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Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Rogue-Umpqua Divide Trip report

National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge – 10/15/2020

As the strangest hiking season we’ve experienced winds down we took our final long distance (over 3 hours away) trip of the year for a long weekend of hiking around Union Creek, OR. Recent rains had knocked down the wildfires for the most part but those rains had given way to a sunny forecast which made for promising hiking conditions. We kicked off our hikes with a stop at the National Creek Falls Trailhead.
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Located just west of Crater Lake National Park National Creek Falls is spring fed from water absorbed by the Park’s pumice plain. A short .4 mile trail descends from the trailhead to the creek just below the falls.
IMG_6881There was just a little bit of blowdown to navigate on the way down.

IMG_6884National Creek Falls

On a warmer day we would have loved to stay for a bit and possibly wade across the creek to get a full view of these impressive falls but it was in the mid 30’s this morning and with the moisture generated by the falls we quickly became uncomfortably cold. We settled for the view we could get from the creek side and retreated back up to our car and turned the heat on full blast.
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When enough feeling had returned to my hands to grip the steering wheel we returned to Highway 230 following it south to its end at Highway 62 then continued south on that highway past Union Creek to Woodruff Meadows Road (between mileposts 51 and 52). We turned right onto this paved road for one and three quarters of a mile to a small pullout just past the Woodruff Bridge Day Use Area and a bridge over the Rogue River (parking is also available in the day use area).
IMG_6895Signboard at the pullout.

We were here to do Sullivan’s Takelma Gorge hike (#32 in the 4th edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Northern California”). In his book he suggests a quick detour to a small fall beneath the bridge so we crossed the road and made our way down to the river bank to view the cascade.
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We then recrossed Woodruff Meadows Road and headed south along the river on the Upper Rogue River Trail.
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The mile and a half to Takelma Gorge had many river views with lots of fall colors lining the banks. There was also a varied thrush sighting that actually resulted in a few decent pictures (these birds are my nemesis when it comes to getting photos).
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As we neared the gorge the river began to be squeezed through channels created by lava flows.
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IMG_6962Rogue River emerging from a channel.

Takelma Gorge is also the result of a lava flow where the Rogue turns a sharp corner and blasts down the gorge.
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The trail follows along the rim of the gorge passing a couple of viewpoints over the next .9 miles.
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IMG_7029Rogue River emerging from Takelma Gorge.

Either end of the gorge could have been turn around points but the Upper Rogue River Trail continues and so did we. From the southern end of Takelma Gorge it was just over two miles to the River Bridge Campground which we planned on making our turn around point. The nearly level trail remained close enough to the river to provide plenty of views.
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Just under a mile from the gorge we passed the Rogue Baptist Camp.
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IMG_7053Ouzel

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IMG_7064River Bridge

We turned around at the campground and headed back.
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It was a beautiful day and somehow the colors and the gorge were even more impressive on the return hike.
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When we got back to Woodruff Bridge we noticed some flagging and signage along the trail that had not been there earlier. Apparently there was a 50k race scheduled for Saturday (10/17). The race was an out and back starting and ending in Union Creek. The fact that the race would be happening Saturday helped us decide that Friday we would be doing the Natural Bridge hike since that would have us on trail following part of the race course.

We drove to Union Creek where we checked into the Union Creek Resort then after getting settled we walked across Highway 62 to get dinner from Beckie’s Cafe. After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner we decided to check out the area behind the cafe which was actually part of our next day’s hike. We managed to get ourselves turned around in the Union Creek Campground and our little after dinner stroll turned into a nearly mile out and back along Union Creek. It had been a nice start to the long weekend and we were looking forward to what the next day had to bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: National Creek Falls and Takelma Gorge

Categories
Blue Mountains - South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Phillips Reservoir and Granite Creek

We had originally planned a different set of hikes for the Thursday of our vacation week but after getting a look at Mt. Ireland from Baldy Lake the previous day we had decided to save that hike for another time. The plan had been to hike Granite Creek in the morning and Mt. Ireland in the afternoon.

With Mt. Ireland out and freezing temperatures overnight we were a little concerned about trying to get to Granite Creek in the morning due to having to pass over the 5860′ Blue Springs Summit between Sumpter and Granite. We turned to our trusty guidebook, William L. Sullivan’s 3rd edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” for a solution.

Hike number 142 – Phillips Reservoir was the answer we came up with. We’d passed the reservoir on Monday when we drove to Baker City for groceries. Located less than 10 miles east of Sumpter a hike there in the morning would give the roads time to warm up before attempting the drive to Granite Creek.

