Categories
Badger Creek Area Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte – 10/14/2019

With a day off and a mostly sunny forecast we looking for a viewpoint hike for our 50th outing of the year. There were two hikes left on our 2019 schedule that fit the bill and it came down to which one kept us out of Portland’s traffic (since it was a weekday) and that was the hike to Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte east of Mt. Hood. We had been to the top of Lookout Mountain in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area during our inaugural backpacking trip (post) but there had been no view that day.

On that previous visit we had started from High Prairie which is less than a half mile from the summit of Lookout Mountain, but this day we chose to start from Highway 35 at the Gumjuwac Trailhead.
IMG_0819Gumjuwac Trail at Highway 35.

From Highway 35 the Gumjuwac Trail wasted no time in heading up hill toward Gumjuwac Saddle.
IMG_0826

The lower portion of the trail climbed via a series of switchbacks before straightening out a bit gaining almost 1900′ in just over two and a half miles to the saddle. There were brief glimpses of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier through the trees which improved as we climbed.
IMG_0836

IMG_0839Mt. Hood in the morning Sun.

IMG_0845

IMG_0847

IMG_0849

IMG_0860

IMG_0871Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams

IMG_0866Mt. Adams

IMG_0879

IMG_0884Finally an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood.

IMG_0891

IMG_0896Gumjuwac Saddle

From Gumjuwac Saddle we turned left onto the Divide Trail which briefly paralleled Bennett Pass Road.
IMG_0897

IMG_0898

The Divide Trail soon entered the Badger Creek Wilderness.
IMG_0899

We had been on this stretch of trail while returning to our car during the backpacking trip so it was a little familiar, but that trip had been in late June so much of the vegetation looked different as we passed from forest into a series of meadows.
IMG_0900

IMG_0901

IMG_0902

The wildflowers were long gone but we did get a view of Mt. Hood that hadn’t been there on the previous visit.
IMG_0905

A pair of raucous ravens provided a bit of entertainment as they harassed an unwelcome hawk.
IMG_0911The hawk.

IMG_0913A less than thrilled raven.

There was another thing that we were hoping to see and that was larch trees turning color. Larches are a deciduous conifer whose needles turn a yellow/gold in the Fall. We were hoping that the recent cold temperatures had helped start the process early and there were a few larches scattered about on the distant hillsides in the process of turning.
IMG_0912Light green to yellow larches on the hillside behind the raven.

The trail left the meadows and began a series of switchbacks on the forested flank of Lookout Mountain where we ran into a little snow left over from the week before.
IMG_0916

As we climbed we got another good look at Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens as well as a number of Cascade peaks to the south.
IMG_0921

IMG_0930Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0922View south.

IMG_0923From L to R: Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson.

We had expected to run into the High Prairie Loop Trail about 2 miles from the Gumjuwac Saddle but we missed the final switchback and ended up following a deer trail uphill to rejoin the official trail. We came to a rocky viewpoint where we could see the summit to the east and had a great view south.
IMG_0941

IMG_0940

IMG_0946Mt. Jefferson

Beyond the viewpoint the trail passed over to the north side of the ridge into the trees where a little more snow remained.
IMG_0950

IMG_0952

There were a number of birds in the area, many of them varied thrushes which you might know are a nemesis of mine. We see them a lot but rarely can I get even a semi-decent picture. On this hike though I lucked out and one landed on a limb that I was already focused on and I was able to get an only slightly blurry photo.
IMG_0960

As we neared the summit we came to the other end of the High Prairie Loop.
IMG_0961

We stayed right on the Divide Trail which passes just below the summit where a short spur trail brought us the rest of the way.
IMG_0964Approaching the summit.

IMG_0965Lookout on Lookout Mountain.

IMG_0968Flag Point Lookout in the distance.

