Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Surveryor’s Ridge – 05/22/2021

For the first time in 2021 we were forced to change plans having to delay our hike at the Ridgefiled Wildlife Refuge until the Kiwa trail reopens. (Nesting sandhill cranes have temporarily closed access as of this writing.) Since Ridgefield was out we looked at our schedule late May 2022 and decided to move up a hike on the Surveryor’s Ridge Trail. We had previously hiked portions of the 16.4 mile long trail as part of our Bald Butte (post) and Dog River Trail (post) hikes. For this visit we planned on hiking the center section of trail to visit Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point.

There are several possible trailheads for the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail and the Oregon Hikers Field Guide suggests starting at the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead for a 7.9 mile hike. We decided to be a bit different though and chose to park further south along the Forest Road 17 in a large gravel pullout at a spur road on the left. (Coming from FR 44/Dufur Road it is 1.4 miles after turning off of Brooks Meadow Road.)
IMG_5363Mt. Hood partly obscured by clouds from the parking area.

There were three reasons we chose this starting point. First it meant 2.5 miles less driving on gravel roads. Second if you’re visiting both Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead you wind up going to one then back past the trailhead to the other because the trailhead is in between the two. The final reason was this way we would get to experience more of the trail (although the tradeoff is an extra 5 miles of hiking round trip).

We followed the spur road downhill just over a hundred yards to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail crossing.
IMG_5365The signpost is laying on the ground.

We weren’t really sure what to expect out of the trail. It is popular with mountain bikers (we saw maybe a dozen or so on the day) so it is well maintained but we weren’t sure what kind of views it might offer except for at Shellrock Mountain and Yellowjacket Point.
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We were pleasantly surprised when just a third of a mile in we came to an opening with a view of Mt. Hood to the west.
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The forecast for the day was mostly sunny skies in the morning with a 20% chance of showers developing after Noon. Our drive to the trailhead had been through low clouds/fog with no view of Mt. Hood to speak of so even seeing this much of the mountain was exciting plus a nice lenticular cloud was developing up top.
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Over the next two and a quarter miles the trail passed through alternating forest types and several more views of Mt. Hood (and one of Mt. St. Helens). While no snow remained, much of the vegetation was in its early stages although a variety wildflowers were blooming.
IMG_5384Manzanita

IMG_5394Lupine

IMG_5396Mt. Hood again.

IMG_5399Jacob’s ladder

20210522_072859Red-flowering currant

20210522_072928Trillium (can you spot the crab spider?)

20210522_072951Sticky currant

IMG_5408Western larch tree and red-flowering currant on the left.

IMG_5416Larks spur and blue-eyed Mary

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IMG_5423Columbine well before blooming.

20210522_074207Anemone

20210522_074309Largeleaf sandwort

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IMG_5439Vanilla leaf getting ready to bloom.

IMG_5445Arnica

IMG_5450False solomons seal starting to bloom.

IMG_5452Star-flower false solomons seal prior to blooming.

20210522_080220Ballhead waterleaf

IMG_5453Ponderosa

IMG_5456Scarlet gilia not yet in bloom.

IMG_5462Balsamroot

IMG_5463Hood River Valley and Mt. St. Helens

IMG_5464Mt. St. Helens

IMG_5469Mt. Hood

IMG_5470Indian Mountain (post)

20210522_081105Western serviceberry

IMG_5476Fairy bells

20210522_081856Glacier lily

IMG_5482Shellrock Mountain from the trail.

Just to the south of Shellrock Mountain there is a signed spur to the left for “Shellrock Mountain” which does not go to Shellrock Mountain but rather ends after few hundred feet in a small meadow below the mountain. Despite knowing this we ventured out to the meadow just to check it out.
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IMG_5493First paintbrush of the day spotted in the little meadow.

The route to the 4449’summit lays .2 miles further north at the crest of the trail where a rough unsigned user trail veers uphill.
IMG_5496User trail to the left.

The faint trail was fairly well flagged and easy enough to follow through the vegetation to the open rocky slope of Shellrock Mountain.
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Once we were out in the open we simply headed uphill to the summit where a lookout once sat. The three-hundred and sixty degree view includes Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in addition to Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.
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IMG_5506Shellrock Badlands Basin, an eroded volcanic formation.

