top and the Three Sisters joined Three Fingered Jack in the view to the South.

We could also see smoke from the 36 Pit fire near Estacada, OR but the wind was blowing it to the East and there hadn’t been much of a plume until a little after 1:00 when it suddenly picked up.

Smoke from the 36 Pit fire prior to 1pm:

Plume around 1:30:
Smoke plume from the 36 Pit fire and Mt. Hood

We learned later that the fire had jumped across the South Fork Clackamas River due to the strong winds.

After a nice rest at the old lookout site we began our descent down the South side of the mountain.

The trail switchbacked down through open, rocky terrain, with plenty of views of Mt.Jefferson.
Mt. Jefferson

After a mile and a half descent we arrived at Beachie Saddle.

From the saddle trails lead to Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek Wilderness, Mt. Beachie and French Creek Ridge in that same wilderness, and back to Elk Lake on an abandoned road which is the path we took.

Back at the campground it was hard to imagine the long summit ridge looking back up at Battle Ax Mountain.

It was a good early start to our Fall hiking season and it put us over 500 miles for the year. Now we just had to make it back out over the horrible gravel roads. Happy Trails!


Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Crescent Mountain

Our wildflower adventure in the Old Cascades continued on our way home from Bend on July 6th. The hike we’d chosen was Crescent Mountain which is less than five miles from Iron Mountain as the crow flies. A 4.5 mile trail climbs up the SE ridge of this crescent shaped mountain through a series of meadows to another former lookout site.

The first 2.5 miles climbed through a nice forest with a crossing of Maude Creek at the 1.3 mile mark.

The trail then entered the first meadow which was full of bracken fern and some wildflowers.

The ferns gave way to more wildflowers as the trail continued to climb. Then we spotted a field of beargrass ahead. It turned out to be the most densely packed we’d ever seen.

Butterflies and birds could be seen flying about in all directions. Behind us a view of Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters opened up across the open hillside.

There was a nice variety of flowers in bloom.

The meadows lasted for about a mile before the trail reentered the forest and climbed a ridge to a trail junction. Taking the uphill fork to the right we quickly popped out on the rocky summit where the former lookout had stood. The view here was better than Iron Mountain with Three Fingered Jack unobstructed and Crescent Lake below nestled in the curve of the mountain.
Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters
Three Fingered Jack and Black Butte
Diamond Peak
Mt. Hood & Mt. Adams
Crescent Lake

There were more flowers, butterflies and birds up at the summit and despite a brief encounter with mosquitoes when we left the meadows we were left alone to enjoy the scenery.
Hummingbird enjoying the paint

Coming down we ran into a pair of hikers passing through the meadow who were equally impressed with the flowers. We agreed that we’d probably timed it as well as could be hoped. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend. Happy Trails!


Hiking Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Iron Mountain and the Meadows of Cone Peak

July means wildflowers in the Old Cascades, the eroded peaks that are now the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We were headed over to Bend, OR for the 4th of July weekend so we seized the opportunity to check out a couple of the hikes on the way over and back. On the way over to Bend we decided to revisit Iron Mountain, a hike we had done in 2010 during the final week of July. We missed the wildflower peak that year by a couple of weeks so we hoped we would be hitting the area at a better time this visit.

On our previous visit we did the loop clockwise by starting at the trailhead located on road 15 and heading up Iron Mountain first then through the meadows on Cone Peak. This time around we parked at Tombstone Pass and headed counter-clockwise in order to hopefully have the meadows to ourselves before the trail got crowded.
We took a short detour on the Tombstone Nature Trail that circled around a meadow with flowers and a view of Iron Mountain.

After finishing the nature trail we crossed Highway 20 and started climbing up the Cone Peak Trail. We started seeing flowers almost immediately. It seemed every open area had an assortment of different flowers.
Lupine, Columbine & Thimbleberry
Wild Rose
Penstemon & Blue Gilia
Cat’s Ear Lily
Woolly Sunflower
Flower variety
Columbia Windflower
Paintbrush & Larkspur
More variety packs

We’d already lost count of the number of different flower types we’d seen by the time we got to the main meadow 1.2 miles from the highway crossing. In the meadow we found even more types of flowers as well as views of Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.
Cone Peak
Cone Flower
Giant Blue-eyed Mary
Iron Mountain
Scarlet Gilia

We’d been hearing some elk off and on while we were in the meadow and as we were exploring a rocky outcrop Dominique noticed some brown spots in a meadow up on Iron Mountain. There were 7 elk moving through the brush grazing on the vegetation as they went.