When we walked out to our car a little before 7am Thursday morning we felt even better about our decision. For the first time in a long time it was necessary to scrape the ice off our windshield.

We decided to start our hike from the Union Creek Campground.

As we drove east along Highway 7 we had to pull over to get a picture of the snow covered Elkhorn Mountians.
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We turned off Highway 7 at a Union Creek Campground sign and after paying the $6 day use fee we parked at the picnic area and headed for the Shoreline Trail.
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Sullivan’s abbreviated entry for this hike was one of the least enthusiastic descriptions that we’d seen in any of his guidebooks so we were pleasantly surprised by the scene at the reservoir.
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We headed west on the Shoreline Trail which extended 1.7 mile east from the picnic area and 4 miles to the west. The trail passed along the reservoir through open pine woods.
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Within the first mile we’d already spotted a number of different birds.
IMG_0037Osprey and Great Blue Heron in flight

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We continued along the shoreline arriving at a dry Bridge Creek after 1.4 miles.
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Here the trail passed through a meadow with views of the Elkhorns to the north.
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We spotted even more wildlife over the next mile before reaching the Social Security Point Trailhead.
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It was 8:30am when we arrived at the Social Security Point Trailhead so we decided to continue another mile to the Mowich Loop Picnic Area before turning around.
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The trail passed through more open forest before reaching the wide open flat where Smith Creek empties into the reservoir.
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Even more birds could be seen in the grassy flat and in the distance was a group of white birds that we later realized where pelicans.
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IMG_0097Pelicans, herons, and other assorted birds

Before exiting the trees we passed a carcass that had drawn a large crowd of ravens and magpies who were none to happy with our presence.
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After leaving the trees the trail wound up skirting a meadow and leading us up to Highway 7 a quarter mile from the Mowich Loop Picnic Area.
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We decided to call it good there instead of walking along the highway and turned around. More wildlife sightings occurred on the return trip including an osprey with a freshly snagged fish.
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The fog had lifted off the reservoir by the time we’d gotten back to the car and the weather was beautiful.
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It was 9:30am when we completed our 6.3 mile hike. We felt comfortable with it now being warm enough to make the drive over the pass to Granite Creek so we headed back to Sumpter then made the familiar drive to Granite.

To reach the Granite Creek Trailhead from Granite we turned left on Red Boy Road (Road 24) for 1.4 miles then forked right on Granite Creek Road for 4.3 miles to the signed trailhead.
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From the trailhead a gated mining road headed downhill to the left (our return route) while the Granite Creek Trail headed slightly uphill to the right after passing through an open fence.
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For a little over a mile the trail traversed the hillside above Granite Creek through open pine woods.
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The trail then descended to a crossing of Indian Creek before entering the North Fork John Day Wilderness.
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The trail was still above the creek but not quite as far above.
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We had remarked on the variety of trees we were seeing in the forest here which included western larch trees. We spotted one that was already changing into its fall color.
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The forest around the trail shifted from open pine to a denser fir forest before crossing Granite Creek on a wide footbridge at the 2 mile mark.
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The trail once again climbed away from the creek before dropping back down to a log footbridge over Lake Creek.
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Near the 3 mile mark we passed a small wooden box housing Snowshoe Spring.
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Two tenths of a mile later we passed the Lake Creek Trail coming downhill on the left.
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A second crossing of Granite Creek followed .2 miles later.
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Shortly after crossing the creek we arrived at the end of the Granite Creek Trail at the North Fork John Day River Trail.
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This was the same trail we’d started out on for our Tuesday hike.

We continued on this trail just far enough to cross the river on a footbridge.
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We returned the way we’d come but after 2 miles at a fork we headed downhill to the right where we joined the mining road.
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This road passed through mining tailings left over from dredges and hydraulic mining.
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There are still active claims along the road so we stayed on it for the 1.3 miles back to the trailhead.

The total distance for this hike was 6.8 miles putting the two hikes combined at 13.1 miles. The weather had been about as good as we could have asked for and we’d stayed reasonably dry other than our shoes due to the wet vegetation. It was a relaxing end to our week hiking in the Blue Mountains.

On our way back to the Sumpter Stockade we noticed that the corn dog cart (Cajun Concessions) was open even though it was Thursday. After dropping off our hiking gear in our room we walked up the street and each got a hand dipped corn dog and cheese stick. It was now a perfect ending to our stay in Sumpter. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Phillips Reservoir & Granite Creek