IMG_5503View east into Central Oregon.

IMG_5525Mt. Hood

IMG_5528Mill Creek Buttes with Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte (post) behind to the right.

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IMG_5554Bird below Shellrock Mountain.

We took a nice long break at the summit before descending back to the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail where we continued north.
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IMG_5556A whole lot of trillium.

20210522_091947Fairy slippers

Approximately .4 miles from the user trail we arrived at the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead.
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IMG_5571Sign at the trailhead.

Continuing beyond the trailhead the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail passed above the Shellrock Badlands Basin with views back to Shellrock Mountain and eventually Mt. Hood again.
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IMG_5585parsley and popcorn flower.

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Over the course of the morning the cloud situation improved substantially, enough that when we arrived at a viewpoint 3/4 of a mile from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead most of the sky around Mt. Hood was blue.
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While Mt. Hood wore a lenticular cloud for a hat, my hat wore an inch worm.
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20210522_095214 I frequently have insects hitching rides, so often that we joke about me being an Uber for bugs.

Beyond this latest viewpoint the trail began a gradual climb to the former site of the Rim Rock Fire Lookout (approx 1.75 miles from the Shellrock Mountain Trailhead).
IMG_5640Rock out cropping in the Rim Rock section of trail.

20210522_095950Tailed kittentails

IMG_5643Western tanager female

IMG_5645Western tanager male

IMG_5648View from a rocky viewpoint just before crossing from the east side of the ridge back to the top.

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When the trail regained the ridge crest we took a user trail to a viewpoint where Mt. Hood once again dominated the view.

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IMG_5666Hood River Valley

Interestingly the improved visibility of Mt. Hood had been countered by a loss of visibility of the Washington Cascades.
IMG_5667Clouds encroaching on Mt. Adams.

IMG_5668Mt. St. Helens

Another unmarked side trail led to the former lookout site.
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IMG_5678The other viewpoint had a better view.

Three tenths of a mile from the lookout site we crossed an old roadbed then crossed a second in another .3 miles.
IMG_5681The first roadbed crossing.

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20210522_104430Violets

There was a profusion of Red-flowering currant in between the road crossings.
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IMG_5688Trail signs at the second road crossing.

IMG_5691Coralroot sprouting

Four tenths of a mile beyond the second road crossing we thought we had reached Yellowjacket Point when we arrived at an open hillside where we followed a faint path out to some rocks.
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IMG_5705Balsamroot and paintbrush

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IMG_5722Desert parsley

IMG_5727Western stoneseed

IMG_5737Wildflowers on the hillside.

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After another long break (and removing two ticks from my pant legs) we started to head back. Something just didn’t seem right though so we checked our location on the GPS and discovered that we hadn’t quite gotten to Yellowjacket Point yet. We turned around and hiked an additional 0.1 miles to a junction where we turned left.
IMG_5748Sign at the junction.

IMG_5749Spur trail to Yellowjacket Point.

We arrived at Yellowjacket Point a tenth of a mile later.
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IMG_5760No yellowjackets, just a robin.

Having finally reached Yellowjacket point we could head back. As usual we kept our eyes open for anything we missed on our first pass.
20210522_115324Things like this gooseberry shrub.

IMG_5791Chipmunk

IMG_5795Townsend’s solitare?

The biggest story on our hike back was the deterioration of the view of Mt. Hood. NOAA had not been wrong about the chance of showers in the afternoon and we watched as the clouds moved in. By the time we had arrived back at the car it had indeed started to sprinkle ever so lightly.
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IMG_5799Returning to the parking area at 2:11pm

The 12.9 mile hike came with approximately 1800′ of elevation gain. We were really impressed with the variety of scenery and the views on this hike. Despite being a multi-use trail we didn’t see that many other users; a few trail runners, a couple of hikers, and a dozen or so mountain bikers. All in all a great day in the forest. Happy Trails!

Our track for the day.