We left the meadow and reentered the forest as we wound our way around Iron Mountain to the junction with the Iron Mountain Lookout Trail. There were still flowers everywhere and now we were starting to get views of the snowy Cascade Mountains.
Mt. Hood
Mt. Jefferson
The Three Sisters

At the site of the former lookout is a railed observation deck and bench which allowed for a relaxing rest as we took in the 360 degree view which spanned from Mt. Adams to Diamond Peak.
Mt. Adams & Mt. Hood
Mt. Jefferson beyond Cone Peak and the top of Three Fingered Jack behind Crescent Mountain
Mt. Washington
The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & The Husband
Diamond Peak

The view was so good even a hummingbird took a break from the penstemon to take it in.

We headed back down to the trail junction and continued on our loop passing more flowers, recrossing Highway 20, and returning to Tombstone Pass on the Old Santiam Wagon Road.
Bunchberry & Queens Cup

The flowers had certainly been better than on our previous visit and it looked like they would be pristine for another week or two. It was a great way to start a holiday weekend. Happy Trails!


Central Oregon Fort Rock Hiking Oregon Trip report

Hager Mountain Part Deux & Fort Rock

The third day of our Central Oregon visit had us returning to a hike we had done last July 31st – Hager Mountian.
Smoke from a wildfire had prevented us from having any views from the 7185′ summit that day but we had enjoyed the hike and seen signs of what seemed like it might be a decent amount of flowers if we had visited a bit earlier. We were hoping to get the views and to see some more flowers this time around and we also planned to stop at Fort Rock State Park on the way back to Bend, OR.

As we did on our previous visit we started at the lowest trail head located on road 28 just over 9 miles south of Silver Lake, OR. It wasn’t long before we began seeing wildflowers. Paint, lupine, death camas, and some balsamroot was scattered amid the ponderosa pines. We were thinking it was pretty good and then we looked ahead and saw a completely unexpected sight. The amount of paint and blasamroot that covered the forest floor was beyond anything we’d imagined. The flowers were spread out in every direction.

By the 1.5 mile mark the trail had left the ponderosa forest. The flowers had decreased here but there were still some to be found.

We passed Hager Spring which was as dry as it was on our last visit and began climbing to the lower meadow. We weren’t sure what to expect for flowers in the meadow. We had gotten a couple of glimpses of it from the lower trail and we thought we could see some yellow which we assumed was balsamroot. As we got closer to the meadow our suspicions were confirmed. The balsamroot was back with a vengeance along with paint and some additional flowers.
Scarlet Gilia
Lewis Flax
Prairie Star

Not only were the flowers amazing but we had a view as we passed through the meadow. For the first time on a hike we could see Mt. Shasta in California beyond Thompson Reservoir.
Along with Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak
and Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, & Broken Top

We made a switchback in the meadow and could see the summit as we continued up through the meadow. The flowers remained the star of the show.

We left the lower meadow and entered another section of forest. The flowers decreased in this section but there were some arnica starting to bloom and a lot of fireweed just starting to grow. The trail climbed stiffly through the trees making this the most difficult section of the trail before leveling out briefly and then launching up again into the upper meadow. Here we found some more balsamroot and some phlox.
It was in this section that we were looking for the rare green paintbrush that grows on Hager Mountain. We had seen some on our previous visit but it was drying out that day. Now we found some lush versions growing near the trail.

It was exciting to reach the summit to see what views we had missed on the previous hike. The day wasn’t entirely clear but it was a monumental improvement over the last time. We spent about 45 minutes studying the horizon and taking pictures. There are some very interesting geologic formation in that part of Oregon and we were intrigued by some of the odd features.

Warner Peak in the distance to the right:
Gearhart Mountain with a bit of snow:
Gearhart Mountain from Hager Mountain
Fort Rock in the center of the flat area with Paulina Peak, China Hat & East Butte behind from left to right.
From the northwest to the southwest the horizon was dotted with snowy Cascade peaks. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson appeared like a ghost in the clouds but we had good views starting with the Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor:
Followed by Diamond Peak to their south:
Then Mt. Thielsen, Howlock Mt. & Tipsoo Peak:
Crater Lake had emerged from the previous days clouds as we could easily make out Mt. Scott, The Watchman, and Hillman Peak:
Mt. McGloughlin barely rose above the broad shoulder of Yamsay Mountain:
And finally Mt. Shasta looming large far to the south:
Mt. Shasta fro m Hager Mountain

We were joined on the summit by some of the local wildlife.