IMG_0969Flag Point Lookout

As we came around to the summit we could see that the larches further east in the wilderness were a bit further along than those we’d seen so far.
IMG_0971

IMG_0973

IMG_1017

IMG_1023

The view was excellent, making up for the clouds on our first visit. A total of 10 Cascade peaks were visible with Mt. Hood being front and center.
IMG_0980Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier

IMG_0988Mt. St. Helens

IMG_0985Mt. Rainier

IMG_0983Mt. Adams

IMG_0993Mt. Hood

IMG_0997Mt. Jefferson followed by Mt. Washington, The Three Sisters, and Broken Top

IMG_1001The Three Sisters

After a long break we started to get a little chilly just sitting up on the summit so we started back down. This time we stayed on the official trail and found the end of the High Prairie Loop that we’d missed on the way up.
IMG_1033

We had stopped briefly near a small talus field as we descended the switchbacks and Heather spotted a pika that was gathering tree bits, presumably getting ready to spend the winter underground.
IMG_1041

The pika wasn’t the only critter running around on the rocks.
IMG_1044

We made our way back through the still frosty meadows and returned to Gumjuwac Saddle.
IMG_1046

The saddle can be a bit confusing as several trails converge at Bennett Pass Road here. The Gumjuwac Trail coming up from Highway 35 crosses the road and continues down the other side to the Badger Creek Trail, the Divide Trail crosses the Gumjuwac Trail and descends to Badger Lake (we came up this way on the backpacking trip). We nearly started back down that trail this time before realizing that the trail to Gunsight Butte (the aptly named Gunsight Butte Trail) was on the other side of Bennett Pass Road.
IMG_1048

We headed up this trail which began a gradual climb through trees which included a few larches.
IMG_1053

IMG_1054

IMG_1093

IMG_1099

The trail emerged from the forest into a burn scar along a rocky ridge with a view.
IMG_1057

IMG_1058_stitch

IMG_1088Lookout Mountain from the Gunsight Butte Trail.

IMG_1062Clark’s nutcracker

After a mile and a half we found ourselves crossing over the forested summit of Gunsight Butte. Another .1 miles, slightly downhill, brought us to a rock pile with yet another view of Mt. Hood.
IMG_1068

IMG_1069

IMG_1074

It wasn’t quite as impressive a view as Lookout Mountain but it was still pretty good. We returned to Gumjuwac Saddle and then turned down the Gumjuwac Trail for the final 2.5 miles of the day.
IMG_1102

We took our last looks at Mt. Hood from the trail then enjoyed the signs of Fall as we descended.
IMG_1107

IMG_1111

IMG_1112

IMG_1119

This was a 13.2 mile hike with around 3600′ of elevation gain making it a pretty good workout. This may have been our last viewpoint hike for the year, and if it is, it was a great one to end on. Happy Trails!

Flirck: Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte

Categories
Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Cummins Ridge Trail – Cummins Creek Wilderness

On Veterans day we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary by visiting our 34th Oregon wilderness area – the Cummins Creek Wilderness. The 9,173 acre wilderness is located along the Oregon Coast between Florence and Waldport. The Cummins Creek Wilderness is home to the only old-growth Sitka Spruce forest in the state. For our visit we chose the only designated trail in the wilderness, the Cummins Ridge Trail.

There are trailheads at either end of the nearly 6 mile long Cummins Ridge Trail which opens up the option of a car shuttle if one only wanted to hike the trail one way. For a shuttle hike starting at the upper (east) trailhead located along Forest Road 5694 would make the most sense as the majority of the hike would be downhill. Our plan was to do an out and back so we started from the lower (west) trailhead located approximately 2.5 miles from Highway 101 on Forest Road 1051.
Lower Cummins Ridge Trailhead

The trail almost immediately enters the wilderness area.
Informational sign board at the lower trailhead

Cummins Creek Wilderness sign

It was raining steadily as we set off which we hadn’t really expected based on the forecast but as the day progressed the rain lessened and eventually quit. The lower portion of the trial followed an old road bed which at times was obvious but at others the vegetation had nearly hidden it.
Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