Flicker: Surveryor’s Ridge

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Dry Creek and Pacific Crest Falls

Despite what the weather thinks we are approaching our hiking season which means we will be hitting the trails much more often over the next 6 months. As we work our way into hiking shape we jumped on a chance at a rain free morning and headed to the Columbia River Gorge to check out a pair of waterfalls. Several trails in the gorge remain closed due to fire damage from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and others that had been reopened are again closed due to rock fall and slides caused by our recent weather combined with the fire damage. Please remember to check on the current status and conditions of trails before heading out.

Our sights were set on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Cascade Locks to Pacific Crest Falls. We had visited Pacific Crest Falls coming from the other side in October of 2015 (post) but at that time of year there wasn’t much water flowing so we thought a return visit was in order, especially after our recent rains.

We began our hike at the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead in Cascade Locks.
Bridge of the Gods Trailhead

From the trailhead we took the Pacific Crest Trail south.
Pacific Crest Trail sign in Cascade Locks

Pacific Crest Trail at Cascade Locks

The PCT briefly follows Harvey Road as it passes under I84 to a second possible trailhead.
Short road stretch on the PCT

Pacific Crest/Gorge Trail

From the Harvey Road Trailhead the PCT climbed gradually through the fire scarred forest. It was encouraging to see that many if not most of the trees along this section had survived. There was also quite a few early Spring flowers blooming.
Pacific Crest Trail in the Eagle Creek Fire scar

Eagle Creek Fire scar along the Pacific Crest Trail

Violets and snow queenSnow queen and violets

TrilliumTrillium

Just under a mile from Harvey Road the PCT once again briefly shared a gravel roadbed as it passed under a set of power lines.
Another short stretch of road along the Pacific Crest Trail

The trail leveled out shortly after passing the power lines and traversed along a sometimes steep hillside for three quarters of a mile to a signed junction near Dry Creek.
Pacific Crest Trail

Forest along the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Dry Creek Falls Trail

Here we detoured away from the PCT and followed the pointer for Dry Creek Falls. This trail followed an old roadbed along Dry Creek just over a quarter of mile to Dry Creek Falls.
Approaching Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek with Dry Creek Falls in the distance

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

After a nice little break at the base of the falls we headed back to the PCT where we turned right and crossed Dry Creek on a footbridge.
Footbridge over Dry Creek

Dry Creek

We had been discussing the fact that hikers were starting to post picture of fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) one of our favorites. We weren’t sure if any would be blooming yet in this area but we managed to spot a few as we continued south on the PCT.
Fairy slipper

Approximately 1.25 miles from Dry Creek the PCT crossed a talus slope.
Pacific Crest Trail

At the beginning of this section we spotted group of yellow flowers which turned out to be glacier lilies.
Glacier lilies

Glacier lilies

Glacier lilies

This section also provided the best, albeit limited, view across the Columbia River during this hike.
Columbia River

A half mile beyond the talus we passed the Herman Creek Pinnacles. We detoured briefly to get a closer look at the basalt formation and the cute little monkeyflowers blooming amid the rocks.
Herman Creek Pinnacles

Herman Creek Pinnacles

Chickeweed monkeyflower

Chickweed monkeyflower

After exploring the pinnacles we continued on and in less than a quarter mile arrived at Pacific Crest Falls.
Approaching Pacific Crest Falls

Pacific Crest Falls

The amount of water flowing over the falls was noticeably more this time around.
Pacific Crest FallsOctober 2015

Pacific Crest FallsApril 2019

We turned around here and headed back along the PCT to the junction near Dry Creek. Instead of returning to Cascade Locks via the PCT we turned downhill on the old road and followed the creek downhill.
Old roadbed back to Cascade Locks

Dry Creek

Dry Creek

After approximately 1.25 miles we passed some sort of a structure followed by a gate.
Dry Creek Road

Beyond the gate Dry Creek Road was open and well graveled.
Dry Creek Road

After passing a few logging roads and swinging quite a ways east we passed under I84 by turning left on SW Ruckle St which we followed to its end at SW Adams Ave. We turned left on Adams which brought us to a school.
Cascade Locks

We passed behind the school (and library) and made our way to Highway 30 where we turned left again towards the Bridge of the Gods.
Heading through Cascade Locks

Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods

We arrived back at our car as the rain was arriving. The hike was approximately 9.5 miles (I had some battery issues with the GPS) with a little under 1000′ of elevation gain. Hiking through Cascade Locks at the end was definitely not the most exciting end to a hike and unless you’re like us and specifically seek out alternate return routes I’d recommend just returning as you came. That being said the upper portion of the road walk along Dry Creek was nice.