By the time we were on our way back down the flower display had actually gotten better. The lewis flax was opening to the sunlight.

We passed four other hikers on our way back to the car as well as a noisy nuthatch and a couple of sagebrush lizards.

Once we were back on the road we returned to Highway 31 and headed north to Fort Rock State Park. Neither of us had been there before but it had piqued our interest on the way past the year before. The rocks are said to be the remainder of an ancient volcanic crater that was worn down by an ice age lake. Whatever the origin the result was an interesting crescent formation full of textured rocks angled this way and that.
2014-06-14 13.45.55

Inside the crescent the ground appeared to be covered in sagebrush, but as we hiked along the loop inside the rocks we noticed a good number of wildflowers that had sprung up amongst the sage.

A short side path led to a notch in the rocks where you could see the Fort Rock Cave:
To the south we could see Hager Mountain where we had been just a couple hours earlier:

It had been a great day of hiking with some really interesting and beautiful scenery. One note of caution though. We both had to knock ticks off, Heather during the Hager Mountain hike and myself back at the car after being on the Fort Rock trails. Happy Trails!

Facebook – Hager Mt.:
Fprt Rock:

Year-end wrap up

The hikes of 2013 – A year in review.

What an amazing year of hiking it was! As we reach then end of 2013 we thought we’d make one final entry recapping the beautiful areas and unique features we were blessed enough to encounter while out on our “wanderings”. We began the year in February at the Oregon Coast, hiking at Gwynn Creek and Cape Perpetua then finished up just a couple of weeks ago, once again on the Oregon Coast at Tillamook Head, 140 miles north of where we had started. Sandwiched in between these two hikes were 40 other adventures in which we climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and scrambled cross-country to explore a small sampling of the trails of NW Oregon and SW Washington. We put together a map of the approximate location of the trailheads for each of the hikes.
2013 Trailheads
An interactive version can be viewed on mapquest using the following link.

I’ve always been interested in numbers so I have kept quite a few statistics regarding these 42 hikes. Here are some of those that I found most interesting. We visited 10 wilderness and 2 scenic areas in 8 different national forests. In addition to the national forests we hiked in 4 state parks and at a national volcanic monument. Some of the other numbers are as follows:
Total Miles (according to the Garmin) – 515.2
Cumulative Elevation Gained (approx.) – 88,000′
Minimum/Maximum Elevation – sea level/10,358′
Total Moving Time (per the Garmin) – 240hrs 36min
Total Time on the Trails (per the Garmin) – 280hrs 6min
Total Miles Driven (approx.) – 7550 miles

For the most part the weather was good. We had a warm, dry end to Winter which carried into Spring clearing many trails of snow earlier than normal. This allowed for some earlier visits to some of the higher elevation areas and also an early bloom for most of the wildflowers including the bear grass which only blooms every 2nd or 3rd year. A mild summer kept temperatures bearable and despite the dry beginning to the year the fire season wasn’t too bad. Fall brought an early snowstorm and left an early winter wonderland at mid-elevations and some unusually cold temperatures of late created some interesting ice displays.

Words can’t do justice to the beauty of God’s creation that we experienced this so year I’ll try to keep them to a minimum and attempt to let pictures show what they can.
I have to start with the Cascade Mountains. The most awe inspiring creations, these steadfast beacons that on clear days dot the horizon always seem to draw our attention.

From the rim of Crater Lake in the south to Mt. Rainier in the north they rise above the other ridges, rooted in their positions, yet ever changing in order or varying in appearance depending on what our location was. Some of the views we had were amazing.

Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, Mt. Baily, & Diamond Peak from the South Sister Summit
View from the South Sister
Cascade Peaks from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood (minus the North Sister which was hidden behind the Middle) from Mt. Fuji
Waldo Lake
Mt. Washington to Mt. Hood from the Pacfic Crest Trail near Yapoah Crater
Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson & Mt. Hood
Mt. Washington to Mt. Bachelor from Three Fingered Jack
Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and The Husband
Mt. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams from Wildcat Mountain
Mr. Rainier, The Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams from Silver Star Mountain
View from Ed' Trail

Individual peaks working from the south to the north.
Mt. Thielsen:
From Fuji Mountian
Mt. Thielsen

Diamond Peak:
From Waldo Mountain
Fuji Mountain and Diamond Peak
From Fuji Mountain
Diamond Peak

Mt. Bachelor:
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Bachelor
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Mt. Bachelor

Broken Top:
From above Moraine Lake
Broken Top and Moraine Lake
From Fuji Mountain
Broken Top and Ball Butte
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Broken Top

South Sister:
From above Moraine Lake
South Sister Climbers Trail
From Tam MacArthur Rim
South Sister
From Fuji Mountain
South Sister

Middle & North Sister
From Tam MacArthur Rim
Middle and North Sister
From Scott Meadow
North & Middle Sister and Little Brother from Scott Meadow
From the South Sister
South Sister summit view

Mt. Washington
From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Mt. Washington
From Fuji Mountain
Mt. Washington and Belknap Crater
From Three Fingered Jack
Mt. Washington and The Husband

Three Fingered Jack:

From the Matthieu Lakes Trail
Three Fingered Jack
From Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack from the upper meadow

Mt. Jefferson:
From Fuji Mountain (Dwarfing Three Fingered Jack)
Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack
From Hanks Lake
Hank's Lake
From Three Fingered Jack
Looking back down
From Bays Lake in Jefferson Park
Bays Lake in Jefferson Park

Mt. Hood:
From Barrett Spur
Mt. Hood from Barrett Spur
From Table Mountain
Mt. Hood from Table Mountain
From Elk Meadows
Mt. Hood from Elk Meadows
From Lamberson Butte
Mt. Hood
From Youcum Ridge
Mt. Hood from Yocum Ridge
From Timothy Lake
Mt. Hood from Timothy Lake

Mt. St. Helens:
Mt. St. Helens
From the Loowit Trail on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from the Loowit Trail
From Johnston Ridge
Mt. St. Helens

Mt. Adams:
From Silver Star Mountain
Paintbrush, penstemon and Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier:
From Wildcat Mountain
Mt. Rainier

From the giant rock towers of the mountains we move on to the delicate meadows full of wildflowers that often times call the mountains home. We visited amazing wildflower displays near Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Fingered Jack but the Cascades were possibly outdone by Silver Star Mountain in Washington.
Bear Grass on Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens from a beargrass meadow along the Loowit Trail
Balsam Root and Paintbrush in the Ochoco National Forest
Paintbrush and balsamroot
Clearcut on Silver Star Mountain
Tarabell Trail
Meadow on Salmon Butte
An arnica in  a meadow of plectritis, larkspur and monkeyflower
Elk Meadows
Elk Meadows
Near Heather Creek on Mt. Hood
Wildflowers along the Timberline Trail at Heather Creek
Mt. Hood Meadows
Wildflowers in Mt. Hood Meadows
Lupine in Canyon Creek Meadows
Three Fingered Jack
On Coffin Mountain
Aster, penstemon and paintbrush
Avalanche Lilies on the Timberline Trail
Avalanche lilies
Western Pasque flowers and Paintbrush near Elk Cove
Mt. Hood from the Timberline Trail near Elk Cove
Barret Spur on Mt. Hood
Lupine and monkeyflower
Gentians in Jefferson Park
Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitbenbush Trail
Along the South Brietenbush River in Jefferson Park
Wildflowers along the South Breitenbush River
Aster on Yocum Ridge
Aster field on Yocum Ridge
On Yocum Ridge
Wildflowers along the Yocum Ridge Trail
More from Yocum Ridge
Paintbrush and aster