After about 3 miles on the old road bed the trail forked to the right leaving the road and leading us into a foggy forest.
Cummins Ridge Trail

The trail was in good shape with just a couple of short overgrown sections and never very steep as it followed the ridge up and down to the upper trailhead.
Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Upper Cummins Ridge Trailhead

We returned the way we’d come for an 11.9 mile hike with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain. The forest along the ridge limit any real views that might otherwise be available from the trail.
View from the Cummins Ridge Trail

We did manage a couple of brief glimpses of the Pacific Ocean through the trees.
Pacific Ocean from the Cummins Ridge Trail

With no viewpoints and no water features along the trail it is strictly a hike for those who are looking for a nice forest stroll. Not all hikes need to lead to an amazing view or some Instagram destination to be enjoyable. We enjoyed the moss covered trees, various mushrooms, and some bird sightings on our visit.
Mossy tree

Fuzzy little tree

Mushrooms along the Cummins Ridge Trail

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Varied Thrush

This was a great cloudy/rainy day hike and leaves us with just 11 of the 45 visit-able Oregon Wilderness areas left to go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cummins Ridge Trail

Categories
Hiking Oakridge Area Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Our latest outing was a microcosm of our year so far. Several days of rain and snow coupled with overnight temperatures in the mid 20’s had our plans in flux until the night before our hike. In the end we wound up having a great time but the planning and process were anything but smooth.

In the end we decided to try the Deception Butte Trail . The trailhead elevation was low enough that we didn’t need to worry about icy roads in the morning which was our biggest concern in determining our destination.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Deception Butte Trail. In 2014 the Deception Fire had closed and burned some of the trail. The trail description on the Forest Service page didn’t say anything about the trail still being closed, but it did contain a map from 2014 showing the closure. The map description states “This map shows the open and closed sections of the trail resulting from damage from the Deception Fire in 2014.” It was unclear whether that was just to let the reader know that the map was old and that was why there were red and green sections of the trail or if it was to inform the reader that the trail remained closed. Spoiler alert it was the latter.

We started our morning at the Lower Deception Butte Trailhead which is located 3 miles west of Oakridge, OR one hundred yards up Deception Creek Road.
Deception Butte Trailhead

We were encouraged by the lack of any signage to indicate that part of the trail remained closed as we set off into the forest.
Deception Butte Trail

We followed the Deception Butte Trail sign.
Deception Butte Trail

The trail passed through a lush forest as it bent around a hill where it began to follow along Deception Creek.
Deception Butte Trail

Mushrooms on a log

Forest along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek from the Deception Butte Trail

The trail dropped a bit to the creek which was flowing fairly well due to all the recent precipitation.
Deception Creek

Deception Butte Trail

Signs of the 2014 fire could be seen on the hillside above the trail.
Burned forst above the Deception Butte Trail

At the 1.75 mile mark we came to a footbridge over Deception Creek.
Footbridge along the Deception Butte Trail

Deception Creek

There still had been no signs warning of a trail closure so we crossed the bridge and continued on. Not even a tenth of a mile beyond the bridge we came to a rocky ridge and entered the burn area.
Deception Butte Trail

Vine maple

We began to encounter blowdown almost immediately. The first couple of obstacles were navigable but then we came to this.
Blowdown over the Deception Butte Trail

The steepness of the hillside made going around the jumble of debris impossible so we turned back. Even though there had been no notices of the trail being closed it clearly wasn’t being maintained. We had made it 1.8 miles before heading back making this a 3.6 mile round trip. The forest along Deception Creek was nice and so was the creek so the trail is still good for a quick leg stretcher or easy day hike.

For us the hour and a half hike wasn’t going to be enough to justify the hour and forty five minute drive each way so we turned to our contingency plan, the Dead Mountain Trail.