I want to take a moment to thank the volunteers that have worked so hard to restore the trails affected by the fire. In particular the PCTA and Trail Keepers of Oregon (TKO) have been hard at work and doing an excellent job. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Dry Creek and Pacific Crest Falls

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

The Other Eagle Creek (Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness)

We continued what I have dubbed “Creek Week” by visiting another Eagle Creek the day after our trip to the one in the Columbia Gorge. Even though both creeks share the same name and both are located partially in the Mt. Hood National Forest the similarities end there. This Eagle Creek flows through the old growth forest of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and is much less visited than the one in the Gorge. There are no dizzying cliffs or giant waterfalls but rather the relaxing sound of running water while you stroll through a lush forest.

It was good that the trail was so relaxing because the drive to it was anything but. The hike was listed as an additional hike in the 2012 edition of William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington complete with driving directions. He warned of a confusion of logging roads and he was right. I had also Googled the route and printed out directions from the Forest Service to the trailhead. The road names all matched but each of the directions gave different distances once we got onto SE Harvey Rd. Google said 1.2 miles, the Forest Service 1.8 miles, and Sullivan a more detailed 2.6 miles. Our first mistake was not paying attention to the difference in the distances given followed by not using the odometer as soon as we turned onto Harvey Rd. The area was heavily logged with operations ongoing so there were many side roads and turnoffs and no signs for any type of trail. We drove to the end of what we thought was Harvey Rd. and found a pile of garbage where people had obviously come out to shoot guns (seems to be a favorite pastime in that area) but no sign of a trail. We turned around and headed back the way we’d come looking for any sign of a trail that we might have missed. There were a couple of possibilities but nothing obvious. As we were reading the different instructions we noticed the different mileages which made it more confusing. In the end we decided to drive back to the start of SE Harvey Rd. and use the Odometer. There was nothing at the 1.2 mile mark so the Google instructions were ruled out. At the 1.8 mile mark a gated road led down to the right. The trail description in the book stated that the trail began on an overgrown old road so this had possibilities. I got an idea here and turned on the GPS to see if we were at the trail but when the map came up there was no trail where we were so we hopped in the car and continued to follow Sullivan’s mileage directions. We stopped at one point when we spotted what looked like it might have been an old road with a possible trail leading from it but again using the GPS it was clear that we still had not found the trail. At the 2.4 mile mark we spotted a barricaded road leading down to the right so again we stopped to check it out. This time the GPS showed us on a direct line for the trail and a small path led between the snags blocking the road. There were no signs but this was it.
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What we believe happened was the Forest Service stared counting mileage about half a mile after Sullivan started. Then the final approximate quarter mile of Sullivan’s directions had been since blocked by the logging operation because after a brief walk on the road we came to a second small barrier behind which we found an overgrown road such as he had described.
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In any event according to the GPS we had found the trail and were on our way down to Eagle Creek. We finally found a sign to confirm what the GPS was telling us. Near the end of the overgrown road there was some flagging and a sign announcing the beginning of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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After entering the wilderness the trail looked less and less like an old road until it finally became a full on trail.
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We ran across some interesting trees/trunks on the early portion of the trail. One of our favorites was a tree growing on top of an old trunk. You could see the new trees root system running down the length of the old trunk.
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Another old trunk had a stream flowing out from under it.
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There were many streams and creek to cross along the trail, but only one bridge.
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There was no way we were going to keep our feet dry on some the crossing but that was okay with us, the streams just added to the beauty of the forest.
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Due to the dense forest there weren’t a large variety of wildflowers but there were some including bleeding heart, wood violets, lots of trillium, and a new one to us scouler’s corydalis.
Bleeding Heart
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Wood Violets
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Trillium
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Scouler’s Cordylis
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scouler's corydalis