There weren’t many hikes where the presence of water was not felt. We encountered it in various forms and in an array of colors. There were lakes, creeks, rivers, waterfalls, springs, and the Pacific Ocean adding sights and sounds to our hikes.
Roaring Creek
Roaring Creek
McKenzie River
Mckenzie River
Tamolitch Pool
Tamolitch Pool
Russell Lake
Mt. Jefferson from Russell Lake
Umbrella Falls
Umbrella Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Diamond Creek Falls
Heather Creek
Waterfall on Heather Creek
South Matthieu Lake
South Mattieu Lake
Benham Falls
Benham Falls
Carver, Camp, and the Chambers Lakes
Carver, Camp and some of the Chambers Lakes
Lewis Tarn
Lewis Tarn
Creek near Pamelia Lake
Waterfall near Pamelia Lake
Timothy Lake
Timothy Lake
Little Crater Lake
Little Crater Lake
Frozen pond near Fuji Mountain
Half frozen pond
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Ramona Falls
Ramona Falls
Pacific Ocean at Tillamook Head
View from Ecola State Park
Pacific Ocean from Cape Perpetua
Looking south from Cape Perpetua
Last but not least the most unpredictable of the sights out on the trails are the creatures that call these places home. From flying ants on Coldwater Peak to the black bear who left its tracks in the snow on Fuji Mountain we were the tourists traipsing through their neighborhoods. We spotted our first elk, snow shoe hare, and sooty grouse this year. We also had the mysterious case of “mouse rain” on Salmon Butte which you can read about here:
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Tide pool at Cape Kiwanda
Rough skinned newt
Tree frog
Spider along the Tam McArthur Rim Trail
Bug on Fuji Mountain
Zerene fritillary butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Edith's checkerspot
Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly on the way up Coldwater Peak
Hoary Comma
Hoary Comma
Clodius parnassian
Bald eagle
Seagull buffet
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Gray jay taking a bath
Duck family
Northern Flicker
Red Crossbill
Osprey flying over ducks on Timothy Lake
Canada geese
Ducks on Wall Lake
Great Blue Heron
Little guys
Douglas squirrel
Golden Mantled Squirrels
Snowshoe hare

Big Guys
Our first elk sighting. Near the Observation Peak Trailhead
Columbia Black Tailed Deer
Elk herd on the far shore of the Deschutes River
Deer near the Lower Black Butte Trailhead

We’d like to leave you with what each of us found to be their favorite hike and the most difficult. For myself Elk Meadows was my favorite. The variety and beauty we encountered on that hike put it atop my list. As for the most difficult I chose Silver Star Mountain which was also in the running for my favorite. The heat on that day made it the hardest one for me.

After much deliberation Heather chose the same hike as I did her favorite, Elk Meadows; something about that day had her mesmerized as we traveled up Gnarl Ridge towards Mt. Hood. For the most difficult she picked Observation Peak due in part to having fallen shortly after we stared the hike and spraining her hand and wrist. It made for a more challenging and uncomfortable hike as she endeavored to keep her injury elevated above her heart during most of the journey.

Dominique chose Fuji Mountain for his favorite. There was snow and a great view with a reasonable amount of distance. For the most difficult he picked Table Mountain and the climb up Heartbreak Ridge.

I am already hard at work putting together a 2014 itinerary which will include some overnight backpacking trips and hopefully visits to the Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Adams in Washington. If all goes as planned we will kick things off in January, take things slow until we’ve recovered from our April half or full marathons, and then be ready to crank things up in May. Until 2014 here is a link to a 2013 hikes in pictures album on Flickr

Merry Christmas & Happy Trails!

High Cascades Hiking Oregon Trip report Waldo Lake Area

Fuji Mountain

After a (well timed) scheduled week off we were back on the trails this past weekend. A highly unusual storm had rolled through as September gave way to October. Not only had this storm brought record amounts of precipitation but some of that precipitation fell as snow as low as 4000′. The hike we had planned, Fuji Mountain, topped out at 7144′ so we weren’t sure if it was going to be doable but some warmer weather moved in and we decided to give it a go. If we managed to make it up to the summit we knew the views should be great, and worst case scenario we could just choose a different lower trail in the area.

Fuji Mountain is located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness near Highway 58. A pair of trail heads lead to the summit. From the SW a 1.5 mile option starts on road 5883 making for a nice short hike. We chose to start from road 5897 (Waldo Lake road) to lengthen the hike a bit and visit some of the areas many lakes.

The trail begins just below 5000′ and started out snow free, but that didn’t last for long. We quickly began seeing snow along the trail and then on the trail itself. We followed a single set of hikers prints as we climbed up toward the first of the lakes.
They weren’t the only set of prints in the snow. 🙂

Black bear print
Black bear print

It wasn’t long before there was more snow covered trail than not but the snow wasn’t very deep, only on occasion measuring 6″. The trail climbed for about a mile then gently rolled along a plateau dotted with ponds and lakes for another 2.5 miles. Many of these were at least partly frozen making for some pretty scenery.