Formerly the Flat Creek Trail, the trail and name were changed in 2015 when it was extended from 4.3 miles to 6.3 miles. Sections were added at both ends to connect the trail from the Salmon Creek Trail up to the summit of Dead Mountain. Our guidebook was written prior to the trail extension so instead of parking at the new lower trailhead 2 miles outside of Oakrdige on Forest Service Road 24 (Salmon Creek Road), the hike description we had said to start .7 miles along Forest Road 2404 (Flat Creek Road) which was only 1.75 miles outside of Oakridge.

Flat Creek Road was gated shut so we parked on the shoulder and began hiking up the road.
Flat Creek Road

Flat Creek Road

As we were walking up the road we spotted a runner cross the road from the left to the right then recross the road a short time later. We were about a half mile from the gate when we came to the spot where the runner had crossed. A trail was visible on both sides of the road but it was unsigned and not shown on the GPS leaving us to wonder what it was and where it went. We continued on the road for another .2 miles where we came to the former Flat Creek Trailhead marked by a hiker symbol on a tree.
Dead Mountain Trail at Flat Creek Road

We had noticed other runners on a trail that was running parallel with the road which helped us realize that the trail we had crossed back on the road was an extension of the Flat Creek/Dead Mountain Trail. We began to suspect there was some sort of trail race happening since they were wearing numbered bibs. We joined that trail and turned right heading uphill.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes and motorcycles and is heavily used so it was in really good shape as it climbed through a thinned forest full of fall colors.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

There were also a few madorne trees along the trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

The forecast had been for sun but we had been stuck under low clouds or in fog on both trails. As the morning wore on signs pointed to clearing skies.
Clouds breaking up from the Dead Mountain Trail

About two miles from the gate as we neared the end of the thinned forest we finally broke out of the fog.
Dead Mountain Trail

The trail then promptly entered a denser forest.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail crossed an old road before arriving at another road junction a quarter of a mile later where an aid station was set up for the trail race. We asked the volunteers what race it was and they explained that it was the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, a three day event where runners make three different summit ascents.

Our guidebook would have had us turn uphill to the right on Dead Mountain Road at this junction but with the extension of the trail we crossed the road and continued on a path that had been clearly designed to be a mountain bike trail.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail had many ups and downs and hairpin corners as it climbed toward the summit.
Dead Mountain Trail

Just over 1.75 miles from the road junction the trail crossed Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

After another tenth of a mile of climbing we arrived at the broad flat summit of Dead Mountain.
Dead Mountain Trail

Dead Mountain Trail

The trail wound around the summit to the Upper Dead Mountain Trailhead at the end of Dead Mountain Road.
Dead Mountain Trail

Several radio and cell towers were located near the upper trailhead and it was in this area where we were finally able to get a mountain view.
Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak

We did a little exploring and headed downhill on a road track which led to a path that headed out onto a narrow ridge with even better views. It was a great view but definitely not a spot for anyone with a fear of heights.
Ridge on Dead Mountain

View from Dead MountainLooking SW

View from Dead MountainHills Creek Reservoir (behind the tree)

Diamond Peak

Diamond PeakMount Yoran and Diamond Peak

Waldo MountainWaldo Mountain

We decided to follow Dead Mountain Road down for a bit which was the route that the runners had followed.
Dead Mountain Road

There were some interesting white mushrooms along the road.
Mushrooms on Dead Mountain

We followed the road for approximately three quarters of a mile passing a “Road Work Ahead” sign along the way.
Road work sign on Dead Mountain Road

After the three quarters of a mile we forked right on another old road bed then took a short trail which had been marked for the race back to the Dead Mountain Trail.
Along the way we had an encounter with my old nemesis, the varied thrush. We see quite a few of these colorful birds on the trails but I am rarely able to get an even remotely decent photo. They move around a lot and they always seem to be in poorly lit areas. After a couple of attempts at this particular thrush it finally sat still long enough for a slightly blurry photo.
Varied thrush