Open areas where were filled with salmon berry bushes.
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We were up above Eagle Creek at times and then we would be walking next to the water for a bit. It was a decent sized creek lined with lush forests.
Eagle Creek in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
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We didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this hike but I think that was partially due to the lushness of the forest. At one point we startled a deer that was in the creek but all I saw was splashing then a brown and white flash as it ran into the trees. What we did see was an Ouzel, an interesting spider, a couple of newts, and one of our favorite little song birds that I believe is a Pacific Wren.
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We turned around when we reached the end of the Eagle Creek Trail. Here it connected to the Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail which fords Eagle Creek before heading up a ridge to the Old Baldy Trail.
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The Eagle Creek Cutoff ford
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We had a little drizzle from time to time up to this point but as we began our return trip the drizzle turned to a light rain. We made quick work of our return slowing only due to the climb back up the old road. It had been a great hike for relaxing end to our creek streak with. Next up we’re going to attempt to get a view, but in the Pacific Northwest Spring views can be tricky. Until then Happy Trails!

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Categories
Cottage Grove Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Brice Creek & Trestle Falls

A few posts ago I mentioned that the trail was a classroom. It seems as though we always learn something out on a hike, and our recent trip to Brice Creek was no different. During the hike we learned that rough-skinned newts love to play hide-and-seek, and they stink at it. 😀 We’ll get to that later, but first a little about the trail.

Brice Creek is located to the east of Cottage Grove, OR and flows into the Row River which in turns empties into the Willamette. There are several trailheads located along the creek in the Umpqua National Forest making it possible to choose the length of your hike. We chose to start at the West Brice Trailhead and hike to the other end of trail at the Champion Creek Trailhead. From there we could visit a pair of waterfalls on Trestle Creek.

It was a little misty and cloudy as we set off on the trail.
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After a brief stint on an exposed hillside the trail entered an old growth forest with plenty of lush green moss on the ancient trees. We also crossed several small but scenic streams.
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There were a few flowers blooming, mostly white varieties that are typical in older/denser forests.
Anemone
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Vanilla Leaf
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Solomonseal
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Most of the trillium was already finished but from the leaves and the few we did see it was clear they were very large in this area.
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The trail had been up above Brice Creek until coming down to the bridge for the campground. From there the trail stayed closer to the creek for awhile providing a number of chances to get to the creek and get an up close view.
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At one point the trail disappears along a bedrock section. The wet weather made for some slipper footing but the exposed rock was home to the most colorful flowers we would see all day.
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Larkspur
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Larkspur

The creek had many moods in this section and the clear water made it easy to see what was underneath the surface.
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We then climbed up and away from the creek again before descending to another footbridge 2.6 mi from the last, this time to Lund Park.
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We’d read that there was a meadow at Lund Park and were hoping that it might have some good wildflowers. We were a little disappointed when we arrived to find a couple of yellow flowers, some bleeding heart, and a lot of white wild strawberry blooms was all there was.
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Someone had put together a somewhat substantive rock collection on one of the picnic tables though.
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We started getting a few sun breaks after reaching Lund Park and in just another .5mi we reached a trail junction with Upper Trestle Falls trail. We would be returning down this trail after visiting the lower falls and taking the Upper Falls trail from the other end at the Champion Creek Trailhead. Before we get to that though this is where the hide-and-seek lesson comes in.
We had been seeing a lot of newts on the trail and noticed that when they were trying to get our of our way they tend to stick their head into or under something.
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This wasn’t the first time we’d observed this behavior. From a 2011 hike:
Rough-skinned Newt
Just after leaving Lund Park I passed by one of them and turned to Heather to have her stop to make sure it didn’t get stepped on. When we stopped it headed for the first thing it could stick it’s head under – Heather’s shoe 😀
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All I could think of is a toddler playing hide-and-seek. Apparently if they can’t see us we can’t see them. Heather was able to move and leave the newt unharmed and we’d discovered natures worst hide-and-seek players.