Half frozen pond
Half frozen pond
Mushrooms under ice
Mushrooms under ice
Birthday Lake
Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake
Reflections on Birthday Lake

Shortly after crossing the South Waldo Trail the Fuji Mountain Trail began climbing again. In another mile we met up with the trail coming from road 5883 and began the final 1.2 mile climb to the summit. Here there were more hiker tracks in the snow but we only saw one other couple who were on their way down after spending the night on the summit.

As we climbed we began to have views of snowy Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielsen to the south, but these views paled in comparison to what awaited at the summit. When we arrived at the summit a 360 degree view awaited with Waldo Lake and a string of snowy peaks to the north and more mountains to the south. To the east lay Wickiup Reservoir and Odell Lake with distant Paulina Peak and nearby Maiden Peak in between. To the west were the foothills leading to the Willamette Valley.

Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Waldo Lake and the Cascades
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Cowhorn Mountain, Mt. Thielsen, Hillman Peak and Diamond Peak
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain
Looking west along the summit ridge of Fuji Mountain

It was a beautiful day at the summit, sunny and warm with no wind. We took our time eating lunch and enjoying the tranquility before heading back down. On the way out Heather and I decided to take a brief side trip along the South Waldo Trail to the Island Lakes. It was around half a mile to Lower Island Lake with it’s green water and tiny rock island. Just up and across the trail from Lower Island Lake was Upper Island Lake which also had a small rocky island.

Lower Island Lake's island
Lower Island Lake’s island
Lower Island Lake
Lower Island Lake
Upper Island Lake
Upper Island Lake

The warm weather made the return trip pretty slushy as the snow was melting fairly quickly. When we arrived back at the half frozen pond the scene had changed quite a bit.

The no longer half frozen pond
The no longer half frozen pond

We all really enjoyed being able to take a hike through the snow and it made for a nice change of pace. I don’t know if the early snow is a sign of things to come or just a fluke but it was enjoyable. Happy Trails!

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Canyon Creek Meadows

Canyon Creek Meadows had been a monkey on our backs, or is it packs for hikers? We had tried several times in the past two years to get this hike in and either snow or forest fires forced us to change our plans. We had put it back on our schedule for August 2nd this year hoping this year would be different. Thanks to a very helpful trip report on 7/26 by pdxgene via we learned that the meadows were not only snow free but the flowers were in bloom. We were now in danger of being too late for the full flower display so we moved the hike up in the rotation and off we went.

It was a beautiful morning at the Jack Lake trail head and after a minor detour around the wrong side of the lake we were headed for the lower Canyon Creek meadow. The trail alternated between burned and unburned forest as it climbed to the first meadow. The flowers here were still in bloom despite some already feeling the effects of a warm and dry late Spring and early Summer.
Beyond the meadow Three Fingered Jack filled the horizon beneath a blue sky.

As we continued on toward the upper meadow the views of the mountain got better and better. A near full moon hovered above the summit all morning shifting positions as time passed. We skirted the edge of the upper meadow and headed up toward a saddle with a view of a cirque lake below a glacier on the flank of Three Fingered Jack. The path was steep with a lot of loose rock but the views were more than worth it, and a healthy wind quickly cooled us off on top of the saddle.

Looking south from the saddle
Looking south from the saddle

We had some food and explored the ridge along the saddle where we found a less steep trail down from the east. In the post on portlandhikers Gene had mentioned that after 12:00 the shadows from the mountain causes issues with picture quality from the upper meadow so we wanted to get back down before we ran out of time. Canyon Creek flows out of the cirque lake through the upper meadow creating a wonderful wildflower display. The lupine was especially thick here.

After exploring the upper meadow we followed Canyon Creek down to the lower meadow and began the loop back to the car. (To help control the foot traffic on this popular hike there is a loop that you are asked to hike in a clockwise direction.) Before we got back we took a short side trip to Wasco Lake for no particular reason. It was pretty and quite but we were ready to get back to the car so we took a quick break and finished the hike and removed the monkey from our packs. Happy Trails.

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