The aid station had been packed up and removed by the time we arrived back at the road junction and the runners on the trail had been replaced by other hikers and mountain bikers (and one speedy newt) as we made our way down.
Rough skinned newt

With the fog gone the fall colors were on full display in the thinned area.
Fall colors along the Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

Dead Mountain Trail

Vine maple

We followed the Dead Mountain Trail past where we had joined it from Flat Creek Road earlier but didn’t take the portion between Flat Creek Road and Salmon Creek Road due to not knowing for sure how long it was nor how far it might leave us from our car.
Dead Mountain Trail

Our route for this hike wound up being a total of 10.7 miles with over 2000′ of elevation gain. The trail made for a nice hike but given it’s design as a mountain bike trail and heavy use might not always be the most peaceful hike.

As our hiking season winds down we’ve done few of the hikes we’d planned on but those that have taken their places have turned out well and today was no different. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Deception Butte and Dead Mountain Trails

Categories
High Cascades Hiking Mt. Jefferson Area Oregon Trip report

Maxwell Butte

We were once again heading to Central Oregon this past weekend and wanted to get a hike in on our way there. After checking the weather forecast we chose Maxwell Butte hoping to get a close up look at Three Fingered Jack as well as views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. I had checked the forecast Friday morning and it called for mostly sunny skies which sounded promising, but I made the mistake of not rechecking one final time before leaving home Saturday morning.

We had already driven through a good deal of rain and were hoping that we might get above the clouds by the time we reached the Maxwell Butte Sno-park near milepost 79 on Highway 20. We were staring up at a very grey sky when we did finally arrive at the park which left us with holding out hope that the 6229′ summit might be enough higher to break above the clouds.
IMG_0980//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We had parked close to the entrance of the sno-park near the restrooms and walked east across the paved parking lot to a gravel road which led to the official Maxwell Butte Trailhead.
IMG_0982//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_0983//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Low clouds and light rain persisted as we followed the trail into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
IMG_0988//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_0991//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_0993//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

After traveling just under 3 miles we arrived at a trail junction near Twin Lakes.
IMG_0998//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Before turning right onto the continuation of the Maxwell Butte Trail we took a look at Twin Lakes. The map on our GPS unit showed a single body of water instead of a pair of lakes as the name would suggest so we were interested to see what we would find. The first thing we came to was a dried up area which looked as though it was often connected to a larger area of water we saw did still contain some water.
IMG_0999//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1001//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There was a second smaller body of water nearby which looked as though it might be its own lake most of the time. We decided this must be the reason for the Twin Lakes moniker.
IMG_1002//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We were still holding out hope that we would either climb above the clouds or they would start to break up as we began to follow the trail up Maxwell Butte. Colorful rocks told of the volcanic history of this butte and we passed numerous meadows along its slopes.
IMG_1014//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1005//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1006//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We were on the lookout for deer in the meadows as we were seeing many tracks along the trail but we never spotted any. We did startle a pair of grouse who in turn startled us as the flew off down the hillside. We arrived at the summit to find only the site of the former lookout firmly in the clouds. This hike was going to be put on the redo list, but in the meantime we took a nice peaceful break at the summit.
IMG_1009//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1011//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1012//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

It turned out to be a nice hike despite not getting the views we had hoped for. The forest was peaceful and full of fall colors.
IMG_1017//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1021//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_0989//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1029//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1034//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1026//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The highlight of the hike wound up being a varied thrush that actually stayed put in the open long enough for me to get a few decent pictures.
IMG_1046//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1037//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_1042//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Varied Thrush//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We see them fairly often on our hikes but they are shy birds who usually retreat deeper into the forest or underbrush as we approach. On top of that they are darkly colored making it that much harder to get a clear picture when they tend to stick to darker forest settings.

After returning to the car we continued over Santiam Pass and down into Central Oregon where we finally found our mostly sunny skies and mountain views. Maybe next time we’ll get them from the trail. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658753707059