Back to the trail junctions and sun breaks.
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In another .5mi we had reached Trestle Creek Falls trail which would take us to the lower falls. After a brisk quarter mile climb we could see our destination.
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I got to the end of the trail where a pile of debris had collected and took another picture but the log was still interfering with the view.
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Some careful log walking got me to the gravel bar on the other side of the debris where I was able to get an unobstructed photo.
Lower Trestle Creek Falls
There was another little island of exposed rocks just before the next set of logs but a 15 to 20 foot gap lay between them and my rocks. I decided that wet socks were worth a look at the splash pool and dashed across the water to the other set of rocks. I was getting over this set of logs so I declared victory there and did the splash and dash back and carefully picked my back to the trail.
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As we were preparing to leave the falls we met a group of hikers coming up the trail. They were lamenting the fact that they had not brought their trekking poles with them and asked about the loop to the upper falls. We had both expected to see them again on the loop but never did. Returning to the Brice Creek trail we crossed Trestle Creek on a nice footbridge and finished the last half mile to the Champion Creek TH. The Upper Falls Trail starts just a bit down the road from the trailhead and climbs stiffly 1.4 miles to the Upper Falls. We both thought it was a pretty challenging 900′ climb but the reward at the top was well worth it. The upper falls was located in a wide bowl and was split into two levels. The trail wound around the bowl and behind the falls allowing us to experience the full force of the falls up close.
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Behind Upper Trestle Creek Falls

The Sun was out for our return trip which we made in pretty good time since I’d taken most of the pictures on the way by the first time. We had been discussing the lack of colorful flowers along the way, and when we got back to first exposed area we noticed that we had completely missed a field of plectritis. There was also a patch of what I believe to be giant blue eyed mary.
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There was also a lone yellow flower.
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It took us a lot longer than I had figured to complete the hike, but when we got home and looked at the GPS it had us going a couple of miles further than I had calculated. I’m not entirely sure what made up the difference, but it explained the extra time so we decided to just go with it since it made us feel better about getting back later than expected.

Happy Trails
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Categories
High Cascades Hiking Oregon Three Sisters Area Trip report

Proxy Falls & Separation Lake

They say timing is everything. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it certainly can make a difference in hiking. The time of day, of week, and of year can greatly impact the experience on any given trail. That was certainly the case on our recent visit to the Three Sister Wilderness. The plan was to hike to Separation Lake and back, a 13.7 mile trek. While I was planning the hike though I got to thinking that the trailhead was awfully close to the Proxy Falls trailhead on the Old McKenzie Highway (Hwy 242). Proxy Falls was a hike that we had been wanting to do at some point, but at only 1.7 miles it didn’t warrant the 2:45 minute drive. It was only about 11 miles from our turnoff on Foley Ridge Road for the Separation Lake Trail though so we decided we’d do the loop there as a warm up for the longer hike.

Proxy Falls is a very popular hike. The trailhead is located along the highway, the distance is manageable for hikers of all ages and types, and most importantly the falls are quite impressive. During the summer months the parking spots fill quickly, but on this day we were by ourselves when we arrived at 8am. The old highway is closed during the winter months and doesn’t reopen until June, but just a couple of weeks ago the first snow gate had been opened on the west end allowing access to the trailhead. The Proxy Falls trail loops over a lava field and past the two falls before returning to the highway. The falls are the stars of the show, and being the only ones there we were able to explore and enjoy them all to ourselves.

The lava flow
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The first fall that you reach is Lower Proxy Falls
Proxy Falls
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Next up is Upper Proxy Falls. The pool of water at the bottom of the falls flows underground reappearing a few miles away.

Pool beneath Upper Proxy Falls
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Upper Proxy Falls
Upper Proxy Falls
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Upper Proxy Falls

Our timing was great in this case. The falls were flowing very strongly due to the time of year and we had had a very popular trail all to ourselves :). We hopped back into the car and headed back toward the Separation Lake trail for part two of the days hikes.

Unlike the Proxy Falls trail the trail to Separation Lake is lightly used. We weren’t sure what we would find for conditions as it was unlikely the Forest Service had done any trail maintenance since last year. We were once again the only car at the trailhead which suited us just fine. The trail quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness as it headed down toward Separation Creek.
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The trail crossed several creeks all of which were easy to manage either on bridges or by rock hopping.
Bridge over Louise Creek
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Another creek crossing
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One more
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At one point we passed a tree stump littered with pieces of pine and fir cones. We’d never seen such a large pile and kept expecting to see the fattest chipmunk ever nearby.
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The path was very brushy in places and our feet and lower legs were soaked as we passed through the damp leaves.
Separation Lake Trail

A number of early flowers were out and many of the bushes and trees were beginning to leaf out.

Vanilla Leaf
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Fairyslipper
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Red Currant
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Trillium
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Oregon Grape
Oregon Grape

George Creek is the final small creek that the trail crosses before reaching the much larger Separation Creek. This was the most scenic of the smaller creeks at it had a small waterfall at the crossing.
George Creek
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After 3.5 miles the trail finally gains a view of Separation Creek. It looked like a river compared to the other creeks we had crossed.
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Separation Creek

After following along the creek for 2 miles the trail splits. The Separation Lake Trail crosses Separation Creek on a log bridge while the Separation Creek Trail continues on deeper into the Three Sisters Wilderness. That trail is apparently no longer maintained and closed due to excessive downed trees. We crossed over the creek and continued on toward the lake. Not long after crossing the creek we were greeted by the smell of skunk. It wasn’t actually a skunk but rather a marshy area filled with skunk cabbage.
Separation Creek crossing
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Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage

A little over a mile after crossing the creek the trail reaches Separation Lake. It was a nice little lake with a couple of campsites. We were greeted by the usual birds and chipmunks (and a mosquito or two). We took a break here and had a snack at which point a couple of sets of ducks appeared on the far side of the lake followed by an Osprey who was scoping out the small fish that had been jumping in the lake.
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The ducks
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The osprey
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After the food break we strapped our packs back on and made the return trip back to the car. On our way back we finally ran into the first and only other people we would see – a couple and their dog were headed in to camp. We were pretty tired when we reached the trailhead but it had been a great day of solitude in the wilderness. Happy Trails!

Photos on flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644490517611/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/deryl.yunck/media_set?set=a.10203913310380324.1073741872.1448521051&type=3

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Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Trip report

Fall Creek

We hope everyone had a happy Easter weekend. After attending a Saturday worship service we took advantage of some great weather and headed South to Fall Creek. This was our second hike in a row along a creek in the Willamette National Forest East of Eugene.

The forecast had been for a few showers throughout the day but lucky for us the weatherman was way off. Temps were in the low 50’s when we set off and it wound up being a warm and sunny day. The trail sets off on the Southern bank of Fall Creek through an old growth forest. The first few miles follow Fall Creek through this damp and mossy forest crossing several scenic side creeks on footbridges. This portion of the trail was fairly muddy in spots. Fall Creek was much larger than Larison Creek (our previous hike) with many deeper pools, and the clear water made for some great views. Our timing was good as many of the spring flowers were in bloom carpeting in the forest floor in yellow, purple, and white. The Trillium blooms were particularly pretty.
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After 3.5 miles the old growth gives way to a section of forest that was burned in 2003. This burnt section housed many different wildflowers that prefer the direct sunlight afforded by the fire. It wasn’t long before that direct sunlight had us needing to remove some clothing layers. After a brief pit stop we were off again, now on the Northern side of the creek after crossing on a bridge.

Our goal had been Slick Creek Cave but we decided to continue another half a mile to Bedrock Campground just in case anyone wanted to use the facilities. When we first crossed Slick Creek we completely missed the side trail up to the cave despite my taking several pictures of the cliffs that housed it. When we reached the trail fork for the campground loop we realized we had missed it. The creek bed near the campground was very colorful and worth the extra distance.
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We also came across a type of lily that we had not encountered before.
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When we reached Slick Creek on our way back the side trail had magically appeared. We took the short obvious (this time) trail up to the cave which is basically a recess in the cliff. Apparently it was used by Native Americans for shelter at one point and made for a nice side trip.

Overall this turned out to be a really nice hike. In addition to the various wildflowers we saw a decent amount of wildlife. In the old growth section we came across several snails, slugs, birds, and a Rough Skinned Newt. The burnt section offered geese, ducks, an osprey, several lizards, and a snake. Although this is a heavy use trail we only ran into a handful of people on the trail on this day. Due to the various campgrounds along Big Fall Creek Road which follows the creek on the opposite side there was some car traffic and a number of campers across the water.

As usual I took way too many pictures which can be viewed in full on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633132796203/
or in condensed version on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200914954943312.1073741826.1448521051&type=3